This is a guest post from my friend Amy Wolff. Amy is not only an exceptional mom and public speaking coach, she’s also one of the most insightful people I know. You’re going to love what she has to say.
In August of 2003 I went on an intense backpacking trip for six days in the Sister’s Wilderness in Central Oregon. There were 12 of us, two leaders and ten students from my university, preparing to be Residents Assistants. This experience, named ‘Walkabout’, was part of our training.
I had been camping before, but this time was different.
We slept under stars. We ate spaghetti out of mugs. We filtered water from streams. And the most shocking: went to the bathroom in the woods (not my favorite).
I was completely out of my element. We didn’t shower, put on makeup, or listen to music. I had no watch or phone, no concept of time except the movement of the sun. And I was wearing the ugliest hiking boots ever, with tall wool socks. A fashion statement indeed.
And yet, to my surprise, being out of my element was completely exhilarating.
Even the part I had been dreading the most—24 hours alone in the woods—didn’t end up being as bad as I thought. Realistically, it was the not being alone that worried me. What animals were keeping me company? I couldn’t help but wonder. I survived the night with only minimal bug bites (and minimal sleep, unfortunately).
But the greatest lesson I learned came mid-trip. It was a day of climbing steep, rocky terrain. I remember getting into a rhythm with the pair of boots in front of me. Watching them, studying them as I followed, making sure I didn’t slip and fall down the side of the mountain. My eyes stayed glued on that path, focused on the boots in front of me.
At first, it wasn’t so bad.
But after climbing and climbing and climbing, I had to stop for just a second. I put my hand on my hips, took deep breaths, and looked up.
That’s when I realized: I was surrounded by the most beautiful terrain I had ever seen. There were white capped mountains, a rushing river below. I saw acres of what looked like thousands of telephone poles, trees which had been the victim to wild fires years ago. It was an overwhelming sight.
My breath escaped me. I was dumbfounded.
Had I been missing this the whole time?
In that moment, I didn’t hear an audible voice, but I did feel God unravel an invaluable life lesson inside of me—one that has come back, like a catchy song on repeat, over the last 10 years.
It went like this: “Look up.”
I was so focused on the trail, so focused on keeping up, so focused on not tripping, I had missed it. I missed the beauty surrounding me. I had forgotten to look up.
It’s so easy to miss the beauty of life, isn’t it?
We focus on our mistakes, or the risk of making one. We are preoccupied by juggling our filled-to-the-brim schedules. We’re simply trying to keep up with life’s crazy current.
We fix our eyes on computer screens, smart phones, televisions, and day planners forgetting to fix our eyes on Jesus and the beauty around us.
On the sixth day of our trip, I was the first one awake.
I sat with my journal, pen poised, with eyes wide open to the beauty around me. The eerily-still lake,the vast variety of green hues,the surrounding hills. Clouds were hugging the snowy tip of the mountain we were about to summit that day.
A few minutes later, my leader woke up. I pointed out the majestic mountain to her, and she hastily got on the walk-talkie to contact other groups on the mountain. Evidently those weren’t wispy clouds.
They were smoke. We had to evacuate.
Not only can looking up reveal beauty, it can reveal danger, too. Lift your head. Look around. Take inventory. Open your heart. Sit in silence. Become aware. And embrace the journey.
If I look up from my computer screen right now, I see two beautiful daughters begging for my attention. Adventure beckons!
What do you see when you look up?
Amy is a public speaking coach for a company called Distinction Communication based out of Portland, OR. She blogs in her spare time at amynwolff.blogspot.com and likes to stay connected via Linkedin. Amy is a lucky mom of two beautiful girls, Avery and Harper, and wife to one lucky husband of 8 years, Jake.