Seeking joy.

I used to let myself be “surprised” by joy if it came.  And that’s not a bad thing, but I’ve learned a great deal in the past few years.

One of the best things I’ve learned this past year or so is that I need to go looking for joy.

I need to seek it out and plan to find it.  I need to do things and be in places where joy is possible.  I can no longer wait around and hope it will stumble into me.

I have a good friend who loves to say, “I choose joy.”  Knowing the extremes she has had to endure, I am amazed, every time she says it.

Faith is a decision.  Joy, true joy, is faith.  It is a choice in spite of disappointment and sorrow.

Sorrow sometimes paves the way for joy.

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.”

I choose joy.

Wholeness

I think it’s been a month since I’ve written on my blog.  It’s been a month of sorting-out for me.

Lots of outside time.  Lots of prayer.  Lots of Yellowstone. :)

Finally, I think I am getting there.  I had so many “false summits”…moments where I was sure that I had made it, but only turned to find another high peak of myself and my will, looming ahead.

An old friend of ours is going through an immense trial right now.  He wrote about it publicly recently, and something he said really struck me.

“Believing God lives is much more difficult after enduring heart ache, despair, loss, and true gut-wrenching pain. Especially because by professing belief in a deity that allows such things and worse to be present and perpetuated throughout life means that there must be a purpose to it all.

Believing that God is there and that He loves us also means picking up the other end of the stick…believing that there is a purpose to it all.  The step (more like leap) forward after that is believing that there is a loving, benevolent purpose to it all.  (This is the step that C.S. Lewis shared with us all in his deepest sorrow.)

This past year and a half has been a monumental climb.  I have finally figured out what I was really climbing towards.  I was climbing toward a higher alter than I have ever visited.  And every time I climbed, I found there was a greater height, a greater sacrifice, yet waiting.  Another place where I had always known the answers, but had not yet had to ask the questions.

But finally, truly, I have placed the gift of my will and my heart on that high and holy alter.

And now I’ve climbed down, never to ask again for the requested gift to be changed.  I’ve learned to find joy again in doing not my will, but the will of Him who sent me.  For a long time, I resisted the joy.  In resisting the joy, I resisted giving all that I truly needed to give.  I resisted life.

Moments of intense sorrow are being replaced by moments of deep, intense calm and joy.  I look around me every day in wonder.  I see more.  I’m happy.

And somehow, my heart is approaching whole again.  Sorrow carves out a place in us.  Wholeness is not the absence of that sorrow.  It is a hole of grief that has been filled by a Savior who understands and succors it all.

 

Spring

Spring is about believing in good things to come.

Spring is about the future.

Spring rushes forth like a swollen river, downstream, to all that lies ahead.

Something about spring makes you ache to be back on the trail.

Sometimes the old trails are covered in snow, and new trails have to be forged.

The call of the future is there, of good things ahead.

Spring is believing in green when all is still brown.

Spring is a time to examine the damage of winter…to see what has fallen and died.

But even in the wreck and the ruin, life springs all around.

Decay will soon take over what once was, and it will feed the new life that is to come.

Spring work

“Along the river, over the hills, in the ground, in the sky, spring work is going on with joyful enthusiasm, new life, new beauty, unfolding, unrolling in glorious exuberant extravagance, — new birds in their nests, new winged creatures in the air, and new leaves, new flowers spreading, shining, rejoicing everywhere.”

– John Muir

Thaw

The thaw has been coming fast and early this year.

The land is new and wild.  It is waking up, new earth and secrets revealed.

Everywhere is the sound of water, as the snow melts away and the earth breathes once more.

I wasn’t quite ready for it yet.

I had given myself the winter, the long, long, winter, where the snow quietly covers everything in a deep, white blanket.  Everything rests.  Everything sleeps.  Part of me slept, too.

In my heart, I knew that when spring came, I needed to wake up again, too, and breathe and grow again.

When I began to hear the familiar drip of the water and smell the new, wild smell of the earth, I didn’t feel ready.

It takes faith to walk through the door of rebirth, and to keep walking through it day after day.

There is a holy light around a newly born babe, of newly sprouted plants in the spring, of new baby songbirds in a nest…a divine assurance that this new birth is right and sacred.

There is travail with the birth of a new heart, as well, but the same, quiet light shows through.

My comfort would prefer
For me to be numb
And avoid the impending birth
Of who I was born to become

Speak to me in the light of the dawn
Mercy comes with the morning
I will sigh and with all creation groan
As I wait for hope to come for me

– Brooke Fraser

 

Five years and mercy

This week has turned from what I thought would be a couple of days of mild sickness to constant throes of very serious illness.  We haven’t been this sick in a long, long time.

Our sweet fifth girl turned five this week, and she was sick as a dog on her birthday.  She was still my sweet, magic girl.

There was no cake, but there was lots of love, and lots of Little House.

Sweet homemade presents from sisters made the day even better.

She threw up first thing in the morning, after being sick all night and the day before.  Right after, she said with a smile, “I’m five! I think I’m taller today!”

Even before this child existed, her little spirit has demanded that it be here.  I have never in my life met a stronger presence than this sweet girl.

Our family has banded together as never before this week.  I have cried, watching my family love each other this week.  Each person has sacrificed and stretched to help others who were hurting.

All week, I have wondered at the mercy in our lives.  The dehydration of myself and my family this week scared me…but it didn’t.  I felt this incredible peace this week that I can’t quite describe.  At the same moment I realized it was going to be very terrible, I also knew with certainty it was going to be just fine.

Somehow I have found more peace than ever in knowing that our Savior knows, that He suffered it all, and that He knows how to succor us…I have felt Him run to me, more than once this week.  And though I prayed and begged that I would not get it, so that I would have strength to care for my family, I suffered with them in the middle for a few days.  What a gift it turned out to be…that I could then have the understanding, patience, and compassion on the sickest of them all once I was better.

We’re nearly over it now, and we’re starting to notice the spring light filtering through the trees and windows.  We are together, and tender mercies are abundant.

Blessed am I.

Less noise

“…one morning long ago in the quiet of the world, when there was less noise and more green…”

– Tolkien

I spent all night and day with a sick babe.  It is amazing how quickly things change.  One day, you’re hiking through the mountains or playing in a forest of fairies.

The next, you are in constant, quiet motion, calming, comforting, soothing, cleaning.  I hate when my children are sick.  But, I feel grateful for the time to stop and do nothing but sit next to them and watch.

Things become so quiet, and the times that are healthy become so much more appreciated.  I can’t tell you how many times today I have said prayers of thanks that we were so healthy while we travelled in our little RV for all those months.

Today, I just looked around me.  I looked around at the comfort of home, and felt so blessed.  I looked at our incredible, quiet life.  No major interruption or upheaval has to happen when we are sick.  We just slow down a bit more.  Most of all, I just looked at six little faces, some feeling well, some feeling terrible.  All delicious and mine.  I am so thankful for a life of less noise.

Say a little prayer for my sick ones tonight? :)  All will be well.

Blessed am I.

A thousand windows

“Oh, these vast, calm, measureless mountain days…days in whose light everything seems equally divine, opening a thousand windows to show us God.”

-John Muir

I have been aching since we’ve been back to return to the Tetons.

We finally had the chance yesterday.

It was a perfect, bluebird day.

We snowshoed and hiked for hours.

A ranger told me yesterday that often one visit to the Tetons is enough to change a person’s life forever.

We already knew that.

Not sorry

We make it into Yellowstone at least once a week right now.  It requires a lot more effort than in the warmer months, but it is worth it.  From the moment I enter those borders, I am home.

(This is Richie, the girls’ hiking mascot.  Every kid should have a mascot, don’t you think?)  :)

I marvel sometimes at the things that were once difficult that have become second nature.  I remember last year, working for an hour at times to get 6 little bodies into snow gear and 6 little pairs of snowshoes strapped to 12 little feet.  Now, we can hop out of the car and strap those things on in minutes.

Yesterday, we explored a new trail.  We floated over the hills of snow and down to the river.  We crossed it and left the trail, opting this time to follow the winding Gallatin further and further.

I love snowshoeing.  I love the work.  I love how much more deliberate each step is.  There is little joy in the world like stepping out into a completely untouched white world that has not seen other feet in so very long.

We found a perfect place to stop and rest.  We played and listened to the bubbling water flow under the ice.

We ate the pure, untouched, wild snow.  I laid down in it and watched the sky and the clouds.

My oldest lay on her stomach and leaned over the bank (she was completely safe), punching the ice in small bursts, to break clumps of river ice out and pull them up for her sisters.

In moments like that, I feel like I could explain the meaning and purpose of anything and everything.  Everything is whole and clear.  Everyone becomes so much quieter, listening to what she is being taught, even while playing.

My children begged to stay when it was time to go.  We stayed a half hour more.

We finally left our little place to head back to the car and back to the things that needed doing.  I heard one of my girls promise the river she would be back soon.  Chunks of layered, sparkling river ice were carried gently until we reached the car and they absolutely had to stay behind.

There are times I feel a little sorry for the strength it takes to be a child who walks such a different path.  There is so much rush and activity that we have chosen to stay out of, and that sets them apart and makes them different. But then I look at my children and the light in their eyes and a piece of the river in their hands and I realize, I am not sorry at all.

Love

I’m so grateful for a year of very simple living.  It has taught me to slow down, to see and savor.  More than anything in my days, I see love.  Love is the bright mountain moon, shining down from heaven, assuring me that all of the answers will come and the paths made clear.

Love is listening to my children drift off to sleep, one by one, to the sound of their father’s bed time story.

Love is a sleepless night with children, and still wanting nothing more than to simply be with them all day.

Love is celebrating little moments of progression and forgiveness.

God gave us families to help us become what He wants us to be—

This is how He shares His love, for the family is of God.

– Matthew Neeley