Chapter 15: The Waterfall
“God, where are you in my life?”
When you ask that question, you had better be ready for his answer. As this recollection of events will reveal, He answered in an unexpected way when Pete and I moved from California to Oregon.
Shortly after Pete and I met in 1993 and I first visited his bachelor pad in Santa Maria, I noticed a poster that his sister Linda had given him. He had mounted it in a plain black poster frame and placed it on the living room wall. The picture centered on a rushing waterfall that flowed into a rocky stream, surrounded by lush green ferns, trees, and thick moss, all under a darkened forest canopy and fair blue skies. My awe in the beauty of God’s creation in a full range of blue and green colors was breathtaking, and Pete and I couldn’t help but feel privileged to be able to enjoy something so beautiful together.
In 1997, while our new home was being built in Buellton, we removed the picture from under the poster frame, painstakingly trying not to tear it, which we did accidentally, having to discard part of the clear rocky stream. Once we had carefully removed the waterfall portion of it from the frame we rushed it to Michael’s crafts store and had it set within a simple wooden frame behind glass.
We were settling into our newly built home and wanted to place it in an area where we could enjoy looking at its beauty every day. So we decided to hang it in our small dining room, where it remained for the next five years until we carefully packed it away for our move to Eagle Creek, Oregon in June 2002. Once there, we decided to place it in our bathroom to create a feeling of the green Oregon outdoors.
It had been nine years and many hours of meditation, asking, “I wonder where that waterfall is, or it could be anywhere, only God knows where it is, and we’ll probably never know.”
Santa Maria is well known for its “Santa Maria style” Tri-Tip barbecues, prepared over red oak, and we wanted to share Pete’s expertise in preparing the mouth-watering meat for our new friends from AEC. We had settled into our new home and thought it was a wonderful way to begin making new friends.
Within minutes, a few of the guests came out to our deck, asking, “Where did you get that incredible picture in your bathroom?”
“Pete’s sister gave it to him before we met and we’ve loved it so much that we had it framed a few years ago. We’ve been enjoying it ever since.”
“Do you know where that waterfall is located?”
“No, we wish that we did, though.”
“You’re not going to believe this, but that waterfall is called Punchbowl Falls and it’s about a two-mile hike along Eagle Creek off of the Columbia Gorge highway!”
We couldn’t believe it! Of all of the waterfalls on this earth, God had placed this waterfall into our lives and we believed He was using it to guide us to where He wanted us to grow in our spiritual journey. He truly does work in ways that are mysterious to us and that we can’t even begin to fathom!
In August 2002, Pete and I took a three-day trip to San Francisco and Hopland, California for Fetzer Wineries’ annual event, “Fun in the Sun with Emeril Lagasse.” We knew the day we planned to return would be the perfect opportunity for hiking to Punchbowl Falls, so before leaving home, we made sure that we packed clothing and our hiking boots in the car.
When Sunday finally came we were both ecstatic and ready to fly back to Portland. Our plane touched down and we hurried to our car parked in one of the two long-term lots and made our way east on Highway 84 towards another new adventure.
I have to confess, I’m terrified of heights and rocky trails, much as I like hiking. But, somehow I managed to endure the two-hour hike along steep cliffs, cliffs that dropped off to Eagle Creek, one hundred feet below. It seemed as if I had a six-inch path to make my way on, trembling, wanting to close my eyes at times, wishing I wasn’t experiencing this. But, I was determined to see Punchbowl Falls for myself.
My feet hurt terribly when I asked somebody, “How much further is Punchbowl Falls?”
“It’s just around the corner!”
The last turn, there it was, Eagle Creek gently flowing into the small pool, making its way down a rocky stream towards the Columbia River.
Pete and I stood admiring this wonder located within a mere hour’s drive from our home in Eagle Creek, Oregon. We both knew that God had placed this into our lives for his purpose. We were in awe as we contemplated what the Lord was going to do in our lives next, and we didn’t want to leave.
A few moments passed, and as we turned to hike back to the car, a pure white butterfly flitted around my feet until it finally rested on my boot. I sensed God saying, “I’ve brought you here for a purpose. Trust me.”
Pete and I believe that God led us to Eagle Creek, Oregon for His divine purpose. God already had an incredible plan for our lives when I had asked, “God where are you in my life?” a few months earlier. He had already determined to show me!
Neither one of us believed that any part of what happened that day or in the weeks before could have been coincidental. When God does something this powerful in your life, you know in your heart that it can’t be just another coincidence.
I’ve shared this story with nonbelievers and they have said they think it was a mere coincidence. “I don’t believe in a god works that way in our lives,” more than one of them has said.
I know that my God does. It may sound strange, but I believe that God can use any circumstance, person, any place, or any thing, to make a positive change in somebody’s life.
We have had the opportunity to repeat this story, as well as other profound moments, with many of our friends and it never fails to amaze me how sharing the magnitude of God’s work in our lives amazes and touches their hearts. Ours has been a journey of unfailing faithfulness and trust. Punchbowl Falls made a lasting impression on us, for sure!
Jeremiah 29:11, has become the foundation of my decision to place my trust in the Lord. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the LORD.