The Blessing I Almost Missed…
Before I close out this series on our time at the cabin, I wanted to share one last story with you.
It might be the most important post I’ve written this month.
If you had a chance to read our other posts in this series, Summer at the Cabin, and How to Bring the Feeling of Vacation Home you already know we had to hike part of the Cherokee National Forest to get to Benton Falls.
But what I haven’t shared yet, is that it almost didn’t happen.
For the sake of full disclosure, creating a bucket list to hike the waterfalls in the areas around the cabin came about after we celebrated the year anniversary of my bestie S’s recovery from a major fall several years ago.
Nearly every day she was learning how to walk again, her goal was to be able to hike part of the Appalachian Trail and to see Amicalola Falls.
That simple goal compelled us to create a bucket list to hike *all* the waterfalls in the surrounding areas in celebration of just how far she’s come.
The drive to get to the Cherokee National Forest from Georgia to Tennessee is a really beautiful one.
Especially, if you take the scenic route.
It’s not for the faint of heart though.
Particularly, if you get car sick because the twists and turns on the drive up can be a lot to handle.
I don’t think I’ve ever publicly shared why I have almost debilitating anxiety in the car, but several years ago, S and I were in a near-fatal accident.
Despite dealing with an anxiety disorder since my late teens and having it mostly under control for years, the accident was the event that prompted a significant relapse.
All this is to say, being in the car is not easy for me and it’s not easy for my family either.
They’ve been extremely supportive.
But I would be lying if I told you they weren’t worried about how it has affected our lives.
So, in the weeks leading up to our vacation as I did with our birthday celebration trip to Savannah, I practiced being in the car as much as possible to make the trip as easy as possible.
Before we left Florida, we mapped out places to stop along the way so I could have lots of things to look forward to.
And while it made for a long trip, it felt doable.
I knew the trip to Benton Falls was going to be a tough one though because there are rivers, rapids, and a lake on one side of the road and straight rock faces dotted with trees on the other.
Even with miles of curves up the mountain, it’s still a busy road and frequently used by both semi-trucks and cars alike.
The first part of the trip wasn’t bad at all. I’m a small-town girl and I love discovering new ones.
But I knew I was in trouble when I realized I was taking such shallow breaths the alarm on my watch started to vibrate.
Then everything sort of went sort of blurry.
By the time we found a place to pull over, my mouth was so dry I could barely speak.
My shirt was soaked with sweat and I could not stop the tears from rolling down my face.
I wish I could adequately convey how embarrassing it is to be grown yet have to sit in the parking lot and gather yourself.
It is such a humbling and vulnerable experience.
Part of what makes it difficult is that in my heart I want to be cool.
I want to be as fun as my extrovert sisters.
The kind of person that “goes with the flow.”
I don’t want to be a burden, a bother, or slow anyone down.
And yet, I have this daily mountain that must be climbed while still living at sea level.
When I finally gathered my composure, I realized the parking lot we had pulled into was the launch for the rapids up ahead.
I watched as people secured their life vests and helmets, checked their gear, and listened to safety instructions.
They were hugging and high-fiving each other like they were about to cross a major milestone off their bucket list.
They genuinely seemed so happy.
Breaking the silence S quietly said, “We don’t have to keep going. “We can turn around. It’s not a big deal. I’m sorry for putting you in this position. I didn’t realize the drive up would be this intense.”
I wish I could say I was brave enough to respond immediately.
But I just sat there watching the rafters prepare to hit the rapids ahead.
“How can they have enough courage to get into boats with very little protection against the rocks and water yet I can’t muster the courage to get up this mountain in a car?” I said, my shaking voice betraying me.
“They chose to push past the fear. And one day you’ll get there too,” S gently replied.
While I have no desire to ever go rafting down a river or navigate small rapids, those words were the encouragement I needed to get back on the road.
“Let’s just get to the Sugarloaf Mountain Overlook and we’ll see how you feel,” S said, “If you’re ok there, we’ll take the next steps to get to Benton Falls.”
As we twisted our way up the mountain, I kept reminding myself I am capable of doing hard things.
I told myself to look at the wildflowers growing in the national forest. To notice the way the light hit the massive rocks and to appreciate how the rapids below brought so many people happiness. I told myself to pray for the train conductor that looked like he was riding on the edge of a cliff and to imagine the view the hawks flying overhead must be seeing.
Before I knew it, we were pulling over to the first Sugarloaf Mountain Overlook.
Then we made it to the second overlook.
As we got out of the car, we waited for a family to take pictures. A mother about my age seemed excited to take pictures with her tween and teen boys even though they kept saying, “Mom, how many pictures do you actually need?” which gave me the giggles.
To pass the time, we read the notes various people had penned on the rocks. Some were funny and some were sweet. Some were totally weird, and some were uplifting.
We were almost to the end of the rock wall when I noticed 4 letters that completely stopped me in my tracks.
Tally, short for Talladega, was the name of my first dog. She was the absolute love of my life and I miss her dearly every single day.
She was with me through the darkest valleys and the highest peaks.
My constant and loyal companion, she loved traveling up to the cabin and being in the mountains.
So, it was really special to see a name that looked like hers on the rock.
Now, imagine my complete surprise when I read the rest of the message.
“God is taking me to big places.”
I still get the chills just thinking about it because I knew immediately the message was meant for me.
After all, had I not made the decision at the base of the mountain to choose faith over fear, I would have never found the message and would have missed the blessing altogether.
A few miles later we found ourselves on the path to Benton Falls.
It’s classified as a beginner-level hike.
But in my honest opinion, there were portions of the hike as you get closer to the waterfall that could have easily been considered moderate level because the rocks did not feel stable at all.
The hike is still a pretty one though.
By the time you get to the falls, it truly feels like you’re discovering a hidden treasure.
We stayed there for a while taking pictures and catching our breath just enjoying the water and the beauty of the day.
For a moment, it felt like time stood still as we gave thanks for such a magnificent place.
I’m not sure if you can tell from the pictures, they were all taken with my iPhone, but the layers of rock under the waterfall are truly a sight to behold.
Especially as the water is rushing over them.
It made me think about all the layers we carry from life.
How we bloom in unexpected ways.
How we navigate difficult times.
Learn to change course and adapt to overcome.
Yet through it all, we’re called to divine appointments and given gifts of love, kindness, and encouragement along the way.
And just when we think we’ve gone too far or a situation feels out of reach, we’re showered in abundant grace.
An unexpected blessing at exactly the time we need it most.
I don’t even want to imagine the number of times I’ve almost missed a blessing because I gave up too soon, failed to trust, or allowed fear to get the best of me.
But I know I came off that mountain changed in so many ways.
As we say goodbye to the first half of the year and begin to celebrate all the good things the second half has to offer us, I want to challenge you to take the first step in climbing to the top of your mountain whatever that mountain may be.
It might look like finally getting help for anxiety, depression, addiction, or another health concern.
It might be dealing with the symptoms of insomnia that have you living half a life.
Perhaps it’s decluttering your house or losing weight.
It might look like setting up boundaries with loved ones to protect your time and wellness.
It might be forgiving someone who’s hurt you.
It might look like finding clarity and taking the next step in your business or being bold enough to scale back and rethink your goals.
Perhaps, it’s taking charge of your finances or responsibility for the choices you’re making.
It might look like finally taking ownership of your life and asking for what you want and need instead of allowing others to make the decision for you, then blaming them when things don’t work out the way you want them to.
Whatever your mountain looks like, be brave enough to take the first step, even when it feels scary.
You never know the blessing that is waiting for you at the top.
I’ll be cheering you on.
Thank you– that was beautiful!
You are welcome, Lee! I hope your day has been a special one so far and your weekend is filled with all good things, CoCo
Amen! God is so tender and specific in His mercies to us. Thank you for using your platform to share His love.
I couldn’t agree with you more, Martha. His tender mercies blow me away when I need them most yet expect them the least. Thank you for your kind words of encouragement and support. It means the world to me, CoCo
Thank you for sharing your story. You are a very brave and strong person. Anxiety is so hard to overcome and your story will give encouragement to so many people. I read it with tears in my eyes because it was an answer to my prayers. I just had a mammogram on Mon and got a call back to have another one and an ultrasound in 2 weeks. I know it’s very common to get a call back, but I am a cancer survivor and it makes me very nervous. Your story reminded me of how many blessings we are given if we take the time to notice them. Our mountains in life can be very difficult to overcome, but we have each other to help us. Your story is inspiring and thank you so much for sharing it. God bless you.
I’m getting teary too now, Ellen. Thank you so much for your kind words and thoughtful encouragement. I appreciate it so much! I am grateful you shared your story as well. I will be keeping you and your family in my prayers and lifting you up as you navigate these next few weeks. I can’t imagine how scary it must be to have to go through this again. Always remember you are a treasure in an earthly vessel. And each day you choose to sew seeds of love, kindness, mercy, and grace you’re planting flowers in the hearts and minds of the people that have been placed on your path. You are loved, valued, appreciated, strong and brave. And even though you might not be able to physically feel them, I’m sending so many hugs your way. May you feel His strength when you need it most, CoCo
Ellen, just wanted to let you know I got your email and I am beyond excited about your news. I know you still have a few extra steps to go through but for now, I am going to celebrate this first step because it’s such big news. Keeping you and your family in my prayers as you continue on your journey. Thank you for the update and for allowing me to be a part of your cheer squad! Big hugs, CoCo
These are the words I try to live by. I say them many times through out the day.
I rely totally on God. He is my hope.
He upholds me with His righteous right hand.
Such a blessing to claim those words each day, Pati! It’s amazing to know He holds us in the palm of His hands no matter if we’re having a good day or a bad one. While it’s not always easy to live in perfect peace, it’s reassuring to know He is with us each step of the way. I hope your summer season is off to a great start, CoCo
Thanks for the uplifting story. It seems you only see and hear about bad things happening, so it is nice to read about something positive.
Such a nice thing to say, Susan, thank you. Hope your summer season is filled with extra special adventures and all good things, CoCo
I always say that I have “good days and better days” but some days it is hard to get to the top of the mountain to realize how “good” the day really is. Lovely post that we can all benefit from.
I completely understand this sentiment, Karen, and appreciate the gentleness in the way you share it as well. You are right, it is not always easy to get to the top of the mountain to realize how good the day is. When days like that happen, I look for something that helped to make the journey to the top manageable. Sometimes it’s as small as a cup of tea in the afternoon or the feeling of sinking into freshly laundered sheets at bedtime. Sometimes, it’s as big as venting, crying, or screaming as much as needed and still being loved unconditionally. Life is not easy but every bit of support definitely helps. Thank you for sharing this. I’m adding it to my journal. Big hugs, CoCo
What a powerful and heartfelt post- thank you for sharing it. Your photos are stunning! We lived outside Jasper GA at 3000 foot level and I felt such peace every day. We have since moved to be close to family (and love it) but the mountain memories are still with me♥
Thank you for your sweet words, Barbara. It’s exciting to hear you’re from Jasper! That whole area Jasper, Ellijay, and Blue Ridge are all such peaceful places. I try to go to Mountainside Antique Mall every time I go to the cabin because they always have lots of goodies to choose from. Thankfully, it’s not too far and we can visit throughout the year. Hope your new home is just as beautiful. There is nothing like being with family. Hope your summer season is filled with lots of extra special memories, CoCo
So very heartwarming. Good for you.
I really appreciate it, Eileen, thank you so much! Hope you have the best day, CoCo
Coco, I love this so much! I love you for sharing it. I’m sure in the moment you weren’t in any way aware of what effect telling this story would have in people. Thank you for being brave enough to push through AND for being brave enough to share it with others. There are so many that can relate to those feelings. Love ya girl!! So proud of you!!
BTW, I did those rapids and made it through but I’ll NEVER do them again 😳😂
You have no idea how much I appreciate these generous words, Angie, thank you so much! I can’t believe you’ve gone on those rapids. They seriously looked INTENSE! I love how despite the scariness of it all there were lots of people smiling and hugging and having a great time. It really felt like we were watching them cross a big item off their bucket list which was cool. Plus, it just goes to show you there are many different levels of bravery and how we get to cheer each other on at every level. Sending you tons of hugs for your friendship and kind words. I hope your weekend is filled with all good things, CoCo
Thanks so much for this heartfelt post! I have anxiety, and one of my sons suffers from it too! It takes a great deal of hard work to overcome it! I’m glad you were able to make it to the falls and discover that sweet message! I think people who don’t struggle with anxiety have a hard time understanding it. They think you can easily take a deep breath and stop it. That’s so far from true! Thanks for sharing your experience and helping others understand what it can be like! As usual, you are such an inspiration and I’m happy to know you! Blessings, Donna
Thanks so much for your sweet support, Donna, I really appreciate it. I know exactly what you mean when you say people think you can just take deep breaths and stop it because that has not been my experience either. Thankfully, I’ve learned with each experience how long it actually takes for your mind and body to catch up with each other after an anxiety attack. Every new piece of information and tool in your toolbox definitely helps. I hope you and your son have found some helpful things along the way as well. After all, each step no matter how big or small helps lead us to a more full and healthy life. Sending you both lots of love, hugs, and prayers for your journey, CoCo
Thank you for sharing this and for your encouragement.
You are so very welcome, Elle! I hope your day is filled with all good things, CoCo
Thank you for sharing all those beautiful pictures of nature and the outdoors. Just lovely!
You are so very welcome, Michelle! Hope you have the best weekend, CoCo
Such a thought provoking post Coco. I was hurting for you reading about your panic attack, anyone who has ever suffered with anything like that has my sympathy. You made it though and you should be so proud of yourself. Well done I was so happy for you, it gives a boost doesn’t it, one you can take with you back down the mountain. The little message from Taly was wonderful talk about God moving in mysterious ways, wow. I think this is one trip that will go down in the memory of the best times ever :))
Take care stay strong and be brave.xx
I really appreciate your encouragement, Janette, thank you. Most days I feel like I’m good to go but there are certain situations I’m still struggling through. I know I’ll get there and it’s all part of the process but goodness gracious it’s such a vulnerable place to live sometimes. Thankfully, there are always sweet messages, kind words, and little nudges that keep me going. Hope your day is everything you need it to be and full of good things too, CoCo
I’m so sorry to hear about the car accident, CoCo… but you really are doing an amazing job pushing past that experience! What a magnificent place you were able to visit, and what a sweet message you found on the rock! These memories will be treasured for sure! Hugs!!
Thank you so much for your thoughtful words, Heidi, I really appreciate it. It’s definitely been a journey with lots of peaks and valleys. I’ve learned a lot along the way and hope it’s made me a more empathetic and understanding person. You truly just never know what someone is going through at any given time. Big hugs, CoCo
You are such a brave and strong soul, my friend!! What courage you have and the photos you took look breathaking!! I’m so proud of you!
Thank you so much for your encouragement and support, Rachel, I really appreciate it. I’m so thankful for the second chance and to be able to get up the mountain that day. You just never know what kind of blessings are waiting on you. No matter if they’re big ones or small ones, every moment counts. Sending you big hugs and thank yous for your friendship, CoCo
I needed this now: “And just when we think we’ve gone too far or a situation feels out of reach, we’re showered in abundant grace. An unexpected blessing at exactly the time we need it most.”
My preschooler is going through some seriously tough times right now, and this is a reminder that we can get through it.
Hugs to you, too, as you go through your own tough times.
You are so welcome, Corrie, happy to help encourage you in any way I can. Parenting is not easy, so hang in there. Remember there is no other person on the planet better equipped for your little than you. While you may not have all the answers (no one ever does), you have been gifted with the patience, wisdom, strength, perseverance, and love needed to get through this part of the journey. Give yourself lots of grace and know that every day you show up, you’re making progress. Sending you lots of hugs, CoCo
So kind of you to say, Susan, it was definitely a special moment. Hugs, CoCo