When I think back on my own hard times, I know that pain and fear and suffering have certainly shaped and molded me over the years. I know that I’m stronger for having survived the experiences. Caring for my children when they were little taught me a lot, and has given me some wisdom to pass on to my daughters when they’ve asked for advice while caring for their little ones. Strength and wisdom alone might be worth some of the tough stuff life deals out, but amazingly, there’s even more to be gained. Having survived the storms when life’s waves whipped my boat around, has allowed me to be more peaceful and calm when new storms blow up. Having seen the sun return after stormy skies clear, has reminded me that my little ones will heal, rest will come to the weary, and somehow, needs will most often be met, even in the bleakest times. Like I’ve often said, mountain tops offer beautiful views, but up there on the highest mountains, where the view is perhaps the most spectacular, the peaks are barren, nothing grows, and it is in the valleys where the fruit hangs heavy on the vines. I love the mountaintop experiences, I need them; but I know that if I’m to grow and become the woman I’m meant to be, I have to walk through the valleys too.
I’ve been thinking about some of this lately, because I have had so many friends walking through such challenging valleys. My prayer times have been filled with more pleading than praise, and my heart has been heavier with the awareness that so many people are being buffeted by life’s storms and unexpected challenges. As often happens, God sent me some words of wisdom, this time through a magazine. Since I was a little girl at my grandmother’s house, I’ve enjoyed reading Guideposts—it always inspires me. Here are the words I found so encouraging in the February edition, a quote from a gentleman named Richard Rohr, a Franciscan priest who said, “Heartbreaks, disappointments and even our own weaknesses can serve as stepping stones to the second half of life transformation. Failings are the foundation for growth. Those who have fallen, failed or ‘gone down’ are the only ones who understand ‘up.’” And I heartily agree, for in sickness, I appreciate health, in loss, I appreciate having, and the list goes on. Just having celebrated my birthday last month reminded me that I’m well into the second half of life, and I’m thankful for the stepping stones that have paved my way so far. Hoping the mountain tops and valleys will be as beautiful and fruitful from here forward.