A Vending Machine and a Construction Worker

The reason I have “5 Acts of Kindness before I leave” on The List is a really simple one. God has given me so much, and I just want to share out of the overflow. To love people as He does. It sounds cliche, but it’s true. Not just for this one list, but for a lifetime. At the end of my life and at the end of my time here in Colorado, I just hope I showed people a little bit of Jesus. Because Jesus is the kindest person you will ever hope to meet. More than just a person–He gave up His own life for us as the son of God! No other gift will ever compare.

Most of these I’d like to remain anonymous, but here are the stories of two I hope will inspire you.

The Vending Machine 

The envelope.I can’t remember where I saw it first, but somewhere online I came across the idea of placing some quarters in an envelope and taping it to a vending machine with a note saying, “Have a treat on me.”

Simple though it may be, I thought about how fun it would be if I were the one to discover the money and how it might make someone’s day to have the money just waiting for them, or of some little kid who always watches the other kids get treats but can’t get any himself. I also knew of the perfect vending machine.

Praying that just the right person who needed it would find the envelope, I put in enough quarters for two treats and parked around the corner of the location. I reeeally wanted to remain as anonymous as possible, so I waited for a moment when no one was around to sneak inside. I tried taping the envelope to the machine, but I unfortunately didn’t bring along enough tape to make it stick (if you ever try this, remember that the envelope is heavy with the quarters!), so I just laid it in front of the machine instead.

I slipped out just in time.

I didn’t stick around to see who picked it up, but several kids just getting off of school and a busy mom both entered as I walked out, and when I went back to check about ten minutes later, the envelope was gone. 🙂 I don’t think I’ll ever know who the envelope went to, and it doesn’t matter. Because whoever they were, I know they were just the right person.

Traffic cone

Image courtesy of phanlop88 at freedigitalphotos.net

The Construction Worker and the Flower 

While the vending machine idea was more planned, the construction worker and the flower was a complete surprise and more of a prompting of the Holy Spirit than anything else.

Traveling for a babysitting job, I was starting to get annoyed with all of the road construction going on. Cars inched along, and it didn’t seem like I could go anywhere without finding more construction. I can’t remember why now, but I was also in a major mood funk. Not the kind of mood you should be in to go watch kids, let me tell you.

A female construction worker just ahead caught my attention by waving at me. At first I thought she was directing me to move somehow. Then I saw the bright smile on her face, and realized–no, she’s just waving to be friendly!

I glanced at the clock. Did she know how early it was?! Or how terrible of a job she had? Out this early, probably for the entire day, directing traffic with grumpy people on their way to work, and in such a labor-intensive job as construction work. She probably went home exhausted, dirty, and feeling unappreciated every night.

It felt like a fluke, but as I passed her, I watched her wave to every single car that drove by in my rearview mirror. Her smile was absolutely contagious, and I felt it light up my own face the moment I drove away.

Wow, Lord! What a sweet woman–to wave to every single car with a smile on her face! Surely if she can smile and think about others with a job like that, I can, too. 

It was just a smile and a friendly wave, but it changed my entire day. I went from dreading going to work and feeling down to absolutely light-hearted in a matter of seconds, and I couldn’t stop thinking about her.

Oh, Lord–I so wish I could bless her in return! She probably has no idea how just that one smile and a wave completely turned around someone’s day. She needs to know how much she’s appreciated! 

An idea came to me out of nowhere. I’d been given a plastic/fabric flower at an Arbonne party just the night before and was hoping for an opportunity to give it away to someone. The construction worker would be perfect! I got excited even thinking about it.

But what if she wasn’t in the same place tomorrow when I came back this way?

Please let her be there, Lord! That flower is meant for her, I just know it! 

I placed it on my passenger seat and drove slowly the next day, looking for her. But all of the construction workers were men. My heart sank. Had I missed my opportunity?

I refused to give up, though, and left it on the seat.

The following day found me just getting off work, tired and looking forward to making it home, when a familiar smile and wave caught my attention just ahead.

I grabbed the flower quickly and rolled down my passenger side window. She came up to it curiously, if not cautiously.

“Thank you for all of your hard work,” I said, handing her the flower.

“Well, thank you, sweetie,” she answered, sounding as though she were in shock.

I smiled and waved goodbye, knowing there were people behind me waiting for me to move along. Another female construction worker beside her leaned forward, and their astonished expressions made me smile as they bent over the flower and then nodded at my car.

It was a little thing, a plastic flower. But I hope it made a difference.

I know a smile and a wave did for me.

History of a Hotel

Next up on The List: Visit the historic Hotel Colorado, take one of their tours, and eat lunch at the Courtyard Cafe.

The Hotel Colorado now.

The Hotel Colorado now.

The reason this made the list is because the Hotel Colorado is one of the most historic landmarks we have in this area, and yet, I actually knew very little about it. Tourists come from all over the world to stay here, and though I’ve walked in many times over the years, I realized each time that I’d been standing in the very midst of a rich history I knew practically nothing about. I wanted to know some of the stories those walls could tell.

The Hotel Colorado then, in 1899. Established in 1893.

The Hotel Colorado then, in 1899. Established in 1893.

And the second part about wanting to eat lunch at the Courtyard Cafe? That’s just because I love eating and figured a big hotel like that probably had one heck of a selection. 🙂 Why not get a little bit of history and a gourmet meal to go with it?

So my dear friend Tessa (love that girl!) met up with me one sunny day this summer to discover more about this fascinating place.

Our first stop was of course lunch at the Courtyard Cafe. And oooh, people, let me tell you… that menu would make a cat’s mouth water! Tessa and I dressed our best for the occasion (well, I did. Tessa always dresses her best), in the mindset of having a very luxurious, rather ladylike afternoon at tea. (Iced tea, but you know.) So here I am, trying to be delicate and lady-like, and what do I order?

A half-pound burger called “The Colorado.” Hey, when in Rome…

Look at the description of this monstrosity of mouth-watering goodness:

DSC03242

Yum.

Okay, first, two things to remember about me: 1) I don’t often get the chance to eat out, so this was a huge treat for me. 2) I live in a small town. Gourmet food like the kind of stuff I hear on Food Network is a major rarity. I have never in all my life read of more expensive or trendy types of food! I mean, a Lobster BLT?!

And it was… drum roll, please… sooo good. The meat was juicy, the challah bun toasty and buttery, and the truffle fries on the side… the stuff of dreams, I tell you.

Annnd since I’m the type to take pictures of my food like it’s art (’cause it kind of is):

The Colorado Burger

Here to represent Colorado, baby.

Annnnd of course with a menu like that, we had to get dessert:

Pistachio Cheesecake. Nutty. Creamy. Basically heaven on a plate.

Pistachio Cheesecake. Nutty, creamy heaven on a plate.

Rich, yes, but one only gets to eat at the Hotel Colorado every so often! I figured I should go all out. After seeing the pictures, I’m pretty sure you would have made the same choice. And all with great company, too!

Tessa, looking effortlessly cool and elegant as always!

"Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy... like art. It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival." -C.S. Lewis

“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy… like art. It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.” -C.S. Lewis

All-in-all, lunch was fantastic. Service was poor (we had to wait for silverware, napkins, and probably a half hour for the cheesecake), but luckily we weren’t in too big of a rush.

Once lunch was over, it was time to meet our tour guide, who was hilarious and decked out from head to toe in Victorian garb. Not only did she believe in ghosts (one of the things The Hotel Colorado is famous for), but she also liked to have lively conversations with Walter Devereux, the founder of the hotel. This was made all the more hilarious because probably only 10% of it was put on for show. The other 90% was her own personal entertainment in talking to his ghost.

“Oooh, Walter, is that you?” She’d say. “My heavens, what a tease!”

“Maybe we should leave the two of them alone,” I whispered to Tessa.

While Tessa and I definitely snuck a few grins at her antics and had to rein in our laughter at first, she really was a very knowledgeable and entertaining guide. I learned a ton of things I hadn’t known before, and since history is one of my favorite things, I was pretty much zoned in from the get-go.

And of course, since everyone knows that beyond a person’s favorite things their next favorite thing to do is to talk about their favorite things, here’s some things you may or may not have known about The Hotel Colorado. 😀

Things You May Have Already Known:

  • The Hotel Colorado is rumored to be haunted. Many have claimed to have seen a little girl bouncing a red ball in the hallways.
  • The Hotel Colorado once served as a Naval convalescent hospital in WWII.
  • The Hotel Colorado was one of Teddy Roosevelt’s favorite places to stay.
  • “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” of the infamous Titanic also visited.

Things You May Not Have Known:

  • Most of the ghosts at the Hotel Colorado are rumored to be friendly. The little girl bouncing her ball just wants to play. There’s also a “cleanliness” ghost. If things are out of order, she’ll come to tidy them up. The only violent ghost story involves a guest seeing a woman in an old elevator shaft wearing a flapper dress, covered in blood.
  • Almost none of the furniture within the hotel is original to the building. Most had to be moved out when it served as a hospital in the war.
  • The word “prohibition” did not exist for the Hotel Colorado in the 1920’s, and libations flowed aplenty.
  • The drive-by shooting was invented here in Colorado, in the very city where The Hotel Colorado is located by a gangster named Jack Diamond (who also stayed at The Hotel Colorado). A local actually owns the door he shot.
  • The Hotel Colorado was fashioned after an Italian castle called the Villa De Medici.
  • Before Walter Devereux could even get the hotel built, he first had to create a way for people to access it through the mountains. Others said it was impossible, but he forged ahead anyways and constructed a railroad. The hotel alone cost $350,000 to build.
  • Due to frequent visits by presidents Teddy Roosevelt and William Howard Taft, the Hotel Colorado became known as “The little White House of the West.”
  • Situated in the existing lounge, a sheet of water twelve-feet broad dropped in a waterfall a distance of twenty-five feet from the rear-wall rim to a pool beneath. Guests could sit beside the pool in the early morning catching enough trout for their breakfast.
  • The Teddy Bear was said to have been invented at The Hotel Colorado. You can find the story here.

So there you have it! A brief history of The Hotel Colorado. As brief as my life has been so far, it’s made up a lot of my history, too. From promenade to my graduation pictures to celebrating Christmas with their annual Lighting Ceremony (a must-see, if you ever get the chance!), to this last time with Tessa, you can be sure I’ll treasure the times spent there forever.

Bonus shot. My graduating class taken out in front of The Hotel Colorado.

Bonus shot! My graduating class taken out in front of The Hotel Colorado.

We're free! Our graduation colors were black, white, and pink.

We’re free! Our graduation colors were black, white, and pink.

Perfect Day for a Picnic

One of my favorite moments this summer was when I decided to take my niece and nephew on a picnic near our home. Mackenzie (the niece) and I plopped baby Boe (the nephew) into his stroller, and off we went for a wonderful time of bonding.

Well, actually, it wasn’t as idyllic as that.

First I had to figure out how to get the stroller unfolded. Then I had to get a wiggling Boe into a stroller that didn’t want to buckle. After I got Boe buckled, I had to get him unbuckled when I realized I’d left some of the things we needed for the picnic inside. Once I got both Boe and the things we needed for the picnic, I had to convince Mackenzie that yes, she did actually want to go on this picnic with us, and yes, we were going to have a good time, and they were going to like it, because we were going to bond, gosh darn it!

Not only did a picnic sound like fun as a way for the three of us to spend time together, but I’d also unofficially put “trips to The Tree” on my Colorado Bucket List. “The Tree” will make more sense here in a little bit when I post some pictures, but for now suffice it to say walks to The Tree make up some of my favorite childhood memories and will be one of the greatest things I miss living out here.

After a few minutes of walking, Mackenzie complaining dramatically that it’s “Too HOT for a walk,” and Auntie Lizzie lovingly reassuring her, “You’re fine, keep walking, you’re gonna like this because we’re bonding,” I think everyone did actually start to have a good time.

Seemingly against all odds, I personally had a wonderful time from start to finish. And who knows–maybe that was because I was so determined to have a good time. But I have to tell you in all honesty: I am so blessed. And I am so thankful for the crazy, beautiful imperfection that is grumpy nieces and wrestling babies and a life that isn’t just about the destination, but the laughs along the way. And boy, do I love those two pieces of my heart! I wouldn’t want it any other way.

The walk to The Tree is absolutely gorgeous in the summer, and I was thoroughly enjoying soaking in the rays from the sun and the smiles of my niece and nephew as Kenzie ran ahead of the stroller and then back to tickle Boe’s feet. For me, the moment couldn’t have been anymore perfect.

We were in for another surprise though once we actually got to The Tree.

“Alrighty, kiddos, we are here!” I announced proudly, clapping my hands and turning to unbuckle Boe.

“Um…Lizzie,” Mackenzie said.

“Kenzie, will you grab the blanket for me and spread it out?”

“But Lizzie!”

“What, Kenzie?”

“There’s no grass.”

Slowly swiveling around, I tried to prepare myself for what I might see. And what I saw, people… was a desert. A barren wasteland with just one or two tiny patches of spiky grass here and there. I had to struggle not to laugh.

Of course, grass! Why hadn’t I thought of it?! You need soft, cushy green grass to sit on for a picnic! What was I going to do, demand my niece and baby nephew sit on spiky grass and/or hard, dirt-packed ground for a bonding experience I’d forced upon them in order for us to have a relaxing, enjoyable picnic while our butts turned to stone?

Why, absolutely! What kind of aunt would I be if I didn’t?!

“It’s perfectly all right, Kenzie. We will make it work!”

Although Kenzie looked doubtful, we did manage to somewhat enjoy the picnic in between readjusting our sore butts and trying to keep Boe from crawling away and staying put on our one little patch of blanket paradise.

Was it crazy? Absolutely. But was it a memory I’ll cherish forever? You’d better believe it.

But now for some of the pictures I promised:

Look at these cutie pies! :) Also... love how that dead, spiky grass is perfectly highlighted in the background.

Look at these cutie pies! 🙂 Also… love how that dead, spiky grass is perfectly highlighted in the background.

Close-up. On our picnic we had: apples, oranges, carrots, cheese dorritos, and of course chocolate chip cookies. (Boe made do with apple sauce and a bottle.)

Close-up. On our picnic we had: apples, carrots, cheese dorritos, and of course chocolate chip cookies. (Boe made do with apple sauce and a bottle.)

A broader view with us in front of The Tree. By the way, before anyone accuses me of drinking on the job--the bottle was just a fancy Italian glass water bottle that I got at a restaurant, and the glass sitting there is plastic. :)

A broader view with us in front of The Tree. By the way, before anyone accuses me of drinking on the job–the bottle was just a fancy Italian glass water bottle that I got at a restaurant, and the glass sitting there is plastic. 🙂

 

And now for some of the beautiful landscape! The view directly across from us.

And now for some of the beautiful landscape! The view directly across from us.

 

One of the things that makes "The Tree" so cool! A perfect place to sit, just there.

One of the things that makes “The Tree” so cool! A perfect place to sit, just there.

 

Close-up of the view across from us. Can you spot the birdhouse in the tree?

Close-up of the view across from us. Can you spot the birdhouse in the tree?

 

Just pretty.

Just pretty.

 

Country Landscape

 

See those brown hills? Those are where we walked from. For anyone who doesn't live in CO, the hills are the brown things. The *mountains* are the blue things behind them.

See those brown hills? Those are where we walked from. For anyone who doesn’t live in CO, the hills are the brown things. The *mountains* are the blue things behind them.

 

Love this girl. <3

Love this girl.

 

View directly across from the seat on The Tree.

View directly across from the seat on The Tree.

 

Horse pasture.

Horse pasture.

 

The same llama farm I walked by many times as a kid, where we'd name all the llamas things like: "Blackie" and "Stinky." So fun to share it with Kenzie and Boe now! :)

The same llama farm I walked by many times as a kid, where we’d name all the llamas things like: “Blackie” and “Stinky.” Oh, and where we tried to avoid the scary old llama guy who would never let us feed the llama carrots. Never mess with a man and his llamas… So fun to share it with Kenzie and Boe now! 🙂

 

Guys against girls.

Guys against girls.

 

Hidden house.

Hidden house.

 

White picket fence, gravel and dirt road, lush wildflowers, blue sky on a summer day, the scent of a hay in the air, and all with two of my favorite people. Could it have been anymore perfect?!

White picket fence, gravel and dirt road, lush wildflowers, blue sky on a summer day, the scent of hay in the air, and all with two of my favorite people. Could it have been anymore perfect?!

 

Hay Bales. Scents and sights of my childhood.

Hay Bales. Scents and sights of my childhood.

 

Hidden house again. One of the prettier houses in the area. "Rifle Creek Ranch."

Hidden house again. One of the prettier houses in the area. “Rifle Creek Ranch.”

 

Country Landscape

 

Country Landscape

Just gorgeous.

Just gorgeous.

 

At the end of the day, it may have been slightly imperfect. It may have even been less than idyllic.

But it was still a perfect day to have a picnic.

No Such Charm as a Local Shop

There is absolutely no such charm as a local shop.

Places like Wal-Mart, Target, and Kohls can give you bulk and efficiency, but their polished floors and fluorescent lighting could just never compare to the simple hominess and charm that comes from walking into a local shop.

Local shops create community, offer relationships in a way corporations can’t, and often have a sense of identity and creativity that are unique to that particular area.

As much as I like the ideas of local stores and shops, to me they’ve always been a luxury I couldn’t afford. But with the upcoming move, I started realizing how often I was driving past storefronts I’d spent years being curious over but refused to enter because of that silly philosophy of, “*Sigh.* Someday. Someday when I have the money. No sense in wanting what you can’t have.”

There is such a thing as limiting yourself if you’re worried about your self-control in spending too much. But after living in the same area for more than 20 years and never once venturing in, I started to see how silly I was personally being. How could I have passed these places for so long and never gone in? What kind of treasures might I be missing? Whose acquaintance had I never made simply for lack of entering? And really, my self-control in regards to money is actually pretty strong and wouldn’t be hindered a bit by walking into a few stores. In some weird way, it was like I was waiting for just the right amount of cash or some kind of life achievement before I finally allowed myself to wander into one of those stores as a “reward.”

“Someday,” I decided, “Needs to become today or it’ll never happen. And why not today?!”

So I put it on the Bucket List. 🙂

And let me tell you… I am so glad I did!

It wasn’t a huge life change or anything that had major repercussions, but it was a shift in mindset that was somewhat liberating. For some reason I’m still not sure I totally get, I used to think I wasn’t good enough to walk into those stores. That it would be absolutely wrong of me to walk in without the “correct” amount of money in my pocket, to walk out without purchasing anything, or to admire and appreciate things such as home decor and signs that read “family” when I have neither a home or family of my own.

I guess in a way those stores represented not only “not good enough,” but also “not there yet.”

But you know what? I walked into those stores as “not good enough” and “not there yet,” and I was happy when I walked in, happy when I walked out, and it had absolutely nothing to do with what I purchased, but with what I own. 

And what I own is this: I’m a work in progress, and I will be until the day I die. I’ll never be exactly good enough or “there” (wherever “there” is), and that’s completely fine with me. For a long time, I only saw beauty in “someday.” Someday in the future… someday when I’m married, published, a better Christian, etc. But here’s the truth I now know and own: I am worth so much more than what I do or don’t have, and it all begins and ends with one name:

Jesus.

For the first time, I walked into a store that had “boutique” written across the front and looked like this:

Elizabeth Dean storefront

Photo courtesy of Jeanette Neels at http://www.creatingalifenow.blogspot.com

 

I was surrounded by beauty and gorgeous treasures, and I stopped often to ooh and aah and touch. It was a wonderful day spent with some very well-loved friends.

The craziest thing of all though was this: I left without a single thing, and an overflowing heart. 

I felt like I’d spoiled myself, and I hadn’t left with a single thing! But maybe that’s the real beauty of it all–the beauty of how Jesus sets His mercy crown upon us–He invites us in, just as we are, not as we “will be,” or “should be,” but “just me.” And He lets us come in whenever we choose to answer His call. To take Him up on His offer to walk in just as we are instead of waiting for “someday.” And who can describe the glory of standing in the beauty of His presence?

It felt good to walk into Elizabeth Dean Boutique, but I’d be remiss, dear friends, if I didn’t tell you what it’s felt like to walk into the very throne room of my Jesus. Nothing in your life will ever compare.

Another place I had the privilege of visiting was a place called “Speckled Feather Mercantile” which is one of the most perfect names ever, in my opinion.

It’s an arts and crafts store only thirty minutes away from my home, but I never even knew it existed until recently. It’s amazing how many opportunities a person can miss if they’re not thinking about looking for them!

The Speckled Feather was a place right up my alley. I absolutely love “attempting” to be creative, and some of my favorite memories are taking art classes as a kid. It was one place I allowed myself to “mess up” in now and again. I loved dance, too, but after several tries and continually failing (or at least that’s what it felt like in my mind), I gave it up to save myself from being further humiliated. Maybe it was because I felt like my messing up in dance affected others and that the mistakes I made were more public than in art class.

Whereas in something like pottery, I didn’t have to worry about some unrecognizable shape that didn’t look even remotely like the teacher’s, because, hey, it doesn’t really affect anyone if you get it wrong, and it’s for you to create however you’d like.

But eventually I did start getting embarrassed about my silly creations and let art go, too. But the simple joy of creating has never left me, and it’s only in recent years that I’ve begun to discover that passion again.

So when I heard that The Speckled Feather hosted “assisted art projects,” I was absolutely ecstatic. I’m great about having a vision. I know exactly how I want things to look and be just so. But as far as actually putting things together, that’s where my skills end. I am just not a hands-on type person. Things that for you would be common sense don’t make any sense at all in my mind. It’s not for a lack of trying, because, well, I’ve tried. It’s when I try to take the knowledge or vision that’s in my head and try to communicate it to my hands or body that somewhere along the way wires get crossed. No matter how hard I try, it’s like a part of my brain just shuts down.

So you can imagine how overwhelming a whole bunch of scissors and paper and rulers can do to a mind with a grand vision and a body with clumsy hands. But miracle of miracles, the amazing staff at Speckled Feather helped me to create this:

Speckled Feather Creation

Can you tell how proud I am?! It felt great to be able to do something that I absolutely love but for a while had given up on being able to do. Leaving Speckled Feather with that little shadowbox in hand, I felt so much joy. Joy in rediscovering a part of myself that I’d thought was lost. Joy in creating something, just for the simple sake of creating it. I chose the word “dream” to place inside, because I thought it would be a good reminder to allow myself to dream again. The last couple of years brought me to a shattered place. One where I didn’t know if dreams came true, and where I couldn’t see much good in life at all. This shadowbox, simple as it was, was a part of me reclaiming… well, me. The good. The dreams. Hope. And healing.

So if I can leave you with anything at all today, dear heart, let it be this: Find the areas of your life where you’re “not good enough” or “not there yet.” Find the place either literally or figuratively you’re too afraid to enter. Let someday become today. Rediscover that part of yourself you thought was gone, but really was only just a little bit lost.

And when you find it…

Dream again