Tuesday, August 30, 2011

My God is Healer Played Out

Carissa and I at the start

Remember the post I wrote the day I was leaving for Hood to Coast about the power of God’s name and how He is Healer?  I wanted to post a quick follow-up to let you know how God revealed Himself as Healer to me while I ran.

On race morning, I donned my handmade “God is Healer” race t-shirt at the oh-so-awful hour of 3:30 a.m. In my half-dead state I unknowingly spilled coffee all over it adding to the “yes, I made my shirt and I’m proud of it,” appeal.   An hour later, Carissa and I were milling around the starting line watching the rising sun illuminate the darkness and chatting about how we hoped it would get light enough to get pictures of the mountain before we started the race.  We happened to be within ear shot of a KATU TV reporter who looked much happier to be awake than I was and somewhat bored.  He made eye contact, we exchanged smiles and the next thing I knew we were having a conversation.

live TV - scary!
Lincoln (the TV reporter):  “Tell me why you’re running today.”
Me:  “I have several friends battling cancer and chronic pain.  I asked God to give me a focus for this race and I felt Him calling me to pray for healing for my friends.  I made a race shirt as a reminder and I plan on spending my running time praying for each of them.”
Lincoln:  “How do you feel about an interview on live TV?”
Me:  “Ummm…
Carissa (shoving me forward and forgetting that I told my team I’m not responsible for anything I say before 7 a.m.):  “She’d love that.”

Here's your mountain Pete!
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how I ended up standing at the top of a mountain waiting to talk to a TV reporter about how God is HEALER.  God added to the wow factor by painting the most incredible sunrise on the canvas of foothills behind me while the interview took place.  Only He could orchestrate that!

Just before the interview started, I remembered my race T-shirt.  It was buried under two layers of clothes so I quickly pealed them off and added my bib number so I’d look official.  The Cameraman counted backward “3-2-1-you’re on” and Lincoln started talking about Hood to Coast, the strange weather, the sun rising and all the crazy runners.  He introduced me and asked me why I was running.

Have I said how much I love Carissa?
I had 30 seconds to summarize what God was doing in my heart and I really have no idea what I actually said.  I remember talking about my friend Pete in Illinois and how we both loved and missed the mountains.  I mentioned moving to Oregon and the stage four cancer diagnosis Pete received since we moved.  He’s battling courageously but his journey has been heavy on my heart.  I talked about needing a focus for the race and how I felt God lead me to pray for healing for Pete and five other friends suffering from illness.  I pointed out my gaudy t-shirt, Lincoln thanked me, talked about cancer research, and we were done.   (It was hours later that I realized I had coffee stains all down my shirt which confirms that you can't take me anywhere.)

My God is Healer
I started my first leg around 9 a.m.  Before I ran Carissa and I stood in the brightness of the morning sunshine with a sea of activity swirling around us and prayed together for a good race, for focused mental attention, and for sweet time with Jesus.  Shortly after we finished praying a race volunteer shouted through the bullhorn, “Number 1026 is approaching.”  I jumped into the transition area, Amy tagged off to me, and I took off down Highway 26 hooping and hollering with excitement that I was finally running in Hood to Coast.

Once I settled down and reclaimed my status as an adult, I started praying.  My mind wanders easily so the fact that I was able to stay focused in prayer for 40 minutes was nothing short of miraculous.  I prayed through the list of loved ones on my shirt and reflected on the name of God - Healer.

My 6-mile route was rated “very hard with challenging rolling hills,” but there wasn’t much about these hills that rolled.  They were almost all uphill.  Three miles into my run, I turned off the main highway and ran up a beautiful, heavily wooded and less traveled country road.  For safety reasons earphones are not allowed on Hood to Coast, but I grabbed my iPod and turned the speaker up as loud as it would go.  When there was no traffic, I could make out tinny faint music.

I hit five miles and with another mile of climbing in front of me, I thought, “I’d sure like to hear Your Great Name by Natalie Grant.”  Two seconds later, traffic died down and the faint intro of her song wafted up.  I laughed out loud and worshipped my Healer as Natalie sang me up the hill to the exchange point.

“Lost are saved, find their way at the sound of your great name.
All condemned feel no shame at the sound of your great name.
Every fear has no place at the sound of your great name.
The enemy, he has to leave at the sound of your great name.

Worthy is the Lamb that was slain for us.
Son of God and Man.
You are high and lifted up, that all the world will praise your great name.

All the weak find their strength at the sound of your great name.
Hungry souls, receive grace at the sound of your great name.
The fatherless, they find their rest at the sound of your great name.
Sick are healed and the dead are raised at the sound of your great name!

My Healer.
Lord Almighty.
My Savior.
You are my King.”

Talk about an awesome way to come into the exchange!  My God is Healer.  Thank you Jesus!  (Watch the video if you want to hear the song.)

Stay tuned for more about Hood to Coast in another post.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

My God is Healer

Tomorrow morning at the ridiculously early hour of 6:30 a.m., my Hood to Coast team will run through the starting gate of the "Mother of All Relays."  Our team of twelve runners and two vans will relay the 200 miles from Timberline Lodge (located at the tree line on Mt. Hood) all the way to Seaside.  Our team will run for 30+ hours down a mountain, through multiple forests, into the city of Portland, out into the suburbs, up and over the Coastal Mountain range and finish on the beach at the Pacific Ocean.  We'll run in the heat of the day, through the night and in the early morning hours.  My last leg is anticipated to start at 4:30 a.m. and it's a coastal mountain summit climb.  Maybe I'll get to see the sun rise as I climb, climb, climb.  My team (and the other 1,249 teams participating) will sweat, encourage, swap stories, sleep in spurts (if we sleep at all), get a little crazy, and share an epic adventure.  I can hardly wait.

This morning as I was mentally packing and puttering around my kitchen, I realized I had no focus for my race.  I started mulling over what God would have me focus on and my mind immediately drifted to His names.  The theme of the conference we're putting on in Haiti is "His Name in Haiti" so it's a topic that is at the forefront of my thoughts.

The name my mind settled on is "Healer."  I have so many friends who are battling disease.  Plagued by chronic pain and dismal prognosis, it's hard to remain hopeful that they could really experience healing.
But my God says, "I am Healer," and He does just that.  Sometimes miraculously.  Sometimes through the miracle of modern medicine.  Sometimes little by little, baby step by baby step.  Sometimes He says "No" and instead builds in us endurance as we persevere through suffering.  That's a hard one to swallow.

I felt God whispering, "I am Healer.  Pray for your friends who need healing."  On a total whim, I ran to the store, bought a plain tank top and some iron-on letters, and (with a little help from Sarah) made a race shirt.  It says, "My God is Healer" and I hand-wrote in the names of specific people our family has been praying for.

  • My former neighbor Pete - a father and husband bravely battling cancer.
  • My current neighbor Krista - a mother and wife also courageously battling cancer.
  • Kendall, a sweet two year old with a winsome smile, who fights for her life every day.
  • Ru and Scott - my Mom and Sarah's Dad - who have lived with chronic pain their entire adult lives.
  • Mel - my friend plagued by a vision problem that hasn't gone away.
My writing is sloppy and a little smudged because as always, I'm rushing to get things done before the 5 p.m. deadline.  But I like that it isn't perfect because it reflects who I am.  I plan to spend my running time (and I'll have almost 20 miles worth of it) praying for these dear friends.  Won't you pray with me?  After all, prayer moves the hands of God and He calls Himself - Healer.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Ru's 60th Birthday Celebration

(5+1=6) + 0 = 60

My mom Rhonda (or Ru to her friends and family) turned 60 on August 1st of this year.  The kids and I surprised Grandma Ru during her lunch break at work with three balloons (one was a casualty of wind in the van – may it rest in peace), flowers and hand-made cards declaring their love for her.  It was really more like “planned spontaneity” since Ru and I coordinated our schedules, but the kids thought they were surprising her.

Nothing fancy about this party.  All you need is love, right?
Our family likes to drag out a celebration, especially one as big as turning 60, so we partied again two evenings later.  Curt barbecued marinated chicken wings on the grill, I made the side dishes and we all pigged out.  When it came time to unveil the mint dessert cake and sing to Ru, I realized I didn’t have a number six candle.  How that happened, I’m still not sure, because three of our four children have hit the milestone 6th birthday.  Regardless, we needed a compromise and fast.  One of the kids suggested turning the nine candle upside down, but then the wick would be buried in frosting so we scratched that idea.  We discussed putting 60 candles on the cake, but didn’t want to mess with the time or the fire hazard (sorry Mom).  Our last minute solution was to put the five and the one candle really close together (it adds up to six) and then put the zero next to them.  Alli wanted to hold up the paper “Happy Birthday” banner while we sang but as she adjusted it, she accidentally drug it through the lit candles, nearly setting it on fire.  Somehow we managed to sing Happy Birthday to Ru and get the candles blown out without burning down the house.  WHEW!  It wasn’t until I uploaded pictures from our party that I realized all the kids were in swim suits with nappy swimming hair.  It’s a good thing Ru doesn’t care about fancy or formal!

Last year for Ru’s birthday, we had a Mom/Daughter day and spent the entire day hiking on Mt. Hood.  It was such great fun that we decided it should become a yearly tradition. Saturday morning, Grant and I arrived at Ru and Terry’s house as close to “on time” as I’m capable of.  Terry and Grant took off for some man time hiking in the Columbia River Gorge while Ru and I took off for the Grassy Knoll trailhead outside Carson, Washington.

We crossed the Bridge of the Gods and drove into Stevenson, a quaint little town on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge.  We stumbled into Stevenson on the weekend of the town’s annual festival and about an hour before the festival’s parade started.  People were lining the sidewalks of the three or four block downtown area, eagerly awaiting the start of the parade.  I decided to be the first person in the parade, rolled down my window and drove slowly past the parade goers, honking and practicing my princess wave.  Who knew my year as a Scio Lamb and Wool Fair princess would come in handy?

Beautiful Mom on cliffs
We giggled our way into Carson, the next town on our route, and a few miles later turned onto Bear Creek Road for a 15 mile drive up a mountain to the trailhead.  In typical Forest Service Road fashion, the road turned to single lane shortly after the pavement ended.  A single lane for traffic going two directions would be less terrifying if there wasn’t a steep drop-off on the non-mountain-hugging side of the road.  I drove slowly, keeping an eye out for the much talked about “car sized potholes.”  It didn’t take long for them to appear and in this case, people weren’t exaggerating.  I dodged potholes and when I couldn’t drive around them, descended slowly and carefully into and out of them in our non-four-wheel-drive minivan.  Good times people.  Good times.

Eventually we reached the trailhead of Grassy Knoll.  It was a much shorter hike than the one we tackled last year, but was billed as “strenuous” for its steep ascent.  The trail gained over 2,000 vertical feet in just over two miles with no switchbacks.  We took our time hiking and chatted it up once we acclimated to the steep climb.  We stopped at some really cool cliffs half-way up the mountain for a snack break and photo op.  Mt. Adams loomed across a vast sea of rolling foothills.  We stood above the noise and chaos of daily life, wind in our hair on the edge of the cliff soaking in the view.  It was glorious.  

Mom, trying to work my camera, ended up with this fun shot
Bear droppings were all over the cliffs and the trail and it occurred to me for the first time there was a reason why the pothole road was christened “Bear Creek Road.”  Ru saw a snake (I ran past the spot on the trail once it slithered into the bushes), we both screamed bloody murder when Ru stepped on something pokey and shrieked (I’m her daughter – it’s my job to freak out too), but thankfully we did NOT see a bear.  Just bear poop.  The poop encouraged us to rehearse what to do IF we saw a bear.  Neither of knew for sure but I’ve recently read about grizzly bears mauling hikers in other state parks and the articles said something like act really tall and make a lot of noise, don’t show fear, and back away without running or making eye contact.  As if…

on top of the bluff - see Mt. Hood peeking through?

We reached the top of the Grassy Knoll too quickly.  The hike wasn’t as hard as Ru had anticipated and we both wished it would have lasted longer.  The knoll, known for its wildflowers in the early summer, was done blooming and was instead covered with dead grass. What the knoll lacked in flowers it made up for in the spectacular views.  Mt. Hood played hide and seek with the clouds on one side of the knoll.  Mt. Adams stood in brilliant sunshine on the other side.  We took pictures and headed back down the mountain, stopping at our cliffs for lunch before heading back to the van.

Me on top of the "Grassy" Knoll
love this picture of my Mom
While we dodged potholes back down Bear Creek Road, Ru told me about a mineral hot springs in Carson.  It sounded interesting so we drove to the Carson Hot Springs Resort (“resort” is part of the official title and is not the word I would use to describe this very cool place) to check it out.  The setting was beautiful.  A hotel built in 1901was nestled in the crook of multiple mountains.  We meandered into the lobby and the old smell and shabby d├ęcor made me think it hasn’t been updated much since it opened in 1901.  Next to the hotel was a legitimate bathhouse built in 1923.  (Think Mel Gibson in the movie Maverick and you’ll get an idea of what I’m talking about.)  We peaked into the women’s bathhouse to see rows of ceramic bathtubs with flimsy plastic curtains for privacy lined up in a bare-bones room.  The mineral-rich, 119°F water smelled like rotten eggs but people were taking baths in it.  For a whopping $20, we could join the fun.  It took us all of five seconds to say, “We’ll go get our money and be right back.”

outside the Ladies Bath House
Clumps of dust clung to the ceiling fan in the ancient changing room.  We wrapped ourselves in the towels provided and padded over to our tubs, pulled our curtains, and shrieked and giggled as we tried to force ourselves into the piping hot, stinky water.  It didn’t help that there were hand-written signs all over saying, “Quiet Area – please respect other people.”  It just made us laugh harder.  We suffered in the hot water for 25 minutes then blessedly got out and headed to the massage tables.  We reclined on the table, a bathhouse attendant cocooned us in hot blankets, and then left us to sweat out all the toxins drawn to the surface from the hot bath.  I was just starting to fade into oblivion when two older ladies entered the resting area of the bathhouse.  They made a lot of noise getting situated and then one of them passed gas.  REALLY loud.  I thought I might die as I tried to suppress my laughter and be polite.  I knew my mom was at the next table doing the exact same thing and the vision of her mummified body shaking with laughter brought me to giggles again and again.  Right as we began to settle down, a different lady named Bessie came into the bath house and in a loud disgusted voice asked the bathhouse attendant, “You mean I’m supposed to get naked for that bath?”

ancient hotel
We eventually reclaimed our “grown up” status, stopped giggling, and fell into blissful slumber while our bodies detoxified.  It was really relaxing and definitely worth every penny of the $20.  I plan to come back and bring friends.  Ru, on the other hand, said it felt like two hours of continual hot flashes and she will NOT be taking another trip back in time for a communal mineral bath.

One of the many things I love about my Mom is her passion for life and her ability to laugh.  She makes everything fun and our birthday celebration was no exception.  Happy 60th birthday Mom!  I sure do love you.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

We Need Each Other

God has been reminding me over and over again over the past few months that He created me for relationships.  God exists in relationship (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) and created me in His image.  When we are out of relationship with God or other people, we feel the void.  We were not created to be individualistic.  We need each other.  Here are three examples of how God has been revealing this to me.

1.  In early June, our family was experiencing a few days of discord.  There was NOT a spirit of unity in our home.  The kids were quarrelling and antagonizing each other.  Curt and I didn’t respond in a Godly way and our irritation sparked more of the same with the kids.  It was an ugly cycle.  We prayed about it as a family without an incredible amount of improvement.  I was desperate when God reminded me, “Don’t be an individual.  Ask for help.” I emailed my Inner Circle, unveiled the ugliness we were all battling and asked them to pray.  Within hours, a spirit of peace invaded our home.  There was no denying such a direct answer to prayer.

2.  The past three weeks my training runs have been terrible.  I lost over a minute per mile on my pace, felt like I weighed twice my body weight, and struggled to regulate my breathing.  I battled side aches and stomach pain.  It was so consistently bad that I began to think something was wrong with me.  During house church prayer time, I said, “ I know this seems so insignificant in light of real hurts people deal with every day, but my running has been terrible and I’m wondering if something is wrong with me.”  Immediately a friend who knows me well piped up, “Well that makes sense.  You’ve said running is your time when you connect with God. You’re going to Haiti to serve Jesus and you just sent out your letter asking for support.  We have a real enemy and this sounds like an attack.  If you’re so distracted when you’re running that you can’t connect to God, that’s a victory for the enemy.”  I hadn’t thought of it in that light and quite honestly was pretty skeptical that my laborious breathing and side aches were a result of spiritual warfare.  However, I asked my friends to pray for me and was so blessed as I listened to them petition God on my behalf for such a simple thing.

The next time I ran was still a struggle, but it was a noticeable improvement from the previous two weeks.  I ran last night and regained my pace, but my breathing still sounded like a cow in labor.  This morning I tackled the mountain behind my house.  When I ran this route two weeks ago, I almost cried coming home because I was so miserable.  Today I felt like I was flying.  My breathing was smooth and even, my body felt light and easy to move up the mountain in spite of the 1,100 vertical feet I gained, and I never once had any side or stomach pain.  Jesus and I conversed the entire run and with every breath, I praised my Savior for caring about the little things.   It was with great joy that I emailed my prayer group that God had answered YES to our request.

3.  I’m going to Haiti in October with a group of women from my church.  We’ve been in training and planning mode since the late spring and I am stoked to see how God is directing our steps.  When our team leader told us that each woman would be required to raise $1,600 to go on the trip, I was apprehensive.  What 36-year-old sends out support letters for a short-term mission?  It seemed so embarrassing.  But our team leader presented another perspective.  She said, “I don’t want anyone going on this trip covering the cost themselves.  Even if you are independently wealthy, I want you to raise support.  Our team has the great privilege of inviting our Circle of Influence to come with us on this trip.  Why deny them the chance to join you on this journey?”

I sent out my support letter with fear and trembling (and a big chunk of technical difficulty).   I didn’t want anyone to be offended that I was asking for money, but clung to the reminder that I wasn’t just asking for money.  I was inviting my friends and family to join me in what God is already doing.

Yesterday I bought some beautiful stationary, hoping to use it to write thank you notes.  This morning after my awesome run, I checked email and was brought to tears by a support update that awaited me.  Money is already coming in for my trip and in the most creative ways.  My support team so far consists of a college student who is giving sacrificially from her summer job, a Jewish friend willing to support something outside her circle of faith, a former colleague that I haven’t seen in years, a family member, and a mentor.  I love God’s creativity and can’t wait to bust out my new stationary to thank them individually.

Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.  Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another.”  We need each other!  How grateful I am for this continual reminder.  Thank you Jesus!

Curt and Grant's Backpacking Trip - guest post written by Grant Stilp

Dad and I at the Mt. Hood viewpoint

Wow look at that view of Mt. Hood,” Dad said as we drove up Highway 26 and pulled into the parking lot. This was going to be my second backpacking trip and I was EXCITED.

At the trailhead, we met some people waiting to restock their friends’ packs who were hiking the Pacific Crest Trail and I thought that was cool. We started out on the Pacific Crest Trail.  My pack weighed 22 pounds and I struggled a little bit on the way in.

This was our campsite as seen from the trail
When we got to Lower Twin Lake all I wanted to do was jump in. We hiked around the lake and found a private campsite off the trail with a good spot to pitch our tent.

We ate lunch, unpacked our packs, and set out on a day hike past Upper Twin Lake to a beautiful view of Mt. Hood. Using the binoculars we found Timberline Lodge, the chairlift and the ski runs.

On the way back, we hiked around Upper Twin Lake looking for good campsites for next year.  We met some people that we saw in the parking lot at the start of the trail.

When we got back to camp we changed and got ready to go swimming.  We stopped at a swimming spot that we saw and refilled our water bottles using the filter and went swimming for a little bit.  The water was cold, but it felt good.

this is me flying through the air off the rope swing

This shows how high the rope
swing was above the water
After swimming at that spot for a little bit, we went to do the rope swing.  When we were hiking around the lake, we saw that someone had built a rope swing out of two logs and we decided to try it.

First, I tested the depth of the water to make sure we wouldn’t hurt ourselves when we fell in the water.   Second, I made Dad go off before me to make sure it was safe.  Third, I tried the rope swing and it was so much fun.  Dad tried to get pictures of me in the air and he got some pretty good shots.

After awhile, a group of five college students came and wanted to try the rope swing so I showed them how.  They all went off and had a lot of fun.  There was one guy who hadn’t gotten wet because he had a cup of juice in his hand.  One of his friends made him go off the swing, so he decided to go off the swing with the cup in his hand.  He accidentally dropped the cup in the water and they couldn’t find it in the bottom of the lake.  As Dad and I were deciding to leave, Dad saw a tint of orange at the bottom of the lake and said, “Grant, look.  There’s the cup.”  I said, “Oh, I’ll go get it.” So then I went into the water.  It took me a couple dives, but I finally found it.  On the way back to our campsite, we gave them the cup and they were really glad they got it back.

 When we got back to camp, Dad got out the camp stove and started supper while I explored and helped him get supper ready.  We ate up our freeze-dried beef stew and then we lit our campfire and got it going.  We talked and read and sat by the campfire for about two hours and finally went to bed around 10 p.m.

In the middle of the night I woke up because the ankle I had recently sprained was hurting from all the hiking I had just done.  Dad got me to go back to bed and I slept fine the rest of the night.
Me, heading out

We got up around 7 a.m. and Dad started breakfast while I tried to get a campfire going.  We were trying with the lighter, but the lighter kept burning my thumb so I asked Dad for the matches.  Even with the matches, I kept failing to start of a fire.  I tried a new design to build a campfire I had thought of last night and it lit on the very first match.  We used up almost the entire box of matches before we got a fire going.

After breakfast, we packed up camp, took down the tent and got ready to pack out.  We decided to take a different route back so we could hike up to the top of a butte for a view of Mt. Jefferson.  We hiked halfway up the butte and ditched our packs at the junction of the trail we needed to take back.  At the junction, Dad’s phone started ringing.  We wondered why we had cell coverage out in the middle of nowhere.  It was a text from my Mom wondering about something.  After the text, we continued to the top of the butte.  What we thought would be a view of Mt. Jefferson ended up being a cell tower, which explained why we had cell coverage in the middle of nowhere.  We were bummed that it was a cell tower and not a view of Mt. Jefferson, but we still had a snack, turned around, and hiked back to our packs.

this is when we got back to
the parking lot
We got our packs and hiked halfway down the butte until we crossed a road.  Our options were to continue on the trail and see Frog Lake or hike along the road, which was a shorter, but less scenic route.  We decided to hike along the road because I was sore.

When we got back to the parking lot, we threw our packs in the back of the Jeep.  I had picked flowers for Mom so I put them in my water bottle to keep them alive.  Altogether we hiked about ten miles.

On the way home, we stopped at Calamity Janes in Sandy, Oregon, for milkshakes.  I got mint Oreo and Dad got chocolate caramel.  They were delicious!

I loved my second backpacking trip.  I hope to do it again and again, year after year and I loved this experience.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Girls Night

The girls and I had a Girls Night on Saturday.  We went out to eat at the luxurious Subway (their choice) and then hit the mall for a night of fun.  I couldn't believe that every clothing store had jeans, long-sleeved shirts and sweaters on full display.  Where has the summer gone?  I still haven't written my "the kids finished school" blog post yet and we're already gearing up for next year!  I have no photo evidence of our time because the boys had my camera on their Man Training backpacking trip.  (I asked Grant to write up his Trip Review and told him I'd feature him as a guest writer on my blog, so stay tuned.)  You know I can't resist the opportunity to post photos though, so here are some progression photos of the girls and I as we've all grown up!
Christmas 2007
Drift Creek Falls hike - January 2010

Timothy Lake - July 2010

Mother's Day 2011

Curt and I give our kids an oh-so-generous allowance of $3 per week and pay out the kids every other week.  They are required to put $1 in savings, $1 as tithe and offering, and can spend the other $4.  We keep their allowance small because we want them to realize the value of money (and because we don't want to pay them more, but "teaching them the value of money" sounds much more parental and wise).  If you only make $4 in two weeks, spending $2 on a pack of gum becomes a decision worth weighing.  I shoved the girls' money envelopes in my purse and settled in to watch them shop.

We spent forever in Forever 21.  Who can resist necklaces for $1.50?  After an hour of analyzing, adding stuff in their bags, evaluating, trying on, looking at prices and putting stuff back, they each left with just a $1.50 necklace.  I was so proud of my savvy little shoppers!  Next up was H&M where we bought nothing in spite of thirty minutes of analyzing, oohing, aahing, and mental cataloging for "maybe next time."

The big hit of the evening however was Claire's.  Who can resist overpriced costume jewelry marketed and packaged for 5-10 year olds?  I staked out my claim in the middle of the store and waited while the girls went to town.  They all gravitated toward different styles.  Katie (9 years) almost bought a nail kit and a backpack, but put them both back at the end and happily left with nothing.  Paige (5 years) bought a fake engagement ring "just like Molly's" for $6.50 and then was insulted when I insisted she wear it on the finger it fit and not her wedding ring finger.  Alli (7 years) bought a necklace with an "A" on it and split adult-sized fake nails with Paige.  HILARIOUS to see two-inch nails on such tiny hands.  Both girls were instantly bugged by the length and weight of the nails and took them off in under an hour.   Alli's analysis?  "Well that was a big waste of money.  I'm never buying those again."

We closed the mall down, me and my girls.  The music abruptly stopped and the already bright lights became sunglasses-worthy.  We all started giggling.  How on earth were we still at the mall at 9 p.m.?!?! I put some very tired and content girls to bed after ten p.m. and then sat at my kitchen counter in silent wonder.  How did I get so blessed?  Three beautiful, healthy daughters who laugh freely and are loads of fun?  Thank you Jesus for such a lovely time and a little glimpse of all the awesome times ahead!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Exactly What We Needed - Nothing That We Planned

This spring Sarah offered to watch our kids for an entire weekend so Curt and I could escape for a getaway.  We immediately dug out our “Things We Want To Do in the Pacific Northwest” folder and found a newspaper clipping highlighting a backpacking loop around the Three Sisters Mountains.  The loop required a minimum of four days so we finagled an extra night and day away by pulling Peter and Molly into the childcare circus.  Hundreds of dollars of gear and months of planning later, we were naively confident that in 3 ½ days we could tackle a 50-mile backpack through the wilderness (including reaching the summit of the South Sister) on our maiden voyage.  Feel free to laugh.  

Curt bought a detailed map and plotted our course.  He found a backpacking blog/social media site and started posting newbie questions.   GrannyHiker challenged us to rethink our route and said, “I suggest a couple of overnighters before embarking on such an ambitious trip. Practicing backpacking skills on a few short, easy trips will make your "round the Sisters" trip easier, safer and more pleasant!”  An experienced backpacker I met on the Triple Falls trail cautioned, “The most important thing is your footwear.  You MUST do a few short trips with your shoes to make sure they don’t give you blisters.  There’s nothing worse than getting blisters on the first day and still having miles of hiking ahead of you.”  We arrogantly ignored all of their advice and forged ahead with our plans for a grand adventure without cutting mileage or being fitted for proper hiking shoes.

In the end, it was the snow that stopped us in our tracks.  This winter was abnormally snowy and as a result, the majority of the trails we wanted to hike were still buried under mounds of snow at the end of July!  Two days before we were set to leave, we still had no idea where we were going or how far we’d be backpacking.  The Stunning Sisters loop had long since been set aside and the plan we finally settled on was so far down the list that it had to be Plan F or Plan G.  

Our carefully researched plans disintegrated before our eyes and neither of us was happy about it.  My dream of hiking in the warm summer sun and jumping in mountain lakes to cool off was replaced with the nightmare of miserably freezing in the wilderness for four days.  Curt’s dream of leading us through the wild blue yonder up and over mountain passes was replaced with a minimal five-mile hike on a trail he’d verified was clear of snow.  We were so busy feeling sorry for ourselves that we lost sight of the original purpose of the trip – a time to connect. 

Wednesday night Curt and I laughed and laughed, then laughed some more as we tried to load our packs.  We had no idea how to pack them to balance the weight and I piled a minimum of a week’s worth of clothes on the bedroom floor to start.  We eventually weeded down the piles to our “must haves” and tried on our packs.  We stumbled around the bedroom laughing as we tried to adjust to having an extra 35 (and 45) pounds on our back.  It dawned on us that maybe we should have taken a backpacking class to figure out how to use our gear, but hindsight is 20/20!

at the start of the trailhead
Thursday afternoon we hoisted our heavy packs in the Jeep, left the kids (and a five page instruction manual on how to care for them) with Sarah, and headed to the Mt. Jefferson wilderness area.  The day was picture perfect.  The thermometer in the Jeep climbed to a lovely 83 degrees and held steady as we turned off the main highway and started driving into the wilderness on a Forest Service dirt road.  We arrived at the Carl Lake Trailhead in the late afternoon.  Excitement mounted as we fumbled our packs onto our backs, cinched them tight, and hit the trail.  

a birds eye view of Carl Lake
Our Dumb and Dumber “We’re doing it!  We’re really doing it!” enthusiasm quickly transitioned to heavy breathing, rivers of sweat, and minimal conversation.  Ladies and Gentlemen – backpacking is no cakewalk.  There is a definite learning curve and we were at the bottom of it.  My head felt trapped against the back of my bag and the weight of my pack made me feel like I was tilting forward at an abnormal angle even though Curt assured me I was standing upright.  Curt made me feel better about my ineptness when he managed, between deep gulps for air, to complain about the exact same things.  It became apparent within the first ten minutes that backpacking five miles would be a challenge.  Fifty would have been just plain foolish.  

At Carl Lake
The trail was obvious, easy to follow and slowly gained 1,200 vertical feet over the course of five miles.  We found a rhythm and tackled the trail one footstep at a time.  When we finally arrived at Carl Lake, we stopped in our tracks.  The scenery was so magnificent that it literally took our breath away.  The lake was much bigger than we anticipated and was hemmed in on all sides by snow-covered mountains and a vast canyon overlooking Sugar Pine Ridge. Isaiah 40:12 asks, “Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens?  Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance?”  As we stared at the lake, the mountains, the hills, the vast canyon and imposing ridge, the answer was obvious.  Our great and awesome God!        

The sun was setting as we staked a claim on our own private chunk of the lake, directly across from the only other group camping on the entire lake!  With two private beaches, trees that sheltered our tent from the wind, and a lookout point, it was the prime campsite.  We had just enough time to get our camp established before the cold moved in and the stars came out. 

maybe I have a future in marketing?
We woke the next day to a spectacular morning.  Bright sunshine, blue skies, and a calm lake greeted us as we filtered water from the lake to French-press our Sunbreak morning blend coffee by Trailhead Coffee Roasters.  The label read, “best enjoyed next to a morning campfire.”  How could we not bring it backpacking?  We brought our stools, breakfast, Bible and coffee down to one of our private sun-drenched beaches and sat in awe of God’s creative genius on display all around us.  

our breakfast spot

Curt opened his Bible and started reading the Psalm of the day.  As he was reading, God brought to my mind a verse that fit our trip perfectly.  Proverbs 16:9 says, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.”  Curt and I had planned our course, but God determined our steps.  He said NO to the long, strenuous conquering of mountain peaks and valleys and said YES to simplicity and relaxation.  It was exactly what we needed and nothing that we planned.

showing off the vast canyon and Sugar Pine Ridge
As our time together progressed, we continued to see God guide our steps in big and little ways.  
We originally planned to stop two-miles into our trek at Cabot Lake to play and take a break, but we missed the unmarked trailhead and were forced to keep going.  God knew we needed that extra time to hike and get to Carl Lake and set up camp before it got dark.
My shoes were not what I needed for backpacking and they gave me horrendous blisters on the first day.  Hiking a long loop would have been really painful, if not impossible.  
The snow on the trails forced us to abandon our agenda-filled, long loop.  Our only option was to stay at Carl Lake and relax.   We would have missed out on all the exploring, rock scrambling, sun bathing and quick dips in the lake that filled our time and ended up being some of the highlights of our trip.
the trail disappeared in the snow
We had the entire lake to ourselves for a couple hours on the first morning.  Tranquil and serene, it was the closest glimpse I think we’ll ever have to the way the Garden of Eden must have been.  We felt God whispering, “Be still and know that I am God.”  (Psalm 46:10) 
The weather was gorgeous and in the 80’s all weekend long.  We hiked over snow banks in tank tops and shorts and I was never cold! 
We brought a radio with us and managed to pick up a Christian Satellite radio station.  We tuned in “Friday Night Fusion – worship on the rougher edge,” plopped ourselves on a rock just off the shore of the lake, and watched the evening sun disappear over the mountain ridge.  
I made Curt try yoga on the beach and he made me sit for a minimum of an hour each night watching the campfire before going to bed.  We laughed at each other’s discomfort and taught each other a new skill.
We hiked to the top of a rock
pile to get a good view of
the lake
Our Jeep (she’s a good ‘ol gal and is 14 years old) got us safely up and down the mountain on terribly bumpy gravel roads.  She wasn’t parked in our driveway for more than an hour before she got a flat tire.   
We passed five unnamed ponds/lakes on the hike into and out of Carl Lake.  We named them after each of our kids (including Sarah) then used the time we were hiking by them to pray a specific blessing on each of our kids.
I threw a gallon of water in the Jeep before we left on our adventure.  When we packed out of Carl Lake it was really hot and we drained all the water in our water bottles.  We were thrilled to see a gallon of fresh, filtered water waiting for us when we finally made it back to the Jeep. 
Curt scoping out the view
Our last night (a Saturday), we camped in a campground.  We didn’t have a reservation and we knew the odds were not in our favor to find a campsite on the first nice weekend of the summer.  But God saved the ONE open campsite in the entire Suttle Lake campground for us. The cost was $16, cash or check.  I left my purse at home, so it was up to Curt to pay for the campsite.  He opened his wallet and it contained three five-dollar bills and a single one-dollar bill.  You can’t make this stuff up!
the Three Sisters as seen from the top of Black Butte
Saturday afternoon, we squeezed in one more hike and summited Black Butte, gaining 2,000 vertical feet in two miles.  It was extremely strenuous and the combination of the elevation and heat took a toll on me.  I ended up getting lightheaded and needing food and water.  Guess who grabbed a daypack full of food and water on the spur of the moment even though we had just eaten a snack?  Yep.  That’s my man.
We realized on Saturday that it was the 15-year anniversary of the day we met.  We celebrated by skipping freeze-dried dinner at the Suttle Lake campground and headed into Sisters for a delicious burger instead.  We got a tip for a great restaurant from hikers we met on the trail and then drove straight to it on a whim, without directions.  Even better, we had squirreled away $25 of anniversary money and we used it to pay for dinner!

Nothing but vast wilderness
We came home on Sunday to a spotless (and empty) house.  Sarah had taken the kids to church.  They behaved brilliantly the entire time we were gone (thank you LORD!) and their good behavior earned them a visit to Dairy Queen.  We schemed with Sarah and surprised the kids by waiting for them as they pulled into Dairy Queen.  After the onslaught of hugs and kisses and four kids talking over each other, we all sat down at a table and shared our experiences of the past few days.  It was a lovely way to re-enter Normal Life.  Our backpacking adventure was nothing like we planned, but everything we hoped for.   Thank you LORD for directing our steps! 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

His Name In Haiti

August 2011

Two years ago, I would not have been able to find Haiti on a map or been able to tell you much about the island nation or its people.  The January 12, 2010, earthquake changed everything.  Our close friends, Jon and Melanie, had a friend in Haiti at the time of the quake.  It took rescue crews almost a month to locate his remains.  Those four weeks of grief, uncertainty, and waiting grew in me a heart of compassion for the Haitian people who suffered immeasurable loss of life, possession, and livelihood with one tremor from the earth.  I wanted to help, but how?

Curt was asked to join a team of leaders from our church to go to Haiti in June 2010 to scope out the need.  He led his own team back in April 2011.  While he was busy building houses, feeding the hungry, and playing with orphans, the Haitian people stole his heart. (Watch the movie below to see where he went and the people he met.)

Proverbs 16:9 says, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.”   I wanted to join Curt on the April trip but God, in His perfect timing and plan, determined that my steps to Haiti would be taken in October of this year instead.  I have been invited to join a team of women from Solid Rock to go to Haiti October 24-31.  Our team has the unique privilege of leading a women’s conference geared specifically for the Haitian pastors’ wives.  These women suffered personal loss in the earthquake but have set their pain aside to minister to the desperate needs of those entrusted to their care.  They are emotionally, physically and spiritually exhausted.  Our vision for the His Name in Haiti conference is to create a safe place for these women to be loved on, poured into, and share their stories.  We desire to remind them through our teaching and our personal interactions that our God is unchanging and always faithful – even in the face of tragedy!

We also plan to bring His Name in Haiti outside the conference walls to the woman living in a tent village.  Haitians, no matter how hungry they are to know Jesus, will not attend church without proper attire.  If you like to shop, follow this link, click “Events,” follow the Facebook link, and then click “Photos” to view a Haitian fashion style guide and catch a glimpse of the beautiful women we get to meet!  We invite you to purchase dresses, hats, shoes, and any other accessories to give to the women of Haiti.  When our team travels in October we hope to pack each of our 50 pound duffle bags full with new clothes.  Who knew that fashion could be a tool to spread Jesus’ love?

I know God is directing my steps to Haiti and I want to invite you to partner with me.  How can you help?

  • Pray.  Our team needs your prayers for safety, for good health, and that God would use us to bless the Haitian women.  I personally would be so touched if you prayed for Curt and the kids while I am gone.
  • Shop.  You have a legitimate excuse to shop and our team would love it if you took us up on the offer!  Pray for the woman who will receive your gift and ask God to be preparing her heart and mind to receive the beautiful good news of Jesus Christ.
  • Give.  Each team member needs to raise $1,600 to cover the cost of airfare, travelers insurance, food, and other expenses related to putting on a conference.  If you would like to help with these expenses, you can send your tax-deductible donation to Solid Rock Fellowship, 10500 SW Nimbus, Building T, Tigard, OR  97223.  Please write “Jodi Stilp – Haiti” in the memo line.

Thank you for partnering with me on this journey.  I can’t wait to see beyond the tragedy of the earthquake to the beautiful work God is doing through these women and their stories.

Following in His footsteps,