Father’s Day

Father's Day 2016We observe or celebrate a lot of holidays – Patriotic days, like the Fourth of July and Veterans Day and Memorial Day, religious holidays like Christmas and Easter and Good Friday, national days of observance like Thanksgiving, and dozens of other lesser-known holidays. But I have to say that one of the best holidays, after those that celebrate Christ, has to be Father’s Day. We live in a society where the father’s role has been undermined, partly because of a society set against manhood, and partly because of self-sabotage. And I don’t get the impression that our culture as a whole really cares. The disappearance of the leader-father is overlooked in the shadow of other epidemics and controversies that ignite zeal and spend energy. How amazing, then, that we still have one day out of the year where we as a nation celebrate our fathers!

Father's Day 2016We celebrated today with a spur-of-the-moment jaunt to Lakota Lake for a little kayaking and enjoying of the fresh air and sunshine, and got ice cream on the way home at Rushmore Cave. Dad is handy with a grill and with a gun, so he grilled us up some venison from his hunting this past fall. Nothing quite like good venison steak and fresh corn on the cob, especially for a family who almost exclusively eats chicken. It’s a running joke. Watermelon up at Grandma’s, and an episode of the TV series Christie topped off our evening.

Father's Day 2016God’s design for the father is that he serve as leader in the home. He is to be the spiritual leader, and lead his children in the fear of the Lord. He is to love God first and foremost, and love his wife and cherish her, and teach his children to love and cherish her as well. He is to be a man of character and integrity, lovingly and gently leading his children, disciplining when necessary, and not provoking his children to anger or discouragement. That’s a tall order. And one, I believe, that truly requires God’s grace.

Father's Day 2016I’ve been so blessed to have a father who not only loves his family, but who has led his family consistently and courageously in Godliness. He sets an example of humility, of faith, and of trusting God in all things. He has a testimony of faith that is awe-inspiring, a testimony that proves that God can save anyone, no matter how wrong their life trajectory is, no matter how many bad life decisions a person has made, or how much they have rebelled against God. My dad’s testimony proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that a relationship with God truly is transforming.

UntitledDad’s life since he was saved has been characterized by a submission to God’s will, in the face of extreme odds, in the face of skepticism and criticism and lack of support. We wouldn’t be out here in South Dakota if it hadn’t been for Dad’s determination to submit to God’s will and to make his decisions based not off of practicality or the world’s model of success, but to make his decisions based on what would be best for his family, from a spiritual standpoint. Dad wouldn’t be in seminary right now at the age of 57 and pursuing full time ministry if it wasn’t for his determination to submit to God’s will, no matter how crazy it might appear to onlookers.

Father's Day 2016He has modeled love and faithfulness in marriage, he has modeled humility and gentleness in parenting, he is the man I love most in the world, the person I go to for advice and help and counsel, and as I get older he has become a friend as well. He isn’t perfect. He is a sinner just like I am, saved by the grace of God. But he loves the Lord with all of his heart, soul, and mind.

And I am so glad he is my dad.

Laura Elizabeth



Quiet Day

IMG_3530lowrezA good day is a quiet day. The savor of life, for me, is the quiet and enlivening action of being. In our society, we have all but forgotten how to simply be. We have an agenda for the whole day, meals mapped out, road routes planned ahead of time, work schedules set practically in stone, social lives that keep us away from home, all in an attempt to be full, to live life to its fullest, to be efficient, to be productive, to be visibly successful – That is the mark of our society – Meshing cogs, perfectly timed machinery, society run like efficient computers, filling our minds and our lives so full that what we’ve retained is irretrievable, lost in the stimulus.

IMG_3519.1lowrezBut what about a full life that is full in its quietness? What about a life that is brimming with possibility, instead of a scheduled, itemized list? What in the meshing cogs of our society really leaves room for creativity, spontaneity, and breathing deep of life? What about forsaking some of the world’s marks of success to pursue a kind of success that is soul-deep, built on relationships with God and people? My heart hungered for a slower life, even when I didn’t realize it, but out here where there are miles upon miles of hills and trees and craggy peaks and rugged ravines, I find it easier, so much easier to simply be.

I want to live a life that is full of purpose and hard work, that is productive and industrious and useful, but I want that productivity and industriousness and usefulness to be plaited together with quietness, solitude, and relationships, and detached from the matrix of society. A four-day-per-week work schedule is ideal! I am so thankful.

On my days off, I feel as if I flee into God’s creation, hungering to see nothing of what people have made, and simply to revel in the wonders of the natural world. For a couple of months, I’ve tried to make it down to Hole-in-the-Wall, one of my family’s favorite haunts. Finally! Sarah and I had an hour and a half or so yesterday and we made a quick jaunt down our old jeep trail to that wonderful place.

IMG_3510.1lowrezThe hardwood trees have all lost their leaves by now, or mostly, and the air was crisp and ripe with autumn. We hiked along the creek bed for most of the way, scrambling over rocks, jumping from one to the other, getting tangled in young trees which are growing bravely up through the rocky creek bottom. Battle Creek was flowing high this summer. Sarah is a tall girl, and the clumps of tangled grass and leaves above her head show the waterline to have been at least 7 feet deep in this bend of the canyon!

IMG_3523.1lowrezHole-in-the-Wall is whittled away a little more each year, but there it has been for about 100 years. I wonder how much longer it will be there, and big enough for us to climb through and hike over? I hope I never have to see it collapsed, the whole ridge crumbled to a pile of rock, but one never knows – A little more of it tumbles down with every rain. It still enchants me.

IMG_3538.1lowrezThe canyon leading to Hole-in-the-Wall was glowing brightly – Blue sky, a little breeze, and warm sunlight. What more could we ask for? I guess the one thing we could have asked for was a little more time. Salsa preparations and housework in the early afternoon and small group in the evening didn’t leave a lot of time, but we still had the leisure to enjoy our scramble to and from, to stop and marvel at fallen leaves, garnet sand, and orange berries. We had time to be.

It was a good day. A quiet sort of day.

Laura Elizabeth


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


Wild RoseThe roses that bloomed profusely this summer faded long ago, and in their place is a bounty of red rose hips. A friend, Hannah, and I found them a week ago while we were hiking on a logging trail on forest service land. I immediately started making plans to harvest some, which Anna and I did yesterday afternoon.

IMG_1834.1lowrezRose hips, if you didn’t know this already, are the fruit of the rose plant. The hips are edible, but not raw–they have large seeds and a hairy pulp that need to be removed before the fruit can be consumed. But they can be made into jelly, or dried for use in teas. I’ve never harvested them before, since wild roses weren’t profuse enough in Illinois for any sort of meaningful gathering. Like with any small fruit, it takes a lot of plant to produce enough to logically and practically harvest from it!

IMG_1754.1LRBut here, wild roses grow with abandon, as do raspberries, sunflowers, and any other number of wildflowers which lavish their abundant color and life onto an otherwise often hash landscape. There is a beautiful paradox in the presence of a fragile flower beneath the shadow of a towering granite peak. The delicacy of a flower or the perfection of its fruit highlight the grandeur and power of towering peaks and granite spires, just as their magnificence highlights the delicate beauty and diminutive intricacy of the wildflowers. Can they really belong to the same world? Yes, and the same God created them all! What goodness.

IMG_1855.1Anna and I spent two hours out on that forest service trail. A lot of it we spent walking, but the weather was perfect and the 5:00 sun soon hid itself behind trees and hills. We found one particularly good patch of rose hips, and gleaned from there for quite some time before moving on. Next summer, I’ll have to remember that rose hips come into season earlier. There were a few places where the rose hips were much overripe, considerably past pickable ripeness. Notes for next year. But we ended up with enough hips to make some jelly (I’m thinking rose-rhubarb sounds good…) and dry some for tea. Not as much as we’d like, but enough for the first year.

IMG_1859.1lowrezBirch and aspen trees have been catching my eye lately, and more yesterday, it would seem. There is something haunting and sylph-like about their white trunks and branching limbs, more noticeable against a backdrop of ponderosa pine and grey granite than perhaps they would be otherwise. Perhaps it is C.S. Lewis’ references to birch trees and dryads in his wonderful Narnia series that have haunted my imagination and still do. They’ve always seemed different to me, otherworldly, enchanted. Along the forest service road, they clustered in hollows and lined meadowland, stark and beautiful and dreamlike.

IMG_1823.1lowrezLittle things can be so profound–The gentle cup of a harebell, or the golden glow of a head of grass. Profound and captivating, if you let yourself look hard enough and without any other expectation than to see something beautiful. How common a harebell is! How common a head of grass is! Yet how uncommon, how wonderful, how full of meaning. And how temporal, how fragile, how short-lived, soon to be struck away by the first hard frosts and the winter snow.

IMG_1878.1lowrezWhat a joy it is to have the sense of sight, the sense of smell, of touch, taste, of perception, the ability to recognize color, the permission to experience the joys of this world. Sometimes we go so quickly through life that we miss much, we miss the meaning in a harebell, or in ripe and golden grass. We miss the meaning in a towering peak, or in the racing openness of a prairie, open to the skyline. We look right past everything, missing those gifts that God has given us, the gifts we never had to work for, the gifts that demand nothing of us except the expectation of joy.

IMG_1861.1lowrezSome gifts we do have to work for, and those give even greater pleasure. One of those would be the joy of family, whether it be spiritual family or earthly. Yesterday, I got to experience some of the joy that comes from earthly family, the joy of cultivating healthy and loving relationships before God. I’ve got some pretty wonderful sisters. And hopefully they’ll help me with the rose-rhubarb jelly.

Laura Elizabeth