our first camping trip

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Two weekends ago we took the kids on their very first camping trip about an hour and a half away to Smokemont Campground.  We met up with my two best girlfriends from college and their families, which seriously made it the best trip ever.  We borrowed an 8-person family tent from some other friends of ours.  I can’t believe we haven’t invested in one sooner!  We fit a queen-size air mattress in it and our rickety old pack and play for philippa, and still had plenty of room for the other kids to sleep on the floor plus keep all of our stuff inside.  The best parts were:

seeing our children (9 now altogether, with 1 on the way!) play together,  biking around and basically running a bit wild

phoebe’s first time tubing in the river

gluten-free s’mores around our campfire at night

Travis’ endless supply of french press

walking from one campsite to another to visit each other and chat

late night time with my two besties talking about life and homeschooling and all of our ailments now that we are in our 30s

sleeping with the fly off of the tent beneath an inky bowl full of stars, listening to the river + crickets

noah asking me if we could just go home or if we could get in the van and lock the doors

waking up warm and cozy, snuggling long in bed while brandon made me coffee

bacon + eggs (best part of car camping, besides air mattresses)

children with tousled heads and jammies playing in the morning light

We had no major incidents, which will probably give us a false sense of success and victory going into our next family camping trip.  It was only one night, but it felt like a restful getaway and I’m hoping we can squeeze in another trip in the fall.  I felt very inspired by my two girlfriends who have efficient setups and systems for their family camping trips.

the language of flowers

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“The earth laughs in flowers.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

A little while ago I typed this question into google: “what is the purpose of a flower?”  Interestingly, most of the links that came up talked about the scientific purpose of a flower in the process of reproduction and pollination.  In fact, many of the articles said that the “sole purpose” of a flower is for reproduction for the plant.  Of course, on a scientific level, that is true!  But if I were to ask you what the purpose of a flower is, would that be the first thing that would come to mind?  I find that to be a rather sterile view of the world (never mind the irony).  Surely art has something of value to say to us and not science only.  I was a little surprised that nothing about the cheering effect of flowers was mentioned.  Or their smell.  How about the way they are used to make perfumes?  Or the fact that they have long been acknowledged to have medicinal and therapeutic benefits?

My little Phoebe-girl loves picking flowers and creating little bouquets and arrangements.  I asked Brandon to make her a flower press so she can begin keeping them in a more lasting way.  Maybe it’s just my quest for permanence, my longing to hold onto these fragile days that are blooming and fading so quickly.  How these kids are growing!  How I cannot seem to hold them down and keep them still and just this way for just one minute.  To keep Noah just as he is, trotting out of bed early in the morning, always playing “lion” and referring to himself as the lion (such as, “the lion wants a snack,” and “lions don’t like thunder,” etc.).  Or this game that phoebe and noah play together frequently called “boswell” where noah is the cat, boswell, and phoebe is his owner and walks him around on a “leash.”  Or how philippa is talking up a storm and constantly bowling us over with her personality, always trying to keep up with phoebe and noah, loving to read the “fock” (fox) book every night (“I love you Because You’re You”).

These days are so weary and exhausting and full and busy just with the simple work of running a household and keeping everyone fed and happy, and then all of a sudden everyone has grown again and I just want to hold everything down for a minute and keep it still so I can take it in.  But the days just keep going, time just keeps ticking away.  I suppose thats part of why I snap so many pictures, this quest to hold onto these days and not forget them.

Anyway, as for the press, Brandon made it for phoebe this past weekend and she loves it!  She felt pretty special that daddy made something just for her, and she has been busy pressing flowers.  I want to get her a little simple journal where she can glue the flowers in, but she also may make some cards with them for thank you notes and such.  It’s a simple thing, but one that I think helps her pay attention to the natural world around her, the beautiful things that God created not just for the holy work of reproduction, but also for the holy work of beauty.  I can’t wait to use the flower press as a way for Phoebe to begin a nature journal and as a way for her to catalog different plant species in the future for educational purposes.  But for now, I want her to pay attention to and simply enjoy the beauty she finds around her.

He created our souls to be moved and affected by beautiful things.  It’s why we give flowers to someone who is grieving.  It’s why we bring flowers to someone who just had a baby or who accomplished something great.  It’s why we spend a fortune on fresh blooms for a wedding, sprinkling them all around, signifying new life is beginning.  It’s why a girl gets a fresh bouquet and immediately breathes them in deep.

Beauty has a high and holy power to turn our heads and turn our hearts.  It is a beam, a shaft of light in the dark, and if we trace the beam back to the source, we see the beautiful God whose incredible mind created all of us and all of this, and we sing, Glory!

Last weekend my soul was aching to get up into the mountains, to escape the heat wave we’ve been suffering through, and also just to feel like we got away a bit from the house and our ordinary routines.  We went with my parents for a picnic on Sunday afternoon to nearby Craggy Gardens.  After dinner Noah kept begging us to go for a hike, so we meandered through one of the little hiking trails, walking slow, looking for things to wonder over, exploring and discovering, and phoebe collecting treasures, of course.  Feathers, rocks, found string, pretty leaves, flowers.  I find her little treasures all over the house, tucked in pockets, drawers, baskets.  Fancy that, how to a child, every little thing can be heavy with significance and beauty and purpose.

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(If you want to make your own flower press, some simple instructions can be found here or this is a cute one for purchase if you don’t have a handy man around.  The book I snapped pictures of is this one here, a seasonally organized simple craft book using everyday items found around the house.)

 

when you feel like it all depends on you

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There seems to be a magic to these longer June evenings, where the light stretches long and we let the kids stay up a little later just to savor it.  This is our last summer before we start schooling, and it is sobering a little.  I was reminded earlier this week that we only have 18 summers with our children.  I only have 13 left with Phoebe.  I read these words by Ann Voskamp earlier this week and brim with tears.  Soon I will be on the other side of all of these busy childrearing years.  And so I make plans and ideas to really enjoy this summer together, most of them simple.  And the laundry overflows, the bills pile, the decisions need to be made, and the headlines scream news that breaks my heart and makes me feel helpless.

And we have dinner together as we usually do, and I laugh as I look over to see Noah pushing buttons on his pretend phone.  We have a “no phones at the table” rule, we remind him with twinkling eyes.  He says he is “just checking the Bible,” already wise to the powers of persuasion.

They bathe and get in their jammies, and then beg us to go out for a walk.  We relent, and I grab my camera as we head out the door.  Phoebe carries a bucket to collect her treasures (whatever flowers, pinecones, and leaves that catch her eye).  We head down to our little neighborhood lake to check on the new baby goslings, and are happy to see momma duck and all 8 of her ducklings.  We tell the kids to sit down and be quiet so we don’t scare them away and much to our surprise, momma duck brings all her babies right up the hillside to us.  They are peeping quietly and pecking around on the road and then promptly head back to the water.  It is such a sweet moment, all the children hushed in wonder.  It is as if momma duck wanted to show off all her babies to us.  This will be our third summer in this neighborhood and the first time there has been so much wildlife at the lake.  It provides a lot of opportunities to teach and observe and then go find library books and explore topics and questions further.

And I quiet my soul and praise God for the way He provides perspective.  My soul hungers for wilderness places, even ones as tame as our little lake, because I remember, I see again.  Getting up into the high places far from the noise of machines and man, as my husband and I did recently, gives perspective.  I see the city and houses lying far below, tucked into the hillside and valleys and I wonder at God’s perspective.  How small we all are!  How tiny our little homes and streets and lights and city buildings!  In the grand wide world, smaller still.  But then to get knees down in the dirt of my own plot of ground and wonder at how much is going on here without my involvement or help or notice — fiddleheads unfurling, birds finding food and shelter, trees growing leaves again, bees pollinating, ducklings hatching.  What a vast bounty is here, teaching me of the abundance of God through the incredible diversity and variety of creation.  The species of trees and flowers that I cannot even name or identify, the rain that falls on the mountain peaks dripping through the mossy ground into springs that form streams of water cutting down the valley and crevices, nurturing it all, slowly finding its way into my kitchen sink.

God is above it all.  God looks on it all.  God sustains it all.  God does not need my help in order to accomplish it all.  This land is a loud song of His abundance.  His creativity.  His ability.  His goodness.  His control + sovereignty.

This land is a loud song of my smallness.
My dependency.
My limitations.
My frailty.
My humility.

These are good things to remember.

And maybe you need to remember, too.  Even a small walk in your neighborhood or a nearby trail with the intent of noticing the small things, the hidden things that are growing and living without a hint of your involvement, can be helpful.  It can help loose the tight bonds of worry and fear and self-sufficiency, to a joyful restful dependency on a good God.

The laundry, the gritty floors, the decisions, the finances, the needs and the headlines: it all matters, and I am responsible to be a faithful with what He gives me, busy working.  But He holds me together.  It is all falling apart, but He holds me together.  He holds you together.

Do you not know? Do you not hear?
    Has it not been told you from the beginning?
    Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?
 It is he who sits above the circle of the earth,
    and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers;
who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,
    and spreads them like a tent to dwell in;
 who brings princes to nothing,
    and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness.

 Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown,
    scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth,
when he blows on them, and they wither,
    and the tempest carries them off like stubble.

 To whom then will you compare me,
    that I should be like him? says the Holy One.
 Lift up your eyes on high and see:
    who created these?
He who brings out their host by number,
    calling them all by name,
by the greatness of his might,
    and because he is strong in power
    not one is missing.

 Why do you say, O Jacob,
    and speak, O Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord,
    and my right is disregarded by my God”?
 Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
    his understanding is unsearchable.
 He gives power to the faint,
    and to him who has no might he increases strength.
 Even youths shall faint and be weary,
    and young men shall fall exhausted;
 but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
    they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
    they shall walk and not faint.
Isaiah 40:21-31

 

hiking the blacks

We shoulder packs in the rain, resisting those first sensations of getting wet, eventually surrendering to the inevitability.  We are getting our feet under us again.  We find a campsite near the road, just a quarter mile from the car, an old familiar spot from our college backpacking days.  We begin to set up our tent — always strange, this need to find shelter and make home wherever we are, especially in the wild lonely of the wilderness in the rain and growing dark.  No one else is here, the fog settles heavy over the parkway, the last lingering cars making their way home to the city below the clouds.  Good, let them go.

We are in good spirits because we know an adventure is ahead, whatever may happen, and we are in need of a little adventure.  A little unpredictable.  We soon find we cannot get a fire going, can’t even get a light for our stove.  The prospect of a cold meal on top of being now near-hypothermic and wet is dampening.  Our pride is a bit wounded — such things used to be second-nature, and now we find ourselves fumbling and making amateur mistakes.

But the wilderness is no place for the proud.

We swallow it, leave our campsite in tact and head the quarter mile back to the car, warming up there and cooking on the ground outside our car door.  The rain beats relentless, we peel off soaked layers and lament that we didn’t bring a few more backup layers, while we wait for our first sacred meal.  It’s amazing the hunger that comes over you in the wilderness.  The unexpected exertion, the cold, the yawning expanse, it stirs up something in us.  We laugh and talk about how happy we are, despite all that’s already gone wrong.  This is still fun.  If we’ve learned anything in ten years of marriage, we’ve learned that things will go wrong, and that you can either ride it out with some measure of joy in tact, or you can let it sink you.  The windows are fully steamed over now.  A wet night backpacking together somehow still feels like a vacation to parents of three children ages five and under.  Any time you retreat into the wilderness and come back alive, no matter what the circumstances or foolhardy mistakes made, is still a success of some kind, we say.

Back to our dark little wet tent we go, hurrying inside, listening now to the sounds of the dripping forest.  Just the pattering of rain now, no wind.  I am anxious — I am unpracticed at being out here in this environment again, and it takes time to give way to sleep.  I’m listening for bears, or some footfall, I suppose.

At first light we get up and get moving.  We left our food in the car, not wanting to deal with hanging a bear bag in the raining dark, knowing we would be driving to the next stop anyway.  We pack up quickly, and see some promising first rays of sun.  We expect the mist to burn off and hope to dry out our layers soon.

We debate now about whether or not we should head out to our next campsite, 4 1/2 miles away, or just keep car camping for the weekend.  It feels more uncertain now, and a lot more effort than it may be worth.  We brew coffee and oatmeal again by the car in the spitting rain and wind as we discuss and try to check the radio for the weather.  Brandon is resolute, I am questioning.  We decide to go for it, register our car at the top of Mt. Mitchell, streamline our packs and reorganize from our helter-skelter night, and head out.  It takes us four hours to hike those miles.  We forgot how strenuous this ridge line hike is.  We last hiked this range when we co-led a 21-day wilderness trip in our early years of marriage, and when thinking about how we wanted to celebrate our tenth anniversary this year, we thought of hiking the Blacks.  Six of the ten highest peaks in the eastern US are found on the Black Mountain range, four of which we would hike up and down during this trip.  Down from Mt. Mitchell, up to Mt. Craig, then onto Big Tom, Balsam Cone, Cattail Peak, Potato Hill, and finally a steep descent downhill to Deep Gap.  Our packs are heavier than necessary, we decided to forego lightweight in favor of having a few choice luxuries: a tent, coffee, books and journals, some knitting, fancier meals.  Brandon ended up carrying most of the weight, being my pack was smaller.

We make it into camp around 2 pm, fighting spits of rain and wind off and on all day.  We never seemed to break out of the clouds for very long, but had gorgeous views at different points on the hike this day.  I had wanted to go onto Winter Star Mountain originally and make camp there, but we are completely spent and Brandon tells me in no uncertain terms that this is the farthest we will go today.  We feel at home in this little spot on Deep Gap, and something in us relaxes and quiets and unwinds in a way that only the wilderness seems to do in us.  We chatter on here and there, but now we get busy with the work of shelter, fire, finding water, scouting around.  We nestle our tent under the three great spruces that line the campsite, their windward sides all blown naked.  We are very desperate and hopeful for a fire tonight, and labor for a good few hours getting it started and going in the increasing wind with all the wood soaked.  Still, it is not raining now, and we finally get camp settled.  I am reading, Brandon is nursing the fire.  It is silent out here.  It is vast.  It feels terribly good to only have to care for ourselves and tend to our essential needs, when most of our hours are spent caring for and watching over three little ones and their constant needs.  It feels like a necessary fast, a spiritual act of ceasing from the work of care taking.  Out here we don’t have to think about who needs a diaper change or a snack, who needs a book read or hurt feelings consoled.  (A special thanks, by the way, to Brandon’s parents for affording us this peace of mind while keeping our little ones happy and well-engaged!)

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Life for us has become domesticated where it was once wild.  We’ve forgotten the ways of the wilderness — the immensity that overtakes you and silences all human bravado.  A quiet that is almost deafening after so much noise.  The swallowing reality that you are not in control here — this is not your domain, this world belongs to the wild things, you are merely a visitor here.  You cannot control outcomes, you can only respond to what the natural world presents.  You are limited here, limited by resources, energy, the natural bounds of night and day, by weather, conditions.  Very little is sure.

The tenth anniversary is supposedly the “tin” anniversary, representing both the durability and flexibility of your marriage, and so B and I clinked our tin camping cups over steaming Tikka Masala with chicken.  It is one of the most satisfying backcountry meals I can remember having.  We tell some stories, remember some other wilderness moments when meals ministered to more than just our bodies.

A couple of guys hiked in just before evening, we chat with them around our fire for a bit.  They are two marine friends stationed in another part of NC, and they drove six hours to camp out at this spot, craving the wilderness as we were.  The wind is howling now and we finish off our hot chocolates, then pack up the last of our food into bear bags, head off to our bear hang, just two beams of light bouncing in the dark.  Back in our tent, we zip our bags together and whisper thanks for the warmth and our few dry clothes.  We hope for a sunny, lazy morning with another campfire and coffee.

I sleep at peace this night, happy in the wilderness, though the winds now whip the tent mercilessly and the rain assaults the west-facing side of the tent in regular surges, like an ocean wave hitting again and again.  I wake up again and again, as the tent sides bowl over with the wind, praying for our marine neighbors who were sleeping in hammocks in a grove of trees nearby.  Somehow it doesn’t seem awkward now to invite them into our tent if they are out there in the elements freezing.  The wilderness will do that to you, break down the usual barriers and make you pull together when necessary.

We wake in the morning expecting for the calm that usually comes with the sunrise, but it is as wild as ever.  There will be no fire and no sunshine and lollygagging today.  We cook quickly in our vestibule, pack up, and head for home.  Our bodies are sore and blistered and the road ahead seems longer than our strength.  But we begin, as we must.

I am watching this husband of mine and I can’t help thinking how much this trip is like marriage.  You make these plans and you have all these dreams, you imagine all the sunshine and the sprawling in a hammock by a gurgling stream.  But here you are taking one laborious step after another under a load far heavier than you could have expected.  Here you are keeping pace with another while fog closes you in on all sides, erasing the trail ahead of and behind you, obscuring all sense of perspective.  Here you are, helping each other as you rise and to fall in the muck and mire over crest and trough while the rain pelts and the wind howls.  You didn’t think it would be like this, you didn’t think it would be this hard, this much of a fight.  Is everything against us?  And all the while you are lamenting this rain and fog, you cannot see that you are hidden in the cloud He has spread over you.  You forget that sometimes He makes the clouds His chariots and walks on the wings of the wind.  You forget that many waters cannot quench love, and that He comes to you like the rain.  In all this raining and all this wet, I remember again His words to me at the crown of the year, and my soul smiles.  Yes, He reigns supreme over the rising waters.

I am watching this husband of mine carrying an incredible load, carrying all his own gear plus the tent, cooking gear, bear rope, water pump, med kit, etc.  He bears the brunt of the burden.  He does this for me.  He cares for me, he is protective for me in a way I don’t often notice at home in our usual life.  Even after all these years, all these careless and hurtful words between us in our uglier moments, he hasn’t grown callous with me.  He is still tender toward me.  He asks if I’m doing okay, he asks about my bum knee, he reaches out a hand on the steeper sections, he lends me his dry clothes.  He will give me anything he can to keep me safe.  He offers to do most of the work so I can relax and read.  At the end of it all, he rubs my back in the dark.  This man is neither saint nor villain, though I often try to pin him as one or the other.  He is both, as we all are; imperfect, a mixture of grand failure and peculiar glory.  I spent so much time in our early years “looking for the music in the music box, tearing it to pieces, trying to find a song” instead of opening my hands to receive this mystery of a man, giving thanks for what is and isn’t there as unto a good God who knows best.  Finally I’m seeing that that’s where the fireflies are.

Even after all these years, when we strip away the noise, and the busy, and all the responsibility, we find that there is still love left here.  It’s beautiful, the way we move back into this space of being just us two.  It is a whisper to us of seasons that are to come, where our rhythms and our busy will change, but for now we stretch thin and strain hard.  For now we share weary smiles and winks over early morning coffee and children with tousled hair clambering all over us.  We cannot believe the goodness of the life we have been given in these past ten years.  We look ahead with confidence because of the faithfulness of our God.  When we pass through the waters, He will be with us.

spring at the farm

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A couple weekends ago, Brandon was working and I was feeling antsy to get the kiddos (and myself!) out of the house and doing something fun so that we didn’t mope around.  We headed to one of our favorite local farms in nearby Fairview.  There are a couple of farms on that stretch of road, and one of them has fields of u-pick wildflowers.  I was hoping and itching to see some fresh blooms but not much was growing yet.  We did, however, buy a couple pints of their fresh organic strawberries.  The day was a bit overcast and chilly, so the Hickory Nut Gap farm was nearly empty, which made it especially fun.  It kind of felt like it was ours for the day.  We saw the new chicks in the coop, and Philippa LOVED seeing the goats.  She calls any and every animal a “goggie” (doggie) and is the most animated when she sees a goggie.  She was trying to go up to the goats at the fence and pet them, but when one bleated she was so startled and came running back to me terrified.  They have big culvert slides for the kids, and a little picnic area by the creek.  They played in the water and we had lunch, and headed home wet, tired and happy.

Later Phoebe helped me make gluten-free strawberry oat bars.  I adapted this recipe from these applesauce oatmeal bars, but have changed it so much that basically it’s my own recipe now.  Because Phoebe is not eating oats right now in addition to being gluten free, I substituted almond meal for the oats (i’ve heard you can sub quinoa flakes too, but haven’t tried that).  For the flour I sub some kind of gluten-free flour mix.  I use about 1/4 cup of maple syrup instead of brown sugar.  And I use my own homemade strawberry jam instead of applesauce, which is from my favorite grain-free cookbook, the Grain-Free Family Table.  I think you can see the recipe for the jam scribbled above.  I l o v e these bars, they are not too sweet, the strawberries give them a hint of tartness, and they can serve as a snack or a dessert.  They were a bit crumbly, I was thinking I may add a teaspoon of grass-fed unflavored beef gelatin next time just to help them hold together a bit.  We’ll see.  Anytime I can sneak beef gelatin into my kids, I feel very accomplished. 🙂

It was a really beautiful, serene day on the farm and I so love where we live and finding free fun nearby.

 

*Affiliate links included in this post.

let the children play

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“There is a little danger in these days of much educational effort that our children’s play should be crowded out, or, what is from our present point of view the same thing, should be prescribed for and arranged until there is no more freedom of choice about play than about work.  We do not say a word against the educational value of games (such as football, basketball, etc.)… But organised games are not play in the sense we have in view.  Boys and girls must have time to invent episodes, carry on adventures, live heroic lives, lay sieges and carry forts, even if the fortress be an old armchair; and in these affairs the elders must neither meddle nor make.”  -Charlotte Mason (quoted in For the Children’s Sake)

“There are many reasons why children have been reduced to a point where they don’t play with joy, initiative, and creativity.  Often so far as their personality is concerned they are wheelchair cripples, too disabled even for crutches.  Restorative actions means scheduling time, time which is not obviously “improving.”…Certain factors encourage play.  It is often easier home-based than institution-based.  There should be space, and lots of free time.  Children need to be outdoors (for hours).  They need to make noise, mess, and to have access to raw materials (old clothes for costumes, hats, tables to turn into camps, etc.).  They need privacy from intruding adults, but they need interested support in quarrels, thinking of another way around a problem, providing food, and, at the end, bringing the children tactfully back into the world where supper is ready, the camp has to be packed up, children are tired and ready for the soothing routine of evening stories.”
-Susan Schaeffer Macaulay, For the Children’s Sake

Our home days are my favorite days, “home days” meaning the days we aren’t running around doing errands, restocking our various shelves or visiting with friends.  We love all of that, too, but we always try to have some uninterrupted hours outside, too.  One rainy days, we go hunting for puddles and momma gears up mentally for a tub full of muddy, sodden boots and clothes for laundering.  There are things that matter far more than a perfectly tidy home.  I heard a quote on the radio this week that a perfectly tidy home is a sign of a life misspent.  Maybe I’m just comforting myself with those words, but it is a comfort.  Of course, I dream of a perfectly kept home, and there is a great value in a tidy and relatively neat home for providing structure, refuge, and sanity for the family.  But there are more important things at stake than a handful of stray crumbs, cheerios stuck to placemats, laundry heaped clean in a basket.  Children are growing up day by day.  They need affection, affirmation, encouragement.  They need eye contact.  They need to be unhurried.  They need spontaneity, curiosity, exploration, dirt and discovery.

And the reality is us adults need all of that, too.  Having children is a very good thing for us “grown ups.”  It is helping me to be a child again, to remember what a world full of wonder we live in.  It is bringing laughter and silliness again, where once maturity and sensibility was so prized.  It is teaching me, as C.S. Lewis wrote to his goddaughter in the dedication of his book The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, that I am “finally old enough for fairy stories again.”  And I’m so glad.

I’m only learning, though, and often regress.  I’m thankful for these words from For the Children’s Sake, and find myself reminded that children are born learners.  Its often our systems and programming that bore them to death and teach them amiss that learning is a tiresome, bothersome endeavor.  The reality is that if we take them out into the natural world, which is so full to the brim with curiosities, beauty, ugliness, creativity, function, pain, and philosophy, they are sure to find things that spark their wonder, and we can stoke the embers of that wonder into flame.  We do that by getting down with them, exclaiming with wonder over their discoveries, asking questions and prompting their thought, finding books and videos that explore the matter further.

The geese on our nearby pond are nesting, and we just happened to check out a book from the library all about geese families.  We have been checking the geese every day if we can, whether walking to the lake, or hoping on our bikes after dinner in the dusky evening to see if any goslings have hatched.  I am learning wonder again, over things so small and things that didn’t matter much to me before.  I am learning to notice again, to wonder and to find ways to see the glory of God on display in these small and simple things He has seen fit to fill the world with.

“For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world,
in the things that have been made.”

Romans 1:20

getting out

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Oh, North Carolina in spring, you steal my heart.  That surreal bright green is creeping up the hillsides, popping everywhere.  We’ve been gleefully spending most free afternoons outside, riding bikes, drawing with chalk, playing “bubbles,” as the kids call it (when I make bubbles for them to run through and catch).

The kids are becoming such little buddies, creating such a little culture all their own.  I remember in my high school/college years I used to babysit for this family that I adored.  They had six children, and they had such a unique and fun little family culture.  The kids played these incredibly imaginative games, and I remember watching them with this acute longing to have a family dynamic like this, with children who love each other like this, who create their own beautiful little world together.  I am starting to see it unfold between these three and it is heart-melting.  I love catching them in their games.  Noah and Philippa have this bond playing ball together.  One of them sits on the bottom of the stairs, throws the ball into the play room, the other runs around and chases it, while they both kill themselves laughing.  The other day I found all three of them on the couch trying to suck their fingers and twirl their hair like Phoebe does, in a row.  Both Noah and Phoebe have this tenderness with Philippa, and lately I’m catching them holding hands with her and walking.  Now of course, they all fight and hurt one another sometimes, but we keep teaching and nudging and trying again, and we are seeing more kindness grow.  Even momma and daddy are working on gentleness and kindness.  These lessons are learned over and over again, even as adults, because our natural inclination is to be selfish and often we are most unkind when we feel someone infringing on our space or desires.

Sunday was a gorgeous day here in the 80s so we retreated to the mountains, looking for a spot to let the kids explore and play in the water.  We went up to a popular area on the parkway, Graveyard Fields, and played in the stream there.  Brandon helped the older two with fishing.  I tried to sit and knit for a few minutes but was quickly seen by Philippa who ran to me (totally soaked through) to snuggle, so that was that.  I must have sighed with a hint of frustration (even though I adore her snuggles!) because Brandon looked at me with a smirk and said, “Stressful relaxing, isn’t it?”  YES.  It is so stressful sometimes just to try and go somewhere to relax as a family.  Philippa insisted on “watkin” (walking) herself the whole time.  They really are all such excellent hikers, and they love our Sunday adventures.  Sometimes it feels like more effort than it’s worth to pack everyone up and get out into the mountains somewhere, especially with Brandon working long hours lately.  But it’s good to just get away from our regular life for just a little bit sometimes.

I just wanted to say thank you to those of you who are reading along.  It really means a lot to me that you’re here and just know I love hearing from you!  I hope you have a happy and blessed weekend, wherever you are.