2016 | In Hindsight

Once again, a new year rolls in, the old year suddenly gone and a memory before it seems to even have begun. The new year is always a good time to reflect on God’s faithfulness, which really is the only faithfulness worth reflecting on. I reviewed my New Year’s goals for 2016, and it was a good reminder both of God’s faithfulness in loving me in spite of my failures, as well as of how God grows and refines his children in subtle ways.Pasque flowerUnlike the year 2015, which was a year of huge changes and (consequently) very visible growth and maturing, this year has been a slower year. But if I am to be faithful, I need to remind myself that God doesn’t always work in huge, unmistakable ways, but oftentimes (perhaps, most of the time?) works in the subtle shaping of the heart and the inner person. God’s work in big ways is his grace and mercy and lavishness in allowing us to get a glimpse of how he works – God is not obligated to allow us to see his process, but sometimes he does. Much of the time, though, the work is smaller and quieter, harder to see, but that does not mean it is any less real or valuable. Last year around this time, I did my review of 2015 and stated that making lists of the events of a year can be an encouraging reminder of God’s faithfulness. I would say “yes and amen” to that! Re-reading that article from a year ago was an encouraging reminder of God’s goodness, even after what has been something of a dry year this past year.
IMG_6960This was a year of quiet joys and celebrations – The Biblical Counseling Conference in Lafayette, IN, in February, a sister married in April (that was exciting!), family visiting on and off throughout the summer and fall, including my cousin William from Ohio and my Sacramento uncle in the summer, my sister and her husband in early November, and my Alaska cousins just a few weeks ago.  There was the rip-roaring fun of summer rodeos and the blessing of church get-togethers.IMG_6777There was the constant reminder of the presence of God in the beauty of his creation, which we enjoyed on numerous hikes and adventures, including our little road trip up to Medora, ND, a couple of afternoon drives through the Badlands, and a day trip to Devil’s Tower. We explored some new trails, including Hell Canyon, the Ingersoll Mine, and the back way in to Big Falls. There was the sweet delight of finding my first pasque flowers. There was the fun of getting Trixie, a little litter of kittens, and then another puppy two weeks ago. God’s creatures are such a gift! There was the work and fun of canning and processing, particularly of the harvesting fruit and processing jellies in the late summer.IMG_1679There was the beginning of expanding my photography business, shooting a wedding in June, doing a number of family portrait sessions, buying my first professional lens, winning best of show at the Custer County Fair again, and seeing my work in a local gallery. I was blessed with six piano students from my church, and am looking forward to taking on another in the next week or so.
IMG_3534The joy of reading continued to be a blessing, as always, with a wonderful biography on Spurgeon, the British theologian and pastor from the 19th century, as well as using his devotionals Morning by Morning and Evening by Evening. I read and re-read a short western novel, Man from Yuma, and have come to the conclusion that it is one of the best westerns I have ever read. I highly recommend it. Recently, I also enjoyed the first volume of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories. Small pleasures. But the joy of life is largely composed of small pleasures.IMG_0743eEven as I write this little list and muse over the last year, I feel sheepish. God is so good! How dare I look back on any year and feel that it was “dry” or “uneventful!” It contained no more or less than God had sovereignly ordained. Once again, I look forward with eagerness and hope (and some trepidation) to this next year. It is going to be busy, with some exciting projects and prospects, and I trust that God will be growing me and changing me, to his glory. So I usher in the New Year, glad of God’s goodness, eager to see what unfolds in 2017.

Laura Elizabeth

 

January | In Hindsight

IMG_7012.1The new year has already been flying by! We’re 17 days into February and I haven’t even taken the time to write a review of the month of January. Time flies too quickly. The month of January was a quiet month. That really is nice sometimes. The quiet and the mundane are appreciated after the hurry and bustle of the Christmas holidays.

IMG_6515The Christmas bustle was just sifting away, like a breath of snow, when Jess and her fiance Nick came to visit. For a week, I enjoyed some time off spent with them and the rest of the family. We enjoyed the typical tourist activities, like Mt. Rushmore and the Wildlife Loop in Custer State Park, as well as some less-frequented gems, like Spokane. We were also able to take a day to drive down to our property in Pringle. Since it is an hour and a half south of us and it isn’t even remotely “on our way” anywhere, we don’t get down there very often. When we do, it is a joy! Such beautiful country it is down there. So remote and wild and untouched.

IMG_7294.1When I was able, I spent time working in the Miner’s Cabin to get it closer to being livable – Dad and Sarah got a lot done, working on the wiring, getting the wood stove usable, and sorting through years of keepsakes and books and artifacts. With the wood stove going, the Miner’s Cabin is now a wonderful haven even in the coldest weather. The stove is rather too big for the cabin, but it sure heats it up quickly! I spent hours out there in January enjoying the quiet, sewing some new skirts, listening to “Adventures in Odyssey” and Zane Grey, and enjoying feeling the warmth slowly take over the little house. I am really looking forward to being able to move out there.

IMG_6776.1lrJanuary was sprinkled throughout with ideal weather – Anything from 50 degrees and sunny to 15 degrees and snowing. A beautiful snow storm or two afforded some lovely hiking – One hike in particular through the heavily falling snow was like walking through a fairyland. Time after time, I wished I had my camera, but I’m sure I would have dropped it multiple times as we all slipped and slid through ravines and creek beds.

IMG_7427So January rolled by quietly and unobtrusively, punctuated at last with the romp of rodeo at the Black Hills Stock Show. Great times. It is always encouraging to see such a crowd come together for some good, clean fun, for a sport that is so steeped in hard work, sweat, and Western dust and dirt.

The months keep breezing by – Each with their own flavor and their own set of memories. The first month of the year is past. And there are 11 more months to go in 2016!

Laura Elizabeth

 

2015 | In Hindsight

IMG_1878.1lowrezThe New Year was welcomed in with the joy and fellowship of family and friends, and now 2015 is a not-so-distant memory. How to even being to summarize a year like 2015! What a year! I think of where I was a year ago, and I am amazed to see where God has brought me. Last night, I was writing in my diary and listing some of the highlights and surprises that God brought my way, and I was delighted at the list I came up with. A list like this helps me to see God’s faithfulness – This list of memories serves as a reminder of how God is truly active and involved and how He has put each of these opportunities in my way to grow me and give me joy, if I’m willing to grow and open to receiving gifts from God’s hand.

DSCN0006.1Looking back on myself at the end of 2014, I was exhausted, crabby, somewhat depressed, ready to be in South Dakota, and I was concerned. Concerned that I wouldn’t manage to pass my recital preview and I’d end up without a college diploma. Concerned about the snug living arrangements once we moved. Concerned about finding a church home. Concerned about finding a job that I liked. Concerned about making friends and developing relationships. Concerned that my writing would take a back burner to other things. Concerned about moving to a place where the opportunities for music would be different. Concerned about not having a piano…Just concerned.

Whorled MilkweedWhat wasted energy! What needless concern! Each and every one of these fears was graciously alleviated – God is good. I passed my preview and gave a successful recital. I received my diploma with the added surprise that I graduated magna cum laude.  The living arrangements here are snug but very workable. My church home is even more like family than I thought possible. I ended up with not one job but four, and enjoyed each and every one of them. I have grown closer to my sisters and we’ve also been blessed by a close circle of friends who all happen to attend our church. True, I’ve not worked as much on my fiction writing as I wanted, but this blog has been a wonderful, growing writing project, and I know my experiences this past year have served to grow me as a writer. The music opportunities have been fewer but my heated, passionate desire to pursue music has cooled. I attribute that to God’s goodness and His grace. No, I still don’t have a piano, but I have a very decent electric piano, and have finally been able to start playing and singing again, and have found that my enjoyment is better than it was before.

IMG_2029And many things happened that were never even on my radar. Delving back into photography, starting a botany photography portfolio, winning Best of Show in photography at the Custer County Fair, buying a DSLR camera, seeing one of my articles published in MaryJane’s Farm, working cattle in Wyoming, opening an Etsy shop to sell doll clothes, teaching Sunday School at church, and beginning work as a medical scribe in Rapid City.

IMG_2741.1lowrezOver the past year, I’ve learned more about what it means to trust God. I’ve learned more about God’s faithfulness, even when by earthly standards something seems impossible. I’ve learned that church truly can and should be a place of beautiful fellowship, loving one another in Christ, intimacy, openness, frankness, honesty about our shortcomings, brotherly and sisterly affection, all because of Christ’s love for us. I’ve learned that I have a long way to go. I’ve learned that it is possible to live in a tiny house and to still function normally. I’ve learned that my soul is truly refreshed in Creation. I’ve learned again that I love writing. I’ve learned that I love photography. I’ve learned that my heart is in this place, this wonderful place.  IMG_6044.1lowrezI’ve learned that contentment is more a function of my heart than it is a function of my environment. I’ve learned that God’s gifts are visible every day, even on the bleakest days. I’ve learned again and again that God does provide, and His will is powerful and undeniable. I’ve learned again and again that I am a fallen, pathetic sinner in desperate need of God’s grace on a daily basis. I’ve learned more about grace and acceptance and love and growth by loving and being loved by my new-found church family.

IMG_5918.1lowrezAnd now the New Year is here, and I look forward with eagerness and anticipation to see what God does with this coming year. I hope to get to the end of 2016 and not be the same person I am today. By God’s grace, I’ll have grown, matured, and been refined. By God’s grace, I’ll love God more then than I do now. By God’s grace, I’ll love my family with greater grace than I do now. All by God’s grace.

Laura Elizabeth

 

October-November | In Hindsight

IMG_3530lowrezThe fall is over, practically speaking, and will be over in actuality in another two and a half weeks. October and November breezed by in the flickering light of golden leaves, the sparkle of frost in the mornings, and the first snows. What a glorious time of year, with the lingering warm days recalling the summer and the hints of the coming winter fresh in the air in the evenings. Hurried end-of-the-summer outings punctuated the otherwise steady flow of life. The last hikes before the cold set in, the savoring of the last of the fall colors, reveling in the last of the long days.

IMG_3400lowrezWe enjoyed what produce successfully ripened in the garden, in spite of the multiple hail storms, early frost, and other inclement forces of nature. If you want a seemingly deer-proof plant, grow turnips – The leaves are prickly and the deer won’t eat them, even though they’ll meticulously rip up and devour every single beet and carrot in the garden. Turnips, leeks, tomatoes, basil, all found their way into savory, fresh soups. We’re looking forward to our garden next year already.

IMG_3563.1lowrezThe majority of our very small tomato crop was pretty badly hail-damaged and the cold set in early, so many didn’t ripen. Mom turned what she could of those into small batches of fresh salsa, not to be canned. But at the end of the greenhouse season, Sarah’s boss at Dakota Greens in Custer let her and Mom pick the remaining tomatoes in the greenhouse, and they came home with roughly 130 pounds of tomatoes, mostly red but some green. Mom was thrilled to have something to can, and we spent a couple days processing the tomatoes. Salsa, plain tomatoes, spaghetti sauce, and piccalilly relish, are all stacked neatly in our pantry cabinet now.

IMG_2741.1lowrez

We enjoyed a family trip to Des Moines to attend a conference, and it was wonderful to see Jess, the missing sister. It just isn’t the same, having one of us still back in Illinois, but I am confident that God knows exactly what He is doing, and has her there for a reason! Since it looks like she’ll be in Illinois for awhile now, she wanted her dog back, so we sadly said goodbye to our favorite pet. Dogs are special creatures, and this one has a special place in our affections. It will be hard to fill that spot, but we’ll do our best. Anna’s two kittens (I can’t think of them as grown cats yet) definitely have helped to fill that spot, for all of us. Their antics are continually diverting, and they are extremely affectionate, with each other and with us. I was sick last week and woke up with Kashka, the black one, peering into my face, purring like a little motorboat. They aren’t supposed to be inside, but sometimes they are too cute to refuse.

IMG_4918.1lowrezThe last couple weeks of November felt like winter – The first snows, snapping cold, heavy frosts, and snow-melt fog. Thanksgiving found me with a very thankful heart, for such a memorable and life-changing past year, as well as for the simple pleasures and little blessings God sends our way. We have a freezer full of venison, a warm house, good employment, a great church home, and family we can see on a regular basis. What more could I ask?

Laura Elizabeth

 

 

September | In Hindsight

IMG_1861.1lowrezSeptember was a month I knew I would be glad to leave behind, before it even started. Now, it wasn’t bad, mind you – It was just busy. Way too busy. I was working six days a week through most of September, on one occasion seven days a week, and I knew it would be unsustainable before it had even become unsustainable. Either way, September is over, taking with it the last of my summer jobs, the last of the summer, the last of the tourists, and leaving behind memories of family outings, photography excursions, time spent with my church community, and the first few weeks at a brand-new job in a brand new field.

IMG_1964.1The scribing is going well – I have to be honest, after a week doing it I was getting worried. The amount to learn was daunting and, as I alluded to, I don’t thrive in bustle and busyness. There was a period of about two weeks where I had one day off, maybe two, since I was still working at the Mercantile. Let’s just say that that isn’t conducive to feeling good about a brand new job. However, as I got more familiar at the clinic, I started to enjoy it – to really enjoy it. There’s so much to learn, which is both a little daunting and a lot exciting. Looking forward to seeing what the next year looks like.

IMG_2246.1lowrezSeptember is the perfect place on the summer calendar, as far as weather is concerned – Great weather for hiking and walks, for exploring and spending time outdoors. I was (and still am!) getting to know my new camera, which I bought right at the beginning of September     – It comes with me just about everywhere! Somehow in the craziness of September, I was blessed to have time for garnet hunts, scenic drives, photography, hiking with friends, picking rose hips, going to Little Falls,  visiting the Stavkirk, driving Spearfish Canyon, going to the Rock Maze out on Nemo Road, and spending the evening up at Grandma’s watching “Little House on the Prairie.”

IMG_2453.1lowrezI taught my first Sunday school class at church, played preludes for the month of September, AND now have an electric piano. I have to admit, I turned up my nose at having one for a very long time–But not having any piano finally became motivation enough to accept an electric one. I have the best dad–He bought the piano, and I know we’ll be using it a lot in the future for hymn-sings and making music up at Grandma’s! It isn’t a real piano, but it actually sounds amazingly good.

IMG_1484And finally, Jess visited at the end of the month, along with our Uncle Scott. We monopolized his time as much as we were able – I never get the feeling that he minds being monopolized. Although we didn’t have a lot of time off while Jess was here, we made the most of what free time we did have – Already looking forward to seeing her next month, and at Christmas time.

Even in the midst of the busyness, September had lovely moments of family time, adventures, and just plain fun–They were just a little fewer and farther between this month, or a little more meticulously stitched in to the fabric of the month. But it made them all the more appreciated.

Laura Elizabeth

August | In Hindsight

DSCN0905.1 Never a dull moment! August came and went, in some ways seeming to be a very long month, in others flying by too quickly.

The Sturgis Rally at the beginning of the month put everyone on edge. It wore me out, at least. Although no final numbers have been given, the estimate was that 1.3 million people would be congregating in the western third of a state with a population of less than 900 thousand…That’s a lot of people, in case you had any doubts. Glad that is over.

DSCN0680.1We spent time with friends and family, over meals, on hikes, enjoying the outdoors and wildlife, doing some shooting and taking pictures. God has blessed us with a wonderful church home and with a strengthening community of believers with which to fellowship. What a blessing.

I spent a week with Jack and his crew working cattle in South Dakota, Wyoming, and Nebraska, which was a welcome relief from the craziness of the tourist season. “Maybe she’ll marry a rancher,” Grandma says with a laugh.

DSCN1002.1After much deliberating, I gave my two weeks’ notice at the antique shop I worked at, and worked my last day last week. It was a great summer job, but the hours weren’t sustainable. After a few months working there, I realized I needed more time at home, more time with my family, more time spent in God’s wonderful creation, more time doing the things I love. It was a good decision, I must say. If you feel like you’re about to go crazy, do yourself a favor: look for other options. Give yourself permission to think outside of the box.

Eriogonum pauciflorum - Ballhead eriogonum

Eriogonum pauciflorum – Ballhead eriogonum

I wouldn’t want all months to be as busy as August was, but it was a good month. When Sarah and I hiked this evening, we were talking about being in South Dakota. Sometimes I still have to pinch myself when I think that we’re actually living here. Sarah commented, “God really cares about these things.” He cares that for as long as we’ve been alive, we’ve wanted to be in South Dakota, our “ancestral home,” as I like to think of it. He cares that this was one of the deep longings of our hearts, the desire to be here with family, the desire to walk these hills and these trails, to smell the pines, and listen to the wind singing through the needles on the trees. We’re here. And this is home. It always has been. Even before we were here. God knows. And God cares.

Laura Elizabeth