adventure, Creation, Creator, death, Faithful Living, God, hiking, Lessons from the Wilderness, Life's Storms, Mountains, Nature, Outdoor Adventures, River, Rocky Mountain National Park, Uncategorized, wilderness, wisdom

Trust Your Boots Girls!

In an icy parking lot earlier this week, the footing was dicey, and, at one point, I blurted out to no one in particular, “Trust your boots girl!”  This adage bubbled up from a deeply-etched memory of a time in high school when a group of gals was climbing Mount Meeker in the front range of Rocky Mountain National Park.  At 13,911 feet, it’s the closest I’ve ever come to peaking a fourteener.  At one point along that climb, there was a steep portion, prompting one member of our group to happily call out,

“Trust your boots girls!”

While at Colorado State University, I reveled in backcountry cross-country skiing. I took a 2-day lesson the first time, and the instructor emphasized the need to trust your skis so that you could flow with them as they glided.  Just before moving back to the Midwest for grad school, I purchased a set of used skis and boots from the ski rental store. The next snow, I waxed them up to go skiing. I could not ski! My left foot kept sliding sideways, and the ski itself seemed to awkwardly tilt my boot so I had no traction or control. My husband-to-be laughed at my claims of being an experienced skier. We soon discovered that the store in Fort Collins had sold me skis with two right-footed bindings. Trust your boots indeed.

When learning to kayak in Wales, we practiced rolling in an indoor pool. Despite heroic attempts, I never did master a tip and roll.  The instructor’s advice to trust your skill in the whitewater rapids didn’t sit well with me. I knew if I capsized, I’d be permanently upside-down knocking my head on submerged rocks.  Having once before been pinned under a turtled boat (see blog post Unbounded Joy, 7-31-18), a healthy respect for the water had evolved into an irrational fear of drowning.

It is just common sense to be fully prepared for a wilderness adventure-to have the right equipment and skill set to see you through to a happy conclusion.

When paddling or hiking, you have to trust your instincts, your experience, your companions, and your preparations. It is folly to be unprepared.

Still, you can never be prepared for everything. Accidents happen with no warning. Wind and weather are fickle. Forests catch fire, and rivers and canyons can swiftly flood. What can you trust when the world turns inside out, when trickles of doubt mushroom into cascades of fear for your safety, even for your life?

Proverbs teaches that trust is an outcome of wisdom, and that wisdom, in turn, is the principal heir of a healthy fear of God.

This is not the kind of fear that makes us dread God’s judgment, but, rather, the kind that sees beauty in creation and is wowed by the God who made it. Not fright but reverence. *

It seems to me we prepare for our trip through the wilderness of this world- on this side of the river- much better than we prepare to face a holy God, misplacing our sense of security by trusting in things, jobs, money, ‘safe’ cars, our own thinking. When my husband was in the ER a few years ago with multiple and deadly pulmonary emboli in both lungs, we did trust that the surgeon would do his best to keep death at bay. Still, our ability to remain calm and hopeful (it was surreal to be honest) came from a stronger, deeper, surer Source. From God himself, whom we love, fear, and deeply trust to make the path through the wilderness straight.

I hope you can spend a little down time this winter working out in what, or whom you place your trust. Life is fragile at best, and downright slippery at its worst.

~J.A.P. Walton

* for more on the wisdom of Proverbs, see God’s Wisdom for Navigating Life by Tim and Kathy Keller. 2017.

adventure, Life's Storms, Orienteering, Outdoor Adventures, Saint David, Serving Others, Technical Climbing, Uncategorized, Wales, White Water Paddling, wisdom

Saint David, the Wilds of Wales, & Doing the Little Things

March 1st is Saint David’s Day. My family has always celebrated it with pride, and not a little relief that the winter months are behind us. My great-grandmother was an immigrant from Wales in the 1880’s. Her father left the poverty-stricken slate mines of north Wales to settle in eastern Iowa as a farmer. Nearly one hundred years later, I found myself a student at Trinity College in south Wales where I could study Welsh (a difficult, guttural language to be sure). My other classes were Russian History, Outdoor Pursuits, and Chorale, because when you are in Wales, you must sing!

It was the OP class that captured my heart. Over 12 weeks, we learned technical climbing on the steep western cliffs facing the Irish Sea, whitewater kayaking in the wild, foaming rivers of Wales, hiking up the brooding mountains of the north, and the sport of orienteering. It challenged me physically, and I learned quickly to trust ~ my peers, the ropes, the kayak, and the compass. When we live with our petty suspicions about the motives and nature of others, it is wonderfully freeing to learn, experientially, that trust is a virtue to be cultivated.

My brother is named after Saint David, who was a teacher and a monk in the 6th century. Native Welsh, Saint David established Christian enclaves throughout the country. He was no stranger to challenges, and it was his faith that led him on as he shared the gospel with Atlantic pirates and poor Welsh villagers alike.

His trust in God never wavered. On his deathbed, he admonished people to be joyful, to keep their faith, and do the little things in life.

In future posts, I will describe the thrill of running rapids, racing through deep snow to find the orange control flags at an orienteering competition, and rappelling down the steep sea cliffs in a wildly beautiful, breathtaking country. But today is Saint David’s Day, March 1, and I am thinking about “doing the little things” that, when added up, make for a life of meaning and service…things like sharing a meal, sitting with the sick, imprisoned, or widowed, taking on extra at work so a co-worker can get a break, driving your car without ranting at other drivers, keeping your space neat so people don’t have to live with your mess. Joining folks in their sorrow. Saying thank you.

It’s rarely about the thrill, is it? Life is about trusting God that he made you to lighten the burden of other people. It takes trust to step backwards off a high cliff. To paddle over a waterfall, or to run in deep snow after hidden clues. But to trust in God is so much grander. It means that all will be well, even as waters pour over our heads, even as we slip and fall, even as we persist in the mundane. The secret is in staying focused on the little things of life! Happy Saint David’s Day!   Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Hapus!

~ J.A.P. Walton

Photo Credit: Google images (because mine are all slides!) My chorale class sang a Christmas Concert here on a cold, snowy evening in December 1978.  For more information about Wales, see here: Wales | History, Geography, Facts, & Points of Interest |      Wales travel guide