Climbing

We climbed a mountain yesterday, one we’ve planned to climb since the beginning of the summer.

(This girl…first one up and first one down, driving us all the way.  The most amazing 5-year-old in the world.)

Climbing a mountain is like climbing to God.  You see the top and you long to be there.  You feel in your heart that you are ready for whatever it will take to get there.  So you climb.

The first part of the journey, though your heart pounds and your legs start to warm, seems so doable.  You find your rhythm and the top seems to get nearer.  You feel like you’re going to make it even sooner and easier than you thought.  It hasn’t been easy, but you’ve been tough enough for what it took to get that far.

But then, after a long while, you hit the switchbacks.  Switchback after ever-steepening switchback.  You can no longer see the peak, except perhaps rare glimpses when it looks further away than it ever did.  Many turn around at this point.

You consider it.

But still, you long to be there.  You know that if you just keep going, you can make it.

Depending on the mountain, there are moments when you just want to sit down and weep.  It seems nearly impossible.  You’ve surely gone far enough by now.  Your legs are burning and exhausted and you are gulping for air.

At times you meet people on the trail, coming down from the summit of the mountain.  They’ve been where you long to be.  They’ve paid the price to be there.  Though you wish you could sit with them and have them tell you about it so you’ve felt you’ve been there, you know it can’t work that way.  They can’t take you there, but they can offer encouragement and tell you that it’ll be worth it to keep going.

One kind man coming down could see the tired on our faces.  We were close, but not there yet.  “When it gets really rocky, you’ll know you’re almost there,” he said.  And he was right.  Rocks that seemed to pierce our feet caused us pain and gave us hope.

So for now, I just want to say, if you’ve been counted worthy of a mountain to climb, and it seems like the going is rockier than it’s ever been, maybe it’s because you’re almost there, where you long to be.

There is literally no feeling in the world like arriving.  The relief, the peace, the triumph.  The ache of your legs, your back, your lungs.  The view, the perspective.

Always, we sit there for a while, at least an hour.  How I wish we could stay.  But eventually, for now, we have to come down.

Coming down with the new load of what you’ve gone through and what you know can be nearly equally hard in some places.  But the load can be exactly what you need to give you the traction to move forward.

And can I say a few things about triumph?  We waited to climb this mountain because one of my daughters was afraid.

She has a very real fear of being caught on the mountain in a thunder storm.  Though we carefully plan with the weather, she has struggled to trust that we would be safe.  Rather than forcing her, we have waited while she worked through her fear and learned to trust me.

Even so, yesterday took all the faith she had.  Watching her finally overcome her own fear and climb that mountain was a profound moment in my life.  I think I spent more time watching her reaction and process from the top than I did looking at the view.

There is no joy like the triumph of climbing the mountain you feared your were not strong enough to climb.

This wee babe climbed her first mountain yesterday.  She’s been carried up before, and walked parts, but yesterday, she climbed by herself.  It was a sacred thing to witness.

We ended the day, swimming in the river we love, where steaming water from the earth meets with icy mountain water.  We rested our weary muscles and were new people, with the new perspective we had gained.  This is why we do hard things.  This is why we climb.  We grow stronger.  We become new.  We are never the same.

Sweet summertime.

I have nothing of consequence to write tonight, but I do want to remember the joy of the favorite summer swimming hole.  Yellowstone, you have our hearts. :)

(Okay, I do have one thing to say about this one…I love watching my children grow.  My oldest is becoming a little more self-conscious about pictures than she once was, but a more grown-up loveliness is setting in.  It’s really something to see unfolding before my very eyes.)

“Life seems neither long nor short, and we take no more heed to save time or make haste than do the trees and stars. This is true freedom.”

– John Muir

 

 

The secret to joy.

“I felt as if I were in the presence of superior beings who loved me and beckoned me to come. I sat down beside them and wept for joy.”

– John Muir

I am sitting on my porch in the middle of a mountain rainstorm, thinking of beautiful summer days past.  There is nothing like it in the world…the deluge out of the open heavens, the thunder that calls and is answered by each surrounding mountainside.  Moments like this are one of the reasons we live here.  I wanted this for me and for my children.  It’s a reminder to me of the secret to joy.

There are times in our lives that feel as though we are standing in the middle of an absolute deluge of sorrow or trial.  Heaven seems to have opened all of the stops and let it all out at once.  Looking up, there seems to be no sun, no pinpoint of light, no relief from the cold that soaks your skin.

But it doesn’t stop there…it can’t.  The secret lies in seeing each drop in its purpose and beauty, in seeing that the drenching rain from Heaven is actually a gift that Heaven saw we were ready for.  Often our most painful moments lead to our greatest joys.  After the rain comes the renewal of life.

My joy is found not in perfect days or weeks, but in perfect moments.  They are perfect because I choose to see that the drops falling from Heaven or the river rushing by or the breeze in my face are all whispering to me that a loving Father has sent all things to me to bring me closer to Him, because He knew I was ready to come nearer.

I believe He speaks to each of us in our own language, and in our own way.

I feel so blessed to have found mine, the language of the river, the wild grass, and the trees.

So, this week, I remember peeling river-soaked denim off of little legs and say a prayer of thanks for these moments of rest and love, moments that speak to me in the language of my heart.

I remember the laughter of playing in the river fully clothed.

The magic of mud and water.

The love of sisters.

The quietness of a barefoot hike back to the car, carrying shoes and quietly talking.

Gentle mountain paths just waiting for our feet.

Not every moment is like this.

But I choose to remember those that are, for seeing and remembering the blessings is the secret to joy.

More abundantly

“If we constantly focus only on the stones in our mortal path, we will
almost surely miss the beautiful flower or cool stream provided by the
loving Father who outlined our journey. Each day can bring more joy
than sorrow when our mortal and spiritual eyes are open to God’s
goodness. Joy in the gospel is not something that begins only in the
next life. It is our privilege now, this very day. We must never allow
our burdens to obscure our blessings. There will always be more
blessings than burdens–even if some days it doesn’t seem so. Jesus
said, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it
more abundantly.” Enjoy those blessings right now. They are yours and
always will be.”

– Jeffrey R. Holland

I’m so very grateful for sweet days, where reminders are abundant that everything will be all right, and that all is unfolding as it should.  Our oldest daughter passed a major milestone recently, and with it, was able to attend the Temple for the first time.  It was one of those rare, sweet, perfect moments in my life.  For a moment, all things aligned and made sense and were right.  The future stretched out happily in front of me.  Certainly, trials lay ahead, but days like that one remind me that a more abundant life has been given to me, and that all will be well.

 

Mountain-dwellers

“The mountains are fountains of men as well as of rivers, of glaciers, of fertile soil. The great poets, philosophers, prophets, able men whose thoughts and deeds have moved the world, have come down from the mountains — mountain-dwellers who have grown strong there with the forest trees in Nature’s workshops.”

-John Muir

I don’t know what to write today other than to say that I am so grateful.  I feel so blessed that our family has worked so hard together, that this may be our life.

 

New eyes

“Look at everything always as though you were seeing it either for the first or last time: Thus is your time on earth filled with glory.”

― Betty Smith

This is the time of year when crowds start to flock to our quiet mountain home.  Luckily, we still have plenty of quiet sanctuaries.

Though things are less quiet, I do love to see the wonder on tourist’s faces when they see Yellowstone for the first time.  It is a gift to witness, a constant reminder of how blessed we are to live here.

This is the time of year when my six daughters are photographed as much as any Yellowstone wonder by Asian tourists.  I love the Asian tourists most of all.  They come so far to get here.  The other day, we met some women from China who literally wept at meeting us.  “Six girls.  Miracle,” one of them kept saying.  I am so, so grateful for what I have.

One of my girls turned twelve yesterday.  I am amazed at how, already, just the knowledge that she has moved to a new phase of life has changed her demeanor and her presence.  So grateful for how she has stretched me and loved me.

Grateful for new eyes this spring, which can so easily see my life of wonder.

Magic

“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”

– W.B. Yeats

Spring is a magical time.

Life returns after a long sleep.

We took a hike on a little-known trail the other day.

Our path led us up the side of the mountain and round a bend, right beside an elk cow nearly ready to calve.

With wonder the girls watched the calf stretching the sides of her belly.

We left her in peace and walked on our way.

We love to go slow.   We love to go slow.

The magic of grass and water and all eternity in one moment is irresistible to us.

With each passing year, my girls see it more clearly.  Each season we spend in a life-after-rush existence is all the more appreciated.

If we would have been in a hurry, we would have missed the snails.

Hundreds upon hundreds of them, silently crawling through the grass and rocks.

Most shells filled with slimy, magical life.  Some empty and left for a beautiful memory.

It was a quiet day, truly wonderful.  We didn’t go nearly as far as we had planned.  There was no need.

We climbed back down.

We passed the mama, resting in the grass as the sun descended.

Things can be wonderful.  One of the greatest blessings of my life has been learning to slow down.

Only then have I learned the magic of ordinary things.

 

Seeking joy.

I used to let myself be “surprised” by joy if it came.  And that’s not a bad thing, but I’ve learned a great deal in the past few years.

One of the best things I’ve learned this past year or so is that I need to go looking for joy.

I need to seek it out and plan to find it.  I need to do things and be in places where joy is possible.  I can no longer wait around and hope it will stumble into me.

I have a good friend who loves to say, “I choose joy.”  Knowing the extremes she has had to endure, I am amazed, every time she says it.

Faith is a decision.  Joy, true joy, is faith.  It is a choice in spite of disappointment and sorrow.

Sorrow sometimes paves the way for joy.

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.”

I choose joy.

Wholeness

I think it’s been a month since I’ve written on my blog.  It’s been a month of sorting-out for me.

Lots of outside time.  Lots of prayer.  Lots of Yellowstone. :)

Finally, I think I am getting there.  I had so many “false summits”…moments where I was sure that I had made it, but only turned to find another high peak of myself and my will, looming ahead.

An old friend of ours is going through an immense trial right now.  He wrote about it publicly recently, and something he said really struck me.

“Believing God lives is much more difficult after enduring heart ache, despair, loss, and true gut-wrenching pain. Especially because by professing belief in a deity that allows such things and worse to be present and perpetuated throughout life means that there must be a purpose to it all.

Believing that God is there and that He loves us also means picking up the other end of the stick…believing that there is a purpose to it all.  The step (more like leap) forward after that is believing that there is a loving, benevolent purpose to it all.  (This is the step that C.S. Lewis shared with us all in his deepest sorrow.)

This past year and a half has been a monumental climb.  I have finally figured out what I was really climbing towards.  I was climbing toward a higher alter than I have ever visited.  And every time I climbed, I found there was a greater height, a greater sacrifice, yet waiting.  Another place where I had always known the answers, but had not yet had to ask the questions.

But finally, truly, I have placed the gift of my will and my heart on that high and holy alter.

And now I’ve climbed down, never to ask again for the requested gift to be changed.  I’ve learned to find joy again in doing not my will, but the will of Him who sent me.  For a long time, I resisted the joy.  In resisting the joy, I resisted giving all that I truly needed to give.  I resisted life.

Moments of intense sorrow are being replaced by moments of deep, intense calm and joy.  I look around me every day in wonder.  I see more.  I’m happy.

And somehow, my heart is approaching whole again.  Sorrow carves out a place in us.  Wholeness is not the absence of that sorrow.  It is a hole of grief that has been filled by a Savior who understands and succors it all.

 

Spring

Spring is about believing in good things to come.

Spring is about the future.

Spring rushes forth like a swollen river, downstream, to all that lies ahead.

Something about spring makes you ache to be back on the trail.

Sometimes the old trails are covered in snow, and new trails have to be forged.

The call of the future is there, of good things ahead.

Spring is believing in green when all is still brown.

Spring is a time to examine the damage of winter…to see what has fallen and died.

But even in the wreck and the ruin, life springs all around.

Decay will soon take over what once was, and it will feed the new life that is to come.