When the Best Laid Plans Go Awry

The air was filled with sunshine and gunshots.

A white pick-up pulled up beside us and a ranger rolled down the window. “The park is closed for the annual deer hunt,” he informed us. “You can drive up Decew Road and hike over on the left-hand side, but this whole side of the park is closed.”

I was disappointed. My friend and I had been planning our hike at Short Hills Provincial Park for weeks. It was a kid-free outing. An escape and a chance to catch up after a busy few weeks. But now, the park was closed.

Following the ranger’s directions, we made our way to Decew Street. There were no trails that we could see. Not anywhere. But there was an old grist mill. Morningstar Mill, the sign read. I pulled into the parking lot.

“Can we stop and look around for a minute?” I asked my friend. The place intrigued me.

“Sure,” she agreed.

I grabbed my camera and jumped out of the car. The grounds were beautiful. There was a fully restored 1872 grist mill, a blacksmith shop, an old house, and a few other buildings.

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And in the back corner, there was a wooden gate.

We creaked open the gate and found ourselves on the Bruce Trail. This was what we had been looking for. The narrow path wound past Decew Falls and followed the creek to the edge of the escarpment. The views were breath-taking.  We could see farm and city, and in the distance, Lake Ontario.

As we hiked, I couldn’t help but think of all the times in my life when plans changed. Often, I have things laid out to perfection in my mind. But life’s greatest blessings have come from plans gone awry. New careers. A sweet baby girl. Precious friendships. A renewed sense of purpose.

Deeper faith.

“Many are the plans in a man’s heart,” the Bible says. “But the purposes of the Lord will prevail.” In Jeremiah 29:11, the Lord assures us that His plans are to prosper us and not to harm us, to give us a hope and a future.

Sometimes, God puts us on a different path—a better path—because He has different, better things in store for us.

The trail climbed a steep hill beside a hydro dam. At the top, a beautiful, man-made lake spread out before us. Canada geese flapped low overhead, honking loudly as they settled in the water. A long-tailed duck dove deep, then re-appeared. Swans swam in tandem, stark white against the water.

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We followed the edge of the lake, stopping to examine purple wildflowers and fresh-cut beaver trees. There was so much beauty here—beauty that we had almost missed.

I breathed in autumn and exhaled contentment. Like so much of life, this wasn’t the plan.

But it was perfect anyway.

The Promise of a New Beginning

It is November, but the day is warm. My mom has taken the girls for the afternoon, and I am free to wander the world at leisure. Alone. These quiet hours spent walking through woods and meadows refresh and recharge me.

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Many of the trees have already cloaked the earth with their canopies. Their stark branches scratch the blue sky. In the meadow, the milkweed has burst open, releasing seed clouds into the wind. Late-season raspberries ripen on thorny branches, and the goldenrod is fringed with white.

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A grey squirrel rustles in the leaves, busily gathering nuts—a portent of the days to come. He swears at me as I pass by, angry at the interruption. Further down the path, a fallen nest lies abandoned in the grass. Its owners have no need of it anymore. Their young have long flown away.

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I love the autumn, despite the fact that it precedes the grey days of winter. It is the end of the season, yes. But spring will one day come, and life will flow again. Even in death, there can be beauty and hope.

Every ending holds the promise of a new beginning.

So I savour the moment.

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Evening Meanderings

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The day is long. They often are. Being home with my girls—homeschooling them—is a huge privilege. And yet, I have to be honest.

It’s hard.

I don’t often admit that. I try to make it look easy. The truth is, as much as I love it, this is one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. Things worth doing usually are.

Today is particularly trying. I meet opposition at every turn and I’m exhausted.

My husband arrives home just the girls are finishing dinner, and I am out the door in a flash. I push aside a twinge of guilt—the niggling feeling that I should be doing something more meaningful with my time. I remind myself: You can’t give when you’re empty. Tonight, I’m empty. And besides, the whole reason I’m going out is to meet up with someone who can help.

And I know just where I’m going to find some uninterrupted time with Him.

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I park the car at the end of a gravel road. The sun is beginning to set and the woods are bathed in the early evening glow. I grab my camera and begin to walk. A narrow side trail leads through a bed of ferns and into the bush, and I carefully pick my way over protruding roots and rocks. At the end of the path, nestled in a small valley, is a stream.

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I crouch beside a fallen tree and watch gray field slugs feast on mushrooms. Some might find this repulsive, but I’m intrigued. I learn later that some slugs solely subsist on fungi during certain stages of their development. Nature is a fascinating thing.

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I go back to the main path, past the frog pond and towards the meadow. Another side trail leads to a bench overlooking the valley and the view leaves me breathless.

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A little further on, in another meadow, three deer eye me suspiciously. I stop to stare back. I’m in no hurry.

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As the sun slinks behind the horizon, dusk emerges bold. Something dark flaps low across the path. It lands on a branch and I peer through the thicket to see what it could be. An owl. I watch until it flies away.

The air fills with the yips and howls of coyotes—the music of the night. I slowly make my way back to the car, rested.

I’ve done what I’ve come here to do. I’ve met the One I’ve been seeking.

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These days, I often find myself scrambling over rocks, pushing my way through tall meadow grasses and wandering deep in the woods.  I often find myself needing this change of scenery—time away, just me and Jesus. No little feet creaking down the stairs when I’m trying to pray in the early morning. No demands or pressures. Just uninterrupted time with the One who can soothe away the frustrations of the day. Here, in nature, I see reflections of His glory. Here, He speaks to the deep places.

Through silken spider strands glistening in the sun, He whispers.

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Through the ebony jewelwing that rests on a cool, green leaf, He whispers.

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Through the forest carpeted with flowers, He whispers.

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Each of these things, a gift from a Father who longs to draw close. Each of these things, a whisper of love. Love expressed through beauty.

“For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see His invisible qualities – His eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.” (Romans 1:20)

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands.” (Psalm 19:1)

I come home and my heart is full. I’ve met Jesus.

And I’m ready to give again.

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