Some time in high school: A friend: "Let Jesus be in the driver's seat." Me: "Naw, I'll drive. Jesus can be the navigator."
Jesus never did get to ride shotgun with me, but finally God did get to chauffeur. This past weekend.
My department of nine people is made of six men with outdoors interests and three women without. The annual social in our department therefore usually consists of hiking or fishing. This year's trip was no different. We were headed for Aurlandsdalen, a canyon carved by the Aurland river, starting at a mountain lodge called Østerbø Fjellstove and ending at the bottom in the village of Vassbygdi.
I'm not used to hiking and so was nervous about the trip. However, one of my female co-workers, G, is deaf, and she was determined to go. She bought herself new hiking boots, walking poles (her sense of balance is destroyed by her hearing loss), rucksack, Thermos and I guess some other gear. We discussed back and forth how to do this.
It was decided that we gals would follow the guys to a place called Nesbø, and then head back to Østerbø. Then what to do about transportation: Østerbø is a half hour's drive up the mountain to about 820 m (2690 ft) from Vassbygdi at 90 m (295 ft). The hike down Aurlandsdalen takes 5–7 hours. We needed a car at both ends. Solution: Drive one car down to Vassbygdi the evening before, and so have one car at either end of the trail and then drive up and get the "top" car after the hike. That's when I opened my mouth and said that I have a driver's license and since we ladies were going to be at Østerbø, we could drive the car down to Vassbygdi and meet the guys at the end of their hike.
Yes, I have a license, but I rarely drive, and this was going to be on an unfamiliar road in an unfamiliar car.
But I didn't tell anyone I was worried about that and the hike, too. I really wanted to do this trip, and if G could, so could I. (I'm a worry-wort, anyway.)
We were to leave work on Friday September 17, and hike on Saturday. Thursday night I tried my best to pack (not being used to hiking also means not being used to packing correctly though I had some idea). But I ended up going around in circles and that night woke myself thinking I'd packed everything wrong.
Friday morning I did what I should've done sooner: I laid everything in God's hands. I affirmed/prayed something like, "I am Divinely guided to pack exactly what I need and correctly. This trip is a joy and blessing for all, and everything about it is done with ease and comfort. God is in charge. I now leave everything up to God."
I switched rucksacks, choosing an older one that my back was familiar with. I exchanged one jacket for a windbreaker. I polished and rainproofed my bootlets. I felt better. I kept reminding myself at every decision that it was up to God.
I wore my raingear to work. It was raining that much. It kept raining the whole rest of the day, too. It had some of us worried, but not me. I was no longer anxious, but instead curious about how the trip would unfold.
One car, E's, headed out at 2:00 pm and arrived at Østerbø a little past 5:00 pm. I was in that car and enjoyed the company of my co-workers. And didn't get car sick! Huh. "Ease and comfort." Yes, I was getting my prayer answered.
We unloaded the car, then E drove back down the mountain to pick up our other four co-workers, who'd parked in Vassbygdi. By 6:30 everyone was checked in and we were ready to have a little pre-dinner drink in one of our tiny rooms. We all got a little silly and boisterous but not drunk. That we have so much fun is one reason why I want to take trips with my co-workers.
At 8:00 pm, dinner was served. We sat at a dining table with a top made from a huge slab of wood. We had a delicious three-course meal. The main course was a perfect reindeer steak, and the service was excellent. We also had the place to ourselves (not a bad idea, since we were loud).
Then it was back to the tiny room for nightcaps. By 11:30 pm we were all ready to go to bed and get a good night's rest for the next day. We had originally planned to set off at 10:00 am the next day, but this was changed to 9:30 am. As I got ready for bed, I looked out my window and saw stars. So far this day, I had felt blessed. Everything went so smoothly and easily. Nobody had any problems with anything. I thanked God for this day and reminded myself that He was still in charge of this weekend. The starry night was a promise of continued goodness.
The next morning, we were all up by 7:00 am (partly awokened by G, who needed to see us, since she couldn't hear us), and pretty much ready to check out by 7:30 am. We actually hung around just yacking for a bit, since breakfast wasn't served until 8:00 am.
E gave me the keys to his car, showed me how to turn on the lights and windshield wipers, etc. Again, I reminded myself that God was in charge, and put the drive out of my mind.
The moment the dining room opened, we helped ourselves to the buffet (typical Norwegian-style). I rarely get a soft-boiled egg in a hotel that is actually soft-boiled but I did here. God was reminding me that He was still making sure it was a good trip. The bread was dry so I didn't feel like eating more than two slices. Fixings for a lunch on the trail was included in the price, so we ended breakfast by making lots of open-faced sandwiches for the trail. I had brought a plastic container I usually use on hikes and my four slices fit just right.
The sun rose over a mountain top and shone brightly though watery on us, promising far better weather than the meteorologists had. We were all so fast that it was decided to start our hike at 9:00 am.
Those of us who had delivered our Thermoses the night before with instructions on what we wanted them filled with (mine read "Black coffee" – in Norwegian, of course), collected the Thermoses and then we were all ready to go. At 9 on the dot, we headed out, passing some new cabins, stopping for a group photo, and then getting onto the trail proper along the lake.
The guys quickly realized that we girls were moving too slowly for them, and they wanted to break away immediately. I wasn't happy about that at first, but they showed me how the trail was marked and I sent them off. Again, I had to remind myself that God was in charge. In one way I was in charge of G, since I was walking point and scouting the trail for her, helping her pick routes that were easier for her to manage. Without those walking poles, she could only walk on roads.
Our pace was relaxed and the surroundings quiet except for the constant rush from a waterfall across the lake from us and the lodge. Birds were rarely heard. It was very peaceful and I absolutely enjoyed it. We were overtaken by several groups of other hikers but for the most part, it was just G and me and Mother Nature.
Civilization did intrude at one point: E called me on my cell phone. Beyond a gate the path became like a narrow ledge, carved into the side of the mountain. He didn't think we girls would like or manage that, since he, with his own problem with heights had found it difficult. We girls were both grateful for his warning and concern. When we got to the gate, we could see what he meant. Nothing between us and the lake way below except air. We enjoyed the view for a bit, then turned around, seeing our original destination of Nesbø only as a small collection of buildings way off in the distance.
I realized our initial plan had been too ambitious for us. It took us an hour just to get to that point (including a short coffee break and some general sightseeing), and another hour getting ourselves back to the lodge (during which God teased my faith with 5 minutes of high wind and misty rain). There I had a slice of bread from my lunch, we took a potty break, then we got into the car.
That car was a quick vehicle. I found myself racing down the dirt road to the main road. The road had no line down the middle and I was unsure of how far to the right edge I could go with this car. Except for one spooky moment inside one tunnel, when a truck came towards me, forcing me to hug the right, I pretty much didn't have to worry about that. But I'm sure that by all counts I drove like an idiot. I kept thinking of Mr. Toad's wild ride. I had to keep reminding myself to let God drive. For once, let God drive, no delegating Him to be just the navigator.
G was very calm (and aware) during all this. Thankfully.
I was overtaken by a police car (hah!) who did pass me, which turned out to be a blessing: His break lights in the next tunnels told me where the tunnels turned. I was actually having a little trouble seeing the turns properly. (This road was originally built as a construction road, hence the sharp turns inside tunnels.)
I was grateful when we finally reached the bottom and the 6% grade levelled off. We parked next to our other car, and got ourselves ready for the hike up the trail, to meet the guys on their way down. I had called earlier and knew they were making very good time.
At 12:10 pm G and I set off, up a road parallelling the river, past farms and homes. Suddenly, the road narrowed to a rocky track and it was hard going for G. After another brief shower (another test of faith), we were accompanied by a warm breezed coming down the valley. The trail got steeper and rockier. It was actually going across old rock slides. After almost an hour of heavy breathing and careful walking, with no end to this type of trail in sight, G and I agreed to eat lunch, and then head back. It was too much for us.
We sat amidst huge rocks that had tumbled down the mountainside centuries earlier. The coffee from the lodge was delicious. My bread slices had apparantly gotten some moisture from the cold cuts on them, because they were no longer dry. I thoroughly enjoyed my meal.
Halfway back down the trail, I heard somebody hollering behind us. It was our boss, leading the pack down the mountain. The timing was perfect! They had had a wonderful hike, moving past all the other groups and enjoying views unhindered by clouds or fog.
We all got back to the cars by 2:15 pm. That's when it started to rain, and it didn't stop raining until two days ago (Wednesday). I'm not kidding. Even my boss, on Monday, said that it was as if God had a hand in our good fortune weatherwise Saturday.
I smiled to myself.
I have had a wonderfully relaxing and peaceful weekend, with both broad strokes and little details working out to perfect enjoyment.
I'm glad I let go and let God.