The following post was written as part of a 31-day writing challenge sponsored by The Nester in October of 2013.

It's the last day, and if I had gone into this 31-day challenge with a plan, then perhaps I would have thought to save the best for last.  Although I really don't know what the best would have been.   I do know that there are some things that I wish I had mentioned, some photos that I wish I had shared.  I did not expect to run out of days before I ran out of smiles.  I suppose that is a good thing.

The Little Cabin on the Trail is truly a gift from God, and I do not take that for granted one bit.  The desire of my heart is to walk in faithfulness, discerning the plan and purpose that God has for that little piece of heaven on earth.  With every visit, I want to get to know my Lord and Savior better.  I want my heart to connect with His.  And I pray for the boldness to testify of Christ and to share the good news with whomever He sends my way on that trail. 

In order to do that, I must actually spend time outside.   

The cabin has a darling screened-in porch on the front which, while great for keeping the gnats from circling our heads, serves as a natural barrier between the people on the trail and us.  That's okay sometime; but like I said, I really want to connect with folks.  

Daughter Tessa and I love to say hello to each and every person as they ride by.  Some smile and return the hello, some give us the slight nod, some give the slight wave, and some ignore us altogether.  And every now and then, some stop to visit.  I probably should mention that every now and then, some just walk right on in thinking we are a restaurant.  That is funny: me--running a restaurant.

I was thrilled when Michael added the deck on the back.  It is like having front row seats at a play.  We can be right there, just a few feet from where the action is; and I love it.  We can also see the stream or the creek or whatever it is.  Perfect.

So we eat out there on the deck and play cards and read books and play with little people.

And a few days ago, we kind of enjoyed the snow on it.  

I could just end by saying that the deck makes me smile and leave it at that.  And I would have if I had not met Eduardo and his son last Saturday.  So maybe it is a good thing that I did not plan how to wrap this series up.

The grandkiddos and I had been at the cabin for three very cold days.  We really did not see many people riding, and those we did see were moving quickly because they were half-frozen.  Nobody wanted to stop and chat; they wanted to get to the Creeper Trail Café for some hot chocolate.  On Saturday morning, the sun came out, and it looked like we would be able to spend time outside with the bikers and, of course, Elijah.  

Unfortunately a family situation forced me to make the decision to pack up and head for home.  I was very, very disappointed. 

As I sat down to eat before putting the kids in the car to leave, I was griping in my head about not getting to meet anyone on this trip.  And then through the window, I noticed two people just standing in front of the cabin sign staring.  I felt like I needed to go outside to talk to them, so I left my piping hot lunch and headed outdoors.

The tag line on the sign, where memories are made and hearts are healed, is a conversation starter.  People oftentimes want to know the story behind it.  And if I am led, I will share it or invite them to visit the website to read it. 

I wish I could explain it, but as soon as I started talking to Eduardo, I knew that it was a divine appointment.  He had such a kind spirit, and somehow he seemed to relate to my personal need to make memories with my family and to have my broken heart healed.  He understood in a way that surprised me.  His compassion came from a different place.  I liked him.  A lot. 

I asked him if I could take his picture to put up on the cabin's Facebook page, and he happily agreed.  When I came back with the camera, he said, "Let me tell you my story."

And you can Google his name and read his story for yourself.  You can even watch a movie about it or buy the book his wife wrote about it.  It will break your heart.  It broke mine.  Again. 

Eduardo Valseca was kidnapped in 2007 and held hostage for over seven months in a wooden box.  He suffered the unimaginable at the hands of other human beings.  His loving wife and mother of their three children negotiated his release and became his hero only to succumb to breast cancer last year.

And yet.

Eduardo Valseca got on a bike and rode the Creeper Trail with his son.  Eduardo Valseca stopped at my little cabin sign and talked with me about life and family and choosing to be grateful. 

And he smiled.  And his son smiled.  

And he gave me a hug that I will never forget, causing hope to rise up in my soul.  

A simple act of kindness and there it was:  hope.

And that is what I want to leave you with.  I now know at 1 a.m. on October 31, 2013, that the things I have shared over the past 31 days made me smile because they have represented hope.  Each item had a job to do on my cynical heart. 

God is so gracious and so patient. 

He reminded me no less than 31 times that He really does know the plans He has for me:  plans for a future and a hope.  Jeremiah 29:11

Day 31:  Hope makes me smile.

It has been a grand adventure.  I thank you for sharing it with me.


An overview of all 31 days can be found here.