Dark Path

You really haven’t lived until your eyeballs are frozen, and you have lost all feeling in your fingers. When I bought tickets to go on a luminary walk in the winter, it sounded peaceful. An event named Candlelight and Ice was so appealing because we had not seen one flake of snow. It was a deceiving offer as it presented itself in October when the days still were sunshine filled, and the wind was warm. Not wicked cold and blowing sideways. And, the sun disappears after not making much of an appearance by 4:30. 

We made our way to the wildlife rescue that was a half-hour away. The temperature was only going to drop more, so I figured if we got there earlier, our chances of dying from hypothermia would be less. Apparently, so did everyone else. There were spaces available for ten cars at the most, and at least seventy-five of us had shown up right when it began. I had to drive away from where we were supposed to enter and park on a side street. 

This added to our time out in the elements where you can see your breath. Something that you would never think about and take for granted suddenly reminds you that you are still alive. 

At first, the fresh air feels decent because we are locked up so much with a furnace running full blast. You breathe it in, wondering why you haven’t done this sooner. By the time you dodge traffic and get back to where you started, it is beginning to occur to you that you should have dressed warmer. This is when your lungs start to let you know that they are not accustomed to taking in air that has come straight from Siberia. 

When you look around during times like this, people are basically all foreheads and eyebrows. Not an inch of bare skin is visible, and everyone moves stiffly because their arms and legs are restricted by limited mobility. They have put on layers and stuffed themselves into jackets and ski pants. The frigid air is filled with the high squeaky sound of nylon rubbing against nylon. Everyone is trying to move quickly, but they are going nowhere. 

You know that all of these people are some of the same ones that were at the Sunflower Festival in August when the temperature hit one hundred degrees, and the suffering was the opposite. Just so you can get that perfect picture of fields teeming with vibrant yellow flowers, you traipse through the dirt that kicks up dust, so you go home a dirty mess. 

“I have your name right on my list,” the lady said. “You can either go to the right or the left. The one to the left is the longer of the two.”

This was to lead us through the woods with the two trails to choose from. If I have taken the time to drive thirty minutes away from home, I will not take the mini version of anything. I am going to make sure that I drag my frozen corpse down the one that is going to give me the whole experience that offers the bluest lips and most windburnt skin. 

Both of us stopped for a minute and decided where to house our phones so we could easily access our cameras. I had on enormous gloves that were three times the size of my hands, so zipping up a pocket was a miracle. In this type of situation, you want to expose any part of yourself as little as possible. 

But then it happened. I saw how beautiful the candles were glowing on the trail ahead of me. So I removed one glove with my teeth and was going to capture it. Right as I was going to take it, two kids ran ahead of me and started tripping and falling all over each other. Then the pushing, shoving, and the wrestling began. 

There went the idea of peace as they beat each other up in the snow. 

This is where the ‘ice’ part of my night began as my right hand became immovable.

“I have to put my fingers together inside of my glove,” she said.

I did the same thing as I moved ahead. Now I was walking with fists inside of my gloves, trying to get them to return to normal, and just as they did, I saw another picture-worthy moment. Thus, began the freeze and thaw process. 

“Weren’t there supposed to be animals out here? Didn’t you say we would see deer or owls?”

“That is what the description said. I think it said if you looked close enough, you might see something.”

If your eyes are still functioning. 

“All the wildlife are smart and have gone someplace warm, unlike us,” she said as both of us felt our legs beginning to go numb. I do pay a mortgage on a fully heated house, so why would I go outside and put myself through that?  

Because it’s pretty.  

There is something that calls us into nature, even if it is miserable. Later, we tell everyone we went, but during it, you are wondering why you came.

I have had the same experience with God. You recognize the still, small whisper telling you to do something and then wonder why you are doing it. It doesn’t make any sense, it feels so uncomfortable, and you don’t have to if you don’t want to. But, you do it because your relationship with heaven is more important than any other thing you can think of.  

During a time when I had next to nothing to live on, I was in a mall with my two daughters. I glanced over at a young couple sitting a few tables away from us in the food court. I had a twenty-dollar bill in my wallet that I was hanging onto. I was limiting what I was eating to be sure that my money would last longer and that they had everything they needed. 

I wasn’t trusting God fully at the time to help me, and I lived in fear. Yet, when I heard the familiar voice say, offer them the money, I pushed my chair away from the table and told my daughters I would be right back. I didn’t give it a second thought as I walked over to them. They both looked up at me.

“I am supposed to give you this,” I said. Whenever I have done this, people look surprised. I noticed a newborn baby in a carrier sitting next to them. I hadn’t seen it from where I was. 

The young mom said,

“We were just talking about how we needed to buy more diapers, but he doesn’t get paid until tomorrow. We don’t have any extra money right now.”  

“Then take it,” I said. “It’s yours, not mine.” I had just relieved the burden of another and forgot all about my own.

That became a pivotal point in my walk with God, where no matter how much I felt I was living the unbearable, I would be a giver and act on it when I was told to. It takes a bit of sharpening of spiritual hearing because all of your logical parts will scream and tell you not to listen. Every single reason you should not do what you are hearing will manifest itself. So I had learned to move fast. Don’t think. 

I had read this in the book of James,

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear! Those who hear and don’t act are like those who glance in the mirror, walk away, and two minutes later have no idea who they are, what they look like. (Message)

I didn’t want my faith to be dead. 

As I walked in the cold air amongst all the softly glowing bags and containers that lit my way, I was reminded of this great verse from Psalm 119:105 that tells you who God can be to you, if you allow it,

By your words I can see where I’m going; they throw a beam of light on my dark path. (Message)

(This may or may not have been when my legs lost all feeling…)

Make Your Way Home

The walk home from middle school was only a mile, but it felt like a million. I packed my books into my canvas bag, slung it over my shoulder, and zipped up my coat.

I pushed open the exit door, happy to leave the place behind. I never felt like I fit in, and I didn’t try all that hard to. I thought my peer group was immature, and I couldn’t bring myself down to that level. I had already tried smoking at 11, felt incredibly guilty, and that was all the farther I was willing to delve into juvenile delinquency type behavior.

I had friends in elementary school, but they had chosen to follow the road of least effort and do drugs and other activities I didn’t care to participate in. I kept dodging their invites, so they deemed me an outsider who thought she was superior to them. When I didn’t bow down to the peer pressure, they ridiculed and threw me aside.

Because of the so called rejection and my decision to walk away, I didn’t trust anyone. If they could turn on me like that, who else would? So I shut myself off and kept a safe distance from everyone.

It had been awhile since his harassment began, and like a winged creature, he would swoop out of nowhere and follow me. I had no protection other than to push the ignore button. He was two years younger than I was, so quite a bold move on his part to try and gain my attention.

His approach was aggressive as he would invade my personal space by standing in front of me, blocking the way. Like a small, yapping dog, he would say vile things. None of what streamed out of his mouth was frightening; it just made me angry.

I generally just kept my eyes locked straight ahead and my hands in my pockets. I said nothing in return and kept on moving as best as I could. Inwardly I could not believe how demented this kid was, and I did not indicate that he even existed.

I had been trained at home to treat my older brother that way. My mom had told me that my reaction would determine whether the situation would halt in its tracks or keep going. I had learned to breeze past my sibling, not giving him the satisfaction of my time. He was left standing by himself with no one to torment.

I was applying that theory to this situation, but it didn’t seem to be working. This troll wasn’t backing down. He had been doing this since the first day of school, and it was now mid-February. I could have told my brothers to handle him, but I felt that was an unfair advantage because they were double his age. On some level, I knew he was a mess, but I was hoping he would get bored and leave me alone.

As usual, he was hiding behind a tree and jumped in front of me. This game was so old and predictable. That particular day, the air was skin burning cold with a wicked wind, and my legs felt frozen with frostbite.

He started in with his usual litany of talk as I tried to escape. I crossed the street, he followed close by, running in circles around me, hurling disgusting comments. I could see my breath in the air as I sighed and made a decision. I stopped and turned around to face him.

He was shorter than me, with a height not even to my shoulders. He seemed to think this was the victory he had been longing for. The big moment had arrived, and he felt he had wooed me with his words. A crooked smile spread across his face. Another surge of fury went through me, and what he didn’t see coming was my gloved fist making contact with his nose. I purposely tried to have him feel the impact of the ring I had on my middle finger. The cold air added to the pain of the punch.

“You hit me!”

I dropped my book bag to the ground, ready to do it again. It felt good to unleash on him finally.

He crouched down at my feet while I
towered over him.

“My nose,” he wailed.

I didn’t feel the slightest bit of remorse. I was more than ready to do it again.

He stumbled back to his feet, covering his face.

“I’m telling my mom!”

“Really?”

I picked up my bag and said,

“Where do you live? I will come with you and tell her everything you have been saying to me.”

He looked like he would have rather died of a stroke.

“Let’s go!”

His target and object of affection had now turned the tables on him.

“Get away from me!”

He started backing up, and I moved in closer. Half looking at me, half beginning to run, he began to flee, but I pursued him. The hunter had now become the hunted.

“Leave me alone! I’m telling!”

“I know. Let’s go tell!”

He broke out into a full on run, and so did I despite the ice. When he rounded the corner, I stopped, and he went on without me, never to bother me again.

Sometimes in life, you have to rise and put a stop to things that are a nuisance. If we passively sit by and let situations or people push us down, we have given away our God given power. Whether we surrender it out of fear or to be “nice”, there comes a time when we have to get honest and cut ties with it to be our authentic selves.

The pest appeared to be intimidating, but he fell like a house of cards when it came right down to it. While I had to fight back physically, most battles will be mental. We will have to go toe to toe with thoughts like worry, low self-esteem, or negativity. Putting them in their place will bring an end to the disruption. Some may linger and taunt relentlessly, seemingly hindering your purpose and destiny. Still, if one keeps persistently refusing to accept the illusion, a new mindset will knock out the false one.

In Romans 12:2, we are given great advice on how to silence the bullying thoughts that plague us:

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. (NLT)

You can shut off the unnecessary noise through prayer, filling one’s mind with positive news and acting on the instructions of heaven. When you decide not to allow it anymore, God will clear your path and pave it with peace as you make your way home.