Sunday, July 29, 2012

We Walk By Faith

Destination: unknown
Total Miles: 8 years and counting
Total Cost: my life

Eight years ago today my life changed.

Sounds a little dramatic...and trust me, it was. It changed my perspective, my prospects, my I said, my life.

Exactly 8 years ago I was a high school graduate working my normal summer job. Sometime before lunch, I got a call from my mom.

"The rain isn't stopping. The wayer is up to the second level. We've called the fire department and they're on their way."

Our house was in a flood zone, and that day 3 to 5 storm cells converged over our area dumping enough water to cause the little creek next to the house to rise so fast the family barely had enough time to get a few things from the lower stories to the top.

When it was all said and done, there was over 5 feet of water inside the house.

My sister, Charity, and I shared a bedroom on the lowest level. All my high school stuff, all my college prep stuff, our clothes and books, everything was soaked in red, muddy flood waters.

Sounds pretty awful?

It seemed like it.

Over the next couple days, our family experienced an outpouring of love. God provided people to clean up the house, places for us to stay, and a host of other things.

But, honestly, the most important thing that came out of this awful experience was the lessons I learned. Lessons that I need every day.

1. We walk by faith and not by sight. An ensemble sang this the Suday after the flood. Faith is developed by circumstances and is a road I travel, not just a decision I make.

2. God allows each circumstance in our lives not only to build our faith and bring us closer to Him but also to help us help others. What we learn from our circumstances and failures isn't something we should keep to ourselves. Rather, it is something we must use to proclaim God's goodness and provision.

3. Life is a journey. There are patches of "Rough Road" and patches of smooth pavement. God already knows where the next stop will take place, where the rest areas are, what parts will be stormy...and He has given us a Map, His Word.

4. God requires my full surrender. A living sacrifice. And He promises lead me on my journeys...beside still waters or through valleys.

Eight years. I would not be where I am..who I am...without that experience 8 years ago.

Praise the Lord, my journey continues...with lots of road trips!

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Hills Are Alive!

Denver Trip...part 4 (and final, sadly)

For Trip Info please see:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

My last full day in Colorado was Tuesday (7/10). As mentioned before, sleep was elusive during the nights we camped out...Monday night saw a grand total of 4.5 hours combined sleep.

I woke up in the middle of the night (my middle being defined as 3:30 am) needing to use the toilet. Being a nurse, I figured I could wait it out and would just fall back asleep. Right. An hour of tossing and turning later, I finally grabbed a flashlight and walked across the way (hoping against hope that I might catch a glimpse of some night-wandering elk herd...which did NOT happen).

As I walked back to the campsite, I glanced up at the stars.


If you ever want to feel your own insignificance, visit Colorado, go to the mountains, and stand outside your tent at 4:30 in the morning. Psalm 8 immediately came to my mind, and if it hadn't been during "Quiet Time" (aka everyone-is-sleeping) at the campsite, I would have been singing my heart out (at least voicing the cry of my heart):

"When I gaze into the night sky and see the work of Your fingers, the moon and stars suspended in space: Oh what is man that You are mindful of him?"

(end of blurb) :)  (also: no pictures...sorry. Google "Colorado Night Sky images" and that should give you a decent picture or 2)

So, being cold and tired, I snuggled back into my sleeping bag and (after reading through Psalm 8 and a portion of the book of Job) fell back asleep.

In the morning, we all chowed down on some hot oatmeal, finished off any remaining pop tarts (I think), downed some hot chocolate, then packed up the campsite.

Since the evening before, I had been wanting to go out on the lake. After everything was packed up, consensus was that we should head down to the lake for an hour or so.

Sadly, they had no canoes or even kayaks available for rent at the marina. But they did have a paddleboat, which was rentable for a reasonable by-the-hour price. Hudson, Rebekah and I paddled out on the lake for an hour, amusing ourselves by skipping rocks from the boat, observing massive fish swimming beneath us, and listening to some random music. (can I just say that the leg workout from that paddleboat was phenomenal?)

The day was beautiful! Clear skies with just a few perfectly puffed clouds...the drive home was gorgeously, picture-perfect.

We stopped for a quick climb at the Cottonwood Pass Continental Divide. The Coloradans beat me to the top (no surprise there!). The views were breathtaking! I can't even begin to describe the 360 view.

Instead of hiking to the next ridge (someday...when I'm in better shape), we walked down to a snow patch. Caroline and I were both wearing flip-flops (I appropriate to climb up a mountain pass and walk through snow in flip-flops), and we opted to take pics standing in the freezing snow.

Just past the snowy patches was a field of little, white flowers. I couldn't resist the urge to run (as fast I could at that altitude and in flip-flops, bundled as I was) up the hill singing "The hills are alive with the sound of music!"

We headed back to the car for a quick lunch, then drove the rest of the way home (plus a stop in Fairplay for some Java of Caroline's "Must. Have. Coffee." moments).

Naps were in store for Caroline and myself upon arrival at home (at least, I took I nap...I think she did too). After dinner with the family (which was as loud and crazy as my family's dinnertimes) and devotions, Caroline indulged my cravings to see more stars and took me up to Red Rocks Amphitheater. Even though there was a concert, we were able to see tons of stars and had a great time talking.

After a full night's sleep, it was time to pack up and head back to Greenville. Hudson and/or David let us know that since it was July 11th, we could get free slurpees at 7-11. Caroline and I made a pit stop on our way to the airport.

Hopefully everyone has been able to catch up on some sleep! I've been on-off-on-off the last week with work (hence the delayed last-Denver-post), but I am pleased to report that I was finally able to unpack my suitcase (exactly one week after arriving home).

In conclusion, the Rockies have to be some of the most beautiful sites in America. But to be truthful, as much as I love Colorado, it would not be nearly as awesome without Caroline and her family. Huge thanks to them for opening their home! Can't wait until my next visit...who knows what adventures await!

Until then, life will go on...and this upcoming Sunday afternoon starts my week-long adventure with the LPs and Christy. Stay tuned for The Little People Go to Washington!

Friday, July 13, 2012

With A Moo Moo Here

Denver Trip...part 3.

Destination: Crested Butte, Kebler Pass, Black Canyon
Total Miles: 300 miles (round trip, approximate)
Total Cost: Maybe $50? gas and food?

The wonderful thing about camping is the minuscule amount of sleep your body can function on.

After a cold night, filled with a strange dream and lots of tossing and turning, I was awake by some unknown time. (The reason for not knowing the time was because I had lent my phone to David and Hudson at bedtime and forgotten to retrieve it.) Fortunately, Caroline was up too, so we took a brisk walk around the campground to warm ourselves up.

-It should be noted that during this walk, on which I had no camera, we spotted three bucks and a doe meandering through the campground.

To be quite truthful, I was so cold that I couldn't bring myself to change out of my sweatpants and sweatshirt. But, having been reassured that they would still be my friends even if I wore the same clothes for over 24 hours, I proceeded to put on an extra layer in hopes of warming myself back to a somewhat normal temperature.

Breakfast was a heartwarming affair...literally. Hot chocolate was in order, and life began to look brighter.

As I sipped my hot cocoa, I saw a movement in the trees behind us. Whatever the creature, it was larger than the deer! I momentarily got excited that I was perhaps seeing some live elk...but it was not to be. A loud "MOO!" came from the general direction, and cows could be seen wandering up the hillside through the trees.

 After breakfast, our merry band set off early in search of adventure.

While construction slowed us down, and we missed a couple turns, we were able to find the road that led to Crested Butte. Inching our way up the dirt path that hugged the hill, I saw in the distance a large black speck, moving towards us.

As we continued on, the speck grew and separated into many larger specks. Two cowboys, true Western cowboys (complete with horses, cowboy hats and boots), were herding cows down the road straight toward us! Caroline pulled the car as far over as she could, and we waited out the herd. Of course, after they passed and we had driven up the road a short distance, we saw the sign: "Caution: Livestock on Highway." No kidding. Moo, moo!

Crested Butte was amazing! We stopped at the Visitor's Center and were given directions to a "nice drive" over Kebler Pass. The views included not only the mountains but also beautiful aspen trees which lined sections of the drive.

Caroline taught me how to downshift, and after we had left the pass, I took a turn driving. For lunch we had opted to stop at Black Canyon. In lieu of my not being able to visit the Grand Canyon this year, I was excited to see the canyon and take in the sheer cliffs and boulders that made up this particular canyon.

The boys took this opportunity to throw rocks off the side...which we learned later was not permitted due to the possibility of hikers below. Lunch at the canyon consisted of sandwiches, Pringles, and cookies.

The remainder of our road trip took us back to the Taylor Reservoir. The views along the way were breathtaking. Definitely somewhere I would like to go back and explore again someday!

Back at camp, we ate some more soup...this time it was clam chowder. Not light. The kids and I played some Phase10 dice, then we all opted to take a walk. The boys and I ended up going all the way down to the lake...where, true to form, they began throwing rocks into the water and skipping pebbles across the waves.

All too soon, the sun began to set behind the mountains, and (after some more hot chocolate) we settled in for another cold night...

(Part 4 of the Denver Trip coming soon! Stay tuned!)

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Does She Know About the Fireban?

Denver Trip...part 2.

Destination: Taylor Reservoir
Total Miles: 300 (round and from camp and Lakewood)
Total Cost: $50ish (18/night, plus gas?)

When I visited Colorado last year, Caroline's parents and younger siblings were on a camping trip near Crested Butte, CO. This year, we turned the tables: we took 3 of her youngest siblings to the same area for a camping trip and a chance for me to see some more Colorado.

As I mentioned in my Bringing the Rain post, it rained the better portion of Sunday afternoon. However, the rain could not put a damper on my excitement! My last camping trip was almost 2 years ago with my favorite Little People.

If you have been keeping up with the news, there have been some horrible wildfires throughout Colorado in the last few weeks. While this did not directly affect our plans, it did mean a statewide fireban (which means no campfires of any kind).

Hudson (Caroline's youngest brother) was concerned that I didn't know about the ban after I made a comment on Saturday about roasting marshmallows. He proceeded to ask his mother (in front of me, and in a loud whisper): "Does she know about the fireban?"

Needless to say, we all got a laugh out of the question. And repeated it often.

On our drive to the campsite, we stopped for some fudge at a tiny store near their cabin (where we had to go first for pans and a camp stove).

Last year, I was able to stay at the cabin for a night before whitewater rafting, and I must say that set on the side of the mountain, somewhere around 10,000 feet elevation, the cabin has a breathtaking view of some of the most beautiful scenery set against the backdrop of the towering Rockies.

The drive to the Taylor Reservoir included driving over the Continental Divide (Cottonwood Pass)...which I did NOT fully appreciate because of the rain on Sunday until we headed back over it on our way home on Tuesday.

The rain quickly turned into a mist...which was then debated to be fog, mist, vapor, clouds, and smoke. For the rest of the trip.

Our chosen campground was called Lakeview. After driving around the campground looking for available tent sites, factoring in trees and toilet facilities, we settled on campsite 18. This was almost directly across from the toilets (which reminded me of the hole-in-the-ground Haitian toilets), and it had a pleasant view of the lake.

With 2 of Caroline's brothers, David and Hudson, having some amazing tent-setting-up skills, we were able to put up the tents and unload the car in record time. Almost beat the rain!

Being cold (the temperatures there drop with the rain...instead of increase the humidity as they tend to do here in SC) and a little wet, we huddled into the girls' tent for a quick supper.

Caroline and David heated up some vegetable soup (which ended up being Light! only 60 calories per serving), and we warmed ourselves up with the soup and filled up on calories by stuffing ourselves with Oreos and bananas.

Bedtime came early that first night. I'm not sure how well any of us slept (nothing to make my body feel a little old like camping), but we were all up bright and early the next morning. And I had a "wildlife sighting" of 4 deer...3 bucks and one doe!

(Monday's adventures coming soon!)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Bringing the Rain

Destination: Denver, Colorado
Total Miles: 1,500 Miles (approximately...driving...I flew)
Total Cost: $350 (approximately)

This trip will be broken into multiple blog posts that will be coming out over the next 3-4 days (due to the excessive amount of ground I covered in the last 5 days...literally).

My trip to Denver actually started a year ago when I visited my friends in Colorado. I knew from day 1 that I would be going back (most likely in the summer) because there was SO much that I did not get to do or see.

The trip to Denver was fairly uneventful. Besides being x-rayed (which has happened to me pretty much every time I've flown), security was not too bad. I was looking forward to seeing the Rocky Mountains again!

But when I landed in Denver, all that could be seen were rain clouds. My friend, Caroline, picked me up...apologizing for the rain, but saying how thankful she was that it was raining and that I must have brought it with me.

Glad I could accommodate everyone...and if I had known, I would have come sooner! We have been getting lots of thunderstorms here in the Upstate of SC, and I was more than happy to bring the rain with me (my contribution to helping put out the fires they have had out West). :)

It rained most of the rest of the day on Friday. Thankfully the forecast for Saturday was 60% sunshine.

Saturday was filled with a trip on the light rail to downtown Denver. Caroline, her sister (Grace), and myself were joined by another friend of Caroline's from nursing school, Jasmine.

We spent the better portion of the day wandering around 16th Street.

Our first stop was at the Capitol buildings (which were closed for the weekend) and the library (also closed until the afternoon). Of note: there is a statue in front of their Capitol building...a statue of a War of Northern Aggression soldier (aka: Civil War soldier). Apparently, even though Colorado did not officially become a state until 1876, men from the territory chose to fight in the war. It did not state which side they fought on (probably wise).

We stopped for lunch at the Cook's Market (or something like that), and all had fresh made sandwiches. Then we walked down to Larimer Square to do some window shopping. After admiring the decor, we headed to the Tattered Cover Book Store (where we spent tons of time browsing used and new books). I probably could have spent a week looking at books, smelling the freshness of new books mixed with the aromas of used books, reading tidbits from various books, and just meandering among the shelves.

Unfortunately, that is slightly not practical. So after a sufficient amount of time enjoying the store, we headed to a cool little-big bridge that went over the railroad tracks. Then we hopped on a light rail and headed back to Lakewood (stopping in Englewood to get Caroline's car and some Jamba Juice-a West Coast addiction of mine that I wish would become popular on the East Coast).

Denver is huge. And there is so much more to see! Which, as we all know, means (hopefully) another trip.

Sunday it was overcast and rained some. Which was ok while we were in church, but not so much ok as we headed to the mountains in the afternoon for a road-trip-within-a-road-trip camping trip. But...more to come on some exciting camping adventures! Stay tuned!!!!!