This is certainly a different season than usual for me and for my family.
It is strange. Just months ago, I wrote a series of posts on my website titled “Adventure Awaits,” the theme for our big trip. How exciting it was for me and for my husband, Ron, to venture 32 days across the Northwest US, 11-states, 7323 miles, hauling our cute little travel trailer – just the perfect size for the two of us. Our adventure took us over 10,000 ft. mountain passes, sometimes our truck and trailer slowly climbing miles up steep grades along hot, winding highways cut into the sides of mountains, with cliffs dropping beside us thousands of feet. Mountain goats climbed rocky cliffs beside us. Trails led us to bear nibbling berries and pasture grass. and buffalo stepping alongside us, close enough to touch. Coastline roads took us to bobs of barking seals in colonies on small islands; large walruses, like granite rocks lay amongst them. Green ferns the size of men and Redwoods towering like skyscrapers, demanded our attention and created an awe in our inmost spirits, which will not soon be forgotten. The heat poured out of the atmosphere like an open oven door in the July western climate, and wildfires trailed us as we turned from our southernmost point and headed northeast during the last days. The dictionary defines “adventure” as an “exciting undertaking,” and that it was indeed! It was amazing and we loved every minute. (Click here to read the first of the “Adventure Awaits” posts about the trip.)
I had prepared for our July “Adventure Awaits” trip for months, diligently planning our route and reserving campsites, booking boat trips and National Park entrance passes, preparing meals ahead, and finally, packing the trailer. The preparation and anticipation were nearly as exciting as the trip itself.
Now the Advent season is here. “Advent Awaits” has become our next theme. Advent is normally an exciting time, too, filled with joy! Preparing for Christmas is a blessed. Buying gifts for those we love. Decorating the house – the tree. Cherishing memories of Christmases past – sometimes bringing joy – sometimes bringing tears to our eyes. Contemplating the manger scene. Recognizing why Jesus came to Earth. Hearing carols – “O Holy Night . . Truly He taught us to love one another . . . Chains shall he break, for the slave is His brother.” We sing our favorite Christmas carol. I listen to a recording of my mother’s – “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear.” But this year is different. I’ve done very little shopping. I haven’t yet placed a single piece of Christmas decoration in our home. I’m not sure when the Christmas gathering with our beloved three grown children’s families will actually take place. Our son is ill. My heart breaks.
Advent, however, invites us to prepare our hearts, broken or not, no matter our present circumstances – for Bethlehem. For Jesus. Advent opens the door – unveils the opportunity to look to Bethlehem. Because of Jesus. And with Advent comes Hope!
Louis Giglio recently wrote,
“The word ‘Advent’ means expectation. What advent can do for us is provide a sense of hope.”
So, this Advent season, I look ahead. There, in the manger, lies the Hope of the world – the Savior. I’ve always needed Him – and the Hope He offers! And I’ve always found that Hope He promises and brings. I’ve written about Hope – in fact, an entire chapter – in When Life Roars, Jesus Whispers. This excerpt speaks of just one of the many times God brought us Hope:
God was renewing us through hope. We were fixing our eyes on what we could not see. As I read the Bible, I saw things that I had never before seen while reading the same words many times throughout my life. Was this the “Spirit of wisdom and revelation,” for which I had prayed, so that I could “know him better”?[i] Was it God highlighting the words I needed to see at this time? I believed it was. What a loving God I had, who would give me this wisdom and revelation so that I could “know Him better”[ii] and “know the hope to which He had called”[iii] me!
The Advent season invites us to Hope. Hope of a bright future. Hope of healing. All because of Bethlehem. Let’s prepare our hearts! And I’ll start the shopping! Join me. “Advent Awaits!”
[i] Ephesians 1:17 NIV
[ii] Ephesians 1:17 NIV
[iii] Ephesians 1:18 NIN
Death was not in God’s original plan, nor was it a part of the life He had planned for us in that beautiful garden. But Adam and Eve chose sin, and death followed. Consequently we all know the grief suffered by every human being since. He didn’t want it for us, but
You know how it is when you’ve gone someplace you were really looking forward to – then you head home. Oftentimes that drive home is simply a boring drive. There’s nothing more to see. Your trip is over and you just want to get home. I did not want to end this awesome month-long journey in that manner!
I usually rode the school bus home, but when I needed to stay for 7th grade cheerleading practice, Mom picked me up after work at 3:30. The inside of the old car had soaked up the warm sun of the fall afternoon, and I immediately relaxed as I slid onto the fabric seat. Although far more exhausted than I, having worked all day in the shop , Mom greeted me with a hug and a smile. As she drove, I pulled out my book, Little Women, read all the way home,
In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.
~ John Muir
Oh yes. John Muir is spot on. We are receiving far more than we had expected in today’s “walk with nature” here at Yellowstone National Park.
(I hope you have the music audio turned on! It might be located at the bottom of the page.)
We stand before Excelsior, once the largest geyser in the world. Its boiling water bursted 300 feet high and just as wide before the 1900’s, but with the exception of a two-day eruption in 1985, is now dormant as a geyser. One can only imagine what those monstrous earlier eruptions must have been like. But I am fascinated with simply observing it as it is today – a massive, boiling spring:
(Did you know that you can click on each pic to enlarge it on most devices?)
In his book, Our National Parks, John Muir wrote,
“Near the Prismatic Spring is the great Excelsior Geyser, which is said to throw a column of boiling water 60 to 70 feet in diameter to a height of from 50 to 300 feet, at irregular periods. This is the greatest of all the geysers yet discovered anywhere.”
As he continued, Muir referred to Excelsior as “incomparable” and that “nothing in the world” could match it.
Now we are watching the boiling turquoise water of Excelsior spring up from deep within this crater and discharge 4000 gallons per minute into the Firehole River. It is amazing to think of the volcanic atmosphere underground.
Yes, John Muir, this Excelsior Geyser Crater is “incomparable.”
As we entered the park today, we had again followed the Madison River, but unlike yesterday, today we turned south. It seems every road in the figure-8 loop of Yellowstone and those extending beyond the figure-8 loop follow rivers. Our ancestors and those original peoples of this area did the same – traveled beside the rivers. Today, we travel along the Firehole River, suitably named for the boiling water that feeds it. Here and there, a short distance below the boiling discharge from Excelsior, we see people wade and swim in its waters. Yesterday, we had seen men fly fishing in the Madison. (Click here) Not only does this park belong to its wildlife, it also belongs to us – the people of this country. And I am honored.
You’ll see today’s route in blue:
When you travel this area of Yellowstone, hot spots of this Yellowstone Volcano are even more visible than in other areas of the park. You can see them on either side of the road – for miles.
Planning for Yellowstone, Ron’s greatest desire was to see the Grand Canyon, which we had done yesterday. (Read about it here.)
Today, we will view my greatest desire at Yellowstone – what I’ve most been looking forward to. And as awesome as I find Excelsior Geyser to be, I am most enthralled with the beautiful, colored spring behind it: Grand Prismatic Spring:
The center of the spring is near-boiling, and as the water reaches out to the edges and cools, colorful bacteria fill its waters. It is 300 feet long and 160 feet deep. The water in the center is 188 degrees! “The hot spring has bright bands of orange, yellow, and green ring the deep blue waters in the spring. The multicolored layers get their hues from different species of thermophile (heat-loving) bacteria living in the progressively cooler water around the spring.”
It’s not surprising this spring is called a living rainbow.
We have arrived mid-day. Having read that the colors are best if the sun is shining, we’ve pretty much hit it perfect! I am blessed.
Ron spots buffalo prints and a “cow pie” it left in the crusty geothermal area between the boardwalk on which we stand and the spring itself. We humans are forbidden to step in this area, for our own safety. Temps had dropped to 40 degrees last night, and a buffalo had come here to warm up. The few rules of Yellowstone do not apply to those who call it home – its wildlife.
Before we leave, we stand and stare. Others move past us, but I am still, standing and basking, trying to push this scene of the Grand Prismatic Spring deep into my long term memory. The photos will help me to remember, and later I am pleased by their quality.
When we finally leave, we drive just a bit further on this road, around a curve to the trailhead that will take us to a lookout point of the Grand Prismatic Spring. And along the short distance, we see one single buffalo – between the huge hot springs and the trail to the lookout. This is the big boy who visited the hot spring in the night – I am sure!
We hike a half mile uphill to see Grand Prismatic from the overlook. It’s challenging on this hot day, but oh so worth it. Can you tell from the looks on our faces?
Finally we hike back to our truck, parked along the road. We enjoy a few minutes of air conditioning as we drive further south on this Grand Loop, following the signs for Old Faithful. Amazingly, we find shade in the outer area overlooking the geyser.
So we sit on a log to picnic, awaiting the eruption, and within the time frame predicted, Old Faithful erupts! Afterward, we browse the buildings in this “tourist attraction” – both old and new – and have ice cream on the porch of the Inn. Old Faithful most obviously attracts thousands of people a day. At least that many are here for this one “faithful” eruption. The number of people makes this spot so different from others throughout the park. Throughout the afternoon, we see smaller geysers erupting in this area.
All day, I thank God I am here in this place of the yellow rock, Mi tse a-da-zi , which I wrote about yesterday. I thank God for the opportunity to be here and for the good health He has given Ron and me to hike these paths. I thank him for my travel mate of 50 years, my Ronnie. But most of all, and continually, I breathe spoken prayers of praise to my Father, for His amazing creation and this tiny bit of the original magnitude of that creation and a foretaste of what I will see in heaven.
At the end of this second day, we again follow the Madison River toward our West Yellowstone exit, and today, our eyes are fixated on Mt, Haynes, named for the first official photographer of the park. Mr. Haynes might be appalled at the quality of my photos, but I am thankful for each one. I am already reviewing them with joy as I send them to our children, while we drive back to our sweet little travel trailer for the night. Tomorrow is another day in Yellowstone!
We drove just a short distance into California before gps instructed us to turn east onto Highway U.S. 199 toward our destination campground. I had booked three nights here, which I thought gave us two full days to go into the parks to see the beautiful Redwoods: our purpose in coming to this southernmost point of our journey. I assumed we would reach our campsite, set up, and visit the parks the next day, but . . . once we made that turn onto U.S. 199 . . . we were already IN the Redwoods:
Sometimes, even I am speechless, which was the case for the next two days. You know how it is – you take photos and you show others – and you add, Well, the photos don’t do it justice. It was much larger. Or prettier. Or brighter. The photos just couldn’t display what you actually saw. Viewed. Absorbed. Several times I asked God to keep these images in my mind forever. Neither Ron nor I wanted this discovery to end. It was lifechanging.
Our Redwood Forest Adventure began with a 6-mile drive through the Redwoods on “A dirt road where the Redwoods kiss your car,” as the nps site describes it. (Click to learn more.) Yes, the Redwoods kissed our big black truck, and I reached out the window and kissed them back. It definitely was an immediate love affair.
Howland Hill Road originally was a stage coach road! The drive alone normally takes an hour or two along the edges of the trees – sometimes wide enough for two cars – other times only one vehicle can slip through. People take turns. No one is in a hurry. In fact, you rarely are conscious of anyone else – because you are in awe.
It took us much longer, all morning, in fact, stopping along the way to hike deeper into the forest, trying to embed visions of these monstrous groves deep into our memories.
And into the forest I go
to lose my mind and find my soul.
At first we seemed to play the “big, bigger, biggest” game, amazed each time we saw a tree bigger than we’d seen before:
But the next two days really wasn’t about the size of the Redwoods. It was about the Forest itself ~
~ walking among the 1000-year-old giants.
~ banana slugs and moss and plants and ferns as tall as a man.
~ discovering connections between the past and present – between the east and west – between myself and this forest.
And . . .
It was about gaining new insight into the importance of roots – yours and mine,
If you’ve followed my previous posts, you know I’ve contemplated the value of our roots being deep. See post #7. Today I learned about the root system of the Redwoods, and it quite surprised me. They have shallow roots! In Michigan, we know it’s important for trees to have deep roots in order to obtain the water they need, but here, along the west coast, these monstrous trees get all the water they need close to the surface of the ground! There’s quite a difference in the climate and the geological features of this area compared to that in Michigan!
When Ron and I built our home in Michigan years ago, Daddy helped Ron transplant trees, usually the size of broomsticks, from the woods into our yard. It was important, he said, to dig deep enough to keep the “tap root,” intact so that the tree might remain upright and be stable in the wind. But now I discovered that these huge Redwoods have no “tap root.” I wondered what keeps these huge trees upright in the wind and the storm, especially in this windy area. I soon discovered that their roots, although shallow, are widespread – sometimes extending 100 feet in all directions, and always intertwined with other Redwoods. They have tremendous stability – because they are all connected. They literally hold each other up.
What or who holds you up? With whom are you connected?
A lot of memes go around Facebook and Instagram about getting rid of “toxic” friends and surrounding yourself with “true” friends who stick with you and support you. That’s good. But we believers have even greater instruction!
The Bible instructs us believers to be connected with each other – to hold each other up: (see references at end of post)
“. . . encourage one another
. . . build each other up
. . . encourage each other with these words
. . . look to the interest of others
. . . let your talk be helpful for building others up
. . . pray for each other
. . . forgive each other
. . . be kind, tenderhearted to each other
. . . talk with each other
. . . bear with each other
. . . carry each other’s burdens
. . . meet together with others . . .”
There are a lot of “each others, ” aren’t there? And they’re all referring to believers. God knew we needed each other – we needed to be connected and hold each other up. In fact, the very instruction of meeting together with others is so that we might encourage one another. (Hebrews 10:25) We are brothers and sisters in Christ, and as the body of Christ, our roots must connect – gathering in church – or Bible Study – or worship – with other believers. Intertwined . . .
. . . like the Redwoods!
There’s something special
about the body of Christ.
Look for the next post – Burls in the Redwoods!
References to discover: Ephesians 4:29, 4:32; 1 Thess. 5:11, 4:18;Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 10:25; Col. 3:13; Luke 24:14; James 5:16; Philippians 2:4