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.

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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)

Life on the Edge…(Chapter 11)

It took a while for the caffeine in the Gu drops to take effect. By the time I got a fourth of the way up the steps, I wanted to curse. That’s how brutal the steps were to my already aching body. I had to start singing. I remembered singing in the choir at Lakewood Church in Houston when we sang worship songs on Sunday mornings and Tuesday nights at choir practice. I pictured myself standing in the choir loft with my beautiful brothers and sisters, my hands lifted high, praising and worshiping God. Whenever I felt that curse word coming on:

“Glorify your name, glorify your name, glorify the name above all names.”

And one of my favorites:

“Sing over me songs of deliverance. Lord, cover me with your mighty hand. Sing over me, God of the second chance. Sing over me once again.”

The next phase of the journey took us through Little Yosemite Valley, a virtually flat place where the trail is laden with beach sand, which is somewhat difficult to hike through.  Our group reassembled at a rest spot and then we headed further up the trail.  At this point, we were beginning to gain altitude, and by the time we reached the switchbacks coming up out of the Valley, I felt it big time.

My initial perception of this part of the hike was that it was going to be fairly easy.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  This was the part where I encountered hell and some awful thoughts began churning in my head.

Life on the Edge…(Chapter 9)

After I shared my story with Lynn, she suggested that I do something that had already been revealed to me through prayer. She suggested that I find some stones and let those stones represent things that I wanted to leave behind once and for all, and leave them at the top of Half Dome to serve as a memorial.

Then Joshua called the twelve men whom he had appointed from the children of Israel, one man from every tribe; and Joshua said to them: “Cross over before the ark of the Lord your God into the midst of the Jordan, and each one of you take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the children of Israel, that this may be a sign among you when your children ask in time to come, saying, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ Then you shall answer them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord; when it crossed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. And these stones shall be for a memorial to the children of Israel forever.”
Joshua 4:4-7 (New King James Version)

Just a few weeks before I left for Yosemite, I opened up the flap on a messenger bag that I rarely used. I noticed the flap was a bit heavy and that something solid was weighing it down. There was a zipper pocket on the outside of the flap, which could be used for pens, pencils, etc. I opened the zipper to see what was inside and that’s when I discovered the rock I had found more than a decade ago in my parents’ driveway.

I was shocked to see that I still had that rock and that I was completely unaware of having carried it around for so long. I knew that the rock would be the perfect memorial because, like the comment spoken by my classmate, that rock was something that I had held onto that weighed something down. It was time for me to get rid of that rock and evict that poisonous comment out of my heart and mind once and for all.