So, for the last six and half months I have been sharing my (almost) daily messages to my daughter Katie and son-in-law Nick as they have thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail. I used this blog as incentive to keep me motivated and (as I post the last of these notes) I wanted to thank you.
Knowing that you were out there…praying for Katie and Nick…and encouraging us all in this journey…has been such a blessing.
As I type this, Katie and Nick are on their way home. We will see them tomorrow morning and (I'm sure) have a wonderful reunion. Thank you again for caring and praying for my kids.
I'll let you know soon what life is like post-hike.
Day 192: No Writing
Day 193: Splashdown
I know I wrote to you earlier in the hike about the communication blackouts that used to happen when a NASA spacecraft used to re-enter the atmosphere. When you two first started hiking, and we went for days not hearing anything from you, it reminded me of watching all those Apollo missions from NASA when I was a kid--and the tense re-entries where there was no communication at all between Houston and the spacecraft. Time seemed to stop during those re-entries.
That's where we are now. Waiting patiently for your re-entry.
We last heard from you on Saturday morning by phone--right before you re-stocked your packs for the last time in Monson, ME. Then, before you left, we got Katie's text and picture: "Thanks to you guys, I will not starve in the 100 mile wilderness!! Thank you so much. We love you!" Not exactly the stuff of astronauts…like vacuum sealed health bars and Tang! Lots of Little Debbie's, fruit snacks and Sour Patch Kids?!
I had a bunch of people ask me where you were and how you're doing today. I was honest. I told them, "I don't know. We're incommunicado until they finish." Then, I'd say, "They told us they'd finish sometime around October 14th". The reaction was the same, to a person: "That's in like, two days!"
Two days! Not two months or two weeks. But two days! Two days until splashdown…and re-establishing communications…and figuring out how to get you back home.
Time seems to have stopped.
"Let me hear joy and gladness…" (Psalm 51:8)
Day 194: Prodigal
Webster's defines it this way:
adjective prod·i·gal \ˈprä-di-gəl\
carelessly and foolishly spending money, time, etc.
Trust me. I'm not calling you prodigals, but I can't quit thinking about you two and Jesus' Parable of the Prodigal Son.
Most of the newer translations of the Bible refer to it as the Parable of the "Lost" Son. I don't know. Maybe "prodigal" is passé or maybe the word prodigal has lost it's impact? Or I'm guessing that the word "prodigal" doesn't really speak to the heart of Jesus' parable. I'll be honest. I had to look up the definition of prodigal because…even though I still refer to it as The Prodigal Son…I really didn't know the true definition of the word: prodigal. As a kid, I just always thought it was a King James-y way of saying "bad". Then, like (I think) most of the folks from my generation, I just accepted the word prodigal…and used the word prodigal…to refer to someone who had strayed off path.
Reading Webster's Dictionary may have set me straight on the definition of prodigal, but it doesn't change why I've been consumed with the parable. I've been consumed by the father. In Jesus' story, a father has two sons. The younger son tells his dad that he wants his inheritance…BEFORE his dad dies. Meaning, "I wish you were dead, so that I can have your money!"! The father (foolishly) gives his snotty little son the money and the kid runs off to a foreign country and spends it on "wild living"…Bible-speak for "sex, drugs and rock-n-roll." Then, Jesus says the kid's money runs out…and then there's a famine…and the next thing you know…he's feeding slop to pigs…so hungry he's thinking of eating their swill. Instead, the dirty, ungrateful, snot-nosed younger son gets an idea: "I'll go back home and beg to be a servant at my dad's place!"
And here's why I can't quit thinking about this parable:
"But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him." (Luke 15:20)
Like I wrote above, I'm not calling you prodigals…or lost. It's just that you've been gone for SO long and I feel like that dad in Jesus' parable. I'm anxiously waiting…for the text…or the call…telling me you're ready to come home. I'm (figuratively) standing on the front porch…scanning the horizon…watching for any sign of you…waiting to run to you.
After reading that the word prodigal means to "carelessly and foolishly spend money, time, etc." it makes me wonder what else is included in "etc.". Is love included? And if it is...why didn't the Bible translators call it The Prodigal Father. I think it would be more accurate because the whole point of the parable is to show how "carelessly and foolishly" God loves us…and how much He longs for us to come home.
Get ready. Mom and I are going to get "prodigal" on you when you get back.
Day 195: Time At A Stand Still
"Hi!!! We are at Jo-Mary road. The past couple days have been kind of slow going. Nick and I both have nasty colds :( we are planning on doing 25+ tomorrow and then we will be about 11 miles from Abol bridge. Once we get there we will be 9 miles from the base of Katahdin! Once we get to Abol we have to speak to the park rangers about weather and see when it's safe to summit. No matter what though, we will be done in a few days!" -- Text from Katie
The communication blackout ceased…briefly…with the news that (1) you both have colds and (2) you're a couple of days from finishing.
Again…I feel like the proverbial little kid a couple of days before Christmas…when time seems to stand still and the minutes of each day are agonizing.
C'mon Christmas! Hurry-it-up!
Day 196: Bottled Up Good News
I can't get into all the specifics. Suffice it to say, the last few days at the office have been "dicey"…to say the least.
We've got some personnel changes on the horizon within our team that I've been trying to work through…and it's been tough. I haven't handled things perfectly, and when you add the emotional element to it, it gets "dicey". My biggest concern has been that some of my relationships…good, healthy, loving and encouraging relationships…were in jeopardy.
Change is NEVER easy. And sometimes…change looks REALLY scary at first. I guess that's where faith really needs to kick in and do its work.
The situation at the office looked very, very bleak yesterday…until after lunch. Then, it was like the clouds parted…and God smiled down on everyone involved. An impasse was resolved…an agreement was made…and the healing began. About 2 hours after that…I received Katie's text telling us you were at the Jo-Mary Road, along the 100 Mile Wilderness. I tried to locate it online, but only ended up frustrated. I couldn't pinpoint your location. Still, knowing you were only days away from finishing…along with the good news from the office…made me think, "I wish I could bottle up and save good news so that I can open it on days when I really need a pick-me-up." But that's not the way life works. You have to take the good with the bad and deal with it when you receive either.
"When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider this: God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, no one can discover anything about their future." (Ecclesiastes 7:14)
Today, everything looks great! The future's so bright…I've got to wear shades. But tomorrow…who knows? Only God does. And I hope He brings us news that you're done…finished…terminado…fini…fertig. I don't know which has been harder…dropping you off at the airport 6 months ago…or waiting for you to finish these last few days.
Bring us good news…my bottle's almost empty again.
Day 197: FaceTime
"As water reflects the face, so one's life reflects the heart." (Proverbs 27:19)
I loved seeing Katie's freshly-scrubbed face tonight.
Tonight was the first time we've done FaceTime in months. Seeing Katie's pink cheeks…blazing white smile…and wet hair wrapped in a towel was a welcome surprise. Over the years, I have gotten used to her dripping wet hair bundled up in a towel on her head. I just didn't know how much I missed it until tonight.
That's what FaceTime will do for you.
I have to admit, the last few days of your hike are DRIVING ME CRAZY! Just when I think, "They'll be done tomorrow", we get a text message or a call telling us, "A few more days". I was fully expecting to get the call today…or tomorrow morning…telling us you were done. Then tonight, Katie informed us that you're literally 9 miles from finishing, but Mt. Katahdin is snowed under and you're going to wait until Sunday (2 more days!) to try your summit. Sheesh! You two are killing me!
But the FaceTime call tonight helped.
Technology amazes me. The fact that we can video call each other from our phones is mind-boggling. It's the stuff of science fiction…of Jules Verne and Isaac Asimov. I love it…and it's a great thing to appease the emotions. But it's not a replacement. FaceTime does NOT replace face time.
So, enjoy your stay in the hotel tonight. Get some rest and get prepared to pack up on Sunday morning and take on Katahdin. Nine more miles. That's it! Nine more miles until we get you into a rental car and get you home…for some REAL face time.
Two more days...
Day 198: Finished
Your thru-hike is over. You summited Mt. Katahdin today (October 18, 2015) in below zero temperatures with driving wind and snow. You made it! Six months and sixteen days after starting on April 2, 2015 in Springer Mountain, Georgia. You're done. It is finished.
About 2,200 miles, give or take.
2,200 miles. That's the distance you've just hiked. Ironically, it's about the same distance from Bangor, Maine to Denver…2,200 miles. This trip, though, will only take you two and half days by Greyhound bus. The tickets are purchased (Thanks to Uncle Buzz and "Salt") and you board at 5:20AM this Tuesday morning. Relax. Read a couple of books. Nick, take lots of Dramamine. Mom and I will be waiting (impatiently) for you at the Denver bus terminal on Thursday morning. Who knows…we might even bring Peanut.
It's a Greek word. It means, "It is finished." It's what Jesus said on the cross in John 19. I've read that it's an accounting term meaning, "Paid in Full." Now, I'm NOT likening what you've just completed to what Jesus did on the cross. Of course not! But I can't get the words "It is finished" and "paid in full" out of my head.
I know you both started this hike with some deep desires and needs; desires and needs to prove yourselves and to push yourselves, like you've never been pushed before. I hope and pray that has happened and that you've fulfilled those dreams. You'll have lots of time to decompress and meditate on it…and we'll have lots of time to talk about it. But before you get home, I need you to know this: I'll never be able to tell you enough how proud I am of you two. I'm so proud of your endurance…your dedication…and your inspiration.
One other thing I need to write; please, please try and remember that NO ONE will EVER be able to take this experience away from you…and only you (and God) will know what you've taken away from it. And even though carrying everything in a backpack…and sleeping every night in a tent…and eating pre-packaged food for every meal for 6 months is finished…your journey isn't over.
But remember, you don't need to prove a thing to anyone…because you already know deep-down who you are…what you're made of…and who you belong to ("…and you belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God." 1 Corinthians 3:23).
That journey will NEVER end.