Greeting 2020

We (Mom, Sarah, and I) welcomed the new year and the new decade from Harney Peak, the highest point east of the Rockies! It was a beautiful, crisp morning, the stars were glorious at 6am, the snow crunched pleasantly underfoot, and the wind was gentle enough for us to actually de-layer shortly into the hike.

Harney Peak on New Year's Day

There wasn’t even a hint of dawn when we started up, and we trudged along in the dark, our headlamps casting pleasant shadows in the snowy woods. There were a few other cars at the trailhead, and evidence along the way of other first-day hikers, including this snowy tribute to the new year:

Harney Peak on New Year's Day

And then the first day of the year dawned: gloriously, slowly, from diamond-studded black, to silver and blue skies, then lavender, then pink and orange and scarlet, with the tips of granite spires just kissed with the first light. We reached the tower in the glow of the first sunrise, and watched the light spread over the Hills.

Harney Peak on New Year's Day

Harney Peak on New Year's Day

Harney Peak on New Year's Day

Harney Peak on New Year's Day

Harney Peak on New Year's Day

The wind was fierce at the Tower (it always is), and with a bitter edge, so we took shelter in the basement, warming ourselves with hot, black coffee and a snack before heading back into the wind.

Harney Peak on New Year's Day

The hike down was even more beautiful than the hike up, now that we could see the sculpted snowdrifts, the sun sparkling through the trees, and the sky and its blueness overhead.Harney Peak on New Year's Day

Harney Peak on New Year's Day

Harney Peak on New Year's Day

What a wonderful way to bring in this new year and new decade, with two of my favorite people, doing one of my favorite things, on one of my favorite trails, in my (current) favorite place in the world, on the tip top of our highest peak, reveling in and wandering around and gazing at God’s beautiful handiwork.

I love experiencing the firsts of the new year.

The first morning.
The first drive.
The first hike.
The first time up Harney Peak.
The first picture taken.
The first cup of coffee.
The first sweet family time.
The first prayer.

The new year comes, fresh, unstained, and (from our perspective) unwritten. We do a pretty good job of staining it as soon as we open our eyes or our mouth on New Year’s morning, but the freshness and excitement and sense of newness remain, the gladness of a fresh start. There are things I’m anticipating, things I’m excited about, things I’m not looking forward to. But I’m glad to know I serve a sovereign LORD who isn’t just writing my story, as if He is still in the process of figuring it out. He has written it, already.

Harney Peak on New Year's Day

I wonder what He will choose to bring to this new year? I wonder what growing, what joy, what delight, what blessings and struggles and trials and pain? What adventures? What changes are coming that I haven’t even thought of yet? What triumphs? What failures? What of Christ will I see or learn that I haven’t yet known? How will He refine me?

2020 is open like a brand new book. I’m excited to read the story.

Happy New Year!

Rain and High Water

High water for us means that Battle Creek is actually flowing across the southern end of our property, and when it does, we’ve had a lot of rain! God blessed us with more than 3 inches of moisture in the last couple of weeks, which sure gave every growing thing a needed boost! There is a favorite spot along Battle Creek, fondly referenced by a small cave we found which we dubbed “the Mountain Lion Cave,” where the creekbed winds its way through a ravine, with high canyon sides bordering the creek from one side or the other, and clear green meadows opposite, scattered with oak trees and adorned with dame’s rocket. Even when the creek is dry in that stretch, it is a favorite place to explore and rock hound and scramble, but with water running the fun level goes up drastically. We took the dogs down there so they could run and play in the water. I love watching delight play out on an animal’s face. Those two goofy dogs loved the water! Sarah did, too, and went wading in the creek with the crazy canines. I don’t think our pups wanted to leave! Poor Trixie is such a snow dog, the summer heat really gets to her. She becomes a water dog out of necessity!
IMG_7172eIMG_7195eIMG_7180eRain – what a blessing.

Perspective

A recent storm tore into our neck of the woods, leaving us with drifts of hail, shredded trees, and some damage here and there – and a few clear reminders.
IMG_3165 No. 1 – Gardening and the Black Hills are not companions. If anything, they are indifferent to antagonistic acquaintances. If a late frost doesn’t kill the garden, the drought will. If the drought doesn’t, the grasshoppers will. If the grasshoppers don’t finish it off, the hail will. If the hail doesn’t, an early frost will. This time, it was the hail.IMG_3190No. 2 – A storm that “doesn’t look like much” can still pack a punch. As it rolled in, Mom and I almost took bets on whether or not those clouds contained hail. I would have lost by a long shot. The storm rolled in, spitting little rice-like pellets of ice. A cloud of fog blew in, and the storm intensified, gradually dropping bigger and bigger hailstones, which bounced and leapt in the grass like popcorn. They got larger, sounding like bricks dropping onto the deck, shattering every direction. When the hail finally stopped, it looked as if it had snowed.IMG_3173No. 3 – Those things that we see as “bad” are often accompanied by a blessing. Sure, we got a smashed garden, but we also got almost an inch and a half of rain, between the storm with the hail and a storm the previous day. We are moisture starved here, and that inch and a half will do wonders. We went to check the rain gauge, and the top had shattered off. A well-placed hailstone.IMG_3205No. 4 – No matter how bad things get, there is always someone else who got hit harder. Mom had worked hard on her garden this year, and it was just starting to produce! Some regret is only natural. But one of the nurses at the clinic where I work has a daughter who lives in Houston, and we’ve been getting updates from her on the state of the storm. Meanwhile, we have a lot of haze in the air from wildfires further west. Montana is burning, Texas is underwater, and all we have to complain about is a smashed garden. What storm were we talking about again…? Nothing like perspective.

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

Puppy Love

There is just nothing quite like the love of a puppy.
IMG_7825IMG_7837IMG_7835Pets are one of those little blessings that as children we instinctively know are a gift from God. We pray about them, thanking God for them, asking Him to keep our pets safe. But when we grow up, we lose something of that delight. “More important things” take up our thoughts, and we can lose sight of those little blessings and gifts from God that we experience every day. We thank God for what we might consider the “big gifts” (family, church, promotion at work, scholarships, financial security, the new car) but we neglect to thank Him for His little gifts, daily evidences of His goodness to us (the first breath we take each morning, the feel of a puppy’s fur, a cat’s purr, a baby’s smile, dewdrops on grass, fresh air, clean water). If God’s goodness is manifest in Creation, which it is, isn’t it also manifest in those little or individual things of His Creation, be it a flower or a rolling landscape or a waterfall or great creatures or small creatures?

James 1:7 says that “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above.” Shouldn’t we thank God for all of His blessings, even the small ones?

Laura Elizabeth

Gifts of Pasque Flowers

Prairie crocus. Wind flower. Pasque flower. Meadow anemone. The many names of our state flower are almost as exquisite as the diminutive tundra flower itself. Springing up in the earliest weeks of the spring, or even the latest weeks of winter, sometimes emerging to a world still covered in snow, these hardy little plants survive both blight of frost and chilling wind, covered in their silvery protective coat of fur.
IMG_8775They’re hardly worth remarking on before they blossom – They have no glorious foliage of glistening green, or beautiful petaled buds waiting to burst open. They cling close to the earth, almost invisible in their beds of pine needles and dead grasses. Yet there is beauty there, a strange, unearthly sort of beauty, and they hold in their heart the purple bud, waiting for the sun and the little bit of warmth. Pasque flowerFinally the color is revealed, like opening one’s hands to glimpse the treasure held inside. Hunting for pasque flowers yesterday, the barely-waking ones nearly drove me crazy in anticipation of finding a fully-open, wide awake one. As enchanting as the unopen flowers are, how much better to find one in the prime of its blooming! IMG_8857We stumbled across a single patch of the wind flowers yesterday, in a little grassy area beneath some low-growing pines and junipers, near the rim of the Box Canyon. We saw a few there a week ago, without open blossoms, but something must have happened in the air in the last week. Some spell of springtime must have been cast.
Pasque flowerTheir dainty cups of lavender, velvety on the outside but dark-veined and satin smooth on the inside, opened cheerily to the sunshine. Although there were no spreading patches of the flowers, they did seem to like this one area. We had walked a long ways without seeing any – What was special about this one little grove of trees? As soon as one was found, it seemed the flowers were springing up all over, every time we turned around. Beneath this bush, and that tree, and hidden in the clump of grass over there. 
Pasque and beeEarly pollinators were already hard at work, burying themselves in the yellow centers, going from flower to flower, busy and industrious, ignoring the human interruption.
Pasque flowerAnd even fading, even when a few of their petals had fallen, there was still a loveliness, subtle and understated.

These flowers are one of the many treasures of nature that God has so carefully placed on this earth for our enjoyment and His glory – And I truly believe He means for us to enjoy them. Yet they are also some of the flowers most able to be overlooked, springing up in the still-wintry or too-early springtime, springing up and fading fast, or nibbled away by wildlife, or crushed underfoot. Unless one is looking for them, they won’t be noticed. And it makes me think that oftentimes that is how God’s personal gifts to us are, those things He does specifically in our lives to bless us and draw us to Himself. We don’t notice them in time, or we don’t notice them at all. They get choked out by the cares of life, trampled in the busyness, they wilt in the withering glare of our own selfish worries, they die unnoticed and unappreciated. We take those blessings for granted, and miss out on the greater blessing of recognizing them as being from the hand of God.

Laura Elizabeth