Tuesday, December 31, 2013

1000 gifts: finishing the December challenge

Four new nutcrackers to add to my collection
I succeeded in my December challenge to add thirty one blessings to my 1000 gifts list,  one for each day.  But then again, saying "I succeeded" is a misnomer; I believe it's God that opens my eyes to see his blessings...

756.  "This is My Wish": beautiful Christmas song by Jordan Sparks

757. All six of us snuggled up on the couch watching a movie

758. Compliments from an agent on my novel
The agent "passed" on my novel, but she did give it three very nice compliments! so I am not at all discouraged.

759.  Our souls are bigger...
Dreamer told me she believes our souls are much bigger than our bodies. How big? I asked her. As big as a barn! They have to squish down to fit inside of us. I loved this idea.

760. A horsey Christmas party
B.'s roping buddies had a Christmas party and then my English riding club also had a party with a white elephant gift exchange. Many horsey-themed gifts - I actually won a really nice horse blanket!

761. Gratitude changes everything
Something that struck my heart at my O.A. meeting today: "you can get a gift, but you only really receive a gift if you receive it with gratitude"

762. Christmas tree lights in  our church window
I always drive by our church on my way home, and I love seeing the lights of the church's giant Christmas tree shining through the windows at night.

763. Singing every night before bed
With all the busyness of the Christmas season, sometimes its hard for me to feel that special Christmas magic and wonder, but one thing that really recaptures it for me is taking time each night to sing Christmas carols. I sit in the hallway between the girls' rooms and sing a couple songs to them out of my "Forty Favorite Christmas Carols" book - I handcopied these carols into this notebook when I was 14, and illustrated some of the pages too. Now almost 30 years later, this old notebook has become a great treasure to me.

764. Unexpected help wrapping presents
I always leave most of my present wrapping until last thing on Christmas Eve after the kids are in bed. B. helped me for a while, then went to bed himself. I didn't mind; I had my favorite Christmas carols playing and a beautiful Christmas tree to enjoy. But then after a half hour B. came back down and helped some more, he said he just enjoyed the time with me

765.  Animals at the table for a Christmas tea party
Mom always gives the girls stuffed animals for one of their Christmas presents; this year she had the animals all arranged at the dining room table as if they were just waiting for the girls to join them for a Christmas tea party

766. The Platters' old songs
Not Christmas music at all, but what I loved most about this Christmas was that my Dad was so happy (since being housebound, he's been so depressed this past year). It's been forever since we played any of our old favorite albums, so I was delighted when he asked me to put some of our favorites on: The Way You Look Tonight (sung by Bing Crosby), and Smoke Gets in Your Eyes (the Platters).

767. A new Christmas bookstore tradition
Last year I so enjoyed spending a couple hours at the bookstore browsing and picking out three books for Christmas, which B. then bought for me - so I asked him if we could do the same thing this year for my Christmas present. Here's the books I picked this year (he also bought be a new camera for Christmas too!)

768. Christmas mugs
I love collecting mugs, and while Christmas shopping this year I found some mugs that I really liked, so I bought them and then gave them to Blaze and Dreamer to "give" to me as Christmas presents. I mean, it's not like they are old enough to go shopping themselves for mugs for me, right? I also "gave" myself  (via the twins) a fancy dark chocolate bar and a pack of notecards with a beautiful globe on the front of the cards (I love artistic maps and globes!)

769. Christmas calendars
My mom made a beautiful calendar for B. and I, and also B.'s parents (whom we are visiting now for a late Christmas, and New Year's Eve). Each month has pictures of the girls - some pictures I've never seen before and some older pictures I'd forgotten about! And another fun calendar she showed me was a collection of Norman Rockwell paintings, some of which I'd never seen before. This painting of Santa planning his route with a big map really tickled my fancy, since I'm a map-maker and all-around map lover.

770. Come Now Our King, song by Chris August
 Bethlehem turns in tonight
A town led up by candle light
All the children tuck in tight
Bethlehem turns in tonight

The angels start their whispering
About the one they're welcoming
No one knows what's soon to be
As the angels start their whispering

They sing glory
In the highest
Come now our King
We've been waiting
Come now our King

Silence falls
Yet once again
The shepherds leave for Bethlehem
Baby's cry soon welcomes them
Silence falls yet once again

Glory, Oh glory
You came here to save
Ooh Lord, we've been waiting so
Come now our King

Now my night has turned today
An empty manger, empty grave
Baby born so I could say
Now my night has turned today

Ooh, We sing glory in the highest
Come now our King, oh ooh
We've been waiting, waiting for you
Come now our king

 771. A Hallelujah Christmas, song by Cloverton
I've always loved the original song by Leonard Cohen, but when I heard this Christmas version of the song, my love soared to new heights.

I've heard about this baby boy
Who's come to earth to bring us joy
And I just want to sing this song to you
It goes like this, the fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
With every breath I'm singing Hallelujah

A couple came to Bethlehem
Expecting child, they searched the inn
To find a place for You were coming soon
There was no room for them to stay
So in a manger filled with hay
God's only Son was born, oh Hallelujah

The shepherds left their flocks by night
To see this baby wrapped in light
A host of angels led them all to You
It was just as the angels said
You'll find Him in a manger bed
Immanuel and Savior, Hallelujah

A star shown bright up in the east
To Bethlehem, the wise men three
Came many miles and journeyed long for You
And to the place at which You were
Their frankincense and gold and myrrh
They gave to You and cried out Hallelujah

I know You came to rescue me
This baby boy would grow to be
A man and one day die for me and you
My sins would drive the nails in You
That rugged cross was my cross, too
Still every breath You drew was Hallelujah

Monday, December 23, 2013

1000 gifts: December challenge

child-like wonder
I noticed during November this year that some friends were listing things they were thankful for on each day. Such a good idea! November is NaNoWriMo craziness for me (National Novel Writing Month), but I decided to try a list like this for December. In May this year I had a record month with my 1000 Gifts list, twenty one additions to my list. Why not try for thirty one in December? I would LOVE for God to open my eyes to see a blessing every day, it brings a deeper joy to the Christmas season.

741.   Stars' adventures in Europe (Nov 30)
My stepdaughter Stars has spent the last two months in Europe, and came home the day before Thanksgiving. She stayed with a friend in Germany, and did some hosteling to London, Paris, Amsterdam, and Austria while she was there. And this is what she brought home for me from London - two of my favorite things:  a mug from across the sea, and English tea!
And this was what she wrote me, on a postcard  from Austria:

742.   prayers for healing and Luke 18:10-13, a sinner's prayer (Dec. 1)

Thanksgiving with B's sister and her husband, discovered they are both believers and had some great conversations with them.  B asked if everyone could gather around his mom, lay hands on her and pray for healing, since her cancer continues to spread. Afterwards, she told us she has been praying the tax collector's humble prayer, "Lord  have mercy on me, a sinner."

743. Finishing my book and interest from agent (Dec. 2)
I used NaNoWriMo as motivation to finish my book this year; I didn't finish until today instead of November 30 but the main thing is, I FINISHED! I have a complete book! I wrote the rough draft last year and this whole year I've been re-writing it. Seeing it all finally come together, all the pieces finally in place - I can't describe the feeling of fulfillment. Just in time too because when I submitted my first page to an online contest, an agent requested that I send her my full manuscript.

744. Help with birthday preparations (Dec 3)
Having Blaze and Dreamer home instead of in school was really nice today as they helped me decorate the house for the twins' birthday and bake over 40 cupcakes (the one disadvantage of having twins in two separate classes).  I know it's a blessing too that the twins are 7 years old now, but I'm sad
they're not my babies anymore.

745. Fairy homes in Christmas ornaments (Dec 4)
We brought up our "early tree" today (we have a fake tree that we put upstairs which I call our "early tree" because it helps us get an early, easy start with our Christmas decorations, since I don't usually have time to get a real tree until later in the month).  Dreamer says that fairies like to live inside Christmas ornaments, which I thought was a brilliant idea (might write a story about that some day).

746. Our horses playing in the backyard (Dec 5)

747.  All nighter writing/editing (Dec 6)
Last round of edits to polish the book up to send to the agent - sometimes all nighters are fun!

748. Discovering old Christmas music, new to me (Dec 7)
Pat-a-Pan, O Magnum Mysterium, Bolero drummer boy at the Christmas festival and University symphony

749. Blaze found the perfect Christmas verse (Dec 8)
Was looking for a good verse to share in my Sunday school class, and Blaze found it for me: Matt 1:21  She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.

750. Dreamer says there's "One undiscovered place left in the world"  (Dec 9)
 "where's that?"  "the garden of Eden"

751. Neighborhood Christmas tree store (Dec 10)

752. Kitty paws under the door (Dec 11)

753.  Blaze's new friend (Dec 12)
Been praying for another friend for her, she's missed Hailee so much since her family moved away (we've missed her too!) but so happy about new friend Olivia

754. Santa's redneck brother on the radio (Dec 13)
Makes B smile - I love his smile

755.  Singing Christmas hymns at church and an old favorite: Be Thou My Vision (Dec 14)
Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art
Thou my best thought by day or by night
Waking or sleeping Thy presence my light

Be thou my wisdom and Thou my true word
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord
Thou my great Father, I, Thy true son
Thou in me dwelling and I with Thee one

Riches I heed not nor man's empty praise
Thou mine inheritance now and always
Thou and thou only first in my heart
High King of heaven my treasure Thou are

High King of heaven my victory won
May I reach heaven's joys, O bright heaven's Sun
Heart of my own heart whatever befall
Still be my vision O Ruler of all 

Saturday, November 30, 2013

1000 gifts: a sunset rainbow

Finally catching up on all the blessings add to my 1000 gifts list. I write these on my calendar, and then as I have a chance I type them up to share here with more details, as a record for my family and another offering of thanksgiving to God. These are my blessing for November, 2013. And something I forgot to add to this my original list; over a year later I remembered some special things from our Thanksgiving in Kansas, staying at my sister-in-law's house in Goddard, near Wichita.

One of the last things the girls were able to do with Grandma B. before the cancer got too painful for her was making bead jewelry. Aunt Melissa and Aunt Crystal set up all their bead boxes and supplies, and Joy brought her set as well, and we all spent a couple afternoons with the girls helping them make necklaces, bracelets and earrings. (I made a set of earrings and a necklace, too). Then, after Thanksgiving when we were getting ready to leave, another surprise: Aunt Melissa gave Blaze her a jewelry making set, complete with tools and three large boxes of assorted beads - at least 100 different kinds of bead sets and separators and charms and jewels. And Aunt Crystal gave all four girls beautiful wooden jewelry boxes. But most precious of all was that time with Grandma B and our family.

723. Dreamer's "sunset rainbow"
Our living room has three full length windows facing west with a view of the Laramie valley and Snowy Range mountains in the distance - perfect place to view our magnificent Wyoming sunsets. One night Dreamer and I were looking at such a vibrant sunset that Dreamer said it was like a "sunset rainbow."  The term was intriguing that I googled it, and did indeed find sunsets with nearly rainbow colors. But can a setting sun create a rainbow?  I did find a couple intriguing photos, like this one:

724. Pretty face paint
This was actually in October for Halloween, but better late than never!

725. Blaze made her own pilgrim costume

726. The words finally flowing again
I had a slow start with NaNoWriMo - didn't start until day 4. (Homeschool is crazy time-consuming). Then words finally began to flow... felt so good to finally have the story come alive again to me.

727. First page accepted to Baker's Dozen contest
I debated about entering this writing contest because even though you only submit your first page, it requires a complete manuscript because it showcases finished projects to agents; and my plan was to finish my science fiction manuscript for NaNoWriMo this year (only had 5 chapters left, but still!) The deadline was November 7, and I decided if I could get 5000 words written by then, I would be close enough to done. I made my deadline and submitted and was one of 30 young adult manuscripts selected for the showcase to 13 agents!

728. Encouragement to continue home schooling 

Blaze has been acting depressed and listless and says she misses school. Called up my homeschooling friend K.A. and got lots of encouragement and reasons to continue homeschooling.

729. Started a Bible timeline poster for home school
I wanted a really BIG timeline, it stretches the entire length of our hallway and we have plenty of room to add pictures and notes and even play search & find games on it

730. Reading the Silver Chair to the girls out loud
More than any of the other books in the Chronicles of Narnia we've read so far, this one mirrors so many Scriptural principles, in almost every scene. I had forgotten all about the Bism, the deep world with living jewels. And what happened to King Caspian in Aslan's country (heaven).

731. One lone tree still has its golden leaves
I've walked past this tree hundreds of times on my way to work, but I never noticed it before because it's hidden behind a clump of dark evergreens. But one evening a shaft of the setting sun struck it and "set it on fire" and I realized it still had all its golden leaves, weeks after all the other trees had lost theirs

732. Cowboy church and devotionals
B. and Blaze went to Cowboy church at the Billings horse sale, and they were giving away free Bibles and devotionals. B. has been reading the devotional almost every night and sharing parts of it with me. It's called God Wants You To Win! Vol. II by Jeff Copenhaver (I'm going to need a whole separate post to talk about this, the title at first set off warning bells and I was afraid this was a "health and wealth gospel" kind of book, but it's not)

733. Having a nice van again
I drive a 2006 Chevy Uplander and I absolutely love it (never thought I would like a mini van, but miracles happen). Only bad thing about it is I hit a post backing up a few years ago, and have a bad dent in the tail gate. But B. found a new lift gate for it at a junkyard - same color and everything. Only thing the gate was from a Buick Terraza, so my van has a mixed identity now!

734. Tiropetas
I made these little Greek pastries for Mom and Dad's 49th anniversary... haven't made them in years but one of my favorites growing up along with spanakopita

735. "My mom's my best friend"
Dreamer told me about a teen on Disney channel that said "my mom's my best friend, I don't care if other teens think that's lame." She said she always wanted to be like that, too

736. Jeremiah 31:21 
"Set up road signs; put up guidepoists. Take notes the highway, the road that you take" for when Israel will return from the land of the enemy. When we are going through a tough time, we should set up signs and guides (sort like stones of remembrance) because the Lord will bring us back to the good places again.

737. Rediscovering Jeremiah 31:3 
"I have loved you with everlasting love; I have drawn you with lovingkindness" I had forgotten about this neat verse until I saw it again recently; years ago I read C.S Lewis' interpretation in one of his books (wish I could remember which one): of the master sculptor who will not finish chipping away at his masterpiece until it is perfected, a different drawing us in lovingkindness

738. Proverb 4:1, gleams of light
"The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day."  From  Jesus Lives p 124 "Sorrow (or troubles) shared with Me are permeated with brilliant glitters of joy, like numerous Christmas lights sparkling in the darkness"

739.  My 20th spiritual anniversary 
Twenty years ago, God showed me he was real and I believed Jesus died for me. What a journey it's been! There is no greater adventure than following Jesus. I've written more about my 20th anniversary here.

740. Revelation Song (Kari Jobe)

Worthy is the, Lamb who was slain
Holy, Holy, is He
Sing a new song, to him who sits on
Heaven's mercy seat

Holy, Holy, Holy
Is the Lord God Almighty
Who was, and is, and is to come
With all creation I sing
Praise to the King of Kings
You are my everything
And I will adore You

Clothed in rainbows, of living color
Flashes of lightning, rolls of thunder
Blessing and honor, strength and glory and power be
to You the only wise King

Holy, Holy, Holy
Is the Lord God Almighty
Who was, and is, and is to come
With all creation I sing
Praise to the King of Kings
You are my everything
And I will adore You

Filled with wonder, awestruck wonder
At the mention of your name
Jesus your name is power
Breath, and living water
Such a marvelous mystery

Holy, Holy, Holy
Is the Lord God Almighty
Who was, and is, and is to come, yeah
With all creation I sing
Praise to the King of Kings
You are my everything
And I will adore You

Saturday, November 23, 2013

My Spiritual 20th Year Anniversary

Twenty years ago, sometime on or around November 16, 1993, I challenged God to prove himself to me, because without proof I could not believe in him. And he took my challenge.

His infinite glory dwelling inside me

He proved himself to me in Job 38:1-7, through the Bible, which I thought was just a bunch of dusty old sayings and bizarre stories.  But those verses touched something deep down in my soul, and I came out of the experience surprised, a little shaken, and very awed.

Twenty years later... what a journey it's been!  A wonderful journey, full of adventure but also some dark and scary places, but I know God was with me through every shadowy valley, and every high and beautiful place.

I want to celebrate some way, but I'm not sure how. other than I know I want to express my thankfulness and joy. How does one celebrate a spiritual anniversary? I could invite my friends and family to a party, but I'm not a party kind of girl. I'm a write-a-story kind of girl. I've been sharing my story here on this blog for the past six years, and it's my way of celebrating my life and my spiritual journey.

Here's what I found on Beth Moore's blog today, My Soul Knows, and it struck me as just the sort of thing I want to talk about on my 20th anniversary of becoming a redeemed daughter of God, sister of Christ.

I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    Marvelous are Your works,
    And that my soul knows very well.
     Psalm 139:14 NKJV

It’s the last line that I love so much. Life is hard and all our unanswered questions and unsolvable mysteries can make us feel like we’re getting sucked further and further into a black hole. We can come to the conclusion that there is really very little that we can know and, for the most part, we earthlings are victims of gravity, the soles of our feet stuck to the dirt and growing more callous by the day....
My challenge to you in the midst of all our questions is to behold what we each – individually, not corporately – really do know all the way into the dark folds of our souls. Here’s the 2-part assignment:

1. Complete this sentence: Right now I don’t have any idea… (pick only one thing, the thing that you find most confusing right now or most removed from your knowledgeable reach).

2. But these things my soul knows very well: (Write 5 things you know – really, really know – even in the black of night, even when you don’t feel well, even amid your thousands of other questions.)

So here's my answers:

One thing I don't know, that kind of bothers me:

I don't know if I'm in sin because I still struggle to tell other people about Jesus. If they are interested, oh yes, then I love to share; but if they are annoyed because I'm pushing my beliefs on them, then I don't want to share. Is that selfish? Cowardly? I don't know. I respect other people's beliefs and don't want to trample them. Does it disappoint my God? I don't know. I've been talking to God about it, but so far he hasn't answered me.

But these things I know very well, with all my heart:

1. I know God is real and that he loves me. Yes, every once in a while I wonder if I'm delusional, or maybe brainwashed. But I keep coming back to this: God and His Word are the most amazing and precious things to me. I have come to know him more and more over these past twenty years, and I am thankful for every minute. The relationship continues to grow. He continues to shows me new insights that fill me with wonder.

2. I know I can absolutely trust God. He is absolutely sovereign and in control; he works all things for the good of those that love him and are called according to his purpose. He allows bad things to happen to us for reasons we can't fully comprehend, but the story of Job has shown me again and again that it is ALL WORTH IT.

3. I know that on my own, I am powerless. My head can twist itself up in dangerous thinking, that will lead to isolation, depression, over-eating, and self-loathing, and hurting my loved ones.  I have found freedom in admitting my weakness. Glorious freedom.

4. I know that Heaven is REAL and I can't wait to get there. I know this earth is broken and running down, but I know God will create something new and wonderful and free of darkness, and we will get to explore it for all eternity.

5. I know that I am made in the image of God, and that he has endowed me - and every human being - with a soul that is precious, no matter how dirty or broken it may have become. He has put a little of himself in each of us, and gifted us with amazing creativity. He delights in creation, and he has given us that delight, also.

A life spent following Jesus isn't easy. But the best things aren't produced by "easy" ways. These twenty years have been full... and fulfilled. My life has not been wasted. I am so thankful. 

If you have found this page by some odd chance, take a moment to celebrate with me by leaving a comment, please! Share with me: what do you know, from the deepest part of your soul?

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

1000 gifts: waterfall tour

High Falls, Dupont State park, N.C.
Finally catching up on all the blessings add to my 1000 gifts list. I write these on my calendar, and then as I have a chance I type them up to share here with more details, as a record for my family and another offering of thanksgiving to God. My favorite part of October was getting to meet up with an old friend in South Carolina, and getting to go on an amazing waterfall tour in the Blue Ridge mountains!

707. High Falls, crown of the Blue Ridge mountains waterfall tour
This tour was put together by the NACIS (mapping/cartography) conference I went to in Greenville, South Carolina. We got to see Triple Falls,  Gorges State Park,  and High Falls - this was the "crown" of the tour for me, because ever since I saw the movie Last of the Mohicans (1990's version with Daniel Day Lewis) I have wondered where this beautiful waterfall was! We also had an amazing barbeque lunch in the little mountain town of Brevard, NC (highly recommend the ginger barbeque at Mayberry's - I wish they'd sell their sauce online!)

708. Reedy River Falls
Another beautiful falls right in downtown Greenville, with a trail alongside and gardens

709. "I wish this night would never end" 
 What my friend of 25+ years, Melissa, said during our lovely evening strolling through downtown Greenville and dinner at the New South Cafe. We may only see each other once every few years, but it's just like old times when we do.

710. Sighting a "glory" 
Got an amazing view of downtown Chicago as my plane flew in over Lake Michigan. Also saw circular rainbow "following" the plane and later looked it up and discovered it's called a glory. There are so many amazing light and atmospheric effects in God's creation!

711. B. did Bible study with the girls while I was gone

712. Found between cushions in my sofa
A slip of paper on which I had written:  "You are but a poor soldier to Christ if you think you can overcome without fighting, and suppose you can have the crown without conflict." -  John Chyrsostom (no idea when I wrote this, but it was nice to rediscover it!)

713. A map of your very own country
Dreamer drew me a "map of my own country" - a fairly decent outline of the US with additions like lizardtopia and a horse state.

714. D.L. Moody quote
We can stand affliction better than we can prosperity, for in prosperity we forget God - Dwight Moody

715. Giselle
Every year my mom, my girls and I go to the Colorado Ballet in Denver. This year's production was Giselle, a story that has haunted me (slight play on words, the ballet is about dancing ghosts!) since I first saw it about age 6 or 7 with my mother. Here's Blaze and Dreamer dressed up for the ballet (we'll take the twins next year when they are 7). Only sad thing: Mom didn't feel up to going with us this year.

716. Goodwill clothes
Because I love paying $4 for designer jeans for me and Blaze. 

717. "it's like holding God's hands"
B and the girls and I took our annual Fall color drive to Aspen Alley this year, in Sierra Madre mountains of Wyoming. The fall colors were mostly dull this year, but on a short hike along the Encampment river Blaze collected beautiful rocks. When I said isn't it neat how God created each and everyone she said "it's like holding God's hands"

718. The ultimate group of map geeks
The NACIS conference for cartographers in Greenville, South Carolina was the best conference I've ever been too. Full of map geeks and map lovers! Amazing map gallery. Every time someone presented a pretty map or a special map technique the whole room would exclaim "Oooh Aaah! Nice!" (its a tradition). My favorite map was the "backwards map" created by Newton and Helen Mayer Harrison to show how Holland would look in the future if development does not protect its "green heart". Imaginative and thought-provoking cartography!

719. Green leaves and snow
Like I said, we haven't had much fall color this year; for some odd reason the leaves have stayed green much longer than normal, then turned straight to brown. But it create a striking effect of snow on green leaves. 

720. songbird out my window
Would dearly love to know what type of lovely song bird sings so beautifully outside my office window in the University of Wyoming's Prexy's Pasture (our central green area). 

721. Ten truths for the teenage girl
This lovely post was written by a woman looking back on what she wished her 13-year-old self knew: "The choices you make affect who you are becoming long before you ever get to college.
You are always becoming. You never arrive. That is, until you meet Jesus face to face"

722. "Lord I Need You" (adapted by Matt Maher)
Lord, I come, I confess
Bowing here I find my rest
Without You I fall apart
You're the One that guides my heart

Lord, I need You, oh, I need You
Every hour I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You

Where sin runs deep Your grace is more
Where grace is found is where You are
And where You are, Lord, I am free
Holiness is Christ in me

Lord, I need You, oh, I need You
Every hour I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You

Teach my song to rise to You
When temptation comes my way
And when I cannot stand I'll fall on You
Jesus, You're my hope and stay

Lord, I need You, oh, I need You
Every hour I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You

You're my one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Finding roses and stones

Last month our church had another ladies' conference at a lodge up in the beautiful Snowy Range mountains, right when the aspen were starting to turn gold. We had an invited speaker, Cathy McIntosh, author of the book Joy In the Journey we've been studying this fall.

She taught us about finding ROSEs that God gives us: Remember, Open, Serve, Establish

1) Remember God's character - David confronted Goliath with God's character: I Samuel 17:45 David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands

2) Open your eyes to the unseen - 2 King 6: 16-18 When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?” the servant asked. “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

3) Serve Him - David served God by going out to fight the Philistine

4) Establish memorial stones - David remembered how God had delivered him from the lion and the bear, and helped him kill them to defend his flock of sheep.
Joshua 4:20-24:  Joshua set up at Gilgal the twelve stones they had taken out of the Jordan. He said to the Israelites, “In the future when your descendants ask their parents, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ For the Lord your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The Lord your God did to the Jordan what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over. He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God.”

Then we were challenged to think of the times in our lives when God's hand was visible. When did you experience something that you know only God could have accomplished? And then think of a way you can establish a memorial stone for each instance. I came up with seven events where God showed Himself to me (there are others, too, but these are the ones that rocked my world).

1) November 1993, almost 20 years ago, when I challenged God and He showed me He was real. Job 38:1-7.

2) April 1999, when I asked God if it was his will for me to marry B. I was afraid because B. was divorced and had a four year old daughter. God answered me with Psalm 34:4 "I sought the Lord and He answered me, He delievered me from all my fears."

3) September 2006, when I found out I was having twins - twin girls, no less (a total of 4 girls, no boys!) I was discouraged and overwhelmed, but after praying, God showed me a quadruple rainbow (technically a supernumerary rainbow) and I knew it was His answer and His promise and I knew these twin girls would be a gift and a treasure from Him beyond what I could possibly imagine. Genesis 9:16 "Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth."

4) Fall 2011 - Insight after a particularly bad season of depression. A new way to look at an old favorite verse, Isaish 40:31.

5) September 2012 - I have no willpower of my own. "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. ~2 Corinthians 12:9

6) April 2013 - We see Him more clearly, closely, beautifully, in our hardest trials. Job 42:1-5.

7) August 2013  - How God shared my testimony. Job 38:1-7 (again)

So I've been thinking about how to make "memorial stones" for each of these, something I could keep in the house or yard that would be distinctive, that my kids (and even visitors) might ask, what do these mean? I'm not a making-crafts person at all; the last "craft" project I attempted was a felt Advent calender that turned out kind of hokey (though the kids and I still use it every December). 

I would love to find some smooth river stones that I could paint the dates and verses on, but this time of year isn't the best for going out looking for river stones. So in the meantime, I bought a frame that fits eight pictures, and I'm looking for some family pictures that fit each of these memorials from God and I'll photoshop the verses on them, then superglue some small polished rocks from a souvenir store to the frames. Hopefully will have a picture of the finished project forth coming.

Monday, September 30, 2013

One month into homeschooling

In November last year, I felt I got a direct nudge (even a bit of lecture) from God about how He wanted me to home-school. I've been talking about it for years, and my oldest daughter is already 12, and starting 6th grade this fall. She was required to switch schools this year (as her grade school only goes through 5th grade), so it seemed like a good time to start. Besides that, I knew God wanted me to try this.  It's been just amazing to see how since that first big nudge he gave me last November, He's taken me on this twisty path (including an offer of a full time job, and then that same job being given to someone else), finally bringing me here to home schooling.

I knew it would be a hard adjustment for all of us. I was warned there would be many days I'd want to quit, the girls would want to quit, even my husband might want me to quit.

Oh, so true! And I had no idea just how exhausting and consuming home-school would be, even with just my two older girls (Blaze, 12 and Dreamer, 9 - their screen names).  My six year old twins are still going to public school.

But I also knew there would be blessings. Oh, so true! 

For the first three weeks we pretty much had this pattern: a bad day where Blaze complained and whined, but Dreamer was willing; then the next day where Blaze was okay but Dreamer got frustrated with something and would cry. There's been many days where I felt stymied at every turn and would finally just sit at the table with the girls silently praying - God, you need to intervene here. I'm completely stuck. 

Mixed in with this mess of whining, balking and crying have been some beautiful moments. Excitement about learning. Good discussions. Wonderful surprises.

And by the fourth week, I was really starting to see some overall improvement - the girls and I gradually getting adjusted to the new routine. Less whining, less tears. Recognizing when something was going to switch from frustrating to a real fretting, and being able to switch to another task before hitting the meltdown point.

This is a huge adventure we are on together and despite the hard times, I love it!

Here are some of things I've learned on this first month our adventure together.

1) You never know when something is going spark interest
  I was going over the discussion questions after Blaze's required reading, which was a short story called Three Copper Pennies. The conclusion of this story was "true happiness is found from within, not in things or wishes coming true."  I challenged Blaze to think about what the Bible says true happiness comes from.  I shared how  I'm currently learning in my Bible study, one of the things that brings us joy is thankfulness. Suddenly Blaze got all excited and told me about a book she'd read last year, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. Thrilled to see her excited about something, I let her tell me the whole plot of the story... it took some time. But hey, she's excited about this, so I tried not to let the itch to get back to the curriculum make me rush her through her story. A king is searching for true happiness in this story, and he sees a poor peasant that has happiness and asks him what the secret is... the peasant gives him a paper with the answer but the paper's blown away... much more happens that I don't remember but finally the King discovers what was written on the paper was thankfulness, thankfulness, thankfulness...

2) I have to be flexible with what I plan to accomplish, because when something sparks my girls' interest (like above), I need to let them run with it for a while, even if it gets "off schedule".  That's the beauty about home school, we can take unexpected detours, where as in tightly scheduled regular school you can't take these exciting detours.

3) It's really easy to get behind schedule. Especially with the K12 curriculum I chose. I picked this path because I wanted all the free support, including a teacher, you get with this program. The program does allow some flexibility, but not as much as I'd like. It's very much a public school program very focused on testing.  Next semester I may try to switch to a Christian curriculum but initially I was too overwhelmed by all the choices with Christian curriculums... and their prices.

4) It's tempting to skip starting off in the Word and in Bible study, because I look at everything we need to accomplish at school (and stuff I also need to accomplish with my part time job) and I think we just don't have time for anything "extra".  But being in the Word is not "extra." I have to keep reminding myself that... and the time we give God, He can give back to us.

5) It's really hard to prepare for things ahead of time, but it actually saves me time if I do some planning.

6) Mondays are especially hard starting back to school after the freedom of the weekend.

7) Sometimes it's okay to start the day in bed. Seriously. I'll get Blaze and Dreamer to crawl in my big bed with me as we start Bible study. Or sometimes I'll bring their materials to them in their beds if they really want that.

8) It helps to include uplifting music when our spirits are down... or when we're sluggish in the morning. My current go-to song is Lord, I Need You, Matt Maher's version.

9) Home school often means a messy house. Stuff everywhere. Sand on the floor (science experiment). It doesn't have to get cleaned up immediately... And the occasional misplaced book will eventually get found.

10) I love how being involved in my kids' learning allow me to point things out we've learned through out the day, not just when it's official school time. Like the night we were watching PBS' Nature at Grandma and Grandpa's and they showed lines of latitude and longitude on the globe and I pointed it out and the girls remembered which lines were lat and which were longs. Or when we went up to Vedauwoo for a "field trip" and I could point out (and they were interested in) signs of weathering and erosion that we'd learned about in science.

And here are some of the blessings and fun moments I've had with the girls. These will eventually get numbered with my 1000 gifts, but I'm so far behind getting all my gifts from this summer typed up!

688. Advice for teaching resistant learners. 
A list of links N.L.W. sent me about suggestions for kids that are resistant to home schooling (like Blaze was, initially). The timing of her sharing these links with me was perfect because I was so discouraged, but reading these gave me hope and determination again.


689.  My kids starting their own gift lists.
They started making their lists on the tablet. One day I checked the lists, and discovered both had added things to them without me reminding them.

690. My kids starting a goals list, too. 
Blaze came up with the idea of in addition to her gifts list, starting a goals list. I'm so proud of the goals she picked! I'd love to share them but I better check with her first.

691. Compiled all my bible study resources and found some great ideas to do with the girls
Including sharing our family tree and talking about one of my favorite ancestors, my great-great-grandmother Mary Letitia Richey and the difficulties she faced in her life... and tying this into Jesus' family tree, how Ruth and Rahab were part of his lineage and the trials they faced that grew their faith. So many more ideas too.

692. Dreamer's cheerful way of saying "Sure!" when I ask her to do something. 
She struggles sometimes with all the changes, but she is always willing to try. When she's having a good day she'll say "I'm so glad I'm not having a struggling day."

693. Tying lessons to maps (I love maps!) 
One thing I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE about the K12 curriculum is almost every lesson seems to tie into a map. They're constantly making us use maps, asking us where things are, and since I'm a geographer and a map-maker, I LOVE it and I think the girls like it, too. Blaze blew me away one day when she wanted to use Google maps to find something that we weren't even asked to find, and then she showed me how you can get to Streetmap from Google Maps, and we ended up wasting an hour (but what a great waste) using StreetMap to travel down a real road in Kentucky to the opening of Mammoth Cave... and later we used it to "drive by" my old house where I grew up in Buffalo, New York.

694. Getting to share some of things from my own gifts list with the girls
Things they've done or we've done together that I was thankful for - going back 4 years ago. Also I shared with them a neat thing I just learned from the book, A Thousand Gifts: when Jesus took the five loaves and two fishes, he gave thanks and then there was enough bread for everyone. The miracle occurred when he gave thanks.

695. Fun doing our first science experiment together. 
A couple cups of sand, pipecleaners, toothpicks and craft sticks, and a hair blow dryer (testing different methods of stabilizing sand dunes to prevent the spread of deserts into arable land). Blaze loves hands on things like this! It was interesting even for me to see which method worked best and then making a graph comparing results. Made remember why I fell in love science and wanted a career in it, so so many years ago.

September gifts: prayer retreat and pillar of fire

Finally catching up on all the blessings add to my 1000 gifts list. I write these on my calendar, and then as I have a chance I type them up to share here with more details, as a record for my family and another offering of thanksgiving to God.  

696. Fire tornadoes, real pillars of fire
I had never heard of these before! But they are real! Absolutely amazes me the wild things in God's creation They are also called fire whirls. (This is a picture from the web. As neat as these are, I'm not sure I'd want to see one in real life!)

697. Tubing on the Missouri
We almost always get to go tubing when we visit Grandma and Grandpa B's, this time over Labor Day. Blaze and Dreamer are getting quite good at it, Uncle R. had to really bounce them hard over the wake to finally toss them off! I even tried it - what a rush! 

698. Don't color too hard, you'll break your color bone
Starlet tripped over a toy in the yard and cracked her collar bone enough that she had to wear a sling for a few weeks. She mispronounced "collar" once, prompting Uncle T, who is a terrible tease, to ask her if she broke her color bone by coloring too hard.

699.  "What are those humans doing over there?"
One of the adorably odd things about Serious is the way she refers to people as humans all the time. When I ask what she's drawing, she often saws, "I'm drawing humans." Or she'll ask "what are those humans doing over there?"

700. virtual 3D cave
 I got to see a demonstration of the University of Wyoming's new virtual three dimensional "cave" and it was so amazing! You could walk right inside of a spinning virtual globe; jump from the top of a virtual building to the ground; and see the inside of a 3-d representation of a living brain.

701. lizard usb
At our local GIS conference this year I won a lizard usb (flash drive in the shape of a lizard!) After horses, lizards are my favorite animal, and I collect little plastic toy lizards, so this was a fun addition to the collection. 

702. Unexpected agent compliment
After an agent requested the first 100 pages of my young adult book, she did "pass on it" but she took the time to compliment some things about my book, which I am told is a very good sign, as in, "this isn't the right fit for me, but it's good writing"

The next four are from the prayer retreat held by our church at the Snowy Range Lodge up in the mountains.

703. Honey gold of sun shining in on polished logs in lodge

704. Bible jeopardy
The perfect game for this Bible geek!

705. Silent prayer with friends 
Joining other women by the wood stove in the lodge to read the Word and pray on our own and in silent companionship. Normally I would expect women to gravitate to the other more social options at the retreat (or give into the temptation to talk) but I found it so encouraging to be with this quiet group. I prayed through Psalm 40.

706.  All Creatures of Our God and King
I love Fernando Ortega's version of this song. Actually I love any version!

All creatures of our God and King,
    lift up your voice and with us sing,
    O praise ye!  Alleluia!
    O brother sun with golden beam,
    O sister moon with silver gleam!
    O praise ye!  O praise ye!
    Alleluia!  Alleluia!  Alleluia!

O brother wind, air, clouds, and rain,
    by which all creatures ye sustain,
    O praise ye!  Alleluia!
    Thou rising morn, in praise rejoice,
    ye lights of evening, find a voice!
    O praise ye!  O praise ye!
    Alleluia!  Alleluia!  Alleluia!

O sister water, flowing clear,
    make music for thy Lord to hear,
    Alleluia!  Alleluia!
    O brother fire who lights the night,
    providing warmth, enhancing sight,
    O praise ye!  O praise ye!
    Alleluia!  Alleluia!  Alleluia!

All ye who are of tender heart,
    forgiving others, take your part,
    O praise ye!  Alleluia!
    Ye who long pain and sorrow bear,
    praise God and on him cast your care!
    O praise ye!  O praise ye!
    Alleluia!  Alleluia!  Alleluia!

 Let all things their Creator bless,
    and worship him in humbleness,
    O praise ye!  Alleluia!
    Praise, praise the Father, praise the Son,
    and praise the Spirit, Three in One!
    O praise ye!  O praise ye!
    Alleluia!  Alleluia!  Alleluia!

Friday, August 30, 2013

August gifts: planting trees

Finally catching up on all the summer gifts to add to my 1000 gifts list. 
677. Planting trees
N.L. told me, "people who plant trees mean to stay" - AMEN. I love my home and I hope to stay here until these tiny trees are tall. Till my girls are tall, too, though already they are too tall since they don't look very small in this big hole!

678. Swimming with horses
I posted pictures of this last year, and I probably will again next year, but it was so much fun to see Blaze coaxing her horse Spring into the lake to try to get her to swim. She actually did get her to swim - for a second - before Spring hightailed it back to shore! Also we had some friends join us in the horse swimming adventure this year.

679. Holding history
Visited University of Wyoming's special collections and got to hold an original 1867 hand drawn map of Ft. Laramie, just purchased for $16,000!

680. Kids making blanket forts
It's amazing how inventive they can get with just a few pillows, baskets and blankets

681. morning prayer group & prayer walking
Proof I'm becoming a morning person (never thought I'd say that!) - I actually love going to a 6:30 am prayer group. Also discovered how much I love to prayer walk. Prayed while walking around the twins' school and around the building where my husband is working

682. My story's first 20 pages placing in a contest
I didn't win, but I did place in the top 5, and one of my judges wrote "If this book was available for purchase, I would buy it in a nanosecond."

683. First week of homeschooling
I'm still amazed that God finally brought me the place where I am actually homeschooling two of my girls, instead of talking about wanting to do it, as I've been talking about for years.

684.  Being prepared for a hard transition
I knew transitioning from regular school to homeschool would be hard. I've had several homeschool parents tell me: you will feel like giving up. Don't!  I'm so thankful they prepared me. So far I've had two very hard days, where there was a constant whisper in my head: my one daughter doesn't want to do this. I'll never have the patience and grace for this. This is just too hard. But I also had two days where I got into great discussions with my girls, when one of them said, "I'm so glad you're homeschooling me", and the other one said "I don't like Bible study but this isn't so bad because you let me talk" ...then I knew that though this would be really hard, I could do this with God's strength.

685.  Our God name
At church, Pastor taught that when we get to heaven, we will hear God's own name for us (just as God gave Simon His own name, Peter). "I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it." Revelation 2:7.  Makes me long for heaven even more, to know God's name for me.

686. Haybale bigger than the truck it's in
Can't believe my husband didn't get pulled over for driving around like this!

687.  "Kings and Queens" by Audio Adrenaline
Little hands, shoeless feet, lonely eyes looking back at me
Will we leave behind the innocent too brief
On their own, on the run when their lives have only begun
These could be our daughters and our sons
And just like a drum I can hear their hearts beating
I know my God won’t let them be defeated
Every child has a dream to belong and be loved

Boys become kings, girls will be queens
Wrapped in Your majesty
When we love, when we love the least of these
Then they will be brave and free
Shout your name in victory
When we love when we love the least of these
When we love the least of these

Break our hearts once again
Help us to remember when
We were only children hoping for a friend
Won’t you look around these are the lives that the world has forgotten
Waiting for doors of our hearts and our homes to open

If not us who will be like Jesus
To the least of these
If not us tell me who will be like Jesus
Like Jesus to the least of these

Boys become kings, girls will be queens
Wrapped in your majesty
When we love, when we love the least of these
Then they will be brave and free shout your name in victory
We will love we will love the least of these

How God shared my testimony

I had such a HUGE gift/blessing last week that I can't wait to post it in one of my 1000 gifts posts, but I have to share it right now. 

My parents and I love the 1980's mini-series based on Herman Wouk's book Winds of War. Mom bought the DVD set for Christmas and we watched it and when it was over we all wished there was more. I knew Wouk had a sequel to the book, so I looked it up and sure enough there was another mini-series (with some different actors) on the sequel, War and Remembrance. I finally ordered it from the library and started watching it with my Dad a few weekends ago while my Mom was away in Ohio for her family reunion.

That weekend I had lots of time to spend with my Dad and God really pushed me to share the Word with him as it's been several years since I've tried sharing anything with him, because he's so resistant. But I kept putting it off and the whole weekend passed and I never said anything.

So the next weekend comes around and Mom's back and all three of us watch the next episode of War and Remembrance. One of the main characters is Aaron Jastrow, an American Jew who had lived most of his life in his ivory academic tower and was never serious about his heritage, until he ended up in a concentration camp during WWII. Being persecuted for being a Jew, for the first time he embraced his faith. In one long scene, he shared a message from the book of Job to other Jews in the camp, on why God allows such senseless evil and suffering like what they were going through.

The actor actually quoted Job 38: 1-8, the VERY SAME verses that God answered me with, when I challenged whether He was real or not, back in 1993 when I was still agnostic but searching for the truth.

It's as if God was saying to me: "if you are not brave enough to share your testimony and speak My Word, then I WILL DO IT FOR YOU!"

I knew I could not remain silent anymore. I told B. and the kids what had happened, about how my parents got to hear not only verses from the Bible, but also an amazing sermon about one of the most amazing and powerful speeches God has ever spoken to man, and verses that have more personal meaning to me than any other verses in the Bible.  Blaze and Dreamer got excited about sharing their testimonies, too.

The next day I told asked my parents if I could share something important to me, with them, and I re-read those verses:

Then out of the storm the Lord spoke to Job:
Who are you to question my wisdom with your empty words?
Now stand up straight and answer the questions I ask you.
Where you when I made the world?
If you know  so much, tell me about it.
Who decided how large it would be?
Who stretched the measuring line over it?
Do you know all the answers?
What holds up the pillars that support the earth?
Who laid the cornerstone of the world?
In the dawn of that day the stars sang together
And the heavenly beings shouted for joy.

I was able to talk for at least 20 minutes about my story leading up to this moment when I read these verses and how they rocked my world, and how even now nearly 20 years later they still rock my world. Through all of this they listened - my mom is always polite but this time she seemed genuinely interested, and my Dad usually gets a stony, angry  expression and refuses to look at me, but he didn't this time. He didn't say anything for  a long time, but I kept silently praying that he would say something, that he would be stirred/drawn by God through my testimony.

When he finally did speak, he mentioned some people from his long ago past that turned him off with their brand of Christianity, things that he's still bitter about, so that was unfortunate, but when I left and said goodbye I thanked him for listening to me and told him I loved him, and he said "I love you" back, which is very, very, VERY rare for him to say that... so I was able to leave feeling hopeful. And especially so about my mother. I know it's been a huge trial for her, taking care of my father as Parkinson's disease has made him so dependent on her, and it has brought her to her knees a couple times... she knows she needs prayer, she needs God (though I keep praying that she would get into the Word and realize what comfort and encouragement can be found there on a daily basis - our daily bread).

Writing this over a week later, I am still awed by how God brought those verses from Job to my parents.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

July gifts: church camp

Finally catching up on all the summer gifts to add to my 1000 gifts list. 

666. Visiting Blaze and Dreamer at church camp
Our church had a summer camp for kids for the first time this year, and the Snowy Range Lodge had just finished constructing a beautiful outdoor chapel for their daily chapel time. B. and I visited the girls for their chapel time in the middle of the week and afterwards the girls were excited to show up their cabin.

667. God's word is not chained
2 Tim 2:9:  Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, for which I am suffering, even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God's word is not chained.

668. Practicing memory verses on long drive back and forth to Cheyenne
It's a 45 minute drive from Laramie to Cheyenne for my OA meetings, and after a while I get bored listening to music, so I've been working on my memory verses: Psalm 34, Psalm 84 and Psalm 19.

669. The twins swimming on their own
B's sister Monica invited us to join her and her extended family for their reunion in Winter Park, Colorado, which meant the kids had unlimited access to the resort swimming pool for a couple days. The twins (six years old) started out with water wings but so much time in the water, wasn't long before they were doggy paddling on their own

670. Blaze's "ride to music"
Blaze competed in the county fair horse show this year, placing in some of the English classes and an exciting 2nd & 3rd place in barrel racing and pole-bending. But the highlight for both of us was putting together her own "choreography" for the "ride to music" class. She started out side-passing, backing, and full-turn-on-the-quarters with her horse Spring to a slow piece of music (Hymne by Vangelis) and then switched to a fast song, Butterfly by Aqua), trotting and cantering patterns, picking up and swinging her prop (a big butterfly on stick) and finishing with jumping with her hands up in the air! 

671. Dreamer's "blue ribbon" poster for county fair

672. Gratitude is antidote to self pity
One of my friends at the OA meeting shared this saying.

673. Bunnies
We have seen an unusual number of rabbits this year, and there are baby rabbits in my parents' backyard that the girls love to try to "sneak up" on. 

674. Moose on my walk
On a twilight walk around my neighborhood, I noticed a couple police cars with flashing lights driving up and down our main street. One of them passed me, then stopped and warned me that there was a moose in the neighborhood and that I should get inside. There are actually more moose attacks than bear or mountain lion attacks, so I know it's wise to keep your distance from these giant animals. I was too far from home so I ended up on a neighbor's porch as we watched the young female moose trot right up the street past us, casually step over a fence and disappear over the hill behind the neighborhood.

675.  Expanding my comfort zone
I came across this post on the Zen Habits blog (not a religious blog) and it really made me think about how fear of discomfort can limit my opportunities and full experience of life.
Think about the major problems in your life — from anxiety to lack of regular exercise to a bad diet to procrastination and more.
Pretty much every one of these problems is caused by a fear of discomfort.
Discomfort isn’t intense pain, but just the feeling you get when you’re out of your comfort zone.
Eating vegetables for many people, for example, brings discomfort. So does sitting in meditation, or sitting with a hard task in front of you, or saying No to people, or exercising. (Of course, different people are uncomfortable with different things, but you get the idea.)
And most people don’t like discomfort. They run from it. It’s not fun, so why do it?
The problem is that when you run from discomfort all the time, you are restricted to a small zone of comfort, and so you miss out on most of life. On most of the best things in life, in fact. And you become unhealthy, because if eating healthy food and exercising is uncomfortable, then you go to comfort foods and not moving much. Being unhealthy, unfortunately, is also uncomfortable, so then you seek distractions from this (and the fact that you have debt and too much clutter, etc.) in food and entertainment and shopping (as if spending will solve our problems!) and this in turn makes things worse.
Amazingly, the simple act of being OK with discomfort can solve all these problems.
This is a discovery I made a few years back, when I was trying to change my life. I started by trying to quit smoking, but I hated the feeling of having an urge to smoke and not actually smoking. It was uncomfortable to resist that strong urge. My mind resisted, tried to make up all kinds of rationalizations for smoking. My mind tried to run from this discomfort, tried to seek distractions.
I learned to sit and watch the discomfort. And when I did, incredibly, it wasn’t too bad. My world didn’t end, nor did my mind implode. I was just uncomfortable for a bit, and then life moved on....
I repeated this process for changing my diet, for getting out of debt and not spending so much, for beating procrastination, and so on...  It's actually a good thing - when you are uncomfortable, you are trying something new, you're learning, you're expanding, you're becoming more than you were. Discomfort is a sign that you're growing.

676.  Where I Belong, by Building 429 - Dreamer fell in love with this song at church camp and actually memorized the whole song!

Sometimes it feels like I'm watching from the outside
Sometimes it feels like I'm breathing but am I alive
I won't keep searching for answers that aren't here to find

All I know is I'm not home yet
This is not where I belong
Take this world and give me Jesus
This is not where I belong

So when the walls come falling down on me
And when I'm lost in the current of a raging sea
I have this blessed assurance holding me.

All I know is I'm not home yet
This is not where I belong
Take this world and give me Jesus
This is not where I belong

When the earth shakes I wanna be found in You
When the lights fade I wanna be found in You

All I know is I'm not home yet
This is not where I belong
Take this world and give me Jesus
This is not where I belong

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

July gifts: riding in the Bighorn mountains

I'm only now finally getting around to posting some things from this summer... 

Eighteen or nineteen summers ago I first came to the Bighorns Mountains in northern Wyoming and hiked the forest roads and trails going over Rt 14 and 14A, awed by the great open vistas and the carpets of wildflowers. I saw a forest ranger riding a horse, and vowed that someday I’d come back not just to hike but to ride these great broad swaths of meadow between mountains crags and fragrant spruce forests. 

652. That 18 year long dream to ride in the Bighorn Mountains is finally fulfilled! 
 The ride this morning made me joyful beyond measure, not only riding here finally at last, but with my whole family. B. rode Tuffy, I road Tia, Blaze rode Strike, Dreamer on Spring, and Starlet and Serious took turns riding Rebel with the other riding behind someone else.

653. Saving a nest of baby birds
Yesterday on our drive up from Laramie, we stopped at Sanford’s in Casper for lunch, and B. discovered that there was nest of baby birds up underneath the trailer hitch. We’d taken them away from their parents! The girls were all kinds of worried about the little birds and spent hours catching grasshoppers and grubs feeding the baby birds with a pair of tweezers. 

654. Perfect camping/riding spot
It took us a couple tries, but we found a beautiful spot with water and grass for the horses  (and trees to "high line" them; the safest way to tie horses) AND a beautiful view for us: Forest road 145 (off of 15)

655. Building a forest fort
 The girls right away found a makeshift “fort” that some other kids must have built in among the trees, and they started industriously fixing it up and adding to it

656. Discovering a stream
After riding the horses up to the top of the bald hill, right up close to a tremendous cliff, we went back to camp and then explored the forest trails behind our meadow. After just a few hundred yards we found a little stream and which is a relief as our trailer’s tank leaked out yesterday during travel. All the horses except Tia (who is spooked by running water) had a long drink. Strike gave Blaze and Starlet a scare while they were riding him.  He got stuck in the mud along the stream and actually went down on his knees for a moment but recovered quickly without freaking out (good horse!) 

657. Horses loose grazing in a mountain meadow
As I am typing this under a spruce tree at the edge of the meadow, with my magnificent view of the mountains, three of our horses are grazing near me (loose on their lead ropes) – we figure they won’t go too far from the other two horses that are still tied up. (hopefully).

658. Porcupine Falls
This was too far away to ride too, but worth the half hour drive to visit, and the steep mile hike down into a deep canyon. I have never seen a falls like this before, where a small stream breaks off from the main falls and goes through a tunnel before it comes out again!

659.  Acting like a granny
Starlet amused us by imitating "Granny" from the movie Ice Age: Continental Drift.

660. Wildflowers and sage
My poor camera doesn't do the great vistas justice, or the close up details of all the wildflowers - especially the pools of purple lupine. Even the sage is beautiful. B. grew up in Wyoming, so sagebrush is common like a weed to him, but I love it, the silver leaves and the wonderful "western" smell of crushed leaves

661. History watching over us
B. said there is a lot of history in these mountains - Indians and fur trappers and mountain men. He felt like the forest was haunted, but not in a bad way: not ghosts – more like history is watching over us.

662. Twin fawns, moose, elk
Just some of the larger animals we got to see on this trip!

663. Crossing a stream on our horses
On our second day we took another trail ride, down in a valley with a big winding stream at the bottom. The stream made so many loops the girls fancied it spelled "M O M". Of course the girls wanted to make the horses cross the stream as many times as possible... and of course I was riding the one horse (Tia) who doesn't like crossing streams! I had to get off and let B. get on her to "convince" her to finally cross, but after the first crossing she did just fine. Here's a picture I took from Tia's back as we approached the "scary" stream.

664. Horse hugs
My beloved old horse Rebel giving Serious a "horse hug" (nuzzle). Serious never leaves Rebel’s side for more than a few minutes and she has “taken over” feeding him taking care of him on this trip, though mostly he just leads him around to where she thinks he should go. 

665. My handsome man and his handsome horse (Tuffy)