It’s for the kids

Life as a parent is about love and kindness.  It’s about seeing dreams and making them reality.

From a few conversations I’ve had recently, I’ve realized that not everyone got from this post that we are actually living in a camper this summer.  We are perma-camping.  It is seriously the most fun we have ever had.  Life’s better at camp.

In fact, it is been so much fun that it has allowed us to realize many dreams.  (One has been hiking up and down and all over Yellowstone this summer.  That freedom has been incredible.)  We’ve actually decided to stay in our camper for a while in part because of the ability it has given us as parents to give our children dreams that they may not have been able to realize yet.

Here is the most recent:

His name is Charlie.  He is as sweet as can be and the girls are in absolute heaven.  I think that they asked for him at least three times a day for the last five or six years.  It was time.  (And people can roll their eyes at us all they like for having a puppy in an RV, but it has been incredibly easy to housebreak a puppy in such a little space!  He’s happy and at home, and so are we.)

The next thing involves our plans for the winter.  Since it gets far too cold here to overwinter in an RV, we are going to spend one winter along the coast before hopefully building our forever home next summer.

I can’t help but smile at the dreams it will fulfill for this girl:

This girl who has never seen the ocean, but dreams of it day and night.  This girl who pretends to surf on boulders.  This girl who wants nothing more than to own a surf shop when she grows up.  Finally, she will have at least a little taste of some of her dreams.

It’s a little chapter of adventure in our lives, so stay posted.  :)

“We can do hard things,” or Why we summit

“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” – Phil. 4:13

The sweetest 4-year-old in the world.  Also the toughest.

Though we’ve had many smaller summits this summer, we’ve attempted three major summits and accomplished two.  Our second was just yesterday.

Three miles up, three miles down.  1500 feet of elevation change each way.  That is a hefty challenge for any child.  Purple Mountain is lower in elevation than Mount Washburn, but just as challenging a climb.  (Actually, slightly more so, as it has a slightly greater elevation change.)

The muscle kissing cracks me up, especially because it comes from my most reserved girl.

There is always a moment, maybe many, that comes along the way.  A moment when it seems we cannot possibly make it and we actually pray together that we will.  (This usually happens going both up and down.)

As we hike, we talk.  We talk about life and its challenges, sometimes seemingly insurmountable.

We talk about working together, about positive attitudes, about safety, about relying on God, and about perseverance.

I spoke to a ranger yesterday.  She remarked that she had seen us so many times in Yellowstone, she wondered how we were able to come so often when all other children were in school.  I briefly explained the kind of schooling that our children are able to have.  She paused for a minute, and then said, “Wow, can you imagine the kind of education that they are getting for life?”

There is no feeling in the world like finally reaching the summit of a mountain.  The girls collapsed on the rock that is the summit, and rested.

We stared up at the sky.  (Quite a feeling when you are literally lying on the top of a mountain peak.)

After a few minutes, the relief and the jubilation set in.

We walked to the other side and took in the view.  It’s hard to describe what it is like to look down on so many places that you have been.

We can do hard things.

“What is required of us might seem overwhelming to many of us. It may look too hard to do—at least consistently. But we can do hard things. And when we do, we find that they become delightful to us, and what once was hard becomes easier in the doing. Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ want us to succeed. They will help us every inch of the way. Through the Spirit, They will lead us along. They will strengthen us. Jesus Christ will be our advocate with the Father.” – Cheryl C. Lant

After our descent.  Exhausted, relieved, and thrilled, all at once.

(I have to share a few pictures taken by our four-year-old.  She took the camera after I put it down and absorbed the experience in her own way.  I love seeing an experience through a child’s eyes.)

Always interesting to see myself through their eyes.

I wonder what she was thinking. :)

Blurry, but perfect.

Her best friend.  Her baby.

 The top of a mountain beneath her feet.  What an amazing four-year-old.

Perspective

The other day, the girls and I hiked up the mountain near Old Faithful to catch a glimpse of the eruption from above.  As we were waiting for Old Faithful, in the distance, we saw the Castle Geyser erupt.

The Castle Geyser is, though somewhat predictable, temperamental and only erupts every 9-13 hours or so, unless it has a minor eruption at any time during the waiting period, at which point it becomes unpredictable again.  Needless to say, being so finicky, people don’t flock to it like they do to the more predictable Old Faithful.  Those that do are devoted, though, and are happy to wait for hours, just in case.  We’ve done the same for the Great Fountain Geyser, so I can understand the pull.

From our vantage point, we could see the magnificent geyser, as well as the group of devoted faithfuls who had waited.  (Look closely in the photo and you’ll see them, too.)

A few minutes later, our faithful friend erupted in all its glory.

Seeing it from above was incredible, and I was glad that we had made the climb.  In the picture, you can see the crowd that had gathered there, as well.

I couldn’t help but think, as I was up there, about perspective.  The crowd at Old Faithful would not have been able to see anything more than steam from the Castle Geyser, and may have been unaware of the magnificent, half-hour eruption.  The crowd at Castle would have been waiting for so long that Old Faithful’s magnificent show would have held little interest for them, as well.

Little do both crowds know that the waterworks, the seismic forces, all of it, are so interconnected between the geysers of Yellowstone, and the big picture is a miracle.

How often are we so focused on one trial, one facet of our lives, one problem, one blessing?  We lack the perspective to see the incredible network of things that all work together to make our lives what they are.  We may be so worried about a trial that we are undergoing that we miss all of the other blessings and miracles at work in our lives.

Only with a grander view can we gain the perspective we need to see more.

Soaking up summer

There is a chill returning to the air.  The grasses are changing and when the breeze blows over the mountains, I can smell autumn coming.

Soon.  Very soon.

Fall is a time of change, and it will bring more changes to us again this year.  (More on that later.)

But before it does, we are soaking up the last bits of summer.  Summer is short here, so we have to love it while it stays.

The girls can’t get enough of swimming in lakes and rivers.  Even fully clothed.

Watching them love being alive makes my heart live.

It wakes me up inside and makes me choose life and joy, everyday.

Our lives are moving forward and blending like the seasons.

Summer gives way to fall and winter.

Warmth gives way to cold.

But somehow, all is right and as it should be.  It makes us what we are.

“Let children walk with nature, let them see the beautiful blendings and communions of death and life, their joyous inseparable unity, as taught in woods and meadows, plains and mountains and streams of our blessed star, and they will learn that death is stingless indeed, and as beautiful as life, and that the grave has no victory, for it never fights.”

- John Muir

 

Miles to go

The rain to the wind said,
You push and I’ll pelt.’
They so smote the garden bed
That the flowers actually knelt,
And lay lodged–though not dead.
I know how the flowers felt.

-Robert Frost

Each time I return to the Tetons I am overwhelmed by holiness. Even in the summer crowds, I am amazed by the personal, sacred nature of the experience.

There is an awe and a reverence there that I have never felt anywhere else.

It is also a place of deep teaching for me.  I have learned things in those mountains that I know were reserved for me to feel just in that sacred place.

The Tetons hold something so dear for me that in recent months they have provided the quiet place of healing that I have so needed.

A place with enough awe and quiet that I could finally hear.

“Perhaps your own reiterated cries deafen you to the voice you hoped to hear.” 

- C.S. Lewis

“You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you. It is easy to say you believe a rope to be strong and sound as long as you are merely using it to cord a box. But suppose you had to hang by that rope over a precipice. Wouldn’t you then first discover how much you really trusted it?…Only a real risk tests the reality of a belief.” 

- C.S. Lewis

Yellowstone and these woods near me are home now.  They are me and I am them.  Even so, I found myself the other day in the shadow of the Tetons, praying silently that I might stay, that I might keep the healing salve and comfort of their rest always.

The answer was quick.  I could visit, but I could not stay.  I have things to do and more to become.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

-Robert Frost

Swimming hole

This summer, the girls have discovered the joy of swimming in a more natural setting.  These were taken a few days ago at the Firehole Falls swimming hole in Yellowstone.

The Firehole River is surrounded by geothermal features, including Old Faithful, which dump very hot water into it.  We’ve stood behind Old Faithful many times, watching its runoff into the Firehole River.  As a result of these numerous and very hot features running to meet the frigid mountain runoff, the river is a very comfortable temperature.

“The Fire hole is a companionable river. Notwithstanding its forbidding name, it… always does its best to put [a man] at his ease. Like some hospitable manorial lord, it comes straight down the highway for a league to greet the stranger and to offer him the freedom of its estate. … It may be a quiet charm that lulls to rest, or a bold current that challenges his endurance and caution.”
-Klahowya, Early Yellowstone visitor, 1910

 

Time to become

If there is anything that Yellowstone has taught us, it is patience.  Quiet, pleasant patience.

That things take time, and sometimes the time is long and that rushing does no good.

Last week, it rained and rained.  And rained.  It was wonderful.  I am grateful for ponchos and sweatshirts.  The chilly weather gave us a deeper glimpse at the steam and water of Yellowstone.  It is interesting to go there, day after day, week after week, and watch the tourists.

It is so good to see so many people coming out to find rest here.  People are all so different, though.  So many Americans are in such a rush.  They literally run from one thing to the next, whereas most Asians saunter slowly, taking pictures of every small thing, including my kids. :)

My kids have been blessed with a life where they don’t understand rushing.  They can hurry if needed, but rushing is different.  They have learned that it takes time to develop thoughts and realizations.  I love though, that they have time to develop them, rather than being told what to think.

Twinborn

As we return again and again to Yellowstone this summer, I am really in awe that it was just a little over a year ago that I first stepped lightly into its borders.

Even then, I wrote: “I don’t know all that our future holds, but something inside of me tells me that we are at another turning point in our lives.” 

How right I was.  How little I knew.

Mystic Falls, YNP, with my cell phone camera (too rainy to take my real camera).  If a place looks this amazing with a cell phone picture, try to imagine how it looks in person!

Something about this place has expected more of me.  I have expected more.  I have known I was ready.  So I asked to be more.

The answer to my prayer has humbled me to the depths of my soul.  I am sorry I talk about it so much here but never actually tell it.  It’s just too much, too sacred, too mine.  I have never felt a greater gift, a deeper loss, a more acute suffering, a greater opportunity.

A year ago, I wrote this: “Joy and pain are twinborn.  Pain gives way to joy, because so often, we have to give up something in order to receive.”

Was I writing to my future self?  I don’t know if I’ve ever written anything more true.  I have ached at my grief, until I have finally come to a point where I have decided to choose life.  I have realized that in this suffering, my prayer was answered.  My prayer was answered.  Finally, I see that.

I have changed completely.  My heart is new.  My prayer was answered.  And that is a tremendous gift.

Secret places

From wonder into wonder existence opens.

- Lao-Tzu

 

Learning from failure

View of the Tetons from Sawtell Peak Trail.

We were all a little summit hungry after Mt. Washburn.

Wildflowers in bloom on Sawtell.

So, we attempted another summit.  Longer hike, less elevation gain.  It seemed like a good balance.

However, we arrived during what I can only describe as a massive swarm of bees and horseflies.  Huge ones.  Probably due to the abundant blooms on the mountain.

They surrounded us, and one of the girls got bitten pretty good.  Everyone was doing fine until they saw the thin stream of blood flowing from the wound.  Then the two oldest girls panicked.

The younger girls were able to remain calm in spite of the hoards flying around their heads, but the two oldest just couldn’t do it and they lost all sense.  We tried to hike for a while, but we didn’t get more than 2/3 of a mile up the mountain before it just wasn’t possible to continue.  We turned back.

When we were back in the safety of home, we talked for a long time about faith and fear, about keeping our heads and trusting mom.  We learned a lot about horseflies and their bites, too. :)

In the past month, the girls seem to be getting repeated chances to learn about keeping their heads in a dangerous situation.  Descending a mountain at sunset.  Attempting a hike amid swarms of dangerous insects.  Descending another mountain during a sudden and unexpected hail storm.

After the most recent experience (hail storm), my third daughter, who had been the most shaken, asked me why things like that kept happening.  Why God would allow us to be caught in a dangerous storm that could have hurt us.  I believe He is offering my daughters opportunities to learn something important, because though the challenge has been different each time, the lesson has been the same.  I could be frightened that my girls would have a real need in the future to keep their heads and not panic, to listen and be calm, or I could be grateful that they are being given chances to practice and learn.

No experience is wasted.  The summit isn’t always the most important outcome.  The failure can be just as crucial.