Part 1: Unprepared (and a little thing called jet lag) HTW-2018

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Seven years in the Girls Scouts gave me two takeaways. Two things that have rung true in my heart and as clear in my mind since the first day I heard them:

1.) Make new friends and keep the old; one is silver and the other gold.

And 2.) ALWAYS BE PREPARED.

Over the years, I’ve enjoyed the sweet tune of friendship with many sliver and gold friends. And I strive to be prepared- as much as possible- for whatever situation I may find myself. My husband often shakes his head when I come out the door, ready for a day trip, with numerous bags filled sweatshirts, raincoats, towels, snacks and water, and a very large first aid kit. My answer to his playful mocking is always the same, “ALWAYS BE PREPARED.”

But “always be prepared” goes beyond physical plans and material items. It’s a combination of a prepared heart, mind and body that makes a person as prepared as they can be. And even then, no person is ever 100% prepared for anything. Because stuff happens. Needs come up. Priorities shift. Unexpected opportunities are offered. Energy levels fluctuate. Uncontrollable events occur and unforeseen situations happen. Little annoyances can turn into hefty distractions. That’s life!

You do your best, and let God take the rest.

This is where my hike begins. Unprepared in many ways.

After a wonderful two-week vacation in California, our family returned home late Tuesday night. I had exactly ONE and 1/2 days to prepare and pack for the hike.

Laid-back, Californian-thinking must have taken over my mind, because I wasn’t one tiny bit worried about the little amount time I had or how unprepared I was to do the laundry (at the laundromat since our washer had conked out the week before), go grocery shopping, run errands, and pack my pack.

And I forgot to account for a little phenomenon called jet lag. We ended up sleeping in Wednesday, taking up 1/2 day of prep time. Still.. I was excited for the trip, not worried about anything, and the kids and I took off to conquer the to-do list. I am sure a little adrenaline and a lot of caffeine helped compensate for the loss of energy I was starting to feel.

Oh, how quickly reality rips through vacation’s rosy veil. And the veil was completely gone by Wednesday night after something occurred that left my heart turned upside down and inside out. Ugly roots of things that I thought had been weeded out of my heart, started to sprout, twist around my joy, and took on an exhausting presence. A cloud of fear settled over me. Lies taunted me. My confidence was questioned. My spirit was in fight mode. I believe it was a spiritual attack and my heart felt less and less prepared to leave the next day. BUT… I knew from experience that the hike was exactly where I needed to be. The mountains give you and God an amazing arena to fight together and work through these types of heart issues.

That night, jet leg destroyed my sleep. I tossed and turned, dwelled and worried. The very little sleep I got was interrupted by bad dreams. No amount of caffeine or bursts of adrenaline was going to make up for severe loss of rest. By Thursday morning, my energy was drained and my pack was still empty.

If you have followed my hiking stories in the past, you know that I usually prepare months in advance, checking off items on a thorough list, and on the morning of the hike I’m thoroughly packed, and often I’ve already packed and unpacked several times. This was different.

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With caffeine-induced energy and a lot of prayer, I started going through the list and throwing things in gallon-sized bags for waterproofing. There would be just two of us this year and we were planning on staying at the Joe Dodge Lodge the first night, camping trailside the next, and spending our final night at Carter Notch Hut. The camping component required a few new items in my pack for cooking and sleeping outside.

Knowing I would have a night in the lodge to reorganize helped as I struggled to decide what to bring. In the end, with an hour to go, my pack was finally packed (as best as I could) and I threw a bunch of other stuff in three shopping bags, just in case I needed or wanted them. Then I put all of it in the truck to deal with later. It was a jumbled mess. I was a jumbled mess of emotions- excited, exhausted, worried, full of anticipation- and I felt extremely unprepared. The good ole’ Girl Scout motto offering me guilt this time instead of comfort.

My husband. My kids. I love them!! They saw my weariness and my increased anxiety. They cheered me on, reminded me how much I loved hiking and how fun this trip was going to be. In our kitchen, they circled me in love and in prayer. Their sweet little hands laid on my knees as they prayed protection over every part of my body. I took in the scene. It was the first beautiful view of my trip. I breathed in the sweet air of the Holy Spirit.

Everything was going to be okay. It was going to be better than okay. It was going to be great because I was heading to the mountains. Three whole days on the trail with one of my best friends, challenging myself, seeing new things, exploring new peaks. And I knew most of all that God was going to bring something new out of this. In my weakness, He’s made strong. I took renewed strength and comfort in this fact. I was going to return from this hike stronger, more confident, and reenergized than how I was leaving. Nothing- no matter how much more I could have prepared, no matter what attacks against my heart and mind, or the crazy shiftiness of jet lag- could ever take that from me.

 

 

 


Thanksgiving Eve

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My grandfather, Baba, was one of the best.  He was gentle and kind. Intelligent and clever. He delighted in learning and was always up for an adventure. He loved his family and he loved words.

Baba went to the library almost every day and if he couldn’t get there, he would call the reference desk with his questions. The ladies knew his voice and he kept them busy with his burning inquiries. When he wasn’t reading or highlighting large portions of texts, he was creating and writing his own short stories and home answering machine messages. Sometimes the messages made sense, sometimes they did not; but they always rhymed and they always brought him joy to create.

Baba was a special man. It’s because of him I wanted to be a teacher. It is because of him, I will always be a life-longer learner. It’s because of watching him observe and problem solve, that I love observing, exploring, and discovering just like him.

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The holidays always bring a mixture of emotions with them- sadness for the ones we miss, joy for the ones we have near, gratitude for the memories from the past and the new memories we are creating. In memory of my grandfather, I wrote the following little poem (true to his poetic style.) It brings me joy to think I might be carrying on a little bit of his “rhyming words and writing “corny” verses” legacy. 🙂

Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving

Twas the night before Thanksgiving,
And all through the town,
the pies were a baking,
the dishes strewn around.

The preparations were happening,
the time was very near,
the moods varied from maddening to
“Yay! The time is here!”

In the hustle and the bustle,
its hard to stop and rest,
to remember why we celebrate,
the reasons why we’re blessed.

This day is more than history.
more than moods and the food,
this day is about gratitude,
and the people we include.

The blessings that come in small ways,
through the good times and the bad,
the people who praise and pray with us,
and the communities that make us glad.

Let’s turn our eyes toward heaven,
and thank the good Lord who
gives us life and provisions
daily for me and for you.

And let’s sow some seeds of gratitude,
so our hearts may be renewed.
And harvest a field of hope and joy,
that will last the whole year through.

Happy Thanksgiving Eve! I am thankful for you! 🙏


Kat, Mexican Buddha, and The Scarlet Knights

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The other day someone asked me if I was going to finish writing about my June hiking trip. It’s true, I never concluded the adventure in writing. Back in June, when I stepped off the trail and into the sunny parking lot, I thought it was the end of the trip. In actuality, the step turned out to be only a pause, a short rest, to catch my breath before continuing down another trail.

I have been “hiking” all summer. Each smaller adventure an extension of the mountain hike with different landscapes to view and different people to hike with. “The Summer of Adventure” has truly lived up to its name. I have experienced many wonderful, challenging adventures. From finding the wonder in small, daily tasks that required great feats of patience and faith to fearlessly jumping out of perfectly good planes with my grandmother.

Reflecting back, something stands out greater than all the adventures. Each adventure acted as a catalyst for community. My summer days were graced by unique and beautiful people who allowed me to visit special places and belong to groups of special people.

Take Kat, for instance. I met Kat and her family at Galehead Hut, 3,800 ft high the White Mountains. Her clear blue, twinkling eyes and her warm welcoming smile invited us (fellow hikers) to join her in celebrating the completion of hiking all of NH’s 48- 4,000 footers. Her family had packed a bottle of wine to celebrate the accomplishment and the bottle was passed around and poured into chipped, plastic camp cups. With plastic cups raised, we all joined in a song led by the hut croo, “For she’s a jolly good hiker. For she’s a jolly good hiker, for she’s a jolly good hikerrrrrrrrrr, which nobody can deny.”  As I swallowed my sip of wine, I was overwhelmed by the special moment and how strangers had suddenly become a family (even if for a moment) sharing in Kat’s accomplishment and inspiring us to hike higher mountains. Communities do that. They celebrate with each other and inspire each other to greater things.

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We continued our hike the next day and cleared the tree line sometime mid morning, that’s when we heard trumpet music. (Trumpet music 3,000 feet up on top of a mountain sounds beautifully out of place.) It didn’t take us long to find the source of the music. Mexican Buddah and Honey Bear, two thru-hikers, one with a guitar and one with a trumpet, had stopped for lunch, to rest, and to make beautiful music. Surrounded by breathtaking views, the wind as their accompaniment, and the White Mountains as their audience, we stopped to chat with them. I remember thinking how absolutely wonderful the meeting was. I felt like Alice in Wonderland stumbling upon the most interesting of characters running after the White Rabbit (or in my case the next White Mountain.) Communities embrace one another and respect where each person has been. Communities are made up of many different, uniquely talented people who share a love of a common interest. And communities benefit from those unique talents and gifts which each member has to offer. Mexican Buddah and Honey Bear’s music was a gift to us and their serenade was a reminder to continue on what ever journey you find yourself on but to remember to stop once in awhile to take in the views.

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Towards the end of the summer, I had an opportunity to revisit a community that was forged and formed 20 years ago. My 20th year high school reunion of the EWG Scarlet Knights. So much of who I am now was shaped in those few years of high school (the good and the bad.) The impact of those years and the people I shared them with have somehow come along with me like no other time in my life.

I wasn’t sure what to expect as I walked through the doors of the function room. Would I remember people? Would they remember me? What would they remember about me? All of my anxious thoughts dissolved when I was greeted with smiles and big hugs. I know not everyone has a good experience at their high school reunions but mine…well, mine was awesome and I think that has to do with the special people that were in my class.

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I was especially impacted by one of my classmates who worked so hard to make the reunion happen. She reached out to all of us, kept sending Facebook messages and reminders, and genuinely made you feel special and you were wanted there. She went out of her way to interview former teachers and collect pictures for a slide show. She pulled people in from the outside and strengthened the community from the inside. Community takes leaders who are willing to put in the work and remind its members that they are special and needed.

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I could write all day about all the other people I met, the friendship formed, relationships which were strengthened, and the communities I was welcomed in. I had set out to be intentionally adventurous and it happened in more ways than one. The last adventure of the summer started where it all started.

My last adventure was shared with my most important and most intimate community. My family-my husband and three beautiful children. We were in the White Mountains, hiking on a trail that was the complete opposite of the trail in June. This trail was wide, flat and there were no inclines. The weather was perfect for hiking and exploring. We stalled along the trail watching chipmunks eat mushrooms and searching for heart shaped rocks. It was completely peaceful and I felt so loved and blessed to be sharing it with these four beautiful souls. These four people show me unconditional love on a daily basis. They make me want to be a better mother, wife and Christ-follower. These four people make the path (whatever it looks like) worth taking. All communities should be like that. Loving each other and making the trail easier. They should walk in grace and extend grace to the other members.  Communities should encourage each other to be better each and every day.

As summer of 2016 closes,  I am committing myself to community. I want to build up the communities I belong to by using the talents and gifts I have been given. I want to embrace my community members by encouraging them to use their unique gifts and callings. I want to help people find their value and their purpose in life to make the world a better place. And I want to keep hiking. I want to hike with my communities in truth, grace and most of all love. To celebrate with them and mourn with them and hike beside them on whatever path we find ourselves on.