Irish Blessing

Irish Blessing

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Hills and Valleys

A song has played in an intermittent loop on my mental soundtrack for the past couple of weeks. It momentarily gets bumped to the background by a hymn we sing at church or a song on the actual radio dial.

But, if there's no music playing, it's a song that keeps resurfacing on my internal radio feed. It started on a trip to South Dakota.  Randy had gotten a phone call that his brother, Lyle, was in the hospital in Rapid City, so we hurriedly finished some obligations, then got in the car a couple of days later for the 12-hour trip.

We traveled across our Kansas plains, skirted the Nebraska sand hills and arrived on the plains of South Dakota. But as we got closer to Rapid City, the plains gave way to the Black Hills. It was dark by the time we arrived that first day, but I could still see the faint outline of hills as we drove west. And I first began thinking of Tauren Well's song, "Hills and Valleys," a song that I've heard quite a bit on K-LOVE, a contemporary Christian radio station.

Hills and Valleys
(Find all the lyrics at this link)
Find the story behind the song at this link
Sung by Tauren Wells

On the mountains I will bow my life to the One who set me there
In the valley I will lift my eyes to the One who sees me there
When I'm standing on the mountain I didn't get there on my own
When I'm walking through the valley I know I am not alone
You're God of the hills and valleys, hills and valleys
God of the hills and valleys
And I am not alone

The next few days, we spent most of our time in the hospital ICU, but we also went to Deadwood to retrieve a few things from Lyle's apartment.
Painted Lady butterflies danced and swirled in the flower gardens in front of his apartment building, reminding me of their "cousins" I'd left behind in Kansas.
There's beauty everywhere, even when your mind is swirling with other concerns. On the way back from Deadwood, we made a wrong turn and ended up in Wyoming.

But our "wrong" way transported us to the "right" place all along. We saw glimpses of a small stream as we drove. Finally, there was an extra-wide shoulder and we pulled off to explore.
Before I ever reached the clearing, there were more butterflies.
And then we stepped into the stillness of the pine trees. It was quiet. Just the rush of water flowing over a small waterfall hidden in the trees marred the silence. The water was enough to mask any sounds from the highway, though it wasn't busy anyway.
The tall pines and their shorter neighbors provided a maze of light and shadows.
Light and shadow ... our little oasis of beauty and pleasure in a sea of illness and shadow and uncertainty. And I remembered more of those lyrics ...
I've walked among the shadows
You wiped my tears away
And I've felt the pain of heartbreak
And I've seen the brighter days

And I've prayed prayers to Heaven
From my lowest place
And I have held Your blessings
God, You give and take away

No matter what I have, Your grace is enough
No matter where I am, I'm standing in Your love

Later, after Lyle was transferred by ambulance to a hospital in Montana, we drove to Mount Rushmore.
It was overcast, and the rain clouds blew in, causing pine needles to pummel us as they fell from the trees surrounding the monument.
And, again, the words from "Hills and Valleys" came to mind:

Father, You give and take away
Every joy and every pain
Through it all, You will remain
Over it all ...

And I will choose to say
Blessed be Your name
And I am not alone

Yesterday, we started planting wheat. My trip to Zenith to get a load of fertilizer was on the flat landscape of our Central Kansas home. There were no literal hills and valleys to traverse. But as tragedy unfolded on television screens and on radio stations yesterday from Las Vegas - and in real life for way too many people - those words again resonated.

And I am not alone.


  1. So much beauty to be found. So sad so many take the other road.

    1. When things like the Las Vegas shooting happen, it's easy to indict humanity in general. But I am encouraged by the stories of people who helped one another during the worst moments of their lives. You're right: We can find beauty everywhere if we open our eyes. Thanks for sharing the beauty you find on your hikes!