Walking Through the Woods: Facing My Fears

Every hike begins with a question for the Master of the Universe. And then, a plea.

“Lord, what do you want to say to me on this hike today?” And then: “Lord, please hold my hand and walk with me.”

Whenever I walk in the woods, I remember where and when I first fell in love with nature, a place that has somehow always gifted me with clarity, serenity and understanding.

I grew up on a farm in Shinnston, WV, a former coal town. Our three-bedroom farmhouse sat between two steep hillsides. A narrow winding road, heavily traveled by rumbling coal trucks, divided the hillsides and a sulfur-scented creek called Shinns Run carved a shimmering swath through our property.

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Walking Through the Woods: Recentering Is Good for the Soul

Maybe it’s the long and winding trails toward destinations yet unexplored that fuel restoration. Or maybe it’s the rustling of cracked and drying leaves yet undetached on towering trees that dispenses peace into my pores like a weighted blanket. Or it could be the occasional hoarse screech of a hawk overhead or the skittering of a squirrel on the forest floor as he gathers wintertime’s stash.

Walking toward restoration.

Maybe, just maybe, it’s simply the silence that speaks the loudest to my inner spirit and brings refreshment. Walking through the woods is good medicine. For me, it’s a way to find my center when life blows me off course. A job loss, death of a loved one, the end of a relationship. Those things that rip the fabric of your life and leave you feeling tattered, fragmented and incomplete.

Today, I hit the reset button and began a journey to find my center once again. A journey that takes the loose ends of the shredded fabric and re-weaves it into something beautiful. If you dare, a close inspection hints of the evidence of loss, disappointment and pain in the re-stitching of mended holes and unraveled pieces. And yet those places—once gaping or threadbare—feel stronger, more resilient and rejuvenated once repaired. It becomes an imperfect tapestry that tells a story of fortitude, transformation and renewed strength.

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Losing Mom in a Slow Fade

“Do you know who I am?” I asked mom. She scanned my face, lowered her eyes, shrugged her shoulders, and nodded in the negative.

I offered a clue: “I’m your daughter. And you named me after your sister.”

“You’re Elaine,” she said. “My sister was such a good person.”

I hate dementia and what it has done to my mom. For 11 years this brutal brain disease, that afflicts more than 10 million people each year, has systematically destroyed my mom’s memory. The first signs began around the time she celebrated her 70th birthday. She knew something was wrong and would often say, “My brain just doesn’t work anymore.” And now at 81, this once brilliant woman doesn’t remember who I am, only that I am familiar.

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Growing Old Is a Blessing

I reread this post from a couple of years ago as I near my 58th birthday. I needed it today as I am missing my brother and feeling frustrated with some health issues I’m experiencing. Growing old is both a beast and a blessing.

Thee Lamppost

terrain mapWhen I turned 40, I remember looking in the mirror and grimacing at the few gray hairs that I could thankfully stay ahead of with a pair of tweezers and a box of Clairol.

Then, when I turned 50, I noted the additional aches and pains as well as the loosening neck skin, thinning mix of gray and brown hair, and deepening crevices on my forehead and around my eyes. The brown-eyed girl in the mirror stuck out her tongue at me and chortled: ‘Girl, there’s no way to turn back time! You’re stuck with this face that’s beginning to look more like a Google map in terrain mode than the sleek, smooth surface of a well-maintained interstate. 

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He Speaks in a Still Small Voice

Putting your trust in another human being sometimes takes a giant leap of faith. But placing your trust in the Creator of the universe requires just a mustard seed of faith.

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Jesus said in Luke 17: 5-6: “For truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.”

I can’t honestly testify I’ve heard the audible voice of God speaking into my circumstances and my impossibilities. But I can attest to experiencing impressions that filter through to my heart and lead me along a path that requires trust, patience and faith in my Maker.

For me, those impressions are God “speaking” directly to my heart. A compassionate, merciful and doting dad who only wants what’s best for his daughter. One such example when I felt that undeniable impression unfolded for me four years ago. I was facing an overwhelming financial hardship.

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Are You a Resounding Gong or Clanging Cymbal?

Isn’t life about learning how to love yourself, others and the Creator of the Universe?

Canva - Love Pendant NecklaceIt grieves me that people I dearly love are missing the purpose of life. If that’s not what we’re called to do as human beings on this minute planet that exists in a vast and infinite universe, then what is our purpose? To see how much wealth we can accumulate? To see how many times we can win an argument? To become famous? To trend on the internet? To see how many likes we can garner on social media? To rule the world? To isolate the people we deem inferior because of the color of their skin, sexual preferences, or political stance, so we can look superior? To see how many people we can bully, insult and abuse each week? Continue reading “Are You a Resounding Gong or Clanging Cymbal?”

Worship Instead of Worry

I wish I would have waited better.

worryHad I known what my LORD was doing behind the scenes, how He was lining things up, how He was causing all things to work together for my good, even as I grieved, wept and worried, I would have honored Him better by being still and unfettered by anxiety and despair.

But as long as I can remember, I’ve been saddled with worry. The nuns at the Catholic school I attended from first- through eighth-grade coined me the Worry Wart. I worried over some of the most ridiculous things: grades, friends, my body, my health, my home life. Continue reading “Worship Instead of Worry”

Going Silver

In a world that tries its best to pressure me to conform, I’m going to make an attempt to buck society’s ideals about what constitutes beauty and aging gracefully.

A box of Clairol, a lift here and a tuck there might help shed years off my appearance and give me a more youthful look, but who can afford to maintain it for years on end? I, for one, am tired of shelling out dough to curtail the natural aging process, and that includes buying hair dye or visiting the hair salon every month to cover up the gray. Instead, I’m going to try to allow my beautiful, shimmering silver strands to win the race as they quickly outpace my rich dark chocolate-brown hair.

going gray

The early stages of transitioning to silver!

You heard me right; I’ve decided to try to embrace the real me by going al natural. Some of my friends have called me coo-coo, but that’s OK by me. Call me crazy if you will but this is a change I’m going to permit to progress at its own pace. That’s right. I’m going to let nature take its course–or attempt to–even when I start to look like a member of the skunk family.

What possessed me to give this going-gray a whirl? Well, I am feeling very blessed to be able to walk into this season of my life. Growing old just doesn’t scare me anymore. I look at those younger than me who’ve lost their lives battling cancer, stroke, heart disease, or in accidents or natural disasters. They would have loved the opportunity to grow old. I myself have uttered, “Getting old sucks!” But honestly, getting old is an honor that too many never get to see to fruition. Continue reading “Going Silver”