I wrote this in 2004 when I was living in Tennessee. It's a very busy time in my life right now so I thought I'd post something that was very important to me, even though it was a long time ago.
Wow. Now that I'm back home it's hard to believe that it really happened. I went on my first hike in years! It was so hard but so wonderful. I wrote this stuff in my journal so that I would be able to remember this day and I'm pasting it here for your reading edification. :)
Get a snack, go to the bathroom, get settled in a comfy chair - it's not short - but I think the time that God provided for me today is so great that I just had to share...
The views of the river and the mountains on the way there were so beautiful! I will have to go back; it was prettier there than in the Smokies.
I originally was going to go on the hike and then meet my best friend to spend the rest of the afternoon with her. When I finally realized it just wasn't possible to finish in time to meet her, my phone had no service. Just a few minutes later (after I said, "Please, God"), my phone had service. So I was able to call her and tell her that I wouldn't be able to make it (which allowed me to not worry about rushing).
I originally missed the trailhead and ended up going over the North Carolina border (this was not amazing or profound, but was interesting - I went to another state today!)
Right after I finally found the trail I looked ahead and saw that the way was blocked by some fallen trees. It was really tempting to just leave, but I decided to push through. (This was a theme throughout the entire hike). It wasn't difficult once I got there to climb over the trees.
I started out so excited and super-confident in my ability to make it - especially after I "overcame" the trees. At first, the trail was easy... level... mostly beaten down. I went through an area of complete silence - the only thing I could hear was the rustling of the trees. I saw a patch of rhododendrons that had to be 20-30 feet high. Once I saw a beam of sunlight not far off the path; I felt the urge of the Lord to go and stand in it. It was scary to sept off of the path but it was no neat to look up through that virgin (according to my guidebook) forest and see the sun through the one hole the trees allowed. It was like twilight on most of the path - except for those patches of sunlight that would pop up occasionally.
Not long after stepping off the path, the trail began to get harder, steeper, with more mossy, slippery rocks and roots. I was probably a 1/3 of a mile in by this time. There was mud in the trail that I had to work around and sometimes just had to step in. I had to go under a tree and over another one that was blocking the path.
Then about halfway in it got really difficult. It got so steep that I was terrified (I'm scared of heights). God kept reminding me that He would take care of me, but I kept thinking about falling and hurting myself so much that I wouldn't be able to make it back to the van. But I had peace and kept going. I said out loud, "I need a walking stick." And right then I looked down and saw one that had been discarded by someone (I hadn't seen it before). I was still scared but I decided to go down this really steep part. When I looked at the path ahead, I literally couldn't see a way to get down certain parts of it. But as I walked, with each step I took I could see how to get through the next part.
I walked through streams, where I had the thought/fear that I would slip and soak my shoes, making walking the rest of the trail very difficult. But my feet stayed sure on the rocks in the streams. I did slip once but it wasn't in one of the streams and I didn't fall; I was able to catch myself with my walking stick.
- I finally made it to where I could hear the falls. I was getting weak by this point and decided I had better take a break. I ate my crackers and drank part of my water, and finally made myself get up - after all, it was just around the corner (or so I thought). But instead around the corner was the steepest part of the trail yet. I could not see a way to do it. However, I had come too far to go back. It took all my resolve but I started. I had to use the walking stick as a balance point and halfway down I broke it. At first, I started to panic (how would I ever finish without the stick?!), but then I realized that it broke at just the right place to become an even better height for me. So I made it down that steep part - to a place where I could see the falls.
I was so disappointed. The "Falls" that I had walked so far to see was just some water trickling through some rocks. I took a few pictures and then took a drink of water before heading back. As I took the drink I looked up... and saw the Falls. They are so beautiful! I then realized that the trail continued to the real viewpoint that I had read about in my guidebook. but I had to cross a large stream that flowed from the base of the falls. I really debated with God about continuing! I was very tired by this point and even after I made it over this stream, I would have to go up an area that was as steep as I had just made it down. I felt God say, "Go," so I finally decided to go. Even though this point was not the base of the falls, I got a great view of them from there (one day I'm going to go back when I'm more prepared and can make it the entire way to the base of the falls.) I took more pictures and chilled out for a minute.
I saw another group of hikers at the falls. (I had suspected there was another group on the trail but I wasn't sure). When I noticed that they were getting ready to leave, I started back. I knew I was pretty tired and a tad dizzy and I didn't want to be behind them (just in case I did fall, I wanted them to come upon me). I pushed myself too hard... going down the steep part was hard, but going back up was even harder, especially as weak as I was getting. I had to take frequent breaks and when I felt the Lord say, "Rest", I would rest. (Something I realized about myself, though - I had to take a few more steps and reach another goal int he path ahead before I could really rest. I'm going to have to work on obeying immediately, even if "my goal" isn't met.) This group did pass me, but just as they did, another group passed heading towards the falls. So I knew I could slow down my pace and not worry about being completely by myself.
The trail back seemed so much longer than the trail there. Like I said, I had to rest a lot. It was scarier too because I was a little lightheaded at this point. But what choice did I have? I could make it back or sit down and quit (not really an option). So I made it, one step at a time. One thing that was really wild was that when I finally did make it back to the first half)the level, somewhat beaten down part), it was really hard to walk! I was so used to stepping up or down that I could hardly walk on a level path. I finally made it back to the rhododendrons, then the trees that I had to go over and under, then the trailhead. I MADE IT!!!
I shared this lengthy novella because God's provision was so wonderful. He is so faithful! He led me to do something I've desired to do for a long time, gave me the time and strength to do it, and provided during the process. At the risk of super-spiritualizing everything, God did show me some really great truths:
- That the whole "one step at a time" bit isn't just a cute idea. I wouldn't see how I could walk on the path ahead of me until I got up to the hard place - and then EVERY TIME there was a way - over, under, around, through...
- That sometimes I have to step off of the beaten path in order to stand in the light...
- That God will provide extra help when I need it (my walking stick). And even if something about that help needs to be broken or changed, it will still be enough.
- That it's easy to think that I've made it to the end and assume that what I first see is all there is (when I thought the falls were nothing but a small drop-off in the stream). But then when I looked up, I was able to see something spectacular.
- That I can make it through a really difficult path and then have the easy part be as hard because I'm having to compensate differently because I'm already tired of "conquering" the hard stuff. I had to adjust myself for the path and just continue walking (the flat end of the trail where I could hardly walk).
- But mostly God showed me that I can make it through something that is too much for me to handle on my own (I now realize I really wasn't in shape to do this) WITH the Lord's help, guidance, and encouragement. he cares about my desires and He fulfills them! Isn't He a wonderful God?!
Sorry to sermonize. This has been one of the most awesome days of my life and I just really wanted to share. May God with you on His paths in order for you to see something spectacular!