Three years ago we were in the Bavarian Alps for my birthday week, which was this past week. So of course I have been recently thinking about our many times in that region of Europe.
Sometimes I don’t realize just how special something is until it is long in the rearview mirror.
We were in this beautiful spot more than a dozen times over our many years in Germany because my husband had work to attend there and we (our children and I) were fortunate enough to tag along with him each time. But this visit was especially beautiful as I remember it. It was warm and sunny and clear and the fields were filled with clover and wild flowers for the gentle, wandering, bellowing cows. The sky was filled with parasails flying high off the mountain peaks, and the air filled with train whistles (for those heading up the slopes for site-seeing and very early skiing) and the melodious deep ringing of clanking cowbells everywhere. And there was so much space for my little ones to run free and wild.
I remember feeling elated– closing my eyes, turning my face toward the sun, soaking it all in elated — my heart aching, hurting, from how beautiful it was there and then. On my birthday we visited the Zugspitze, the highest point in all of Germany, around 10,000 feet. On the way to the top you could look down into the Eibsee, a beautiful glacial lake, and at the almost-top, standing comfortably in the biergarten, you could look up to the golden cross which signifies the very tippy top of the mountain peak. Many climbers actually climb their way from the bottom all the way up to that very peak– It amazes me still that anyone would have that courage, for I certainly do not.
There was a chapel at the top of the mountain too, and snow and children sledding. And though I had prepared for it to be very chilly up there in that altitude, the reality was that it was quite warm in the sun.
The view was stunning. But I began to feel very unwell on that mountain top. And that unwellness became the suffering of a miscarriage, about which I have been quite quiet about since. It was profoundly sad to me of course, but it was somehow tempered by the gift of that unexpectedly beautiful birthday week in the Alps. It was as if the inspirational beauty around me filled me enough so that when the grief came, I was not completely empty. I could tangibly remember God’s goodness through the gift of those glorious days.
I think a lot of life is like this– the ebb and flow of beauty and pain — and how they are so wound together… How something could be so beautiful it literally hurts, and how the pain and hurts are shaped into something beautiful in its time, even if only in memory.
I am grateful for being shaped by both beauty and pain, for in and through it all is Love. And I am grateful to have had a birthday to remember that by.