My morning had been rough… started with a cat throwing up, my dog teasing another cat, my phone ringing in unison with the chimes on my clock announcing 6 while hearing beeps on my cell letting me know texts had arrived. If that was not enough, my front door bell rang. Who is at my door this early? Of course all of this happened before my feet had touched the floor, prior to my first cup of coffee and not as much as a good morning to the Lord. By the time lunch had rolled in, projects I had hoped were going to be completed were only added to the growing list of further delays, changed agendas and my day went backwards from there. For lunch I knew I needed to unwind by a leisurely walk at my favorite wooded river park before my second half of the day began.
I had decided that this walk was not exercise — I was not going to push myself, rather enjoy the beauty of the winter afternoon, listening to both nature deep in the woods and for anything that God may want to whisper. And I needed a loud whisper to tame my concerns and uprising fears over many things that concerned me. For the past several days it had been dark, dreary and raining, but today Atlanta awakened to the first blue sky with temperatures remaining in the low 40s.
I bundled up and arrived at the entrance of the park in time to join the trail with a tall man and little girl of about seven adjacent to my right. It became obvious it was a father and daughter outing. The little girl’s hand was swallowed up in her Father’s hands as she was busily chit chatting about dance classes, school, friends and anything else she could think of. Her Father just smiled and kept walking. Only every once in a while during a short remission from her chatter, was he able to respond to her rapid dialogue. It appeared though that the Father was simply satisfied being with his little girl. No need for words, just a tightening of the grip around her small little hands as if to say, “I love you honey.”
I smiled… she reminded me of myself… full of life… talkative and as my brother says of me, ‘carry on a complete conversation asking and answering questions all in the same breath.’ The walk now became entertaining as I began to see more of myself mirrored through this little girl. Somehow I felt like I was getting ready to witness a great object lesson right before me. It was as if the curtain was ready to open and the play to begin. I picked up my pace to keep up…the little girl’s voice became louder making it easy to listen…
As we rounded the bend, there were dogs barking, jumping and swimming through the white current of the Chattahoochee River while chasing the sticks that had been tossed. As if on cue, the little girl began to pull her Daddy squealing, “Daddy come on quick… look at the doggies playing. Come on Daddy, hurry.” Her Daddy willingly let her tight grip pull him to where the dogs were playing. I decided to join them and watch. When the little girl was about 40 feet from the dogs she began to step back and hug her daddy’s legs. She was now face to face with dogs twice her small frame. Immediately, her Daddy sensed her fear and kneeled down by her side with his arms tightly wrapped around her as the dogs playfully approached the new visitors with their owners.
A lady watching came around to the father’s side giving him a handful of treats she carried in a small plastic bag. Never taking his hand away from his daughter, he took the treats, unfolded her clenched hand while speaking softly face to face teaching her how they were going to feed the dogs some treats. The owners were right by their dog’s side ensuring safety and talking to them. In a moment the dogs had gobbled the treats from the father and daughter’s outstretched hands looking for any crumbs on the ground.
“Daddy, Daddy that was fun wasn’t it, wasn’t it Daddy?” The little girl squealed in innocent delight. The Father picked up his little bundle of joy in his arms and stood replying, “That was fun honey, it surely was. Did you see how big those dogs became when we got closer?” The little girl shaking her head up and down agreeing with his every word. “That is why Daddy wants you to walk hand in hand with him, not running ahead… just walking side by side” Putting his daughter down so they could continue their walk, I noticed how close she stayed to him, her hand in his.
We had walked about 100 yards when there were a group of families flying kites in a nearby field adjacent to the north section of the river. This time she did not yank her Daddy to walk faster. She tugged on his hand looking up into his face and said, “Daddy, can we go over there?” Her Daddy smiled, picking her up in His arms brushing his lips against her cheeks with a light kiss, “certainly honey. Certainly.” In his arms he carried her over to the kite fliers….
I stood for a moment watching father and daughter. A little boy close to the daughter’s age who had a box kite motioned for the little girl to come over and try flying his kite. The little girl wiggled to get down from her father’s arms but instantly stopped taking both hands holding her daddy’s chin asking him if she could go. In a few moments the little girl had the kite twisting and turning in the deep blue sky as the little boy was teaching her technique. She screamed with pure joy waving to her Daddy to look. He had never taken his eyes off of her. He had never left her side. He was right there—only a few feet away. He had the biggest smile on his face watching her. He clapped his hands and celebrated with her. I could see sincere joy in his watching his daughter flying the kite. His gaze was intent and focused on her. In that moment it appeared as if nothing else mattered to him. She was his center stage.
Walking back to my car, I only smiled shaking my head. My Heavenly Father had whispered loudly. I had no words- just abiding peace. The last hour I had been given a glimpse into our Father’s heart and seen a picture of His ways. I remember the verse that says that the children of Israel only knew His acts, not His ways. (Psalm 103:7) I had seen both! What a beautiful picture of God’s heart toward us and how He longs to share our lives with us.
As I drove back home all of my concerns were swallowed up and dissolved. None of them could top the truths that I had been shown. The rest of the day soared. I got more accomplished in those last hours than I had all week. Um, another truth. I am glad I followed my heart to go for a walk. My limited view had been to go to the park and unwind. I had no idea the surprise God had planned. I had witnessed again His love- His grace and His mercy.
The New Living Bible says in Isaiah 65:24 says “I will answer them before they even call to me. While they are still talking to me about their needs, I will go ahead and answer their prayers!”
Even before I had talked with Him about all of my concerns I carried and perhaps even understood the depth of some, He led me to take a walk in the park. I thought it was my idea. Not! A walk in the park was my “still waters” where my soul was restored (Psalm 23) to a place of abiding peace and rest. What is He saying to you? His hand is outstretched… waiting. Will you take His hand?