Sunday, October 20, 2013

False Summit

When I first started hiking mountains with Jordan I was continually fooled by the false summit.  Surely this is the end, I would think.  Just a few more switchbacks, then one last scramble to the summit.  

I lacked strength and endurance, so after hours of switchbacks and rock scrambling my eyes would settle on the closest rocky peak. Time after time I would tap into what seemed like my final reserve of energy to scale the peak ahead, only to gain a new perspective.  Once we attained higher ground it would become clear that the true summit was merely hidden from our view, and was still distant.  A false summit always looks like the highest point, until you reach it.

Two weeks ago I thought we had reached a summit in our lives.  After two years of doctor's appointments, surgical procedures, $20,000, countless blood draws, and even more shots I spent an anxious afternoon waiting for a phone call.  I tried to distract myself by folding laundry, napping, and cleaning, but my anxiety was palpable and coursed through me.  When the phone call finally came, the nurse gave me the news I had hoped for.  I was pregnant.  My hormone levels looked fantastic, higher than expected, and I felt so grateful.

Now two weeks later the blood draws continue, but the phone calls have changed.  My hormone levels are dropping.  The doctor has taken me off my medication.  This week promises a painful miscarriage instead of a healthy growing baby; a false summit and more mountains to climb.

I knew this was a possibility.  I knew that a positive could become a negative.  I knew that it was still early.  But I had so much hope, we both did.

I prayed for a different outcome.  I did everything within my power to improve our chances.  I endured shots every morning, and sometimes at night.  I didn't eat blue cheese or deli meat.  I took prenatal vitamins, and baby aspirin, and fish oil tablets.  And yet I find myself on a foothill, and can't help but wonder if I have been climbing the wrong mountain all this time.

I have discovered when you arrive at a false summit your choices are limited, but you still have choices.

You can decide that the path ahead of you is too difficult, too dangerous, too steep, or too far.  Or maybe you are just too tired of trying.  You can abandon the time and energy you have invested, and the goal you have set, and return to your starting point. Sometimes starting over is necessary.

You can rest.  Sometimes you just need to take a break, eat a snack, and replenish your reserves. Often we are replenished by stopping our frantic efforts, reflecting on the distance we've gained, and then taking a moment to see the beauty around us.

Finally, you can choose to acknowledge the reality of the situation, and continue on.  You can accept the reality that although you have climbed difficult peaks there are more to come.  You can cling to the knowledge that there is strength and endurance to be gained by continuing on a difficult path.  You can hold to the promises of those who have reached the summit.  The promise that the true journey's end will be worth the pain and struggle.

Last Tuesday I had a breakdown.  It was the usual kind, full of questions, tears, and disappointment. But I found that I could not sustain my tears, and that my questions felt hollow.  I recognized them as questions that I've asked before; questions that have been answered.  I am finding it harder to dwell in this heartache, because I know that God will lift me out of it.  I feel like I should be devastated, but instead I feel faithful and hopeful.

I don't know where Jordan and I are headed.  I don't know how many false summits we will have to climb, but I do know that I am stronger than I used to be.  I know that I want to keep climbing with Jordan.  I am wiser than I was before.  I am really tired, but I am not finished.

Today I have chosen to rest.  I feel overwhelmed by the idea of moving forward.  But today I can rest and recognize the distance I have traveled, the strength I have gained, and the new perspective that comes even at the peak of a false summit.


  1. I have been wondering and waiting, now the news arrives that I had not been hoping for. There are those of us who are climbing with you, seeing the distant summit, yet to be scaled. We carry a piece of you and Jordan with us every day in our lives. Thank you for sharing your challenges.

  2. My dear friend, I ache for you. I am so sorry. I am gladdened to hear that you are spiritually strong and inspired by the relationship and faith you have built through all of this. I love you and pray for you.

  3. I am glad you can rest today. I've never known you not to reach your summit, even if it takes a whole lot of grapes and several breaks. I will be with you.

  4. Beautiful perspective, Julie. Thank you for sharing. Much love.

  5. Thank you with all my heart. My summits are different now but they are still sometimes false. Your words are like a balm I didn't realize I needed.

  6. Julie, I wish things could just be easy! Wouldn't that be nice? Just few a little while at least? You are on my mind, and in my heart this week. XO

  7. My name is Julie also. I have a 3 year old daughter named Alice. She was born with special needs, but still does not have a diagnosis. That does not bother us so much now, we have learned a lot from being her parents and i think that is all that matters. We have been so close to losing her many times. The closest time was the day before we were going to the temple to be sealed as a family. I know that her life is probably going to be shorter than I would like. I wanted to know how much your words have helped me through trying times and give me the resolve to continue forward as best I can. Thank you!

  8. You are a beautiful writer and a beautiful person. I too have written a very similar article about my experience climbing mountains and then realizing that when I reached what I thought was the top, there was more. I have not lost a child, but I have other losses that have caused me more pain than I thought I could bare. We each have our mountains to climb and I can say though I hated the trial, I am grateful for the lessons I have learned and continue to learn. Writing is a beautiful way I express my growth. It has always been my therapy!! God Bless you for who you are in strength and in pain!

  9. You are wonderful and I miss your writing.