Posted by: JennyRain | September 7, 2010

Blog Redesign Announcement

Exactly one week from today (that would be September 13) I will be launching my new blog!

Thanks to my saavy logo designer Ashley and my WordPress-Ninja coach Ryan – and provided I don’t technologically implode by then – Next Monday when you arrive at http://jennyrain.com – you will be reading my posts on a redesigned site!

Squee! I am so excited I can hardly contain myself.

In honor of this new venture – which just happens to be launching on my Fortieth birthday – I am doing one week of:

Fabulous Giveaways!

From September 13 – September 17, 2010 – five whole days – I will be doing giveaways in honor of my birthday and the blog re-launch.

All you have to do is visit the POSTS on each day and comment before 10pm EST.

Winners will be drawn at random each night and announced the next day.

So come celebrate my birthday, win some fun stuff, and see the new blog design.

This is my thank you to you for being such loyal readers and such a wonderful community. From you I have learned, been challenged, grown, and been inspired.

I’m humbled that you keep coming back and thankful that you add your unique and beautiful voice here.

In preparation for the new launch… this is the only post for this week.

So remember to check back Monday September 13 for the new site, wonderful giveaways, and awesome community!!


Posted by: JennyRain | September 3, 2010

Mr. Fix It: Organizing my world (HE:creates)

My husband is a Mr. Fix it, just like my dad and my step-dad.

I love that about all of them.

My hubby’s knack for fixing things has fixed many a broken item, which is good, because I break a lot of things!

But John has never surprised me with a fixer-upper job.

Until Friday.

Last Friday I came home from work and John asked about dinner.

You see, I have taken over the food-buying and cooking responsibilities in an attempt to help us both eat more healthy. John has taken to this new adventure of mine like an early-bird on an earth-worm… you know what I’m sayin?

He has gone from fending for himself in the kitchen {please don’t throw tomatoes at me folks, I’m still a newlywed technically!}… to now inquiring, “Hey, um, whatcha cooking for dinner?” or “What am I going to do for dinner?” if I have not yet told him my meal plan.

Who knew husbands could forget how to cook so fast?

Truthfully, I love it.

I’m contributing to our household, helping us stay healthy, and bringing a smile to my husband’s face – so it’s a win-win.

Now where was I? Oh yeah… Mr. Fix It.

So Friday rolls around, I come home and John says, “Hey what was that spice that you put on the fish last week? It was really good!”

Always looking to teach men to fish (rather than just give them a fish), I rushed to the spice cupboard with the intention of showing John the spice I used (you know, so he could learn to cook with it the next time… a’hem)

Moving on.

So throwing open the door to my single-shelved, over-stuffed, way-too-small spice cupboard, I see this:

HOLY MOLY BATMAN!!

I had never in a million years seen my spice cupboard so organized. It was… it was… it was…

Absolutely Delicious!!

And all the more delightful that my husband created this magnificent masterpiece:

Just.For.Me.

Squee!

Oh, but it gets better.

He was so delighted at my happy dance and instant tweet-fest about my new shelf, that he created this for me on Saturday to organize my pug cupboard!

He not only created the shelving, he organized the cupboard.

Now, don’t fall off the kitchen stool y’all.

Squee!

All the ladies in Bed, Bath, and Beyond wanted to give me their addresses so John would come and create them shelves too!

So, today, I am entering my sweet hubby’s creativity in my friend Gitz’s weekly “YOU:create” series.

I know I didn’t technically create anything, but my husband did and we are “one flesh” right? So that counts! Therefore, I hereby dub this post: HE:creates🙂

Gitz is one of the most creative people I know, and has “created” a community of “creatives!” so run on over and see what other folks have done… I promise, it will enchant you.

Posted by: JennyRain | September 2, 2010

Miracle of Connection: Online comfort

There is a miracle happening in the body of Christ in our generation.

It’s called connnection and community and it’s happening online.

Real community. Genuine community. Close-knit community.

All the believers were together and had everything in common (Acts 2.44)

I have – by God’s Abundant grace – fallen into this beautiful place called online community and have met and grown close to several of these folks whose stories I have listened to, been broken by, been encouraged by, and been pushed one-step closer to God through.

I have hugged their necks.
I have re-discovered my tears as they have shared their stories.
They have weaved their way into my daily prayers.
They have created a credible platform from which they speak into my life.
We have looked to the other for solace, prayers, and comfort on our rough days.

Two years ago as I prepared to marry my sweetie and move back to DC, I prayed that God would fill my life with community.

He did.

This online community has on more than one occasion pointed me straight back to the heart of Christ when I have struggled to find my way… and I am so incredibly, eternally, grateful.

Last week John and I had a rough week

{I think you probably gleaned that from my posts earlier this week}.

Thursday I had hit a wall and was not sure how to proceed. My real-time community here at the church I work at came alongside of me and prayed with me. And then my virtual {but very real!} online community came alongside of me.

One woman in particular had a tremendous impact on me. Her name is Melissa.

After reading this post, my heart splintered into a million pieces and God gave me the courage to reach out to her.

I was struggling because I had a “bad marriage day” and Melissa responded immediately:

“I’m so sorry to hear that Jenny. Praying for you and your marriage today!”

That means so much, you know? To know that someone who has never met you is praying.

Melissa then went on to start an email exchange with me where she just encouraged me and just said all the right things. (I have saved that email chain and have read it multiple times because it encourages me. Every.Single.Time I read it.)

Then she said and continued to say, “I am praying for you.”

Wow. SHE is praying for ME.

A person she has never met. I’m just a fellow blogger who has commented on her site and she on mine.

But somehow God connected our hearts in that moment because He wants to make an eternal difference in my marriage – through the prayers of another.

That.Is.Church.

Real church. Alive church. Authentic-Jesus-like church.

Such a small gesture… with such an eternal impact.

To me, this is a miracle… how God is reclaiming the blogosphere to create redemptive community experiences like the one that I have had.

Maybe you are a Melissa out there – someone who can pray for another. Or maybe you are a Jenny – someone who is in need and reaches out.

Whoever you are… you are Jesus-with-skin-on to someone who desperately needs it.

So go be the church, and be a miracle in someone’s day.

This is the church,
This is the steeple.
Look inside.
And see all the people.

Posted by: JennyRain | September 1, 2010

Divine Callings: Staying the course to Burundi

Do you ever make a decision and then wonder if you made the right one?

I have trouble with this too.

As time goes by, doubt creeps in like a cancer and causes me to question things.

It is no secret my Burundi trip was magical for me this year.

It is also no secret that I did a spiritual and emotional crash-landing when I returned and questioned a lot of things in my life.

Soon after we landed back on American soil, one of the leaders (Susan) and I began praying about returning to Burundi. Some of the in-country leaders had asked us to come back and the more we prayed and planned, the more we were sensing God’s call to go back.

For me, it seems Africa will always be a resounding “Yes!” from God, so the tricky part I have in prayer is discerning the where of Africa and the when of Africa.

The lights on the runway of THIS particular season seem to be indicating “All systems go!” for a return trip.

Yet throughout the process the trip planning, things have been shaken, stirred, and re-whipped to create something much different than we have originally planned.

The areas we thought we would not have difficulty, we have, and the areas we thought would slide by unencumbered have not. Providentially, our work is supportive, my husband is supportive, and the desire and logistics seem to be there. It’s the timing that keeps shooting us in the foot now.

Yet we press on.

So Sunday morning, I was once again praying, “Lord, are you absolutely, positively, 100% sure that you want us to go back to Burundi? Now? Like this year?”

And I picked up my devotional and read this:

Um, ok, for realz? That is in the bible?

The devotional went on to say:

You must persist! If you don’t, you’ll miss what God wants you to have. Furthermore, if you don’t recognize and celebrate small miracles “the size of a man’s hand” you’ll miss the biggest ones so essential to your future.

Um. Ok. Wow.

I ran in to show my husband – he smiled.

I sent it to my co-traveler Susan – she smiled (across text).

It was such a cool and perfect little miracle of reassurance from heaven.

A holy moment where God’s ways intersected human life and reminded me that all is not only what we can see with our eyes.

How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him… 1 Kings 18.21

What miracles have you stepped into lately and how did they help strengthen your faith?

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Posted by: JennyRain | August 31, 2010

Fender Denter, errr, maybe not?

Ever get hit in the parking lot and have nothing to show for it?

Yeah, me too.

Thursday night I was on my way to meet a friend to talk about a project that – Lord willing – will be something that changes the eternal destinies of a lot of hurting families. To say I was elated to participate on this project and honored to be chosen would be an understatement.

But this meeting was like trying to catch air – not apparently likely to happen!

Week one of attempting to meet – family stuff caused a reschedule. Week two of attempting to meet – our little uninvited visitors {the fleas} caused a reschedule. Week three was just chaotic madness around every turn that I could not escape.

The Thursday of the meeting I felt like a june-bug in a pressure cooker.

I got in my car and drove the 10 minutes to the meeting. But as I was pulling into the second level of the garage, a red Grand Am missed the turn for level three and began backing up.

And he continued… Backing.Up.

More…and more…

Until DANGIT if he did not run smack into my left front bumper!

{not a good start to a meeting}

Luckily I was short on sentence enhancers and by God’s grace – LARGE on grace – and the guy that hit me was a cool dude, so we exchanged info, he apologized, and I drove on.

When I got to my parking place, I looked down and there was a ginormous dent on my front bumper – the size of a big softball.

It looked like someone had punched my front bumper. All I could think about was the $1000 I was going to get charged by Toyota to get it popped back out, or the $1500 by a private car-repair shop. One stinkin dent – and the repair shops charge you the equivalent of a mortgage payment.

Whatevs.

The dent looked like someone had punched the front left bumper in – like this (this is not my actual dent – just a replica – but it looked just like this):

I went into my meeting semi-non-plussed, and was determined to put the incident out of my mind.

Walking out of the meeting with my friend, I stepped up to my car to show her the dent and no lie

The dent was GONZO!

We were both so confused that we walked around the car thinking in my stress I might have gotten hit on another bumper. But nope…

The fender denter was GONE!

At that point I was kicking myself for not taking a proper picture of the “before” and the “after” – but who thinks of these things?!?

So yes, I do realize any myriad of events could have “logically” happened:

The dude could have come back and popped it out himself
The fender could have popped itself back into place

I know… I know

The point is not HOW the fender denter righted itself… the point is that it DID… and I got the message God was teaching my heart last week:

Stay the course. Stay obedient. Don’t worry about what your eyes see, keep your eyes focused on Me.

My friend leaned over and shared with me something she had heard in a movie that week

You see only with your eyes, that is why you are easily fooled

I immediately remembered my devotional reading for that week: John 20 this week where God says:

Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

I really felt like God was saying to me – just believe. Just have faith. I’ve got it under control. Stop worrying.

Well, my friend and I had a holy moment right there in the parking lot and we got our Praise on.

Ain’t God GOOD. Ain’t He just SO GOOD.

What miracles have happened in your life lately where God has reached down, intervened, and righted a wrong to show Himself mighty?

 

This post is part of Tuesday’s Unwrapped at Chatting at the Sky – because there is just too much beauty in last week for me not to share the love!

 tuesdays unwrapped at cats

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Posted by: JennyRain | August 30, 2010

Miracles in the Moment: A Tapestry of Grace

There are miracles that happen all around you – if you open your heart to see them.

This last week has been CRAZY-WILD for me.

I have had heart-breaking moments sitting with friends, we have been fighting fleas and now cockroaches infesting our house, and some run-into-the-wall experiences that have left me shell-shocked from the toes up.

Hence, the re-posts on my blog last week {thank you for your patience with me as I tended to life-beyond-the-blog}

Yet woven throughout the madness has been a loop-stitching of little miracles that when I glance over the masterpiece called “last week” I see a tapestry of Grace forming.

As I entered into my days last week battling discouragement, fear, and failure, God was stitching something beautiful behind the scenes.

It just took me until Thursday to realize what was happening.

So this week will be dedicated to the miracles of the moment that I experienced this last week.

Some of you may call these simple occurrences coincidence, chance, or just synchronicity. To me, they show the direct and loving hand of God reaching down and intercepting a moment that could have been ugly to make my tapestry of Grace beautiful, majestic, and unforgettable.

June Tree Wall Tapestry: Target

You have also given me the shield of Your salvation,
And Your help makes me great.
You enlarge my steps under me,
And my feet have not slipped. 2 Sam 22.36-37

Each day this week will be devoted to one miracle I have discovered in the moment:

Tuesday: Dent-be-gone: Seeing with our Faith, not our Eyes

Wednesday: Divine Callings: Staying the course to Burundi

Thursday: Miracle of Twos: Online comfort and Housing

Friday: Mr. Fix It: Organizing my world

My hope is that this series will open up your faith-vision to see the miracles in your own life occurring. Every day. Right in front of you.

I also hope that you will join in the discussion and share your own little miracles so that together we can walk into the realization that God in Christ is in us, working around us, and intervening in our lives to show His Presence when we least expect it.

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. Gen 50.20


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Posted by: JennyRain | August 27, 2010

Grandma’s Letters From Africa: I’m Guest Posting!

I’m guest posting over at Grandma’s Letters from Africa today!

I was so honored two weeks ago to receive an email from Linda Thomas – writer of Grandma’s Letters from Africa. I have long enjoyed her stories of Africa and of family, and when she asked to use one of my posts about thankfulness, well, I was just thrilled!

If you haven’t read Grandma’s Letters from Africa then take a few minutes to poke around and read some of the memoirs… they are touching, poignant, and will give you such a beautiful feel of this place called Africa that I love so much.

So run on over there and see my post… and then stay awhile and get to know Linda, she is a peach!

Finding a Heart of Thanks

“Do you want to see my secret for being thankful all of the time?” said my friend Yuksel…

Click here for more…

Posted by: JennyRain | August 26, 2010

The Continued Journey (Part 4)

Today’s post is the fourth in a series of being on a journey… seen through the metaphor of hiking

***

Time constraints prevented me from driving back to the mountains for my fourth Georgia hike so I landed at Hard Labor State Park in Rutledge. I had scheduled this hike on my calendar, knowing in advance that I would have to choose a nearby park if I wanted to reach my hiking goal of 10+ miles before my 5:00 meeting. It was not until much later that I realized long hikes and afternoon meetings do not cohere as well as I would have liked as hiking seems designed to rage against a fixed schedule.

Hard Labor State Park

The drive to Hard Labor was uneventful and consisted of a simple stretch of forest littered with an occasional billboard on I-20 Westbound. The entrance winds hikers through a quaint Georgia town, but blink and you miss the only scenery for miles.

My hike was designed to take me along the Lake Rutledge Equestrian trail which drew itself along fourteen miles of forested and stream-side paths in a patch of middle Georgia’s hills. I would be sharing the trail with my equine friends so I anticipated a moderate, non-Coosa-strenuous hike.

Several directional decisions had to be made prior to the beginning of my hike.

Though I found the welcome center easily, locating the stables forced my blood-pressure up a notch and uncovering the elusive trail head was downright harrowing. After loosing a torrent of expletives at the poorly marked trail, a lone ranger with his yellow lab rode by in a John Deere Gator to point me toward the trail head. It was less than fifteen feet from where I had been standing.

Map: Hiking Map of Hard Labor State Park

Embarrassed at my inability to locate a simple trail head, I began hiking, feverishly attempting to rid myself of the foul attitude that had crept through me.

Even my trusty Mp3 player seemed to cajole me out of my funk as my first steps were taken to the rhythm of “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for” by U2.

The beginning of the path found me clean and dry and I sank into the sandy hiking path with ease, only occasionally having to meander around horse droppings or overhanging brush. The path was well blazed (IF you were successful at trail-head-locating) and easy to follow. I zigzagged up hills in a dancing right-left foot rhythm that felt closer to a skip than a walk and confidently reassured myself that I would finish this trail with ease. Images of Dorothy and the yellow brick road flitted through my mind.

Other than the sucking-sand, mush-like trail, this hiking path did not seem too difficult, but rather just an enjoyable jaunt through a lovely forested hillside. The trees allowed me breathing room, there was no fear of bears threatening to arise in me, and the gentle, rolling knots of land were just enough to provide a good workout.

The woodland trail snaked me around and over stream beds.

Most of them cut through the knolls like indented wrinkles, and like old, leathery skin, looked like they had lacked moisture all season. Whereas the mountainside brooks at Vogel State Park teemed with water and aquatic life, these streams were dry and dead, filled only with dead leaves and old rocks.

As the trail neared the lake and I trekked to U2’s “Stuck in a Moment,” I rounded a corner and stopped my left foot just in time from smashing down on the head of a three-foot long, two-inch thick, black snake. He obviously eyed me prior to my felicitous pause, as Mr. Snake was in mid-slither across the trail the first six-inches of his dusty black body poised vertically like a statue.

His left beady-eye was fixated on my lower leg, his right beady-eye on the other side of the trail.

I stopped short, unable to breathe or move, afraid that any sudden jerk would encourage him to become one with my lower ankle. Both of us were solidly wedged in an instant of indecision.

Without any tools other than a squirt of warmish water from my Dasani bottle to deter him, I debated what would be the most prudent next step. His head was in a diamond shape with the eyes pointing side-ways and the snout wider than I was used to, and his thick, dusty body looked like he had been on the path for awhile longer than me. Not knowing if he was poisonous or not and thinking it unwise to hold the stalemate for too much longer, I risked walking around him to continue my hike, hoping he would not follow me. This was one stranger on the trail that I did not want to share the walk with.

After shaking off the willies for the next mile or two and hopping like a jack-rabbit over any underbrush that I could not see through, I finally settled back into my hike. I reminisced about the largesse of the environment on the Coosa trail and the lingering force of a miniscule ground rodent at Hard Labor and thought that nature was at once inviting and intimidating.

Over-impetuous early-afternoon confidence drove me over Fambrough Bridge Road.

This section of trail across the road is less traveled by riders and walkers and offers a promise of solitude. I had not yet reached the half-way point of my hike and ambitiously attacked the back-trail, reassuring myself that it was only an additional two miles to the overall trip. I anticipated being out of the back-trail in thirty to forty-five minutes.

Almost immediately the trail steepened and narrowed.

More extreme slopes were commonplace on the back-trail and I felt like I was always climbing up. This intensity would not abate for the duration of my hike that afternoon. By this time I was bored with the consistent diet of trees, leaves, dried stream-beds, and twigs that were the accompanying scenery so I had nothing to distract me as the climb intensified.

Huffing and puffing over and around middle-Georgia’s natural obstacles, I was consistently winded and increasingly becoming aware of the blisters that were screaming for me to stop. After an entire hour of struggling through the deceptive hillside, I finally resigned myself to my first aid kit and was astonished to find more blisters had erupted during this trail than the other three hikes combined.

After gingerly attending to my feet I arose and attempted to regain the rhythm of the hike.

Needle-like spasms shot straight up the outside corridor of my calves on each step and I ruminated over my situation. I had ten miles back to the stables to hike on bad feet and that was a good estimate, as I was still stuck in the back-side of the trail that seemed to endlessly snake through the hillside.

My attitude began traveling south fast and there was nothing I could do to stop it.

Stuck in the woods with boring scenery, no mountains, no pretty falls, no one to know I was there if I just sat down and never got up, a seriously depleted water supply with dry-stream beds surrounding me, and throbbing foot pain were not a great recipe for a casual hike. When did this section of the hike become so difficult? Good grief, I was in middle-Georgia not the mountains!

This hike needed to be over with and there was nothing I could do to end it.

I was trapped in the middle of a walk with only one route back to home. This was not the hike I had planned for, one that became incrementally more difficult on the backside where there was nothing to distract me from thinking about how hard it was. This was an equestrian trail, how did horses survive it? Who invented this trail anyway and why did I choose this trail? I would rather be in the mountains or the lake! Who the heck wants to be in middle-Georgia of all places?

I felt lost and frustrated and powerless to end the hike that I had chosen three hours prior.

I began to cave into myself and strain forward, convinced that the only thing that would keep me from sitting down for good was forward momentum. I forced myself to pick up the pace, determined to end the hike and imposing a stop-time of 4:00 pm, no matter where I was. I was no longer bored or restless with my surroundings, I was simply angry and determined not to get stuck in the back-trails of middle Georgia.

Two hours later I emerged from the trail drained, covered in sand and developing welts across my legs and arms from God-knows-what.

My shoes had taken the brunt of the hike and were completely discolored and tattered from what had started out as a simple trail through middle-Georgia’s hillside. The 5:00 meeting was canceled due to some fortuitous obstacles other than the trail, which was providential because the trail’s duration eclipsed the “clean-up” time I had planned into my schedule.

The yellow-brick road had become five hours of a blue-blazed battering ram against my senses and emotions.

My expectations slammed head-long into the reality of the hike and left me feeling battle-weary and scarred. What I had planned as a refreshing escapade became a kidnapping of my emotions and my person. Only days later would this trail begin to develop into a metaphor for my current path.

This trail was not enjoyable, and I am trying hard not to remember it, but somehow I am sure that it has been useful.

Whatever it is to be defined as, I have placed my hiking shoes on the shelf for a week or two.

Posted by: JennyRain | August 25, 2010

The Continued Journey (Part 3)

Today’s post is the third in a series of being on a journey… seen through the metaphor of hiking

Part of Walk with Him Wednesday…

holy experience
***

My forays into the wilderness and my zeal to explore Georgia’s natural treasures have continued.

My rests mandated only for a duration long enough to allow my blisters to heal and harden. Immediately upon my return from the last hike, I began preparing for my next hike still pondering what the hikes have to do with uncovering my Africa story, but compelled nonetheless to adventure.

Vogel State Park

I began preparing for Thursday’s hike on Wednesday. I was careful to watch what I ate, get a good night’s rest, and hydrate properly. All day Wednesday I anticipated my journey but resisted the urge to plan the next day’s hike.

Thursday I awoke at six a.m. with an urgency to get going. I had a restless impatience during my devotional time but location had not yet settled itself in my spirit, so I journaled and waited until “let’s go to the mountains” began flushing the rest of my thoughts away. I landed upon Vogel as my day-hike destination, a state park securely rooted in the base of the Chattahoochee National Forest, and within thirty minutes was on my way.


I had a firm hiking plan prior to arriving at Vogel.

My mind was set on hiking the Coosa Backcountry Trail. Coosa is a 12.9 circular trail that begins its loop up and over the summit of Duncan Ridge (a notoriously difficult hike) where hikers descend and climb over 1 mile in elevation crossing 3 ridgelines including Coosa Bald at over 4,000 feet. Travel time is 9 hours and is accessible only by foot. Several trails converge during the 12.9 miles of Coosa including the Appalachian Trail, Duncan Ridge, Slaughter Gap Trail through the back country of Blood Mountain.

Map: Hiking Map of Vogel State Park

Receiving a thorough orientation, several permit papers to place in my car and on my person, as well as a raised eye-brow from the trail guard when I told her I was hiking alone, I began my trek along the trail head that would lead me to Coosa. Almost immediately I encountered a sign that read:

Coosa Backcountry Trail: More than a day’s hike

I was flummoxed.

My plan included a round-trip hike of at least thirteen miles for that day. I decided to determinedly carry on, more resolute that I would conquer this mountain by the end of the day.

The trail head was less than six inches wide and was all up-hill through dense foliage.

I spent most of my time avoiding briars and thorns on woody overhangs, and crawling around and under branches. The woods were not only around me during this section of the trail, they were on me as there was no separation between me and the branches.

The familiar claustrophobia did not manifest itself, but I hoped that the entire hike would not be like this.


Within a half-mile I had crossed Burnett Gap and was in a different section of mountainous terrain.

This section of the hike was gorgeous as the mountain loomed above and below me. I was surrounded by gaps of space and air to enjoy the trail through the steeply sloped mountain. The trail cut through the forest, and provided the only flat space on the sloped walls. For as far as I could see above and below, there was forest and mountain. Beyond the forest, I spied other mountains and ranges in the distance.

The mountain so embraced me that I found myself singing along with my headset to the woodlands “How Great is our God.”

But as lovely as the terrain was, I could not rest into my hike.

The trees that had fallen around and across the trail were enormous, each branch the size of my upper leg, and the trunks spanning five to six feet in diameter if not more. The fallen trees stopped me short and reminded me of my small size in comparison to nature. Each step took me farther into the largeness of nature around me as I continued to shrink in comparison.

I could not shake the sense of smallness I felt, as well as the fear of being watched, of being alone, and of bears.


With each step, my heart plummeted further into unrest.

The fear crept under my skin, rather like Neo in the Matrix after he takes the red pill and is covered by the liquid mirror.

My heart could not shake the feeling that I was not supposed to be on that trail that day, though my mind kept driving me farther along the trail with a barrage of hate-mail delivered directly to my fears. Fear of failure, fear of quitting, fear of being attacked by something bigger than me (i.e. a bear), fear of being alone in a place where I could not defend myself

I could not label the fear, it simply existed.

It reeked of an evil stillness that I had felt three times before in my life. During each of those events I felt invaded by a sense of evil and danger that I could not fully understand until later. Was this one of those times, or did I just need to calm my nerves?

The fear of bears and an overturned tree that I could not wiggle beyond finally turned my feet toward home.

From the moment my feet turned, I felt rest begin in my heart.

Each step closer to home brought more calmness to my spirit.

Ironically, I turned back and hiked Bear Hair Gap, hopefully not named because of bear sightings! As soon as I began my trek along this trail, all fear had completely left me.

This trail would take me up to Vogel ridge, which had a magnificent overlook of the valley. But during the hike, my mind would not allow me to place at rest the fact that Coosa had kicked my butt.


Upon exiting Bear Hair Gap, I attempted the backside of Coosa, reasoning that perhaps going clockwise would be easier.

I was not yet willing to admit defeat at the hands of a mountain.

I was only 1.6 miles from the Appalachian Trail along Coosa’s ridge, so I wanted to re-attempt the Coosa-journey.

Within five minutes on the backside of Coosa, I was struggling on my hands and knees around enormous tree vines and outcropped rocks. I had not made it fifteen minutes up the trail when the fear began building again.

For realz? I just want to hike the Coosa dagnabbit!

With my legs cramping and my body unable to maintain a consistent balance, and the dread building, I had to admit that Coosa was not to be for that day and I climbed back down to hike backwards along Bear Hair Gap. Thwarted again.

I do not know why (*) fear stopped me from my hike along the Coosa trail, but it did.

Each time I think about my turn-around point on Coosa, fear continues to grip my heart as if I had never left that location on the mountain. I knew after the second attempt at Coosa from the back-side, it would have been too difficult of a trail for me to attempt alone, but overcoming what I defined to be an irrational fear drove me onward.

Returning home, I read about the legends surrounding the Coosa connecting trails on Blood Mountain. Legends include stories of bloody battles between the Creek and Cherokee Indians. Was I somehow sensing this? That seems crazy to think about.

By the late 1600s the Cherokee and Creek had begun to compete for the same resources and fought a battle on the mountain near Slaughter Gap. The Creek lost, ceding Blood Mountain to the Cherokee, who considered it a holy place. Some people believe that the name of the mountain comes from this bloody battle between the Cherokee and Creek Indians.

Whatever the cause, Coosa is an unfinished journey for me and the fear I felt continues to baffle me.

Was fear being used to guide me away from a trail I should not have even attempted to journey, or was it a force I needed to move beyond? I do not know the answer, nor do I fully understand the ways God guides. Sure, we can add some over-used Christian platitudes that claim that “fear is not of the Lord,” but my repeated experiences suggest otherwise.

For now, I am choosing to rest in the mystery of it all and await my next hiking adventure, grateful that I have been given the blessing of experiencing the beauty of nature.

(*) Six months after I attempted to hike the Coosa trail, Meredith Emerson was kidnapped and murdered by a man wandering in the same area. I talk about it here (Fear Theology) and discuss the question “Did Fear choose me that day so that Evil could not?” I still do not know the answer to that question.

Posted by: JennyRain | August 24, 2010

The Continued Journey: Part 2 (Repost)

Learning along the journey of hiking.

These posts have been calling to me the last few weeks so I decided to share. I know many of you are on a journey with God… not sure where you are going… so I pray that these next few days encourage you to remember that God can be found all through the journey if you look for Him along the trail.

The hiking posts help me to unwrap the beauty of life and God through simplicity of nature.

tuesdays unwrapped at cats

 ***

Upon my return from Zambia, what began as a casual day hike through the foothills of Georgia has turned into over forty miles covered in three state parks in less than fourteen days.

Were my toes not completely covered in blisters, hiking would have been on today’s agenda too. I am still baffled as to what is driving me on these hikes through the mountains but I have decided to enjoy the impulse and search out the desire while it lasts. Who knows what I might discover.

Tallulah Gorge

Most of my two-hour drive to the Tallulah Falls and Tallulah Gorge area was uneventful, but as my journey drew me nearer and the mountains began peeking out in the distance, I became very excited. I love the mountains. They invite me into peacefulness and adventure and captivate my attention while I am immersed in them. As I drove closer, the excitement grew because I could see a vision of where I would be hiking.

As I began my hike, I could hear the falls whispering their soothing melody, beckoning me to come and take a quick peek before my hike through the backcountry of Tallulah Gorge’s Stoneplace Trail.


I purposely saved the jaunt around the falls for the final stretch of my hike as a reward for the tougher part of the journey and as a inspiration to finish the twelve mile round-trip path of Stoneplace Trail and High Bluff Loop.

Map: Hiking Map of Tallulah Gorge

The woods were much less intimidating on this trip than they had been three days previous at Ft. Yargo. Though all but thirty minutes of my hike had me completely enclosed in woody shadows, I did not experience any claustrophobia. Only relief from the pounding sun.

Ten minutes into my hike on High Bluff Loop I had the vague sense that I would see a snake somewhere along my journey. Five minutes later a ground-colored reptile slithered across the path in front of me. Because I was prepared, I was not startled. My thoughts then turned to bears, but I quickly brushed those musings aside.

As I reached the mid-point of High Bluff Loop, fear gripped me.

I seemed to reach a swampy-bottom point on the trail that eclipsed all sound and movement like a black hole. The air blanketed me and I entered a pocket of stillness that seemed to war against my invasion of movement. Even my own breath caught in my chest. I quickly exited its clutches and listened as the silence seeped back on itself like gooey pudding after you remove a spoon. I did not take High Bluff Loop on my return trip.

Most of my journey was uneventful save for the sticky spider-webs that wrapped themselves around my face and arms every two or three steps. On the journey out I spent most of my time battering gnats and webs. My return trip, however, rendered a glorious absence of bug-life.

This journey had an end point – Lake Tugalo.

It was only reachable by foot path and when I arrived I was awe-struck at how the water laid so peaceful and hidden, securely nestled between an enclosure of mountains that continually embraced it. One lone fisherman sat enjoying the lake with his dog. There was no clutter of people or cars to mar its natural beauty. It rather reminded me of the lake our Guatemala 2003 trip had enjoyed.

My hike ended with a jaunt around Tallulah Falls where I saw three sets of waterfalls including Oceana Falls, Hurricane Falls, and L’Eau d’Or Falls (Water of Gold). Each was lovely and the powerful sounds of the falling water invaded my senses.

Though it was not quite like my Victoria Falls experience in Africa, I still enjoyed the majesty of the sound of Tallulah Falls and the rugged beauty of the Gorge.

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