for more than twenty years my family has been going to estes park for our annual vacation. the town is six square miles, there’s more wild life than people, it’s adorably quaint & the outdoor settings and views of the river, mountains & trees are the perfect picture of God’s beauty. everything feels fresh & crisp, the air smells so clean, and the flow of the river makes you feel like you are million miles from home… & in some ways we are. we leave the windows open & stay up too late. we have no agenda. we cozy up in the same set of quirky themed cabins we’ve stayed in all these years…out of the ten i think we’ve bunked in all but two. estes park is how i imagine God intended life to be.
the small town is filled with the cutest little shops & we always hit the same ones. the old church shops where we see the two irish wolfhounds that still blow my mind with their size even after all this time, laura’s: the sweetest shop in all of town & the place where we ALWAYS get a snickers covered, caramel apple, penelope’s for burgers & barely making it in time for waffles at ‘the ram’s horn’ for breakfast (brunch on our time), which we finally discovered we’ve been calling the wrong name all these years… it’s actually ‘big horn restaurant’.
we love it there, & there are a million reasons why.
it’s overflowing the hot tub on our deck because there are so many of us, taking pictures in front of the thompson river, walking across to have coffee at our parents cabin. it’s the first time that dad makes his home made chex mix & we bake yummy chocolate chip pumpkin bread for the season… it’s those things that make it magic, that have made estes the backdrop for our family’s memories for over two decades. it’s all those things, and something else, it’s the something that our family becomes when we are there. we are the best versions of our family there. relaxed & connected, without schedule or agenda. intentional with our time together.
this year was different for me. i don’t know if it was becoming a mother & having abel there the first time, or the weight of our current situation with my dad… maybe both, but this year, more than ever, the word intentional rung clear in my mind. be intentional. with our time, conversation—everything. i want to hear every single thing that my family has to tell me. some of them are loud & others are quiet… observers. the love i have for them runs so deep. the members of my family are my closest friends. i always think how lucky i am that when i hear the phrase ‘you can’t pick your family’ and i think… that’s right, you can’t, but i would pick them anyway. i read a quote from the book i’m currently reading, (the book that inspired this post—cold tangerines by shauna niequist) lately that spoke to my soul, i felt like it was written for me… it said, “families can go either way, & i take no credit for the way we’ve gone. i accept it like a gift or a winning lottery ticket, and i hold that ticket tightly in my hand & take every chance i can to be with them… for an afternoon, for a weekend, for a vacation, and every moment feels like being given one more winning ticket.” … i couldn’t have written it so perfectly if i tried.
time never stops, & there are so many moments when i wish it would. moments of holding abel & smelling his sweet baby smell, watching chris make him laugh harder than anyone else. sitting & talking with my mom or sisters. conversations about more than just ‘what did you do today’ with my brothers, and listening to any story from my dad. good conversations with chris about our blessings & our dreams. these moments & memories are all we have, and i want to make a million, because i know there will be days in the future when i’ll need them. i’ll cling to them like a best friend & i’ll be thankful that i wasn’t building my bank account or glued to the computer/phone screen or whatever other distraction you want to insert here____, when i could have been playing bananagrams until 1am, making silly comments that i’ll never live down with anyone who heard them, eating so much food that i come home feeling like an actual carbohydrate, or laughing so hard that my face hurts.
estes park will always be our place. we are happy there. happier there and together than anywhere else, with anyone else.
For the first time, in all this time, we tried the Donut Haus. It’s smaller than most people’s kitchen, & had a line out the door on Saturday morning. After sampling (a few dozen) of their donuts, i understand why.
Our usual spot.
Visited The Stanley (the first time for a few of us)! SO GORGEOUS, and old, and somewhat creepy… the gloominess after the rain added to that effect :)
more from our trip, tomorrow!