Lessons

I recently returned from spending two amazing weeks in the mountains of North Carolina. My time in the mountains is always special to me, but God used this trip to do many things inside my heart: He used it to humble me, to truly open my eyes and soften my heart, and to build me up.

Are “Things” too Important?

I’ve never been a materialistic person.  “Things” just don’t matter much to me.  My ex husband could never understand it when I’d tell him that what meant more to me on special occasions was quality time or being made to feel like I mattered rather than buying me expensive gifts.  Still – I tend to take for granted all the “things” God has blessed me with.  I also tend to place more importance on some of those “things” than I should.  Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy the basic creature comforts – AC, a hot shower – that sort of thing.  It’s just that God uses these trips to my sister’s property in NC, which she’s in the process of trying to develop into a homestead, off-grid type of lifestyle rather than one filled with all the latest technology – it’s come a long way, but there’s still much to be done – to teach me what I truly need and what it really means to “live.”

Yes, she has a reliable spring which provides lots of good, clean water – but getting that water took a lot of work.  Yes – it started out with a hand-built outhouse type of restroom, which just on this trip was replaced with a regular, flushing toilet located inside of the old house that still stands on the front of her property.  There’s an outdoor shower complete with a propane hot water heater so hot showers are available.  Everything about that lifestyle is a bit harder than what we have here – but at the end of the day when I would fall into bed, I slept well with my body tired from doing the work required for just basic household tasks. 

What Humbled Me

How did God use this to humble me?  Well, as I just mentioned, He showed me what I truly need versus what my flesh wants. 

He also used this trip to humble me in that He showed me the best of humanity.  By that I simply mean that her property is located in a very rural, poor part of the state of NC.  There are so many that really don’t “have” much – and yet, they take care of each other and they share what they’ve got.  We have been accepted into there community (which is basically the street her property is located on), and welcomed with open arms.  One of her neighbors has opened up his house to us – whatever we might need, whether it’s laundry, a shower, or use of the freezer – he opened his house to us whenever we need something.  They’re building the cabin by hand with the help of two of the guys who live on their street – people they met as they drove by and saw them on the property. 

What it Means to Love Your Neighbor as Yourself

We were all sitting around on the last night of the trip – my brother and his wife drove up for a couple of days – and the man who opened his house to us drove up with a bowl full of cold melons that he’d cut up for us.  When he left, my brother was shocked.  He said, “That guy is really nice.  I’m not used to having someone think about you even when you’re not around and bring stuff like that.”  You have to understand that some of these folks have had a hard life in ways that we can’t even imagine.  They’re also part of the history of the area – their families date back many, many years – but to them, we are not “outsiders” or “people from Florida” as they call some of the people who visit the area.  We are part of their family.  God humbled me by showing me what He means when He tells us to love our neighbor as ourselves. 

Opening My Eyes

God also used this trip to open my eyes and soften my heart in that I was able to recognize the gift He was giving me – us – in these people who welcomed us so willingly.  I was invited to attend church the next time I come up – it’s a small Baptist church that’s been there forever.  One man is going to build a fire pit on his property down by the creek so we can all gather and just hang out next time we come.  This same man lost his wife while we were there in June last year.  I’d met him over the trip my sister and I took back in November of 2020, but was so caught up in the darkness of my anxiety and other issues that I was unable to see the person he is.  God opened my eyes and softened my heart towards him and allowed me to see his kindness this time.  This is the same man who brought us the melon that evening.  I realized it wasn’t just my brother who was so not use to people being so genuine and kind – so willing to go out of their way to help – I’d been that person too. 

Softening My Heart

Lastly, God used this trip to open my eyes and soften my heart to see past the differences in our lifestyles to see how we’re really the same.  The people there love being in the mountains just as I do.  One man said he’d gone out of town for work and by the time he’d been gone 4 hours, he was homesick.  So many enjoy hiking in those mountains just as I do and often spend multiple nights out on a trail doing so.  They enjoy camping.  Family is important to them.  Most of all, the majority of them worship God just as I do – worshiping Him is just as important to them as it is to me.  Most have had hard lives, walking through things I can’t even imagine going through – and yet, they found the strength in the Lord that they needed to overcome it.

Building Me Up

Finally, God used this trip – as He always does – to build me up and fill my heart with His peace.  He is so evident in His Creation all around me.  I saw Him in the woods.  I saw Him in the clouds.  His light shone brightly in the darkness, reflected in the thousands upon thousands of fireflies that lit up each night. I saw Him everywhere and He gave my weary soul its rest from all my troubles.  He even spoke to me through a sign I saw on a church – “Stop picking up what you’ve already laid down at God’s feet.  On our final night, He gave me a treat.  We were gathered on the front porch of the old house due to a thunderstorm, and while we were sitting there, I looked out across to the neighbor’s property just in time to see a full grown black pair stroll across the hillside as it made it’s way up to the ridge line and over into the national forest.  It might have been 100 yards away, but not much more.  It kind of looked over at us for a second, and then lumbered on its way.  While I have a healthy respect (and a pretty big dose of fear) for them, they are truly magnificent creatures to see in the wild.  I only wish I’d had my phone on me so I could have gotten a picture – but I have that picture in my mind.  God knew it would be the perfect way to bring my time up there to a close.

I’m home now – and I’ll admit that bed felt really good last night – but, while I’ve learned to be content where God’s placed me, I believe His plan for me will lead me back up to where I find Him surrounding me.  Yes, Florida belongs to Him – but those mountains will forever be God’s country in my heart.

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