Years ago, I climbed Long's Peak in the Rocky Mountain National Park. It is still one of the highest (literally) achievements of my life, and I hope to return to do it again someday.
My friends and I were climbing in high season, so we arrived at the trailhead around 2am, to beat the crowds and summit early enough so we could be back below treeline before the afternoon storms rolled in. Much of the climb was in the dark. With only the light of a headlamp to guide us, we followed the trail up into pitch black alpine forests. When we emerged from the trees, it was sunrise, and the sky glowed in brilliant pinks and oranges over the Continental Divide. My fatigue gave way to something else entirely. Anticipation and determination propelled me skyward. The expanse of God's creation was awe-inspiring, and for me, the desire to get as close as possible to heaven was intoxicating. It is what I love most about climbing big mountains.
I can still feel the deep ache in my body after so many hours of high altitude climbing. I also remember being able to see the Keyhole (a rock formation you must pass through before pushing for the summit) in the distance. I kept my eyes on it as adrenaline and willpower propelled me upward. I remember the exhilaration I felt when I finally climbed through it.
On the other side, the view was like nothing I could have imagined. It felt like the entire world was at my feet, and that now I could do anything. I remember being overwhelmed by emotion as I stood looking out at the most incredible panorama I had ever seen. I laughed and cried with my arms around strangers, joined together by the thrill of a great challenge conquered. I never reached the summit - the snow and ice was unseasonably deep that year and sliding off the edge of the mountain was not a thrill I cared to experience. But it didn’t matter. I had accomplished something meaningful and rewarding.
I'm thinking about that experience now. I'm thinking about how I climbed through the fatigue, and doubt, and fear, driven by something deep inside me. I'm thinking about that final, steep push through the boulder field...how focused I had to be and how each step had to be carefully placed in order to avoid a potentially dangerous situation.
It's a perfect metaphor for single parenting, and actually, just life in general, isn’t it? I often feel like I am climbing a rocky path up a really big mountain, simultaneously exhilarated by the challenge and exhausted by the effort. But I also feel that thing...that thing deep inside me that sets my jaw, squares my shoulders, finds my balance, and reaches for the next obstacle. That thing is the Holy Spirit - filling me up with strength and faith and grit.
I have always been drawn to the mountains, and not surprisingly, the verse of my soul is Psalm 121, “A song of ascents.”
1 I lift up my eyes to the mountains--
where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot slip--
he who watches over you will not slumber.
4 indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord watches over you--
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
6 the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord will keep you from all harm--
he will watch over your life;
8 the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.
What shelter, what comfort, what hope, this verse has given me over the years. Has anyone ever said to you: “I just don’t know how you do it!” As a single mom, I heard that all the time, and there were many times when I didn’t know how I was doing it, either. Things got really hard sometimes. But I had Faith. I had the belief that God was the author of my story, and I trusted that He wasn’t going to write a bad one.
If you are climbing a mountain right now, my prayer is that you feel the strength of the Holy Spirit propel you toward the summit, and you rest in the knowing that the Lord will not let your foot slip. He’s walked before you, He’s watching over your life, and He’s waiting for you at the top.
Onward and upward.
Erin is an administrator, freelance writer, photographer, and former single mom. She contributes regularly to HERLIFE Magazine and KC Parent Magazine. She has been a mommy blogger (Single Mom REVEALED, This Heart and Mind, and Life and the Outcome) for many years, focusing on providing an authentic depiction of life as a single mom. She is also currently working on her first book - part memoir and part single parenting survival guide.
Erin is married now, but after over 10 years on her own, she will always have a heart for the mamas going it solo. It is a privilege to walk alongside and equip single moms to not just survive, but to THRIVE.