I have a hard time knowing when to stop. Rushing through each day hoping I’ll have the stamina to complete it. It’s a race between my energy and the clock. And the sun goes down, my daughter drifts off, and I melt into a puddle on the floor.
But actually, it’s the couch. And there’s Netflix. And eating. So much eating…
And at some point – if I can muster the tiniest bit of self control – I peel myself up and plod reluctantly to bed.
This is where I found myself exactly one month ago. Only it was before lunch – I was staring at my computer – and I just felt heavy. My body was tired. My mind was exhausted. And, possibly what troubled me the most, my heart was empty. I had absolutely nothing left to give.
When I start feeling this way, I have learned that I need to take action, and I need to take it quick. One leave request slip and several hours later, I was on a trail ready to hike it out.
I opted for a trail close to home (the Curves Trail) that overlooks a lake I frequently kayak (Binder Lake). And on this early November day, the scenery around me was just gorgeous. The sky a deep blue, the water frosted with golden sunny shimmers, and all I needed was a light jacket to keep warm. A slight crispness in the air, but enough warmth to feel alive and strong.
Thank you, God.
I usually hike this loop trail counterclockwise from the trailhead, starting in a woodsy area and finishing with the lake view. This time I thought, heck with monotony, and started to the left instead. Scandalous, I know.
And the views did not disappoint. Overlooking the lake, my altered vantage point cast a new light on a familiar place. I stopped to rest on a rock and watched as squirrels and birds skittered about – the only audible creatures sharing the trail with me that day. This introvert couldn’t have been more content.
Veering away from the lake’s view – my mind quieted into a steady hum. A rare state for me – the state of nothing. No thoughts. No planning. No problem solving.
For a blissful hour, I didn’t even worry about the trail. I simply followed the tree-lined path. Though it was hidden by freshly-fallen leaves, the way seemed clear enough. At least in the stretch directly ahead of me.
What a relaxing trance.
Stopping for a drink, a little friend caught my eye. A juvenile rat snake, I later learned. He was still and quiet – terrified, I’m sure, though I’m usually the one terrified when face to face with a snake. I stared… he glared back… and eventually I decided to leave him to his business.
About three-quarters of the way around the loop, the Curves Trail begins to live up to it’s name. Switchback after switchback – intersecting and overlapping on itself – causing all sorts of confusion. And, as the leaves covering the path grew thicker, and my assurance of the trail beneath me waned. It’s amazing how quickly Zen peace toggles to frantic worry when you don’t know where you are.
Every forty-five seconds, I glanced at my app (All Trails) to stay on track. At one point, as I was nearing the end and getting quite hangry, I realized that the app map was telling me to hike through the woods and not on the cleared path. And when I stayed true to the cleared path – according to my map, it showed me veering in the opposite direction of the trailhead.
Let me tell you… I am no girl scout. I am a navigational novice at best, especially in the woods. I rely heavily on my trusty app to back me up when the trail is nowhere to be found. I mean, I had a general idea where my car was, but to get to it as the crow flies required that I bushwhack for a good long while before I got there. Definitely not my first choice.
Pushing back branches and brush, I forged on. The cockleburs stabbing through my leggings reminded me why I really love to look at the woods… not be drowning in them. I was hungry, tired, annoyed at my map and even more annoyed at whomever failed to nail trail blazes on the blasted trees… seriously, why are none of the trails clearly marked at Binder Lake?!?
Yet, as I stumbled through the remaining few feet of the trail and spotted my car, I was awash in relief and accomplishment. I felt strong. I felt alive. My heart was full again.
The trail never disappoints… even when it’s hiding from me. And, as cheesy as this probably seems – the trail always has a lesson to teach.
On this particular day, the insight I received was this:
My life’s path is often covered in leaves. Beautiful, gorgeous leaves. And I have no idea where I’m going, and the harder I try to figure it out, the more frustrated I become. Because even with all of the tools I have at my fingertips (lists, projections, spreadsheets…), I’m just not capable of figuring everything out all of the time.
So, I have to keep walking. Continue moving forward using my gut and a very flawed sense of direction. It’s so messy and overwhelming – but when I finally get to the next destination on my journey, I can look back, see the brambles I maneuvered, and take heart.
I can do hard things. I can endure pain and trial and the uncertainty of my life knowing that even when I cannot see, the One who guides me can. God’s spirit gives me the strength to press on. God directs me in the way I should go – despite my weakness and at times, unwillingness. And, if there’s anything God has shown me in the past few years, it is that he/she is faithful.
The verse that follows is one that is so encouraging to me in tough times. I hope it will encourage you as well.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you WILL have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 NIV (emphasis is mine)
Have peace, friends.