For my 20th birthday I hiked Mount Olympus in Utah on Labor Day with my college roommates. I didn’t know anything about it. I brought an apple and a water bottle and hit the trail.
The peak is just over 9,000 feet and is about 8 miles out and back. We kept a pretty good pace to the top, mostly focused on getting there. When we reached the top after all that effort, I ate my apple and looked at the view while doing so. Once I was done and my friends finished their snacks, we immediately started right back down the mountain. We spent maybe 10 minutes at the peak after several hours to get up there.
Over the years, what I’ve always remembered from that hike was eating an apple and turning right back around and rushing back down the mountain. I don’t remember the views. I remember others commenting on how quickly we went up and back. I don’t know why we were in such a hurry. At 20-years old, I had my whole life ahead of me. How I hiked that mountain was not so different than how I approached life. Whatever the task, get it done in as little time as possible, check the box, be done and then on to the next task.
As a follower of Jesus Christ and as a member of a church that asks and encourages so much in our daily, weekly, and monthly lives, I spent many years checking the boxes.
- Read my scriptures daily
- Go to church every week
- Pay tithes and offerings
- Magnify whatever calling I had (volunteer job in a congregation)
- Go to the temple regularly
- Minister to other members
The list goes on….
Throughout my twenties, I often approached these tasks as I did that hike. There was still value in that and I had some good experiences along the way. I thought living a certain way, checking certain boxes, would inoculate me from certain challenges in life, especially from being divorced. They did not.
My choices, how I live my life, however good they are cannot and will not change another’s agency to make his or her own choices. This is something I’ve also had accept as a mother. While they certainly can have an influence for good, checking every box along the way is no guarantee as to what my child or anyone else will choose.
For my 40th birthday, I decided to hike Mount Olympus again. I ended up hiking it alone which I had never done before. The world and I had greatly changed from 1998 to 2018. I now had a cell phone with a camera and an infinite amount of things to listen to as I hiked and the ability to take as many pictures as I wanted. I was not where I thought I’d be in life from when I was 20. I was a divorced working mom of one child instead of the stay-at-home mom of no less than 4 children. I had experienced trauma and trials I never expected to encounter as a 20-year old, so long as I checked my boxes. Hiking that same mountain as a 40-year old was a deeply spiritual experience. As I ascended the peak and looked out over the valley and reflected on the last 20 years, would you believe I felt overwhelming gratitude and joy for my life?
It took me by surprise how intensely I felt that joy and gratitude for all of my life, not only the good, but also the sweat, work, and tears it had also taken to get to various apexes. My one goal that day was to not just reach the top, but to then sit and savor it. To not rush and merely do it to say that I’d done it. As I sat, pondered, reflected, I felt my God and His love for me. In a spiritual way, I could look over my life from that mountain and see God’s hand all over it, guiding, protecting, chastening, inviting, and holding me all along the way.
I continue to check those boxes in gospel living, but with intent to draw closer to God, to hear Him, to show faith and acceptance of Him, to spend significant time doing them and not just doing them to say I had.
In my church, we have a scripture that says “Let your hearts be comforted…for all flesh is in mine hands; be still and know that I am God (Doctrine and Covenants 101:16).”
There is power in stillness. There is gratitude in stillness. There is God in stillness.
I hope in the business of your lives as moms, you will find your own mountains to be still upon, to see and feel a God that loves and accepts you as His own creation. To feel the power in stillness. You are grander and more magnificent than the most majestic mountain view.