Don’t Fight the River

Don’t Fight the River


by Cathee Poulsen

Somewhere deep inside I feel it. The wind has been blowing almost daily since February. I know what it portends. “The winds of change,” they call it. Blowing in a new season. I feel an inner upheaval, and whisper, “Don’t fight the river, Cathee.”

I’m sitting on the steps that used to lead to our dock. Hurricane Jeanne destroyed the dock and we’ve never rebuilt it. The pilings remain the lone sentinels of another era at Simplicity Cottage. But the landing and steps are still intact and it’s a pleasant place to sit on a breezy summer afternoon, book in hand, cold drink by the chair.

Trying to process all that’s changing, the shifting of our future, what I feel coming. The river flows and we can either move with it, like Israel did with the cloud, or we can try to go the opposite way. I’ve tried that. Never works.

There’s the recent loss of dear friends, the risks that claw at composure, the hard decisions required. I need the lake to calm me, the breeze to blow away doubts and fears and so I’ve come to soak up some beauty that emanates from this special place.


For the most part, transition is not a pleasant experience. Those who have birthed a baby will remember the change that takes place from early labor to the last stages of labor when you become extremely focused and resistant to all distractions. The pain has increased but it feels like you’re getting nowhere.

But what about other kinds of transition? From one season to another or moving to another residence or location, or the beginning and/or ending of a relationship?

The Second Half of Life

Over the last six weeks I’ve been reading Richard Rohr’s book Falling Upward – A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life. I love this book! It has explained many things I’m experiencing at this stage of life. It not only gives me hope for a future I can trust, but also lays out some direction.

I think all of us are aware, on one level or another, that we are on a journey. We’re looking metaphorically for home. Or fate, purpose or destiny. Something more. If we hear the voice of God at all, we’re responding to that inner call to press on, as the apostle said.

The first half of our lives is comprised of building a strong container: a name, a family, a home, a career, and identity. We hardly see beyond those goals until we realize that can’t be all there is to life. There’s no chronological age for this transition and honestly, some never move beyond this stage.

But if we are blessed enough to make it to the second half of life—and sometimes we need a push or two to get there—we realize the “more” is about what goes in the container. About finding the contents that the container should hold. Stuff like meaning, relationship, thriving, beauty, wisdom and discernment, rest.

The Way Up

As we face suffering and failure in the first half of life—we all do; it’s part of the journey—we begin to look beyond the culture’s definition of success. Eventually, because we follow Christ who modeled this, we learn that the way up is the way down. Jesus descended into hades. Jacob wrestled with the angel and was wounded. David was betrayed by his own son.

It’s precisely at this point where we decide whether to move into the second half of life of not. We can choose discouragement, hopelessness, despair and become bitter or angry old people. Often we come to this threshold and turn back. Or we can choose differently, decide to move with the river.

Here’s the clincher: We grow spiritually much more by doing it wrong than by doing it right.

What I’m Trying to Say

I guess what I’m trying to say is that suffering and failure have shaped and directed me, but they haven’t crushed me. I’m eager for this different part of my sojourn. I’m living higher, better, deeper than I could have imagined at 35.

But I also know it’s time to let go of some things. Some things that are dear and precious. Like this house. It feels like peeling off my skin to imagine walking out the front door for the last time. Five generations of love and food and swimming, and holidays and singing “Over the River and Through the Woods.” There will be tears.

As I write this, I’m not even sure where we’re going or what comes next. I just know this season is over. In most of the famous tales about leaving home, the heroes and heroines end up back where they started, back in the shire, except nothing is the same.

Most likely for us, that will be Naples. I think of the lines from T.S. Elliott’s poem Little Gidding, with which I’ll close.

We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time.

And all shall be well and

All manner of thing shall be well. 



  1. I’m sure glad we are in this together. We need each other to get it right. This is the journey and what a ride it is.

  2. Appreciate the peace you share in your journey; the confidence in letting go.

  3. This is beautiful Cathee. I can so relate. Through many dangers and trials I have already come. The year 2015 was one of the most difficult for me as my husband of 55 years went home and 5 months later my oldest son died. Yet, I am pressing on in God and want to finish my destiny that was written on the scroll of my life before I came to Earth. I am believing that the latter part of my life will be greater than the former in the Master’s plan. God bless you. By the way, I love Richard Rohr’s writings as well.

  4. Lynne Jones Lawler

    This was beautiful…and so very timely. I am trying to learn to embrace the river rather than fight it. That’s a tough lesson for me sometimes. My river has twists and turns coming up but I can only see so far ahead and find that I must rest in Him who created both the river and me for the peace to journey on it.
    Love all of you~

  5. Beautiful, Cathee. I so resonate. I too, feel the winds of change blowing and lately I have felt like a spinning compass. I don’t know what’s next for me either, just breathing and allowing it to unfold.

  6. Thanks for the insightful thoughts Cathee. How great to know through the rivers of change- HIS grace is sufficient! 🙂

  7. Just when you think your journey is clear and smooth you hit a bump in the road or a sharp curve ahead. Then you realize Gods presence is there and has always been there to guide me through the second half of my journey. He prepares us for such a time as this. Thank you Cathee for your insight.

  8. G. Polly Jordan

    Thank you for sharing from the depths of your soul the place where you now find yourself. You help us all to sort things through.

  9. I have no doubt God has great plans for you and Bob wherever you go. Blessings sweet friend.

  10. Beautiful, Cathee. I always look forward to your blog. And Naples has its arms open wide! ??

  11. I’ve been waiting for you to come back. To see you sharing your heart again and we all a re glad you decided to return.

    Thanks for the words of this post. All of us are, have been or will be right there and the attitude we assume can shape our futures.


  12. How eloquently said. I’m crying as I have read your blog. Change? We can either go with the flow or not. I choose to go with the flow and trust God with the outcome.

  13. I’m so glad you are back and posting again… but this one is so personal that I am in tears. The changes in my life in the past five weeks have been overwhelming. But I will not give up. I will continue to stay in the flow of the river and go where it leads me. None of these circumstances were a surprise to God and I have put all my faith and trust in Him. The light of the Son makes my future look bright even though I only see one step at a time. Thank you for your words and honesty dear friend!

  14. You have beautifully described where so many of us are right now, I believe we all feel that something is in the wind but only the Lord knows what that is. So we trust the God who has never abandoned us and never will.

    So glad to see you writing again. We’ve missed you!

  15. Peter Lord said, “When you are in the River of God, you can go down it kicking and screaming or you can go down it resting in it. Either way you are going.” It is our choice. But what ever we do don’t get out of it.

    If you are coming back to Naples, we will keep a light on for you and wait dinner.

  16. Cathee, you are one of the most amazing women God has put in my path. You are so “rocking ” my world. I am in a total compass spin (perfect analogy) and the river doesn’t stop. I so want to say “stop the world, I want off” but everything then finds its place. I am at the time of my life where I keep questioning what is next….. I feel like there isn’t a whole lot of purpose and honestly I don’t want to be involved in anything. I know a bunch of crazy talk. Sorry for the circles. Love you friend!!

  17. Yes I can sure relate to what you said about moving too. We were ready to move from Ca as it is so expensive and the Pam was diagnosed with her brain tumor. God is directly our lives and we just have to be here for her right now. So many things going on and we just give Jesus the wheel and let HIM be our guide. Why are you leaving the lake? I thought you would stay there til the Lord took you home.

  18. Great Blog Cat!

  19. What a Great Message that only reminds me one more time of the rest in the Lord as we allow Him to guide the river as we rest in the safe boat he keeps us in. The cloud and weeble wobble but don’t fall down are just a couple things that remind me of some of the past teachings of yours that I still remember. If U and Bob should come to Naples Larry and I will enjoy having you to dinner to laugh and share. ??

  20. I hope you know how much I love your blog (and how often God uses it to challenge, encourage, etc)! Well, this time I’m just sad, still absorbing, not “resting”, and yes, choosing to thank Him anyway! Love you guys much!

  21. My first time reading your words. They are like a drink for a thirsty soul. I’m really looking forward to your blog. I enjoy your daughter’s posts but this hits home with me because I am going through transitions to second half. Thank you for your anointed post. God bless you and yours.

  22. Your blind faith in the journey to ….. where ever, reminded me of the verse from the Oceans song: spirit, lead me where my trust is without borders.
    Wander til the cows come home?

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