I was suppose to post this yesterday... But life happened and it was beautiful outside and we wanted to hang out with our friends! Her it is though, a day late...
April 23rd... Last year on this day we were beginning our hike on the Appalachian Trail. We had drove for roughly 15 hours to get down to Georgia, and we were finally at Amicalola Falls, where the AT's approach trail is located. I was so nervous, my stomach was doing flips, I could barely eat... I was so scared of the unknown world we were diving into!
Tom's Mom and Step-father had taken the time to drive us all that way, we had lunch with them at the big fancy lodge in the park before they saw us off down the trail. We didn't get started until 3:00pm. We had 7.9 miles to go before we would even step foot on the Official Appalachian Trail - at the top of Springer Mountain. It took us 4 hours to hike the approach trail and many exhausted rest stops - I complained a lot that I was tired and couldn't go on... says Tom... Pfft... I don't remember that!. When we finally made it to the top of Springer Mountain, the sun was setting and we were feeling extremely awkward. Where should we set up our tent? Where do we get water from? Where do we hang our food bag?? What do we wash our dirty dishes with??? WHAT DID WE GET OURSELVES INTO?!?!?
We felt like everyone else up on that mountain were experts and we didn't have a clue what we were doing. But we were there and we were doing it. And that's what I would like to dedicate this post to... Getting out even when you feel awkward, inexperienced and scared and just doing it! Whatever the it is that you want to do!
Fear is the number one reason why people live the okay lives that they do. People are scared to take risks because they're scared of failure. And I don't blame you... failure is scary! Who wants to waste time and energy on something that you're just going to fail at? Who wants to look like the person who just couldn't do what they set out to do? Who wants to look incapable and unachieved? Nobody. We all yearn for success, and if we give ourselves smaller, easier goals then we set ourselves up to be winners, we set ourselves up to feel satisfied.
But then are we really living the lives we WANT to live? Lives that are soul changing and passionate? Or are we just settling for what is comfortable and easy? Now here's where things get complicated... Or maybe not so complicated?
We have a God, a God who promises to provide for us in every circumstance, He promises to provide shelter, food, clothes - all the means necessary to live... But wait.. most of us have these things... whether you believe in God or not, whether we have a relationship with Him or not. We are capable of providing these things for ourselves even when we are against God. Or are we? James 1:17 says "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father..." So whether we acknowledge it or not God is our ultimate provider.
God promises us something else though, He promises us true Joy, Happiness and Confidence when we come to know Him and let Him into our lives. He promises that our lives will be filled with Purpose, that we shall not fear because He is with us. He gives us the courage to take risks, knowing that He is in control and will ultimately govern our paths. God is constantly knocking at our door, asking if we will let Him into our lives so that He can radically change us... All we have to do is open up our hearts and invite Him in.
Tom and I have done this, we have accepted Jesus into our lives to transform us and guide us. This is how we had the courage to begin the Appalachian Trail and He is how we finished it. God is the one who kept our legs moving for 2,189 miles, He is the one who kept our spirits alive even when we felt exhausted and far from the end. Yes, other people have finished the trail without being believers, but God was still with them, God was still keeping them going, even if they didn't acknowledge Him. But guess what? They missed out on experiencing His Power and Grace! They missed out on the close relationship we experienced with Him, on the joy we felt when we knew He was guiding our steps and putting circumstances in place so that we could keep going.
We got to grow in our faith and be completely changed by His grace, we never had to worry about anything because we personally KNOW the God who created the universe and who has all the power to change circumstances and bring opportunity to those who follow His plans. We rested in knowing the author of all things was with us and for us. We get to team up with God and rely on His plan for us - We get to feel the excitement of doing life with Him and He abundantly blesses His followers!
Life with God is fearless and purposeful. He is constantly revealing Himself to us in even the smallest mundane things. He changes our hearts and loves us like no other. He is perfecting us to live a bold life without boundaries. To not settle with an "okay" life. To live with MEANING and PASSION. Jesus lived an EXTRAORDINARY life and we are called to do the same through Him who created us.
Since the trail Tom and I have noticed the lives people are settling into, we have noticed that the "American Dream" lifestyle is ...well.. BS. The whole white picket fence, fancy house, nice car, "successful job" thing is completely overrated. Seems as though people dedicate their lives to creating this perfect image but wind up unhappy and stressed out trying to make payments and keep up with everyone else. Now I'm not saying having a nice house and a nice vehicle is BS, what I'm saying is that people nowadays think that their stuff creates worth. That having the "American Dream" image shows that you are successful and even if you aren't living a life of purpose and passion, you still look good on the outside, you're still checking off your imaginary life checklist. A life like this is an okay life. It is an achievable goal. It is living for the weekend, for vacations, for better times... It's living for the future. And when the future comes, it leaves again just like that and then guess what? You're back to living for the future, to living an okay life.
We miss out on life when we focus on the future - I'm guilty of this. I do it all the time! I think about the life I want to live instead of focusing on the life I'm living. God is working in me though, changing my heart so that I can see the blessings He has given me, so that I can appreciate every day I live, so that I can take risks and live with meaning. Our hike was a huge wake up call for us, we had to focus on our day-to-day survival, if we looked too far into the future it felt like our hike would never end and even though it was an amazing experience that we sometimes didn't want to end, it was also extremely HARD! And looking at a map that would tell us we had not even gone a quarter of the way was EXTREMELY intimidating! So we focused on getting through each day, one day at a time and God gave us JOY in that.
These are the lessons that God wants us to learn, He wants to mold us into human beings who have a zest for each day of our existence. He wants us to find joy in our everyday lives. And it's only through taking risks and relying on Him that we can achieve this.
God has put it on our hearts to build a life worth living, not a life filled with worthless things. People have these fancy houses that they pay a small fortune for and spend their days outside of their house working to pay them off. They spend evenings and weekends in these expensive homes but the rest of their time is spent trying to afford them. People buy vacation homes, vehicles, toys, fancy clothes, the latest devices... All in attempts to look and feel successful. Oh but don't you look at them and think "Wow, they must be successful to have such nice things." It's strange how we measure success by the amount of money we make and how we spend it. The strangest thing about it is the amount of time we put into being able to afford such luxuries, we end up working our lives away in order to "live our lives"...Our okay lives.
We are brainwashed every day by media to believe we "need" the latest thing or that these things will bring happiness, and we fear that if we don't follow the certain steps to success then we will fall behind everyone and miss out. We won't feel secure and happy.. Because money buys happiness right? But we are being fed lies. It's all to keep us from our true calling, to keep up so busy and distracted that we never have the time to find our passions and really LIVE HAPPY!
If we can refrain from buying such expensive and superficial things, if we can focus on living a frugal and intentional life then we can spend less time working and more time on our passions. More time with God, following His path - He did create you, He does know how to make you thrive... 1 John 2:15-17 says: "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever."
Tom and I have began minimizing our lives, we keep going through all of our "things" and getting rid of everything we don't need. We lived for 5.5 months with the bare minimum, with only the things we needed to survive and now we want to bring those values back home with us. We are working on paying off our school debt and then planning on building ourselves a small home... We want to live with the least amount of debt and expenses as necessary so that we can focus on the things that matter, like spending time and shining God's light on the ones we love. We want to go out on a limb for God, to show Him that we trust Him and to show others that He is ALL we need. We want to rely more on Him and less on this world...
The things of the world will not bring true joy and meaning to your life. Only God can do that. And maybe you won't be called to hike for 163 days, or to try and live a self-sustaining lifestyle. Maybe it will be a call to get into a new field of work, maybe God will want you to speak up about a cause or adopt a child... The possibilities are endless! God made us unique because He has a different purpose for each of us. He doesn't call us to settle into a comfortable and easy life. He calls us to a life-changing, unforgettable existence. So lets stop settling and lets start trusting God and taking risks so that we don't miss our chance at an absolutely amazing life!