A couple weeks ago I had the opportunity to go on a blogger retreat my sister had set up in Chattanooga, TN. First off I really needed a break… It had been a really crazy couple of weeks searching for houses, nailing down the house and packing everything. Second, I had never been to Chattanooga and was so looking forward to visiting. I will be posting a blog post all about the retreat and giving you lots of suggestions on places to visit if you’re ever in the Chattanooga area, but for now, I want to hone in on one particular experience during the trip.
It was the last day of the retreat ( Sunday morning) and my sister had planned a nice hike for all the girls. We were hiking at Signal Mountain and it was beautiful. There were a couple look out spots that we stopped at and just enjoyed a moment of taking in all the beauty around us. While there were lots of amazing parts of the the bloggers retreat trip, I absolutely enjoyed the hike and on this hike I was able to do something that I never thought I would be able to do. Before I can continue, I must preface by saying I am the worlds biggest scardy-cat. I get freaked out by anything and everything that could potentially harm me or hurt my hands or arms especially. I’ve actually thought many times about taking out insurance on my hands and arms, because hello, music and performing is kind of my life. Anyway, I am always one to assess the risk and many times when placed in situations, I think through all the many possible situations that could arise and many times I play it safe. And as much as I hate to admit it, I have been living my life ( more recently) with a lot of anxiety and fear.
Isn’t it crazy how the fear of possibilities or even fear of the unknown can almost paralyze us in situations? Recently Dave and I had been searching for a home and were really struggling to find something, and through that process we were becoming more anxious and fear- filled. We only had a short amount of time before we would need to be out of our apartment and the search had been harder than we had hoped. We began to be fearful of where we would live, how and when we would find a place, and if when we did find a place we would be able to afford it. And along with the fear of not knowing where we were gonna be within a weeks time, ( talk about an all time high stress level), I have been stressing and feeling anxious about the new changes and new subjects I am having to teach this next school year. Fear was paralyzing me and keeping me from being able to really trust God and allow Him to work. I knew that God would see us through since He has always come through for me and us, but my faith was wavering a little.
I wanted to hear God’s voice, but my own thoughts and fear continued to drown out His voice. I was even stressed to leave and go on the bloggers retreat, because I was fearful that we wouldn’t have the income needed to make it for the first couple months of rent and the extra expenses that kept popping up. Ya’ll It’s hard to see how God is going to make a way when you’re in the thick of everything. As much as I knew He would and could make a way, I couldn’t see how it would all happen and so I allowed fear to continue to hold my thoughts and faith captive.
But God did come through and broke through my fear
in the strangest, most beautiful way!
So the seven of us girls began the hike, enjoying all the beautiful scenery and definitely getting a great workout (well at least I was…). I was already a little uneasy because the shoes I chose to bring, although somewhat decent for hiking, were very well worn. I have had those particular shoes for about 7-8 years and they have definitely seen their fair share of walking and hiking. I’m actually quite amazed they have held up as well as they have, for the amount of time that I’ve used them and the multiple trips I have worn them on… AND best part they were from Walmart. But because the shoes are older and worn, the bottoms of the shoes barely had any traction, so it was making even the most simple parts of the trail a little more of a challenge. We made it to another look out point and sat for a while just taking in the beauty. It was such a glorious view. WE were so high and we could see all the trees and scan out for a long distance and in-between the trees was a stream.
We continued on our hike with the excitement of seeing a beautiful waterfall that one of the photographers in the group had mentioned. She had done a photo shoot a couple years back in front of the waterfall and remembered how beautiful it was. I immediately thought, if a photographer can climb down the steep side of the mountain with all her photography gear, how hard could it be??? So we continued onward and found the area off the beaten path to the waterfall. Ya’ll this is when my fear took over bigtime! Remember how I said I am a scardy-cat??? Well, when I looked down to see the waterfall, I could scarcely see it through some of the trees… It was a LONG way down. At that point I could feel my heart start to beat faster and my mind began to race, thinking…”I don’t think this is safe… I don’t know if I can do this… I don’t think I CAN do this… ” It was at that point that I was ready to jump ship, willing to say… ” I think I’ll wait here, or stay behind.” A couple of the girls decided to stay behind, so I knew I wouldn’t be the only one if I chose to sit it out. I was completely freaking out but only had a matter or minutes to decide what I was going to do ( some of the others were already headed down). I kept telling myself it would be alright if I stayed behind, but I just knew that if I didn’t try to make it down, I would regret it! So with lots of hesitation, I committed to making the trek down the steep mountainside to see the beautiful waterfall.
I followed the other 5 girls, my sister included, down the steep mountainside to the waterfall. I was pulling up the back of the group and going extremely slow, but I figured I’d rather go super slow and save myself and NOT DIE, than be careless. ( good mindset, huh?) I was trembling and panicking as each foot tried to find stable ground on the steep incline and my heart was beating out of my chest. A part of me ( Okay a Huge part of me) was freaking out inside, but another part kept saying as I continued onward ” I can not believe I’m actually doing it! I couldn’t really stand up as I was going down the mountain or steep hill, instead I pretty much “crab crawled” my way down the hill, moving extremely slow and many times scooting on my butt. I was completely soaked and muddy, but I was still alive and really that’s all I cared about. There were a couple times that my foot slipped, but I was able to grab something and in those moments I had mild heart attacks.
As we got halfway down, (this was a 20 min track down, btw), my sister who is rarely terrified and is always down for anything, just sat almost paralyzed on this rock. We had come to the halfway point( or maybe slightly lower than the halfway point ) and we were sitting on some rocks that were super slick from water running over them. She kept looking, fear had grabbed her. At this point I got a little more nervous ( if that’s even possible) because again I was already trembling and my heart rate was at an all-time high. My sister, the brave one, was getting freaked out! All i could think in that moment was… “What if my sister backs out? Do I continue? Or Do I follow her back up the mountain?” Luckily, she continued, so I kept going too.
We pulled ourselves together and figured out a way down. We got safely to the bottom, thank God, and there we stood in front of the most beautiful waterfall. I’ve never actually seen a waterfall in person… It was magnificent. I couldn’t believe I had made it all the way down… I had proven to myself that I could do it! The next thing that happened was something I never thought I would be OK doing , let alone doing with a bunch of girls I had literally just met a couple days earlier. One of the girls suggested we skinny dip … Now, I am a very private person when it comes to things like that, but I think I was on such a rush that I didn’t care! I didn’t want to miss out on trying that as well, so i found myself stripping down to nothing and proceeding to enter the freezing cold water. There we were, five girls, swimming around naked under the waterfall and it was the most amazing moment of my life.
It was a freeing moment! A moment of clarity and a moment of excitement because I pushed past my fear and got to experience something so beautiful! I had gotten past my fear of the unknown and while completely terrified of the trek down, I MADE IT! I didn’t chicken out! Yes, I was terrified the whole way down, but I made it! This was huge for me! It was in this moment that I felt God speaking telling me “It would all be alright!” It took being in a place of stillness and not allowing fear to hold me back to finally push through and hear that everything would work out! I felt as if all the fear and the huge bricks that had been holding me down… holding me captive were lifted in that moment! Now, I’m still feeling some anxiety about the upcoming school year and the unknowns, but I will always remember the feeling of pushing through this fear and feeling God’s peace. He wants me to succeed and He reminded me that I can do hard things and that even when fear is there waiting to cripple me, He is also right there helping me find my footing on the steep mountainside. God works in mysterious ways and this was one of those moments I will never forget.