The Klickitat Walks that Changed my Life

Ramona Quimby and Henry Huggins made the street famous. Truth be told, it was children’s author Beverly Cleary who highlighted her characters’ rambunctious childhood exploits there.  Ramona, her sister Beezus, and Henry traipsed and tromped, stepped and stomped all along the main stem of the northeast Portland street called Klickitat.

Klickitat runs east to west just one block south of the heavily-trafficked northeast Fremont Street in Portland, Oregon.

How do I know?

Many days of my childhood were spent walking along this tree-lined, pedestrian delight.

I don’t remember playing on the street – like Ramona, Beezus and Henry.

My memories of Klikitat Street center upon my Great-Grandmother Miller and our walks.

For a number of years, my eighty-something, great-grandmother and I strolled at a slow, methodical pace under Klickitat Street’s leafy canopy. Hand in hand, we sauntered south on 18th street, then east on Klickitat, then we’d turn south on either 19th, 20th or 21st street, (all dependent on Great-Grandmother Miller’s energy level) then west on Siskiyou until we finally reached 18th street again.

We were never in a rush.

There was no hurry.

However, these were not silent, contemplative walks.

Nope.

My great-grandmother was a wonderful conversationalist. She shared stories of her Missouri farm life. She offered reminisces of ambling along the Mall in Washington DC at the turn of the century and later seeing William Howard Taft inaugurated as President of the United States. She had a fondness for trains – perhaps because her husband Cleveland Miller, my great-grandfather worked first for the C.B.& Q. Railway as a brakeman then later for the S.P. & S. Railway as a conductor. She described her train rides near and far. She told of dear friends who encouraged her heart. She loved reciting Bible verses she had read that morning or sharing a story from her Daily Bread devotions. And we’d plan our birthdays, too. Our birthdays were just four days apart  in May and so we’d often celebrate our special day together. I loved that!

SCN_0003 (2)
This photo commemorates my great-Grandmother’s 87th birthday and my tenth birthday.

But the thing I remember most about our Klickitat walks  and talks were the stories she told of her best friend, Jesus, and His love and care of her.

More than anything, my great-grandmother Miller wanted me to know that He was her nearest and dearest, most understanding and caring, faithful friend.

Through her life, her talks, and her walks, my great-grandmother offered convincing proof that Jesus was alive and at work in her life and that He could be that kind of friend to me, too.

I believed her.

I really did.

Just as my great-grandmother took walks with Jesus, I started taking my own conversational walks with Jesus, too.

I remember elementary school treks up the Beveland Street hill and asking Jesus to go with me.

In later years, I remember the long, long, looonnnng bus rides home from afternoon volleyball practice as I bemoaned my worries and frustrations about my junior high school life. There was nothing easy about those emotionally-charged years and I told Jesus all about it. I begged Him for relief.

At Oregon State University,  I struggled under the weight of research papers, group projects, and work, work, work. Without Jesus strengthening presence, I’m sure I would have been buried – for life!

When I became a teacher, I often took early morning walks or runs before leaving for school.  I prayed and prayed and prayed for insight on how to reach a troubled and hurting child in my class, how to make a difficult concept understood, and how to inspire my students that life-long learning mattered.

Jesus helped me address paralyzing fears of both past and present as we climbed the cathedral towers, descended the castle steps, and meandered through the village squares of southwest Germany. Through these daily, exploratory jaunts, I discovered the enduring love, heartening courage and strengthening presence of Jesus in a way like never before (I’ll have to share this story with you, sometime!)

Time and time again, just as my great-grandmother inspired me, I walked and talked with Jesus and told Him about this, that, and every other thing.

Decades have passed since I took those walks along Klickitat Street with my great-grandmother. So much of my life has been lived with my friend, Jesus, that her prayer is now my prayer. I want to offer convincing proof that Jesus is real and ready to be a close, dear, most understanding friend to others, as He has been to me. My heart’s desire is for people to observe Jesus as alive and at work in my life – so that they can trust Him to be alive and at work in their lives, too.

My great-grandmother Miller met Jesus on her daily Klickitat walks. She believed that she had direct access to her friend and could talk to Him about anything. She encouraged me to do the same. She wanted me to seek Jesus out for every care and concern – big or small – in my life and experience His strengthening Presence.

She inspired me to trust His promise:

But if from there – where you walk, Heather –  you seek the LORD your God, you will find Him if you look for Him with all your heart and with all your soul.

New International Version, Deuteronomy 4:29

Jesus made Himself accessible to my great-grandmother Miller.

He makes Himself accessible to me.

He will do the same for you!

Why don’t you take a walk with Him on your street and see for yourself?

 

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