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A Bridge Called Grace

I had the privilege on Labor Day weekend to visit a most lovely place called Devil’s Creek in Erwin, Tennessee. From the onset of the trail the creek is abundant in stunning cascades that are painted with various shades of the greenest moss. The multi-colored rocks and boulders along the way accents the clearness of the water that eloquently rushes over them. Each new step politely demands moments to pause and behold the beauty of the scenery before you. Although you have to take caution to not slip while rock-hopping, the trail is not difficult and it isn’t far until you reach the lower and upper falls that are both breathtaking in their own right. On our visit, we took the time to snap pictures, climb around on some incredible boulders, trek up to the proverbial ‘puckering perch,” smell some rock tripe (well I did at least 😉 ) and explore the natural playground. It’s always hard to leave a place like this, I always feel as if I’m overlooking something spectacular but our daylight would soon be gone and it was time to venture back to the real world.

As we came to the end of the trail, I stepped down into the creek one last time to take a shot of an old rail road bridge. I was enamored by its rustic character, its weathered railing and the way its demeanor stood out against the massive mountain in the distance. I wondered for a moment how many trains had found their way across this bridge over the years. Where had they came from and where were they going? What cargo had they transported along the way? I felt an intense drawing to walk over the bridge and for me, well, let me tell you that’s a strange inclination. As a child I had developed some weird anxiety about bridges and tunnels. I faintly remember being very young and traveling with my family on a bridge that turned into a tunnel and went underwater. I’m sure it wasn’t a very long distance, but in my mind it was cross-continental! I can still feel the burning in my lungs I experienced as I held my breath while scanning the concrete walls of the inside of the tunnel looking for small trickles of water that were waiting to burst into a flood and consume us! I can also remember well into my adult years of feeling that fluttering anxiety each time I would have to cross a bridge in my everyday travels, knowing that the moment I was in the middle it would collapse and send me spiraling to a premature death! (yeah I know, my imagination is quite insane at times but rest assured, I am never bored!) Foot bridges downright terrified me, even the small ones, and to think of the chances of getting me out on some rickety old swinging bridge over water…oh H-E-double hockey sticks-NO!

However I have found that in my adventures in nature, crossing bridges has slowly become a much easier task for me. Several of our hikes have consisted of bridges going over waterways, some of them sturdy, some rickety and downright scary. At first, anytime we came to a bridge of sorts I would cringe a little. I may have appeared calm as a cucumber on the outside, but inside I was screaming desperate prayers to God to not let the bridge collapse under my feet! A few months ago we visited Grandfather Mountain and walked across the mile high swinging bridge. Once I had successfully crossed over and back again I wanted to jump up and down with joy and shout like Dora the Explorer, “I did it, hey, hey I did it!” It’s amazing to me the transformations God has wrought in my soul through being out in His creation. As the months have passed, it has become almost second nature to me and most of the time I don’t even think about the apprehensions that used to bind me. As I stood and looked at this old railroad bridge, though, I felt a familiar anxious fluttering deep down inside my soul and I knew I had to venture up and see what was in store for me.

I walked up to the bridge, standing before it I scanned its distance, eyeballing every railroad tie to the other side. I began to walk out onto it, bouncing a little with each step checking the stability (yeah I know, like my weight was going to break something a train travels across! ). I tried to place my boot in between the spaces of the ties, just to see if there was any danger of slipping and falling through – negative ghost rider. So I ventured on out across, assessing my every step. I leaned over the side, checking out the distance to the creek below which wasn’t very lengthy. I looked up and around at the mountains surrounding me. I walked to the other side and I pondered the meaning of the anxious gnawing in my gut. I thought about bridges. There are all kinds. Some are longer than others, some higher, some wider and more secure. Some you may not even notice that you are crossing over and some may scare the whiz out of you with each step. In all of their differences, they are the same in one sense – they are all necessary. They are a throughway from one place to the next and without them sometimes you wouldn’t be able to reach your destination. I lingered for a moment, searching for some insight but the voice inside was quiet so thus we began our trek back to the car.

I don’t know if you have ever walked a train track, this was my first time and the steps were awkward for me. The ties were close enough together I couldn’t comfortably step them one by one and far enough apart I looked like I was doing the chicken walk if I tried to take in two at a time. I was constantly having to adjust my stride to not stumble. The longer I walked the more I pondered. I thought of my life’s journey, where I had come from. I took a deep breath as I remembered the sting felt in a little girls’ heart from a father who constantly rejected me. I remembered the physical abuse that hurt like the devil but was nothing in comparison to the ugly words that left me feeling worthless and unloved. I remembered the shame that poured through me when my innocence was so carelessly taken from me as a young teenager. I remembered the loneliness that enveloped me even when in the midst of a crowd. I remembered the emptiness, the fear, the pain that had tainted my soul and followed me well into my adult life and ruled my days. I remembered the failures, the mistakes, the lost hope and lost dreams. I remembered the brokenness that stabbed my heart like a knife and the desperate cries to be healed and made whole. I remembered the moments that my steps had been awkward and it was all I could do to not stumble and fall. In that moment I felt it all again like a mighty rushing wind running through every cell I possessed. I felt my composure pouring out of me like I was a shattered cistern and I stopped. I turned around one last time to look at that old rustic little bridge and as soon as my eyes were fixed upon it…..and I remembered.

I remembered the moment I surrendered a shattered heart to a God who had pursued me in my brokenness. I remember kneeling before Him and asking Him, if He could, to take me and make me whole. I remembered the years of shaping and molding, the kneading and sometimes necessary chiseling through my resistance. I remembered the moments my awkward stride hurled me tumbling to my face, yet He was always there to pick me back up again. I remembered the loneliness that He permeated with His presence. I remembered as the darkness fled when His light rushed in. I remembered the moments of joy as His truths became realities in my life. I remembered the moment He unlocked the chains and set me free! And Oh! How I remembered a bridge of grace and unfailing love that has led me from a valley of brokenness to a massive mountain of freedom, healing and wholeness.

I silently bid farewell to that old bridge and the anxiousness that had gnawed at me departed. My focus was no longer where I had come from so I turned back around and began again on my journey to where I was going. Indeed it was another fine day on the trail and I knew that of all the incredible sights I had beheld that day, I had not missed the most spectacular one of all, an old rustic bridge.

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Posted by on September 10, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Along My Way

old man walking

It was a sunny day

When I met a man along my way.

I didn’t catch his name but it was all the same,

I knew his worth

90 years since his birth.

He laughed as he told a joke or two

I listened and I laughed too.

 

I bid him farewell

Yet he followed me out and I could tell,

He had a story to share

So l lent him my ear.

He smiled as he talked of his children

5, all grown

Not far from home

He also had grandchildren of his own.

I didn’t catch their names but it was all the same

I knew their worth,

By the sparkle in his eyes

These treasures that money can’t buy.

I listened and I smiled too.

 

He paused and looked me deep in the eyes,

He almost began to cry.

He asked me if I knew of pain

That cuts deep like a knife

He talked of his wife,

68 years sharing life.

I didn’t catch her name but it was all the same.

I knew her worth

The loveliest woman ever put on planet earth!

His countenance aglow

As his mind wandered through time and space,

I did not catch the place

Where his thoughts remained,

But it’s all the same.

In his silence I knew of its worth

This place that needed no words

I listened to the quietness

And I cried a little too.

 

It was time to go and we said our goodbyes,

He shook my hand gently and let out a sigh,

I’m not sure why

But he said it looked like rain

Although it was a sunny day.

I didn’t catch his name but it’s all the same.

I knew the worth

Of this moment in time,

I saw a stranger’s heart

And it touched mine

For a moment our lives intertwined

I too sighed as I walked away

And I thought of rain on this sunny day

And this man I met along my way.

 
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Posted by on September 9, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

To my daughter….. I love you.

Ocean sailboat

My love for you is like the ocean

Vast, wide, deep and immeasurable.

 

Sometimes the skies will be calm

I will be the waves that hold you

As you rest and play

I will smile and my heart will overflow with joy

Because you are happy.

 

Sometimes the skies will be cloudy

And the storms will rage around you

I will be the waves that lift you up

And carries you to a safe place

I will smile and my heart will be satisfied

Because you are safe.

 

Sometimes the skies will be dark

And the storms will rage inside of you

I will be the waves that rise up around you

As a shelter to protect you

Until your sun shines again

I will sigh and my heart will be courageous

Because you are fearful.

 

Sometimes the skies will be bleak

And the storms will be raging inside of me

I will be the waves that come crashing down around you

I will weep and my heart will be sorrowful

Because I hurt you.

 

But all the times, regardless of the skies and the storms

I will hold you

I will support you

I will be with you

And I will be proud that you are mine.

 

Because my love for you is like the ocean

Vast, wide, deep and immeasurable.

 

 
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Posted by on August 11, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Of Waterfalls, Baptisms and Free Souls

free soul

I came across this quote a year or so ago and being the ‘word person’ that I am, it jumped off the screen and stuck in my spirit. It provoked me to ask these questions:

The free soul – Lord, what does it feel like to be free?

Is rare – Lord, is this even attainable for me?

You feel good when you are with them – Lord, How do I make people feel?

I pondered these words over and over and came to the conclusion that indeed I wanted to be one of these free souls! God and I (with a little help from Elvis Presley 😉 ) had been tenaciously working for months to strip off some chains – mindsets – strongholds – call them what you will –  that had shackled my innermost being from birth. I had cried out to God countless times over the years for relief, but in the winter of 2012 I was desperate. I needed a change! I was frustrated with life, weary of the responsibilities that weighed upon me, exhausted of repeating the same ole things over and over again, depleted spiritually, mentally and emotionally. I cried out and His answer to me was the same as it was over 2000 years ago to the lame man who had sat by the pool of Bethesda for 38 years (John 5) “Would you like to get well?’ well…Yes! YES! I was ready to do whatever it took for the much needed change I so desperately needed. Thus began a journey of surrendering my ways, of trusting completely, praying relentlessly, of total commitment and tenacious blind faith.  I wasn’t sure what all would be required of me but I knew I was ready and willing for anything and after reading this quote, I was convinced of what I wanted the conclusion to be. I wanted to be free – in my soul – so free that even those around me would feel it and long for the same liberation!

In May of 2014 I was given the opportunity to visit Dick’s Creek Falls located in the Cherokee National Forest in Erwin Tennessee. This is a beautiful area that possesses incredible landscapes, fabulous fungi, rocks and boulders that demand climbing and magnificent waterfalls. On this day my we  hiked in by way of Rattlesnake Ridge and took in two falls, Lower Dick’s Creek and Upper Dick’s Creek Falls. Both, very different in appearance, were captivating. Lower Dick’s Creek was tucked away in a rocky cove as a single fall flowing down into a gorgeous pool of shiny green water. For the avid cliff jumper and swimmer, this is an enticing place to take a dip! Upper Dick’s Creek Fall possesses 4 different plumes that shoot off from a huge wall made of rocks and boulders. At any angle this fall is superb! You can explore the fall from all sides, climbing on the moss covered ledges, wading out into the pool of water at the base and even climb around to the top of the fall and gaze downward as is rushes over the edge.

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First Visit to  Upper Dick’s Creek Falls

It was at Upper Dick’s Creek that the tradition of the Hillbilly Baptism began. If you are facing the fall, the far left plume is perfect for standing under and letting the water wash over you. A fellow hiker decided on this particular day that he would do just that! Watching him, with camera ready as he made his way to the edge of the flow and capturing the moment where he completely emerged himself under the water was downright exciting! Although I was apprehensive about getting wet, I wanted a turn! So off I went, under the fall, just enough to where the water would hit the back of my neck and spill over me and  WOW! What an exhilarating feeling! The Hillbilly Baptism! Refreshing! Good for the spirit and cleansing to the soul. It was amazing and it would be a moment that I would long to experience again for over a year.

Fast forward exactly 14 months. Awake on a hot humid summer day in July. Gather a crew of some Fine  hiker-trash souls  (we don’t mind being called that, we all share the same flaming passion for the outdoors!), insert a four wheel drive path and some heavy duty vehicles and prepare yourself for a grand adventure back to Dick’s Creek Falls. This time our journey would include 2 more falls that my trail mates had discovered on previous hikes. I and a couple of others in our group hadn’t had the opportunity to see them yet so we were stoked.  Many in our group share the same love for fungi as I do and from the get go we knew it was going to be a superb day as we encountered mammoth size mushrooms along the access road. Moments after stepping foot on the trail we were greeted by numerous varieties of fungus in all shapes, colors and sizes. Although our quest was to see at least 4 waterfalls, I believe we could have spent an entire day photographing mushrooms and been completely satisfied with the trip!

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 The variety of Fungus was fantabulous!

The first fall we would come to would be Upper Dick’s Creek Falls. Seeing her for the second time was just as grand as it had been on the first trip. This is one of my favorite falls that I have encountered since I traded my flip-flops for hiking boots a couple of years ago. We lingered and played there for a while before climbing up to the top to see the gorgeous pool made out of gold – not really, but when the sun hits it just right the color of the rock underneath the water glistens prettier than any gold you could lay your eyes on!

Upper dicks creek My second gaze upon Upper Dick’s Creek

We finally managed to peel ourselves away from the first falls and climbed on up and over to trek about a hundred yards (maybe – I suck at measuring distance!) to the next fall, Upper Upper Dicks Creek Falls. My, oh my! Wasn’t she a sight to behold! Nestled in a cove of rock surrounded by laurel, this 50 or so foot fall was gorgeous! Shooting down the cliff and spilling over a huge tree that had wedged itself down the fall, she displayed power, prowess and pride! We all scrambled to take photos and do our best to capture her beauty and then we sat for a spell enjoying each other’s company while being serenaded by her melody. To the right of the fall stood Totem Pole rock. I had heard stories of this particular rock and I admit I salivated a little while listening. It was unique in its make-up, possessing faces at almost every angle you could study and it seemed to call out to my soul to come and climb. I succumbed to the wooing and a few of us ventured to its top and took in the view, snapped some photos and then we all proceeded to another uphill climb in search of yet another fall.

11692780_1040897042596820_8127119618070925915_n Upper Upper Dick’s Creek Falls

totem pole 3  Totem Pole Rock

atop totem pole Shameless selfie atop Totem Pole Rock

totem pole 2

The climb to the last upper fall was a little tricky, having to scale up a very slick crevice. One false slip and you became the human bowling ball plummeting down, taking out anyone or anything in your path. The good news is that we all made it without what we call ‘badger error’ and was able to arrive safely at Upper, Upper, Upper Dicks Creek Falls. I find it interesting how each of the falls  on Dick’s Creek are completely different from each other, and this one cascading down a wall of emerald green moss and falling into a golden pool of bliss,   fell nothing short of triggering enchanting gasps as my eyes gazed upon her. We took our turn climbing over to the base of the fall for our infamous gnome pose photo op. Eventually it was time to head out and venture down to the last fall of the day, Lower Dick’s Creek Falls.

On our way back down we made one last stop at Upper Dick’s Creek to perform the ‘Hillbilly Baptism’. We had talked all morning about doing the baptism and for over a year I had waited to come back to this particular fall and once again experience the rush of the cold water plummeting down my body. For some reason though, I lingered at the top with the rest of the crew who were going to observe and take photos. I watched as two  trail mates both stood underneath the plume of water and their gasps as the cold water spilling over them resonated in my ears. When The next one stepped up to take his turn, I felt this gnawing ache in my gut and a still small voice in my spirit and I knew that I couldn’t just watch, I had to participate. My soul needed the cleansing I had waited so long to experience so the hiking boots came off, water shoes on and down I went to the base of the fall to take my turn.

Michael Taylor, friend, trail mate and photographer would be capturing our baptism on film. He had explained to me that I needed to stand still under the fall for 5 seconds – that’s FIVE seconds under a plume of rushing ice cold water – standing STILL – not moving – to get the perfect shot. Lawd have mercy! On the first attempt, I closed my eyes, held my breath, stepped under the fall and counted the slowest count to five that I have ever experienced! I was proud of myself that I had stayed under for the required time, but as I came out and looked up, he motioned for me to do it again, this time standing up a little closer to the front with my arms straight and even. Hello Fuzzy! Again? I thought the second attempt went much better than the first but once again, as I came out from under the water, Big Mike’s instructions were to do it ONE MORE TIME!  I guess to someone who has never experienced it before, the matter sounds a little trivial, but when you have ice cold water pounding your head and running down your face it’s a little hard to breathe and stand still. And…you may be asking why on earth do it to start with? Well, (1) it’s a hiker-trash tradition! (2) its exhilarating to stand under a waterfall and let it wash over you, and (3) you only live once! And for me it is as important to ‘capture’ the moment as it is to ‘experience’ the moment so off I went for the third time under the fall. But this time was different. I borrowed someone’s ball cap! I noticed when they were under the fall that the cap seemed to deflect some of the water off his face so I wanted to see if it made it easier, and boy did it ever! Standing under the fall as the water spilled over the ball cap away from my face, yet soaking my entire body, well I don’t really know if I have the proper words to express what happened inside of me but I will try.

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The Hillbilly Baptism! (photo credit to trail mate, friend and photographer Michael D Taylor)

As a young child I developed a horrible fear of water. I almost drowned once while trying to learn to swim and from that moment on I doubt my head had been under water more than 10 times in 40 years, except for showering of course 😉  The first time I attempted the baptism over a year ago, I didn’t stand completely under the water. The plume hit right on the back of my neck and spilled down over my shoulders. The second baptism I had experienced had taken place at Grotto Falls in Elizabethton (the fall above Blue Hole) and I braved the fall like a scared cat, standing completely under it for a few short seconds, so it was progress! This time however, I completely got lost in the moment. My focus wasn’t on trying to hold my breath, or keeping water from shooting in my eyes, nose and mouth. Instead I stood, under the rushing water, eyes wide open, taking in the scenery around me from behind the veil. I stood for what wasn’t more than 10 seconds I’m sure, but it felt like an eternity. I stood and I thought about all the things God had been doing in my life in the past two years and I felt grateful.  I thought about the undeniable peace He had placed in my spirit from the first moment my boots hit the dirt and I felt content. I thought about the life lessons He had taught me while we explored in His natural sanctuary and I felt enlightened. I thought about all the new friends I had made because of the trail who share a kindred passion and I felt connected. Just like the ball cap was deflecting the water from my face, I thought about the constant divine presence and protection I felt daily and I felt secure. I thought about the many times in life that I had stumbled and fell but got back up to give it another shot and I felt accomplished. I thought about the many fears that the trail had helped me overcome over the past two years and I felt unchained.  Perhaps time had frozen for a bit as those few seconds under the water allowed me to reflect upon a lifetime of events and changes. As I stepped out from underneath the fall for the 3rd and last time I was beyond thankful that I had succumbed to the still small voice that had urged me to participate. My body was drenched, my spirit was refreshed and my mind was clear.

Our crew regrouped and traveled down to Lower Dick’s Creek, the final stop for the day. Again, she was as fine as she was the first time I laid eyes on her! Someone had cut a tree down and had desecrated her view but trail mates Jeff Dean and Kenneth Woody worked to remove the tree and once again display her glory. I’m not sure if anyone else noticed but as I sat and gazed into the emerald waters of the pool I saw my own reflection. So many changes had taken place in me, changes I had prayed for, pleaded for and worked for.  I smiled as I glanced for a moment deep down inside my soul …and I felt free.

It was yet another fine day on the trail!

11703038_1040899509263240_4889274847857008236_n Lower Dick’s Creek

My hiker trash crew for the day: A fine collection of free souls!

11693874_1040898875929970_23108352314145990_n  Pamela Woody at Upper Dick’s Creek

11221950_10203309544099329_9183243037757856458_n  Michael D Taylor crossing Dick’s Creek

11013060_1040897215930136_3798611199007232969_n Kenneth Woody at Upper Upper Upper Dick’s Creek Falls

10985214_1040896955930162_4478313516460531148_n Amanda Moore

flume 4 a side shot on Upper Dick’s Creek Falls

jeff dean Jeff Dean at Upper Dick’s Creek Falls

 
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Posted by on July 14, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Of Wildflowers, Waterfalls and Joy for the Journey

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I have been hiking now for almost two years and, although I am a complete rookie at anything that has to do with the outdoors, the love and passion that was deposited in my soul from the first moment my foot hit the trail is unquenchable. The beauty of creation –  the smell of moss and dirt, the colors of the seasons, the melody of the trickling water, the wonder of a waterfall, the challenge of a rock wall that is screaming to be climbed – geez I get excited just thinking about it all! Oh and the peace that is imbedded in my deepest being with each step – it would be safe to just say that I absolutely love everything about it! A month or so ago I had the opportunity to go on my first ‘group’ hike. Up until this point my time on the trail had consisted of either going with a friend who had introduced me to the outdoors, venturing on some solo hikes to places I was 99% confident that I wouldn’t get lost (my directional skills suck raw eggs!) and a few adventures with my oldest son who caters to my passion for one on one time with him.  On this day however, I was privileged to join a group of men who were loaded with trail knowledge, incredibly skilled with the camera, packed with personality, fully equipped with trail savvy and all possessed what I call a ‘hiker’s heart.” From the moment we all stepped out of the car I knew that I was amongst kindred souls and that the day would nothing short of incredible.

Our destination for the day would be Gentry’s Creek Falls in Laurel Bloomery Tennessee. I had visited this set of falls once in the winter months when the trail was dusted with snow and ice bats were everywhere to be found along the way. Today, it didn’t take too many steps to see that Spring had sprung! The landscape was painted with color from various sorts of wildflowers that only their Creator could dress so superbly! Trilliums donned in the deep shades of scarlet, Dutchman’s Breeches dangling in the gentle breeze, Trout lilies and Bellworts bursting up like little rays of sunshine, Chick weed painted in the purest shades of white, Bluettes and violets coloring the path. One couldn’t help but stop and admire the exquisite scenery and that’s exactly what we did. What normally, at a steady pace, would take a little over an hour to hike to the waterfalls (2.5 miles) became a journey of taking the time to capture as much of the treasures of the trail that we possibly could. Moments of laying before a flower, admiring her in all her grandeur, snapping shot after shot to ensure the finest outcome. Kneeling before mounds of moss observing its 50 shades of green, smelling the earthy aroma (yes, I admit it! I like to smell moss!) running my fingers over the different textures. Standing beside the creeks edge, watching the cascades roll over the rocks, breathing in the melody while it penetrates the soul, sighing as the breeze dances softly across my skin. Oh if only time could have halted and allowed an eternity to savor every inch of this magical place! I took as much or more pleasure in watching my trail mates as they indulged themselves in every detail possible as I did in my own personal observations. I had to chuckle several times when I would look back and see them laying spread out on the ground, meticulously examining the specimen before them.

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Eventually, after a few hours, we arrived at the destination. Lay aside the beauty along the trail to the fall, the challenge of the 14 stream crossings – which by the way I love even when the water level is high and I get my feet soaked! – the awesome rocks and boulders you can climb all over – and the falls alone are a magnificent sight to behold. On this particular day the water level was abundant enough that there were two cascades flowing on the lower portion of the falls (the winter hike was a low level day with only the main cascade flowing so this was a treat to have two!). With a little effort, on the left side of the fall you can climb a steep goat trail up to access the upper portion of the falls. With careful footing you can cross the creek a final time to the right side and access one of my favorite rock walls to climb to the top of the upper fall. (The persistent ones will go on out to the edge of the upper fall and take the famous ‘boot shots’ while peering down over the fall). The entire scenery offers hours of exploring, photo opportunities, numerous spots to sit back and refresh a weary soul and even a perfect spot for a hillbilly baptism (another blog will suffice explaining this one!).

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The hike out went a little quicker than the hike in seeing that some of us had other appointments to attend to for the evening. The carpool back to our homes and vehicles consisted of conversations of the wonders of the day (and a little catnap in the backseat knowing I was babysitting a 20 month old later that evening and I better rest while I could!) and it wasn’t long until we were all on our separate ways back to our individual lives and agendas. A couple of days passed and while I was drinking my morning coffee and playing over everything I needed to get done for the day, I sighed at how busy life gets sometimes and the hurry we are always in – rush here, rush there, scurrying through our day to get everything done. Most of the time just barely surviving and waiting on that grand moment when we will be swept away to another time and a heavenly place.  My mind went back to the trail day and the way we lingered along the way. How no one was in a hurry to get somewhere although we knew a grand place awaited our arrival. The way careful observation was taken as to try not miss one good thing.

On this particular day it was all about the journey. Taking the time to digest each step, admiring every possible piece of beauty our eyes could behold. The appreciation of a creation made just for us. The conversations shared with old friends and new friends. The discovery of things not known before (well mostly by me because these guys know their flowers!). The fellowship of like-minded individuals and companionship of kindred souls. The treasure of connecting with people who have their own separate journeys yet sharing a few priceless moments together along the way. Oh that we would live our everyday life this way! Yes we have a grand destination awaiting on us someday but if that is our only focus, my oh my, what we miss out on along the way! It’s the journey that teaches us, grows us, shapes us and makes us. It’s the journey that possesses the life lessons, the moments, the treasures that money can’t buy. It’s the journey that allow us to meet others – some are kindred souls on the same path and some who are headed in a totally different direction – and glean from them tidbits for our own soul. It’s the journey where moments are appreciated and memories are made. The journey may not always go as planned, there may be a few slip-ups along the way , but taking the time to delight in it is where the true joy is discovered, joy that produces strength to carry us along our way until we reach our destination.

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Hiked on Friday April 17, 2015. Our group for the day. Photo credit to Derrick Hamrick (the big guy on the right)

“Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.”  Anais Nin

 
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Posted by on June 3, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Dear Christy….

lettter

For a little over two years now I have been writing a series of posts on my Facebook page entitled ‘Dear Christy.’ They usually include a personal message that coincides with a scripture, sometimes coupled with a picture or quote I come across that speaks to me. Many times I have had people express thanks for these little tidbits of inspirations and several have asked what exactly is the ‘Dear Christy’ series about. Well, here is the best explanation I can give you of what provoked the first post and why they come on a continual, random basis.

(Warning: this may be a little lengthy so grab a cup of coffee, a glass of sweet tea, a shot of tequila – whatever suits your fancy – and get comfortable….;-) )

Very early in life I had felt the sting of rejection. While I was an infant being formed in my mother’s womb, my father rejected me. As a little girl there were countless times he verbally voiced his hatred and anguish over the fact that I belonged to him; words of scorn, disapproval, even demands of me to not use his last name. The physical pain he inflicted at times from alcohol induced rages was tough but it scarcely compared to the deeply imbedded wounds his words left on my innocent heart. I grew up feeling ugly, unwanted, ashamed of who I was and unworthy of love. Those feelings followed me on into my teenage and young adult years, leaving me with an intense yearning to find acceptance and affirmation in the eyes of a man. Relationships came and went and the failure of a 12 year marriage left me devastated. It seemed no matter what relationship I found myself in, eventually it would fall apart and I would find myself alone, again.

It was Fall of 2012 and life was wearing me out. I was at a place where I felt emotionally and spiritually spent. Being the only parent to 4 children, filling the shoes of both mother and father left me overwhelmed (my children lost their dad in June of 2011 after a 3 year battle with colon cancer). I was longing for someone to fill the need that ached so deeply in my soul. Countless mornings I would wake before the sun arose feeling destitute and alone, an emptiness that at some moments felt as vast as the Grand Canyon.  I would cry out to God in desperation, wondering what was so wrong with me. I spent every hour of every day tending to someone else’s needs. Whether it was my children (and other people’s children that I loved like my own), my employer, my friends or my significant other – my days were literally spent at the service of others.  I wasn’t bitter, just broken and lonely and I struggled to understand why someone couldn’t be there for me when I needed it?  I crawled into bed on a lonely Wednesday night questioning God like a ferocious investigator. Why couldn’t someone hold me and let me know everything would be ok? Why couldn’t someone just love me back and make an extra effort to show it. A text? A call? A card? Anything that showed I was worth the effort, that proved to me that I was loved.

Thursday, November 29, 2012 was as normal as any other day. The usual 6 AM alarm was set, but some time way before then I felt a nudge to wake up. At first I thought one of my children had come into my room to wake me but when I opened my eyes, there was no one there. Ugh! I wanted to squeeze in every moment of sleep that I could before I had to get up, so I closed my eyes, breathed a heavy sigh, and then I heard as clear as anything I had ever heard in my life. “Dear Christy, I love you tremendously and don’t ever forget it!” Holy snap! My eyes flung open knowing I would see someone standing over my bed, but again there wasn’t anyone. I sat up looking around and heard Him speak again. “Dear Christy, I love you tremendously and don’t ever forget it!” Oh mercy! The words resonated in my spirit! My heart was overwhelmed and my soul rejoiced.

The magnificent God of Heaven, Creator of all things, Master of the universe and the Redeemer of my soul flooded my room with His presence! He had heard my desperate pleas and answered them in a way that I never imagined. A love note straight from His lips penetrated the depths of my being. He hadn’t sent another person to relay His message, no, instead He had showed up in person! He had traveled from the portals of eternity, penetrated time and space, and came to my bedside to speak the words my soul so yearned to hear. As I sat there weeping in awe and wonder something inside of my lonely heart broke and I knew that as the sun came up over the horizon, my life was going to be forever changed. For 17 years, from the moment God had answered my bodacious challenge to prove to me He was real I clinged to the crazy notion that Jesus was not only my savior, but that God the Father was my friend. Over the years I have been blessed to experience many facets of who He is. I can share countless occasions that I’ve worshipped and fellowshipped with Him as the Almighty God who sits high and lofty on his throne. Times that He sat with me as my teacher and opened His word up to my heart. Times I’ve heard His voice and felt His guidance as my Shepherd; times I’ve witnessed as He worked miracles right before my eyes as the all-powerful One (I even saw Him take the stars out of the sky and put them back into place three times! True story!). But on this crispy autumn morning He became someone brand new to me. He became my companion, the One who would fill my lonely heart and proclaim my worth to me. The One who made the most extreme effort over two thousand years ago to show me how much I meant to Him and who would daily reaffirm I was worthy, I was valuable, I was beautiful and I was loved. I knew this experience wasn’t just for me alone and had to be shared with others, thus began the ‘Dear Christy’ love letter series from God to me.

It wasn’t long after this moment that I found myself, by God’s guidance, walking as a single woman for the first time in many, many years. The thought of not being in a relationship of some sorts had always terrified me but I can say now that the reality of it was overwhelmingly refreshing and revealing. I have always been a person that has been driven by emotion. I feel everything! Most folks can walk outside and see a full moon and appreciate the beauty in it – me on the other hand can walk outside and be captivated as I feel the awesomeness of it run through every fiber of my being. I embrace the ocean’s waves as he dances precariously over my bare feet. I shed a tear at the sight of a magnificent mushroom growing gracefully along the forest floor. I fall in love with a stranger who shares their story with me. I cry at sad movies, happy movies, dumb movies. I remember once my pastor told me that I was the “most emotionally expressive and needy person he had ever met!” I wasn’t sure at the time if that was a compliment or an insult but regardless I knew it was the truth. Although I don’t need a man to mow my yard or wash my car, the insatiable desire I had to have one look at me with admiration and approval was ridiculous. This need to fill my emotional tank had driven me into several wrong relationships and honestly there isn’t a man this side of Mars that can keep my tank full! However, there IS a God who holds the universe in place that became my partner and my closest friend. Isaiah 54:5 even goes as far as to say “For your Maker is your husband, the Lord Almighty is his name, the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth.” I had trusted Him for years for healing, for provision, for strength, for guidance but to trust Him enough to fully surrender and walk alone with Him as my mate…cough cough….really? Yet I took the plunge, the ‘omg I can’t believe I am going to do this but I am’ leap of faith and I can testify that God has never failed me. When I turned to Him and Him alone for comfort, He not only filled the abyss that loneliness had taken abode in for so many years, He also mended my broken heart and filled the cracks and crevices with a peace and trust in Him that is immeasurable! I would call out to Him and he was quick to answer. (He has even fixed my gas grill, unstopped my toilet and fixed my brakes – more true stories! I swear!) He has changed me from being that girl who would feel alone in a crowd to the one who loves to venture out alone with only Him and His creation.

Two years later the ‘Dear Christy’ series still comes on a perpetual basis. There are some days the revelation in His simple letter is just for my heart, and there are other days when there is someone within my social network connections who needs a comforting reminder – I never know, I just post!. I do know though that with each moment when He speaks those two little words – Dear Christy – my heart leaps within me and I know He is getting ready to say something to me that will change me.  It has been an amazing (and ongoing – He isn’t finished with me yet!) transformation! For the first time in 40+ years I not only love God, but I love myself and I love the life He blesses me with. There is a passion in my heart that cannot be tamed and I want others to know just how very much God loves them and values them too!

(insert note: In June of 2011 my dad accepted Jesus as his personal savior! There is never anyone that is without hope! ‘Hurt people hurt people’ but God forgives us all and there is no condemnation in the chains that used to bind him.)

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

I Saw God Today

I saw a man today
His hands were cold,
His jacket,old
His skin weathered
His eyes were grey
I’m sure he had seen better days
I don’t know his story
But I know he likes cheesecake

And another
His jacket said Ronnie
His shirt said Larry
We shared a laugh when he said his name was really Joe
I don’t know if that’s true
But I know he likes his coffee black

A lady, her voice quiet
She was polite
I looked her in the eyes
I caught a glimpse of how they used to shine
Her smile was kind
I don’t know where all she had been but I know she likes sweet tea

These people I met
They didn’t know me
I didn’t know them
But for a moment we were friends
I don’t know if I will ever see them again
But one thing I know

I saw God today
He was hungry He was cold
He was young He was old
His presence pierced my soul
We shook hands and we talked
And I watched him as he walked away
I don’t know when I’ll see him again
But for now I know
I saw God today and He was beautiful….

Thanksgiving 2014
Serving at a dinner for the homeless and less fortunate.

 
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Posted by on December 2, 2014 in Uncategorized