In the Dirt

solitudeWhen I was a little girl, my dad used to take me on walks in the woods.  We would traipse around our property, sometimes not even on trails, just walking and seeing.  It wasn’t far, but to my little legs it seemed like miles and miles.  I learned a lot on these walks, not because he taught me exactly, but because I watched him.  I learned you can chew sourwood leaves in the fall, like gum.  I found out if you put your watermelon in a mountain spring it would be ice cold in time for the picnic the next day.  I realized to follow a stream provides water, as you walk through and underneath trees, which provide shade on hot summer days.  He taught me to be aware of snakes when I stepped over rocks and logs, and that not all snakes are poisonous.  He let me slide on a slick rock overhang into his arms over and over again.  Those lessons were learned through time together and shared experiences.

On the way back up the mountain, however, I was less likely to be enamored by the stroll through nature, because it had become a climb.  My little legs screamed to stop and my lungs agreed.  Dad used to carry me, but once I got too big for carrying, I had to stop and rest along the way.  I remember begging him to carry me, and I did not have the best of attitudes about it. I was tired and weary which translated into irritable, tearful, and cranky.

Fast forward to walks with my own children.  Going down the trail to a waterfall was all skipping and laughter.  Wading in the ice cold stream brought giggles.  Bill taught them about skipping rocks, and we picked wildflowers along the way.  Once we were at the bottom in the waterfall mist, their faces lit up at the magnificence and power of the water spilling down into the valley.  Then it was time for the climb back up. The trail was a switchback so there was steep incline followed by some more gradual slope, giving the illusion that it wasn’t exactly straight up.  However, little legs are not fooled by illusions.

Going into the second steep section the whining began, but there were four of them and only two of us.  They had all outgrown the baby backpack we had when they were little.  Carrying was not an option.  We encouraged, held their hands, and tried distraction techniques to get their minds off of the pain, “Was that a woodpecker over there on that tree?” or “Look at that beautiful orange flower.” To no avail.  By the next steep section, meltdown mode commenced for one of them.  No amount of, “we’re almost there” helped.  There was no consoling.  It was a sit-down-in-the-trail-refuse-to-go-any-further moment. Tears rolled down the face like the waterfall ran down the mountain and the frustration spilled out like a thunderstorm in the summer.

Desperate to keep the other three moving forward without incident (these types of outbursts can be extremely contagious in a family with four little ones), I moved on with the other three, while Bill waited for the first to cry himself out.  It was all that could be done.  He could not see the end of the hike was near.  He could not make his legs go any further.  He was weary and angry we wouldn’t carry him.  He was not climbing another inch.  Bill sat down in the trail next to him, while he flailed around in a full blown tantrum.  A father, just waiting, trying to soothe his child. In the midst of his tantrum, my son was not even aware that his father was sitting next to him in the dirt.  Once he became aware of it, he wanted nothing to do with him.  Every effort Bill made towards him was rejected out of anger.  It wasn’t until the patience of the father, sitting next to him, was evident that he finally relented and allowed a gentle calming hug.  Holding him, wiping the tears, quenching his thirst…not just for water, but for acceptance and understanding which only unconditional love can bring within the hard places.

Sometimes life is overwhelming.  Just like a child on an uphill climb, sometimes it feels impossible to continue.  It feels like God is not for me…and might even be against me…if he exists at all.  These dark nights of the soul are places where nothing is for sure.  All the neat and tidy spiritual explanations fall flat.  The heavens are brass, and my prayers blow silently away on the wind.  I am not the only one to ever experience this seemingly never ending dark place where brokenness is a companion.  I know others who walk here, who wonder and wait, and shake their fists at God at the same time they cry out to him.  I am a little girl who doesn’t want to walk one step further up this mountain I feel forced to climb. I want to yell and cry and kick and scream, “NO MORE!!” until I am carried, consoled, and soothed.  I realize that in order for peace to come, I have to allow my feelings to work themselves out. The volcano, which has been dormant for years, has erupted and it will release the built up pressure…once the explosion is over.

The complexities of emotions layered one on top of the over make it tricky to get to the root, which is the feeling that God has abandoned me.  What feels like a forever climb has left me in the dirt, wallowing around like a 2-year-old, unable to see my Father sitting next to me waiting.  Brokenness is a messy, ugly, dark place…but it is a real place.  People live here, not by their own choice, but by circumstances outside of their control.  That’s the rub with this place…there is no control here. Death, abuse, disease, rape, injury, loss, divorce, heartache…no one is immune from the pain of life. Life=loss. When my legs will no longer hold me up, I fall and cry out to God for rescue.

I am double minded, believing I am abandoned by him, while still receiving provision from his hand. I feel alone, despite his presence right next to me. I try to block him out since I no longer believe in him, only to find myself praying with desperate cries that he really exists.  I feel I cannot function, all while continuing to put one foot in front of the other. The dark night is a pretty mixed up place.  It is not depression, nor is it despair. It is more like losing the core of who I am, and questioning everything I have ever known…all while still knowing it.  Kinda.  I am rambling, in search of words and talking in circles.  Sorry about that.  One thing I know (maybe) is that when I am in one of these dark broken places I find out things…truths, that I might never grasp had I not sat down in the first place. So while I am groping around now, there will come a time (I hope) when my tears will be dried and my thirst will be quenched by the Father who sits next to me…in the dirt.

Rainy Sunday Morning

The rain is falling, gentle but steady.  Slow enough the birds are still singing and the herbs in my garden still have their faces raised.  There is a squirrel on a branch just a few feet from where I sit on my porch.  He has found a clump of leaves just over his head and he is still as a stone, crouched underneath his tail, which he uses as an umbrella. On occasion he flips it down to remove the accumulated water, but then it is right back up over his head.  A crow is laughing at the rooster, who crows in the distance.  The drips fall on my roof, inviting me to a lazy Sunday morning of reading, writing, and sleeping.  A chatter erupts to my right and it sounds as if two birds may be in battle over a worm.   The trees are full of leaves as spring moves into summer and the greens deepen, which causes all the light on my back porch to have a green tint to it.  It is a cool morning, and damp but still peaceful.

Here I wait on words to come.

There are none of any consequence.

Just the sounds of the rain, trees, and animals wooing me and calling me to listen.  All nature worships… even when I cannot seem to find that place…

Lessons in the Storm

michelle-in-front-of-yonahThe storm rages.  The thunder rolls, bounces off the mountains, and returns like a boomerang.  The ground is moving. My usual porch writing spot does not feel safe, so I withdraw into the house.  The walls tremble and shake at the vibrations. Pictures rattle. Even as a lover of thunderstorms, I am on edge with the intimacy of this storm.  When they get this close, my stomach ties itself into knots with the memory of the destruction one lightning strike can do. In minutes, life as I know it can be undone.  Burned up.  Flooded.  Damaged beyond repair.

I push those thoughts away.  They lead nowhere.

Instead, I settle in by the window to watch the storm.  The trees blow and appear to be dancing to some unheard beat.  The rain is steadily creating puddles in the grass so that after the storm, the birds can more easily retrieve the worms. The thunder rolls away after a few anxious moments and the wind dies down momentarily.  The rain is steadfast as it slides off the trees which creates the hissing and pattering sounds I dearly love.  The trees are partially dressed, just changing into their green gowns for spring.  The leaves unfurl and turn their faces up to receive the gift of water from the heavens. They open themselves up fully as they drink.  I can almost see them expanding as I watch.  The newborn leaves, which appear to be so fragile, are in actuality quite strong.  They play in the storm as if it were a gentle shower.  I would never know from watching them there was any danger at all.  I want to be like the baby leaves; open to receive gifts from heaven provided to me in the midst of the tempest and trusting the storm will not destroy me.

The next round of thunder arrives to taunt me and laugh at my silly notion that there can be peace in the storm. It rumbles and shakes.  It knows the power all its loudness has over my heart. The rain picks up into a downpour and with the deluge comes the wind, back to display its power with the swirling and bending of trees.  The lights flicker as if to bow to the pressure of apprehension which is rising once again.  The storm is forcing itself on the mountains, creating a battle-like volley of sound.  What I realize is the back and forth noise isn’t back and forth at all, it is all coming from one source.  The echo is what makes it feel as if there is a battle.  In reality, there is no war, only thunder puffing itself up to be heard. The infant leaves know this.  They are not afraid of the bully.  The birds know it too, and they wait for the thunder to blow itself out.  It seems to me that all of nature knows and patiently waits for a new day.  Am I the only creature who does not know the truth, which is that storms come and go in cycles?  Or do I simply forget that after the destruction comes resurrection?  Always.

Lessons in the storm.

True North

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A star peers through my window as I drive.  It is luminous, and for the past few nights it has been capturing my notice…almost calling me to pay attention.  Whispering a message through its repeated appearances throughout the countryside, I pull over to listen. I gaze at the seemingly stationary star, and as I do, I think about the old world ships which navigated uncharted oceans by starlight.  While there were no maps for the sea, the sky was charted in great detail.  With the North Star as a guide to true north, all the other directions were easily discernable.  Find Polaris, and you could find your way.  When the captains needed direction, they looked up.

Sitting under the tutelage of my star instructor, I get the message as clearly as the night sky. When my world is off balance or when things are unclear, I need to find my true north.  If I fix my eyes on the stresses and uncertainties of my life, I will get lost in the darkness.  There is a vast sea all around me that is not marked and the only way to navigate it is to look up, and keep my eyes on the one who knows me better than I know myself…the one who created the star he uses to instruct.  Suddenly, I find courage that hadn’t been there moments before.  It rises up, like the heavenly hosts above me as I gaze into the night sky.  I realize I cannot lose my way when I depend on him and therefore, I commit to fix my eyes on the Lord, who is my true north.

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It occurs to me then that I am not the only one who needs this reminder.  Our world is divided.  Our friends and families are tearing one another apart.  There is chaos. Negativity oozes off of screens and into the streets. Disrespect has a stronghold.  It seems a storm is brewing and the future is uncertain.  The swells are growing bigger on the ocean and we have lost our way.  We have forgotten that the sea is uncharted, but the map we need has been provided. We have only to look up to the heavens to find our bearings and remember where we are. One star of hope directs us. He is the unchanging one…the one who is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  As long as we can see him, the waves can churn and crash all around us, but we will not lose our way.  We can fix our eyes on him and find the courage we need to get us through the storms and darkness. The Ancient of Days is not movable by the whims of men.  The rest of creation revolves around his stability and faithfulness.  Sometimes the winds blow hard, and other times the sea is like glass.  He is not surprised by either, nor is he moved from his throne in the heavens. He has not forgotten or abandoned us.  We need only look up at our star instructor to remember how to find our true north.  From there, courage leads us home.

An Interlude

IMG_3519.jpgFrom my first footfall, the tension I had been carrying in my shoulders started to evaporate.  As my steps continued across the bridge, the water rushing underneath transported my cares away from me like white water over the rocks.  I paused to breathe it in.  Fresh air caressed my lungs, and the slight breeze tousled my hair as if to welcome me home.  The sun shone down, filtered through the bare branches of winter trees, who seemed a bit confused by this 70 degree February weather. A few buds were evident on otherwise stark skeletons.

Muscle memory took my legs over rocks and roots, and once it kicked in, my mind began to clear of the incessant worry that has taken up residence in the past month.  The crows overhead laughed together as my countenance began to change.  It was as if they could read my mind and were overjoyed to see the smile appear at the corners of my mouth.  A red cardinal crossed the path in front of me in pursuit of his wife.  She stayed just enough ahead of him to keep him interested, and the two chattered like an old married couple might do. On the lake there were diamonds flung across the surface, dazzling in the late afternoon sun, and a family of mallards was calmly making their way across the water.  The v rippling behind them cut through the glassy shimmer, giving away that their legs under the surface were working furiously, even as they appeared to glide smoothly on the top.

Soon I was in my usual rhythm making note of all the changes since last I walked the lake.  Like a reunion with a dear friend whom I haven’t seen in a while, I noticed newly downed trees, fresh gravel, and underbrush that has been cut back over the winter.  I thought, “Wow.  You look different! How long has it been since we have seen one another?”  In response the wind whispered, “Too long.”  And the wind was right.  It has probably been months since I last had a good trip around the lake, and it shows in the load I have been carrying, but with each step it got lighter. Half way around and I was practically skipping.  My heartrate increased with the exertion.  My heart was applauding and thanking me for this long overdue interlude from daily stresses. It continued its ovation until I stopped at the end, for a rest on a picnic table.

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By the time I made it there, my body was weary but stress free, my mind was empty of the “what ifs” that plague it in hard times, and I was at peace.  This allowed me to lie back and listen to the forest like hearing a great song on the radio or a classical symphony…only better.  The concrete table was cool on my overheated back.  The pine trees above me looked like pinwheels with branches that stuck out in a circular pattern. The sun was starting its descent which made the breeze a bit chilly, and that made my cool down go quickly. If I had started earlier in the day this would have been a nap, instead I soaked in the beauty until I got too chilled to stay any longer.

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Why is it that when things get difficult the first thing I cut out of my life is the thing that helps me most?  I will never understand how rapidly I forget the benefits of hiking when I am stressed.  I know that time is the real reason.  In seasons of stress, the urgent takes precedence and there is nothing that can change that really. You do what you have to do. However, now that things are a small bit settled, there is nothing stopping me.  Closing my eyes, I could hear the babbling brook calling me to come and stick my feet in, before my departure back to real life.  “It’s February.  When will you ever get to creek-walk in February?” it called.  I smiled and said, “Another time. Maybe, when I come back… tomorrow.”

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Web vs. Cocoon

michelle-in-front-of-yonahI have always been intrigued by spider webs.  They are so delicate, yet so strong.  The intricacy is breathtaking…a work of art really.  To think that an eight-legged creature created a web that lasts through storms and catches its food boggles my mind.  I have walked through enough spider webs when hiking to know that they are sticky.  They wrap around my face, and anyone watching me would think I was a crazed karate champion from the way I move to try to get them off of me.  Something about the idea that I might have a spider in my hair makes me more than a bit uncomfortable.  Yet, when I chance to see a web before I walk through it, I observe the detail in awe.  I have been known to allow a web to stay outside a window so my kids could safely watch the process and life of a spider.  We would watch the making of the web, and how the spider can walk on the tiny little threads even though any other bug would get stuck.  We saw the spider sit to the side feeling for vibrations and waiting for its meal to arrive. We watched it spin its prey into a cocoon-like formation with great skill and dexterity.  Sadly, we even watched the prey slowly cease to struggle and eventually give in to its fate, while the spider cherished its conquest.  It was a learning experience to see how diligently a spider takes care of its web, because in truth, the web is its life.  From building it, to patching it, to all the waiting and then a burst of diligent activity a spider is an amazing, though deadly, creature.

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Then there is the caterpillar, which is another amazing creature. How many of those have I captured in jars to attempt to watch the life cycle? Eating until they have had enough, then spinning their own web of sorts.  They hang out in there, but instead of a death trap, as with the spider, their cocoon is a place of transformation.  Truly a place of rest where they allow nature to do its thing.  When the time is right, there is a great struggle to get out of that small capsule of change. In my childhood all my caterpillars died from being in captivity, so my own children were required to release them after a few hours of observation.  Instead we went to the butterfly house at Calloway Gardens to see them up close. It takes longer than a child’s attention span will allow for a butterfly to be “born.” But if you had the time, you could watch them push and move against the outer shell of the cocoon until it breaks open and they climb out.  They hang there, waiting for the blood to fill their wings and eventually they spread them out to dry, and then finally take flight.   It is another beautiful process which nature uses to instruct me.

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So what is the difference between the cocoon of death, and the cocoon of life? Both are used for survival.  Both are spun by bugs.  Both are strong enough to prevent movement and escape.  Yet, one produces a butterfly and the other produces a corpse.  One is a death trap and the other is a place of new life.  The difference is that the caterpillar selects a hidden place, and then waits. It does not strive, or toil within its shelter.  Transformation happens at the appointed time.  Release comes through struggle and freedom follows.  The spider, on the other hand, lives in survival mode, always.  Checking the web, and continuously struggling to keep it intact.  It produces a web that entices its prey and traps it.  It is constantly working and even at rest, it is waiting to pounce upon whatever creature happens into its web next.

I prefer to be a caterpillar in a world full of spiders.  I want to hide myself away within the cocoon of God’s love for me, knowing that at the right time transformation will happen and I will fly.  I do not have a desire to be on constant look out, nor do I want to build a web in which to trap things.  It is too much work to keep such intricacy intact.  I cannot bring myself to create corpses so that I might live.  I refuse to suck the life out of others, but choose instead to allow God to nourish my soul. I choose life over death, freedom over lies. Many would argue that the spider has all the power, and to some degree that may be true, but the caterpillar has all the freedom, and to me, it is worth the wait.

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A Solitary Journey

snow-pathWhen I was a kid, I remember listening for the snow. At some point in my young life, I had realized that it eliminates some sounds and insulates others.  The quiet produced was a sure sign that freedom was mine, and that the next day would be full of frolicking and fun.  I trained my ears to hear it, so I wouldn’t have to get out of the warm bed to look out the window.  Sleep was restless because a snow day in Atlanta is like Christmas, it doesn’t come very often. In the night, I would roll over and listen for the silence.  I didn’t even have to open my eyes.  If I heard the absence of suburban noise, my eyes popped open and I ran to the window to see if I had heard correctly.  Gazing out over the yard with a blanket of snow sent thrills up my spine.  To wait for daylight was agony.  Yet, there was something about the solitude of those waiting moments that I kind of liked.  The quiet. The sense of peace.  The fresh undisturbed blanket of white glowing in the streetlights.  All of it seemed quite like a postcard in my mind.

Those brief glimpses were short lived back then. I scrambled to find my snow gear as soon as the sun was up.  The laughter and shouts of my neighborhood friends broke the spell, and we spent most of the day riding flattened cardboard boxes down hills. On our brief breaks, hot cocoa awaited us in front of glowing warm fires where winter wear was draped all around trying to dry. After putting fresh newspaper in our shoes to protect our feet from the cold, we were off again to create snow angels and tiny snow people.  We didn’t know that other places had sleds, snow boots, and enough snow to create an army. We made do with what we had, and it was magical.

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Now, I relish the solitary moments more so than my younger years.  I find the undisturbed snow comforting somehow.  I find solace in the solitude. It is a place where I recognize I am alone on my journey, but that is not the same as loneliness.  It is more a realization that the life path I am walking is my own.  It’s just me and God. Friends can support and encourage one another in our travels, but none of us can walk another’s road. Walking in freshly fallen snow is stark, but clean.  All the clutter and dirt is covered so that there is a fresh perspective.  I find this to be such a powerful picture of the truth that my walk is mine alone.  A path just for me. A solitary journey. In the snow morning moments, I contemplate these things.  It is my way, to go deep.

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I feel as if 2017 has started off heavily for so many.  Each life event seems solitary as friends and family navigate different types of crisis moments. Each person on their own road.  Each person finding their way as best they can.

The blanket of white outside my window beckons:

Come walk with me.

Listen to me.

There is peace in the quiet.

There is depth in each step.

Be filled on this solitary journey.

Close your eyes and listen to the silence of the solitude.

Let it restore your weary soul.

Fall Worship

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Fall hiking is a form of worship for me.  I try to get away early, to my quiet place, before the leaf lookers come out. It’s not that I mind sharing my backyard with the tourists, it’s just that in order to hear the sounds of the autumn choir, I like to be alone. However, today, at the beginning of my hike, there are children crashing along the trail.  Their laughter and shouts can be heard coming in my direction before I see them.  The mother of six and I pass with smiles and nods, we know we are here for the same reasons, but differing results.  I seek quiet, and I am sure she does as well, however, with six kids in tow, chances are likely she will not be finding it.  Instead, she fully embraces the noisy kind of worship that is motherhood.  She carries a toddler on her back who is grinning from ear to ear, and in that face I see the face of God.

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Once they have passed, I along the trail, crunching with every step.  There is no silence in the fall. Even though there is no one else, there is a chorus. I quiet my thoughts by tuning my ears to the surround sound. My feet are not the only things that create music.  The sound of falling leaves imitates the sound of rain.  At first, I look up into the blue sky, just to make sure of what I am hearing.  As my eyes travel upward, I see a confetti of multiple colors floating down towards me. I feel as if I am in a parade of celebration.  The leaves collide with one another, with trunks, and branches.  If it was only a few, the sound would be hardly noticeable, but with the hundreds falling, there is a constant pattering. The visual and auditory combine and create quite a beautiful display of splendor.  I stand still to take it all in.  I am in awe.

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Moving on, my ears discover a thud, and then another.  It is the acorns.  One falls close enough to me that I look to see who threw it.  The creek giggles, as if it knows the secret of the one vying for my attention.  Soon, I know too.  It is the wind, laughing at its prank.  With each breath, more acorns fall adding to the confetti of leaves, and creating a kind of autumn song over me that makes me smile.  Up on the ridge, there are colors that resemble stained glass with the golden rays streaming through them.  The trees seem illuminated from within.  It is my favorite part of the fall…glowing trees.  Here, the birds join in the chorus calling back and forth to one another.  The chipmunks will not be outdone, and their chatter makes the underbrush sound as if it is playing hide and seek.  I stop and sit, joining my heart with God’s song. It is why I came.  It is both my acceptance and offering of worship to and with my creator.  My break is uninterrupted.  The time stands still in the presence of his song. Once I am full to overflowing, I move down the trail with joyful steps.  The holy can be found in the song of autumn worship…upon a mountain, among the trees, in the slivers of golden light.

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Down in the Valley

michelle-in-front-of-yonahDown in the valley, the wind is carrying the truth with it.  Down in the valley, tragedy and triumph are intertwined like poison ivy on a mighty oak.  Down in the valley, surrounded by glorious color and golden sun, the seasons change. The steadfast mountains remind us that we are but temporary residents, and that they are the long term occupants of the valley.  The momentum of the breeze flows around the foothills.  The circular flow of life is evident, down in the valley.

Two days.  Two celebrations. Cobalt blue sky, white fluffy clouds, foliage of yellow and orange.  White chairs.  Flowers.  Friends.  Family.

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Tragedy forces a celebration of a life lived.  An orchard, bearing the name of its planter, waves as the wind blows the small trees.  They are stretching their arms skyward, as if reaching for him.  The young man will no longer walk among them, but will instead, look down from his place of peace.  On this day the adventurer is celebrated with perfectly spoken words, tears, and heartfelt songs.  Mountains surround those that grieve with an embrace of comfort, in this place he loved so much.  Balloons dance in the current as the grief is released upwards.  Memories are shared in fellowship and laughter around feasting tables and with slides of a life cut short.  Flames lick the night sky with sparks flying high in a familiar tradition on this piece of land, until they burn themselves out and silence floats like ashes to the ground.

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Twenty-four hours pass and romance arrives in the valley.  Another celebration of love in a different form.  Bridesmaids and groomsmen dressed in finery line up to share the whispers of the wind. Friends and family gather on the lawn waiting for love to make its entrance. Breathing in the beauty of the bride, the groom is overwhelmed to tears.  The same mountains that grieved yesterday, caress the tender moment of love’s kiss.  The trees sway to the rhythm of the music played and sung.  Fellowship and laughter around feasting tables and pictures of lives just starting out. Cake is cut. Traditions ensue, until the car disappears down the winding road to new beginnings.

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Two days.  Two very different moments in time.  Down in the valley, all nature bears witness to the ebbs and flows of life. Down in the valley, tears represent both life and death. They are reminders that life is precious and that it must be celebrated…down in the valley.

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Wild and Untamed

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God often speaks to me through nature.  There is something about a waterfall, or a misty mountain that is soothing to my heart.  To be out in the forest on a trail is the place I get to know him best.  Somehow becoming familiar with the creation opens my eyes to the creator.  His personality shines through in the rays filtering through the trees to the forest floor.  The variety of mosses and ferns create a lush green carpet which point to the intricate complexity of his nature.  Being a hiker, I have come to know him through my senses.  He is alive.  Real.  His life pulses in the out of the way places.  He is as steadfast as mountains, as joyful as rivers, as peaceful as a lake, as powerful as a waterfall, and all of this has become familiar to me.  It feeds my soul.

When we went to visit Hannah in Seattle this summer, I was excited to get to explore a new region of the country.  Surrounded by several different mountain ranges it is a hot spot for outdoor types and lovers of nature. I wish I had the time to describe our daily adventures in detail, but there are really not enough words to tell you how spectacular it was. It was truly inspiring. Every. Single. Day.  However, there was something vastly unfamiliar in these places of stunning beauty, and this had me flummoxed for the first couple of days. Until I realized that it was the nature of God that was different.  Allow me to explain.

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In the evergreen forests the trees are straight as arrows and taller than any trees I have seen before.  Their arms do not reach up, but slant downward as if they are bowing.  The mountainsides are jagged, not smooth.  The reddish rock is exposed everywhere upon the faces of the mountains, bringing serrated texture which reaches towards the sky. The heavens vacillate between gray and blue on the days we are there, with misty rain or blinding sun depending on which way the wind is blowing. The palette is different here, mainly greens, grays, and blues with a few browns mixed in. It is a cool palette that is dissimilar than the warm one I am used to. In the woods, the underbrush isn’t thick, but sparse.  Pine needles cover the ground like carpet and they pad your steps.  The path the waterfalls take is carved from black volcanic rock, like a flume from a water ride rather than dirt and mud. Ferns to my waist cover the ground, so I wade in an ocean of them.  Gigantic trees are smaller cousins to the Redwoods, but bigger than any I have ever seen.  I have the need to pat and hug them, these ancients.  Standing in their presence brings awe to my soul.  I am acutely aware of how small I am in this forest. I fully expect to see a T-Rex come around the bend at any moment, because these forests look prehistoric.

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The coastal landscape is equally amazing.  The water, whether it is the sound or the sea, is clear, crisp and COLD.  My feet turn to ice the moment they go into the sea, but I am determined to wade in the Pacific while we are there.  It rushes in with force enough to bring huge driftwood trees to the shore.  It carves rock into haystacks of enormous proportions, and creates caves and cliffs that take my breath away. There are islands and each one looks untouched and a bit wild in its stance.  Like guardians of the coast.  The glacier fed rivers are transparent ice water which magnifies the rocks in the bed underneath. Every one of them a skipping stone in their perfectly round smooth shapes and colors. The grandeur of every scene we encounter is enough to have me pulling out my woefully inadequate phone camera, in hopes that one of the million photos I take will do the scenery justice. It does not.  Can not.  There is only the moment and I decide to forego the camera…but only until the next curve has me trying to capture it once again.

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In this place I hear God.  I see him.  But not in the way I am used to. Here he is the Ancient of Days. The one from the beginning of time and before that.  He is wild, untamed and passionately creative.  His love is fierce and full of power. His freedom is immense and flows out like the wind, if I will just risk the ride.  It is not a safe place…it is a wild place.  This part of him is unfamiliar to me, and once again I am reintroduced to this God whom I love.  I am reminded that his bigness is incomprehensible, and that the more I know him, the more I don’t know him. It is yet another side of his character that is multifaceted and can never be fully known. My new image of the ferocious love of God is enough to make me realize that he will never let me go.  His ancient-before-the-dawn-of-time grace will not let him.  As small as I am, he takes care to nurture my spirit even among the giant prehistoric landscape.  It humbles me that in these places of such stunning wild beauty, that the Ancient One considers me beautiful.  It is beyond my grasp.  It will take an eternity to explore him and I cannot wait!

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