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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, 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!

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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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