Storm clouds and suffering: SLJ travel journal

Going on adventures, taking pictures, thinking about things, writing them down on bits of paper, sharing them with you

I was just in Colorado and then in New Mexico—and hiked in the Badlands (don’t you adore that name?). (Read on for a Foot Selfie to prove I was really there.) A land of such stunning natural beauty—and it all came from erosion, volcanic eruptions, storms.


Hmm. Those storms, those things that interrupt our plans, derail us, hurt us—threaten to make us lesser, smaller, weaker—are they very things that somehow, mysteriously, in the end, make us beautiful?

That’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately…

Back road to Larkspur

On my drive south from Denver airport to my friend’s house, I took a left turn, drove down a dirt road, rounded a bend and saw this. A huge storm was rolling in.


Back roads aren’t necessarily detours.

Storm clouds can be beautiful.

(BTW: I’m not sure clouds this beautiful should be allowed—they are far too distracting and make it hard to drive. In fact you can’t. They kind of demand that you pull over and take their picture.)

Chimney Rock

In New Mexico, I climbed Chimney Rock. Here it is (with Foot Selfie as promised) and on the horizon, the flat top mountain, Pedernal. It was hard work to climb. But what about that view!

slj-journal-badlands-foot-selfie slj-journal-badlands-panorama

The hard work of climbing, the very challenge, is somehow part of the beauty of the view when you get there.

The harder the struggle, the greater the joy. Is that it?

Does suffering destroy joy?

Or, if you let it, does it only deepen it?

(BTW: Georgia O’Keeffe said of Pedernal, “God told me that if I painted it often enough, He would give it to me.” He kind of did—she painted the mountain so often it’s hard to see it and NOT think of her. How amazing.)

Here I am pretending to be in Out Of Africa…


In Colorado I went walking every morning with a dog, two cats, and an unusual family of wild turkeys. I am missing them now that I’ve gone back to plain old ordinary walking in NYC.

But in all my walking about the city I have seen some wonderful things… which I record daily in my journal (aka Instagram) and here are some highlights.

President Reagan’s journal

“The private collection of President and Mrs Ronald Reagan” was auctioned a few weeks ago (proceeds to fund the Reagan library). There were lots of elephants and eagles and cowboy paintings and 80s furnishings and then some jewels—including a jewel of a tiny painting by Grandma Moses (which might be my favorite thing there).

And then this. President Reagan’s Journal, open to this entry (written following the 1981 assassination attempt):


“Whatever happens now I owe my life to God and will try and serve him in every way I can.”

Dumpster Preacher

Also, I met a Dumpster Preacher on Madison Avenue. Have you ever met one of those? I have. Probably in the last place you’d expect to see either a dumpster or a preacher. Nevertheless. It caught my eye.


All of its scuffs and dents and dirt and bashes and accidents somehow coming together like a beautiful painting.

And reminding me of how life works too.

It’s mysterious. It’s not what we necessarily want.

But without the crushing of the grape, there is no fine wine.

Sunday in the desert

Just before I left New Mexico, I went to a service with monks in the middle of the desert. It is the most remote monastery in the Western Hemisphere. If it rains the dirt road becomes impassable. The harrowing dirt desert road winds precipitously up and down, round hairpin bends, and near cliffs for 13 miles until, at last, you reach Christ in the Desert: an oasis in every sense, with green pastures and a running river.


A picture of Heaven in the middle of a desert.

I don’t think that’s an accident. I’m sure it’s not.

It’s such a hope-filled picture of life.

And the journey we are on.

And the end of all our travels.


6 Responses to “Storm clouds and suffering: SLJ travel journal”

  1. Susan L. O'Brien

    So beautifully written, I had to re-read again and again. Thank you for sharing. The stories and pictures are magnificent (like you)!

  2. Yolie

    Loved it all! Nature teaches us so many lessons about God, if we have eyes to see. Sometimes I wish my eyes were cameras.

  3. Joyce Guetschow

    We love all your books-Especially “thoughts that make my heart sing” We now have audio version. Thank you for your newsletter! We took our kids to badlands when they were little. THEY DO REMEMBER THEM–THOUGH NOT AS FONDLY AS YOU!!!!


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