Tuesday, January 17, 2012

"Almost Heaven, West Virginia"

I don't know if I totally agree with John Denver, but West Virginia is an excellent place to visit. This weekend, Andrew and I and our buddy Bogle headed up into the gnarly mountains with a host of our friends from church for a weekend full of snow, Killer Bunnies, and Settlers of Catan.

Image via TheGameBoardNut.com  /  Image via TheDoorYard.typepad.com

Fifteen of us in a cabin, fifteen minutes from a very pleasant ski lodge. Ten inches of snow, and constant flurries for three days. Excellent.

I have been skiing only once before, my senior year of high school. Well, I've been water skiing more times than I can count. Snow skiing, only once. Our church friends all lived in Montana or Colorado at one time or another, so they're all professional winter explorers. I don't even own snow pants.

 My plunge into the world of winter sports was rather intense, so let's play a game of pretend. First, pretend you woke up at 6 in the morning on a Saturday to drive four hours through ridiculously curvy mountain roads to West Virginia, watching the snow increase as you go. Then, pretend the people in the town you're staying in decided not to salt the roads, so some idiot in front of you decided to slam on his brakes, necessitating your brakes and a not-so-graceful slide into a (thankfully) nearby parking lot. Let's pretend you're nauseated, and not sure if you're planning to ski at all.

You make it up the incline driveway to the lodge, where your large group of friends, having arrived the previous night, are currently leaving to go skiing. Um, okay. We'll change and meet you at White Grass.

 Let's pretend the world is white; a glorious, sparkly white, and all the plants look like cotton in high summer.

Now, let's hike up a mountain. All the way to the top, about a thousand foot ascent. Up a steep slope, which is bumpy, covered in snow, and occasionally slick with ice. Except your feet are five feet long and four inches wide. Ah. How to get up the mountain? You have to maneuver your absurdly long and skinny feet into something resembling ballet's second position (spread your legs wide and point your toes out), and walk like a duck up the mountain trail. Um, gravity. So you must hold your ski poles behind you and push up so you can take a step. Come on, triceps! For three hours. Not all so steep, but all continuously up, and sometimes the trail is slanted sideways. For the gradual slopes, you can just slide your skis forward, like skating, which is a relief from duck-walking. Climbing a mountain in your skis. Who knew?

I discovered that cross-country skiing is one of the absolute best cardio exercises. One website claims it burns between 600 and 700 calories per hour. That's more than running. And my triceps and thighs felt it, for sure!

The view (which I could not possible express well in a picture, even had I thought to bring my camera skiing), was incredible. A panorama of snow-covered mountains and valleys, and a wind so cold my face hurt. Absolutely worth the workout.

Going back down the mountain was accomplished in a third the time it took to climb, but it was also, in many ways, more frustrating for me. The ascension took nothing but gritting my teeth and burning my muscles. We took a much more gradual path down, so descending was a combination of fighting for control on the first few curves and slopes, and then having to skate my skis and tired legs on parts that were not quite steep enough to actually ski down. The skiing parts were great, but Bogle and I agreed we actually preferred the uphill.

And then, we slept.
We also went snow shoeing, which sounds cool, but just means walking around in snow shoes.
They look ridiculous.

But you can walk around in some lovely places.

A frozen lake near our cabin.

A not-so-frozen creek nearby.

The partially frozen Sweenys.

The moral of the story? I'm glad I went.

Our friend Elissa also blogged about the weekend; her pictures are worth seeing here or here.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Radical Monotony

This year, I turn 24. Achingly close to the culturally-acclaimed pinnacle of my life and looks.
What am I doing with my one wild and adventurous life?

I am learning to be married, praying for healthy children soon, and working 40 hours a week loving on the toddlers of other 20-somethings who make more money than I do.

I am not ashamed of my job; on most days, I enjoy it--but when I compare my journey with the journeys of others I know, my heart grows dark. My best friend Lindsay (who always will be cooler than me) works in South Korea, living her dream, romping with crazy awesome new friends and soaking in a foreign culture. Another bestie, Elizabeth, spent all of 2011 on the World Race, loving on hundreds of kids, romping with crazy awesome people, eating bugs, speaking truth to the hopeless, and soaking in a dozen foreign cultures. My husband is spending his hours studying to become a doctor, so he can love on people and save their lives for the rest of his life.

I blog, but only for my own enjoyment: I know I'm not a fantastic story teller, or any sort of photographer at all. What this means is that, to the world, and to hip cultural Christianity, I am boring. My mundane life wouldn't bother me if the internet weren't full of Christians just as caught up in wanderlust as our culture: this desire to go, be, to live an orgy of experiences and adventures and then settle down to a plaid-wearing spouse and write best-selling books about how you met God in Cambodia.

But, reader, I can't believe that Jesus calls me away from the life I am now living. I have never felt a call to overseas missions; my personality and talents are much better suited for one-on-one relationships in a small community. I don't want, or feel the tug on my soul, to learn another language and move to a jungle. And, reader, I don't believe this negates God's call and purpose for my life.

Andrew Byers, in his excellent article "We Need Boring Christians," (go read it) reminds us that "Radical discipleship is not adventure tourism." Jesus, by changing my heart and calling me to himself in forgiveness, has already called me to a radical life. But my radical life right now doesn't look radical. But, reader, I am free in Christ to live a mundane life where He has placed me and my family. I am free to work, to help my husband pay the bills as he studies all day to pass his medical boards. I am free to be a servant to people I don't know, and to their children -- many of them Muslims. I am free to follow and strive to be like Jesus in the small way He has called me to in this season. I am free to trust and struggle on the dark days.

I hope this monotony of daily living and trusting is never shameful to me.