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May 20, 2021 674 Tara K. E. Brelinsky

A Strategy for Living

Little did I know that a simple family hike would help me decipher a life-changing strategy…

Last year, my son wanted us to visit his college campus. Though I had seen the expansive university grounds and the mountains cradling them, his father and siblings had not. As restaurant owner/operators, scheduling the five-hour road trip and time away presented challenges, but I determined to make it happen. Since we could not manage more than a one-night retreat, I told my son to make the best use of our limited time. He chose a family hike.

Will Over Ability

I admit that at 49 I am more soft than firm. My regular exercise includes moving laundry bins, bending to pick up stray socks and forgotten books, and climbing the three sets of stairs in our house. When I planted my first step on the trail, I knew my will, not my ability, had to propel me forward.

Quickly I fell to the rear as the others had greater stamina and lung capacity. A few yards into the ascent, my breathing became shallow and labored, and my calves stung from the contraction of my out-of-shape muscles. I realized I needed a strategy to complete the hike.

I decided to let go of the big picture and focus on the details. Rather than concentrate on the three-mile trek, I would think about the next step. Often big-picture thinking makes me anxious, but attention to details tethers my mind to the present moment. I resolved to savor each observation and not stew in the what if’s (what if my legs quit? what if I run out-of-steam? what if I can’t keep up?…).

The Unseen World

Soon, my mind became enraptured with the beauty of creation, I forgot the big picture altogether. I heard the gentle whistle of the wind and the rustling of leaves beneath the joyful chatter of my children. As I worked to keep pace and my lungs adapted to the exercise, a flush of warmth radiated across my skin. The soft green hue of plants still in bloom on the mountain floor caught my eye, as did the puzzles of bare, twisted vines in the fall canopy. My mind’s eye opened to the unseen world above, below, and beside me. Stepping on the hard soil, I conjured images of insect armies marching nearby. I day-dreamed about the lives of the many creatures that inhabit our world: birds nesting in bare trees, rodents burrowing underground, and countless bugs climbing, flying, and marching. I thanked the all-good God for every single creature and every inch of the magnificent landscape he had placed me into that afternoon.

Strategy Found

At one point, I stopped to photograph a tree stump in order to remember that the now-decaying tree was part of God’s plan for this mountain. In time, the stump will disappear, and its donation will be absorbed into the mountain itself. As I focused my camera on the dying tree, a rainbow streamed across the image. I remembered the covenant between God and humanity. I recalled that it continues today, and I thanked God for his faithfulness.

My steps came easier when I wasn’t counting. The journey became light when I laid down the yoke of what-ifs and invited Christ to walk alongside me. When temptation pushed in, I drew closer to Jesus. Rather than denying the challenge or becoming overwhelmed, I offered a prayer of surrender and entrusted my walk to his care.

At the start of 2021, what I learned on that mountain hike is still unfolding. As the world spins into chaos anew, I am understanding the value of the present moment. While big picture thinking is important for mapping directions and establishing goals, it can rob us of the beauty, peace, and fellowship of the present moment.

Freedom Awaits

Had I focused on the length of the hike and my insufficient capabilities, I might have sat it out.  Instead, I discovered a treasury of beauty and blessing. Instead of obsessing over the big picture I am now focusing on the present moment. Snuggling on the couch with a loved one, reading a book aloud, pouring myself a mug of coffee and inhaling the aroma, or calling a friend and laughing together. I am becoming more attentive and finding more ways to put my love into action.

My simple hike up a hill resulted in a new strategy for my life: being attentive to the present moment and expressing gratitude for the blessings in it.

This strategy is making my journeys easier (whether hiking up a mountain, completing a daily task, carrying a heavy cross, or living through this unprecedented time in history). Living in the present has become the key to unlocking freedom, a freedom no one can suppress. Christ is in the present moment. Let’s look for Him there where we are sure to find Him.


Tara K. E. Brelinsky

Tara K. E. Brelinsky is a freelance writer and speaker. She lives with her husband and 8 children in North Carolina. You can read more of her musings and inspirations on Blessings In Brelinskyville or listen to her podcast The Homeschool Educator.

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