I went on a hike today, and I took my new point and shoot camera. It was a hike I've done a lot, and I usually don't take a camera on a trail I've done a lot, but I had to get acquainted with the camera and see what kind of pictures it could take.
Turns out, it takes pretty run-of-the-mill photos. Granted, I usually don't take a camera on this hike because, while it is quite pretty, it shows up a little messy in pictures. So I don't blame the camera only. I'm actually glad that it takes okay but not great pictures. If it took fantastic pictures, I would feel silly for owning my big camera. As it is, I'm glad I have this one for convenience and that one for better pictures.
Hiking generally makes me feel pretty hopeful. I think it's the combination of fresh air, endorphins, and the pine scent. That and there's that secret fantasy I have (and it is a secret, so don't tell anyone!) that I will get to the end of my hike and meet my special someone up there. That also makes me feel hopeful, even if I feel silly about it. (This was fueled recently by the older couple that I met on a recent hiking trip. They were newlyweds who had met on the top of a 14'er. They were really funny. At one point they were being particularly mushy so someone yelled at them to get a tent! It cracked me up.)
Today it was overcast and a little depressing, but I had my course set. Not just where I was going for the hike, but that I would be hopeful. I am NOT talking about hoping to meet someone on a hike, because while that would be awesome, it is a pipe dream. I'm talking about real hope.
Hope against hope; hope amidst the wreckage of shattered hope; hope that is there is hope beyond hope. Faith and hope are finally one. Hope is faith disposed toward the future; it is faith holding on; it is faith holding out; it is faith defiantly, trustingly hurled into the present absence; it is handing over our hopelessness. (Referenced here.)Yes, I am still completely stuck on that reference.
So there I was, out hiking on a trail that goes over a stream a number of different times. I crossed the first bridge all happy, and thinking about that quote. Then before I got to the second bridge, all the negativity set in. You know, the whole "it'll never happen to me, who am I kidding, this is the way it'll be forever..." blah, blah, blah. But when I got to the second bridge, I started laughing. I took a picture of it, but I'm going to save that for later. My outlook improved considerably and I continued on.
The clouds started dripping rain, but it did not dampen my spirits, because rain is always needed. I was a little sad that I couldn't try out capturing the blue sky with the new camera, but I didn't mind too much. Real hope can outlast a little rain and a few clouds.
I don't know if you can tell, but at the last bridge, the sun poked through a little to make the water a little more sparkly. Yes, after the second bridge, sparkles made me happy.
As I was hiking down, I was thinking about the new church that I tried this morning. It has big windows facing the mountains, so I was struck by the altar and the crucifix in the foreground and my wonderful mountains in the background. As I was waiting for Mass to start, I was reading the morning prayer which included this in the hymn:
Hast thou not seen
How thy desires ever have been
Granted in what he ordaineth?
Facing the mountains, I could see for a moment the truth of that statement. After almost 2 years in the mountains, I am a different person than I was when I moved out here. Things that I am so glad to have had a chance to discover, and things that I realize that came about because of His timing with the plan of me coming out here. And I even remembered how much I hated how things were going at that time, but now I am so grateful for those circumstances that led to me moving out here and becoming the person that I am now. In that moment, I could see that even though some of the deepest desires of my heart seem to be languishing as yet, "faith in God includes faith in His timing" (Neal Maxwell, as quoted on here).
So, this has nothing to do with hope, but does anyone know how to tell the difference between an arrowhead and a rock? I found this and the edge seemed different than regular rocks, but it was just sitting on the trail, so I feel like it was a plain old rock.
Back to Pollyanna-land: the clouds broke! Blue sky! And new leaves! That you can't see! But I promise they're there!
Okay, so I can talk the good talk, but as I mentioned before, between the first and the second bridge, any hope plummeted. I have been waiting so long, I barely even know sometimes what I am holding on to or why I am trying to hold onto it. Those feelings were starting to suck me in and pull me under (it's amazing how quickly that can start to happen!) Normally, I may allow myself to get a little put out with God and have a long and somewhat testy conversation, or I revert to Eeyore mode because I figure it's just easier to be depressed. Want to know what transformed me from Eeyore to Pollyanna for the rest of the hike?
Sometimes God sends a sign, and this one was so obvious that even I could read it. So in my face that it made me laugh out loud and drop the fears in the dust where they belonged.
Ready? Here's what I saw as I came around the bend:
(Scroll slowly for the full dramatic effect)
Someone had gathered some small white rocks and arranged them in a clear space in the stream. I don't know what that person was thinking or hoping for, but I love that they went to the work to do it, because it totally made my day. So, yes, sometimes God does speak to us in clear and unexpected ways!*
Note: I actually don't love Pollyanna most of the time. She's so sappy that it makes me nauseous. However, I was feeling a little nauseatingly positive on this hike, so it fits. It's possible that tomorrow I'll be back to some sort of angst, but for now I'll go with it.
*I know that whoever did that didn't know what it would mean to me, and I share it hoping that it will help someone else, too. After all, this is a hike that I do a lot and NEVER take a camera, so it's a bit of a coincidence that I had it so I could share this shot with you. So if you're reading this and feel like that message is meant for you, too... It probably is! :)