I lift up my eyes to the mountains–Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. Psalm 121
I’m mesmerized by Mt. Rainier! So enamored, I’ve been driving erratically, scanning all directions for just a glimpse at every stopped traffic light. Truth. So totally distracted by the view, I failed to stop behind the car in front of me and my fancy-shmansy Subaru Outback rental car’s safety navigation system slammed on its brakes independent of me, protecting us from smashing into its rear end. I’ve never felt attached to a mountain and even though I know it’s an inanimate object— it has my heart.
Here’s the thing about Rainier. I haven’t actually seen the whole thing yet and I have exactly zero decent pictures to prove I saw it at all. The locals say that if the drizzly dinge blows through, I’ll view it in all its glory but so far it’s been veiled behind a puffy cloud right near the tip-tip-top.
Rainier is gargantuan—a 14er surrounded by respectable mountains ranges like the Cascades to its north, St. Helen’s to its south and the Olympic Mountains to the west. I’ve hiked their foothills and I promise you, they’re significant, but next to Rainier they look like midgets on the horizon.
Rainier stands alone. Visible from all around the Sound, it plays hide and seek. You turn a corner, the fog lifts and it jumps out in front of you squealing “peek a boo”, and you want to giggle like a toddler for the sheer delight of it.
About 5,000 technical climbers summit Rainier each year, like “King–or Queen- of the Hill” for a few golden moments, peons sharing in its glory, but nary the amateur hiker whose best ecstasy comes from getting acquainted with its midsection when the roads are passable and the risk of avalanche low.
And, Rainier is an episodically active volcano which makes its intrigue all the more mysterious. Under 54 feet of snow, molten lava mostly rests, an unpredictable eruption risk. Like Lewis’ description of Aslan in “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”, Rainier isn’t safe, but it’s good.
Rainier can’t be harnessed or caught or conquered. It can’t be described or even fully encountered. Any picture I paint using words is woefully inferior to the live experience but for starters imagine my mouth- gaped-open-awe at the first glimpse of this creative genius of God. Indeed, His works declare His glory! He used a star to lead the wise men to baby Jesus and it’s Rainier that’s giving me a fresh glimpse of His help.
Scrolling back through the archives of my story, August 1996 was when God’s words about where to look when I’m desperate for help gained a lot of traction. I found myself lying in a hospital bed on Blodgett 4th floor, IV line taped to my forehand, Pitocin pumping through my veins. Only a few hours prior, the ultrasound tech had slathered my tummy up with warm gel and rolled her probe all over my belly, but that staticky, rhythmic “bong, bong, bong” was nowhere to be found, leaving only the blaring sound of silence. My tiny boy died inside my cocoon, leaving me incapable of waking up out of the nightmare of a stillbirth. During the next 12 hours of labor, Brian read this passage aloud to me.
I lift up my eyes to the mountains–Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip– he who watches over you will not slumber;indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord watches over you— the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm—he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore. Psalm 121
Over and over, he spoke the Words, my muscles cramping, me whimpering as I breathed through each contraction. Sometimes, there’s no other way than through “it”, whatever “it” is and in those moments, thinking about the mountains reminds me that big, strong, creator Jesus can help me when I cannot help myself.
That has not been my only mountain moment. Scanning through the archives of my memories, like choppy, amateur, home movies, there are other moments, other trials, other challenges, other heartaches, bigger, stronger and harder than my capacity to endure. Cheesy as it may sound, Jesus has always been my Mt. Rainier.
The One I’m on the lookout for at every page turn on a 365 day calendar.
The One I’m acquainted with at His base but whose very essence is shrouded in incredible, unfathomable mystery that I cannot fully know, explain or fathom.
The One who’s not going to be conquered or destroyed or changed by human exploits or circumstances.
The One who sits enthroned, immovable, omniprescent, inviting me to glimpse His glory, to marvel at what He’s made and how it represents something about who He is and how He loves.
Several years ago, I took up a challenge to look for tangible signs in creation of God’s love for me in the shapes of hearts. On a particularly steep switchback up Rattlesnake Ledge in the Southern Cascades, I spotted a rock, embedded in the muddy trail—a heart. God’s tangible reminder that I am loved.
He loves me in all the moments that I don’t think I can survive and I’m not sure I want to.
He loves me in all the moments that I wish would last forever.
He loves me when I try hard and excel.
He loves me when I offer my best effort but fail miserably.
And, He loves me when I’m too tired, too discouraged or too lazy to keep trying.
He loves me even when I don’t feel loved or even lovable.
Memories are always my favorite souvenirs and I’m stuffing my mental suitcase full of excellent adventures to take with me from my vacation in Seattle.
Like the moment the car rental customer service rep revealed our pre-paid “mystery” vehicle as a 12 passenger van. “You’ve got to be kidding me!” I replied, and even through my mask, he correctly identified my look of horror and swapped it out for that Subaru Outback with a sunroof and the all-important safety navigation system.
I’ll remember kayaking and paddle boarding on Tapps Lake, chatting in the hot tub, lights dancing on the water after dark.
Playing King dominos umpteen times without a single win.
Driving through rainforests with mature trees growing toward heaven and up mountains straight through the clouds.
Walking and talking ascending and descending each trail, one switchback after another– raincoats…. or not. And how the sun peeked out, and the clouds evaporated just as we summited the top of Hurricane Hill.
I’ll cherish being close to some of the ones I love best for 6 solid days and celebrating exactly 23 years since Lily made her live debut into the world.
I don’t think I’m going to capture a good photo of Rainier except for the one etched into my memory, and that’s mercy enough.