Lorraine

Over the past few months, there has been a lot of talk about strong women.  It has been my goal for the last few years to become a stronger woman, both professionally and in mountain climbing.  I’ve spent a lot of time pushing myself and trying to become someone to look up to.  With the defeat of Hillary, however, I’ve thought of the women in my own life who I look up to: who are my female role models?

The first woman I think of is Lorraine, a fierce woman with a sweet southern accent who I met when I was sixteen.  It was her accent, and accompanying charm, that first drew me to Lorraine.  I thought she was just a sweet old lady but when I heard her story I was instantly drawn in by her bravery and strength in the face of life’s challenges.

After growing up in a poor Southern family, Lorraine went to college where she met Taylor, a paratrooper who had recently returned from the post-war occupation of Japan.   They fell in love and married before returning to Japan as a couple.  With a twinkle in his eye, Taylor once told me that their college was “like a shoe factory, they bring in lost soles and turn them out in pairs!”

There were so few Americans in the Japan at that time that the only English-Japanese dictionary Lorraine could find was the one published for the GI’s serving in there.  Apparently there were quite a few colorful phrases mixed in with the helpful ones! She soon realized that if she wanted to learn the language she would have to create her own primer.  After years of diligent study this sweet small woman with a southern accent spoke Japanese so well, people who she met over the phone would come to her house shocked to see an American standing at the door.  Where was the Japanese woman they had spoken to?

Lorraine and her husband served the Japanese people for fifty years, raising their family in the country and planting a few small churches.   In order to raise money for their small congregations, Lorraine would sew all sorts of things to sell at bazaars: place mats, bags, pillow cases, and clothing.  She realized that the Japanese valued the high quality American made fabric so when she made a trip back to the states, she would drive up and down the East Coast looking for discarded scraps and samples she could put to use.

As an American in a post-war Japan that had shunned outsiders for thousands of years, Lorraine must have faced extreme loneliness.  Without the benefit of the internet, news from home would take weeks to arrive and there would be no Youtube to check back into American culture.  Japan had truly become her home and she made no plans to return to the States for anything but visits.

When I met Lorraine she and her husband were in their seventies, forced to return to the States to be close to family due to Taylor’s chronic illness brought on by years of sacrificial labor.  Though she was getting on in years, she hadn’t slowed down. Once again she set to work volunteering wherever she could at her local church: in children’s classes, by baking hundreds of cinnamon rolls for Easter Sunday and by teaching young children how to sew.

When she developed health issues of her own she kept her pace up as normal, only stopping to apologize that she wasn’t as strong as normal because she was getting toward the end of her medication’s cycle and was waiting for her next dose.

It was during this phase of life that I watched this woman.   I watched her stand by Taylor in the midst of his illness, standing strong when he was out of strength and advocating for him when he was without a voice.  I watched her when she became sick and when family troubles came their way.

By today’s standards, Lorraine would be considered a woman stifled by marriage, religion and children.  Yet you wouldn’t know it from meeting her.  She was constantly smiling, singing and encouraging those around her in her sweet southern drawl.  Although she shared her sorrows with me, I never once heard her complain.  Her life was one that was good because she knew a good God who led her each step of the way.  No, she did not run a corporation or crush world records but she did what she could to help those around her and brought sunshine along the way.

This strong woman is one I am proud to know.

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Best of 2016

 

Best Climb–Glacier Peak

34 miles round trip and beauty in every part of it.  The trail starts off in an old growth forest where if you walk quietly, you can hear the giants whispering their ancient wisdom.  Next you climb into an alpine meadow, where miniature trees and flowers that have been tended by the very hand of God reward your eye in every direction.  As you come to the top of the pass, you are greeted by the view of surrounding mountains in every direction, white and blue and green.  Finally, when you crest the last hill and start the long walk across the glacier, you are rewarded with rock and ice formation that demand aweful respect.  A difficult trip but worth every moment.

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Best Climbing Buddies–Matt & Melanie

These two bring laughter and encouragement wherever they go…and on this particular climb they brought ice cream.  While we might have accidentally bought the exact same mountaineering boots, we are all quite different in a way that compliments.  They challenge us to push ourselves harder and to take time to relax and enjoy the scenery.

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Best Home away from Home–the Himalaya

This is the place we always long to return to, the place where our second family lives.  How does one describe a people and place that has captured your heart?

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Best Trek–Pokhara ABC in 3 days!

Normally a five day trek, we pushed up to Annapurna Base Camp in three hard, long days.  Likely the most difficult hike we’ve ever done but so rewarding.

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Best Friends

Shout-out to all the people who have supported and loved us through the last year.  Though we may not have glamorous photos to display of you, know that you are loved and appreciated.  In fact, your friendship is the fuel for our adventure.

When God says no

Whenever my birthday rolls around my sweet friend Kelli always asks, “What was the pit and the peak of your year.”  Its a great question because too often we can focus on one or the other and get life out of perspective.

I wrote my last post coming off a summer of summits.  This post was written a few weeks back while I was in the pit of my year. While I hesitate to share something so personal, I feel that its only fair that you see the complete person, struggles and successes.

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A couple of months ago,  life hit Andy and I with something completely unexpected, unanticipated and out of our control.   We had spent the summer hitting all our summits, life was good and there was nothing we couldn’t accomplish.  But when this struck, we went from feeling like we were on top of the world to being knocked down to our knees.

For the better part of a week, we begged God to take make it better, to take away the trial, to do a miracle like only He could do.  But in a moment when time seemed to stand still He said no and our world stood still.

dsc03965-001The problem was that time did not stop.  I was scheduled to boarded a plane to Southeast Asia just nine days later, without Andy, for a backpacking trip through the Himalayas.  I was going  to tell people about the God of love.  The God who had just told me no.  It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

Somehow I was able to tough it out during the trip–it was a rough week but I pushed my emotions down and by God’s grace and with the help of my amazing team, I was able to make it through the week.  But instead of feeling engaging with the incredible people and sights I was encountering, I was struggling to make it through each day. God was able to work through this trip and bring forth fruits, despite my brokenness.

dsc04000-001With an experience like this, the emotions wait for you and now that life has gotten back to a normal rhythm, the pain is still there.  All the grief, tears and emptiness have come back to remind me of the time God refused to answer my most desperate pleas.

So what do you do when God says no?  How do you read the Bible when all the words seem empty and lifeless?  When really, all you want to do is sit on the couch, eat ice cream and scroll through some mindless Facebook posts?  These have been the questions circling around my mind.

This I call to mind  and therefore I have hope:

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassion never fail.
They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  

dsc04081-001This verse is like cool water for my thirsty soul.  It’s a reminder that I can stand on is the faithfulness I have seen God show in times past.  I cannot see His kindness in this moment, but I know that He is kind.  I cannot see His mercy, but I know He is merciful.

I don’t know why He has put me in this situation but I can look back over all the hard times in my life and see how He has carefully woven them together for my good.  And over and over I remind myself of the truth I have learned through many a storm: knowing Jesus is better than anything else in this life.

And then I whisper, “Lord, help that to be true.”

 

Don’t Follow Me

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In a world of Insta-fame, Snapchat scores and beautifully curated Facebook profiles, the amount of “my life is perfect” messages getting sent over my phone can get overwhelming.  What started out as a way to connect with friends has become a competition for likes and comments.  I can find myself asking, How is it that this other chick who climbs mountains has six thousand more Instagram followers than I do when they are not as accomplished?  and Why do I have to look like such a dork all the time?  But the real question is, What has happened to me??

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I am realizing that that no matter how many virtual followers you have, nothing beats a good old-fashioned hang out.  Belly laughs and heart to hearts just don’t happen on social media.  As I get older, time with friends get harder to schedule due to work, kids and all other sorts of annoying things.  But true friendships are worth waiting for.  I may not hear back from my girlfriend for eight hours but when she finally does text, “Wow, I’ll be praying for you” I know it’s not an empty platitude.

So I’m quitting the social media game. Don’t worry, I realize that I am living in the 21st century so I won’t be deleting my accounts completely but I’m not going to ask you to follow me on Instagram, to share my posts on Facebook or to find me on Snapchat.  It’s time for me to go back to being simply Laura.

Laura, the girl who loves ice cream and sunshine and has trouble getting out of bed when its rainy.  The girl who laughed when Andy suggested she climb Mt. Hood with him but has since climbed 16 of the NW’s tallest peaks.  The graveyard worker who has a chronic case of jet-leg, the crisis worker who struggles to process the amount of trauma, darkness and grief she encounters on a daily basis, and the girl who has to push down her emotions and take charge at work and then struggles in her personal life to find the balance between withdrawing completely from relationships and being a beoch.

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If you are looking for the perfect girl who has everything figured out, then good luck and sayonara (did I mention I’m blunt?).  Here you are going to find the crazy girl who married way out of her league, says ridiculous things at the dinner table, is always looking for a good adventure and who doesn’t understand the meaning of slow.

I am Laura, take me or leave me but please don’t follow me.

 

6 years down,74 to go….

Today we are celebrating our sixth anniversary.  While I realize that in the realm of anniversaries this is a rather small one, it still makes me feel old.  Young people don’t celebrate six years of marriage.  Besides, my memory has been altered to the point where its hard to remember LBA (life before Andy).

Over the last six years we have had more adventures than we could have ever imagined, challenges we have tackled together and a few low points we would prefer to forget.  But overall, God has shown us incredible grace in giving us an awesome marriage.  I call it God’s grace because we are both have difficult, stubborn, type-A personalities and by all accounts we should be at each other’s throats.

While I fully expect to reach year twenty and laugh at my quaint, naive post, I thought I would share a couple of things we have learned over the last few years together.

Remember that you are a team.  This is probably the #1 principal that has helped our marriage.  When you got married you tied your life inseparably to your partners so what is good for them is good for you and vice versa.  Instead of looking at an issue as my interests vs his, try to look at it with the motive of the best possible outcome for you both as a team.  When you and your spouse are on the same team one may have to sacrifice but no one looses.

Ask yourself if it’s really worth a fight. Sure, your husband forgot to pick his underwear off the bedroom floor or your wife spilled coffee on your car seats again, but 30 years from now is that what you will remember?  Talk it out but keep things in perspective.

Choose to believe that your partner has your best interest in mind. This can be hard to remember when you are in the midst of a disagreement, you are sleep-deprived or the topic is emotionally charged.

Make your spouse a priority. I’ve worked nights and weekends for the majority of our marriage, which means Andy and I rarely have any normal days off together.  I’ve had the option to move to an afternoon shift but that would mean I would see less of Andy so I have sacrificed good sleep for consistent time with him.  For his part, Andy plans his weekends around getting home around the time I wake up.

Play together. It can take time to find a hobby that you share and often one spouse is way more interested in the hobby before the other one is.  Before we got married, my idea of a hike was a 2-mile excursion on a paved trail with a backpack full of snacks and drinks.  As I ventured out of my comfort zone I discovered a love for the outdoors.  Hunting, autocross and cooking are among some of our failed shared-hobby experiences but we had fun trying!

Remember that your spouse cannot fulfill all of your needs.  No matter how awesome your spouse is, he or she can never fill that need for love and respect in your heart.  If you thought that when you got married you would never feel lonely, disappointed or unloved, you will be disappointed.  Maintain good friendships to fill the need for some good girltalk or brotime.  Ultimately though, only Jesus can fill those deepest needs in your heart so don’t forget to make time for Him in your day.  A couple quiet minutes reading your Bible or journaling out some angst can make a world of difference.

Have lots of sex.  What’s the deal in Christian circles about women acting like they don’t enjoy sex?!  It’s like the unspoken secret in the church.  Sex is a gift to both of you and both of you should enjoy it and look forward to it.  Not only is it awesome but it can act like a reset button in a marriage, bringing a couple back to a place of unity.

There is so much more I could say here but I just brought up the s-word so I know ya’ll aren’t listening anymore.

Andrew Pierson, you have been the best thing that has ever happened to me and I am so thankful for you!  Thanks for working hard to lead our team well.  You are still my dream come true.  I can’t wait to see what adventures lie ahead.

{goodbye Amber}

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I lost a friend today.

I met Amber just over a year ago when I was assigned to train her at work but our relationship was more than just coworkers.  She often called me her sister, though she couldn’t decide who was the older sister:  “I feel like you are my big sister because you are teaching me everything but then we start talking  and its like you are my little sister!”  After we had exhausted all the training she could handle for one night, we would spend the quiet hours of graveyard talking about everything from politics to our love stories.

She had a fierce love for her husband Ryan, somehow being both proud and protective of him at the same time.  She had seen him through cancer treatment and he was her everything.  And she was crazy about her kids–her horses Attitude, Tucker, Pony and Baron, and her dog Pebbles.  They were the lights of her  life and the hardest part of getting sick for her was being away from them.

Amber reminded me to live, to laugh and to take life less seriously.  I am so honored that she allowed me into her life.  I felt like I was just getting to know her when she got sick, like our friendship was cut off by tragedy.  I will always remember the day we sat on her porch swing watching the horses graze and she told me, “Laura I am afraid.  I don’t want to leave Ryan alone.”

Somehow she knew that I have a hard time talking about my emotions but she could figure me out anyway.  If she were here she would ask me about it then make me laugh.  “It’s okay–we don’t have to talk about it–I’ll get some chocolate.”  Somehow I would know she understood and that would be enough.

Goodbye Amber, my sweet friend and big sister.  I will miss you.

 

{Laura}

happy mom’s day

If you have not met my mom, you are missing out.   She is an incredible woman and I would not be the person I am today without her.  Why?

My mom is incredibly real and she would be the first person to tell you that she is not perfect.  Over the years I saw her struggle with the social expectations around her–longing to be desired but hating the duplicity they required.  But its this quality that I appreciate most about my mom because it means I can come to her with any problem and know she will respond with patience and wisdom.  No judgement, just love and truth.

She gave up her career to raise and educate eight crazy kids. She traded in a profitable profession for cloth diapers, endless loads of laundry, lesson planning, late-night tears and pinching every penny.  I still remember the day she cried because her toddler put all five pairs of brand new shoes into the garbage.

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She has stood by my Dad for over 30 years in better and worse.  Through all the crazy health issues and work transitions, the good days and the bad, she made it clear that her marriage was a priority.  It has been awesome to see how God has changed their relationship and their hearts over the years.

Again, she doesn’t pretend to be a super-mom who figured it out magically on her own.  If you see her sometime, ask her about her it about it.  I know she will tell you great stories of God’s grace.

 

{Laura}