Joyful Girl

One of the things I love most about Sarah is her joy. She is blessed by physical beauty, yes, but Sarah’s joy is a bright and infectious energy that just bubbles and sparkles. She has her down days, like the rest of us, but more than most she has a native delight and sense of optimism. Sometimes we tease her for her endless optimism (think Jane from Pride and Prejudice), but it really shouldn’t be made fun of – As a Christian, optimism should be a given. As redeemed children of God, saved by the blood of Christ, we have absolutely no excuse for anything but optimism! IMG_3363Sarah is blessed with a delightful sense of humor – What a gift. Life is often difficult and frustrating, but the gift of humor is a beautiful thing. Often does our time spent together involve reveling in the joy of laughter and humor, laughing at ourselves and at one another, laughing at humorous or awkward experiences we’ve had, laughing until we cry and are breathless with giggling. IMG_3325If you’ve never been blessed by the sound of her laugh, I’m sorry for you. Some people attempt to exercise self-control when they laugh, which really is kind of a bummer. Laughter isn’t supposed to be something that is constrained or put through a filter. That strips all the fun out of it! And there is nothing more fun or infectious than Sarah’s laugh when she’s not thinking about it – It really comes from the heart, or straight from her funny bone.
IMG_3240And behind her joyful and often publicly quiet exterior, there is a heart of gold. I receive so much encouragement from our conversations, as we delve into life’s issues and struggles. She is endlessly encouraging. Her spiritual maturity is beyond her years. She has the wisdom to be able to take struggles in stride, the creativity to think outside the box, the faith to be unconventional, and the humility to think nothing of it.
IMG_3222I’m so blessed by my sisters. Every once in awhile, when Sarah is performing her rendition of the “Hallelujah Chorus,” I wonder what it would be like to be an only child, but overall, having sisters is a wonderful thing. A gift from God.

Laura Elizabeth

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Photoshoot | Lovely Girl

Pretty is such an overused term. It has its place: “That’s a pretty dress,” for instance. But to call a person pretty is to focus entirely on outward appearance, and forgets all about the soul. Beautiful is a little more appropriate. But I prefer the term lovely. Lovely seems to me to get below the surface of a person’s appearance, and touches on their heart. A person can be “pretty” but have a wicked heart. But a lovely person has to have a heart that is full of light. Someone else may have a different opinion on the syntax and connotations, but that is what they mean to me.
UntitledLast week, we were all at the Gaslight Restaurant in Rockerville, and both Anna and I felt the need to get outside for a few minutes. We got outside just before sunset, and the light was almost perfect. The light was just getting a little iffy, which accounts for some of the graininess of the pictures, but other than that, it was great. And with wonderful rundown buildings for a backdrop, we had a photoshoot ready to go!
UntitledUntitledUntitledAnna is my youngest sister, and I sometimes am surprised when I realize that she isn’t a kid anymore, but a young lady! And she is a young lady with a heart of gold. We have our moments and our relational difficulties, but I can see how God has been working in her heart (and in mine, for that matter), and we are closer now than we were a year and a half ago when we moved out here. This is one of the reasons I’m so glad to be living at home, even at the age of 25! If I had left home prior to college, or right after college, I would have missed out on this opportunity that I have had, to work to improve our relationship and to try to mend some of those areas where I’ve messed up, and to become better friends with her. UntitledSeeing the way the little girls at church look up to Anna is truly heartwarming. They adore her, and she loves on them like crazy. She has a great work ethic, a sense of humor, and an artistic flare that for some reason she tries to keep hidden. But you should see her drawings. But more than all of that, she loves Jesus.

She’s a lovely person.

Laura Elizabeth

Refreshing the Soul

IMG_5096.1lowrezSome weeks are hard – hard to keep smiling, hard to see the beauty of life, and for no good reason. This has been one of those weeks, and the last few days in particular have been a struggle emotionally, spiritually, and mentally. What can happen from one week to the next that can make my life, which I know very well is so much better than I deserve, suddenly seem bleak, or frustrating, or exhausting?

That change is usually something in my heart, something in my inner self, that has become disconnected and out of joint. Knowing myself to be a very dedicated introvert, I recognize that part of my struggle has been the sheer level of activity that takes me outside of my sphere, outside of my cozy home life, without sufficient time to recharge myself. But I realized something else – Not only has there been no time for solitude this past week and a half or so, but I haven’t spent time in God’s wonderful Creation, which is one place that never fails to refresh my awareness of beauty, blessings, and life’s bounty. Time spent in God’s Creation always seems to renew my sense of perspective. Being an introvert, I spend a lot of time lost inside my own thoughts. When my thoughts are tuned to God’s goodness and to beauty and joy, my thoughts are a wonderful place to be. But when my thoughts are in a turmoil, perspective is almost impossible to have. What better way to get out of my own tumultuous thoughts, than to lose myself in discovering the joys of God’s Creation?

IMG_5053.1lowrezAfter church today, the girls and I went on a hike. We left later than we intended to, since we got sidetracked cleaning the loft, so we thought our hike would end up being truncated. Our goal had been to get to Hole-in-the-Wall, which we decided against because of the time, so instead we decided to explore the ravines and draws spiderwebbing off our well-worn jeep trail.

IMG_5101.1lowrezClambering over deadfall and under deadfall, scrambling through steep ravines, down ledges as tall as we are, slipping and sliding over week-old snow still clinging to the shadowed places, carefully parting barbed wire fences to fit through between the strands of wire, laying prone in the stiff, brown grass to marvel at a pinecone, or at the funny little spiked heads of what were in the summer Wild Bergamot – What a delight!

IMG_5128.1lowrezFlickers of white gave away the silently fleeing deer, and Dixie’s black pony could be glimpsed in our east pasture when we came out on top into a meadow. As beautiful as was the view while in the meadow, with Grandma’s driveway in the distance and Harney Peak away on the horizon, I like the ravines the best. The cool shadows, the piles of deadfall blocking the way, the snow and ice in pools at the bottom, the sense of the unknown – What is around the next bend? Where will this ravine take us?

IMG_5115.lowrezIn all the time we’ve been out here, there are still places I haven’t explored. The unknown, unfollowed, un-searched-out ravines. The distant hilltop. The dry creekbed. If I climb that hill, what will be on the other side? What is this stand of trees hiding? What is at the end of this draw? Should I go left or right?

It is impossible to stay lost in my tumultuous thoughts when God is drawing my thoughts out of myself, into something so much more beautiful than I have a capacity to understand or contain or express.

IMG_5149.lowrezThe afternoon gave way to evening. The clouds shone, and the red earth seemed to soak up every ray of light and cast it off again, luminous in the strange golden light of sunset. Then sunset gave way to dusk, and the red-gold gave way to the colors of nighttime. Lavender shadows settled into the ravines, and the clouds became the soft grey of slumber.

Almost as swiftly as the last glow faded from the sky, the warmth settled out of the air. A delicious chill sifted between the trees. The breeze picked up ever so slightly.

December is a beautiful time of year. But any time spent out in the open, breathing deep of the freshness of the earth, anytime spent marveling at God’s wonders is sure to be medicine to the weary soul.

It was.

Laura Elizabeth

 

 

Surprised by bounty

IMG_2780.1lowrezThe sentiment this summer among gardeners was dismal. Just when we started thinking this year would be a great year for gardening, a storm whipped up out of nowhere and smashed everything. So we replanted and waited and got hopeful – And just when we started getting optimistic, another stormed whipped up out of nowhere and smashed everything. Again. It was a little discouraging. Who wouldn’t be dismal when their beautiful garden gets crushed by pea-to-golfball-sized hail, knocked down by straight-line winds, flooded out, shriveled in the heat, or burned by an early frost?

IMG_2755.1lowrezBut suddenly we’ve been surprised by our garden actually producing vegetables, in spite of the late (third or fourth) planting. I don’t know if I mentioned this before, but Sarah’s boss at Dakota Greens in Custer gave – gave – us upwards of 20 tomato plants, after the first planting was smashed, plus a variety of pepper plants. Such a gesture of generosity really floored me.

IMG_2749.1lowrezMom dutifully and eagerly planted them, regardless of how late in the season it was, content to have a garden that looked nice even if it didn’t ultimately grow anything. Someone else gave us a tomatillo plant which is now covered with fruit, other people gave us zucchini plants, and Mom replanted green beans.

IMG_2793.1lowrezBut what has been delightfully surprising is that not only did the plants that she planted late do well, but many of the plants that had gotten flattened or severely bruised in the hail are doing beautifully! Mom’s square-foot gardening boxes were planted thick with root vegetables, and we’re getting a bumper crop of turnips. I couldn’t help but marvel at the color – Such a rich, pure color. The basil and oregano likewise are plentiful, and many of the squash plants are laden.

What a welcome surprise! We have bags of green beans waiting to be blanched and frozen, lots of turnips, and herbs to freeze in oil. How exciting!

IMG_2805.1lowrezWe were out picking a few days ago, and Luna the Cat was darling to watch – He’s a weird cat with some really weird habits and weird quirks, but he is quite the charmer. He is uncannily companionable, although he prefers to not be snuggled, but he loves to be where the activity is. The whole time we picked, he was discovering the garden. He sneaked up on picked zucchini, prowled around in the green beans, got his little paws wet in puddles, and then discovered the leeks. He likes leeks.

Our tomato crop hasn’t been very good, since a late hail storm damaged a lot of the fruit, but the lack in tomatoes is more than made up for in the other bounty. We’re still pondering what we could use as a hail screen next year.

IMG_2741.1lowrezLesson for the day: Patience and persistence really does pay off sometimes. If Mom hadn’t insisted on replanting the third (or was it the fourth?) time and continuing the cultivate what survived, we wouldn’t be getting anything from the garden this year, except maybe some of the root crops and some squash. But we’ll have a little to put up in the freezer anyway, and plenty to cook fresh. Nothing quite makes a meal like home-grown produce.

Laura Elizabeth

 

 

Sisters

IMG_2051.1Jess was here to visit this past week – We kept her busy, scurrying her around from one adventure to another, relishing having all four of us together again. That may sound sappy to some, but if you grew up as we did in a close-knit homeschooling household, you’ll understand what I mean when I say, “My sisters are my bestest friends. They are all I need.” When you grow up spending all of your waking hours with your family, there is a closeness that is inevitable. And it is hard having one of those siblings 1000 miles away. So glad she got to come to the Hills for a week, short as it was.

On Saturday, the 19th, we took a jaunt over to Little Falls – The girls wanted to swim, which was a firm no for me, but they managed to talk me into getting in up to my knees. I don’t handle cold water very well, so I was whining the whole time about my feet hurting (they did. The water was cold.), but we managed to get a couple of cute pictures on Jess’s phone.

IMG_1995.1Anna spent most of her time garnet hunting. As I’ve written about once or twice before, garnets are plentiful in the streams here and, while we mostly hunt them in the dry creek beds, we like to hunt them whenever we go to Little or Big Falls. Some good garnets can be found in those places…

Jess, Sarah, and the Dog scrambled around on the rocks – I followed behind slowly, enjoying my time through the lens of a camera, and simply enjoying the presence of all three of my sisters.

IMG_2123.2God has blessed me with wonderful friends in my sisters. When I was younger, I don’t think I appreciated them nearly enough, but they grow more dear to me with each passing year. They are the lights of my life. Not sure what I’d do without them. While siblings are so close that you know one another’s foibles, quirks, and annoying habits, they also are the friends who have the potential to be the closest friends on earth.

Who else shares the same history, the same upbringing, the same genetics or legal heritage? My youngest sister, Anna, is adopted, but even though she doesn’t share my genes, she shares a heritage by virtue of us being children of the same parents. She participates in the legacy that our parents are building for us.

We’ve all spent all of our childhoods together. We’ve been homeschooled together, we’ve argued together, shared beds, brushed teeth together, owned pets together, accidentally killed pets together, shared silverware, shared secrets, shared deodorant, spent all our best memories together. We’ve shared mishaps, successes, and failures. We share facial expressions, complexions, and quirks. We compare tans in the summer. We fight over snow boots in the winter. We all try to get out of dishes, and then enjoy doing the dishes together.

IMG_2029Who else can boast or blush at the mention of each of those things? Who else can claim the closeness that siblings have? We share a past, a present, and a future. A friend can walk away without a part of you going with them. Your siblings, no matter how rocky the relationship, are always going to be part of who you are.

When God created families, he wasn’t just creating an institution – He was creating companions, opportunities to experience closeness probably only surpassed by a spouse. That’s a pretty special relationship. And I’ve got three of them.

Laura Elizabeth

Sister date

DSCN0015.1I know the Fourth of July came and went almost two weeks ago, but I wanted to share some pictures from my family’s Independence Day. Mom and Dad were on their way back home from Illinois, unfortunately, and Anna had to work during the day, but Sarah and I took full advantage of our day off and drove through the beautiful Spearfish Canyon.

DSCN0108.1We’ve already started planning another drive sometime this fall, both to see the leaves change and to drive it when there are fewer tourists, but it was still a lovely trip. The wonder of God’s creation is truly amazing. And what is amazing is that God has not only left His fingerprints so clearly impressed in this world, but He has also allowed for there to be beauty in the results of something so devastating as a global flood. Not only did He give us the rainbow after the flood to remind us both of His judgement and His goodness in preserving a remnant, but He has left memories of the flood in places like the Black Hills, the Grand Canyon, and countless other places that were the result of the judgement of God on a wicked world. But I digress.

DSCN0023.1Sarah and I drove up to Spearfish, made a hasty stop at Walmart to get cold kombucha to drink (we were both getting drowsy–It was hot out!), and then drove down the canyon. We stopped here and there along the way to take pictures, and I added a few photographs to my growing botany portfolio.

DSCN0042.1Bridal Veil Falls was beautiful, but about fifty other people thought the same thing. Tourists. Bless their hearts. They stood around on the deck not even looking at the Falls, but just taking up space. Not many pictures happened this time around. So we’ll take another drive.

DSCN0092.1Roughlock Falls, however, was even more spectacular. It isn’t as tall as Bridal Veil, but it is tiered and simply gushes water. It is about a mile off the main road, plus a little walk to see the full beauty of the Falls, and it was well worth it. Fewer people were flocking Roughlock, since it was so far off the beaten path, and the walking paths were lined with wild roses, geranium, thimbleberry, violets, and countless other greenery. What a beautiful trail!

In the evening, we picked up Anna and headed to Custer to see the fireworks, and met a friend there. It was a quiet, simple Independence Day. Glad to spend it with friends and family.

Laura Elizabeth