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.

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