I feel like I’m hiking up a mountain. I have my boots laced as tight as my feet can handle. I have a bottle of water handy and my spirits determined to reach the peak where I will be able to catch a breath, see the beauty from every direction, and bask in the feeling of accomplishment.
When I’m painting the picture of this ideal hike, my endorphins kick in as I remember the many adventures my husband and I would go on before we had kids. We found waterfalls and rock cliffs that overlooked the vastness of trees. We’ve met a deer in the woods as tiptoed so as to not disturbed him in his environment. Our hikes were always fun, invigorating, and left me full.
But my hike today is anything but. This mountain in life I am trying to climb is much harder than the old trails in Otter Creek or Jefferson Memorial Forest. Instead of pausing to let my feet dangle when I approach a rock cliff, my stomach finds its way into my throat as I feel like someone may push me off it instead. I try to enjoy God’s creation, but instead of finding deer in my midst, I find ticks… people ready to eat my alive.
I’m yearning to reach the summit, the top of the mountain, the end of my hike… but every step that I take I feel like I hit a mud slide, step on a snake, enter a bush of thorns where I am pushed back 10 feet. I try to find another path to take, and it’s just as hard, just as windy. There is no easy way to where I need to go. This hike, which is meant to fuel my body and feed my soul, is draining. I’m tired.
No matter what brand of hiking boots you have or if your water bottle is filled to the brim… nothing prepares you for the hike of your life. Believe me, I’ve got one of those water bottles a car could run over and never dent, and my boots are heavy-duty seriousness, and yet, as I try to traverse my life I still face unexpected turns and twists.
A kid gets sick (and that is typically followed by me getting sick as well). The garage door doesn’t work or something else in the house breaks. Speaking of the house, it’s a hot mess because there is no time to clean or even organize enough to be visibly decent. A wind comes through and breaks nearly all the new vegetable plants in the garden, a garden that my husband and I spent hours on nurturing is now in smithereens. It feels like anything I touch becomes damaged; it feels as if there is nothing I can do right.
I wish I could say that I am alone in feeling this way on my life’s hike, but I know that isn’t the case. Alone I may be on my own trail, but there are many trails that are windy, twisty-turvy; many that are downright no fun and not fair. And we all face them – if not today, we have in the past or unfortunately we will in the future. There will be a time where we will feel like our feet are too heavy to lift and the mountain’s peak too high to reach that we want to give up. We want to sit on the ground and rest, or if you’re like me, throw a temper tantrum filled with kicks and screams and tons of tears.
My coping mechanism probably isn’t the most productive. While a good cry is good for the body and probably even better for the soul, I’ve always felt like it’s a waste of time. I need to figure out the solution to the situation. Who will take off work to care for the sick kiddo? How will we be able to fix that which is broken. How can I navigate through work dilemmas to be successful, productive, impactful? Where can I buy more plants for my depleted garden?
I’m a fixer. I seek solutions. But sometimes in life, none are at your fingertips, and this week I realized that the solution isn’t always something you are supposed to find. After a long day at work and an even longer night crafting, I sneaked into bed begging for sleep to consume me quickly. I tried to turn off my always churning thoughts to clear my mind and my soul, seeking deep rest which was something my body yearned. But I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t shut down. And what was worse is that I realized that the place I had cast my worries in the past I couldn’t find, or maybe it was more that I couldn’t allow myself to get to.
I rolled over to my husband and shared something that had been heavy on my heart. I’m a believer. I am a regular church attender. I work to do good in the world and yet, it had been quite some time since I have been able to pray. Like really pray. I’m talking that deep, clear, crisp prayer when the right words flow from you directly to God, letting Him carry your weight. The kind of prayer where you know when you toss it up it’s entrusted for God to handle. That kind of prayer, that which I needed so immensely, I couldn’t find. I admitted that I wasn’t even sure how to pray anymore.
My husband said something much deeper than I think he meant to last night. When he too was on the verge of drifting into a heavy sleep which he so deserved, he told me that you really only need one word to start your prayer to God. “Hi.” He drifted off and it wasn’t much longer after that I did too, still struggling with opening my heart to offer up any prayer worthy of Him listening to.
I woke up to more unnecessary and unwelcomed roadblocks on my life’s hike. You know when a storm hits and trees blow down, sometimes they cause limbs to muddle your trail. You try to be prepared by watching the weather forecast, but you can’t control that to which you don’t control. And while some of us may like to think that we have control over people, God gave us the ability to make our own decisions and reactions, which means that others are bound to hurt you through their words and their actions at some point. It’s inevitable, and it sure seems that when you are already hitting obstacles, you become a welcomed place for more.
That I was, until I was reminded that all I have to do is say “Hi.” As a fundraiser for the book I have been working on, I make wreaths. Who would have thought that the woman whose mother taught her years ago how to beautify a Christmas present with a bow would use her talents to make meaningful creations for people to welcome others into their homes? Not this lady – I would never have dreamed that my creativity would be something others would enjoy.
I’ve met lots of people over the last several months – some I haven’t seen in years and others I’d never met before. And yesterday evening was like many of mine where I was scheduled to deliver several of my creations to their forever homes. I’d chatted with a few of these women before online but for most, this was the first time I had met them. “Hi” – That word was so easy to say as I delivered their beauties with a smile, yet so hard when I decide it’s time to talk to God.
I shared my story with a few, letting them know the why behind my creations… the goal of my fundraising. I shared how God planted in my heart the need to write and hasn’t let up on me getting a book publishing about His good works. While I shared my story, though, a piece deep within felt disingenuous. How could I write a book about the God moments in life when I was struggling just saying “Hi” to Him lately?
And then I got a text this morning from one of the ladies I delivered a wreath to last night. She had taken a glimpse of my writing and was warmed by the words God put before me. She was thrilled about my passion and excited about my goal. And while she was telling me this, I felt compelled to thank her for her timing, as I was starting off my day with a challenging situation. It was her words there after that changed my perspective.
She shared how conflicts between people bruise the heart, and a conflict I was facing was sure to be one of those. Our hikes, my friends, can leave scars. But she reminded me that when you know the source for your daily strength, that to which you seek to find your inner nourishment and life’s purpose, you realize that anything is possible. When you can hand over your struggles to Him, it’s like a shield protects you, and all the naysayers’ words roll off you because you are covered in an armor stronger than anything man-made. Be fearless, she told me. And remember to live a life of forgiveness.
Someone I barely know and only met a few times said the words this weary soul needed. She reminded me that I can have the best boots possible, but without an arm to hold, I’ll never make it through the rough terrain. She reminded me that it’s great to have water on hand, but nothing outside of my belief, and trust, and faith in God will fill my soul for this journey. I can pack an umbrella and bug repellent, but without God’s armor, I will likely not make it to the peak safely. This one woman reminded me all of that… this one woman that our relationship started with a single word. “Hi.”
It may be tough for me to remember how to talk to God some days, but today I was reminded that when I talk to others, I am actually talking to Him too. And a relationship with someone here can deepen my relationship with Him up there. God knows what you need, when you need it. He knows how to you need to hear it too to let the message sink in. He doesn’t deny that your life’s hike may be a rough one, but He promises to give you the tools you need to traverse it.
Be open. Listen for Him. Know in your heart He has never and will never leave you. One day, you will make it to the peak and understand that the road you took was the one you were meant to take. You will see all that He shielded you from and how with Him by your side, you were able to conquer more than what you could visibly see. You will celebrate. You will dangle your legs over the cliff, never afraid of being pushed, and breathe in the fresh air. You will smile. Today may be hard, but the next will be better. Fear not tomorrow, my friends, for God is already there. All you have to do is say “Hi”.