Words for Wednesday: the mountain

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Camp on the trek up Mt. Kilimanjaro

When a mountain towers over us, some of us find ourselves immovable. Others are motivated to climb that mountain to the very top and shout, “I did it!”

Some of us are challenged by what seems a daunting task. Others dig down deep, find inspiration and motivation to keep moving onward and upward.

“Mountains know secrets we need to learn. That it might take time, it might be hard, but if you just hold on long enough, you will find the strength to rise up.”  ~ Tyler Knott

If you didn’t get a chance to read my oldest daughter’s story about developing perseverance while climbing Mount Kilimanjaro five years ago, please click here.

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Getting a little closer

Today I’m sharing some of her photos from that amazing journey she took – the one which not only challenged her physically but mentally as well. I’m proud to say she tackled that mountain both ways and found inner strength while doing so.

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Nearing the summit at daybreak

I hope you also can face whatever challenge before you, tackle your own mountains, and reach the rewarding summit.

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The summit

“Every mountain top is within reach if you just keep climbing.”~ Barry Finlay

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Facing that mountain

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Taken by my daughter while climbing Mount Kilimanjaro

“It’s not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.” ~ Edmund Hillary

Today’s post features a guest writer for Mama’s Empty Nest, although this guest is no stranger to me. Let me introduce you to my oldest daughter, a self-proclaimed “science nerd,” adventurous traveler, and an excellent writer. Out of those three attributes, she only actively pursues two, but her mama thinks she should step into the writing arena because she has so much to say and is very adept at saying it.

Five years ago, my “the world is so big and I want to see it all” firstborn traveled to Africa with her husband and one of her best friends for a specific purpose: to take a week-long trek up Mount Kilimanjaro, the tallest peak in Africa (in Tanzania) and the highest single free-standing mountain in the world at 19,341 feet.

It was quite a physical feat to accomplish trekking through five distinct climate zones as they climbed the mountain, but what my daughter learned about character and perseverance is of even more importance. Please read what she so beautifully wrote about facing mountains before us (and we all have them in one form or another), enjoy her photos from that trip, and be encouraged by her story:

Someone recently asked me what the proudest moment of my life has been so far. My mind immediately went to Mount Kilimanjaro – but reaching the summit was only part of it. More specifically, my proudest moment happened on day three of our seven day hike, when I felt like I had reached my breaking point.

I was exhausted – I had barely slept in the week leading up to the climb because I was incredibly anxious about it, not to mention it was impossible to sleep well while actually on the mountain. I felt sick – the altitude made me nauseated, gave me a persistent headache, and made me completely lose my appetite.

I was frustrated with myself – we had somehow started hiking that particular section with the “fast” members of our group and I was having a hard time keeping that pace, so I felt like I was slowing everyone down.

And I was out of shape and in pain – I had badly sprained my back months prior, which had derailed my training for the climb, so my fitness level was not where I wanted it to be, AND my back was still hurting.

At that point, I felt like there was no way I could do it. It was too hard. I had way too much working against me. I stopped to sit down on a rock and burst into tears.

I did NOT want to keep going. I wanted to turn around and walk down off the mountain and crawl into my bed back at the inn… and it would have been so easy for me to do that.

But after I was done with my little crying fit, I remembered the vow I had made to my husband, my friend, and myself that I was going to stand on that summit no matter what. Kilimanjaro had become a dream of mine, and I was not going to give up so close to achieving it.

So I made the decision to get up off that rock and keep going in the direction I had been heading. Just one step at a time.

“I will persist until I succeed. Always will I take another step. If that is of no avail I will take another, and yet another. In truth, one step at a time is not too difficult. I know that small attempts, repeated, will complete any undertaking.” ~ Og Mandino

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Notice how small the climbers are in comparison to the mountain

It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. On summit night, the altitude affected us so much that we were literally taking one step every two to three seconds. We passed people who were on their hands and knees, vomiting. We saw groups turn around with less than 45 minutes left to go until the summit.

But we did not turn around. Our whole group made it to the summit. We hugged each other in celebration and posed for pictures and I cried – this time for a much different reason.

I used to have this tendency to think that strength and bravery are demonstrated by doing big, scary, adventurous things, and I think that’s why I like to do those types of things – to prove to myself that I’m stronger and braver than I usually think I am.

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro WAS one of those big, scary things, and I’m so proud of making it to the summit, but more than anything I am proud of that moment, on a random rock near Lava Tower, where I decided that I was going to keep going.

blogP1030516I’ve come to learn that true inner strength is proven in the small moments where you want to give up, but you don’t let yourself. Maybe for you it’s when you decide that instead of hitting the snooze button, you’re going to wake up early in order to stick to your workout plan.

Or when you decide that instead of letting your marriage unravel, you’re going to go ahead and schedule that first counseling session.

Or when you have a bad day, but get up the next morning to do it all over again.

Continuing to talk to God, even when you’re angry with Him. A class that you’re struggling through. A dream career that’s taking years to obtain. Loving someone when it’s hard.

Whatever you’re going through, whatever is too hard for you right now, you’ve got this. Don’t give up on your dream, or the promises you made. If I can get up off that rock and keep walking, so can you.

“Perseverance is a positive, active characteristic. It is not idly, passively waiting and hoping for some good thing to happen. It gives us hope by helping us realize that the righteous suffer no failure except in giving up and no longer trying. We must never give up, regardless of temptations, frustrations, disappointments, or discouragements.” ~ Joseph P. Wirthlin

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Looking for the ‘on’ switch

Pittsburgh Steelers stadium off season

Pittsburgh Steelers stadium off season

I’m off.  Really off.

It’s been going on for longer than I would like.  Months.  And the reason why I’m off is because life has totally taken a different turn from the norm. 

This season of life somehow has been thrown off track.  Plans haven’t developed like they should have.  There have been way too many twists and turns in the road sending me veering in several directions.

And that throws me off. Off balance.  Off kilter.  Off. Off. Off.

That’s how I’ve been feeling.  My writing is off.  My thoughts are off.  Circumstances beyond my control have even threatened to cast off my joy.  And if I’m perfectly honest, even my faith has been thrown off like a rodeo rider hitting the dust when he’s tossed off that bucking bronco.

That’s why this week’s photo challenge seemed to just smack me in the face with the theme  – Off Season.

I am in an off season.  I’m soft and useless and out of shape.  I’m wallowing from occurrences and events and it has thrown me completely off.  And I’m tired of being off and desperately want to find the on switch.

I recently saw a motivational poster that boasted this message: “The best athlete is made during the off season.”

I’m hopeful that is the truth.  I know that during the off season, you can’t just lie around doing nothing.  You have to keep at it…whatever it is whether it’s sports or life.  You can’t expect to improve your situation, your skills, your life if you don’t practice what you preach. 

So you work hard during the off season.  You rest for a time, yes, but you don’t slack off completely. You don’t ignore your training.

You see I’ve been doing that.  I’m off my training.  Off from reading God’s Word and incorporating it into my life because I’ve been consumed with something that seems to have derailed my train.

And I know I need to get back on the training treadmill so to speak.  Because only through God’s Word can I be made stronger.  Only reading His messages will help me endure.  Help me persevere.  Help me help others.   Help us all finish this race called life on this earth.

My Guidebook for life tells me in the book of James, Chapter 1, verses 2-4 that we will face trials and temptations in this life. We must expect them and realize that those tests will produce perseverance when we allow our faith to grow during that time.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

So I’m suiting up for training.  I’m grabbing this off season by the horns and I’m going “… one more round when you don’t think you can – that’s what makes all the difference in your life.”  (from the movie Rocky IV)

Just call me Rocky.

 “That which we persist in doing becomes easier, not that the task itself has become easier, but that our ability to perform it has improved.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

©2015 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Fallen and can’t get up?

blogIMG_1149The other day I fell.

I didn’t trip, stumble, stagger, tumble, slip, teeter or lose my balance.  I fell.  Hard.

I lurched.  I sprawled.  I dropped faster than the proverbial hot potato.  I was down for the count like a boxer who just took one to the chin and kisses the canvas of the boxing ring floor.   And I can blame it on my computer.

Sitting in my family room on my day off, I needed to complete a work project, so I had brought my office laptop computer home with me.  While working on that device,  I also decided to fire up my personal laptop.

I happily bounced back and forth between typing my project on the business computer to checking Facebook updates, email and blog stats on my personal one.  You see, I really am a bonafide multi-tasker.  I believe it’s my middle name.

Ward, the work computer, indicated his battery was draining fast, so I plugged his cord into the electrical outlet.  Of course, Penelope, the personal laptop, had to follow suit.  And she was downright pesky about it.  She kept beeping at me and then gave off a dire warning, so I located her adapter cord and plugged her in as well.

There they sat, Ward and Penny, side by side on the coffee table, recharging so they could further assist me, while I occupied the couch, crunching some numbers on a calculator.   And then the phone rang – not my cell, the house phone in the kitchen.

One minute I stood up to rush to answer the phone, the next minute I slammed into the floor.  Belly-flopped.  Face planted in the carpet.  Stunned and thinking, “What the heck just happened to me?”

I lifted my head,  expecting to have a bloody nose because I smacked the floor face first that hard.  Relieved to see no blood, I rolled over to take assessment of the rest of my body.  That’s when I noticed one of the laptop cords was still twirled around my big toe (yeah, I never wear shoes in the house) and obviously was the culprit for taking me down.

I slowly worked my way into an upright position, thankfully realizing nothing was broken on me or the laptops.  I vaguely remembered the odd sensation of lurching forward unable to catch myself, hitting my left hip on the edge of the coffee table and my right hip on the arm of the sofa on my way down to my crash landing on the floor.

I still can’t quite understand how Penelope and Ward managed to stay perfectly perched on the coffee table though, while I ended up sprawled on the carpet.    I always accuse both computers of having  minds of their own, and now I’m wondering if the two of them were in cahoots – you know, a conspiracy theory.

The day after my plummet, I definitely felt the damage – both hips bruised and even my stomach hurt from the impact.   For a few days afterward, you could have nick-named me “Hop-a-Long,” as I ambled slowly especially while going up and down our staircase.

So why write about obviously being a klutz?  I do so because it occurred to me, each time I winced from my bruises, that my fall describes what life is often like.  One minute you’re breezing along like nobody’s business, taking care of business, and then boom!

You’re laid flat.  Something knocks you for a loop.  The rug gets pulled out from under you.  You never saw it coming.   Those hidden obstacles send you reeling and flying.   That’s life.  There’s not much we can do about that.   Bad things happen.  Falls occur.  Things don’t turn out the way you expect.

But there is something we can do about the way we respond to the bumps and lumps, twists and turns, and belly-smackers and head-bangers on our way.  Do we wallow while we’re down, drowning ourselves with misery and “woe is me” attitudes?  Do we just give up saying, “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!?”  Or do we dust ourselves off, pick ourselves up, and move forward?

My middle daughter experienced her fair share of disappointments while she was still a college student.  An injury sidelined her from her sport of choice, but instead of feeling sorry for herself, she simply moved on and attempted something different – running on the college cross country team.

Once during an important meet, she was closing in on the finish line, when splat –  she fell!   Those watching all gasped.  She could have quit, she could have writhed on the ground weeping in despair.  But she didn’t!  She scrambled to her feet, planted a smile on her face, and finished the race bleeding knees and all.  I’ve always admired her courage and guts in doing so.

I’d like to think she inherited her determination from her parents, but I attribute her tenacity and optimistic attitude to her faith in God.  He helped her through the long haul.  She’s learned to hold onto her faith in Jesus for dear life and when we fall, as we surely do, He offers His hand to lift us up.

The Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 3:12-14,  “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

My recent fall reminded me today in my Opportunity book, Chapter 7, Page 12, that even though life looks so very rosy right now at our house, falls will come.  Obstacles will cause me to stumble; circumstances will happen beyond my control.  But I must forget what’s behind and remember instead to press forward knowing that Jesus stands ever ready to help and guide me.  Even though I will fall,  He will always be there for me just as He always has been, arms outstretched ready to pick me up.

Deuteronomy 33:27 promises that to all of those who put their faith in Christ Jesus:  “The eternal God is your refuge and underneath are the everlasting arms.” 

What about you?  Do you believe God’s everlasting arms are always underneath you?  Won’t you join me today, right now, in thanking Him for always being within our reach?

“Underneath are the everlasting arms.  What child of God was ever allowed to fall lower than God’s underneath?” ~ H. Gill

©2011 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com