Unusually I had a spare morning on my hands today, as the 2 excercise classes I normally take had been cancelled.
My 3 boys safely dispatched, I decided to take myself off for a walk; packed a rucksack with essentials such as a camera, a notebook, my devotional notes for today, a drink, my iPod and a roll of toilet paper (believe me, those who know me will not be surprised... I have a fairly small and impatient bladder. 'Nuff said...)
Now, Ashford Hill is a tiny little village just 2 or 3 miles west of where we live, and we often drive there to walk up into the woods, especially in early spring as the woodland ground is carpeted in bluebells... There is a cute little country pub there, but most importantly there is a nature reserve which would take anyone's breath away! And I've known for a while that it was definitely accessible by foot. In fact a friend confirmed this a while ago when she told me it was her dog's favourite walk destination! She even described to me how to get there, and ever since, I have made attempts to get there -
My sense of direction is pretty much non-existent, and maybe that's why I am so good at reading maps - I really cannot cope without maps! I LOVE maps!!!
Stupidly however, I do not own a footpath map of our little corner of Britain. So my attempts to get to Ashford Hill were always doomed to fail.
I set off, as I have done in the past, determined to find the way to Ashford Hill, map-less but carrying every other essential on my back. Including toilet paper.
I got to the field at the end of a woodland path, where several options presented themselves. I knew which path would lead home, and which didn't. I took that one, as I had done previously, hoping that somehow I would end up going in the right direction. I was wrong. I took several paths off that main one, and had to come back on myself several times.
I ended up in the same field once more.
Tired. Hot. Fed up.
I prayed, "Lord, this is really frustrating now! Please help me find the way...!"
The next thing I knew, a friendly gentleman on a rugged bicycle appeared from out of nowhere, and asked me, "are you ok? Are you lost?"...
After wondering for a few seconds whether to just ignore him or to acknowledge his question, I replied that I was looking for Ashford Hill.
He pointed to a big open path behind me and said, "follow this path all the way down to the bridge, then turn right, and you're there!"
And with that, he cycled off, and I did a 180 degree turn. There was indeed a pretty obvious path which I had never noticed before.
I walked down this lovely, easy path, and 5 minutes later I had reached the Ashford Hill National Nature Reserve, the one I had been looking for for months.
God really spoke to me this morning.
I always pray when I'm walking. It's a time when I can really commune with Him.
So before setting off today I had asked Him to reveal Himself to me, and to speak to me in whatever way He chose. I was feeling quite gloomy, and discouraged, and far from Him. And the fact I couldn't find this wretched path was making it worse.
I had pretty much given up, when out of the blue this man showed me the way, and then it seemed so straightforward!
God said this to me, "this is what happens: you try so so hard to find a way through things, through difficulties, through life on your own, in your own strength. But all that happens is that you end up lost, fed up, and scared. Ask me for the way, and I will show you. It might not be a path you imagined, you probably didn't even know that path existed. But if you ask me, I'll show you. And then it'll seem like the simplest thing in the world, because it is my path, my way, and I'll walk it with you."
PS: photos in next post!