Monday, April 29, 2013

Come With Me to a Quiet Place and Get Some Rest

It's no secret that I'm not good at resting.  My mind thinks best when my body is moving.  It's why some of my most intimate times of prayer and connecting with God typically come when I'm running.

I've spent the last two weeks in a walking cast for a probable stress fracture in my foot.  I'm supposed to be resting.  The problem?  I haven't practiced resting and I feel ill-equipped to do it well.

The weather in Newberg this past week has been incredible.  70 degrees and sunny with no rain on the horizon - very atypical for springtime in Oregon.  Every fiber in my being wants to be outside pounding the pavement and soaking in the springtime sunshine.  It's been challenging to keep my commitment to have an attitude of gratitude.

One particularly nice day last week, I brought a cup of coffee and my Bible into my backyard.  I intended to spend a lengthy time reading, studying, praying, and resting.  But I got distracted.  The grass needed to be mowed.  Weeds pulled.  Dog poop scooped.  The sun reflected on my dirty kitchen floor and I added "sweep and mop" to my mental To Do list.  It didn't take long for me to abandon my plan to "rest" in the backyard.

Connecting with Jesus needed to happen in a quiet, isolated space that didn't involve distractions. I got in the car and started driving into the mountains that hem in Newberg.  I stumbled upon a beautiful mountain meadow with views of snow capped mountain peaks on one side and views of the valley floor on the other.  It was perfect.

I spent the entire afternoon in that meadow.  I limped around shooting photos.  When my creativity waned, I parked myself on a blanket underneath a blossoming tree.  It was so peaceful and untouched from the busyness of life.  From my perch on my blanket, I practiced resting.

Things I typically miss because I move at lightening speed came into crisp focus.

Bees buzzed and swarmed the blossoms of the tree.

A hummingbird flew right past my feet and into the tree above me.   I watched, through the eye of my telephoto lens, as it rested on a tree branch and then began drinking from the blossoms.
even the hummingbirds rest

The sky became bluer as the afternoon grew longer.

The distractions of my day melted away and I found myself in the same place of mental clarity and openness that I feel when I'm running.  I opened my Bible and was finally able to concentrate on what I was reading in the gospel of Mark.

One of the stories I read in Mark six really impacted my day.  Jesus sent out his disciples to do ministry.  They "went out and preached that people should repent.  They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them."  When they came back to report to Jesus how things had gone, they were exhausted and in need of rest.  But Jesus was surrounded by crowds and crowds of needy people.  Rest did not look plausible or even accessible any time soon.

Jesus is always full of surprises.  He doesn't tell his disciples to jump in and get to work.  Instead, Jesus wisely looks at his weary followers and says, "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest."
my quiet place of rest
I sat in my meadow, took a deep cleansing breath, and let the reality of that truth wash over me.  Our lives our busy.  We serve our children, our husbands, our friends, our families, and our communities every day.  We do this in the midst of and in spite of our own neediness. Life can be exhausting.

In the middle of the chaos Jesus reaches his out his hand and says, "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest."  From one who is learning the hard way, won't you take his hand and let him lead you to a place of rest?

Friday, April 19, 2013

Angels Rest Hike

Angels Rest nearing the viewpoint
Several weeks ago, my friend Kelly and I decided to clear our schedules and play while our kids were in school.  She's a city girl who knows how to shop and where to eat good food.  She takes me to really great restaurants, explains everything on the menu for me, and tells me what to order.  Kelly suggested a day in Portland: shopping and lunch.

I'm more of a country girl.  I love wide open spaces, exercise, and being outdoors.  I suggested hiking.  We opted to be a little crazy and go hiking, even though the weather looked really sketchy and unpredictable.

Kelly and I only had five hours total to get to our destination, hike, and get home.  The mouth of the Columbia River Gorge is about a forty-five minute drive from our house and almost every hike has some form of scenic overlook or lush waterfall.  Even when it's pouring, the forest is dense enough that you don't get totally drenched.

We dug out my hiking book 60 Hikes with 60 Miles - Portland by Paul Gerald and selected the Angels Rest-Devils Rest hike, an iconic hike that many Portlander makes.  Located at the mouth of the Columbia River Gorge it was the closest option in the Gorge and it boasted a "spectacular lookout point above the Columbia River."  It was rated Moderate in difficulty level due to "altitude gain and a little rock scrambling at the top."  The distance was perfect for what we needed - 4.6 miles round trip -  long enough to be worth the effort, but short enough that we could meander our way to the top and still get home in time to get our kids off the bus.

The night before we hiked I called Kelly and walked her through what to wear and what to pack.  We agreed that even if it was raining we would still go adventuring together.  Kelly showed up the next morning so covered in layers I wondered if she'd be able to move.  We giggled at how much fun we knew we were going to have and then piled into my car to head out.

We were so busy chatting it up on the way to our destination that we drove right past the VERY obvious parking lot for the trailhead.  Several miles down the road, we realized our error and turned around.  Eventually we got to the trailhead and started hiking.  Most of the trails in Oregon are uphill and/or at elevation with often uneven trail surfaces.  Even though I run frequently, I usually find myself huffing and puffing at the start of a hike until I find my rhythm.

Kelly and I found our cadence and took our time climbing the 2.3 miles uphill to the lookout.  We stopped for multiple pictures (and had some misadventures with the self timer) and laughed at how often the weather changed.  We started in sunshine and hiked into rain, sleet, and snow.  On the way down, we hiked back through all those weather systems.  We were adding and removing layers every few steps and having a blast doing it.

The trail was really rocky in the first half mile or so.  It actually hurt the bottom of our feet to walk on all the rocks.  But eventually it switched to a smoother surface that was easier on our feet.  The trail was definitely a steep climb.  However, I would argue that anyone - regardless of their fitness level - could make it to the top if they allowed themselves enough time to traverse it slowly.  The view from the top was stunning, even with the constantly shifting stormy weather.  I can see why so many Portlanders make this trek.  There were some pretty significant drop offs surrounding the viewpoint.  When we take the kids on this hike, we will definitely give them the "Obey or probable death" talk before we start.

Here are some pictures from our adventure.  Don't they make you want to grab your shoes and get hiking?

self-timer mishap

this little bridge was darling at near the start of the hike

halfway up.  There was a great view but without a tripod, I was at the mercy of a tree stump for the self-timer.

so scenic
I love my camera

Kelly was saying, "Watch out.  It's slippery" just as I slipped and fell right into her arms.  DUH!

HOLY SMOKES!  This is incredible!

I've lived in Oregon for five years now and I still can't believe I get to live in such an incredible place.

Kelly didn't like the sharp drop offs at the top and stuck more to this rocky area

this woman is such a blessing to me!
I can't finish this blog post without giving you the Story Portrait that I put on Instagram.  Here's the picture that I posted.

we ate our picnic lunch here - trying to shove food around our gloved (and frozen) fingers.

And here's the Story Portrait: This is Kelly McLearn.  I have had the privilege of journeying through life with her for almost five years.  She was one of my first friends when we moved to Oregon.  Neither of us knew how much we needed each other.  Kelly radiates Jesus.  She models to me what gentleness and gracious words look like on a day-in and day-out basis.  She loves fiercely and serves others with everything she has and then some.  She's also a really amazing cook.  I've learned boatloads from being in her kitchen.  Beautiful inside and out - this is my friend Kelly and I love her!

Thanks Kell for a wonderfully fun day.  And happy hiking to all my local friends!

Friday, April 12, 2013

My Parents - Guest Post by Alli Stilp (age 9)

Alli - when she was still eight years old
Alli (our newly minted nine year old) has been doing some writing in third grade.  This piece in particular cracked me up.  I thought since I haven't had much time to write, that I'd share hers to keep my feed alive until I resurrect some time to write.  Enjoy!

My Parents
By Alli Stilp 
Age Nine

Have you ever had as awesome parents as mine? Well I do, and I am going to talk about the things they like to do.

My mom is a special mom. She is special to me because she raises me and takes good care of me. Her favorite color is, well the color of what mood she’s in. My mom used to make beautiful music with the flute. Jodi, my mother, makes great meals for us. She uses her great skills. My mother loves spending time with us and playing with us. She has a best friend just like me. Her name is Kelly. My mom is a great mom! 

My special dad is Curt Stilp. He is special to me because he messes with us and raises us to be as good as him.. His favorite color is orange. I think that is the best color in the world. One of his hobbies is football. He used to play it. He rocks at it. Definitely he enjoys taking care of us. Probably his best friend is Bucky. I love my dad!

Some stuff they like to do together is put us to bed. They both also cook. My parents enjoy going on dates. One of their favorite places to go is Red Hills. Together they go on hiking trips.

And now you know the story of my wonderful, fantastic parents!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

He Rejoices Over You with Singing

I am dreadfully behind in my writing.  I've written some awesome stuff in my head while I've been running and running and running and running...  but none of it has made it to paper yet.  I'm in the hardest two weeks of this marathon training schedule and I feel like all I do, outside of care for my family and my home, is run.  I promise I will write about my incredible Grandpa, our amazing trip to Mexico, and the two awesome hikes I went on in March.  But today I just wanted to give a small piece of encouragement.

I'm reading through all the minor prophets in the Bible right now.  Most of them are God's message of destruction to those people and nations that have consistently rejected Him, abused justice, and chosen a path of evil instead of righteousness.  I LOVE that God is just and will set all things right.  But chapter after chapter of destruction leaves me scratching my head and asking, "Is there a life application point to today's reading?"

In the middle of all of this is the tiny book of Zephaniah.  In chapter three, verse nine it says,

"Then I will purify the lips of the peoples, 
that all of them may call on the name of the LORD and 
serve Him shoulder to shoulder."

I love the imagery of being shoulder to shoulder in our efforts to serve God.  Brushed up against each other, taking support from others, giving support to those who need it.  One massive people group working together for a common cause.  It's beautiful.  

Friends - we NEED each other.  Are we wasting time and energy divided over irrelevant things?  Harboring bitterness or anger for things that should be long forgotten and forgiven?  Let's join together, shoulder to shoulder, and move forward.

Later in the same chapter is this beautiful verse (seventeen).

"The LORD your God is with you,
He is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing."

WOW!  God delights in me?  He quiets me with His love?  He rejoices over me with singing?  I've read this verse so many times and it still takes my breath away.  The irony and beauty overwhelm me.

One of the ways I feel God rejoice over me with singing is by being outside.  It's the number one reason why I love running so much.  He is so creative and His beauty is everywhere.  

He rejoices over me with singing in the rain that pools on the flowering trees.  

He rejoices over me with singing in the lush, temporary carpet of a magnolia tree in full bloom.

He rejoices over me with singing in the crazy Oregon spring weather - sunshine, fierce storm clouds, and blustering winds co-existing at the same time.

He rejoices over me with singing with surprises like this row of blossoming trees inviting me to stop in the pouring rain and snap a picture.

He rejoices over me with singing with stunning mountains and valleys,

and trains that drive through tunnels carved out of the mountainside.

He rejoices over me with singing with healthy, incredible children, a breeze to tickle my face,

and a family that brings laughter, delight, and deep satisfaction to my soul.

How is God rejoicing over you today my Friend?  Won't you pause to reflect on the detailed and intimate ways that He loves you and rejoices over you?