A Close Encounter and 3 Little Reminders

“Watch your step, watch your step,” the voice said to me as I walked through the woods on an evening hike. And then I heard it. The rattling caught my attention first before seeing the rattlesnake’s head, inches from my ankle, posed to strike.

Though many would think this just happens in nature and would write off the experience, I can’t help but dig a little deeper with why almost stepping on a rattlesnake applies to my life in a bigger way.

This is a short post with three lessons learned in the one day of processing. Here goes!

1. The Voice

Some might call the voice I heard… something only a crazy person would hear; Some might call it an inner guide; some might call it a conscience (though typically that term is used for moral choices rather than something that occurs outside of your control); I call it the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit guides me daily—beyond my knowing how or why. Sometimes I hear Him clearly, other times not at all.

We are all guided by different voices.

Maybe we hear the lingering voices of our parents when they taught us right from wrong when we were children. The voices of our peers and friends with influence in our lives when we seek advice, stand out strong sometimes. Then there are the voices on ads with a constant drip of “buy this now.”

Voices are all around us, communicating, telling, sharing, influencing. And we need to be careful which voices we pay attention to and why.

I’m grateful for the quiet voice saying to me, “Watch your step,” as I hiked quickly through the woods. I would surely have stepped on the rattler’s tail. That and had I not heard the rattling tail itself. What are you listening for? Who are you listening to? Warnings of protection are there for us to learn and glean from if we’re willing to stop and listen.

2. Independence doesn’t mean I shouldn’t communicate plans

The second lesson of my encounter with the rattle snake is that I was 100% alone in the woods and had not communicated with anyone that I was hiking, nor where I was going. I’m used to the paths and trails around my community in the hills and mountains. The area is small and most people I bump into are healthy, kind hikers and bikers. I typically have SOME cell phone service; I never venture too far on my own, and genuinely feel comfortable and safe when I’m alone in the woods.

But no one knew I was there. And what if something HAD happened?

I take for granted my independent nature and safe surroundings. Until it’s not safe anymore.

I wonder if I had communicated other things through the years, would I have strayed so far down paths I didn’t belong? Would I have been more aware of danger with people and situations?

Maybe I’m the only one who just trusts that things will “turn out alright” as I act independently and go through my days… even if I am, I’m reminded once more to communicate with those around me better than I do. I can be independent with my time and plans, and still be safe with communicating said plans with those around me.

3. Don’t give into fear but, be wise and knowledgeable

This is HUGE. It applies to the rattlesnake and to me. The rattle was the snake’s warning. Thank GOD I heard and listened. But even after freaking out, (I’ll never forget seeing his head poised to strike just as I realized he was under my feet), I went back to the snake for a video and then continued on with my hike. I was jittery the rest of the hike, but didn’t just turn around and give up.

Yes, there are dangers in the world, unexpected ones that catch us by surprise even if we have the BEST communication and plans in place, but we are not to give up.

I’ve seen SO many people give into fear this last year and a half with covid. I’ve seen SO many people dismiss the dangers of covid like it’s nothing. Neither living in fear, nor acting unwise will get anyone very far in life.

We must continue on the path and journey set before us, as best as possible, despite the obstacles. And we must do so with wisdom and knowledge.

The rattlesnake reminded me I don’t know the best protocol with snakebites in the woods at all, let alone poisonous, perhaps deadly ones. So, I need to read up and be more prepared next time. I need to gain knowledge and insight into the woods that I think I know so well. BUT, I didn’t give up on my hike then, and I’m not going to just stop living my life because of potential dangers. I love hiking too much!

Wisdom, while moving forward with courage is where I choose live. And is the best reminder and takeaway with… that darned rattlesnake.

And honestly? I’m glad I bumped into it. I was able to warn others on the path to use caution. I was nervous for one woman with her dog because I wasn’t sure how the dog would react IF it encountered a snake beyond the point where I did.

Through my somewhat scary experience, I could alert and help others. Just like others have done for me in the past with other things in life.

I’m sure there are MANY other takeaways with the rattlesnake… but for now: Listening to the loving, guiding voices in our lives; Communicating with those around you/ not being so independent; and Not giving into fear while using wisdom and knowledge. These are my biggest takeaways to that VERY close encounter.

Have you ever had a close encounter with danger that taught you a lesson? What was it? What did you learn?

{Travel Tuesday} Finding Awe

Rhino 2

ⓉⓇⒶⓋⒺⓁ 𝒯 𝓊 ℯ 𝓈 𝒹 𝒶 𝓎 : I was on a trip to Zambia, Africa with a group of students from my high school. We had heard about the Black Rhino at the preserve we were about to safari to, and I couldn’t wait to see it! He was exotic, and one of only a few left in the world as they were nearly extinct at the time.

Our one-day adventure tour—before starting our mission work with kids and youth for the rest of the 10 days in Zambia—was here and I was ready. Starting in the cool early morning, we jumped into jeeps that bounced through the dirt trails and grassland, on the lookout for giraffes, zebras, and the alleged BLACK RHINO.

Our caravan rounded a corner, and at this point we hopped out of the jeeps to go on foot to where our guide thought he could be. He was blocked from my view when our guide announced he was there. Then, when I did glimpse his grey body lazily munching on the grass, I was surprised at how un-intimidating he looked.

“THAT is it?!” I thought to myself a little disappointed. “He’s not even black! He looks like a normal rhino!”

Rhino

The only time I had ever seen a rhino in real life before this moment was at the San Diego Zoo. How spoiled could my reaction be, as if the fact I was standing yards from the beast wasn’t impressive?!

“Who wants a picture with him?” Our guide asked.

One by one, we got photos with the rhino behind us. As the photo shoot was going on, our guide talked about the power of rhinos, their speed and strength, and how the one way to possible escape a rhino charging you is to run in circles and curves since their muscles prohibit them from turning easily.

It was my turn for a pic, and I had absorbed everything our Zambian guide had said. Now, grazing the grass 80 ft from me, it was hard to turn my back to the beast, knowing his body of muscle could easily charge, top speed reaching 35 mph. I can run, what 2? On a good day? HA!

My trip to Zambia reminded me of how small I am in every possible way. Even the termite mounds we saw were ginormous… the smallest thing, a termite, could cause so much damage if weren’t out in the open plains.

Termite Mound

Victoria Falls, misty and loud, the spray in the sky could be seen for miles down the river.

I even felt small doing my part in helping teach classes to students during our days of mission work, and playing with swarms of kids from the compounds who just wanted to be seen, touched, and hugged for a minute.

Me with Kids

I had turned 17 years old two days before the trip began, and it was a great way to start another lap around the sun. Zambia gave me such new perspective on life. From the way people eat, to the land full of animals I had only seen in books and movies.

The craziest, wildest things in nature, like rhinos and waterfalls flowing at speeds of nearly 39,000 cubic feet per second, there for us to behold and appreciate.

The Black Rhino will forever be a lesson to the vastness of the world. That I’m not that powerful against… anything wild in nature. And though it took a minute to sink in, that seeing the Black Rhino in person WAS a big deal. I walked away in awe and inspired and hope to continue the lesson to today… Awe keeps me humble and reminds me of the great things in this world outside of my own bubble.