A few weeks ago we celebrated my sister and her husband’s ten year wedding anniversary by spending a long weekend in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. A little over ten years ago they eloped there in what was a beautiful church and we all decided to take the trip together to honor that event. My favorite part of the weekend was the time we spent together in nature. My sister, close family friends, and I spent several hours zig-zagging across a wide stream. The rest of the group stayed in town to take the younger children to mini golf per their request. Originally, I thought we would just be hiking on trails in the woods. My sister and I jumped at the opportunity to spend time outside especially with the fun and experienced group of our family friends who spend most of their weekends exploring new outdoor spaces. Our group started down a trail and then we ended up spending the majority of the time stepping from rock to rock, testing our footing, wading in water, touching moss on rocks that felt like fluffy carpet, resting on boulders, and using downed trees to walk across slippery areas. I am a very tactile person so I loved all the different textures. I also loved all the problem solving and helpful information that we were sharing. People ahead of me were sharing information like “don’t use that rock; it seemed stable enough, but it shifted on me.” I was in my own personal paradise.
For me, one of the most beautiful moments happened near the beginning of the stream. I came to a large boulder. Austin, the eldest son of our family friends, offered to help me up and I replied “I’ve got this.” Honestly, I am not a tiny woman and if I tell people what I weigh they normally say, “Really? You don’t look it” and then I normally reply something like “I’m mostly muscle” with a smile on my face and a wink in my eye. The last thing I wanted to do was cause this young man injury which was why I had said no. After quickly assessing my options, I knew I couldn’t do it alone. I asked for Austin’s help and he helped me up in seconds, without hesitation. I felt like that exchange was symbolic of many obstacles in life; that even if we would like to overcome obstacles ourselves, it is not always possible and we must accept the help of others. We also help others in their growth by asking for their help. The more I traveled upstream, I noticed that Austin, who I know has the physical agility to be at the front of the group with his father, hung around that difficult spot until the last member of our group crossed it. It made me smile to observe a person with such a big heart. The last couple people of the group to cross were overcoming their fears just by being out there on the stream at all. I was glad they were able to be brave and to try something new.
One woman who had been fearful had left her shoes behind with the intention of grabbing them on the way back downstream. When we returned to the area someone else had grabbed the shoes of a couple people from our group so those shoes would not get lost. That meant that while we sent someone else ahead to get those shoes back for those women, they had to get out of the stream and up the bank of the water without shoes to get to the area we where all meeting in a timely manner. Walking barefoot uphill and on trails is certainly brave. Talk about overcoming your fears! The whole day reminded me that spiritual moments are not just the big moments, but are also in the little moments. The divine is constantly giving us opportunities to show what we have learned, whether we can handle more, or if we need to revisit part of a lesson.
Some people may say that their fears manifested the conditions that made them have to walk barefoot, but think of how strong those women know they are now that they have done that! My feet are already hot if I wear closed toe shoes so I always wear sandals, when possible. In this case, my hiking sandals helped since I didn’t care if my feet and shoes got wet. Some people had elected to take their shoes off and carry them with them. This reminded me that you can only prepare so well for a trip and then you just have to go with the flow.
Spending time in nature reminded me of the fun times my sister and I spent time outdoors as children together. It also reminded me how much I love it and need to reconnect with nature more often. For me, nature is the ultimate untamed beauty on this planet. I love to see nature in its purest form because I feel like it is a fantastic expression of God’s creation – beauty with purpose. When is the last time you accepted help or was brave? When was the last time you spent time outside? What would you consider your own personal paradise? Share in the comments section or send me a message! Peace be with you.