Tuesday, April 18, 2017

I'm Not Where I Planned to be Today

April 18, 2017 12:30 P.M.

 I had planned on sleeping at Tray Mountain Shelter (mile marker 58.6) on the Appalachian trail last night and should be climbing Powell Mountain right about now. 

But life doesn’t always turn out like we plan, does it? Instead of sumiting Powell Mountain today, I am sitting in the most comfortable chair in my living room. Not because I want to be here, it’s because I have no choice. 

After almost two years of planning a through hike on the Appalachian trail this year, I am now planning to have surgery on my back in a few weeks. 

Since a fall in December, I’ve known I would not be hiking today. I spent the winter in Florida and was not able to do my favorite thing there…walk the beautiful beaches. I could get as far as the car to the water’s edge and the pain in my back, left hip and leg would stop me. At first I thought it would go away with some rest, but that didn’t happen. 

The emotional struggle of this has been as real as the physical pain. I am one of those fortunate women who has not had to deal with much physical pain in my life.  I have tried to maintain a healthy life style and walking has been a huge part of that. So, in the past four months I’ve questioned God many times about this. Why? Why now? Is there some reason why you wanted me home this year, instead of on the trail? 

I don’t have the complete answer yet, but I think I have part of it. First, it’s given me some insight into the lives of those who have or are suffering from chronic pain. My heart goes out to them as I realize how it can consume their lives, and many times it keeps them trapped in bodies that do not work as they should. 

But even more important…God is giving me a lesson in submission.  The act of yielding to and accepting the will of a superior authority is not easy for many of us. (especially when it involves physical pain) But, I’m beginning to see that there is something else God wants me to do in the next six months when I thought I would be hiking. Now I pray for wisdom and His leading as I tackle the job He has set before me. If you think of me in the months ahead, will you also pray that I not only heal quickly but that I continue to follow in the path that God has directed me to follow…and that isn’t the Appalachian Trail.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

A New Reason to Sing

posted originally on 11/7/13

Grandbaby number nine finally arrived. Naomi Adelle is healthy, weighing in at ten pounds and one ounce. Mommy is fine, too. but very tired.

Gramma is on cloud nine with another baby to love and cuddle. I've been told by my three girls that this will be my last grandbaby, (they've each given me three) so I intend to cuddle this one as much as possible. Not that I didn't cuddle the other ones at every opportunity.

As I sat and held Naomi last evening, I cried. But then, that's nothing new either. I cried the first time I held the other ones as infants. They are always tears of joy. Part of the joy I feel is because my daughter has come safely through a pregnancy and delivery. As a nurse, I am well aware that it doesn't always happen that way. I'm grateful for God's goodness.

I cried because I know this little girl is joining a wonderful family. She has a strong, generous dad, a loving, sensitive mom, and an older brother and sister who are going to be her forever playmates. Most important, she is part of a family that will teach her about God and His love for her. She will be taken to church and be taught that being good is the only way to happiness.

Selfishly, some of the tears of joy are for me. I have loved babies for as long as I can remember. I don't remember when my first two brothers were born, I was only fourteen months and three and half, but I do remember when my mom put my third brother in my arms. I was seven at the time, and can still remember the sense of wonder I felt as I held him, and fell in love with him. A year later, when I held my baby sister, I was overjoyed. She was my very own little doll. Yes, I do love babies. They make me happy.

The other tears of joy I cried last evening were for Naomi. I cried because she is healthy and beautiful. And I cried because I know she's a special child of God, and He has a plan for her life. As long as I'm her Gramma, I will pray that God will bless her, and that she will choose to stay close to the One who created her.

But I didn't cry for very long last night, because the joy in my heart also brought laughter to my lips. As I watched her make her funny baby faces, I had to smile. Once she puckered, and another time she opened one eye, as if she was just looking to see who the funny old woman was who was crying and laughing intermittently.

Then, just as I was getting ready to sing her my "You are my sunshine" song, I realized I was too late. There were other people in her life who had reason to sing. The big sister who had expressed her hesitance at giving up her "baby" position in her family, broke out in song. It was a song that welcomed this new little one into all our lives.

Our baby Naomi, who gives her Gramma a reason to cry, also gives her, and others a reason to laugh and sing.

Friday, April 22, 2016


Wow! It's been a long time since I've posted anything on here. Perhaps this entry will help explain why.

From the time I was a little girl, I’ve been fascinated with journeys. The very first journey I remember was going to Grandma’s house. She lived far enough away that it was always an overnight trip. At the time, it was the destination(Grandma’s arms) rather than the travel that appealed to me, probably because I had to share the back seat of the car with my three brothers. Baby sister was in the front seat.

When I was old enough to read, my favorite books usually involved someone going somewhere. Little Heidi took a trip to see her grandfather in Switzerland and was in awe of where he lived and his simple lifestyle. Then I discovered the books about families going west in the 1800’s to find new homes. Their journeys were difficult ones and I marveled that their dreams and goals were so important that they faced many dangers to reach them. Many of them walked all the way across the country with limited resources and fewer comforts. Their courage inspired me.

My parents were not rich, but they made sure our family took a few journeys. We went camping in Kentucky for several years, living in a pop-up camper and living on fried potatoes and the fish we caught. It was the simple life…the kind that minimalist now days only dream about.

As a young mom, I loved to watch “Little House on the Prairie” with my kids and was amazed at the courage of the Ingalls family as they lived with only the bare necessities of life after they traveled to their dream.

Then it was my turn to start taking trips with my family. We did the camping thing too, then graduated to condos, hotels and even a cruise. Those journeys took us to some interesting destinations and family time I will never forget.

Then there was the trip of a lifetime when my husband and I celebrated our 25th anniversary. We climbed on his Harley and went all the way to the Pacific Ocean, taking with us again, only the the bare essentials. Now that trip was more about the journey than the destination.

There are emotional journeys too. There are those paths that take us through bad times like grief, disappointment and financial stress. And, some that take us to the very pinnacle of happiness.
There are journeys through the phases of our lives. Marriage, parenthood and retirement are just a few.

Probably the most meaningful journey throughout my life has been my spiritual one. I’ve learned that if I’m not moving closer to God, I’m drifting away from Him. There doesn’t seem to be a holding pattern in that journey.

In the past couple of years, I’ve journeyed through a difficult time. It’s been a time of transition and there have been major losses that resulted in intense grief. There has been disillusionment and what felt like betrayal. The transition from a career I loved to being retired was unexpectantly difficult. 
Fear and anxiety from a combination of situations pushed me to the edge of clinical depression that resulted in a lack of pleasure in life, and the disappearance of the creativity that had always helped to define who I was.

But there were slivers of unbelievable joy that shone on me through that difficult time and they helped to save me. Watching my children become successful, not only in their careers but in their personal lives as wives and mothers brought a sense of satisfaction and pride. Just being a grandparent brought me indescribable joy and the patience of my lifelong companion brought a sense of security. The support and prayer of some special friends and family was invaluable. Most of all, it was the unfailing faithfulness of my Shepherd who has walked through every valley with me that helped me through the darkness.

As I come out of that dark time, I am planning a journey that I never thought I would be able to take. Because I’m a lover of natural beauty and simplicity, and because my enjoyment of walking (that has helped to keep me healthy at the age of 64), I am going to endeavor to do what those inspiring pioneers of old once did. I’m going to walk across part of our beautiful country. On May 15, I’m going to begin a section hike of the Appalachian trail. A friend with a mutual desire will go with me on my forty days in the wilderness. If you know your Bible, you know that 40 days in the wilderness can result in some drastic changes in a life. I am open to whatever lies ahead.

If you’d like to follow me on this journey, you can do so by reading my Appalachian Trail journal at the following website.I would suggest you read the "about" section first and then start at my first entry on the prehike part of the journal.

© Brenda J. Young

Monday, November 17, 2014

A Long Time Dream Comes True

A Long Time Dream Comes True

Forty-three years ago, when I was nineteen, I had a lot of dreams. One of them was to move to the sunshine state where my dearest friend lived. (Why she was my dearest friend is a different story for a different day, but I will tell you that she was my life-saver when I was fourteen). I wanted to be where she was, and she promised me sunshine all winter long. Even then, I hated cloudy November days with their promise of cold and snow on the way.

So I packed my car with everything I owned, and headed down the highway, going south. With a new license to practice nursing in my hand, I planned to spend the winter, and maybe forever, if my destination turned out to be as perfect as I thought it would be.

I arrived in sunny Florida with my pots and pans, my linens, and all the clothes I owned. Until I could find my own place to live, I moved in with my friend and her poor mom. I soon discovered for myself that Florida was everything she promised it would be. Sunshine and blue skies kissed the gentle waters of the Gulf of Mexico and its sandy white beaches. There was no need for heavy winter coats, and I loved it…for two weeks.

What I had not factored into my plan was the blond guy with blue eyes I left behind in cold Ohio. I had only known him for six months when I left, and wasn’t even sure he was important for my happiness. But absence did make the heart grow fonder. (That too, is another story for another day.)

So, once again I packed my belongings into that blue Ford, but this time I drove North…right into a snow storm.  But it was okay, the blond guy was waiting for me.

After he asked me to marry him, I ask him if he would ever consider moving south where it was warm and sunny. His answer was brief and to the point. “No, I like home.”  He had spent a year in a hot and humid place far from home, a place called Vietnam, and it gave him a great appreciation for people and places that were familiar and safe. And after that time in a muggy jungle, he even loved cold winters.  I decided a home in cold Ohio with him would be better than year-round sunshine without him.

Forty-three years of life have now gone by. The blond guy and I built a home and made some babies. There have been thousands of beautiful sunny days, but there have been some cold and cloudy ones too. The lovely days have outnumbered the ugly ones, and the joyful days have more than made up for the painful ones. Our three daughters grew into lovely young women, but our son had to be buried.

Together, we learned that there were days when we had to take turns being strong, being loving, and even being kind. We recognized that when one of us failed, the other was there to make up the difference. When one of us was sick, the other had to be well. And on the days when we didn’t think we loved each other any more, marriage was the bond that kept us together, until we could love again.

The blond guy (I still call him that, even though he has little hair, and what he does have is now gray) and I spent our years together, trying our best to put God and family first. We both worked hard at jobs that paid the bills, and gave us a little extra to save.

The girls got married and gave us more sons and beautiful babies. On the days when we had time to look around us, we saw that life was good, in spite of the difficult days. And, most of our mutual dreams came true.

But, on snowy, windy, frigid days, I still thought about my dream of spending the winter days in the sunshine. I would sometime mention my old dream to the blond guy, and he would always say, “someday, maybe.”

Then, on a cold day last winter, when the snow was piled high, the blond guy looked at me and spoke the words I never thought he’d say. “Next winter, we’ll make that old dream of yours come true. It’s time.”

But, life had changed me and my dreams. I didn’t want to go south in the winter anymore. We now had nine grandbabies, and they had tied my heart to home. They were all the sunshine I really needed. I had to tell the blond guy that the dream had changed and I couldn’t go.

“But I’ve saved our nickels and dimes for forty-three years to make your dream come true. And it’s my dream now, too.” 

I argued and gave him a list of all the “what ifs.” I told him we could do it, “someday, maybe, when the time is right.”

Then one day last spring, one of my hospice patients took my hand and said this to me, “Honey, don’t ever put off for tomorrow, what can be done today.”

In the months that followed, I tried to convince my daughters that they couldn't live without me close by. But the blond guy and I had raised strong women who had chosen good men, and they assured me they could take care of my grandbabies just fine, without me. They told me it was time to follow the dream. And they promised me that if I’d go with their dad, they’d bring my grandbabies to visit me, so we could all play in the sand and the sun together.

Last week, even though we both love home, the blond guy and I piled some of our junk into an old RV, and with retirement ahead of us, we traveled south, together. Our dream day had come.

As we drove, I reminisced about the path my life had taken while I was waiting for the dream to come true. I learned that living is about making the best of each day God gives us. It’s about moving forward, and accepting changes in time and people.  It’s about becoming a stronger and better person.  And yes, it’s about never giving up on your dream to spend a winter day in the sunshine with an old friend. Yes, she is still here and was waiting for me.

The blond guy and I plan on spending the winter in the sunshine together. When it’s over, I’ll know whether reality is as good as the dream has been. If it isn’t, then next winter, instead of sitting at the beach watching the waves caress the sand, I’ll sit beside my wood stove and watch the snow blanket my world in a coat of white.  Instead of drinking ice tea to cool me off,  I’ll drink hot chocolate to warm me up.

But no matter where I am next year, I'm thankful for today, for life, and for dreams that do come true


© 2014 B.J. Young