Project 52 #38: The Road to Luck Lake

This week we took a little school field trip up to Luck Lake where we did some hiking and had a picnic. It was a lovely fall day for some nature study out in the wild. I found and identified highbush cranberries, the leaves were fluttering down from the alders, and the pushki (cow parsnip) were making stunning dried floral arrangements wherever we looked.

The winding road between there and Thorne Bay is nothing but wilderness, and crosses multiple salmon streams. We paused on each bridge to observe the water below us teeming with fish intent on spawning, marveling at the spectacle. The life cycle of the salmon has fascinated me since I watched “The Wonders of God’s Creation” as a child, but what a gift it is to be able to observe part of that cycle in person.

Did you know salmon are anadromous? That means they hatch in freshwater, migrate to salt water, then return to the same fresh water they hatched from to spawn. It was a cool big word to teach my students this week.

“The earth is the LORD’s, and the fullness thereof, the world and all who dwell therein.” (Psalm 24:1)

Project 52 #24: Fawns, Saltwater, and Thimbleberry Blossoms

“O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you, in heaven above or on earth beneath…

keeping covenant and showing steadfast love to your servants who walk before you with all their heart…

…But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain You…

The Lord our God be with us, as he was with our fathers. May he not leave us or forsake us, that he may incline our hearts to him…

to walk in all his ways and to keep his commandments, his statutes, and his rules, which he commanded our fathers.” (excerpts from 1 Kings 8, Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the temple)

About the pictures: This is a Sitka blacktail doe with her tiny fawn, the first mama to kindly pose for me (after trying to get a shot of a pair all week to no avail). They are more diminutive than the whitetail deer I’ve been familiar with for most of my life, almost goat-like, and those babies are about the cutest thing you’ve ever stopped your car to take pictures of.

We celebrated our youngest daughter’s birthday at the beach, and the waves were wild, big and wonderful!

The thimble berries have such showy flowers, they’re the equivalent to bushes of white wild roses around town! But this is not to say that the roses themselves haven’t been beautiful.

P.S. If you’re new here and wondering what “Project 52” is all about, you can go here to read more!

Project 52 #22: Memorial Beach

Memorial Beach is a remote beach at the very northern tip of the island, a good 4+ hour drive away from Thorne Bay. We’ve been wanting to go up there for a while, but we knew we wanted to spend the night and have some time to enjoy the place if we drove that kind of distance. The options of places to stay were 1) bring a tent, or 2) be lucky enough to be the first one to claim the one and only first-come, first-serve three-sided camping shelter. That’s it. In other words, it needed to be decent weather for tent camping, because there was no guarantee of securing the shelter.

When the forecast popped up with two days straight of sunshine with zero chance of rain (a bit of a rarity here in a rainforest!), we made some fast plans and went for it. I’m so glad we did. The weather was absolutely perfect, and we were fortunate enough to have the beach completely to ourselves for most of our stay—including the coveted camping shelter, complete with bunks and a tiny woodstove!

Prepare yourself to scroll through a lot of pictures!

It’s hard to accurately depict scale in photos sometimes, but the first shot below of Zach walking on the beach gives you some idea of the size of the old growth forest that surrounded us. These were BIG trees, and the forest floor beneath them was the loveliest place to walk.

There were some really beautiful and unique rocks at this beach, including marble. We also saw sea lions, sea otters and seals in the distance, and found the beautiful sea anemone pictured below. Our little camping shelter was situated perfectly to watch the sun set—what a treat to have nothing on our agenda but to sit there and watch it go down. We savored the beauty and silence of this place so much, and we only wished we had brought enough water and food to stay longer!

What I’ve been reading and thinking about this week:

“[The Lord] sent from on high, He took me; He drew me out of many waters.
He rescued me from my strong enemy, from those who hated me, for they were too mighty for me.
They confronted me in the day of my calamity, but the Lord was my support.
He brought me out into a broad place; He rescued me, because He delighted in me.”
(2 Samuel 22:17-20)

So very, very thankful for this truth!

Project 52 #19: Treasures

This day was a gift. It was warm enough for short sleeves and bare feet at the beach (really the first day like that this spring!) and daddy was content to kick back while watching the kids in the water—so I hiked out on the point in search of low tide treasures.

Sometimes they’re the kind of treasures you tuck in your pocket, sometimes they’re the kind of treasures you tuck away in your camera…and sometimes they’re the kind of treasures that don’t fit in your pocket or make it into your camera. You’ll have to use your imagination to add the slap of the waves against the rocks, the distant echoes of children’s laughter and the warmth of the sun on skin. Insert a furry creature (mink? fisher?) too quick for my camera and an otter making ripples in the sea too far out for my lens to capture. Slow it all down to the speed of picking your way delicately along the uneven surface of rocky crustacean and seaweed covered tidal zones, each step a test and an experiment.

Then you’d about have it about right.

What I’ve been reading: This week, I started the book of 1st Samuel, which, coincidentally, went right along with my husband’s recent Mother’s Day sermon on the story of Hannah. I especially loved the way Hannah praised the Lord, giving Him all the glory for His working in her life and acknowledging His supreme control.

“The LORD brings death and gives life; He brings down to Sheol and raises up. The LORD sends poverty and wealth; He humbles and He exalts. He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap. He seats them among princes and bestows on them a throne of honor.

For the foundations of the earth are the LORD’s, and upon them He has set the world. He guards the steps of His faithful ones, but the wicked perish in darkness…”

And my favorite line: “…for by his own strength shall no man prevail.” (1 Samuel 2:6-9)

May I never forget the joy of answered prayer in the moments of waiting, and may I always remember that all the good things I enjoy are the result of His abundant mercies rather than my own merit.

P.S. If you’re new here and wondering what “Project 52” is all about, you can go here to read more!

Project 52 #18: Loving Your Enemies

“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you… 

If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone takes your cloak, do not withhold your tunic as well. 

Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what is yours, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.

If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 

If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do the same. 

And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full.

But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them, expecting nothing in return...

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:27-36)

I’ve been thinking about this passage from Luke ever since I read it this last week. This goes so against the grain of our culture, and frankly, our human nature. We are so programmed to fight for our rights. But do good and lend, expecting nothing in return? And not only that, but do it for the people who don’t like you or treat you badly? Why? It doesn’t make sense!

But Christ’s kingdom isn’t just one more democracy or republic on Planet Earth, and neither are the laws that govern it commonplace or ordinary. It’s so otherworldly that it literally is upside down to everything we’re used to here. It’s so completely contrary to everything our culture and our flesh tells us, there’s no way to fuse the two together and have the “best of both worlds”. It requires a complete mind shift, a transfer of allegiance from the kingdom of this world to heavenly kingdom of our Father, a transformation from darkness to light. It’s called being heavenly minded instead of earthly minded, being visionary instead of short-sighted, realizing that success and “winning” according to God’s standards has a whole new definition, and recognizing that the rewards of heaven will far, far surpass the fleeting pleasures of this world.

That’s a lot to think about when a bully is making fun of your child, or someone treats you unfairly, or that neighbor wants to borrow something yet again and you’re pretty sure you won’t be getting it back if you agree. But I wonder what would happen if we were all brave enough and radical enough to respond 100% according to God’s ways? I don’t know for sure, but there’s a clue in Luke 6:35:

Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.

About the photos: This is a mix of shots from a hike we took up One Duke Trail, and a few from the gardens around our house. The white flower pictured is a new-to-me wildflower called Mountain Marsh Marigold, which I was delighted to discover along the muskeg when we were hiking. The pink flowers are a gorgeous domestic flower that someone planted in the gardens by our house before my time. I don’t know what they’re called, though—can any of you tell me?

P.S. If you’re new here and wondering what “Project 52” is all about, you can go here to read more!

Project 52 #17: On Salmonberries and Friendship

The forest here is really beginning to burst with color and life, and I am loving watching it all. With so many different and unfamiliar kinds of plants in this wet, coastal climate, it’s like getting to know a new friend.

Already a few favorites are developing, like the lovely and prolific salmonberry bushes. I’ll always remember when we met the salmonberries for the first time last July, on the evening of our arrival in Alaska. It was the girls’ first day to see our new home, and they were full of excitement and curiosity. Before we knew it they were picking salmonberries with the neighbors, giant sparkling jeweled berries that grew wild and free along the streets. We were instantly charmed. You could say we and the salmonberries hit it off right away. We picked more in the next few weeks while the berries were in season and made some treats with them. I might have told you then that I was now familiar with salmonberries.

But then, we watched the autumn frosts touch their leaves, that eventually fell to the ground. We watched the canes dripping bare with November rains, weighed down with December snows and January ice. We waited for spring to slowly, slowly wake them up. One day in March, I overheard one lady exclaim delightedly to another in the store: “I saw the first salmonberry blossom today!” I walked out of that store and promptly went looking until I found a bush along the waterfront, studded with twisted buds on the verge of bursting open. I was surprised and delighted to discover that they were a vivid shade of brilliant pink. Now they are open everywhere, as pictured above, studding the leafing branches with punches of color. It yet remains in the next couple months for us to watch the petals fall and the berries to develop before we come full circle. I realize now that it takes more than a great first impression and having a little fun together to build true familiarity.

Friendship is like that. Even if you hit it off right away, the development of a true, lasting friendship takes time, weathering all the seasons of life, the good and the bad, each shared experience another building block in the process of developing a relationship with anyone. Like the world of nature, friendship is organic. It can’t be forced or rushed, but it can be encouraged and nurtured. And sometimes, something truly beautiful comes of it, the kind of friendship that people write stories about.

The book of Ruth is one of those kind of stories. Ruth starts out the story as a foreign heathen Moabite woman, brought into relationship with Naomi by marriage to her son. The death of Mahlon, their mutual interest, could easily have separated them, but instead drew them closer. By the end of the story, Ruth has become better to Naomi “than seven sons”. These women grieved together, journeyed together, went through hardship together, solved problems together, rejoiced together, and, most importantly, grew in their understanding of and trust in God together—and the result may have been one of the loveliest mother-in-law/daughter-in/law relationships ever recorded.

“Boaz replied, “I have been made fully aware of all you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband, how you left your father and mother and the land of your birth, and how you came to a people you did not know before.  May the LORD repay your work, and may you receive a rich reward from the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have taken refuge.” (Ruth 2:11-12)

“Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the LORD, who has not left you this day without a kinsman-redeemer. May his name become famous in Israel. He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth.” (Ruth 4:14-15)

P.S. If you’re new here and wondering what “Project 52” is all about, you can go here to read more!

Project 52 #16, Part 2: Swan Song Trail

Have you ever had one of those moments in life where you feel like you need to pinch yourself to make sure whatever you’re experiencing isn’t a dream? When we stepped out of the forest trail onto the shores of this ocean inlet sparkling in the sunshine, and saw the mountains rising snowy and majestic beneath the blue sky before us, that’s exactly how I felt. If it had been a movie set, the soundtrack would have been by John Williams. The scenery was that epic.

We followed the shoreline of the inlet out to where a World War II-era EC-47 airplane had to make an emergency crash landing in 1968 due to engine failure. The landing was successful enough that all four passengers survived, and the plane didn’t burn up, leaving us with a little piece of history in an unlikely place. Fifty-four years later, it’s a bit more worse for the wear, but it makes for a great place to take a snack break on an improvised plane wing picnic table. The kids had a blast climbing around on it, and little Jonathan cried when it was time to go and kept calling, “Bye, hair-plane!” for a long time after we left.

Along the way, we were thrilled to see and hear sandhill cranes (too fast for my camera), and not thrilled (but also not surprised) to find fresh bear tracks in the mud. I spotted a new-to-me variety of shorebirds, pictured below. Two of our party nearly lost a boot in the muddy tidal flats, so that was a new lesson learned about the ocean.

“[You] set the earth on its foundations, never to be moved.

You covered it with the deep like a garment; the waters stood above the mountains.

At Your rebuke the waters fled; at the sound of Your thunder they hurried away—the mountains rose and the valleys sank to the place You assigned for them—You set a boundary they cannot cross, that they may never again cover the earth.” (Psalm 104:5-9)

P.S. Yes, I know I already did a post #16, but this time you get a bonus! We went on two different excursions this week, taking advantage of the gorgeous weather, and it just felt like the photos of them needed to be in two separate posts.

Project 52 #14: Control Creek

I read the entire book of Joshua this week, and I love the way it’s bookended.

It begins with this powerful commission from God directly to Joshua:

“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.  Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:8-9)

It ends with Joshua passing a similar commission on to the children of Israel before his death:

“And now I am about to go the way of all the earth, and you know in your hearts and souls, all of you, that not one word has failed of all the good things that the Lord your God promised concerning you. All have come to pass for you; not one of them has failed…

…Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 23:14, 24:14-15)

What a great way to begin and end a ministry!

About the photos: This is the creek that runs into Balls Lake, looking beautiful on a sunny day. The berries were amazingly still clinging from fall, and tiny bit of thin ice at the marshy edges was there to remind us that it’s still EARLY spring. We took a short family hike here one afternoon, and then I joined a group of friends to go around the whole lake later in the week. We had such a great time laughing and visiting as we went, and even spotted three of my old friends, the trumpeter swans (who wouldn’t let us get close). Their distinctive call brings back so many sweet memories!

In other news, my camera battery charger got misplaced, so it’s phone photography for a while until I can find it or replace it!

Project 52 #12: Huckleberry Blossoms

The last time we took a walk along Gravelly Creek, it was a winter wonderland.

But in the golden hour of this glorious clear spring day, when the last rays of the sunshine were slanting low along the singing water and through the stately cedars, I saw the huckleberry bushes in all their fairytale spring glory for the first time.

Even this tiny spider (normally not one of my favorite creatures!) on her web seemed ethereal and lovely, like gossamer lace amidst a thousand shimmering translucent bells dancing along the shadowed forest floor. Perhaps the fact that the sun pierces here so infrequently was what made it all so magical.

This week I’ve been reading through the book of Deuteronomy, and I had a couple thoughts about it.

First, the long lists of laws and sacrifices can seem burdensome (and praise God, those sacrifices are no longer necessary now that we are covered by the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus!), however if you were to sit down and read through the current laws of your state or country, you’d likely feel the same way or worse. Like: wow, that’s a lot. How am I supposed to remember all that?! Even the laws strictly concerning driving are overwhelming when you’re trying to take a driver’s test!

But some of those lists of detailed rules were really only there for clarification, and for the benefit of those who would keep the order and judge between cases, the “law enforcement”, if you will. Ultimately, all those laws pointed directly back to the basic principles of the ten commandments, which in turn, as Jesus pointed out, are summed up in two, of which one is ultimately the greatest. So it was really quite simple: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind (and your neighbor as yourself).

Second, the call to holiness is not a burden, it’s an honor. Just read these two parallel passages and think about the language of privilege used in them:

“For you are a people holy to the LORD your God, and the LORD has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.” (Deuteronomy 14:2)

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9)

P.S. If you’re new here and wondering what “Project 52” is all about, you can go here to read more!

Project 52 #9 Snowy Peaks and Hiking Views

“If you walk in my statutes and observe my commandments and do them, then I will give you your rains in their season, and the land shall yield its increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. 

Your threshing shall last to the time of the grape harvest, and the grape harvest shall last to the time for sowing. And you shall eat your bread to the full and dwell in your land securely. 

I will give peace in the land, and you shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid. And I will remove harmful beasts from the land, and the sword shall not go through your land. 

You shall chase your enemies, and they shall fall before you by the sword.  Five of you shall chase a hundred, and a hundred of you shall chase ten thousand, and your enemies shall fall before you by the sword. 

I will turn to you and make you fruitful and multiply you and will confirm my covenant with you. 

You shall eat old store long kept, and you shall clear out the old to make way for the new. 

I will make my dwelling among you, and my soul shall not abhor you. 

And I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people.” (Leviticus 26:3-12)

While it’s important to remember that this is a specific promise to the Israelite people, what I found beautiful about this passage was what it told me about the high value that God places on obedience and following His ways.

This is still true of God, by the way, and we’re not exempt from this principle. We have our own promises of the blessings of obedience. Here’s just one of them:

“Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” (John 14:23)

About the photos: Most of our snow at the lower elevations has disappeared—and finally some of the back roads and trails are accessible again! I was so excited about this and the beautiful sunny weather that I hiked two trails this week. You can see part of the town of Thorne Bay in the first overlook photo, and a bird’s eye view of the town of Craig on the other side of the island in the last photo. I was literally looking down at soaring eagles here. Also pictured, a couple of the highest peaks on Prince of Wales where there’s snow year-round!

P.S. If you’re new here and wondering what “Project 52” is all about, you can go here to read more!