This is one of my favorite photos, taken a few years ago, in one of my favorite places on earth (the American Fork Canyon near Utah's Mt. Timpanogos), with some of my favorite people on earth (my kids) doing one of my favorite things -- hiking.
Especially hiking in the fall. Leaf peeping; that's us.
It's rare that my kids will come hiking with me anymore, but back then, I could bribe them with Subway sandwiches, fruit snacks and Powerade.
You had to make your way through three forests to get to this gorgeous meadow surrounded by aspens. These babies turned flaming gold in the fall, so we dubbed it The Golden Palace because when you stood inside the grove of yellow trees with the sunlight casting a golden glow over everything, it was surreal and majestic. And profoundly unforgettable.
These days, it's my idea of church. Nature's cathedral. Humbling and inspiring with soul-baring beauty. Accompanied by a chorus of birdsong with the musical rustling of leaves strumming in the wind.
No judgments. No list of rules to follow before I can qualify as belonging. Just a gift, freely given, just for being who I am. "Come as you are!" it welcomes us every time, fellowship extended to all who come into its fold.
For me, the quaking aspens feel like kindred spirits; they are soul-sisters deliriously happy to see me, quivering with joy at my arrival and waving trembling goodbyes when I leave, as if they are sad to see me go.
In this meadow, lightning, or possibly old age, felled a tree years ago so whenever when we returned, we sat on it like a pew to rest, to listen to the lessons around us, and to eat our bread with gratitude. The kids climbed on it and hung from it, and sometimes brought their friends to run around it.
So many blessed times, so many memories. So many gifts.