The Best Is Yet To Come

July 29, 2015

We spent this past week in Colorado with family and friends. For the first several nights, we’d gather at our house, Kyle cooking and everyone bringing something to share.

One of our nightly meals together!

We gather to Climb for Katrina. And before supper, I decide to offer a toast. As I raise my glass, my voice catches in my throat. Carol wraps her arm around my waist, offering strength and understanding of loved ones now gone. I smile at her as I continue and we toast to friends and family, Colorado and the Hope Hike, and then to Katrina and all that her life represented.


We end with cheers and hugs and laughter as kids scurry past to get food and drinks, then rush off to play again with friends.

When You Wonder What Remains

July 27, 2015


Last week was bittersweet. 

It was our tenth year – our final year – of the Hope Hike/Climb for Katrina, and as our week in Colorado progressed, I felt my emotions swinging on a pendulum. A year ago, we decided as a family that this would be it, our last hike. Afterwards, we would give away the rest of the money in the foundation we established in honor of my sister, Katie’s Club, and that would be it. At the time, it felt good and right, but the reality of it, the very finality of it, hit me hard this week.

Some dear friends
We were blessed to stay with dear friends this week – lots of laughter, children running rampant, shared meals and conversations a highlight of the week. And as one of them asks how I’m feeling about the final climb, I find ways to occupy my hands. Watching them plunge dishes into scalding soapy water, extracting them for a cool rinse, leaving them to dry on a well-worn plaid dishcloth distracts me from my feelings. I give a rote response, unable to articulate how I really feel. Later in the week at the pre-climb dinner, I find myself doing it again -- digging my nails into my hands, hoping the physical pain will stem the tide of emotions welling up, threatening to pull me back down in a tidal wave of grief. But late at night when the baby is up nursing yet again, or in the early light of dawn while I'm getting ready for the day and surreptitiously looking for spiders in our lower-level bathroom, I think a lot about my sister. She’s never far from me when I’m in the mountains, which is odd considering we were never there together.

Hard Beauty.

July 22, 2015

At first glance, this space is paradise: snowy mountain peaks rising above forests of conifers, crystalline blue lakes tucked into valleys, wild flowers carpeting meadows and open places with rainbow hues.

It isn't until your boots are crunching across rocks, your breath a little harder to catch than normal while scrambling up the trail, that you start to understand that there is something deeper to all of this undeniable beauty.  

Life at an altitude of 10,000 feet is hard.
 
Spindly conifers stretching tall and lean toward the sun live in precariously thin soil on rocky mountainsides. 

Delicate alpine wildflowers survive nightly temperatures have hover near freezing, even in July. 

Those incredible clouds rolling over the peak just yonder can suddenly turn your morning romp through the mountain meadows into a mad dash for the trail head as thunder rumbles in the distance and as a wall of rain closes out the glorious sunshine.  
  
Breathtaking beauty so often goes hand in hand with hard circumstances.  

And so here we, the girls of TRE, our families along with many friends, find ourselves, sipping coffee during the early morning hours on the eve of Climbing Day.

We celebrate Katrina Serenity Stigman with this final, 10th Anniversary hike for Katie's Club in this land of hard beauty up Mount Holy Cross.

We celebrate her life. Her legacy. Her breathtakingly beautiful response to life when it got impossibly hard. And, most importantly, her unshakeable faith in Christ.
 
We love you, Katrina. 

Lord, show us beauty in the impossibly hard places in life. Bring comforting memories and laughter to our lips as we remember those we've loved deeply. Hold us close as we navigate circumstances that are bigger than ourselves, and help us to do it with the same abundant grace and faithfulness that made Katrina so beautiful, inside and out.    



    

  

When You Feel Like You're On Fire

July 20, 2015

I heard the screaming first. Running from my daughters’ bedroom, where I was supervising my oldest while she chose books and Barbies for bedtime, I raced into the master bathroom. 

My 3-year-old was still in the shower where I’d left her with the water turned off. As she stood up, naked and hysterical, I noticed that even though we had rinsed her off before I left, her legs were once again coated. Slicked up with bubbles and a slimy coat of shampoo, she looked like nothing so much as a greased-up pig. As she skidded across the slippery tile floor toward me, I simultaneously grabbed for her and scooped the shampoo bottle out of her hand. 

On Mountains, Toilet Paper, and Framily: When Life Feels a Little Lackluster

July 15, 2015

This morning I’m sweating as I vacuum out the truck. Too many kids trampling through and too many weeks left to fend for itself have found our vehicle in a sad state. As I wipe old milk stains off the leather seats and suck up broken glass (?!?) that mysteriously appeared from under our side console, I think about the purpose for our upcoming trip to Colorado, an endeavor to once again support Katie's Club, a fund set up in memory of my sister Katrina.
The hikers ready to climb the first year!

10 years ago, Kyle and I were packing for our first trip to Colorado. With no kids in tow, our lives looked quite different as we packed two bags for the both of us (can you even imagine?!?) and jumped in the back of my brother-in-laws truck, naively ready to climb a mountain. A feat we’d never accomplished, all in memory of a sister who’d passed away not even a year earlier. The pain still raw to the touch, tears just barely removed from the surface.

I remember how hard that first year had been for me, moving into the toy room at my brother-in-law’s house, struggling to pay bills and find work, trying to finish grad school, all while navigating the grief of losing one of the most influential people in my life. I remember how the grief would wash over me in waves—sometimes awakening me at night, as I’d writhe in pain on the floor— not realizing until much later that my physical symptoms were simply a manifestation of the grief I was walking through.

But as I look back now, I see how God used so many things, so many people, to show me his goodness during those days. And climbing a mountain was a huge part of what eventually began a healing in me I didn’t even realize I needed.

All leading up to this past Sunday, sitting in a dimly lit downtown restaurant—sipping wine and sampling cheeses--with a group of friends who’ve walked with us over the course of these past ten years. All who’ve supported Katie’s club and hiked with us and loved us well.

Our conversation turns to Colorado as these dear friends have agreed to join us for the 10th anniversary of Hope Hike, one last climb for Katrina, as we return to the mountain we hiked that first year, Holy Cross.

At the top of Holy Cross.
We talk about gear we’ll need, camping supplies, how early we’ll need to wake the night before, toilet paper you may just need, and food that you can eat (completely guilt-free!) on the hike.

We leave that night and I feel a little lackluster, like something wasn’t said that needed to be. It’s a feeling I hadn’t been able to shake the past several weeks: Why do I feel like going this year is going to be a chore? Where’s my enthusiasm? Needing a little perspective for myself, I sat down later the next night and typed out this email to our friends:


The Friends I Didn't Know I Needed

July 8, 2015

This spring I was a part of a single moms retreat in Minnesota. The retreat hosts several hundred single moms and volunteers. Three years ago when I first heard about the retreat and all the love and support they lavished on the single mamas who attended, I just knew I’d want to be a part of it.

But I was hesitant. What would I have to offer? I’m not a single mom. I wasn’t raised by a single mom. I really don't have many close friends who are single moms. How would I be able to help? And wouldn’t it just be kind of silly for me? 
The Diva Boutique Team 2014

Talking with Carol, the organizer for the event, gave me the confidence I needed to join the team, and for two years I organized, planned, and put on the Diva Boutique -- a shop set up for the women to come and get new and gently used clothing and accessories for free, all part of their retreat experience.

Then this past fall, after deciding to step down as the boutique organizer, Carol asked if I’d like to be an advisor for the retreat while also emcee’ing with the other organizer. Again, I thought, Won’t people think it’s weird? Won’t they wonder why this woman, who really has no connection to single moms, loves single moms so much?

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