An hour south thru the winding mountain roads brought us over the ridge to Asheville, North Carolina. I’ve read for years about this quaint little town nestled in the Blue Ridge mountains and my eyes have finally feasted on its beauty. After a quick check-in to a hotel room with a shower (Praise! because we have been in a tent and the stink is overwhelming), we grab food and race the sunset to the heralded best-lookout view around, Craggy Dome pennacle and overlook. As the Blue Ridge parkway lives up to its name of America’s most beautiful highway, we ascend through tunnels and over small ridges climbing in elevation. Mount Mitchell in the distance reaches into the clouds while clear skies and vistas provide 'ooh and ahh' views around each bend.
Higher we climb until the Craggy Ridge sweeps us right up into the approaching clouds. I’ve never been in a cloud outside of a plane, so the swirling fluff around me and dropping temperature takes away my breath. We park and hike 3/4 of a mile to the peak amid rhododendron trees arching, twisting and folding themselves around the well traveled path. It’s apparent this site is desirable for memorable events as pretty girls in flowy dresses smile adoringly for photographers, all waiting for the perfect moment to capture greatness. However, my view ends 5 feet ahead.
We made a plan, hiked the trail and have absolutely nothing to see for it as our eyes scan the misty gray nothingness. Blinded by the all encompassing cloud, I stand in the visual stillness huddled against my oldest son. It’s cold, windy and silent as my heart wrestles with its longing for a magazine-worthy view and a dreamy experience. After what seems to be an eternity waiting, we turn to go while I hear my third son saying over and over, 'I want to go, I can't see anything.'
Dejected, I take a few steps and then glimpse a ray and choose to continue my pause. I'm awestruck as the wind blows a hole through the cloud and I drink in the view. The curtain cloud is rolled away to reveal ridge after ridge fading away in ombré hues of blue. Rays of sunlight shine through reflecting off the saturated sky providing depth and interest in the peaks and valleys that you can almost hear singing praises to God. "Behold his glorious workmanship, for now we see in part but then we shall see in whole." Hand in hand, my son and I squeal with glee during our moments of gazing. Then, as quickly as it opened, the clouds sweep back in and obscure what lies beyond, but it’s not disappointing. Instead I’m reminded that what we often want in life is the sunshine sky with no cloud in sight. The picture perfect view to adore and capture for the story of our life while we run from ridge to ridge. What we find instead while standing in the clouds is time to rest and breathe, to look around and wait for the light, when its breakthrough reveals sights we’ve longed to see and hoped to find. The clouds give depth & interest to places we would have otherwise overlooked and provide a reflecting point for God to gloriously shine. In the midst of the cloud, his presence envelopes us and his quiet voice is wrapped up in the intimacy of seeing only a few steps ahead. Hand in hand he also delights with us when the view opens up for miles. Although I may not see it now the truth remains...His majesty is still very present, just beyond the veil.
For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 1 Corinthians 13:12
But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:16-18
What having you been hoping to see and haven't yet? Linger a little longer so you can contemplate His glory.
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4
No. No. NO! I did it again. While I love to cook and for the most part can successfully get a complete meal to the table, I am notorious for burning something. Usually, it’s the bread. But if it’s not the bread, it’s something in my skillet. You know the one, your favorite non-stick skillet that cooks everything perfectly. Yep, that one. This time I got distracted (surprise, surprise) by some small ones arguing and I ran back to the kitchen to smoke and a black skillet. WAH!
That was three days ago. The skillet is still soaking in the sink. Everyday I scrub a little more until my fingers, wrist and arm get tired or my resolve to clean it diminishes first. I really want my skillet back. How could I have been so careless? It wasn’t even on purpose but that five-minute distraction has caused days of frustration and effort to clean up.
I sure wish this wasn’t a perfect picture of my faith, but unfortunately it often is. I pull out my faith in Christ and use it to serve me or others and expect everything I encounter in life to just slide right off that non-stick surface. But then it happens, something distracts me and I forget to tend to my faith and sure enough, it gets burned. Let me just check Facebook or Instagram first this morning. Wow, she’s got it together and I don’t. How could that kid do that? Why am I still dealing with this? All those little distractions take my eyes off of what I am called to focus on and suddenly I find myself left with a charred heart and mess to clean up. A mess that will take ten-times longer to clean than to make.
So now I have a couple of choices. I can just throw away my skillet and go buy a new one. I’ve known some friends to do that. Throw away their faith because it’s too burned and cleaning it up seems too hard. Go find a new church, religion, god or quit cooking altogether. I could pretend it’s not a burned mess and keep cooking things right on top. Unfortunately, that keeps leaving this nagging charcoal flavor tinting everything I serve. I wish I didn’t know the bitter taste of living with a charred part of my heart affecting my life, but I do.
Or I can roll up my sleeves and get to work. Scrub a little today until I’m worn out and then work at it again tomorrow. I relate to Paul when he encourages the Philippians to ‘continue to work out their salvation with fear and trembling.’ I fear seeing that skillet in the sink again today, but ignoring it isn’t going to help, so I researched and found a spray that helps eat through the char. Spray, wait and scrub. Spray, wait and scrub. It’s almost there. I might even have the resolve to finish it up today if I don’t get distracted.
God is speaking to me about my faith also. It’s not just my effort. When I research in His Word, I’ll find truth to spray on those burned spots. Wait for Christ to soften an area and then do the work of scrubbing. It might take some days or months but I’m determined to get it back so I keep at it. Perseverance sure does pay off, because a little more shines through everyday.
Have you given up on a part of your faith or feel like there’s just too much of a mess there to ever be useful again? What area is God wanting to soften and restore today?
Father, my heart is often burned by the things of this world and the mess left behind seems insurmountable. Will you come in, speak truth and soften the hardness? I don’t want to give up but I need encouragement to persevere. Thank you for the truth that I am worth it and useful. No matter how many burns happen, you keep working on me so I can shine.
The Shadow of My Porch Swing
You will usually find me on my porch swing or trying to get there at least. Warm drink in hand and the best view in the world...4 boys digging a hole. Seriously tho, I enjoy the chance to sit and rest but mostly ponder the life that happens in between each of those sways of that swing. As the sun rises and sets, the shadow of that swing moves across my porch reminding me that Jesus is always shining on each moment. May you find hope and rest in Jesus here.
Partnering with YouVersion and The Bible App, The Shadow of My Porch Swing - 7 day devotional is now available in the Plans section of the Bible app. Click link above or search by title or 'God's Presence.'