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The Backpacking Story that was Years in the Making

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Four years after sending a query to Creation Illustrated hoping to write about my first backpacking trip, I received an invitation to write the story.

Four. Years. (I’ve had to wait quite a while for responses to queries in the past, but four years is crazytown. )

It was worth the wait, however, because that query turned into an 8-page spread in the magazine. I love writing for online publications, but there is something extra sweet about pulling a magazine out of the mailbox and finding your byline in print. The fact that it was backgrounded by a giant photo of Palisade Head on the North Shore of Lake Superior and the article was sprinkled throughout with photos of Corey and me made it even more awesome.

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I’m thankful I married a guy who pushes me out of my comfort zone. If it hadn’t been for his insistence, I never would have taken that first backpacking trip or the half-dozen more we’ve taken since.

I wouldn’t have stood on top of Mount Trudee. I wouldn’t have traversed the infamous “Crawler’s Ledge” on the Kalalau Trail in Kauai. I wouldn’t have showered in a waterfall or bathed in a river. I wouldn’t have eaten guava straight off the tree or had the sound of ocean waves lull me to sleep in my tiny little tent on a beach in Hawaii. I wouldn’t have watched my boys skip rocks across a lake high on a mountain in Colorado and I don’t think I would understand the draw of a trip to Tanzania to climb Mount Kilimanjaro (Corey’s next adventure).

I’m also thankful I get to be a writer. I don’t think I will ever tire of arranging words on a page. Even though sometimes it takes four years to get the go ahead to write 🙂

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Backpacking and Breast Cancer

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I posted the following statement on July 18, 2016.

We cancelled our plans for a family backpacking trip to Colorado this summer because a backpack and chest expanders are a bad combination. (Just wearing a seat belt across my chest right now about drives me batty.) Next summer the Harms family will be climbing some mountains.

On July 11, 2017 we climbed a mountain. Well, kind of. We climbed most of the way up a mountain in Byers Peak Wilderness in Colorado. We camped by Horseshoe Lake 11,200 IMG_6535feet above sea level where we were secluded from the world (except for one other family and their 4 alpacas 🙂 )

It was fantastic.

I love backpacking with my family. Something about all of us doing a challenging thing together brings me great joy. I love the taste of  Mountain Meals eaten out of a bag while sitting on the ground, and I love relaxing by the campfire together before retiring our sore bodies to our tiny little tents. I could do without the middle of the night trips to the outdoor loo, but I guess it wouldn’t be backpacking if I didn’t have to pee outside. IMG_6542

The Gift

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer last year, our friends/tax guy/realtor Chris and Tami Hicks offered us a week of their timeshare. Not only did they offer it, they made sure we took them up on the offer by reminding us every month or two that they wanted to give us a vacation. So thank you Chris and Tami for the condo with a view of the Rockies, and for helping me accomplish a goal.

We had a fantastic week of swimming, rafting, hiking, eating lots of junk and relaxing in our own personal hot tub room.

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An Easy Section of the Hard Trail

My boys might say that rafting or cliff jumping was their favorite part of the trip, but for me it was definitely the backpacking.

Goal Achieved

Last year at this time I was recovering from reconstruction surgery #2, and dreaming about the day when I might be able to extend my arms over my head again. This year I strapped on a 20 lb. backpack and climbed a mountain.

Last year going for a half-mile walk with Corey was a grand accomplishment. This year I hiked for hours on what alltrails.com lists as a HARD trail.

Last year I had no feeling in my alien breasts. This year…still no feeling 😉 (A relatively small price to pay to rid my body of cancer.)

But that’s not really what this is about. This is about living the life God gave me to the fullest.

Last year that meant a lot of resting and letting other people take care of me. This year it means checking the goals off my Post Cancer To Do List and hopefully encouraging other women who are in the midst of hard things.

Backpacking is my last checkmark.

List complete.

I guess it’s time to write a new one.

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The Things My Eyes Can’t See

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I sat on the deck overlooking the Rocky Mountains in the cool of the morning. Coffee in one hand, Kindle in the other.

I’d been reading through the New Testament, but for a change of pace I downloaded a little vacation devotional from Amazon for our week in Colorado.

On our first morning in Granby, I read this prayer.

Heavenly Father, Awaken my spiritual eyes to see you fully, in all your glory. Give me discernment to see beyond what my physical eyes will allow. Amen.

The prayer struck me as odd considering I was getting an eyeful of God’s creation every time I stepped outside. It seemed to me that that should be enough.

But those words stuck with me, and throughout the week I found myself praying my own version.

Dear God, Help me to see what my eyes can’t see.

My eyes saw some beautiful stuff. Adam’s Falls. Horseshoe Lake. Alpine Ridge. The Colorado River.  Had I seen only those physical things, I would have arrived back in Iowa with a greater appreciation for the enormity my creator.

But I would have missed something.

The thing my eyes could not see.

The Rafting Adventure

A week before our trip, I contacted a rafting company about scheduling a family rafting trip down the Colorado River. The woman I spoke to was kind and promised to email me some info before booking our non-refundable Monday, July 10 excursion. I didn’t receive the email. So I called the company back. No answer. I called and I called and I called. Finally I was able to leave a voice message asking them to send me the info that I needed. No one returned my call. No one sent me any information. I was so frustrated. And maybe a little angry.

I finally gave up and scheduled with a different company for a date later in the week.

Then Monday morning (which should have been non-refundable-rafting-excursion morning) came. Along with it came a puking teenager.  No way was my 15-year-old getting on a raft.

Had our original rafting adventure been scheduled for Monday as I had hoped, we would have had to cancel, and we likely would have been out $400.

Seeing the Unseen

We ended up having a blast rafting a few days later when we were all healthy. We even got to jump off a cliff into the Colorado River.

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While we bumped along in an old school bus on some rough backwoods roads following rafting, my prayer popped into my head.

Dear God, Help me to see what my eyes can’t see.

And I saw it. I saw the thing that eyes can’t see.

I had been soaking up the gorgeous mountain views with my physical eyes all week, but my spiritual eyes were awakened to something just as beautiful. Maybe more so.

I saw God loving me, not in an “I created these mountains for the your viewing pleasure” kind of way, but in an “I even care deeply about the little details of your life” kind of way.

God knew my plans before I made them. He knew my kid was gonna start puking at 6:00 on Monday morning. He knew how terribly sad this penny-pinching mama would have been about a $400 loss. He even knew which rafting company was going to let my adventure loving boys jump off a cliff.

I am so very thankful for my physical sight. This Midwestern girl could stare at those mountains for hours. But I am even more thankful for spiritual sight that allows me to see the things my eyes can’t see. (Even if it required me jumping off a big rock into a cold river.)

The devotional I mentioned is called Pauses for the Vacationing Soul, by Cathy Baker (a fellow Inspire a Fire writer.) It’s just a tiny little ebook that I bought on Amazon. Its focus is the beach, but I made it work in the mountains 🙂 Well worth the 99 cents.

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This is What it’s Like When Home is Your Office

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When your house looks like this and you need to get some writing done, but you are too much of a hermit to pack up and find a different location from which to work, you move a chair in front of a window and pretend that because you can’t see the mess, it doesn’t exist.

This is my writing strategy for the day. 🙂

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Talking Breast Cancer and Marriage at Christianity Today Women

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When I started writing my article that went live today at Christianity Today Women, my intentions weren’t to share the story with the world. I was writing for myself. Therapy on paper.

But in the midst of it, the call out came for marriage articles, and I knew (if Corey would give me his blessing) I needed to submit a query.

We are in this marriage thing together, Corey and I.

Last year we met in sickness head on. (Dang you breast cancer.)

As we walked with in sickness, we also met up with for worse.

We fought them both and won. But it wasn’t a cake walk. Thinking of it still makes my heart hurt. And probably always will. It is a hard hard thing to find yourself in a gridlock with the person you love most in the world. But God is good. And he not only got us through it, but made our marriage stronger for it.

I have been learning this year, and have mentioned before, that sometimes the good gifts come through the hard things.

I hope that’s what you see as you read my words at CT Women.

How Breast Cancer Marred My Picture Perfect Marriage

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Just a Mom Shamelessly Promoting Her Boy’s youtube Channel

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He’s being creative (albiet crazy) and it makes me happy.

This one involves basketball, tabasco sauce, a freezing cold creek and 30 seconds of oh-my-goodness-my-son-has-lost-his-mind at the end.

Watch and give Owen a like if you feel so inclined.

EXTREME GAME OF PIG CHALLENGE (Flip Shots youtube channel)

 

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Without the Hard Things

Given a choice between the hard things and the easy things, I’d pick easy. But sometimes God doesn’t let me choose.

One year ago today Corey and I faced a really hard thing. A 5-hour surgery to remove my cancer and my breasts.

I remember it with an ache in my heart. But right beside that ache there is joy. JOY. Because God is good and the giver of the good things. Even in the wake of bilateral mastectomies and reconstruction.

  • The good thing of experiencing  peace that passes all understanding deep down into my bones as I was poked, prodded, injected with blue radioactive dye and wheeled around the hospital before surgery. I have felt the peace of God many times in my life, but never have I experienced it like that.img_20160225_181228780
  • The good thing of Corey sitting beside my bed that first night in the hospital, holding my hand all night long, as I slipped in and out of sleep. (Seriously, the man pulled the recliner right up beside my bed and sat close enough to hold my hand for the entire night, only releasing his grasp to scratch the incessant itch that I could not reach at the end of my nose.)

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  • The good thing of my boys visiting me in the hospital because they needed to see for themselves that I was going to be okay. (My boys, and my mom who brought them to see me, are the best. Also, Carter and Owen have each grown like a foot and turned into man creatures since this photo was taken.)
  • The good thing of the hazy, nearly silent, but super-naturally peaceful hour with my bff, Marti, who came to sit with me while Corey met a friend for lunch, so I wouldn’t have to spend one minute of my hospital stay alone.
  • The good thing of the 20-something nurse who, at the end of her shift, said to Corey and me “You guys are so cute. I just had to say it.” (And we are cute, darn it. She was speaking truth.)
  • The good thing of the release nurse saying “You have a very nice husband; how he takes care of you. Not all husbands are like that.” (Truth again. He’s the real deal.)

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And look at us now. Because of what we endured together, this year’s family photos will probably always be my favorite. (Plus I think we would make a sweet Under Armour ad.)

I believe what it says in the book of James, that every good and perfect gift comes from above. From my father in heaven. I also believe that sometimes those good and perfect gifts can only be delivered through the hard things.

So I will endure the hard things. And I will find joy in the good things that saturate the hard things in light.

 

 

 

 

 

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My Son is Pretty Cool – Trick Shots

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Thank you Dude Perfect for inspiring my 8th grader. Love that he is actively creative in setting up trick shots and mentally creative in editing video footage. Below is a link to Owen’s latest trick shot video on his youtube channel Flip Shots.

CRAZY MINI HOOP TRICK SHOTS

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Love Proven on a Twisty Slide @ Inspire a Fire

by KimHarms 0 Comments

My monthly blog post is up at Inspire a Fire.  It’s a little tiny blip of the whole story of my friendship with my best friend. I think about 16 years ago, God was like, “Well, these women are going to need each other because I’m going give give them a boatload of boys. I should probably I’m going to introduce them before that first boy arrives.” (We met when I was 8 months pregnant with my oldest.)

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A photo of those 6 boys before they became giants.

Love Proven on a Twisty Slide

A cute little story I wrote about my friend Marti and me was published in Guideposts a couple years ago.

The photo shoot is actually more exciting than the story, so I’ll take you behind the scenes.

It took place in mid-February. Outside. At a park. On a twisty slide. In Iowa. No coats allowed. What?!?

I suggested a photo at a coffee shop, because drinking a hot caffeinated beverage in a warm locale is more our style than balancing precariously on giant plastic playground equipment in arctic temps. But I guess they wanted to give Marti the opportunity to prove she is the friend I claimed her to be in my article. (A fair-weather friend never would have agreed to such unpleasantness. )

It was 20 degrees with an Iowa take-your-breath-away winter wind. The kind that forces tears out of your eyes and makes your nose drip.

In the photo my hand is nicely relaxed on the slide. It had been clenched in a fist in an effort to calm my shivering body, but the photographer told me it made me look like I was cold. With my other hand I held onto the red slide pole for dear life. Marti too was clamping her hand around that pole with all of her strength. (You can see that photo here.)

Read the rest of the story at Inspire a Fire.

 

 

 

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Breast Cancer and Tree Houses

Breast Cancer and Tree Houses

One year ago today I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Today Corey and I closed on our tree house. (Sometimes I name my houses 🙂 )

These two things don’t seem connected, but they bookend a chapter in the same story.

Building/Moving/Selling/Moving is woven into the fabric of our family life.

Many of our decisions are weighed on the moving scale. When we build, I choose finishes and fixtures more for resale than for my preference. We base furniture purchases on three things: style, comfort and weight. If it’s too heavy, it’s not worth moving no matter how beautiful it is. And that 2011 family vacation to Colorado? Postponed for a year because it collided with a closing date…

The Harms family moving plan going into 2016 was to list our pi house (314 Centennial) in June. Then I got cancer and all plans for every part of life were put on hold while Corey and I brushed up on our knowledge of useless facts by playing Trivia Crack in Medical Clinic waiting rooms.

By June I was feeling pretty good. The cancer was gone. I didn’t need chemo. And I was in between reconstruction surgeries.

And I just wanted to be normal again.

Normal to me included listing our house. So that’s what we did.  img_20160617_124656627

When we were preparing to put our house on the market, we decided that we were ready to get off this moving rollercoaster. We wanted to find a place or build a place that would be permanent (well maybe not permanent, but closer to permanent than we are accustomed to.)

So Corey was like, “What do you think about buying a duplex on main street and living in it for a couple years while we wait for something we like to present itself?”

I am not opposed to adventurous housing scenarios, but within two seconds of walking in the door of the duplex with our real estate agent, my response (internally) was a resounding “No Way. Uh-uh. Not Ever. My husband has lost his mind.”

When I got home, my prayers went something like this. “Please Lord, don’t make me move into the house with overflowing poop toilets and grease dripping down the walls.”

We all know how that turned out.

God has a sense of humor, and he moved me into the place with the overflowing poop toilets and the grease dripping down the walls. Thankfully, the poop and 95% of the grease img_20160708_195421724_topwas gone when we moved in. I eventually captured my hubby’s vision (I usually do. Sometimes it just takes me a while.) And together we spent a month gutting and remodeling the place before moving in.

The original plan was to live in our newly remodeled duplex for one to two years. For a variety of reasons, we decided not to build this time around, so Zillow became my friend. In the mornings I made my coffee, did my devotions and checked my Zillow for new listings. (You see, I got on board with moving into the duplex, but I just wasn’t convinced of the two year plan.)

One day this fall, Zillow was good to me.

Listed was an in town acreage with a house hidden back in the trees, smack in the middle of the neighborhood most of the boys’s friends live in. (Did I mention it comes with a tiny house by a ravine?) Be still my heart. img_20161215_141100758

We looked at the house that day and made an offer (that was accepted) that night. Corey really liked the place. I really LOVED it.  And the boys immediately started making plans for ziplines and trails through the woods.

But some issues that turned up on inspection made it very clear to both of us that we couldn’t go through with the purchase.

That was hard. I so very much wanted that place, but I knew that God was telling me no.

Fast forward two months. The price has gone down and some of our concerns have been resolved. We began negotiating with the seller again and came to a price we could agree upon.

It turns out God wasn’t saying no. He was saying wait. The waiting part was key, because without it we would have missed the sweetest part of the story.

Because we were totally flexible on the moving date, we left it up to our real estate agent and the sellers.

The date picked? January 20.

When we told the boys about the closing date at the supper table, Owen said, “God knew he was going to do that, didn’t he?”

Yes buddy. I have no doubt.

One year to the day after receiving the hardest news of our lives, Corey, Carter, Owen, Lewis and I are walking through the doors of our tree house.

God, in his lavish love was like, “See guys? I took care of you through the hard stuff and now I am giving you this gift.”

That’s who God is. He is healer. He is sustainer. He is a father who loves to give his children good gifts.

 

 

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