Lessons Learned on the Trail: Navigating Motherhood Mindfully


The sun came out to play the other day, and it happened to be the first morning in awhile that I didn’t have somewhere I needed to be by 9:00 a.m.

My husband had taken the kids to preschool, and I had two hours to devote to folding the mounds of laundry that had piled up throughout the week and trying to squeeze in some exercise.

Caleb (the aforementioned husband) called on his way home and told me he was planning to meet a buddy of his at a park, and he asked if I wanted to go along.

The choice was multifaceted. I could: A) Stay at my house where I would get a ton of stuff checked off of my list. B.) Probably end up slightly bitter about the fact that I was doing it alone. C) Go along, take my headphones, and get my run on while the big boys goofed around.

While it seems like an obvious choice from the outside, I’m sure other mothers can relate to the dilemma. Running a household is a full-time job: balancing everyone’s schedules; making sure everyone is fed, clothed, and reasonably happy; and trying to maintain a sense of self, or at least sanity along the way.

I decided to go along, and Caleb’s buddy was running late, so he and I ended up spending our morning in the woods.

photo 1

I’ve found that any time I can unplug from all the typical noise of my daily life, cross the bridge into something a little less mundane, I learn a lot about myself. This particular morning, on a spontaneous hike during a brief reprieve from the gray Texas winter, I realized some really important things about life . . . and motherhood.

Lessons learned on the trail:

You’re braver than you think.

The adventurer inside us often takes the back seat when we have to be the nurturing, protective parent who is responsible for the well-being of our real adventurers: the fearless toddlers that would climb a skyscraper given a bag of cheerios and 5 minutes alone.

But you’ve still got it, mama: the wanderlust that sent you backpacking in Europe the summer before you left for college, or the crazy notion that made you skydive out of an airplane to celebrate your first real job. That girl is still there.

Sure you’ve changed roles, added some charming little characters into your story. But the plot is still juicy and thick. You’re living in a real page turner; this life of yours–a choose-your-own-adventure novel with vibrant details around every corner.

Sometimes we need to do a little climbing, a little exploring of our own to remember what it’s like to have our heartbeat thumping and our core clenched to balance ourselves against the world. We need to get lost to remember what it feels like to be found. And we have to be scared every once in awhile to remember to be thankful when we’re safe.

Living bravely is an anthem of motherhood, to be taught, modeled, and lived out for our children everyday.

photo 2You need to know when to lead and when to follow.

A natural-born leader, I don’t find myself in too many situations that I can’t navigate.

But Caleb grew up riding dirtbikes in these woods. He had stories to tell about jumps that were made and jumps that were missed, and stories of what the park used to look like “way back when.”

I had to train myself to stay a couple steps behind, particularly in the rocky patches or the muddy slopes that led down to the creek bed because he knew where he was going and his sneakers had better tread.

There are times in motherhood when we feel so all alone, like we’re charting out territories that have never been discovered, but the generations that have gone before us would laugh wildly at this notion.

We are sooo not alone. They, too, have stories to tell of territories conquered, and wounds to prove their own disappointments along the way. Our job is to learn when to listen and when to talk . . . who to follow and who to lead.

Secrets come in the sacred places.

No matter how lovey dovey a couple can seem, it’s difficult to maintain true intimacy in the throws of parenting.

Communication over broken toys and sloppy dinners, and whose turn it is to get up in the night with the kids does not a marriage make.

Even when we do get uninterrupted time, after the kids go to bed or even on a planned date night, our go-to is often a movie because it’s the only place where we can truly shut off our brains and go into autopilot.

In order to continue to grow a relationship, there need to be opportunities to talk . . . really talk . . . and somehow silence the tyranny of the urgent: Did you pack the boys’ snack? What time do you have to go in tomorrow? Have you seen my other shoe?

We have to carve out time to ask the real questions: How did you feel when? Have you ever thought about? What if 10 years from now?

I was thankful for the time spent with Caleb under the canopy of trees, where we felt hidden from the world, and I made a promise to myself to look for more of those moments to continue to learn the man I said yes to and to fall in love again and again.

photo 5The most exciting moments often can’t be captured on film.

I’ve been a memory hoarder for as long as I can remember. Long before the age of digital photography, I was taking rolls of 110 film into Wal-Mart and paying for pictures with my allowance.

Capturing the little moments seems to immortalize them for me, and it gives me hope they will never be forgotten.

Unfortunately, the pendulum seems to have swung to the other side. Selfies and hashtags and enough social media outlets to trip a breaker on the moon have us detached from the moment itself. If we’re not careful, it’s easy to miss the feeling and concentrate instead on what kind of filter to apply before we start tagging our friends.

While I did manage to snap several photos along the hike, there were times during the morning that the moment itself involved my full attention. Gripping a tree root while I scaled my way up a muddy hill, for example, was not the time to reach into my back pocket for my phone.

Crossing the creek using slippery rocks as lilypads required one hand on Caleb and the other stretched out for balance, and unfortunately we’re not famous enough for paparazzi to have scored the shot.

I’ve always been envious of montages in movies because I feel like they are able to evoke so much meaning out of the summary of life experiences . . . and to music nonetheless, but alas, they are just movies. And real life can only be lived once.


Two hours passed, and I had to come out of my magical Terabithia to pick up my boys from preschool.

I had mud caked in the crevices of my sneakers and smudged on my pants up to my knee. I had a little scratch on my arm from an unattached limb that I had used as an anchor, and I was grinning from ear to ear.

photo 3

We came home to the same house we had left: empty, syrupy breakfast plates on the table, a tipped over cup of water, and a trail of dirty socks and pajamas leading all the way to the bedroom where the piles of clean clothes still lay waiting to be folded.

Proof: The laundry can wait, the magic cannot.

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Jody hid in the hills of Missouri until her husband, Caleb, rescued her and made her a Mrs . . . at least that’s the story he tells. A mere four years in and they’ve added a brilliant, big-hearted boy, Jude(2010) and an equally endearing, Oliver(2013) to their family. Still pretty amazed at the fact that she grew too tiny humans when she can’t even keep a rubber tree plant alive, Jody recently stopped traveling with a ministry conference team to stay at home and rough and tumble around with her boys. She loves Jesus, coffee, and big sunglasses, and keeps her inner gypsy alive by traveling whenever she gets the chance.


  1. You were at one of my favorite places to take my kids for walks! It’s surprising because my husband and I manage some of our best talks there as well, while the kids are enjoying the sights. 🙂


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