Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A Week in the Wilderness (Part IV)

The Hike

We spent two days on the Appalachian Trail, hiking through thick woods and fording icy streams. After arriving at our campsite the first night and setting up tents, we ran to the stream that bubbled along beside the trail. Wading into the water, we fought chills and shivers and submerged ourselves in the freezing water. There was a series of waterfalls that led down to a big watering hole, and all of us went down there to swim. When the coldness became too much, we crawled out and curled up on the warm rocks, like snakes basking in the sun.

Later that evening, I set off alone down the stream, hopping from rock to rock. I will never be able to describe the feeling of that little expedition--the simple, wild joy of being alone with the trees and rocks and water. A joy so strong I shouted with laughter.

That night we sat around the campfire together and ate burritos straight from the coals. All of us were dirty and smelly, but I found everything fresh and beautiful. Living with nature is so...free. I love not caring if my bare feet are dirty, or if my hair looks funny. It's oddly exciting to take my water bottle and a water purifier, and stroll over to the stream to get a drink. I love hearing the birds and watching the bugs and just being outside. Of course, I am still drenched in suburbia. As I was going to sleep that night (nice and cozy in a one man tent with Wendi), I spotted a Daddy Long Legs crawling up the side of the tent. Gently, I scooped him up and tossed him out. Nestling back down into my sleeping bag, I closed my eyes and--felt tickley, long legs creeping across my bare stomach!

The next morning we cleaned up camp and started hiking again. Although we had to go frustratingly slow, it was an exciting hike--especially the life-threatening parts on the side of a cliff! Halfway through the hike, we stopped at a waterfall that formed a natural water slide. So fun! Why don't I live in the wilderness all the time?

Monday, June 28, 2010

A Week in the Wilderness (Part III)


His vertebrae are fused together. His body eats proteins, so he can't build muscle. A week after his doctor gave him clearance to do any type of physically activity, he was stuffed in a van on his way to high adventure camp. Throughout the week, I watched in amazement as he fought against his disabilities and participated in almost every activity.

On the last day, he and I swam from a rock outcropping where everyone was playing to shore. Although he had to stop and rest several times, he finished the distance swimming strong. As we pulled ourselves out of the water and plopped onto the ground, he was brimming with excitement, delighted at his ability to accomplish what was so physically challenging.

When I asked him what his favorite part of the week had been, he answered promptly: the last twenty minutes of the hike. Suddenly he felt like he was strong, like he could keep up with the fastest of the campers. Over the week he had grown--physically and spiritually--and it was so encouraging to see how a week in the wilderness can transform.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

A Week in the Wilderness (Part II)

The Cliff

Canoe paddles in water--stroke, stroke. Across the lake as the sun hung low in the sky. And then there it was, looming above me. The cliff. They'd been talking about it all day. Forty feet. Bare rock. Deep water. Jumping off. I was nervous, but I was going to do it. Scrambling up the side of the cliff, I quickly reached the rocky surface and glanced over the edge.

Forty feet is really high.

Fear like I have never known before ripped goosebumps all over my skin, and shook my whole body. All I had to do was step over the edge, just one little step! But I couldn't do it. I was petrified. While camper after camper strode by me and leaped over the edge, I stood back, fighting against myself. Michael prayed with me, Peter cajoled me, all my friends down in the water (so far below!) screamed and shouted and encouraged. Time after time I crept to the edge, ready to jump, and slunk back shaking with sobs, terror, and frustration.

I couldn't do it.

It was such a humbling reminder of my weakness, of my inability to be complete alone. Jumping off that cliff was, of course, unnecessary. But it served as a reminder that although I like to think myself self-reliant and independent, I'm not. I need Jesus to lift me up, to give me grace, to hold me tight when the cliffs of life set me trembling and crying. How thankful I am for the persistent love of my Saviour!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

A Week in the Wilderness (Part I)

I spent the past week being counselor at Venturescape Outdoors in North Carolina. It was a beautiful time of freedom in the wilderness, of doing life with the other campser, working together, exploring God's creation, and just loving one another. Because it was such an incredibly wonderful week, and I have a lot to say about it, I'm going to share my experiences in several different posts.

The Cave

Tendrils of cold air snaked out into the humidity and drew me to the entrance of the cave. As I lowered myself through a small hole in the ground into the chill darkness of the underworld, nervousness crept around my stomach. Dots of light from headlamps bounced off the slippery rocks and flickered across the cavern walls. At first I stepped hesitantly, unsure of myself in this strange surrounding of clay and slick rock. After a few moments, however, I began to relax and became perfectly comfortable walking, crawling, climbing through the cave.

I loved the feeling of power in my hands as I lifted myself onto a particularly high rock, or the thrill of stepping over the entrance to a deep hole that could kill me if I stepped wrong. In certain places we had to wriggle through tunnels; in one spot we crawled on elbows and knees through stalagmites and stalactites and freezing, muddy water. At one point, we all sat together in an open area and sang hymns, the music resounding around us. When we reemerged into the sunlight, every one of us was drenched in mud and guano (bat poo--gross, eh?), and covered in smiles.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

From Triathlons to Food

It appears I'm never going to post about my triathlon, since I'm still having picture trouble. If you'd like to look at some photos from that weekend, feel free to check out Jessie's blog.

And now for food, since that is the logical progression of any working mind... Good food paints life with color. Just think how much better a hot summer day is with watermelon juice dribbling down your chin, and little black seeds dotting the sidewalk around you. Picture coming home after an afternoon swim and grilling up some hamburgers--to be eaten with oh-so-crisp and fresh lettuce, tomato, and onion. Imagine playing catch in the early evening sun, and coming in for a big bowl of ice cream. You see, food (good food)gives people a reason to gather together, to stop being busy and crowd onto the benches of my kitchen table, to talk and laugh and EAT.

When I wake up in the morning, my first thought is of breakfast. While I run or bike or swim, I dream up what I'll eat the moment I get home. During breakfast, I plan lunch. At lunchtime, I think of ideas for dinner. (And, of course, there are all those snacks in between!) There is such excitement in preparing food!

This morning, after a nice jog with Mollie, I had a piece of cheese toast topped with onion, tomato, and a fried egg, along with a couple slices of watermelon. Already I've gotten the chicken out to thaw for today's lunch: Oat Chicken Pieces, broccoli, and cantaloupe--oh, and blueberries! Mr. Ibarguen just brought a carton of just-picked, garden-fresh blueberries. Noon can't come too soon. ;)

Sunday, June 13, 2010


I have spent the last hour working on my blog. I got on this thing to write about my triathlon. First, however, I decided I really wanted to change my background. Simple, right? For me--not so! After forever and a day, I somehow got that to work. But now my computer is being all weird about uploading photos. So...don't hold your breath till the pictures are up, because it might take awhile. But stay tuned!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Freedom, not Independence

"God's work in our lives doesn't lead to self-independence, but to a further realization of the need of dependence--strictly on Him." (Tyler Burgett)

Friday, June 4, 2010

Santa...or Grace?

The pale green undersides of the oak leaves twisted in the wind as the black clouds unfurled. Rain drops smacked against the windows of my car; Ella began to fuss in the back. As I chattered on to distract the girls from the storm, we somehow landed on the topic of Santa Claus.

"If we're good," one of the girls stated, "then Santa will bring us presents. But if we're bad, we don't get anything."

For whatever reason, hearing that Santa Claus philosophy from a little girl broke my heart. It's what we all believe, isn't it? Even as Christians preaching grace, how often we run back to the "Santa Claus" God, thinking--if I'm good, God will love me more; if I'm bad, he'll turn from me.

But that is not the Gospel! While we were yet sinners, Christ loved us. It's such amazing news because we don't have to do anything. That's the gritty beauty of it: while we were drenched in the blood of our damnation, Jesus Christ shed his pure blood--for us. Mysteriously, breathtakingly, that outpouring cleansed his chosen people, and because of that grace, we are made alive, free, without condemnation.

So why do we chase after Santa Claus? Why do I try to earn salvation, when the only way it can be mine is by Christ earning it for me? Father, breathe your grace over me. Let it fill the holes in my life, and shine out of me pieces of your love.