When Jean and I moved from London to Oregon in October of 1999 we lived for twenty months in a small house south of Bend on the Fall River. It’s in a fairly remote area of forest west of La Pine State Park, mostly lodge pole and jack pine with some majestic old growth Ponderosas standing above the other trees. That little cabin is about thirty-two miles and one universe away.
It had been over a year since we had been down there and because Friday was one of the warmest days so far this year, Jean and Buddy and I drove down. We thought most of the snow would be gone and we might be able to get in without much trouble. It’s a little over two miles of pretty bad forest road after turning off the paved highway. We only met one other vehicle in the few hours and more miles we drove and walked back there in the woods.
We parked the Explorer in a clearing beside the dirt road. There were no tire tracks but ours since the winter snows. Our footprints in the dirt were the only human prints, the only ones besides deer, coyote, and bobcat. Buddy eagerly sniffed the air for deer scent and the ground for chipmunks and squirrels. Still a few patches of snow on the shaded north side of trees and rocks.
I’d forgotten how alive the forest sounds and feels with the wind blowing through the tops of the Ponderosa pines. I kept wanting to look up and over my shoulder to see who was just behind us. The sense of “presence” is so strong in the woods!
As we walked and talked Jean began to remind us of how God had provided in such surprising and appropriate ways when we moved from inner-city London to this remote place in the Central Oregon woods. He provided a place to live, a vehicle to drive, and an increase in financial support that was exactly enough to meet the needs.
God gave us a season of solitude to restore our weary souls and enough ministry opportunities and interaction with people that we didn’t lose complete contact with the real world.
We had the house in the woods for as long as we needed it. He provided a friend with a snow plow to keep the more than two miles of forest road open through the winter so we could get in and out. When the road got so bad for a month that our four-wheel-drive Ford Explorer couldn’t negotiate it, God provided the loan of a larger, taller truck that handled the mud without any problem.
As we walked along the forest paths yesterday, we thanked God for his provision during that wonderful season of solitude. We spoke blessing on the friends God used to provide for us during the time we lived on the Fall River. We talked about other seasons and experiences of God’s faithfulness to us. Our faith grew stronger. My eyes grew brighter.
In our present season of change and transition, our faith is strengthening. God is working deeply (and a little painfully!) in us to clear away accumulated layers of grime and rust from our souls. We’re looking forward to the surprising and appropriate ways God will direct and provide once again! It’s who he is. It’s what he does.
I can still feel that strong sense of “presence” I felt yesterday as the wind blew through the tops of the pines. I keep wanting to look up and see who’s there!