The Fourth Year

I missed the day by three weeks, but I couldn’t let this month go by without writing something. Four years and three weeks ago, this little cabin in the Hills became my home. Home. What a beautiful word!

It looked crazy to pretty much everyone who knew us, but the family decision to relocate to South Dakota is a decision I will never regret. God in His love and goodness satisfied a dream that had lived inside me since I was a child, but for years was forgotten. He didn’t need to do that, but He did. God in His goodness radically changed the direction I was headed, starting me in a new direction that hasn’t ceased to amaze me and bring me joy.
Winter beautyThese four years have been some of the most challenging of my life, and some of the richest. God has been stripping me of some heart idols, growing me spiritually, humbling me, teaching me about purpose and meaning and joy and adventure and delight and community and faith and courage. If you had told 20-year-old me what I’d be doing at 28, I would have laughed in your face. I wouldn’t have recognized me. And I probably would have been angry that the little wicked heart idols I was working on at 20 never went anywhere, and that 28 year old me doesn’t even miss them. Thank God for His patience and for the process of sanctification.

This place has gotten into my blood. The rocks and canyons and red dirt trails, the pines and spruces, the resiny air, the wildflowers and shenanigans, the mud and sweat and laughter.Sarah took this picture of me a few days ago while we were doing our Needles Highway hike. This is how the Hills make me feel. I wish I could throw my arms around all the goodness and joy and delight the last four years have brought. What a place. What a wonderful, amazing four years it has been.

Advertisements

The Third Year

Whenever it occurs to me that I’m actually living in the Black Hills, my heart skips a beat. I think of where I was 3 years ago and where I am now, and there is something delightfully surreal about it. When I drive to work in Rapid City and drive through Keystone, or over the mountains to Custer, passing beneath the granite spires and over bits of road precariously perched on a cliffside, I just smile. This is home.

Because three years ago, March 1, 2015, my family arrived (finally) in our new home. So March is a special month.

How quickly the last three years have gone, in some regards. Yet there has been a delightful slowness about the passage of time as well. I love to feel that I’m actually tasting the time, savoring it, and can remember it. The memories are good. Even the sad or difficult memories are good. Because God is good, and He is the author of this story, and the giver of good gifts. And this gift of moving to the Hills shook up my life, shook up my soul.

I can’t imagine where I’d be if we hadn’t moved here. I know if God hadn’t had it in His plan for us to move here, He would be fulfilling His plan for me in some equally good way. But I am so thankful that His plan involved the Black Hills. I’m thankful for my church, for the work opportunities I’ve had, for God’s glorious creation that I am drawn into more and more, for the ways God has brought me places that had never even occurred to me, for the adventures, for the normalness, for the joys and sorrows, for the beauty and the struggles and the sweet moments.
IMG_2956eAnd so I smile, and I thank the LORD. This is home. This is home.

Canada/Alaska Adventure | Home Again

Somehow, the three and a half weeks since I got home from Alaska flew by without me realizing it, full to the brim with summertime and normal life. I jumped back in to work the day after I got home, had a week of work and then five days on the road and in Bozeman, MT, at a Biblical counseling training conference. The rest of the time filled in with everyday life, family, housekeeping, unpacking, packing again, unpacking again. My brain has been so fried, my blogging took a back burner.

Alaska, like all of the West that I’ve seen so far, tugs at my heartstrings in mysterious ways. While once-upon-a-time (and not too far in the past) I would have said I never wanted to leave the Black Hills, I find my heart waking to the idea of seeking out the deeper West. There is that quiet place in my soul that hungers after the remote, the distant, the separate, the raw.

It was definitely a shock to the system to come from the cool moistness of the Glacier View climate, to the hot, arid Black Hills. It was strange to leave behind a green, lush landscape and exchange it for a landscape that had been green when I left, but is now very lacking in rain. I miss puttering in the garden for hours at a time in the cool of midday, without scorching or melting or frying. I miss the bright flowers and foliage that thrive in the almost endless daylight. I miss the wildness, the steepness of the peaks right outside the window, I miss the water and the clear, blue mountain streams. But then…this is home. Where the hot summer air smells piney and golden. Where beebalm and chokecherries line the Hole-in-the-Wall Trail, where the stars are diamond bright, and the sun sets behind Harney Peak. Home is where my family is – my blood family and my church family. Home is where Trixie and our log cabin and the Miner’s Cabin wait in our little hollow underneath our red ridge. Where Ember comes running when I call her name, or sits yowling outside the window until I let her in. Home is where I have a bed underneath the eaves and can hear the raindrops pattering on the tin roof a foot away. Home is here.

They say home is where the heart is. For now, my heart is here. But will it always be? Only time will tell.

Heavenward

I walk the woods in the evening – my woods, I tell myself – the familiar trails, dear to me and near to my heart, winding through old creekbeds, beneath towering pines and wizened oaks, along hillsides sparkling with white chokecherry blossoms. Treading the same way again, my heart thrills. Each step is a delight. Each breath of the cool evening air tastes sweet. I want to pour the coolness over my head and drink of the freshness. It is familiar, so familiar, every step is one I’ve experienced before, each tree and flower and perfume of evening – but it is new, always new.
IMG_7227eWith the earth comforting beneath my feet, grasses growing tall to above knee-height, trees leafing out in their array of green, my heart is drawn upwards, Heavenwards. These woods are my sanctuary. I find that my time alone while hiking becomes my time alone with the LORD, since I can’t imagine walking these woods and not being struck to the heart by how good God must be to have created so much beauty for us to enjoy. He didn’t need to create beauty. God could have allowed sin to completely wipe out the beauty on this earth. But He didn’t. And it is wonderful. Even in this fallen state, His beauty is reflected in His Creation.
IMG_7015eMy heart breaks with joy. Have you ever felt that? My heart breaks and soars, and I murmur Oh, my! Again and again. Oh, my. My eye is drawn here and there – to a splash of color from a larkspur violet or a shooting star or a bluebell, to the wild white and lavender of crazyweed, to the little golden blossoms of wild currant or the coral of columbine or the dark blue-eyed grass, or the pale birch trees on a north-facing hillside of emerald moss. A gleam of sunlight through the trees on the next hilltop melts me, but I know my camera couldn’t do it justice, so I don’t even try. My heart breaks with joy – there is too much, too much, too much. How can a human creature take in so much beauty and goodness and majesty, and not be overwhelmed? And if I cannot understand Creation, how can I possibly understand its God?
IMG_7150eThe too-familiar sights, the amber scents of pine resin and the fresh earthy perfume of green life or the sweet evening air, the lullaby of wind in the pines – so many memories and impressions left over, brought back by glimpses or tastes of the familiar, the familiar that never seems to change. I remember my childhood, our visits here, my heart’s longing for this place. I remember past joys, and revel in present joys. Then my heart breaks with grief. Because I know that one day this place won’t be here for me. One day it will be sold and divided into lots and developed, and I weep at that thought, dropping tears on the grassy path. How harsh it feels – to be brought to live in the place I love most in the world, but knowing that it may not be here, a mere few years from this time. This place may only be land, and I know that, but it holds and brings back so many wonderful memories. It is a place that is part of my childhood, part of my dearest memories.
IMG_7156eThen I repent. How could I have the audacity to challenge God’s goodness and His Providence by weeping over what He may someday in His sovereignty take away from me? If that day comes, I don’t believe tears will be wrong, but weeping now and letting even a moment of joy be spoiled by what God may in His love give to me or take from me – that is wrong. I pray for contentment and peace in my knowledge that God is good. I remind myself that God only does that which is for the good of His children and for His glory. I remind myself that He only gives good gifts, and He is a loving Father, not a cruel taskmaster. If a gift is good in the giving, it is also good when He in His sovereignty removes it. If He removes a blessing and strips me of something I sinfully think is necessary for my happiness, I know He does it for my good, not to punish. If He takes something from me that I love, He does it for my good, not out of malice. Whether or not I comprehend it, it is for my good. At the very least, pain allows me to experience the sweetness of God’s comfort. One day, I’ll understand. But for now I need to be content to not understand and to take comfort in the things I do understand – that God is a loving God, a generous God, a compassionate and comforting God – and He always provides. Not necessarily how I in my humanness want Him to provide, certainly, but if God is good, His Providence is as well, and I cannot challenge it.  And so even in my tears, I thank Him. Even in my tears, this place draws me Heavenward. And then my heart lifts and I savor a soul-deep peace, content to enjoy however many days and years I have left to enjoy this. Few or many, they are a gift. How sad to spoil them with misplaced regret.
IMG_7182eThe low rumble of distant thunder tells of a coming storm, and the clouds are bright in the west, shining flame-like through the trees. The crimson and coral turn to slate and blue. The golden sunlight disappears beyond the horizon and banks of heavy clouds. The rain will come.
IMG_7223eHow can I not gaze Heavenward?

The Second Year

March 1st is an exciting day on my calendar, and marks an epoch in my life. Two years ago today we crossed the Missouri River into western South Dakota, for the first time with no departure date in the future. Two years ago today we saw the Rapid City lights flickering in the winter night, welcoming that sight as those coming home after a long journey. Two years ago today we drove south on Hwy. 79, and finally – finally! – saw the familiar flashing light marking the small town of Hermosa, marking now the nearness of home. I watched for that light every time we came to the Hills, and I still get a sense of nostalgia when I am driving home after dark and see that light blinking in the distance. Two years ago today we pulled down the long, red dirt driveway into what had always been home for us. Two years ago today we came “back home,” although no one but Dad had actually ever lived here. Two years ago today. How fast time flies.
IMG_9878Our second year in the Hills felt like our tenth year in the Hills – Nothing about it doesn’t feel like home. We have truly settled in. Our church has  become family, and the closeness hasn’t diminished, but increased. The days and weeks are marked by time spent with family and friends, spent outside in God’s glorious Creation, exciting hikes to new places, teaching piano, fellowship over meals, experiencing a close-knitness with my church family of welcoming and being welcomed into one another’s lives.
IMG_8490The last year hasn’t been without its struggles. There have been plenty. Grandma’s health issues, personal health issues, trials of various kinds, fears, struggles with the general busyness of life and the snug living arrangements. But in all those things, God shows Himself to be faithful. He always provides. And the trials He gives are actually gifts, just like the things we readily perceive to be blessings.

On to Year Three. We will see what God brings!

Laura Elizabeth

Back at it

The last few days have been long, I have to admit. Being house-bound isn’t exactly what I had in mind for my thirteen days off, especially since the weather cooled down into the 80s and the summer wildflowers are going crazy! But today was a huge improvement from the first two days where I couldn’t walk at all. I was actually able to hobble around the house without crutches today, and do some dishes and cook. I had my foot looked at today by the PA at the clinic where I work – She diagnosed it as a foot sprain, no fracture, and just told me to stay off it for a week or two. That’s a lot better than the six weeks I’d been dreading! Tonight, an ankle brace and hiking boots (the kind with the shank in the sole) actually provided great support for getting around. I know I need to be good, though – The temptation is to do too much too fast.
GimpyBut even being house-bound has had benefits – I was able to spend hours yesterday reading about C.H. Spurgeon, the great English preacher and theologian from the mid- to late-1800s. We are reading a Spurgeon biography for our church book reading club, and it is a delight. What a wonderful life of work he led for the Kingdom of God! He began pastoring a church at the age of 17, and his teaching sparked a revival in the surrounding town. By the age of 26, his work had revived a dying church in London and he was regularly preaching to thousands, regularly helping to plant church and send out new pastors and leading sinners to Christ! The reach of his work is truly astounding, from the circulation of his sermons to the books he published to the orphanage and school he ran and the Pastor’s College he founded, and my list could go on. I hadn’t even started the book before yesterday, and I am now about 120 pages into it. A productive day. I was even able to edit about thirty-five wedding photos from a wedding I shot a few weeks ago.
Cuddling with the CatAnd of course, cuddling with the Kashka-cat is very important. Nothing quite as sweet as her little purring self curled up on my lap, or stretched to her full length, fast asleep and dreaming so hard she’s twitching. She loves her people, that’s for sure.

But as productive as the last few days have been, I’m eager to get back at it! Enough of this lazing around.

Laura Elizabeth