colorado

My Mountain Metaphor

I’m a seasoned ‘church camper.’ As a teenager, for at least a week each summer, I’d pile into a fifteen passenger van with sweaty boys and anxious girls and venture to the Colorado mountains for whitewater rafting, rock climbing, and torture … er, mountain biking.

Each night, after facing our fears and relying on God’s mercy to survive hormones, and crushes, and camp food, we’d hunker down to listen to sermons from a pastor underneath a picnic shelter with flames flickering behind him.

The bible is full of references to mountains. How we ought to look to them, how God moves them, how they melt in his presence, or shake in his glory. God speaks to people on mountain tops, bushes burn, internal battles are fought. Tectonic plates are holy ground.

Wise, college aged mentors would french braid my hair as I sat between their knees. I felt safe, loved, and seen. The mountains I was climbing in that season of my life involved grades, crushes, and college applications. All age appropriate, and yes, privileged.  I’d have my mountain top experience, head back down the hill and return to normal life.

Ten years passed and I still hadn’t climbed all the way to the top of one of Colorado’s beckoning peaks.

This past weekend we rallied with our cousins to trek to the top of a 14,000 foot mountain. We picked an “easy” one. Never you mind that easy still means you’re climbing an f’in MOUNTAIN.

It was not an easy experience for me.

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At the end of the meadow stretch, full of waving wildflowers, I could look up the steep trail and see people moving in front of me where I was headed. Like ants, we fell in line and moved slowly up, up, up.

“Our faith can move mountains” – Matthew 17:20

But could it move me?

We stopped every 200 yards to catch our breath. All the blogs told me this was a normal part of the process. I’d keep looking up, and see people ahead, and I’d ask, “how am I going to get up there?!”

“I lift up my eyes to the mountains – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord – maker of heaven and earth.” – Psalm 121: 1-2

The answer was adjust my blinders. I had to focus on the ten feet in front of me, and then the next ten, and the next, to keep moving along. Any time I looked to the top of the peak, I’d falter. Mentally challenged and physically tired my cousin offered me his trekking pole so I could stop stumbling.

 

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As we approached the summit, solid ground gave way to piles of boulders. Big rocks stacked over one another. Why would something so massive be made up of hundreds of moving parts?

The last 200 yards I was using my hands to pull myself up and over big chunks of stone. Why did God design mountains that way? Heavy, precariously balanced stones for us master?

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I made it to the top. I sat and caught my breath and inhaled God’s fresh air. He whispered to me, “look how far you’ve come.”

In this season, my mountains have matured. Accepting the loss of a parent is not meant for almost thirty year olds. Finding employment after job loss. Navigating marriage. Coming into our own skins with confidence and learning how to soothe broken hearts. Those were bigger boulders found when a previous foundation fell apart – the aftermath forming new piles in our way. Rubble. Crumbly, heavy, hurting chunks of stone.

We’ve moved these last two and a half years, holding hands, five feet at a time up, up, and up to this new summit. The view is beautiful, holy, and aching. For Dad is closer to the heavens than back at the trailhead, and he wasn’t waiting for me to return at home.

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“Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken.” – Isaiah 54:10

It’s peaceful up there on piles of stone. Hearts soar and God speaks.

And then you have to come down.

Spiritually, I’m afraid of coming down for I know new mountains will form for me to climb. I don’t want to hurt nor do I want to find new footing.

We want the summit. We don’t want the work. Unfortunately, beautifully, you can’t have one without the other. 

As we trekked down and our knees screamed, God brought this song back to me from camp years ago.

The artist wrote this song from a mountain near where we spread Dad’s ashes. Funny how our stories connect. Funny how boulders mix with pebbles to create beautiful trails racking our lungs and pounding our hearts.

I’m offering up my broken cup. Keep climbing up. Willing to come down.

Keep stepping the next ten beautiful feet in front of me.

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June Favorite Things

I wrote down a list of things I want to do before I turn 30. I was supposed to complete one of them before June and I blinked and now it’s June. Still haven’t completed that project.

I have, however, learned how to roast a chicken, made homemade pasta, published in a magazine, pierced my ears, and learned a song on the ukulele. So, ya know, some progress. I’ve still got slots left on my list of things I need to do. Any ideas for what can fill the second half of the last year of my twenties?

Anyway…. (think how Ellen De Generes says it)

Here are some of my favorite things for the month ahead.

  1. Trader Joes Ice Cream Bon Bons (#2) on this list.

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It’s hot and it’s only June. I’ve been going to the gym so I’ve ALSO been eating these little treats from Trader Joes. Haven’t tried em? Trust me. I fill a bowl with three for Dylan and one for me and they are delightful post dinner treats. If you want to have three and leave one for your husband I approve of that too.

2. The Goat Fetching Soap

I met the folks of this lovely little Etsy shop on Twitter and they kindly sent me a bar of their soap. The smell is heavenly and the soap very creamy. Seems to provide great moisture for my hands. They also make other natural bath and body products without harmful or toxic ingredients. Certainly worth perusing their offerings.

3. Hiking Pants

Another thing on my goals list is to hike a 14ner. Not from Colorado? That means a mountain with an elevation of over 14,000 ft. I’ve lived in Colorado for most of my life and haven’t tried to conquer one of those mountains with my own two feet. So I’ve rallied a support crew and have started collecting necessary accessories for an adventure. Just purchased these hiking pants and I promise I’ll put them to use.

Never you mind that my stomach looks nothing like that models. No body shaming here.

4. Garden Gnome Home

I have a thing for gnomes. We have cute Christmas ones and they made an appearance on my wedding gift registry. So when my mom texted me this cute little photo of garden gnome homes for the trees in your backyard, I giggled with delight. This is so cute. I want! Bring on the garden gnomes.

5. Native Deodorant

Facebook ads got me again and I purchased some all natural deodorant made by Native. Never you mind it is quite a bit more expensive than your regular, nasty aluminum-filled deodorant. I love their quirky marketing and had to laugh when the instructions share that it can take up to 14 days for your body to adjust to the new chemical-free stink destroyer. I told everyone close to me if I was extra sweaty, there was a reason. Now you know too. I’m one week in and LOVING it. This stuff works. No more Ladies Speed Stick for me.

I hope you have a stellar, sweat-free summer!

 

“Always,” said Snape.

I just got done watching the last Harry Potter movie. We spread out part one and two over the weekend and I sit here, on my big blue couch, letting big waves of sad wash all over me.

Pulse. Wave. Sad. Pulse. Wave. Breath. Sad.

My dad loved those books.

When Harry Potter was eleven, I was eleven. Those stories a staple in my childhood and my adolescence.

Rewind six hours today and I’m standing, for the first time, in the oddest bookstore in town. In a small closet my ankle boots anchor me in front of a tall set of shelves. Big, wooden ones tucked away from the other rows of scattered books. On one shelf, at eye level, sit stacks and stacks of the series. Copies of all seven stories are accounted for. Five or six of each part of the grand story.

Piles of red books with gold lettering on worn spines. They’re all there. The first one – purple spine. The Chamber of Secrets. And on the shelf below piles of blue spines with the same gold lettering. The Half Blood Prince. And the green spine. And the orange. All the stories there. On shelves.

Reminding me of pages once loved and frantic flipping of paper to figure out what would happen next to our epic heroes.

Whoosh.

I’m eighteen years old.

Dad driving me to the midnight showing of the newest film after my senior appreciation dinner. I was wearing a blue hoodie and my Varsity tennis sweatpants. I sat with friends against the wall in the theater, feeling on top of the world. Invincible. I had accomplished so much.

Woosh.

It’s summer vacation and the two of us are sitting in a small cabin, each holding a copy of The Deathly Hallows across from each other, racing to read faster. Both in flannel pajamas. Staying up too late, drinking cocoa out of blue speckled metal mugs.

We always bought two copies when the new books were released because we couldn’t wait for our own turn. We had to read together. Who could get through the cliffhanger faster? He usually won. And the next morning we’d sit on the tiny wooden porch in the sun, debriefing the story, gasping at who the last casualty was to fall to he-who-shall-not-be-named.

Memories in story as we flipped page together. That gangly Harry Potter and his heroic crew weaving his fictional life with mine. With Dad’s.

That’s what good books do – they become an inseparable part of your story.

Woosh.

And tonight, I miss him. And I miss Harry. And the beautiful gold lettering. And those worn, well-loved spines.

Now the books just sit beautifully, in stacks, on shelves in used-book stores and studies that he no longer enters.

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But both of their stories linger in my heart and my fingers and my memories. Touch the spines, finger the gold letters, breath.

Pulse. Wave. Breath. Sad.

In other news, I had fun writing this guest post for More Native Than the Natives. I like living in Colorado and am proud to be from this beautiful state. It ain’t all bad folks. Feel the wave. Breathe. Move again in the morning.

Oh, Christmas Tree

“What are you doing the rest of the afternoon?” asked the sweet guy working the counter at D.S.W.

“We’re going Urban Christmas Tree Hunting ” I replied.

“You mean like in a field?” he asked.

“No. Like at Home Depot.”

We exchanged a laugh and my mom and I walked out of the store setting out to meet Dylan. We had to go pick out her Christmas tree for the season. Urban tree hunt we did. It took about twenty minutes for the whole excursion. Traveled to the store, tree selected, he put that sucker on the roof and drove it back to her house.

Dylan and I took a different approach as two of our friends asked if we wanted to cut down a tree. Like in a forest. It’s Colorado ya’ll. We haven’t gone the fresh, outdoor route since before we got married.

As our friend drove us up the canyon, memories flooded back. Growing up I had years and years of hunting for the perfect tree in the woods with my cousins and particular mother. It was tradition. Four kids and two adults – sometimes more – would pack into the trusty Subaru the day after Thanksgiving. Shooting for a ten am departure time usually turned into leaving at one or two pm. Us kids would fight for the spots in the back of the car where we didn’t have to wear a seat belt. Our caravan bounced along dirt roads. Wearing our matching sweaters, we’d yell cheers and balance on top of each other as the driver rounded the canyon corners to avoid the axes and saws at our feet.

Safe. Yes, safe.

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Some years the sun would be setting by the time we got the darn tree to the ground. Other years we’d trek back to the car and retrace our steps because keys were lost. Cold and whining because we couldn’t find the damn car. On the dark drive home sometimes the tree would sway in the wind and scratch glass as it slowly slid down over the front windshield.

“Pull over Dad” my brother and I would yell, “the tree is sliding again!”

And then some years, when we’d get home, the tree would rest on the ground in the doorway, boughs shaking as Dad frantically sawed off the extra six inches…. or extra feet… off the bottom grumbling as he went. Mom often underestimated the pine’s height out there under the big blue sky.

Wonderful memories. Floods of nostalgia and love with the realization that my memories of Dad are turning the corner from anguish and stomach aches to tickles inside my heart.

He did that with us. I remember.

We drove two hours to the National Forest land where we spent $10 for a tree permit and a refreshing hike in the snow.

Let me clarify – the barely two inches of snow and sixty degree weather made the experience pretty enjoyable. Much better than my snow suit days. We spent thirty minutes searching and sawing and threw our selection into the bed of a pick-up truck.

We brought our tree home, and only cut a few inches off the end of our little tannenbaum. Dylan strung the lights and I selected my favorite mis-matching ornaments and we decorated the house. It was cozy. And it was good.

And then, on Monday, we went to work.

And Olive went to work.

IMG_5796While we were away, she chewed a few ornaments and destroyed three strings of lights. We came home to the tree skirt fluff creating snow in our living room, and the water in the tree stand gone. Luckily, our Charlie Brown decoration was still standing.

So our idyllic tree hunting experience has become beautifully imperfect. A memory in the making as I built a child-like fort barricade to keep her from our lightless tree.

It’s pretty charming to have a tree in your living room without decorations. Well, we’ve got ornaments on the top half of the tree, and a new shining star gleams proudly in front of the coffee table that blocks the access from our ambitious puppy.

Maybe I’ll look back in a few years and say, “Remember when Olive destroyed the decorations on the tree?”

A ha ha – we will laugh – as she will have certainly outgrown her puppy phase by then.

Tonight, we are going to try again and string some more lights on the tree.

I’ll be sure to hide the plug and tighten up my makeshift fort. I sprayed the tree skirt with puppy safe citrus deterrent and put her water bowl back on the floor. I breath deeply at work remembering I’m thirty minutes away from our house and can’t do a single thing once I’ve left.

I’ll let you know how long Lights-Phase Two lasts. Say a silent prayer for our hopeful decoration.

No matter how you select your Christmas tree this year, may the memories you make be beautiful.

 

P.S. – The Give Light Giveaway is open. I’m accepting submissions from now until December 31st. Be sure to send me your light! Details on how to enter here.

 

Rest. Breathe. Observe. Reflect. Repeat. 

I just got back from a weekend away in the mountains.

Funny how when you say yes to rest, your body shows you just how tired you have been.

I have been tired.

Like watching your puppy stare up at you, eye lids heavy, trying to stay alert and awake and failing. Head droops. Heart rests on the floor.

I’ve been tired of the rushing from here to there and my self-propelled late nights working on dreams.

Tired of my wrists hurting from typing.

Tired of scrolling through angry posts, of crazy world news, of buckets of rain and high winds.

Tired of tuning in to CNN.

Tired of fear and inadequacy.

Tired of sadness and the gut ache of grief.

Tired of big sighs and big storms and big losses.

And when we are tired, the world says do more, but my God says, ‘do less’.

Tired of resisting this truth.

I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.” – Jeremiah 31:25 

Why is it so hard to press pause, to release, to take not just one, but repetitive deep breaths.

Let go of the guilt you feel walking in the door upon returning from your escape.

Smile as you push the grocery lists and bills off the counter.

Watch the paper responsibilities, just paper, flutter to the floor.

For just for a few moments allow deep pulses of respite to seep into your bones. To massage out the tense aching in our ever fearful bodies.

Rest. Breathe. Observe. Reflect. Repeat. 

It’s ok. You can pick up the envelopes and organize the pile now. Think about food. Nourish your self. Rest.

Tomorrow will be for rising again.

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Home is Where the Heart Is

Forgive my tardiness. Yesterday seemed to get away from me. It is with great excitement that I post another guest contribution from reader Melody. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on love and responding to the “Where Your Heart is Challenge.”

Here is her response.

Home is where the heart is.  It’s cliche, but it’s so true.  Today is Valentine’s Day and I love Valentine’s Day.  As a little girl Dad always made sure that Mom had roses and a big box of chocolates, while my sister and I were gifted a single red rose and a tiny heart box of chocolates,  It wasn’t the flowers and candy that made me love Valentine’s Day though.  It was the town I grew up in.

Loveland, CO is the Sweetheart City, and it lives up to it’s name. I’ve lived all over the United States and small towns everywhere put up Christmas decor on their streetlights; declaring to the community there is a reason to celebrate. And while that happens in Loveland at Christmas, what truly made it special to me were the February streetlights, happily decked out with giant red hearts. You could pay to have a special Valentine’s message placed on one for all the world to see.   My memories are crowded with images from childhood.  Sitting in the back seat of the car driving down Eisenhower next to Lake Loveland, I would dream of the day I’d see my name on one of those beautiful ruby hearts.
I haven’t lived in Loveland for 18 years now. My parents moved to Oregon 11 years ago.  And every February my heart grows a little bit heavy with the missing of my hometown.  Last March I returned to Loveland for a funeral.  I stayed with family friends and saw lots of friends and I was reminded that there is no place on earth my heart feels more at home than in my beloved sweetheart city.  The friends I have there are extensions of my family, the mountains sing to my soul of freedom and peace, and the streetlights proclaim loudly that love is here and love is good.
With memories and relationships rekindled this has been as year filled with Loveland stories for my friends here in NM and my husband.  And so as this Valentine’s Day approached I was excited to once again try to make my kid’s memories as special as my childhood ones but also filled with wistful dreams of streetlight hearts.  We gave the kids their gifts and cards this morning and faced the usual morning rush to get to school.  I left 15 minutes later than I wanted to but that was ok.  As I rounded a corner a couple blocks from my home I did a double take.  There on the streetlight was a red, hand painted, cardboard heart reading “Moose loves Moosette”  I took a deep breath and choked back the tears.  My Valentine fulfilled my childhood dream.  And it doesn’t matter that I’m not in Loveland this Valentine’s Day.  Home is where the heart is; and today I found that my heart could be home wherever I am because the love I carry from the people and places I have loved is always with me.
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Happy Valentine’s Day from New Mexico!

When Your Heart is in Loveland

My good friend Beth chose to share her response to the “Where Your Heart Is Challengeand I’m so tickled. Thanks for sharing the love!

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“Loveland, Colorado sure knows how to celebrate Valentine’s Day! I moved to Loveland just over a year ago and I’ve enjoyed experiencing all of the unique traditions the city has related to the holiday, including the ubiquitous hearts posted on street signs across town and of course all of the “love-themed” beers on tap at the breweries. But my favorite tradition is sending hand-written Valentines to my family through Loveland’s Valentine re-mailing program. I’ve made it a tradition to personally deliver my letters to the special red mailbox located at the downtown post office branch (appropriately called the “Valentine” branch!) where the letters are stamped with a special message from the Sweetheart City before being mailed.

The part that I find most beautiful about this tradition is the process and the time it requires. As I wrote each Valentine, I took a moment to think about the recipient and to appreciate how much joy and love they give me! Even as I walked over to the post office, my heart was full of love as I took the time to reflect on the various ways these people have shown me so much love over the past year. Life moves so fast and it’s easy to let “love” be just a passing thought or a common phrase that we add to our daily speech. For me, “love” becomes truly special when I slow down to appreciate, reflect on and share in sending the love.”

 

 

If you are interested in sharing your thoughts on love, or responding to the “Where Your Heart is Challenge”, send me an email at 52beautifulthings at gmail dot com. Accepting entries until 2.14.17