seeing

Yesterday we moved most of our summer things up to camp. The back of the truck was full of boxes, the baby boy full of rice and stew. The higher we climbed up Rampart Range, the higher the anxiety mounted in my own heart. We unpacked, stowing our favorite mugs in the cabinets, tucking away canned tuna and steel cut oats in a cupboard, setting bread and tortillas on top of the fridge.

With each thing I unpacked, the stark reality of our summer at camp took on form. I had known the fridge would be small as but I tucked kefir on the top shelf and then negotiated the almond milk behind it I wondered how I would work with this space. I knew there wasn’t a bookshelf but when I stowed my favorite books behind a charming little end table door, I wondered how I would survive in this literary desert. The windows, larger than I had remembered, were covered in window wells and my heart sank a little more. I had planned for Erik to share our room but when I put him down in the pack’n’play, still unhappy after a bottle of milk, I wondered how much more motherhood I could manage for the day.

2018-05-08 09.58.53 1.jpg

I saw the sun shining through a hedge a few days ago. The sidewalk was shadowy and dark but in the gap between the leaves the sun was bright and gold, all the more beautiful for having trickled through the leaves, maybe. And when the sun slips behind the dark-rising mountains in the evening, the colorful rays of evening shine out the more lovely for being ephemeral.

2018-05-08 09-1.57.41 1.jpg

2018-05-08 10.04.20 1.jpg

Perhaps that is the way with all beautiful things. I must learn to see them. The moments of glory in parenting will only shine the brighter when I am looking for them, when I have walked through the frustrations. The small closet, the narrow cupboards, the welled windows; these will all become worthwhile when I have looked for the ways that camp life is shot through with light. The same moment the sun sets, the stars begin to appear. When the challenges rise like the dusky mountains in the evening, the soft rays of joy may just become more beautiful.

Look for the light, my friends.

2018-05-08 10.04.33 1.jpg

let the earth touch you

It sounds stupid in my head to want to take a barefoot walk in the middle of a city neighborhood, but I do. My best friend and I used to do it together when I’d visit her in the city. Even now sometimes I can’t resist. I went out barefoot just a few weeks ago. I didn’t go much further than just around the block, but it still felt grounding somehow.

2017-08-21 12.27.28 1.jpg

The weekend after that walk I visited friends in northern California. We took a hike through a grove of giant redwood trees. The trail was flooded in places. We sidestepped over half-cracked branches to cross wide puddles, and leapt carefully from one muddy bank to another when the water filled the entire trail. I had forgotten how irritating and exhilarating it is to get your socks wet through your shoes and slide precariously on the slick earth.

The next day we visited Ridgewood Ranch, wandering in and out among the fenced and wooded pastures, following first the redwoods and then the creek. We stumbled upon a beautiful pasture pocked with cow patties, hoof-prints that had collected water, and an old zipline. In the spirit of adventure, we all took a turn on the zipline – racing down the hill and dragging our feet on the tussocked ground to slow ourselves before coming to the end of the cable.

My jeans were so dirty I had to turn them inside out to pack them in my suitcase that night. But I was glad, even then. It was satisfying to get so dirty for once. I often did as a kid, even as a teen. Lately I’ve been adapting to sanitary, suburban life, I suppose. Why is it so important to just be outside, in the woods, getting dirty? There is something so natural and free about not minding if your socks are a little wet, your jeans a little muddy. It is important to let the earth touch you, now and then. To remember where you live, how you live.

2016-10-26 07.11.49 1.jpg

It’s all making me more glad that we’ll be moving up to summer camp next month. I look forward to getting a little dirty, washing a little extra laundry, and getting a bit closer to the earth. Here’s to the the pebbles that get into our sandals, the puddles that soak through the mesh of our shoes, the wind that whips your hair across your eyes, into your laughing mouth. Here’s to being people familiar with the ground we walk on.

he dug down

When I was half-grown, my family got horses. I thought it would be cool. It turned out to be a lot of work. My dad roused our family one Saturday and told us it was time to fence in a pasture for our future horse. He had outlined the perimeter of it, he said. Now we had to fence it. We set out, loading our supplies onto the four-wheeler. One of us took the post-hole digger and started digging. Dad would measure, and tell us to dig deeper. Two of us came behind, one holding the post with thick work gloves while the other slammed a post-pounder down on the top of it, over and over. Behind them we came filling in the holes, snapping on the insulators, stringing the wire. It was a long day. When we finished we could scarcely even see the slim wire fence against the thick prairie grass. It was there, and effective, but practically invisible.

I read the parable of the builders today, in Luke 6. Jesus says of the first builder that “he dug down” and laid a foundation. It didn’t even take having a horse to know that I hate digging, and here’s God, saying you have to keep digging if you don’t want your life to fall over.

2018-03-31 11.10.31 1.jpg

“Do you really think these trees have been here for a thousand years?” Tiffany asked. Jon looked up. We all looked up. Standing there under the towering fragrant forest, we couldn’t doubt that they had seen a thousand years of sunrises, heard a thousand years of laughter. Their roots, I learned, grow up to 6 feet deep and nearly 100 feet out. The Redwoods are anchored for the centuries.

I spent about a year, maybe even more, digging through my crippling insecurity, trying to find the root of it, to dig that out too. You’ve got to dig down into yourself, but dig down into God too. It was only ever after I started with Him and His words as a foundation that I was able to dig up the crap I’d been standing on.

I’m trying to build this life-foundation strong, because I want to stand tall. Maybe it is hidden work, but even if nothing of the foundation shows, then at least the life-that-does-not-crumble will. Perhaps it will take hours at my kitchen table, reading and underlining and praying the scriptures. Maybe it will take years. Maybe it should take years. But perhaps if we stay where we are meant to be, if we dig down deep enough, then in a thousand years we will be as beautiful as this.

2018-03-31 11.18.30 1.jpg

counting

Songbirds are not as common in Colorado as they are in northern Minnesota. I miss them. Each time I hear one, I listen. I want to write it down, remember it. The songbird trills warm me gently like audible sunshine.

Last year I created the habit of cultivating gratitude. Each morning as often as I could I wrote down something I was thankful for. Anything, even simple things. A healthy meal. A quietly playing boy. Baby smiles, husband flirting, slow dancing, clean laundry, sunny days, snow on the mountains.

2018-03-19 08.59.20 1.jpg

I’ve gotten a bit out of the habit lately. This year I wanted to practice trying new things in courage, but I haven’t stuck to the gratitude as much, at least not to writing it down. But each time I hear birdsong, I still stop to listen.

My friend Mariah once gave me a tiny book Santa Claus on the cover. There was twine strung through a hole in one corner – it was meant to be a Christmas ornament. Instead I started writing down what I was grateful for; 1, 2, 3, … I skipped every other number to leave space for her. Then late in the winter I gave the book back.

“Here – it’s a gratitude journal for you!” She smiled and started writing; 2, 4, 6, … A few months later she gave it back.

“I originally gave it to you – I want you to have it!” she said gleefully. I read through her moments of gratitude and remembered my own. I kept writing. Later I gave her a small journal I had picked up in India. “I got us another,” I said eagerly, “Let’s keep writing!”

Journals have been going back and forth for almost four years now. We hunt down the sweetest, prettiest small notebooks and journals we can find for each other. One came to me at my bridal shower, a yellow leather book with loose-leaf pages on tiny five-ring binder. Another came with a baby package she sent us; this one a tiny journal with an adventuring compass on the front.

I get to see her in four days. I have a tiny notebook that didn’t quite have space for 600 numbers, half-full and waiting to memorialize her happiest moments. Time and again when I’ve forgotten this habit of counting, counting, that I learned first from Ann Voskamp, I suddenly remember Mariah and our shared tradition. It brings me back to rootedness. I plant myself in gratitude, listening eagerly to the few songbirds we do have, counting their trilled whistles slowly and happily.

2018-03-19 09.03.04 1.jpg

quality days

I’m sitting in the couch across from him and he says, “We should do something productive with our Fridays.” I think of the side jobs we could pick up and wonder if it will interfere with our slow coffee habits.

“Extra work? What do you mean?”

“I don’t think a side job would be a good investment of our time,” he responded. I looked at him, confused and a little irritated. Was I supposed to guess what vague thing he meant by “being productive”?

“We don’t really need extra money,” he explained, “I was thinking more like an adventure day.”

I relaxed, and then smiled, “So something exciting! Could we still maintain our slow mornings with coffee?” I have priorities.

IMG_20180304_093930_038.jpg

That is how we came to have a shared checklist on our phones with the title Quality Of Life Day condensed into the initialism “QOLD Fridays”. The list full of things we’ve always loved to do and rarely planned. Things we will remember when the Fridays have slid by, and the firsts-of-the-month, and then the anniversaries in their own soft and steady way.

Last week we hiked a trail to a place called Pancake Rocks. We ate lunch in the sunny shelter of a boulder, and scrambled about on the sloped formations that genuinely resembled stacked pancakes. On our way down in the late-afternoon shade, we pulled on our snowshoes despite a particular lack of adeptness, and tromped beside the trail, as gleeful as if we were the first to discover the magic of powdery, snowy mountainsides.

2018-03-03 02.13.48 1.jpg

2018-03-03 02.14.05 1.jpg

In The Fellowship of the Ring, Gandalf says to Frodo, “‘All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.'”

There are a lot of important things we do with our time, Grant and I. Parenting, working, discipleship, resting. Drinking coffee. I think these QOLD Fridays are wise; a beautiful way of imbuing our time with quality, and slowing down this spinning world for just a second.

IMG_20180308_083436_731.jpg