Thursday, January 28, 2016

Moving Forward


Hiking. It’s one of my favorite loves of all time. Being out in the wilderness is so refreshing. I love walking under the huge trees and feeling the fresh air surround me. When I’m in the woods, all of my troubles disappear. It’s the best feeling in the world.

I think I was born to be in the outdoors! My love of nature began as a small child, thanks to my mother. She loved the outdoors, too, and made sure I learned to respect all of the woodland creatures. She would take me by the hand and show me various animals and tell me about their habitats.

When I was growing up, it wasn’t strange to walk into the kitchen and see Mama feeding an orphaned squirrel from a teeny, tiny bottle. Mama loved to bring the outdoors in and never balked when she’d find rocks or feathers or other mementos of nature in our pockets while doing laundry. Rocks and dirt were part of my childhood and I’m so thankful they were. But back to hiking…

My love of hiking began when I was in the Girl Scouts. My mother was my troop leader and we had a blast being outdoors together. There were day hikes, overnight hikes, campfires and s’mores. It was a wonderful time of adventure. I have some great memories of those trips to the mountains together, but my Mom was not a long distance hiker. She was a novice. I was determined to hike more than she did. I wanted to know more, see more, and do more.

Georgia has so many wonderful hiking trails running through it. One of the most popular and most well traveled is the Appalachian Trail. The trail head begins at Springer Mountain in Fannin County, Georgia. It’s a beautiful, well marked trail that leads all the way to Maine and ends at Mt. Katahdin. Over 2100 miles of trail extend through 14 states. The trails wind through some of the most scenic areas the Southeastern United States. It’s hard not to fall in love with the A.T. The first time I was on it, I knew this was where I was supposed to be. I felt right at home, but I’ve never hiked the entire A.T. One of my life goals is to walk the entire length of the Appalachian Trail but I doubt if it will ever happen. The trail is so long and it requires so much preparation to do a thru hike. For those who are unable to complete a thru hike, from Georgia to Maine, there are ways to hike the trail in segments. I have done many segment hikes and have had the opportunity to hike in Georgia, Tennessee, and North Carolina. Following those beautiful, white blazes along the trail you can jump on or off the trail in many places. The trail has so much to offer for both beginners and experienced hikers and sometimes, taking a blue blazed trail is okay, too. (Blue blazes are sometimes easier, more scenic than the white blazed trails they parallel.)

One of the things that intrigues me most about being on the trail is wondering where the path will lead. Often times, I’ll begin a trail and have no idea where it’s taking me. I don’t like to read maps, so I don’t try to look ahead and see where I’m going. That’s not always a good thing, but I like surprises! Once my husband and I were on the trail and I felt all the hairs on the back of my neck stand up and I got the eeriest feeling. I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that we were in the presence of a bear. I never did see him but I sure felt him. Sometimes it’s good not to see what lies ahead on the trail!

It doesn’t take much to hike. All you need is a good, sturdy pair of shoes and the “want to.” If you can walk, you can hike. All you have to do is put one foot in front of the other. That sounds pretty easy, doesn’t it? Well…that’s not always true. It’s much easier to stand firmly in one place than to put forth the effort to start walking, especially when you have no idea where the path goes. Sometimes it’s scary not knowing what lies ahead. I can attest to that…I’ve been there, many times.

I’m a creature of habit. I don’t like change. I like things to stay the same. I feel secure when I know what’s coming next, but I think that’s exactly why God wants me to move forward right now. For the past 19 months, I’ve been on this wild and crazy journey with breast cancer and now things have finally slowed down. Its taken me down into valleys of despair and through devastating twists and turns. Most of the time, I had no idea where I was going but I knew I had to pick one foot up and then the other. I had to keep moving because the alternative was just giving up and giving in and I wasn’t about to do that. And now…I don’t know what’s next. I have absolutely no idea what path I’m on or where I’m headed. But even though I have no clue what’s around the bend, God does.

For the past few days, God has been using one verse of Scripture to speak to my heart. I’ve come across it as I’ve read devotionals, as I’ve read my Bible, and on the internet. It’s funny how God keeps putting it in front of my face. It’s found in the book of Isaiah, chapter 43 and here’s what it says:

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;

And through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you.

When you walk through fire, you will not be scorched,

Nor will the flame burn you. “For I am the Lord your God,

The Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”

Those verses are powerful and they tell me that God doesn’t want me to stand still. He wants me to move ahead. He doesn’t want me to stay comfortable where I am. He has something bigger in store. There was another verse of Scripture He gave me when I was first diagnosed with breast cancer – “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” 1 Peter 5:10. So with those two sets of verses in mind, I think I’m headed on a new path that God has planned specifically for me.

It’s exciting to know things are about to change and even though I can’t see the next step on my journey, I can trust God because I know He has His very best in store for me. I know He’s already gone before me and prepared the way. I know He’ll be with me and won’t ever leave me alone.

I don’t know what the days hold, but I know I can’t just stand still with my feet firmly planted in place. I have to move and just like when I’m hiking, I have to trust the signs along the way to guide me to my new destination.

It’s Winter here in Georgia. It’s cold and everything is barren. The trees have lost their leaves, animals are hibernating, and it seems things are just frozen in time. But Spring is just around the corner and that’s a time filled with the hope of new life and great expectations. Maybe this is a time of preparation right before my new path is revealed. I’m anticipating new and exciting things in the days ahead and I’ve got my hiking boots already pulled out and ready.

There’s a yearning in my spirit for change and new growth, much like a seedling about to sprout. I can’t help but wonder what’s next. Sometimes I think God likes to keep me guessing just to prove He’s still in control! I’m sure a new plan will unfold soon and as soon as I know what it is, I’ll share it with you. Until then, happy trails to you! Keep putting one foot in front of the other and don’t be afraid to move forward. It’s going to be a great adventure…I just know it!

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