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Why I Stayed Out of the Woods

out of the woodsSafer Out of the Woods

I stayed out of the woods because I knew it was the safest place to be. I did this mostly for me, myself, and mine. That’s because there are some places where it’s safer for me if I just stay away. I worry less, and my opinions are not heard if I stay away. I won’t say things I regret, and my stomach won’t get tied in knots.

When a wedding promised to take place in our woods, I knew the best thing I could do was stay away.

The Forest in the woods

Six weeks ago my man and I took a walk down to the woods so he could show me where our son wanted to get married. We meandered down the road along the woods where our children played as kids. The woods they called The Forest of Wonders was their favorite place to play. They built bridges with small saplings cut with the claw of the hammer their father allowed them to use. Cousins helped dam up a creek using PVC pipe so they could do butt smackers in the water.

Other cousins and friends helped produce plays in the woods, such as The Three Billy Goat’s Gruff, The Three Little Pigs, Daniel in the Lion’s Den, and Rumplestiltskin. A visiting aunt once captured their creativity on video by the old tobacco barn among the trees. One year as a Christmas gift, another aunt made wooden signs for the woods: The Forest of Wonders, Ben’s Bower, Tim’s Tree, and Jason’s Jungle. Those signs are still there today.

Sledding in the woods

On the other side of the woods is the sledding hill where literally hundreds of youth, Young Life groups, and parents with little kids sledded on winter evenings. Our kids packed the hill with old carpet (to cover roots and brush) before a huge snowfall was predicted. When the snow fell, it covered the carpet, providing a blanket for sledding. Our house was a place to huddle before and after sledding. Boots, gloves, mittens, stocking hats and coats were strewn across floors and chairs. I learned not to mop floors until after the sledding!

Every year, winter clothing left behind hung around my house and waited to return home – but rarely did. One year when the fire at the bottom of the hill was not as big as the fire at the top of the hill, our boys put gasoline on the fire and created an explosion that lit the sky, creating temporary hearing loss in some of their ears. You can read about that episode here.

Our kids are grown and on their own. The woods, once a haven in summer and a sled riding place in winter, are empty on most days – except, of course, for the graves where the dogs are buried and strewn animal skeletons are found.

out of the woodsOne last time in the woods

Yet here we were, strolling down to the woods to check out the site our son chose for his wedding. I stood there, gazing through the trees at the spot.

Because everyone knows I am an expert on these things, I told Dave, “I don’t think this area is big enough.”

And my man, who can calculate square footage in his head in a flash simply replied, “Oh, it’s big enough.”

You know when a wife knows her husband has to be right but she really wonders and just wants to keep gnawing at it? That was me. I knew to let it go. Obviously, he knew what I didn’t: that it was possible to get 250 people in that seemingly small space.

Memories, skeletons and momentum

We walked through the woods, past the skeleton of a cow from years’ past and on to the tobacco barn. In the distance was the hill I sledded on with my kids when they were small. The tree we hit as I tried to shield our two-year-old when we bounced off the path was still there. I ached for weeks after that mishap, but there’s no residual pain now, and our two-year-old is in his last year of graduate school.

out of the woodsNext to the tobacco barn, Dave waved his arm, pointing to the reception area. I couldn’t imagine a reception in this place, but I knew better than to say so – because if our son wanted it to happen, it was going to happen. I imagined the complications of clearing undergrowth from these woods in the next six weeks. As momentum built, I knew ideas flowing nonstop were guaranteed to expand and keep everybody hopping.

(They did, which is why Tim’s sister so aptly explained on wedding day to his aunties, “When you get two visionaries together, there is no stopping the ideas. Usually one person holds the other one back; but in this case, one gets an idea and the other one runs with it.”) She was right.

That’s why I made a decision, that day, that I needed to stay out of the woods. And I did.

Staying in My Lane

Instead, I came back to my house and made a list of everything to get done before the big day. One of those things was to stay in my lane. Of course, I prayed. That was safer than returning to those woods, where I’d catch the worry bug.

Besides my list of windows to wash, general clean-up and a shopping list that included plenty of paper products including toilet tissue and paper towels, there was the problem of the drought. It’s impossible to have camp fires when there’s a burning ban in the county. So we prayed for rain, knowing a back-up plan was in place if the woods became unusable.

It rained. It rained so much that we asked God to let things dry up –  if it was His will.

There was too much mud to trek down to the woods with vehicles. Plus, if it rained so much that parking in the orchard became a problem, – what then? That was my cue to worry, but I decided, instead, to stay out of the woods. If I stayed out of the woods and out of the parking orchard, I’d lose that propensity for worry.

out of the woodsHelping by Staying

Wedding week arrived, and every day more folks showed up to help. It was tempting to walk down there and see what was happening, but I knew better. I might determine not to give suggestions or ask questions, but I knew if I went to the woods, the very thing I’d determined not to do would happen. So I stayed out of the woods.

There was plenty for me to do in the house, so I put my energy into implementing my daily lists and delegating. Chicken, purchased weeks earlier (on sale) and sliced into the right sizes was already in the freezer, ready for Dave to grill for the Rehearsal Supper come Friday. My friend Cindy committed to fixing baked macaroni, so I purchased ingredients and quit stewing about how many batches to make. After another friend offered her assistance, I asked her to take care of Friday’s dessert. (Recipes will be posted later).

Every day, I completed my list and tried to find one thing from the following day’s list to complete as well. When making hard boiled eggs was on Tuesday’s list and the laundry got completed earlier on Monday, I got those eggs boiled Monday so they’d be ready for the corn chip salad for Friday’s rehearsal dinner. I commandeered my sons’ groom and groomsmen shirts and ironed them because I knew they’d never think about that until they took them out of the package, when it would be too late.

stay out of the woods

Staying but still giving

When the many folk helping came to the house for bandaids, needle and thread, measuring cups, scissors, plastic pitchers, blankets, an extra wooden chair, and hot water, I handed it out readily, but I stayed out of the woods. Instead, I stayed home, and stayed in my lane where I belonged. This kept me busy enough to help me stay out of the woods.

The men didn’t need me down there inspecting their work or their intentions. My job was to keep my mouth shut – so I stayed out of the woods. It’s amazing what they managed to accomplish without input from me!

Living Submission by Staying Out

You know something? It came together without any of my input or advice. They managed fine without me.

You know something else? I wasn’t frazzled or stewing about what needed to be done. I took care of my department and let them take care of theirs. That’s how it should be. That’s how we ought to live. I’ve preached it enough to other gals so I better be able to live it myself, right?

Something else you might want to know is this: my stomach never once got into a knot – but that is exactly the resulting outcome if I trekked down to the woods, checking things out. I saved myself a lot of frustration just by staying out of the woods.

Friends called to check on me to see if I was stressed – or frazzled. I wasn’t, ’cause I was staying out of the woods and tending to my own business. That, dear gals, is the way we ought to do life. There are steps we can take to help us in our quest for submission and lack of worry. There are things we can do or choose not to do to help us stay in our own lane instead of veering over into someone else’s. Those choices make us more pleasant to live with and easier to love. All the worrying I might have done did not change the weather or the planning one iota. That’s why I stayed out of the woods.

out of the woodsA New Beginning

As Saturday’s sun moved across the sky heading west, I felt rested and ready. That decision made weeks earlier was one of the best decisions I made. We headed to the woods for photos and meeting friends and family. A magical transformation had taken place while I stayed out of the woods. There – in the space I was certain weeks earlier wasn’t large enough – was ample space for the 250+ guests, on comfortable benches made by the groom and his friends.

The sun shone through the trees in the woods – a woods filled with childhood memories of my six. In this woodland cathedral, the marriage took place as family and friends participated. A lifetime commitment was made. For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, ’til death. 

It was a wonderful day and a wonderful time, made especially so for me because I stayed out of the woods.

out of the woods


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  1. Gert, this is so, so good! Thanks for sharing so well. As mother of the bride, but living in TN, I wasn’t physically present in the weeks prior to wedding day, but I also had to remind myself to mentally “stay out of the woods”. And what a joyous day we experienced!

  2. This was such a great story. I did not realize Rae was marrying your son. What a joy! This is also the third or fourth time the exact words, “stay in your lane”, have been spoken to or used by me in just the last several weeks. I think the Lord is giving me a reminder. Blessings to you Gert!

  3. Thanks, Karen. And I didn’t know that you know Rae. 😉 Small world. Yes, when women learn to “stay in your lane” it makes our spouses, families, and churches better. 🙂

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