Challenges · Confidence · Encouragement · Wellness

An Accidental Pilgrimage

Pilgrimage: a journey, especially a long one made to some sacred place as an act of religious devotion. –

What started out as what one could call a “Pure Michigan” moment; a family trip to climb the magnificent Sleeping Bear dunes, ended up being so much more for me…

The Sleeping Bear dunes is a national park of basically the largest sandbox you’ve ever experienced. Although there are multiple ways of exploring this wonder, the hike we took was about 3.5 miles ( roundtrip) with 27 markers along the way. The trek along these enormous piles of sand is unique in it’s own right, the reward at the end is of course the beautiful coastline on Lake Michigan. With clear blue waters that can rival any in the Caribbean.

All walks of life

Something I noticed is that the many people that took this journey were all sorts. Groups of families, friends, kids, seniors, some who were fat , thin, muscular, tall, short, old, young…

This hike is challenging. When we started out around marker 3 at the top of the first dune, there was an older man who said “Don’t kid yourself, there’s about 24 more markers ahead, it’s a longer journey than you think!”

Well, we were determined to make it, after all this is all that we had planned for the day, it was a nice day, with a break in the hot weather, perfect for our hike.

We made sure to stop and rest occasionally, it’s always fun to see these adventures through the eyes of our 6 year old, who was happy climbing around and investigating. As we were walking I told her to make sure and look around, engaging all of our senses, what do we see, hear, smell. Taking in all of the nature and beautiful surroundings, truly appreciating what we are experiencing.


We made it!

It was like finding gold. The feeling of accomplishment, relief, beauty, wonder and experiencing this moment with my family overwhelmed me. I started to tear up. It sounds silly, but it was a culmination of a lot of growth for me.

One foot in front of the other…

Last year at this time, I was really sick. I have been dealing with Lupus flares for the past 5 years on and off. I’ve been hospitalized for a week at a time twice. I’ve been surviving not thriving.

After trying out a new treatment last fall, it’s the first time in a long time I’ve felt really good. Like myself again.

As we reached the shore, I was realized that a year ago, there was no way I would’ve been able to do this. This experience with my family is exactly the reason to take care of myself and do whatever it takes to be well. For these moments. I was filled with so much gratitude it was pouring out my eyeballs ( thankfully I had sunglasses on).

I kept thinking “This. This is what’s it’s all about!”

It’s the first time in a long time, I feel like I can trust my body, challenge myself, know that I am capable of so much. For a long time it didn’t feel that way.

There are many things going on in our lives that we don’t talk about a lot. I don’t like to talk about being sick. In fact there were moments in the past couple of years where I remember saying to someone “I want to be more vibrant!” and they looked at me and said “Really? I don’t think I have strong enough sunglasses for that. I can’t imagine what that Audrey could be.” I thought…you have no idea…

It’s the type of thing where people say “You don’t look sick” & “You don’t act sick”, it doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t. Although I’m feeling much better, I’m still finding my balance and working towards having my insides and outsides “match up”.

It’s finding the balance, tempering my lust for life with a delicate determination and discovery within discipline.

When I was on those dunes looking at my footprints in the wet sand when we made it to the shore, I couldn’t help but think about my journey back to wellness. The things I’ve endured, the things I’ve done despite this illness and just the feelings of gratitude to be in that moment, with the people I love, doing something I love doing.

The words from the poem “Footprints in the Sand” came to mind…

Why, when I needed you most, you have not been there for me?” The Lord replied, “The times when you have seen only one set of footprints, is when I carried you.”

Mary Stevenson

You carry me

There are so many of you who carry me, along with my faith. You carry me when you share your own accomplishments, encouraging me to do the same.

When you share about your journeys to health and what that means to you. Those of you who host fitness challenge groups, flex your muscles on Instagram and document your goals along the way. You’ve shared not only about the weight you’ve lost and the muscles you’ve gained, but the confidence, clarity, and the joys and struggles. You carry me.

When you let me camp out on your couch, take me to doctor’s appointments, check in on me, take care of my family, listen to me without judgement, share a story, a meal, a laugh, a hug, a song, a dance, a walk… you carry me.

What goes up, must come down

As satisfying as it was to make it to the shore, we had to make our way back to where we started. Now that was the real challenge. About 1/2 way through our way back, I realized I was running on reserves. It took all my energy to make it. It was worth it of course. I came back with this experience. I came back with this new found hope for myself. Although tired, I came back with this new energy. Even though once you reach a summit, you have to go back, it’s never truly the same path and you are changed.

In my time of feeling better, I realized at the end of the day, I want to be tired because of all of the things I’ve done, like a satisfied type of tired. I know how it feels to be tired for “no reason”. If I’m going to be tired, it’s because I’ve wrung all of the goodness out of the day. It’s going to bed at night with joy in my heart and peace in my mind.

Life moves pretty fast…

Please stop and look around once in a while. What do you want to experience? What do you want to feel? See? Do? Be? It doesn’t have to be complicated. Show appreciation for it and make the most of it.

What journey or pilgrimage have you been on? I’d love to hear about it. Share in the comments.

Thanks for the inspiration and encouragement!

Much love xoxo,

7 thoughts on “An Accidental Pilgrimage

  1. Audrey, this is so beautiful! Im a tearful! The Footsteps poem has been very important to me this past year especially, and while I dont struggle with health issues I totally relate to having something take you off course and then step-by-step journeying your way back to your best self. I loved reading this. Thank you for sharing!!

    Liked by 1 person

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