• India Jade Orban

HIGHLANDS & THE HEARTACHE


At one point, I thought we might die.

Or at least get seriously injured. Dehydrated, twisted ankle, bug bitten, something.

A few weeks ago, the love of my life took me to his favorite place on earth: Yosemite, California. I don’t know if I’ve seen anything more majestic than the breathtaking sheets of rock propelling themselves into the sky at obscure angles, waterfalls cascading over their edges while golden sun lights up their faces in a picture of awe and wonder. The smell of pine and crisp western air surrounds you and you try to enjoy uninhabited nature as thousands of tourists flood the valley and metallic signs inform you that at any moment, you just might die.

Again, most magical place on earth.

We only had 2 days in the valley, so we decided to spend one hiking Upper Yosemite Falls. Now, knowing nothing about this place, I trusted the expert with me who had been a few times before (I still trust him, FYI). The trail contains 135 switchbacks, and spans over 7.2 miles. At the top, you stand 3,000ft above the valley at an elevation of 5,404ft. Having hiked 4.5 miles the previous day, we thought this trail was a great idea. With a few bottles of water, cameras and excitement, we began our ascent.

The sun was bright, the sweat was real and the beginning was fairly difficult. By the time we got to the halfway mark, Columbia Rock, my calves were screaming to head back.

Ian and I honestly had the best time talking about nature, God in creation, broken systems of the world, biblical theology, our callings to fight against the broken systems...you know, the usual “us” stuff. The time passed on as we kept moving. We came upon a daunting clearing where the remaining path was pure switchbacks. The daylight and the company made it possible to not only see where my feet were being placed, but to walk in anticipation. We were almost there! The rewarding view, the outlook, a moment of rest, was just around the corner(s).

After hours on the trail, we finally made it to the top.

We were so excited, we started running! The stone beneath our feet was flat and sturdy, water pooled on the mountaintop before shooting itself off the edge of the cliff, bright green moss and massive pines welcomed us into their precious home. But nothing compared to the view.

The sun was dipping slowly beyond the mountains creating a peaceful pastelle sky while shadows hovered over the valley and a soft breeze graced the scene with a sense of calm. 3,000 feet below our tired feet, microscopic vehicles inched through trees reminding onlookers of the presence of humanity.

Astounded by the majesty of our Creator’s gift to us, we hungrily stuffed our faces with snacks and sat near the dropoff. Then, taking a moment to breathe it all in we sang the doxology.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow / Praise him all creatures here below

Praise Him Above you heavenly hosts / Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost

Sharing a look that said everything from “wow we are miniscule pieces in God’s divine activity; how humbling and wonderful to be born for such a time as this” to “crap we gotta get down” we began our descent.

Now, hiking down a mountain is almost always easier, a fraction of the time, and propelled by the hope of a refreshing shower and good night’s rest. As the sun snuck quickly out of sight, we recalled a few truths about our situation:

1) bears + coyotes + us = dead

2) minimal water + weary bodies = dead

3) we had gotten booted out of our campsite, so we’d have nowhere to stay (no campsite = no showers + no firepit (which means no food x 2) = DEAD.

Step after step, we kept moving. Our legs were shaking and we were worn out – but what else do you do? Taking on this gruelling trail in the pitch black may not have been the best idea, but we used our phone lights to illuminate our paths and qued saved playlists to scare off any unwanted wildlife. I was anxious and my head was full of uncertainties. Ian was...well he was honestly a real depiction of Christ’s companionship to me.

Through constant validation that we were indeed going to make it and talking me through the things we were gonna do in the future (the people we would see, the food we would soon find, the life ahead) Ian painted a picture of hope. He held my hand and walked on the side nearest the edge the entire time. It seems a little silly to say, but I truly felt protected by his presence.

We were nothing short of ENTHRALLED to finally see trees on the trail, a sign that we were back in the valley. Legs shaking and minds whirling, we ended up sneaking into a campsite, gobbled down cans of soup, and pitched our tents in the dark before slap-happy-ily laughing at each other before passing out.

I recently became obsessed with the song Highlands (Song of Ascent) by Hillsong UNITED. Listen to its poetic nature and note what you visualize.

Now for me, I can’t listen to that and not parallel it to Christ’s faithfulness and care in ALL seasons of life. Read that ish again:

So I will praise You on the mountain

And I will praise You when the mountain's in my way

You're the summit where my feet are

So I will praise You in the valleys all the same

No less God within the shadows

No less faithful when the night leads me astray

You're the heaven where my heart is

In the highlands and the heartache all the same

When we were hiking up Upper Yosemite Falls, there was light on the trail, hope pushing us forward. It was difficult, but we made it.

When we were coming down, the light was gone. It was terrifying, pitch black and daunting. But we knew there was a path in front of us, we found a way to make light, we knew we were not alone, and trusted the end was in sight. It was difficult, but we made it.

The last few weeks of transition has my heart aching. I moved to Pittsburgh, PA, started an incredible job with the CCO, and live in a house full of people I just met. I miss my friends back home, I crave unity in my family, days of rest, familiarity. I’ve driven 38hrs to uphold photography sessions (made long before I knew I’d be living in a different state!) over the last month, leaving from work to go into more work. My mountain-climbing man (who has been the most supportive, S/O to you, babe!) now lives 3.5hrs away. There is still a massive need in my support raising as I am $848 short of my monthly support goal, and completely convinced that only an act of God will cover that gap. In a lot of ways, I feel like I’m back on the mountain, struggling to make it safely to a place of rest.

And still.

I am reminded that whether I’m going up or down, the difficulty is still there; the hardship, the sweat, the uncertainty, the light and/or the make-shift light, the companionship

the hope.

I am re-learning that it’s okay to ask for fullness of joy. I am reminding myself to live in gratitude for every season, and reflect on all the ways He has provided (as many of you know, that number started at $2,000/mo – look at God providing through YOU!) and has made this step in my life very clear. I’ve often wrestled with the duality of being “not okay” while also being content in the present places I stand. And as I continue to, I can also praise Him along the way.

God, thank you. Thank you for the job, the supporters, the relationship, the friends back home, the photography work. Thank you for the mountain. I trust you.

No less God within the shadows

No less faithful when the night leads me astray

You're the heaven where my heart is

In the highlands and the heartache all the same / Hillsong UNITED


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Est. 2012

 

"Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms"

1 Peter 4:10 / ESV

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