Mums the Word.
Updated: May 23, 2019
To be honest, the interest in this hiking trip has taken me plum by surprise friends.
Maybe it's because it is interesting to see someone tackle hard things.
Perhaps it's just reading honest struggle and God meeting me in the mess of it.
For whatever reason, let's hit the trail once again.
One thing I did not give enough consideration to was the weather.
But remember that I was hung-up on water and finding the best way to avoid the formidable "brown nastiness" described by the young men of our church from their hike.
That first day I was thirsty, but knew that this luxurious "tap" water was just that- luxurious and wanted to save it for as long as I possibly could.
Even so, a hot cup of tea on such a chilly morning was too much of a temptation for me and so I began the day pouring that precious water into a little multipurpose shallow rim camp pan.
When we arrived at check-in just the day before, Joel felt so strongly about making the quick jaunt to Walmart to supply me with my very own tin cup so that I could have one comfort from home. Hot.tea. So while we went through orientation, he went to the store and found the shiniest camp mug.
The tea bags were carefully tucked away in a plastic bag that I kept close. Sugar packets too. I wanted to only bring one tea bag, as I am notorious for reusing tea bags just because I like hot water more than strong tea, but Joel wouldn't have it. If you want a peek into our marriage, know that I DO reuse tea bags at home and can go all day on one. Help us keep the peace and don't divulge this to my husband who is too crazy busy fixing all the broken things around our house to even catch the blog.
And this is the thing.... I didn't bring the cup.
I didn't bring that sweet shiny gift to me because I thought it was a waste of weight.
While literally every ounce and half ounce is felt on your back on the trail, I laugh at myself now wondering if I thought that using the restroom in the woods would some how turn me into a mud eating sort of Neanderthal that didn't need a cup for tea.
Restroom usage is a formidable foe to be sure.
This is yet another story for the next installment so I have fairly warned those of weak stomach constitution.
I can tell you that it was one of my biggest regrets. Not bringing that little convenience given with extra kindness.
Another story of my thinking I know what is best and the Lord using my husband to bless me in spite of myself. This whole blog is the story of learning.
I was just a bit better at balancing the tin on the propane stove and soon stood over a smoky fire and sipped my simple extravagance. It may have been a waste of city water and propane, but it was worth it.
After all, it WAS my birthday.
My husband knowing that I was a huge one for celebrations- love to celebrate people and love to celebrate things "on the day"- was more worried about me being away for our first time in our 20 years on my birthday than almost about anything else.
I never really gave it any consideration. Deep down I was glad to celebrate 42 years of life living something beyond myself. Perhaps I could encourage someone on my birthday.
And just as we were finishing breakfast and I was wondering once again if I could handle what the day held, our two other guides, the husband of our lead guide and brother of the other came into our camp.
They were a huge blessing that week as they hiked ahead of us and set up their camp close enough to know if a bear came to town.
Not to mention radioed to the girls to alert us just who was coming our way, when strange tree-hugging hikers came our way in their "unmentionables."
Can they be called "unmentionables:" when you do in fact mention them?
That's a story for another time, but let me tell you, it's a good one.
These heroes came into our camp with streamers and balloons tied to them and sang to me amidst chuckles of laughter. They had carried these items with them just for this moment.
God sent me a celebration in what was to me a wilderness.
Isn't that our God?
And that's the real story for today: Knowing that God is just around the bend to surprise us.
This morning we headed out on a day hike to Dragon's Tooth. A rocky mountain ledge where huge rocks jut out of the ground and seemed to grow towards the sky.
Bing images has beautiful pictures of what we were to see and climb, but I was already borrowing exhaustion and soreness from the day before.
We left our packs at camp and headed out.
You can picture me, can't you, bringing up the rear once again, as we carefully climbed rock ledge after rock ledge? I casually mention that this was getting old- me as the caboose- to my new bff guide in the back and she told me something interesting.
She told me that everyone has their own weakness. That as the week progressed, each one would have something holding them back at times.
This was hard for me to believe as I watched the crew merrily step headlong onto another ledge, but I kept it in my mind's back pocket as something I might need reminded of again in the future.
"If it just wasn't for the ascents!" I thought at least a million times. "If it wasn't always a climb!" This shows you that I took too much time worrying about water than telling myself that this week was full of MOUNTAINS.
This is also a shining testimony to the fact that I have lived all of my life in Ohio.
At last we were at the amazing overlook and then it came to me. My head guide is fearful of heights. She wasn't climbing to the top with us.
I am sure I looked like a deer in the headlights when I realized this. It was nothing to me to get out on the edge of this rocky "tooth" and look hundreds of feet down to the jagged bottom, but it was a different story for her.
And this knowledge just did something for me.
This weakness, if you will, in this guide who had every bit Superwoman to her name minus the cape, this one whom I couldn't for the life of me keep pace with, did have a hold up.
When I stepped one toe on this trail my weaknesses were exposed and felt shouted from the housetops.
THIS IS ME! I AM PHYSICALLY AND EMOTIONALLY WEAK! I'M FEARFUL!
I couldn't hide it or cover it, not an ounce of it, even if I tried, which I was too exhausted to do! And that's pretty rough to just hang out to dry for everyone to see every moment of every day.
Seeing someone, especially our guide have a difficulty reminded me that we are all human. It reminded me that none of us can do it all. And that realization right then deeply encouraged me.
Later that day I was able to tell my guide that it encouraged me to see that she was growing as well, and even encouraged her as she made it down a sheer rock face. That blessed me.
I sat on that tooth and tried to imagine how on earth I was going to keep on.
The magnitude of the trees and ledges stretched out before me as I struggled red-faced to again get on top of my breathing was again too much for me to grasp.
These weren't small goals. These were days to push myself to the very end of myself and watch the Lord show up in my very real weakness.
Some snapped pictures, but I didn't feel much like smiling. In my conquering this one thing, I was sure I'd fail the rest and I couldn't get my head out of some pretty serious negative self-talk.
You know what that's like.
Why on earth did you do this? Who exactly do you think you are? Look, you can't even rally yourself to get off this rock. You're a detriment to this whole group. You're ruining their time. Look, she's frustrated because you have to stop again....
When I say that this was the hardest thing I have ever done I mean it with every ounce of my being.
And yet, God was there.
We grabbed our packs which would have been too unsafe to carry up the rocks and headed to our next camp site for the evening. This was really difficult because I had a hard enough time WITHOUT it on the trail.
Nevertheless, I finally got the hang of just how to swing it up over one shoulder so that you could slip your other arm under the strap and pull it in tight to your back.
This is not the time to think about how sweaty this pack is going to be by the end of the week.
Just in case you were thinking that.
Of course it was suggested that balloons should be tied to my hiking poles for the morning so off we went.
In the shuffle of the day so much runs together for me.
Leaves, rocks, sandy-dirt. I'm grateful for my trail notebook that gives me my second life lesson from this afternoon.
Think it if you must- but don't say it.
There are a miriad of "highs" and "lows" on the trail literally moment by moment. Just the time your voice wants to cry out, "I JUST CANNOT GO ON!" you'll crest a hill and get a much needed break from labored breathing and inevitably some kind-hearted soul will tell you just how amazing you are doing.
And because this is crazy hard and incredibly new you can actually call what you are doing amazing.
Because you are amazing YOURSELF.
How often we defeat ourselves before we have reached the top of something when relief is just around the bend!
"Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest." Joshua 1:9
Courage isn't the absence of fear, but the pressing on in spite of it.
Proverbs 23:7 reminds us, "For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he:"
Mental courage is not so easy to muster when your body is telling you that you should've turned back two miles ago.
But it begins with talking to yourself and for goodness sakes guarding your mouth against all out defeat.
I was not always victorious in this.
OFTEN I lost heart and all confidence and needed to just keep my trap closed and head down.
The crazy funny thing I learned about courage is that it can come in a wink and leave in one too.
I remember catching my breath on one ridge and noticing the loveliest smell of some wildflowers. I cannot tell you what they were or where they came from but I can tell you that they did for me what nothing else at that time could.
They revived my spirit and brought courage to just try even a little bit more.
And then an hour or so later when you could just feel how red your face must have been a perfectly grace-filled breeze would sweep into the woods and almost take your mind off of being hot and bothered. It brought a sweet relief, even for a moment and renewed your desire to keep on keepin' on.
In those moments in the mad-middle difficult, God can be seen, and call me crazy, when He is all you are hanging onto, when those breezes come you can almost feel him guiding your steps aright.
It's knee deep in physical and mental exhaustion that Psalms like Psalm 139 are your necessary food:
"7 Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?
8 If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.
9 If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea;
10 Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.
11 If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me.
12 Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee."
The battle wasn't the hill.
The battle was for my mind.
If I allowed myself to think down it took me down.
If I lifted my spiritual eyes and by faith held onto even one small spiritual truth, I gained courage once again.
I wish I could say that these lessons I have learned and will continue to share are ones I have mastered and even have my Doctorate in them, but that would not be me to lie like that.
My battle in my mind continues to this day.
What will they think if you post all this? Who do you think you are to write and share something? What do you really have to offer today?
I'm guessing one or two of you ladies feel the very same as I.
I take day two's lesson and I allow it to challenge me today.
If I think down, I'll never make it up today's hills.
I dangled my feet over a little footbridge that second day and listened to a peaceful rippling stream underneath me. All was calm. Some were finishing setting up camp, some were gathering much needed water and I was just enjoying being alive.
I later found out around the campfire that our guides had scoped out a beautiful place for us to camp in order to lift all of our spirits a bit.
They were planning to bless and encourage us when we had very little to encourage them.
Again, God's goodness to us.
To this slow poke.
There was a shared meal, shared hearts over prayer and for me there were more tears. Tears of gratefulness for 42 years of life and strength.
The very next time I thought about my birthday was when my trail partner graciously gave me her sleeping mat (another thing that Joel told me that I should use but I wanted a lighter non-40 year old version that kept me up most the night!) and I realized how wonderful sleep would feel that second difficult day.
I wasn't sure what tomorrow held, but I was more apt to learn and to take it as each step came.
I dropped my water tablets into our bottles of creek water, crossed my fingers and toes and silently hoped for the best.
Something jaw-dropping and seriously fantastical happened that third day!! You WON'T even believe it!
Hang in there with me til then?