beside still waters

DSC_0014DSC_0015DSC_0019DSC_0024DSC_0026DSC_0027DSC_0028DSC_0031DSC_0033DSC_0035DSC_0037DSC_0040DSC_0042DSC_0045DSC_0047DSC_0053DSC_0054DSC_0058DSC_0066DSC_0068DSC_0039DSC_0069DSC_0075

Hello friends.  How are you all doing?  I hope you’re ok, not just in body but also in mind and soul.  We’ve been ok.  We are all healthy and for that I’m grateful.  These are challenging times for us all, and I have felt quite overwhelmed.  All of our usual extra curricular activities have been cancelled and we have been home for many days.  I’m thankful for a big yard and sunny days when they come, it lifts the heaviness and helps us not to feel so cooped up.

However, in anticipation of a “shelter-in-place” ordinance, we decided to get out on the parkway this last weekend for a proper hike.  The more popular areas were packed with cars and we decided to avoid those. We found a trail we haven’t hiked before that ended up being so beautiful and peaceful, and we really only saw a handful of other hikers.   There are few things that are as restorative as the wilderness for us.

At the beginning of the “social distancing”, my pastor shared this quote from C. S. Lewis with us and it has stuck with me throughout these past two weeks.  Lewis was writing this as they lived under threat of the atomic bomb:

“This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.”

C.S. Lewis, On Living in an Atomic Age

I admit that in these last many days, it has been challenging for me to keep to the basic activities of being human.  I’ve had to be intentional in still lighting the candles at dinner, snapping photos of sweet moments and pretty things, folding the laundry, scrubbing the bathrooms, reading good stories, setting out the next day’s schoolwork in the evenings.  Sometimes these things feel so meaningless when facing such imminent health and economic threat.  Yet I have also been anchored by these same human activities; kept from endless scrolling of headlines, worrying and fretting.  The activities of being human help me to continue on being human.  And it is essential in times like these that we don’t lose our humanity.

Being outside in the sun, having moments of stillness, carrying on with normal work as much as possible, knitting, music, connecting with friends virtually, reading scripture–these are some of the anchors.

Be well, friends.  It may be quieter here on the blog, it may not be, I’m not sure.  I hope you are well, I hope you are finding the things that anchor you, too.  A song we sing often at church is this one, and it feels more appropriate now than ever before.  Sending you warm hugs, friends.

xo
Martha

 

 

touring the grounds

DSC_0002DSC_0004DSC_0005DSC_0007DSC_0009DSC_0010DSC_0011DSC_0012DSC_0014DSC_0017DSC_0018DSC_0015DSC_0021DSC_0022DSC_0023DSC_0024DSC_0026DSC_0027DSC_0030DSC_0031DSC_0032DSC_0033DSC_0035DSC_0036DSC_0037DSC_0039DSC_0040DSC_0041DSC_0044DSC_0045DSC_0046DSC_0047DSC_0051DSC_0052DSC_0053DSC_0054DSC_0057DSC_0059DSC_0060DSC_0061DSC_0064DSC_0066DSC_0068DSC_0069DSC_0072DSC_0075DSC_0079DSC_0086DSC_0087DSC_0088DSC_0089DSC_0090DSC_0091DSC_0093DSC_0094DSC_0097DSC_0098DSC_0100DSC_0103DSC_0106DSC_0108DSC_0109DSC_0111DSC_0112

I have an annual pass to the Biltmore Estate that expires soon, so last weekend we planned to go for a Sunday afternoon visit.  I had a couple of vouchers for free tickets as well, so Brandon was able to get in for free as well as my dad (my mom has a pass, also).  Originally we thought we would do a quick tour of the house with the kids, but now all the tours are scheduled and we hadn’t planned much in advance so we decided just to enjoy the grounds instead.  I’m so glad we did.  There is just so much space and trails that we haven’t really explored much, and it was soul-filling to be out in the beautiful weather.  We stopped in at a cafe on the grounds to get some water and coffee, and seeing the swarms and crowds of people made me realize being outside on the grounds was probably better anyway considering all the sickness spreading lately.  I grew up in Asheville and have seen the house interior many times, and the children have visited before also.  I did request however that we make a stop to the gardens and greenhouse, and it was so lovely.  I could have spent a lot more time in there, but little ones were ready to move on.  We did end our trip with a visit to the stables and barn because of course Phoebe insisted we do just that.  It was just a beautiful and nice day together and with my parents.  I hope you enjoyed this little virtual tour as well. ❤

sweaters and swimsuits

DSC_0053DSC_0051DSC_0057DSC_0061DSC_0064DSC_0066DSC_0069DSC_0070DSC_0073DSC_0077DSC_0078DSC_0083DSC_0085DSC_0087DSC_0089DSC_0091DSC_0092DSC_0093DSC_0095DSC_0100DSC_0101DSC_0103DSC_0106DSC_0107DSC_0109DSC_0111DSC_0114DSC_0123

Looking at these pictures today made me chuckle, the juxtaposition of sweaters and woolens with sprinklers and swimsuits.  We had a few cooler days (more like 80s instead of 90s) last week and cooler evenings, and thankfully here we can escape on the Blue Ridge Parkway to higher elevations and it is usually always chilly.  I’m thankful for those little respites from the heat, the glimpses of fall.  On the weekend we went for a picnic with my parents and of course, I didn’t pack enough warm layers because I couldn’t imagine it being that chilly, but it was.  The fire was so cozy and we hope to get out camping soon, soon!  The kids helped hunt for firewood and good climbing trees, and played hide + seek.  We lingered in the beautiful evening light and Brandon did a short, impromptu map + compass lesson with the older three.  Time up there in the quiet wilderness is always refreshing to my soul.

Meanwhile at home, flowers are growing, the garden is still giving its gifts, and bored sweaty children plead for sprinkler games.  I’m in the thick of planning for the coming year, and I’m getting excited for school days to begin soon.  I mentioned on instagram that I listened this week to the Charlotte Mason Poetry podcast latest episode (from Jul. 23) titled “Habits for Life” and was so reinvigorated by it.  I highly recommend it!

Anyway, these are simple little snippets from my week.  It is the first of August now, and the last days of summer freedom are upon us.  May we savor them!

reorienting

DSC_0003DSC_0004DSC_0007DSC_0010DSC_0011DSC_0015DSC_0021DSC_0025DSC_0027DSC_0032DSC_0033DSC_0036DSC_0043DSC_0046DSC_0048DSC_0052DSC_0053DSC_0056DSC_0060DSC_0063DSC_0070DSC_0064DSC_0071DSC_0072DSC_0073DSC_0074DSC_0077DSC_0081DSC_0084DSC_0085DSC_0088DSC_0089DSC_0094DSC_0097

When life crowds in and all the pain and hurt breaks our heart, sometimes we need to escape.  I don’t know what it is about the wide open spaces, the heights, the familiar trails, the quiet of the wilderness and the piercing fresh air, but it truly does wonders.  We are facing some hard things personally and I asked Brandon last weekend if we could spend the day Saturday out hiking somewhere.  I didn’t have the energy to think about where to go, and somehow he knew just to quietly drive me to one of my favorite areas, Black Balsam and the Shining Rock Wilderness area.  We speak few words to each other, I knit on the drive, snap photos while hiking.  Mostly we just enjoy the respite from our every day landscape.  I think about place, and why familiar places can minister so much to our souls, all the memories sewn into the landscape.  I have been coming to these trails since my childhood, but mainly since my high school days when I first fell in love with backpacking.  I have come to these trails many times to be with God, to be in the wide open silence, the whipping wind, the other-wordly play of light and cloud.  Now we bring our children along as we go, feet tracing routes we know like the lines on our hands.  We hike most of the day, five miles in all I think, in which their little feet kept up with our pace with barely a complaint.  We get back to the car around 3 in the afternoon and eat lunch all piled in the hatch of the van, wet and muddy, tired but refreshed.  Souls reinvigorated.  I am so thankful for this little tribe of mine, the way we explore and sojourn together.  These children are so precious to me and I’m so proud of them.  I pray they learn to endure when the way is foggy and unclear, when the weather turns from sunshine to storm.

The mountains feel a bit like they’re moving under our feet and we find ourselves reaching out for that which is immovable and certain.  I can never express how profoundly grateful I am for the scriptures, for the God of the scriptures who is THERE, who speaks, who is unchanging and wholly Other while being intimately close, and for His word which is sure and will endure forever.

I turn to these old words from a treasured commentary by Walter Brueggemann called The Land: Place as Gift, Promise, and Challenge in Biblical Faith:

“Land is a central, if not the central theme of biblical faith…There are no meanings apart from roots.  And such rootage is a primary concern of Israel and a central promise of God to his people.  This sense of place is a primary concern of this God who refused a house and sojourned with his people (2 Sam. 7:5-6) and of the crucified one who had ‘nowhere to lay his head’ (Luke 9:58).

A sense of place is to be sharply distinguished from a sense of space as has been stressed by some scholars.  ‘Space’ means an arena of freedom, without coercion or accountability, free of pressures and void of authority.  Space may be imaged as weekend, holiday, avocation, and is characterized by a kind of neutrality or emptiness waiting to be filled by our choosing.  Such a concern appeals to a desire to get out from under meaningless routine and subjection.  But ‘place’ is a very different matter.  Place is space that has historical meanings, where some things have happened that are now remembered and that provide continuity and identity across generations.  Place is space in which important words have been spoken that have established identity, defined vocation, and envisioned destiny.  Place is space in which vows have been exchanged, promises have been made, and demands have been issued.  Place is indeed a protest against the uncompromising pursuit of space.  It is a declaration that our humanness cannot be found in escape, detachment, absence of commitment, and undefined freedom.

Whereas pursuit of space may be a flight from history, a yearning for a place is a decision to enter history with an identifiable people in an identifiable pilgrimage.  Humanness, as biblical faith promises it, will be found in belonging to and referring to the locus in which the peculiar historicity of a community has been expressed and to which recourse is made for purposes of orientation, assurance, and empowerment.  The land for which Israel yearns and which it remembers is never unclaimed space but is always a place with Yahweh, a place well filled with memories of life with him and promise from him and vows to him.”

Yes, maybe that’s it.  When all is spinning, we need to return to places that remind us of who we are, where we are going, what is sure and unchanging.  Maybe returning to those places is what helps to reorient us to the God of the place, and the promise of His presence with us in all our sojourning.

graybeard + this year’s fall color

DSC_0003 (1)DSC_0005DSC_0008DSC_0009DSC_0011DSC_0013DSC_0014DSC_0016DSC_0030DSC_0033DSC_0037DSC_0044DSC_0047DSC_0052DSC_0053DSC_0056DSC_0059DSC_0061DSC_0062DSC_0067DSC_0068DSC_0076DSC_0081DSC_0084DSC_0086DSC_0048DSC_0088DSC_0090DSC_0091DSC_0092DSC_0093DSC_0102DSC_0100DSC_0099DSC_0098DSC_0094

I shared a few posts back about damaging my camera and needing to replace it.  Well, I did!  It wasn’t a major upgrade at all, but the camera is a slightly newer model than what I had and I am still trying to figure things out on it.  It was so wonderful to be able to get out last weekend for a day trip to nearby Montreat, NC where my husband and I went to college, met and married.  These trails used to be our daily bread, our common language, and now we are so rarely in these woods!  It was ministry to us both.  It’s therapeutic to get away from home and our usual work for a bit, particularly to get outside together.  We hiked for a little ways, looking for a good spot in the river to stop and let the kids play.  I think our kids are pretty decent hikers considering their age; Philippa does well keeping up with the older two, though she can often tire out far sooner than the rest of us.  As much as we’d like to go farther, we have to be content with shorter hikes and more stops and curiosity.  After playing in the water for a bit the sun dropped below the mountains and the temperatures grew cooler quickly.  We headed back to the trailhead and the picnic area just below it for a cozy warm fire and dinner.  It was a treat for me to play around with my camera throughout the day, and I was thankful for the opportunity to capture a bit of this year’s fall color, and these simple sweet moments together with children who are growing lankier every time I turn around.  Fall, the turning of seasons again, and these days slipping by so quickly.