The Twin Cities Rainbow Chaser

moving across the country…to discover what God has in store

In the Morning

Before I go to bed, I could check out my window to see if the roads are clear.  To see if snow is falling.  To see if my windshield is icy. 

But after I go to bed, much can happen.  As darkness descends on the world, chills ripple through and bring about change.  Snow falls.  My car disappears.  Water chills.  The road ices.

Right now, the road is passable and tomorrow holds promise.  But when the whispers of darkness grow to a roar, who can say? 

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*Trying something a little difference in response to Your Story: Whispers of Darkness 🙂

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Conclusions of a New Minnesotan 2

Sometimes I get confused…very, very confused

Sometimes I get confused…very, very confused

In August, St. Paul, Minnesota became my home when I migrated from the southern half of the U.S. to take part in an AmeriCorps program.  By the time that September rolled around, I had come to a few conclusions about my new home and the native creatures.  Several months have passed since that time, enough months for me to draw a few new conclusions.  So this is a continuation of that initial post and a few addenda (apparently that’s the plural of “addendum”).

We’ll begin with the addenda, of which there are two.

 

 

 

Conclusion 1a: Minnesota’s summers are gorgeous.

Conclusion 1b: Minnesota’s winters are beastly.

Seriously.  Have you ever spent a winter in Minnesota?  A few weeks into November I was preparing for the worst.  And then, after the first massive snow that dumped nearly a foot in our driveway and front yard and on top of my car, I was thinking that squirrels and bears have the right idea.  Hibernating in winter is pure genius.  If you hibernate, you do not have to DRIVE.  During my first excursion (perhaps ill-advised on a Sunday morning while the weather was verging on blizzard conditions), I was prepared to pull over and just hibernate right there until everything melted.  Also, there’s this whole FREEZING COLD CONSTANTLY factor.

Conclusion 4a: Biking is awesome!

Conclusion 4b: …except in winter.

Did you read the above rant about the quantity of snow that can fall within a twenty-four hour period?  Well, that pretty much covers it.  My bike is hibernating.  Some days, I would like to join it.

Looks like all of my addenda have to do with snow…hmmm.  Can you tell what’s been on my mind?  Speaking of what’s on my mind…let’s move on to the new conclusions that have been reached.

Snow…snow…and more snow

Snow…snow…and more snow

Conclusion 6: Minnesotans are resilient.

Have you seen how much snow these people get?  It’s ridiculous and, no matter how much it is, they just keep going.  This is a strange concept for someone who grew up in, umm, I dunno, let’s just say Arkansas.  In a place like Arkansas, two flakes is cause for mild panic.  Five flakes is a cause for mass hysteria.  And ten flakes is cause for hibernation.  Somewhere around eight flakes it becomes impossible to find milk, eggs, or bread at any grocery store, gas station, or farm.  But in Minnesota, they just keep going.  Think “energizer bunny.”

Conclusion 7: The best time to go to Wal-Mart in Minnesota is in the middle of the Vikings vs. Packers game.

So, one volleyball game doesn’t seem much different from another volleyball game.  Wait…the Vikings do play volleyball, right?  Kidding!  They play baseball.  Anyways, I went to the grocery store without thinking about it.  Boy, did I make an AMAZING decision.  The store was dead.  It reminded me of the time that I went to buy beer in Missouri when the Cardinals were playing in the World Series.

Conclusion 8: Ice fishing is for real.

I had heard about it…but now I know someone who does it.  What has my world come to?

Proceed with caution.

Proceed with caution.

Conclusion 9: Starting your car before you get ready to drive in the morning sets the tone for your day.

This can really make or break your day.  If you do not pre-start your car, then your day will be cold and unforgiving.  If, however, you do pre-start your car, there is hope for warmth and happiness throughout your day…but only if you pre-start your car.  My fingers normally go numb while I’m driving, especially the left pinkie.  You think that’s a joke; unfortunately, it’s not.  I wish I was.

Conclusion 10: Minnesota is a land ripe with opportunities to DISCOVER.

What is it that you would like to discover?  How to survive if great quantities of snow?  How long should you actually wait for a lift bridge? Where is North?  What does a gigantic mall look like at 6 am?  What does nice mean?  Whatever it is that you would like to discover, you’ll find something worthwhile in Minnesota.  Put on your curiosity cap; let the state surprise you.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Delicate

Delicate twigs surviving the first snow

delicate swirls surviving the first snow

Delicate is a word that I have recently used to describe my emotional state.  The days surrounding the holidays (Thanksgiving and Christmas) have been challenging.  They make me realize the specific people and experiences that I hold close to my heart.  So, when I saw the weekly photo challenge, I knew that I had to participate…if only to force myself to face up to my weaknesses.

delicate artistry in God's creation

delicate artistry in God’s creation

I have a deep-rooted appreciation and respect for the beauty of nature.  My weakness?  I am easily distracted by modern comforts and attractions.  Hulu has, on more than one occasion, stolen time that could have been spent outdoors.  Now that snow is hiding my world (see the first photo), I am missing these delicacies.

A strength?  I don’t mind getting a little chilly while searching for new delicacies.  I also don’t mind climbing a mountain to find the delicacies.  Over the past six months, I have had my share of summits.

delicate pathway to the summit

delicate pathway to the summit

Those can also be delicate.  Although I might like to be a free spirit and throw caution to the wind, a shale-covered pathway like the one I found in Canada required a delicate foot.  For most of the trip, I was fun and fancy free.  But in the moments leading to this summit, I lost a bit of confidence.  As I followed a French mountaineer (fellow CouchSurfer), I questioned my sanity.  This guy was booking it…and I was about to fall to my death.  Nevertheless, we managed to make it all the way to the very top (he wasn’t content with the slightly shorter peak where we first landed).

I also experienced the delicacies of mountains over the summer when I spent some time in the rocks of Wyoming with a friend.  Oh friends…another delicate topic for me.  Friendships, for me, are more than delicate; they are fragile.  Sometimes my mind and soul prefer to be independent and risk forcing me into the state of a hermit.  But, since my move to St. Paul, I have hated that lonely state.  Today though, I realized that I am not alone.  I have at least one friend.  The friendship formed so delicately that I hardly noticed.  It’s a beautiful feeling when someone tells you they are glad you’re around.

I realize now that delicate can mean many things.  I’ve been going with the idea that delicate means fragile, or requiring great care.  But delicate can also mean pleasing to the senses (according to m-w.com).  I think I like that definition…especially because it works for each of my examples.

 

EDIT

Another thought just entered my mind and it refuses to leave: the delicacy of life.  I am not one to get lost in current events, politics, or headlines.  But recent events (just google “Connecticut shooting” if you’re lost) have tugged at my heart…the heart of an educator who has a special appreciation for the vitality of children.  There is a delicate aspect of life that is easy for us to forget because we have living down to such a science.  We eat XYZ and take vitamins B, C, and E and drink 8 gallons of water and jog for 20 minutes 3 times a week.  But, despite all of our attempts at preserving our life, it can be gone in the blink of an eye.  Therefore, we must cherish our breaths…and the breaths of those around us.  My prayer this evening is that you will take your breaths and realize their delicacy.  Make the most of them.

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My Wandering, Rainbow-Chasing Soul

Those who wander are not always lost.

J.R.R. Tolkien said something to that effect.  And someone quoted it to me this weekend, not in reference to my life…just an observation of a situation.  But I jumped into the words and let them close over my head.  I got lost in them.  I continue to be wandering through their depths and embracing their heart.

 

It reminds me of my recent journey along the north shore of Lake Superior up to Thunder Bay, Ontario.  The entire journey, drive-time included, was spectacular.  I merely wandered along the coast, stopping as I pleased for coffee, photos, or just to pick up rocks.  As I continue to, metaphorically, wander through life, I hope that I can remain blissfully content with the simple.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Happy

 

 

 

Delicious autumn!  My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.

                                       -George Eliot

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Solitary

The word “solitary” could easily describe my life.  I have always been a solitary person, often retreating to be alone with my thoughts…my books…my words.  Through these moments, I have deepened my understanding of myself and the world around me.

Solitary travels have allowed me to explore new spaces on my own time.  I have wandered through various cities, never having a specific destination in mind.  At times, these wanderings were less than intelligent.  I might have placed myself at risk…but I was too lost in my own thoughts to be considered by such pettiness.  Through solitary moments like this, I developed a sense of strong, willful independence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Solitary moments have also allowed me to push aside the distractions of the world and discover the beauty that surrounds me on a daily basis.  From a bike ride to a walk through a park to sitting on my own front porch…I have noticed little things in moments of solitude.

 

 

 

And thus…I have learned to breathe in deeply.  In breathing deeply, I have lost myself in the scent of flowers.  I have surveyed rose bushes, with a friend leaning over my shoulder, and found the solitary, brilliant rose that survived harsh storms.  She stands alone in honor of her friends who have fallen…and as nature’s token of appreciate to me, for I take the time to see her beauty.  I do not lament the loss of the others.  Instead, I honor her for standing strong.

Through my travels (which seem few compared to those which I desire to complete), few places have left me feeling so “solitary” amongst many than the beach.  There is a magic that happens when you look out into the horizon and lose yourself.  Even your thoughts are washed away in the salty spray and you can’t help but wonder, “How did I get here?” And then you realize that you are far from alone.  There are those who have guided you through the journey and lifted you up when you have found yourself crumpled in a heap.  There are those that you have guided and helped.  And there are all of those ahead of you…no matter how solitary you try to be, you cannot make this journey alone.

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.   Isaiah 41:10

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Conclusions of a New Minnesotan

Having lived in the Twin Cities for approximately six weeks, I feel that I can now draw some conclusions. I’ve taken time to observe everything from the weather to the people to the food.  As of now, here’s what I know.

Conclusion 1: Minnesota has gorgeous summers.

A glimpse of beauty from a Minnesota summer

No joke.  For someone who is accustomed to the heat and humidity of the Ozarks (northern Arkansas/southern Missouri), this mild-mannered summer is a dream come true.  Back “home”, I couldn’t imagine going for a bike-ride in the middle of the day.  Up here though, the world is just warming up to the low 90s (on a hot day!) and mid-day isn’t frightening.  I’ve heard loads of people complain about this extra-hot summer…I just chuckle.

Conclusion 2: St. Paul’s hills are beastly.

…and I live smack dab in the middle of one of them.  Either way I chose to go when I leave my house is a hill, up or down.  I can start out by going down, but eventually I have to go back up!  There’s no rest for the weary around here.  A couple of weeks ago, I decided to check out a new bike trail.  Heading out of the trail head was a breeze…literally.  Coming back in to my car–beastly.  I will confess: I walked my bike partway up.

Freshly-picked produce

Conclusion 3: The Twin Cities residents are very nature-oriented.

Hair products…weekend plans…fresh produce.  The people up here like to know what’s around them and how they can use it.  It is so refreshing to be surrounded by people who are turned into nature like this!  I am inspired to stop showering, bike everywhere, plant a vegetable garden and raise chickens.  Okay, that’s an exaggeration.  But I do find myself hitting up the farmer’s market on a regular basis, sometimes on my bike! (Okay…confession: I drive to the bottom of the hill, park, and then bike the rest of the way to the farmer’s market.  Remember–beastly hills!)

Just an average day in a not-so-average place

Conclusion 4: Biking is awesome!

Need I say more?

Conclusion 5: Minnesotans are curious.

When Minnesotans hear that my move up here was my first visit to the state, they are impressed.  When they find out that I didn’t know anyone up here, they comment, “You’re brave.”  And then they proceed to ask me about my work, my family, how I found a place to live, and what brand of underwear I wear.  Okay, maybe they don’t go quite that far.  But they do ask a lot of questions!  The first few times this happened, I was a little freaked out.  There is no reason for complete strangers to know my whole life story.  But now I have the whole story practically scripted.  And then there’s my roommates, bless their hearts.  They always want to know about my day and my parents and my lunch and… I’m still trying to get into the swing of sitting down and chatting whenever someone walks in.

 

After six weeks…that’s all I’ve got.  With ten and a half months ahead of me, I have plenty of time to learn a bit more about these Swedes and draw a few more conclusions.  There are others swimming around in my head, but five is such a nice, round number!  Why would I want to muddy that up?  Stop by later to find out what else I’ve learned.  Supposedly winter will be brutal for a newbie like me…we’ll have to wait and see!

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Discovering the Valley

For a while now, I might have characterized my life as being in one of those valleys that Christians so often describe.  Most of the time people can pinpoint the beginning and end of the valley.  It is caused by some traumatic event in stark contrast to the rest of their “church-y” life.  And then it comes to an end when everything is straightened out.  Whenever I’ve heard people describe their valleys, they seem so sure about all of it…where they were and why they went there.

I feel like my valley is different.  This valley seems like a vast and open space, not necessarily just a location for torture.  Instead, it feels like I’ve been here for a while and God has allowed me to explore the valley.  There are streams and trees and rocks in this valley.  Although it was terrifying to be in here, I have learned to make the most of it.  There have been unexpected moments of terror.  There’s an intruder…I venture into a new area full of shadows…I climb too high on the rocks.  But for the most part, this valley has been my classroom.

And now…now it is time for me to climb out.  I have learned all of the lessons that are here and it is time for me to graduate to a new classroom.  This valley has been full of pain, but also discovery.  God has continually shown Himself to me in new ways through new materials.  Although there were times when I questioned His existence, His presence has always been in the valley.  More importantly, I know that His presence is carrying me out.

Sometime in the next few days, I will have the next year of my life sorted out (ha!).  I will have a new city and a new job (I’m using that term loosely).  In the meantime, I have to trust that God’s hand is still firmly clasped over my own.  He is leading me through the path to come out of this valley and stand on the top of a mountain.  I may have an intense decision to make, but I know that when all is said and done there will be a breathtaking view before my eyes.

 

*Photos were taken during a recent camping and climbing sojourn to Wyoming.

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2. Saturday: Stargazing

Okay, so here’s what went down.  That website lied.  Saturday night was CRAZY cloudy!  And, here’s the lowdown on what exactly happened.

I got off of work at 10 pm.  I bummed around my house–making coffee, cleaning the kitchen, etc–until 11.  At that point in time, I hopped in my car with a bag of gummy bears and two cups of coffee.  I started driving.  I had looked up a lake with some picnic areas and headed to one of those.  I had planned on putting a blanket down on a picnic table and just staring up.  Five minutes into the drive, I pulled open the sunroof and glanced up…nothing.  I saw a big, bright moon…but no stars.  Then I realized that I was low on gas.  So, I turned around.  I stopped at Wal-Mart for some sort of snack besides gummy bears, got some gas, then went home.  I laid down and took a nap.  When my alarm went off an hour and a half later, I got up and headed for the lake again.

I turned off of the highway and hung a right at a stop sign…then I got nervous.  What if I couldn’t find my way back?  What if I got lost in these backroads?  What if I disappeared forever and ever and ever?  Those thoughts were consuming me as I saw a church.  Since there was a car behind me, there were lots of unknown curves, and I didn’t know where the road was going…I pulled in.

And this is what happened.  The moon was so insanely bright that I couldn’t resist trying to make something beautiful with its light.  yeah, I realize that it’s no Ansel Adams…but, I did what I could with I had (Nikon D60).  I have to admit that, as I sat in that church parking lot…alone…in the dark…I got a little bit freaked out.  What if some crazed maniac with blood spread all over his shirt leaped out of the woods and tackled me?  What if the crazed maniac had blood covering his mouth?  What if the crazed maniac was wielding a weapon?  Ahhh!  So, I hopped in my car and was pretty much ready to go home and call it a night.  But, I didn’t.  Instead, I drove a little ways and then pulled into a little gravel parking area.  There were several other cars there…people fishing on the dark and quiet lake, I’m assuming.  I planned on sitting there for a bit–eating my cheddar and sour cream potato chips and junior mints.  I was going to wait for more stars to emerge from the cloudy sky.  I started in on the junior mints (they’re great for a coffee-free jolt of wakefulness!).  Then, I looked out the window…and there was the great, bold moon.  Once again, she spoke to me.  She became my muse of discovery…the discovery of long exposure:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yeah!  I know, I know: amateur hour.  Don’t judge…because if you judge, you will not be judging my photography, but instead, my use of God’s beauty.  Yeah!

As I was driving out to this lake, I could feel my spirits slowly fall.  The clouds were covering the sky and the moon was so bright it would undoubtedly hide any stars that made it through the smoggy clouds.  So, I prayed…I don’t even remember what I prayed.  I just wanted to see beauty…to have the opportunity to revel in the glory and power that is God.  And, I got to do that.  Sure, I was assisted by a bit of technology.  But that’s completely irrelevant.  God is in everything that we do.  Even when our plans (such as stargazing) don’t happen due to interferences beyond our control (like clouds)…He is there.  He knows what will put smiles on our silly little faces.

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1. Friday: Baking

Yea!  Baking!  I love it…even if I burn myself (twice today)…and make a mess of my kitchen (I do that even if I don’t bake).  Now, I know I said that I was going to make brownies, but I had a change of plans.  The recipe I had planned on using required frosting and I didn’t think that frosting would be ideal since I would have to put them in ziploc baggies.  So…cookies!

…yeah, I know it’s not the best picture but I am trying to share some proof of today’s accomplishment.  I had some leftover (i.e. didn’t need to go in baggies) and I ate them.  They were very yummy.  And the process of baking was, as always, incredibly enjoyable.  There was this one moment when I accidentally pulled my hand mixer off the counter and sent softened butter and cream cheese flying across the kitchen…but I survived (so did my toes).  Other than that, there were no issues.  The smoke detector didn’t even go off…it went off when I was making blueberry muffins one time.  True story.

Also, today, I took time to relax.  I said “no” when I got a call from one of my supervisors at work…someone else was sick and couldn’t work.  I said “no”.  That is a big, good deal for me.  I’m not very good at saying “no”.  But, I have to work 14 hours tomorrow so…I deserved to be free this evening.  And, I thoroughly enjoyed my freedom.

I made this:

Yes…that is a fruit and yogurt parfait with granola…homemade granola!  It was very delightful.  I used frozen blueberries…but those are my favorite for stuff like this.  When you defrost the berries, they juice just enough to give a hint of blueberriness to everything surrounding them…granola, yogurt, milk (when use as a cereal topping)…they are just fabulous.  I’ve also used them for blueberry tea.  They are just so delightful!

I didn’t spend the whole afternoon eating my parfait…although that might have been just lovely.  I also did something that I haven’t done in a while…well, two somethings actually.  I rode my bike and I took some photographs (besides these pathetic excuses for food photography).  I biked down to a little park that is near my house and just enjoyed myself.  I stuck a book in my bag too…got started on that (I’m preparing for Tuesday).  It was so enjoyable!  I like scaling back my life and savoring the little things.  Today?  Baking, biking, and a bit of a book.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And, while work will consume most of tomorrow (14 hours–ugh), I can look forward to one beautiful thing: stargazing.  So, that seems like a pathetic way to leave a blog post.

I have a bit of advice for you.  Even if your day seems crappy, find something beautiful to hold on to…whether it be the flowers outside your office, a really fabulous cup of coffee, or magical future plans…hold on to that piece of beauty…savor it…and know that there is always more beauty to find in the world.

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