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Trees behind me, the view cleared as the length of dirt road finally ended at a neatly landscaped patch of yard. The requisite truck, chickens and dog on alert, of course, plus a silver-haired woman shaking a rug… but not a neighbor in sight (or a rifle, thankfully).

Still unsure, but there by faith, my heart pounded a little faster as I stopped the car and pressed the button to lower the window. Barking and clucking continued as the woman stood in place, watching intently the stranger stopped in her driveway.chicken-88507_640

Hi! I introduced myself as a chaplain and then asked, Are you Kay’s mom?

Yes.

Is Kay here?

She quieted her four-legged companion and answered, No, she left about half an hour ago, heading toward town.

I explained the reason for my visit… She and I made plans to meet this morning, so she could fill out applications in town, and I called and left messages yesterday at both your number and hers, but never heard back… I’m just wondering how she’s doing…

The woman filled me in on me what had taken place in the last couple days. It wasn’t good… my heart sunk.

(Kay had only been out for three and-a-half days. All that time I wanted to believe she was making progress, but couldn’t deny the doubt nagging at me.)

Turning off the ignition, I stepped out of the car, and walked slowly toward the gate, not quite sure how this encounter would turn out, yet taking in her words, and every agonizing heartbeat behind each word… Then,

You might as well come up to the house, she said—as hospitable a welcome I would ever get from a mountain hermit!

Thank You, Lord! My strides lengthened. Chickens scattered noisily. The chocolate lab loped to greet me… tail wagging, friendly—I was no longer a stranger.

Inside the small, rural dwelling all was clean and orderly, and filled with sunlight from numerous irregular-shaped windowpanes. It smelled faintly of her daughter… sort of odd, since the younger woman spends most of her time between cement block walls, far from the cozy comforts of home…

She began telling the saga of her wayward daughter’s grievous life, repeated no doubt a thousand times to strangers like me in very similar situations. The most recent included bad company, a car accident, a hospital stay. Still drinking, still using, no real change… why expect anything better…

Listening, I recognized this was a mom—broken-hearted and emotionally torn, day after day between love and hatred, resignation and rage—a woman who had spent thirty years or more, making every attempt, utilizing every possible solution, begging the only child of her womb to stop the destruction.

For the most part she did the talking. I asked an occasional question, or answered hers…

No, I’m not very familiar with that kind of lifestyle, I had to admit.

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Wavering between hopelessness and fragile optimism, she filled me in on details of the past.

Just being honest, she said. So many like you have tried, but with failed attempts in rehab, too many lies and deceptions. But you can go ahead and try… I’m just warning you, she only knows how to use people. And nothing personal, but you’re just one more person she’s found she can cling to, one more person she’s gonna use.

Mentally I tried to connect what the older woman said with what the younger had told me in recent conversations about her past. Unfortunately, the two accounts were vastly different. Meaning, one of them is lying.

Nearing the end of my visit I assured her of my prayers, wrote my name and number on a pad of paper, asked her to stay in touch.

Then before walking out the door, I hugged her. Although she didn’t expect it, when I first reached out to her, wrapping my arms around her petite frame, she hugged me back—just as her daughter does every time I see her. Again, the subtle scent of the mom and this place reminded me of Kay.

Mother and daughter, both hurt by the same man—husband and father, no longer a part of their lives—and both disappointed by coincidental twists of life. These two women, having so many similarities… remaining vastly different… estranged by unnecessary evils.

The end of the road… Abu_Ghraib_80_body_bag

Slivers of hopelessness penetrated my heart as well, driving away… somewhat relieved… still anxious… Like her mother, I too now felt suspended between confidence in what’s possible with God’s help, and the reality of addictions thirty years long… thirty years cementing and contaminating every cell of her being.

While taking the road leading me to a grieving mother, it seemed I had found another road’s end—and by all appearances it would only be a matter of time until Kay reaches that end…

A few months prior to my impromptu visit, one of the female guards had confided to me, Every time Kay comes into the jail she’s worse off than the time before. I’m afraid one of these days she’ll come in a body bag.

When God whispers for me to love one so unlovely, ravaged by the fallout of sin… so unloved, grasping for anyone to affirm her worth… one so depraved, feasting continually on what ruins the body, mind, spirit and soul… this one whose emaciated life appears unsalvageable…

How can I determine when I have loved enough?

Or withhold the prospect of redemption from one so desperately in need?

Who’s to say what efforts to recover possession of a straying soul from the grasp of the Evil one, are a waste of time?

And who’s to know where lies the end of the road for one like Kay?

Until her living soul reaches the end… while she has breath… even as wanton lusts drag her away from all that is good…

I am bound to love her still… braving a journey (Help me, Father!) down whatever unfamiliar roads God lays before me… believing when her words express a desire to change… praying for God’s pouring of wisdom, revealing to me, of how to help her find her way out of Satan’s grip.

So… while she has breath there is still a chance.

And… while I have breath I am obligated to compel her to walk away from her past.

Because when we give God permission, laying down our weapons of self-destruction, and choosing to comply with the Maker, He can pave a new road… taking us beyond the end of that old dirt road…

And ushering us forward on the path that leads to Life.

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