Farewell to the Scottage.

The past four days, I’ve had the pleasure of being in Colorado with some close friends. Though it’s been a while since I’ve actively seen patterns in my life, the theme of this trip was a resounding “learn.”  Being in Estes Park at the Scottage – a wonder in its own right – was as close to being in a different world as I could be, and I realized that there was learning to be done as soon as I got off the airplane.

  • The elevation will snatch your breath away from you as soon as you try to try, leaving you breathlessly in awe of the majesty surrounding you.
  • Hummingbirds will land on your finger if you are situated where they usually perch to drink greedily from hummingbird feeders.
  • Male hummingbirds make obnoxious noises (as do grasshoppers when they fly).
  • Aspen leaves sound cool when the wind blows through them.
  • You can actually see stars at night (and if you’re lucky, lightning striking far-off mountains).
  • A wide variety of mushrooms grow everywhere; you can eat the puff-balls, but avoid the other stuff.
  • Wearing a rain jacket over bare skin is surprisingly helpful for staying cheery despite tumbles into a frigid river.
  • Tubing is awesome, even if you fall in the river.
  • Sunscreen is no jodan.
  • Putting band-aids on and then duct-taping over it will help you ignore popped blisters over the course of the nine-and-a-half mile hike (according to Apple Health) to the top of Mount Ida.
  • You can actually hike to the literal top of mountains.
  • The continental divide is the place where if water falls on one side, it goes out to the Pacific; if it falls on the other side, it goes out to the Atlantic.
  • Puzzles are sometimes necessarily group efforts.
  • It can actually hail on you near the top of mountains.
  • Rocks provide great cover from wind, if you can find them in just the right configuration.
  • Pika are amazing.
  • Nice-u and nice-u janai.
  • Maple syrup is somehow better warm.
  • “Warm” can be pronounced like “arm” with a “w,” or “war” with an “m.”
  • Hammock World grows on you.
  • Never try to re-make the Chosen One; once you throw it across the river, leave its memory behind to become a legacy lest you be pierced by a false prophet – huh?

The list goes on and on; I’m far too tired to record the rest of the factual knowledge I learned.  However, beyond the random facts here and there that I learned, I learned a bit more about myself.  During the hike up Mount Ida, I spent quite a bit of time slowly making my way up the mountain.  Having never been exposed to such biting wind and dry, cold, oxygen-deprived conditions, I found myself switching between being able to socialize and enjoy the hike and mechanically putting one foot in front of the other until the temporary goals that I set were reached, agonizing at each moment about holding back the rest of the group.  The times I found myself alone were spent deep in earnest, complaining prayer with pushback from myself regarding the fortune of my circumstances.  I went through the joy of being in creation and being humbled by God’s creation to despising the many stones that had made the ascent up the mountain possible in the first place.  Having nearly destroyed my ankles at least fifteen times, the only anchor I had was that at the end, I would look back on it as blessing.  And I do now consider it a blessing!  I realized how fickle I was in relating to God on that hike, and at the end of the day, all I could say was that God has provided just enough strength for each step, bringing companions to me when the morale was low.  It was quite a bit more soul-baring than I expected to encounter on the mountaintop.  The best part about all this was that I had read Psalm 61:1-3 the night before the hike, which reads:

Hear my cry, O God,
    listen to my prayer;
from the end of the earth I call to you
    when my heart is faint.
Lead me to the rock
    that is higher than I,
for you have been my refuge,
    a strong tower against the enemy.

Thank You, Lord, for Your infinite wisdom in drawing my soul closer to You.

However, the lesson that I count myself most blessed to learn was encouragement, patience, and hospitality.  During the hikes that I went on, I encountered an abundance of encouragement in the subtlest of ways; sometimes it would be a direct, “you’re doing great!” but other times, it would just be a welcome into casual conversation that forgot the rigor of the hike.  The provision of home-cooked meals day in and day out was coupled with a joy to serve that I had rarely seen in my life, and it made the mealtimes that much more life-giving.  When mushroom-hunting, it was always a pleasure being guided to a large mushroom waiting to be discovered despite never finding many on my own.  The list, once again, goes on and on, but who can complain about such an abundance of God’s nature being manifested in part within men and women?  The people I met and spent time with at the Scottage were all tremendous in spirit and gentle in nature, and I’m sorry to have left so early.  Nevertheless, being at the Scottage was, is, and will forever be one of my fondest memories.

“Oh, the Lord is good to me

and so I thank the Lord

For giving me the mountain trails,

the parents help that never fails

The Lord is good to me.”

Generally Relevant Experience.

Today was GRE day, and it was a day full of being mindful of God’s hand in my life. From the get go, I woke up with a slightly stuffed nose and a cough, but soon after I finished brushing my teeth, breathing deeply cleared my nasal passages – thank You, Lord.  I checked my phone and had received a few text messages from my friends with prayers and well wishes – thank You, Lord.  I went downstairs to make myself breakfast, but found that my mom had already made breakfast for me – thank You, Lord.  I checked how long the commute would take after using Google a few days ago to predict the commute time, and I found that the prediction was way off mark; it would only take me twenty-two minutes as opposed to the predicted forty-five to fifty minutes – thank You, Lord.  After arriving at the testing center, I was able to find the testing center without too much hassle, and I ventured into the room at 8:15 a.m.  After locking up all my belongings and entering the exam room, I found myself confronted with the computer screen I’d be looking at for the next few hours.  Taking a moment to pray, I was overcome by the thought of all the people who had been praying for me with regards to the exam – thank You, Lord.  I began the test, and found the first essay topic fairly accessible, finishing with ten seconds left – thank You, Lord.  In each of the one-minute periods following the sections, I took time to quickly pray and ask that I be more focused on His glory than on my results, thanking Him for surrounding me with family who would be praying for me and standing with me as I took the test.  The next essay was also fairly straightforward, and I finished with an extra two minutes – thank You, Lord.

The rest of the test was filled with prayer before and during each section, and at times of frustration or confusion, I felt encouraged when I thought about the blessing that existed in having a praying family.  Eventually, I finished the test, got my scores, and walked out.  I was really satisfied with my scores, and I found that my heart was full of praise; as I started my car, the song that was playing on the radio was “10,000 Reasons,” and I thought it couldn’t have been more fitting.  However, as I listened to the song and sang along, I began to realize that so much of the day had been in God’s hands from the beginning.  I also realized how much bargaining I had done with God prior to the test, and felt deeply that I was, once again, not given what I deserved.  I didn’t deserve the scores I had gotten because I really hadn’t worked that hard.  I didn’t deserve the mercy that was evident – and that I was mindful of – throughout the day.  And yet, God was pleased to guide me along the path He had for me.  In the depth of my embarrassed acceptance of God’s mercy, I found myself making new promises that I wouldn’t keep, and I realized that God had mercy not because of what I had done, but because His love was and is for who I am.  Thank You, Lord, for loving me despite myself and for being faithful in every season of my life.