Monday, August 19, 2013

Tourist Trap

I'm not a world traveler, even though I did get my passport a few years ago. Just in case.

In fact, I've only left the good old U.S. of A. once. I was a fifth grader on a family trip to California. We crossed into Mexico, where we weren't allowed to drink or eat a thing until we returned to California mid-afternoon. We kids thought we were going to absolutely starve to death. In my parents' defense, they had a car filled with four kids, ages 12 and younger. Would you have wanted to chance a bout (or four bouts) of Montezuma's revenge? From my parental perspective today, it makes total sense that we were banned from brunching in Mexico. 

So, what's been my most memorable family vacation? That's what the ladies at Lovely Branches Ministries wanted to know this month. On the same family trip, I snapped picture after picture of the flower-covered floats in the Rose Parade. Too bad they were all in black and white. (See? My camera clicking began early. Randy is grateful every day for the advent of digital photography.)

Since Randy and I have been married, we've certainly visited some wonderful places. Our honeymoon was memorable. I snowskied for the very first time in March 1981 on icy Rocky Mountain slopes. My new hubby might not have been Olympic-caliber like Billy Kidd, but he'd been skiing several times. Throw in an agonizing toothache one night to go with muscles stiff from trying to stop myself from falling down a mountain: That's memorable. (For any newly engaged couples planning a honeymoon, I'm not sure I'd recommend it, but we have been celebrating anniversaries for 32 years now.)

We've done Disney World with Jill and Brent. (They will be thrilled I shared this photo.)
Two years ago, we left drought-stricken Kansas because my farmer husband was weary of watching our crops burn to a crisp. I'd say the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone was a worthy distraction. 
So were the Grand Tetons.
Within this space, the Creator
must have intended
to bring man in humility to his knees.

-- Margaret E. Murrie, 
Grand Teton Official National Park Handbook, 1984 

When Jill was at Vanderbilt for her dietetics internship, we loved visiting Nashville, whether it was music row or the Cheekwood Botanical Gardens.
We found plenty to do and see when Jill and Eric lived in Omaha, including the solitude and beauty of the Holy Family Shrine.
Brent's work on his master's degree took us to South Carolina where there was more Spanish moss than the cottonwoods of Kansas.
Boone Hall Plantation, Mount Pleasant, South Carolina
We made a side trip to Tybee Island, Georgia, where we watched the sun rise and where there were waves of water, not waves of wheat. Moving Brent to his first job took us to Kentucky and Morehead State University's beautiful Eagle Lake.
Eagle Lake, Morehead, KY, September 2012
It is a place to savor nature in all its glory, whether it's bathed in the humidity of a late summer day or the brisk, catch-your-breath bite of winter. 
Some of my favorite places recently have been zoos with our granddaughter, Kinley.
Those vacation images barely scratch the surface hidden among the 27,000-plus digital photos I have on my computer and the dozens of plastic tubs filled with film envelopes in my basement. 

So I was stopped in my tracks by a line in a book I was reading last month, RESTART Your Church by Dottie Escobedo-Frank:
Religion in our time has been captured by the tourist mind-set.
Eugene Peterson
The author was quoting Eugene Peterson, who translated the Bible into The Message:The Bible in Contemporary Language.

Escobedo-Frank explains her take on that statement:
A tourist merely visits a location, taking pictures, getting an overview and seeing sites from a distant viewpoint. A tourist thinks it might be great to live in the locale but is not ready to change addresses in order to know the life of the town he or she is visiting. A tourist Christian is one who is merely ogling the lifestyle without developing a relationship with the town mayor and with the townspeople. Tourist Christianity is unwilling to suffer, sacrifice or remain faithful.
From the book RESTART Your Church by Dottie Escobedo-Frank
I don't know why I'm surprised when things like blog themes and the book I happen to be reading fit together like puzzle pieces. My friend and fellow LBM blogger, Keva, would call it a God Wink. I would have to concur.

It reminded me, too, that beauty is in my backyard every day. I don't have to travel to Mount Rushmore to find it. I don't have to pack my carry-on for a weekend trip to Chicago. It is all around me, every single day.

If you begin to live life 
looking for the God 
that is all around you,
 every moment becomes a prayer. 
–Frank Bianco, U.S. journalist and photographer

It's hard to miss the beauty in the "big" things ... the mountains, the ocean and monuments. But sometimes, in our haste to look forward to the next "big thing," we miss the myriad of small things around every single day. 

Beauty is found in the church pews, seeing the familiar faces, week after week. It's in the faces and voices of the children who sometimes skip up the church aisle to children's story time. It's found as we make apple butter in the church kitchen for the annual United Methodist Women bazaar. It's nestled next to the box of crayons that someone brought to the church for the school supplies collection drive.

It's found along the ditches as I walk along my dirt road.
Today, I will cherish the small things ... the tomato fresh from the vine, a favorite song on the radio, a phone call, the touch of a hand, the compliment I don't think I deserve, the email from a friend, the smell of freshly-turned earth on an early morning walk, a cool house on a hot day. Small blessings abound, if we just pause to look for them. They don't have to be carved into rock in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

I want to look at my everyday places with the eyes and the wonder of a tourist. But it needs to be more than that. I don't want to just "ogle the lifestyle." I want to live it in the way that God calls me to be a part of it. It's all about getting to know the Mayor Himself. Then it's about listening to His voice as He urges me to be His hands and feet on this beautiful Earth - whether I'm here on the County Line in Kansas or on a mountaintop in Colorado.
When we visited Brent in Columbia, S.C., in 2011,  we had an non-traditional Thanksgiving meal,  including shrimp we bought right off the dock.
If you'd like the recipe for Baked Shrimp Scampi and Cheese Grits, just click on this link. After visiting the south, I add cheese grits to our menu here in Kansas on occasion. And every time I eat them, I think of those shrimp boats at sunset in Mount Pleasant, S.C.

I'm linked to Michelle's Hear It On Sunday, Use It On Monday and Jennifer's Tell His Story. Click on the links to read more from bloggers of faith.

This is also my August post on Lovely Branches Ministries website. Check out the resources there.


  1. Hi Kim! I am coming to you from Hear it on Sunday.

    That photo from Georgia is just GORGEOUS! Well, a lot of them are, but that one really hit me. You have been to some beautiful places, thank you for sharing them with me. And I will try to see the beauty in the small things to day too. I won't be able to do them justice like you do with your photos, but it should be an adventure!

    Nice to meet you today!

    1. Thanks so much for stopping by, Ceil! I appreciate your encouragement and taking time to comment. Blessings to you!

  2. Kim,
    I am willing to bet this was a fun trip down memory lane for you!

    I like the comparison between a tourist and Christian. I think, in many cases, that is probably more accurate than we realize.

    I think we need to see the big things ... Mnt. Rushmore, Yellowstone, The Grand Canyon, and different parts of the world to appreciate the quantity of God's ability.

    It is in the small everyday prairie flowers, friendly neighbors, baby kittens and Grandchild smiles that the quality of God's love shines in our lives.

    1. Yes, it was hard to just pick a few! I love both the big, hard-to-miss moments, and the ones we have to search for - like the ladybug in the sunflower. I know you do, too!

  3. All your pictures are beautiful. I especially like the moss covered trees. Those looks so mysterious. Just gorgeous. What a fun trip down memory lane. We went to the Grand Canyon. I just LOVED it. I freaked hubby out when I walked along the edge of the canyon! :)

  4. Thanks! There are so many beautiful places to see in the U.S. I have lots more on my "bucket list."

  5. All such beautiful photos. You captured my heart though when you talked about the beauty found in the small what we may find right in our backyard. That is where God has me right now. I'm slowing down and treasuring those small moments. His beauty is everywhere and I don't want to miss it. Blessings.

  6. Kim, Is that shrine west of Omaha, just south of the interstate? I feel like I've seen that building, but from the other side. Am I right?

    Looks like you've had a lot of great travels, without having to leave the US! :)