Thursday, December 22, 2005

Holiday Fun

Brooke, Jess, Richie, PK, and Mark

We had the chance to hang with some very unexpected visitors these past few days. Not only did these three show up, but so did Josh and Robin Fowler. It was two days of refreshing, great times with great people. It was probably one of the greatest Christmas presents we could've even asked for!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Our Random Week

This is what we saw as we were driving home one day. There was a whole gaggle of geese wandering around the busy downtown Moline intersections. Eventually a guy got out of his car and started chasing them around, trying to get them off the road. Cars were honking [as if that was going to help], and it was mad chaos for about 10 minutes.

I found this book on the shelf at a Coffee Hound. It seems like a bit of a twist on the Dale Carnegie favorite, but maybe there was something he missed in his original writing? :)

Kate Chinlund and I learning to snowboard. I think I look like a big red marshmellow, but it does make for good padding if I fall :).

Mark and I on the slopes...he's a stud when he snowboards...he even landed a huge jump! So much fun! Can't wait for Colorado!!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

A Life Metaphor :: Backpacking

Have you ever stood on the crest of a mountain range, overlooking a labyrinth of valleys and peaks twelve thousand feet below you? They stretch on for miles—as far as you can see, and you feel like there is no other place on earth that could reveal the majesty and grandeur of God more clearly. Has it ever crossed your mind to quit your job, buy a whole bunch of high-calorie foods, and walk twelve to fourteen hours per day for four months straight, all the while, knowing that everything you need to survive is in a pack on your back—and knowing deep in your soul that this is somehow deeply connected to life in it’s rawest form?

Every year about three hundred men and women gather at the US—Mexico border to begin their four month trek north through California, Oregon, and Washington on the Pacific Crest Trail. Many have quit their jobs to tackle the trail. Others are in transition. Some are teachers. Many have done it before; two thirds will never see the Canadian border. Their goal? Canada. Their motivation? The journey.

Hiking is something that grabbed my heart during college. I have always loved the outdoors, but I distinctly remember sitting on a boulder at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, overlooking the Colorado River, and thinking, “I have to do this for the rest of my life!” It was that first backpacking experience in the Grand Canyon that really began to open my eyes to the parallels the trail holds for life.

The Journey: Hiking is all about the journey. The destination is a goal, but the joy comes in incredible views and being immersed in nature. If you can’t enjoy the journey, there are high odds you’ll never finish.

“Highs and Lows”: All cheesy puns aside, the trail offers extremes. There will be times that you’ll find yourself on incredible mountain passes with awe-inspiring views. These are the moments that you wish time would stop and nothing would change. You’re happy, full of joy, and everything seems right; there are other times you’ll walk downhill for hours into a valley or canyon, surrounded by trees, your feet are wet from crossing a creek, temperatures are dropping, and the mosquitoes are so intense that you’ll walk an extra hour to reach an elevation where they don’t exist, even though your feet are screaming for rest. You’ll love it and you’ll hate it at the same time. Which brings me to…

Hard Work: Hiking is a lot of work. It’s not easy to walk for 12-14 hours a day. You’re tired. Sometimes you’re crabby. There are times you’d give anything to not have to walk anymore. But you take the next step because if you don’t, you’re not hiking anymore—you’re just standing around. Hiking can often be glorified in pictures and stories, but when it comes down to it, it really is hard work. It takes determination and a willingness to push beyond our tired bodies and bad attitudes to find joy in sore muscles and aching feet.

Fulfilling: However, despite the hard work, it really is fulfilling. There will be challenges. There will be times you’ll want to quit. But at the end of the day, as you crawl into your sleeping bag, it will fill you with the sense of satisfaction of another day behind you and a new one just around the corner. You’ll have experienced things that will forever be burned into your memory, and you realize that every step is far worth it.

It can become mundane: For weeks before a trip, I’m excited. The anticipation is building, and I can’t wait to be on the trail. Even if it’s just a couple days. The first few days are always incredible. However, even the things that I’ve looked forward to the most—the views, the sunshine, the constant beauty—can become mundane. There comes a point,that if I’m not careful, I’ll begin to take them for granted.

Joy in the small things: Flowers. Plants. Vibrant colors. Distinct scents. Bees buzzing. Silence. Creeks rushing. Fruit snacks. Dry socks. Trees. Warm clothes. Trail markers. Fallen logs at stream crossings. Rest. Conversation. Cheetos. You get the idea.

Simplicity: Life most often isn’t simple, but it should be. Every time I backpack, I am reminded of my most basic needs: food, clothing, shelter, companionship. I get home and look around my home and think, “Do I really need all this stuff? What’s the point?” It helps me distinguish between my needs and wants, and I usually end up giving away a bunch of stuff I don’t need.

Dynamic: As in life, the scenery is constantly changing. I remember hiking the Grand Canyon and being constantly intrigued by my surroundings. One minute I’d be walking on a red-dirt trail, surrounded by lush greenery and meadow-like grass, and we’d round a bend only to step onto grey slabs of stone with a shear drop-off to my left and a wall of stone to my right. You never knew what would surprise you next.

What about you? What’s your metaphor for life? A journey? A story waiting to be read? What inspires you to continue “taking the next step” down the trail?

Sunday, December 04, 2005

I'm a Snowboarder!

This is a picture of me yesterday as I learned how to snowboard! I'm a fast learner huh? :)

No really...this is probably more accurate :). But I really had a lot of fun...I mastered the "Rookies Ridge" hill and it only took me 6 hours! [the guys at the chairlift at the bottom began looking at me funny b/c I would come through every few minutes]. It was so much fun...I might be converted from skis, but I'll give myself a couple more days of riding before I make that decision for good :). Mark was a great teacher, and he was even nice enough to spend most of his day with me on the rookie hill so I wasn't by myself! Once my tired, sore body stops feeling like I lifted weights for 6 hours I think I'll give it another go!