Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Reunion and Renewal

West of the Salt Flats the "scenery" is gray, greenish gray, and dark greenish gray. Upon studying it, I've found the ecology of juniper and all the various species of sagebrush pretty intriguing, and the geologic story of the silver and gold mines might likewise be interesting. But there is nothing that really attracts us to the state of Nevada.  The fragrance of all the shrubs in bloom is heady, but I still prefer the clean tang of sub-alpine forests and alpine meadows. Nevada's homogenous Great Basin view wore on us.  We slept fast and made haste to leave Reno the next morning. Except for the 15 minutes Daddy spent stuck in the parking garage elevator with a wonderful bag lady who encouraged him that the elevator door stuck shut all the time and you just had to keep pushing the button, our leaving was uneventful...

So then, the "new" California was pretty interesting. First we had a joyful reunion with my parents at the cabin in the shady, forested Sierra Nevada mountains, where my father, as a boy, spent his summers. My parents arrived a day ahead of us (after a hiatus of 30 years or so) and by the time we got there my father had scouted the present-day setting and relocated his favorite childhood haunts. He was completely prepared to take us on an engaging tour, and we were completely engaged! The grandkids especially enjoyed seeing the "old-fashioned refrigerator" (a spring in the front yard), the place where Grandpa built his network of roads for his P.I.E. truck and tractor (in the back yard), the live-trapping grounds for squirrels (a lucrative business for boys back in "the old days"), and the "Leaning Rock" where cousins once built and defended makeshift lean-tos. The kids also went kind of crazy collecting sugar pine cones (the cones are huge, and we brought home a whole garbage bag full!), until our daughter tripped and accidentally touched one that was apparently very precious to a gray squirrel living in the mature pine above it. Boy!--it was a very tall, very straight tree, and he was a very quick scurrier! Friendly little bugger, though. It was quite a sight!  ;~)

One of my favorite things about a forest is the ecology, too. Specifically, I love to see the way God has worked out recycling and regenerating, restoring and renewing. Sometimes His processes are incredible because of their simplicity, and sometimes because they're so complicated... Squirrel caches are a simple process; wildfires, insect infestations, and even disease often represent the more complicated.

Speaking of fires, after thoroughly touring the cabin area for a day we continued our trip by detouring around persistent wildfires and resulting road-closures. Amidst some dreadfully graphic but informative discussion with my husband about why many vehicles (mini-vans like ours, in particular) are not built for the style of mountain driving handed down to me by my ancestors, the vivid imagery and his gentle instruction reformed me as I drove us up steep, narrow, intensely banked, winding roads to the gold mining claims where my mom's family spent THEIR summers. (I wonder if renewing our minds makes us younger? I mean, whether it's God or my husband that enacts it, I feel like a whole new person after I'm re-formed!) There we quickly reminisced, hiked the old ditch, observed bear scat and poison oak closely, and took a two-minute wade in the old skinny-dipping pool. After a quiet family prayer time in the garden of my grandparents, it was nearing dusk as we started the last three-hour leg of our journey to the coast.

Did you know there is still at least one section of paved road in the United States that is a 10% grade?  (If you know of others, please leave me a comment.  I'd prefer to be forewarned!) It's five miles long, very winding, and relentless!  The locals--including trucks--travel it at something close to the speed of light, but we were unfamiliar, unprepared, and it was already dark AND foggy.  Even though I started down it in "L"--the lowest gear possible on an automatic transmission--I smoked our brakes about half a mile from the bottom. As spongy as the brakes suddenly became, we overshot the pull-out but managed to stop alongside of the guardrail, and although the engine/transmission groaned at first, it did manage to back us up into the pull-out...

Whew! Okay, so the Lord blessed us twofold: there was no one behind us when we had to stop and back up, and the brake pads didn't crumble into dust; rather, they worked fine again once they cooled off (20 minutes waiting plus another 20 miles later...). We arrived at the coast in time for "breakfast" at an all-night diner, and fell into bed for a pleasant round of regeneration, restoration, and renewal (i.e., r-e-s-t!).

Heavenly Father, YOU are an engaging, intriguing Father, too!!! Thank You for our parents and their heritage, our legacy.  Thank You for putting in place processes of renewal for our bodies, souls, and minds. There are so many truths we don't yet know, so many erroneous conclusions we've jumped to and believed to a fault. Thank You that You are the Truth, our salvation, and our gentle, loving guide.  Please bind us to Your will, Your truth, and the mind of Christ (which has perfect understanding of truth), and renew our minds. Set us free from the deceptions we've believed! In Jesus' name, amen.

Monday, September 22, 2008


Bear Lake, ID/UT

"...That which is known about God is evident...for God made it evident...For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that [we] are without excuse." Romans 1:18-20

Due to some medical issues, we had to delay the onset of our vacation for eight hours. Since we had prearranged our lodging (lots of it!), we had to somehow absorb the delay. We chose to spend a full day and stay an extra night in Cody, WY, and then drive straight through to Reno, NV, via the scenic route of Yellowstone NP, Teton NP, Bear Lake, and the Salt Flats in Utah. For our entourage this was a 21-hour drive through what seemed like several distinct worlds. My husband did a lot of the driving; the kids were content most of the time; and the scenery was enthralling for much of the day. I had a lot of solitude for silent worship, and reflected on the passage above for a long time. What invisible attributes did the Lord intend to reveal to humanity through the part of Creation we were viewing?

Grand Teton draped with glacial lace...
His sovereignty; He is King of kings

Plunging painted canyons and wide open prairies...
the depth and breadth of His love

Steaming thermal springs...
the gentle but unyielding conviction of His Spirit

Crisp high mountain air...
the fresh fragrance of freedom in Christ

Lush meadows, where moose and buffalo graze...
His rich provision; He's the Shepherd who gives us everything we need

Cascading waterfalls...
His joy--He delights in all of His creation, including US!

Bugling bull elk...
He calls to us

Backpacking bicyclers...
His strength, endurance, and longevity

Speed limit signs...  (okay--they're not "nature," per se--but I enjoy driving fast the way some of you enjoy your vices, and have the same problem with speed limits as some of you do with, say, legal alcohol limits, so let's just rejoice that I'm noticing them!)
His loving limits/boundaries

Interpretive signs...
His Word, the Bible

Slow drivers ahead of us on steep canyon roads...
despite my "need for speed" (!), God is our pacesetter; He's not above placing precious people ahead to slow us, that we might reach our appointments in HIS perfect timing! And while He is seldom early, He is never late...

The piercing pain of the poisonous stinger of the dying wasp wounded on our windshield...
God lovingly warns us that we'll encounter our enemy's fiery darts if we wander past the limits of His shield--a shield limited not by His power (ability), but by His promise (laws)

The wasp itself...
as we buzz down the road called Life, bugs (trials and storms) often splat on our windshield. 
While admittedly distracting, God encourages us that it's foolhardy and unnecessary to focus on these bugs; rather, stay focused on the Road (Jesus--THE WAY!...the Truth, and the Life)

Brilliant-hued Bear Lake, which spans the man-made political border between Idaho and Utah...
because of God's great love for us, He enacted a brilliant plan to span the border between Himself and man, becoming "Immanuel"--that is, "God with us"--whom we most commonly call Jesus. In taking on our sin and dying for us, He bridged the gap created by our sin (lack of trust, unbelief, pride, unwillingness to submit, fear, independence, self-indulgence, self-preservation, etc.), and removed the source of our "need" for man-made borders (prejudices) between each other...

The close proximity of my son's "travel armpits"...
how BELOVED is Jesus' cleansing power!!!  ;~)

The Salt Flats...
God is not stagnant but full of flavor, and He desires to anoint us that we might also be flavorful and spread His flavor to those in our sphere of influence

Truly, I am without excuse!  :~)

Sunday, September 21, 2008


That's the reading on our trip odometer.

In miles...


It was a long trip, but it was good. We consciously acknowledge that we were led, challenged, and blessed the whole way. As I consider the vehicle issues, finances, time, personal logistics, and events of our two-week "heritage/overview-of-the-west" vacation in our current economy, our trip seems somewhat "unreasonable." I'm still in awe of God's handiwork and wondering what His purpose is. From our perspective, He sure went to a lot of trouble! Makes me determined to "get" whatever He wants me to out of the experience!

We're still putting things in order at home, preparing to get back into routine, and processing what we experienced.  Between us, we captured approximately 700 photos and video clips. This week the kids and I will concentrate on producing photojournals, and may post some of our favorite shots.

I learned much...I think. Enjoyed much, also. A HUGE thanks to my family for all the hosting and stories. Dad, one of our favorite things was watching your eyes twinkle as you shared your boyhood haunts and antics. Mom--THANKS for the hospitality, painting, and special surprise pear pie! And Sis, I really like putting together devotions for all the kids with you. The potential for sharing Godly legacy seems to increase exponentially when the cousins are together, and I'm glad we were in it together, too! ;~)

Monday, September 1, 2008

Used Shoes

"Hey Honey, how about these?" He's peeling off the last too-tight fit in the clearance aisle, and I've been rapidly rummaging through this season's models one aisle over. The hiking shoes in my hand are the widest I can find in the store.

We're preparing for a "family heritage" vacation. You'll never guess where we're going: Yep!--into the desert! That's only part of the trip, though. We'll also be winding our way through several magnificent mountain passes...dancing in cold, cascading waterfalls...visiting old family cabins and gold mining claims...playing in the ocean...touring 5-6 national parks...hiking up, up, UP to my favorite mountain lake (thus the need for hiking shoes)...and visiting relatives here and there along the way. This trip has been fun to plan, and we're just about ready, set, go!

"How much are they?"

"I don't know. I can't find a price anywhere--" 

Then the tag catches my eye, and I groan inwardly...$90. My husband doesn't pay $90 for ANY shoes, let alone a pair that, in his words, "won't be used to make money."  

About 100 miles south of us in a teeny-weeny rural town, there's a teeny-weeny Redwing store that sells new, seconds, and--of all things--used work boots. Ever since a friend introduced us to the place a decade ago, my husband has been a consistent customer in the "Used" department. We've asked but never thoroughly understood why this little store has used boots for sale (I mean, who "turns in," or "trades in," their slightly-worn used work boots? And how? And why?!), but every other week this store receives a large shipment of used boots from the big city. The day after the shipment arrives, the boots are sorted according to various criteria and lined up neatly in the "Used" room.  The store even has a toll free number so customers don't have to waste a trip; they can call ahead and the clerks will rummage through the current supply to see if they have what the customers need. About once every year or two we pray ahead and then call or stop by on our way through the area, and find my husband's next pair of boots. A pair of used boots costs $35-40, depending on appearance and wear.

Talk about walking in another person's shoes!  ;~)

Our son loves to walk in his father's shoes, figuratively as well as literally. When he was two he'd find his dad's big ol' work boots resting near the front door, climb in, grab the laces up tight like reins, and clomp around the kitchen giggling with joy and boyish pride. As the years passed he loved and learned to emulate his father in so many other things, too, so that now he's quite handy, engaging, and seemingly steadfastly decided on his career (despite any counsel from anyone--even Dad). His goal is to follow in Dad's footsteps and work right alongside him someday. 

Along with work, funny is big at our house. Since my husband excels at entertaining the rest of us, our son is busy perfecting a like sense of humor that belies his age. Most of his jokes and teasing drive his sister crazy (because, as she's quick to remind him, he's not Daddy!), but a precious jewel of wisdom my mom passed on to me years ago prepared me for this stage.  Mom shared that she hadn't realized what my brother was doing when he first started developing his "dry" humor, and she hoped I'd watch for it and be able to appreciate it more in my son. I'm so thankful for that heads-up! My son's developing humor captures and thrills me so that I don't even have to pretend to get a kick out of him--he's funny!

A couple weeks ago he really caught me, though. We were out of milk that morning. The sky was clear blue, the air crisp-cool, and we welcomed a refreshing bike ride to the local grocery first thing. As I paid for our milk the elderly clerk asked where my husband was working that week, then began to reminisce about what her life was like when her husband worked on the road. The "lovely" spin she put on the lifestyle truly glorified God, but as I listened my mind sought balance. While I acknowledge God's provision, I must also acknowledge the desert. It is because it is hard to watch my husband struggle to maintain all the other aspects of his life during the few days he's home each week, and because it is sometimes hard to maintain joy when I'm a tired "single parent," disappointed in--or right along with--a child, that God's presence and grace in my life is such a precious oasis. Without the harshness of the desert, I would not seek nor value His help so much. And so although I trust and promote His faithfulness, I must acknowledge the hardship that creates room for it in my life. And since I am human, I also long for relief...or at least improvement!

As we left the store, I said to my son, "Remember, when you grow up, what it feels like when Dad is gone. Remember, so that maybe you can live in a way that's not so hard for your family."

"What do you mean, Mom? I'm gonna do just what Dad does, right along with him."

"Yes, Son, I know. But just remember what the rest of your family will be going through at home, and pray for a way to balance things more."

" way! When I grown up I'm gonna be gone from home as much as possible!"

"What?! Why?!"

"So I won't get made fun of..."

Huh?!  :~(

I had just pushed off and was pulling away from the curb as he said it, defensively looking for moving cars as we crossed the parking lot, so just kept going. But I almost cried the whole way home.  In the midst of a hearty round of joking, my husband often teases us that he "just gets made fun of whenever [he] comes home..."  But I know he's kidding... Didn't our son? Doesn't he know his father would prefer to be home every night, with us and having time to work on projects at a more relaxed pace? Can he not see that marriage, and family life is lovely, and valuable...and that we wish we had more time for things other than all the have-to-do projects that steal our time to play together? And with the breakdown of family values so prevalent in our culture, it's important to me that our children see the gift of family--that they see it in us, and for what it truly is... And we've tried to show them... And...aren't they getting the message?!?

By the time we got home and hit the day running--breakfast for Grandma, home school, etc.--I was a basket case. I was praying, but still a basket case with a churning mind and stomach. It wasn't until the next day that I was actually collected and ready to broach the subject again with my son. 

He quickly explained that he'd been TEASING! 

Thankfully he's not quite old enough to judge me as silly or stupid for feeling upset. 

But then, he's walked in my shoes some, too...

I hand the box of $90 hiking shoes to my husband, knowing I'll have to elaborate on my answer about the price but wishing I didn't, wanting to at least see if they're wide enough... He opens the box to try the shoes on, and notices...they're used!  But we aren't in a used shoe store--we're in a sporting goods store. They carry used guns, but not used shoes! Weird! And these shoes are d-e-f-i-n-i-t-e-l-y used, but just a little. The shoes are the right model for the box, but they have light wear/scuff marks on the sides, a light layer of dust all over, and a little mud still stuck in the barely-worn soles. We ask a roaming clerk about them and she tells us to ask for the manager at checkout to receive a discount. After I tell my husband the regular price, we agree it prob'ly won't even be worth it to ask about a discount. (He's not willing to pay more than $50 for hiking shoes...)

But what do we have to lose? While he takes the kids to look at guns, I carry the box to the checkout, praying all the way. The astute young man at the customer service counter is genuinely baffled, both at the appearance of the shoes in a new box in his store and that we want to buy them. But I gently reassure him we are not crazy--just thrifty--and he finally calls the manager. The manager has him look up the store's cost for the shoes, and offer them to us for...$50!!!

As my husband pays for his shoes, the sales clerk still can't quite wrap his mind around this event. "Are you sure you really want these?"  "Yes," my husband tells him, "Used is fine with me. Someone else just wore the price right out of them."

I, like my husband and son, choose to walk in used shoes. I strive to stay in the shoes of my precious Master, Jesus. Whoever first owned my husband's hiking shoes walked their price right out of them, but Jesus forthrightly paid the price for my sins (the ones I've already confessed, as well as those I have yet to commit). However I cross life's deserts (and mountains!), whether I walk, run, stumble, fall, crawl, roll, or dance...I am blessed to cross freely, in His shoes!