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I Am Not Afraid

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I am not afraid of change,
mistakes or failure
But I am afraid of giving up and not trying
I am not afraid of climbing high
or crawling low
even if it makes me tremble inside
But I am afraid of letting fears control my life
of constraining me
of making my soul grow stagnate
I am not afraid of being bold
adventurous, silly
Of pushing the limits
to live life to the full
But I am afraid of the mundane,
Of not putting forth an effort
Of lying down at night feeling empty and stale
I am not afraid of being alone
But I am afraid of being somewhere
that isn’t right for me
of losing myself because others don’t approve
I am not afraid of silence or solitude
those moments with just me and my thoughts
But I am afraid of being in
the midst of company and
feeling lonely, inadequate
unheard and insignificant
I am not afraid of love
of heartache or of pain
Of losing and starting over again
But I am afraid of growing cold and bitter and weary in a world that takes so much and gives so little
I am not afraid of adversity
difficult times or the storm
But I am afraid of the parched pale sky
That never gives me an opportunity
to dance in the rain
I am not afraid of the passion burning inside of me
Nor that you may never understand it
or embrace it
But I am afraid of never fanning the flames
Of letting the embers fade to ashes
that quickly blow away
I am not afraid of being me
or of you not liking it
but I am afraid of looking in the mirror
and loathing what I see
I am not afraid of being human, finite
of some day coming to an end
But I am afraid of dying inside
while there is still blood in my veins
I am not afraid to face my fears
To challenge them
To conquer them
To allow them to make me better
Of that I am not afraid

(picture credit: Brandi Baldwin taken on the MST in the beautiful Chimneys of the Linville Gorge)

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Posted by on July 14, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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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 Waterfalls, Baptisms and Free Souls

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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

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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 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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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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