The Longest Hike

My friend Missy is one of those kinds of people that you don’t ever forget. One afternoon over the Christmas holiday, I received a voicemail from her. I have not heard from Missy since I moved out of North Carolina. She is smart and sincere, beautiful and deeply honest.  She mothers two handsome boys and is a gracious and courageous wife to her husband.  For a brief period we were single at the same time, and it was always a comfort to be able to talk to someone who ached as I did for the Lord to send Mr. Right along.  Listening to her voice on the message she started reminiscing about a trip we took together years before and the sound of her laughter had me leaning against the kitchen counter laughing myself at the memory!  God used it days later to show me some important things about up hill climbs.  

Missy is the typical thin athletic, go-getter who may or may not still eat the same things, the same way, at the same time, in the same place, she did 20 years ago!  Basically, she is predictable!  I learned this the hard way years ago when I invited her on a ministry trip to Hawaii with me.  We scheduled a few extra vacation days in between my conferences and Missy, being the planner, had some scheduled activities to get accomplished while we were there.  

Missy loves hiking, and she had mapped out a hike for us on some trail in some park in Kauai that was supposed to be “the most amazing hike ever.”  It was about two miles, she had said, and she would carry the back pack with our snacks and drinks in them.  We parked the rental car and set off for this amazing hike.  An hour into the hike I started realizing that this was not turning out to be a low-key two-mile hike!  The trails were thin and ragged.  I was sweating hard…that is never a good sign.  I slowly turned into the nagging child in a back seat, repetitive in asking, “Are we there yet?” I started every ten minutes asking her that question because after all, she was the hiking expert!  Two hours later, still trudging along cliff walls, I could feel my Christianity leaving my body and the evil sweaty-hateful girl emerging.  It was around that time that I lost my footing (somewhere 100 paces behind Missy’s chipper whistling-dixy pace) and slid into a mud hole.  Oh, did I forget to mention it had started raining?  Yeah, well the rain had loosened the trail and created puddles of muck along the way!  Snow White (AKA, Missy) heard my sliding yelp and stopped singing to the animals long enough to find me head first in the mud!  I begged to go back but she insisted we were almost there and said it would be a beautiful site to make it to the end and to sit by the ocean.  As a chubby mud-soaked girl looking up at the skinny chick with her stupid name brand hiking shorts and matching shoes I had thoughts to throw her off the cliff!  Composing myself and wiping the mud off my face I sucked it up and limped the remaining way down the trail.  

Finally, we were at the breathtaking beach!  We sat down and I waited for my snacks and drinks to be handed to me from the pack on Missy’s back.  I was starving!  Missy pulled out two bottles of water and two apples and handed me one of each!  I remember looking at her in unbelief.  That’s it?  I have just hiked 4-bleeping hours on Mount Kill-Me and look like I mud wrestled with an alligator, and she did not have the decency to make sandwiches and bring chips and for God sake, a diet soda?  What??? 

The frustration in me boiled over and I think I went off on a conniption about water and apples and what kind of a person does that!  Reality hit and now it’s no longer about water and apples but the hike back.  All I recall after that, is shouting at people coming back on the trail to turn around unless they wanted a hellish experience.  Missy laughing all the way.  

Later, after showers and a hot dinner we laughed until we cried at how funny the whole thing was.  I had forgotten that hike until two weeks ago and Missy’s voice was on the phone remembering it while remembering me.  I needed that hike that day to cause me to remember what I had not thought too, until God reminded me.  You see I wasn’t prepared mentally for that hike that day.  I had not predicted what I would suffer in the hike.  Funny thing is, I became so wrapped up in the physical cost of the hike that I can’t really remember the view. We were on the most exquisite trails chiseled along the Kauai mountainside overlooking water so blue it didn’t seem real.  I had become so frustrated by the difficult climb that I could not enjoy the journey and had missed the view.  Life is like this sometimes for us.  We are so consumed with what God isn’t or hasn’t done, that we miss the view to where we are going.  I am pondering this today and hearing God say not to miss the view during the next climb.

2014 is over but we start a new trail.  I am praying that this climb in 2015 has me taking time to enjoy the view.  Maybe, I’ll see my friend Missy this year and we can laugh again about long hikes, sliding trails, mud holes and yes, 2 bottles of water and a couple of apples.  

-Rita Springer

God, Family, Turkey & Grandmother's Apple Pie

The Holiday’s have always meant something more to me then just a time for turkey and gift giving.  Growing up in extreme poverty, the emphasis was always placed on us being together as a family.  My grandparents, on my father’s side, had a beautiful home and believed you paid cash for everything.  They even had money saved in old baby jars in their closet. We would pack up and take the two-hour drive to see them for Thanksgiving and they would come to us at Christmas.  Just walking through the front door of their home was a memory itself - the smells that came from the oven & my grandmother in an apron dusted with flour.  It was really always just like the movies.  

For people living in extreme poverty we seemed richer then kings in those moments.  There were two TV’s in their house, one in color and one in black and white.  The Macy’s Thankgiving Day Parade was always on the color TV and us kids would gather and watch the Twilight Zone Marathon on the black and white one. When the turkey was done, we would gather around the table together and give thanks.  Maybe then it seemed the day was about food and clear TV to watch, but I remember the conversations and the feeling like they were my family and we had something going there that was like a keepsake.  We were establishing traditions that I carried with me, and I banked in all in my memory, even exactly how to cook a turkey and all the trimmings. 

It says something when you become aware of your surrounding to make mental notes you don’t even know your making.  I realize now more and more that being in the presence of what was happening then shaped and caused me to become more present now.  I wasn’t trained or taught how to be a great cook or set a table.  Maybe there was a lesson or two along the way, I can’t remember that clearly, but what I do remember is the way the house smelled and looked and can still see my mother and grandmother basting a turkey and boiling potatoes.  I can see my grandmother’s hands cutting a crust for a pie and dumping cinnamon sugared apples into the pie pan before sliding it into the oven.  

God is like this.  His presence is so similar.  To be in the atmosphere of His presence and just be around him causes us to learn his mannerisms and his attributes.  He surrounds the air with the contentment of who He is and there is family and safety in His presence.  God is like Thanksgiving dinner and hot apple pie.  He is comfort and home.  When I think back to those past Holiday experiences, I realize that He was always there with us.  He was why we were a family, and He was why we were thankful.  As 2014 ends let His presence come and surround you with comfort and consolation.  He is in the old memories and is ready to make new ones.

-Rita

Sailboats & Symphonies

In my youth I would sit listening to composers like Mozart and pretend I was a sailboat, sailing up and down the crescendos of melodic notes, transforming themselves into waves in the storms that held stories with great emotion.  It was inside music that I felt the safest and most understood.  Listening to music was a detour and an escape from regular life, regardless of how hard it felt or seemed. I remember thinking even then that music had a power to zap me out of a tough spot and into a think-tank of peace. Later in life when I started writing music, it came out of a revelation that God had possibly created music as a way not just to bring him glory, but also to provide for me the grace to keep going.  I have grown to think that the creative arts were a mercy act on Gods part. 

Years ago, I had an MRI after suffering with back issues and then falling off a trampoline with my then three year-old, son Justice.  I discovered that I not only had herniated discs but degeneration as well. The neurologist informed me that all my years of sitting at the piano had complicated the problem. So basically, due to accidents, genetics, and gifting, I have an incredible amount of back pain that surgery would only exacerbate.  I have also discovered that in order to understand anybody with back pain issues, you have to have experienced it or you simply have no idea how traumatic it can be.  If those of us in chronic pain spoke about how constant it was, it might be all that we talk about.  

It is in this area that I have had to trust the Lord many days for strength just to walk. It was during moments of playing and leading worship that the pain would literally stop until I was finished, got up and ended the set. I have stood in prayer lines and been prayed for by fervent pastors and intercessors. I have fasted and believed and fasted again for divine healing that has not yet come.  It is in the healing not coming that God has spoken, encouraged, and ushered me into a place with Him that has built trust and yes- hope.  It is also here that I have heard Him create some pretty amazing symphonies out of my waiting. 

Recently, while laying on an ice pack to relieve strain on my back (after swimming for an hour to try stretching it out), I was in sever pain, frustrated, and quite simply, worn out!  I started praying and asking God why over and over again. I then heard Him began to speak out of Psalm 30:11-12 “You turned my wailing into dancing;
 you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent.
 Lord my God, I will praise you forever.”  How does God turn our wailing into dancing when our wailing can’t dance?  How does He expect us to dance when we can’t walk straight?  How can sack-clothe be removed without healing first? My mind raced, though my spirit was willing to hear Him, even as the physical pain probed to stall His ability to make any sense at all.  It was then that I heard Him through the agony simply say, “I can make a symphony out of your pain.” 

I am a curious sort of girl and God knows just enough of what to say to have me inquisitive enough to follow His trail. After all, my life has been lived with an understanding that pain is a trail to promise.  Every song I have ever penned has a story. That story has cracks and fractures of roots, and veins of long suffering and it’s sometimes longevity of timing. The beauty of creative expression is that it is usually fueled by the struggle to understand what we cannot verbalize in the now. The deepest worship song is sometimes birthed because singing it seems to come easier than saying it.  

“What do you mean a symphony, Lord?  What kind of music do you want from my life now?” I prayed.  It was then I heard Him ask me to think in a way that was a bit outside of the box of how I have ever thought before. He continued to speak: “Imagine with every throb of pain you feel that it is a note being played in a symphony. Imagine every sharp nerve spasm you’re engulfed with as a swell of fortissimo reaching its peak to tell a story.  Imagine your body is swollen with a melody and the ache you feel is worship unto me.”  I sat wondering if I was crazy for hearing this, or perhaps God was crazy for speaking it! 

I love how creative God speaks. I pondered this for a while as my ice pack melted. The truth of it brought me to a place of awe at how God sees and even understands our pain.  I sat there in my misery and did exactly what He asked.  I allowed that afternoon of physical agony to become a symphony of praise.  It has become a way for me to get through times when healing and relief have not manifested themselves in the way I desire. There is something creatively powerful about pain having to bow the knee to God and become worship.  I wonder if God sees even our obedience more as the notes on a musical sheet of orchestrated symphonic brilliance! 

I am no Mozart nor Bach, but I am a huge believer in a God who gave them what they gave us, to give me whatever He can, to accomplish all that I need to in this life. That symphonic moment with the Lord does not have me asking for healing any less, but it does have me sailing boats over the melodies of my physical pain, until in time it produces.