Just Look...

Just Look...

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Mountain Thinkin'

I've always loved the idea of mountains. I have loved looking up at them, looking over at them, and looking off of them. I've always been confused, however, by "mountain thinking". Sometimes people talk about mountains as the obstacles and the valleys as the peaceful places. Other times, the valley is the hard part and the mountain tops are the peaks of joy. So I've never been really clear on whether or not mountains as symbols are supposed to be challenges or successes.

This past year, I have realized mountains are both. At the same time, quite frequently.

Since August 11, 2016, we have been climbing a mountain. We have had mountains in our way that God has had to move. And we have enjoyed the beauty of the summit. 

The adoption journey itself is every bit like climbing a mountain. There are mounds of paperwork (mountains in themselves), there are obstacles in the way, it takes persistence and faith and perseverance. Some days are stormy and you just have to batten down the hatches of the tent and wait it out. Some are exhilarating, when you get glimpses of the view that is to come. And the entire process is one foot in front of the other, holding to the Lord's hand. 

Due to our need to expedite, we had mountain after mountain that God had to just move for us. The financial mountain was a huge one. And He did. The approval mountain was another. And He did. The timing mountain and the fact that we needed one document approved by March 12 (and got it with FIVE DAYS TO SPARE) was another. And He did. 

As for the mountain as high point metaphor, we have also now experienced that. We met our kids on June 10 and it was the most incredible and surreal experience of my life. (more on that later) Every day since, as we have grown closer and gotten to know each other more and bonded, has been more of a summit experience. 

During our Skype calls before we went, we asked the kids if there was anything they wanted to do while we were in country that was within the right distance for us to do (we ALL wanted to go to Palawan, but it wasn't close enough). They immediately said Taal Volcano. I had seen pictures on Pinterest and I was ALL IN. I couldn't think of anything more appropriate than the 7 of us climbing a volcano together as our first real family outing. And the internet assured me that it was a "moderate, dusty trek" and that the climb was "relatively easy". {I think the internet may have been written by people in better shape than me.} My mother-in-law considered staying back, saying she wasn't sure she could do the climb, and I promised her it was apparently not a big deal at all and she would be fine. (Remember this part.) 

We set out for the volcano excursion clad (thankfully) in tennis shoes and armed with full bottles of cold water from SP, accompanied by a sweet SP staff member, Bo. The ride to the volcano was long and curvy, which meant I was feeling pretty car sick by the time we got there. I knew once I got out and started walking, I would be fine. (Remember this part too.) We boarded the coolest boats to take across the lake to the island where the volcano is located. I was so excited for the journey, taking pictures of the beautiful scenery and my beautiful children. They didn't know it then, but I had a surprise in my backpack... a leather cuff for each family member with "Davis 7", our family verse, and each person's individual verse on them. I had visions of the beautiful moment at the summit when I would bestow each bracelet onto each person and talk to them about our new family, maybe even have a little prayer together. I was so excited about the beautiful photos we would take together at the top. (Remember this part too.)

When we got to the shore and started the walk (and it was truly just a walk at that point), I was relieved that the internet was correct about the difficulty level of the journey. Then the dust turned to ash. Then the level ground went steep. Then my PEOPLE, who were supposed to LOVE me, basically started to RUN. I started to breathe harder and harder, get slower and slower. Eventually they were having to stop and wait on me, my mother-in-law, and Emma (who stayed with us out of pure kindness, not because she was out of shape). I kept sipping water, thinking surely I just needed to walk a bit and I would be fine. 

{My pride is requiring that I include the following information. 
1. We had been at Royal Family Kids Camp the week before. I do not eat much at all at Royal Family Kids Camp. 
2. I had eaten only a burger in the 36 hours of travel. 
3. I had not eaten much in the two days we had been at SP. 
4. I had SEVERELY neglected hydration, both at Royal Family, in travel, and in the Philippines. 
5. I DO have a diagnosed heart condition. ;) (The winky is just because I don't know that it factored in, not because it isn't real. It is. ) 
6. My emotional state was a little wonky, as anyone's would be at that point.
7. I AM terribly out of shape. However, I can and have done hard physical things. This was ... different. I don't know what happened to me.
8. Rather than start at a leisurely pace, we started FLYING, which exhausted me from the get-go.}

Eventually, a little over halfway up (they have Stations of the Cross all the way up which, I'm not going to lie, felt very fitting), it became clear that I could either stop and wait for them to return or I could orphan these children a second time. I was shaky, dizzy, and my pulse had only gotten up to 51, which couldn't be good. I told them to go ahead and I would see them after. I tried to get our guide from SP to go on with them but he refused, saying he would stay with me and my mother-in-law. Emma also refused to go on, staying with us. We sat on the edge of the trail and rested (in the shade) while I engaged in a serious pep talk with myself, not to keep going, but to let go of my expectations and not be disappointed that it didn't play out the way I had envisioned. 

After sitting for a little while, we decided to try again. I made it a very short distance before I knew it was stupid to keep going. We sat down again. I kept urging Emma to catch them but she refused. My mother-in-law and I both hated for Emma to miss it, so she finally said she would try to go further with Emma so that Emma could see it. I gave them my blessing and sent them forth, finally having come to terms with my expectations being unmet. And that's where Bo becomes a major player in my story. 

25 years old from Palawan, Bo has been with SP for a few years. He was a baker before he felt God calling him to do something meaningful for other people and went to work at SP. We sat and chatted. He was so kind to me, had already pulled a rock over for me to sit on every time we stopped. At some point, Bo told me he thought there was a better place to sit a little further up if I felt like I could go a little further. I agreed, and we walked a while longer until we reached the better place to sit. Eventually the sun shifted and Bo told me that there was a nice shady spot on up, if I wanted to go to it. We went a little father to that shady spot. Time passed. I kept thinking they would be back down at any point, but they weren't and weren't and weren't. A Filipino couple stopped beside us, she was struggling like I had been (and she was also lots younger and more fit, so I felt better). I told her there was no shame in just staying there. ;) Meanwhile, horse after horse passed us, carrying smarter people on their backs. (You can pay to ride a horse to the top. However, I knew if my sister had any idea that we had ridden an emaciated horse to the top of a volcano, she would never forgive us. So we chose our feet. Clearly a poor choice in regard to MY feet.) Bo then told me if I went just a little bit farther, it would level off and maybe I could just walk a while to meet them. I was feeling much better, so we did. Until I stopped again. After THAT rest, Bo pointed out that actually just around the corner, you could SEE the summit. He wondered if maybe I would want to do that, just to see where they were. I agreed, so we walked to that point. That's where the trek changed. A LOT. What had started as a bit of a hike, then leveled off some, then became a hike again, at this point became a CLIMB. And I was SO HOT AND TIRED. Still dizzy. 

But here's the thing..... when you can SEE the summit..... you don't stop. You don't get to the point where you can SEE the top, SEE people enjoying it, KNOW that the view is just over the crest... and WAIT. You GO. You summon everything in you and you CLIMB. 

And that's what I did. Bo asked me my favorite songs and played Christian music on his phone, singing sweetly. I talked to myself and Jesus in my head the entire way, reminding myself, "With Jesus, I can do hard things" and begging Him to just help me put one foot in front of the other. (I also had a lengthy plea with him for my people not to have come down on another trail because IF I HAD CRAWLED TO THE TOP OF THAT VOLCANO AND THEY HAD BEEN GONE I WOULD STILL BE LAYING THERE. Truth.) I slipped and I sweated and I stumbled and by the time I got to the stairs, I was almost crawling, but I reached the top of that mountain. With Bo by my side and Jesus moving my legs, I made it. And my people were all still there. With cold bottles of water. And joy (and surprise!) in their faces to see me. (My mother-in-law, who is old enough to be my mother, ;) made it relatively easily. I did not. It's ok. I'm good at other things. HAHA!)

And in my life, that moment will be one of the most beautiful for me. Not because it looked anything like it was supposed to, because it did NOT. Not because I accomplished it with anything like grace or beauty, because I did NOT. Not because I ever want to do it again, because I do NOT. ;) 

But because I made it. Because He girded me with strength. Because Bo was the most incredible encourager I can ever imagine. Because my family was waiting for me at the top.

And with great gasps for oxygen, I gave them their bracelets. And soaked in sweat, I took photos with my family. There was no prayer, no speech, just sweaty hugs and sweet relief to be at the top.

***Edited to add that the trip DOWN was probably even worse for me. There was a point almost at the bottom when I had to sit down, family around me, out of water, and came frighteningly close to laying down on the ground, which I imagine would have freaked out my three new children. I stumbled the last few yards to the boat, sat in the floor of the boat with my head laid over on the bench the whole way back across the lake, slept in the van for the ride up, and by the time we got to the restaurant and I went to the bathroom, I had double vision. I truly have no idea what happened to my body that day, but it was more than a little scary and a lot embarrassing.

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