Friday, April 24, 2009

On Top of the Mountain

It is autumn in Australia now, yet by some fluke of nature, the weather on Easter Monday was simply beautiful. So much so that after we had eaten lunch, my wife Shoko suggested we take a drive to Sky High in the Mount Dandenong’s. Sky High, a tourist attraction, is advertised as having something for the whole family including an exquisite English garden, an adventurous maze, trail walks in the Dandenong Ranges National Park, and simply amazing views.

With there being few daylight hours left, I raced upstairs, accessed Google Maps, typed in Sky High’s address and selected ‘Get Directions.’ Google Maps popped out detailed instructions on how to proceed from our house to Sky High. I printed the instructions and after grabbing snacks and drinks, we piled into the car and were on our way.

Here is the final section of Google Maps’ instructions:

14. Turn left at Old Coach Rd 0.2 km
15. Turn right to stay on Old Coach Rd 0.3 km
16. Sharp left to stay on Old Coach Rd 0.5 km
17. Turn left to stay on Old Coach Rd 1.0 km
18. Sharp right to stay on Old Coach Rd 0.3 km
19. Sharp right at Ridge Rd 1.7 km
20. Sharp right at Observatory Rd 0.6 km

Estimated driving time was one hour and eleven minutes.

That seemed pretty straight forward, but to my surprise, upon reaching Old Coach Road we found a relatively steep, winding, unsealed road littered with loose sand and stones. Steep slopes adorned one side of the road and a sharp decline was on the other, both covered with trees. May I point out here that I do not like driving on unsealed roads - especially steep winding ones?

Neither does Hannah, my eleven year old, who said, “I don’t feel well, Papa.” Winding mountain roads make her nauseous.

“Don’t worry, we’ll be off this road soon,” I reassured her.

I did not mention that I felt ill at ease myself. Although driving slowly, thoughts that the car might slide towards that sharp drop were foremost in my mind. I asked the Lord to help me drive and keep us safe, and then focused on the task of driving, taking it moment by moment, mindful that it would be over soon.

Thinking this unsealed road to be the only route to Sky High, and aware that only one other car was following us, I concluded that Sky High must not be a popular attraction, and would probably be virtually deserted. Yet as we turned onto Ridge Road, the last leg of the journey to Observatory Road and Sky High, we were surprised to find a sealed road clogged with other cars. I began to suspect that there might be another route to Sky High.

Arriving at Sky High’s entrance a moment later, a crushing wave of vertigo obliterated my balance and I collapsed over the top of the steering wheel.

I have otosclerosis, a genetically inherited disease that causes calcification of the bones of the middle ear. Although this causes hearing loss and terrible tinnitus, I am one of the lucky 25% who has the complication of otosclerotic inner ear syndrome. This means that from time to time, especially when I eat, I experience moments of severe rotatory vertigo.

I clung to the steering wheel like a drowning man to a life preserver, waiting for the dizziness to abate, as it always does. To my consternation, although the sensation faded enough for me to be able to sit up again, it did not go away like in the past. Instead, I was still giddy and my head felt like it was deep under water. I paid the entry fee to gain entrance to Sky High and then drove carefully to a car park.

When we clambered out of the car I was surprised to see hundreds of other people present. That settled it - there must be another, easier way to this mountain top other than the route we used!

My kids needed the toilet, so we headed off towards the toilet block. I was finding it difficult to stand yet alone walk, since my balance was so out of whack. I saw an elderly man lying on his side on the grass, being soothed by his wife. That was exactly what I wanted to do.

My daughter suddenly began to cry. I was touched, and thought, ‘Oh, what a lovely girl, she’s sad because of the hard time I’m having.’ “What’s the matter, Hannah?” I asked, preparing to reassure her that I was basically all right.

“I don’t like mountain roads, they make me nauseous!” was her reply.

My ego came crashing back to earth – seems like I was not the centre of the world after all. “Don’t worry, Hannah, with this many people here, there’s got to be a better way off this mountain, and I’m going to find it!” If driving up that unsealed road was that nerve racking, I had no intention of driving down it if there was another way!

I felt pretty awful as we went off to explore the mountain top; the dizziness and oppressive weight upon my mind remained constant. But why? Was the altitude causing this otosclerotic inner ear syndrome? Or was the disease swinging into the next phase. Fearful thoughts tried to trip me up, saying, “What if it doesn’t stop, what if it’s permanent like the tinnitus?”

I did not pay heed to the “what if” fears. Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.” And that’s what I was going to do. And although these terrible physical sensations made me want to lie down until they (hopefully) went away, my experiences with depression had taught me that there was another way. And that was to acknowledge that I was going to feel this way for some time, and did not need to let it incapacitate me. Instead, I would enjoy being on top of this mountain with my family while leaving the disturbing sensations churning away like background music.

We had a great time exploring Sky High Maze. When we went the right way we found large metal stamping boxes upon which to stamp the cards we had been given. We had to collect four stamps. My daughter, Miss Show-off, said, “Look, we don’t have to find our way through the maze, just listen to the sounds of the other stamp boxes and follow the sounds!” Suddenly navigating the maze was easy.

After that we took turns knocking down cup pyramids, wandered through the English Garden, and into the Secret Garden. This was surrounded by tall hedges and contained a gazebo. Hannah sat us on the grass and led the family to pray for my ears. I was so proud of her. After having our snack, Hannah and Timmy raced around the garden like headless chickens.

Next came a six-hundred-meter bushwalk that meandered through a forest loop.

Finally it was time to go home. An examination of the Melways map book confirmed that there was another route to and from Sky High – using a four lane, sealed road! Guess which route we used to get off the mountain? We learned then that you cannot trust Google maps - they give you the shortest route from A to B, but not the best route.

And to my amazement, as we began to drive back down the mountain (using that lovely sealed road!) the dizziness vanished as quickly as it had come. My balance returned, my head cleared, and I drove home very much relieved. Thanks to Jesus for helping me overcome my handicap, we had a wonderful time on top of the mountain, and praised God for His blessings.

1 John 5:3-5 This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

All verses from NIV.


  1. Great story! I know that experience of dizziness and lack of balance on a mountain - I lived for years in Cody, Wyoming. Overtime I overcame that "weak" sensation and now long for the mountains again. Good spiritual points you made, too. I just posted a picture of our former home in Cody.

  2. Yes, what a great story.

    I think we're all like Google maps sometimes. We go for the route that will be the shortest distance from A to B, but not necessarily the best.

  3. Your faith made you conquer that mountain. That just proves how the Lord is still our Ultimate Map! God bless you bro. Peter and your family. Praying for your healing.

  4. Peter,great story and analogy. When you said this "...I did not pay heed to the “what if” fears. Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.” ...", it reinforced the Beth Moore study session today..talking about our fear of the worst casr scenario happening..and if it did...God would still be there, we might be on the floor for a while, but we will get up!

    Seems to me, you've won victory over the 'what if', by saying, but God...
    Love the pics...
    Blessings, Sita

  5. Oh, I got chills up and down my spine. LOVE to hear a "faith that moves mountains" story. YOu've inspired me so much today!

  6. Oh Peter, I'm so sorry that both you and Hannah had such a hard time with what was meant to be a fun family outting.

    When I once lived in California for years we did something similar; riding along a steep cliff that overlooked right into the depths of the great deep, wide ocean....the slightest mistake of the wheel would have us headed over the edge being engulfed by the powerful sea. I often wondered during some of those trips 'What if some poor fellow had car troubles and they were stuck, stalling traffic? What then?'

    It was just a two way road, but only had one lane for cars on each side. It was meant to be a beautiful scenic route of the ocean and amazing homes that alligned the ocean cliffs, but to me I could never appreciate the beauty of the ocean because I was nervously watching the road was actually quite a shame to have not been able to enjoy the beauty that surrounded me.

    Unlike you, during those years of my life I did not understand to seek the Lord for my strength so I didn't have that hope instilled in me. However, now I do! Praise Christ! So now anytime I do find myself frozen and sweaty with fear I always pray to Christ as well, asking that He guide me and speak 'Peace, Be Still.' to my nervous heart. And then I recite
    2 Timothy 1:7 "God did NOT give me a spirit of fear but a spirit of power, of love, and of a sound mind.'

    I'm glad you all finally made it through safely. I'm guessing Shoko and Timothy were okay? Or were they nervous and troubled as well?

    Thank God you all made it home safe and that all your feelings of dizziness and nauseau finally diminished. I'm so relieved for this!!!

    Your friend,
    Sarah Cecilia

  7. Thanks Warren for posting the picture of your former home, and for sharing about the "Jenny Tree" on your blog.

    You're so right Billy. Sometimes all we care about is the shortest route, whereas God is just as concerned about what happens on the route, as well as the destination.

    Thanks for your prayers, RCUBEs, healing for my ears would be a wonderful thing.

    I liked the point you made too, Sita. In almost all cases our "what if" fears far eclipse what actually happens. But in those cases where the worst possible things do occur, God is there with us, so we still have nothing to fear.

    Thanks Laura. It was funny, writing a testimony about faith moving a mountain, while on a mountain.

    Hey Sarah, thanks for the feedback. To answer your question, Shoko and Timmy were completely unaffected by the winding, steep roads. They must be the tough ones in the family, LOL. And thanks for sharing 2 Timothy 1:7 - in the last month or so I have been teaching that to my Hannah. She has been doing public speaking at school, and when she thanks Jesus for giving her a Spirit of power, and not of fear, she is strengthened every time.

  8. First let me say that the pictures you posted of Australia are just gorgeous! Thank you!

    Then let me tell you that your post reminded me so much of a family vacation that we took to Colorado. Dear hubby suggested ~ and I readily agreed ~ that we should go off-roading in our rented 4-wheel drive vehicle. Our visit to Colorado would not be complete without it.

    We found ourselves on a shale path on what is known as Ophir Pass, barely big enough to acommodate our vehicle. The driver's side hugged the mountain, and the passenger's side was next to a sheer drop off. Once on the road ~ if you could call it that ~ there was no turning back; you were committed to the trip. And you planned to "be committed" to a sanitarium when/IF you ever made it to safety again.

    The whole outing, I prayed fervently that we would live. My husband asked all the children to scooch to his side (driver) of the vehicle, and he asked me ~ the dutiful helpmeet ~ to watch out my window (passenger) and tell him how close to the edge we were.

    Though he appeared cool, calm, and collected as we inched our way up the shifting shale surface, he later confessed to me that he was as terrified as I was!

    Now, it has been about eight years since we took that trip, and not a one of us has ever forgotten it, and it is the one adventure that we always recount to people.

    So, you can rest assured that you made memories with your family that will last forever!


  9. Thanks for sharing this, Cheri. These adventures may not be fun at the time but they do stick in our memories. I loved your comment "he asked me ~ the dutiful helpmeet ~ to watch out my window (passenger) and tell him how close to the edge we were."

    That really, really would not have helped you to relax!