When I was 16, my friend Anna and I went backpacking with my high school youth group. We were in southwestern Colorado, far up in the mountains. As we hiked up and up and up, I felt like we were walking across the surface of a postcard; it was breathtaking. It was summer in the valleys, but still spring on the mountains, and at times we hiked through knee-deep snow. The snow had melted on the sunnier slopes, crisscrossed with icy streams, and we walked among green grass and under trees.

In the afternoons, sudden storms broke, and we would often just have time to pitch our tents and crawl inside before the mountainside was pelted with hail and rain. Our guides came around tent-to-tent, handing us steaming mugs of ramen noodle soup.

Life on that trip was cut down to the bare essentials. We walked with our belongings on our backs. We set up and tore down camp. We didn’t wear watches, didn’t listen to music other than that which we made ourselves. We cooked and cleaned up after our meals. And we told each other our stories. For hours, we sat in a circle on the ground and really listened to each other, hearing stories of faith and hardship and family and asking thoughtful questions, like, “If Jesus were to come snowboarding down that mountain right now, what would he say to you?” For me, that was an early version of the question I’ve come to ask myself often: what is God saying to me right now? Even just asking the question helps me to distinguish God’s voice of Love from the many other voices in my life that compete for attention.

Last night I sat in a circle of women, talking about some other good questions that my wise friends Caitlyn and Bekah had asked us to ponder for the week:

When was a time in your life that you felt alive?

What was it about that time that made you feel that way?

How might you incorporate some of those qualities into the rhythm of your week?

I was struck by the wide variety of answers given by the women in that circle; we are all formed so beautifully and so differently. For me, that backpacking trip came immediately to mind: a time marked by simplicity and presence and listening and breathtaking beauty all around me. So how do I incorporate these qualities into my everyday?

Last Friday Everett and I walked to Safeway. He wanted to pick out some bell peppers, so I let him choose three colors. (It is rare for a vegetable to pass his lips these days if it’s not hidden in a smoothie.) On our way back, we decided to head to the park for a little while, but when we got to the bike trail, Everett wanted to play on the bridge instead. He loves to throw rocks and leaves into the canal, to hear them plop or watch them float away. This day he was proudly carrying his bag of bell peppers with him. I parked the stroller, and he said, “Yet’s have a picnic, Mama!” and he opened his bag.

So we sat on the bridge in the warm sunlight and ate cold, crisp bell peppers like apples. We watched the water under the bridge and the birds in the trees. It was no Colorado mountainside, but it had a beauty all its own.

What makes you come alive? How can you weave it into your everyday?