Hey there, Maeve here. I've been enjoying some time away from the computer - hosting family and friends. But we're back y'all. And I am just giddy to introduce you to my sweet friend Kristen. I met this lady through my sister, she made her wedding beautiful. She has a knack for turning the simple into exquisite. Oh, and if you ate a cupcake at our wedding - those were made by her...yeah.
More than food and creating pretty things by hand, Kristen loves well. She gives tirelessly to the people around her. I feel blessed to know Kristen and just love her words below about a cross-country trip and how hope is revealed in the green, rolling hills and burnt, ashy landscape.
It started out as a joke.
Why don’t we drive to the reunion? Or take a train?
I did not want to fly in an airplane with our one year old. I really did not.
Then, I got to thinking. Yeah! Let’s drive to California! Cross country road trip! That’s a thing! That’s a lifelong dream sort of thing. So, we did it. We drove from Baltimore, Maryland to Fresno, California and back again.
We called it our “Epic Road Trip”.
A dream vacation across the country. Not a vacation. A getaway. That’s what I needed, to get away. An escape from the last twelve months. A year of holding my breath to see if my husband, after months of competitive interviews, would get a job. Walking alongside one of my very best friends when her father died tragically. Stumbling through a year of firsts without my mother-in-law, who died from ovarian cancer. Realizing that for the last year my shoulders were tightened up around my earlobes.
Loss and grief and uncertainty. Too many worries, not enough daydreams.
Then we left. California or bust. We headed west. With a full itinerary and a carefully packed minivan we pulled out of the driveway. West toward adventure and new experiences. Twenty-four states. Twenty-nine days. Nearly Eight thousand miles.
No pressure to be anywhere at a certain time or do anything specific. World’s best preserved meteor crater? Why not?
Just reading and laughing and seeing all the things. Appreciating the moment. Looking forward to what was next. Peanut butter and jelly picnics. Daydreaming. Just us, away. I relaxed. St. Louis, Ft, Worth, Sedona, Las Vegas, Anaheim, Fresno. Then, up the California coast: Arcadia, Trinidad, Portland.
Two amazing weeks.
Then, we went east. Montana, Minneapolis, Chicago, Baltimore. Our getaway became getting back.
It was quiet on the winding road through Yellowstone. My thoughts turned to my friend who’d lost her dad one year before. All our intensely sad summer milestones. The day that marks the death of a loved one is a special kind of terrible.
Just like the day someone you love is born is a special kind of wonderful.
The scene outside the window was a moving postcard. “Wish you were here.” So green. So unbelievably beautiful. There among the tall green pine trees were huge, ashy trunks fallen in every direction. Hundreds of trees. Burned and lost to fire. Everywhere. Life and death overlapping. And it was at this life and death Venn Diagram intersection that God whispered to me, “This is my message to you: Hope.”
I was mesmerized by this picture of redemption.
Hope after devastation. Recognizing the past, shaping the present. It was not a complicated message. Here is the living beauty. Here are the broken symbols of loss. Brokenness doesn’t mean it’s over. There is always hope.
Hope is not confidence that everything is going to be okay. No, hope is believing that whatever is ahead, God will be with you.
In this season of advent we focus on God’s salvation for Earth through His Son Jesus. He brought new life. Eternal life. “I make all things new.”
He said to me that day, “I am the Lord of creation. I am not absent from pain. I have not forgotten you in it. I’m not asking you to forget what has happened. I’m helping you remember and carry on.”
New trees grow. Thank you Lord. Thank you for this picture of Your love.
I felt overwhelmed with gratitude to God for revealing this to me. And I felt so thankful that the burned down trees were still there. The fallen trees made the scene so breathtaking. It was the whole picture.
So often, life only feels like part of the picture. This was complete. It made me feel hopeful. Those trees will not be forgotten. They are part of the landscape, the forest. Giving to the next generation. God is giving us hope in the midst of loss.
I treasure these pictures as a reminder of that promise.
Maybe you’re in the middle of the raging fire. It feels out of control. Maybe the seemingly hopeless aftermath. Perhaps you’re starting to see new life. Maybe you’re being nourished by the memories of the past. Wherever you are. There is hope. God is there. God is with you. His Holy Spirit will help you carry on.
We made it back to Maryland in the middle of June.
Refreshed. Connected. Ready to face the summer? Probably not.
It was still so painful. It will always be hard. The memories of our “Epic Road Trip” still bring a smile to my face. I visit Yellowstone in my daydreams. I love to think back on the journey we took as a family and appreciate the journey we are still on. God is with us. He is for us. He doesn’t clear away the sorrow of the past.
I’m so glad that He doesn’t. It is part of me.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)
Kristen is a homemaker. Wife of an astrophysicist. Proud mama to three children; two in her arms, one in her heart. She's a gift giver, cupcake baker, shape note singer, seed sower. Taking it one day at a time.
Maeve again. My goodness, her words. Didn't you feel like you were right there - eating sandwiches and marveling over the landscape too? Tell us, has God revealed His hope to you through the pain? Are there parts of your story that hurt but you're so glad He didn't take away?
Leave Kristen some love in the comments below.