1. Have you had the joy of visiting Yellowstone National Park? What were some of your favorite “wonders” you saw while there? If you haven’t visited yet, what would you most like to see?
2. Elsie has dreamed of being a teacher since she was little—a desire she feels God planted in her heart. Is there a dream you’ve held close for many years?
3. Even though Nate is grown, he still hears his father’s harsh words telling him that he’s dumb and a failure. In the story, what helps him move past them? Are there hurtful words from your past that you’ve internalized? What are some ways you can put these voices to rest?
4. Early in the story Mary says to Elsie, “I’m never serene. I’m bubbly and feisty like your beloved geysers.” If you were to describe yourself in Yellowstone terms, which would you choose?
a. Bubbly and feisty like a geyser
b. Calm and serene like Yellowstone Lake on a sunny day
c. Strong and stubborn like a bison
d. Playful and mischievous like a raccoon kit
e. Temperamental and explosive like a mud pot
f. Loving and fiercely protective like a mama grizzly
(fill in your own).
5. Elsie’s parents believe that the key to love and happiness is found in Matthew 7:12, which says, “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets (NKJV).” Do you believe this command can be applied to marriage? What does that look like?
6. Early on, Mary and Rose seemed to think that Teddy was Elsie’s perfect match. Why didn’t things work out between them? Do you think her parents’ teaching played into her decision? What was it about Nate that Elsie preferred?
7. Were you surprised to discover the arsonist’s identity? When you first started reading, who did you think it was going to be and why?
8. Throughout the story, Rose is showing symptoms of depression, but her friends don’t take it seriously. Mary even says, “How long will she mope?” Do you have a close friend or family member who struggles with depression or anxiety? Have you dealt with these issues in your own life? Were you able to get help? How has our understanding of depression changed since Rose’s time?
9. Elsie’s relationship with her cousin Graham is tenuous at best. Her mother tells her, “Forgiveness isn’t earned. It’s bestowed.” Is there someone in your life you’ve struggled to forgive? How did you get to the point where you could “bestow” forgiveness on that person? Or have you?
10. It’s not until after Elsie has granted forgiveness that she learns about Graham’s kissing adventures. Do you think she was wrong in forgiving him? What do you do when someone you’ve forgiven stumbles again?
11. The cones of the lodgepole pine are serotinous,
a scientific term meaning they don’t open unless conditions are right. For this species, they only release their seeds after fire melts their thick coat of pitch. Ranger Brookes compares the cone to our lives as Christians. There are many references to fire in Scripture, but these are some of my favorites. Can you think of how the story of the lodgepole pine is
similar? How is it different?
a. Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. (1 Peter 4:12-13, NKJV)
b. I will bring the one-third through the fire, Will refine them as silver is refined,
And test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name, And I will answer them.
I will say, “This is My people”;
And each one will say, “The LORD is my God.” (Zechariah 13:9, NKJV)
c. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you. (Isaiah 43:2, NKJV)