Life is full of changes, that’s for sure, but it’s also full of renewed perspectives. As I write this, I’m sitting on the deck of a cabin in the Rocky Mountains, feeling the 64 degrees breeze blowing through the aspen, looking in awe at the mountains right in front of me. Oh, how my heart loves this place, longs to be here when I’m home.
We have a large glass jar at home, holding rocks that have words on them.
Those words represent significant places or people—times in our lives where we’ve experienced amazing things. One of those rocks says “Estes Park” because it encapsulates the times we’ve seen God work in mighty ways.
We came to Estes Park in July of 1990 for our honeymoon. I had only seen the mountains a few years previously while in Ecuador, so these mountains were completely new to me and absolutely enthralling. We drove from Illinois to Colorado, and as far as the eye could see, there was nothing but flatlands and grasshoppers for miles. All the sudden I saw something in the far distance and excitedly asked Mike, “WHAT IS THAT?” He smiled and said, “that’s the mountains, sweetie.” I knew right then that my love affair with God’s glorious mountains had begun.
In 1991, Mike’s parents, Hugh and Sue, retired and bought a cabin in Estes Park. We vacationed with them that September and enjoyed the glorious autumn that comes in Estes Park.
The following week as Mike’s parents were still at the cabin with friends, Mike’s dad had a massive heart attack and passed away a few days later. We were in shock--this was the first deep sorrow we experienced as a young married couple. Yet through it all, we saw the faithfulness of our Lord. Back then we didn’t have cell phones to take pictures every 10 seconds; I had my Vivitar camera and took special pictures of the four of us, pictures we wouldn’t have taken on an average day in Illinois. It was such sweet gift to share this time with Sue and Hugh and have these special memories to hold on to.
Two years later, we headed back to Estes Park with our 4-month-old, Ryan. We had moved to Michigan when Ryan was 6 weeks old and didn’t know anyone. I was sad, lonely, depressed, and in desperate need of friends. In a way that only God can do, we were at the top of Trail Ridge Road, 12,000 ft elevation, when God introduced us to what would be dear friends to us.
We saw Mike, Amy, and their 2 children--a family from the same church in Lansing, MI, at the visitors center. We looked at each other and said, “you look familiar!” We had lunch together and thus began a new friendship. I felt the Lord saying, “Joy, I’ve heard your prayers and collected your tears. Here are the friends I’ve prepared for you.” Over the years we have seen the Lord’s faithfulness, but this will always be a milestone in our trusting Him.
Why do I share this with you? I think it’s to remember that none of us are immune to sorrow, tragedy, or pain, and yet there is so much joy along the way. That's why I love the mountains--God gives me so many analogies and applications for our lives.
Yesterday we hiked, without a doubt, the hardest trail I’ve done. Oh, how the mountain tops are beautiful, but they come at a price. As I followed Mike on the path, I did a lot of pondering (and panting) along the way. Here are some things I considered:
- God puts encouragers along our path. We met hikers going downhill, telling us to keep going--it’s worth the climb.
- The climb really was worth it! The reward was the beauty and the rest at our destination.
- Whether you're going up the mountain or going down, pain is a part of the journey. Singing, praying, and reciting verses along the way helps ease the pain. I prayed about many things on this 5 hour hike; I also had a song in my head that wouldn't go away, so I just kept singing it.
Although I'm always bummed when I can't see the mountains in my rear view mirror, I'm reminded of the lessons and perspectives I've learned along the way. It was very hazy this year due to fires out west and at times we couldn't see the mountain range. I realized just because I can't see the mountains doesn't mean they're not there--that's called faith. Likewise, God is still there, even when I can't feel Him, even when the journey is more than I can bear. And for that perspective, I am thankful.
Until next time, keep singing on your journey,