Life on the Edge…(Chapter 21)

Bre pointed to Andy and Mike, who were waiting for us just ahead. I didn’t want the guys to see me all messed up like that so I grabbed some baby wipes out of my backpack to clean my face. Then, we went and met them.

They were happy to see that I had made it, and I was overjoyed to see them. I caught a glimpse of what was ahead, the Sub Dome steps leading, figuratively, straight up into the sky, and the famous Half Dome cables.

I almost choked. I told my friends I didn’t think I could do it. They insisted that they would not go up without me. I told them I would be slow and need to take frequent breaks. They were so patient and gracious that they were even willing to take the breaks with me and not complain about it.

My next concern was that I had to go to the bathroom. I had needed to for a while, but I had spent enough time in the outdoors that I was trained to hold it for as long as the entire day if I had to. I absolutely refused to use nature’s potties. (Hey, I might be an outdoorsy girl, but I am still a diva.)

The nearest bathroom was in Little Yosemite Valley, about 3 miles away from where we were. There was no way I was going all the way back there. I would normally just hold it, but when I took one look at the feat that stood in front of me and thought of my fear of heights, I figured it was best to cast off my daintiness for the moment, pick a tree where I would be well-covered, and just go. I didn’t want to get stuck halfway up the cables, get scared, and then wet myself. The scenario was terrifying.

Andy couldn’t believe that I was actually desperate enough to use nature’s bathroom. A couple of days before, we had a conversation about that very subject. I swore that under no circumstance would I ever use it anywhere other than an actual bathroom, whether it’s a port-o-potty or a brick and mortar restroom. I told them that I would hold it all day if I had to and that I had done it before, several times. Andy couldn’t stop laughing at me.

Bre volunteered to be my lookout. I asked her to help me find a tree where I would be hidden. We walked downhill a bit and spotted a big tree. No one was around and the guys certainly couldn’t see me from where they stood. I was grateful to have baby wipes and some zip lock bags with me. They came in handy. I had brought the baby wipes for my face and hands. I had no idea I would need them for something else.

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Life on the Edge…(The Trail of Tears – Chapter 20)

“Bre, my backpack is too heavy,” I said. “I don’t feel like I can go any further.”

“Let me carry it for you,” she said.

“It’s really heavy, Bre. You don’t want to do that.”

“Of course I do,” she said. I reluctantly handed over the backpack and she shouldered it like it was a bag of feathers. “You know, this is just like it was when Simon carried the cross for Jesus.”

Her words penetrated the core of my being. “Wow, God sent you to carry my cross for me,” I said. Then I broke down. There I stood in the middle of the busy trail, with tons of people passing by, bawling my eyes out. I didn’t care who saw me. At that moment, Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross became more real, and I began to fully grasp it’s significance. It was an amazing moment and one that I will never forget for as long as I live.

Life on the Edge…(Chapter 19)

Katelyn was such a joy to meet. I wished her and her family well, and then they were off. I inched further along, but then realized that I was pushing it too much and couldn’t continue. I was going to hurt myself badly if I tried to do more.

I had heard about the Sub Dome steps. The leader from one of the hiking groups I’m in had told me that the Sub Dome steps are enough to make you curse. He’s a professional hiker and in great shape. If those steps were difficult for him, I just knew there was no way I’d make it. Plus, there was no sign of my group and I was certain that they had gone up the cables by then.

My backpack was ridiculously heavy and I just wanted to find a place to sit down and wait for everyone. Just as I was about to find that seat on the sidelines, I heard a familiar voice call my name. I looked up and saw Bre heading toward me.

Oh no, they’re already coming back. I bet they’re so upset with me for just now making it here.

I felt horrible and embarrassed. But Bre was glowing, oozing with joy, and…smiling?

“Joyce, we waited for you!”

You did what?

“Oh, no,” I said. “You shouldn’t have done that.”

I was thinking that the entire group was held up waiting for me. I wanted to find the nearest rock to hide under.

“I thought y’all had gone up by now and were heading back down.”

“No,” Bre said. “Andy, Mike and I waited, but the rest of them went up. I was going back to get you so that the four of us could go up together.”

There are absolutely no words to describe what happened next.

Life on the Edge…(Chapter 18)

I finally reached that vista point the woman from earlier spoke of. She was absolutely right about it. The views were breathtaking. Words cannot begin to describe what I felt at that moment.

I was able to clearly see Clouds Rest, some waterfalls that I had never spotted before, and an impressive view of what appeared to be a heart carved into one of the rock formations in the distance. God was showing me that He loved me.

A new angle of a familiar object was also visible. I saw the Half Dome cables and the people ascending and descending them, like Jacob’s Ladder. They looked like little ants or a slow-moving caterpillar. Excitement began to well up in me, even though I felt like I was playing on my last string.

I saw little Katelyn and her family again. They were taking a break before heading up to Sub Dome. I stopped and chatted with them, and we took some pictures together. They were about to leave and head toward Sub Dome to begin the next climb, when Katelyn asked if I was going to join them.  I told her that I didn’t think I could make it. I was seriously beat and couldn’t handle any more torture.

You only have a little bit more to go, then you’ll get to Sub Dome, then you’ve got just a little bit of steps up Sub Dome and you’ll reach Half Dome, and you just got a little way to go up some cables and then you’ll be there at the top.

Life on the Edge…(Chapter 17)

The turning point came when I met up with 13-year-old Katelyn and her family. Katelyn was with her parents and grandmother. They were doing the hike to celebrate her grandmother’s birthday. Katelyn had done the hike before with her parents and she was bubbling with energy and excitement.

For a while, I traded places along the trail with Katelyn and her peeps. When they stopped for a rest, I passed them, and vice versa. I walked with them for a while and learned that they were from Sacramento. I let them walk ahead of me as I had to stop for yet another break to catch my breath.

Just before I reached the vista point, I spoke with a woman on the trail that was resting with her crew. I told her how exhausted I was and that I didn’t think I could make it any further.

You’ve already completed about 90% of the hike. You’ve come too far to turn back now.

Come too far to turn back now. Those words echoed in my head. What a shame it would have been for me to turn back then. I had fought through so much to get to where I was. The thought of turning back was unfathomable.

I was so grateful for the words of encouragement that came my way when I was feeling at my lowest and about to give up. It was like being caught in the middle of a battle. First, the negative thoughts attacked. Then, positive words of affirmation and life were spoken to me to combat those thoughts and send them packing.

For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.
2 Corinthians 2:4-5 (New King James Version)

I never fully grasped the true meaning of that scripture until after the hike. At the time I wrote the outline for this essay, I recorded all the thoughts I had along the journey, both negative and positive. It was then that I was able to see in writing the beauty of the situation. It was like catching those negative thoughts and putting them into a box, then filling that box up with positive words and affirmations until all the negative thoughts spilled out of the box and were replaced with the positive ones.

That is how you bring thoughts into captivity to the obedience of Christ! Once I grasped this principle, I began arresting my negative thoughts on a daily basis.

Life on the Edge…(Chapter 16)

Despite the way I felt and how my body screamed at me for pushing it beyond its limits, I told myself that I could and would make it, no matter the cost. I was willing to lay everything down, including my pride, to do what God put in my heart to do. Unbeknownst to me at the time, there was a ram waiting in the bush, so to speak.

Then He said, “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” And He said, “Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.” Then Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son. And Abraham called the name of the place, The-LORD-Will-Provide; as it is said to this day, “In the Mount of the LORD it shall be provided.” Then the Angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time out of heaven, and said: “By Myself I have sworn, says the LORD, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son—blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies.
Genesis 22:2, 12-17

I began to encounter “angels” on the path. Random people came along offering encouragement.

You’ve got just a little bit farther to go. You can do it.

Keep going. You’re doing great.

Just keep going and you’ll reach a vista point just before Sub Dome where there are some spectacular views. You’ve at least got to make it that far. It will be so worth it.

I’m all about spectacular views and my camera was ready to take hundreds more pictures. I wouldn’t have forgiven myself if I’d turned back before getting to that vista point. I decided I had to at least get to that place, however far it was.

Life on the Edge…(Chapter 15)

I went further up the switchbacks and then out of nowhere:

There’s always next year. I can start conditioning myself now to prepare and by then I will be more than ready. After all, Half Dome isn’t going anywhere. I can just sit on this stump and wait. The others have to come back this way. I can meet them when they return.

The voice of reason can sometimes be detrimental to your success. There are times when it’s necessary, but there are also times when you have to ignore it. This was one such time.

I thought of other moments in my life when I heard some of these same thoughts, reasoning and excuses. I hear them every day, and sometimes, they make me feel discouraged and want to quit on everything that God has created me to do because it hurts, is out of my comfort zone, and looks like it’s never going to happen.

Sometimes, I get so frustrated that I begin to think maybe this isn’t what God wants me to do after all. If He wanted me to do this, it shouldn’t be this hard. I feel like I’m going to faint out here and die in this wilderness season of drought.

I felt like I was going to faint and die on the trail to Half Dome, then I realized something very important, which turned out to be one of the keys to finishing.

I was hiking through a heavily wooded area going up an endless set of brutal switchbacks. Then, I suddenly had an epiphany. I was hiking through the woods and the goal was hidden from view because of the tall trees in the forest. I was tempted to give up because I had no vision and that vision was linked to my hope of making it to the end.

The illusion was that I was getting nowhere and that all my effort was never going to pay off. However, the presence of trees obscuring my view did not mean the absence of the goal or that progress toward the goal had ceased.

Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.
Proverbs 29:18 (King James Version)

I couldn’t see the goal with my natural eyes, so I had to visualize the goal internally and focus on that image in order to keep myself going.

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.
Philippians 4:8 (New King James Version)

While we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:18 (New King James Version)