Why You Should Say Yes Even Though A Bear Might Eat You

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A few weeks ago some girlfriends and I set out for a night of adventure. We were going to backpack to Snowmass Lake, near Aspen, CO.

We intended to start at Maroon Bells and trek the 8.3 miles over Buckskin Pass to the high alpine lake. We would camp there for one night and hike out the next morning, 8.7 miles, on a different trail. We had thought ahead and dropped a car at the exit point in Old Snowmass. We had planned carefully, filling our packs with only small, lightweight, essential items: tents, sleeping pads, a pot and a little stove. That way we had room for the necessary 8 lb camera (two of the four of us were professional photographers) and the 5 lb bladder of wine (4 of the 4 of us were pros at drinking boxed wine).

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We flung heavy packs into the back of the truck and headed for the Bells. As we drove, anxiety began to creep into my spirit. It only got worse the more we talked to people and read the signs. Bears have been a big deal here this year. The forest service has made a thing of it more than any other year. Besides that, we were getting a late start. I knew that could be a problem if the weather turned and we were exposed above tree line.

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We parked our car and purchased the passes for the shuttle ride to the trailhead. The salesman cautioned us about the bears. We were also cautioned about the porcupines. We were warned there was a 70% chance of rain. We were warned to get over the pass before 1pm when the lightening would hit. I got even more nervous. I kind of wanted to back out. I thought of the fact that I now have two babies at home. I thought of the fact that because this was my home turf and I had made this trek before, I felt responsible for the lives of the girls who were with me. I thought of lots of things and most of those things had me scared.

We rented a bear canister from the forest service, repacked our food and gallon of wine, and boarded the shuttle bus that was to lead us to our death… er, I mean, “adventure.”

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It was a 20-minute bus ride from Aspen Highlands to the trailhead at the Bells. We heaved packs off the shuttle floor and onto our backs and made our way down the shuttle-bus steps. A few paces through the parking lot and I found myself approaching a sweet old ranger man patrolling the area. He was fit. His hair was greying. I think he had on wire-rimmed glasses. He looked like a grandpa. His voice was gentle and kind. He was precious in his brown ranger shorts and boy-scout-ish, short-sleeved, button down shirt complete with patches. I decided to share my fears and ask a few more questions. I asked about the bears. I asked about the porcupines. I asked about the rain. When I got to the lightening he lost his patience.

“Oh for God sake,” he said, rather harshly, “If you want to be safe, go to the mall.”

My friends chuckled. I was stunned. That’s not what I was expecting from sweet old gramps. I spun on my heel, almost toppled under the weight of my pack, and munched on that trail mix for thought the rest of the hike.

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The first half of the hike was the hardest. In the first few hours we climbed a few thousand feet. Our lungs noticed the change in altitude. Thick clouds unfolded like a down blanket above us. I couldn’t overcome my anxiety. I was constantly looking to the sky. If the lightening didn’t get us that day, I was sure the bears would that night. I was coming up with backup plans. I was contemplating exit strategies. I was trying to figure out how to convince my compadres that perhaps we should abort the backcountry trek and just camp at a drive up campground instead. Basically, I wanted to bring my friends to the mall.

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Good thing my girlfriends are rockstars. They were one small part unfamiliar with the magnitude of wilderness dangers, one large part committed to the adventure. They wanted to press on. Gosh, we need friends like that. I need friends like that. People who won’t let us turn back on what we have set out to do. People who won’t allow us to let our fear take over. People who are committed to the adventure.

This past May, through much prayer and consideration, the hubs and I resigned from our full time jobs as youth workers at the church. I have half wanted to take back the decision since we made it. The allure of perceived security is magnetic. I almost tried to talk my way back into my job after I quit. I have almost applied for other full time positions. I almost cannot trust. Almost.

Many well-intentioned friends have offered up cautionary words about our decision. The words have come at me like bear warnings and threats of lightening. How much should I let these posted signs deter me?

Many well-intentioned friends have asked us questions.

“Why’d you quit?”

“What’s next?”

I’ve tried on answers like backpacks looking for the right fit. There is only one answer that feels right. It’s the answer the makes most people uncomfortable. It makes me uncomfortable too.

“God is calling the shots without telling us what’s next. The truth is, I don’t know.” God said, “Commit to the hike. Follow me on the trail. I will unfold the map as we go.”

I don’t know about you, but I am the type of person who likes to see the map ahead of time.

I think God would be okay if we didn’t listen. I think he’s gracious with us as we struggle through trusting him. But I also think his gentle and sweet and kind and blunt and matter-of-fact statement to me, AND TO YOU, is, “If you want to be safe, keep doing xyz. [If you want to be safe, go to the mall.] If you want to be tested and grow and see beauty unimaginable, if you want to live a life of adventure, if you want to go deeper with me, if you want to see what I have planned – and it’s good – follow my map (not yours). Trust. Follow ME.”

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Though excited, I am nervous to share this faith journey with you. What if things don’t go as planned? What if God doesn’t come through? What if we fail? What if we look stupid? What if we make God look stupid?! What if a bear eats us? What if lightening strikes?

I’m inviting you on our journey because of all the other possibilities. What if we get to experience beauty and things and life and adventure in new and profound ways only because we said yes? What if the wildflowers are better this year than any other? What if there is a mountain goat at the peak? What if the bears don’t come and the lake is gorgeous and the conversation is a blessing and the friendships are strengthened and the hike is good and the wine is delicious? What if God keeps his promises? What if he shows up like he says he is going to? What if HE REALLY IS THAT GOOD?

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Is there an adventure God’s been trying to bring you on? Is there an area in your life where you just need to move your food from a ziplock to a bear canister, grab a friend, and hit the trail? Is there an area where you just need to trust?

My family hits the trail in just a few weeks. Will you follow our journey on the blog? We very well might fail. We also might succeed (whatever that means / looks like). Either way, you’re invited.

In the next post I am excited to tell you where we are headed!

With love,

Kara

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Family Livin’ in a Tiny House

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In a quaint mountain village, nestled in groves of aspens and pines, sits a sweet little chapel. If you were to cross a certain wooden bridge over an alpine creek, and follow the path past the bell tower and under the looming blue spruce trees, you would find yourself at the entrance to our sanctuary.

Inside, an understated stained glass window casts fresh light onto the alter. Towards the back of the pews, by the drinking fountain, there is a conspicuous door marked “private.” Most people don’t notice it is there, but if you went through that door and wound your way down the cluttered hallway, my family would welcome you to our tiny home.

If only you would fit.

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We are a family of 4… 5 if you count the dog… living in 692 square feet. That 692 square feet also happens to be in a church.

This is a post about life in the tiny house we share with God.

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My husband and I moved into this cozy apartment with cathedral ceilings 4 years ago, in the summer of 2011. Since that time we brought our energetic dog Roxy home from the pound in 2012, welcomed a foster (and now adopted) daughter through our doors in 2013, and in 2014 brought our newborn baby boy home from the hospital. With each new addition to our family we declared, “we have run out of space.” And then we added one more. And one more. Seriously this time. We have run out of space.

The other night my daughter and I brushed our teeth in God’s bathroom. No joke. We pit-pattered through that door that says private in our jammies, barefooted, toothbrushes in hand, past the last row of pews to the two-stalled restroom that you use on Sunday morning. I think the Easter choir was a bit confused when our shoeless, PJ clad selves accidentally barged in on their rehearsal, but such is life. Our life. We couldn’t use our own bathroom because infant Ziggy had monopolized the bedroom / bathroom space with his need to sleep. Our bathroom – with its curtain for a door – is not an ideal situation when you want your baby to get some rest. And your toddler to have healthy teeth. And to keep the pee outta the bed.

I present our dilemma. And thank God for his bathroom.

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Welcome to our life in a tiny house. In a church.

I type this at my kitchen table, laptop taking up almost the entire surface. The clip clop clack of my keyboard clicks in the darkness. I can hear my daughter’s deep sleeping breaths 8 feet in front of me, the hum of the refrigerator just to my right, the lull of Ziggy’s sound machine floating through the cracked bedroom door. Peaceful noises come together in new ways at midnight, inside the walls of a tiny house.

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Last night at 3 AM I lie awake in bed considering my options. We were half-way through a feeding cycle and I desperately needed to take care of some mommy boob business before getting back to sleep. But I knew if I walked past Ziggy there was a chance he would smell my sweet fragrance and wake up. I should note that to the rest of the world the fragrance may not be so sweet because of the bathroom / shower / sleeping baby situation, but at least Ziggy still seems to like me. I can tip-toe. I can be very quiet. But I haven’t yet figured out how to not smell fabulous to my sleeping son.

I weighed my choices. I finally decided if I was going to get any sleep at all, waking Ziggy was a chance I had to take. I crept past him to our bedroom door and out to the living room to retrieve my pumping device, thaaaaat was unfortunately plugged in next to my daughter’s slumbering head. I had to climb over her body and reach down behind the couch for the outlet, shifting her mattress and clunking the heavy-duty cord against the wall in the process. She slept on. Phew. Toddler up at 3 AM crisis avoided.

Sleepy eyed, I lugged the pump out my front door and down that cluttered hallway to the only outlet I could find that wouldn’t wake my family. Nothing like pumpin’ in the pews. Now how many people can say they’ve done THAT in the middle of the night?

These are the things that happen in a tiny house. In a church.

Thank God for his church. And it’s outlets.

As you can see, when the kids are sleeping, every move is carefully considered. Do I really need to pump? How bad do I need ice in my water? How bad do I need water in general? Tomorrow I better bring three bottles of water to bed so I don’t have to run that loud faucet. Or bring no water to bed so I don’t have to pee. Peeing is an issue. Every night I think to myself, “I can probably hold this pee just a little bit longer.” If I do pee I better not wash my hands – that dang faucet. If I put toilet paper in the bowl first the pee isn’t as loud. Definitely won’t flush until morning.

Sometimes Adam pretends like he’s camping and goes outside. Hmm… I’ve considered it.

Oh, life in a tiny house.

The sun starts to rise and I’m up. I might not have gone pee all night so as not to wake the kids, but Lord help me, coffee is worth it. Solana sleeps in the living room on the pull out couch. The living room, which is right next to the kitchen, which is home to the coffee machine. Riiiggghht. Like I said, every move is carefully considered. I pull out the coffee. Turn on the light under the microwave. Grab a mug from the cabinet and the cream from the fridge. Accidentally bump a glass. It clanks. Whoops. I peer past the sink. She’s still asleep. The glass bonking and the coffee mugging and the creamer pouring and the microwave light and my breathing and the measuring and the 89 decibel faucet haven’t woke her. You don’t realize how loud coffee brewing is until your kid is sleeping feet from the machine. You don’t realize how much you need coffee until you’re willing to risk a wake up for it.

It’s time to start the day. I know I should get myself ready before the kids wake up, but showers require some light and some water and some noise and I decide that at least this morning, the shower isn’t worth it. Oh, but I still have to pee. Into God’s house I go. Most people go there to pray. I do that too. But I also go there to pee. Thank you Jesus.

Adam is up and has roused the dog for her morning walk. She stretches her way past Ana and shakes her sleepys out. She does this not once, but twice. The metal tags on her collar clang against each other. How is Ana still sleeping?! Husband heads out the front door and a rush of invigorating altitude air fills our space. A night full of sleepy breathing can make a tiny house stuffy. My new obsession with diffusing essential oils is helping, but it’s still not the same as fresh, outdoor, mountain air. Wish I could bottle that up and diffuse it.

Adam is back and all at once the day gets started. Dog takes her cozy corner. Ana sits up and yawns to see the whole family in her room. Couch bed is made and pushed in. Couch cushions are put back. Coffee table is relocated. Ziggy’s swings and play mats are pulled out for the day. Adam unloads the dishwasher. I dance around him to pack A’s lunch. Ana drags 15 toys into her “playspace.” I step on 5 on my way to the bedroom. The laptop comes off the table. Breakfast is served. Sink is filled with dishes. Ana gets off to school.

Ahhh. For a minute I can just stand still outside and breathe that mountain air.

Then it’s into my office that’s just steps from our tiny house that should be called disaster house. We clean non-stop and still our home is always a disaster. Stuff is everywhere. I am over stuff. I am at work now and I still smell a little bit good and a little bit bad.

These are the adventures of tiny house living. In a church.

Amen.

Kara

P.s. We are moving soon! Stay tuned!

“An inconvenience is an adventure wrongly considered.” G.K. Chesterton

“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering… Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking.” – Romans 12:1-2 Pretty sure in this one, God is talking about brushing your teeth barefoot in your jammies in front of the Easter choir.

You can read more about our tiny house living here. In that post, pre-newborn, things were still looking fairly clean. I may have also cleaned up for you a bit that time. We’ve rearranged and here is the new normal. Don’t judge me. God says it’s not nice, and we live in his house.

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Honey, I Want To Love You Like This

Him.

His gaze shifts as she rises from the table. He puts a hand on her chair. Steadies it as she scoots back. She makes her way across the room. He looks past his beef tenderloin and gnocchi dinner. Past the vodka on ice, three olives, in the martini glass. She’s just headed 20 feet to the restaurant restroom, but he doesn’t take his eyes off her.

“You still watch her like that?” my husband comments.

“62 years,” he replies. “Gotta make sure nothing happens to her.”

Her.

She wakes up early. Gets the coffee going. His with just a little cream. She likes it black. She brings him his mug and then layers up on the sweaters and jackets, hats and scarves, and gloves to ward off the fall mountain chill. They are headed outside to watch the hot air balloons take off. It is balloon festival weekend in Snowmass. They take their place on the berm, side by side. The sun has just risen. The same fire that fills the balloons to make them rise lights up her eyes. She waits with awestruck anticipation. Like a child. Like someone who has only seen a hot air balloon once in their life. Or twice. Or never. The balloons begin to ascend. Colors and patterns float up and speckle the morning sky.

“Oh look Vin,” she says. “Aren’t they beautiful!”

Him.

The cruise ship had lots of options to offer its senior citizens on port days. Historical tours. Boat rides. Bird watching. Bingo. There was the all you can eat buffet and the lounge chairs on the deck that were good for reading books about the war and retirement. Then there was also this… the option to participate in an oceanfront yoga class. The sun was hot that day and the sea water crystal clear. He’d never done yoga. Wasn’t very flexible. Was on the backside of 80 and had forgotten to pack his yoga pants. It was no matter. He knew something. He knew that life is a grand adventure and to really live it sometimes you just have to say yes. Even if that means a little down dog in the sand.

Her.

She stops to the side of the crowded brick walking street. Turtleneck peeking past the scoop of her sweater. It’s a warm summer day in Barcelona. She reaches into her purse and pulls something out. It’s a little green bottle. Jim Beam. She unscrews the top and puts the plastic to her mouth, the olive skin of her taut cheekbones shines in the sunlight. She doesn’t even take a sip. Just lets the liquid touch her lips. “For the cough,” she says, a twinkle in her winking eye. There are people bustling all around us. Street performers. Tourists. Locals in a hurry. Vendors hawking their wares. Most don’t notice grandma and her airplane sized bottle. Those who do, smile. This same bottle has been in her purse for two weeks. Grandpa let’s out a breath and his lips curl up when he looks in her direction. I could tell what he was thinking. “That’s my girl.”

Them.

After 62 years of marriage there is no him and no her anymore. Not in the “I’ve lost my own identity” kind of way, but in the, “I am nothing without my teammate,” kind of way. They are what love can look like when you say yes. On repeat.

After 80 plus years of life there is still no “we’re too old,” with them. There’s just, “what do you need?” and “how can we help?” and “what fun can we have?” They are what life can look like when you say yes. On repeat.

Need a last-minute Santa for the Christmas Eve church service? “You bet,” he said, “but not unless Mrs. Claus is by my side. 62 years. Not going to change that now.” Want hundreds of homemade cookies made for your wedding? “Sure thing,” she says. “With his help we’ll get it done.” Could use some new shelves for your kitchen cabinets? “I’ve never used an electric saw before,” he said, “but I will figure it out. ” (Okay that one actually reeeeaaaalllllly scared me, and took a slice out of our patio table).

You probably think these stories of love and adventure are sweet?

You probably hope some day this is you?

Please hear this.

It can be.

Someday you can be them.

Because once upon a time they were you.

There were nights when he worked late. Times he just needed a beer with the boys. There were days when she got tired of the kids and the laundry and doing the same damn things all the time. They stressed about money and paying the bills. They needed a vacation. They worried about things, like whether or not to take that new job, trade in that old car, and where to send the kids to school. They made new friends and lost touch with old. They got short with each other. They fought. They made up. There were days when they went to bed mad and woke up mad and there were nights when one of them slept on the couch.

They got from where we are to where they are and here’s how they did it.

They said yes.

Yes to God. Yes to each other. Yes to adventure.

Husbands, can you be like this? Wives, can we be like this? Will you join me in the yes parade?

Let’s drink coffee and watch balloons fly and hold hands in the sunrise when our hair is gray and our skin has wrinkles and I wear turtlenecks and your belly sticks out. Let’s make people smile at the beach, and at weddings, and on the cobblestone streets of Barcelona, and in the jam-packed pews of the church on Christmas Eve. Let’s go big or go home. And when we get to their age, let’s go big and then go home. Because for goodness sake, when we’re 80 and we’ve gone all chaturanga in the sun, we’re going to need a nap.

XO,

Kara

 

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Living Thanksgiving Day With A Black Friday Heart

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The biggest shopping day of the year is exactly one day after we proclaim to be most thankful for what we already have.

Did that register?

The irony is thicker than mom’s gravy. Our Thanksgiving thankfulness seems cheaper than Black Friday’s cheapest deals. It’s like we can’t be done with giving thanks fast enough.

And sadly, the story is nothing new. It’s a humanity problem as old as Adam and Eve. The commercials and the web ads and the glossy mailbox catalogs are just modern day apples that distract from what is really important. It’s hard to see the apple for what it is when you are in the midst of the story though. Isn’t it?

So before you send your mother-in-law off to buy your family a new Vita-Mix, when you have a perfectly good working blender in your cabinet, put the latest Apple product (pun intended) on your want list, or set out for Best Buy and Toys R Us to make all your child’s Christmas dreams come true, I hope my own Black Friday story will have you giving a little thought to the kinds of things you want to fill your home with.

It is a story called “Black Friday Heart,” and it goes like this…

In a few weeks we will bring our second child home from the hospital. For months I could be heard telling my husband (and my co-workers, and parents, and friends, and anyone who would listen), “If I have to bring this baby home to our one-bedroom apartment I am going to flip.” It had been the same old complaint for a long time.

First the one-bedroom abode was perfect for us. It was an answer to prayer. It has cathedral ceilings, is surrounded by gardens and groves, and you have to cross a little bridge over a creek to get to our door.

Then, after a while, our home became not enough. It was only one-bedroom. My husband needed an office. Our guests needed a guest-room.

Adam's office and our cozy dining room. :o)

Adam’s office and our cozy dining room. :o)

When 18-month-old Little A came to live with us the one-bedroom was really not enough. Where would we put our daughter?

Our room and Little A's nook and trundle bed. The bright side - How fun that we get to have a trundle bed in our adult room. We don't even have to make it in the morning. Just push it out of sight.

Our room and Little A’s nook and trundle bed. How fun that we get to have a trundle bed in our adult room. Right? We don’t even have to make it in the morning. Just push it out of sight. :o)

Now we have a newborn about to join the mix and here we still are, in our one-bedroom place, with me pulling my hair out.

The baby's nursery, the dog's room, and Little A and baby's closet all tucked onto a wall in the Living Room. I mean, what's a "Living Room" if you're not "living" in it?

The baby’s nursery, the dog’s room, and Little A and baby’s closet all tucked onto a wall in the Living Room. I mean, what’s a “Living Room” if you’re not “living” in it?

It is simple math. Two adults + two kids + one dog does not = one-bedroom. This was not going to do. This was just NOT ENOUGH.

For two years I’ve been praying hard and complaining harder for something more. I’ve asked others to pray hard for us too. Surely God would provide. He was no idiot. He had to know. We needed MORE.

Can you sense where this story is headed?

God knew what we needed all right.

He knew momma needed a new attitude. He knew momma needed to sit down at the Thanksgiving table and stew in some thankfulness for a while. He knew momma needed to get rid of her Black Friday heart.

And this momma has come to learn that a Black Friday heart is the kind of heart only our good God can get rid of.

You guys, after two years of me praying for a new house and asking others to pray too, one morning I woke up and none of my prayers were answered. But. Everything was different.

I woke up and my glass was not just half full. It was over-freaking-flowing. I suddenly began to see our “predicament” and my “problem” as our “adventure” and something “fun.” I suddenly began to see this part of life as I should have seen it all along.

I woke up remembering how the best time of my life so far was when my husband and I spent 4 months together with one backpack on one motorcycle. We had nothing but each other and adventure and a $12 / day food budget. It was awesome.

Me, my love, and the open road. The year was 2010.

Me, my love, and the open road. The year was 2010.

Add a dog and a few little people to the mix and should I choose to see it this way, we are kind of on the same bike now. We don’t have much, we are snuggled up close, and life is still a big adventure.

I did not need a new house. I needed a fresh perspective.

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Sooo thankful for these two! Little A and Papa. Snuggled up close.

Living in this space we are not able to give our children very many things. Things don’t fit in our home.

But here comes the really neat part…

Do you know what we do have space for? (And you do too, no matter how big or small your house.)

Thankfulness. Joy. Kindness. Appreciation. Love. Adventure. Patience. Fun.

These things are FREE. And they are so good. And we don’t need to buy a bigger or fancier house for them.

Pretty cool how for the important stuff, there is always enough room, don’t you think?

If you too are missing out on an “adventure” because of a Black Friday heart, I hope my story will help you reconsider your perspective. I also hope that this Black Friday we will all remember to cherry pick only the very best deals, keeping in mind that the best things in life are free.

This holiday, let’s fill our homes with the stuff that matters.

From a momma who sometimes forgets that to raise a happy family all you need is love. And, if you want to have a lot of fun, a cardboard box…

Happy Turkey Day!

Kara

P.S. I will let you know how this family-of-four-in-a-one-bedroom-adventure turns out. Wawho!

P.S.S. I hope it’s clear enough that this is not a post against big houses (or people who own them). Rather, against black and lustful hearts. A big house just happened to be one source of mine…

 

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Doing projects at the dining room turned art table.

More art. This time in baby boy's room. We needed to mix up the surroundings to inspire creativity, ya know.

More art. This time in baby boy’s “room.” We needed to mix up the surroundings to inspire creativity, ya know.