to the top

My friend and partner on this hike posted this picture and statement on Instagram…. And I couldn’t have said it better:

“Looking at this now, it's so hard to even see the trail, even when the blaze is showing the way. Life can be like that sometimes, can't it?” @jpothatsme

Before the final climb, we got lost. Well, not really lost, but definitely not on the right trail. While walking along, we totally missed one of the signs that told us which way to go. We kept going and going, oblivious to the fact that we were heading in the wrong direction.

Has that ever happened to you before?

Along the Tanawha Trail, this was not the first time in my life when I went the wrong way, and ended up making my journey longer than necessary.

Sometimes God puts signs up for us, and we walk right by them without even noticing them.
Sometimes we discover later on that we just worked really hard only to have to turn around and backtrack for awhile.

The same was true on this crazy hike of ours. What really blows my mind is that it wasn’t just the leader at the time that missed it…. All 3 of us missed it.

Be careful following others so closely that you forget to look around for your own signs along the way!
And, even more importantly, when you (or those you are with) make a mistake…. It’s not the end of the world.

Looking back at this moment of our journey, I am very aware of the fact that even though we were miserably uncomfortable at the time, we still responded tenderly to each other for our mistakes. There was no condemnation or blaming taking place, and no criticism either. So, we walked an extra .6 miles… at least we realized it before long… big deal. Staying true to who we really are meant we simply turned around and got back on track.

Reminds me of when the Lord shows me when I’m messing up something. My “repentance” doesn’t have to involve me feeling a truckload of shame or spiraling into a pit of despair. It’s more like “whoops…” and then go fix it. You know…. “go and sin no more”.

By the time we got back on track, we knew we were now behind schedule, and needing a “3rd wind” so to speak. We also knew we were probably about a mile or so from meeting up with some others who were going to join us for the last segment of the hike. We began recognizing where we were and picking up our pace in anticipation of seeing their smiling faces. Just knowing that they were up ahead waiting for us gave us this rush of excitement that we needed to break on through this last piece of exhaustion.

When we reached Linn Cove Viaduct and heard my family members up there cheering us on, nothing could have been sweeter. Add to that the presence of a toilet and we were definitely smiling now!!!

This was mile 11.8.

The last leg of our journey was now here! All day we’d looked forward to this moment. We were energized by the presence of “fresh” hikers including my 17 year old daughter who effortlessly bounded ahead of us like an elf in the Lord of the Rings through Fanghorn forest. At one point I jokingly said something to her about deserving an award for most energetic hiker or something like that.

She stopped dead in her tracks, turned to look me in the eye and said “No, YOU deserve an award for hiking this WHOLE DAY”

BAM! There it was! The truth I had not yet looked at yet along my hike. MY VALUE! MY hard work, and effort, was worth something. I had reason to be proud of myself.

It took me looking at my daughter and feeling proud, and then her reflecting it back to me, for me to really get it.

The happiness and joy I felt in this moment burst through my exhaustion just like the sun bursting through the clouds.   And wouldn’t you know it… that’s exactly what happened next. The clouds began to part and the sun in the west began to shine on our path to the finish line up ahead.

The last mile was a blur really, I was fully aware that I was going to make it. There was no more doubt, no more uncertainty… only belief that continuing to put one foot in front of the other would lead me to my destination without failure.

My daughter, the elf, who was running ahead and then coming back to meet up with us, came back and said, it’s just up ahead around the corner!! You’re almost there!

Michelle turned back to me and said “Are you ready”…. And I was overwhelmed with a tidal wave of emotion that took my breath away. My eyes flooded with tears… the tears I’d heard other people talk about that came at the end of a race, the tears I had thought just 10 minutes prior would not likely be necessary…. Rushed into my eyes and clouded my vision with such ferocity I didn’t know how to stop them.

I hugged Michelle and choked on my emotions that had no words. Still now, I can’t put to words what I was feeling at that moment. Pride, relief, joy, excitement, love, passion, gratitude, and all the pain I’d carried along with me for the past 11 hours… or maybe it was the pain I’d carried with me for the past 41 years.
All of it came to the surface in that moment.

Then, we realized that somehow we had gotten here too early! My husband and other friends/family were not going to arrive for another 30 minutes or so! We couldn’t cross our finish line without them!!

So, we rested. We stopped .3 miles from the end and rested.

Never in a million years would I have pictured my ending to my Finish Line Hike like this! But God is good. And he loves to give good gifts. We stood there in the woods and soaked in His presence while we waited to take those last steps.
Fully washed in His love…. embracing the moment with all of our senses fully aware. We received His song…
“You’re more real than the wind in my lungs
You’re more real than the ground I’m standing on
You’re thoughts define me, you’re inside me
You’re my reality
Abba, I belong to you
You’re closer than the skin on my bones
You’re closer than the song on my tongue”

We knew even then, how purposeful it was that we were being asked to rest right before the crossing of the finish line.

In resting, we are more aware of God’s presence.

In resting, we can connect with Him even as we are striving towards a goal.

In resting, we are grounded to the reality of who we are in Him.

Resting restored our focus.

Resting gave us time to breathe in the moment and prevented us from rushing ahead and missing out on that tender moment in His arms. That tender moment of love between Father and Beloved even before we completed our task meant even more than if He had just offered it at the end.

This time of rest didn’t require me to finish… it was a freely given gift.

This time of rest had grace written all over it.

“So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God's rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.” Hebrews 4:9-10

After the time of rest, we walked arm and arm up to the finish line where we could celebrate. We didn’t need to rush forward and collapse in exhaustion because of the sweet rest we had just tasted. With eyes bright and spirits high, we crossed into that finish line together.

Valued, Worthy, and full of hope. 

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