Switchbacks

It is within the daily moving and working, folding laundry-running errands-garden harvesting-meal cooking-hammer wielding-family rearing small moments that God works.

He doesn’t need to part waters, or feed a stadium full of the hungry to work or change or draw us closer to Him.

If we open our hearts to God, in each moment, without waiting for a church service, or quiet time, or retreat, or energizing sermon,

He quietly works and molds with his mighty gentleness. Lives are transformed,

if we open our hearts

and pay attention to the whispers.

Psalm 25:4 Make me to know thy ways, O Lord; teach me thy paths.

Psalm 143:8 Let me hear in the morning of thy steadfast love, for in thee I put my trust. Teach me the way I should go, for to thee I lift up my soul.

I was paying attention earlier this autumn, while hiking in the White Mountains.

Out of shape and practice, I found myself looking down most of the time. What I saw was step after step of gnarled roots, wrapped around stone, creeping out among the soil packed hard by the travelers before me. Instead of a path straight up, this path of natural stairs led me left to right, right to left, zig-zagging up the incline.

The first lesson He placed on my heart was this: Gnarled roots are either stepping stones that we can push off of to move to the next level, or they are something we trip on. It depends on how much we pay attention or are in shape. I have gnarled roots in my life. Some are bigger than others-aging parents, one sinking deeper into confusion with each season, transitions of children to adult independence and my changing role, career frustrations. Some are small, everyday roots—thwarted plans, the “it’s always something” financial drain of owning a home, a personal hurt or unmet need. If I am unprepared and out of shape and do not pay attention to God in both the big and the small, I stumble. If I am deliberate to invite Him in each moment, He pulls me up to the next step, and I am further along in the journey.

The other lesson He gave me was about switchbacks.

An Americanism from 1860-1865, it means : a highway, as in a mountainous area, having many hairpin curves, in railroads : a zigzag track arrangement for climbing a steep grade

 Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 27 Nov. 2010. <Dictionary.com http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/switchback>.

We are on a journey, climbing a mountain of sorts. The grade is very steep. We see the end. knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. Colossians 3:24

But getting from the base to the summit is a long, steep climb. Going straight up may not be the best path for us. So God gives us switchbacks, those left-to-right, right-to-left walking paths that seem, in the moment, to advance us little, but in the end are a wiser, safer way to ascend. He knows our path and what we need. I found myself frustrated on the trail a bit, thinking that the nearly lateral climb was only serving to prolong the physical strain, and I was all about head down, driving on, getting to the summit so I could rest and soak in the panorama that was promised. And, admittedly, there was a large part of me that was trying to prove that I could keep pace. (I know, writing these words, that God is using them to remind me of what we do, what I do, with my fellow travelers, and how that is not His plan for me.) He reminded me, step after stumbling step, that progress is not always measure in large amounts. The small increments count. They are important and necessary. When it can seem like we’re stuck, not moving forward, it may be that His switchback has led us to exactly where we need to be, providing us with slower vertical movement, but still moving ahead.

I have been looking for switchbacks. It is by looking back over my shoulder, and realizing how far I’ve come, that I am able to value the progress they afford, and appreciate the rest they’ve provided so that I can continue on, without giving up.

Keep your feet up, my Friend. Look back over your shoulder every once in a while and take heart in how far you’ve come. Appreciate the switchbacks.

And pay attention.

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About An Earthen Vessel--Terri Apgar

Wife of one, mother of three, so grateful for God's grace--that's me. I'm just tucked into my bay window, opening my heart to God and trying to be brave about letting Him use all that He has crafted inside me to His glory.
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