The Way

How a Canyon Hike Can be a Spiritual Experience: Week 3 Lenten Reflection

Have you ever had a spiritual experience where you feel so close to God it's almost tangible? I know for me I often feel that way in nature, especially in places of grandeur where mountains are surrounding me. I have found that these moments are when God is reminding me of how much He really wants me to trust in and rely on Him alone.

It's often like a spiritual journey where God just speaks to you through the beauty around you. It makes me think of the movie "The Way" with Martin Sheen. There is something very special about  a long hike. The repeated steps are like a meditation of the soul. You move your body and your mind while your soul gets to take in the beauty. It reminds me of when I used to run marathons. They were such a metaphor for life. But hikes even more so now because I'm just showing up to walk a terrain I know nothing about. I'm not trained for it and getting a medal. I'm getting a deep connection with the Divine, which is much better to me than a medal.

Let me tell you first about the Canyon. 

Towards the end of the hike, taken on the walk back. Trail ahead to the left and canyon to the right.

Towards the end of the hike, taken on the walk back. Trail ahead to the left and canyon to the right.

If you've ever seen or hiked a canyon, you know it's a huge deep almost indent in a mountain landscape where a river flows through. I later looked up the definition which I thought was pretty interesting:

"A deep gorge, typically one with a river flowing through it." Another said, "A deep narrow steep-sided valley formed by a river in the place where there is a little rainfall.”

I thought about this, knowing how much I felt connected to God on this hike and realized the deeper metaphor of God's love, and how His love is deep. The road is wide and his love is a river of life. These verses came to mind:

“And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love us.” - Ephesians 3:18 NLT

“For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” - Matthew 7:14 ESV

“You formed the mountains by your power and armed yourself with might strength. Those who live at the ends of the earth stand in awe of your wonders. From where the sun rises to where it sets, you inspire shouts of joy. You take care of the earth and water it, making it rich and fertile. The river of God has plenty of water; it provides a bountiful harvest of grain, for you have ordered it so.” Psalm 65: 6, 8-9 NLT

If you want to get really deep, it's as if the canyon is the world we walk through - rocky, rugged and rough, and beautiful - and the river is God flowing through at the very depths of it with a constant flow of life.

What's funny is as I walked I found signs of his love...

Every time I walk or hike I find a rock to hold onto that makes me feel connected to God. It's like a reminder that on this journey He's holding my hand. This one was no different. I found one that was a little jagged at the beginning to walk with and one right there on the trial in the water. Each one was a reminder that God is always with it, reminding of us of His great love. I found these and then this one at the destination right in the middle of the waterfall. 

As I walked I just noticed the terrain. Rocks all over the trail, some over three feet high. Some were across streams and you had to balance yourself while walking across (like life). There were almost 10 of these streams to walk across...

The rocks around me had so many layers showing probably how many thousands of years they've stood there, making me feel like my life is so minimal compared to them! What a beautiful example of the depth and layers to life.

That was all just in my surroundings. Inside me was a whole different story. After 3 hours my legs started to get tired. My head wanted me to turn around and give up. My body kept walking and my heart knew I needed to keep going. At one point I even said out loud, "Come on Meredith you can do this."

That's why last week I recommended going by yourself because when you are out there by yourself, it's between you and God. He'll give you the inner strength because he's right there, but you've got to be the one to walk. Not only that, he's didn't bring someone along that you know to push you. He gave you Him to rely on for encouragement. So no matter how hard it gets, how tired you get, you just keep taking the steps. You stop and breathe or take a drink but you do not give up because you know that the journey is worth it because at the end you'll know who carried you. 

I did eventually make it to the waterfalls. I think you can see all 7 of them in this picture below. 

What's funny is there was a woman walking near me the whole time. When I got to that summit, he connected us. I found out about her life; where she's at, why she's doing this hike and what her challenges are in this life. I love to hear people's stories because it's just a reminder that we're all on the road together. What is so cool about our conversation is that we pretty much walked the whole way back together and when we hit the road, the sun started to set all around us.

I have seen some pretty amazing sunsets in my day but that one was glorious and lasted to the very moment we hit the parking lot. It was 360 views all around of color.

All of that glory was just a reminder of the presence of God and how amazing he is that he would create this day. I couldn't believe how perfect it was from start to finish. But, then I could - because that's what God is all about. Every day He gives us the chance to see just how much he loves us. We just have to notice it. No, we don't always get days like I got on Saturday. But every day we can notice how he is working in our lives and we can see over time that nothing happens out of coincidence. Everything is happening just how He plans it. All we have to do is keep showing up for the road ahead.

___

One last thing.

I heard this song when I had just finished my last hike of the weekend in Arizona and it just really encapsulates the feeling I had from the weekend in nature. I will leave you the video and the lyrics. I'm also going to recommend that you watch the movie "The Way" if you haven't seen it and if you are a soundtrack buff like me, listen to the score. I know I've recommended it before but it is one of my favorites for writing and just reflecting. Check it out on ITunes.

"The Maker"
I see You in the sunrise
I see You in the rain
I see You in the laughter
I feel You through the pain

Everything that You have made is beautiful
Oh, my God, I can't believe my eyes
But in all of this to think that You would think of me
Makes my heart come alive

[Chorus:]
Your love is like a mighty fire deep inside my bones
I feel like I could climb a thousand mountains all at once
And I never have to wonder if somebody cares for me
I love the Maker
And the Maker loves me

I see You, You are creation
I see the grandness of Your majesty
The universe is singing all Your glory
I can't believe You live inside of me

Everything that You have made is beautiful
Oh, my God, I can't believe my eyes
But in all of this to think that You would think of me
Makes my heart come alive

[Chorus]

More than just some words upon a page
You've shown me in a million ways
But there is one that stands above them all
Hands of creation on a cross

[Chorus]

 

 

First Edition: Healthy Voice, Faith Food and Fitness Fridays (#HVFFFF): Preparing for my Mt. Everest of Releasing the Body Weight

A picture from the Grand Teton range and some buffalo from our honeymoon from two falls ago. Just notice that single horse in the distance...

A picture from the Grand Teton range and some buffalo from our honeymoon from two falls ago. Just notice that single horse in the distance...

Welcome to the Healthy Voice "Faith Food and Fitness Fridays." I say Faith Food and Fitness in that order because faith comes first in my life. Food is the thing I have to pay the most attention to with God's help and fitness keeps me sane! 

Do you have a Mt. Everest? 

I call this journey of #faithfoodandfitness my "Mt. Everest" because it's huge, not in the sense that I know I've got weight to lose, but in the sense that the journey to the summit is one that is not only physical, but it's seriously mental and emotional, and deeply spiritual and when something takes ALL of me, it's serious. Thankfully, the journey of recovery and my faith has given me the strength to stand and the hope to begin the journey.

Sidenote, as I watch this I've got Netflix playing the movie #theway, one of my favorite movies. The soundtrack often guides me while I write. The movie itself guided my early in my grief journey with Dad and who doesn't love Martin Sheen. I digress.

Let me jump back a bit and tell you that if you didn't know - a few years ago I checked myself into treatment for food addiction. It changed my life and the direction I was going. It gave me tools for living and helped me start feeling feelings again. But it was just a start. The real work began when I got home. For three years, I stuck to it. I wrote a book including those first three years. At the end of those chapters, I shared how I lost my Dad. A few months after I lost him I went back to Florida for a reset button on my recovery, which I also wrote about.

But no amount of prevention or tools or time in the sun could have prepared me for the journey of grief.  As I walked it, I got lax about the food. A little bit here. A little bite there.  And then, life became filled with more than just grief. Life got full - writing a book, planning a wedding, building a home, growing a marriage, step parenting, more loss, and change and new beginnings. Life got INTENSE, and those little bites, kept surfacing. Not only that, a routine of always getting exactly what you need when you need it - was next to impossible. 

The funny part is that no matter how many bites I took, no matter how much the devil tried to get a  hold on me - GOD NEVER let go of me.  He was and STILL is the only power that carries me. He truly is my strength and hope, my creator and my ROCK. It's because of HIM that I am not afraid to scale this mountain ahead.

Last year getting injured and having surgery, God made me sit still. I knew I'd pack on weight no matter what I ate. It was inevitable. When I struggled, I just had to give it to God trusting and knowing that HE would not keep me here. Even then I knew it would be a long journey back to health the way my weight would pack on me so easily. But the whole time I could do NOTHING about my weight except sit, I was forced to rest in him and TRUST him. In the end it made me strong in spirit, even though my body was losing all strength. And now he's bringing me out of it, but it's not happening without MY footsteps.

Losing the weight is my Mt. Everest. Once, it served a purpose and protected me from life's struggles. But now, it serves no purpose. It's just a roadblock to deeper reliance on a God who's got  an awesome plan for my life. Yes life gets rocky, but it's GOD we need, NOT our crutches. Yes, there are times it serves as protection, an outer shell, protective lining from the storms (whether it's weight, makeup clothes or whatever you use to mask the pain). But it never serves a lifetime of purpose. We aren't meant to carry the weight. We are meant to give it to the God who died to carry it FOR Us.

We aren't meant to be all vain and obsessed with being skinny, or having the best body, best workout, or best nutrition regiment. We are MEANT for HIM. 

Seasons are a part of life. We go through them. They affect us in every way. But eventually there comes a time when we've got to get refocused and reset. That time for me is now, not just because I feel physically bad, but because seeing what God just brought me through SHOWS me how much more He's got to carry me through. 

Here's where I'm at. Right now, I'm carrying 45 extra pounds above my healthy weight. That is a LOT of weight. I checked. I found on this site, what 40 pounds is equal to: A Border Collie, a 5-gallon jug of water!, and your average microwave. Hello perspective!

In so many ways, I'm back at square one. Except one and that is in my relationship with God. In a way, I'm more ready than ever because of the inner strength he's given me.

So why am I writing about this? Because I believe I'm called to be honest about this weight and Healthy Voice journey in a world that wants us to NOT be. The world wants us to have it all together. But God wants us to show that we DON'T have it all together, so we can see JUST how much we need HIM. I believe there is NO greater evidence of our need for God in our lives than in our obsession with weight, food and our bodies. I think we have to SHIFT our focus and get out of that obsession so we can live by God's DIRECTION. I know that God didn't keep me unable to workout for a year to punish me. He kept me there to strengthen me - in spirit and soul and mind, so that he could do whatever he had to do for whatever he's got next. He also didn't put this weight on me for me to be ashamed or fearful but to show that WE ARE NOT PERFECT!!! Yes, some of us just have these great bodies but MOST of us have to FIGHT to not pick up the food for an escape. I was never meant to be a Jillian Michaels. I was just meant to be ME, standing in the POWER and strength of a God who LOVES me enough to say, "Hey you don't need that," and I trust Him.

Of COURSE I know I've got a tough journey ahead. I haven't had to lose this much weight in YEARS! But it's not about the weight! That's why I'm doing these Friday blogs on this topic while I walk the journey. They will be about the journey of weight loss with HIM as my ROCK and COMPASS and ROADMAP. Of course I'll share tools that have helped me along the way. But most of all, I'll share how much I need Him. HE made me imperfect. He made me struggle with weight so that I could be a light to someone who does too. If we know HIM, we know he takes our mess and HE makes it HIS message. So Lord, I am giving YOU this climb to my Mt. Everest because it's ALL for you and whatever strength you give me or anyone else on the way, I pray that we know it is ONLY by your strength that we can walk.

By the way, if you aren't sure if I'm really having to do this myself, here is the evidence of my week on this journey:

  • Monday, I got the email in my inbox for the beginner training plan for the Grand Teton Half Marathon from Active at Altitude. June 6th. The journey begins, and BOY are we out of shape!
  • Wednesday, I had a good day. Got to start with some quiet time knowing that God wants me to get rid of this, and asking his help to remove my cravings. I got to talk to my nutritionist about my food plan and that evening I started a Food Audit of my kitchen. It's like hunting for baddies. You get to find all the stuff that has sugar and flour in it, and there's a lot less than I thought (thank God!) but it is DEFINITELY there, and it's GOOD to see it. More perspective.
  • Thursday (yesterday) I posted the picture series on Facebook from my husband and I's engagement three years ago at the Austin Half Marathon. MORE motivation. That's what we look like when we're maintaining our weight and workouts. Let's get back to THAT. It was a great motivator. It's also been a LONG time since we've done our weekend runs, since before the wedding. But we're excited to get back to them, even if we're making it 10 minutes of running at a time, we're out there doing it together and being together. 
  • This morning, at 5:45 I arose. (Yikes) At 6:15 I went down to my basement and got on Skype with my favorite trainer in the world, Mr. Michel Edwards. We did a workout together over Skype and he's guiding me through getting back into physically healthy shape and preparation for the half-marathon. I am GRATEFUL! (even though it was the crack of dawn.)

Mt Everest is in front of me. I'm ready. I'm grateful for EVERY step. To God be the glory. 

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every WEIGHT, and sin which clings so closely, and let us RUN WITH ENDURANCE the RACE that is SET BEFORE US, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.
— Run with Perseverance, 2 Timothy 2:1-13