June 2, 2014

IMG_2333Have you ever climbed a mountain? Let me tell you about a time I did.

Back in 2005, I spent a month in Northern Ireland as a camp counselor. We set up camp in the Tollymore Forest, outside of the town of Newcastle. It was an incredible 4 weeks. I ran barefoot in the grass and slept under the stars. I jumped off cliffs into rivers below. I discovered hidden caves and crevices and felt one with the world. It truly was a time of exploration and freedom.

Saturdays were notorious. Not because of the delicious homemade pizza made by the hearty cooks. Not because they brought in tubs of ice cream from the town’s ice creamery for dessert. {Hey, we didn’t care that it was all but melted by the time it got the campsite. We just wanted a taste of civilization at that point!}

They were notorious because Saturday was the day we climbed. Early as the sun peeked over the horizon and lightly lit the darkness, we woke. We put on our hiking boots, packed our lunches and copious amounts of candy bars, and we set out. We walked through the forest, along the stone paths over the rushing water and across miles of green countryside sprinkled with wildlife and wildflowers.  riverAnd then, after we had walked til our legs were jelly and most wanted to turn back, we started to climb. The ascent to Slieve Donard, the highest point in Northern Ireland, was one that required focus and faith. The path was eroded and slippery in places and, at times, we had to forge our own path through the thick shrubbery and rocky terrain.

At times I got scared. What if we couldn’t find our way back to camp? What if I ran out of water? What if someone in the group fell and got hurt? My hesitation was always reassured by our capable guide who knew these mountains as if they were his backyard.

The trek became less daunting because of our levelheaded leader who provided us with distinct direction and timely encouragement. With each upward step, we cheered each other on, reaching out to spur those falling behind and shouting victoriously at those ahead.

Eventually, together, we reached the summit.

Isn’t life sometimes like that? We’re on this life journey and sometimes we are faced with a mountain. Even more challenging, we sometimes face this mountain head-on when we’re already feeling wobbly. Tired. Depleted.

In real life, when we’re going through the daily grind and not surrounded by the picturesque backdrop of an Irish landscape, it’s not always easy to muster strength and faith. Or to be encouraging.

When I’m faced with hardship or problem, my natural response is sometimes one of doubt and fear. This reaction is heightened when I am tired, hungry or stressed.

I wrote a post more about this here.

If I am not careful, my doubt snowballs into obsessing over why this is happening to me and how I can escape these painful circumstances. I know I’m not alone in this. We don’t like pain. We flinch when we touch a hot stove. We sob and eat chocolates when we get our heart broken. We stop running when we get a side stitch.

Problems are not fun. But, problems are a part of life. 

So, if mountains {challenges, hardships, pain} are inevitable parts of this life, how can we climb them with strength and faith? Strength to face them head on. Faith that we can and will overcome.

It’s not easy. We need each other. Cheerleading each other to the top. 

Question: How do you deal with challenges?

I’d love to hear your story. . .

Sarah Kate Anderson






~The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights. Habakkuk 3:19~

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