"Mountaintops are for views and inspiration, but fruit is grown in the valleys." - Billy Graham A friend of mine put this quote this morning on Facebook. It is a thought provoking quote and the following is just my thoughts after thinking through bunny trails and new experiences here in the mountains. I am thankful that she finds good quotes to post almost everyday but today's spoke deeply to me here in the valley because so many times we equate misery, trial and troubles with the valley.
I live in a valley, not a figurative valley of sadness, but in an actual valley but our home is on a hill. Most of this area is valley with rambling hills and hollers and we view the mountains from a long range distance, the really high mountains are what I am talking about. Last August as we began to look at houses in the area the first home our realtor took us to was on top of one of the smaller mountains (oxymoron) in the area. We drove up and up and meandered on switchback roads. Parts of these narrow mountain roads were one lane that eventually went from paved to gravel. Yes, this flat land girl, sitting in the backseat was a tad bit nervous as we made the ascent. Granted, once we were at the house the views were spectacular and the owners of the home had tried valiantly to open up the small home to the openness of the mountains. Most of the property was a direct slant, downward...guess it depends on your viewpoint. There was a modest amount of flatness to have a small garden, a small driveway and a storage area for a RV. I shudder thinking about backing it out and down the road. The couple were musicians and had decided to move to Nashville hoping their star would be discovered there. I liked the house ok but it wasn't a top contender over all mainly because the downstairs reeked of cat urine but the ascent and descent played a huge role in it not being considered. It occurred to me to have those wonderful, vast, breath taking views, it was hard work to get up and down from the bottom to the top and from the top to the bottom. Living in that house would have to make me a better list and organizer because, believe me, you didn't want to have to make a trip back down to the store if you forgot anything...not only because of the aforementioned ascent but because the nearest grocery store was anything but near. The song by Carole King comes to mind, "so far away...." We visited one or two more homes located on the top of the world, looking down onto creation. I asked what the going rate for helicopter rides was going for. After climbing every mountain, no fording a stream, we nixed the idea of a home on top of old smoky. Vista and view became the operating words and mantra. You would have thought I would have remembered my one and only time of primitive camping in the Olympic Mountains in Washington State. We climbed and hiked switchbacks, nothing was level, it hurt, you knew why they had told you to pack light because every ounce in my backpack was beginning to feel like a thousand pounds. And once we got to the top, we had to hike down into a valley to camp for the night. My friends wanted to hike back up the mountain once we got settled so we could watch the sunset. All I could mumble about was...isn't that where we just came from? Aren't we going to have to hike back up tomorrow morning to get on the trail? Believe me, I wanted nothing to do with beauty at that very moment. It was all about soaking my feet in an alpine lake that was like 36 degrees.
All these stories to say, mountain top experiences are overrated! Hard going up and hard going down. Give me a valley...but not a Harper Valley PTA. I guess we have gotten the idea that valleys are sad or the place you don't want to be from Psalm 23, Psalm 84, the valley of Baca or weeping or songs like the God of the mountains is still God in the valleys. Heck, it means if you are in a valley, you have mountains surrounding you. So you are actually living in the mountains...just not the tops. I read the paragraphs around this quote from his book of devotions and beloved Billy is saying, we live in the valleys...that is where our work is, our happiness resides, it's where we face rejection or welcome inclusion. It is where we look differently at the mundane and get through days. Days, we want to be out of or days that can't seem to slow down enough. Valleys have good news and not so good news...it is from learning in the valley how we choose to respond. After shopping the produce stands around the area, I'm telling you, you want fruit from the valley...you want fruit that is nurtured and grown in deep soil, not the the rocky soils of the heights. Around here, the higher you go in the mountains, the likelihood of meeting a sneaky or snapping snake..i.e poisonous expands. Remember, the devil took Jesus to the highest peak to look down....man made peak of the temple and the highest mountain peak, made by God, but it is all mountain top-esk. Try to live on mountain tops, the wind will age you something fierce. Our neighbor above us on our hill told me last night she is going to sell her property and home because the going up and down on our hill and most of her 8 acres is on the hill part, is getting to her as she trains her four horses. They are going to look at property in TN that is rolling to flat, that will be easier to train the horses and less wear and tear on her physically. Give me the valley, and oh, don't fence me in.
My friend Vivian told me when I first met her about how the mountains have protected this area throughout the years. Yes, we still have storms and trees are blown over but watching the radar with the fierce reds of rain barreling out of the north turn to yellows and greens when they hit those mountains on the TN and NC border. In our valley we get snow but are rarely snowed in. The other night I was thinking about how God spoke to Moses and Elijah in the mountains but spoke to Ezekiel in the valley. The enemies of Israel in the Bible mistakenly thought that God gave victory to Israelites in the mountains but He was not the God of the valleys. Uh, they be thinking wrong. And we cannot forget King Jehoshaphat in II Chronicles 20:26 and the valley of blessing.
So bottom line, I need to transform my mind into thinking and knowing not all valleys are for sorrow or for sadness or for testing...although we will find plenty of that that there and on the mountain tops if we are honest. Valleys are where we live and where we demonstrate the love of Christ. I just happen to be so blessed to actually be located in a valley where my eyes can look unto the hills and know that my help comes from the Lord. I have the visual and I learn visually. It would be a whole lot harder in Houston to remind myself of living in the mountains in a valley...unless I stand on a incline or decline of a freeway. I think that would not end up well, you know with all the traffic.