Sunday, September 23, 2012

For My Friends Who Wait

And in honor of those that know the road of a long wait, and have made it through.

AKA, Yet Another Hiking Analogy.

As many of us know, this journey of waiting- whether it is for a husband, for children, or whatever it may be- the journey starts with the promise of something beautiful.

It starts in the cool of the morning, when everyone is energized and excited and ready to go (please, even if you are not a morning person, I defy you to not be energized and excited at the beginning of a hike!)  No one expects the journey to be easy, exactly, but we do expect it to be worth it. We don't really question if we will make it. Who starts a journey with that thought in mind?

If you have hiked long enough (or waited long enough) you learn to realize that the outcome is not a given. You may run low on supplies, you may have bad weather move in, someone may get a blister early one. If you're smart, you have to learn that you have to turn around sometimes. You also know that it is possible that it could turn really bad. There are no guarantees.  There can be injury and death.  Most of those dangers can be mitigated by the right preparation, but stepping out on to the trail means assuming the weight of those dangers.

This particular hike, my friend and I drove over an hour outside of Moab to go to Canyonlands National Park. We had been in Arches National Park the day before, and it was rank with loads and loads of people. The sights were beautiful, but crowded. People of all sizes, shapes, and conditioning were crawling all over the place. It's hard for me to be around many of these people. They seem excited about the things that surround them, but they don't have enough respect for the area to obey signs like staying on the trail, so as not to ruin the fragile vegetation around them.  They don't seem to have enough respect for others to have common courtesy on the trail, and they don't respect themselves enough to show up with the proper preparation... This is the desert, maybe you should think about sunscreen, the appropriate clothing, and enough water!

These people are the ones that assume that nothing can happen to themselves or to the beauty around them. They assume that if they leave their car, they will come back to it shortly, unharmed by their brief excursion into nature. They, like those who grew up, got married, found a job, and had kids according to plan, do not seem to understand that it doesn't always work out that way. For those of us waiting a long time, and for those who have waited, we know that just the plan to do this or that does not make it so. We know that leaving the car does not mean that we will come back unscathed.

Anyway, back to the Canyonlands. It was a much more remote location, so there were comparatively few people at the trailhead. Those that were there knew what faced them.  Beautiful scenery, and a wonderful hike, but also hard work that required the appropriate preparation in order to reach the destination and return safely to the car. When you are hiking upwards of 11 miles in the desert as opposed to 1/2 mile, the stakes go way up.

I only wish you could have been there with me. I can't describe what it's like to be out there with almost no one around. Most of the time, it was just my friend and I. It was hot, and we were working hard, and we got blisters and we sweated, and our feet ached. We carried a good amount of weight on our back, including lots of water, food and layers.  We both remembered the first time we hiked longer distances of 9-10 miles. The first time you do it, you really don't know if you'll make it. The journey seems never ending. But if you do it long enough, a hike of only 2-3 miles is not enough of a challenge to be satisfying.

I thought of you, my friends who wait.  I know that you did not pick this journey.  I know that it seems hard and seems like it may never end and you may not make it to the destination. I wish I could tell you that you'll get there eventually, but the truth is, some of us won't get to the place we'd planned on going. It's always a disappointment, but I've yet to regret going on a hike and how it has helped me to grow, despite that disappointment.

I also thought of my friends that are no longer waiting, but have waited. You know how hard the journey is and you have made it to the end. I see in you that you know that the destination and return are not a given. You get it, and you appreciate everything so much more as a result.

And for those of you that are still waiting? I have more bad news. Most of us that get out and do longer hikes and get away from the crowds, we usually are somewhat battered and broken as a result. There are injuries to nurse and scars that tell of the great (and not so great) times that we've had. Most are minor enough in nature, but you don't do this kind of thing and come though without being changed for it.

Anyway, this particular hike was to Druid Arch. It involved walking through some narrow areas, scrambling over and around rocks, and trudging through fine sand that made every step take twice the energy. Most of the day, we followed a wash up through a canyon. We could look up and see some great views at times.

And often there are beautiful, simple moments along the way.

 Have you ever, in the journey of waiting, had a feeling of hope so strong you almost touch it? Then you realize, hope notwithstanding, you still have a long ways to go? My friends, here it is in picture.

I didn't recognize it at first, because it's sideways to us, but the tower to the right by the tree is Druid Arch. First I was so excited, because I realized I was almost to the end of the hike. But then my excitement was dampened, because I realized that the arch was still quite high above where we were. I had a sneaking suspicion that there was still a fair amount of work to do to get to our destination.

I was right.

First, we walked up rock that was steep enough I didn't know for sure if we'd be able to walk on it at first. We could. Then there was a ladder and a bar that you could hold onto to get you to the next platform. The arch was closer, but still high.  And that's when the trail got steep. You know how it is when you're waiting? Sometimes you trudge along, putting one step in front of the other. Sometimes it's relatively easy. Sometimes you have to stop and take a rest because you can't go anymore. Sometimes it's fun. Sometimes there are intensely beautiful moments. Sometimes it's freaking hot, and you're dusty and you're tired, and why aren't we there yet, dammit?!

And sometimes it's like that trail was in that moment. Steep and ridiculous.  At a glance, it appears impossible. The goal, while close, is hidden. In that moment, and not only can you not see it, you can barely think about it, because you are so focused on making it through this moment. All I could do was take one step at a time. I get to one spot, then stop and look for the way. Usually there was a cairn helping me to figure out the next place to go. Always it was doable, but I couldn't see ahead. I could only go from one spot to the next.  And I thought of you, my friends. You know that spot.  The spot where all you can do is take the next step and hope something opens up in front of you, because there's nothing that you can see before you get there.

But, then.

There was the moment that I have not personally experienced, but that I have heard in the hearts of those who have waited.

I couldn't find the next step. I looked up and it wasn't there, and I finally looked to the side and I saw the step. I was so focused on the trail, that I was only looking at the rocks at my feet until I saw my friend grinning at me and my difficulty with finding the trail. I realized what was going on when I raised my eyes a fraction higher.

This is the "Holy crap! It's there!" moment. Seriously, I stopped right there and pulled out the camera before I took another step. I thought of all those trudging along, not realizing anything would be different about that day, but it became the day that they finally got the call for an adoption, or they finally got the pregnancy test that came up positive.

Pictures really can't convey how huge and awesome this thing is, though here's one with my friend walking towards it to try to give some idea. It was worth the loads of sweat, the sore feet, and the miles in the fine sandy spots that stole all the energy.

What I think I liked even better was the view opposite the arch.  I liked looking back where we came from, only this time my view was from above looking down, rather from the canyon floor looking up. Our wash, which seemed wide enough when we were walking, was only a dark crack in the view. It reminded me that sometimes the perspective that we have during the journey will not make as much sense until we get to the end. I also thought of this incredibly beautiful sight that we shared with only two other people.  A long journey is definitely the road less traveled because of the work and the sweat and the pain involved, but the rewards are worth the effort and so few get to experience it!  And I absolutely believe that here and/or in heaven, the rewards of waiting will be worth it. Further, at that time, we may actually begin to consider ourselves the lucky ones, whether we get what we initially wanted or not.

The trail was below the bottom whitish layer. Also, I think you get the idea of why the area we were in is referred to as the Needles District.
So, my friends who are still waiting, this one's for you. I'm praying that your "holy crap" moment is soon, and that you can then take some time to look back with a different perspective on how far you've come, and how a journey like that changes and becomes a part of you.

And then buckle up, because when one adventure is over, the next one's just beginning.


  1. Um, I love this! Especially the end where you said you looked back and realized the view was even better. That is what I hope and pray for in my prayer for grace, that somehow, when I look back - no matter where this journey leads - I will see the beauty in the journey.

    Thank-you for sharing this - and I am praying that your "holy crap" moment is soon as well!!

  2. Beautiful! Thank you for this!! It looks like you had a fantastic trip. Praying for all the "holy crap" moments in your life (as well as others who are still waiting!)

  3. You don't even know how much I needed this tonight. I just spent the evening with those that didn't prepare... Love this

  4. This was so beautiful (to read and to look at!). There really is a lot of reward in those harder, less-traveled trails. Sometimes it just takes a reaaaallllly long time to get there (and it might not be at all what you expected). Thanks for this. :)

  5. Thank you for this beautiful reflection. I was really needing this today. :) I'm currently trying to form the habit of focusing on the beautiful moments along the way.

  6. Beautiful post, beautiful analogy....I have tears in my eyes and chills.

    Praying for you!!!

  7. This post is AMAZING. The photos are breathtaking and your analogy is so, so accurate. You have a gift.

  8. Oh that view! Swoon!! I really love this post! I love thinking of how those who set out unprepared will not experience in the same way the gorgeous view that was only reached after a long journey. I also love your beautiful moments along the way. How much more we will all cherish those "holy crap" moments!! I'm praying yours will come your way soon!

  9. Wow. Just wow! You continue to amaze me with your incredibly deep, insightful posts. The LORD is teaching you so much and using you in huge ways to encourage others along as well. Keep posting and sharing!

  10. This is beautiful and you have helped so many people in similar situations. And you are right, the waiting is not easy. Although, my "wait" is over with the arrival of Anthony I still find myself waiting for the next turn in all takes such patience. God Bless!

  11. What an awesome analogy. Even though it's tough, and the emotions are still there, you have such an amazing gift for understanding the big picture in such a beautiful way. I just absolutely loved reading this, thank you.

  12. This has got to be the BEST post I've read that you've written. By far. Although our journeys are different, I could always put myself in your words - you describe the "Holy Crap!" moment perfectly! Oh ... and last, but certainly NOT least ... your pictures are BEAUTIFUL!!! Simply beautiful. God is such a wonderful landscaper!