It’s the day before my 26th birthday. Almost a year ago now I moved back to my home town of Poulsbo after spending four years in Portland, OR. Wow. I can’t believe I spent four years there. I can’t believe I’ve been back here in Poulsbo for a year. I can’t believe I have the ability to drive myself to the store and buy groceries, or do my own laundry, or that I own my own cat. Yes, the reality that I have grown up still blows my mind. I can’t believe I made it HERE. Where ever here is.
I am both impressed and disappointed with what my life looks like right now, and a little bit on the edge of hopeful anticipation, too. On the one hand; I’m alive! I’m awed by the very process of birth, growth, and death. What an amazing thing to witness and embrace the flux and change of life. And on the other hand… Shouldn’t I be, more? Done more? Helped more? By now, I should be more than what I am, who I am. For some difficult to explain reason, I feel like I’ve missed the mark.
A few months ago, as I was once again contemplating the path of my life, I started reading this book by Claire Diaz-Ortiz, Design Your Day. It’s a great, short little thing all about goal setting and maximizing productivity in work, and life in general. She has a holisitc approach to life and work which I admire and am still in many ways grasping for. I’m sure I’ll pick it up again and again. Reading it, however, inspired me to set some goals of my own.
I started with five categories (much like the ones Claire has); God, Work, Personal, Financial, and Health. Under each category I had no fewer than three goals I wanted to meet within twelve months of setting them. Claire warns her readers to not over due it, and I understand why now. A few months into my year of goal pursuing, I erased everything. I was already way off track.
Surprisingly, I wasn’t too discouraged by it. Maybe I had a day of lying in bed, feeling like a useless lump, but it’s out of my mind now. Instead of focusing on what I couldn’t achieve in twelve months, or even just sticking to what I thought I could do without much risk of failure (one of my defaults, do less, lose less), I got real with myself. I asked again, what is most important to me? What is so important to me that I am willing to fight to make happen this year? Reading two hundred books? A noble quest, but I’ll be just as happy if I read only fifty (come on, that still sounds like a lot to me!). Something that I kept in my personal section was going on a back packing trip with friends.
Really? Camping? Yes, for me it was important enough to stay on the list, and I’ll tell you why. I do love the out doors. But more than that, I feel profoundly connected and at peace with life and God when I spend time just being and enjoying his creation. I think in terms of connectedness; my default setting is to see the bigger picture. You may see black, white, or even grey, but I also see yellow, blue, green, red, fuchsia, puce…you get the picture! Maybe at this point you’re excitedly raising your hand, exclaiming, “Me too! I see all those pretty colors too!” Do you also get confused and overwhelmed by them sometimes, like I do? I wouldn’t be surprised if the answer is yes.
The confusion comes from understanding different points of view, but still knowing not all are right. So which path is best, when all make sense at some level? I’ll choose the path that leads to the mountains, the forest, the ocean, or lake, the Alpine meadow ringed by craggy peeks, or the monochromatic dessert tinted with golden warmth. Every color present in a balance that is unquestioned and simple; natural. It makes sense to me, without the need to explain why or make a choice in uncertainty that could disrupt the peace of my life. It just, is.
Don’t hear what I’m not saying. I am not advocating or condoning living a life of avoidance or denial of the pressures of reality. I’m simply explaining why making space for experiences that free my spirit to simply be, are important to me. Now, nature is not the ONLY thing that helps me weave all my streams of thought back together again, but it’s a big one.
So I asked my friend Megan if she would want to trek off into the woods with me for a few days and, thank goodness, she said YES! Not only that, but her good friend Katlyn, who I now dearly love, wanted to come too. So we started planning. And we planned, and planned, and probably over planned. Since this was, with the exception of one time for Katy, the first time any of us had gone on a backpacking trip we didn’t want to miss a single detail. My original hope to explore Seven Lakes Basin was all reserved for the rest of the season, so we decided on the Hoh River Trail in the Olympic National Park instead.
The trail took us along the Hoh river valley floor for about twelve miles before starting to climb. We made camp at thirteen miles, just before a bridge which connects the vertical walls of a canyon carved out by the river far below. It was beautiful, to say the least. Before we made camp, we let our packs (severely heavy packs) fall to the ground, instantly followed by our aching bodies. For a few moments, we rested. Sprawled out on the bridge, rushing river below, blue sky above, and an ancient forest surrounding. Quiet breathes and thankful hearts.
The next morning we left camp with day packs, seeking out Blue Glacier on the north side of Mt Olympus. Since the first twelve miles involved little to no elevation gain, we spent the next 6.7 miles making up for it. 3,700 feet up to our view point, each mile seemed to grow in steepness. The last mile or so, after climbing down a washout on a longer than anticipated wooden ladder, we scrambled, stumbled, and pushed our way up the loose rocks and large boulders, only to see clouds rolling in, and quickly.
The final push to our goal, Blue Glacier’s lateral moraine, was the most difficult. We lost the trail among the rocks, were tired, sore, and anxious as we saw the fog start to roll down on us. And then, we made it. Breathless and hungry we stared down from the ridge line we had just clawed our way up too. The glacier was now almost completely engulfed by the billowing fog.
As we stared longingly into the mist, trying to imagine what the 900 foot thick glacier in front of us actually looked like, we began to hear it. No, we weren’t hallucinating because of exhaustion and hunger! You can actually hear the glacier move as it slowly flows down the mountain side. Distant cracks and groans from deep within the ice echoed across the otherwise silent mountain side. So we sat and listened, and when the clouds had finished erasing the small portion of ice still visible to us, we turned and began our decent back into the forest.We spent one more night at our bridge, before hiking the thirteen miles back out to our car.
As sad as we were to have hiked almost forty miles and not seen our precious glacier, the joy of the journey was exponentially greater. We did it! And we didn’t die! Success! There was beauty and struggle in almost every moment. Even the fog which robbed us of our prize had an ethereal wonder hidden within. Life was simple during those days, as short as they were. We worked, we ate, we slept, we talked, and we were thankful.
And I remember that time as I ask God, with tears in my eyes, “Shouldn’t I be more than what I am? Am I, enough? Have I done well?” To which He simply responds, “I am enough.” The answer I seek in my questioning and travels, on the mountain peaks, in blog posts, and the opinions of others, are all revealed in this one statement, “I am.” And my heart bows, and I weep as the weight of his reality crushes me. It crushes this wild striving within me, and catches my flailing hands that claw and cling with desperation to empty and false fulfillment. Clutching fists become open hands, and I am ashamed.
I am ashamed to see that they were empty all along, and yet I still held on with a death like grip. And He says, “I am enough.”
I am walking into this year with this in mind. Open handed is not just a posture in which we receive, because the temptation to snap them shut the second God places a gift within is too great. Open hands is a recognition of our emptiness and the futility of our striving after what always ends up being mist running through our fingers.
With empty hands I say, “God, I can not fill my life with what my heart desires. I have tried and tried again. You are what my heart desires, and through no effort of my own can a grasp you in my hands. In vulnerability and fear, I offer what little I am to you. The wisp of my life is in your hands, to guide as you will. For in you I live, and move, and have my being. You are always enough, perfectly fulfilling. With love and thankfulness, I commit this next year of my life to your hands.”
24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’[b] As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’[c]