*March 12th will mark the one year anniversary of my Mom's death. In an effort to avoid my usual "milestone approaching" behavior of hiding in bed and eating lots of carbs, I'm celebrating the 12 Days of Mom. As a part of my celebration, I will be writing one of my favorite memories about Mom here each day. These are random tidbits of all the awesome that was my Mom. I'll think you'll like reading more about her. If you're new to reading my blog, proceed with caution. You will find lots of casual writing fraught with grammatical errors. I serve as editor-in-chief around here, which would make any of my high school English teachers shudder.
I was 19 years old when I saw the Rocky Mountains for the first time. I fell madly, deeply, head over heels in love with them. Truthfully, I had a big, giant crush on the entire state of Colorado.
The summer following my freshman year of college I participated in a college student discipleship program in St. Louis, MO. The program include intense small group bible study, leadership training, a job, and a ministry placement. We were busy. Also, the job was at Six Flags Mid-America. I could write around 25 posts just on that experience alone. "Gooooood morning! (afternoon, evening) welcome to THUNDER river!" Next time you are visiting a theme park, and you ride a water ride? Take an extra moment and thank the ride attendee. He or she has probably been there most of the day standing in wet shoes.
While my job was not my all time favorite, my ministry placement was definitely favorite. I worked as a jr. high ministry intern with a large church. It was this group that took me on my maiden voyage to Colorado. It was an amazing trip. And all I could think about was how in the world I was going to get back there. One morning, during a meeting for all the adults at camp, the ministry running the camp shared about a new opportunity that would be available for the following summer. "The Rock at Ute Trail Ranch". "The Rock" (most all the staff rebuffed the name and called it "Ute Trail") would be a backpacking camp catering to youth groups. Bring your whole group for a time of bonding and spiritual growth in the wilderness of Colorado. I could hardly believe my ears. I started praying right then and there that somehow I would get to work there. It would be a loooooong shot. I had only anecdotal backpacking experience (sort of like most people in college), and after all, I was on my very first trip to Colorado ever. None of it daunted me. I stalked that camp like a 7th grade ex-girlfriend. The minute applications came available, I filled mine out. And then I started waiting...
Against all odds and the better judgment of the camp leadership I was hired to be a guide at Ute Trail. Again, I could veer off here and write about 100 posts about my time there. But, I'm sure by now you're wondering what in the world this has to do with Mom.
My decision to go to a brand new camp in the middle of nowhere Colorado was met with hesitation from most people in my life. But not Mom. Here's the thing about Mom, she would take an adventure anywhere she could get it. And while I'm a more cautious version of her, deep in my bones, I love an adventure myself.
In order to get myself and all of my gear to Lake City, Colorado, it was going to cost way more than we had for me to fly. I was unsure about how any of it was going to work out. That's when Mom made "the decision". It was crazy. It was not popular. Looking back, I'd say it wasn't super fair to my siblings. Mom decided she and I would drive cross country to Colorado. She would drop me off at camp and then make the return trip on her own. Oh yes. She did.
Our trip out to Colorado ranks at the very top of the list when it comes to memories. It was a hilarious trip. We loaded Mom's car with enough stuff to last me a summer and then we threw in a case of Slim Fast shakes to drink on the way. I know that seems like it might not be true, but all of the story is exactly what happened.
Our first day we drove through Kentucky and to St. Louis. We stayed the night at Missouri Baptist College, where I lived the summer before. Mom was able to meet some of the important folks from that summer. It was amazing to have her there.
The next day we embarked on what would be the longest day of our lives. You want to know why? Because we had to drive across Kansas. I don't know if you've ever driven across Kansas. If you haven't, I warn you, never do it. You might love Kansas. And I'm sure off the beaten path there are many hidden treasures in Kansas. But along the interstate, where your drive straight for 11 million hours? Mind.numbing. We became completely delirious.
We drove, and drove, and drove. Finally, we crossed the border into Eastern Colorado, which by the way, bears a striking resemblance to Kansas. I needed those mountains to come into view. I needed to remember why I decided to do this crazy thing anyway. As we moved westward (feeling pretty much like pioneers...) the mountains appeared. We oohed and ahhed. And then we laughed hysterically, because, WE DROVE ACROSS THE COUNTRY! By this time we were starving, and then by the time we got to dinner, we were so exhausted we could barely eat.
We spent the night in Colorado Springs (with me declaring in that very 19 year old way that I would live there someday...I haven't been back since...) and the next morning we began our journey to Ute Trail. And it was quite a journey. There was almost too much awesome to take in. Beautiful scenery everywhere. As we crept higher in elevation, the roads got more narrow and windier. "What are we doing here??" we kept asking each other!
As we pulled into Ute Trail, I heard my mom draw in her breath. The place, quite frankly was a bit of a shambles. Part of our work for the summer would be repairing some of the buildings and other structures on the campus. Mom met the director and his family. She met a friend of mine from the summer before. She got to spend the night in one of the cabins with me. Gah! When I really stop to remember-what an unbelievable thing she did for me.
The next morning she was leaving early. She had a very long drive back to Tennessee, all on her own. As I walked her out of the cabin she grabbed me and started crying really big, loud sobs. So loud they echoed up and down the valley at the crack of dawn. "Shhhh!!", I kept saying. She insisted that she was not leaving me in that "God forsaken" place. She told me it wasn't too late. I could just get in the car and go right back home with her. It was tempting. I didn't want to let her go. She had been my cheerleader in this endeavor. She encouraged when no one else did. She even made me stationary so I could write my friends. (You know, in the dark ages before readily accessible email...) The one person who really believed I could do it was about to get in her car and drive away.
I needed her a whole lot that summer. She pushed me to finish what I started when I wanted to quit. She listened, tirelessly, to me download everything I was experiencing. She wrote me letters.
All of us need that one person-that person who believes in you so much it comes out of them when they're around. My summer on the heights...brought to me by Mom.