This morning I started the first in a four-week series with a group from St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church where I go. The title of the study is “Visions of Peace in the Kingdom of God” and Becca has aptly subtitled it “Walking in Circles.” She has written an incredible blog on it here: http://www.beccastevens.org/.
Instead of a typical Bible Study in a Sunday School room or even a home, this group meets at Radnor Lake, a state park, where we trek around the paths, literally in a circle. We read the verses, we prepare our hearts, and we open our eyes to what we observe in His Creation. We truly walk and contemplate. We stop along the way to reflect on the scripture and anything that seems significant—in the verses, in our walk, in our lives.
As usual, I had Clara with me, and was a little uncertain of how she would handle a three mile hike through the woods. I started it out as I usually do on a hike—full tilt power hike, charging up the hills with determination and speed, thinking of the workout this was giving on my body. Thankfully, though, the workout finally hit my brain.
I thought about Becca’s words that life is about the journey, and about seasons. That we begin and end with God, so instead of just pressing forward for the goal, maybe we should reflect on the process, and on the seasons of our lives. In many respects, we do merely walk in circles throughout our life…
I thought about my daughter, and how when I was pregnant, everything was in front of me—my literal belly, the bright hope for my unborn and excitement for when she would arrive. It seemed life was all forward thinking, and even then I circled back to my past and my husband’s past to choose a name for our daughter that embraced the great women in our lives—our grandmothers, Clara and Isabel.
Once she arrived, we charged forward, and before I knew it, here I am again, walking with a literal weight on my back now—this child that can bring so much good, yet bear so much significance and responsibility. It’s funny how sometimes we carry a burden and don’t allow for help—either we don’t want it, or can’t use it. Today while walking, many offered to carry the backpack with Clara in it, but I knew that it was not a day to pass her off to a stranger, and that she needed me on that hike. Sometimes we carry our figurative burdens alone, too. Maybe sometimes it’s better if we took up the offer of a friend.
So here I am, with a “burden” on my back. We walk in silence and I soak up nature, finding peace amidst the chaos of life. We come up on a deer, and Clara excitedly points, exclaiming “hi deer!” and blowing kisses to the confused deer that stare at the contraption on my back. Her sheer enthusiasm is contagious, and we start to really walk through nature together. She hears the birds chirp and an airplane go by. We get down on the ground to look at and touch the cool moss growing on a tree.
I think about my excitement during pregnancy, and now I look at the moment I’m sharing with my daughter. Wow—I’m sharing this. Clara is seeing nature now with me, no longer nestled in my womb, but braving the big world by my side. She’s getting excited to see the trees, waving her arms in the air to sign the word. She is pointing out that the sun is peeking through the clouds. She remembered the ducks in the lake as we stood in the parking lot before we even started.
I’ve come full circle—back to that hope and anticipation of a bright future ahead—that peace in knowing I’m going to walk again through the woods with my daughter, and she’s going to show me even more “new” things. She brings me back to my own childhood; seeing beauty from a two-foot perspective. I’m starting to realize that we live life in one big circle that is created by the tiny circles we walk every moment. It’s not “two steps forward, one step back,” but it’s a journey of growth and renewal, of reflection and memories, of past lessons and pains and of future hopes and dreams.
The present is always our point in the circle-it’s our moment to embrace what is. It’s the moment where I can look forward to the future, back to the past, and also by my side to experience life with who I am with right now. It includes all aspects of me, and of God. It embraces our journey as continuously rolling, and forever giving us chances to see and know more about this God who invested so much in you and in me.
I’m thankful for my time today. My time to be alone in the woods with my thoughts, and my time to share them with the group. My time to teach my daughter about moss and leaves and birds, and her time to teach me about the depth of my love for her. Our time to slow down and look at life from a different angle, and how to open our hearts to every season of life.
Becca said “we are born to be loved, to soak that love in and then to offer love back.” What a sweet gift to be given. That love is why we have circles in our lives instead of a straight path. We go back to God’s love for our strength, to our mother’s love for affirmation, to our children’s love for hope. We continuously move and roll through life, no matter if the burden is in front of us or behind us, or even in our arms. We keep walking on our journey, and we can walk in peace that the present will continue to flow through love and life. As we roll down to the bottom of our circles of life, know that the next journey is back up again.