Christ in His Beauty

The human soul is drawn to beauty. We crave it. We hunger for it. A quick look through history will evidence how humanity has constantly been on a quest for beauty and all that it encompasses. I’ve heard it said that the standard of beauty has changed over the centuries. But this simply isn’t true. God is the creator of all that is good and beautiful. He Himself is the standard of beauty. God doesn’t change. So the standard of beauty has never changed.  It is people who have changed, and naturally there is some confusion. What is beauty?
IMG_1291Beautiful is that which is good, that which is undefiled, that which is pure. Beautiful is that which gives evidence to God’s created order. Beautiful is that which gives evidence to God’s love and care. Beautiful is that which gives evidence to God’s power and His might. Beautiful is that which points to God’s knowledge and wisdom. Beautiful is that which honors God.
IMG_1281The Psalmist wrote: “One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.” (Psalm 27:4) One day, those who have trusted Christ as their Savior will stand face-to-face with the Standard and Creator of beauty, and we will be completely overwhelmed with fear and joy.  “Your eyes will behold the king in his beauty; they will see a land that stretches afar.” (Isaiah 33:17) What a day that will be!
IMG_1270Every time I go on a hike, or take a drive through the Hills, I am confronted with the beauty of the LORD. Some days, I am more sensitive to it than others, more aware or willing to wonder. He draws my eye to those things of beauty that He has showered through His world, and my heart aches. I am struck by the beauty of the LORD, the glory of His creation, the love He has lavished on us in giving us so beautiful a world to live in, to taste, to see, to hear, to touch, to smell, or in giving us senses at all. Everything we see, including the fact that there is even such a concept as beauty, is evidence of Someone who is greater than I am, evidence that Someone instilled in each human the knowledge of a Creator God. We can suppress that knowledge. We can deny it. But that knowledge is there. IMG_1298Over the last year or so, ever since arriving in the Black Hills and beginning to attend church in Custer, I’ve been learning more and more about God’s sovereignty, even over the little things. I think as Christians we often forget the little things, even though it is those little things that are so often present for us to enjoy, reminding us of the goodness of our Savior. If every good and perfect gift really is from God, and if God truly is the standard of beauty, then those delights I enjoy while marveling at the sunlight caught in flower petals or the shimmering gold of early yellow leaves or the spots on a fawn, then those delights are gifts from the loving hand of God. If something draws my mind to Jesus Christ, then that is a gift and should be cherished. IMG_1279For the Christian, we should set our minds on those things that glorify God, those things that cause us to consider Him. We should cultivate eyes that see His beauty, a heart that yearns for His beauty, and lips that speak of it. Philippians 4:8 commands: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

How many ills in the Christian life would be cured, simply by reveling in and cherishing our glimpses of the King in His beauty!

Laura Elizabeth

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Custer County Fair Open Class

County fairs have been favorite regional events way back into into the yonder days. If you’ve ever read Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Farmer Boy, you should remember the excitement and thrill of Almanzo’s family when they went to their county fair and took their best work for the exhibits. Almanzo took a milk-fed pumpkin, and won a beautiful blue 1st place ribbon. The Black Hills county fair season is just about wrapping up. What a fun time of year! The Custer County Fair is definitely Hermosa’s biggest event of the year, and the Central States Fair in Rapid City certainly stirs things up in town. Rodeos with packed grandstands, music festivals, livestock shows, other equine competitions, pig wrestling…It’s a big two-week-long event. IMG_0226small Mom, Sarah, and I had some entries in the Custer County Fair, and we were tickled with the results! Mom got 3rd place in portrait drawing, and Sarah got 1st AND 2nd place in portraits, AND Best of Show! How exciting! I entered a jar of chokecherry jelly, which won 1st place in its division, and I entered a crocheted shawl, which won 1st and Best of Show. I also got Best of Show in photography! Ironically, the Best of Show picture was taken with a little broken point-and-shoot. IMG_0230smallCounty fair open class exhibits are a fun way to see what other area artists and craftspeople are up to, to get ideas and to get feedback on one’s own work. There are so many talented and skilled artists in this region!

Country fun at the county fair.

Laura Elizabeth

 

Black Hills Gothic

Our cousin William from Ohio was staying with us for the last 10 days, and one of the projects he tackled, with Sarah’s help, was building a stone wall around our garden. We have a tall fence that keeps the deer out, but there is a 10-inch gap along the bottom that lets rabbits in. Of course, we could have just closed the gap with chicken wire, but a stone wall is so much lovelier! More pictures to come! He and Sarah got the rocks from rock slides along our driveway and from one of the several pit mines on our property. He also fixed the garden gate so it now closes properly, and put in flagstones at the garden entry. He and Sarah did beautiful work!

IMG_1122small IMG_1123smallSo we have the Black Hills Gothic.

Laura Elizabeth

 

A Nice Idea

Our crazy puppy, Ditsy Trixie, is becoming quite the favorite in our house. After a couple months of on and off disaster, Trixie has settled in and is learning the ropes around here! As a puppy, she has the attention span of a flea and the spazzy energy of a chipmunk, and no matter how worn out she is after an outing she always makes a beeline for the garbage to wreck havoc. But she has actually been learning, and is becoming quite the hiking buddy. I’m so excited. IMG_1127small IMG_1148smallThis morning while Dad was down in the crawlspace working on our plumbing, Trixie sneaked in and pulled a few stuffed animals out of storage – Stuffed animals that were supposed to be “keepsakes.” Being the generous person that I am, I thought I could pick up a stuffed animal for her from Goodwill when I went in this afternoon. She’d chewed the faces off her couple of stuffed animals, and disemboweled her favorite one, so it seemed right that a new one was in order. IMG_1177smallIMG_1161smallSo I found this hideous blue and yellow stuffed fish – It had plastic eyes, which I thought she might like (she loves to go straight for the face), and lots of appendages to chew on. IMG_1194smallThe long and short of it: she loved it. For all five minutes that it survived. Sure enough, she went straight for the face, after whipping it around to break its neck. Within two minutes, she had popped off the little plastic eyes, and about three minute later, we looked out the window and she was surrounded by white stuffing, and meticulously pulling out the rest. She completely gutted the fish. IMG_1205smallIt didn’t last long, but it was a nice idea.

Laura Elizabeth

 

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Hiking | Big Falls

Another favorite destination for Black Hills locals is Big Falls, also known as Hippie Hole. We’ve hiked it a number of times from the Foster Gulch trailhead off of Rockerville Road, but Sarah, William, and I decided to try it from the Highway 40 trailhead, and it was well worth it! The trailhead is about halfway between Rockerville Road and Hayward, on the north side of the highway. I would say that it is a more strenuous hike, but given that there is no easy way down to Big Falls, that is somewhat hard to estimate.
IMG_0661The views were beautiful – Sunlight sifted through the pines in the higher elevations of the trail, then through an emerald canopy of deciduous trees as the trail dropped into the canyon. Birch trees and huge granite boulders lined the trail. Splashes of wildflower color sparkled here and there, and there must have been roses earlier this year, since there were rosehips! Little gems of the wildflower world.IMG_0673We saw a mama and baby mountain goat pair down closer to the creek, and seeing them so close was quite the surprise! We’ve seen them near Big Falls at a distance that nearly required binoculars, but this darling pair was no more than 20 yards away! God has designed His creatures so beautifully. It was amazing to see the little baby scrambling around like a pro with his mama.
IMG_0645IMG_0642IMG_0628It was rather quiet at Big Falls when we went, which was a nice change from the usual. Weekends are not recommended for Big Falls, since that is when the younger, rowdy, bikini-clad, beer-drinking, smoking crowd tends to show up. But there were only a  family or two and a young couple there, and it was fun to watch them deliberate and try to get up the courage to jump off the Falls into the pool below. Sarah and William climbed up to a good vantage point for watching the deliberations.
IMG_0664Once again, Trixie came with us for the hike and she loved it – When she is better trained and we can trust her to come when called, we’ll be able to let her swim and run around by the creek. She was great on the trail, though, where the distractions were fewer. She is becoming quite the hiking buddy!
IMG_0671Keep an eye out for garnets along the trail – I read in a book on gemstone hunting that the Big Falls/ Battle Creek canyon area is a great place for garnet hunting, and this proved true. The girls and I are seasoned garnet hunters, and the best garnets we have found have been in the vicinity of Big Falls! Yesterday did not disappoint!

One warning: there is a lot of poison ivy on this trail. Wear protective clothing and wash afterwards! Trixie was very much into the poison ivy, so even she got a bath – She hated it.

Laura Elizabeth

Mine Explorations

The brightest gems of the Black Hills are the little-known ones, the ones that are tucked back off the beaten trail, that take a little more work to get to. After church on Sunday, I and two friends, Hannah and Jacob, along with three dogs, Angie, Cleo, and Trixie, explored an abandoned mine and its many shafts scattered across the hillside above the towering and rusty old mill.
IMG_0463The hike to the mill itself was one long gentle slope up – About 30 minutes from the trailhead. It was hot out, and the shade around the mill was welcome. The old mill still stands tall and erect against the side of a taller hill. The sheet metal siding has come off in places, or swings loose in the wind. Rickety flights of stairs still span floor to floor.
IMG_0479The hike to the mines was another climb, boasting beautiful views of Harney Peak in the distance, over a rolling sea of pine trees. Such wonderful country – I still have to pinch myself.
IMG_0417We could smell the mines before we could see the tunnels. The musty, earthy damp mixed with the warm, resiny perfume of the pines, and we could feel the seep of cool mine air as we approached the entrances to the mine, which loomed black in the steep, rough walls of rock. The sheer size of some of the digs was astounding, from the towering walls of open cuts and gaping mouths of air shafts, to the vaulting and cavernous ceilings inside the mine, to places where the ceiling had caved in years ago, leaving just enough space to crouch and scramble through.IMG_0517IMG_0409IMG_0425The meager glow of our flashlights and lanterns seemed swallowed up in the dark of the tunnels, glistening on damp walls, sparkling dully in pools and trickles of water, occasionally revealing old pieces of machinery from the bygone mining days. Cart track still spanned some of the tunnels, and rotted support beams tottered in the openings.
IMG_0434IMG_0560Little ferns grew at the mouths of a couple of the mine tunnels, transparent green against the bright sunlight outside. Pigeons nested in the sheltering cliffs above one of the open cuts.IMG_0507Sarah and William and I went back yesterday, and picnicked in the shade of the cliffs. Trixie came along again – She is becoming quite the hiking buddy! When we stopped for lunch, she begged pieces of our lunch and bites of apple, then fell sound asleep while we sat and talked and poked around in the piles of mica.
IMG_0587 The Hills conceal a treasure trove of history, history that is as tangible and real as the damp of stone beneath my fingers, or the rough, rotting wood of an ancient structure. The remnants of bygone days are scattered liberally throughout the Black Hills – If you know where to look.

Laura Elizabeth