Busyness. I know I’m not the only one who struggles with busyness. You’re busy. I’m busy. We’re all busy. My busy lifestyle gets in the way of so many things I really need to do—good things, healthy things. That whole “idle hands are the devil’s workshop” is bs. The enemy does his greatest works in my life by keeping me from what God REALLY wants me to do. His best tool is busyness.
One of the things I REALLY need to do is stay in touch with my daughter Katie and my son-in-law Nick (See Below). They left Tuesday (March 31st) to fulfill one of their dreams: To thru-hike the entire Appalachian Trail—all 2,168.1 miles of it. It’ll probably take them 5-5½ months to pull this off.
So what does this have to do with busyness? Well, I made a commitment to them. I committed to send them a Bible verse and a word of encouragement—every day—for the duration of their hike. Nick has his iPhone with him and promises to touch base every time they get service. And even though they won’t be able to read my emails each day, I've committed to write them.
It always helps to have some accountability, so I’m going to ask for your help. I’m going to post my updates to Katie and Nick periodically on the Men’s Blog here. It will help to “hold my feet to the fire” knowing this. I would also cherish your prayers for my kids. I know that they are always in God’s hands, yet we’re still called to pray and ask for God’s care. I would love it if (when you happen to think of Katie and Nick) you would lift up a prayer for them.
With that…here’s the first three days.
Day One. First Day on the Trail.
Now, I’m sure that you’re both swimming with thought and emotion, so I’ll make it brief. I really wanted to just retrace some of what we've already talked about (over and over) at the house.
This thing…this trip…this big adventure that you've dreamed and planned and thought about for almost a year is finally here. It’s no longer future-tense. It’s here…it’s now! And I know that by the time you finally read this, you will be either minutes away from starting the AT…or days into the hike. Either way, I simply want to remind you of this:
You need to trust. You need to trust each other. You need to trust that everyone back home is cheering you on and praying for you daily (and sometimes “minutely”). But more importantly, you REALLY need to trust God. Proverbs 3:5-6 says,
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to (or acknowledge) him, and he will make your paths straight.”
You are going to experience all kinds of stuff on this journey: joy, fatigue, quiet, homesickness, beauty, peace, elation, despair. You get my drift. But as you take each step…one step at a time…try and remember that nothing you experience on this hike will happen without first passing through God’s hands. Nothing. Everything in life is part of God’s plan. The good AND the bad. And honestly, this is probably the hardest part of following and understanding God for me. I know that He’s in control of everything in my life, yet, I don’t want the tough stuff. I only want life to be easy. I want everyone I love to be safe and happy and problem-less. But that isn’t the way life works…and Jesus NEVER promised that. And the truth is, it’s usually the hard things in life that have taught me the most. I know this will be true for you too.
So, please seize this moment in time…this “Magic Window”…the next 5 months or so and take it all in. Drink it all in! The good AND the bad…realizing (and trusting) that God is near…that you need to lean into that truth…and that He will see you through to Maine.
Day Two. 0.2 Miles in...
It was great to hear that familiar “ding” from my phone last night—telling me I got a text message from you two—even after reading it:
“Alright, we are laying down in our tent! We are only about 0.2 miles into Springer Mountain. Haha. Doug and Patti dropped us off about halfway up the Approach Trail.”
I couldn't help but laugh. Your Uncle Doug prides himself on his navigational skills. He thought he dropped you off at the trail head. Oops. I’ll make sure he doesn't live this one down. That being said, I’m sorry. The Approach Trail is ROUGH…especially when you’re first starting out. Mom and I were sitting in the living room with Jon and Carrie Alexander when your text came through—which ended up dominating our discussion for over an hour. I wish you could have been there to hear what they had to say about you two. You would have been encouraged. Jon and Carrie are as excited as we are that you’re doing this—and equally expectant for how it’s going to stretch you and grow you personally…and as a couple.
Which brings me to your scripture verse of the day. This one comes from Philippians 4:4-7:
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
There’s a lot packed into those few verses, I know. Yesterday was a hard start…and there’s more hard days ahead. I will admit, I’m grateful for what I know you hiked through today. I remember that portion of the AT from when Ben and I hiked it. I hope you were able to “rejoice” as you tramped through those dense wooded paths…under the many rhododendron arbors…and by (what seemed like) countless streams. I also hope today eased some of the anxiety you’re feeling from yesterday.
Please re-read those words from Philippians. Let them really sink into your head. Try and focus on a few of the truths found there, like:
God is near…you need to talk to Him…you need to tell Him everything you’re feeling, and you need to ask Him for His help. When you do all that, you get a promise: peace. And not just ordinary peace, but a peace that neither of you will be able to know or understand—one that will guard and protect your hearts and minds.
That’s a promise from Jesus…for EVERY situation…even if you’re only 0.2 miles into the trip.
Day Three. Be Still
Silence. That’s what I struggled with last night. The silence. I know that silence from your end is what most of your hike will look like from our end, but it doesn't make it any easier. I laid in bed last night wondering how far you hiked yesterday…whether you felt better about things than the day before…whether you met some people on the trail…and whether you had to use your knives on them. Just kidding…kind of.
I’ll admit. I hate silence. I love quiet, but I hate silence. I love the quiet of the woods—especially right after a heavy snow (like on Christmas night, Katie, when we took Peanut for a walk in about a foot of snow). I love that kind of quiet. But, silence, that’s a different story. Like nothing in your ears from noise-reduction headphones or when Mom goes quiet when we’re arguing…I hate that kind of silence.
I used to hate silence from God. I still struggle with it, but at least I don’t hate it anymore. When I was about your age, I went through a real “dark night of the soul”. That’s what St. John of the Cross called them; those times in our lives, when things get rough, and where God seems silent—to the point of non-existence. I began to doubt everything during this time; the faith system I was raised in. The teachings of Jesus. I worked myself to the point where I doubted God’s existence.
And all of this grew (it what seemed like) God’s silence.
It was around this dark night that I came across today’s Bible verse…and I know you know this verse already. It’s on the plaque that hangs over our back door (so that I see it every day before I leave the house):
“…Be still, and know that I am God…” Psalm 46:10
Be still. Be silent. That’s the best place to find God. I learned (and continue to re-learn) this lesson the hard way; that when I get quiet…when I get silent…I have a much greater chance of hearing or experiencing God. There’s going to be a lot of quiet time on your hike, so please try and use it. Use it to “be still and know”.
Sometimes God speaks the loudest in silence.
I—on the other hand—would love to end your silence. Please let us know how you’re doing, as a soon as you can.