We are back from a week off the grid in Wyoming and Montana!  

It was a great time of relaxing with family at the Broekema Family Reunion in Bozeman, Montana and a few days in Jackson Hole, Wyoming with the girls.  I love this part of the country and spent my summers taking trips to these places so it was great to take the girls and show them the Rocky Mountains and where my mom's family is from.

We took road trips DAILY and just wandered around looking at the beautiful scenery and we even took them on one of my FAVORITE things to do... a white water rafting trip!  We spent lazy days with the family by the lake and at their homes and had lots of fun eating, laughing, praying and hugging!  It is such a blessing to get together with my mom's family every 4 or 5 years and just catch up with "our people"...  We counted over 180 people in our immediate family from just my mom's parents and down!  It's incredible to think of the heritage we all share with this family that has loved the Lord for so many generations and immigrated from Holland for religious freedom and opportunity.  I can't begin to tell you how coming together with those that could be here this summer was just SO great! 

Here are a TON of photos from our week out WEST.  (Sorry for the photo overload)

1st stop:  Jackson Hole, Wyoming...

An early morning guided Safari trip through the Grand Tetons National Park got us this gorgeous photo as the sun was rising...

Inside the GTNP is this old barn that is one of the most photographed barns in the U.S.  A beautiful backdrop of the Teton Mountain Range adds to the beauty for sure!

This my friends is one of my most treasured photos from this trip... Look closely because I was able to catch a WEASEL in mid air!  We watched this little cutie for about 20 minutes and our guide for the safari hadn't seen a weasel this summer yet so he was so excited to see this too!  This weasel was busy running around this field, trying to catch a little squirrel for lunch and climbed up and down this tree.  He was SO cute we wanted to take him home!

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Of course we had to capture the obligatory photos under the iconic antlers in Jackson!  What I don't remember (and maybe someone can correct me if I'm wrong) is seeing these arches on every corner in this square?  I remember as a kid coming here many times but only one street corner had them?  Now every corner on this main square does...  

Million Dollar Cowboy Bar... another iconic place in Jackson.  We went inside, for about 10 feet before they ask for your ID and the girls just couldn't pass for 21 I guess.. lol  This place is famous mostly for the saddle seats at the bar.

Not the typical shop you'd see in California... hahaha  But pretty intimidating to see a grizzly bear and think about running into one of them in the great outdoors!  By the way, we saw just about EVERY animal and bird native to this area on our safari and road trips, EXCEPT a bear and wolf.

This was SO cute and the girls wanted to ride in it but we ran out of time.  Next time I guess.

The town of Jackson has come a LONG way in terms of cool places to eat!  This was one place we were super excited to eat at because the chef trained at the Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and this was THE place in town for breakfast and coffee!

Miss future "Travel & Food Blogger" was all over this place taking photos of her food, so I had to grab a photo of her... :)

Now when in Jackson Hole, you have to do as the cowboys do... (I guess)  So, we went to an old wild west theater show!

We had front row seats to this play and it was QUITE an experience... Let's just say Lance got pulled up on stage, and then I got pulled on stage to play a part!  There may be videos of both these encounters but I will not be sharing them :P

Then we were headed to Bozeman and decided to take the scenic route through the Tetons AND Yellowstone.  We had heard that would be a crazy endeavor because of the 100 year anniversary of the park, but it wasn't too busy at all!

We stopped at this beautiful waterfall and it WAS gorgeous!

I hope you can see what jumped right out at me in this photo above!  Do you see the cross?  Everywhere you look in this area there are downed trees.  From either a thunder storm, a fire or they just die and fall down.  But these two trees fell in such a way that it looks exactly like a cross and right in front of what looks like a big cave.  Everyone was looking at the waterfall on the other side and taking photos while I went to check out the other side of the bridge we were on and saw this cross instantly! It was just a little "God wink" as I really wanted to focus on the Lord on this trip, to pray and reflect on life and what the Lord is doing in our lives and "be still" with family.  This cross out of trees was a beautiful little reminder that God is right where WE ARE and it felt good to see that.

This is Old Faithful Inn.  We have a very special connection with this place... My GRANDPA helped build it!!  We wish we had more information on exactly what he did here, but the oldest sisters remember that he helped build part of a wing that they added on in the late 1930's or early 40's.  It was originally built around 1913 but they kept adding on more rooms and wings in the 20's-40's.  So grandpa Broekema would come down from Bozeman and helped with the construction!  How cool is that?  I've been here many times with my parents as a kid but bringing the girls here was so great to show them their family history right here in Yellowstone!  I also have to find a picture of the same grandpa FEEDING THE BEARS in Yellowstone!  Yes, there is a family photo of him with a bear on it's hind legs as he is feeding it!  YIKES...

We had lunch in the Inn and then hurried out to get a seat in front of the Old Faithful Geyser and wait for it to explode!

We saw a ton of animals on this trip but it was really hard to capture them with my iPhone.  I wish now that I would have taken the good camera but I was trying to just take the essentials and didn't want to pack all the gear... But above you can see some Buffalo and a deer.

As we drove up to Bozeman we were able to drive up the Gallatin Valley, which is my favorite drive in America (besides Kangamangas Highway in New Hampshire) This drive in the afternoon with the sun hitting the water as you follow the Gallatin River up to Bozeman is one of the prettiest drives EVER and I highly suggest taking this trip if you are ever in the area or want to visit Montana.  

We finally arrived in Bozeman and after a 20 year absence I can honestly say this town has really changed!  I'm still not sure if I like the changes, but there were definitely some really cool places to eat and lots of new buildings!  One store Lance noticed was this sporting goods store with the gun sign... I have a feeling that's been here a while though!  (I think Lance wanted to bring home a gun... hahaha)

The next day we took a drive all around Bozeman.  This city is surrounded by mountains and the drive was so peaceful.  We just took our time exploring this area that has such a place in my heart.  It was so good to be back and feel that connection to the beauty and to the family we still have here.

As a kid I always heard stories of Lewis & Clark when I visited my family and here we found a sign talking about this area and the story of them and Sacajawea!  How cool is that?

Rebecca loves photography and since she "sometimes" let's me take photos of her (Isabella rarely lets me) I get some great shots in cool locations like this, an abandoned railroad bridge!

Since we didn't see any bears out in the wild we decided we REALLY wanted to see some!  So outside of Bozeman is the Grizzly Bear Experience and let me tell you, it was AMAZING!  These bears are REAL and CLOSE and as you walk up to the open air exhibit, you do so very cautiously because it looks like they could just come up right to you!  I had to actually ask that question... but there is a ravine in between them and us.  But I did wonder if they were aggressive enough if they could jump over it??  It certainly gives you an idea of the power these animals possess and what awesome creatures they are!

That night was spent at our cousins house with these people.  Like I mentioned earlier, there are almost 200 people in our immediate family, but unfortunately we only had about 60 that were able to make this reunion.  This first night we didn't even have all of the 60 but it was so great to hug everyone we haven't seen in so long and some have never even meet Rebecca and Isabella!  Last time I was here I was with Victoria and my mom and Victoria was only two years old.

The next day was a LAKE DAY!  My cousin reserved a private pavilion for all of us to hang out in lakeside and we had all kinds of fun!  Another cousin had a friend who is a chef and he came and catered the dinner for us so we didn't have to even think about bringing the food... that was awesome!

This was so precious I had to get a photo.  This is Nathan and he had his son and daughter on his lap fishing with them!  Nathan was the one that "saved" Isabella and Jessie when the had their canoe tip over on the lake!  We were all watching as this happened and yelling from the lakeside telling them what to do and he could see they needed help so he swam out to them and got the canoe flipped over, the water out and them back in it!  Thank you Nathan!!  xoxo

This is my Aunt Jerita!  She is the Matriarch of the family at 90 years old!  She is someone I dearly love and have grown up with such wonderful memories of.  She is a humble, lovely lady who loves the Lord and has lead an amazing life helping so many people and Christian organizations.  Love her.

We had such a great day here at Hylite!  We hiked to a waterfall, fished, went out on a boat, read a book, painted, had a little canoe accident...(it's all good, and a learning experience for Isabella... lol) But such a beautiful place to be with the whole family and really connect with everyone in this perfect setting.

The next day some of us decided to go White Water Rafting!

This is one of my favorite things to do and we were a little nervous taking Isabella since it can get quite scary.  But we were told by the guides that the rapids are down and it would be more like category 2 rapids... Not true.  These were real category 3 rapids and when the water is lower there is even a great chance of bumping into the rocks and tipping the raft or falling out!  So it was good to know that our guide was playing AIR GUITAR when we slammed into a huge rock! :P

But it was SO much fun and our cousin Jessie and the girls had a BLAST!  That night we had our final get together at our cousins house in the countryside.  It was so great and again I remember spending so many times here as a kid sitting on their fence, riding their horses and just enjoying the country life...

Our little family representing at the family reunion.  Unfortunately Ty and Dawn and the girls couldn't be here this time and were greatly missed!

Celebrating the July Birthdays!

Kids just seem to migrate to Rebecca.  She loves kids and so many cousins that never met her before were sad to see the week end, in part because of her!  But she has plenty of pictures on Snap Chat with each one... hahaha

The last night spent at our cousins ranch was a perfect ending to the reunion.  We loved being out in the country and spending these last moments with the family in such a beautiful setting.  This family is a heritage I am so proud to be a part of.  It was so fun to hear stories of faith, God's provision (one cousin has 7 children... 4 of which were adopted from the Congo and such a beautiful story) and each families story was awesome! We all came together to celebrate this heritage and it was a privilege to spend time with everyone, even though we felt like we didn't get enough time to talk to each person. Our cousin Haley and her mom came up with a song they wrote to the tune of the Brady Bunch song and it was hilarious!  I wish I could post the video but it was too long...  But the "Broekema Bunch" is a family of love, laughter, faith, and quite a bit of craziness, but we are blessed to be a part of it!

Sunday some of the family was able to go to the "church on the hill" that my Great Grandpa helped build!  Apparently from the family that remembers, he helped with the stained glass windows. Another great story and I'm so glad we had this reunion here where the families history started so many years ago!

So my advice to you after this week "off the grid"... get out in nature!  I really believe the Lord wants us to take that time to REST, to seek Him and being out in "God's Country" is really restoring to your soul!  I feel so strongly about this that I am really praying about hosting an Art & Faith Creative Retreat right here in this area of the U.S.A!  You'll hear more about this later if the Lord is leading me in this direction...

I hope you enjoyed these photos (sorry it was long but they were mostly for my family to see... lol) and I hope you treasure and make time for your family too!

I kept a Travel Journal and took my Travel Bible with me and here's a little peak into a couple pages I did while I was on the trip:

Hugs,

Laura

P.S.  NEXT MONDAY is the day the 2017 Art & Faith Creative Retreat in Italy goes LIVE!  You can sign up RIGHT HERE on this website!  Just go to the "SIGN UP" button at the top of this site and click on the REGISTRATION PAGE and on August 1st at 8am in the morning there will be a button to click on and pay the deposit!!  Hope to see you in Italy next year!

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