The conference center was located atop a VERY high hill, and God was gracious to me - the elevation didn't prove too much for my lungs to handle. I even commented at one point that a year ago I would have needed to be on constant oxygen at that elevation. The conference was Friday evening (that was my part), and most of Saturday. Then Sunday marked not only Valentine's Day, but also the 2 year anniversary since I was originally hospitalized, and thus began this journey in an in-my-face sort of way. Last year, as is true of first anniversaries, Valentine's Day was very difficult. This year, I spent the days leading up to it discussing with a wonderful group of women some of the good that's come from the pain. In hopes of helping to bring back the positive connotation most people have for Valentine's Day, my mother offered to watch the boys Saturday night while Aaron and I spent the night "away and alone." We ended up spending the night at Oglebay Park, and picked up the boys Sunday morning in time for her to leave for Sunday School.
I'm not sure if our room at Oglebay was higher in elevation than where the conference center was located, or if God just allowed the elevation to bother me more - a LOT more. I really, REALLY struggled with lightheadedness. Sunday morning, as we enjoyed a breakfast buffet, overlooking the beautiful snowy hills at Oglebay, the thought entered my mind, "God, it sure is beautiful up here. But get me off this mountain and back down to the valley." Though I meant it literally, the figurative meaning immediately swept over me and I started trying to rescind my words! But all morning that prayer kept replaying in my mind.
As Christians we long for beautiful, peaceful mountaintop experiences. We pray for easy lives filled with happiness and comfort. And occasionally God provides us with just that. God gives us those moments to gain new perspective, and momentarily to rest. But that's not where we grow - not where we're stretched - not where we learn the most about our God. We GROW in the valleys - in the swamps - in the bogs - in the river rapids .... I would be VERY happy not to have any more struggles for a LONG time, but I need to continue to grow. Yes, sometimes that growth comes from reflection. But sometimes growth needs to come from being stretched - from reaching the end of my rope, and needing to grab ahold of God so I won't fall.
While I pray that I don't walk through "the valley of the shadow of death" (Psalm 23:4a) again anytime soon, I do want to keep learning about my amazing God - His provision, His grace, His forgiveness, His love - and how I can show Him to others. So ... YES. "God, it sure is beautiful up here. But get me off this mountain and back down to the valley."