Heaven on Earth
Sunday, February 22, 2015
Seventh months ago...
Seven months ago(!!!)...
our little family of four piled into our car before the sun rose and we trekked across West Texas, New Mexico, and Southwest Colorado until we arrived at a corner of the world that’s a piece of heaven on earth. We’d waited for this vacation all summer long 1) to escape the Texas heat that always comes barreling across the state in late July, and no matter how many years you’ve lived here, it still knocks you out; 2) to celebrate how, in so many ways, God was good to our family and church while in “sabbatical mode”. Our family had been full-on since December, and I distinctly remember looking out the window the first hour of our drive watching the sun rise, and feeling bits of weight come off my shoulders with each passing breath.
Our first stop was to grab breakfast at Chick-fil-A, which we ended up eating on the side of the road because the biscuits were so deliciously crumbly.
Our first night landed us in Santa Fe. As a native Southwesterner, I was surprised at how “at home” I felt driving through New Mexico and pointing out the adobe architecture to the children. We hustled our tails on the drive to make our dinner reservation at a place I had my heart set on eating at: The Shed on the Plaza. We made it, and it was everything I was envisioning. How dare I leave my leftover enchiladas in the fridge at the hotel!?
Can you tell by the kids’ faces that even they, too, quickly entered into joyful vacation mode?
Kensie was the girl dancing to the mariachis and twirling in front of the church. Brennan was the one running through the prayer labyrinth and tripping on its path.
Across the street from our hotel in Santa Fe was a creative playscape made out of boulders that the kids were able to play on before we drove six more hours to our final destination.
We were glad our friends, Rob and Leah, told us about the echo amphitheater! It was a great place to stretch our legs and test our lungs.
The kids were traveling troopers, with much excitement bubbling over. I was the one who complained; the last two hours were killer for me.
But we finally made it! We made it to a breathtaking mountain refuge called Telluride.
We settled into our condo, rode our first gondola (which became the kids’ favorite thing to do), and explored Mountain Village. It was a night for pizza, which we enjoyed eating outside while watching the kids run up and down a grassy knoll.
Brennan’s keen eyes spotted a brown bear from way up high in a gondola, which we heard from other travelers is an envied, rare sight. Brennan kept a nature journal during our trip, and some of the other amazing things recorded were: deer, a beaver dam, splendid waterfalls, various birds and flowers.
Our first hike was more treacherous and anxiety-filled for me and Matt. We were told by the guy who sold us the trail map that during the rainy season, the mornings are usually clear and then about noon the clouds start rolling in bringing rain, so plan accordingly. On this particular day, he warned that it was going to be a pretty big thunderstorm. So of course, my momma antennas went up ten-fold. The hike was gorgeous, but there were parts that were steep and had a lot of loose rock. Trying to navigate Kensie through it was fairly nerve-racking for us. I kept envisioning the worst as I watched the clouds getting darker and darker around us. We made it to the top, snapped a picture of the waterfall, and you better believe I was ready to high-tail it outta there. Oh, and it hardly rained that day.
I thoroughly took advantage of times when Matt offered to take the kids out while I rested or stayed back to fix dinner. A number of times, the kids enjoyed playing soccer or football on the astroturf they put over the ice rink in the summer. Here we have some miners who found lots of treasured rocks and minerals to bring home with them.
Happy 3rd birthday, Kensie Jane! On July 29th, our baby girl turned 3! She still talks about how we were in Colorado for her birthday. We started off the morning right by eating pancakes and filling our tummies nice and full before we ventured on what was our biggest hike of the trip: a four mile trek through some of the prettiest terrain I’ve seen.
Kensie had the privilege of alternating between the backpack and walking. Go, Matt!!
One mile from the waterfall, it took some extra cheering on for Brennan to keep at it, to persevere, to convince him he could do it. Much like we did two years prior, we sang Psalty’s “One Step at a Time”, took some extended breaks to snack on trail mix, and held hands walking in step together. It was worth celebrating making it to the top.
Some of the hardest treks that take the most patience and perseverance to journey through have the most splendid beauty to offer at the end. For us, it came in the form of incredible mountain views and a breathtaking waterfall. But even the simple flowers of various colors and forms were worth it.
Pictures simply don’t do the wonder of it justice.
Darkness rolling in, and we still had the 2 mile trek down facing us.
We inevitably got caught in the rain. We were soaked, cold, muddy rats by the time we made it back to our condo. And I learned a valuable lesson: pack rain gear. Despite the rain, the way down was faster, easier and full of silliness.
Hot showers were beckoning us when we got back, as was some taco soup and chocolate cake to celebrate the birthday girl.
This little one helped me bake her cake, make the icing, and sprinkle M&M’s on top...her specific request. She was very proud of her cake.
We were shocked when Brennan said he wanted to try out the water ball. He’s our cautious one who weighs risk thoughtfully, but he tried it out without hesitation.
A Daddy/daughter ice cream date.
This was the day of our last hike, about a 2 mile one to Colorado’s longest waterfall.
She’s a tough, strong girl.
Gotta love trail mix: rice chex, peanuts, M&Ms and raisins. We just have to make sure the girl isn’t picking out all of the M&Ms.
She is brave. And has no sense of natural caution (swimming with her can be stressful).
Matt and I might be crazy, but we allowed that girl to be harnessed into bungy cords and soar.
And soar she did, loving every bit of it!
My three big loves.
And my husband, may I brag on him? I had one “work” thing hanging over me on the trip: a blog for our church e-news, and just like the last time we were in Colorado, our computer completely died. Died. Bit the dust. I lost my nearly-finsihed work (cue some panic and frustration). I’m not a huge fan of typing on the iPad; its slow and tedious. Enter my dear husband. I rewrote the blog by hand and then Matt stayed up and typed it out for me on the iPad!
Matt, you quietly serve and lay down your life in ways unseen to many, but that are seen so clearly by our Father. How He extravagantly delights in you, and how grateful I am for you.
Meanwhile, our third baby was with with Popsie and Meesie exploring their home, giving Dapples a run for her money, and crashing…no matter how uncomfortable the position may have been.
We enjoyed a “Concert on the Greens” one of our evenings there where the kids danced their hearts out. And this video is one of our favorites because it not only captures the kids’ joy riding on the gondolas, it was also a way for us to record the way Kensie said “gondola” that makes us smile every time.
IMG 8218 from Meg @ Spicy Magnolia on Vimeo.
We woke up early for the long drive home our hearts weren’t ready for; we could’ve happily stayed there for many more nights. This was what awaited us as we walked out the door that morning.
Everything about the goodness of the Lord was wrapped up in this trip for us: His beauty, His creativity, rest, good conversations, laughter, memory-making and bonding, celebration, feasting. Thus far, this has been my favorite vacation we’ve experienced as a family. It was all gift. In fact, that week was such a tangible, concentrated time of rest and beauty for me, that even months after returning home I found myself savoring every thread of its aroma and taste in my soul.
We went home with very full, grateful hearts, ready to start a new season of life with our baby starting pre-school, my last five months on Vestry post-sabbatical, and a kindergardener!!