Although the origin is disputed, the phrase, “May you live in interesting times,” is a curse. Calm times are rarely written about in history books. Interesting times are those of war, sickness, and turmoil. We are now living through interesting times indeed. I’m not going to write about fear or how to calm your heart because I have read many other fantastic posts about that already. I know that I can trust God and that He is still here in the midst of the storm.
What I am currently struggling with is the floundering feeling. Schedules are the best. Get up, work out, eat breakfast, go to school, etc. I love regularity because it feels safe and comfortable. Sure spontaneity is good when I’ve planned some time for it. (Yes, I know how ridiculous that sounds.) I am perfectly happy eating the same thing for breakfast and lunch for weeks, even months on end. Adventures of the literary variety are good enough for my daily life, thank you very much.
In my last post, I wrote about going to the Grand Canyon. I was nervous and afraid. Yet, here I am back to tell the tale. IT. WAS. PHENOMENAL. The views were stunning, the companionship was revitalizing, and the experience was one I will never forget. It will be a long time before I forget the pain in my calves, though. I didn’t train as I should have for the walk DOWN and therefore suffered on Friday, but even that was worth it. Aside from resting with the awesome beauty of the canyon surrounding us, another relaxing aspect of the trip was the lack of technology. Down in the Canyon, there is no service. I used my phone to get several incredible photos and to read on my Kindle app but other than that it was useless. With all the excitement going on it was nice to get a true break.
But then we hiked out. Even though I saw other people on their phones near the top, I waited until we completed the trail to turn my phone back on. My niece and I were feeling good so we went ahead to ensure we could pick up our duffels from the mule barn. (Note: for a very reasonable fee, mules carried 60 pounds of gear out of the Canyon for us. Best decision ever.) After reaching the top we took a few photos and turned our phones back on. That’s when I started getting all the texts and emails. Virus spreading. School is closed for the next three weeks. Call me when you get out. So many notifications and so much to catch up on.
It was also much colder at the top than it was just below the surface. Even after putting on my jacket my hands still felt cold. We set aside the phones and jumped in the car to get our duffels but first, we needed directions so we went to the Backcountry Office for help. There I met a ranger who acted as though I was the first person he had contact with after months of quarantine. My family said he was flirting which if it were true would be very sad considering I didn’t exactly look or smell fresh. Anyway, after getting our duffels we headed back to the trailhead to pick up the rest of our group. That’s when it started.
My hands became cold. Really cold. Then they started to stiffen and curl up. I knew everything was not okay. My niece called a ranger and then 9-1-1. God provided for the calmest, kindest medical doctor to be passing by and she immediately offered to assist. Shortly after the ranger arrived the paramedics did as well. I was able to walk to the ambulance with help. There they put me on a stretcher and began to take my vitals. The chillest paramedic in the world calmly chatted with me about my condition. I have a bunch of weird medical conditions that are more annoyances than anything. One of them is Raynaud’s Syndrome. It is a condition that can cause fingers and toes to lose circulation. Normally, I deal with it by wearing gloves and warming my hands and toes when they get cold. The triggers to a Raynaud’s event are cold and stress.
So there I was cold and stressed out laying in an ambulance near the rim of the Grand Canyon. I was given a warm pack and slowly feeling and movement returned to my hands. The paramedic said that based on my vitals I was having an anxiety attack. I had too much oxygen which explained my trouble breathing and the tension elsewhere in my body. As my hands warmed up and as we calmly talked my breathing became normal. After several minutes, I signed the form waving the ride to the hospital and we headed toward home.
Now, I’m back living in the weird world I returned to. As I look at all the up in the airs -- when will school resume, when will travel resume, when will this end -- I thought of a phrase I’ve heard at least a billion times - "Lord wiling." If you’ve spent much time in a church you’ve heard the phrase, “Lord willing” or “If God wills.” It refers to James 4:13-14 -
“Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit'— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.'"
We say things like, “Lord willing, we will meet next week for prayer meeting,” or “The seniors, Lord willing, will be heading out on their trip next Thursday.” As I was floundering through my lost schedule I was struck by how often I’ve heard and said similar things, but was balking now that apparently the Lord is willing this twist-turn in scheduling. For the most part, the Lord has willed order and peace in my life, but now He isn’t. Yesterday, I was struck by how empty all those words in the past had been because clearly I was more interested in the Lord willing my expectations than His actual will.
Now we are all thrown into these interesting times together. Now is the time we can demonstrate to those around us that we truly believe James when we give our schedules, hopes, and dreams to God. This is not said flippantly or done easily. Churches are finding ways to bring the congregation together without actually being together. Parents are struggling to work and “homeschool” at the same time. High school seniors who spent years planning senior trips are now mourning the loss of that experience. Morn with them. Struggle with them. This is not wrong. Do NOT tell them, “It’s going to be okay,” because it’s not. It’s hard and frustrating and so incredibly disappointing. Instead, use this as a unique opportunity to bind together as God’s people and demonstrate what we mean when we trust the Lord’s will.
If you are struggling to feel content, look to Phillippians for answers. “I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Resting in Christ isn't the secret to happiness or a surpless of wealth but it will provide contentment in any circumstances.
Seek God. Stay curious. Keep learning. (And train for downhill if you plan on doing any hiking.)
This is it. Today I board a plane for Arizona. I will visit with family and explore Phoenix for a few days then my sister, brother-in-law, niece, and I will be heading to the Grand Canyon where we will hike down to the Colorado River, spend two nights, then hike out. I hope that sentence made me seem like a fearless adventurer who boldly takes on the challenges of nature and laughs in the face of danger. Lest you get that impression, let me correct you - I’m totally freaking out!
Okay, let’s calm down and do a flashback here. (Insert wavy image and flashback sound.) My experiences growing up included going to visit my sister and her family in Arizona. We saw the Grand Canyon, Old Tuscon, Suagoro Park, Sedona, and so much more. I loved our visits out there because the West was so different from my home in the Mid-West. It was wild and big. My parents began to subscribe to Arizona Highways magazine and learn more about the 48th state. Along with the magazine came a VHS documentary about experiencing the Grand Canyon. It covered mule riding, whitewater rafting down the Colorado, hiking, and camping in the canyon. I watched that tape so many times. A documentary about experiencing the canyon watched repeatedly at my own request. (Jaring noise - flashback over) Wait, what? You watched what over and over? Yes, yes, I know, but that’s who I am. It was a way for me to plan something for the future. I would tell my friends that someday I would ride a mule down the canyon. I would whitewater raft on the canyon. I would do something exciting and adventurous. Although I haven’t done any of those things (yet), I am grateful for the time I spent dreaming of adventures and imagining a life beyond what was typical.
Although I do consider myself adventurous, I’m far from being outdoorsy. In high school, I went on a yearly camping trip with my youth group and loved the experience of being with my friends, playing our group’s highly competitive version of capture the flag, and spending time by the campfire singing and talking about God. Those were yearly overnight trips that I enjoyed, but never desired to repeat by myself. Shortly after Jason and I got married we took a camping trip with friends and it was fun, but camping just seemed like a whole lot of work for what is supposed to be a vacation. Last year we went camping in a trailer with a bed and kitchen and that was marvelous. I was all about that. There was still work involved, but it felt more like staying in a moving hotel.
So how did I end up here? Well, my sister said she wanted to hike the canyon and I told her that I wanted to go along too. She and my brother-in-law planned all the details, reserved the campground and transportation, etc. They have graciously arranged everything so that all I have to do is show up. At the time showing up seemed totally doable and I was excited to have said yes. For months I’ve been training on my treadmill using steep incline, doing squats and lunges, and accumulating the necessary gear. I’ve watched the YouTube videos and done all the prep work that I can. My bags are packed and my plane takes off for Phoenix this afternoon. My current mental state? I’m fluctuating between the first and the third stages of pre-activity anxiety. I’m anticipating our adventure after all that training and supply gathering but I’m also freaking out. What if I didn’t train as aggressively as I should have? What if I forget something important? What if I get down there and can’t sleep? What if . . . ? What if . . . ? What if . . . ?
So that’s where I am this morning. Slightly anxious, but trusting my training and my family’s planning. I want to prove to myself that I can do something daunting and come out the other side. I want to explore God’s beautiful creation from a unique perspective. I want to show Logan and the kids I get to spend time with that they don’t have to be seasoned explorers to take grand adventurers. I hope to inspire others to follow and try something that requires courage and determination in the face of nerves and anxiety.
I’ll be posting updates on Instagram and Facebook if you want to follow along. I’d appreciate prayers for courage, reduced anxiety, and a mind open to learning what God has to teach me through this. Thank you, friends!
"A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one."