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Of Summits, Storms and a God Who Works Suddenly

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In May 2015 for my youngest son, Oliver’s 13th birthday he asked me to take him hiking. Well of course I was elated with the request and happily obliged. Our first mother, son hike was to Grayson Highlands Park in Mouth of Wilson Virginia to take in the two Pinnacles. The weather was perfect, the skies were amazing and the company simply out of this world.

As winter 2015 began to dissipate into Spring, the topic of another birthday hike arose. Where to this year? I knew the answer immediately and shared with him that I would like to take him to one of my personal favorites, Hawksbill Mountain in the Linville Gorge. I couldn’t talk enough about how mesmerized he would be with the landscape and the views the gorge had to offer so plans were set for the 2nd annual mother/son birthday hike.

Well, May came and went with busy schedules, rainy weather, baseball season and other obstacles that seemed to constantly put off planned hike. However, finally in August (yeah I know…way belated!) on a busy Tuesday, Oliver and I loaded up the pack and headed towards the Linville Gorge. Like an efficient mom/hiker would do, I checked the weather and saw it was only a 15 – 20 % chance of rain so I figured we should be good. Partly cloudy conditions have a way of painting up the blue sky and creating stunning views over the gorge and I was beside myself that we were finally getting to go.

The drive over was a little sketchy as we were greeted with gray skies upon entering North Carolina. By the time we reached the trail head a steady drizzle of rain was falling. “Surely it won’t last long,” I thought, and with Oliver being a willing trooper off we headed up the trail. Silently I prayed for the Lord to please stop the rain and clear up the skies for us, I so wanted Oliver to behold the views from Hawksbill, but the further up we went, the more it rained. By the time we reached the top of the trail we were completely drenched from head to toe. Oliver got to experience a white-out condition for the first time and I admit my heart sunk a little as we stared off into the thick fog only to see nothing…absolutely nothing. No tree tops, no mountains, no Table Rock, no Chimneys , no  Camel in sight. No Wiseman’s View, no Linville River down below and no Shortoff Mountain in the far distance. With our eyes pierced and searching we came up empty! Everything I had excitedly shared with him for months was hidden before us as we were engulfed by the storm. I was sorely disappointed and felt like my prayers had fallen on deaf ears.

The white-out view from the top of the Spine and the Summit

We carefully played around for a few minutes at the top of the spine of Hawksbill, getting a few shots for keepsake, but after my feet slipped completely out from under me leaving me lying flat on my back in a spot that I have stepped on several times, we decided to retreat from the spine and head on up to the summit. I am a persistent little bugger at times so I continued to pray that the Lord would PLEASE let the skies clear up for Oliver to see what marvelous things surrounded him. The rain lingered, the fog thickened and my heart sank a little more with each step. We reached the summit, grabbed a few more photo ops and decided to call it a day and head back down. As I was gathering my pack Oliver pointed out a patch of blue in the skies above us. It was a small patch but nevertheless a patch of blue!! We agreed to wait for just a few more minutes and our decision seemed quite futile until suddenly…boom! The fog dissipated, the skies opened up and one by one the magnificent wonders of the gorge came into view. Oliver’s reaction to the glory that laid before him was filled with awe exactly as I imagined it would be. I shouted out loud praise and thanksgiving for an answered prayers! (okay – really they can classify as constant desperate pleas under my breath the whole way up and there) For almost an hour we carefully played and took pictures. I emphasize carefully, taking into consideration the tons of rain, slick rocks, summits, and death worthy plunges into the gorge with one false step. The rain drenched trip suddenly turned out quite fabulous and mom and son took time to enjoy a peanut butter and jelly sandwich together at 4020 feet above sea level.

 

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Jumping for joy on Hawksbill Mountain

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Suddenly everything changed!

Heading back down the mountain I pondered in my heart the overall conditions of the trip and how suddenly things changed for us. One minute the sky was covered in heavy gray fog, the next minute it seemed as if the heavens had opened up and poured its glory upon us. I was so thankful that we endured with patience and waited just a few more minutes or we would have missed out on so many marvelous moments. After stopping a few times to collect some cool mushroom shots, we made it back to the ole Honda and were headed back to the homestead. Later on in the evening as I was kicked back and going through our pictures, I observed the incredible difference that just a few moments made and again let praise and thanksgiving escape my lips – “thank you God for answering my prayers!” It was then I heard His response, “By the way, I heard you the first time you prayed and I answered you, it just took some time for the conditions to be right. First, I had to move the storm out.” Wow, I let that sink in a little….

Yes, as soon as the conditions were right on the mountain there was a sudden change! It went from not seeing 10 feet from your face to seeing clearly to the end of the horizon.

Not immediately. Not quickly. But suddenly everything changed. Insert another life lesson from the trail:

Is life kicking your butt? Do you feel like your prayers have fallen on deaf ears? Suddenly…

Do you feel like you are wondering around blinded by all the chaos around you? Have you slipped a time or two in familiar territory falling flat on your back in failure? Suddenly…

Are the storms of life engulfing you? Suddenly…

Has your faith been dimmed by the lingering fog that envelopes your senses and leaves you feeling hopeless? Suddenly…

Have you been praying for something/someone relentlessly and things seem to only get worse? Suddenly…

Are you weary? Discouraged? Downhearted? Feeling like it’s time to give in? Suddenly…

At this moment I share with you the same thing the Almighty God of Heaven shared with me. His word assures us over and over that:

He absolutely hears our prayers. (Psalm 66:19-20, 2 Kings 20:5)

He is constantly working on our behalf. (Romans 8:28) (Psalm 68:28 NRSV)

He is our warrior and fights the battle for us. (Exodus 14:14)

He is on our side and if that is so, who can oppose us? (Romans 8:31)

He renews us and strengthens our weary hearts (Isaiah 40:31)

I am so thankful that we waited just a few more minutes on the summit of that mountain. Had we left 5 minutes earlier we would have missed what was in store for us. What are you waiting for? I can personally tell you that for the past few months I have been walking through one of the most difficult parenting seasons of my life. There are times that I think my mothering heart can’t take one more iota of aching. Times that I lay before the throne of God and weep and plea for Him to do something. Times I question whether He even hears me. Times I wonder if He is truly going to come and work on our behalf. I want Him to do things immediately! Quickly! Geez Lord hurry up! Times I am weary from the climb and drenched from the storms. But I am reminded on this day that there is a “suddenly” on the horizon for you and for me. There is an appointed ‘suddenly’ that will change everything. Keep climbing that mountain, keep enduring that storm because suddenly God is on His way.

(scripture references of God working suddenly:

On the Mount of Transfiguration: “suddenly” Moses and Elijah were seen conversing with Jesus (Matthew 17:). The Holy Spirit arrived on Pentecost “suddenly” (Acts 2:2). “Suddenly” a light blinded Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9:3-4). When he and Silas were imprisoned, a severe earthquake came “suddenly” (Acts 16:25-26). There was Sirach. “For it is easy with the Lord suddenly, in an instant, to make a poor man rich” (11:21-22).

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My Oliver overlooking the Gorge from Hawksbill Summit

A few mushrooms found along the way 🙂

 
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Posted by on August 10, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Of Waterfalls and Hidden Treasures

Of Waterfalls and Hidden Treasures

Everyone has things that they love to do to feed their soul (or should!) One of the things that I enjoy doing is hiking. It is a hobby I took up 3 years ago that has provided me with an abundance of opportunities to explore some incredible places in and around East Tennessee, southwestern Virginia, western North Carolina, northwestern South Carolina and Kentucky. I’ve also been privileged to meet some of the finest folks on planet earth that share the same passion for adventuring that was birthed in me from the first step on the trail. One of my favorite things to do is venture off trail in search of treasures that are hidden away in remote places that not everyone wants to take the time and the sometimes helluva of a lot of effort it takes to get to.

One of my friends and trail mates had been told about a waterfall located off trail on Holston Mountain that wasn’t well known and rarely seen. On Labor Day, 2015, several of us set out in search of this fall. We located the stream quite easily and began our trek up the mountain with hopes of finding a treasure. The journey was a fairly moderate one with some small creek crossings, quite a bit of bushwhacking through the thick mountain laurel and fallen trees, some rock hopping and some uphill scrambling. However the further up the mountain we ventured, the smaller the creek became until eventually we completely lost the water source. We found ourselves standing on a boulder filled area that appeared to be the perfect place for a waterfall, we could even hear water running underneath us, however, no waterfall was to be found. No adventure is a waste of time but I do admit we were all a little disappointed that we did not find what we were looking for so we set our sights back on the trail and headed back to the truck.

Skip ahead to a rainy Sunday in February, 2016 after old man winter had dumped a few deep snows around us and then saturated us with several rainfalls. Instead of staying inside where it was warm and dry, three of us from the previous adventure decided to get out and do some exploring. A few ideas were tossed around, and after considering the amount of the recent snow and rain, we decided to revisit the location on Holston Mountain in search of the unfound fall. As soon as we approached the creek, that was swelled and raging, we knew this adventure would merit a different outcome from the last. As the rains fell from the heavens and the waters sprung up out of the earth we began a journey that would prove much more difficult this time around. The creek was at least three times wider than before with deep waters rushing violently (thigh high in places!) and crossing was impossible unless we wanted to have soaked bodies from the get go. We decided to bushwhack up the bank as far as we could, using dead logs for makeshift bridges and tight-roping fallen trees whenever possible. The laurel was thicker than thieves, the rain saturating and the ground slick. Less than halfway up the journey, the only things still dry on me were the body parts protected by my raincoat and my feet sheltered in waterproof boots. After 3 hours of travailing through any way that we could, my hands and fingers were covered in dirt from gripping on to anything I could to stay upright, my jeans were soaked and muddy from belly crawls through the brush and I’m sure my face was decorated in shades of dirt and muck from the unsuccessful attempts to wipe it dry. But oh my! Our efforts were getting ready to pay off royally and the sights we were to behold, simply breathtaking.

From a distance we looked up and saw the first sights of a waterfall! The same boulder filled area we happened upon on our last visit was now covered with rushing waters falling from high upon the mountain. I couldn’t believe my eyes! The same area that had been dry as a bone before was now waterfall heaven laden with some of the absolute most gorgeous drops I have ever seen. Valiant efforts were put forth to capture this fall on film, yet it was impossible to get the whole fall – which was at least 300ft from top to bottom – in one frame. The falling rain made it even more challenging to snap a capture, but we persisted and persevered, making our way up drop after drop. I was completely captivated with each new drop, like a kid in a candy shop trying to get a piece of all the good stuff. Even the side tributaries that flowed into the main stream possessed incredible drops and cascades that were more than picture worthy, yet I was nowhere near ready to behold the magnificence that waited for us at the top.

I’m scrambling to get as many pictures as possible with the little bit of daylight we had left and I hear the exuberant shouts of my trail mate to come on up. As I climb up over the last boulder and stood upright, I knew immediately that I had been transported to some magical place. The rock wall to the left of the waterfall was an incredible sight within itself with small streams of water trickling down from its top. My eyes scanned over to the impressive waterfall that flowed out and over the top of the mountain. My eyes teared up as gasps of wonder from deep inside my soul escaped past my lips (yes I know, I am such an emotional creature!). Our efforts had paid off – the repeated attempts, the bushwhacking, the cuts, the bruises, being soaked to the bone, dirty as crap – and we had found her! The hidden treasure was on full display right before my eyes. Heck yes!

As I stood there engrossed in amazement, I heard that still small voice that so eloquently speaks and seizes my attention. “What if you went through that much trouble to find the treasures hidden in people? Make repeated efforts when you appear to come up empty handed on the first try. Fight through the muck and dirt of their life. Weather the storm that is raging inside of them. Not give up until you find the treasure that I know is there?” Thus began another one of the priceless moments where the great God of heaven and earth stood beside me, stopping time as I know it and conversing with me for what seemed like an eternity. We talked of those who were hurting, confused, trapped inside walls of guilt and shame. Those who felt worthless, irrelevant, insignificant. Those who appeared dark and dreary to the naked eye, but to the soul who was brave enough to take a closer look, to delve deeper into the muck, would discover a treasure so grand our hearts would be astonished. He reminded me of times that I had been broken, empty and felt worthless and ashamed. We reminisced of the anger I had exchanged for pain and the fortress I had constructed around my heart to not hurt anymore (Pink Floyd’s wall didn’t hold a candle to mine!). He took me back to that glorious place on April 10, 1994 when I knelt before Him and surrendered. The moment I joined Him on my journey to find the treasures of His spirit buried deep inside my own being (talk about an ongoing bushwhacking adventure! Hello fuzzy!). Last but not least, He addressed the weariness that was lingering in my soul from what seemed like futile attempts and exhausted efforts in my life without any treasures being found. Journeys that had left me cut, bruised, wounded and vulnerable. And then I simply stood with Him in silence as this place of visitation was being forever burned into the portals of my mind.

Only a matter of seconds had passed when I returned to the present. We were running out of daylight and it was time to bid farewell to this glorious place we had discovered. I knew with every step back to the car that, although the waterfalls we encountered on this day were nothing short of a spectacular find, the greatest treasure I had discovered was a renewed sense of hope and desire to venture on His journey, embrace His plans and continue the search for His treasures that were hidden all around me.

2 Corinthians 4:6-8Living Bible (TLB)
For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made us understand that it is the brightness of his glory that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ. But this precious treasure—this light and power that now shine within us is held in a perishable container, that is, in our weak bodies. Everyone can see that the glorious power within must be from God and is not our own.

 
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Posted by on March 2, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Of Friday Mornings, Mushrooms and a God Who Answers Prayers

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Fridays are my off day from my paying job (with 4 children and 1 grandchild I never have a real day off! Mommas can you feel me??) So as often as I can I venture out on a trail with a hiking partner. Last Friday rolled around and it had been a few weeks since my last adventure. Circumstances prevented a planned outing but my weeks had been extremely taxing and my soul so needed some refreshing. I concluded to set off on my own and enjoy some solo time on a familiar trail. My destination would be Laurel Run Park in Church Hill, a trail with some waterfalls that I had been on once before during the cold weather months and was curious to see in the summer season. With backpack packed, hiking boots on and pole in hand, I put sole to trail and began my day. I chuckled a little as I crossed the bridge and saw a sign that read “Caution, Dangerous Wildlife, Proceed at Own Risk.” I didn’t recall seeing that the last time but perhaps I was too caught up in conversation to notice, and I dared to proceed despite the warning.

The day was over-cast with very little light filtering in through the forest’s covering.  The deeper into the trail I went, the darker it got. After making the stream crossing I was walking along and I began to think about that caution sign…..and bears. My mind began to race. What on earth would I do if I encountered one? Did I tell anyone where I was going today? If one attacked me I would cut him! Fiddlesticks! I left my handy dandy pocket knife in my purse in the car (no I had not been using it on anyone lately) Lord, I know your plan for me is not to be eaten by a bear when I am seeking serenity!  As I think back on it now, I am amused at how entangled I became with thoughts of a bear that was nowhere near. How many times in life do we allow ourselves to get wrapped up in worries that never happen? That we let our fears get the best of us? That we focus on the things that might happen versus the things that we know are true?

It wasn’t long until the melody of the stream became the song that I longed to hear. A few more steps and I had reached my destination of the waterfall. All thoughts of anything on the outside world fled my mind and I became entranced with the sights, the sounds, the aromas that surrounded me. I lingered at the fall for about an hour, taking pictures, exploring the different angles, playing in the rushing waters, inhaling the fresh smell of the wet earth and admiring the beauty of my surroundings. I proceeded on up to the top of the falls and found the perfect spot to sit for a spell and talk to my Father about the things that were weighing on my heart. Did He hear me? Would He answer? Would things be ok? I repeated a phrase that I had uttered many times before along my journey called life, “Lord, I believe, but help me with my unbelief.”

The clock was ticking away and it was time for me to wrap things up.  I headed back to the trail and was tossing through my mind whether I had time to proceed on up to the second fall.  After checking the hour, I knew I needed to head back to the car but I put in one simple request before I began my trek back. “Lord, I would really love to see a mushroom! Something curious and interesting!” Literally within two steps I looked down and standing there, illuminated by a single ray of sun that pierced through the darkness was the most exquisite mushroom I had ever laid eyes on! I swear I heard that “ahhhhhhhh” you hear in movies when something magical happens. I knelt down to examine this handsome specimen and was awed by his stance, the way his colors complimented the blanket of green moss he sprouted from. He was magnificent and I was enamored. When I was finally able to peel my attention away from this wonderful mushroom, I saw another one, totally different in appearance but nonetheless stunning. Then another one and another one! How had I missed these beauties on my way up? Had I been too focused on thoughts of a bear that didn’t exist? Did God just answer my prayer and kaboom! They were there? I’m not sure which scenario was right, I just knew I was happier than a fat kid eating cake as I went from one mushroom to another snapping shots and admiring their uniqueness.

I stood there for a moment, somewhat shocked at how quickly my simple request had been answered. Not only did I see one mushroom, but I had been blessed with a showcase in every direction. Thanksgiving couldn’t help but escape from my lips and it was then that I heard the response that brought me to my knees somewhere in the middle of a trail nestled in the woods of Hawkins County. “If I hear you when you ask for simple things and I answer you, how much more do to you think I hear you when you ask for greater things? For your children, your family, those that you love and I love even more?” Psalm 18:6 says “In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears.”  On a beautiful, serene Friday morning the most High God of heaven, the creator of the universe, the maker of the sun, moon and stars, author of my life, my Father and my Friend met with me in the woods. He ministered to my spirit and soothed my soul, reminding me that, yes! He hears my every prayer, every request, whether they are simple or heartfelt cries. He assured me once again that He is always with me, His promises are ever true and His word never fails.

As I headed back to the real world with every step my feet felt a little bit lighter, my stride more joyful and my spirit rejoiced! There were no thoughts of unseen bears lurking in the distance. Instead thanksgiving and praise to my God bellowed out of my gut. I was thankful for His presence, for His assurance, for His voice and for mushrooms.

Some of the other gems I found 🙂

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Posted by on August 19, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Independence Day

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As I was on my many excursions the other day to pick up one of my children, I stopped at a very familiar intersection waiting on the cars to pass so that I could pull out. I sat there for a moment gazing at the sky before me and, as I always do, noticed the huge American flag that was prancing in the wind. I have seen this flag a hundred times or more but for some reason at this particular moment, I was enamored by her beauty. Her presence courteously demanded attention; her colors seemed bolder than other days and the gracefulness in which she moved along with the rhythm of the wind connected with my spirit. I couldn’t help but to be compelled to take a snap shot and as the sound of the shutter echoed in my ears I heard the softly spoken words, “Independence Day, do you remember when I set you free?” Yes, we had just recently celebrated the 4th of July and I was able to enjoy my sweet granddaughter’s first parade and the company of family and friends at a cookout later on that day. We were all decked out in our patriotic attire, eating, drinking and fellowshipping as we were commemorating the freedoms that we are so blessed to enjoy. Yet it was not those events that were resonating in my spirit, immediately my mind went back to that glorious day that the magnificent God of heaven had set me free from a bondage that had held me captive for most of my life.

January 8, 2013 had begun like any other day (and for you Elvis fans, YES! That is his birthday!) I woke up with the break of day spilling through my blinds. My heart was heavy and that familiar empty feeling was nagging at my gut. I had known for a while now that things were getting ready to change in my life, I had prayed for the changes fervently for many years and I had even felt God bring me to a crossroads several times. Yet I, in my humanness, resisted the choices I knew I had to make and would find myself again back on the same road running in circles. There was something different about this day, I felt almost a dire straits type of urgency so I prayed and just asked God to once again guide my heart, my life, my thoughts and my decisions. The day went about as normal and it was mid-afternoon until I heard His voice. Ironically I was driving down the same road as the above pictured flag is on and I heard Him say to me. “Today is the day, you must make a change.” Mercy! Seriously! I must? Like a necessity? Would my world end if I didn’t make the right decision today? (I am so glad that God is used to my animated, dramatic responses.) Regardless of my reaction, I knew that I could not go to sleep on this night without making the change I knew God was directing me to make.

After my marriage of 12 years ended, I felt God persistently drawing me to Himself. Because of things that had happened in my childhood with my father, I grew up thinking (in a desperate ‘oh my god I have to have it or I will die of worthlessness’ manner) I needed a man to affirm me, to give worth, to deem me of value. I spent many years and cried many tears dealing with rejection from the ones I looked up to, needing them to lift me up. No matter how well I performed, what accomplishments I achieved, how many others thought I was the shizzz, if I didn’t get approval from the man in my life, well, I was left feeling empty, destitute and completely broken. I can’t relay to you the countless times I cried out to God, begging Him to just puh-lease change me and make me worthy of someone’s love and approval!  One of my biggest fears was that I would end up alone without anyone to love me. I hated being alone. The thought terrified me even to the point of feeling anxiety a week before my children would go away to their dad for his time with them. I can look back now and see how ridiculously insane it all was, but during the time it was all happening, it was a cruel reality. So instead of being alone, I would find myself in relationships that weren’t meant for me to be in at all. Not necessarily ‘bad’ ones, just the wrong ones. The problems weren’t about who I was with, the problems were a stronghold buried deep inside of me and the God of Heaven wanted to break the stronghold.

To make a long story short, before the sun went down that day, I made the changes that I needed to make. It was scary and I felt it a little risqué to lay down all my defenses and control and to just trust God completely with every aspect of my heart and life. Just me and Him. Whew! I can tell you though that as soon as I acted on my decision, an enormous peace flooded my heart in a way that I had never ever felt before. A peace that I had fervently prayed for as a child, a young woman, as a mother. A peace that passed any understanding I could comprehend. A peace that wasn’t based on situations and circumstances all being hunky dory, but one that took up residence in a broken and empty heart and filled it to overflowing.  It has been an amazing journey over the past year and a half. My children have faced some of the most challenging times since we lost their dad, yet each challenge has brought many blessings. Times that I would have caved under the pressures of life, I found myself resting in the assurance that God had it all under control. Nights that I would wake up feeling destitute and alone were soon replaced with sweet sleep and a comforting presence that followed my every step. Moments of revelation of God’s awesome power, His incredible love and His endless mercy. With His grace and help, I began to recognize the worth and value I possess within myself.  I was discovering who I was, on a journey with just Him as my only appraiser and the treasure that dwells  inside of me. (Heck fire! The SAME spirit that raised Christ from the dead lives in me, how magnificent is that!?!

Of course there have been brief moments that I allowed myself to become distracted and veered off my course just a little, but those moments never last very long.  The enemy of our soul is always seeking to trip us up, but God is always faithful to remind me of who I am, who He is and why and where He has me in my journey. The bible talks about in John 8 “if we know the truth, the truth will set us free. And if the Son sets us free, we are free indeed.” (paraphrased). As I sat there at the intersection and watched as the flag danced effortlessly with the wind beneath her, singing freedom to all who drove by, I was reminded of my freedom song, of all the things God has changed in my life and all the liberties He has planted in my heart through His truth. I pondered on the serenity I have found in singleness and the peace I have found in solitude with Him. I cried, I rejoiced, and I sang praises as I discovered a piece of myself in the beauty of that flag and I was reminded of MY Independence Day

(insert – for a woman who hated to be by herself for any given amount of time – I went on a solo hike in the Spring of this year. It was amazing!! Not only the best three hours I had ever spent, but a landmark in my journey of freedom that I cherish! The soothing melody of the waterfall, the tune of the creek as it trickled across the rocks, the gentle breeze that rustled my hair – it was all beautiful and breathtaking yet none of it could compare to the peace and tranquility that is dwelling inside of me! Yee haw!)

 
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Posted by on July 10, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Of Rocks, Trees and a Beloved Savior

Of Rocks, Trees and a Beloved Savior

I belong to my beloved, and his desire is for me. Song of Solomon 7:10

I recently had the opportunity to visit Grayson Highlands State Park, 4522 acres of gorgeous terrain in Mouth of Wilson, Virginia. With every hiking adventure that I go on, I’m always amazed at all of the beauty we encounter with each step on the trail. Our first stop was Big Pinnacle which reaches 5068 feet elevation. Rocky cliffs decorated with various wildflowers, moss and shrubbery adorn the pinnacles edge and are perfect for climbing and exploration. We ventured up the trail and over to Little Pinnacle which is 5089 feet elevation. You can see breathtaking views for miles and miles from both of these pinnacles! Our final destination for the day would be Cabin Creek Falls, unique in their own sense with two cascades resembling a heart shape as they flow downward in a slanted motion, meeting at the bottom and emptying into the icy cold pool.

The best words I could choose to describe this area is simply the hills are alive with music! The forest landscape was filled with the greenest green I have ever seen; beds of ferns as inviting as a pillow-top mattress; an assortment of wildflowers painting the green canvas with color; fire honeysuckle that shone as bright as the noon day sun; jack in the pulpits and trilliums galore. One couldn’t help but to remain in a constant state of awe with each new discovery. Sights, sounds, smells – my senses were alive and dancing with the harmonious melody of nature.

A few days before our trip, a trail friend had shared a picture with me of a tree that was growing around this rock. It resembled something from a magical land of elves and kings, and the anticipation of laying my eyes on this sight was growing inside of me. As we descended from Little Pinnacle, coming down the hill and around the corner, there he stood! Magnificent! Bewitching! Stunning! Handsome! I was overwhelmed and had to fight back the tears that desperately flooded my eyes. The way this tree had formed himself around this rock was remarkable. The way he had wrapped his roots around her and planted himself firmly in the ground, astonishing. I stared for what seemed like eternity as was transported back to times passed. A time when this rock had stood alone in the forest, unique in her own sense, however bare and exposed. Somewhere from on high, a seed looked down and fell in love! He observed her vulnerabilities laid open for all to see as she stood there, unprotected from the elements around her. He settled in his heart the desire to leave his home on the tree, to exchange his life as a seed and become the mighty tree she needed. To come down to where she dwelled, fall upon her, break open and plant himself in the depths of her being. He knew his destiny was to love her, to be her guard and protect her forever. He would embrace her and shelter her from any storm that came her way. He would become her shield and companion; he would belong to her and her to him.

In a moment of time I saw centuries pass before my eyes and was taken back to yet another hill. A place called Golgotha where my Savior hung, naked on a cross, broken and spilled out for me. He had looked down from his home on high and saw me, standing alone, bare and exposed to the sin that threatened my existence. His desire for me caused him to leave where he was and come to where I dwelled. He planted his love in the depths of my being as he wrapped his arms around me and embraced me. He became my protector, my shield, my companion. He exchanged his life as king of existence to become my savior, to belong to me and I to him, forever. Oh my, the revelation that stirred in my heart. I wanted to shout! To cry! To lay myself prostrate on the ground and worship my Lord.

It never fails that with each hike I discover a new part of me that has been planted in the portals of time and has been patiently awaiting my encounter. On this day, I found myself in a rock, embraced by a tree somewhere in the southern highlands of Virginia.

 
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Posted by on June 10, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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The Great Channels – Beauty from adversity

The Great Channels - Beauty from adversity

This picture was taken at the Great Channels of Virginia, on the cliff’s edge, peering down at where we had come from to get to where we were. The trail was taxing at times, even to the point of having to stop to catch our breath, yet the anticipation of the destination was enough fuel to carry us on along our way. Approaching the Channels and her mammoth size sandstones gave me butterflies. Hopping along her spine was a mesmerizing invite, yet one slip of the foot would send you hurling downward 40 to 60 feet to the caverns floor (well if you were lucky enough to make it to the bottom – some places gave you the idea that you might become the next object wedged so intricately in the display!) Walking down into the channels gave one the feeling that you were traveling through a magical wardrobe into an enchanted land from ages past. It’s difficult, almost impossible to describe all that my eyes beheld! The beauty, the magic, the traces of history, trees growing out of rocks, colors more impressive than a rainbow, slithers in caverns that invited you to come in. Some led to dead ends giving you the sneaky sense that you were captured inside an old Egyptian booby trap and at any moment tons of sand would pound upon your helpless self, while others, with enough effort and maneuvering, found you in another room full of awe and wonder. The faces in the rock formations intrigue me the most. ‘Keepers of the way” as I like to call them, evidence of a lifetime I know nothing of but if I take enough time to linger, I will have the honor of connecting to those who have passed before me.

We could have lingered for days in these channels and still not have gleaned all of the riches intertwined within her. It was difficult to leave, something in my soul was just not ready to say good bye, and as we made our way back out onto the trail, we discovered a side step that lead us to the destination of this picture, the best seat in the house. With careful steps, we ventured to the edge, knowing that one false move would be the end of life as we know it. Right at the corner of the way stood this annoying little bush with barren, prickly branches that seemed to want to prohibit my arrival and rob me of the view that was mine to behold. Yet my perseverance outweighed the timidity that was rising in my throat and, wah-lah! Here I sit. Victorious! Amazed! And free! It was at that moment I heard distinctively in my spirit “Look where you are and see where you have come from.” I knew that my heavenly Father was getting ready to reveal something grand to me. My eyes gazed upon the trail below me. The twists, the turns, the ups and down and the level plateaus. My mind pondered on each step that it took to get to the destination of our journey. The sights along the way; some breathtakingly beautiful, some intriguing, exquisite, some ordinary and I’m sure some that were worthy but missed due to the concentration and focus on what was awaiting me.

The wind rustled through my hair and brushed my face like an unseen hand. It was only seconds, perhaps a minute or two that I sat on the edge, but a lifetime passed before my eyes and I saw:

A lonely child, heartbroken, beaten and afraid.

A young woman, angry, confused, stripped of worth and identity.

A wife hungry for love and approval.

A mother discovering a love so fierce that nothing in time nor space could extinguish it.

A student passionately discovering a truth that refreshed, renewed, affirmed, healed and transformed.

A minister fervently sharing the good news that broke chains and set the captives free.

A woman revealing her heart and soul, exposing the depths of who she was and how she had come to be. Bearing the scars of adversity yet standing tall, strong and victorious. Familiar with loss but embracing the blessings.

A survivor overcoming her fears.

Hungry to live, to love, to laugh, to discover.

The Great Channels – a magical place that had been formed from adversity. Had the pressure from the ice wedges not shattered the capstone, no one would have ever been able to venture inside the maze of passages and discover the beauty that lied within the heart of the mammoth stone. On a beautiful spring day in April, I found a part of me hidden in those ancient passages. My soul identified with the adversity that was necessary to break open the stone and reveal the treasure that lie within. My life resembled the trail with its ups and downs, its times of leveling out, beautiful times along the way, times I surely missed while focusing on something else, and my, oh my how many stickly bushes had wanted to prevent me from taking that next step. Had it not been for the times of adversity and pain I would not be who I am today. My heart sighed, rejoiced, lingered and somehow expanded as I sat on that edge, knowing not only had I visited a magical place full of awe and wonder, I had also found a piece of my soul and would travel home enriched, more complete than when I arrived.

 
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Posted by on May 14, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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On Valleys, Shadows and Father’s Day Gifts

On Valleys, Shadows and Father's Day Gifts

Last week started as any usual week. Busy schedules, work, ballgames, kids wanting to go here and there, nothing out of the ordinary except this nagging irritation in the pit of my being. Being a woman, I figured it was just a normal ride on the nice little hormonal rollercoaster we encounter periodically, and I was sure it would fade as usual. As the next day rolled around, the irritation remained and was in greater capacity. I prayed, asking God to help me not feel like I could bite a nail in two, yet it proceeded from nail-biting to feeling like I could go postal at the drop of a hat. Friends would ask me what was wrong and I felt stupid admitting that I just didn’t know what was going on inside of me. Perhaps I was feeling the anticipation of my children’s hearts as Father’s day was approaching and two days later the 2 year anniversary of their father’s death, heck! I just didn’t know! The fact that I couldn’t shake it and was getting no answer to my “what’s up with me” questions to God was leaving me quite distraught. I finally came to the conclusion (through the help of a friend who is always faithful to sharpen me as iron does for iron) that God was leading me to a place of release and when He knew I was ready, He would faithfully reveal the purpose in all this madness. Until then, it was pray for sanity!

Sunday morning I awoke as the light peeked through my bedroom window. As soon as my eyes were open, my heart felt a gentle nudging. It was Father’s day and my heavenly Father wanted to spend time with me before anyone else was up. Coffee was fixed, and I went to sit outside to enjoy the cool of the morning. As I went to sit down, it felt as if a dam inside of me was about to break. Before I could mutter a word, I heard the sweet voice of my Father shhhh’sh me (hey, sometimes I think He even puts His hand on my mouth when He wants me to be quiet 😉 ) and thus began the revelation of the past few days. As I crawled up in the lap of my Father and laid myself in His embrace, I knew it was time to let go….

For the first time, after two years, I allowed my heart to finally grieve, without any restraints or reasoning, the enormity of the loss that not only my children had suffered, but that had also pierced my heart. I didn’t try to understand, analyze, explain or restrain the tears that were flowing from somewhere deep inside. I just let them fall. I felt their warmth as they trickled down my cheeks. I tasted their saltiness as they found themselves upon my lips. Like a dam that had been opened, my soul had my unspoken permission to purge herself from all that she had been holding back behind those fortified walls. Oh, I’m sure had there been certain onlookers, they would have scoffed at my emotion, yet in this moment, it was just me, my Father and the gentle breeze that rustled through my hair. (oh and my dog was there, my sweet, loving, protective beast of a dog – leaning as close to the fence as he possibly could and looking sideways out of the corner of his eye – somehow understanding the moment and sharing it with me!)

I had lost the one who had become one with my soul many years ago. That supernatural connection doesn’t fade just because a legal paper says you are no longer together. It doesn’t diminish in meaning just because life got the best of you. In the eyes of the one who wove the threads together, it is only severed when He says that it is. How do I know this? Because GOD told me so! I don’t believe in coincidences so no, I don’t find it strange that the day that Derrek took his last breathe on this earth was the same day that 17 years prior, God had joined together two people and made them one. Yes our marriage had failed and in the physical, tangible world that we dwell in, we lived our lives as two separate entities. Yet in the eyes of the Almighty Author of our destinies, He had ordained time and circumstance to allow me to be present in the room as He called Derrek to his heavenly home. In the wee hours of a tragic Saturday morning, my daughter looked up and me and realized what particular day it was, with a broken voice she cried to me, ‘momma it’s June 18, our wedding anniversary’. I, overwhelmed with emotion was walking out of the room, when the audible voice of God spoke to me and said, “I meant it when I said til death do you part.” I knew right then it was soon, very soon and within minutes we witnessed a soul being led from this world into the realms of heaven.

A season of my life was over and a new season was laid before me. A season that would lead my children and I through a valley that, whether we were ready or not, it was time to venture on. The psalmist calls this place the valley of the shadow of death. Most of the time this particular scripture in Psalm 23 is used to reference the transition of the one who is passing. However, I can tell you from experience that, if you are a believer in Christ, there is no valley that you must treck through to get to Him. The bible says “to be absent in the body is to be present with God” and I watched as these words came alive when Derrek took his last breathe here. In an instant, his unbearable pain turned to incredulous peace as He reached out for Jesus and took hold of His hand. I watched in his eyes as his spirit left this world and crossed over into the realms of eternity. There was no valley, only a glorious gathering of angels welcoming him into his new, forever home. The valley was awaiting our feet and the shadows were falling on our hearts.

What is the valley of the shadow of death?

~It’s when you are blowing out your candles and everyone is singing to you the birthday song, and there is the once voice that you would love to hear.

~It’s that grand slams , the touchdowns, the 3 point shots, and even though the crowd is cheering you on, there is one face you are aching to see in the crowd.

~The song on the radio, the TV show you used to watch together, the little things that remind you of the empty space that no one on earth can fill.

~The moments of despair as you lay in your bed wondering how in the world you are supposed to do all of this alone.

~Wishing for that voice of wisdom as you need direction as you grow up.

~The dreams that are so convincing until you wake up and realize that life is still what it is.

~Those times when you just want to call and talk and share and laugh and love and hug.

~It’s everyday life and learning to live it differently now that a part of you is forever gone. Those triggers that bring a smile to your face and a tear to your eye.

Yes! The valley can be a solemn place, but, ah! It is also full of promise! The scripture goes on to say, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death – I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” The valley may be paved with heartache but it also blossoms with memories. At some points you will laugh so hard your stomach hurts and other times you will cry so hard that you feel you can’t possibly cry no more. There will be times you run on auto –pilot and times that you feel like you can’t take another step. But ALL times there is the promise that we are not alone! God, our good Shepherd, walks with us every step of the way. He was there in the hospital room , preparing us for our journey and He has been in every moment since. He promises that no matter what the valley may bring us, or the shadows that are cast upon us, HE is with us! No matter how heavy the heartache – He will comfort us. No matter how empty the space – HE will fill it. No matter how many times we feel like we just can’t make it – HE will be there to lift us up and lead us on. He is ever present and ready to meet us wherever we need Him – in a car, on a jog, in your room, on a field, on a treadmill, and even sitting outside on your wicker loveseat on a beautiful, breezy Father’s day morning. No matter how dreadful the valley or how dark the shadows sometimes, HE IS THERE! Will we ever move out of the valley? No. It’s a trail that we will have to blaze until it comes our time to cross over, but we need not to fear when HE is our travel companion.

The tears ceased and my heart was renewed. On this particular Father’s day it was me who received a gift. Healing, comfort, release, and a beautiful reminder that my God is good and He is still…and always…with me.

 
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Posted by on June 21, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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