Tuesday, July 26, 2011

When Water Flys...

Deep in the woods of Tennessee, there's a cove where a creek flows that leads to a falls where the waters fly.

Waterfalls are mesmerizing.
There is something so thrilling about watching water ----- fly.
It doesn't last for long --- but for the few moments the water leaves the trappings of the shoreline --- there's a powerful thrill that fills the air. Its beauty and strength can be felt most fully when it sheds its burden of earth.

Our hike carried us 2.5 miles deep into the woods. No roads, just a small rocky path. We'd been there before, we knew the treat that would be ours at the end of the hot, muggy trek through the woods.

At Abrams Falls we can swim in the pool of water at the base of the falls and hide from the madness of the swirling world around us. Sin and hurt and confusion and troubles can be left at the edge of the trail --- we shed our clothes of burdens and dive into the waters. The hike in has made us most thirsty for the cooling waters. And so we indulge.

Not every one lets the waters wash away the sweat and grime of the trail. Some just sit and look - and long - and wish. Maybe they can not swim. Maybe they are afraid of the dark depths of this remote pool. It's true that some have died here - they jumped from the top of the falls and breathed their last air on the way down. The rushing waters are to be respected, not tested. They will win if they are pressed.
But following the silent rules laid out by the powerful waters ---- can carry you to a place of deeper knowing that you could ever experience by sitting and watching from a safe distance. It's a matter of surrendering and obeying what is more powerful ---- with courage.

Several years ago Steve discovered that you could actually get just behind the falls. Imagine - there's more than just what we can see in front of flying waters.

Last week, during our annual family camping trip to the Cove, we found ourselves following the path to the falls at Abrams Creek once again. This time looked very different to Steve and i as we were very aware this peaceful mountain path is a long distance from where our lives are carrying us. We've walked this trail with little ones in our arms and diapers and sippy cups packed on our backs. We've swam in this hidden pond with little ones clinging to our necks, thrilled over the excitement of the cold, flying waters coming over the high ledge of rock.
But they've grown up now; the little ones that came from us.
One was not with us on this trip ---- we missed his laughter and life with us.
Two were on the trail --- leading the way --- knowing the path well --- carrying their own packs now --- no diapers needed --- no need to ride on daddy's shoulders this time.
They are as big as us, as strong as us, and truth be told ---- more agile than us ---- we love them still just as if they were riding "piggy back" -- skin to skin --- laughter in our ear.

When our hike finally brings us to the falls --- they shed their packs and shoes and dive in --- no coaxing or help needed --- they know these waters.
Their father is right beside them. My 52 year old favorite man on earth becomes a 15 year old again playing with his kids and i pause to watch the beauty. These moments should not be rushed. They're too valuable to be overlooked and missed. They are the riches of life.

Then the 52 year old "boy" heads to the base of the falls --- he swims so smoothly, the current does not slow him at all. And within minutes he's making his way along the slippery moss covered wall to find the nook behind the falls. It's one of his favorite places on earth. The space between the rock wall and the flying waters.

Our youngest son, the one that is tallest of all now, is right behind his dad. They tuck themselves in behind the falls together. Do they know how moved i am just watching them play together, laugh together, be "boys" together? Do they know how thankful i am they do not choose the shoreline? Do they know how moving it is to see them pursue the space between the rocks and the waters?
Then moments later, our daughter joins them. She is weaker than them, she's suppose to be, she's a "girl". Getting behind the falls on her own would be impossible. But her father's strong arms hold her and guide her. Then they are all three laughing and yelling behind the flying waters.

Steve dives out first, then Pete and finally Maggie. The current propels them far out into the pool of deep waters. It's one of those perfect moments in life.
We have two friends with us on this trip --- Kelly and Joy soon find themselves behind the falls too. Laughter prevails.

Laughing with them, i'm also talking with my Abba ---- there is always so much to say to Him. There is always so much to be watching for and listening to --- from Him. It's a daily quest --- to hear what He is showing me. He will not yell it or demand that i listen ---- but He is always speaking --- and i want to hear.

Then Pete, our youngest, heads back for the falls. He's looking for another dose; the breathtaking thrill of being behind the wall of water, just inches from the rocks. The air behind the falls is different from the air in front of the falls. It's intense back there. It's as if the air knows it's somewhere it isn't suppose to be --- there's a thickness to the air, as if it's charged with power. It's hard to breath behind the falls -- hard to fill the lungs with such power charged air. But he's making his way across the rocks and sliding back behind the wall of white again. We can still see him faintly behind the waters. Then he begins to move to a different place, moving across the back of the falls, to a place where the water falls so thickly we can no longer see him. None of us have ever gone that far before. He disappears before our eyes and we all freeze.

Steve and i look at one another; he begins to move towards the falls. Oh my heart...
Then Pete yells ---- a wonderful, excited, "all is right with the world" yell! It comes booming from deep behind the falls and everyone remains frozen. Moments pass and then our 17 year old treasure dives out into the current. He's gone where we have never been --- he's fine --- we thank God.
He swims over to us --- we're hooping and yelling --- enjoying the moment with him. People on the shoreline are watching him --- wondering -- curious ---
He swims over to me and hands me a small, smooth stone and says --- "it's for you mom --- from the deepest space behind the hardest falls --- it's for you mom" and his smile at that moment will remain in me until i breathe my last breath.

God had much to say to me ---- and it all came so quickly.
It's as if God is always speaking --- but in His great patience, He waits until we are perfectly positioned to actually HEAR Him. And then He fills the air with His message --- spoken to our hearts --- on its way to our souls. Ears are not needed.

"it's for you donna --this path I've chosen for you --- leading to the deepest space --- behind the hardest falls ---- it's for you donna"
"love - intense love - so powerful it might seem hard to breathe sometimes"
"do not be afraid --- my arms are strong and will guide you to where you can not go on your own"
"when you get to where I'm taking you --- others might not be able to see you --- but i will still be with you"
"everyone on this shoreline could go to the deepest space behind the hardest falls --- but not everyone will --- will you?"
"you will not be alone"
"there is more ---- so much more"
"I, God, will carry your sons and daughter to places you have never been --- they will be with ME"
"the deeper you go with Me, the more you will be with them --- through Me"
"there are treasures in the deepest spaces behind the hardest falls"

and the little smooth stone given with a genuine smile of love ---- will be my reminder...

Soon --- Steve was following Pete to this new, deeper, hidden place. Then Maggie.
I confess --- i was afraid. The intensity of the falls behind the first familiar nook was all the "excitement" I could handle. I didn't want to feel more or experience more than the first familiar nook. Then Pete swims over to me and says, "Mom - you can't miss this, come on, we'll help you".

and there it was again ---- His voice in my heart ----
"donna -- don't miss what i have for you --- come on --- I'll help you".

I know that in those moments ---- no one else realizes all that is being said to my soul. It's ok --- it's as it should be.
I move towards the scary waters, Pete helps me. He guides me to his father's arms already reaching for me from behind the falls. Then Pete is gone and all I can feel is Steve's powerful, sure arms around me and his calming voice in my ear.
Everything else is sheer madness around me.
The air is harder to breathe.
The water is beating down.
Nothing is soft, or easy, or comfortable, or peaceful. Everything is powerful and bigger than me.
I can't see the sky.
I can't see anything except the white wall of water in front of me.

And i know ---- it's a picture for me ---- of how God wants it to be.
He - God - my one sure foundation.
His arms - powerful and sure.
His voice - truthful and calming.
The madness of the world around me not altering His presence in me.
Breathing in and breathing out - moment by moment --- whether easy or difficult.
Ignoring what is railing against me - not looking for soft or easy or comfortable or even peaceful.
Not relying on what i can see.
Walking by faith --- holding onto His sure presence.

The little smooth stone given to me by Pete from the deepest, hardest place behind falls ------ is for me --- what the 12 stones stacked in the Jordan River were to have been for the Israelites.
A reminder --- never to be forgotten.

 "When you pass through the waters,
   I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
   they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
   you will not be burned;
   the flames will not set you ablaze." Isaiah 43:2 (NIV)

 "Don't be afraid, I've redeemed you.
   I've called your name. You're mine.
When you're in over your head, I'll be there with you.
   When you're in rough waters, you will not go down.
When you're between a rock and a hard place,
   it won't be a dead end—
Because I am God, your personal God,
   The Holy of Israel, your Savior.
I paid a huge price for you..." Isaiah 43:2 (the Message)

Photos taken by Maggie, Steve, and me at Cades Cove Tennessee.

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