The Work of God’s Hands In The West Virginia Mountains

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Although my husband and I have hiked in West Virginia for many years, I never tire of the beauty found in the mountains. Each turn on the trail is a promise of more beauty waiting to be discovered. One can find a carpet of ferns, a panoramic view of mountains touching the clouds or a splash of color displayed in the flowers. The work of God’s hands is all around us!

Take a hike with me through Old Testament scriptures…

Pendleton Point in Blackwater Falls State Park

Your love, O LORD, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your justice like the great deep. – Psalm 36:5-6

 

We weren’t the only ones enjoying the beauty on the Rohrbaugh Plains Trail!

I know every bird in the mountains, and the creatures of the field are mine. – Psalm 50:11

 

Following the Rohrbaugh Plains Trail in Dolly Sods

You broaden the path beneath me, so that my ankles do not turn. – Psalm 18:36

 

Mountain Laurel

Let my teaching fall like rain and my words descend like dew, like showers on new grass, like abundant rain on tender plants. – Deuteronomy 32:2

 

View of Clouds from Rocky Ridge Trail in Dolly Sods

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. – Psalm 19:1

 

Rhododendron

It will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy. The glory of Lebanon will be given to it, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon; they will see the glory of the LORD, the splendor of our God. – Isaiah 35:2

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What Fears Are Shaking You?

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This snake and I surprised each other on a West Virginia trail!

My husband and I were enjoying the day in West Virginia with a hike. There were many sunny spots on the trail, but this one in particular stopped me in my tracks. The snake directly in front of me was enjoying the same day by soaking up the summer sun.

Of course, the snake was bigger in my mind’s eye than in reality. I am not embarrassed to admit that I have a fear of snakes. I know this because of my reaction. I didn’t scream or run in the opposite direction as I was taken by surprise. I simply froze in place and began to shake uncontrollably.

Rational thinking does not change my response nor eliminate my fear of snakes. I know that snakes exist in the mountains of West Virginia. I understand that most likely I will not encounter a snake. In over 25 years of visits and hikes in West Virginia, we have seen only a handful of snakes in their natural habitat. Despite the statistics, stepping on a snake is my number one fear when we hike. Fear doesn’t have to make sense.

For many years, I was not interested in hiking the Dolly Sods Wilderness Area of West Virginia. I can trace my reluctance back to a casual comment from my husband’s grandmother. In her younger days, Grams picked blueberries (huckleberries) in Dolly Sods and occasionally would see a rattlesnake or two. Since 2015, my husband and I have explored Dolly Sods with day hikes. It is now my favorite place to hike when we are back for the yearly family reunion. Fear affects my choices.

Snakes are not my only fear. As an empty nester in a later season of life, the unknown future can instill fear. Will our money run out in retirement? Will our health hold up? Fears are a part of life. Yet, we don’t have to be afraid of fear. Fear doesn’t have to control us.

Fear is real, but God is even more real as we recognize His presence and lean into His reassurance. Fear doesn’t have to define us. Fear doesn’t have to steal our joy.

Scripture shows us how to handle fear in our lives.

Seek God.

I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears (Psalm 34:4).

Trust God.

 When I am afraid, I will trust in you (Psalm 56:3).

 Live out your identity in God.

 For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15).

And a personal reminder for me: Stand and not be shaken.

I have set the LORD always before me.  Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken (Psalm 16:8).

 

Time to Turn Back?

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Looking for blueberries in the north section of Dolly Sods Wilderness Area

Looking for blueberries in the north section of Dolly Sods Wilderness Area.

Blueberries: the day of hiking in Dolly Sods was all about the blueberries. Two miles into the hike, I was starting to get nervous about finding berries. We passed the patches that provided last year’s bounty of berries to take home. (See that post titled I Hope There are Blueberries in Heaven by clicking here.) This year, the same patches were not hopeful as the berries were sparse and past their prime. It felt like we were looking in the wrong place. Was it time to turn back?

Just when my answer became a yes to turn back, we met some fellow hikers. Our containers and meandering off the trail identified us as blueberry-pickers. The hikers cheerily informed us that we were very close to a great patch of plentiful blueberries. Their encouragement pointed us in the right direction. Thank goodness we held out hope and did not turn back too soon.

Sometimes we turn back too soon in our faith in response to our circumstances or expectations. Maybe we think we are on the wrong path because we aren’t experiencing the blessings. Or we are sure something better has to be elsewhere. Or we get discouraged because we no longer have the vision in front of us. Maybe we are simply tired of walking.

Those are the times that we need to push forward in faith, expecting good things around the next bend of the path. May the encouragement of others refine our desire to continue following God. Let’s remain committed to wherever God is leading so we can bask in His presence.

 

Ruth 1:16

But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.

 

Exodus 13:21-22

By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.

 

A Walk Through Isaiah

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It is difficult for me to pick a favorite book of the Bible, but Isaiah in the Old Testament is a top contender. Digging deeper past God’s judgment of sin, we find promises fulfilled only in Jesus, assurance of God’s comfort, and anticipation of heaven’s glory revealed.

The beautiful diversity of Dolly Sods Wilderness in the Monongahela National Forest (of West Virginia) reminded me of a walk through Isaiah to discover earth-shattering truths that change hearts and lives to follow the LORD.

 

Isaiah 2:5

Come, O house of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the LORD.

Red Creek Trail

Red Creek Trail

 

Isaiah 30:21

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”

Beaver View Trail

Beaver View Trail

 

Isaiah 40:4-5

Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

Raven Ridge Trail

Raven Ridge Trail

 

Isaiah 42:16

I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.

Raven Ridge Trail

Raven Ridge Trail

 

Isaiah 44:22

I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist.  Return to me, for I have redeemed you.

Beaver View Trail

Beaver View Trail

 

Isaiah 49:10

They will neither hunger nor thirst, nor will the desert heat or the sun beat upon them. He who has compassion on them will guide them and lead them beside springs of water.

Red Creek

Red Creek

So Close, But Yet So Far!

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Not Lion's Head, but a view from the trail to Lion's Head in Dolly Sods Wilderness.

Not Lion’s Head, but a view from the trail to Lion’s Head in Dolly Sods Wilderness.

I wanted to share a picture of Lion’s Head: the rocky formation with a view of Canaan Valley off of the Rocky Point Trail in Dolly Sods, West Virginia. However, I can’t because we never found it on our hike.

Oh we tried to find it. We prepared by checking maps and following advice from online hiking blogs before we even ventured out. We planned the hike for the near-perfect day and weather conditions. We hiked the ten mile loop. And we failed.

We were very close, I know it! We scrambled up rocks, but did not get to the promised view. We checked out other routes marked by cairns (rock piles left by other hikers to indicate a trail). Everything led to more dead ends. With our energy waning and time limited, we had to move on.

I have to admit that I was disappointed. The spectacular view of Lion’s Head was the purpose and the highlight of this hike. Despite the fresh mountain air, the sound of streams and nature’s best surrounding me, I longed for the something more that we missed.

I think of the patriarchs of faith. God placed a vision of His promise in their hearts. Hebrews 11:13 shares how these patriarchs felt about not receiving the promise in their lifetime: “All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth.”

May we have the same faith to know, to embrace and to confess Jesus in our hearts. May we consider the life lived in the flesh as preparation for heaven.  May our longing always be for heaven, that which is hoped for, but not yet seen. May we trust God to make good on His promises. God will bring us home and share His view of our glorious inheritance in Jesus Christ.

Hebrews 11:1

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

Isaiah 33:17

Your eyes will see the king in his beauty and view a land that stretches afar.