Yellowstone – a Childhood Adventure

When I was a child,about 8 years old,my family went on a road trip. We drove from Tennessee to Seattle.I don’t remember all the stops we made. I don’t remember who we were visiting. Maybe it was for a family reunion. Maybe it was just for fun.

I do remember the history we visited.We stood in wagon ruts of the Oregon Tail. They were huge to me! We jumped from rut to rut. We visited places explored by Lewis and Clark seeing what they saw and learning about their trip and the people they met. My brother picked out a coloring story book that featured their dog. I think we still have it, even though I don’t remember his name.

I remember long games of “I Spy” over vast amounts of flat land. I remember watching the rain fall off in the distance. Dark lines of water pouring from the oppressive clouds above slowly matching toward our car. I remember the fences lining the flat road as far as I could see out the front and back windows of our rental van. The mountains seemed to pop up out of no where and slowly continued rising until we came up to them. I remember walking through the geysers in Yellowstone National Park – I couldn’t figure out why it smelled like eggs gone bad, why the water didn’t spray orange, yellow, and red like the pools that they seemed to jump from.

In Bear Country USA, three black bears surrounded our rental van. One stood in all fours looking at us through the windshield. One wandered on the right side snuffling the ground as though looking for scraps. We weren’t allowed to open the windows. One stood on his big, shaggy hindlegs to sniff at the bundle on top of the van. We worried they would scratch the van, but they didn’t. I wanted to pet them.

We camped somewhere in that area. We all worked together to put the tent up and make the food. I think we were eating s’mores when we heard people talking anxiously. Mommy told us to get in the car. We looked out the windows. There was a dark brown shaggy bison wandering through the campsite! He lumbered al, the way through the camp without bothering anyone. My brother was giddy with joy – he loved Bison!

These are a few of the moments I remember from that long trip across the country. We saw sparkling steamy waters dyed orange and yellow and red by the clay they sat in. We saw Old Faithful shoot glorious sparkling water hundreds of feet into the air. The air danced with water droplets playing tag with the sunlight. We saw herds of elk and bison, roaming bears, and birds of all shapes, sizes, and colors soaring and fluttering in the blue sky. We saw long lines of fences in flat brown green land.

We saw and experienced so much, that my young brain couldn’t keep up with all the events. The events above are the ones I remember without parental or picture prompting. I hope that these memories stick with me for years to come.

*originally posted on my temporary blog, A Dancing Writer’s Explorations. I’m in the process of merging it with this one.

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The Standard Setter – Thoughts from the Week Following Valentines’ Day

Last Sunday was Valentines’ Day. As a single college-aged woman, that holiday can be tough. It seems many single women either have the attitude of “I’m a strong, independent woman; I have no need of a man, he’ll only hold me back!” or that of “I wish I had a man; is there something wrong with me that prevents my being  in a relationship?” and may choose to ignore any other kind of reason for being single.

I’m not shaming women who are single. I’m not shaming the romantics who dream of having a great guy. I’m not shaming the strong, independent women out there. If I were, I’d be shaming myself. I am single, and a romantic, and strong and independent. That’s what got me thinking this week (when all the chocolate’s on the Valentines’ sale).

What if, rather than focusing on how loved I feel, I focused on how loved I make others feel? How would that change the atmosphere of Valentines’, I wonder? But that’s not what I was going to write about.

Here’s the main thing that I realized…ready for this?

I recognized that I have high standards. Some people may say that that’s why I’m not in a relationship. Low standards are often what lead to toxic relationships…that’s what I think. But, we all get our standards from somewhere, right? I figured out where I got mine.

My father is my standard setter. And why not? He’s funny, hard-working, kind, loving, energetic, thoughtful, discerning, and handsome just to name a few things about my dad. But it’s more than that.

I know that my daddy sets his eyes on God.

He’s raised my siblings and me to do our best. Live a life of excellence so that others have no root to pull you down by. Think things through carefully, especially the financial dealings in life. Don’t be afraid to get dirty.

He’s built walls, put in hardwood floors, painted houses, helped us in the garden…he showed me in so many ways that he isn’t “too good” to get down and help with physical labor. He always pushed me to claim my dreams, but he encouraged me to research them to be sure that those dreams would be worthwhile.

Above all, I know my father is a man of God. He’s shown me many ways to live out my faith in my daily work. A smile here, a  word of encouragement there, the willingness to listen and pray, the nurturing and mentoring of many – these are just a few of the ways I’ve seen him living for God, living out his faith. He is respected by many people, and loved by his family.

My standards for a man, who wishes to call me his partner (or his girl), are high because I expect him to be striving for excellence as my daddy does. I expect him to love God most of all so God’s love is clearly evident in his life. I expect him to learn to love me for who I am, with all my romantic notions and my quirks and my independence. I expect him to treat me with respect as my father treats my mother. I expect him to be a man of God.

“But,” you might say, “those are some high standards!!”

I know they are high, but I’ve met so many men who meet them that I know it is possible. I’m not discouraged that I haven’t met him yet. I have soon-to-be wed friends who I can encourage and watch with a smile, they’re so in love. I have my schooling to attend to. I have my relationship with God to strengthen. I have excellence to continue striving for. The standards set by my dad, I don’t just expect them of “my man,” I expect them of myself as well. A life of excellence, that of a godly man or woman, is what should set the standards because it is, to me, rooted in God Almighty, the most excellent of all.

Why I’m Thankful

Thanksgiving is the time of year when everyone posts on social media about what they’re thankful for. Often times, it’s the stuff they have, their possessions, that they are thankful for. The other common one is family and friends. There’s nothing wrong with being thankful for our possessions, for family and friends…but I wonder, how many of us stop to discern why we’re thankful.

So, I thought about it…My favorite holiday is Christmas. Because it reminds me of the why behind my thankful. The why behind my thankful is Jesus. He loved me enough to come in the form of a man, in the weakest form – a baby. He came that I might be saved…often times from myself. Christmas tells us the story of how He came, of the people who were involved and how hard it was for them. What we have in the Bible is only a glimpse of what they dealt with bringing the King into the world, of raising Him, of following Him. Jesus is my why I’m thankful. Let me tell you why He’s the answer to that question of “why are you thankful?”

He loves me. He died for me. He is my Shepherd (Psalm 23:1) and as such protects and guides me. He is my Redeemer and I join with Job in praising Him in the knowledge that He is alive! (Job 19:25) He won’t ever leave me or forsake me (Hebrews 13:5) and because of this I can be content. He is my Provider, my Savior, the Lover of my soul, my Creator, my King! Nothing can separate me from His love (Romans 8:38-39), not my mistakes, or my struggles, my pain, my joy, my happiness, my dreams, no one and nothing, good or bad, can take His love from me. If that isn’t a reason to be thankful, I don’t know what is. If that isn’t a source of joy, than what is? In all that I’ve seen and experienced (and I know I’m not very old) nothing gives me as much joy as my King, no one loves me more than the One who loved me first.  He is why I’m thankful for all I have, all I know, all I hold dear, all I’ve experienced…He is my soul source of thanks.

My King gave me a Daddy who doesn’t give up on me. My Daddy loves me, I know he prays for me, he let me follow him around. He supports me to follow where God leads, wherever that may be. He knows my mistakes and my issues and my dreams and my hopes, and he lets me learn from them all. He speaks when needed and loves so much more. He’s supplies what I need and sometimes what I wanted. He’s taken me on adventures and I can’t wait for those that come from my love of traveling that he instilled in me. I can never be thankful enough for my earthly father, my Daddy.

My Provider gave me a Mommy who trusts me and lets me learn. I’m old enough now to recognize that her rules were well-founded and I still carry many of them around with me. She always knows more about me and what I’m up to then I think she knows. She recognizes things in me before I do. She supports me, prays for me, loves me, and pushes me to be excellent in my King and to give my best in all that I do. My thanks for my Mommy will never end.

My parents are two of my biggest fans and encourage me when I’m ready to give up. They offer me wisdom, discernment, love, and prayers. They’ve done more for me than I can ever hope to do for them.

My Ruler knew I would need challenges and laughter and gave me that in my 4 siblings.

My older brother is my confidant and loves me fiercely and I him. I know I can always turn to him when I’m too afraid to turn to my parents. He’s my closest and dearest and oldest friend. All my life he’s protected me and tormented me in turn, but he almost never fails to make me laugh and to know when to keep everyone out of my way. We’ve been on crazy adventures that I’ll never forget and I hope to go on many more. I love my Big Brother and thank God for him.

My middle brother is my buddy and my nerd. He’s smart in so many ways that I’m not that I know he’ll help me when I’m stuck. He’s quirky and silly. His jokes and dances and songs fill my heart with laughter. Underneath all that nerd and silliness, is a godly young man who is developing in wisdom and discernment. He is the laughter in my life and my companion in school and I wouldn’t part with him for anything or anyone other than my God. I love my Middle Brother!

My youngest brother is my Teddy Bear. He is a source of comfort and understanding. In many ways, he is my “mini-me” we are alike in so many ways. He always looked up to me, watched my dance movies with me and my action movies and cartoons and Disney when no one else wanted to. He is a rock in my life, solid in our Heavenly Father and in his support of me. He has grown so fast and soon I’ll see godly young man in the place of my little cuddle buddy. I love my Youngest Brother more than words can express.

Last, loudest, most obnoxious and most endearing is my sister. She makes life an adventure of joy, laughter, and forehead smacking. She’s always followed me around like a little puppy wanting to be like her big sister. She never realized how much she has taught me. She taught me how to be patient, how to control my anger, and to remember to let people know that you love them. She’s blossoming into a beautiful young woman of God and I’m thankful that she’s here and that she looks up to me because it helps me watch my step. I love my Little Sister and refuse to let her go.

I have so many others to be thankful for. Bosom sisters (Anne of Greene Gables reference) whom I’ve met on this road who encourage and pray for me as I do them. Friends who are like family away from home. Mentors, teachers, advisers, and counselors who help me in so many ways. People I haven’t met who share their thoughts and wisdom that I see because of a friend’s post or a book that I’ve read. The possessions I have are just that…they break, stop working, rip, fade, etc. But they help me to grow in little ways. Hobbies, talents, and gifts offer me ideas of how I might live out my life to the glory of God.

What are you thankful for? What is the why behind your thankful? Have you thought about it?

“I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.” (Psalm 9:1) I can and do join King David in his proclamation of thanks to God. My thanks is not limited to just one day of the year, it overwhelms my heart hundreds of days many times over.