What you see from Mountain Tops

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A week ago, our family hiked to the Highest Point East of the Mississippi – Mt. Mitchell – just a couple of hours from our home in North Carolina. It is amazing what you can and can’t see from a mountaintop.

Obviously, on a clear day from the top of a mountain you can see grand vistas and miles and miles of land laying out before you. When we were at Mt. Mitchell, we could see for probably a hundred miles to the West. On the other hand, you can literally have your view “clouded” at that height. Despite the fact that it was a beautiful fall day, our view to the East was only a mile or two as that side of the mountain was foggy and cloudy.

The other thing that struck me that day was that your perspective changes on the mountaintop. You sort of feel in a power position until you start to try to focus on specific things in the valley below you and recognize that the details are hard to make out from up there. You can gain a broader understanding of the terrain around you, but the exact twists and turns, rivers and rocks that you might encounter are difficult to discern.

The mountaintops of our lives can be the same – it feels great to be soaring high and seemingly in control of things. But when you look out on the horizon of your life from those high moments of life, it is sometimes a clear view and other times a bit cloudy. I’ve been experiencing this feeling a lot lately. Things are going great – a healthy, loving family, fantastic new house, professional successes, financial stability. But when I look out across the landscape, it is difficult to see the details of what might be ahead. Things are a little hazy and cloudy. So here’s what we did when we were on the physical mountaintop…

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We found the trail and started to walk down. And you know what we found out? There were things on that trail that were WAY cooler than what we could see from the mountaintop. There were interesting plants, rocks to climb on, side trails to explore, warm sunshine, and cool shady areas. It was rocky and steep in places and smooth and easy to walk in other places. But the journey along that trail was may more fun than just standing on the mountaintop.

I think that’s the plan for me in life today too – time to head down the trail and see what else is down there. I’m sure there will be some surprises, the trail may get tough again. But the walk is the adventure and life can only really be experienced if you get off your mountaintops and keep on going. Here’s to a good walk down life’s next trail.

Decisions

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Decisions, decisions, decisions…life is full of fun, interesting, difficult, painful, and exciting decisions.

In his book, All the Places to Go, John Ortberg cites a study that found that the average person makes about 70 conscious decisions per day. These make up the 25,550 mundane, important, and life sustaining decisions we make per year. For a person who lasts seventy years, those 1,788,500 decisions make up who they are as a person. As Albert Camus said, “Life is a sum of all your choices.”

This weekend, on a simple trail like the one above, it was illustrated for me how impactful a seemingly insignificant decision can be. Our family was walking along the Price Lake Trail along the Blue Ridge Parkway, enjoying a beautiful fall day. My 9 year old son was leading the way and we came to a fork in the trail. You couldn’t really see the end to either side, but there didn’t seem to be room for a true ‘fork’ so he said “you go that way and I’ll go this way daddy and we’ll meet up on the other side.” And that is what we did – we both walked maybe 20 yards and then the two trails came back together and we walked on. Maybe a half a mile later, we came to another fork and Jack again said, “let’s go both ways again and meet up.” Only this time the trails didn’t come back together. As soon as it went out of view, my trail veered off sharply, seemingly going somewhere else. As my son blissfully continued on the main path, it was clear to me that my path was not going to loop back around and reconnect. Because I’ve made roughly 792,149 more decisions in my life than my son, my experience told me that I’d better stop and turn around, return to the main trail, and catch up with my family before either I got lost or they got worried.

Our decisions in life are often the same. Some of them we think are going to be so impactful and we worry over them, pray over them, and over think them. Then we get a few steps into the decision and realize it brings us back to the path we were on and we move comfortably along. Other times, in a moment of comfort or on a whim, we make what seems to be an insignificant decision and move down a path that ends up taking us in a completely different direction. Sometimes we have the opportunity to backtrack to the main trail, but other times we end up just going a different direction and by the time we realize it, it has become our new path.

I’ve made a lot of decisions in my life, well over a million I’d surmise. Some of them have been good and beneficial and others have been painful and hard. But every one of them has made me who I am. As I continue forward on my life’s path, I think I’ll keep in mind that each decision, large and small, is impactful to who I am becoming. Being mindful of this won’t avoid hurt, pain, and sorrow, to be sure. Being mindful of my decisions will, however, make me more self-aware of what it is that makes me the person I am and the person I will become.