How to Climb the Sand Dunes of Life

“Whatever you do, don’t hike the dunes,” my friend said to Adam and me as we discussed our plans for exploring the Great Lakes state of Michigan.

He knew he needed to warn us because he saw that glimmer in my eye as he told us about the park. Running up sand dunes sounded like fun!

The next day Adam and I drove to the highly recommended Sleeping Bear Dunes, paid our entry fee and parked the car under the warm afternoon sun. Even though it was 3:00, the temperature topped out below 80 degrees, something that barely happens at night in Texas. We were in Heaven!

Miles and miles of sand spread out in front of us on every side. It looked like we pulled onto the scene of Aladdin in the Arabian Desert. We looked at the park map and thought of our friend’s warning to not hike the dunes up to Lake Michigan. We tried to find a trail to hike minus the sand, but it wasn’t happening.

Finally, I looked at Adam. Adam looked at me, and in Buzz Lightyear fashion we said, “To Lake Michigan and beyond!”

The switch to our pioneering spirit was flipped on and before we could talk ourselves out of it, our legs ascended the first hill in a burst of energy.

I was blazing a trail barefoot through the soft sand until I got about halfway up the first dune. My legs were on fire. Maybe our friend was wiser than I gave him credit for.

At that moment I was unsure about this whole climb-the-dunes-to-see-Lake Michigan expedition. I looked over at Adam and he said, “It’s easier if you step in the indention from someone else’s footstep.”

I thought, Why would I step in someone else’s footsteps when there’s a perfectly good trail to blaze myself?

But I soon realized I had to do something different if I wanted to make it beyond this hill!

So I surrendered and began looking for footprints that had already done the hard work of compressing the sand. When I stepped there, it took the pressure off my calves and I made it up the hill with energy for the next one.

The Holy Spirit didn’t pass up that opportunity to teach me. He whispered, It’s like that in life too Julie. I know you love to blaze the trail, but I want you to follow in my footsteps.

He’s always right. I love to blaze the trail of life, but when I hastily go off on my own I fade out before I mount the first hill.

The past few weeks in my Bible study, He’s been teaching me to look around and see where He’s moving and then join Him there. I can still use my pioneering spirit, but when I walk in the footsteps that have already left an indention in the sand, I can go farther and be more effective while not depleting all my energy.

Even though this lesson was good, God wasn’t finished yet…

Adam and I were on the hunt to see Lake Michigan. But, we didn’t know how far it was to get there. So, every person that passed us coming the other direction Adam would ask, “Is it worth it?” or “How much farther?”

People’s opinions and answers varied from, “We didn’t make it,” to “Yes! Three more hills and you’ll see it. Beautiful sight!”

So we kept walking. Finally we landed here and rested a bit before starting the journey back to the car.


The way back still had a few uphill climbs, but for the most part it was downhill or flat.

As we reached the last downhill slope, the one I almost didn’t make it up – I was pumped to run down it like a kid.

I took off, digging my heels into the mounds…

About half-way down I thought, Huh, that’s funny, on the way up the dune it was easier to step in the indented footprints, but on the way down it’s easier to step on the crest of the sand.

When I looked back, I noticed the impression my heels dug in the sand was the exact indention that made it easier for me to step in going up!

In essence, the heel impression of those going down the dune actually made the footholds for those going up.

Isn’t that just like life?! Those seasoned souls who have walked a similar road to where I am now can actually make my climb easier. Their caution, wisdom and loving guidance allows me to preserve my energy and make it through this season of parenting. I can ask them, “How much longer? Is it worth it?” And they can tell me… “Yes, just three more hills and then it will be a beautiful sight and you can rest awhile.”

There’s no doubt about it: climbing the sand dunes (in life and in Michigan) is hard! I’m so thankful that Jesus leaves us footprints to follow in and uses the experiences of others to help us in our walk. He created us for a purpose and in need of community.

4 thoughts on “How to Climb the Sand Dunes of Life

  1. superdmom2five says:

    I so enjoyed reading this. Gives me encourament and hope as I consider the dunes in my own life. Thanks for sharing. 💖 ~Sherri


  2. Carolyn rothrock says:

    Julie, this is wonderful! Ps 85 says in part, “righteous goes before Him and makes His footsteps into a way”…I’ve pondered those words over the years, and am still learning to follow hard…follow!


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