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Last week I was on vacation. One of the places we visited I didn’t even realize existed prior to planning the trip.

The Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado. Kind of a fluke of nature, a spot between two mountain ranges where a particular pattern of erosion, wind, water and space has created an enormous deposit of sand. Its is astounding – while you have mountains (thus very clear landmarks) all around you, walking through the dunes is still utterly disorienting. It becomes very easy to lose track of where you were going, where you had been. It wasn’t a particularly hot day and yet the environment just drained you. It was exhausting to walk.  I climbed for about 40 minutes (off a beaten path) and got nowhere near the top of the dunes. I have a completely new understanding and appreciation for how easy it would be to get lost in a desert. Yet this harsh environment was also stunningly beautiful and peaceful in a way. A combination of clarity and mystery.

The kids were a bit disappointed because when there has been more rain, a stream actually flows along the edge, creating a beach (as in the photos on the National Park link above) and it also becomes possible to sled down the sand. The conditions this year made that all but impossible – the water is gone and the sand is too loose. Instead of a beach one walks across a rock strewn flat that seems to go on forever before reaching the dunes themselves. Yet the place was still quite beautiful and interesting. We have some great memories, even if they weren’t the ones we anticipated.

A friend of mine has a post up today about the long, straight road between his new charges and how he can see for miles while driving it. It too can be disorienting in a way. He reflects on how his life’s path isn’t that clear and simple, even when he might want it to be and encourages us to leave room for God’s surprises. My own journey has been more like a mountain path – winding and the next steps often hidden. Jeff and I are using different ways of expressing much the same thing. Planning is a good thing – it is necessary to chart out our path – but we have to realize we never have all the details handled.  How we see it may not be how it goes – and that’s okay.

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