©2021 By Lewis N. Foster, August 9, 2021
We had a several hour break on Saturday at the Catholic Conference Center Retreat – “From Soldier to Saint” – in Hickory, NC with Franciscan Friar Fr. Peter C. Tremblay from Elon University, so I decided to check out the John the Baptist Trail, which led to the small Ave Maria Chapel. I discovered that the chapel was on the hill across from me and to get there I had to go down into the valley and up the next hill.
I was concerned that climbing back up the mountain might be a problem for me since I have had two heart attacks, but I also knew that I had to go down into the valley to find out. So, I decided to enter the valley and go and say my daily prayers in the little chapel. I crossed a little stream with a bridge and reverently entered the chapel with a nice statue of Mary holding Rosary Beads. There was a wasp and horse-fly in the chapel flying around making a big fuss in a quiet place, but they didn’t bother me and I didn’t bother them.
After a long while, I left the little chapel making a cross on my chest and backing out. I returned to the bridge over the little stream and noticed a little fish swimming upstream, but stable in the water. When it noticed me it swiftly went and hid. I crossed the creek and walked along the edge looking out for snakes until I got to a spot where the water just disappeared into the ground and the creek bed was empty of water from that point on. Where was the water going? After a few moments of pondering this, I sat at a nearby picnic table and ended my devotions in silence, surrounded by Mother Nature, in a valley, nicely kept by people.
My concern returned as I left the picnic table to return to the base of the hill I had to climb. I didn’t know if I could do it, but I quickly developed a plan and decided to go slowly, take deep breaths and look for a stone on the path up the hill to place in my Indian Medicine Bag hanging on the wall in my home office.
The first stone that I came across was a small arrowhead-shaped piece of quartz and then I found a conglomerate of mica and quartz and finally something that looked like a fossil, but I wasn’t sure. I then realized that I was at the top of the hill. I made it up the hill and didn’t get winded or tired or have any problems with my heart and I had a nice addition to my Indian Medicine Bag to remind me of the weekend experience.
As I prayed during my devotions today this story told itself and I had to write it. As I sit now at my desk, this story reminds me of many experiences in my life where I had to go into the valley, to discover if I could walk myself out of the valley.
Examples are: The death of my family and living at Mills Home in Thomasville, NC, going through survival training at Fairchild AFB in Spokane, Washington, and surviving war, going to NC Wesleyan College, the breakup of two marriages and the loss of two sons, following my Bliss – Multiple Family Group Therapy (MFGT), moving from Charlotte to Florence to build a Family Therapy Program at Bruce Hall Center for the Treatment of Addictions, taking less money to be of service to the boys at the Billie Hardee Home for Boys (BHHB) in Darlington, SC, retiring from Social Work and going through RCIA at St. Ann Catholic Church during the COVID-19 Virus outbreak.
There was no way for me to know what the outcome would be on each of the above metaphorical valleys, but like the trip to the Ave Maria Chapel, I went and returned a more confident and secure person. Maybe I had some scrapes and bruises, but I made it through the valley and back up the hill and Jesus was with me even to this day.