Pepsi, Mountain Trails, and the Father’s Heart

My heart belongs to the Rocky Mountains. They call to me, “Come home. Return home.”

The mountains are my heritage – predestined by the Father, and set into motion by my parents more than fifty years ago…

Mom and Dad were married in a white church, nestled inside a little town on the prairie – a land where wheat fields and winding brooks abound.

Pepsi, Mountains Trails, and the Father's Heart

The ceremony was simple: it was well-suited to the rustic farming community they lived in. Several black-and-white photos were taken to preserve their special day. They indulged in cake and kind wishes at the reception, then waved goodbye to family and friends.

Finally, it was time for man and wife to be alone.

My parents packed their bags, climbed into Dad’s 1959 Dodge Custom Royal and began their honeymoon road trip.

Dodge Custom Royal.png

Adventure awaited. The young couple eagerly traveled the open road as one.  They ventured far away from the flatlands, deep into the uncharted territory of their new relationship.

Wishing to delight his bride, Dad headed toward mountain country. He was five years her senior and had been to the Rockies once before. He was certain she would be fascinated by them, just as he had been, years earlier.

Dad was right.

Mom was delighted. She accepted the gift of beauty and stored it quietly in her heart.

That moment – the moment of my parents’ arrival at the threshold of the Rocky Mountains – was the point at which my heart’s story began.

Unbeknownst to Mom and Dad, their honeymoon had planted a seed. One that would sprout and grow steadily, along with their family. After several days together, enjoying God’s bountiful nature, they returned home to the prairies.

Years passed. Work was done. Building ensued. Children were born: seven, to be exact, of which I am the youngest.

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And all the while, the mountains called to them. Faithfully, Mom and Dad embarked on journey after journey, kids in tow, to revisit the rugged Rockies. Fifty years later, my parents continue to return.

This is my heritage.

My earliest memory of our mountain trips is when I was about six. Dad had booked three weeks off work – two weeks for road-tripping and one week to recover.

Working as a team, the whole family packed our Dodge Chrysler mini-van until bulging:

  • two large coolers,
  • two wooden crates stuffed with canned goods and snacks,
  • camping supplies,
  • two sleeping tents,
  • one dining tent,
  • eight suitcases,
  • two adults, and
  • six kids (my oldest sister was already married and out of the house by this time).

On the morning of our departure, we eased off the driveway. Dad drove, slow and steady, covering the same route we had taken so many times before.

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For the next three days, I marveled at the joys of travel:

the smell of Robin’s Donuts coffee wafting from the front seat;

my older sister transforming us kids into a round-song chorus to pass time;

the taste of Pepsi bubbling down my throat and the feel of licorice gripped in my grubby fist – our traveling treats;

the sun on my face as I watched the changing scenery outside my window;

and, of course, the discomfort of sleeping in the backseat, jammed between rows of pillows and shoulders.

Then, we finally arrived.

Pressing my left cheek against the window glass, I spotted them – cloud-like mountain shadows stretching along the horizon. Anticipation rose up inside me, and I wondered why Dad was driving at turtle-speed. At last, rounding a broad curve of highway sandwiched between two rolling hills, our mini-van descended into the Bow River Valley.

My heart swelled.

“…the world is charged with the grandeur of God…”

— excerpt from “God’s Grandeur”, a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins

I was home.

We set up camp in Banff National Park, under the shade of towering pine trees. The sun was sinking quickly behind the mountains, so we hurried to pitch our canvas tents.

In the dark of night, we sang songs on our way to the outhouse to warn bears that we were coming. But I wasn’t worried. A bear wouldn’t dare attack me, not with a bright flashlight in my hand and Dad by my side.

During the daytimes, we explored.

Slowly, carefully, we hiked beside blue, rolling streams. I listened to the pebbled paths crunch beneath my runners. At the sound of eagles screeching overhead, I looked up. But dense treetops hid the mighty birds from me.

We picnicked in parks among the elk, who were lazily grazing nearby. Although wild, they didn’t seem to mind us. My teenage brothers crept close to take pictures of their massive antlers.

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I watched from the picnic table and pondered the lack of mosquitos, while eating a gouda cheese sandwich.

We braved towering mountain trails to reach infamous teahouses. As we climbed, I liked to watch my feet landing in the rich, brown soil. At random moments, I stopped to breathe the fresh, pine-scented air through my nose like a vacuum cleaner.

Too soon, it was time to drive back home to the prairies.

(DISCLAIMER: I am aware that my child-brain has likely melded several of our trips into one. Oh, well. That’s how memories go.)

I could never have articulated, as a child, that nature was drawing me closer to the Father. Today, I see he has been speaking to me this way all my life:

I feel God’s joy in the purple sunset.

I hear his gentle laugh through the songbirds in my backyard.

I see his creativity in the curves of mounting snow drifts and springtime flowers.

And my heart skips a beat when the wild rabbit crosses my path – he is God’s messenger, wishing me “good-day”.

What a marvelous Father we have!

What kindness, that He would provide these parents and these mountain experiences for my child-heart. (And not just for me: God sees you and provides for you, too! Click here to find out more.) What grace, that He would allow me to understand – it has always been Him, who calls me home to His heart.

Fourteen years ago, Justin and I were married. We, too, honeymooned in the Rockies and then returned to the prairies to build a home and a family.

Pepsi, Mountain Trails, and the Father's Heart

So, the heritage continues.

Two years ago, Justin and I returned to the mountains with three children in tow.

Bags packed, we backed off the driveway, and took one last look at our white one-and-a-half-story house. I couldn’t wait for the adventure to begin, and to plant the heritage seed of mountain journeys into the hearts of my children.

The next three days were filled with: miles of highway; emergency bathroom breaks on the side of the road; gas stops, and snack stops; detours into strange little towns with strange little museums; bored children; children in awe; giggling fits; backseat bickering; and hotel pools.

Justin and I aren’t campers. Upon arrival in Canmore, we checked into a modern vacation rental and poured two glasses of wine — our reward for surviving the trip.

For the next five days, we re-experienced Lake Louise, Banff Springs Hotel, and Johnston’s Canyon alongside the kids — sacred places from my childhood. Yet, even more precious, were the new discoveries we made as a family, creating bonds that still remain today.

Our trip was a gift from God.

“Yet God made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.”

— Ecclesiastes 3:11, NLT

Although life on Earth is a marvelous journey, to be human is to be ultimately dissatisfied with anything less than the deepest desire of our hearts – to return to the Father’s heart.

The mountains are my reminder that an eternity lies ahead. An eternity with my Father.

When was the last time you felt your heart returning to the Father in a significant way? Why not ask Him what He wants to speak to your heart today?

With love,

Sara Jane Kehler

 

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