I just came back from spending time with five wonderful women hiking the Juan De Fuca Trail on the Southwestern Coast of Vancouver Island. After four days together of laughing, crying, singing, dancing, praying, swearing (not mentioning any names Pam) and overcoming hard things, I feel stronger and less alone, like our little tribe of six strengthened one another, and life feels more doable and much, much shinier. I can't remember the last time I laughed as hard as we did on this trip, each funny moment soothing bits of brokenness inside that can only find healing with a good belly laugh. We laughed at each other and with each other. Denise lost most of what she had in her pack at one time or another. Pam grunted out each step like she was having her limbs amputated. Jane wiped out and splatted into the mud on all fours like a cartoon character. Countless moments like these led to eruptions of laughter that I'm sure traveled from one end of the Juan De Fuca Trail (renamed Wine De Fuca after my ambitious decision to haul two liters of wine in my pack) to the other. Our pilgrimage through the wilderness resembled a Seinfeld episode.
In the midst of our silliness, I think all of us experienced traces of God's love infusing every moment—in the moon dropping its reflection on the ocean waves, in the mossy trees touched by rays of stunning light, in the tidal pools housing all the little critters, in the breathtaking beams of light shining through the ocean mist each morning. Life can feel tedious and monotonous at times, like we're always waiting for something monumental to heal us of apathy, but by the ocean, there are no such feelings. The heart feels free to sing and dance and take deep, long, unhurried breaths. Perhaps that's why Pam and Karen broke out into song and danced on the beach, unhindered and unafraid. Freedom invited us to childlike joy and we were light as feathers, no burdens weighing us down. This day, all is well, and we know heaven has touched this little beach known as Sombrio.
Every once in a while, a person comes along who shines in spite of what is happening in her life. Jane is one of these people. The Juan De Fuca Trail was one of her bucket list adventures. Jane has lung cancer, but she doesn't live from that place. She lives from a beautiful place of wanting to squeeze every last drop of joy from life. Every day she would take her chemo and every morning she would marvel at the beauty and glory around her, and without fail, she would say, "This is such a blessing." When I think of Jane, I'm drawn to a quote by Shauna Niequist: "When you can invest yourself deeply and unremittingly in the life that surrounds you instead of declaring yourself out of the game once and for all, because what's happened to you is too bad, too deep, too ugly for anyone to expect you to move on from, that's that good, rich place. That's the place where the things that looked for all intents and purposes like curses start to stand up and shimmer and dance, and you realize with a gasp that they may have been blessings all along. Or maybe not. Maybe they were curses, in fact, but the force of your belief and your hope and your desperate love for life as it is actually unfolding, has brought a blessing from a curse, like water from a stone, like life from a tomb, like the actual story of God over and over. " Throughout our trek, Jane wore a shirt that said, "HOPE." She is a real inspiration, a bright, yellow, shining light that refuses to be snuffed out.
One of our mornings on Sombrio Beach, I read a devotional on joy. That whole day, joy flowed freely, and we sensed God's great big love. It was as though we had a glimpse of ourselves before life weighed us down with sorrow and disappointment. God seemed to breathe on a joy flame that had long been smoldering, and with one breath it burst into a joy inferno. At the end of the day, we reflected and mourned a bit that this particular day would never be lived again.
Our last morning on Sombrio Beach rays of light fanned out across the beach and at the center was a cross. I felt like we were in the holy of holies, a sanctuary of God's love and light. Heaven reached earth with a Devine kiss. I've never seen anything like it. Standing in those streams of light, birthed deep gratitude for friends, for God's faithfulness to restore souls time and time again, for love that never fails.
I don't think Brian Simmons would mind if I shared the entire devotion I read on the beach that led to a day brimming over with joy. I pray it blesses you too.
Joy Will Get You Through by Brian Simmons (Taken from his book, I Hear His Whisper)
The time of unhindered joy is here. My joy will get you through. No longer will you allow discouragement to win the day, for I am the God of joyous breakthrough! Have you not found gladness as you have served me and prayed to me? This is only a foretaste of the bliss I have reserved and stored up for you. The future will be nothing like your past, so leap for joy, shout for joy, and dance with joy. Have no fear of anything, for nothing can take from you the presence of my spirit. Joy is your portion, your inheritance, and the fruit of My Spirit. Taste the delicious fruit of joy, and sweetness will enter your inner being. Did I not say to my disciples in the midst of their storm, "Be of good cheer. It is I, be not afraid"? These are the same words I say to you today. Sing for joy. Do all that I have called you to do with sacred delight, for I bless you beyond measure, more than hundredfold. Let your joyous laughter be heard in your home, and watch what I will do to change your environment. Rejoice, and rejoice, and rejoice! Joy will get you through into the new place I'm calling you to. Today is the day made for you, so rejoice and be filled with gladness, for I am your God.
I loved our friendship adventure, and the sacred moments shared along the way. I think it's a hoot that we brought joy to so many peoples' lives as we traveled from beach to beach. At least I believe we brought them joy with our shenanigans. Maybe we were only funny in our own eyes. I loved how we worked as a team and encouraged one another every step of the way. I get a chuckle when I think of God belly laughing along with us. I know he thought we were funny. I love all of you and miss being with you.
I can't watch this video without bursting into laughter.