Weekend before last we stole away for a few days to our favorite little cabin high in the mountains for our fifteenth anniversary. We have come back to this spot together for a few anniversaries because it is quaint, quiet, and offers a sacred space for retreat, celebration, reflection, reconnection, and recreation. Brandon makes time and space to go fly fishing maybe once a year usually only when we come here, fishing all through the beautiful Watauga River valley. I make space to read, write, hike and knit. We always miss our kids intensely and want to bring them with us, but at the same time we recognize the value of time away alone together (thank you mom and dad for taking such good care of them!). In some of the photos below you’ll see pictured a park where Brandon fished for a bit and I took pictures to show the kids, planning to take them there for a day trip sometime this summer. Brandon spoiled me with a new robe and a ring made of wood + crystal. The 15th anniversary year is traditionally celebrated by either crystal or a watch, thus the crystal in the ring. I gifted him a new gadgety watch which he really liked.
This last year for us was the most challenging we’ve ever faced and this anniversary thus felt like a huge milestone. While I cannot speak to where we were this time last year, I can only say it is no longer where we are. The storm of what we have gone through is rumbling off on the horizon behind us now, still very much so in view, and we are still very much so drenched through from the downpour. But the ferocity of the worst of it seems to have passed over us now and we are moving on into a different place. We have been completely laid low and humbled, and one thing my therapist said early on in counseling has stuck with me continually all these months: help them to know, Lord, that they are weak. Help them to know they are dependent. Yes, I do believe more than anything else that is something we have learned: we are weak, we are daily dependent on Him. What we “knew” before, we now know in an experiential way. He is the God of the storm, the wind and the waves answer to Him, they rise and fall at His command, they cease at His mere whisper. Whether we like it or not, whether we will ever fully understand it, the storm serves His purpose and all praise to His glorious name He is sovereign over every bit of it, kindly and mercifully able to work all things for our good and His glory.
Now we walk gingerly, picking our way through, finding our footing again.
(Can you spot the fly fisherman in the first two photos below? Can you spot the knitter’s riverside knitting spot in the third picture below)
We did a fair bit of hiking to find fishing spots, and Brandon did many more hours of fishing than we have in the past, and it was really fun. My request was to explore hiking the ridge line of Grandfather’s Mountain, which I have only hiked around on from the state park access (which is pricey to enter and also usually busy with tourists). We found a trailhead for the Profile Trail and hiked that on our last morning after checking out from the cabin. A quick overview of the hike said it was 7 miles or so and would take 4-5 hours. What an incredible hike! The change in ecosystems while hiking is in itself quite remarkable, and there are many beautiful stopping points along the way. Toward the top is the lookout for Profile View, but we hiked on to Calloway Peak, which is accessed toward the end by ladders a bit precariously placed on rocky crags. It was truly stunning and otherworldly up there and I for sure want to hike it again. While the hike up was a good workout, I was concerned the whole time about the hike down. I have pretty bad knees which often easily dislocate and also I recently sprained my left ankle badly and after several weeks it is still quite swollen, tender and painful. The hike down was as brutal as I expected but my body did better hold up. It did cost me a couple big toenails but hey.. still worth it.
I can’t help but think about the parallels. You can’t enjoy a view like that without all the work and commitment it takes to get there. It’s dang hard work, costly. Painful. But for the few who will endure and surrender to the process, there is a reward at the end. We spent five hours hiking, for only a few moments of an absolutely breathtaking view and a quick bite of lunch. Many wouldn’t consider it worthwhile, but I assure you it is. We have traveled a lot of trails together in our marriage, both literal and figurative. Some I wish had never come to us. Yet here, by the grace of God, we are. Held fast by Him and spurred onward toward Him and through Him. He is everything to us. That is the fruit of 15 years of marriage.