all this light

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The heavy snows of last weekend lingered all week, now just piled in soggy clumps here and there.  We have played so much in it, the kids bemoaning the sun and the melting each day.  It’s been an ordinary sort of week around here, lots of cleaning and tasks and bills and such.  The sun was so inviting this morning we were out for a bike ride and jaunt to our little neighborhood playground, but it was still so freezing out!

I found myself battling against some heavy dark of soul this week.  I don’t know how much more to share of it here, but only do so because it seemed to be a theme this week between the Lord and I, and I see it reflected in the pictures above, the favorite snapshots from the week: dark + light.  I found myself scribbling in my journal yesterday afternoon, “Thank you, Lord — the night can be so dark, black as coal, but the light falls so sweetly this morning.”  I found myself cheered by the afternoon light pooling on our dining room table, slanting across my journal laid open, dancing across the snow.  These children bring so much light, so much laughter.  Life with them is good–I’m so thankful.  Could it be that He wanted me to notice?  Could it be that He wanted me to see?  Could it be that He wanted to preach to me the light of the glory of His grace to me in these ordinary earthly realities?  To let the light slant just so in beams across my path, to remind me:   The light always overcomes the dark, always.

I’ve needed to preach the truth of the Gospel over my soul this week, leaning hard into what the Word says is true rather than what I feel.  I found particular comfort in these words:

“Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit…

You are a hiding place for me;
You preserve me from trouble;
You surround me with shouts of deliverance…

Many are the sorrows of the wicked,
but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the LORD.”

Psalm 32:1-2, 7, 10

I am blessed, not because of any other glad or fortuitous circumstance, but namely because I am one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.  This is the happiest circumstance of my life, and it is permanent, unchanging, unswerving, though the enemy of my soul would often try to convince me otherwise.

Maybe you needed to remember, too.  If you are in Christ Jesus, your sins are covered.  All His ways to you are grace.  He is your hiding place, your secret place.  His steadfast love is your shield and buckler against the enemy, your promise that in the end, no matter what comes, it will be well with your soul.  I hope you see His light this weekend, and His steadfast love surrounding you.

first snow

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Here in the mountains of North Carolina we gladly welcomed our first big snow of the year last night.  It’s still coming down in huge flakes as I write.  We had a cozy morning taking it slow and then took like an H O U R to bundle everyone and get outside.  This is the first snow Philippa can play in and potentially remember.  One of the best parts of raising kids is getting to see them discover the world.  SO fun.  We took her on the craziest sledding hill ever and she loved it!  As did the other kids.  Until they didn’t, and everyone was thoroughly wet and soaked and there was weeping and gnashing of teeth.  But hey, that’s par for the course.  Everyone recovered their sanity after hot chocolates and getting cozy by the fire.

This week has been a heavy week here, emotionally.  A lot of friends and loved ones going through a lot of difficult things, and my heart has literally been aching on and off this week, grief rolling over me in waves, as grief tends to do.  Tears coming unbidden at inconvenient times.  Playing in the snow this morning, seeing the world blanketed in white, seeing it look fresh and new… it is a gift to me from the Lord.  A quietness settles over our little corner of the world, broken only by children’s squeals and laughter, and we are soaking up every glorious second of it, even in the face of grief.  Maybe we just needed the reminder that storms can bring glory as well as grief, beauty in spite of the bitter.  Maybe we just needed to see that a storm can be the way God chooses to make all things new.

outside + in

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We’ve been really enjoying a lot of family time lately, and since the winter weather has been so crazy mild here we’ve been outside a good bit.  My youngest brother was visiting after Christmas and we took the kids hiking on Graybeard trail in Montreat where Brandon and I spent so many of our college days hiking and exploring.

Noah also got his first fishing pole for Christmas and was so excited to go fishing with Daddy on the lake in our neighborhood.  He caught his first fish, too!

Last weekend we were able to take an impromptu trip to South Carolina to visit Brandon’s parents as they are prepping their house to put it on the market.  We had such a relaxing and quiet/restful weekend with them.  The kids absolutely love them and their house.  Noah had his first opportunity to sleep in a big boy room set up just for him, and he did so well and was so excited about it being just for boys.  He and Phoebe seem to love sharing a room but I’m thinking he may be getting ready for his own space and it may be time to move the girls in together.  All the kids are obsessed with the grandparents’ dogs, which are tiny little mikki’s.  Philippa kept calling them “ba-ba,” which is her word for baby.  Brandon and I were able to get out for a good run together while the kids napped on Sunday.  I was able to spend hours knitting.  We were all a bit sad to say goodbye, and when we pulled into our neighborhood late Sunday night Phoebe and Noah both started whimpering and Noah said “I hate home.”  So apparently, they had a great time. 🙂

This week has been colder, we even saw some flurries earlier in the week!  I realize I’ve been really feeling off without a good cold winter and no signs of snow.  As much as I am savoring the milder weather with little ones who get cooped up indoors, it just feels so strange to see wisteria blooming and daffodils springing up through the dirt in January.  I read on a friend’s blog a week or so ago that “winter is a time for dreaming” and I’ve thought about it so often since.   think it’s important for us to have a season where we are forced to live more quiet, small, and slow because the days are short and cold.  It’s been a hard week, in some ways, working on a lot of projects, cleaning, and our budget (read: gag me with ruffage).  But Brandon did surprise me on New Year’s Eve with those sweet pink roses.  And there has been time for reading hand-written cards and knitting baby socks.  So life is good.

 “winter is the time for comfort,
for good food and warmth,
for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire:
it is the time for home.”
– edith sitwell

and for knitting + reading + watching “When Calls the Heart” + “Life Below Zero,” I might add.

Happy wintering, friends!

leaf peeping

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October is North Carolina’s best month. I grew up in these hills, and though I spent some of my favorite years in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, I always missed this the most about NC.  There is nothing like fall time here!  So, just in case you live somewhere where the leaves don’t turn, I thought I’d share it with you!

The last two Sundays we’ve been out trying to see and enjoy all the color this time of year offers us in the mountains here.  So we wandered up on the parkway one bitterly cold Sunday, along with all the other slow-driving “leaf peepers,” and ate a quick lunch in the car, hunting for color and playing with long icicles.  And we meandered about our own neighborhood the next Sunday afternoon, rooting ourselves in our own soil, seeing all the shades of yellow, green, brown, and red. Someone is finally getting into riding the strider bike and will possibly be getting his own for his birthday.

Fall, we don’t want you to end!  Stay, with all your color and warm light, your crinkling breezes and cool evenings.

a home weekend

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This weekend we had our first frost, and some of our coldest temps yet.  It was a “home” weekend for us, getting some projects taken care of here, like finally turning our empty raised garden bed into something useful for the kids: a sandbox.  (Unfortunately at this house we have no full sun in the yard and thus didn’t attempt a little garden plot this past summer.)  The little ones have really been into making mud pies lately, and we realized we don’t have a ton of things for them to do outside in the yard.  Part of me wants to say I believe that gives them more “scope for the imagination” (as Anne Shirley would say), but part of me knows that is just laziness/cheapness on our part.  We do want to encourage them to play outside and be creative and interact with the natural world as much as possible, so a sandbox/mud pie kitchen is a great option.  Maybe it wasn’t the best weekend to make a fun play area outside, being frigid and all, but the kids loved it!  First they went to Lowes with daddy + helped pick out the sand, then they helped unload it and spread it in the “sandbox.”  Meanwhile it was cold enough to warrant a big pot of chili + some time spent knitting (I’m just learning!) and some hot tea.  Sand can now be found in all sorts of cracks + crannies, but I guess it’s worth it. 🙂

apple season

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I should be packing right now for our trip to the beach (leaving in the morning!) but it’s a rainy afternoon and I just have to share these sweet pictures from last week with you before we head out of town.  (I am the worst packer–always leave it until the last minute.)

It’s hard to believe we’re in the last week of September already, and that by the time we get back home from our trip, we’ll be into October!  The weather has already turned here in the mountains of North Carolina as of this last week, officially.  We are in apple country and we are thankful to be surrounded by a ton of awesome orchards + farms!  Recently we went with some friends to a local orchard that has a great spot on the top of a mountain, with lots of play areas for kids, animals, tractor rides and of course, apples!

That man in the last picture above was giving us the low-down and handing out buckets, and I have to say he was a true artist.  He was super kind and sweet and genuinely interested in chatting with our kiddos and being helpful to our little crew of three mommas (one pregnant!) with seven little ones between us.  Things didn’t go 100% smoothly, with all of us having disaster mornings as we attempted to get out the door (at my house, the washing machine was flooding the basement and a glass fell off the counter shattering glass everywhere near my crawling baby girl), and a few melt-downs and tears from the kids.  You know, all the usual things. Not to mention, we actually couldn’t find any apples to pick off of the trees because of a late frost and children who weren’t willing to keep hunting down rows of trees.  But it was still such a fun time, Phoebe loved hunting for apples to pick, and Noah was both terrified and fascinated by the tractors making rounds of the orchard.  We plan to go back in October, get an earlier start and actually pick some apples this time!

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(I’m so bummed that my camera decided to focus on the dirt behind this cute little man because he posed so nicely and smiled so sweetly for me!)

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We had a picnic in the shade of this big pine tree and it was the perfect end to the busy morning, where my friend Kim and I could actually talk for a bit while our kids refueled and then ran off to play on the swings and playgrounds.

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We only came home with one peck of apples, using half for a yummy gluten-free crisp to share with our small group last night, and my kids actually ate it (which is a victory, if you knew them!)  We hope to put up some jars of apples for the winter, so we’ll be back!

(ps. here’s the crisp recipe I used, subbing apples for blueberries and adding about 1/3 c. of shredded unsweetened coconut flakes + a dash of cinnamon.  i’ve made this recipe ever so many times, usually with blueberries, since reading her book a few years ago and it’s delicious every time!)

Sunday adventures

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We have sort of unintentionally made a little family habit of drawing away on Sundays after worship, pulling away from our ordinary and escaping to the wild places nearby.  I love revisiting the same familiar haunts, but my husband is best energized in exploring.  So, we’ve sort of made a loose rule to get out somewhere new most Sundays.  We pack a bag of easy snacks + quick bites for lunch/dinner (think cold cuts, cheese, crackers, dried fruit, nuts, cold pasta salad, veggies + hummus) and usually skip naps and hit the road after church.  The kids love our adventures.  We don’t do it primarily for them, to be honest.  We do it because it refreshes and quiets and reenergizes us + our marriage in the best way.  We do it because we need the shift in perspective. But we definitely do it for them as well.  Children are so full of wonder, awe, and a natural ability to enjoy and to go slow.  Familiar black swallowtails, bumblebees and wild mountain blueberries become brand new again through their eyes.  We love (and sometimes hate) how they continually force us to slow our pace to keep in step with them rather than our usual habit of hurrying them to keep up with us.  It’s good for us.  Being with them reminds me almost daily of Jesus’ words:

“Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven”  (Matthew 18:3).

What is it about children that Jesus found so essential?  I wonder if it isn’t their simplicity.  Their easy joy over the simplest of wonders.  Their unhurried ways.  Their bright hopefulness and trust, their dependency without worry.  I want to be more like that.  When I watch them running and laughing I find myself thinking, they really are the best of us, the best of humanity.

These pictures are from a couple weeks ago.  We went back up to Mount Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi.  We used to be in the Mitchell area a ton during our college days (Outdoor Ed majors) and I think the last time I was up there was when my husband and I led a 21-day wilderness backpacking course together in our early years of marriage.  Pretty awesome to be back there with kiddos in tow, showing them this beautiful place so special to our hearts + story.  It was actually up on commissary where our story together really began.

Afterward we had a little picnic at a nearby overlook, staying long and soaking in the quiet and the evening light.  I think these will be some of my favorite snapshots from the summer.

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Mother’s Day

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My soul has felt a bit crowded lately.  I’ve realized that I “write” constantly, usually in my head because I often don’t have time to scribble down the thoughts in between dirty diapers that need to be changed and sibling squabbles that need to be mediated.  I’ve found that whatever I’m learning, whatever God is teaching me needs to find expression, usually in the form of writing.  It’s how I make sense of it, but more than that, it’s part of the process.  We come to God thirsty, He pours into our souls, and we fill up, we overflow, we spill over.  Writing is how I spill over.

But lately?  There hasn’t been much time or space and thus, a crowded soul.

Yesterday was Mother’s Day.  It was one of the best days I’ve had in a while, and it was so simple.  Breakfast + coffee made for me by my husband and the kids.  A bouquet of azaleas picked from the yard.  Worship at church with our spiritual family.  Then we grabbed a few items for a picnic and headed up to one of my favorite spots on the Blue Ridge Parkway near where we live.

We talked about it on the drive up, my husband and I, that there has always been some part of me that craves getting up on the mountains, in the mountains, yes, but more so up on the very heights of the land.  Where the wild whipping wind and the faintest flapping wing of a bird riding the updraft are music to the moment.  It was perfect yesterday.  Holy ordinary.  We captured a few moments, chatted with a few other hikers out enjoying the glorious day.  We played and laughed and got a little sun-burned.  The landscape was moody and dark with rain clouds one moment, pierced by sun rays the next.

I can’t find words for it, but it just does something for me.  So spacious, so abundant, so other-wordly and wild, it feels like my soul can expand and exhale.  A perfect little escape for a weary momma with an overcrowded, busy soul.

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To all the mommas out there, I hope you had a sweet Mother’s Day, feeling the celebration and the smile of God over you as He so highly esteems your every effort + work of faith!