The Mountain Beyond the Trees

Originally posted at SheLoves Magazine.


There is a little bitty town nestled in the shadow of a dormant volcano in Western Washington. It fills with fog every fall and winter and sometimes in the spring.

I didn’t grow up in that foggy, sleepy town, but for years it is where my mind went when I said the word home. I spent a good chunk of my twentieth year there and I spent a whole lot of that time crying.

I blew into town broken after some adventures abroad. My arms overflowed with souvenirs and emotional baggage. I had 43 cents in my bank account and a really great tan. I was too immature to realize how emotionally exhausted I was.

That year I had it all figured out. That year—when I was 20—I knew exactly who I was going to be. That year I unraveled. And that year, I let a beautiful community church full of people scrape me up off the floor and help me heal.

I decided to call the valley that fills with fog my home.

When I was 23 I opened a post office box in that town, even though I lived more than 100 miles away. I knew I wanted a permanent address and the only place I could think of was nestled in that valley. I moved a dozen more times (in and out of the state), but I always knew I could gather my mail from that wee PO box in that wee town.

Sounds a bit too good to be true, eh? Nostalgia is a fickle thing.

I tried living in that sleepy town again three years ago. I could walk the couple blocks to the only grocery store and then across the street to the post office where I still kept a box. I could grab coffee from my roommate at the café by the gas station on my way to work and I even went back to that beautiful church that loved me so.

But this time it just didn’t fit.

I never really had words for that feeling. Maybe I outgrew that place? Or maybe it outgrew me.

I felt the dissonance most when I thought of that beautiful church. Those people were and are kind and generous. But I am not who I was then.

I was so passionate and intense. I had a grasp on the rightness of things and the wrongness of other things. I just knew that God was doing grand things with me and that I was a vital cog in his masterpiece. He was using me for his good, gosh darn it!

And I wasn’t entirely mistaken. I just had a narrower view.

Today I drove to that little town again. I still have a box at the post office—I should probably close it.

As I drove, I realized why I don’t really fit any longer.

You see, that valley has a stunning view of Mt. Rainier. I mean, it is other-worldly in its beauty. But when you drive right down into the woods, something happens. The trees are spectacularly tall and all around you is the forest. For a moment, you forget that there is a mountain beyond all those trees.

When I lived in that town I was absolutely sure of all the rightness and all the wrongness, because I could see it all plainly—a whole forest of it. But as I’ve stepped out of the foggy valley and away from the thick trees, I’ve caught sight again of that glorious mountain.

I don’t want to be stuck in the trees when there is a mountain of Truths and unknowns and maybes. I want to be where there is more space to grow and breathe, far beyond the woods.

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