This weekend.

Ohhhhhhh this weekend.

This weekend was probably one of the most amazing and terrifying, the most wonderful and horrible weekends of my life. I’m just gonna skip over Saturday evening {note to self: keep bonfires with friends small. Otherwise seventy people will show up at the lake and you’ll find yourself in a major situation that ends up being okay at the end of the day} and get right to Sunday.

I woke up and knew it was going to be a beautiful day. Nashville has a way of throwing you some beautiful 80 degree days mixed in with the freezing rain and changing leaves. It allows you to take pause and enjoy the season of change, to play football on the quad, to wear shorts and flannels, to breathe easy.

Church was amazing. I’m going to spend more time writing about it later, but Forward is something different. We meet in an elementary school just a short walk from campus. If I had to describe Forward in a few words, it’d be a small church with huge dreams. This Sunday, I never felt the presence of God so deeply. In worship, in the message, in everything: the sense that God is alive, and He’s come to bring life to us. Are we daring enough to seek it?

When presented with the opportunity, to we seize adventure, or cling to comfort?

Thinking about these things, my friend Savannah and I decided to take the Sunday off from textbooks and studying. It was a beautiful day, why not a real adventure? Our destination, Cummins Falls, just a few miles outside of Cookeville. It was a two hour drive, so we packed our bags with swimsuits, snacks, guitars and mandolins {in typical Belmont fashion} and headed out.

We arrived at the falls around one or so, and encountered a guy who said “You know the park closes at sunset, right?” We didn’t think anything of it, sure that we would have enough time to hike and see the falls before sunset. With iPhone cameras in hand, we started to take the trail to the overlook of the falls.


But not before taking some pictures, of course.

It was about a half hour hike to the overlook of the falls. I’m incredibly glad that I decided to wear boots instead of my Minnetonkas, because it was pretty steep and slippery. I still am amazed that Savannah made the trip in boots with heels {they added more traction, she said}. I swear that I said there was nothing like a Wisconsin fall, but I may have to take back my words. Wisconsin’s autumn is achingly beautiful, but it’s gone in a matter of weeks. Here in Tennessee, the leaves retain their fire for several weeks before they line the ground. The limestone cliffs here were unreal.

When we reached the falls, I literally had to catch my breath. When I looked down, I was terrified: it was a long, LONG way down. The cliffs were so huge, the trees so aflame, the sky so blue, the water so loud. I couldn’t help but think of Chris Tomlin’s song:



You placed the stars in the sky

And You know them by name

You are amazing, God!

All powerful, 


Awestruck we fall to our knees

As we humbly proclaim,

You are amazing, God!

We then proceeded to hike another 45 minutes to the bottom of the falls. We found a really cool cove in the rock, with moss covered stone steps. Climbing underneath, we rested for a minute and just listened to the river.

We had passed a few people but weren’t quite to the falls, so we decided to keep going. Little did we know that night falls fast here in Tennessee…but I’m getting ahead of myself. We settled down in another spot, pulled out our instruments, and started to play.

There’s honestly nothing like feeling so small and insignificant.

Massive cliffs surround you on every side, huge giants formed over eons of time. Trees have burst into flame and shed leaves like tears. The river rolls and pulses, its journey never quite the same, millions of individual drops of water yet all one body.

In the midst of this, music. Man’s way to try and express awe of creation. Our voices don’t defy nature, they exonerate it.

Never before have I felt so small yet so close to God.

I could have stayed there forever. But Savannah noticed that the sun had already started to set, and we had a long way back. We started to get more nervous as the murky water, the logs we ducked under, and the faces of the cliffs became shrouded in shades of gray. It wasn’t long before darkness settled in the ravine. Savannah pulled out her iPhone and used its flashlight, providing each of our steps, one at a time.

Internally, we both started to panic. We had tried to reach another one of our friends who was having trouble even finding the falls {sorry, Kyle} and realized that our phones were on desperately low battery. Neither one of us had been in this forest before, and neglected to bring flashlights. Are we going to get lost? What if we fall because we can’t see? Are our phones going to die? Will we be stranded here?

The beauty of the massive forest turned sinister. I focused on breathing and Savannah’s heeled boots in front of me. All of a sudden, darkness. “My phone just died,” she said, breathless. I pulled out my phone, only to discover that it, too, had run out of battery.

My worst fears had materialized. We were in the middle of a forest when it was pitch black without any connection to the outside world.

Where was the beauty now?

We both tried to remain calm as we took each other’s hands. Whatever happened, we were going to go through it together. We continued to walk, but the darkness was not kind. Without the light, we couldn’t find the trail, and found ourselves stuck in patches of thorns that were cutting our legs. I had a sense that we had to head in a certain direction, towards light, but was that light from the stars? I was no navigator. Was I leading us in a complete different direction?

We continued to walk and noticed a trail flag. But with all the leaves, it was impossible to distinguish the trail from the rest of the woods. I tried to think of trees, bends, anything that might help. In the midst of our distress, Savannah took my hands and prayed that God would show us the way, that we would somehow be delivered from this situation that had turned from serenity to panic.

Continuing to walk in the direction that I felt was the right way, we pressed on. And soon, I saw it.

A gravel road.

I wasn’t sure if it was the road that we had taken, but it was civilization. It was hope. It was an answer to prayer. We followed the road around many bends. The path started to look familiar. And all of a sudden, we reached a sign. A parking lot. Savannah’s car.

I was flooded with relief. Before we rushed to her car, we both looked at the star-studded sky and thanked God. I think about it, even now, and realize how easily this situation could have turned worse. Without any sense of navigation, we could have been wandering throughout the night. But God heard our prayers. And He delivered us.

In a single day, I had been overwhelmed by God’s presence, His majesty, and His deliverance.

We arrived back to campus with mud on our boots, scratches on our legs, and awe in our hearts.

I thank God for His blessings on my path, both the beautiful and the treacherous, now, forever, and always.

—xoxo, Jen


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