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Saturday, September 9, 2017

A Weekend Untethered

A recent camping trip left me and my two boys invigorated. Not the outdoorsy type, the entire experience was a test to our endurance and a challenge to see how far we can stretch to reach the height of any hidden potentials.

We were mostly unplugged the entire weekend and this gave us the chance to appreciate nature in its fresh, unadulterated state. Xbox controllers, phones, laptops and 3DSs were traded for rafts and water tubes; we snuggled in a rugged tent that offered little to no protection from the wildlife that loomed in the dark; we listened for crickets, the lapping of water from the nearby lake and the rustling of leaves; we marveled at the starry starry heavens and oh, what a magnificent sight it was! We kept warm by the campfire; roasted mallows until they're crispy on the outside and gooey on the inside and gorged on s'mores until we, ourselves, felt like puffed up marshmallows; the adults had a little too much to drink but what else was there to do when you had nowhere to go and the kids needed bottles to melt to commemorate the trip? The night time air was nippy but foresight led me to pack enough blankets that the boys and I were actually warm and toasty while the others lamented about the frigid temps over breakfast. This was how we spent our nights.

On the contrary, our days were filled with activities that required a little more effort than you would exert when lounging around and lifting a glass to your lips. No, daytime activities prepped you for the night ahead, when all you could do at the end of the day is plop on your chair and hold out your hand to someone who had the remaining stamina to mix you a drink. My boys amazed me when they summoned their inner Mowgli. The same boys whose heads are constantly buried in gadgets and who walk like zombies zoned out to whatever noise on their headphones, couldn't wait to test the waters, hike and climb rocks. The first day, they crossed the entire length of the lake with their uncle and cousins, calmly drifting in their rafts and hand-paddling their way back. The following day was particularly challenging as we were unprepared for the adventure we were about to embark. A friend suggested we set out for Bassi Falls. I should have known that finding the right path to turn into was already an ominous sign, followed by a hike that couldn't get any hotter.  It seemed that every turn we made just took us further and further away from our destination. The lack of shade made the hike unbearable that I thought I would die. I imagined us getting lost in the forest -- but I'm here to tell my story so obviously, it wasn't that bad and everyone made it out alive. The swimming holes at the foot of the waterfall were a welcome treat for the weary hikers who took the longer route. The cool water was a bit shocking, but preferred, over the scalding granites that covered the trail. Everyone went their own way to explore the area, while the boys and I contented ourselves in one of the pools - that is until a friend called out from the top of the falls urging us to scale the giant boulders. Um..No. Thank You. I could tell my boys are itching to go up but I could also sense their hesitation, so it was my turn to summon my inner Mowgli and took the opportunity to impart the lesson of conquering your fears. Lord help me! I encouraged the boys to go up but deep inside I was protesting. What if they slip and fall and hit their heads or break their necks? What if I fall and split my head open? Can't we all just stay safe and cool down here? No, the trip was all about experiencing new things and I was not about to deny the boys the chance to conquer something big and boost their confidence. They were much more enthused than I was and required less coaching. I, on the other hand, took almost the entire village to cheer me on, to push and pull me up to get me to the top. I almost gave up but I have photos to show that I, too, conquered Bassi Falls. I may or may not have cried on the way down, only because at one point, I had to slide down this giant rock that could have taken my life if I didn't use my feet to break the fall. Okay, a little exaggerated but for me, it was a huge feat. It was a good day and everyone felt victorious. I thanked the Lord for keeping us all safe.

The entire trip was exhausting, but more than overcoming the physical obstacles, we overcame frustrations and fears and discovered new skills and abilities that fueled more confidence in ourselves than when we first started. Above all, I recognized the gift of mental and physical abilities that God had blessed us with in order to take on this challenge. Lastly, I am thankful for the gift of family and friends. Besides the good food that thankfully no bear took part in, the best part was being in the company of people that celebrated each other. We stepped out of our comfort zone, but all this made it all worthwhile.

--with faith and gratitude,
Elle

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

The Mystery Of The White Handkerchief

I've struggled with the same issue on and off for quite a while now. Today in particular, I begged God to change me, more so to change the way I feel so I can finally put these feelings behind me. As I cried and pleaded, the picture of a white handkerchief that has been sitting in my dresser flashed in my mind. I don't remember who gave it to me but I know it was a time when a friend was there when I needed it.

The Lord has His way of speaking to us. Today He spoke to me through this white hankie. I wondered what the significance was. What did it mean? Someone sticks out a white handkerchief when they want to surrender. Does God want me to surrender my struggles to Him? It could mean that He recognizes my intent to come out clean and the desire to only do what pleases Him. I was baffled. Still I asked Him to help me forget so the struggles would cease.

I confided in a friend and without hesitation he said, Peace! Such a short and simple word yet the impact it made on my day was huge. Yes, the Lord wants me to have peace! It turned out that I wasn't praying the right prayer. Instead of asking to change the way I felt, I should ask the Lord to help me embrace and deal with them, to take them at face value, accept and peace will follow. I learned that emotional strength is not measured by the toughness you project or the wall you build to hide behind, but by the peace that you carry in your heart when everything else seem to fall apart.

My thoughts kept returning to the white handkerchief. Whoever handed it to me didn't hesitate to give it up so I could wipe away tears. As I look back, that white handkerchief made me realize that more than the piece of white cloth that they gave me, they gifted me with their time. Someone cared enough to take the time to listen. I may not remember who he was, but I pray he'll never stop offering his white hankies because this sincere gesture could mean more than he'll ever know.

"And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." -- Philippians 4:7

--with faith and gratitude,
Elle