Growing in Grace

Got a chance today to do something that I was afraid to even consider putting on my Bucket List.  I’ve read stories about the Appalachian Trail marveled at the people brave enough to hike it.  Since I did the trail run in August, I have really been enjoying exploring “other than paved paths”.  This is so far outside the comfort zone that I carefully cultivated for the better part of 50+ years – something my family and close friends can attest to.  I have a fear of heights – sometimes it is almost paralyzing.  It’s different when we fly the airplane – I can’t explain it – but it is.

Beth suggested we might enjoy hiking a trail here in Virginia and offered one in Shenandoah Valley National Park that was part of the Appalachian Trail.  Bill and I readily agreed – it sounded like a great opportunity.  And quietly, inside, I was both thrilled and terrified.  A chance to consider writing it on my list and crossing it off.  Mind you, I know that thousands/millions of people hike much farther than we did.  But I have learned not to compare what I do to anyone but myself.  And I had nothing to compare this to.

By the numbers:  hiked 5 miles of 3 hours (including rest stops, photo stops, sitting and admiring stops), elevation gain of 1709 ft., and loss of 1720.  The summit of Stony Man Mountain was 4,010 feet, and we started at 2,760 feet.  The elevation gain was greatest over the first 1.5 -2 miles.

Because we were climbing a mountain, we were often on what to me was a very narrow path on the side of the mountain with pretty steep drop offs.  This started shortly after we left the trailhead.  My mind went into overdrive…I was thinking that we were not even ¼ mile into the hike and I was already shaky and scared.  Every cell in my body was screaming “STOP” – “turn around and go sit in the truck”.  The war inside my head was ugly.  Take the safe way – back to the truck and wait…but if I do – I will miss out on something I was afraid to even consider as a possibility.  Logically, I knew that for many people this was no big deal.  I also knew that for me – if I could NOT turn around and keep putting one foot in front of the other – I was going to have a wonderful grace-filled growing experience.  And so I did (also, I wasn’t eager to turn around on that narrow path and risk going back down over what I had just climbed up).  Scary?  Absolutely.  Worth it?  Without a doubt.

While we were hiking, and then again when we explored Luray Caverns, Beth commented on how small you feel standing next to the rocks, the mountain, the trees, and the stalactites/stalagmites in the caverns.  That is so true – you realize how tiny and insignificant your small person is as you gaze at these wonders.  I also realized that the God that created those magnificent wonders also created me.  If that doesn’t fill you with gratitude/awe/wonder/humility, check your pulse.

Beth and Bill were on this journey with me.  There are maybe a handful more people I trust completely to be with me when I do something like this.  I know I have their support, I can trust them, and they will love and accept what I do – whether or not I actually complete the venture.  I am blessed to have these people in my life, and I am so grateful.

The whole day was a grace-filled growing experience.  To say I’m grateful is an understatement.  I realize how blessed I am.  I’ll be thinking on today for quite a while.  I did it, I wrote it on my bucket list, and I crossed it off.  Playing it safe and small serves no one, God didn’t intend that.  He gave us this magnificent world so we might enjoy it.  He created each of us to do great things.  I’m going to pull out the bucket list and put some more of the things that I have been afraid to write on there.

To those wonderful people that believe in me and encourage me – bless you.  I love you so very much and am grateful for you being in my life.

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