Sunday, September 25, 2011

Keeping the Faith

Let me just start by saying that I like the feeling of being in control. I like to know what’s going on, have a plan, make decisions and feel that sense of accomplishment when everything goes just right. And taking control of certain things in life seems to work well. But that’s usually just the little things: what tasks I’m going to complete at work that day, how I will spend my money, what clothes I will wear, what food I will eat, what book I will read, how I'll spend a free Saturday afternoon. The bigger, more complex things in life are a little more complicated and much less controllable.

That is where faith comes into play. And I’ve been struggling with faith a lot lately. One of the core presuppositions of being a Christian is that we have faith in something bigger than us. God. An all-loving God. We are told that all we need is the faith of a mustard seed. We are led to walk by faith. We proclaim that it is by grace that we are saved, through faith. And we find reassurance in having faith in things unseen.

The idea of faith is good and nice and simple… but sometimes you get a little impatient. And the whole faith thing just doesn’t seem to be working. God isn’t pulling through for you, so you figure you’d better just take things back into your own hands. You’re lost in a dark place with no foreseeable end in sight. The clock is ticking. Time is wasting. You subtly clear your throat. You impatiently tap your fingers. Roll your eyes. Wave your hand in the air. And he just isn’t taking a hint.

In situations such as this I often think, “God’s too busy to deal with me right now. Or he doesn’t realize the importance and urgency of my situation. If he’s not going to handle this, then I will.” Somebody got to do something, right?!

So you take matters into your own hands. You try to put all of the pieces of the puzzle together. But you’re working so feverishly that the pieces are getting torn and flying all over the place. So now you have lots of missing pieces and you’re left with an incomplete puzzle. You can’t even see the whole picture!

Defeat. Utter defeat. You raise your hands in surrender. Then you sit down, unclench your fists, let your shoulders hang, and let go of the breath you didn’t even realize you were holding.

This is when I realize my madness. Sometimes I’m humiliated. Sometimes I just laugh at myself. Part of me wants to throw another punch in hopes that I can reclaim my power (which I never really had). But another part of me is so relieved that the fight is over. Because I’m exhausted. And I’m beat. And I am glad to put the situation back in God’s court.

The truth is, I like the feeling of being in control… on some level.  But I'm learning to let go of trying to control all aspects of my life.  And boy is it tough. But deep down (probably not even that deep down) I sure am glad that everything's not up to me.  That I'm not in complete control.  And that I don't have to worry.  I just have to have faith.

Walking in Faith
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
- Hebrews 11:1

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.
- Hebrew 11:8

Monday, September 19, 2011

Welcome Baby Henry!

Exactly one week ago, my newest little nephew Henry Woodall Starr was born to my sister Sarah and her husband Taylor in Waco.  Henry arrived on the morning of Monday, September 12th weighing in at 6 lbs 10 oz - so tiny!  It nearly killed me that I wasn't able to be there for his birth and I have yet to hold this little guy.  I will get to meet him when I go home for Christmas in a few months (although I look at flights to Texas everyday - especially when someone sends me a pic of him which makes me want to hold him right now).

Baby Henry, I know I haven't met you yet but Aunt Mary loves you already!  Can hardly wait to meet you!

The Starr family with their newest addition

Have you ever seen such a sweet big brother?

Aunt Emily and cousin Hannah with baby Henry... wish I could hold him! 

my 2 neices and 2 nephews... I'm one lucky aunt!

Look at that cute grin... you can't look at this picture and not smile yourself. 

What a good looking family!  Congrats Sarah, Taylor and Carter!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Mount Adams - Round 2

This weekend, a group of us traveled up to Washington to climb Mount Adams.  Last August I climbed Mount Adams for the first time and it was awesome - one of the best weekends I've had here in the Northwest.  I don't know if "awesome" is the word I would use to describe the climb this weekend...

The group was definitely awesome: me, Drew, his buddy Trung from Colorado, his coworker Kate, our friend Kiersten and my coworker West.  However, if I were to describe the climb in one word it would probably be: miserable.  I'm not really sure why this trip was a million times worse than the last time I climbed Adams... I think I'm going to attribute it to being exhausted after a long week and really busy Friday.  When we arrived at the trailhead just after midnight on Friday night/early Saturday morning, my absolute lack of sleep and delirium was obvious.  I seriously thought about skipping the climb and just sleeping in my car.  But I didn't drive all the way up there to back out and just sleep, so I gave my cheeks a few slaps to wake myself up, turned on my headlamp and trudged on with the rest of the crew.

There were several times along the way when I almost gave in and turned around, but my stuborness got the best of me and I kept going.  My boots were killing me (I've decided that my next big purchase will be mountaineering boots) so every step was literally painful.  Not to be dramatic, but I wanted to die.  I think this climb was the hardest thing I've ever done.  I was literally bribing myself to make it to the top: "Ok Mary, if you make it to the top, you can treat yourself to a pedicure... and a new pair of shoes... and Swirl frozen yogurt..."

But at the end of the day (well, actually it was around 10am) we summited the 12,281 mountain.  The torture was finally over and we could now head down the mountain.  We glacaded over 2,000 ft which made the trek down much faster (and also made my butt quite numb).  It was pretty hot that afternoon (especially once we got off of the snow and onto the rocky trail) and we kept having delusions of the end of the trail where our car was waiting for us and a cold stream to stick our aching feet in.  But we finally made it back to the car, drove out to Hood River, filled our craving for burgers and beer, then headed back to Portland where we crashed in our comfy beds and slept a good 12 hours.

West and I were talking about how funny it is how quickly you forget the pain of a miserable experience and quickly say, "That wasn't too bad... I'd climb that beast of a mountain again next week!"  I guess there's just something about conquering something that wasn't so easy to conquer.
If I could add one word to the "miserable" description, it would be: exhausting

Kiersten and West leading the way

Kate heading up the mountain as the sun is about to rise

Kate climbing her first mountain - pretty impressive!

West and Kiersten reaching the summit... I think this is right before West shed tears of joy and relief for surviving

West and I at the summit

Kiersten and I at the summit

The summiting crew

the most beautiful part of the climb

hiking out on the never-ending trail to the car

the group - minus Trung who forgot his sunglasses and had to turn around after sunrise

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Bayocean Spit Camping

I've decided on the new tradition of celebrating my birthday with a camping trip.  It all started last year by backpacking in Olympic National Park and continued this year at Bayocean Spit near Tillamook on the Oregon Coast.  Saturday afternoon, Megan, Kathy, West, Jason and I packed up the car and headed West until we came upon the Pacific Ocean.  We hiked about a mile down a dirt road, through some brush, over a little hill and onto the sand where we set up our camping area.

I've never actually camped on the beach (actually, I'm not even sure if it's legal), but it was so cool to just set up our tents on the sand, dig a pit for a camp fire, and lay back and relax as we listened to the ocean waves crashing just a hundred yards from us.  The sunset the first night was breath-taking.  It was a perfectly clear sky which turned bright colors of pink, orange and red as the sun set over the water.

There is something so refreshing about being out in nature with no sense of time and no obligations.  I'm definitely someone who like to use my time wisely and be productive, but for those three days I just relaxed and went with the flow.  So what did we do to fill our time?  Layed on the beach and read, sat around the campfire and talked, played frisbee, flew West's kiteboarding trainer kite (probably my favorite part of the weekend), cooked creative meals over the open fire, napped, and took long walks on the beach (seriously).  Sunday evening, I woke up from a nap to find Drew hanging out with the group - he had surprised me and come out to join the celebration!  I have such great friends.  They even made me a birthday smore with a candle in it and brough along little bottles of champagne (my favorite).

Thanks for joining in my birthday camping trip and for making it such a great start to my 26th year of life!