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).

 

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

A Bucket of Blessings

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Huckleberries

My husband’s family is from the mountains of West Virginia. I fell in love with the people, the natural beauty and the wild huckleberries (blueberries to us mid-westerners.) It was the perfect trio: picking blueberries with good company in the fresh mountain air.

Picking wild blueberries is work. The plants are low to the ground. The patches are spread out yonder. Sometimes the locals are protective of their turf and will scare you with warnings of snakes in their favorite patch. (Thank goodness I never saw a snake!) Picking blueberries requires patience as it takes forever to fill a bucket because wild blueberries are the miniature version of the store-bought kind.

Year after year, I would pick blueberries with my husband’s grandmother and her dear friend Barb. We would pick to our hearts’ content or until it was time for our family to leave West Virginia behind. I remember one year in particular. I shared my many plans for all the blueberries I was picking. Then I asked Barb what she was going to do with her berries. She replied that she was picking for a friend. I wasn’t surprised as Barb was always doing nice things for other people. Barb had many friends.

On the last day of our vacation as were getting ready to pack up and head home, Barb approached me. With her bounty of blueberries picked over the previous week, Barb handed me the container and shared, “These are for you, friend.”

I didn’t see it coming. We had toiled side by side for a week. While picking, I remember thinking that “this friend” must be special to receive such a generous gift. And come to find out, I was that friend! I had been satisfied with what I was able to pick, but Barb had something else in mind: a bucketful of blessings that I didn’t expect. I was floored by her expression of love.

I thank God for His blessings poured out on me in blueberries and in other ways. God blesses us with the help of others as we muddle through life together. God surprises us with blessings in the most difficult places. God brings people into our lives at just that right moment to remind us of His enduring love. God opens our eyes to see Him when all we can focus on is our circumstances. God intends extra blessings even when we are content with what we have.

God fills my bucket of blessings to overflowing.

 

John 1:16

From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. 

 

Psalm 23:5-6

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

 

 

I Hope There are Blueberries in Heaven!

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Picking a Blueberry Patch in the Mountains of West Virginia

Picking a Blueberry Patch in the Mountains of West Virginia (Berries with a Beautiful View!)

I have always looked forward to picking wild blueberries in the mountains of West Virginia. I first got hooked years ago when my boyfriend-turned-fiancé and now husband of 26 years took me to meet his grandmother, “Grams.”

The evening walk with Grams and Grams’ dear friend Barb included blueberry picking and girl talk. When Gram’s arthritis kept her from long walks and stooping over to pick berries, it was just Barb and I. And now and then, my two boys would join us. After Gram’s death, we spent our West Virginia vacations with Barb and I kept picking berries.

In good years, I gathered enough berries to make a batch of jam. One year, we celebrated my youngest son’s birthday with a blueberry pie. The family favorite was always Grams’ recipe for pancakes with blueberries thrown in. I thought we would pick blueberries forever. For Barb was my scout to find the berry patches and to let us know when to plan our yearly visit in order to fill my freezer with berries. But Barb died suddenly and I lost my best blueberry-picking buddy ever.

A couple years passed and the desire to pick berries lingered and grew. This year while on vacation, I was determined to find blueberries and to start a new tradition of berry-picking with my daughter-in-law. It didn’t happen. Wrong time of the summer. Wrong place.

On the next to last day of vacation after the kids left, my consolation was a hike in Dolly Sods with a beautiful view of Canaan Valley. And a surprise. Ripe blueberries along the trail. A trail I was not familiar with. A trail that I have never ventured on before. My heart swelled with joy at the sight. Enough berries to eat out of hand. Enough berries to take home and make Grams’ blueberry pancakes.

I smiled at my taste of blueberry heaven. Then my eyes welled up. It wasn’t just about that blueberry goodness. I missed Grams. I missed Barb. I missed the time that has gone by so fast. It was about the good memories. It was about the connection with those I loved and lost. It was all about the feeling that blueberry-picking evokes in me: love and longing. I hope there are blueberries in heaven for my berry-picking buddies are waiting for me.

 

Ezekiel 47:12

Fruit trees of all kinds will grow on both banks of the river. Their leaves will not wither, nor will their fruit fail. Every month they will bear, because the water from the sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing.

 

Revelation 22:1-2

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.