Tuesday, October 6, 2020


Yellowstone National Park is everything I expected it to be.

It's massive. Over 2 million acres. We drove all day long and didn't even make a dent in seeing everything.

It's as off the grid as anyplace I have ever been, with cell service so spotty it wasn't even worth it to try and use the phone. In fact, we saw an actual pay phone at one rest stop. I guess the park operators figure if someone gets mauled by a bear or falls off a cliff, someone needs to have SOME way to let the authorities know. It was definitely a strange experience, coming out of the park and having all our phones begin to blow up with texts and calls and notifications we had missed.

 Old Faithful was...well...faithful. We were able to get a great seat and only waited about 30 minutes before the most famous geyser in the world did her thing. Steam and occasional bubbling water kept us in suspense while we waited. Well, some of us. Ashely was less enthused. "It better get more interesting than this. We better not have come all this way to see a hole smoking." It did get more interesting. I'm not sure I'll ever NOT be totally in awe at the way boiling water just spews out of a hole in the earth, for several moments, all of the time. 

The animal activity was the coolest thing. It was like being INSIDE a zoo exhibit. Bison roam freely, sometimes solo and other times in massive herds. The first time we saw one, we climbed from our car to take pictures along with everyone else. A man nearby, holding his 5-ish-year-old daughter, responded to her repeated "What is it, Daddy?" question with the epically misinformed "Its a buffalo," response. Before I could even help myself, I went full teacher/defender of the identity of the animal kingdom. "It's actually a bison. Isn't he cool?" 

I have since looked up why it is that the bison are so often referred to as buffalo, and the original reason makes sense. The settlers were reminded of the herds of buffalo they had seen in their homelands, and so referred to the bison as buffalo early on. By the time the distinction was made...it was too late. We literally ate bison burgers at a restaurant called "Buffalo Bar." I am totally offended by this entire, perpetuated mistake, on behalf of all bison, and buffalo for that matter. 

**Side-bar: how often is this true in a spiritual sense? Someone says or does or believes something that isn't actually TRUE to the Word or character of God, and repeats it or allows it to be repeated often enough that it becomes widely accepted as okay, and culturally appropriate, and probably just an interchangeable term anyway. I can think of so many things, SO MANY, in Christian circles, that are flat out NOT accurate or in line with who we are called to be as believers and witnesses of Jesus, but we just go ahead and allow them because its been said or done or accepted long enough that we don't want to look like the crazy person for calling out the WRONG.

***Side-bar 2.0: I am not sorry I corrected that random stranger. I'm just doing my part to protect the truth. :)

Back to the animals: We witnessed a good old fashioned elk testosterone match. Complete with a locking of antlers, and aggressive elk shouting (otherwise known as bugling) as one giant male defended his family of females from a potential imposter. It was one of the coolest things I've ever seen in my life.

We are leaving Yellowstone today, and driving south to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, for our final two days of my #birthdayadventure. We are footsore, but we are enjoying every moment of taking in God's creation. 

I'm sure, before it's over, I'll have a few more opportunities to defend the actual facts about something.

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Lessons From a Mountain

 When making plans to hike in the Rocky Mountains of Montana, there are a few things its important to know.

1. The trail map lies about the length and difficulty. Straight up lies. Because if the map told you the truth...you would never do it. So when it says 6.5 miles, you should go ahead and assume that you'll be walking for 10. And the "moderate" label really should read "will be going straight up for at least half of the hike."

2. No matter how in shape you are, the elevation and amount of oxygen will leave you lightheaded and gasping for air. If you're LESS in shape...you may or may not have to stop every 30 steps or so on the vertical sections of the trail, in order to avoid passing out.

3. People on their way down will lie to everyone heading up. They will tell you that you're almost there, even if you're only a mile in.

4. The sense of accomplishment you feel when finishing the 6-that-was-really-10 mile hike will be real, but not as real as the sore muscles and tired feet if you happen to be older than 30.

5. There's no trash anywhere. None. There's a respect for the surroundings and commitment to preserving the beauty of the trails. 

The proximity to the wide open sky allowed plenty of time to think, and pray, and reflect. It was interesting to note how many spiritual parallels could be drawn.

1. No one willingly sets out on a trail that they know will be way worse than they think. And really, they'll be grateful they didn't know at the start. They'll also be thankful for their traveling companions to help distract from the gasping for air and morning muscles.

 2. We are never, fully, spiritually "prepared" for hard things when they hit us. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't be in training at all times. Understanding that hard things are always ahead should make us train more, strengthening our spiritual muscles for the fight.

3. No person can truly equip you for the climb, the struggle. They can try, and sometimes their attempts are helpful. But really, the only One who is able to help is the one who IS breath and strength and courage.

4. You will feel accomplished, relieved even, when you make it through the thing that was way harder than you thought it would be. But...the effects will linger. You will not soon forget the aching, the pain, the struggle. 

5. But during the climb, during the struggle, during the pain, as you realize that you're close, so close, to the One who is always with you in the hardest times...you can look around and see purity and beauty, without pollution or garbage. Its just you and Him there on the path, and it's enough. He's enough.

And that's not even close to all you can learn from a mountain...but it's all I have energy for today.