Soaring on Wings Like Eagles

pano picTo say I was looking forward to a day of hiking the Columbia River Gorge with my 16-year-old daughter and her friend was an understatement. Not only had our winter been long, cold, and wet, but the end of February and early March were full of heartache. My uncle had died unexpectedly, and then a week later my mom found out she had breast cancer. Shortly after returning from my uncle’s funeral in California, my mother-in-law was admitted to the ICU and put on life support for complications from the flu. In the middle of all this, my 8-year-old nearly drowned at her birthday party. During “normal” times, the pool incident would’ve been laughed off after the initial adrenaline rush, but now it caused me several nights of unease. I couldn’t shake the ominous darkness bombarding me. My novel, which I had hoped to finish by the end of March, came abrupt halt. I couldn’t find words to fill the page, even when I could find a few minutes of time.

Now, here was a chance to escape my ordinary-turned-dreary life, and spend time with my sweet-sixteen daughter (who is also the only one of my three children who likes to hike!)

I knew we would have several options on the Columbia Gorge to choose from, so I tried not to over plan our getaway. My daughter’s first request was that we not get up too early, so we leisurely left our hotel in Troutdale at about 9:00 a.m. I had read that Latourell Falls was the closest waterfall to us, and that it was far less crowded than the more popular falls along the Gorge, so we headed there first. It was easy to find parking, but the lower access to the falls was closed as a jail crew worked on the trail. We headed up the hill to upper Latourell Falls. The trail was well maintained but at a pretty good grade. The challenge for me was keeping up with two teenagers. We made it to the top fairly quickly, and we’re greeted by that familiar waterfall wind that I love so much.

upper latourel falls

Upper Latourell Falls

The girls ventured behind the fall. I had already realized by that time though that my shoes were not cut out for the muddied parts of the trail, so I stayed behind and took pictures. We headed down the trail and found some good views of the Gorge. It was still cool and cloudy, and we hoped the forecasted afternoon sun would soon make its appearance.

After stopping to view Latourell Falls from the bridge at the bottom of the trail, my daughter, Natalie, hesitantly asked if there were hikes we could go on that weren’t just waterfalls. My heart fell. Had I stolen this day from her and made it my own? I told her I had an article on my phone that listed the five best hikes in the Gorge, and she could pick any hike from the list. She quickly perused the article and picked the Eagle Creek hike. The pictures I’d seen of Eagle Creek showed a narrow trail on a high cliff, and most hiking summaries I read listed the trail as not family-friendly. No doubt Natalie saw those same pictures and thought it looked like the most exciting hike to go on, but I was hesitant. Granted, Natalie is not a little kid anymore, but she still trips over her own shoelaces sometimes and taking her on a hike with a narrow trail blown into a steep cliff didn’t sound like a good idea.

“Google it while I drive, and see if the trail is open.” The last time I had read up on it, the trail was closed. Part of me hoped it still was. We found out that the trail was open, but only in part. A landslide had closed it off just past Punchbowl Falls. That still would give us a three mile hike up the trail, so we decided to make it our destination.

“But we should stop at Multnomah Falls and hike that loop,” I said as we headed down I-84.   “You can’t go to the Columbia Gorge and not see Multnomah Falls.”

The girls weren’t too excited about the idea of the super touristy destination. Fate saved them. The exit to Multnomah Falls was closed because all the parking lots were full. The look of relief on the faces of Natalie and her friend, Claire, along with the sight of all the cars that had filled the stop, assuaged any regrets I may have had about missing the attraction.

The exit to Eagle Creek wasn’t closed, but both lots were full. I guess that’s what happens when you go to one of the most popular hiking destinations in Oregon on Spring Break (not to mention get a late start to your day!) I drove down a road that was marked as a viewpoint. There was parking there, and it was free. It added some extra walking to our hike but it was worth it.

The trail started wide and even along the creek, then pulled away and became a bit narrower, rocky and pretty muddy in spots. The uneven ground was a challenge for me with my uncooperative right foot, but I managed. To my disappointment, the spur trail to Metlako Falls was closed because the trail had fallen into the creek.


Eagle Creek Trail

The trail came to a moss and fern covered cliff, with a narrow hiking trail etched into it’s side. There was a rusty cable bolted into the cliff to provide extra reassurance for hikers. This was the spot I was worried about; the part that was not kid friendly. It was also one of the spots where the girls took the most pictures. The cliff to the right dropped pretty much straight down into the cavern, about 100 feet. I’m not a big fan of heights, at least not ones where not falling to my death is solely dependant on my own two feet. The sun had finally made it’s appearance, and its soft light shining into the canyon and the beauty of my surroundings dampened my fear. After passing the cliff, we stopped for some photos at a small view point. While we stood there, we saw a group of people carrying kayaks on their backs. This perplexed us: where could they possibly be going? This creek was lined with waterfalls.

We continued down the trail, getting closer to Punchbowl Falls. The girls were in front of me, and I heard footsteps approaching from behind. No doubt it was a more fit hiker who needed to get by me. I stepped to the side of the trail to make room. It was one of the kayakers.

I motioned for him to go ahead. “I’m sure you’re much faster than me.” I smiled.

The man was young, probably in his early twenties. “Oh, I don’t know, not with this thing on my back.” He was obviously being polite. I motioned him forward and he found himself walking with Claire and Natalie. Claire is the kind of person who can instantly become best friends with complete strangers, so I knew now we would find out more about this group of kayakers.

In the few minutes on the trail, we learned that the group of kayakers were in fact going into Eagle Creek. They would put in at Punch Bowl Falls, and go down the creek and over waterfalls up to 90 feet in height. As the young man talked, there was no bravado or pride in his voice. He humbly answered all the girls’ questions.

“How do you get down into the creek? Do you just jump in and sacrifice yourselves?” Claire asked.

The kayaker laughed. “Yeah, I guess you could say that. We just get as close as we can and jump in.”

We were in awe of the courage and skill this adventure-seeking activity must take. How did someone acquire that?

“It’s a ten year process.” The young man said. “My dad started taking me kayaking when I was eight-years-old.”

Ten years. The number struck a chord in me. That was the number of years I was told it takes most writers to become successful. Practice, practice and more practice. Try and fail. With all the recent turmoil in my life, I had put my writing aside. I wasn’t sure if I even wanted to pick it up again. Why would I want to do something that was so hard, and would take a decade to grow to fruition?

We arrived at the Punch Bowl Falls overlook and parted ways with the young kayaker. The view of Punch Bowl was from high above and not very close. We continued down the trail and the girls found a steep spur trail to get a better view. The trail had a big warning sign about NOT jumping off the cliff, which made me laugh after the conversation we had just had. My foot was throbbing by this point, so I stayed behind and found a nice rock to sit on. While I was sitting there, the group of kayakers passed by, looking for a way down to the creek. I saw them cut a path through the trees and bushes a little farther down.

The girls made their way back up the spur trail, and then we headed back. I was disappointed to not get closer to the water, but a little ways down the trail we saw the sign we had missed for Lower Punch Bowl Falls. The girls laughed at my exuberance as we began our way down the trail that would take us to the creek. Lower Punch Bowl Falls was small, but the creek and canyon were beautiful, albeit a little crowded. It looked like when the creek was lower, it would be possible to walk up it and get closer to Punch Bowl Falls. We settled for just getting on the river rocks and admiring the beauty of the canyon.

While we were there, the kayakers started coming down the creek. One by one they came around the canyon wall and stopped, forming a group on the side of the creek. I was thrilled that we could get to see them go over one of the falls, even if it was the smallest one. A crowd had gathered by this point, camera phones in hand. A large drone flew overhead catching the aerial view of the action. We watched in amazement as one by one the yellow kayaks went over the fall and disappeared for a brief moment, then reappeared on the creek, upright and unharmed. The cameras followed these few men and women who had the courage to brave the falls, and the dedication to master the skills necessary to do so. We were the observers; the kayakers — they were the ones not only chasing their dreams but grabbing them by the tail and enjoying the ride. No doubt each had faced obstacles: injuries, setbacks, disappointments. How many times had one of them been tempted to give up on the challenge of conquering waterfalls, because it was going to take too long to become good enough? How many times had they looked fear in the face, and had to make a choice to let it stop them, or make them stronger?

kayakers pic

A shot of a few of the kayakers.

Obviously, these kayakers had natural talent, but it takes a lot more than raw talent to plunge down a 90 foot waterfall and come out in one piece. The humble confidence I saw in the young man we talked to told me that these brave souls weren’t doing this for the attention, or the glory, or the Instagram photo. They did this because in one way or another, this was their dream and they weren’t going to let anyone, or anything, stop them.

Here I was worried about letting my 16-year-old daughter walk along a cliff with a cable hand bar, and some of these kayakers were probably braving class IV or V rapids at her age. Here I was thinking about giving up on writing because my routine had been disrupted for a few weeks by death, illness and mishap, my heart heavy with worry and grief. But isn’t that the stuff that births good writing, anyway? How many writers have pushed through depression and tragedy to bring us works that touch the soul? If I gave up now, I would forever be an observer of what I admired, instead of doer. That would be a life half-lived.

After the kayakers disappeared down the bend in the creek, the girls and I made our way back up to the main trail and trudged to the trailhead. I lagged behind. It had been a long winter, and I was out of shape and sore. Each step hurt, but my hope was restored — kindled back to a small flame by the leading of my nature-loving daughter, yellow kayaks, and courageous souls.

Yet those who wait for the LORD Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary. (Isaiah 40:31)





Over the Hills and Through the Woods …

It was a beautiful, sunny autumn day. It was also a non-holiday, non-school day. A perfect day for a hike. I’d been wanting to explore McDowell Creek. It was labeled as an easy, family-friendly hike, so I took my three daughters, who invited a couple of friends. One of the friends was Isaac, a foreign-exchange student from Hong Kong. Isaac isn’t his real name – it’s the name he gave himself for America, because Cantonese is a hard language for us to speak.

I don’t look too carefully at directions before I head to a waterfall. I find it on the map, and If I have an address to punch into my GPS then I put that in and go. This was one of the those times I wondered if I put in the right. After turning off I-5, we were going through rolling farmlands with no forest or water in sight. A left turn here, a right there, and then through little picturesque towns. Highway 228 is a “scenic byway” and we saw signs along the road that marked it as such, with the phrase “Over the Hills and Through the Woods.” It was cute, but the old song got stuck in my head. Since we were not on our way to grandma’s house, and it wasn’t quite Thanksgiving, I had to change the lyrics.

Over the hills and through the woods

To the waterfall we go.

The phone knows the way to carry our crew

Through the rolling green hills and little towns.

Over the hill and through the woods

To the waterfall we go.

For this is a sunny autumn day

Okay, so I’m not a songwriter. But I had a 7-year-old to entertain on the way.

As is typical with these lesser known waterfalls, the parking lot at the McDowell Creek was almost empty. I was happy our group of six would have the trail pretty much to ourselves. The trail starts out with crossing a bridge over the creek, and then gently slopes up a hill. To my surprise, my 7-year-old, Sarah, led the way. The teen girls were soon snapping pictures of the colorful fall foliage and picturesque creek, looking for that perfect Instagram shot.

Isaac was a more serious photographer. He brought along a professional looking camera with a huge lens. Our little hike was a big adventure for him because despite our attempts at an explanation, he did not know what we were talking about when he said “waterfall.” I realized how much he was out of his element before we even left the parking lot. Somehow he got dirt on his hands, and wanted to wash them. I explained that there was no restroom with running water. He looked at his hands, disturbed. I laughed. “Just wipe them off on your pants,” I said. He did so, but not happily.

It was a short hike to Royal Terrace Falls. It sneaked up on me because usually you can hear a waterfall long before you see it. Royal Terrace Falls is different. The trail takes a left and brings you to a bridge, and then there’s the fall. It’s a bit on the quiet side because of how it flows down a three-tiered terrace of smooth rock. The way the water was divided when I saw it reminded me of a waterside at a water park. It was beautiful and fun. Sarah jumped up and down on the bridge in enthusiasm. The bridge shook, which made most of us laugh but scared Isaac – which made the girls laugh and Sarah jump even more. Watching Isaac’s look of wonder and his stopping to take pictures made me realize what an adventure it must be for him. In a foreign land, a different culture, going to see something he doesn’t quite understand. That takes a type of courage and self-sufficiency that most people don’t possess.20161104_114242

We continued down the path that would take us to the next waterfall. Again, Sarah led the way. This delighted me. I’d much rather see her enjoying the woods than playing Minecraft or watching T.V. We crossed the road and then it was a short distance to the top of Majestic Falls. We came to a viewing point that allowed us to look down at the creek as it fell over the rocks, creating Majestic Falls. There was a wire fence that separated the trail from the creek, but a break in it created unofficial access to the water. Making sure Sarah understood not to follow us, the older girls and I walked across the rocks that took us to the edge of the falls. There is something exhilarating about standing at the top of a fall and looking down. There is also something unsettling about watching your daughters do the same thing, no matter how old they are. At the same time, it made my heart full because that is the courage and zest for life I want them to have.  I don’t want fear to ever keep them from following their dreams, or taking risks.


Isaac stayed back, away from the edge. I pondered what stories he would have to tell about American girls when he goes back home this spring. They like the forest and when their hands get dirty they just wipe them off on their pants or wash them in the creek? They jump on bridges and laugh when it shakes? They stand at the edge of a waterfall, getting their shoes wet, just to get a closer look at the beauty of the fall?

The hike back was quick. Too quick for me. I was ready to put another address in my GPS and find one more nearby waterfall, but regular life was calling us back home. Until next time…

“It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new. But there is no real security in what is no longer meaningful. There is more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in movement there is life and in change there is power.” — Alan Cohen Quotes

Adventure’s Where You Find It

Truth be told, autumn is probably not the best time to see waterfalls. The creek and river levels run low this time of year, decreasing the breadth and strength of many of the falls. But there is still beauty to be seen.

On Monday my friend Elisheba Haxby and I saw Sweet Creek Falls. My excuse for going during the work week was research for my novel. In order to get those great sensory details for my writing, I needed to experience the Sweet Creek trail first hand, right?

The drive from Eugene to Sweet Creek is beautiful. (We took the back roads which made it even better.) With the sunshine and everything still mostly green, the landscape felt summer-like even though we are well into September. We were the second vehicle to park at the Sweet Creek Trail head, but by the time we were ready to head down the trail, the lot was filling up with cars. I was excited. For a trail to draw this much of a crowd on a weekday morning, it must be pretty good.


The trail goes along Sweet Creek, which is a moderate creek with plenty of big rock formations that form several smaller waterfalls and pools that would be perfect for swimming in warmer weather. The little falls along the way created anticipation in us for the big fall at the end. The air was full of the sweet green scent of trees, ferns, moss and water.

There were some slippery rocks, but most of the trail was even or had well carved out stairs and steps. This was definitely a much easier hike than my trek to Trestle Creek Falls in the spring. There was even a cool catwalk. I tried to imagine my protagonist and her love interest on the trail. “Watch for a spot where Cassie can slip, and Mark catches her.” I said to Elisheba. Of course, a moment later I slipped on a rock and fell on my arm. Goal #1 accomplished.

Going down the trail with my fellow writer friend was a new experience. Elisheba looked at everything with inquisitive writer’s eyes, and the constant “what if?” that is a novelist’s catalysis to story. “You should take pictures of things you see on the trail.” She stopped and looked up. “Like those limbs. They look like fingers reaching down.” She was right. My mind started formulating words to use in my chapter, the details to make the story come alive. Goal #2 down.


It only took us about 30 minutes to reach the Sweet Creek Falls. I stood there, waiting for the feeling of inspiration, but instead felt a disheartened “That’s it?” This fall was far from a thundering wall of water. But looking at the rock wall it flowed down, I could imagine how it would look different in the spring, when the breadth of the creek increased. How it could have more splendor at its peak. And that’s the job of a fiction writer, isn’t it? To imagine things how they could be, instead of how they are. To find the spectacular in the ordinary.


We made our way to the end of the trail, the upper part of the falls. We were closer to the fall, so the rushing sound of the water was louder, and we experienced the wind that came off the water, full of mist. We climbed over the guard rail and took some pictures. Then we each took turns making our way between two fallen trees on the rock ledge toward the fall, getting as close as we dared to the water. At last, my shoes got wet. (If I leave a waterfall with dry shoes, I really feel like I might have missed something.) At the top of the fall, we could look down at how far one could fall. The sense of vertigo was dizzying but invigorating. I was thankful we hadn’t let disappointment keep us from moving forward, or we would have missed the best of part of the hike.

The cumulative effect at the top was the feeling of adventure, of truly living. We might not have found quite what we were expecting at the end of the trail, but there was no denying the beauty or the power of this small waterfall. Whether we are in a season of spring or autumn, there is adventure to be found – we just have to look for it.


A Tale of Two Dreams

The last several weeks I haven’t been to any waterfalls, and I’ve done only a small amount of writing. I’ve been spending my time at track meets and softball games. You see, my two teen girls have been immersed in their spring sports, and my focus has been on encouraging them and being at their events to support them. While I may not have had time to hike to waterfalls, watching my daughters pursue their passions has definitely taught me about the value of our dreams.

We had two sports going on in our household: track and softball.

Katie (a junior) did track, and Natalie (a freshman) was on both the track and softball teams. This was Katie’s first year of track in high school, and while she hoped to do well, her main focus when she started was on keeping in shape and gearing up for cross-country season.

Natalie did softball throughout middle school and loved every moment of it. But when she did track during her last year of middle school she found that she had a natural ability at the long jump. Now in high school, track and softball season are at the same time. Natalie didn’t want to give up either one, so she decided her main focus would be softball, and that she would primarily focus on the long jump on the days she went to track practice.

Everything changed with a new track coach. Katie, who considers her running ability to be, as she puts it, “the one thing I’m good at,” listened with an aching heart as the coach told her younger sister that not only were Natalie’s long jump skills impressive for her age, but that she had a natural runner’s build, amazing raw talent, and with the proper coaching she could count on being drafted by a Division I school by her senior year. That alone was what parenting books like to call a ‘teachable moment” in Katie’s life: how to be happy for someone when they receive by mere luck or genetics something you have longed and worked toward.

Natalie at first shrugged off the accolades of the running coach. Then halfway through the season she was placing for both the long jump and the 400 meter race. At the same time, her softball skills didn’t seem to be improving. She was torn. In her dreams up to that point, she longed to go to college on a softball scholarship, as unlikely as it seemed. Now she was being told she may make her way to college on the track field.

natalie batting

“What do you want to do?” I asked her. “Because in the end, what matters is that you enjoy what you are doing.” Natalie’s response: “I just want to be good at something.”

Don’t we all?

My chest ached as I watched her play her last softball game of the season. I could tell by her lack of focus on the field that her heart was no longer in it. I grieved the death one of her dreams. My prayer is that she will find as much joy in running as she does in sliding into home base.

Katie in the meantime suffered with what we believed were shin splints the entire season, but her run times persistently got better. Her coach told me that he had seldom seen someone who worked as hard as Katie. Did she have the potential that he saw in Natalie? Probably not. But she gave her whole heart to running. Katie started out the season running the 1500 and 3000 meter race, the natural choice for a long-distance runner. But she noticed that her split time (i.e., the halfway mark) for the 1500 was significantly less than the winning time of her teammate for the 800 meter race. At the next meet, she took a chance and ran the 800 instead of the 3000. She won.

katie running

Eventually the pain in her legs forced her to give up all races except the 800 meter, but focusing on that one race proved providential. She placed second in district and made it to the state championships – in an event she never even intended to race!  She dreamed of standing on the podium and accepting a medal, but it was not to be. A week before the state meet we found out her “shin splint” was actually a stress fracture. My driven daughter had been running on a broken tibia most of the season.

Natalie also did well at the district meet, and placed third in the long jump. She was just one placement away from going to state, an impressive accomplishment for a 5’1” Freshman who took track as her second choice sport.

natalie jumping

At the end-of-the-year of sports awards ceremony, the track coach boasted of Natalie’s raw, natural talent. He said, “if she would just believe in herself” her potential was stellar. When he spoke of Katie, the one word that came up again and again was courage. Courage to keep going, to push through the pain. Courage to not give up.

Our dreams. Some have to die so that others can live. One person can speak hope to us and change our direction. Sometimes if we want something bad enough hard work will get us there even if we don’t have “natural” talent. Our drive pushes us through the pain. If we can just believe in ourselves, we’ll reach our full potential.

And love and courage carries us to the finish line.


Return to the Waterfalls

I was ready to get back to the waterfalls, but I didn’t want to go alone. During worship one Sunday at church, I felt God nudge me to ask my friend, Jen, to go with me. It made sense. Jen often had weekdays off from work, she’s athletic, and she has that one quality we all like in friend even if we don’t want to admit it: she rarely said no. After worship, I asked her if she could go on a hike later that week. She readily agreed and the date was set for that Thursday.

Jen is a busy mom too, so I knew I had to pick a place that wasn’t too far away so we could be back by early afternoon. Searching the internet I found Trestle Falls to be less than an hour from town and about a two-mile hike. That seemed doable in a half a day.

Thursday morning arrived with a clear sky and a not-quite-warm temperature. A perfect day for a hike. We followed the directions I printed out and arrived at an empty and small pull out parking area. When I got out of the car, the only sounds were the light breeze moving through the tops of the tall fir trees and the soft hum of Trestle Creek.

We walked over Trestle Creek via bridge and soon found the worn-looking trailhead sign for Upper Trestle Creek Falls. The path cut into the side of the hill, and went up at quite a steep grade. I figured it would level out quickly. I was wrong. Jen had me lead the way, but after the second bend in the still up-hill trail, I stepped aside, nearly gasping for breath. “Here, you go in front.”

Jen hesitated. “But if you’re in front I don’t have to worry about leaving you behind.” She spoke with ease, not winded at all.

“It’s OK, I’ll catch up to you eventually,” I insisted. Jen hesitantly took the lead. She walked at what I knew was a slow pace for her, and looked back over her shoulder every few minutes.

This wasn’t quite what I planned on. I thought during the hike up I would enjoy the beauty of the woods. I thought Jen and and I would have deep conversations. All I could focus on was breathing; talking was out of the question. I also spent most of the time looking down. The trail was narrow, steep, and dotted with roots and rocks. The limited range of motion in my right foot required me to make sure I didn’t put any weight on it when I stepped on an uneven surface. Otherwise, I could fall and possibly end up rolling down the hill until I hit a tree. I barely even noticed the sounds of the forest. All I could hear was a Chris Tomlin song playing on repeat in my head. “You’re a Good Father.” I wasn’t sure why it was there, but I knew it was God’s way of encouraging me to keep going. Every so often Jen stopped to take a picture. I’m pretty sure she was actually just giving me a chance to catch my breath.

“Has it been two miles yet?” I asked during one of our breaks.

Jen looked at her watch, “Maybe a mile.”

I prayed silently, “Lord, if I’m going to keep doing this, I really need to get in better shape.” He didn’t respond. I mentally added another goal to my mid-life crisis list: get to the gym more often.

Eventually the terrain somewhat leveled out. We came to a dilapidated looking bridge over a shallow stream. Jen stopped. “Umm, do you think it’s safe?” I had made it this far and not passed out. Crossing the bridge looked like child’s play to me. “If not, it’s not that far down,” I said, walking across. We came to a curve in the path marked by a mini-fall. I stopped to take my first picture. Now that I could breathe, I was starting to feel that excitement I remembered from waterfall adventures of the past. I could hear the rumble of the real fall. I knew we were almost there.trestle path

A bit further down the trail, we saw the fall between the trees. Both of us picked up our pace. Then, there it was — Trestle Falls. The trail was uneven and rocky, but we found a wet alcove and stood in it, watching the water tumble down.

The trail continued on to the bottom of the first tier of the fall, but was rocky, muddy, trestl 1and sloping almost sideways. “What do you think?” Jen asked, nodding toward the remaining trail. “Let’s try it.” I said. We carefully walked up the muddy slope, and found a flat spot to take some pictures. A mixture of joy and accomplishment filled my heart. According to what I read online, the trail went behind the fall. What I saw though was more of a slight indentation in the hill, and a muddy one at that. Jen and I agreed that it didn’t look safe.

We went back to the little alcove, which had water dripping over its edge, and watched the falls for a few minutes. “It’s kind of mesmerizing, isn’t it?” Jen said. I only nodded, and swallowed the lump forming in my throat. Watching the falls, the Chris Tomlin song came to the refrain:

Love so undeniable I can hardly speak

Peace so un-explainable I can hardly think

As you call me deeper still … in love with you

I understood in that moment that God had called me back to the falls. He had used them once to call me to Him, to show me the power of His love and grace. After all I had been through in my life, I thought I didn’t need to search for more. I was wrong. God wanted me to keep searching for Him, to seek more of Him. I had grown stagnant, spiritually out of shape. Because He knows what I need before I even know it, He had directed me to the difficult trail at Trestle Falls. And he had sent me a friend that could go with me, who would lead me but not leave me behind, just as He had been leading me, urging me, but not giving up on me. Everything He did had it’s purpose. All I had to do was listen to Him.

Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me. Psalm 42:7

Heading back down the hill, I felt steadier on my feet. Sure, it may have been because we were going downhill instead of up, but I think there was more to it than that. I felt a lightness in my chest and a surge of energy. Oh, and the song in my head changed. I now heard For King & Country’s “It’s Not Over Yet.”

How could I not smile? There are more waterfalls in my future.


Saddling Up

See every waterfall in Oregon. That was a goal I set for myself nearly 15 years ago. I was going through an ugly divorce from an angry man and struggling to survive as a single mom with two young girls. I’m not sure where I came up with the goal, but I know that I was looking for something that was for me, separate from any dream my ex and I had together. Something separate even from the children that I loved more than anything. My quest for waterfalls became the thing that defined the new me, and a respite from the stress and loneliness that engulfed my life at that time.

It was a turbulent time in my life, marked by some of the most painful moments I had ever experienced. I was a sitting-on-the-fence Christian, but God used that time to draw me closer to Him. In my journey, I came to realize that my quest for waterfalls was ultimately a search for answers that could only be found in God.

Fast forward a few years and I was a woman in love with Jesus, and getting married to a man who loved Him too. My ex was completely out of my life, the fearful nights and custody battles were behind me. At the age of 38, I gave birth to another beautiful baby girl. Life was good. But I was also a woman who was slowly becoming inactive, due in large part to the rheumatoid arthritis that had been a part of my life nearly as long as my love for waterfalls. And so the dream was set aside – deemed unneeded or unfulfilled, depending on which day you asked me.

As time went on, the hunger for those falls started resurfacing. My family would appease me with a short day hike, and I found joy in our time together doing something that still spoke to my soul. Then I would tuck it away again, back to the “something I will do later” in my mental list of dreams-yet-to-fulfill. For a couple of years the arthritis in my foot was so severe I couldn’t even walk around the block, let alone hike. I felt frustrated and angry. I wrestled with God. I dove into my bible. “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:26. God comforted me through His Word.

I was at peace with my limited abilities. Then a little over a year ago, I saw my doctor for hip pain (a new ailment.) Through a series of doctor referrals, I ended up in physical therapy and with two new doctors involved in my care. The amazing result was relief for my foot and hope for my physical future. Perhaps hiking wasn’t impossible. Was it too late to start again? I asked myself: Is this something God wants me to do?

I listened for God’s voice. I waited for signs. Certain songs caught my attention on Christian radio, bible verses of reassurance popped out at me from the page, and one quote I came across gave me goosebumps: “Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway” – John Wayne

Fear … that’s my weakness, the one God is always patiently chiseling out of me. I realized it takes courage to pursue a goal or dream, no matter what the circumstances.

So … I’ve decided to saddle up and start chasing waterfalls again. I’m also going to write about what I find, and the obstacles and inspiration I encounter on tbe way. I hope as you read about my journey, you, too, will be encouraged to pursue the dreams that God has set in your heart.


May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed. Psalm 20:4