In Hindsight | 2019

2019. What a year. For those of you new to this blog, I love to do a post sometime around the New Year (give or take a couple of months) as a recap of and reflection on the blessings of the previous year. And it’s fun to look back through pictures and remember why I took them, and the circumstances around them. As I scroll through picture after picture, I feel so blessed with the memories I have of this past year, and God’s gracious generosity in giving me so many wonderful times with family and friends.

This past year was not a year of ease – There were trials, temptations, struggles, grief, uncertainty, pain, fear, death, goodbyes…But through all of it, God is so faithful, providing work to do, friends to encourage, family to love and to be loved by, and so much else.
Sunday GulchThe highlight of last winter (and really, the whole year) was the sheer amount of time spent hiking. As I look back through pictures, I see hike after hike after hike, from Sunday Gulch to Harney Peak to the Hidden Waterfall hike to Hell Canyon. Temps ranged from balmy winter weather to frigid, blue skies to snow. I discovered a few simple gear items that wonderfully changed my enjoyment of winter hiking! In past winters, I’ve struggled with a sort of seasonal depression, but not this past winter. There was too much beauty, too much muscle soreness, too much glorious exhaustion, too much freezing hands and feet and nose, to be bothered by depression.
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IMG_20190430_183859_422Another noteworthy memory was my first experience with search and rescue, when the fire department was called out to help with ground searches in the winter and spring. As sad as the circumstances were, I loved the teamwork and camaraderie of the few days I spent on line searches, and the physical challenge of the terrain we were in.
IMG_20190327_095508495_HDRI also had my first ever structure fire, another vivid and exciting memory from the fire world. The call came in around 11pm, and we finally got back to the station around 4am or even later. I think I got about one or two hours of sleep that night!
In March, I was thrilled to be able to spend nine days in Spearfish for the NOLS Wilderness First Responder course, thanks in large part to the generosity of friends from church who opened their home to me for those nine days. WFR was a great experience, and it peaked my interest in wilderness medicine, as well as boosting my confidence in my ability to survive in the event of an accident, or to offer help to someone else.
April came, bittersweet, as we said goodbye to Grandma for the last time. It is hard to lose a loved one, but it was also a time of rejoicing, knowing that my faithful Grandma had been ushered into the presence of her LORD. She had patiently endured so much pain over the last few years, and all that was now gone. I also got to feel the joy of our church family coming around us and supporting us, loving us. If you belong to the household of God, there truly is sweetness in sorrow.

A visit from a college friend in May was a great beginning to the summer, and we spent a fun several days exploring the Hills and hiking!IMG_20190603_215510_448My Uncle Scott was here on and off for a lot of the year, since he recently retired from his job and is in a time of transition in life. He is a great uncle and a dear friend, and his company is always a highlight. And yes, we hiked. And hiked. And talked. And hiked.
IMG_20190829_094654058Once again I spent the summer working at the greenhouse with my sister, Sarah, and hiking whenever I could. My poor brain needs a break from teaching in the summer, and the outside beckons, beckons, beckons. We had some great hiking adventures, including our fondly-remembered Fourth of July hike up Harney Peak, into the middle of a thunderstorm.
IMG_20190806_114512_899IMG_20190727_002357_929Another trip to Bozeman for the Biblical Counseling Conference was a great almost-end to the summer, with camping and hiking bookending the trip. My friend Katie and I drove up ahead of time, camped and hiked for two nights and two days, went to the conference, and then camped and hiked again, with the addition of a few more friends. We were able to explore Hyalite Canyon with three solid days of hiking. So much beauty. The bigness of God’s creation is astounding.
received_934942393564610Katie also talked me in to going climbing with her, and after the first day, I was hooked. I was able to go a few times this last summer, and I’m already looking forward to getting back out there when the weather warms up.
IMG_20190913_221138_179IMG_20190921_215009_814Towards the end of the summer, Sarah and I began training for our Rim-to-Rim, and I loved the time spent hiking long miles with Sarah and how our relationship grew. We hiked Harney Peak a grand total of something like 20 times this year, most of those hikes in preparation for our Rim-to-Rim. It was great prep, as all our training occurred between 6000-7200 feet, getting our bodies accustomed to less oxygen and having to work harder at higher elevations. It was excellent. I would have thought that hiking Harney that many times would get boring. It didn’t. We saw so many different faces of our little mountain, from the early morning light streaming through the dew-wet trees, to the afterglow of the sunset, to thunderstorms and hailstorms, got soaking wet in a downpour, tromped through puddles, sweated through afternoon heat, and in short never got tired of hiking our mountain.

Mid-August, I began my EMT class through the Custer Ambulance, which was a fantastic class! I had a blast. Testing all went well, and I can’t describe the excitement of having Ruth shake my hand after the psychomotor examination. “Congratulations,” she said. “You’re an EMT.” Definitely not where I thought I’d be 5 years ago. I’ve since started with the Keystone Ambulance Service, and am looking forward to getting some experience, particularly over the summer.
IMG_20191007_155429565_HDRThe fall was mostly a chaos of teaching and EMT, except for a crazy trip with Sarah and our cousin down to Bryce Canyon, Grand Escalante, and Grand Canyon for our Rim-to-Rim in October. What an amazing trip. I haven’t done a lot of traveling, and definitely not road tripping, so this was a wonderful adventure and challenge.
IMG_20191105_132953452_HDRI also had the opportunity to join Custer County Search and Rescue, and getting plugged in there has been a really neat experience, opening doors to a very different branch of emergency services, but one that more specifically taps into my interests and abilities.

And my list could go on. Beautiful summer days, fall snowstorms, wildflower hunts, snowmobile training for SAR, delighting in a power outage with Vienna sausages and a fire in the fireplace, picking apples with Mom, fire department trainings and events, and so many other delightful memories. And the year was topped off with a beautiful family Christmas, bittersweet without Grandma, but festive and joyful.IMG_20191225_114750320So if I were to summarize the joys of this past year, it would be the new avenues of learning and work, the physical challenge of so much hiking, and most importantly, the growing friendships and relationships God is blessing me with, not least of which being those relationships with my family. I also cannot stress how important it is for single women to have other single women friends, or at least other women friends. But there is something extra special about those friendships (one in particular) where there is common faith, similar struggles, and so much empathy and love.

As I look back over this year, I see God’s hand of graciousness, His providence, and how He sustains through trials and struggles, and how He uses (ordains) those difficulties to increase our dependence on Him, and highlight our own sinful attitudes and idols, to make us more like Christ. I’ve seen how He takes away one good to provide in another good way, and I’ve seen how He uses struggles to loosen our hold on things we feel dependent on here. My own failings have highlighted my need for Christ, and increased my confidence in God’s gracious provision.

2019 was another year of change, change, and more change. I’m excited to see the story God has written for 2020!

Summer 2018 | In Hindsight

Fall is officially here. October is officially here. I can’t believe how fast this summer flew by. And everyone says that. Sometimes I wonder if there is a time warp or something. It’s kind of fun looking back over the pictures I took this summer, a lot of which I never culled, edited, or shared, and remembering what a great summer it was, easily the best summer I’ve had since we moved here. IMG_8853eIMG_8925eIMG_8830eIt was a summer spent outside, spent sweating and working hard and getting sunburned and sore and hiking and reveling in the delight of family and friendships and new adventures. It was a summer of change and newness, starting with getting certified as a Type II Wildland Firefighter at the end of the spring, taking shifts at the fire station, learning about plants and greenhouse care while working at Dakota Greens, exploring new places in the Hills. We enjoyed a litter of growing kittens, unusual quantities of rainfall, massive numbers of wildflowers, and a greenness of the landscape that persisted all summer long. We enjoyed a few family outings, which are rare these days due to Grandma’s poor health, and Sarah and I enjoyed a drive out in the Medicine Mountain area, and found fireweed on Odakota Mountain. I spent some lovely time with the friends God has blessed me with, hiking and exploring and sharing life together.IMG_2928eIMG_8899eIMG_8915eGreenhouse work was a source of joy this summer – early mornings weeding and maintaining the gardens at Prairie Berry Winery, hot days sweating in the greenhouse, cool and rainy days cozy in the greenhouse, days watering and caring for plants, watching flowers bloom and bring a rainbow of colors.IMG_5797IMG_6683eIMG_7128IMG_6678IMG_6823IMG_6808IMG_6664IMG_6804As wonderful as the summer was, it definitely had its share of struggles. I tend to struggle with feelings of depression and overwhelm, and I’m in a place in my life where loneliness is a very real thing, and I have to remind myself that God IS good, and He DOES love me and have a plan for my life. I have to remind myself of that, and often forget to. That’s when I start getting depressed and discouraged.IMG_7885eIMG_8792eeRarely do I get out my camera or work on blog posts when I’m feeling down – Depression tends to shut off both of those things. And years ago I decided I didn’t want to journal my negative feelings, but only the encouraging things. I’ve had people question me on that, since the negative IS a part of life. Very valid, absolutely. God uses what we perceive as negative experiences to sharpen us, to refine us, to make us more like Jesus, and those things are worth remembering. But for someone who has no trouble in general remembering the negative, I don’t need any help with that, or any assistance in going back and reliving my discouraged feelings! I’d rather document the joy.IMG_7821eAnd there is a Biblical principle in this:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. ~Philippians 4:8

Now the flip side of what I just said is that I could and should proactively choose, in the midst of feeling discouraged, to do those things that remind me of God’s goodness and the joy of life, but sometimes that’s exactly what the struggle is, and exactly where I fail. But the Christian life is about growth, and I hope I am growing in that area.IMG_8882eBut what I love about photography is that what I remember through the photography are the things that delighted me. I don’t remember what overwhelmed me, and I don’t remember why I was struggling or even if I was struggling. I don’t even remember how hot and sweaty and tired I was when I took certain photos, and I like being hot and sweaty and tired. I just remember the delight, the friendships, the beauty. How wonderful. My photography generally springs from joy or results in joy, and that is what I see reflected in the pictures when I look back over them.IMG_0230eSo enjoy these little glimpses into my joy-filled summer, as I enjoy sharing them and reliving them myself. So much beauty, so much peace, so many new things, so many blessings.IMG_8900eIMG_0211eSo long, summer. Howdy, autumn. The year is wearing on, and winter is just around the corner. A wonderful time of year.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” ~Jeremiah 29:11

Lunchtime Stroll

To stroll…that’s about all one can do when temperatures reach the 90s. Ever since the weather became nice this spring, I try to get out for a walk or a hike over my lunch hour. It is wonderful to get outside and stomp around on Buzzard’s Roost and Falling Rock, both of which are just a five to ten minute drive from the clinic. But it has gradually gotten too warm for hiking. Strolling must commence.
Cottonwood PathThere is a little “wilderness loop” trail even closer to the clinic than my other two favorite spots, which starts at Canyon Lake and follows Rapid Creek and feels relatively rural, even though it isn’t. The geese and ducks were congregated along the shore today. All the moms and dads and their little goslings and ducklings were paddling about, bathing, cooling off. They had the right idea.
Family of Canada GeeseThe cottonwoods are dropping their seeds this time of year, leaving the ground drifted with white, as if with snow. Flowers and leaves are frosted with the downy fluff. It swirled around the path under my feet, and floated through the air like snowflakes.
Cottonwood SnowIn spite of the lack of rain recently, everything is still so green, so vivid, so full of life. The ponderosas almost look dull next to the flamboyant wildflowers and the glowing green of the cottonwoods. The grasses are still lush. Yet soon all the spring newness will give way to the summer, the greens will fade to brown, and a different array of colors will be abundantly displayed. How well our world is ordered, seasons coming and going without fail.

How well God watches over and equips His Creation.

Laura Elizabeth

 

A Little Bit of Crazy

IMG_7518There is nothing quite like the rip-roaring fun of a rodeo, and the Sutton Rodeo at the Black Hills Stock Show was well worth it. The sheer display of skill, strength, and grit makes for one adrenaline-filled afternoon. Roping, steer wrestling, bronc busting, bull riding, barrel racing, and don’t forget the bullfighters and pickup men…I’ve never enjoyed any other sport, but rodeo fascinates me.

And it goes deeper than just the fun or excitement.  Rodeo is unique from other sports in its real-life application. These aren’t skills that were perfected purely for the sake of their sport. These are skills that have been years in the making, skills that require more than just brawn or youth or speed. These are skills that are at the heart of ranch life. Go to any branding or round up and you’ll see these skills on display.

IMG_7858Our culture celebrates youth, sex, beauty, but rarely celebrates hard work or guts. Rodeo is a sport where youth isn’t necessary or demanded, sex-appeal isn’t requisite, and where feminists seem to have no sway. It is a sport where even the champions take tumbles. It is a sport where skill is rated higher than showmanship, and where teamwork, whether with one’s horse or one’s partner, is absolutely essential.  In the sport of rodeo, the ground is level – Bulls and broncs and roping steers don’t pick sides. It isn’t rigged. It is all very refreshing.

IMG_7455It is a sport where patriotism is upheld and veterans are honored. It is a sport where prayer isn’t foreign, and the name of God is mentioned humbly. It is a sport where political correctness takes a back exit. It is a sport where good sportsmanship is expected, from audience and participant alike. No one cheers when a cowboy is tumbled, unless it is to applaud him for his well-spent effort. It is uniquely American, embracing and preserving the rugged independence of the American spirit, the pride in one’s country, the satisfaction in one’s physical work, the willingness to get dirty, and to get thrown once in awhile.

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And at the end of the day, all philosophical and social appreciation of the sport aside, what’s not to love about a little bit of crazy?

Laura Elizabeth

Beginning with wonder

IMG_5385.1lowrezAs soon as I found out that the Medical Center was closed for the day due to inclement weather, I was out of my office clothes and into jeans and a Carhartt, and on my way up the driveway in the truck, camera and coffee in hand, and Enya playing on the stereo. It was about 7:30 AM, and it wasn’t snowing yet, but it was sleeting little stinging grains. The overnight fog had coated the upper elevation landscape in a thick layer of hoarfrost, transforming the hills and trees and fences and barbed wire. Those common, mundane things were suddenly beautified, enchanted, magical. A perfect day to wander the icing-up roads and take pictures.

IMG_5386.1lowrezI headed towards Hermosa. The view over the home place was frosted and silver beneath the lowering clouds. Snow was coming, but taking its time. A petty, biting wind was blowing, and everything – taut barbed wire fences, delicate dried flowers, Ponderosa pine needles, grasses – everything trembled and quivered before the nipping breeze.  I didn’t even catch a glimpse of Remington and Dove. They must have been hunkered down in a sheltered ravine or a stand of trees. Not a sight of them.

IMG_5459.1lowrezWhere Highway 79 intersects with Highway 40 and Highway 36, the fog seemed to have been the heaviest. All the naked boughs of the oaks and other hardwood trees that grow along Battle Creek were stark white. The ground almost looked like it was covered in snow. Traffic was scarce and slow. So many shades of white: the white of the trees coated in frost, the white of the ground coated in frost, the white of the sky heavy with snow.

IMG_5471.1lowrezUp and down over hills, I drove in and out of the frost. In low places where hills rose steeply, I could see a stark line where the frost began, where the fog must have drifted and glazed the trees. Iron Creek and Battle Creek were almost frozen over in places. Back towards Keystone around 9:30 or 10:00, the snow was already starting to fly.

I didn’t get home until 10:30 or so, and I could have stayed out a lot longer than I did. So much beauty to marvel at, so many little miracles, from ice-covered flowers to glistening white landscapes. Fog and frost: two of my favorite things.

IMG_5390.1lowrez Rapid City and the surrounding area began battening down the hatches last night, bracing for the first winter storm of the season. Today, this included businesses closing, schools shutting down, and the clinic closing for the day. The snow has piled up enough that parts of I-90 have closed and there is a no travel recommendation for all of western South Dakota. What a great day to cozy up and stay warm. We waited all day for the power to go out. It didn’t.

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The rest of this afternoon, I listened to an Adventures in Odyssey episode with my sisters, cuddled Kashka, the black cat, read Little Britches, got an Etsy order ready to ship out, brainstormed about turning blue jeans into denim skirts, and watched the snow pile up outside. I love winter. And I love the chance to wander and wonder, to marvel, to dream, to experience in such a small way the creative mind of an Almighty God by looking at His glorious Creation.

Any day that begins with wonder is bound to be a good day.

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