Encouragement for Hard Seasons: Notice the Beauty Along the Way
Here I was, standing at the base of Grand Teton National Park. Surreal is a perfect word to describe how it felt to be there. Just a few minutes earlier, I rode the boat across Jenny Lake with my dad, brother, and several others who evidently also wanted to get an early start to their day.
When we reached the other side of the lake and stepped off the boat, a wave of fear immediately hit me. I heard that old, familiar voice that had been taunting me for so long. “You can’t do this. Who do you think you are? You won’t make it.”
You see, just a year earlier, my dad, brother, and I planned a different trip out west. A month before the trip, I started experiencing shortness of breath, chest pain, and swelling in my feet and ankles. I had never had any symptoms like this before.
Not good, I know.
Lab work would soon reveal that I had significant cardiovascular inflammation that was most likely connected to dealing with chronic Lyme for so long or possibly from my body still healing from the mold toxicity in our previous home that we had to leave. The healing process was (and continues to be) one with many ups and downs along the way.
Going to a much higher altitude while experiencing this would not be a good idea. The surprise came when my dad and brother said they would wait for me until I felt well enough to go. I couldn’t believe they would wait for me. What an amazing gift.
A few months later we started planning another trip.
Now, a year later, here we were. We made it!
As I stood at the base of the mountain range, I looked up and saw a few people who were much higher up the mountain. “Wow. Look at those people way up there! Maybe we should do that!”, I said, jokingly. They were obviously hikers who had much more experience and athletic ability than I did.
(Little did I realize at the time of my joke, that’s exactly where we were headed.)
We started up the trail, on the lookout for two landmarks: Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point. It was only a 2-mile hike altogether, but I knew it would be challenging with the altitude and steep climb. (Only a year and a half earlier, I could barely carry groceries from my car to the kitchen due to being so weak.)
As we were walking up the trail, we saw so many amazing areas. There were beautiful trees, creeks, and views of the Teton mountainside.
It didn’t take long before I was out of breath and needed to stop. My dad reminded me that I was still getting used to the change in altitude and encouraged me to rest as I needed to because we weren’t in a hurry. I quickly started to realize that, although this was a challenging walk for me physically, the mental aspect of this hike was just as challenging.
Thoughts such as, “What if I can’t make it?” and “What if I make a fool out of myself?” kept pounding into my mind.
As I kept moving over to the side so people could walk past us while I took another break, I wrestled with such feelings of embarrassment and failure. “I shouldn’t be this out of shape. I feel so much older than I am.”
My dad noticed my drop in morale and wanted to encourage me. As we walked over to the side once again, he told me that many others were taking breaks as well. He pointed out that I wasn’t the only one out of breath.
He was right.
“Don’t pay attention to where everybody else is or how far you need to go. It doesn’t matter. They are taking breaks sometimes, too. Just pay attention to where you are and don’t forget to notice the beautiful scenery along the way.”
It was at that moment that I knew I’d be writing a blog post about this. I suddenly heard God’s heart in my dad’s words of encouragement. This is one of the pictures I took when I stopped to rest.
We finally arrived at Hidden Falls. It was such a beautiful area. I took a few pictures, rested, and then we moved on to continue hiking to Inspiration Point.
I kept stopping as I needed to, specifically noticing the scenery. It occurred to me that I may not have paid attention to this beautiful creek if I was in a hurry and just focused on our destination.
The trail started to become much more rocky and unstable at this point. I distinctly remember going around a bend and noticing how much further I had to go. Part of me wanted to give up out of fear and discouragement.
“We can stop here if you want.” my dad said.
I knew I would be so disappointed in myself if I did. I knew I needed to keep going.
The three of us finally came to what I first thought was Inspiration Point. People were resting and admiring the amazing view of Jenny Lake. Then I realized this was not Inspiration Point. I didn’t want to stop too long, because I didn’t want to lose momentum. We rested a minute and then continued on.
I remember looking up and seeing where we needed to go. It seemed so far, and I was beyond tired. I was out of breath more than I should have been, which would have been the altitude again. I knew I just needed to keep pacing myself, focus on what was around me, and not be overwhelmed with how much further I had to go.
This hike was mentally challenging, just as much as it was physical.
There were many times over the past few years when I couldn’t handle much at all, physically. I was (and still am) in a place of rebuilding my strength, and I never knew how challenging it would be to push past what my mind was telling me I was capable of.
Then it happened. I reached the area that I could see coming, and it did indeed look just as challenging as it did from far away.
Now we were to the point that looked a bit scary. “What in the world am I doing?”, I thought. As I looked up ahead, I knew I couldn’t look to the right. There was a very steep drop down, so I just focused on where I was headed.
I didn’t realize until later that my brother stood back and took a few different pictures of us walking up the trail ahead of him. I think he knew how significant it was, even more than I did at the time. This is my favorite picture!
We were almost there.
Finally, I went around a bend to the left, and I realized we had made it.
I did it! (Don’t mind my super red face.) I was beyond exhausted, but I made it!
Check out that altitude! I couldn’t have done that last year. That’s significantly higher than what I am used to in Pennsylvania.
So many times in life we can go through situations where we feel as if we have so much further to go.
It can seem intimidating and even impossible.
The enemy, voices of others, and even of ourselves can tell us that we can’t do it.
I wrote this post to remind you (and myself) how important it can be to focus on Jesus and the next step we need to take, not the entire journey all at once. Yes, it can be helpful to know where we are headed, but that can sometimes seem impossible and so far away.
We may need to take frequent breaks along the way. That’s ok! What’s right there in front of you while you rest?
Some of you may know that my interest in taking pictures started to form when I was feeling the worst. I didn’t have a lot of physical stamina, and I started noticing the details around me that I had overlooked before.
There was beauty all around me that I used to never take the time to see. That’s when my love of taking pictures of nature started.
What has God called you to do? Are you on a healing journey (emotional or physical)? Are you starting over? It may feel as if other people are going much faster than you are. That’s ok. You may make mistakes along the way. (Believe me, I get it!) That’s ok, too.
Keep your eyes on Jesus and what He has before you right now. Go at the pace that’s right for you. Rest when you need to. I know it’s not always easy to do this, for sure. You can do this and finish with His help. Don’t forget to notice the scenery along the way. One step at a time.
That was so beautiful, and your photos are amazing! Your smile in the picture of you overlooking the lake tells the story of your journey and victory.
Thank you so much, Cathy.
You are a wonderful writer..I find your blogs and message so relaxing when i read them for.some reason.
Thanks Shayne! I’m so glad to hear that.