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By Staci Stallings

“And reach for the heavens,
and hope for the future
for all that we can be,
not what we are…”

I’m not from the mountains. In fact in the little West Texas town I grew up in there were days when you could see for miles in all directions. Maybe that’s why the mountains have always held a special fascination for me. Well, that and John Denver.

Long before I knew about notes, key signatures, and time changes, I knew about music by listening to the 8-track tapes my parents had. The one set I was particularly fascinated with were the guitar sounds of Denver. Too 70’s some would call it. Not country. Out there. I just knew I loved it.

There was something about that music that could transport me to places I’d never seen before. That meant the mountains. According to John, “Life was old there, older than the trees, younger than the mountains, and flowing like a breeze.” To my way of thinking, it sounded like heaven.

When I got married, we went to the mountains for our honeymoon, and it was indeed just as John had sung about—slower, more peaceful, the definition of tranquility. I loved it even more than I thought I would.

As wonderful as the mountains were, however, home was the bigger anchor for me. So we settled down in the Texas Panhandle to raise our family.

In the winter of 1999, I thought my days of truly enjoying the mountains were over for good. Never very good on skis but loving the feeling of being out in the mountains, the peaks of snow encircling me, I had an accident that injured my knee. I knew with near certainty that I’d never again have that feeling on skis of being one with the mountains—as close to God as one can get on this earth.

Two years later, my husband and some friends started planning a ski trip to Angel Fire, New Mexico. Angel Fire had been one of my all time favorite places to ski. I was heartsick. With a three-month-old at home I nearly talked myself out of going.

Besides, I figured I had too much to do anyway. By this time I was really getting into promoting the two inspirational romances I had out, and there never seemed to be time for anything else.

Nonetheless, a friend of mine convinced me it would be good to take some time—even if all I did was sit in the cabin and watch movies.

The first day after everyone left, I decided I wanted some part of that day even if I couldn’t ski. Not normally an “outside” person, I pulled on my warmest clothes, put on my coat, and grabbed my CD player with John Denver cued up.

What happened next is hard to describe. I went out to the snow packed road and just started walking and listening. This time, however, the music wasn’t like music—it was more like going home—not so much to Nazareth but to heaven. I walked and God, via John’s voice, sang about being as close as we could be and how our time together had just begun. I could feel that in my whole spirit, God was with me not just on the road but in my life.

Then John sang about leaving for a time because people wanted to hear him sing. It was one of the nagging doubts I had been having about making a choice between my family and sharing the talent God had given me with the world. It seemed to say that God would show me the right choice at the right moment if I just followed Him.

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The whole walk I had been searching for pinecones to bring home to my seven-year-old. However, with the snow piled high around most of the trees, I hadn't had much luck. Suddenly, John was singing about slowing down and really looking at the beauty around you.

Something inside struck me, and all I wanted to do was to see the sky from under a knot of pine trees. I veered off the road and over to some trees. At the base of one, I put my hands on the rough bark, arched my neck, and looked up, then I looked down—to a virtual field of pinecones!

I chose a few and then looked farther into the trees to where my off-road adventure had taken me. Just in front of me was a meadow. A fresh blanket of snow lay up and down it. Drawn to it, I tromped through the snow heedless of the cold, wet chill crunching into my tennis shoes. Within seconds I was taken to a place beyond imagination. In seconds I knew that without a doubt, there are places of heaven on earth. As John's voice soared with the song of the eagle about touching the sky and being free, the snow started falling, drifting down around me in a cascade of peace.

Somehow it no longer looked like snow but more like the blessings God is pouring into my life. Blessings upon blessings upon blessings until they are uncountable. I stayed there in that valley until the snow subsided, then I turned back for home. Only when I reached the road did I remember what had led me to that place to begin with—I stopped and let God take over the journey.

I don't know if on this earth I'll ever be granted another day quite like that one. All I know is that when I get to heaven, in addition to the streets paved with gold I really hope there are at least a few snow-packed meadows—with the peaks in the distance one direction and the trees surrounding it, the eagle flying, and blessings drifting down all around me. Something tells me there will be.

© Staci Stallings
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