Tryon Creek State Park is a place I go to look for God when I feel disconnected. The big trees, the slant of sun through branches, the startling shades of green on the moss and lichen against dark bark take me back to the relationship that guides me.
What sent me to the park that afternoon was a worry that had been growing for weeks. My daughter was deep in the troubled waters of middle school, and I’d been watching helplessly as the light dimmed behind her eyes and her spark and enthusiasm waned. The school’s response to my concern was essentially, “This happens in middle school. She’ll pull through.” I wondered whether “pull through” would include self-harm and an eating disorder. I had talked with other moms and friends who were therapists. I had read the books, and all their wise counsel made no difference.
It was Friday afternoon, and another bleak weekend stretched ahead, so I went to the big trees before picking her up from school. At Tryon Creek, I walked the trails wondering where God was, hoping the magic would happen and longing for peace, acceptance and faith. As I walked and prayed, I began to harangue God for not carrying my daughter through adolescence in a safe and comforting vessel. For not helping me in the way I wanted. For not reassuring me that my daughter would be ok and that I was providing what she needed. For not creating a way to grow up that didn’t include misery. For not giving me sage counsel that made sense and actually helped.
As the trail looped back around to the parking lot, I was spent but had no sense of communion with God. I turned down one of the small trails where art frequently rises up through the trees in the form of wicker sculptures, reflective panels, or large twig nests. As I walked started down the trail, I muttered, “Just show me a sign. Please!”
Beneath a rhododendron to my right, I saw a small plaque with a few words. I don’t remember the words, except that they didn’t speak to my condition. A bit farther down the trail, I saw another little plaque stuck in the fork of a branch. And then another, nestled between the large roots of a cedar. And another, cradled in moss, with a message about softness. Now I was paying attention. I even grew a bit breathless, determined to see every one of these little signs and read their message right into my heart.
All these years later, the only message I remember is the one from the last sign because it was the answer to all those prayers, and I could feel the wisdom in my bones. The sign said, “Patience, patience and deep intuition.” These words became my mantra as I accompanied my daughter through the troubled waters until, eventually, her spark returned and her eyes brightened once again.
Thank you, God.