Our family vacation this past summer was to Yellowstone National Park and boy it did not disappoint! The magnificence and beauty of God’s creation was on full display. I read one factoid that said that less than 2% of the Park’s 2.2 million acres was developed. That means there’s a few buildings and roads, but otherwise, 98% of the Park is untouched and simply is allowed to be true wilderness. But, none of this was possible without a place for my family to stay, and we chose a VRBO condo in West Yellowstone right outside the Park’s entrance.
Upon arriving into our room, it was uncomfortably hot. Unconcerned, I turned down the thermostat and went about unpacking and all the things you do upon arriving in a new place. An hour later, still hot. Odd little fact, West Yellowstone is actually in Montana, even though the majority of the Park is in Wyoming. Year-round population of West Yellowstone is 1,090, and those are mainly the workers who take care of the hotels and restaurants in this primarily tourist town. And, when we all think of Montana, we think of cooler weather. So, I likely shouldn’t have been surprised when I went to the front office of the condos and relayed the message that the A/C seemed to not be working, and they revealed…it doesn’t have A/C. “Huh?” I asked. I’m an American for cryin’ out loud! What place in the continental U.S. of A. doesn’t have A/C?!?! The front desk worker went on to explain it’s usually cool in Montana, and it was unseasonably warm (it was in the mid-80s), to just leave your windows open at night, and calm down.
I wasn’t amused.
But, I resolved to make lemonade out of lemons and figured we’d give the ol’ window trick a try that night. So, we all settled in, opened our windows and shut our eyes. Somewhere between jetlag, REM sleep and sweet dreams, something jarred my body out of its horizontal position. Something I couldn’t quite put my finger on, but of 2 things I was convinced: 1) It was loud and 2) I wanted it to stop. I meandered around in a stupor as I sought to bring myself out of Dreamsville and into reality. That abruptly happened when I physically bumped into my daughter, Eliana, in the hallway of this unfamiliar abode as we both tried to coherently process what was happening. The physical clash fully awakened me, and I became even more convinced of 2 things: 1) whatever was happening was really loud and 2) I wanted it to stop.
Having now come to presence of mind at 2:30am, I realized that the fire alarm to the building was going off. Keri was scurrying around waking the other 2 heavy sleepers as we scrambled to find shoes/flip flops/articles of clothing/etc. Thankfully remembering to grab the room key and my phone, we departed to the stairwell to make our exit. To say I hadn’t fully grasped the concept was an understatement. Internally, I was mad at the dumb teenager who had pulled the fire alarm as a prank, but quite literally, the building could have actually been on fire. But that option didn’t make its way to the forefront of my thinking until later.
Upon exiting the building, my breath was taken away. It was like jumping into a pool of ice water. What had been a heat wave earlier that day had suddenly turned into modern-day Antarctica. I opened my weather app to reveal that it was a balmy 38 degrees at that moment. At this point, all 5 of us were wearing shorts / t-shirt / summer pajamas / flip flops. And, at this point, we were not allowed to go back into the building to grab a jacket. Nor did we want to because our ears were bleeding from the 150 dB fire alarm that was blaring into the night.
So, we did what any other normal vacationing family would do. We started to take pictures. By then several hundred other guests had poured out of the complex and into the parking lot as we heard distant sounds of a fire truck heading our way. Upon getting closer, the fire truck siren was also loud, which made my ears angry again. But I digress.
It started to dawn on me that the building might be on fire, but a quick glance from afar revealed no smoke or fire. We huddled in family groups as the firemen entered the building and to do their job to make sure there was no fire and to discover the reason the alarm was triggered in the first place. And, we patiently waited for them to do their jobs, all the while secretly hoping they’d hurry up since we were all starting to lose feeling in our extremities. Teeth chattering and body heat not sufficient to keep pace with the Artic-Montana chill, I was ready to find 2 sticks to rub together. Or, check out of this place and find another one that had heat. Or, do air squats to warm the quads and get the ol’ ticker pumping blood to my outer ends. I chose the air squats. I embarrassed my family and they moved away from me…
An eternity later (30 minutes in reality), the firemen gave the all-clear and we all groggily returned to our rooms for warmth and sleep. Turns out the fire alarm was triggered by a faulty switch and the rest of the vacation was peaceful. We learned that opening the windows at night to the 38-degree air kept our condo cool for the balance of the day, even though it was quite warm outside.
I once knew a guy that worked at a church that said his title was Chief Firefighting Officer. Meaning, he’d come into the office, get distracted by the staff, the issues, the email notifications, the texts…and by the time the end of the day rolled around, he really had nothing to show for it, other than ‘fighting fires’. I can relate, and I’m sure you can too. The office setting is constructed in such a way so as to promote collaboration and teamwork. Yet, without careful intent, we can easily get sucked into fighting fires instead of doing deep work.
So, what about you? What incessantly loud and annoying noise is keeping you from your core focus? Is the tyranny of the urgent crowding out your ability to put your attention on the important? Do you want it to stop? Is the stresses of the day overwhelming your ability to provide the world the opportunity to see you at your best? To see you operating in your unique ability?
These questions are too important to ignore. Fighting fires will bring you no joy and no innovation. Take some time today, find out where the noise is coming from, and turn it off. If necessary, leave the premises. Staying where the alarm is ringing for too long will ruin your hearing…will ruin your desire to make progress. Close the door, shut off the notifications, silence the calls. Take a deep breath, put your head down…and focus. Do what God created you to do. Don’t allow the distractions of the day prevent you from reaching your full potential.
You were created on purpose for a purpose.
May you intentionally live it today!