“Vacation” on the Appalachian Trail

Last week I spent six days hiking and living on the Appalachian Trail.  It’s been a lifelong dream to hike the entire 2,195 miles of the Appalachian Trail.  Instead of deciding to be gone from my regular life for 5-6 months, I thought I should start with a small chunk to see if I really wanted to do it. 

At times it was hard.  The hike was 38 miles of up and down steep rocky trails. But there were flat parts, water crossings, and cool breezes. 

At times it was smelly—my feet were worse than a teenage boy and don’t get me started on my arm pits.  It was truly dirty camping night after night without showers or toilets.  But there were glorious moments like the smell of the trail as the rain started or the first sniff of shampoo off the trail. 

At times it was scary.  We saw a bear, a rattle snake and a tiny little black snake.  There were encounters with 78,000 spiders. But there was safety in numbers at the campsites and sharing of food and stories late into the nights.  There was even one night when a senior hiker got up to check on all of us at 2am when a falling branch startled us all awake.  

One of the most rewarding parts of the adventure was the time spent with God.  Each day included a conversation with God.  Each sunrise, sunset, waterfall, and mountainside view got comments of gratitude to the Lord.  Every single hard step included a plea for help.  The long sleepless nights tossing and turning on a blow-up mat included prayers.

And I used the time to concentrate on one particular scripture.  I’d tried to memorize it prior to going and just didn’t have my heart in it.  So, I wrote it in my journal page and carried it with me the entire hike. I looked at it often and while hiking mediated on the words and the context of the scripture.

“It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God.” ~Luke 6:12

He went off to the mountains to pray.  Jesus went to the mountain to pray.  And then He spent all night in prayer.  Have you ever wondered what Jesus was praying for that night?  We know snippets that indicate He was asking to not have to be tortured and have a horrific death.  We know He prayed that He would accept that death if it was God’s will.  But did that take all night?  

Have you ever prayed so earnestly for something that it was like you were conversing all the possibilities with God?  Hours went by and you were still content to continue talking to God.  No answers yet, but just talking to God.  

That’s how I imagine that night was for Jesus. Prayerful conversations with the Father, in which He continuously talked through how He was feeling, how He wished it would go, how He loved the Father, and how He would do His will.  

What a beautiful example of how we should pray.  In the midst of chaos and challenges we can turn to the Lord and find rest.  Constant prayer is like having a consistently open phone line directly to God.  If I’m honest, I rarely take advantage of that type of prayer. I get caught up in daily life and forget to chat with God for everything.  

Except this last week while I was in the woods. I was able to connect to God like I haven’t in quite a while.  In the midst of the beauty of nature and the difficulty of a physical challenge, I was able to focus on talking to God.  And it was a remarkable time.

I want to encourage each of you to take time this week to really focus on talking to God.  Find the hypothetical mountain where you can pray…and then do it without ceasing.

It’s your own personal “vacation on the Appalachian Trail.”

~Emily

Mindfulness Exercises

In the last two months, I’ve started incorporating mindfulness exercises into my daily life in an effort to battle anxiety and depression.  Mindfulness exercises are 3-5 blips where you deliberately concentrate on an activity through assessing your senses, emotions, or memories.

For instance, you could do a “mindful listening” exercise where you put on classical music and then concentrate on only listening for the violin.  One that I really liked was the “mindful eating” challenge, where you take your favorite flavored skittle and really concentrate on eating that one skittle for the 3-5 minutes.  For me, it was the purple skittle, which was a walk down memory lane of my childhood with grape Hubba-Bubba gum.

This last Saturday I tried the “mindful walking” exercise while hiking with the 3-month-old puppy.  The task during the walk is to concentrate on the aspects of the walk for 3-5 minutes.  The crunch of dried sticks and leaves under my hiking boots.  The shimmer of sunbeams coming through the trees.  The tug on my wrist from the puppy’s leash.  The rustle of leaves in the wind. The coolness of the creek as it splashes on my shins as I cross a stone bridge.  The smell of water-moss-mud on the creek beds. The tension in my quads from climbing inclines.

For the first time, I also incorporated scripture in the mindful walking because scripture actually tells us to be mindful and meditate on what God has provided for us (including the nature found during a hike).

It seemed appropriate to start with Psalm 145:5 (NET) which states “I will focus on your honor and majestic splendor, and your amazing deeds.” In the NKJV of the same verse, it states, “I will meditate on the glorious splendor of Your majesty, and on Your wondrous works.”

Keeping in mind the scriptural guidance of focusing on the splendor of God and meditating on His wondrous works, brought a whole new level to the mindful walking exercise!

The tug of the puppy’s leash doesn’t just become a sensation of my arm, it becomes gratitude that God created this puppy and that the puppy is part of our family.  The rustling of the wind in the treetops doesn’t just become a wonderous noise in the background, it becomes a reminder of God’s faithfulness to give me shade from those treetops and a cool breeze on my sweaty brow.

I wasn’t just centering myself in an exercise to control my anxiety…I was actually acknowledging God’s abundant gifts that are literally all around us!  I was following the direction in Psalm 96:12 (NET) “Let the fields and everything in them celebrate.  Then let the trees of the forest shout with joy.”

A mindful exercise that is full of celebration and joy!  I hope this next week is mindful for you too!

~Emily

Mindful Walking Hike copy