My Walk With God

By Barbara Jenkins
Reprinted from Daily Word, July 2001
My life and my plans for the future changed suddenly in 1976. I was a student, working on a master's degree at a seminary in New Orleans, Louisiana, when I met a young man who was walking across America, capturing his experiences for a National Geographic feature story. After a whirlwind romance, Peter and I married, and I joined him for the remainder of his walk from New Orleans to the coast of Oregon.

In the beginning, I thought of myself as simply accompanying my new husband on his journey. I soon discovered that I was on my own pilgrimage, my own walk with God, my own discovery of America and her people.

The hectic pace and disruptions of my former life were gone. Covering twelve to fifteen miles a day, day after day, for three years, I had time to meditate, sing, pray, and read my Bible. I did a lot of soul-searching about my life and what life in general is really about.

Although these answers did not come instantaneously, I went mile by mile through a process in which my faith grew and my awareness of God became real and all-encompassing. I received the wonderful gifts of experiencing the diversity of land and people while walking across America. Like a sponge, I soaked up the environment: the different textures of the landscape, the extremes of heat and cold, and the natural rhythm of life. Each little town had its own unique personality, and I met wonderful people along the way who are my close friends today.

The Unexpected

I came close to death on more than one occasion during the walk, and I have vivid memories of one close call. Although Peter and I had always walked facing traffic, on one hot morning while walking into Sandy, Utah, we moved into the shade at the other side of the road. Peter was some distance ahead of me, and we were both walking with our backs toward traffic. Suddenly I heard a loud screeching of tires behind me, but before I could turn around, I was hit in the back and thrown through the air. Rolling and tumbling like a rag doll, I landed spread-eagle on the ground.

It was amazing how fast thoughts moved through my mind in those few seconds. I wondered if I were dying, but felt no great alarm about such a prospect. I was aware of a crowd of people surrounding me and emergency sirens approaching. I had landed on the lawn of a mortuary, and the funeral director came running out with a little silk pillow for my head and an umbrella to shade me. I was taken to the emergency room, where I was X-rayed and examined. It was a miracle: eight hours later, with only a few bruises, I walked out of the hospital and we continued on our trek.

I may have lived what seems to some a fairy-tale adventure; however, I have also experienced losses and tragedies of life. In 1988 Peter and I divorced. I became a single parent raising our three children.

I have not been immune to heartache or other setbacks that most people face—disappointment and loss are common to all humanity. Yet we take heart, because we know that God is with us on the mountaintops and in the valleys of life.

One of my very favorite Bible verses is from Jeremiah: “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope” (Jer. 29:11). This scripture reminds me that regardless of how black the clouds may look today, there is hope and there is a future.

Of course, juggling my own needs and wants and dreams with those of my children has not been easy. In an intact, healthy, stable family, the husband and wife have each other to lean on for support. They can be a unified front in raising their children.

I have faced the loneliness as well as the responsibility of being a single parent. Not only have I raised my children and managed life, I have had to deal with my own unfulfilled needs and wants for companionship.

I would encourage any single parent to be part of a church fellowship or another support group or to be involved in a charitable or community effort in order to have a healthy social life. Having support groups, friends, and social outlets helps not only the parent, but the children too, because the children are not relied on to fill their parent's need for companionship.

My children, who are twenty-one, eighteen, and sixteen years old, still need my guidance, yet I have a full life and many other interests. I'm working on book and video projects as well as magazine profiles, and I wrote a cover story on country music star Tim McGraw.

A Divinely Inspired Idea

A few years ago, the idea for a women's covenant group came to me. I thought about it for three or four months, making excuses as to why it would not work. Then I decided: Maybe this is an inspired idea that I need to pay attention to and act on.

I shared the idea of “12 Women” with a few friends, who in turn suggested others who might be interested. I sent out invitations and within two weeks, eleven women had joined and more were calling wanting to join.

We made a year's commitment and began meeting weekly in my home, studying different books—everything from money management to depression to the Bible. After three years, we now meet monthly to keep connected and to enjoy potluck dinners. We have lively discussions and pray together.

The diversity within our group is a plus: a professor, a song writer, a television producer, a minister's wife, and a political consultant, just to name a few. We represent different ages, vocations, backgrounds, and religions. We are like a little nucleus of life that supports each person who is willing to be a part of the group and to contribute to it.

My own pilgrimage continues as I help organize “12 Women” groups around the country for women in need of friends and sisterhood. The people I have met and continue to meet help and inspire me, and, hopefully, I do the same for them. Whether I am walking across America, writing, raising children, climbing mountains, or crossing valleys—no matter what—God is with me. I thank God for my life—a life that has never been more exciting!

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