Monday, February 7, 2011

Climb Every Mountain

I've been thinking a lot about mountains lately. Since I've lived in areas where mountains are plentiful, I've been blessed to spend a lot of time in these locations. They are impressive, beautiful, and each one is very different. Through the years I've climbed some of them, explored others, and often ridden to the top via a four-wheeler . . . usually clinging for my life while my husband drives us up to these lofty peaks.

The mountain that will always hold a special place in my heart is the last one I climbed using only my arms and legs to do so. It's a mountain peak that lies behind my home. Referred to lovingly in our area as Baldy, it looks out over the entire Bear Lake Valley.

Several years ago, during my first experience as a YW leader, our stake decided to climb Baldy Mountain as a stake youth activity. Leaders were invited to participate and I decided this was something I wanted to do with my Mia Maids. Also, my oldest son had recently become a deacon and it was his first stake youth activity. So I began getting myself in shape for this upcoming event.

Since I had been walking 5 days a week, 3 miles a day for quite some time, I figured I would be in great shape for the hike. I continued walking in preparation, forcing myself to go on longer, more strenuous walks. A Type 1 diabetic, I also made plans to bring along a small backpack that would be loaded with carb-friendly items like Gatorade, candy, and juice.

The day of the hike finally arrived. Excitedly, I drove my son to the stake center along with several of my Mia Maids. After receiving instructions from our stake leaders, we loaded up again and drove around a small canyon to where we would begin climbing Baldy.

A surprise awaited us. Instead of starting with Baldy, we began two hills away. It would be a 7 mile climb, most of it uphill---something that would prove to be a huge challenge for me. I began the hike with my son and Mia Maids, and made it to the top of the first hill. At that point, I was ready to quit; my legs were killing me. I didn't know it at the time, but I was in the process of developing a crippling form of arthritis. That mountain adventure caused 8 large lumps to form on my legs, lumps that were believed to be cancerous at first. At the time, I only knew that intense pain was radiating from each leg.

Waving the white flag, I was prepared to quit. I told my son and Mia Maids that I would sit under a nearby pine tree and rest until they returned from the rest of the hike. The pain and the hike had dropped my blood sugar level into a dangerous range. So I sat under a pine tree and sipped at my Gatorade, determined to take things easy the rest of the day. But as I watched as the rest of them continued on, I felt left behind. Rising, I began stretching out each leg, trying to reduce the pain. I ate candy, trying to get my blood sugar level back up to a safe number.

Long story short: I finished the hike that afternoon. It took everything I could give and then some. By the time I reached the half-way point of Baldy, my legs wouldn't even work; both had buckled on me, and I nearly fell back down the mountain as a result. To avoid this, I dragged myself up the final yards, using my arms to pull myself forward. It had become a personal battle between myself, and that mountain. Those who had gone on before me, cheered, calling to me with encouragement and love. And when I finally reached the top, a tearful reunion between myself, my Mia Maids, and my son took place.

As you might imagine, I had quite an analogy hit as I gazed down into the valley below. It would have been easy to have given up, to have thrown my hands in the air and walked the other way. And there were moments as I was struggling to pull myself up that mountain with my hands that I questioned my sanity. By continuing forward, I proved to myself that with God's help, I could beat the odds.

We all face mountains in life, whether it surfaces as a health issue, death of a loved one, financial disasters, or a myriad of other challenges. Each mountain is very different, but they are all difficult to face, let alone climb. There are moments when it appears too hard to endure, and we're tempted to walk away.

I have seen in my life that things of value come with a price. We often endure tremendous suffering to attain our goals--but it is always worth it in the end. If we give up, we miss the view that can be ours when we persevere.

I suspect that's what this life is all about---we are here to learn to be mountain climbers. Our Father doesn't expect us to give more than we are able when trials descend, but I think He does expect us to learn and grow along the way, noting the beauty that lies within our midst. And if we've learned to stop and smell the wild roses as we make the climb, how much better our perspective will be when we reach the top.

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