Trekking poles and the Holy Spirit

DSCN0248.JPGI’m a hiker. Correction: I want to be a hiker. I am an amateur hiker. There are expert hikers out there. I admire them and watch them to see what makes an expert hiker an expert. My “gear” is a dead giveaway that I’m not a professional. I recently bought my first pair of hiking boots, their lack of wear is like a neon sign flashing: NOVICE, NOVICE, NOVICE. I carry a boring backpack. I don’t have a Nalgene water bottle or a Patagonia hiking shirt.

As a pro-hiker watcher, I’ve been utterly befuddled by trekking poles. While I’m generally easily impressed with hiking gear, those darn poles have always looked sort of ridiculous to me. It looks like someone is trying to ski where there’s no snow. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how in the world carrying a couple of sticks through the wilderness would make navigating the trails easier. But the expert hikers use them.

My husband and I planned a weekend of hiking for our 15th anniversary. Yes, we really did that. Some couples celebrate their anniversary in Hawaii or at an all-inclusive resort in Mexico or on a cruise. Not us. We try to kill ourselves. On our way out of town we made a stop at the outlet mall and on a whim I bought a cheap set of trekking poles. Bright yellow ones. After we checked into our cabin and grabbed a quick lunch, I laced up my (brand-spanking) new hiking boots, grabbed my shiny trekking poles and we were off.

As we arrived at the trailhead, I tried to figure out my poles. There are multiple places to adjust the height and convoluted straps for your hands. I felt like a little girl playing dress up, trying to balance in her mom’s heels and keep her purse on her shoulder. “Am I doing it right? Do I look like a moron?” I asked my husband as we hiked along. I would walk with the poles for a while and then fold them up and put them away when I felt like a complete idiot. After a bit I’d get them back out and try them again. The hike took about 2 hours and by the end I was using my poles more than I wasn’t. I passed them to Eli (hubby) for him to try and after just a few seconds I missed them. We were climbing up some rock stairs and I realized that the silly sticks were actually making it easier. When I didn’t have them, I wished I did.

The next day we tackled a 7 mile hike. It was somewhere around 1,600 feet downhill to an impressive waterfall and then something like 10,000,000 feet back up (I don’t even know how that’s possible but I swear that’s what it felt like). On our way down we commented about how difficult it was going to be to get back up. Truthfully, the trip down was no cakewalk…I complained….a lot. Once we reached the destination and admired the waterfall, I decided I was glad we had done it and I determined to NOT COMPLAIN on our way back up. Every time I would feel a gripe brewing I would squash it with a praise. “I’m thankful for my legs. I’m thankful for my feet. I’m thankful I don’t have ingrown toenails. I’m thankful for shade. I’m thankful for the breeze. I’m thankful I don’t have asthma. I’m thankful for my husband. I’m thankful for our kids. I’m thankful we didn’t bring our kids.” And do you know what else? I was thankful for those ridiculous trekking poles.

I still don’t really understand the mechanics of it. I don’t feel like when I’m using trekking poles they are making much of a difference. It doesn’t seem like I’m relying on them or putting much pressure on them. I don’t feel as if they’re pulling me along or lifting me up. Honestly, all I really feel is like I’m not doing it right. But even in my very awkward, incredibly ungraceful way, I was somehow doing something that helped.

As I was hiking, marveling at nature and trying to figure out how the trekking poles were actually helping, I thought about the Holy Spirit. I recently facilitated a 7-week study on the Holy Spirit. God bless the group of women that patiently stuck with me through it. We talked and questioned and discussed and laughed and cried our way through Francis Chan’s ‘Forgotten God’. In the end, I still hadn’t figured it (him) out. How can God be insinde of me? How can He direct my paths but give me free will? How can I know that I am following His will and not my own? I DON’T GET IT. I grew frustrated and then realized that I was missing the whole point.

The Holy Spirit isn’t a puzzle to be solved. It isn’t a hidden treasure to be found. It isn’t a goal to be earned. It is a gift. A GIFT. A gift to be used. It is access to superhuman amounts of love and joy, peace and patience, kindness, goodness and faithfulness, and even self-control. I don’t understand it but I’m trying to live like I own it. I lean on Him when I’m rundown. I think I start each day with 10 pieces of patience and, more often than not, I’ve used them all up by 10:00a.m. But when mine are gone, I dip into the Holy Spirit’s supply. Self-control? I think God shorted me on that when he created me (and gave Eli my share) but when I fail, I can borrow from the Holy Spirit. Joy? Well, even when I’m climbing straight up a 10 million foot slope, I can be thankful for the good stuff.

I still don’t understand it. I still don’t feel like I’m engaging the Holy Spirit correctly. I still feel silly sometimes even talking about the Holy Spirit because I’m such an amateur. I still occasionally ask myself, “Am I doing it right?” I still don’t understand the mechanics of Him. I still don’t feel like I’m really relying on Him or putting much pressure on Him. I don’t always recognize that He is pulling me along and lifting me up. But somehow, even in my very awkward, incredibly ungraceful way, God is helping me along.

Shiny yellow trekking poles and the Holy Spirit. Who knew?




We went marveling this weekend. I hadn’t heard of this activity until a few months ago when it was referenced in a sermon at church. Our preacher told a story about a man who had sweet childhood memories of going marveling with his family on Sunday afternoons. It sounded very idyllic and when my 8 year old leaned over and whispered, “Can we do that someday?” I knew it was a must. So, on Saturday, we went marveling.

If you are unfamiliar with marveling, the concept is simple. Marveling: to marvel. You can do it pretty much anywhere. It really just takes intentionality, a purposeful plan to observe and appreciate what you see. To slow down and engage and notice things that you might otherwise miss.

The weather this weekend was too perfect NOT to appreciate. It was the sort of day that begged to be explored and adventured in. We live an hour and a half from one of the coolest exploring places ever: Ha Ha Tonka State Park. It really is as fun as it sounds! There are ruins from an old castle that burned down and many geological oddities unique to this particular area.

We loaded up with snacks, bottled water and a sense of adventure. Parking was a bit of a nightmare (we weren’t the only ones hoping to soak up some unusually nice February weather) but once we found a spot, we were off! 

 We started at the castle ruins and looked all around what was once a majestic home. You can’t help but imagine what it was like in its glory days. The parties hosted there, the memories made, the stories swapped, the devastation when it all went up in smoke. We tried to “see” where the rooms had been. We imagined the horses pulling carriages up the hill. We admired the view from the front porch.

 We strolled along the sidewalk and admired the old water tower. An incredible structure even by today’s standards. It’s amazing that it was created 100 years ago and is still standing in all its majesty. We talked a little about the science involved in getting the water in there (very little because this momma likes words, not mechanics) and how cool it is that it has windows.

We continued on until the boardwalk ended and we were walking on gravel. The trail led us to the top of the natural bridge, and incredible rock formation that is exactly what its name implies. We then backtracked a few steps and took another trail that led us under the same bridge that we were just standing on top of. It was damp and cool.

  After we’d passed under the bridge the big kids trekked up a steep hill by pulling on an exposed root. A beautiful plan until the root came loose and literally left Evan hanging. Their trip down the hill was less than graceful but they all survived. Muddy, but alive.
 We continued along to a huge rock wall. There was water dripping down it, from a source we never found. The kids rinsed their muddy hands and studied the layers of the rock. They peered in the holes of the rock….not too closely though, because who knows what’s living in there!

 As we journeyed along we heard a commotion from behind us, back under the natural bridge. Emma couldn’t control her curiosity and ventured back to see what the ruckus was about. Someone found a snake! And let it go! This was a problem for all of us because we would have to go back under the bridge to get to our car. When the time came the kids bolted through there at lightning speed. No snake was going to get them!

It was a great day, but not as idyllic as the story that was our inspiration. Sprinkled between photo ops was a fair amount of whining. A little bickering. I’m pretty sure someone punched someone else. Maybe twice. We had a poop emergency (two if you count the dog poo Evan stepped in) and at least 2 kids fell. The kids took turns wanting to quit and go home (at least they didn’t all revolt at the same time). It was deemed both “the best day” and “the dumbest hike” at different times. They marveled at nature and I did too. But I also marveled at THEM. These little people that step in poop and fight and argue…..they’re just so cool. The way they process things and see the world, their uniqueness, their similarities, their quirks, their tendencies…….they are simply marvelous.

Marveling was a success for us. I definitely recommend it and can’t wait for our next adventure. There’s a big, beautiful world out there. Get out and marvel in it. You’ll be so glad you did. 

Have you marveled before? What marveling memories have you made?