Friday, December 12, 2014

“I belong in the mountains."

“I belong in a place where there are mountains.”  I am sure my friends are tired of hearing me make this statement.  This isn’t a new revelation for me, but I woke up this morning with a longing for the mountains, and a message about the “flat land” I’m in right now.

As a kid, I grew up camping in the Green Mountains of Vermont with my family.  Daily hikes in the woods to lakes tucked away in the hills and cliffs overlooking the gorgeous scenery were just a part of my summer every year.   Every 4th of July, we would camp at this same place on Lake Dunmore, and stare up at the “beast” the locals called Rattlesnake Point.  As a little girl, I couldn’t wait for the day I was big enough to climb that peak.   Once I was about 8 years old, I started climbing this peak every year with my dad.  I felt so proud of myself when I made it to the top without complaining or losing my water bottle.  And the first time I saw a view from the highest point I’d ever hiked, I think I fell in love with hiking mountains.

When I went off to college, I had a choice between two great schools that offered my degree program.  They were both equal in student enrollment, campus-size, and quality of education.  Both were “out of state” state schools for me.  One was in the heart of Connecticut, pretty close to Hartford, and the other, in a classic New England town tucked away in the mountains of New Hampshire.  Obviously I chose the latter.

About 20 miles from my college town was a large mountain peak called Mount Monadnock.  It’s known for being one of the most climbed peaks this side of the Mississippi.  It was almost a rite of passage for Keene State students to climb that peak every year.  And once at the top?  Breathtaking views of all the surrounding towns and mountain ranges.  Jordan even proposed to me on this mountaintop in 2007!

After we got married in 2009, Jordan joined the Air Force, which took us to our first duty-station in Omaha, NE.  No mountains.  Anywhere.  For nearly 1,000 miles.  They have these elevated pieces of land Midwesterners like to call “bluffs,” but let’s face it, they’re mole hills.

Two years later, we reached our ultimate mountain-top experience.  We were stationed in Anchorage, AK, a city that is surrounded by 5,000 foot mountains in every direction!  I could go for a hike on a myriad of trails in just under a 20-minute drive from my house to the trailheads.  And when I wasn’t hiking them, I was driving towards them in the city, or staring at them through the window at my dentist’s office, or watching the “termination dust” slowly creep down their peaks, letting us know winter was coming soon.  The Chugach Mountain Range in Alaska is simply majestic.  The first person to use “majestic” as an adjective for mountains must have visited this beautiful state.

But in this place, it wasn’t just the fact that there were mountains to be climbed and admired.  It was the people that the mountains drew to this area.  “Mountain people” are a breed of their own.  They care a little less about fashion trends, and little more about practicality.  They place outdoor recreation over any series on Netflix.  They go for hikes that last for days, or strap on their boots for a short trail after work.  They’re flexible, because when it’s a nice day in Alaska, it’s a day to be seized outdoors, regardless of deadlines and meetings.  Physical comfort takes a backseat to beautiful views and the feeling you get when you’ve peaked 3500 ft. or reached some far-off lake in the valleys.  Peeing in the wilderness and startling encounters with large wildlife like moose and bears are part of the fun accompanied by spending time in these glorious ranges.

These are my people.  The mountains are my jam.

Right now, the Lord has us on flat land again.  The coastal lands of Hampton, VA to be exact.  I’m 5 miles from the ocean beaches, and surrounded by tidal water everywhere.  To be clear, I am completely confident we are here for a reason.  In fact, these entire past 15 months in the flatlands have felt like (in “Christian”ese terms) a total “valley” experience that has been completely necessary.   And by a “valley” experience, I don’t mean to say I’m completely miserable here.  In fact, we have a very good life here!  We have an amazing church, even better friends, and a beautiful home.   There is so much to be thankful for in this place.  But it still feels like a place we don’t belong forever.  This isn’t our resting place.  Just a rest stop. 

Coming down from mountain-tops is necessary.  Eventually our water jugs run dry, we eat all our snacks, and “real-life” awaits us in that city below.  So I know our time here is a necessary chapter in our lives.  But as I awoke this morning, maybe the Lord was reminding me how temporary valleys and mountaintops are.  And He refreshes us in both places.  He is with us in both.  He is with us always.

Maybe the Lord was reminding me that He will soon bring me back to the mountains.  He created me, knows me better than myself, and therefore, knows my heart’s desire to be back in a place where the mountains are right outside my windows.  But more than that, where I truly belong is in Him alone, and no physical location on this earth is permanent.  The only place I will truly rest forever will be in eternal Heaven!  But for now, this is where I belong, and I must find rest and peace in His sovereign will to have me here.

“‘For the mountains may move and the hills disappear, but even then my faithful love for you will remain.  My covenant of blessing will never be broken,’ says the Lord.”- Isaiah 54:10