A planning retreat to begin the year was not supposed to be the source of fodder for a new column.
Rather, it was meant to be an opportunity for my husband, Josh, and I to take some time away from everyday work, family and home responsibilities and talk goals for 2016 and beyond.
We spent our long weekend in northwest Arkansas praying for wisdom, dreaming about long-term goals and talking about overarching themes — raising our children well, long-term financial planning, retirement dreams and more.
When we woke up Monday, it was to a soft covering of snow around our cabin, providing the perfect final touch for a winter retreat.
Nonetheless, the sun continued its ascent and everyday life bid us to return, so we headed out, trusting the four-wheel drive to get us safely out of the Ozark mountains and back to where we belonged.
A few whispered prayers and careful navigation prevented us from slipping down the sort of slopes not common to our everyday life in Pittsburg, and we edged our way around the curves along the snow-covered road carved through the mountains without incident, breathing a sigh of relief as we headed up one of the hills.
Suddenly, we found ourselves slipping, the truck’s tires grabbing for solid ground and forming ice underneath as they spun, propelling the tail of the truck toward the downhill side of the mountain.
Our cautious lack of momentum had caught up with us, stalling us out a few hundred feet away from the top of the climb, but far enough up that backing down the hill would have, without a doubt, been treacherous.
I quickly hopped out of the truck — I’m sure Josh initially thought it was so I wouldn’t die too when we plunged off the road, down the mountain and into the lake — but I quickly persuaded him it was so I could see where the truck was in relation to the edge of the road so we could both make it out alive.
I gestured, he drove and the tires spun, fishtailing the truck away from the dropoff and toward the ditch. I put my shoulder into the job, but try as I might I didn’t have the strength needed to help push a vehicle up the hill.
Securing the emergency brake, we safely transitioned so that Josh could use his greater strength to push while I used my stubbornness to try out different gears and acceleration techniques until 20 terrifying minutes later we finally crested the hill.
I believe that every one of life’s little experiences has some sort of wisdom to be gathered, and after we were able to take a few deep breaths, drive on to the flatlands and eventually stop trembling I noted that our lack of momentum must have been our downfall, allowing us to stall out and the truck lose its grip on the slick surface.
We should have known. As distance runners (not fast, just determined), we’ve learned to “take the hill.”
I can’t stand at the bottom of the hill, race clock ticking away, and fear it when I’m running. I also find hills are much more difficult to climb at a walk than by just adjusting my stride, embracing the pain and keeping my momentum.
In some ways, gaining momentum is what our retreat time was truly all about, and that includes my work.
Last year, I went through burnout (common to writers) and left The Morning Sun for a time, but my love for telling the stories of my community always found me and continually brought me back. I’m thrilled to have officially rejoined the staff and can’t wait to see what this year brings for our community and for the stories I get to tell.
Meanwhile, one of my goals here is to propel myself past my byline that has appeared off and on in The Morning Sun for the past few years and to give you an inside glimpse of the person writing the stories through column writing.
We journalists spill a lot of words onto the page, but it’s a different thing for a reporter to put his/her heart out there. There are moments when it feels like navigating a truck on ice between a ditch and mountain slope, but I’m also excited to share a bit more about my faith, family, interests and more.
Despite the nerves, I’m excited to shift gears a bit, explore this road and see where this momentum takes me.
Sarah Gooding generally avoids getting out in winter weather if at all possible, but is willing to do about anything for a story in her role as a staff writer at The Morning Sun. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.