Independence Day 2016

The Fourth of July is always one of my favorite festive days! We have so much to be thankful for, and it is good to remember and reflect on the blessings our nation has enjoyed since the first colonies were established 400 years ago.IMG_7749In 1620, the Mayflower Compact was signed by 41 men, Separatists and Strangers,  declaring their resolution to work together in the New World.  The Strangers were adventurers and soldiers, but the Separatists were Protestant men and women and children who were seeking a greater degree of religious freedom, out from under the authority and tyranny of the state-run Anglican church. Their agreement read:

“Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith, and the Honour of our King and Country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern parts of Virginia…”

For the Glory of God and advancement of the Christian faith! And we are still reaping the rewards of that charter today. Independence Day isn’t just about the day the Declaration of Independence was signed. Independence Day is about our heritage of freedom, particularly our heritage of religious freedom and freedom of conscience, our heritage of heroism and bravery and virtue. Independence Day is about the Pilgrims and their blood, sweat, and tears, shed for “for the Glory of God”. Independence Day is about the glories and tragedies of the American Revolution, which was successful following national submission and repentance and fasting before God.  Independence Day is about “In God We Trust,” and “one Nation under God.” Independence Day is about love for a nation that was founded by men who adhered to the principles that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.” Independence Day is about Samuel Adams’ words on the day the Declaration was signed: “We have this day restored the Sovereign to Whom all men ought to be obedient. He reigns in Heaven and from the rising to the setting of the sun, let His kingdom come.” Independence Day is about men like George Washington, who believed that “It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible.” Independence Day is about John 8:36: “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” Independence Day is about the freedom to teach that to our children, to proclaim the truth of freedom in Christ to our families and friends and to total strangers.
Stockade LakeSo what better way to spend Independence Day than with family and friends, enjoying the freedom to assemble with our brothers and sisters of the faith?
Stockade LakeStockade Lake was bustling activity yesterday afternoon, tourists and locals camping and boating and enjoying the beauty of the Black Hills. The beaches were overrun with festive crowds, but our friends had managed to snag a pavilion earlier in the day, so we had a corner of the lake to ourselves.
Osprey over Stockade LakeWe enjoyed osprey and herons and ducks, and very few bothersome insects since it has been so dry. Trixie came with us, of course, and I think she met her match for energy in our friends’ youngest two. Calvin and Laurel couldn’t get enough of her, and I think she liked the attention. After all, they were just about her size!
Stockade LakeIMG_7578The kids swam in the lake, and Sarah brought her kayaks, much to the delight of the boys, so after dinner they hauled the kayaks down to the lake and were pretty much gone for a couple of hours. We all visited and shared good food and fellowship, and were showered on by a little thunderburst that came our way briefly. The storm didn’t last long, and the cool evening wound down to dusk.
IMG_7770Those of us who didn’t mind getting home late headed over to our pastor’s house to watch the Custer fireworks from his family’s backyard. They have a great view of the show, and it seemed like about half our church converged on their home for the evening! Our church is pretty geographically separated, many of us traveling 45 minutes or more to get to church. So those opportunities we have midweek to see one another, to see our brothers and sisters, are cherished dearly. We were treated not only to the fireworks, but also to beautiful lightning from another storm that slowly closed in. We were close enough to still feel the resonating explosions, the far enough away to be able to keep up our conversations. It was fun to hear the burst of applause from the whole town of Custer after the last flares of the finale. Custer’s fireworks are simple in comparison with what other larger towns can afford, but they are no less enjoyed.
IMG_7786We watched the traffic streaming out of town, and then it slowed to a trickle. The noises of the crowd down in Custer quieted. The lightning was flickering and flashing, closer now. Then the rain started gently. It was a good day. We have so much to be thankful for.

Laura Elizabeth

 

 

 

 

Photoshoot | Family is a wonderful thing

Friendship and fellowship are two of God’s greatest blessings, and they go hand in hand with the command to love. Over and over throughout the New Testament, the church is commanded to love. Christians are called to love everyone – Friends and enemies, widows and orphans, rich and poor, old and young. But special attention is given to command Christians to love their brethren, those with whom they share the bond of faith. The bond of faith is a blood relationship of a different sort – We weren’t all born to the same parents, but we were washed in the blood of Christ, cleansed by His sacrifice, and the bond of Christian faith is a bond that is eternal. If we aren’t able to love our Christian brethren with genuine love, then whom will we be able to love?
IMG_7239 - BoardwalkWhat a delight it was, then, to spend the evening with my pastor’s family, fellowshipping over a meal and then heading over to Stockade Lake as the sun was setting. They had graciously agreed to let me practice family portraits on them, muddling through posing and lighting and everything else that comes with a photo shoot. And it was a joy!
IMG_7397 - SageIMG_7378 - BoardwalkIMG_7412 -- ClydeIMG_7442 - ClydeThis family is truly characterized by their love of their Savior, which manifests itself in their love for each other and their love for others. J.O. and Dana have a beautiful, Christ-centered marriage, and they love and honor one another so wholly. And their children are a testament to that, thriving and growing as children in their parents’ Gospel-driven home. IMG_7387 - Focus/Blur with ArizonaAfter finishing up by Stockade Lake and enjoying the pleasure of God’s Creation, we went back to their place for hot chocolate and tea and more good conversation.

Family is a wonderful thing.

Laura Elizabeth

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Trixie

What a full Sunday! After a morning of worship and fellowship with our brothers and sisters at church, my family drove out to Pactola Reservoir to picnic and kayak. What with all of us being employed, Anna still being in highschool, and Dad in seminary, our “just for fun, the whole family together” time has been somewhat rarer than it used to be. So we remedied that with our picnic at Pactola Reservoir.
Family Picnic at PactolaBeautiful weather and very little wind made for a nice kayaking excursion across the lake. Pennington County sheriff’s deputies were cruising around in a speed boat, checking fishing licenses and looking like they were enjoying their job – I loved seeing that. With all the vitriol directed at our public servants, it was fun seeing them doing something like that. I can’t imagine cruising around in a speed boat is much of a chore! I wanted to flag them down and ask if they would make wakes for us to kayak in, but they got away too fast.
Pactola ReservoirAnd finally – finally! – we drove home via Rapid City and picked up the newest addition of the Adrian household! Meet Trixie. I think it was love at first sight for all of us, even for Dad, who tends to be a little more reasonable about this kind of thing.
IMG_5183Trixie is a husky-golden retriever mix, or at least that is what we were told – She has all the grovelling sweetness of a golden, and at the age of seven months she still has all of her puppy energy. She was so excited and playful, to the point that she just about mauled each of us this evening, and she thinks she is small enough to curl up in a lap. Trixie already is treating us like “her people,” and she was determined to make herself at home – inside the cabin. That was a big “no”, but she is sleeping in her crate right now, and seems content. IMG_5238Needless to say, she was a little freaked out and overwhelmed, but she has the sweetest disposition and already seems to be settling in. The cats and she haven’t yet had a chance to come to a truce, but I’m sure they will in time. The cats had Baby, our sister’s dog, very well trained and it didn’t take long for them to train her. They kept their distance this evening, hungry for attention as usual, but uncertain of the intruder. I felt kind of bad, but they’ll figure it out.
IMG_5172We spent the 45 minutes before dinner playing with Trixie and taking pictures. Of course, we all wanted pictures with our new pup. I can already tell she’ll be a good fit. It has been seven months since we had a dog, and I think we were all very ready to have a ready-made hiking buddy, company when home alone, and just the delight a dog can bring to a household.
IMG_5223Our pets always remind me of the loving, good God that I serve, who created such an amazing world for us to live in, for us to enjoy, for humanity to have dominion over with gentleness and wisdom. God created this world to glorify Himself, and although humanity is the crowning piece of that creation and we all, Believer or not, bear the mark of our God, I do believe He takes delight in all of His creatures, even those not made in His likeness.

Welcome to the family, Trixie!

Laura Elizabeth

The Best Day of the Week

IMG_8518Sunday mornings tend to be a little hectic – Five of us on a Sunday morning in a cabin with one bathroom is a recipe for hurry and a few ruffled feathers. But in the midst of the hurry, there can be delightful moments, like catching sight of the deer on the dam as the sun is coming over the rim of our ridge, watching early-morning birds, or laughing at the kittens’ antics. There is the smell of coffee and eggs and oatmeal, and the bustle of activity. We’re all glad when we finally get out the door and miraculously are on time,  and any ruffled feathers have a chance to smooth before getting to church.

IMG_8528I left early this morning, early enough to enjoy a leisurely drive past Mount Rushmore and the scenic vistas along Hwy. 244. So much beauty, and the play of early morning light through the leafless trees was captivating. Sometimes it is hard to be a safe driver when the views are so lovely. The sky was crystal clear, and the profile view of the Monument was postcard-worthy. Couldn’t resist stopping. It is mornings like this that leave me breathless with wonder at a God who is so good that He, in His own good time, brought me to the place I love most on earth. What a trivial matter, on the one hand, and yet He worked it beautifully.

IMG_8689My gratitude is deepened when I think of my church family, and when I spend a morning and a meal in worship and fellowship and teaching – The closeness and intimacy and joy that we each share with one another leaves me filled to overflowing with gratitude. The conversations these brothers and sisters of mine desire to have with one another, the desire for openness, the desire to impact, the desire to bless, to convict and be convicted, to strengthen, to confess, to love…It has given me a beautiful perspective of what Christian relationships should and can be, and what it means to “be Christ” to one another.

IMG_8587Sarah and I took a scenic detour home after church. Since pretty much any route around here is “scenic,” what made this one scenic is that it took about 2 hours longer than normal, since we decided to drive the Custer Wildlife Loop. We stopped at Common Cents, got fuel, coffee, and a box of Saltines to feed the burros, and headed out of town. The prairie dogs were, as always, quite obliging. The fat little rodents squeaked and scurried and scampered, and one little pudgy guy let me get pretty close.

IMG_8671We watched and watched for the burros, and any other creatures of the prairie and foothills. A couple of herds of buffalo were right up by the road, licking salt off of vehicles as they went by. Such majestic creatures. When they are grazing so quietly, it is hard to reconcile their gentle appearance with their intense power and capacity for aggression.

IMG_8677Spending time in the wonder of God’s creation always drives me deeper into the conviction that none of this was an accident, but Divinely ordered. The uniqueness and distinctness, the quirky and delightful personalities of each individual animal, from Luna the Grey Cat who likes to watch the world from his seat on the lawnmower, to this shy doe who stared timidly as we drove past her on the road…Each animal, each plant, each rock and hill, bears the fingerprints of a Creator. I can’t but believe that.

IMG_8741We saw a handful of antelope, which tend to be pretty reserved creatures, but we saw no burros. We looked and looked, and even drove a short ways down a few side roads, but saw nor hide nor hair of the little beasties. It was rather disappointing. So, since there were no burros to eat the package of Saltines, Sarah and I ate them.

We got home as it was just beginning to be evening. A morning spent in worship and fellowship, and an afternoon spent in awe and sisterhood…What could be better?

Hands down, Sunday is the best day of the week.

Laura Elizabeth

Sunday walks and spiderwebs

DSCN1167.1 Sundays always go too quickly–The fellowship, the family time, the blessed enjoyment of the outdoors. We live in such a fast-paced culture, but I’ve been discovering a peace that comes with a quieter life. Sometimes life gets busy and schedules get hectic, but coming home to a quiet life at the end of the day is unbelievably restful and calming. Regrettably, the last week sped by with hardly enough time to breathe deep of the clear, piney air or to ponder flowers in shady corners of the Hills. I tried to make up for it today.

DSCN1155.1A quiet, solitary walk to scout some good photography locations was restorative, even with temperatures in the 90s. I explored a beautiful little ravine branching off our jeep trail to Hole-in-the-Wall, and enjoyed the sight of birch trees glinting in the 5:00 sunlight. Deadfall and rocks, mossy soil and sandy creekbed–The ravine was like something straight out of a western novel. I love not being able to see what is around the corner–Where might it go? What is just out of sight, waiting to be discovered?

Another ravine, the grass bent from flooding, was scattered with ancient, sun-bleached bones. Some of them were mossy and green, all of them porous with time. Life is so short, so transient. Like the “flower of the grass”, the Bible says, life comes and life fades, just like that. Human life, animal life, plant life. But unlike the flower of the grass, we have a soul that will not die! And God is good to His children. So good.

DSCN1159.1On the way back through the corrals to get home, which are built with the bare rock as the fourth wall, I nearly walked right through this beauty’s web. I watched as she snagged herself a grasshopper, then scurried back to the center to watch and wait. Ants are examples of industry. Spiders are examples of vigilance.

DSCN1189.1We were graced with a little thundershower this afternoon, just enough to wet the deck and scare the Dog. She’s a bit of a coward. The clouds rolled up so gradually, they looked like smoke and haze, but soon took command of the whole horizon and the sky above. A little thunder, a little rain, a little wind in the whispering pines. The moisture was pleasant.

Tomorrow is the start of a new day, a new week, and a new job! Off to new adventures.

Laura Elizabeth

Raspberries

DSCN0716.1   The raspberries are out in full force at this time of the year. After a long three days in Hill City, navigating Sturgis Rally traffic and listening to the roaring engines and blaring music, the silence of the woods was a welcome relief. It always is a pleasure, but this time it was a relief.

DSCN0719.1We picked and ate for an hour and a half or two hours, and barely made it through any of the berry brambles! We walked in probably a quarter of a mile, along a rocky, rutted logging trail, and on either side – down the slope on one side, and up the slope on the other – the brambles were plentiful and thick. We could have picked for hours longer and still not canvassed the whole berry patch! I’d never seen anything like it.

DSCN0727.1We enjoyed the antics of a little red squirrel, the occasional glimpses of moles in the tall grass, and the gentle song of the wind in the pine trees. The berries were smaller than garden-grown ones, but so much sweeter. Even the not-yet-ripe ones were sweet, and I never once tasted a bug inside. So either the bugs out here taste better than the ones back in Illinois, or there were truly fewer insects!

DSCN0730.1In a week or two, the rosehips will be ripe–I’d love to get back out there to pick rosehips, so we’ll see if that makes it into the schedule.

Taking time to enjoy life, to spend time with friends and family and to revel in God’s beautiful creation…These make for a fruitful, bountiful life. The more I spend time in fellowship with my brothers and sister in Christ, and the more time I spend in fresh, clean air without the noise of traffic in the background, or the smell of asphalt and fastfood, the more time I spend without worrying about the clock, without the hurry and race of town life, the more I love these beautiful blessings from God.

Laura Elizabeth