A song of ascents:
אֶשָּׂא עֵינַי, אֶל-הֶהָרִים מֵאַיִן, יָבֹא עֶזְרִי
I raise up my eyes to the mountains, from where does my help come from?
עֶזְרִי, מֵעִם יְהוָה–עֹשֵׂה, שָׁמַיִם וָאָרֶץ
My help is from the Lord, maker of heaven and earth.
אַל-יִתֵּן לַמּוֹט רַגְלֶךָ; אַל-יָנוּם, שֹׁמְרֶךָ
He will not allow your foot to falter, your guardian will not slumber.
~ Psalm 121:1-3~
This song of ascents has been close to my heart for many years. I sing it regularly in communal praise in both Hebrew and English. I recite it to myself as I ascend every mountain, both natural and metaphorical. It is a reminder that as we journey up the mountains in life, that our help is from the One who knit the grandeur and complexities before us together – and knows how to negotiate the way. It is a reminder that our Helper is not absent, but is steadying the trembling legs of the weary traveler. I cherish this assurance.
A Song of Years
I fell in love with the Adirondack Mts. of New York State in my late teens. Spending time with friends hiking, camping…and partying…in some of the most beautiful landscapes I’ve ever seen. These mountains were so close to my heart that at the age of 21, with no money to develop it, my then fiancé and I, and now wife of nearly 24 years, purchased 45 acres of wooded property just outside the Adirondack Park, on the side of a small mountain, Hedgehog Mt. We have been on our homestead, living off-grid (solar/wind power, and non-electric living) raising family, building home, and changing seasons of food, livestock and property management for 22 years. As this blog develops, I will share experiences from every aspect of the homestead life for personal reflection, and the benefit of a few…as it’s good to learn from mistakes made, especially those made by others. And I will share how faith has led our ascent.
A Song of Ascent
In an earlier post I mentioned my weight journey. Having lived and worked in the woods for as long as I have, one would not expect weight to be an issue. Hard work and a busy life does not equal proper body awareness – comfort foods were often the remedy for the stresses of life – not all that different from people living, well, anywhere in the first world. Somehow, seemingly out of the blue –not really, I was watching my expansion, but felt helpless to stop it – I found myself at 350 lbs. Pain was a regular body condition: joints, back, knees, etc. I found it difficult to sleep; at times feeling like I was suffocating because of the pressure.
So at the age of 44 I made a decision. Get up and go for a hike. Now, I walked our property daily with our dog. However, what most people did not know was that I could not walk up our road, a gradual incline with some very modest elevation gain, without stopping at the top and vomiting because I was breathing so hard – mind you, this was a distance of 200 or 300 feet from my front door! But on June 20th I went to Bald Mt. (Old Forge, NY), a mountain I’ve climbed dozens of times in all seasons, with my then 21 year old son. It is short, two miles out and back, with about 800’ of elevation gain. It nearly killed me, metaphorically speaking.
The summer of 2018 became one of resurrection. My son and I would take a day trip once a week to some Adirondack peak, and he would be my “Barnabas,” my encourager. We would do short distances, one or two miles, and what seemed like very long distances at the time, five or six miles. Between those trips I would hike on our property with intent – I now had a goal – to get well. I used some exercise equipment between trips to help build endurance. I realized that my diet needed to change, reducing sugar and eliminating sugary drinks was a major step in the right direction. And over those first eight weeks I watched my weight begin to drop. Then, after my son went back to college for his senior year, I continued to make weekly trips into the Park.
A Song of Hope
“He will not allow your feet/legs to falter/tremble.” While I was still over 300 lbs. I ventured on a solo hike of Table Top Mt, one of the Adirondack 46 High Peaks. Added to that, on my way out, I went up Phelps Mt., another of the 46; and one commonly paired with Table Top ~ note to self, not your best idea. It was a difficult day, and I’m sure I was a sight to behold. But, as so many times before, Psalm 121 began to echo in my heart, and this song of ascents lifted me on my descent.
As I was descending Phelps Mt. my legs reached their limit under the pressure of the hike. I stopped at one point to catch my breath, only to have both legs cramp up terribly. I prayed and stretched to relieve the cramping, and was soon on my way to the main trail back to the Adirondack Loj. While my legs trembled for a time, the Lord did not allow them to falter. He was steadying the trembling legs of this weary traveler. Lessons learned.
I continued trips to the High Peaks, and other low peaks in the Park, through the fall, and into the winter snowshoeing season. The spring came and I was now able to trail run.
Life is changing quickly. Perspectives are changing. Outlooks are changing. I am renewing.
A Song of Overcoming
Every ascent was, and is still, a victory. Every ascent is another step in a larger picture that I have yet to fully appreciate. It is a journey that involves mountains and valleys, highs and lows; but I can honestly say, my lows are not of the same character that they once were – because I know I can climb the mountains before me – and the Lord will keep me from faltering – but if I do, He will lift me once again.
A Song of Comfort
I have shared a bit of my story in this blog. I will continue to elaborate as the need dictates. My prayer for you is one of encouragement. I felt resigned to live with my diagnosis of obesity and arthritis which brought not only physical pain, but emotional pain as well. Still, as I continue to sing the above Song of Ascents I realize that none of our greatest challenges are beyond our grasp when we find help in the Maker of heaven and earth. No matter what you are facing, you are not facing it alone.
To lift up your eyes, you must lift up your head; and when you do so, you will no longer be downcast, but looking up.
Shalom. Be well.