Monday, September 26, 2011

They Shall Renew Their Strength

--
Somehow he looked at me and still thought I could do it. Perhaps he was an angel and I was unaware.

My little brother Chad and I had just entered the lodge at Cathedral Lakes Provincial Park. Since we were both visiting for the first time, we wanted a little guidance to help us decide which trail to choose for our day trip. We asked the quiet, but friendly young man who had been our driver on the 9-mile, 1-hour, 4-wheel-drive climb from the floor of the Ashnola River Valley up some 5400 feet to the lodge which sits at about 6800 feet above sea level. He told us about the popular but difficult Rim Trail, which I knew would be too hard for me right now (I have a bunch of weight to lose and a lingering problem with one foot that has kept me from doing much walking/hiking for the last few months), so we asked him for a less strenuous recommendation. He told us we could take the Glacier Lake Trail part of the way up to the Rim Trail and still get some beautiful views and that it would be a lot more gradual on the way up and then we could do the steeper part of the loop all downhill.

I secretly knew this would still probably be a real test for my foot, but I was so hungry for those mountain views and a day spent in alpine air with my little brother, I was willing to put up with whatever it took to take this hike, and off we went.

As the trail began we were in cool, shady, tree-lined meadows dotted with huge boulders and delicate wildflowers.


We followed our map and turned at the fork to go up to Glacier Lake, where the trail began to climb, gradually at first and a little more steeply the further we went. We made good use of the ski poles my mom and dad had given us to use for the day as they provided added stability and needed leverage to make our way up the sometimes rocky path.


A small flock of elegant whiskey jacks joined us and escorted us part of the way. Curious and friendly, sometimes landing on branches less than a yard away, they seemed completely unafraid and almost eager to show us their world. They were lovely hosts, singing a pretty song to encourage us on our trek.


It didn't take me long to start feeling the effects of the altitude.  I've been living near sea level for so long, my lungs felt extremely out of practice at breathing the thinner air up so high, not to mention the general physical exertion to which I have grown equally unaccustomed. Between the whiskey jacks and wildflowers, I was glad for lots of reasons to stop and catch my breath while I took pictures and just to soak up all the surrounding beauty that was so completely OTHER than the world I live in.




We finally found ourselves above the tree line and the sun was high and hot above us with no shade in sight. For some reason when we got out in the open, the bugs who had been present all along, but manageable, got markedly worse! The mosquitoes seemed to respect the repellent we wore, but the biting black flies were oblivious to anything but taking big chunks out of us at every opportunity. Our only respite seemed to be in staying on the move.  I kept finding myself weighing my need to stop to catch my breath with the need for relief from the flies.

We kept climbing, thinking surely we must be close to Glacier Lake, but every rise we cleared only revealed more to climb with no lake in sight. We stopped next to a big rock on a scenic slope and put down our gear, me with my camera backpack and Chad with his backpack AND our backpack of food packed by my wonderful mother! We tried to rest and drink our water and enjoy something to eat, but the flies made it almost unbearable, so we gathered up our packs and set off again.

By this time, it was getting really difficult for me--I was hot, drenched with sweat, almost desperate to be free of the swarming flies and my foot was hurting more with every step I took, and we weren't even at the lake yet. Although I wasn't about to complain, at one point Chad, seeing my discomfort, asked me if I wanted to just turn around and go back the way we had come.

"No way!" I said emphatically. I knew we had to be close, and there was no way in the world I wanted to turn back short of the goal!!

We pressed on, and finally, gloriously, we caught our first sight of Glacier Lake nestled at the feet of the towering, snow-patched mountains above. What a thrill to have made it! We stopped to take pictures despite the flies and their giant-sized cousins, the nasty horse flies who tried their best to get at us (they did NOT succeed!!)


I don't think I really did justice to the pictures I took up there. I took them in such a rush, fighting off flies between pictures, unable to take near the time or care to think through the shots I wanted to take and different settings to use, but hopefully you can get a sense of why this place is called Cathedral Lakes.  It is a place for worship, a place to bow down, a place to pray, a place to sing and shout for joy, and a place to stand in hushed and holy wonder.



Knowing we had a deadline to be back down at the lodge, and not knowing how long it would take us, we reluctantly left Glacier Lake behind and started our final steep and rocky climb to the top of the ridge before the trail turned sharply downward. My dear, sweet brother offered to carry all three of our backpacks up that last hill--I nearly fell on my nose the first few steps I took without my camera gear on my back.

We thought the hard part was over when we started our descent, but quickly found that the steep downhill trail was hard in a whole different way. Less strenuous in some ways, but demanding of much more concentration, and putting more strain on joints and tendons to carefully hold stable footing for each step down the relentlessly descending trail. It was like going 1000 feet (the actual difference in elevation from top to bottom) down a very uneven staircase, with each step being a rock or a root and sometimes just a smooth, almost slippery slope.

Giving up was not an option. Every step was a test. Every step was a choice. Every step was necessary. Every step was a victory!

Late that night when we got home I told my parents who had gifted us with this amazing experience, "We left it all out on the mountain." It had taken everything in me (and then some!) to complete that hike. I was simultaneously and paradoxically both exhausted and exhilarated--completely spent, but euphoric with the thrill of knowing what we had accomplished, the challenges and obstacles we had overcome, the glories we had seen and experienced and felt up there on top of the world!

One more seeming contradiction--those mountains and the thin mountain air had thoroughly humbled me, showing me in no uncertain terms my limitations and weakness and how incredibly small I am in their shadow, and yet I came away feeling so unbelievably strong!! I had done so much more than I ever thought I could! The last time I felt that way was in the moments after each of my children was born when I thought, "If I can do that, I can do ANYTHING!!"

In reflection, I was so glad I hadn't seen the whole trail beforehand or I never would have taken the first step. I was filled with gratitude for Chad, for his patience, his commiserating, his encouragement, for enjoying it as much as I did, for him carrying part of my load to help me over the roughest part, for his sense of humor and his wonderful calm. He was like the Holy Spirit in skin that day--couldn't have done it without you little brother!! Finally I will always be thankful that our young driver-maybe-angel had more confidence in me than I would have had in myself. It was an amazing experience, an amazing gift from my parents and my Heavenly Father, an amazing day I will never forget!

"but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint."


Do you ever sell yourself short or underestimate what you're capable of?
Ever been surprised by what God can enable you to accomplish/overcome?

___________________________________

Joining Ann Voskamp in counting His graces for her Multitudes on Mondays
I hope you'll join in if you haven't already!
In the counting of the endless gifts I say with C. S. Lewis,
"This also is Thou!"


#776-790
776. Hero Husband who loves us so sacrificially
777. The call from Mom & Daddy letting me know they got home from Washington safe and sound after a great trip!
778. The chance to see Auntie Marilyn & Uncle Ken before they headed home to Iowa!
779. Fun surprises!!
780. Our treadmill
781. That my car was right where I left it for an hour and a half with the keys inside
782. For the two very sweet people who helped me jump start said car
783. For Drummer Boy and She So Sweet who refused to let me beat myself up for the whole silly mishap that turned out so much better than it might have
784. The release of Drummer Boy's EP--so happy for him and proud of him!
785. Finding something to wear to the wedding . . . in my own closet!
786. That a friendship I once thought was over and done has lasted 27 years and counting
787. The fairy tale ending for my good friend that is just the beginning!
788. The gift of remembering!
789. The first feel of fall in the air, and a little rain
790. A big Raider win and sharing it with Hero Husband!

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A heartfelt thank you to these generous bloggers
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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Of Change and Change-less-ness

--
Change is inevitable. Times change, seasons change, people change, ways of doing things change, we change. Many changes are good ones as we constantly try to improve our way of life, and the desire for change is what lies at the root of countless innovations and brilliant ideas.

Change can be a good thing, but change can also be dizzying, frightening and unsettling, even dangerous. Sometimes in the midst of so much that is changeable, we really need to have some things that never change.

It had been five LOOOOONNNGGGG years since I had been home to British Columbia--the longest I've ever been away. I knew about some of the things that have changed in that time--the high school I graduated from has almost completely been replaced with shiny new buildings--I didn't even have the heart to ask Daddy to drive down Main Street to see it. I loved it the way it was. Out on the wide open Indian Reserve I used to know as untouched grassland where I spent untold thousands of happy hours on horseback, now stand houses and a big new school--it looks so strange to the eyes of my memory. The huge pine tree that marked our favorite spot along the Ashnola River is gone--it leaves such an empty place.

These changes and others like them felt a little like ill-fitting new shoes that pinch your toes or rub your heels into blisters. Thankfully, despite the swirl of changes all around, there were so many things that had not changed one bit, things that felt as familiar and comfy as your favorite, formed-to-your-feet flip flops!


-- the mighty willow tree still weeps happiness from on high

-- the bank out front is still hosting hilarious games of "King of the Hill"
(or Queen of the Hill as the case may be) =)

-- the old family bell (since 1886) still sounds it's sweet warm tone
when it calls out through the cherry trees
(looking as pretty as it sounds in its beautiful new home designed and created by my gifted little brother)
-- the walls inside the house are still adorned with familiar pictures of the smiling faces of big love and full hearts, beautiful Western art, my great grandmother's clock with it's faithful "tick-tock" and mezmerizing pendulum, my grandfather's guitar he bought when he was 16, and my favorite picture of Jesus by Richard Hook
Jesus the Christ by Richard Hook

-- the love, acceptance and hospitality still drip off every moment
like refreshing dew on morning flowers

-- and the quiet . . . the quiet is still as deep and still and comforting
as the dark blue velvet of a star-spangled midnight.

Sometimes sameness and familiarity breed contempt--not so these things, this place, this home, these people. The sameness is part of its magic--you wouldn't want it any other way, and big changes would be a sad disappointment.

There is only One who truly never changes;

"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever."

What a paradox that He is always new and never changing. How wondrous to know that the One who WILL NOT leave me as He found me, is forever, blessedly the same!! His perfection has no need of change and we have such need for His rock-solid sameness. In the lasting beauties of this earth-life we see but mere glory-glimpses of the eternal beauties of heaven and the changeless One who prepares it for us! May you know Him anew today in all His unchanging grace.

________________________________

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Sunday, September 18, 2011

Imagination Exceeded

--
I've been away.

I've been away, and I've been wondering how I would wrap words around where I've been and what I've seen, and how I could possibly hope to write down this heart-full of wonder I've brought back with me.

It sounds a cliche, but I truly don't know where to begin . . . there's so much . . .

What began as a phone call a few months ago, offering me a gift of thoughtfulness in proportions I cannot describe, has just culminated in a week I will never forget! This gift . . . 7 days in the mountains to breathe . . . to revive . . . to refresh . . . and to take pictures to my heart's content . . . Oh! Such a gift!!!

Maybe for the first time since I was their only child (my first six years), it was just me, my mom and dad, and the mountains we all are crazy about!! For this country/mountain girl living her life in the city, I couldn't have asked for anything more!!

Before I left, as excited as I was (I was VERY excited), the thought of leaving Hero Husband and our kids to go on this trip "just for me" was hard--I've never left all of them before. She So Sweet got sick the day before I left, and Hero Husband's work was just arriving at a new and more demanding schedule--I couldn't help feeling guilty for jetting off to the mountains when I knew their lives would be impacted by my absence. It wasn't that I thought they couldn't manage without me--I knew they could!! I just knew that they would be inconvenienced by having to do the things I would normally do and they would probably do things I normally should do, but don't always manage to get done. I may have been just a teeny bit worried that they would do my job better than I do.

Despite all my question marks and concerns, the time came for me to go and they all told me that they would miss me and to have a great time--and they meant it. When Hero Husband dropped me off at the airport and kissed me goodbye, there was no point in looking back, only forward with joy and anticipation of what the week would hold. I thought I knew what to expect, having lived there for 10 years growing up, but every imagination was exceeded by the reality of all that awaited me!

There will be time to share the details of my time in British Columbia and some of the more than a thousand pictures I took, but for the moment I am like the airplane, cruising at something above 30,000 feet, looking down from high above to see the tops of the clouds, and below them, the big landmarks that show me where I am.


You might think this was a vacation, a time of recreation, time off. While it had many of the same benefits, it was something so much more! Not only did I see some impressive landmarks, but there were big lifemarks I could see from up there that clarified my perspective, that reminded me where I've been and crystallized my focus on where I want to be. I am still processing the ways this trip has touched my heart, but I hope it will be increasingly evident that I am different than when I left, better, stronger, more hopeful, more joyful, more confident, and more determined.
"With God's power working in us, God can do much, much more than anything we can ask or imagine." Ephesians 3:20 NCV
I have barely begun to scratch the surface of the changes that will lead to transformation, but I am so thankful that it is our great GOOD God who is working in me, and that He can do far more in and through me than what I can even imagine. I am astounded that He can use mountains and clouds and trees and rocks and waterfalls to carve away the stuff in me that doesn't look like Jesus, but He can!! Yes, He really is like that!

How has God exceeded your imagination?
How does His superlative goodness inspire you?
___________________________________
Joining Ann Voskamp in counting His graces for her Multitudes on Mondays
I hope you'll join in if you haven't already!
In the counting of the endless gifts I say with C. S. Lewis,
"This also is Thou!"

#746-775 (A double portion since I was gone for a week!)
746. Time with my precious family on my birthday!
747. Mexican sweet corn cake--corn just may be the perfect food!!
748. Getting Momma Friday's photobook completed before my trip--whew!!
749. The sleep that helped She So Sweet get over her cold
750. NOT forgetting my passport card!!
751. No traffic through the Caldecott Tunnel, arriving at the airport to find no line to get through security, my gate literally at the top of the escalator from the security area, AND a Peet's Coffee a few feet away!! Pretty much a perfect start to an awesome trip!!
752. The dear lady who sat next to me on the plane--she had taught in my high school from 1947-51 (long before I was born)!! AND, she's a high-ranking member of the American Association of University Women--an organization whose help I just may soon need!! A divine appointment!!!
753. The euphoria of reunion and the "serious huggin'" that goes with it!!
754. The traditional lunch at the Longhorn that completes the trip to Spokane
755. Old barns
756. Giant circles of baled straw drying in Washington fields
757. 4½ uninterrupted hours in the car to talk and talk and talk!
758. The first view of Penticton that still takes my breath away like it did the first time, 40 years ago! It is still a "forever place."
759. Finding home almost completely, blissfully unchanged, despite changes all around
760. Sleeping in my old room--still the best room in the house!!
761. A day of backroads, bear stories, horses both wild and domestic, and the click, click, click of my happy shutter
762. Being greeted with big hugs for Auntie Shaunie in the grey light of early morning by my nephew Greyson and niece Danica, and the great times we had during the week!!
763. Getting to spend an entire glorious day in Cathedral Lakes Provincial Park with my little brother Chad, and his patience and help when the thin air and my lack of conditioning  AND my photography made for LOTS of stops along the way!
764. Hard eucharisteo--the mosquitoes and biting black flies that kept us moving when the hiking got hard (I'm still itching more than a week later!!)
765. Wildflowers
766. Being there to see a rock slide happen right in front of us (from a safe distance) 
767. Curious whiskey jacks, cooperative butterflies, and entertaining pikas, chipmunks, squirrels and marmots that kept us company
768. The view at the top, and the proud feeling of accomplishment back down at the bottom
769. The unbelievable mountains between Revelstoke and Rogers Pass that poured life into me with every breathtaking glimpse
770. The deafening roar at the Meeting of the Waters--the clash of wills where the Illecillewaet River and the Asulkan Brook become a confluence of icy cold, sparkling clear glacier runoff
771. My daddy, stopping every two feet to let me capture the rectangles of glory everywhere I looked!
772. My mommy, insisting on sitting in the back seat to let me have the clearest views and the easiest way in and out of the car to take pictures!
773. Getting to watch some football with my folks, just like when I was growing up
774. The official, completely up to date tour of Daddy's "Sports Room"--his amazing collection of sports memorabilia of every kind!
775. That when I got back to my own family in California, I was blessed with such a warm and happy welcome!

Joining Michelle DeRusha for:

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A heartfelt thank you to these generous bloggers
who make these communities available!

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Power of a Changed Want-To

--

It's my birthday today.

Two years ago, I wrote a birthday contemplation about peeling away the old to reveal the growth underneath.  I looked to the manzanita tree to visualize the process of becoming. Time went by.

Ten months ago I wrote about how I was Thinking About Thinking, and praying for God to continuously untangle me from the sometimes unintentional, but destructive thinking that was determining my actions.  Time went by.

At the beginning of 2011 I wrote reluctantly about my struggle with my weight and my desire to see God's strength victorious in the place of my greatest weakness and failure.  I discovered my need for a new perspective and a good attitude toward a life-long problem.  Time went by.

A little over four months ago I wrote about a bizarre encounter that held up a mirror to my heart. That mirror shockingly revealed the truth, I was my own mean girl! From the moment I realized I was actually mistreating  an Image-bearer, I stopped (read that "obeyed")! Completely. Time went by.

On July 20th I wrote, "Father, I want to be well."  Eight days later I took one concrete step toward getting there.  That first step inspired other steps, and each day is now an opportunity to stack up steps in the right direction.  I don't get everything right every day.  I don't really even try.  But every step toward my goals is progress and gets me closer than spending another day putting it off because the destination seems overwhelmingly far away. Time is passing and I am continuing to make progress.

Vision + Prayer + Perspective + Obedience + Action + Time = GROWTH!!

As I look back, I see a thread that runs directly through each of these posts that has continually moved me into the growth I first visualized two years ago. Okay Lord. Seriously, am I harder to turn than the Titanic? I must be to take so long to see progress. But it IS progress, and I am struck by the power of a changed want-to. It may have taken awhile for it all to gel, but the manzanita tree takes a full year of growth before it sheds its old bark, so I guess I'm in pretty good company.  I'm just thankful that my impatience has not stopped the growth God was producing all along, even when I couldn't really see anything happening.


I still have a long way to go, but looking back to see how far I've come encourages me that a little bit of patience and some sustained obedience over time will see me all the way through to the realization of my goals.

If you are where I was, thinking tomorrow would be a better day to start toward a far distant goal, I pray that God would lift your head today and that you would begin to see His unstoppable faithfulness in helping you grow.  He's working even when you can't see ANYTHING happening!

"The wise are mightier than the strong,
and those with knowledge grow stronger and stronger."

Do you need to take a backward glance to notice some progress?
How will you collect some touchstones of growth in your life?
___________________________________

Joining Ann Voskamp in counting His graces for her Multitudes on Mondays
I hope you'll join in if you haven't already!
In the counting of the endless gifts I say with C. S. Lewis,
"This also is Thou!"



#731-745
731. Teaching She So Sweet to crochet
732. Being able to remember how
733. Not taking things for granted
734. New Scotty McCreery song
735. Unhurried time with Drummer Boy
736. Hearing his dreams and detailed plans for a venue for live music
737. The toss of She So Sweet's pretty head when she likes her new haircut
738. When the fog of a headache finally lifts
739. For all the days that aren't smoggy Spare the Air days
740. Being able to sign off a phone conversation with Mom & Daddy with, "See you next week!"
741. The cool in the morning air that means fall is not far off
742. Fun times watching a great movie with my family
743. The truth that peeked out from every corner of "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader"
744. Itunes on shuffle in the "Shaunie's Music" playlist, with the speakers turned up!
745. Putting things in order that have desperately needed organizing


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