Waterfall Daydreaming

The beautiful weather this week has me longing to see some waterfalls. With many state parks and trails still either closed or having limited daytime use, I’m not sure what to expect if I head out to one of my favorite spots. One of them, Silver Falls State Park, says it’s open for limited daytime use and to be prepared to turn around if crowded. I’m not sure if I want to drive that far just to turn around and come back home. (Although the drive itself is quite beautiful, too.)

At least I have plenty of memories, some of which I used in my book, One Woman Falling. Here’s an excerpt:

I walked ahead on the carved path, following the curve of the rocky wall leading us directly behind the fall. I had heard about waterfalls you could walk behind, and I had seen pictures, but actually doing it was magical. Everything was wet—water dripped down the stony wall beside me, small puddles of water dotted the smooth rock path, and the guard rail to my left was covered in spray. Goose bumps erupted on my arms from the sudden decrease in temperature. I made my way to the back of the waterfall, breathing in mist. For a moment I felt tiny, over-powered, like I did whenever I stood at the ocean’s edge. It wasn’t a bad feeling. It was something not quite within my grasp, so full of hope it made all of life’s struggles seem as harmless as the ripples in the tiny puddles at my feet.

Ahh, a good reminder for myself here. No matter what’s going on around me or the limitations in place, God is in control. I’m going to choose to make the most of the days ahead and look for beauty wherever I can find it.

What about you? What are your plans for this “unprecedented” summer?

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Things Look Different Here

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you’re enjoying a great day filled with family, food and the making of precious memories.

Thanksgiving looks a little different this year in the Campbell house. For the longest time, our tradition has been to spend Thanksgiving with my sister Missy and her family. Either her family would come up to visit us in Oregon, or we would go to their home in Reno. Most often, she came north because the rest of our family is in Oregon. Our Thanksgiving pictures have included my mom, my dad, step-mom, and both my sisters and their families.

Missy couldn’t make it this year because her mother-in-law is undergoing treatment for a brain tumor, and may not be around next year. We could’ve gone to Reno, but that would’ve meant leaving my mom, who currently resides in a care center down the road from my house, alone for Thanksgiving. There’s no way my mom could make the trip to Missy’s house. She has had a tough year: a stroke, carotid artery surgery, and a complete hip replacement.

To top it off, we are in the process of selling our house. We’re trying to buy a home that has space for my disabled mom so she doesn’t have to stay in a care facility or have the risks of living alone with her health issues. Having a “For Sale” sign in your front yard during the holidays takes a bit of the warm and cozy feeling away. (Not to mention the stress of keeping your very full house picture perfect for showings to perspective buyers.)
  
We are living with uncertainty. My mom has more surgeries scheduled. We aren’t sure our home will sell before the offer we made on the other house has expired. Will we be moving at the beginning of 2020, or does God have a Plan B for us? For my mom?

I don’t have the answers. For today I’m going to purposely setting my worries aside. We have a small gathering for Thanksgiving. Our immediate family, my mom, and my daughter’s boyfriend will soon share a wonderful meal. We’ll also had a guest for part of the day. My daughter is a caregiver and worked today, so she brought her client to our home for part of her shift. He’s a delightful, 95-year-old man with Alzheimer’s. He makes us smile every time he re-introduces himself and tells us how pretty we are.

Life has changed, and it’s a different Thanksgiving. There is much to be thankful for, though. It won’t be long before my children are spending holidays with their spouse’s families. There will be a day when I no longer have my mom around. For now, I still have all of them with me. I’m missing the rest of my family, especially as Facebook memories fills my news feed with pictures of Thanksgivings past. I’m thankful, too, for all those sweet memories.

As Olaf says in the recently released Frozen 2, there is one thing that never changes: Love.

For that I am most thankful.

What are your Thanksgiving traditions? 
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love — 1 Corinthians 13:13

Can You Go Home Again?

They say you can’t go home again.

The familiar saying is usually true. When you go to a place you remember from your past, it is seldom the way you remember it. But if your home town is in the middle of nowhere and stuck in time, you can find yourself transported to your youth.

This happened to me a couple of weeks ago, when I returned to my hometown for a funeral.

Most people have never heard of the town where I spent the earliest years of my life: Cedarville, California. According to Citydata.com, the town’s population in 2010 was 514, and I suspect the number has only declined in the last nine years. Like everywhere else, the big is consuming the small, and the small fights for its existence.

This was evident throughout the tiny town, where vehicles still park perpendicularly on main street. Old businesses were shut down, and many that remain are now owned by the same family. The grade school no longer has enough students to justify the use of a building. Classes from kindergarten through 12th grade are currently held in the high school. The county no longer has enough money to offer a carnival at the annual fair. The list goes on.

However, many things remain the same. Drivers still wave at each other as they pass on the road. Businesses are likely to be referred to by who owns them, rather than their actual name or address. No one is in a hurry. The landscape remains beautiful, the quiet and stillness palpable.

My heart ached with memories. The motel we stayed at was across from the shop my dad once owned. I remembered when I was 12-years-old and he let my cousin and I drive his race car up the hill behind the shop, and with our minimal driving skills, we ended up damaging the car. Fields with wheel-line irrigation systems reminded me of days spent with my dad at his irrigation shop or in his truck while he worked. The burgeoning limbs of apricot trees took me back to being four-years-old and picking my favorite fruit and savoring its sweetness on hot, late summer days.

Experiencing my young daughter’s enthusiasm with the town amplified my reverie. At the vacant grade school, she played on the same monkey bars I once twirled on. She stared with amazement at the old bell in front of the school and wanted to ring it. For the first time in her life, I let her ride in a vehicle on paved roads without a safety belt. While playing in the town’s only park with her cousins she sang, “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” – a song I didn’t even realize she knew.

I realized that even though Cedarville was my official residence for only a fraction of my life, it is still a part of me. The essence of it comes through in my fiction writing, mainly in my characters. The quiet smallness of it shows up in my preferences: I live in a “small” town, attend a small church. I need the peace and quiet found in nature, under a vast blue sky. Perhaps a part of it has even passed down to my children, a kind of geographic DNA.

As the weekend came to an end, my sister and I talked about buying a vacation home together in our old hometown. Our husbands looked at us like we were crazy. Maybe we are. I guess that’s what happens when you go home again and your heart longs to stay a bit longer, but life calls you back to jobs and traffic and a never-ending list of things to do.

Have you experienced the feeling of a place bringing you back to a time in your life? I’d love to hear about!

Readers will get to travel to this one-of-a-kind town in my upcoming novel One Way Home. In the meantime, you can read the first book in my Whispers of Grace series by ordering it here: One Woman Falling

Learn more about this remote place at the links below. Scroll down for more pictures!

Review Opportunity

You can get a free copy of my book, One Woman Falling, by signing up to review it through Among the Reads. See below for more details on the book and the review opportunity.

What’s at the End of Trail?

Even with all of the rain, there is plenty to love about spring in Oregon.

A few of my favorite things include tulips, cherry blossoms, warmer temperatures, and knowing that the sunny and dry days of summer are right around the corner. But at the top of my list is waterfalls. Spring is the perfect time to see them. The rivers and streams are full, making the falls bigger and more impressive than they will be in late summer.

Luckily for me, my daughter Natalie’s birthday is at the end of March, and one of her favorite things is to hike. To celebrate her 18th birthday this year, I took her and a couple of her friends to the Columbia River Gorge area to see some waterfalls.

Multnomah Falls

We’d previously been to the Gorge for her 16th birthday. That was before the terrible fire that scarred this beautiful section of Oregon. Many of the trails on the Gorge remain closed due to the destruction the fire left behind, including the Eagle Creek trail, which had been Natalie’s favorite. Given the closures and fire damage, we were a bit hesitant to go for her 18th birthday, knowing what we would see this time may be quite different than the awe-inspiring beauty we’d experienced two years before.

But the Gorge is still beautiful, and we found enough hiking trails to keep us busy for a couple of days. One of them started at the famous Multnomah Falls.

Natalie didn’t want to go to Multnomah Falls the last time we visited because it was too crowded. She didn’t want to go this time either, but it was only half a mile down the road from Wahkeena, the waterfall she did want to see. So we stopped.

We planned to walk only to the viewing point and take a picture (or twenty). Then Natalie noticed the sign that said the hike to the top of the falls was mere .8 miles. “Have you ever been to the top?”

Beautiful views from the Multnomah trail

As I craned my neck to see the top of the falls, I told her I hadn’t. We decided we should go.

It felt like we were walking uphill forever when I saw a sign that said “Switchback 2 of 11.” Stopping at a viewing point, I informed the girls we had nine more switchbacks to go. We were on a time crunch to get back home, and I didn’t want Natalie to miss Wahkeena Falls. Another young woman standing at the viewpoint with us said, “But this is number three, so you’re already one-third of the way there.” The girls agreed we should continue to the top.

Let me tell you, .8 miles is a long way when it’s all up hill, and a bit scary when the trail is narrow, but we made it. The top of the waterfall was actually not that impressive, due to the placement of the viewing area. We saw a sign pointing to a trail that would take us to Wahkeena Falls. We knew that by road Wahkeena was only half a mile from Multnomah, so we figured it couldn’t be too far of a hike.

We followed the Larch Mountain Trail signs, coming to an area that looked like it was straight from a fairy tale. Beams of sunlight landed on the water, making it sparkle as if filled with tiny diamonds. We met another woman who told us there were several waterfalls on the trail leading us to Wahkeena Falls. We eagerly continued down the path.

The Larch Mountain Trail was a bit treacherous (there were signs warning of this, so it wasn’t completely unexpected.), and it went up and across, nearing the top of the mountain before zig-zagging back down to Wahkeena Falls.

Up until this point, Natalie mourned not being able to go to Eagle Creek. Its beauty and the trail during the trek are breathtaking. On the Larch Mountain trail, amidst the trees still blackened by fire, Natalie found the same kind of thrill she experienced at Eagle Creek. The trail was far less crowded than the trek up to Multnomah. It was sketchy in areas, parts of it were still covered in snow, and it had a bit of danger and don’t-look-down moments. It was what she wanted all along, yet she would have never found it if she’d passed up seeing Multnomah.

The hike ended up being much longer than we anticipated (about eight miles) and we didn’t make it home when we were supposed to, but it was well worth it.

While Natalie and I were hiking up Larch Mountain, my oldest daughter, Katie, was at home and facing a trail she didn’t want to go down. Katie had a meeting she dreaded because it involved having a conversation she didn’t want to have. She had called me earlier, telling me she didn’t think she could go through with it. I understood. I’d been there before. My advice to her: “My only concern is how you’re going to feel if you don’t go through with it.” I wasn’t worried so much with the end result of the conversation as I was with what would happen to my daughter’s confidence and sense of self-worth if she didn’t follow through.

All I could do was pray. God knew what my daughter needed, and He knew what the other person involved needed to hear.

Katie made it to her meeting. She spoke what was on her heart. It was well received. None of the bad scenarios Katie had played out in her mind came to pass.

She made it to the top of the hill, and the view was better than she had ever hoped.

How many times is life like the trail we didn’t think was worth our time, or the conversation we didn’t think we could have? If we overcome our assumptions, misconceptions and fears, what we will we find at the top of the hill? At the end of the trail?

An unexpected waterfall.

A breathtaking view.

A new sense of self-confidence.

Maybe we will find a surprise God has for us. He is the One who knows what’s in our best interest, and He waits for us to find our way. We only need to show up and put one foot in front of the other.

Show me your ways, Lord,
    teach me your paths.
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
    for you are God my Savior,
    and my hope is in you all day long.

Psalm 25:4-5

Five Things I Learned from Snowmageddon 2019

I survived Snowmageddon 2019! And I learned a few things along the way…

Our house after the storm. Notice the fallen tree branches in the yard, some of which first fell on our house but then slid off early in the storm.

The area where I live was hit with a massive snowstorm Sunday night/Monday morning. We ended up with nearly two feet of snow at my home—the most I’ve seen in my 35 years of living here. Since the Willamette Valley is not prepared for significant snow fall, a storm like the one we had this week brings havoc. Major highways closed down, thousands (including our household) were without power for days, and many continue to be without power as I write this. Schools, government offices and businesses closed. Many have been stranded at home, unable to leave due to the roads.

It’s been hard. It’s been fun. It’s been eye-opening. Here’s a few things I learned this week:

#1) Even if the weatherman cries wolf for weeks, don’t ignore the forecast. The snow took my family by surprise. It seemed we’d been threatened with snow for weeks, but to all the school children’s disappointment, those forecasts never materialized. Thankfully, I had just gone grocery shopping over the weekend but we were lacking in batteries, candles, and lantern oil. We had a generator, but limited fuel on hand. Monday morning, the only store open in town was BiMart (they have a backup generator.) We were able to go buy some supplies to see us through the power outage. If we didn’t have a truck with four-wheel drive we wouldn’t have made it to the store.

Our drive home from the store on Monday. Not pictured: the multiple fallen trees and vehicles in ditches we passed.

#2) Weather emergencies are like Christmas, but without the pressure. Okay, I know that sounds weird but hear me out. My entire family was stuck in the house together for days—without the use of our three televisions or Wifi. We spent quality time together. We are fortunate enough to have a gas stove, so I was able to make meals, and we sat together and ate them by lamplight. It didn’t matter what I cooked, everyone was happy to simply have food. It didn’t matter if the house was dirty—no one cared, and we couldn’t see much of it by candlelight anyway. I listened to my three daughters talk and laugh while they worked together to boil water and wash dishes. My heart was full.

I started a group text with my sisters and stepmom at the beginning of the storm, and we text-talked more than we had in months, keeping tabs on each other and how the storm was affecting our different areas (one sister and my step-mom and dad live south of us and were hit with the snow, my other sister lives in Nevada and had shingles flying off her roof during a major wind storm.) We shared pictures. We joked. We sympathized. It was like Christmas but without the pressure of gift exchanging.

#3) Social media can be helpful. I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook. Most of my dislike of the social platform is that breeds drama and keeps people from having real relationships. During this storm, however, I saw how valuable Facebook could be. Through our local community Facebook page, people shared information about road conditions and what was opened or closed. People who were stranded and in dire need received help by reaching out (or someone else reached out on their behalf) and the community came together and made a difference. It was a beautiful thing to witness. Which brings me to two things I already knew but that this storm served to remind me: I have great neighbors and live in a close-knit community. These are things that should never be taken for granted.

#4) People are good. Really, most people have good hearts, and a crisis can sometimes be the thing that brings it to light. In addition to the community support I mentioned above, in our construction business we saw lots of grace. Customers were understanding of their projects being delayed. General contractors were gracious about us missing our billing deadline. Our employees were gracious about the fact that we couldn’t get payroll done in time. Our accountant was gracious and gave us extra time to turn in our tax stuff, even though that puts her under a tighter deadline. Seriously, not one grumble among them all. This may not seem like a big deal to some, but to this perfectionist who has nightmares about missed deadlines, it was amazing.

#5) On a personal note, I learned that my dog has a guardian angel and that I really can run if necessary. We have miniature schnauzer, Cyrus, who is a notorious escape artist. It’s like he was taught by Houdini himself—if there’s a way out of our yard, he will find it. His picture has been posted on Facebook so many times under “found dog” that I really should make him his own page. I’ve always been amazed that during his escapades he doesn’t get hit by a car.

The arbor over our fish pond collapsed, creating a debris and flush-filled mess.

During the Snowmageddon, my husband, youngest daughter and I were in the backyard, along with our two dogs. I was raking snow off the chicken coop so it wouldn’t collapse and my daughter was on her swing. My husband, who was shoveling snow off of our flat roofed garage, happened to glance toward our slush-filled pond. He saw that Cyrus had fallen in and was quickly sinking. He alerted me and I ran (or something like it) in nearly two feet of snow to Cyrus’ rescue. I grabbed his paws and pulled him out. If it had been even one minute later, he’d have drowned. My husband isn’t sure what caused him to look over at the pond, but I know Who did. Cyrus is one blessed doggy.

And we are one blessed family.

What about you? Do you have a Snowmageddon story?


Like these daffodils, hope persists. . . even when we are hit by destructive storms.

Where’s the Easy Button?

Looking for the easy way out seems to be human nature. Why plan healthy, balanced meals and exercise when we can go on a fad diet or take some “miracle” supplement to lose weight? Why create a budget (and live by it) when we have that awesome credit card with six months free interest? Why find creative activities to do with our kids when we can hand them an electronic device and continue with our day?

I don’t know about you, but I’ve chosen the easy way out many times.

Often we also take the easy way out with Jesus. We’re happy to have him leading us, until He asks us to do something uncomfortable or difficult. The pastor of my church gave an illustration of this last Sunday. In his illustration, he held a toy car and a miniature figurine to represent Jesus. He showed how when we first get saved, we are excited to let Jesus in the car, and we have him sit by us in the front seat. But then Jesus starts giving us directions, and we don’t listen. We don’t really want him telling us all these things to do, so we put Him in the backseat, where it’s not as easy for Him to interrupt us. Jesus, however, is a backseat driver when needed and He keeps telling us where to turn and when to stop. That’s not convenient, so we put him in the trunk. In the confinement of the trunk, Jesus’ voice won’t be heard over the sound of the engine as we go merrily on our way. Of course, as soon as we get in trouble and need a bit of assistance, we pull over and get Him out again, at least for a time.

We are warned against the easy path in the popular Bible verse:

“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”


Matthew 7:13-14.

It’s not easy to go through the narrow gate. Sometimes every fiber of our being screams against it. The world assures us it’s not the way to go.

I believe which path we take is a decision we make every single day when we get up in the morning. Will I do the right thing today, or the easy thing? Will I make choices that create a better future, or the ones that make today more comfortable? Sometimes we are fortunate and the right thing happens to be easy, but most of the time it’s the difficult path that leads to life—real, meaningful, fulfilling life.

When we let Jesus not only in the front seat, but behind the wheel (cue Carrie Underwood’s song) then we will know that even though the road may be full of potholes, the scenery occasionally stark, and the rain on the windshield blinding us, we’re going to end up where we are supposed to be.

Safe in the arms of Jesus.

Footprints

sea beach holiday vacation

I knew the Footprints in the Sand poem before I ever read the bible. My grandma had a version of the famous poem in her home. We didn’t go to church, but small glimpses of who God is were a part of my childhood. Many years later, as an adult and a Christian, my husband and children bought me a bible cover with the Footprints poem etched in it. It was a full circle: from a seed of hope planted in my heart as a child, to a woman of God empowered by His word. I could truly look back on my life and see the stretches of one set of footprints, and know that God was carrying me during those most difficult times.

Wouldn’t it be nice to write, “happily ever after,” after that moment of enlightenment? But of course, that’s not the way it works.

Honestly, the poem has graced the cover of my study bible with barely a glimpse at its words for the last several years. During this time, passage after passage in my bible has been highlighted, underlined, bracketed. My understanding of God has deepened, rooted, grown. During trials I have turned to Psalms and familiar passages for comfort and guidance.

Until recently.

A current trial has knocked me off my feet, sent my arms flailing. The highlights and red marks in my bible have blurred through the veil of my tears. . . until I was finally led to a previously unmarked passage of scripture. Psalm 77:19:

Your path led through the sea

your way through the mighty waters,

though your footprints were not seen.

Invisible footprints. The psalmist was referring to God parting the Red Sea for the Israelites to escape the Egyptian army, but the psalm in its entirety is about being comforted through the hard times by remembering what God has done in the past.

For the first time in years, I read the Footprints poem on the front of my bible. I remembered the seed planted in my youth, nurtured through my adulthood. I remembered all the impossible things God has carried me through.

Though I may be in a situation that looks daunting, He is parting the mighty waters and creating a path to freedom and peace.

One set of footprints, but never alone.

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Let’s Get Uncomfortable

I love the way God works when He wants to speak to us. For me, it often means being hit over the head with the same information in different formats multiple times. Okay, maybe “hit over the head” is a little extreme. Perhaps it’s subtle, but definitely not missed.

For instance, I’m currently reading Goliath Must Fall by Louie Giglio. Before I started the book, I asked myself, “What are my giants?” The first—and only—one that came to mind was fear. Not surprisingly, fear is the first giant Giglio writes about.

What did surprise me is that I have more giants than I realized. I lumped them all together under the name of fear, but it turns out rejection is also one of my giants. Thinking about my history, a giant of rejection makes sense.

The giant that took me by surprise, the one I didn’t realize was causing me any problems was comfort.

Whoa. Comfort is bad?

Yes, it can be, because “faith thrives in holy discomfort.

Giglio says one of the ways we battle the giant of comfort is to align ourselves with God. He quotes John 9:4, “We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us. The night is coming, and then no one can work.” (NLT). Giglio points out that we need to be intentional about who we align ourselves with, about what we spend our time doing and how we prioritize our life.

Then I came upon this motivational speech by Matthew McConaughey. I don’t watch many videos, but had to watch this one because he’s one of my favorite actors. While he doesn’t talk about David and Goliath, I found much of what he said reverberating with what God was speaking to me about the giant of comfort.

McConaughey says twice during the short video: “Where you are not is just as important as where you are.”

He talks about the things we find ourselves doing out of habit—out of comfort—that aren’t good for us; things or people that keep us from being who we are supposed to be. It’s a speech that feels geared toward the young, but it’s a good message for us all, especially us middle-age-ish ones who have found a degree of success and a comfortable life.

Comfort is deadly to our soul if we choose it over the path God has set before us.