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.

 

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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