South Dakota Adventure: Seeing It Through Their Eyes

IMG_7164 editWe’d seen them before, my husband and I.  The weird eroded shapes of the badlands.  Four massive solemn faces carved into a granite mountainside.  A herd of buffalo calmly holding up traffic.  Bighorn sheep leaping effortlessly up the faces of seemingly sheer precipices.  But oddly, seeing them for the second time seemed more meaningful to me than the first—and it was all because of three little people strapped in the back seats behind us.IMG_6733 editIMG_7518 editIMG_7806 edit

IMG_7533 editNow, don’t get me wrong.  Traveling with small children can indeed sometimes feel like one endless string of potty and snack breaks.  Some of the finer details of travel are inevitably lost on them.  Their favorite restaurant of the trip was the one that offered a package of goldfish crackers as a side on the kids’ menu instead of the one where they got to sample real rattlesnake sausage.  At the rock shop they were more interested in the cheap mood ring display than the gorgeous native rose quartz.  Sometimes dad and mom’s idea of a “fun” hike turned out more like a rather painful lesson in perseverance.  Or there was that time when we were driving through a magnificent canyon for the first time, and all they could comment on was, “Look!  There’s a blue truck!”

But the real reason we chose to travel with children was summed up in that moment when we first rounded a curve to see Mount Rushmore in the distance.  The collective childish gasp of amazement from the back seat made every tedious hour across the endless plains worthwhile.  The three-year-old was as enthralled as the seven-year-old, and spent the rest of our vacation scaling every rock in sight to pose and claim that she was now “George Lincoln”.IMG_7016 editIMG_6995 editIt was for them that we drove the wildlife loop at Custer State Park three times, just to hear them ooh and aah at the sight of several hundred bison moving down a valley en masse and squeal when the wild burros came lipping at our windows in hopes of handouts.  It was to laugh aloud every time the three-year-old shouted, “I see a cantaloupe!  I see a cantaloupe!” (any guesses what she was referring to?  Clue: it wasn’t fruit.).  It was to share their thrill each time a prairie dog popped up out of his hole and listen to them laugh with delight to see the young bighorn sheep leaping as confidently along the mountain crags as their parents.

We had seen it all before, but there was something wonderful about experiencing it anew through their eyes.IMG_7584 edit.jpgIMG_7578 edit.jpgIMG_6951 editIMG_6968 edit.jpgIMG_7838 editIMG_7452 edit.jpgIMG_7471 edit.jpgIMG_7854 editThe wonder continued when we visited the world’s largest collection of live reptiles.  We watched our littlest girl’s eye’s practically pop out of her head at the sight of a massive anaconda.  We looked together for loose tiny geckos running around in the conservatory, and gasped with them to find an (uncontained!) snake hanging in a tree over our heads.  We felt their excitement as they got to pet baby alligators and giant tortoises.  We laughed with them at the parrot who could meow like a kitten.

And I thought to myself: Wow! This place is way more fun than I remember as a teenager.  Had it changed that much?  No.  It was just me that had changed.  I was seeing the same blue frogs and cobras, but this time as a mother through the eyes of my children—and that made all the difference.IMG_7180 editIMG_6894 editIMG_6930 editIMG_7091 editOn this trip, I though a lot about what Jesus meant when He said: “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)

There’s more than one aspect to “becoming like children”, but I think most of it can be summed up with the word simplicity.   And I don’t mean simple as in “dumb”; I mean simplicity in the sense of pure and uncomplicated. 

Simplicity in faith. 

Simplicity in love. 

Simplicity in obedience.

Simplicity in wonder.

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Vacation Vignettes: Mountain

IMG_3083It took six hours of driving to get there.

Six hours in a truck with no air conditioning on an 80+ degree day (nothing a few rolled down windows couldn’t cure).

Six hours of “I Spy” scavenger hunts with melting M&Ms doled for prizes (a distraction tactic for restless little travelers that worked marvelously).

Six hours of this question from a certain small person in the back seat:

“Is that a mountain?” 

“No, not yet,” we’d patiently reply.  “After we get there, we’ll take you to see a mountain.”

Six hours of that question, over and over again, of every slight protrusion in the landscape.  And we smiled every time, because it was far too endearing to be annoying.  By the time the day of the promised outing arrived, I think we were looking forward to it almost as much as she was!  IMG_3136.JPGThe bad news, however, is that when we arrived at the much-anticipated first scenic viewpoint, all we could see was white.

Where were the mountains?  Completely obscured by a smothering blanket of heavy fog, that’s where.  Anti-climactic would be an understatement.

So, what’s a parent to do to save such a day?  Well, you find the shortest trail to the highest point in the area, get out of the vehicle and start climbing.IMG_3152IMG_3155.JPGIMG_3165-1.jpg IMG_3228IMG_3258IMG_3192-1IMG_3087Because sometimes, you just need to go higher and then everything becomes clear.

In those days, Jesus went up to the mountain to pray, and He spent the night in prayer to God. When daylight came, He called His disciples to Him and chose twelve of them, whom He also designated as apostles.” (Luke 6:11-13)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mountain Sunset

IMG_1959 edit.jpgWe just returned from a trip to the Sawtooth Mountains on the north shore of Lake Superior.  For much of our visit there, the peaks around us were veiled in fog or falling snow, but on the eve of our arrival, I was granted this sweeping vista with a clear view of craggy Moose Mountain silhouetted against the setting sun.

Certainly this gentle series of peaks pales in comparison to, say, the Rockies or the Andes, but I still loved looking up at them as we drove up the shore.  Even more, I loved waking up to the view of this particular peak each morning of our stay in their midst.  Had I not been pregnant, I would have loved to strap on some skis and join my husband and friends on a gondola ride to the peak so I could feel the mountain beneath my own two feet during the thrill of descent.

But even though I had to stay behind and only stare up the slopes from the valley, I was content with my view.  I may enjoy the conquest of a good ski slope (and I fully intend to join them next year!), but honestly the thing that inspires me the most about mountains is not whether I’m on top or at the bottom.  It boils down to a simple fact that I can appreciate no matter where I’m viewing them from:

that they’ve been there as long as anyone can remember.

The resorts and roads and trees and homes  and towns around them have come and gone over the years, while these peaks have solidly withstood the test of time. And they’ll be there next year, and the next, and the next.  Perhaps it’s because so many things in the world seem to be constantly teetering on the brink of uncertainty, but there’s something in me that finds comfort in things that stay the same.

Which makes these passages even more awe-inspiring:

“Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.”  (Psalm 90:2)

“The ancient mountains crumbled and the age-old hills collapsed– but he marches on forever.”  (Habakkuk 3:6)

“For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you.”  (Isaiah 54:10)IMG_1955 editThe amazing thing is that we serve a God whose eternal unchanging-ness supersedes the mountains.  Even if these seemingly immovable peaks were to unexpectedly blow up and slide into the depths of Lake Superior, He would still be God.  He is the only thing that we can truly count on to never change.

Now that is a fact to take comfort in!