The day was calling, sunshine caressing the autumn air with warmth, and trees in their russet shades of dress beckoning us to come and walk.
We parked and children tumbled from the van, skipping and dashing down the path towards the embrace of waiting meadow. Laughing they cast themselves into tall grasses, tassle topped, golden grass, and disappeared, arms flung askew in the joy of being lost in fall's cloak.
We chuckled and chased, and then the announcement came from smallest of boys "I have to go poo," he said.
There was no delaying the inevitable, so Frank took him home (five minutes away) with agreements to meet up a little later, somewhere in the vicinity of a field or tree. There are somethings you can do in the bush...not this one.
So they left, and three children and I chose our path and gamboled on. We strolled and ran, up and down a hilly place and then the path curved into the wood. Tall shrubbery on either side obscured the way a little and still heavy foliage on trees dappled the light into patches and darkness.
I felt a little hand in mind and knew my daughter close to me. "I want to wait for Daddy," she softly said, a little nervous in this unfamiliar place. There's something about Daddy beside us that feels safe. He's strong and steady.
The boys had hurtled on ahead and were playing a game of knights and swords, routing out the ogres that were sure to be lurking amongst the shadows.
"We're fine", I assured her, "Look at how the light peeks through the trees and makes the plants and ground all speckled and splashed. It's dark here, but it's bright just up there."
She still clung to me tightly, but walked along, glancing here and there.
The trail did wind deeper and deeper into the wood, away from where the cars were parked. We hadn't gone this way before and I wondered how Frank would find us later.
I noticed the foliage leaning into the path, that it had a red stem and three leaves and instantly thought "Great, poison ivy." So I cautioned all the children not to touch, and knew they'd be fine otherwise as we were all dressed in long sleeves and pants.
Nonetheless, the presence of something possibly poisonous contacting our skin, and the path that continued to disappear ahead of us into more depth and shadow was concerning me.
It's funny how in those places of uncertainty, silly fears become larger than life. Suddenly ogres in the underbrush become fiends with ungodly intent towards my children and myself. Fear reared it's ugly head from behind and screamed in a whisper, "Run! You're not safe here!"
But I chose not to listen. "Liar," I thought "You're not spoiling our walk." And so we traipsed, and eventually, the path began to wind up a hill, steadily ascending towards the light filtering in through tree tops stretched to the sky.
Stopping to look back at still battling boys, I prompted Becca to see where we'd come from. It was dark down there, but light up here. She had let go of my hand a ways back and was more visibly relaxed.
So we clambered up and up a steep incline in the path, through a last stand of trees, into the blazing sun of a newly furrowed farmers field.
I didn't know where we were, but the sun pouring down warmth and life onto our faces sure felt good.
I ambled along, as the children ran through the deep furrows, sinking in the newly turned soil.
The field finished at a familiar trail, surrounded by trees again and led us down towards the base of the hill. We listened for voices we knew, hoping to head Frank and Nicky off at the pass.
They didn't appear for quite awhile, so we waited, laid out under the sheltering arms of a willow, quiet, on a simple hill.
Sometimes God leads us in places we don't feel safe in, strips away the security of the familiar.
On the journey we can only press in to his side, tuck a trembling hand into His great strong One, and keep going. It may be shadowy, and fearsome things may lurk, but if we look, really look, and listen too, we will find things of beauty growing in the underbrush.