The Snake River runs through it….

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I have this last post about our trip out West. I realize I’ve spent all of July talking about this trip in some fashion or another, but some things must be shared, especially in this time of our lives. I’ve tried to soak up and reflect on every moment we had on our trip, and I would be remiss if I didn’t share it with others.

One thing I haven’t done in these posts, yet, is philosophize and pontificate, share my deepest spiritual thoughts with you. The primary reason I haven’t is because I’m still pondering on all of that. My soul was impacted deeply on this trip, so deeply that at one point I actually prayed to God that I didn’t know if I could take any more in….but that night we went to the hot springs in Emigrant, MT, and we soaked for a couple hours, then slept like babies in our little cabin, and the next day….well, the next day was Yellowstone, and you better believe my soul had much more to welcome into it, and yes, there was room….

The beauty we experienced on our trip was a healing salve for my spirit, so wounded by months of strangeness and violence in our world. I would highly recommend it to you if you’re feeling bruised and battered, sad and mournful, after these last six months of life that has happened around us. If you can’t get away to the West, or the coast, or somewhere immersed in God’s creation, then purpose yourself to go looking for beauty wherever you can find it around you.

I know that I’ve had to do this in the last couple weeks since our return from our trip. SW Ohio seems really rather blah after seeing what we saw, but there is still beauty and joy to be found all around us, whether in the city or suburbs or country, we just have to intentionally look for it, ask God for it (He loves to give us these good gifts), seek and you will find….

So, the Snake River seemed to be everywhere we went out in Idaho, et al. Even the river we rafted, the North Fork of the Payette, is a tributary of the Snake. I was comforted by the end of the trip when we once again crossed the Snake and I got to say farewell to it. lol I would go back again just to travel along it’s winding trek. Thanks to the Tracht’s for sharing all this beauty with us!

I took so many pictures of water, as we drove past in our van and when we stopped purposefully. I deleted many of them because they were blurry or just didn’t do it justice. I share here a few of those that seemed to be worthy of the grandeur I experienced along the Snake…

There and back again, the surprise of Salt Lake City

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I love to fly, and I hadn’t flown anywhere since 2012. When we first made plans to take our trip out West, I was a bit frustrated that our flight needed to be to Salt Lake City, given we would have to drive about 5 hours to our ID destination. Yet, I admit that I had a crush on Donny and Marie Osmond when I was a child and I was always fascinated with their UT origins, so the idea of flying into Salt Lake City grew on me.

I was not prepared for the beauty we experienced there. I sort of wish we could’ve stayed a while to explore it. The downtown was totally easy to navigate. I think the city overall is a large one, but the downtown isn’t huge, nestled right next to the mountains with the vast expanse of the valley before it, leading to the Great Lake itself. Beautiful and a bit awe-inspiring is how I found it.

My pictures don’t really do it justice, and I so wish I’d captured more of downtown, in particular, the state capital building area, but I didn’t. Even my few pics of the Morman Temple area are limited by the fact that it was under construction and we only drove around it without getting out . Nevertheless, here are my pics from our air arrival and departure, as well as a few downtown and then the rest of my Antelope Island pics on the Great Salt Lake….enjoy.

The West’s went out West….

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Of course, a huge part of the joy from our family trip was the fact that we shared it together and with some of our dearest friends. We so so missed Noah and Legend, but their job situation just wouldn’t work with it this time around. I’m sharing just about every picture I took that had a person in it as well as the random pics of the signs from the places we visited. Some of these are duplicates I’ve already posted, but they belonged in this collection….more still to come….

Look for the little things

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Yes, I love sunrises and sets, huge mountains and the expanse of the ocean, but in the day-to-day of life, it’s more often the little bursts of beauty, laughter, and provision that carry us through…

Better late than never

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While on our vacation, Tom and our kids decided it would be good to celebrate my MA degree “graduation” from Northwest Nazarene University (that happened in May 2016). I didn’t get to attend at the time because it was the exact same day as Taylor’s BA graduation from ONU, and his graduation definitely took precedence in my book.

Heidi works at NNU, so she was able to borrow a cap, gown, and hood for me to wear for pictures. It was fun (after I got over the shock of being surprised by it all….because I don’t like this type of surprise…or anything that throws me into the center of attention unprepared…lol). I appreciate that my family wanted to show they are still proud of me for this achievement in my life.

Honestly, though my MA in Spiritual Formation hasn’t opened the doors for a career that I had hoped it would, I have no regrets at all about getting this degree. It has been one of the best decisions of my life, for my personal development and the calling God placed on my life way back when I was still a teen at MVNC getting my BA in Christian Ed.

We got ice cream with the Tracht’s that day, so I’m counting that as my “graduation party” ……lol (though I did share a cake party with Taylor back in 2016). We also went to Oregon a day and had lunch with the Tracht’s, also part of just celebrating time together with friends who are like family. White water rafting was another day, along with catching some beautiful scenery and a sunset, but I’ll share that on a different post…

First thoughts on our vacation…

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I’ve been waiting a few days to process all I experienced on our family vacation out West. I decided to write a few blogs and share the pics that go with my thoughts.

I had flown over parts of the West, and once visited my sister’s family in Grand Junction, CO, a more desert type of landscape. However, I had never experienced in person the majority of the landscapes we were in while on our trip.

One land feature in particular has stuck in my mine, with an old hymn that came back to me while driving from Salt Lake City to Nampa, ID.  Tablelands....how clearly they are defined out there. 

I’ll share a few pictures below that might give you an idea, albeit a poor representation of what it’s like in person. The song that came to mind is Higher Ground, and though it specifically speaks of Heaven’s Tableland, all in all, I think it was the theme of my soul for our trek across the mountains and valleys of these great Northwestern states, Utah, Idaho, Oregon, Montana, and Wyoming.

Higher Ground
I’m pressing on the upward way
New heights I’m gaining every day
Still praying as I’m onward bound
Lord, plant my feet on higher ground
Lord, lift me up and let me stand
By faith, on Heaven’s tableland
A higher plane than I have found
Lord, plant my feet on higher ground
My heart has no desire to stay
Where doubts arise and fears dismay
Though some may dwell where those abound
My prayer, my aim, is higher ground
Lord, lift me up and let me stand
By faith, on Heaven’s tableland
A higher plane than I have found
Lord, plant my feet on higher ground
I want to live above the world
Though Satan’s darts at me are hurled
For faith has caught the joyful sound
The song of saints on higher ground
Lord, lift me up and let me stand
By faith, on Heaven’s tableland
A higher plane than I have found
Lord, plant my feet on higher ground
I want to scale the utmost height
And catch a gleam of glory bright
But still I’ll pray, ’till heaven I’ve found
Lord, plant my feet on higher ground

Long silences…

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“It’s never too late to give up our prejudices .” Thoreau

I haven’t written for almost two months. My heart has been so very troubled. I try not to share unless I’m clear on what to say, feeling prompted by the Spirit, and though I’ve had a couple of those moments in these last two months, still I haven’t written. The emotions have been too deep and too draining.

I was raised to love others as I would want to be loved.  I try to live by this, even with those who have not reciprocated the same.  It saddens and disturbs me to see others treated poorly, no matter the circumstances, to see selfishness, greed, and evil perpetrated upon others for no legitimate reason, whatsoever (not that any terrible action upon others is ever justified).  

My longing is to intentionally care for all others, to love others with the love of God flowing out from me to whomever you are, wherever you’ve been, whatever you may or may not have done, to see each person with the eyes of our Abba Father (see Amy Grant’s old song, Father’s Eyes…).  If given the opportunity, I will be your friend, I will listen, I will share, I will help in whatever way I can.  I long for the same to be done for me, to be given the grace from others, the gift of being truly known for who I am, not judged and stereotyped by outward appearances.

This is that for which we were all originally created….designed out of the love of The Trinity who wanted to extend the love they had within their Oneness, because it was too big to be contained…thus, Creation happened, the artistic expression and beauty of the depths and riches of the love between the Father, Son, and Spirit, culminated with us, created in Their image, made to be in relationship with them and with each other, designed to love God, others, and ourselves.

Oh dear Father, why can’t we all allow You to transform us to be the people you meant for us to be from the start….?  This is the cry of my heart when I am silent in these troubled times…

 

Fifty shades of green…

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A little over a week ago, we journeyed down to WV to place my mom’s ashes on the graves of her two husband’s graves. Her first husband passed away when mom was only 25, with three small children. My dad passed away when I was 19, and mom lived all those years as a widow but not really totally alone, since she had her children and step-children, grandchildren, greats and a great-great.

As we drove, the many shades of green along the road and on the hills gave me great joy. Green is my favorite color, most shades of it. The beauty of all the greens spoke deeply to my soul.

How good it is to know my mom rests in the care of the One who created all of this beauty. Joy is possible because I know this to be Truth, that I too will find my life settled forever with God , as well, after my life here ends. Peace is possible and grief is not forever because i know most of those I have lost in this life will be a part of my eternity with our Creator.

As I honor those who have passed away, I’m thrilled to think of the new life found for all who have died in Christ, the new life I see represented in the many gorgeous shades of green. Yes, I cry sometimes from missing my mom, dad, sister, brothers, aunts, uncles, nephews, friends…but the tears are always mingled with joy and a deep settled peace.

Celebrating being a mom…

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During this time of sheltering at home, two of my adult children have been home with us. Our daughter still lives with us, and she has been furloughed from her job during this time, since she’s a cosmetologist. My oldest son is a teacher and came to stay with us once his school closed for the pandemic. He has been working online this entire time, as have I. Our middle son and his wife have been working from their home in IN.

With travel restrictions and gathering limits loosened a bit, my daughter-in-law and son cane to stay with us this week, as did my daughter’s boyfriend. We all had work responsibilities to attend to each day…Zoom calls, phone conversations, loads of emails answered, documents created and printed. My daughter was even “working” as her salon team collaborated and planned for their soon-to-be reopening.

As I worked from my home office, in one corner of the house, I listened to the sounds of all of them doing their jobs, being productive adults working to make the world better in their own ways. What an incredible blessing to this mother’s heart! What an affirmation that something we did as parents went right !!

No, it hasn’t been a perfect time together. Yes, this Mother’s Day also bears remembrances of my own mom with bittersweet emotions, being my first Mother’s Day without her. However, over it all, I feel so very grateful for the honor of being a mother, for children who know love and who spread love, for my mom who taught me much about mothering, and for aunts, nieces , sisters and friends who have helped me be the mom I am and have partnered with me in raising my children to be who they are today. Ultimately, I thank God for the provisions and strength He gives me every day to be who He has made me/is making me to be.

Fighting the darkness…

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Easter and Holy Week have always been important in my journey of faith, as far back as I can remember.  This season has always been about more than bunnies and candy and eggs to me, except maybe when I was very young.  I still enjoy the egg coloring and some candy, and let’s face it, bunnies and baby chicks will forever be cute.  Yet, the Light and Life and Truth of Jesus’ birth, life, ministry, death, and resurrection remain my focus during Lent and Holy Week, culminating with Easter morning’s resurrection celebrations.

This year, of course, is somewhat different because of the Corona Virus and our current worldwide experience of this pandemic.  Some have exclaimed in the last couple weeks that “Easter is canceled”.  These types of statements have been disheartening for me, and I believe these words have helped to fuel the darkness encroaching on our lives in so many ways.

Truth is – Easter will never “be canceled” because it’s a fact of history, not a generic holiday to celebrate.  

My heartbeat in the last couple weeks has been sustained by a motivation to bring more light to dispel the darkness. I desire to remind people of all the Hope we have in this life, as well as in the life to come.  So, this week, I’ve followed a couple impulses of my heart that I believe the Holy Spirit placed there as a means to fight the darkness trying to creep into my own thoughts and feelings, while at the same time, trying to reach out to others as I can, to help remind them of the Light Jesus continually brings to our world because of his resurrection, and then, his ascension about 40 days later.

He sits in Heaven by his Father, our Abba (Dad), and He sent His Spirit here to live in us and to be all over this world bringing the Light and Life and Hope of God and His Kingdom to us, in us, and through us to everyone else.  

I’m hoping your Easter is blessed and that you are fully aware of God’s presence.  More than ever, I’m going to continue honoring Easter tomorrow by lighting the light of hope in my neighborhood and then celebrating the Life, the Truth, the Way that is Jesus.  More than ever before, I see how our worship, our celebration, our love for God and others brings light and life and hope into our world to fight the darkness.  Will you join me in this battle?


Philippians 2:5-11
Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form,
he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death– even death on a cross.
Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.