NovelSisters

watching, reading, and writing stories

Climbing Mountains and Looking Back

The past few weeks have been very busy for me, so inevitably, some things got pushed aside, like writing my weekly blog post. But I’ve been wanting to write this post for awhile. I’ve gotten the chance to climb, or see, several great views from a mountain top in the past month. And it reminded me of something that happens throughout our lives.

When you start climbing a mountain, it’s hard to know how far it is to the top. You don’t know how long it will take, how steep it will get, or how many breaks you will need along the way. But as you get closer, you don’t want to turn back. You think of all the miles you’ve come so far, all the pristine views you’ve already seen, and you just want to see what it’s actually like on the top. And it helps when someone coming the other direction tells you it’s worth it, and encourages you to keep going.

Well I think life can be like that sometimes. We all go through seasons in life when everything is just hard, and sometimes you just feel like giving up. It may be illnesses, job loss, uncertainly, changes, inconveniences, or a number of other things. But it’s hard, no matter what it is and it can seem like there’s not a point to it all. But when you choose to trust Jesus, that He is working in all of the circumstances and He is taking you to a better place, you keep going. You persevere.

It may take weeks, or months or years. But one day you’ll get to look back on all that’s happened and see that God was doing something amazing. And even though it was hard and you felt like giving up, you can see that it was worth it. It’s like how it feels when you finally get to the top of a mountain. You can see some of the challenges you faced on the way up but you also get this amazing view that you couldn’t get from the bottom. And all those hours of climbing feel worth it.

The end of one year and the beginning of a new one is a good opportunity to stop and try to look back. You may not feel like everything’s great and you are on the mountaintop. But it’s good to stop and think about where you are, and where you were when the year started. What have you seen God do in the past year? What are you grateful for?

I got to do a lot of traveling this past year, which I’m grateful for. I got to see literal mountaintops and spend time with friends and family. But I also went through some hardships. Life isn’t easy, and there are days that just suck. But those hardships showed me how God will take care of me and how He’s placed people in my life to help and encourage me. I know God was using those hard times to grow me and He has a purpose for them and for me. And I’m looking forward to where He’ll take me in the new year.

So anyway, here are a few pictures from my mountaintops from the past year. I hope they remind you to persevere and keep going today, trusting that God is going to get you where He wants you, and it will be worth it. Happy New Year!

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An Unthankful Thanksgiving

I was perusing through some old short stores I’d written several years ago and I came across one that happened at Thanksgiving. It reminded me that it’s just as easy to find things to be thankful for as it is to find things to complain about. You can ruin your own vacation by complaining or you can find joy even if the midst of hardship by being thankful. Sometimes I wonder how much I would have enjoyed that trip if I’d practiced gratitude. I hope this year you focus on the things you’re grateful for and enjoy the blessings God’s given you and don’t get stuck focusing on what’s wrong or hard.

Happy Thanksgiving and enjoy the story!

Thanksgiving Cruise

I think it’s a bit ironic that the only cruise I’ve ever been on was set during the week of Thanksgiving. However, this is one of the trips that I can remember a lot of unthankfulness. But it did teach me a lesson. And it is one trip I’ll never forget.

We started our cruise from Galveston, TX. We should have been very thankful that we didn’t have to fly all the way to Florida to get on a cruise, but unfortunately, we were late getting to the ship, and this caused some bad attitudes.

“If only we would have left when I said we should,” Dad grumbled as he parked the car.

We hurried to unload our many suitcases and glanced up thankfully at the tall ship. At least we weren’t being left behind… yet.

“I have to go to the bathroom,” my younger sister Alicia said with a whine, “I’ve been holding it for fifteen minutes.”

“Just a little longer,” Mom assured her. “We’ll go sign in and I’m sure they have a bathroom somewhere.”

“Come on already,” my younger brother Jonny said with frustration. “I don’t want the ship to leave without us.”

I agreed with Jonny and started following him towards the wharf, with my wheeled suitcase in tow. We soon found the check-in area, and I was a bit relieved to find out that we weren’t the only family that had gotten there late. But there were some consequences. As Dad signed papers, I stared up at the ship’s deck high above us, and spotted groups of passengers clumped together in formation at the lifeboats. They were undergoing a mandatory safety training, and we were missing it.

“You’ll have to do the late training this evening,” the check in person said.

I shook my head; of course it would be my family that missed the safety training. I was pretty sure we weren’t going to experience a Titanic like adventure, but I still wanted to be prepared in case some kind of emergency happened. Now, while everyone else was having fun, we’d have to stand like a bunch of idiots out on the deck and do our safety training, basically singling ourselves out as the irresponsible ones. But it could be worse, at least we didn’t have to do it alone, there were several other families who were late too.

As our trip got underway, I found myself spending a lot of time in our cabin, a tiny room with two bunk beds, and a TV. We watched a lot of old cartoons that I hadn’t even known had existed. There was Adam Ant, and Mighty Mouse, and the Spiderman movie was played continually on one channel.

“Uh, I wish they played some better cartoons,” I whined. “Like Scooby Doo. There’s nothing good on these channels.”

“I’m bored of TV,” Jonny joined in.

“Yeah, I’m so bored.” I knew complaining about being bored was kind of dumb: I was staying in the room watching the same cartoons over and over instead of getting out on the ship. But I didn’t want to make any effort; I just wanted to be entertained. Thus the unthankfulness epidemic grew. Every little thing there was to complain about somehow got mentioned.

“Uh, I wish that stupid rule about not swimming in the adult pool never existed,” I complained.

“Yeah, that current is so fun to play in, and it’s not as crowded as the kid pool,” Jonny added.

“And we’re all good swimmers, it’s not like we need a life guard or an adult to watch us, we can take care of ourselves,” I added.

“You know what I’m sick of?” Alicia asked.

I turned my head lazily to face her, “What?”

“Those lady fingers that they put in all the desserts, they taste disgusting and I’m so tired of having to pull them out of everything.”

“Speaking of food,” Jonny added. “Did you know they ran out of free ice cream in the lounge today? Talk about disappointing.”

This kind of talk would go on and on, and what did we do; sit and watch more boring TV.

Thankfully, this was not the case every day. On the days we were stopped at an island or foreign country, there were chances to explore, and get off the boat. But complaining fests still crept upon us. The worst stop was in Cozumel, Mexico. For some reason, everyone found something to complain about that day, and even though we were all a part of doing something very enjoyable, we focused in on the parts that didn’t meet our expectations.

I climbed into the taxi after Dad had finally flagged down a taxi van that was big enough for our whole family. It had been a long day. We had split up this time with Mom and me going to a ranch to ride horses, and the Dad taking the other kids to the beach. “So what did y’all do?” I asked Alicia.

“Well the boys went swimming and climbed a big blow up iceberg, but it was too far out for me, so Dad stayed with me on the beach. It’s no fun being small. The iceberg looked like fun.”

“Yeah it was,” Jonny said. “But you got to go on the bounce trampoline and do flips.”

“But you got to do both,” Alicia whined. “I wish I could have gone with you Lydia. I would have rather ridden horses.”

“Well it wasn’t too exciting. I was separated from Mom for most of the ride. My horse wouldn’t go at all, even when I kicked like the guide said, he wouldn’t listen. He just walked when the horses in front of him walked. I really wanted to gallop with the others, but when I tried, the horse was still really slow.”

“So you didn’t have fun?” Alicia asked.

“No, it was fun. There was a cool show they did for us where this rider danced with his horse. And we saw a lot of ruins on the trail ride… they looked fake to me though.

“Well I’m starving,” my older brother Brain said. “I can’t wait to get back to the ship. Dad didn’t want to pay for any of the food at the beach. He said it was too expensive.”

Just then we pulled up to the curb. I glanced out the window at the ocean in the distance; there was our cruise ship, still as a sunken log. “Good timing then,” I said. “Let’s go eat.”

We jumped out of the van, ready to get back to our temporary home aboard the ship, but as we started moving towards the ship, a yell disrupted the evening air.

I turned back to see Dad yelling at our Taxi driver, saying something about the amount was wrong and that it shouldn’t be that expensive to drive three miles. I kept walking, hoping the other vacationers returning to the ship didn’t think we were part of the same family. I hated this day, not only had the horse ride been quite disappointing, but now my Dad was having a breakdown about money for the whole world to see. At that moment, it seemed like I was on the worst vacation ever.

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The Importance of Thankfulness

Pumpkin Pie, Dessert, Food, Baked, Holiday

Image Source: https://pixabay.com/en/pumpkin-pie-dessert-food-baked-1041330/

Even though Thanksgiving is over, the pumpkin pie is all eaten and the leftover turkey is now stuffed in the freezer, that doesn’t mean that being thankful is over for the year. Being thankful is very important to our attitude and perspective and it can affect how we react to our circumstances.

In church this past Sunday, one of my fellow leaders in Jr High ministry, talked about a man who lived through the Holocaust and stayed in three different concentration camps. But he decided to be thankful each day, and that gave him something that a lot of people around him lost; hope.

So as the holiday season continues towards Christmas, and away from Thanksgiving, I don’t want to forget the importance of giving thanks. And I want to encourage you to do the same. All the chaos of Christmas may seem more manageable if you remember that you have so much to be grateful for already. You don’t really need all those presents under the tree, they’re just another reason to be thankful.

I’ve also decided to accept a challenge to be grateful for something each day during the month of December. I probably won’t post every single thing I’m grateful for, but it is something I will be journaling about. And in case you’re interested, I’ll post a few of the things I’ve been thankful for so far.

1. Food. After all the Thanksgiving goodies and surplus in the fridge, I’ve realized what a blessing that is. There are a lot of people in this world who go to bed hungry and never get enough to eat. So I’m thankful that I have enough to eat.

2. My cat Alex. Right now he is curled up on my lap. Although it makes typing more difficult, he is keeping me nice and warm. He brings a smile to my face everyday and even when life get’s hard, he’s there to greet me with a cheerful meow. He is one of the most friendly cats I’ve ever owned and he makes sure that any guest to our home feels welcome.

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3. A job. I know work always has it’s frustrations, no matter what kind of work it is. But there is always a sense of accomplishment I get from finishing a task. Even if I don’t get any recognition for it, I feel a sense of fulfillment after I’ve worked, that I don’t get from just lounging around.

So there are a few things I’m thankful for, and I hope you continue to be thankful this month too.

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What I’m Thankful For #2

Gourds, Fall, Autumn, Orange, Decoration, Halloween

Image Source: https://pixabay.com/en/gourds-fall-autumn-orange-949112/

As you might have seen in a previous post, I am trying to remind myself to be thankful this month. It probably helps that in church yesterday we talked about being grateful and how important it is.

So today I am grateful for my family and friends. I don’t want to sound corny when I say this, I think most people are thankful for the close relationships they enjoy with other people, it’s part of being human. But I really am grateful for the people I’ve gotten to know.

You see, I’ve grown up in the same city, and the only times I moved was when I was 2 years old, and briefly for college. But I came home to visit so often, it was like I never left. So I really feel a deep connection for the people around me because a lot of them I really have known for over a decade.

These lasting relationships are a real blessing to me, it reminds me that just because some people move on, and our friendship only lasts for a couple of months or years, there will always be people that don’t move away, and even the people that do leave can be visited and reconnected with.

I guess the whole reason I’m thinking of this is because my brother just had a couples shower for his wedding in December and seeing all the old and new family friends at the shower brought on a wave of gratitude. There are so many people that love me and my family, and it encourages me to know they’ll be there for us in the happy moments of life, and the hard ones.

And I’m thankful for my family, because man we’ve been through a lot together and we’re still close. We can even fit 11 people in one house (8 of which are sharing 1 bathroom) and we still love each other. That’s a blessing and I’m thankful for it.

So in honor of my family and friends, I will share a short story I wrote about my childhood. Some of the details may be fabricated, but in essence the story is true.

Enjoy!

Barton Creek

“Are y’all ready to go?” Dad called from the front door.

“I’m ready!” I said happily. I had just changed into blue jeans, a red t-shirt with the logo of some obscure camp stitched across it.

Dad looked back into the house, not seeing anyone else yet.

“I think Mom’s in the bathroom.”

Dad nodded and headed inside to see if he could help make the preparation process go faster for anyone.

I sat on the front porch step and watched bees buzzing around our rosebush. It was an early summer afternoon, with large cumulus clouds spread across the vast Texas sky. A blue jay hopped from one branch on our massive ash tree to the next.

My Dad never liked the ash trees in our front yard. He said the neighborhood only planted them so there would be big nice looking trees in a short amount of time, but they didn’t live long, and their roots grew close to the surface, so unless you had covered them while they were young, it looked like an anaconda was living in your lawn.

I stared up at the tree, it might not be the best kind of tree, but I loved the shade it gave in the summertime, its branches spread perfectly, drooping slightly to bring the maximum amount of sun blockage. The only downside in my opinion was the fall, when thousands of pointy seeds fell from its branches along with the leaves. Those pokey seeds got stuck on everything and occasionally would break the skin, if you stepped on them barefoot.

The door opened behind me and I turned to see the rest of the family ready for our outing. Everyone had tennis shoes and long pants for the journey into the woods.

“Alright, let’s go!” Dad said enthusiastically. He had this tendency to get extremely enthusiastic about something in a funny way, like he was trying to entertain us with his zeal.

We all started marching down the sidewalk, till we reached the small street. We turned left and headed towards the dead end, with large reflective signs that stated “Private Property,” and “No Admittance,” and other such statements of discouragement. We ignored the signs as always, I think they had been left up from a time when the land actually belonged to someone. Now it was like a private trail for our neighborhood’s residents.

“Remember when we filmed Fat Man here?” Jonny said excitedly. He was referring to a home movie we had made parodying Batman. Instead we had made the hero Fat Man and had stuffed pillows into our neighbor’s shirt to make him chubbier. One of the scenes in the movie had Fat Man battling a ‘robot’ played by another neighbor, in the woods.

I laughed, “Oh yeah, I remember that. Remember that Drew wasn’t wearing his shoes.”

“Yeah, that was funny,” Jonny said.

We continued on, passing fields of cactus and tall amber grasses. A few yellow flowers poked out of the undergrowth. Then we ventured into shaded areas where the cedar trees grew close together and formed a canopy over the trail. A few side trails appeared, but we continued down the main one headed for the creek, as we had so many times before.

Jonny came across a large stick a few feet off the trail and decided right away that he needed a walking stick. He marched along for several minutes like a he was Louis or Clark on a grand expedition, but he soon got bored with the stick and decided he’d much rather have the use of his hands for climbing. He left it on the side of the trail, for yet another adventurer to find and use.

We stopped for a couple of minutes at a short tree that was perfect for climbing. The two boys scurried up into the branches and Mom took pictures. I picked a few yellow flowers instead and put them in my hair.

“Y’all ready to keep going?” Dad asked a little impatiently. He was ready to see the river, and maybe stick his feet in the cool water.

The boys leapt out of the branches, landing with a thud into the soft earth.

We turned and continued deeper into the woods, finally after several minutes we came to a stop at a crossroads. One trail wove down a gentler slope to the creek bed, the other rose to the crest of a hill and gave a nice view of the sloping landscape before plummeting down a steep drop to the bottom. Both ended in the same place, so either could be taken.

“So which trail do we want to take?” Dad asked.

“Mountain Goat Trail!” Jonny and I shouted together.

As you might have guessed, this was the steeper trail. We swerved to the right and walked up an incline to the lookout point at the top of the hill. The tops of cedar trees could be seen in any direction. The rolling slopes of the Hill Country looked like a giant green ocean that had been frozen in time, in the middle of a heavy storm.

After staring out at the countryside, we continued down the steep drop. It wasn’t so much like a cliff, more like a giant staircase with some steep places where you needed to be a little more careful. The trail disappeared as well, the large rocky “steps” were the only way down, and no matter how far to the right or left you went, as long as you went down, you would eventually end up hitting the other trail.

I hopped down the rocks, pretending I was actually a mountain goat. My shoes gripped the rocks easily and I felt like I belonged here.

Jonny and Alicia joined me in jumping around as we headed down the steep trail.

Mom and Dad took things a little slower, making sure not to fall.

As we gathered on the intersecting trail, we stopped to stare down the steep drop. This drop was more like a cliff and ended in a little gully where water from further up the hill would rush down towards the creek. No one would go down there unless they were crazy.

While I stared down at the deep drop, my ears picked up a faint sound. “Shh, listen,” I commanded.

The family stopped talking and we all stood still. Faintly, through the trees, we heard the soft roar of the creek.

I smiled eagerly, “I can hear it!”

Our steps quickened as we neared the bottom of the hillside. It had rained a week before and the water was going to be high. As we neared the end of the trail, the sound grew to a loud swooshing sound.

Finally I caught a glimpse of the water. It looked grey and murky, clothed with a bubbly white shawl. “There it is! There it is!” I said excitedly.

“Whoa it’s huge!” Jonny said.

We all scampered down for a closer look, dodging the wreckage the waters had left in its rush to the creek: branches, leaves, even an old shoe. All of a sudden we were no longer on a soft dirt trail, but on white rocks, rubbed smooth by the water’s touch. We came to a stop at the water’s edge and stood in awe of the powerful rapids before us.

Water careened over the stones, and bubbled as it collided with trapped logs. The roar wasn’t deafening but if forced us to increase the volume of our voice to be heard.

Alicia grabbed my hand and stared amazedly at the mighty river before her.

Brian picked up a small stone and tried skipping it across the water; it bounced once then disappeared into the current.

Jonny took up the game right away, though his rocks didn’t bounce and instead he began to see how big of a splash he could make.

After several minutes, we decided to follow the creek downstream and do some exploring. There was another pathway along the water’s edge, so we got in a single file line and began hiking once more on a worn dirt path. As we journeyed the creek widened and slowed to a gentler pace. The roar of the rapids died down and was replaced by the sounds of calling birds and insects. We passed a rope swing that could be used to jump into the river and an odd tree with a cactus growing on top of its mossy bark.

Twenty minutes passed before we decided to take a break. We’d never hiked this far before and we were all tired. Fifty feet off the trail we found what looked like a natural Bathtub; the creek emptied into a little inlet that was separated from the rest of the water by a few large rocks.

We took off our shoes and got our feet wet, walking from stone to stone and then splashing into the cold clear water.

Mom took out some snacks and drinks for the family. She was always prepared for hungry kids. I guess with having four kids she learned pretty quick that having food on hand was a necessity.

We sat back with our crackers and Capri Suns and talked about our adventure. It wasn’t long before we decided to head home, it had been a long walk, especially for Alicia who wanted to be carried now, and the sun was getting closer to setting. But it had been a good day, and even though I’ve been on many journeys to Barton Creek since then, I’ll still always remember that special day.

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