Through the years, the mountains of North Carolina have always been a favorite vacation spot for our family. I recall one summer in particular when our son, Jered, was nine and our daughter, Danna, was six years old. We had heard so much about Grandfather Mountain and decided that the kids were finally old enough to handle the physical demands of such an adventurous climb. A stop at the local mall was in order since both kids needed new shoes. Danna chose a pair of pink slip-on canvas sneakers while Jered opted for the traditional sports shoes. We were ready to go! The level of excitement grew as our faithful old van wound its way up the mountain to the visitor’s center. The kids jumped out, yelling for us to hurry, ready for the quest to begin! 

The first leg of the expedition required us to cross a high, swinging bridge in order to enjoy the most spectacular view offered by Grandfather Mountain. With the confidence of veteran climbers, we traipsed across the bridge with ease and in absolute awe of the mountainous beauty. We sat gazing at the stunning display of God’s handiwork and the splendor of His creation displayed before us. None of us really wanted to move from our scenic overlook, but when the crowd grew larger and the cold winds started picking up, we decided it was time to go. Reluctantly, we began walking back to the van. It was then that we spotted the sign. There were hiking trails just ahead! And we love to hike! 

Just before the starting point of the climb, we passed a large wooden billboard warning all hikers to make sure they were fully equipped for the trails ahead, listing necessities like water, food, hiking gear and first aid kits. When I pointed out the sign to my husband he said, “Honey, that sign is not for Southerlands!” Of course! What was I thinking? 

Sauntering right past the billboard caution and all sanity, we embarked on what seemed to be a very nice and easy climb – until we came to an ambiguous fork in the path. There were no maps or signs and not a single person to guide us. We were contemplating which path to take when a group of college students came rambling down one of the mountain paths, talking, laughing and obviously having a great time. They were clearly excited about the climb they had just made and seemed almost refreshed, without so much as a drop of perspiration between them. We asked if the trail they had just taken would be easy enough for the kids. Taking a scrutinizing look at our young, canvas-shod children accompanied by their two ill-equipped parents, these students assured us that we could handle the hike with no problems at all. Off we went!

It wasn’t long before we realized we were in serious trouble. The path grew harder and steeper. We met fewer and fewer climbers until it seemed as if we were the only ones left on the mountain (at that moment, I do remember thinking, “Now tell me again, Lord, why did I marry this man?”). On we climbed - scaling huge boulders and finding ourselves on an extremely narrow path that skirted a deadly drop of several hundred feet. At one point, Dan and I were literally planting each child’s foot in a safe place, holding them steady in order to prevent a fall off of the mountain. With every step, my panic grew until we rounded the mountain top and the last boulder loomed in front of us. It was enormous! But, oh, it was a thing of beauty! You see, someone had been there before us and had bolted metal stakes into the side of the rock. The stakes formed a metal ladder we could use to scale that massive rock, reaching the other side and the path down the mountain. We finished the climb, realizing that God does indeed take care of the faithful and the foolish, as well as those of us who vacillate in between.

Driving home, the perfect provision of God’s plan for the day and for my life swept over me in sweet relief. Just as surely as God had taken care of us on that mountain, He takes care of us every minute of every day. The victories of yesterday are spiritual markers for the journey today and offer hope for tomorrow.