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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A Psalm for Spring

IMG_4922 editWinter is well suited for contemplation.  Spring, I’m reminded lately, is not.  Spring is, rather, for living in the moment, moving constantly from the enjoyment of one beautiful, wonderful thing to the next, trying not to dwell on the fact that you’re probably still missing something wonderful.  Nothing sits still, lingers or waits for you.  There is a great tension of panic and excitement that wells up inside of me at the recognition of this.  I feel a little like my children, oh so impatient to be done with phonics and math, oh so eager to run outside and not miss a single glorious day of this fleeting season.

And to be honest, that’s kind of what I’ve been doing.  I’ve been so busy in my spare time taking pictures of the world exploding to life lately, I’ve had little time to think of composing words to accompany them and little motivation to sit down and apply myself to the task.  This is what happens to severely cabin-fevered Minnesotans after over half a year of winter, I suppose.  Finally, I’ve realized that soon I’ll have more pictures in my files than can ever properly fit in one blog post and I’d better quit waiting around for writing inspiration and just send them out into the world before they’re completely out of date.

Besides, I suspect the words of this ancient Psalm sum it up far better than I ever could.  Welcome to a little glimpse of the glory of spring that I’ve been reveling in.

IMG_4792 edit“How good it is to sing praises to our God, IMG_4926 edithow pleasant and lovely to praise Him!IMG_4939 edit.jpgGreat is our Lord, and mighty in power;IMG_5051 edit.jpgHis understanding has no limit.IMG_4917 edit.jpgSing to the LORD with thanksgiving; IMG_4947 edit.jpgmake music on the harp to our God, IMG_4995 edit.jpgwho covers the sky with clouds,img_5024-edit.jpgwho prepares rain for the earth,

IMG_5030 edit.jpg IMG_5044 edit.jpgwho makes grass to grow on the hills.IMG_5065 editHe sends forth His command to the earth; His word runs swiftly.IMG_5068 edit.jpgHe provides food for the animals,IMG_4978 edit.jpgand for the young ravens when they call.IMG_4984 edit.jpgHallelujah!”

(Excerpts from Psalm 147)

Bright Eyed and Bushy Tailed

IMG_9869I’ll just go ahead and admit that I like this little red squirrel.

Yes, yes, I know.  They can be terrible pests.

But, to his credit, so far this one hasn’t been.  Well, other than the fact that he thinks that he owns our porch (where he lurked all winter in hopes of spilled birdseed) and now, apparently, our clothesline.

Now, granted, I haven’t really used that clothesline since fall.  And it’s not even my regular clothesline.  It’s my old one, from the days before my husband built me an official one, strung up between a couple trees near the back door.  It was supposed to get taken down after he built the other one, but then it didn’t—and we kept using it on occasion for things like draping a sleeping bag that needs to be aired after a camping trip and that sort of thing and so there it remains.

In other words, partially abandoned, but not entirely, you know?  I mean, I hadn’t posted a “Free, Help Yourself!” sign on it or anything yet.

So I was just a little taken aback when I went out there a couple weeks ago to hang a few things to air in the sunshine, and found myself in very hot water.  Can’t you just see the indignation written all over this little fellow’s face?IMG_9873.JPGI don’t think I’ve ever gotten quite such a sound scolding as he and his mate gave me.  As you can see, he was so put out with me, he came right down out of the tree and sat right at the end of that clothesline, inches from my face, to give me a piece of his mind.  In the branches directly over my head, his mate joined the tirade, scraping little bits of pine bark into my hair in protest.IMG_9876Finally, I fled for the house, and they sat back from their squatter’s rights protest, smug with victory.

Or so they thought. 

Because a couple minutes later I emerged again, this time without any suspicious articles of laundry but armed instead with a camera.

“Hello, Mr. and Mrs. Squirrel, I’m the news reporter from your local Rejoicing Hills Gazette.  I heard rumors that you’ve been experiencing trouble with your neighbor lately”–-insert camera shutter clicking busily—“and I’d like to interview you for a piece on it in tomorrow’s paper.  Would you willing to answer a few questions?”

And were they ever!

Now let’s just hope I don’t get sued by the High Court of Sciuromorpha (if you don’t know what that means, click here) for taking and publishing their photos without permission.  Wink.

“Do not go out hastily to argue your case;  otherwise, what will you do in the end, when your neighbor humiliates you?

Argue your case with your neighbor, and do not reveal the secret of another, or he who hears it will reproach you, and the evil report about you will not pass away.”  (Proverbs 25:8-10)

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Hello There!

inquisitive squirrel / rejoicing hills“You have crowned the year with Your bounty…and the little hills rejoice on every side.”  (Psalm 65:11, 12)

This bright-eyed furry face, pausing on his busy way just long enough to say hello, seemed an appropriate way to begin this first blog post.  I am, after all, a little like this bushy-tailed friend of mine, stopping briefly to peek around my tree trunk, curious about who may pause along their busy way in this big Internet world to look into my corner of woods.  Welcome, whoever you are.

This is a record of a journey of wonder, in small places, in splendid places, in unexpected places.  A journal of long walks through familiar woods and fields, along lakes and streams, always in search of beauty.  I am like that squirrel, always running about in search of treasure to stow away to savor and enjoy later—only I for-go the hazelnuts in favor of breathtaking moments in time, captured by the click of my shutter.  And, everywhere I search, and find without fail, the fingerprints of a Creator God.

May you find, as you join me on this journey through seasons, that the Lord has indeed crowned the year—and the world—with His bounty.  The little hills—and the little squirrels—rejoice on every side.  Come discover with me!