Saturday, June 23, 2012

Leadville: More than just a mine

Hey peeps—

I just looked at my phone and saw that it was 102 degrees.  We were sitting outside eating dinner and I felt like I might die.  I was hoping it was the heat, rather than my chicken burrito, and was pleased to see it was indeed the heat.  Can you believe that just two days ago, in our great state of Colorado, I was wearing layers (including long johns), and sleeping with four blankets?  If there’s a medical condition called “heat shock” I totally have it. 

If you have a second, I’d love to share with you about a recent trip our family took up to Leadville, Colorado.   About a week ago, Billy and I packed up the kids, along with 22 other folks from our church, and headed into unknown territory.  We knew what highway to follow of course, and how to get there, but we had no idea what to expect once we arrived.  To be honest, we weren’t even sure how we’d spend the bulk of our time. 

Most people think of Leadville as the little town high up in the mountains with an elevation almost twice as high as Denver.  If you are there for the summer, it’s probably because you want to deprive your body of oxygen in order to train for a race.  Our purpose had nothing to do with oxygen deprivation, or training for a race, but we were there to learn, to teach, and to work wherever we felt led to go. 

Before arriving I was especially concerned with our lodging situation, as I heard we’d be in a “hostel” which sounded like we were going somewhere angry rather than somewhere with fresh duvets and free wifi.  My fears were alleviated once we arrived and found a fairly clean establishment.  I was thrilled I wouldn’t have to share the communal bathrooms with the men, and even though I could hear Pastor Chris snoring through the walls all night long, it turned out to be the perfect place for us to stay. 

The first full day we were there, our group attended a local Hispanic church.  What a great church service!  I’m not fluent in Spanish, but trust me, I knew that they were praising the same God I praise every week at my church, and they did it with more joy and passion than I ever display on a Sunday morning.  After they fed us all, we headed to a mobile home park on the outside of town to pray and invite children to join us for the upcoming week, as we would run a Vacation Bible school right there in the park each morning.  This mobile home park turned out to be the community God wanted us in all week.  We saw extreme poverty and hardship—everyone we met had a story to tell, and we were so thankful to be a small part of their lives, even if just for a week. 

The week turned out to be much more than just a Vacation Bible school—although that was definitely a highlight.  In addition to VBS, we were able to do several work projects in the trailer park.  One woman from our team, sweet Sue, spent the week making prayer quilts to pass out to different women that we met.   Every time a quilt was given away, there were tears flowing from hearts of gratitude.  The men in our group experienced an Extreme Makeover opportunity and totally repainted a woman’s home—otherwise it was going to be demolished.  I still don’t know for sure how God led our group to her, but somehow He knew she was in need, and this allowed us to fully experience being His hands and His feet.  This was also the point in the week where Billy acquired black tar all over his ginormous calves from helping fix her roof. 

Several of us also had the good fortune to re-paint a play structure.  I was helping on this one, along with about 15 kids from the neighborhood, and some of our own children too.  We only had about 9 paintbrushes, so every few minutes someone would yell “switch!” and all the kids would take turns.  Teaching children to paint is not a gift God gave me, so I climbed high up in the structure and let our pastor’s wife, Cami, teach the children.   In the end, the kids who live in the park can look at that playground and know they were a part of making it nice.  And I can look back on the day satisfied, knowing I didn’t yell at anyone for using the paintbrush improperly.

Coming home from a trip like this feels so weird.  On the one hand it’s nice to be home and in our own bed.  But on the other hand, we experienced something special in Leadville and it’s sad to see it end.  We made so many connections with folks.  We bonded as a group, even if that meant we saw Laurie walking around without a bra every night.  We laughed our heads off one minute and cried the next. We watched our kids work all day long, with joy in their eyes because they knew they were part of something special.  We saw God open doors and soften hearts. Today we face the stuff of life, and over time the memories will fade.  I will hold this week closely to my heart, knowing each one of us came home changed by the ways we saw God work. God is good.  All the time. 

Saturday, June 9, 2012

A Staycation worth Mentioning!

Hey Peeps—

There’s perhaps nothing more disturbing to a mother than when she’s doing four days worth of laundry and fails to see any of her 12 year old son’s underwear amongst the finished clean clothes.  In case you were wondering, this exact thing happened to me today.  Normally I do a load a day, as any Type A, slightly obsessive- compulsive mother would do.  But this week I diverted from my established routine so that my family could take a nice little staycation to Glenwood Springs to celebrate the end of a school year, as well as my 40th birthday. 

Can I just say that I love a road trip?  I’d like to think it’s the beautiful scenery and quality time with my family.  However, I’m pretty sure it’s the snacks that excite me the most.   Somehow I managed to finish off a nice sized box of Crunch N Munch all by myself by the time we passed Vail.  I ate as quietly as I could so I wouldn’t have to share any with the children—which was no small task.  I try to start my road trips with as much fiber as possible, because I know once I finish the box of carmelized popcorn, that pretty much means I’ll only be eating crap the rest of the trip.  I find it’s very difficult to bring fruit and vegetables on a trip, but not hard to bring pop tarts and beef jerky.  (aka stinky meat)  Don’t worry though, as soon as we got home, I sent Billy to Sprouts to get us our regular foods-like apples, bananas, and red peppers.  Hopefully I can get some into my system as quickly as possible, due to the fact that I’m pretty sure I have a bowel obstruction. 

Seriously, have you ever been to Glenwood Springs?  I am a Colorado girl, born and raised but had never had the chance to visit Glenwood until now.  I’m not sure what even drew me to pick that particular destination spot way back in March when I was making plans, but boy am I glad I did.  Glenwood Springs is only about a 3 hour drive from Denver, (unless you have to stop at Colorado Mills to visit the Lego store first).  The drive is absolutely gorgeous, and perfect for the kids to watch one movie and yet still have time to ride a while without technological stimulation.  They complained about having to sit and do nothing, which gave Billy and I the motivation we needed to talk about taking road trips with our families when we were children.  Billy had siblings way older than himself, so he didn’t have to share a backseat with others, whereas I did.  I was the youngest of three and was given a four inch slab in the middle to sit and if I began to teeter towards either of my siblings, I was punched in the arm.  Billy felt my story was a bit depressing, so he reminded the kids it was my birthday so they sang to me all the way into the heart of Glenwood Springs.

We arrived around dinner time and decided we’d drive around to see what our options were.  If you have children, you understand that window of time is small, and once the complaining starts, it’s best to just find a McDonalds.  They all got happy meals, while Billy and I were patient enough to find a hole in the wall burger joint called The Grind.  It was totally worth the wait.  After that we got comfortable in our hotel and let the kids swim until bedtime.  The next day was amazing as we spent it in the Hot Springs pools all day.  The kids accused Billy of passing gas when we first arrived, but I explained to them it was just the sulfur coming from the hot spring water.  Everyone but Faith went home sunburned, even after putting sunscreen on several times.  Jack and Will have never really burned, so they were sure to mention it about every 8 seconds.  We spent the whole next day at the Glenwood Adventure Park, which almost didn’t happen for a couple of us who are afraid of heights, as the only way to get to the Park is via GONDOLA.  Jack and I decided to “cowboy up” and just go have fun. 

The first thing we did was a cave tour—I was enjoying it until Billy kept bragging to the group that he’d been “cave kissed” two times.  Apparently if a drop of water falls on you while on the tour, it’s a sign of good luck.  The tour is actually really interesting and the kids loved every minute of it.  Each one of the kids got to hold the guide’s flashlight and lead the way, while I followed in the back hoping we weren’t going to be attacked by rabid bats.  The cave tour ends right near a ride that Faith has been talking about for months.  It’s a giant swing that goes way out over a cliff.  I was so hopeful that she’d be too short to go, but nope, she wasn’t.  The boys and I stood off to the side and watched as they prepared to swing.  As the teenage boy was locking them in, I yelled to Billy, “Hey you guys can still get off ya know”  and Billy replied with a stern look that meant,  “maybe try not to project your unhealthy fears onto our daughter”, so instead of yelling again, I just kept saying over and over, “Oh dear, I don’t like this at all”.   The ride only lasts about 20 seconds, but I was terrified for them.  They screamed and smiled the whole time, and when they got off, both of them were a bit shaky.  Faith wobbled over to me and said, “I just need a minute, my stomach got off course”.  She was so proud of herself for trying it, and while I love her adventurous spirit, I was glad she only wanted to go once. 

The rest of the day was spent on the Alpine coaster, Zipline, rock wall, and maze.   We had no idea how much fun Glenwood was going to be.  Each night we swam, watched House Hunters, and fell asleep exhausted from the excitement of a good full day.  Coming home is always a bit hard, as the bills have piled up, the grass has grown tall, and the laundry seems to never end.  These few days with my family has been a very sweet way to celebrate the 40 years I’ve lived on this earth.  God is good.