Mike worshipping his Creator in Colorado

After a lengthy conference call with one of our authors yesterday afternoon to plan her media campaign, I returned to my office to find the most welcome visitor I could imagine: my husband. Mike was waiting for me with a big grin on his face, a Greek t-shirt on his back, and a Boston Red Sox cap on his head. My hubby is home!

As our once-in-a-lifetime sabbatical ends this week, I’ve been thinking about mountaintop experiences.  We had lots of them this summer, and some of them – get this – even involved real mountains. I’ve already written about our amazing day visiting an ancient Greek Orthodox monastery in Meteora that was perched atop a sheer precipice, but Meteora wasn’t the only mountain in our rearview mirror this summer.

I held my breath in early July as Mike negotiated hairpin turns crossing the Peloponnesian Peninsula in our rental car, and we were rewarded by astonishing views from the tiny village of Lagadia.

Lagadia, Greece, clinging to the mountainside

In late July we linked arms with our children to watch the sun sink into layers of periwinkle clouds crowning the Smokies on the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina.

Just ten days ago we spent a final weekend together in Colorado – my husband’s heart so full of praise atop Vail Mountain that he flung out his arms in worship.

And Mike’s final sabbatical experience this past week was a solo prayer retreat at Christ in the Desert in the mesas of New Mexico.

So…. are we sad to be coming down off the mountaintop? Yes.  And no.  We are eager to rejoin our wonderful church family for worship this coming Sunday and more than prepared to plunge back into service. Rest is transitory, but sabbatical has given us something much rarer: renewal.

Blue Ridge Parkway at sunset

It’s normal to mourn the end of a mountaintop experience with its rarified air, but you know what? You can’t live up there. Real life takes place down below, where it’s often hot and messy. As a farmer’s daughter who grew up on the Illinois prairie, I can attest to this: the best crops grow on the flatlands. Mountaintops are great for views and inspiration, but as Billy Graham once commented, fruit is grown in the valleys of life.

Mike’s nowhere nearly as old as Moses was when he climbed Mount Sinai, but they share something in common.  After having been in the presence of the Lord, scripture tells us that Moses returned a changed man.  “When Moses came down Mount Sinai carrying the two stone tablets inscribed with the terms of the covenant, he wasn’t aware that his face had become radiant because he had spoken to the Lord.” (Ex 34:29)

When I found Mike waiting in my office yesterday afternoon, it wasn’t the ball cap that stood out, or the Greek t-shirt, or even the grin.

It was the glow.