Bagging Peaks

Frank and I spent five days in Ouray, Colorado celebrating our fifth anniversary. Known as the Switzerland of America, it is surrounded by the high peaks of the San Juans and is home to mining, Jeeping, hiking, and ice climbing. Since we left Bea with Grandma and Grandpa, we hiked every day and stayed in a cute B&B so came home to relaxing hot tubs and comfy beds.

Descending into Ouray

Descending into Ouray

Our first morning in town, we set the alarm for 5:00, smeared peanut butter on bananas, filled our Camelbaks with water, threw our boots in the car, and headed into the mountains to hike Mt. Sneffels. It had been three years since I hiked a mountain. We took Bea halfway up Bierstadt last year and Frank hiked a couple in preparation for the Ascent, but we hadn’t truly hiked to summit since Bea was born.

We parked and were on the way to Yankee Boy Basin by 6:15. Not at the beginning of the pack, but with enough time to summit and be off the mountain before noon. Most hikers try to stick to that rule – regular afternoon thunderstorms can be deadly at 14,000 feet.

We set off up the Jeep road to the base of Sneffels. When we got there, the sign said 1.2 miles to the summit. This lends a false sense of distance, as this mile can take more than three hours to accomplish. We started up the path toward the long, challenging scree field of loose rocks.

Scree field

Scree field

I can’t remember how many of the 14ers I’ve summited – somewhere in the low teens. As my dad and I started hiking them, we stuck with Class 1 walk-ups, so my success rate was high. Even though I’ve spent most of my life in this state and do love the outdoors, I’m nowhere near as hardcore as many who embrace the adventurous lifestyle of our state.

“Bagging peaks” is an underlying mentality of most who climb Colorado’s mountains. As beautiful as the views are and as amazing as it is to get away from crowded trails, many don’t count a hike successful unless a summit is reached.

The scree field on Sneffels was long and hard. We stopped partway up for a Nutella snack but didn’t make it to the snowy saddle until 10:45. By this time, clouds were beginning to gather. We had met several hikers who had turned around at the saddle, saying it was too snowy to continue. As we assessed the situation, overlooking amazing alpine valleys, we chatted with hikers who had made it to the summit successfully. They were seasoned and had “bagged” harder peaks than I had attempted.

We were only about 300 feet from the summit but those feet involved scaling a boulder field, skirting the snowy trail, and mustering more confidence in climbing abilities than I had. After some debate, we decided to turn around at the saddle.

Last 300 feet

Last 300 feet

It was a tough hike down. I felt that I had let Frank down – he would have summited had I not been along. I wondered if, had he known my hiking limitations, he would have still married me. (I think that may have been the altitude talking…) We passed novice hikers in Converse sneakers without water and I thought, Surely I can summit if they can! (Who knows if they actually did summit…)

By the time we reached the bottom, I was feeling very inauthentic in my ability to live in Colorado, land of hikers. As we looked back, the dark clouds kept gathering and I knew we had made a wise decision. Thankfully, no one was hurt that day at the summit, but I didn’t want to take my chances. I learned that I’m more of a Class 2 hiker, not the Class 3 of Sneffels, and that is ok. There are still many more beautiful hikes and trails that don’t involve scaling boulders.

At the trailhead, we came across an older man who had fallen and broken his hip. Luckily, a doctor was present, but they needed more help. Frank offered his belt to stabilize the splint and then carefully helped lift the man into a waiting Jeep. As we sat among wildflowers, eating our lunch, and watching the Jeep slowly descend the trail, we reflected that, had we not turned around, we would not have been able to help. Maybe realizing limitations had farther reaching effects than my own insecurities.

The next morning at breakfast, we told our B&B host of our failure. He asked,

“Was the hike beautiful? Did you see amazing views?”

Yes…

“Then it was a success!”

The rest of our trip was filled with river hiking adventures, scrambling up waterfalls, and hiking rolling, wildflower-filled trails. It would be fun to go back and try Sneffels again, maybe later in the season. But, as I settle into my own self and the example I want to set for my family, I’m counting successes among wildflower trails rather than peaks bagged.

Linked with SheLoves Magazine’s monthly theme: Authentic.

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Poets Anonymous: Dividing God

Welcome to our monthly Poets Anonymous!

On the 15th of each month, I’ll post a poem. If you have a blog, post a poem on yours and share your link in the comments. If you don’t have a blog, feel free to share part of a poem in the comments. Or, I encourage you to simply read a poem today.

The moon starts singing
When everyone is asleep
And the planets throw a bright robe

Around their shoulders and whirl up
Close to her side.

Once I asked the moon,
“Why do you and your sweet friends
Not perform so romantically like that
To a larger crowd?”

And the whole sky chorus resounded,

“The admission price to hear
The lofty minstrels
Speak of love

Is affordable only to those
Who have not exhausted themselves
Dividing God all day
And thus need rest.”

Hafiz

Share a favorite poem (or segment of one) in the comments!

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Wedding Dress Donation

It’s wedding season! We went to our first wedding of the summer a couple weeks ago – beautiful, outdoors, and a perfect reflection of the bride & groom’s values. One of the things I love most about going to weddings is how individual a seemingly prescribed day can be. Each wedding has us reflect on our own, and Frank and I usually leave saying how much we loved our own best. And, I think that’s how it should be – your own wedding should be the best!

When we planned our wedding, we had to prioritize what was important and where we wanted our money to go. For us, the location took center stage. We were married in a private garden in the middle of Denver. Because of the location, we didn’t spend much on decorations – we didn’t need to with the beautiful gardens filled with paths and nooks.

For me, the dress wasn’t as high on the priority list. I only tried on three and picked the first one. Growing up, I never dreamed of the perfect dress. I just assumed I’d wear something long and white. While I had fun dressing up, the ambiance was much more important.

Detail of my dress

Detail of my dress

The one I chose did fit me and my personality perfectly. After the reception, I changed out of my gown into a white sundress. Frank and I were peddling my grandparent’s old tandem bike off to our honeymoon. (Really, just around the corner to where our car was parked!) Once I changed, my mom took the dress home, smooshed it into a garbage bag, and gave it to a friend headed to Rwanda. I never saw it again.

Peddling to our honeymoon

Peddling to our honeymoon

Before we were even engaged, I knew what I wanted to do with my future wedding dress. My parents’ church had a connection with the Mother’s Union in Rwanda where they rent out dresses and they had a need for more modern choices. For me, it didn’t make sense to clean, store, and hope that one day if I had a daughter she may want to wear my dress. I was happy to give mine away, knowing others would enjoy wearing it. (And, a couple years after our wedding, I heard mine was one of the most rented since its style was so new.)

When I thought about this post, I had originally planned a “Top Five Places to Donate Your Dress” sort of thing. But then I Googled the options and realized it didn’t make sense – there are so many local places doing amazing things with preworn dresses. From benefiting cancer research to helping military wives afford their dream gown to rentals benefiting various charities, most cities have quite a few options.

So, I encourage you: If you are getting married this year or have a dress in a box somewhere, search “donating wedding dress in (your city)” and see if any organizations are a good fit.

Do you still have your dress? Have you donated yours? Tell about your experience in the comments!

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Review: Framing Faith by Matt Knisely

One of my favorite classes in college was titled “The Power of Images in Western Civilization.” Over the course of the semester, we looked at images from early cave paintings to religious icons to fascist propaganda. We talked about how our culture and history have been shaped by the stories that have been told through the images created during different periods. As an art history major, I fully believe in the power of a single photograph or painting to shape the way we see history. And, as someone who is trying to embrace my own stories, I believe that as we live intentionally, we create a lasting story.

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In his first book, Framing Faith, Matt Knisely empowers the reader to tell their story. Knisely explores the busyness and connectedness we live in today. As positive as social media can be, are we stopping to focus on the story God is writing in our lives? Using the framework of photographic terminology, Knisely illustrates the importance of slowing down, of developing important “scenes” in our lives, and of noticing what God is creating in each experience.

Knisely’s approachable style made this book easy to read. He quickly engages with stories of his own as well as images from his career. As I try to notice my own story with more intention, I connected with his ideas that God created us to learn from and tell our stories.

I especially enjoyed his chapter on Darkness. He encourages the reader to find the truth in imperfection, that

“The moment we skip to the end of our stories, we fall captive to the stories of this world, we lose the uniqueness of our story, and in turn we lose the power of the gospel to be light in real darkness” (143).

He continues to remind the reader that imperfections, conflict, and failures are what make great, engaging stories. He encourages the reader to embrace those dark points in the story, knowing that lessons learned will create a deeper, more meaningful story.

All in all, I really enjoyed this book. There were a few points when I felt that the analogy of photography was forced into what Knisely was trying to say, but overall I appreciated the framework. It’s a timely book, as more and more people are questioning the amount of time spent on social media and the depth of connections made without connecting in real life.

As storytelling is regaining importance in our society, how are you embracing and telling your story?

GIVEAWAY! I am giving away my copy of Framing Faith. To enter, leave a comment about an experience telling your own story. I’ll randomly select a winner on Friday, July 11, 2014. (US & Canadian addresses only.)

I review for BookLook Bloggers
I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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Freedom

After college I worked for a Christian organization for a few months. I had worked at this place before and had an amazing experience, found my faith deepen, and formed wonderful friendships. Just two years later, things were different. I had a more isolated job this time and I had changed in those in-between years. I had grappled and questioned and shifted my worldview in that time. There were some misunderstandings regarding the job I was to do and it was not a good fit. I stuck it out for the agreed time but I left feeling taken advantage of, feeling unheard, and with a seed of distrust toward Christians planted.

Views from Camp

View from surrounding hills

At first, I clung to that feeling of distrust. Anytime a Christian would let me down, I would think Of course! Christians…!! I held absolutely no grace for other Christian organizations failing to meet my expectations because I had been wounded. I met a group of friends who had all been disillusioned by the Church in some way.

In the beginning, we bonded over our shared frustrations. We vented and processed and mocked the organizations that, underneath it all, we still loved. As we shared our stories and processed our feelings and built our relationships, we slowly began to let go of those hurts and distrust.

It’s been ten years since I’ve worked for that organization and in that time, I’ve found freedom in telling my story. As I’ve processed what could have been different (on all sides) in the initial days of that job, I realize all I have learned from that experience. Yes, I learned to be cynical but I also learned to recognize that it is best to address questions and concerns early on. I’ve learned that even the best organizations are businesses and need to fulfill certain bottom-line requirements. I’ve learned that, even if I don’t feel a situation is the best fit, I can do my best to serve gracefully. That last lesson is my biggest regret of that experience – I felt let down and, rather than accepting this with grace, I had a bad attitude the rest of the summer.

Perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned is how to embrace my story. As I shared my story with my friends, reflected on it, and learned from that experience, I experienced freedom from those hurt feelings and expectations. Since then, I’ve tried to be more aware of the story I’m living. How am I contributing to the outcome I expect? How is this unpleasant experience shaping my worldview and growing my outlook? How can I shift my expectations to view this in a positive light?

I’m certainly not saying that staying in a bad situation is always the answer. In hindsight, I probably should have left the job as soon as I realized it wasn’t a good fit. No one benefited from that experience. But, I also have learned to analyze those feelings and think more critically about situations before they reach that point. By sharing and embracing my story, I’m learning to embrace all those moments that have brought me to where I am today.

How has telling your story helped you view certain situations in a new light?

Linked with (in)courage’s Freedom in Our Stories.

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Slavery of Death

Last month, Richard Beck announced that Fuller Theological Seminary’s The Burner Blog was giving away copies of his book, The Slavery of Death. I have enjoyed his blog, so thought reading a full book would be interesting. In exchange for a free copy, participation in the blog discussion was encouraged.

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The Slavery of Death delves into the idea that we make decisions and shape our lives around a fear of death. Our desire to leave a mark on society, success-driven mentalities, and an outlook of greatness can all be traced to this fear of being unknown – of death. This book shifted my outlook on what motivates me and how I view opportunities. As Frank and I have talked about our future goals and how we want our lifestyle to look as our family grows, this has given me a new lens with which to view our goals and motivations behind them.

Today, I am over at The Burner, offering some reflection on Chapter 8. Even if you haven’t read the book, click on over to join the discussion!

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Backyard Camping

About this time, five years ago, Frank and I were driving around, running wedding errands. We were dreaming about our future and all the amazing things we planned to do over the years together. We started talking about things we wanted to do and see in Yellowstone, where we were honeymooning. Suddenly, my eyes filled with tears and I started crying.

I was so worried that, because we were driving to our honeymoon, I would never leave the country again for adventures. Ever since I was in high school, there have only been two or three years I have not taken a vacation outside of the United States. From my first solo trip to Estonia to living in Paris for four years to making international travel a priority once I got a job, I had only missed a couple years.

In the years since that meltdown, we have traveled internationally. Frank’s planned style of travel is so different from my show-up-and-see-what-happens method and we’ve had some amazing adventures, hiking the West Highland Way and going on a safari in southern Africa. Our new goal is to visit all seven continents. (I only have Antarctica left, but Frank won’t go until he’s caught up with Asia and Australia.)

Victoria Falls, Zambia

Victoria Falls, Zambia

For so long vacation only counted if my passport was stamped. And then, two summers ago, Bea was born. Not only did we not leave the country, I barely wanted to leave the city. We ended up babymooning at a fancy hotel in town. Bea was born at the end of July, so even after her birth we just nested at home. Last summer, we went on our first road trip with her to Utah, one of my favorite states. It was fun and filled with hiking, but my passport still lay dormant.

This year, we have no plans of leaving Colorado. For Christmas, we caved and purchased a behemoth 8-person tent. Compared with our two-person backpacking tent, this feels as big as our house. Our goal is to figure out amazing car camping so that Bea falls in love with the outdoors in the same ways we have. We’ll start in the backyard, move up to the Reservoir, and perhaps, by August we’ll make it into the mountains with her.

Trying out the new tent

Trying out the new tent

It’s taken some time, but I’m finally ok with viewing vacation differently. With a toddler, adventures happen in our backyard. I know that one day, my passport will be stamped again and until then, I’ll enjoy all the amazing places I haven’t yet discovered within driving distance of our home.

Where is your favorite vacation spot? Do you like roadtripping or international travel best?

Linked with The High Calling’s Best Vacation Stories linkup.

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