"Ordinary moments make up an extraordinary life."
I don't know who said it first but the theme of this quote is floating all around the different channels of life. From the internet to podcasts, books, and sermons, it's not a new phrase and I'm guessing you've heard or read something like it before? Maybe you would agree that's it's profound and true? But perhaps, like me, you forget it's significance far too easily?
In a recent adventure to Wyoming, I realized just how similar a trip up an actual mountain resembles this journey of every day ordinary living. It doesn't always feel like a mountain-top experience, but neither doesn't being on a mountain-top.
So when the path of the ordinary doesn't feel very extraordinary, here are a few things to remember along the way:
#1. The journey is the mountaintop experience.
It might not always feel that way, but it's true.
There's something strange that happens when you drive up a mountain. First, you're overwhelmed by the view, whether you're in awe or scared out of your mind. Inclining up a steep winding road on the edge of a mountain is a un-forgetful experience. Then, when you get to the top and off the edge of the mountain, the road starts to turn ordinary and you forget that you’re actually, in fact, on top of a mountain.
The top is filled will hills and valleys, boulders and wildflowers; it rains, it snows, the sun shines, rives flow and lakes form. It's moving and alive. It's both beautiful and treacherous. It’s both amazing and ordinary. Whether you're driving through the smooth road, taking a bumpy path less traveled, climbing up a cliff or trekking down to a waterfall, you quickly forget that you're actually on top of a mountain.
To breathe and move is a mountaintop experience, we just forget how extraordinary it really is to simply live.
The magnitude of being alive is easily forgotten. The experience of waking up each day and inhaling air into our lungs is often overlooked. To simply exist is a wonder like a mountaintop. Breathing, relationships, enjoying the taste of food, moving our bodies, working with our hands, success, and failure...the entire process of life is a mountaintop experience. Sometimes we just forgot where we are and that we simply exist.
#2. Don't get stuck looking down.
There are times in life, and in the mountains, when you have to pay close attention to your footing and focus on each step as you take it---but it's really easy to get stuck looking down.
Depending on if it's a trail you enjoy, or a difficult and painful path, looking down is a narrowed line of sight; it's self-focused. It can make the path feel longer than it really is, it can give you a false sense of your own personal achievements, it can make you forget where you're at and cause you to miss the people on the trail with you. Ultimately, always looking down steals the joy of the journey.
It's essential to look up and experience the big picture of the path you're walking. The people you're walking it with and the course that is weaving before you. You might only be able to see the bend in the next corner; you might not know where it leads or how much further it is, but looking up gives you a fuller view of the purpose of your steps.
If all you do is keep your head down you won't notice the beauty along the trail. Look up and take it in, even if it's a hard path. So much joy is found in looking up.
#3. Take time to stop and absorb the view.
There are places on the mountain trails where the trees break and you can see hundreds of miles ahead of you. You can see the winding trail in which you came and the path of where it’s going.
Some of my kids would walk right past these places. Anxious to keep on moving forward and exploring, they would completely miss the view. I literally would have to call for them to stop and show them what they were missing.
Some of my other kids stopped dead in their tracks by the sight and planted themselves in awe on the side of the mountain, soaking it in. They didn‘t want to leave.
There's a balance between both of these things.
Regardless of how spectacular the view is it’s not good to stay on the edge of the mountain forever, never moving forward. But, it's vital to stop and absorb the beautiful picture laid out before you.
God gives us these places in our life for a reason; a break in the trail where we can see a fuller view of the story. Sceneries of the path in which we came, where we’re going and who we are now.
It‘s a place to rest and be rejuvenated. A place to absorb the beauty of the journey traveled and a place to celebrate the process it took to get there—regardless of how difficult it may have been.
In that place we can also see a glimpse of the path forward; an assurance of direction and a renewal to embrace what lies ahead.
There's something else...the view of the hundreds of miles all around us. The reality of our place in the journey we’re on. There's nothing quite like this view that reminds us of our insignificance within creation and the significance we are to our creator.
It's humbling. It's renewing. And it's beautiful.
#4. Be okay with being uncomfortable
The mountains aren't exactly comfortable; the temperature drops the higher you climb in elevation and it frequently rains or even snows. Hiking on rocky paths is strenuous on your feet, ankles and lungs; it leaves you out of breath, panting for water and massaging sore muscles.
We hiked with another family who had five kids, so between our two families, there was a total of eleven children. As you can imagine, there were a variety of attitudes at different points of the journey. Some of the kids didn't mind the discomforts of the climb up the mountain, while others struggled down. Tears were shed, kids were carried and complaining happened.
I struggled too. There were several times the discomforts of the walk (i.e. whining children) threatened to steal the joy from the experience. On one particular hike up from the base of a waterfall—a very steep and unforgiving incline—I realized that I could either let those discomforts spoil my joy, or, I could simply just embrace it as part of the experience.
There are things in each of our lives that make us uncomfortable. Hard places that we have to face. Situations, feelings, experiences, conversations—discomforts come in a variety of forms. The more we can simply embrace them, the more joy we will experience in them. Embracing doesn't mean the discomfort will go away, but it provides a path through with joy.
Enjoying discomforts and experiencing joy in discomforts, are two separate things.
It's okay to be uncomfortable. Relationships aren't comfortable, experiences aren't comfortable...life isn't comfortable. Maybe we need to stop on the side of life with tears and complaints about our discomforts for a moment, but let's not plant ourselves there. They don't have to steal the joy of the journey.
#5. Let the experience move you and respond without hesitation.
As we were walking along a canyon trail in the mountains my three-year-old kept making exclamations about all the things she saw. She was living her best life—the experience was stirring her soul in a way she couldn't contain.
Suddenly, she started singing. She belted out a song that I'd never heard before; one she was making up as she went. It was adorable. Declaring the details of the beauty around her and professing her feelings about it. The experience of the mountains welled up a song inside and she responded; the result was a delightful little tune.
I found myself having this same stirring as we journeyed. A song kept welling up inside of me and a few times I let it float out of my mouth, but mostly I contained it.
Why? Probably for fear of what everyone else would think of my singing.
Her response was a delight for everyone who heard it; she was fully living. Mine? I didn't allow my response to come to fruition. I excused it away and my hesitation kept me from fully experiencing the mountaintop living.
Rivers flow with continually peace, waterfalls rush with shouts of praise, thunder roars with rolling power, and mountains stand with majestic glory. Creation flows freely, responding to its creator without abandon and reflecting the goodness of its maker. God stirs creation alive continually and it responds without hesitation; in turn, it reflects His glory.
Pretty scenery is not just a beautiful picture we see—it's God revealing himself to us.
We are his creation too, He’s not only revealing himself to us but stirring us to respond to Him. My daughter was stirred and she responded without hesitation...will we?
Or, will we hesitate? Will we contain it? Will we excuse it away?
God reveals himself in our lives; through our experiences, through people, through creation, and through his word. He's rustling our hearts to see Him, will we listen? Will we open up our eyes? Will we allow our soul to wake and respond?
Our responses bring delight to Him; they bring delight to each other and they bring delight to us personally. Freely responding to Him fills us to full because we're delighting in the way He loves us; we are living in the very way we were created to live.
Living in response to him is living a mountaintop life. Allow yourself to be affected by the way He reveals himself in your every day and respond without hesitation.
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