Photography Credit: Joshua Fears
Location: Berchtesgaden, Germany
I used to love the quiet. Always being an introspective person, I would often sit with my thoughts and reflect on them and why I was thinking those things. And it was in the quiet that I felt myself connected and close to God. That I could feel his presence. In college, one of my favorite pastimes was to sit on one of the swings they had scattered throughout the campus. I would swing away. I’d look up at the clouds and talk to God. I’d see the flowers around me and hear the birds singing and knew that God was near. I felt happy. Content. Close to Him. I’d journal my thoughts instead of studying for my next exam. But this was something I loved to do.
Life and circumstances have changed since those college days, back when life was more simple and carefree.
There came a time when I was sick after the birth of my daughter. I had postpartum depression and anxiety and oh, how things changed! I did not want to sit with my thoughts anymore. I didn’t want to hear my thoughts or have the thoughts I had. They scared me. I did not want to be alone.
But things have a way of coming full circle sometimes. Despite not wanting to be alone for a second while I was sick, there were times when I would take the courageous step outside of my parent’s house (who were taking care of me and my baby at that time) and I would walk out into their backyard. It was beautiful out there. It overlooked a quiet, peaceful, still lake. And, there was a wooden swing. Waiting for me; calling out to me to come sit on its bench and do what I’d done long before. Talk to God.
And I would swing away. In desperation, this time, I pleaded with the Lord to please take this away from me; to please, please heal me. Heal me for myself, but more importantly, to heal me for my family. They needed me and I was so sick I could barely take care of myself. I remember crying out to the Lord with tears in my eyes, “My God, My God! Why hast thou forsaken me?”
God heard me. He even saw me hit a tree with a very large stick…with great force, I might add. I was so angry. Why was this happening to me?
But it was in the stillness, out on that wooden swing, that I knew in my heart of hearts that God was listening to me. I could feel his presence, not strongly, but I knew or hoped that He would have pity on me.
And he did pity me. My Father loved me. He sent birds my way that made a nest outside my window and they would sing to me loudly every morning.
And one day, healing finally found me.
Now, after surviving such a battle, I have been on the mend. But I still struggle.
As a stay at home mom with a two and a half year old daughter, I now find the silence to be like a double edged sword. Perhaps other moms can relate. Some moments, after being constantly needed and followed around all day (let’s admit – having your space invaded all day!) and then when it’s nap time, I welcome the stillness and quiet with open arms. I turn off the tv, and even leave the music off. I’ll just sit there, and revel in the peace where I can finally breathe again.
But, on the other hand, there are times when the silence is truly deafening. Even frightening again at times. Our thoughts can consume us…thoughts of worry and “what if’s”, contemplating our purpose and all the deep questions you can think of can arise in just a few moments time of sitting there alone with your thoughts. Isn’t this why we are so busy all the time? Why we’re always on the go, leaving no idle time? That’s why we’re on our phones, scrolling pointlessly through our Facebook feed, wasting time, but it keeps us, or maybe even “saves” us from thinking.
But God, he is beckoning us to come to the stillness. To find that wooden swing to sit on and just talk and pray to Him. For that is where we will truly find our peace. We find our peace in the stillness. We talk to Him and lay our burdens at his feet.
“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7. To know that we have a Father who cares for us should bring great comfort to our souls.
In my prayer/writing room, I have this sign hanging above my desk; “Be still, and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10. It is a reminder that I need to see daily. It may be intimidating and overwhelming to think of being still, for you, like me, may be afraid of your thoughts and where all they can lead you. But God is powerful.
Satan is powerful, too, yes, and he wants your mind to dwell in the dark places. That is why we must remember the verse: “…we take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5. Give your thoughts to God…tell Him. He already knows your every thought, but we grow close to Him in releasing that to Him. Our thoughts might be scary and overwhelming, but surrendering those to Him can leave us with a sense of freedom. Peace. He has the power to calm the anxiety within us; we just have to hand it over.
Be still, and you might just find the God your heart has been searching for.
I wear it
Sometimes I take it off,
Place it in a box
Pushing it far into the back of the drawer
Away from my mind
And away from all memory.
It signifies that I am a soldier.
That I fought in a battle.
I received a Purple Heart
For I was wounded in battle.
And I will never be the same.
I want the world to see my badge.
To know that I fought a battle.
And that I won.
Yet, there is shame.
Shame that I had to fight this battle.
And so, I am torn.
Should I show the world my Purple Heart?
Or keep it locked away?
[Backstory. I wrote this poem about a dark time in my life, when I suffered through postpartum depression. This is very personal to share, and a word of warning that it can be triggering and intense, but the ending of the poem offers Hope. I have felt the need to share this in hopes that it might help someone know that healing will come. Do not give up!]
I still hear the crows.
I still hear the buzzards.
I still see them.
They circle the skies above me,
From time to time.
And they remind.
They taunt . . . “Remember? Remember?
Remember your pain. Remember your fear.
I will always be here to remind you,”
Their screeching, ugly voices tell me.
I often wonder how they found me.
I’d seen them using their evil powers
In those I loved
From the time I was a little girl.
I always deeply feared them.
That one day they would search me out
And find me.
That their midnight black darkness
Would encircle me and choke out the world.
That those birds would steal my joy,
And replace it with tears.
I never knew Fear until they found where I was hiding.
I’d seen it and felt it before
But I never truly knew Fear until the birds came.
I brought Life into this world.
She was Beauty.
Heaven came down and Love
Came flowing from my eyes,
When I saw her for the first time
And she breathed her first breath;
When her first cries were heard
by her Mother and Father.
Yes, Heaven came down in those moments.
My eyes beheld Beauty
And my arms held her.
And then, in a moment,
I thought I was losing my Beauty,
The life I’d just brought into this world.
Something went wrong with my child,
And for tortuously long moments
That will forever be immeasurable,
She was taken away from me.
And I was left alone.
Alone I cried,
Alone I wondered if I’d see
The Beauty again.
I wondered if I had seen her for the last time.
I wondered if I would hear her beautiful cry,
If I’d ever hold her again.
My beloved husband
Returned to me,
As I lay there waiting.
There was hope in my heart again
When he whispered, “She is okay.”
That our little Beauty we’d created
Had held onto his finger tightly.
We then knew,
Our Beauty was a Fighter.
When I saw her again
She was under a glass container;
The artificial oxygen filling the air
To help her breathe.
But I saw a little baby,
Struggling, crying, fighting.
Fighting for her life.
Frantically and Fearfully
I watched the numbers
And felt helpless,
As they were not where they were supposed to be.
I was scared.
Scared I was still going to lose her.
“Don’t grow attached,
Don’t grow attached,”
Something told me.
When she was finally returned to us,
Relief filled our hearts.
But something held me back —
I couldn’t believe that she was back in my arms.
Hyper vigilance set in.
Anxiety took over my entire being.
I was so thankful,
But I was stunned.
I was traumatized by thinking
That my Beauty was dying in my arms,
In those seconds when something went wrong with her.
I was traumatized —
Believing she was still going to be taken away from me.
“Hold on . . .
But don’t on too close.
Love her . . .
But don’t love her too much.”
Were words that echoed in my mind.
Nightmares haunted me of losing her.
A month after the Beauty debuted her appearance,
All was well with her.
But not so with her Mother.
For that was when they came.
The thing I’d always feared . . .
Finally found me.
I watched the leaves fall from the trees,
And I watched my world turn grey.
In an instant the darkness
I watched the sky cry tears
And the sun hid its face from me,
In my darkest and loneliest hours.
I wanted to die.
The buzzards hovered overhead
And flew in circles above me.
Waiting for me.
“We want you,”
Their beady eyes looked down and I knew their deadly thoughts.
A dead tree overshadowed
And towered above our home —
And the tree became the crows and buzzards’ battle position
Sent forth from the enemy.
They wanted me to die.
They were a constant reminder
I battled the thoughts —
The war that waged within
Of wanting to take my own life
And yet . . .
Fighting desperately for my life.
This battle lasted for months.
Months that should have been beautiful.
That should have been blissful.
That should have been Heaven,
That should have been what they were not.
I was robbed.
We were all robbed.
The thief had come in the night
Stealing my joy,
And, thus, stealing all of our joy.
And those who loved me suffered immensely.
I remember the day.
The day I stood outside
Staring up at that dead tree,
Feeling defeated and completely hopeless.
I remember seeing the parting of the clouds
And seeing and feeling the ray of the sun
Finally break through the clouds
And show its face to me again.
I heard the crows and saw them.
They were so loud.
I saw the jay clothed in blue.
I saw the sparrow,
And I saw the red cardinal.
I saw them flying from bush to bush,
From tree to tree,
Right in front of my very eyes,
And I heard their melodic singing.
And I faintly heard the song
Of a bird in the forest.
Just a tiny sound at first,
That slowly crescendoed into a loud chorus.
That would not be the last time
I’d hear that little bird in the forest.
That day, his song was too powerful
And I watched in wonder as the crows flew away
And I could no longer hear their lies.
It was a moment my heart had hungered for.
That tiny bird had flown from far, far away,
And had found me at last.
He found me one day sitting by the window
Feeling in despair again.
He sat on a red chair and looked in at me.
His eyes looked into mine
And he didn’t look away.
“Get better! Get better!” He told me.
I felt the very presence of God
And that He was sitting in the red rocking chair,
“I am here. You are not alone.”
That tiny bird had the loudest song
Of any bird I’d ever heard.
And the most beautiful.
He stayed around our house from that day on —
The days that I was still sick.
He was a Carolina Wren,
A bird known for being shy —
And yet, he stayed so close,
In the moments when I needed to hear
His song the most.
The mornings were my darkest, scariest hours,
When the panic would set in,
And when I’d usually been awakened by crows.
But now, that same wren had found his home.
He made a nest right outside my window,
And he sang for me.
I’d look out my window
And he’d be there looking at me,
Watching over me.
Time had taken its time,
But with it,
Came my healing.
The sickness, the darkness finally left me.
The crows, the buzzards, those preying birds
Finally flew away.
They had learned that I wouldn’t
Be taken by them.
I would not be their victim.
They saw that I was a Fighter.
That I had a Beauty and a Beloved
To live for.
To this day,
I still hear the crows.
I still hear the buzzards.
I still see them.
They circle the skies above me,
From time to time.
But, I still see my wren,
I hear my wren,
From time to time.
And he says, “Remember? Remember?
Remember your healing. Remember Hope.
I will always be here to remind you.”
He is a constant reminder
I’ve always been fascinated by Job.
This story in the Bible, of how a man had EVERYTHING, and then, just like that, it was all gone. Taken away from him within just a few moments.
There is so much to learn from him. For me, by the end of the story, when he stays faithful to God throughout his great loss and suffering, I’m just in awe of his faith. In the end, he praises God, his faith and belief in Him is stronger than ever, and then he is blessed by God beyond measure. (“After Job had prayed for his friends, the LORD restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before.” Job 42:10).
But it’s the middle of the story that I can’t forget.
Job didn’t just mourn for a day and move on.
He lost everything. He lost the ones he loved. He grieved. He mourned. Job even cursed the day he was born.
I wonder why this story is in the Bible? For me, Job seems so real. He seems like you and I. He has feelings and emotions. He does what I think we all would do if faced with his situation. Or if we have in fact been there ourselves…faced with loss or pain and suffering.
Job seeks counsel from his friends, and they accuse Job of doing evil – that perhaps this is why tragedy struck his household. God later reprimands his friends, by the way.
What I see, though, is a man who is doing what is only natural.
He’s asking “Why?”.
He is seeking comfort from his friends, and perhaps answers. Isn’t that what we do? “Why did this happen to me?” “Why did this have to happen?”
Or, “this should never have happened.”
Have you ever asked this? I know I have. I’ve looked up to the skies above and asked Him why, about many things that have happened in my life.
And when I’ve asked God this question, I have not heard a reply. The heavens have not opened up in that moment and a voice called down from me and given me the answer and I then say, “Oh, okay! That’s why God. Thanks! Now I know!”
I get goosebumps when God does speak to Job: “Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm. He said: “Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man;
I will question you, and you shall answer me.”Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone— while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?” Job 38:1-7.
I don’t know about you, but just reading those verses and imagining that scene and God speaking to ME, I shudder. It puts me in my place. And it puts God in his rightful place. The Mighty One. The Creator of the Universe. The One who created me and gave me breath. Who gave me everything.
God speaks to Job for a long time. He uses Nature to show his power and that He is in control. That He runs the show. Not us.
I think it’s interesting that there isn’t necessarily a “why” answer from God. Yes, he shows Job who He is and that he maybe shouldn’t be questioning Him. But God doesn’t say, “Hey, here’s why I took your family from you.” Here’s why you experienced that heartache. That rejection. That suffering. That loss.
Sometimes I don’t think there’s a why for everything that happens.
Or perhaps we are not meant to know the why. Not in this lifetime.
That’s a hard pill to swallow. Hard to fathom. Hard to accept.
But, what are we going to do with knowing that? Does it mean that we aren’t going to wrestle with God and ask Him and wonder the reasons? Does it mean we put ashes on our face for a day, and then carry on and never look back?
I don’t think so.
Just look at Job. He did what is only natural, and probably what God expected would happen of Him. He mourned. He was sorrowful. He sought counsel and comfort from the world. He was left with questions and doubt.
But He turned to God. He had his time of this inner wrestling, yes, but He did not turn his back on God. One of the most powerful verses says, “In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.” Job 1:22
It’s easy to want to blame God. To blame someone. Anyone. To blame ourselves.
Though I think it’s natural to think and feel all these things, I don’t think we should stay stuck there. It’s easy to get stuck. To dwell. To turn away from God when bad things happen.
We can’t stay there. Can’t stay there forever. In that place of anger. Of doubt. Of questioning. Satan wants us to stay there. He wants us to turn our backs on God.
Sometimes there just isn’t as the saying goes, “a reason for everything.”
But there is a, what am I going to do now?How am I going to live the rest of my life? After the pain and hurt has happened, and you’re now living in the aftermath.
“There is a time for everything . . . a time to weep AND a time to laugh, a time to mourn AND a time to dance” (Ecclesiastes 3:1,4). I believe in this so strongly. There IS a time to mourn. We have to grieve and mourn what we lost; to grieve over what should have been. And that is a process. Sometimes a very, very, very long journey.
But, there is a time to laugh. To dance. To be happy. To move forward. I don’t like the phrase, “move on,” because it sometimes can sound and seem insensitive. Though we may not want to look back, I think we are still going to. We aren’t not going to come out of those painful times without scars and wounds that are triggered now and again, but, we have to keep walking on. We eventually have to move forward. If we’re always looking back, we are held prisoner, and we are missing out on the beauty that does lie in our future. The blessings that will come upon us again -even if we can’t see it now. If we keep looking back, we can’t see where we are going. We can’t see the present and be thankful for it. We’ll just see the darkness behind us, and miss out on the light in front of us.
In the end, Job ends up praising God. Despite everything, this is what he does. May we strive to draw closer to God during times of trial. To bring our questions to God. But may we never turn our backs on Him or curse His name.
After all, where was I, or, where were you, when He laid the earth’s foundation?
I felt it. I felt it strongly today.
Walking across the parking lot after dropping my daughter off at pre-school, I saw another mom walking my direction. Her hair and makeup were perfect. She looked cool, calm, and collected. She held the hands of her two children, who looked just as fashionable as their mother. She walked with confidence. She was gorgeous.
I became suddenly aware of myself. Aware of my hair, that was just thrown up in a messy bun that I tried to make look somewhat pretty this morning. Aware of my outfit. Aware of my own daughter’s clothes; aware that she was not wearing Uggs or whatever the latest, most popular fashion is at the moment.
I wanted to run and hide.
You see, before I had walked out the door of my house that morning, I thought I had looked pretty; that even though I hadn’t washed my hair that morning and it wasn’t styled, that at least my face looked good. My face covered in makeup.
But, now, standing there in the parking lot, I felt something entirely different than I had a few minutes before. I felt it. I felt like I wasn’t good enough.
I felt like I wasn’t pretty enough.
I was comparing myself to this other woman; this complete stranger, and debasing my own value and outward beauty based on what I saw looking at her.
Call it insecurity, call it low self-confidence, call it shallowness…whatever it was in that moment, I did not like it. I did not like that feeling at all.
It reminded me back to high school. There was a courtyard area at my school that was known as “The Bricks.” The bricks is where all the “preps”, as they were called, congregated after lunch, and where they waited and hung out before the school bell would ring. There were hundreds of them. I wasn’t in this group in high school. I didn’t hang with the popular crowd. Some days, I hated that I wasn’t in that group, but I had my own group of friends whom I loved and cared about deeply. I always found myself searching out the “outcasts”…,the “loners” and befriending them. The quote “weird” ones. Not all of my friends were this way, but I did have quite a few of the ones who were a little different. I found that the “outcasts” shouldn’t have been cast out. They were amazing people. Friendly. Genuine. Funny. Unique. Creative. Deep, caring souls.
But I remembered today what it felt like to hold your breath as you have to walk through the group of people who you see, and who probably themselves believe and see themselves as better than you. To just want to get past them, so you don’t have to feel that feeling of not belonging. Of not being good enough.
It made me think about myself and where I’m at now. Life is a journey, and so is the journey of loving ourselves. There have been the days and years where my confidence and love for myself was as high as Mount Kilimanjaro. I loved myself – inside and out. I was proud of who I was. I think those times, I had a place of belonging. My senior year in high school, because of the amazing friends I had in my church youth group. Because I was a leader that year, and my friends and peers looked up to me. In college, because I found another place and group of people where I felt I belonged. Who told me and showed me that there was every reason in the world to see myself as awesome. Also, my parents and sister have always shown me so much love and given me words of affirmation to know how truly special I am. And then, I met a boy in 2009, a boy named Josh, (who later became my husband) who sent my self-confidence all the way up to the moon!
I think during those times, too, my walk with God was close. We were “tight.” I talked to Him often. I felt my worth from others, but most importantly, from Him. I knew He loved me and was proud of me. I had my days of doubt, yes, but overall, I was secure.
Where am I at now? It’s a journey, as I said, and there are events and things that take place in our lives that forever change us.
Over two years ago, I went through an event like this. Going through postpartum depression forever changed me.
In many ways, as one can imagine or if one has gone through something such as this, you can see the ways it has impacted you negatively. I could make a list of how it did so for me, but that’s not the point or what I want to focus on with these words I am writing.
In my deepest and darkest time of my life, I turned to God. I clung to Him. I talked to Him and prayed to Him more than I ever had. Almost every minute of every day. Pleading with him to heal me.
And He did.
And from that day onward, after winning the battle, I have changed. I have changed for the better in so many ways.
I have risen. I have blossomed and flourished. When you go through something like that, your heart opens up to life more than it ever has. For me, I was so thankful. I decided to help others. I had a confidence in myself, because I had beat something that had tried to take my life. And I had, with God’s help, beaten Satan.
And I wanted to LIVE. To truly live. To take advantage of this healing that had come to me. To take advantage of this body of mine that God created and breathed life into. I didn’t want to sit on my rear and be a stagnant waste of space. I have stepped out of my comfort zone in so many ways that I would have never dreamed of.
For the past two years since getting better, I would say and others around me too, I think would say, they have seen the positive changes in myself.
My self-confidence, however, has taken its ups and downs during this time period. One of those things I blame that on is PPD. When I have been in my low of lows, it’s then that I know or start to realize that Satan has gotten in the way between me and God. I haven’t been talking to God as much as I should. I haven’t been in his Word.
Instead, I’ve been in the world.
I’ve been seeking my worth from the world. From people. From their words. From my friendships. From my relationship with my husband. From family.
I’ve been seeking what only God can give me. My beauty is not found on the label on my clothes. It is not found in how perfect I can try and make my hair look. It is not found in the bright pink lipstick that I sometimes wear.
Yes, God did make me beautiful on the outside, which I need to strive constantly to see and believe this. But, my beauty should be ultimately found from within. That my heart and soul and spirit be beautiful. That my thoughts be pure and glorifying to God.
And my worth should come not from others, but from Him, the Lord God above; “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” (Psalm 139:13)
In God’s eyes, I belong. I belong to Him. I am his daughter. The daughter of a King. And in his eyes, I am enough. I am MORE than enough. And I am loved. I am loved and cherished by Him.
I should live my life every day with a grateful heart and where I can say, “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Psalm 139:14)
And my hope is that the next time I see that woman or someone who in my eyes looks perfect to me – that I can say to myself, “She is beautiful . . .
And so am I.”
Ignorance is bliss, they say, and I believe this to be true sometimes. My husband and I were ignorant about this trail we were about to embark upon. The brochure and the sign at the head of the trail said it was 2 1/2 miles. From what I read and interpreted this meant 2 1/2 miles…total. Roundtrip. I thought this trail would be a walk in the park.
We began walking on the trail with the adrenaline, energy, enthusiasm, and excitement that awaits hikers as they begin their adventure. A new path…a new forest. A beautiful array of trees covered in moss that our eyes had never beheld, a vast emerald canopy above our heads. Ferns that felt like feathers as that lightly brushed against us as we passed beside them. We didn’t know where this trail would lead us. Would it lead us to the sea?
I was ready to accomplish something. I was seeking a challenge – for me, that’s part of what hiking is about. Little did I know, I was certainly about to have my mind and my body challenged.
As we walked along in the early morning hours, the cold rain dripped down on us and we could see our frosty breath. The cold air was invigorating. We didn’t see a soul on the trail; we had it to ourselves, something I long for. It was just my husband and I….and the tall, towering trees. It felt magical and I imagined I was in the fairy tale world of Mirkwood where the elves dwell and sing tales of old and have great feasts in the forest. We began to hear a rushing river and finally caught a glimpse of it through an opening in the trees, flowing down below us. We were excited. We were having fun. Every few steps, we would stop to take pictures or use our GoPro. The going was long, but I was okay with this, thinking to myself that we were already about halfway there. The going was also tough, as we dodged tree roots, and thousands of puddles of mud.
My husband Josh had downloaded an app that tracked our distance. We were hoping this was going to be a loop trail; to see new sights on our way back to the car park, and to not have to retrace our steps.
We then heard a sound that made our hearts skip a beat…the sound of the sea. Our pace naturally quickened as we were eager to hopefully catch a glimpse of the roaring waves of the Pacific.
At last, we rounded a bend and saw the thundering ocean. The view was breathtaking as the sun had peaked out from behind the clouds and was in its full glory…a rarity for this time of year on the Oregon coast. We paused for a moment to take it all in. There were surfers waiting in the water for the next wave to ride and we could hear their enthusiastic shouts even from where we stood, hundreds of feet above their bobbing heads.
All the hiking we had done this beautiful morning had been worth it for this wonderful moment – this view and to feel the warm sun upon our faces.
But we still weren’t at the end of the trail! I’m not a wildnerness or hiking expert, but I was pretty sure that we had already gone at least two miles and I was beginning to think that this was no loop trail at all, but that we’d have to go the way we had come. This was starting to get to me a little bit, and I was already feeling quite tired. Each step further that we took meant we would have to turn back and take that step back. I love hiking with all of my heart, but today I wasn’t feeling my best physically and something I am quite familiar with was starting to creep in.
We were about to turn back, as we looked at the map on our hiking app, and thinking that perhaps we had already made it to the end point of the Cape Falcon trail, and that now we were on the Oregon Coast Trail (which leads north up the Pacific Northwestern coast to Canada).
Just as I turned to walk back, we finally saw a couple of other people headed our way on the trail. They informed us that “yes, you are still on the Cape Falcon trail, and yes, you must keep going … just 10 more minutes until you reach the amazing viewpoint.”
Ok. Keep going.
That gave us a little push to continue onwards. It lit a fire, albeit a small one, within me. At this point, for me it was a bit of pride to be able to say that we had completed the trail, and, of course, we had come this far, so we had to keep going, even though I was starting to feel physically taxed. We finally made it to the lookout point of the trail, and the view of the expansive sea thousands of feet below us was phenomenal. It was unnerving to see a massive drop off and only a few bushes that served as a barrier between us. We continued on to another viewing point, which was a steep path downwards in order to get to the spot. I felt vertigo start to settle in somewhere within me and I was beginning to feel a little bit of fear. The waves thundered angrily, slamming against the massive rocks and boulders with such loud force, sending foamy waves raging down onto the other side of the rocks. I was amazed and in awe by the strength of the ocean. I was intimidated by its power.
By this time, I was ready to go back. I wanted to be off this trail. I wanted to be back in town, back to Cannon Beach, where all the people were. I was beginning to feel that we were isolated, and I wasn’t liking the thought of that.
I had barely stopped for a moment’s breath the entire hike, as I was just in the mode of “Go, go, go!” We had to hike back up the steep paths and my heart was racing and pounding. Josh was a little behind me, and I was a girl on a mission: “Just make it back to the car.”
It was happening. I was starting to panic.
I became aware of the fact that I had been holding my breath most of the hike. I had a cold, too, making it hard to breathe through my nose. I was thinking to myself, “I feel so weird. I feel so weird.” I began to feel lightheaded and dizzy. I felt weak.
I think the panic and anxiety had started to set in once I found out that we had to go back the way we had come – I was finally certain this was no loop trail. The app said we had walked four miles. That meant four miles back the way we had come. As I said, ignorance had been our bliss, but when reality set in that this was going to be an 8 miler as opposed to the 2 miles we had originally thought, I immediately felt disheartened and discouraged. I didn’t feel prepared for this.
My mind was two steps ahead of me and I walked as fast as I could, knowing each step I made would get me closer to where I wanted to be. Just back at that car park. I was envisioning and replaying what lay before us. And I knew how long it had taken to get to the viewing point, and that it would take us that long to get back to the car. The roaring of the ocean could still be heard, and I wanted to get away from it.
It didn’t take long. You see, it didn’t take long at all for the panic to set in. I was aware of everything and fear was overtaking me. These were some of my thoughts: I’d only seen about five people on this whole trail; where was everybody? We were so far away from our car, and away from civilization. What if I needed medical attention? How would they get to me? Why was my heart beating so fast? Why do I feel so weak? Why am I so exhausted? What if I can’t make it back to the car?
I finally stopped, turned around and told Josh that I felt weird. That I felt scared. I was feeling emotional and wanting to cry.
I told him all my symptoms. He was like, “Just stop baby. Stop and take a break. Breathe.”
No. I didn’t want to stop. I felt this urgency that we had to get back to the car. I wanted to be in our lodge, in our cozy room, away from the elements, and just sitting by the warm fire. I imagined this scene and this was my beacon of light to press onward, was thinking of the comforts of our “home away from home”. I realized how ravenous I was, and I dreamed up a feast waiting for me.
Josh, being the practical one, and me not being levelheaded at that moment, said, “Baby, you need to drink some water! You’re probably dehydrated.” Maybe he was right. Had I drank any water this entire time? Maybe a couple sips now that I thought about it. I said I was hungry, too, but I didn’t think we had packed any snacks. I felt like I was going to pass out.
Those moments were scary. Those moments of panic. I wanted so desperately to be out of that forest. “Get me out of here!” I felt like screaming, if I had had the strength. I couldn’t remember any of the “tools” I’ve learned along the way of how to deal with a panic attack. I grabbed the water bottle and guzzled down what I could, which helped me focus on trying to breathe through my nose. I had to calm myself down. I had some anxiety medicine in my backpack, but that didn’t even cross my mind at that moment. We did thankfully have some snacks in our packs, (thanks to Southwest Airlines for the peanuts and crackers) which I inhaled and I found an old protein bar. I said to Josh, “Let’s keep going.” The panic was still there and my only hope of escaping it was escaping this quiet, peaceful forest.
I started focusing on my breathing as we walked along and I continued eating my protein bar. My pace started to slow. I thought of how I would breathe in yoga, and focused as hard as I could on trying to have rhythmic breath and breathing slowly in and out through my nose. My breath deepened.
As we continued at a slower pace along the trail, the sound of the ocean subsided and was replaced by the quiet of the forest, and I felt a calm finally wash over my mind and body. I became suddenly aware of the beauty around me. The sun rays shining down into the forest around us, making the ferns and moss-covered trees an even more vibrant green than when we had seen them earlier that morning. The light and warmth from the sun brought me peace and comfort. I heard a bird singing for the first time I’d heard on the entire hike. The sound of quiet streams filled my ears. Strength was being renewed to my body.
I had gained some confidence in myself and felt proud that I didn’t need medicine to get through those moments. I was thankful that it had passed, those moments of panic. It wasn’t a full-on panic attack like I’ve had before, but it got pretty close.
It doesn’t take long for our minds to get ahead of us. For our thoughts to start racing. For the fear to take over all rational.
When you are in a state of panic, you can’t think clearly.
But I had made it through. And now, the forest was peaceful again, and I was calm.
As Josh and I continued walking at a slow pace back to the car, I found an energy I can’t explain take over. I was relieved and elated that the panic and anxiety had left me. I began thinking about what had just happened and all the reasons why I had gotten to that point.
When you’re hiking, there’s something about knowing you have to go back the way you came. You know the trail . . . you know what it looked like – you know all the obstacles that you encountered. A mighty tree that had fallen across our path before we came upon it, blocking our way. The lengths we had to go through to get past the tree. The river we had to cross – the feeling I had holding my breath walking steadily and cautiously on a fallen tree that was a bridge to cross the river. I knew the methodical steps I had to take as I stepped carefully around the deep, sloshy puddles of mud and the care I had to take to not trip over the endless tree roots springing up across the path.
I knew how long it had taken. That it had not been easy. That some parts of it had been challenging and made me want to give up and just turn back and not finish the trail.
And so, as I walked back, I thought about my moments of panic, and how it related to life. I thought to myself, “Don’t look too far ahead into the future.” For one thing, it can overwhelm you. Take one step at a time. Focus on the here and now. Don’t get ahead of the game. Be present in this moment.
You see, I had the whole journey back played out in my head, and in my head I remembered every little obstacle. Life is sometimes about perspective, to dwell on the puddles of mud and the steep and challenging parts, instead of thinking about the gentle sound of the streams as we passed beside them. I forgot about the magnificent tree at the start of the trail that was completely covered in soft moss that felt like a cloud to the touch of my hand.
And, then, I thought of something else.
I thought back to a dark time in my life. I thought about a journey that I had taken. A long and difficult one. I reflected back to when my daughter was first born, and I suffered from postpartum depression/anxiety. It reminded me of the “out and back” trail that we were currently on. I already knew what that journey (or, more rather, “battle”) looked like. I know that trail now, because I’ve walked down it. I remember every obstacle that stood in my way from reaching recovery – from getting to the end of my journey and back to where I wanted to be -which was to be healed. I know how long it took, and how hard it was; that it nearly took me down. I don’t ever want to walk that dark path again.
I have that fear. Why would one want to go back down the same path again, when they know how treacherous it had been? There are some days when that fear is very real and present, of having to go back there.
Perhaps we all have our times in life that we would not want to re-live and that we’d do just about anything to not have to go through it again. For we know what it looks like; what it felt like. What it did.
For us, on this particular trail called Cape Falcon, there wasn’t a new trail that suddenly or miraculously appeared on our way back to the car park. We took the same trail. But, I found that the way back wasn’t so bad after all. The obstacles I remembered from before weren’t as threatening. Maybe it was divine intervention, but the steps back to our car seemed to be quicker, thus getting us to the car park quicker. The path leveled out and we soon were in sight of our destination, where we had started from.
I know that I can’t live in fear, captive to the thought of having to go down that path of postpartum depression again. We cannot live in fear. For, maybe, if I do have to go down it again, I pray that the path will be easier than the one I’ve already seen and been on. That there will be a bridge across the puddles of mud. That there will be a railing along the tree that crosses the river, to bring me comfort and to keep me safe. That the trees blocking my way, causing me to want to give up, will have been removed from my way. That God will have straightened my path.
Or, maybe He will provide a fork in the road; a new path entirely – one in which I will not have to know that darkness again.
No, we can’t live in fear. We have to keep on going. We can’t turn back. It is worth every step you take, even if you have to drag yourself through the mud to get there to your destination.
And so it was for me.
We finally saw the moss-covered tree that we had seen earlier that morning and I felt rejoicing in my heart, as this beautiful tree meant we had made it! I was thankful to see this majestic tower reaching high up to the sky.
I then wrapped my arms around its trunk as far as they would go, and I hugged that tree with all of my might.
I was smiling and laughing.
I had made it.
“And the time came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”
Flowers long to see the sun. They long for the spring. Flowers were meant to bloom forth from the earth. And when they do blossom after the cold and harsh winter, they shine with brilliant colors. They radiate. They stand tall and proud, for they know they are beautiful. The flowers know that being confined and imprisoned in a cage is not their fate. Not their destiny nor their purpose.
And so it is with us.
We were not put on this earth to remain tightly closed in a bud. Imprisoned. Not meant to be bound by fear. By self-doubt. By self-limitations. By anxiety. You name it…we all know what keeps each of us bound in chains.
We were meant to flourish.
I know what it’s like to remain tight in a bud. And I don’t like being there. And then there have been the times when I did not, could not, and would not remain there. But I found myself blossoming. Opening my arms to adventure. To trying new things. To stepping outside of my comfort zone. To looking outside of myself and helping others. There have been times I have seen myself truly blossom, and it has been beautiful.
I’ve seen myself bloom the most since my daughter was born two years ago. I fought a battle the first few months of her life, an illness called postpartum depression. I fought that battle with every fiber of my being. I still have scars and I am wounded from that battle. That was a season. A season that I will call my dark winter.
That season of my life occurred during the fall and winter months. I remember we had an early spring that year, and my healing coincided with the sun coming out from behind the clouds. My healing came when the rain stopped falling from the sky. It came as the flowers rejoiced with me that the darkness had passed.
It was a season. A temporary season that did not last forever. At the time, every day felt like a lifetime. But the point is, that the winter passed. And the spring came.
I was healed. I had survived.
And, so then, I blossomed.
I seized the day. I thanked God for the breath in my body. For vanquishing away all the dark and scary thoughts. For taking my tears away. I thanked Him for my beating heart.
I was more thankful for life than I had ever been. I lived with zeal and had a newfound energy. A desire to get all I can out of this life, and to give. I helped others who were fighting the battle I had fought. I had new eyes. A new perspective. More compassion and understanding in my heart for those who stood where I had stood.
I created a support group. I was a leader. I did public speaking within my support group; something completely out of my comfort zone. But I had to. I had to help others. I wanted to. I shared my story. Over and over.
I did things I never dreamed of doing. Like going to boot camp. We’re talking about a girl here who took a bowling class as her athletic/P.E. course in high school! Who just simply doesn’t run. Not ever.
And I started doing yoga . . . something which I had previously always just rolled my eyes at.
Was I intimidated? I can say with a resounding “YES!”, I was. But I did it anyway. And I found out it wasn’t so bad. In fact, I found myself loving both boot camp AND yoga. I began finding that trying new things was kind of exhilarating. That I was filled with a newfound confidence that I was able to overcome my hesitations, doubts, and fears.
I don’t ever want to remain tight in a bud. I want to blossom. Every day. I want to encourage and inspire others to blossom. There is a world of opportunity out there, of adventures, just waiting for you. The possibilities for your life are endless. I love the saying, “Bloom where you are planted”. Go. Seek. Find. Right where you are now. Make the most of every day.
Be like the wildflowers in the valley surrounded by the mountains. They see the harshest and coldest of winters. Perhaps you are in that place right now. But when spring and summer come, the valley is covered in a rainbow of every color imaginable. Each flower is unique. They stand tall and proud. And they dance.
They dance in the wind. They dance for they know what it was like to be hidden away from the sun. To know only cold and darkness. And so, they rejoice with all their hearts to see the sun again.
May we be like the wildflowers.
May we dance in the wind.