No, this is not a post about current foot fashions. God knows I am not an authority on fashion, but I must introduce you to my favorite pair of shoes. I love cute ballerina flats as much as the next girl, but they pale in comparison to these beauties. Meet my trusty hiking boots. They might not be pretty, but they are tough and dependable — always ready for an adventure. I bought these boots 10 years ago at an EMS (Eastern Mountain Sports) sale in New England. As a 23 year old newlywed transplanted to Massachusetts, I think I was more excited by all the hiking and camping gear we bought that weekend than by the boxes of new china waiting to be unpacked. All-weather sleeping bag? Check. Heavy-duty-ready-for-New-England-winter-parka? Check. Sturdy hiking boots? Check.
Little did I know when I first took these Garmont boots out of their brand new box what adventures awaited.
These boots have sloshed through streams, balanced on fallen log bridges, gone looking for rattlesnakes (don’t ask), and hiked countless trails.
They have gone in search of wood to warm a remote Canadian cabin. Their soles have skipped over the rocky Maine coast and hiked up lighthouse steps.
These boots could tell a thousand stories.
They have accompanied a loyal dog through long walks in the woods. Recently they also pressed the shovel into the earth to make room for his tired body.
They spurred me on through the Green Mountains of Vermont one Thanksgiving weekend when I felt the first waves of nausea announcing the early beginning of new life.
Years later they discovered a hidden daffodil field and caught the tears that fell there.
They have gone apple-picking with a toddler in hand and a baby on the back. They have climbed over rock walls, stood on fenceposts, stomped down weeds, and danced in the mud.
Currently my boots are covered in plaster dust from renovating our first home.
The thing I love about these boots is this: they know what they were built for. They don’t try to be something they’re not. I can’t disguise these hiking boots as a pair of pumps to slip on with a little black dress — that’s not what they’re for. Boots like these are not afraid of the the rocky terrain, the icy streams, or the whatever is beyond that next hill. I’m not worried about scratches or scuffs. Rather, I look at them fondly, knowing that each mark is a memory. Tallying each one up and taking an inventory of my adventures causes me to pause in gratitude for each place, each person, and each lesson that was connected to these events.
These boots are nowhere near the end of their useful life. Aside from changing the laces a few times, these things show no sign of wearing down. Which is good–because I’m going to need them again. And again.
My boots are always ready for action.
When I lace them up I feel the explorer rise up inside me. I think about strong women who pushed beyond their physical limits through mountains, plains, and rivers. Suddenly I feel like Sacagawea, Harriet Tubman, and Laura Ingalls all at once.
Sometimes I wear my boots as I go about the mundane — grocery shopping, yard work, and taking sick kids to the doctor. They remind me that adventures and challenges do not only wait for me in the woods. They are everywhere. Cars get crushed. Houses need repaired. People get sick. Relationships need watering. Dark clouds quietly creep into minds and chaos wreaks havoc on the lives of those I love.
This week in particular has been a challenge for many who are dear to me. Some of my friends and I are wearing our boots all week as a sign of solidarity. I know it’s not going to magically make our situations better, but it’s a good reminder that we are equipped to weather whatever storms may come.
But I must pause to remind myself of something here: It is not my strength that carries me on. As hearty as I think I may be and as sturdy as my boots are, I am not strong enough to walk these valleys or climb these mountains on my own. I am keenly aware of my limitations. I wish I had more endurance. I also have a horrible sense of direction. God forbid any of you should depend on me to get you somewhere without a GPS.
Yes, God does call us to push on and carry our crosses. But he also bids us to come and rest and lay our burdens down. As I lace up my boots today, I pray for strength and courage for us to hike the trail before us. I pray for wisdom to know when to push on and when to rest. I also pray for discernment, because I know that we are in enemy territory, and Evil has set many traps along the path. We must be on our guard, or we could easily become ensnared and cause those around us to stumble. We need to listen to those who can see farther down the path than us. If we heed their warnings (“Watch out for this thorn bush!”) and take their encouragement to heart (“There’s a stream up here where we can sit down and eat lunch!”), the journey will be even sweeter.
I woke up this morning to images of hiking through the woods, and Robert Frost’s words practically jumped out of my mouth:
The woods are lovely, dark and deep
But I have promises to keep
And miles to go before I sleep
And miles to go before I sleep
(From “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost)
We have many miles to go. But we are not walking them alone.