A Walk in the Woods

Yesterday I took time to go for what has become my annual solo camping trip/spiritual retreat. It's just one night away, and I have so far always gone to the same spot (Sand Dunes State Forest). I almost didn't go this year because I have a cold going on, but I decided that I'd probably get slightly more sleep anyway since I'd be going to bed right after it got dark.

Typically I go and hike for most of the day, using that time to feel God's presence, to pray, to enjoy His creation and take photographs. I spend time around the campfire journaling and reading, too. I've said before that creation is a place I connect with God. 

The state forest has many trails through it. Signs along the way tell you where you are and help you know where to go next--how to get back to you started. I often stay on these paths. They are wide, easy to see, and well marked. 

There are also some narrow trails that go through the woods--especially in the sand dunes preserve. I often take the time to follow some of these, too. They're not marked trails at all. They're ones you just have to stumble across. They're narrow paths.  You have to pay attention to know where they're going to go. Sometimes a fallen tree blocks the way and makes the trail hard to see, but it can often be found again on the other side if you look hard enough. The narrow paths aren't used very much, so sometimes the flora creeps upon them rendering them nearly invisible.

I realized yesterday that I like the adventure that comes with narrow paths. I never know where they're going to take me or where I'll end up. I don't always know if the path will go anywhere, or if it has become so overgrown and unused that it just ends at some point (which has happened to me). Sometimes I am left to make my own trail until I stumble across another path.

The wide paths are easy to take. There is still much beautiful scenery upon them. They are well marked. 

But the narrow paths require an element of faith. 

I was reminded of Jesus' teaching, "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it" (Matthew 7:13-14, NIV).

The analogy doesn't follow through, of course. The wide paths through the forest don't lead to destruction. There is much beauty along them. But the narrow paths are much less traveled. And the element that they require faith is very apt. 

My time away was a blessing. I spent a lot of time praying through relationships and about future decisions. I didn't get any clear answers, but I did the work that I have to do. Now it's in God's hands. Not that I won't have to keep relenquishing control of some of those things to God each day. 



Autumn. It's a wonderful season. Lovely weather. Colorful leaves. Harvest crops.

It's also a hard season. Plant life is dying. Temperatures are dropping. Winter is coming. 

After work I took a long walk to the lake across the highway from me. I love having such natural areas available to me in the city. Nature is relaxing and connects me to God. It's also a place where I can get some good exercise. 

Seasons of life come and go, too. The past few years have felt like the end of autumn for me. There's been a lot of dying and fading away. 

Sometimes I feel like that last leaf, alone and clinging hopelessly to the branch. Some days I feel like I'm surrounded by the beautiful colors of autumn. Most days I'm ready for the next season--but preferably skipping winter for spring. At least as far as life's seasons go.

The post-divorce years are not easy at first. There's a lot of loneliness--especially on the days without the kids. The future isn't as planned. Friends aren't there in the same way they were. New place to live. New traditions to figure out. 

Life isn't meant to stay the same all the time. Midwesterners know the joy of the changing seasons. Life's seasons change too. And they're not always the most enjoyable moments, but there's always beauty within each. And the changes will come and their will be trials and beauty in the next season too. 

I am learning to embrace each season that comes, and be willing to be the leaf that lets go of the branch when that time comes as well.