I was editing wedding photos this morning, when I looked out my sliding glass door and viewed the sunshine and the woods before me. I knew it was very cold outside but the sunshine called to me. I suddenly felt the urge to take my camera and go for a walk in the woods. Normally I would be too afraid a bear or wolf would get me and I have a fear of unknown dogs or mountain lions and wild cats that is real. Just this past week though God showed me that He would protect us from the wild beasts and it was fresh in my mind. I don’t go around just being all willy nilly and afraid but a girl in the woods by herself and nothing to kill a wild animal? Come on. Yep, I had to trust God since I was feeling this amazing feeling of venturing into the unknown. I couldn’t imagine what views I would find to photograph because I’d never done this before but I trusted that there was a reason even though it was the dead of winter and the trees were barren. I can find beauty anywhere I thought.
Our world is amazing.
I chose a spot in the road that appeared to be fairly easy to enter upon my journey. Not all places had a set spot to climb through. Many of the spots I first came too had rocky footing or so many small trees that I couldn’t get through without being scratched or scratching my equipment. I didn’t know that from the side lines. The forest is thick with trees from the outside but inside it is thick with small treelings and brushes and plants. I had never considered that. I thought you just walked into the woods. I realized there is no path unless you make a path. Interesting.
Once I found my spot to enter, nothing blocked my path from stepping into my adventure from the outside. No one rushed up and said “WAIT! Don’t go.” No fence magically appeared to stop me. I made a choice and I was doing it. I was headed for big things. Many times when we are headed on a path in our life, whether it’s in relationships or work or what have you, it is the same way. We see the path and we secure a way to enter it. We plan and we take control. No one tells us it’s a right or wrong choice. We just have to learn as we go. I was determined, no matter how cold it was, to see this through. I’d prepared in every way. Boots. Check. Layered clothing. Check. Very warm coat. Check. Fur lined hat with neon print so hunters didn’t mistake me for a bear. Check. Gloves with the tip cut off of the index finger so I can still feel my camera buttons. Check. This girl was prepared for what she knew was going to be hard. In this case, the bitter cold. The only thing I wished I had brought was a scarf. Lesson learned.
Many times we do prepare for what we know will be hard. Many times we don’t know as much as we thought we knew.
I even planned my path looking in. I thought I was headed to a large clearing in the woods where the electrical lines ran across the country land. I’d been back there a couple of times on a four wheeler and in my jeep. It’s the only view I could think of. It was the only destination I could imagine. I’d never actually shot any images there and I thought I could get a great black and white for today’s 365 day challenge. I thought I had God’s plan for this figured out. That’s the truth. I felt the calling. I did the planning. I put the puzzle pieces together in my head and thought I saw the end result. I didn’t ask though. I didn’t ask Him what the plan was. I just thought I figured it out.
I started my journey. He was with me and He was leading me. I knew that. And He was. I stepped into the woods guarding my gear from the brush that I had to walk through. I looked back once just to see the view. I had never seen our house from the woods. I am still in love with our house and ever so thankful for God’s blessings.
Then I started focusing on the details and getting into my journey. I started thinking about how BIG God is and how amazing that He wants to spend time with us. I started looking around for things God might have for me that I might miss out on and I became very focused on getting all the little things just right. All the little things for my photography, because that’s what I thought this was about mind you. At first glance there wasn’t a lot to photograph. Nothing that stood out and said “Photograph me, people will swoon.” I kept watching as I walked in the direction I thought I should be going. The path was hard though. Harder than I thought it would be. There was no clear path. I had to go sideways many times. I could not just go straight ahead. Periodically I looked up and around to make sure I was heading the correct way and that I wouldn’t trip as I continued to focus on details. Many times I got smacked with branches on my legs and arms.
There was still a lot of thick undergrowth to go through. I kept side winding and trying to right myself to the area I thought I was supposed to be going. All the while I was headed down hill and the ground was soft in places from the cold winter rains. My footing was unsure in places because there were many rocky platforms and many were crumbling. Remember, I had never done this. I had never gone off in the woods by myself. Well once this past fall I ventured off the road to photograph a creek bed but I have never just gone walking into the woods. Ever. I only had an idea of how I was supposed to be doing this. Suddenly, I saw the parallel between my adventure and our lives and the journey that we are in constantly making choices and following The Lord. We often think we have to accomplish one thing but God has a different plan altogether.
As I walked, I noticed the moss on the rocks, beautiful. What struck me so strongly was that even in winter, when everything around it dies and the plants and the trees have no fruit or leaves and some die all together, the moss is still green and vibrant, it’s still thriving. God created it to do exactly what it’s doing: live in a hostile environment or a wonderful environment – but to live. That moss was right where God wanted it to be. I thought, “I want to be like moss”. God made moss beautiful in a place that truly doesn’t even begin to get it. The plants and life around it don’t hale it as this strong wonderful life form. The rocks allow it to be there and give it a place to dwell. The rocks help it grow beautiful and strong. But the moss looks out of place in the bitter cold of winter. It looks like it doesn’t belong. Yet, it does. It does belong no matter how it appears. God placed it there in the stillness of the late morning sunshine and cold. Suddenly, I could feel a strength that I hadn’t thought of in the plant world and in God’s design, a true strength from just “being” and I could feel a strength inside of me because God was reminding me to just “be” and that He had planted me where He wanted me to be. The moss was so strong just because God had created it and designed it to “be”. We need to be more like moss. Instead of thinking we don’t belong in a place we need to realize that God planted us right where He desired and He makes us strong so we cling to Him, Our Rock. I took it in like the scent of vanilla from a favorite candle. I knew God was showing me, guiding me, growing me.
I was amazingly aware, all of a sudden, that this wasn’t about the photography. I could take some pictures to emphasize the lessons and what I’d experienced but this adventure wasn’t actually about me finding a brilliant image for today’s posting or to add to my portfolio. What I thought I knew was not at all what was actually going on. The photography was just a bonus and the way God lead me into the lesson. This was about the lesson. It was about a few gems of wisdom, and an afternoon walk with The Lord. I began letting myself hear my thoughts more openly in the stillness of the day. I opened my thinking up and made room for the Lord and instead of talking my way through my walk, I started listening my way through my walk.
There were places in my walk that I could not go around hard spots to get through. The way the trees and brush grew I had to go right through the hard spots sometimes. That too is very common in life, isn’t it? Sometimes, no matter how we try not to go through something, we have to. There were also places I had to go around completely because they were blocked with fallen trees or rocky small bluffs that made it too hard to get through. I kept going though as we do in life. At one point I just couldn’t decide where to place my foot. I was still going down hills and I could see that there were lots of fallen little trees and branches under the leaves along with a rocky incline. My foot could easily slide and I could fall damaging me and my equipment. I couldn’t go around. Both sides were blocked with trees and rocks and unsure footing. If I was going forward without going back, I had to go through this passage. I heard God whisper that He would make my path straight and my footing sure. He brought it to my memory like a childhood friend or family get together. I felt so encouraged and I trusted Him. Where I placed my foot was perfect.
Sometimes on my walk, I looked up and changed my perspective. Many times I saw beauty when I did but I knew I had to keep going forward and I couldn’t let anything cause me to stop. Distractions can be beautiful for a moment. Important lesson. We must continue to move toward the place God has us though, no matter how tempted we are to accept what we’ve already claimed. I could of stopped shooting when I got a great sky/tree shot but I know there was something bigger here even though I didn’t have the full story. I kept going. We need to in life as well. We need to go where God is leading us.
Sometimes when I tried to cross a path there were thorns and they tore at my clothes and tried to scratch my wrists and face. I learned quickly to grab a fallen branch and push the thorns away as I walked past them and to get them out of my path. In life there are so many thorns. So many hurts. So many things that leave scars and hinder our walk. We need to look at what the thorns are in our life. God didn’t lead me to run from them but He showed me a way to move them out of my way and continue on without being devastated by them. Amazing.
And then it happened. I came to a place that I knew this was it. This was as far as God was taking me at the moment. There was a creek that ran through the property. Possibly the same creek I’d photographed in the Fall but in a different location. Someone a long time ago had begun clearing the land though and there was no clear path to the creek bed from the direction I was coming at, that would have been safe because of the huge piles of trees and brush and debris and there was no way to cross over it without icy water and horribly nasty mud invading my boots and feet even if I could. There would have been some real pain if I had tried to make it happen. I wasn't properly equipped and I wasn't ready. I had to know when to stop.
I had to know when I had exhausted this moment and needed to move on to what God had planned. I looked around. It didn’t look like I’d accomplished much. I didn’t find that gem of a photograph, though I'd found many lovely ones and many wonderful memories along the journey but I didn’t stumble upon some hidden village that had been forgotten or accomplish anything that the world would shout for joy over. I sighed. "God, what was the point here?" I still hadn't realized the message was the point. The journey it's self was the point. Though I was taking in so much information, I still was holding on to that perfect image. That perfect capture. Then I saw it. A glimmer of a prize off in the distance. A glimmer of an idea that I couldn’t quite attain. I got a shot of it far away so I would remember where I was going, where I was headed. I will know when I’ve come to the place that allows me to capture the actual beauty that is there but for now God gave me a glimpse. It hit me that Life is very much like this. We may see our goals and may be trying to attain them but perhaps we are not at the right place to achieve them and sometimes we need to go down a certain path to learn the lessons but then God will lead us around to the right place to achieve the dream He has for us.The lessons are the journey. We need to embrace them.
One day when it’s warmer and I can be a little more sure of myself and I'm prepared, I will venture back. I think I saw a better path to my left but we will see if God shows me a better way. And maybe this lesson is done. Maybe I don't even need to go back there. Maybe this last gem of an image is all it will ever be.. a memory. That's ok too. I'm looking forward to where God is leading me.
Going back was harder in places than going forward. It was all uphill and there were large rocks that had to be scaled or climbed around. I noticed that the brush wasn’t as thick though and I soon had a clear shot of my destination; my house. As I climbed out of the woods, I also realized I hadn’t gone to some knew journey on my adventure. I hadn’t ended up at a different place. I was back home where I belonged. I didn’t come out of the woods being famous for my photography or holding the most prized image of my entire career. What happened was better than that. I had a little more wisdom. I had a little more hope. I had a little more faith and a deeper friendship with our Lord. I had a little more understanding and inspiration and a reason to share how great God is. I realized that one day I’ll reach the prize. It’s all in how we get there. I can’t rush this. God’s got a plan. I was literally at the same place that I would have been if I hadn’t gone on the adventure, but with a totally different outlook. God is so good.
I looked back at the woods that this morning I thought didn’t seem to hold much of anything in this season and realized that God can use anything, anyone, anyway to share His love with us and wisdom and He can do it in any season, even the seasons that seem barren. The whole world around us is a lesson ground for growth and change. So blessed. Shine your light. I love you. He loves you more. xo - Shannon
I love sharing how I view the world.
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