Often I joined my dad in this impressive setting. I vividly recall one day hanging between his lanky legs as he held me under my arms. I stood on tiny wooden skis fastened with cable bindings to huge boots. “Ready, Kimbo?” my dad asked with the enthusiasm of a parent gifting his child with something he loves.

Together, we perched on the crest of what my youthful perspective saw as a daring precipice. With the pure, unshakable faith of a child, I looked at my dad’s slender thighs and saw the trunks of two strong oaks. His grasp was firm enough to convince me that as long as I was locked in his protective embrace, we could ski through any peril. Had I glanced up, I’m sure I would’ve seen his superhero cape wafting majestically behind him. I braced myself by pressing mittened hands on the inside of each of his thighs. Like a pint-size copilot, I bobbed my head and said, “Okay, Daddy.” We pushed off into a serpentine world of white, the beginning of many glorious weekends filled with father-daughter adventures.

That string of shared activities ended, however, much too soon. I was nine years old when the inconceivable happened. Divorce was tearing our family apart. My dad sought help in many professional directions, but, tragically, the help he so desperately needed was not to be found. One day a friend of my father’s picked up my sisters and me from school and took us to our grandparents’ house. No one spoke. During that drive I knew something catastrophic had happened. At my grandparents’  house a distraught woman tried to comfort me in her arms. She kept repeating, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m so deeply sorry.” Finally she blurted out, “Your father has just murdered your mother and killed himself.”

My first thought was that she was a liar. She had to be a liar because what she said simply could not be true.

I tore away and burst out the house’s back door. I ran and ran through a small orchard until I fell, facedown, in the powdery, dry earth. I heard screaming and realized it was coming from me.

 “Jesus, help me!” I cried. “Help me!”

And then, He did.

I didn’t really know who Jesus was. I’d been to church only a few times in my life. Yet in that moment of despair, I somehow knew He was the only safe direction I could turn and if I didn’t, I would die.

What I understand now is how on that terrible day the Lord of all Creation came and knelt in the dirt beside a breaking child. He reached down and took the small hand that reached up to Him…and He has never let go.

Only through His grace did I begin picking up the pieces of my shattered life. My sisters and I moved in with my grandparents and started attending church. In the years that followed, I learned that Jesus was my Redeemer and my shelter. Despite the grief and despair I faced, I always found comfort in Him.

Another of my refuges was the mountains. Once I began driving, I set about climbing every horizon—no matter where that horizon was. In these wind-chiseled cathedrals of stone, my heart felt truly free. The subtle, mighty voice of breezes murmuring through ancient, high-altitude forests perpetually called me to come and rest within their boughs of peace. Heavy sorrows and burdens felt too weighty to follow me to these wild places. The farther I hiked, the farther behind I left my pain. I sensed that all the tragedies that gripped my heart were not strong enough to chase me into thin air. I scaled many of the peaks surrounding California’s Redding basin. Once my husband, Troy, and I moved to Central Oregon, I climbed most of that skyline as well. The one glaring omission from my ascensions was Mount Shasta. Believing it would be too painful, I purposed in my heart never to go back.

 

Excerpted from Fierce Beauty by Kim Meeder Copyright © 2011 by Kim Meeder.

Excerpted by permission of Multnomah Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.