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Last week I was on my morning walk, which I have grown to love. It’s something that I picked up since Covid started. You know having the time at home, not having to rush to get a workout finished before work, has allowed me a little more time to really take in my surroundings in nature and it really has been so much fun. Breathing in the fresh air has been a balm to my soul that I didn’t know I needed and I am so glad that I have taken the time to do that.
Anyway, back to that recent morning. I walked out my door and it was cloudy and sprinkling a bit and I considered going back in to do a streamed workout. I was a little worried because I don’t know if you’ve ever been in a TN rainstorm or not. But I grew up in the West and we do not have the “buckets of rain” downpours that are here in the south! I remember the first time I was in a Southern downpour. I had to get out my phone and video it because it was so impressive! Y’all, if I caught in a downpour, I was going to be drenched in about 1 minute. But I heard that sweet whisper that I’ve come to know say, “keep going, I’ve got something special for you today.” So I kept going.
And sure enough, not far into my walk I began to notice things that I don’t normally. Now, I don’t normally wear sunglasses on my walks because my sight since I turned about 48 has been pretty bad and I just feel like sunglasses, even though made to protect, kind of impair my vision a little more. So I don’t wear them on my walks. I know this is going to sound contradictive to what I just said or maybe just plain stupid but that’s just what I like, haha. So because I don’t wear sunglasses I can’t really look up because then I have to squint because of the reflection from the sidewalk and the pavement. So I end up looking down a lot as I walk. So anyway as I walked I noticed that because it was cloudy, I could look up no problem. And I heard the whisper reinforce my thought “look up”! I walked a few more feet and heard another whisper, “Lean in”. This is one that I’d been having repeatedly over the past several weeks but now it was all coming together.
So here I am thinking “Look up, Lean in” and pondering upon that. I continued walking and soon the whisper came again. “Look up, lean in, walk tall.” By this point I am thoroughly enjoying the light sprinkling on my face and the beautiful cloud cover that has allowed me to look up and now I feel like God is giving me this message to share with you all. “Look up, lean in, walk tall.”
Now let me just say that I know this message that I’m about to share with you was impressed upon MY heart for me but I believe there is someone out there today that needs to hear this message too (maybe a handful of you). I’m the messenger and I pray that I can do it adequately enough to be able to touch the heart of those that need it, and that God wants to hear it.
I was reminded one of my favorite scriptures, Proverbs 3:5-7
5 Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. And verse 7 that is overlooked often.
7 Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil.
I started thinking about a talk that I’d heard recently by Stanley G. Ellis in October of 2017 General Conference.
He asks the question Do we trust Him? Meaning God. Do we trust His commandments to be for our good? Do we trust that the Lord does know each of us and wants to help us? Even and especially in the midst of trials, challenges and hard times, do we still trust Him?
I recalled an event that I had several years ago at a week long girls camp that I was called to be one of the leaders of. These camps are adventures in learning both physically and spiritually out in nature without the conveniences of everyday life. It provides a canvas so to speak from the Lord to work with in helping these girls (and ourselves) grow closer to Him.
So there was this hike that we did every year. It was called Mount Baldy. I’m not sure if there is a significance to the name or not. Maybe because it was surrounded by foliage and was flat and clear on the top, lol. It was not an easy hike though. I remember the first mile and a half was not too terrible. Still a hike and one that was good for the younger girls who were on their first year of camp. Not too hard but just hard enough to learn the lessons that they needed at that time. They stopped there in a meadow and had lunch and then would trek back down to camp.
The older girls were required to hike to the top of Mount Baldy and it was not an easy climb. The last leg a quarter mile or so was especially difficult. You could choose one of two paths to get to the top. The first wound round and round the Mountain on a steep grade eventually getting to the top. Though hard and longer than the other, it was not as difficult as the other less chosen path. Which was straight up the mountainside. Well at least it felt like straight up. All I know is that it was steep enough that you could only see the very top of the cell phone tower that was at the completion of the hike. Some of the braver girls had already started to scurry up the side and the other leader and myself had to draw straws as to who was going to stay with which group of girls. I drew the short straw, lol.
I found myself hiking up the mountainside to try and catch up with the brave, courageous girls. Within several feet I had to stop to catch my breath. My lungs were hot and my thighs were burning. I turned to glance down at some of the other girls behind me. Some were slowly making their way up and others had changed their minds and chosen the other path (which I might add was still not easy). I saw one girl really struggling but determined to keep going. I waited for her to catch up and grabbed her hand to urge her to keep going.
I went a few more feet and had to stop and rest again. At this point I started to question my forethought that I was in pretty good shape, obviously, I still had some work to do in that area! But then I heard that familiar whisper, “Do you trust me?”, Yes I trust you Lord. Then keep going, it will be worth it!” So I continued to trudge my way up the mountain side.
Now what I haven’t told you about is that particular year there was an extreme amount of rain the first day of camp and we had been in mud up to our ankles. Our tennis shoes had been caked with mud the whole first day and our campsites were all a muddy mess. Me not being a lover of the outdoors, I was pretty much ready to go home on this the second day and we still had 4 days to go. But I had not yet been to the top of Mount Baldy and had volunteered to be one of the leaders to go.
Besides that the trail down the mountain had been closed for the day anyway because of the mud and so even if I had given up, the only way out was to walk on a very muddy, very long, hike down the mountain trail. And that would have been even more crazy than Mount Baldy, lol.
I was second thinking that decision now. As we got a little higher when we looked up we could barely see the top of the tower. When we looked down, all we could see was the forest surrounding us. So up the side we continued to go. Of course I was highly reconsidering my ambitious volunteerism. But I’d been told by several, including the Lord, that it would be worth it. I heard the whisper again, “Do you trust me?” and I was thinking of course Lord of course I trust you. But I was reminded of the many times that I hadn’t trusted him.
I thought of how our Savior must feel as he sees us constantly struggling to overcome the challenges that we face and the struggles that beat upon us during this life. I remember his coaxing, “Do you trust me?”
We know that the Lord trusts us. He gave us this life and He has faith in us. He sees the view from above and He sees the amazing work of art that we can be. He trusts us to make good choices and to come to Him when we inevitably make poor choices. He trusts us with our lives, and with the lives of our children and these girls and those around us that He has asked us to watch over through His promptings. He trusts that we will do what He can not do. He trusts us to be His hands.
He trusts us to continue our hike uphill through the trees the rocks, the unseen obstacles and the mud to make it back to Him.
But the question is, do we trust Him? Do we really trust Him? He sees us at our best and at our worst. He sees us in our triumphs and our failures. He sees us in sickness and in health. He sees us today and He will see us tomorrow. He comes to us in the messiness, the broken, the heart wrenching and He restores us.
Do we trust Him enough to look up? To look to Him the source for our peace?
Going back to Stanley G. Ellis’ talk He says, “Hard makes us stronger, humbles us and gives us a chance to prove to ourselves….. The hard is the constant! We all have challenges. The variable is our reaction to the hard.”
That brings me to the second part “Lean in”. When I had this thought I could picture a big huge rock. The rock, representing the Redeemer.- I remembered a scripture that I’d recently read in Heleman 5:12 from the Book of Mormon and I could picture this giant rock and just leaning into it and knowing that no matter what, that rock was solid, it wasn’t going anywhere. The scripture comes from a story in the Book of Mormon were a father is counseling his sons and says “And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.”
This made me think back to the Proverbs scripture, …lean not to thine own understanding, in all thy ways acknowledge Him… the rock the one we lean TO, hang on TO for support, pray TO when all feels lost and crazy. It’s Him that we can trust. Look up TO! Lean in TO!
Lean suggests a shift of balance but maybe the shift that He’s talking about there is the shift to Him, the Savior, shift TO the rock, our redeemer. Look up, lean in and then walk tall! Only when one’s heart is fixed on God can a person begin to think properly. Walking according to God’s will puts the person in a position to have God lead the way and open the doors to the life that He so desires for you.
Now back to the story, I’m sure you are dying to know if we all made it to the top of Mount Baldy. You have guessed that we did I’m sure. But let me tell you, it was one of the hardest ⅛ of a mile I have ever been on, lol. It really was not long but boy did it feel like it. I took a couple of girls by the hand and pulled them the last few feet up.
It was absolutely breathtaking! I will never forget the beautiful sight at the top of Mount Baldy. We could see all around the valley. We could see our campsite far below. We could breathe the clean fresh air in and out of our tired lungs. Our legs burned, but our hearts and souls burned brighter because of the challenge we had just overcome. We each shared our feelings of what our thoughts were as we climbed and what it felt like to reach our destination. It was amazing the lessons that had been learned during a half day hike, most of which had happened in that last challenging part of the hike.
As I reflect back on this event I am reminded of the many challenges we face in our lifetimes. Our paths are all different yet no less difficult. And though we can support and love each other through the difficult and the hard, we can not take that challenge away. That is how we grow. Look up, Lean in, Walk tall you are a child of God!
He is the source, He is our rock. We can hold our heads up high and walk tall because of not in spite of our challenges.
I think about a chrysalis. There is a story you may have heard about a man who found a chrysalis and saw a small opening appear at the top. He watched the butterfly struggle for hours trying to get through the tiny hole. But what happened was that suddenly the butterfly stopped and it appeared that it had completely given up. The man, thinking that he was doing the butterfly a service, took a pair of scissors and carefully cut the opening so that the butterfly could become free. So then the butterfly was able to get out easily but the man noticed that it’s body was swollen and the wings shriveled. And he didn’t really think anything of it, he just watched and figured that the butterfly would develop and the fluid from it’s body would fill the wings and it would fly away. What he didn’t realize was that in freeing the butterfly he had hampered the development that would have happened had the butterfly continued to struggle and push through the Chrisilys which is Nature’s way of pushing the fluid from the body and into the wings of the butterfly. Instead it spent the rest of it’s life walking around with a swollen body and shriveled wings, unable to fly.
So back to Proverbs verse 7 Be not wise, in thine own eyes. Sometimes we think that we know what’s best for us, that we have it all figured out. And I am not going to discount that intuition is a very large part of getting through our struggles and challenges. But the variable is our reaction to the hard. We can choose to embrace the hard, choose to control the things that we can control.
Also, something that I learned when I was struggling to get some relief with my mental illness, I would have people say things like, “you just need to get out and get some fresh air, or come go shopping with me, retail therapy will make you feel so much better. And I often thought, “you can’t wish this problem away. It is what it is. Don’t try to solve my problem, just give me faith to endure! Just help me build the faith to make it through this challenge.
Sometimes in our eagerness to take away another’s burden we hamper their growth. I think of all the things that I would not have learned. All the ways that I wouldn’t have grown. The empathy that I never would have built. The places that I wouldn’t have gone had I not suffered through this challenge.
We can support others, we can validate them, yes it’s hard, yes it’s a struggle. Yes things are tough and look unending. But through it all we must have the faith to look up, lean in and walk tall, trusting that He will carry us through the hardest, most challenging leg of our journey. That He will open the doors in front of us that He will place the people in our path to help us when we don’t think we can take another step forward through the mud and the muck. Let Him help you. His way is always better, always better than ours!
The journal prompt that I have for you today is:
What can I change in my thought process of this current challenge, that can help me to Look up, Lean in and walk tall?