Adjusting Our Altitude

Continuing on with our travels, we left beautiful Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, with bubble water in hand (the first and most important part of driving in a car) Red Vines (second crucial piece of supply) and a various smorgasbord of road snacks appropriately divide between salty and sweet and headed to southern Idaho to meet up with our sweet girl and make our way to the Sawtooth Mountains with only our backpacks for a couple of days.

Our first stop was to gather a few items for dinners/breakfast/snacks. Oh for the love of freeze-dried meals! I always wonder what happens when you’re backpacking and stop to grab the MSR stove to cook a bag of dried food and it tastes like HEAVEN! It’s a phenomenon all of it’s own. I mean, in the real world of day to day meals, eating contents in a foil bag, boiled in water, would definitely not be the most palatable. But the goodness that is contained in those lamina bags after a day of hiking is some of the most delicious cuisine on the planet. It’s like opening up a box in December and a Christmas puppy emerges. Outrageously amazing! I cannot tell you how many times on a backpacking trip I will say “OMG this is literally the BEST veggie Pad Thai I have EVER tasted” as I’m standing and shoveling it into my mouth with my spork. Ok we’ve been to Thailand so this is a complete lie in the real world, but not after a day of backpacking.

The Sawtooths were mesmerizing. The jagged cliffs shot straight up to the sky and I just soaked in the beauty. We had such a great hike in. It was hot and dry and we laughed all day. Mainly at our daughter’s expense, who didn’t pack entirely “light” for the trip. In her defense it can take a fair amount of time to curate your perfect backpacking set up. G and I have ours down, and have for years, but have also done A LOT of backpacking. Everything is tiny and ultra lightweight. We can go WEEKS carrying everything we need and coming in at 25lbs. Our sweet daughter…..not so much.

I was really hoping for some bear sightings along the hike in, but didn’t see a single one. We were hiking in mid-morning so we were probably a little late for that. When we got to our primitive little campsite there were bear signs all over. We didn’t have our bear vault so I fashioned a little pulley system in a tree for our food and smelly items. Our daughter told us in all the trips she has taken out in the Sawtooths, she always kept her food in her tent. My mouth dropped open. Oye! I had to be a “Mom” and fill her in on Backpacking 101. Man I love that kid.

After leaving the Sawtooths we took off for Moab. In all of the time living in the West (our entire lives) G and I have never been to Moab. Why? We had no idea, but WOW! We were both so blown away by this amazing landscape. The twisting rocks, rose up to meet the daily sunshine wrapped in the bluest sky. The baked-in terra-cotta and garnet colors of the archways and cliffs butted up to incredible alpine peaks, far surpassed anything we had imagined. Our first day there we made a hike into a waterfall that a local told us about. Tucked back into a mineral rich, crimson valley, this place was a gorgeous oasis. The deep pool making the perfect plunge for locals.

Great dive!!

That night we headed with beers in hand to the heights of Dead Horse Point. It’s like the Grand Canyon of Utah. We loved being there for sunset and watching as the landscape below us changed colors and shadows danced. The sun set and we marveled at how for a good 50 minutes after it went down, there was still a glowing ember in the sky. It was the longest sunset we’ve ever witnessed. Truly God’s masterpiece!

The next day we woke early to make the hike to Delicate Arch for sunrise. Driving into our parking site we couldn’t see what was waiting for us after the sun rose. We hiked in the quiet, cool air of the desert in the faintest of light, making our way to the arch just as the sun rose to wake the day. We sat in amazement. The browns, reds, yellows and oranges came to life on this arch that is balancing in the middle of a sandstone valley. We had never seen anything like it. Why we hadn’t visited Moab before this, was beyond us and we fell in LOVE. We are already planning a trip. Taking mountain bikes to hit some of the incredible slick-rock trails and stay in one of the Glamp-ing yurts.

We spent the rest of the day exploring Arches. We did a great trail run in Devils Garden visiting Landscape Arch, Navajo, Partition and Double O arches. We felt like kids climbing all over these sandstone walls that you magically stick to. We can’t wait to go back.

Throughout this entire trip we just kept thinking how grateful we are. Grateful that during a pandemic, we can still find tons of adventure, new opportunities and travel to new places. Grateful for nature and our complete love of the mountains and water. Grateful that we had three weeks to see our family and friends and explore some of our own country. Grateful for our health and the ability to backpack the mountains and run in the desert. Grateful for a God that gave us such an incredible and diverse landscape to play in and painted some unimaginable sunrises and sunsets just for us. Grateful for pine. The rugged trails. The dirt. For peaks & summits. Grateful that we took the time to go wild for a while. We love to travel unscripted and without a schedule. No plans, other than where the wind blows us.

We returned back to Denver and spent some time in the mountains there. Talking about which fourteener we’d like to take on next and the possibility of backpacking the Colorado Trail again. We knew our trip was coming to an end and that our time in the mountains was closing. We allowed the deep peacefulness and tranquility to filter through us. We welcomed in ourselves, the ability to feel small and humble and gain some new perspective on our future. We prayed a lot and were and still are, expectant for answers.

For us being in the mountains is almost too much sometimes. It’s a beautiful spoonful of wonderment, that never gets old and never eases or let’s up. Almost as if our heart is trying but unable to gather it all up. We look and stare again and again, but it’s never enough. I can’t explain it any better that to say that it just gives us a deep ache inside. It’s like being with family……needing one more day. It’s why I cry every time I see them and every time we leave.

We allowed time to stand still, gave way for our mind to imprint the imagines, take in the smells, listen to nature and taste the clean air until we meet again. Our hearts expand, gather up as much as possible and hold on.

“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity.” ~ John Muir

Wild Wild West

Well howdy there. G and I have been out traveling, doing what we called our Wild West Tour.

With Corona virus still raging through the country, closing international borders, we thought we would use our time to do some in-country travel. We’ve missed the West, our family and our kids. Since the Hood to Coast Relay was ALSO cancelled, we thought we’d head to the sunset side of the country a little earlier than the late August trip we had planned.

We started off making our first stop in Denver, CO. We will come back around to this at a later date. Denver was also our last stop before returning East, because honestly, we just can’t get enough of that Rocky Mountain area. Both G and I have always had a “thing” with the area, so it’s always fun when we can have some extended time there.

Good Morning Tetons
Day before I finish GVRAT

We wandered our way through the Tetons in Wyoming and Yellowstone in Montana after leaving Colorado. Making note that the Teton glaciers will definitely be in the running for our next long backpacking trip.

Can’t be in Coeur d’Alene and not hike Mineral

Second on our list was Big Sky, Montana. We love it! It’s always been a favorite ski area with our family and when we lived in Minneapolis, it was a trip we took often to get some nice, steep, slopes loaded with fresh pow! It’s just stunning all times of the year. I was working through my mileage to finish off the GVRAT 1000k (and now continuing back across, because I’m a glutton for punishment a lover of running) I chose to finish my 1000k on our last day in Big Sky. Waking up on the mountain, with Lone Peak, still with it’s snowy patches, out our window, just stoked our mountain running love affair. The air was crisp, clear and filled with the scent of evergreen forest. The trails were buffed and soft with pine needles and it made those last few miles an absolutely perfect finishline.

The Finish Line of 1000k
Searching for breath in the thinner air.

We soaked in the mountain vibes, sat outside drinking fabulous Montana beer and just really took in the enormity of those western ranges.

It’s a funny thing, our love of the mountains. I remember when we lived in MN and would take our ski trips to Montana, the anguish my soul felt when we would leave. I’d often be sobbing and it would take the ache days to go away, once we returned to the Mid West. It’s like something in the fabric of our lives was off. Our DNA was made to be steep and it’s why a lot of our trips have always been through hiking and climbing big mountains. With G growing up in the mountains of Northern Idaho and me in Northern California, it is just wound into our pneuma. So it was no surprise when I got that first glimpse of the Rockies and started to cry. Actually I take that back, it WAS a surprise, because since being in NC, we have spent A LOT of time in the mountains. Almost every weekend, hiking, climbing and running and have loved every single second of it. But something inside me broke and I was left longing.

Our time in Denver and Big Sky went by too quickly. We drank in the mountain air, literally. I remember running and saying to G “I can actually draw in huge, full, gulps of air” which if you’re living in the south right now, you have no idea what I mean…. or you do, and are looking forward to fall/winter running when the air isn’t thick and oppressive and slapping you in the face when you step outside. I LOVE humidity, but not when I’m running. I think in a perfect world it would be humid for morning dog walking, firefly watching and porch-sitting and crisp and arid at the perfect time for my daily runs. But for now, I’ll have to deal with the daily beat-down of humid, hot air that constantly assaults me while I run.

Distance like a Grizzly and wash like a Raccoon

When we got to Idaho and Coeur d’Alene it was full-steam-ahead with a steady stream of visits with family and friends. It’s hard living somewhere so long, and coming back as a visitor. You know your time is limited and we always try to stretch it out anyway we can, but it’s never enough. Now looking back, we wish we would’ve stayed longer, since we weren’t really on any schedule. We had fun acting like tourists in a town that is so close to our hearts. Running with our kids at English Point, hiking Tubbs, Mineral Ridge and Lost Man Trail all made it to the top of our list. We had fun watching our Goldie-girl realize she was back where she had learned and trained to run trails with us. Her old stomping grounds.

We were able to see friends who now live in AZ that were back in ID visiting their kids. God had impeccable timing. We were so grateful.

I know one thing; solid friends are solid friends and no matter the distance we are separated by now, when we walk into their homes, sit in their back yards having dinner, and picking up right where we left off on our last visit home, it’s magical! Unchanged and constant in my life, they are my sisters and are such gifts to me.

The time we had with our own kids flew by. We always want one more day. Always. I think that’s the way it is for parents. We raise such independent kids, who grow, and fly off and we are so proud, honored and satisfied with the jobs we did raising them and of their accomplishments and then the go and be adults, and you’re left with with the want of “one more day.” G and I feel fortunate to be able to see our kids often, even on the other side of the country. But no matter the time, the yearning of one more day is always present.

I think Covid has us all revisiting what’s important. G and I have really been talking about this a lot. This pandemic, as terrible as it has been, has also given us all the time to stop and redefine some things. To bring into focus what’s most important. To see things differently and with more clarity. To appreciate, recognize and discover what is paramount for us. It’s brought things that may have been in the back of our minds to the forefront and has made them more acute and pivotal. It’s has us both listening so raptly to that Still, Small, Voice. Waiting patiently, and watchfully. It has turned our prayer life upside down and has driven it to a whole new depth. It has made us both keenly and profoundly aware of some goals and dreams that may have slipped to the back of the lineup, that seem to have new breath being inflated into them. We recently had sweet friends that after years and years living out of the country, decide to come back, saying Covid and a recent birthday really put some things into perspective with a new angle and outlook. Has it had this effect on you? Has it brought around a new vibrancy and newness to chapters you’ve maybe left half read? Has it spurred some new passions that maybe you’ve shelved for a later time? Take the book down off of the shelf, dust off the cobwebs and crack its weary spine open. What do you see?

I think it’s in most of our natures to grow. I also think for some, the thought of growth or change can be paralyzing. I think Covid has either nudged or downright pushed some entirely out of their comfort zone.

For G and I we use our time in the mountains for prayer, reflection and to bust ourselves out of stagnation. We are most inspired on long hiking trips. We have some of our best conversations either hiking or sitting in the ocean on our surfboards. Maybe it’s the thin air and altitude, but more likely it’s the place that’s the most quiet where we hear the voice of God. We are both pretty content people, but are both constantly seeking to evolve. We have been gifted in knowing when and when not to make a move unless we both feel a prompting. Things tend to be disastrous when we put our own plans before God’s plans for us, but we ALWAYS see how even in the confusion and jumbled disarray we can sometimes step into, God works things out for the best. It’s such a comfort to us, having that faith.

Beautiful Coeur d’Alene
This was her back yard for the first three years of life. Happy Doggo

The mountains give us a great escape from the noise and chaos. They are simple. Their scents and sounds, Fauna and Flora provide us soul-blanketing relief. They make us feel small and for me, like a young child.

Their balm was so welcome on this trip.

Make Room

Sitting in the sunshine on a misty beach one morning after a run, I am filming a video for my hubs. It’s been 6 weeks since we’ve seen one another face to face. Our plans for reuniting, fugacious.

I’m in my natural position for prayer...meaning I’m breathing, alive.
I’m on a daily quest for the Spirit to move in me regarding my Word for the Year; PURPOSE.
My walk, expectant. My eyes, upward. My heart, wide open.
I’ve had a great season in Costa Rica and also had the opportunity to fly up to Guatemala to spend some time. What an incredible country! It just drove home in me our love for culture and travel and people and an appreciation for this wide world of experience and chance and imaginings. I pray we never lose our sense of playfulness for adventuring and shenanigans. It’s one on a list of a million things that bonded us as a young 20-something couple, and as we age, I continually pray God’s favor on our health and an everlasting enthusiasm to traverse the globe.
But this morning, as I soak in a few moments of sunshine, I know it’s time to return to the sticky, hot of the South. Leaving one appreciation and devotion for another. One palm-treed, golden sand beach for the city, foodie delights, white sand beaches, and mountains to climb.
I talk this morning, post sent video, to my hubs and we get a ticket home for a couple of days later. Just enough time for those last-minute cocktails, dinners, hugs, and to get packed.
Is there anything better than a homecoming? Both here and there. Trading the friend-filled nights of delicious, home-cooked vegan food, wine, laughter and reunion with the open arms of my readied hubs as I traipse off the plane, suitcase, backpack, and surfboard bag slung over my shoulder.
Being alone for a month and a half (ok truly never alone but you get my drift) has allotted me some wonderful time to soak in the presence of God. NOT that I can’t do this anytime, but there is something about that set-apart, independent time that the Bible talks about. That night-silence, when it’s just you and your prayers and the whispers that you only hear in a placid mind until you fall asleep to a cicada-fueled symphony.
Day after day I felt the infusing of God on my heart as I prayed about PURPOSE.
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After returning, I was flung headlong into dog slobbers, Indian food, trail friendships, morning coffee brought to my bedside, and the bottomless love of a soul mate. Also back to our church family, which proved to be one of the best weeks to come back as we sat in worship with Kari Jobe and her husband Cody to sing a gorgeous song as a blessing over humanity. Joining that with a teaching on our “stories” and how the stories in our lives and what we believe affects us. We all have stories. I have saturated myself in this message over the past week. Considering the ways I have implemented the Word of God into my life and trying not to miss the bigger story of what God is telling me and teaching me. To not fill in the space that is in me, meant for him, with unnecessary baggage, so that His bigger story can be told in me and through me.
Over the years as G & I have made transitions in our lives together... BOY have there been plenty, we firstly go in seeking guidance through prayer and know that when there is tension or conflict to look at it through a lens of goodness. Our God lens. To get quiet and not allow doubt to cut off what God is speaking in our lives.
We BOTH found it remarkable that as we are sitting together in church last week , the title of the message was MAKE ROOM FOR THE NEW.
Oh Lord, how you know our hearts.
“Make room for the new even when you don’t see it coming.”
I love a good Spiritual nudge.
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Just over a year ago, we made a move we were both scratching our heads over BUT are now seeing the fruit from. A plan that worked out, just not quite in our plan-frame, is now syrup-dripping with goodness. The two of us at odds over a few things. He; feeling led in one direction on a major purchase, and me… n o t quite feeling right about it in my spirit. We continued to pray. We both felt the sparks of confusion and tension.
“Did you know,” our Pastor said, “that God can be giving you exactly what you want, but the tension it takes to produce growth is super uncomfortable?” “Things may come into your life in one season as a problem or opposition and are the same things God will use to create opportunities to know him better and make him known.”
Have we made room to receive the new things that God has sent us that we’ve asked for?
Sometimes, I have the feeling that I may NEVER see the purpose, or at least to the extent to how God uses me. I DO know that although it’s not right in front of my eyes, it doesn’t mean I haven’t had an impact. I get glimpses...but we don’t see the way God sees. I don’t always see how something I’ve said or have done has affected others good or BAD minutes or years down the road. I am human and know I am not immune from being a fool sometimes. Then….there are those fleeting moments when I get a small peek and see in tangible ways how I’m fulfilling His purpose. My daily prayer is always “allow me to be open for YOU to use me in any way you see fit and allow me to always turn others towards YOU.”
I know He uses our past experiences, good and bad. The pain I walked through decades ago, that has long-since healed, may just be the balm that someone else needs for their own hope to bloom.
I DO pray for discernment. Because some people are just out for a hurtful story to learn about you and not because they are interested in walking along side you in healing. If you’re out to judge a book by its cover….you’ve come to the wrong illustrator.
I have a confession. It will sound TERRIBLE...but when we knew God was giving us the opportunity to move to the southeast United States, and by saying, “giving us the opportunity,” I mean….uprooting our semi-laid plans, for His flawless recipe...my first thought was “but….that accent!” I know, I know! Hate me now...I’m just being authentic. So….as we are sitting in church together this past week, I am NOT kidding AT ALL...our pastor is talking about CHANGE, and he says “maybe you didn’t want to move to Charlotte...because you hate the southern accent.”
Ummm…. I sat real still and moved only my eyes around through the hundreds in the  congregation because I was SURE everyone was looking directly at me.
Boy, did I prejudge what is and isn’t good for me. What limited thinking.
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I am happy right now to be back with my love. I’ve realized that I’ve allowed some doubt to creep in and cut off mid-sentence, some things God might be speaking into our lives. Like our Pastor has said “When God is speaking don’t stop at the comma! If you stop at the comma you never see the..“but….”
Trust me, that tiny, diminutive, oftentimes inconsequential conjunction can connect you to a multitude of healing. Of fulfillment. Of joy! It can take you from, “I feel stuck” BUT “I know new possibilities are coming my way?” From, “I have guilt from my past” BUT “God is a God of forgiveness and second chances, never guilt. He has washed me clean of my past, only to use my experience to help someone else.” It can take you from a diagnosis BUT turn you towards His healing, learning to rely solely on Him and open an opportunity for family and friends to soothe you with their hospitality, love, and prayer. ONLY later to use you for a future person that may be feeling scared because of their diagnosis. It can take a past mistake that has haunted you BUT now that you have walked the path, you have a voice to share your knowledge with others. From a past prison, into a bright future. It can take you from a place of feeling like you lost something but knowing God just moved it.
Change is amazing. New circumstances grow you so much as a person. You learn so much about yourself, your resilience and your passions. As I look back on the changes we’ve had over the years, God’s goodness is all over them. So prominent. He used some incredible opportunities to sharpen us, to bond us, to realize what’s truly important and what’s just unnecessary. To forge long-lasting, true, friendships over many miles and many countries. To drop off the unneeded baggage. I know God often uses a change in ways that we don’t always feel good about; losses, finances, marriages, sickness...Do you use these as opportunities to turn to Him? Sometimes we are thrust into a position that ALL we can do is rely on Him, which IS exactly where we should be. So if there is change, or tension, be expectant for transformation. Feeling mournful over a situation, believe the miracle. Fear or failure, choose faith.
I pray that we always allow room in ourselves for the new.
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