Adventure & Aspen Trees

LetmebeyouradventureI’ve become a bit of a rambling soul. I think the last several months worth of posts serve to prove that point.

In just the last year I’ve been to eight new states, which translates to me having seen thirty of the fifty United States in my relatively short lifetime.

I know that God has created me to be hungry– hungry for more depth, more adventure, more knowledge, more of Him– as I said in my very first post on this site almost two years ago.

And for that hunger, I am eternally thankful.

It partially pleases me that I’m a hungry rather than a content person because to be entirely honest with you, becoming a content person scares me a wee bit.

In my mind “contentedness” has always equaled an ungrateful heart or a heart that has said, “Welp, that’s enough,” and stopped seeking more, regardless of what that more looks like. I don’t know where the connection came from but contentedness seems like settling to me… and settling seems like stopping the adventure and the life giving joy of the more. Yuck. Who would want that?

But if there was one thing that God taught me on my journey to the bush of Alaska, (one of my ultimate bucket list adventures and by far the traveling highlight of my summer) it was that I can be content in Him because He is my More.

When I am walking through life with Him by my side, God becomes my greatest adventure, my source of joy, knowledge, and depth.

Hiking Mount Tanalian and flying in a tiny 2-seater airplane were both thrilling, yes. But those moments were simply moments, which have now turned to memories: I will always treasure them, but I have become keenly aware that I will never be able to fully re-experience them.

This summer, God has taught me that destinations are just destinations, but walking with Christ is the adventure and journey that has never ceased nor stopped filling my heart with butterflies and joy in the almost eight years that I’ve been walking with Him.

So, for those of you who have asked me the inevitable question that I get asked anytime I get gung-ho on one of my adventures, no. I’m not moving to Alaska either. (Although I definitely wouldn’t be opposed to living in all that beauty at some point. *ahem, God I know you’re listening…*)

Nope. I’m not moving to Alaska and I have officially said no to Texas. So, I‘m putting down roots in Denver.

I don’t know exactly what that looks like right now, but I do know that I have signed a lease and have committed to making this beautiful city my home for another year.

And in true God fashion, once I began to loosen my white knuckles off of grad school and that mis-adventure, He began to open wild amounts of doors for the TeenMOPS program and an art therapy program that I’ve been dreaming of starting up at the Denver Street School this next school year.

So no, as I said two posts ago, I don’t have a plan, but He does and after weeks of wrestling with that fact, He has given me a stupid amount of peace to be able to trust in Him for what lies ahead.

Actually instead of a plan, I continue to have the vision of the beautiful Colorado Aspen trees in my mind’s eye every time I think about where I’m headed in life.

aspens

After doing a ridiculous amount of research about trees, I learned that the Aspen’s roots grow shallowly under ground– just deep enough to keep it stable and receiving the nutrients that it needs to thrive, but shallow enough to where God can scoop ’em up and move them about in times of avalanche or transition without causing much harm to the tree itself.

The other beautiful and unique thing about these shallow roots are that they spread for miles and become interconnected with others over time. As new trees grow, they link roots with their neighbors and shoot out their own little tree sprouts sporadically.

These little tree communities share resources, grow together, and even change their pigments all at once in the fall, creating the gorgeous Autumn colors that so many flock to Colorado to see.

After reading all of these weird tree facts, I don’t think that it is a coincidence that I have wandered into such an absolutely amazing community here in Denver over the last year; between Scum of the Earth and Park Church, I am overwhelmed by the amount of people in my life that bear the image of Jesus and share His Love.

I can’t wait to see how God intertwines my roots with those of the beautiful people that He has already placed in my life and those who I have yet to meet. I pray that all of the little communities that I am so blessed to be a part of would continue to shoot out roots into our city and share our resources with those in need.

I pray that an unprecedented number of young men and women would come to find healing and Love through the redemptive power of Christ at the Street School this next year.

I pray that the colors of our city would change to become more vibrant and that people would see the stunning change that can occur when just one small group falls in love with God and trusts Him with their entire lives…

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

(Jeremiah 17:7-8)

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From the mountain tops

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As a Colorado native, the Rocky Mountains are something that I took for granted for roughly twenty years of my life.

Don’t get me wrong– the mountains are beautiful. I mean, they’re the way I grew up understanding which direction was West, and they’re why everyone and their moms were invading our state, but that was about all I knew about them.

As someone who doesn’t enjoy freezing my tush off, I never got into skiing or snowboarding, and while I absolutely adored camping as a child, it was something that typically only happened once a summer due to the huge and divided nature of my family.

And thus, the gorgeous mountains that I stared at everyday and I never became intimately acquainted.

Ironically, it wasn’t until I made friends with “Denver transplants” from all over the country that I began really exploring the Rockies about two years ago.

My beloved friends– the ones who had “invaded my state” for the sake of hiking, skiing, or general outdoor shenaniganry– and I began exploring nooks and crannies in the mountains on holidays and weekends. And shocking enough, the more time I spent in the mountains, the more I have absolutely fallen in love with them. (Maybe all of those tourists I grew up making fun of were actually onto something… Oops, sorry y’all!)

There is something incredibly sacred about the unpolluted silence at the top of a mountain or the ability to drink glacier water straight out of a rushing stream.

This summer as I have been learning to slow down and experience the beautiful world around me, the mountains have become the place where I feel most in tune with God and where I hear Him most clearly in my heart.

No wonder He always told the leaders in the Bible to meet with Him on a mountain top!

Think about it:

Moses met with God regularly on top of Mount Sinai all throughout the book of Exodus.

Elijah had an absolutely wild encounter with God where He met him in 1 Kings 19:

“So he said, “Go forth and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord was passing by! And a great and strong wind was rending the mountains and breaking in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind, an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake, a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of a gentle blowing. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. And behold, a voice came to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

(Uh, say what!?)

Jesus himself gave his famous “Sermon on the Mount” in Matthew chapters 5, 6, & 7, well, from the top of a mountain. (Which p.s. if you’re looking for a good read, whether you’re a Christian or not, I HIGHLY recommend reading these few short chapters. What a beautiful message for mankind!)

Peter record hearing the voice of God audibly say, “This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased,” when he was on the top of the holy mountain with Jesus and John in 2 Peter 1:16-18.

There are over 50 references to mountains throughout the Bible and all of them somehow relate to the majesty and power of God and His beautiful Gospel.

All of this to say, God LOVES mountains. And so do I.

Eventually, once I finish processing all of the magical things that God taught me during my time in the Alaskan mountains, I will write about it right on this here blog. But until that time comes, I simply wanted to leave you all with some of the beautiful photos that I was able to capture during my time in Port Alsworth.

Oh, and I wanted to encourage you to GO OUTSIDE. Get into the mountains!

(Or if you’re not lucky enough to drive 30 minutes and be immersed in the mountains– ahem, I’m lookin’ at you, Texas– then just go somewhere and experience the goodness of God through his creation.)

Put down your phone!

Stop reading your Facebook or this silly blog and go hear what God is trying to tell you!

I promise you will hear it more clearly at the top of a mountain where there isn’t wi-fi, cell reception, or a hundred thousand people buzzing around you in taxis or cars.

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Lake Clark Beach in the evening (Click to enlarge — my blog hates panoramic photos…)

Lake Clark Pass

The Alaska Range meeting the Aleutian Range

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The gorgeous Alaskan mountains contrasted by Josh’s very shadowed head

Lake ClarkThe view of Lake Clark from my puddle jumper

Lake Clark take 2

But seriously, I could look at this lake all day and never get sick of it

Evening Fishing

The Alaskan Range from the middle of Lake Clark at dusk

Fishing

Pike fishing on the Newhalen River

Lower Tanalian Falls

The Lower Tanalian Falls at the base of Mount Tanalian

For the rest of my photos, check out my Facebook.

But seriously, go outside and experience God’s creation first! It is RAD!

Waiting at the end of myself

Sunday night was one of those evenings that make my heart smile.

After an action-packed weekend of climbing a 14-er, having a bonfire with friends from out of town, playing several games of volleyball, attending church with my roomies, and eating more ice cream than I should probably admit to, one of my roommates walked into the room I was laying in and flopped down on the bed next to me.

As the sticky summer breeze blew threw the open patio door, we both sighed and then laughed at our tandem exhaustion.

“I had such a good plan for my life, Jules,” I said as I stared at the ceiling.

“Me too. It’s funny to think that we both wanted to be doctors. Ooooooh how different life would be right now,” Julie said, laughing to herself.

“Yupp,” I sighed. “I was going to become a cardiac surgeon and here I am– a broke missionary “ex-teacher”– just about the furthest thing ya can be from a surgeon. I had everything all planned out and now I’m laying on here contemplating changing the entire trajectory of my life yet again with one seemingly simple decision: Do I finish this master’s program at GIAL? Or do I do the seemingly illogical thing and stay here in Denver, where I have given everything up and have no concrete plans for, well, anything?”

Oh yeah, you read that right. Those words came out of my mouth and then part of me immediately wanted to shove them back in.

After nearly a year of preparing to move to Texas and several months of praying through my waffling heart, I’m suddenly pretty sure that I’m not moving to Dallas in December.

I had a lot riding on Texas. (Well, that’s a sentence I NEVER thought I would type…)

Texas was my only real plan at this point.

Throughout all of the chaos and transition of my last few months, moving to Texas was the only stable thing that seemed to make sense.

“I’m not going to enter into a lease here in Denver because I’m leaving in less than a year.”

“I’m not going to sign a teaching contract for next school year because I’m leaving after Christmas.”

“Thinking about getting involved with this activity or that ministry simply doesn’t make sense because I’m moving…”

Blah. Blah. Blah.

Texas was “it” for me and admitting that I was wrong… that I rushed into something (big surprise there)… that I have been trying to fit my stubborn square peg into God’s perfectly rounded plan… Well, that honestly is a blow to my pride and my adventure-obsessed heart.

Yet I know that it wasn’t all for nothing. I know that over the last few months as I have “prepared to move”, God has stripped me down in the most glorious way possible.

He has exposed some pretty gnarly idols and lies that were eating away at my blinded heart throughout all of this– idols of adventure, fear, comfort, and affection; lies about who I am and who I was before I fell in love with Christ…

And now? After being stripped completely of all of my plans and the paths that I was trying to stubbornly (Did I mention that I’m stubborn?!) create in my own wilderness, it feels like He is simply calling me to be silent and wait for His direction– something that I clearly suck at.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again– I’m guilty of being an over-committer, a go-er, a woman is seemingly incapable of sitting still for more than five minutes, even though God continuously has told me to simply sit my butt down and stay a while.

I am hungry for adventure and new destinations, when in fact, I should be hungry for Him and only Him.

Somehow, the fact that God is not a destination or a box to be checked on my bucket-list continuously slips my little mind.

Yet every time I stupidly forget who God is and what He has called me to, He reminds me that He is relational. And as He reminds me of this, He also reminds me that my relationship with Him consists not only of praying and meditating on His Word, but also of waiting and listening.

So, what better place to be silent and wait on Him than in Alaska?

(But seriously– I’m sitting on the terminal floor at DIA, waiting for my plane that leaves for a tiny village in Alaska in less than an hour… It’s funny; it’s like God knew that I was going to be a scatter-brained, mental-case right about now and would be needing a week away from my distracting life here in Denver, in a secluded village in the mountains where I can focus on little but Him.)

kbronn_mttanalianPhoto credit: Kathryn Bronn (Click here for more photos of where I’m headed and for an awesome blog post from one of my favorite ladies.)

In the midst of my breathtaking, but busy life here in Denver, it is easy for me to forget that silence and stillness are necessary and beautiful parts of my relationship with God. I cannot admit enough that it is incredibly difficult for me to quiet myself completely and simply lay in His presence and wait for Him to move, but as I said before, I know that is what He is calling me to.

He is calling me to Himself.

Maybe He will still lead me to Dallas eventually. Maybe He will continue to tell me to park my tush right here in the community that He has brought me into.

Either way, I am (slowly) learning that I want Jesus more than adventure or forward motion— a lesson that seems like it should’ve been more straightforward and less confusing to begin with… but nope. I’m hard headed and obviously easily confused when I’m not constantly listening for God’s voice in the midst of my own chaos.

But as I’ve read through the Psalms this summer, I have realized that David continuously wrote about this confusion within his heart and mind, and for that, I am incredibly thankful. (After all, if David, “The Man After God’s Own Heart” didn’t have anything concretely figured out either, I’m probably not doing too bad in life.)

All throughout the Psalms, David teaches an incredibly important lesson– When you don’t know what is going on, go humbly and honestly before the Lord; pray and then wait.

Sometimes God answers prayers and moves quickly. Sometimes He doesn’t. And I’m learning that slow answers are equally as beautiful.

As a wise blogger once wrote, (okay, wrote four days ago…)

“David knew a thing or two about waiting. Even after Samuel appointed him king of Israel, David didn’t immediately go slay Goliath. Saul was not promptly impeached and David sworn in. David had to wait. Before he could rise to his calling to become king in the future, he had to fulfill his responsibilities—as a shepherd—in the present. And so do we.” (Read this awesome post about waiting on God on Relevant here.)

So here I am. Simply a mildly confused, very tall woman with a blog, a heart for the Nations, and no clear long-term plan for my life. Will I stay in Denver forever? Will God end up taking me somewhere better than my little brain could have ever dreamed up? Will I ever return from Alaska where the sun stays up for 24 hours straight in the summer? Will learning to be patient and wait on God kill me? (Okay, probably not… Honestly, if anything Him forcing me to be patient is making me fall even more deeply in love with Him everyday.) As for the first few questions though, it looks like we’ll have to wait and see…
What is God asking for you to wait on Him for today?
“Be strong, and let your heart take courage,
all you who wait for the Lord!”
(Psalm 31:24)