a love worth traveling miles for

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As the shadows lengthened, we left the party and took the kids to a nearby little amusement park, just perfect for them.  They’ve never experienced anything like that, so they were filled with glee running from ride to ride with their tickets.  Philippa was obsessed with the “ore-sees” (horsey’s) on the merry-go-round and probably rode it several times over, eventually realizing the ticket was her way in, and just walking up to the gate with a ticket and waiting there until the attendant saw her.  They all loved it and every day after Phoebe and Noah asked me if we could go back.

arriving

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Earlier in the year Brandon’s parents began talking to us about a family trip to upstate New York (where they are originally from) to surprise Brandon’s grandparents for their 60th wedding anniversary.  We were really excited because 60 years of marriage is a huge accomplishment and worth the long haul to gather and celebrate.  Also, we looked forward to seeing all of Brandon’s roots and having some time together as a family.  Brandon’s dad offered to rent a large home on Seneca Lake that would house us all.  Since it is about a 12-hour drive from home, we decided to split it up into two day chunks.  The first day we drove (and by “we” I mean Brandon.  He let me knit the whole way!) to Luray, Virginia, met up with everyone (Brandon’s parents, brother + wife + baby, and sister) and did a fun tour of Luray Caverns.  We spent the night there, got up early and headed to Seneca Lake.  Isn’t it gorgeous countryside?

The home Dad rented was just perfect.  Absolutely beautiful and with an incredible sunrise view every morning, tucked away at the very end of a laneway situation behind a hops farm.  The kids had been anticipating this for weeks and were nearly beside themselves with excitement to spend a whole week with Baba + Nain (Brandon’s parents) at a lake!  After we arrived, we unloaded and promptly deep-cleaned the entire kitchen (making it a gluten-free celiac safe-zone for our Phoebe girl, such a gift to us!), the kids were out on the water.  Brandon took them all out for a paddle boat ride, and then Phoebe wanted to upgrade to a tandem kayak with Baba before deciding she would just manage her own little boat.  She is pretty amazing in the water, fearless and quick to learn.

The next morning Brandon was trying to sneak out of our room at the crazy hour of 4:45 or something.  He couldn’t wait to go fishing.  I crept out after him and literally gasped when I looked out toward the dock and saw the sun swelling up just ready to burst over the horizon.  I grabbed my camera and nearly ran out to get pictures and take it in.  It was so serene and stunning, we couldn’t help but get up at least by 5 am every morning to catch each sunrise.  It’s dumb, I’m sure–we should have been sleeping in on vacation–but we don’t get to see that kind of glory every day and in our minds, it was worth it.  Every day boasted a different sky, each sunrise and sunset entirely new.  It was pretty incredible and I relished the early morning quiet, reading, sipping coffee, knitting to the quiet sounds of the lake.

summer getaway

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We’re heading out of town so the blog will be quiet for a week or so, most likely!  We have a long drive ahead of us and a week by a quiet lake to look forward to, gathered close with family.  I’m looking forward to laughter, snuggles, sleeping a little later, having uninterrupted time with Brandon, reading, knitting, journaling, and reconnecting with loved ones!  Share all about it with you guys soon. ❤  Until then, happy summering in your corner of the world.

setbacks

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It’s been hot here this week, at least in my opinion.  I’m a big baby when it comes to heat.  We’re keeping a little kiddie pool filled on our porch for the kids to play in and cool off, which they often swim in in their undies and then run around the yard like little wild indians.  We try not to appear too white-trash but sometimes you do what you must to keep kids outdoors and away from screens while it’s hot and humid.

June has been sort of up and down.  My brother and his new bride came for a visit early in the month after their honeymoon to Iceland, and we had a blast soaking up as much time with them as we could during that weekend.  Phoebe is quite attached to her new auntie.

I took Phoebe for a weigh-in recently and found she had lost a little more weight and her BMI has dropped again from 7% to 4%.  I know overall since her diagnosis we have seen her gain about 5 pounds and gain a few inches in height, but the fact that she keeps gaining and losing and not having the kind of “catch-up” recovery that the research suggests she should has me worried.  We’ve been keeping a food journal the last week and going over her caloric intake with her nutritionist and she believes we should try and get another 400 calories per day into Phoebe.  That’s NO SMALL FEAT, I tell you.  It’s hard not to be discouraged and to feel like we are facing impossibilities.  It’s hard to not grow weary in this work and throw my hands up in frustration.  But sometimes you go on simply because you just have no other option.  This is the hand that has been given us, and this is the work the Lord has given in this season.  It makes me fall on my face a lot, yet I can see so much good in it all, even though I find my soul complaining often.  Some days are good and we feel strong and capable, other days the fear rages and the weariness threatens.  I have learned to be honest with the Lord and to just walk with Him in it all.  I cannot tell you what a comfort the Psalms have been to me in this season.  I am listening to them constantly on Sandra Maccracken’s new cd Psalms and also Shane and Shane’s Psalms, Vol. 2.  I’m reading them daily in Tim Keller’s book The Songs of Jesus.  I cannot tell you how often I don’t have words, yet the Psalms somehow impart them and pull the words out of my soul in prayer to God.  His Word is like oxygen to me.  We press on in hope and trust.

I’ve been helped by Sara Groves’ words in this video as she shares some about her struggle with depression and anxiety, specifically her question “What is the Gospel that saves me?”  When the anxiety builds, I come back to this.  What is the Gospel that saves me?  Health?  Ease?  A thriving child?  These things are legitimate longings of my heart, but will my soul survive if God doesn’t give these things?  At the end of the day, my hope isn’t in a certain result, it can’t be, because that is a frail hope.  At the end of the day, my hope must be in Jesus and the promise of a secure future with Him no matter what comes on this green earth, a future where He will finally heal all disease and right all wrongs.  I am beginning to understand Jonathon Edwards’ plea: “Lord, stamp eternity on my eyeballs.”  If I can shift my perspective, usually my view of the present changes and I am able to find my way through.

By the end of the summer if we haven’t seen considerable growth in Phoebe, our nutritionist is recommending we seek a second opinion by a pediatric celiac specialist, which will entail some travel to either Georgia, Boston, or Chicago.  Pray with me for growth?  And for wisdom and endurance in the journey.

In other random bits and pieces of news, I’ve been taking a few photos for my dad and husband’s building and remodeling company for their website and also to make a little extra income.  We were out snapping pictures of a gorgeous deck they built recently, and the kids were happy to see daddy and what he was working on.  I had to snip off my little Noah-man’s beautiful curls this morning.  He needed a bit less hair in all this summer heat, and I needed to see his eyes again.  I don’t do a terribly great job, but at least it’s free and he doesn’t mind my imperfect cuts.

I still love June, even with all of its ups and downs.

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

 

first gifts of summer

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The days are heating up, thunder rumbles across our skies most afternoons.  We bend and obey the weather, spending our time outside in the cool early mornings, hunkering down after lunch for naps and quiet and stormy weather.  The city markets in Asheville are opening again, and Phoebe requested that we buy a big bucket of fresh strawberries at the last one we went to.  They really were the best strawberries we’ve ever had, and she’s eaten handfuls every day.  We made these grain-free strawberry shortcakes together for dessert with whipped coconut milk.  All my kids love helping in the kitchen, and I’ve been trying to once again make more of an effort to let them help more, especially Phoebe as the oldest.  Both she and Noah are learning to handle a knife and chop things with me assisting, of course.  She’s been asking for a french braid every day pretty much, and she is asking often for me to “picture” this or that.  She really likes to put on a super cheesy grin for the camera, while I prefer catching the more candid moments.  Maybe the phase will pass.

We also made our first round of popsicles, just blending yogurt, honey, fresh strawberries, and a little bit of flaxseed.  We dropped a few blueberries and chopped chocolate chips in, too, for fun.  We bought these BPA-free molds last summer and used them almost weekly.  We pulled out our little plastic pool from the garage and filled it up for the first time the same day my parent’s neighborhood pool opened.  So, pool days are officially here and we are thankful!  It’s not terribly relaxing for me to take them to the pool but it is maybe the best way to endure the muggy heat of the summer and still have the kids outside for part of the day.

I scribbled down a bunch of family plans and goals for the summer, things I want to make and do with the kids, parts of the yard and house I would like to organize and tidy and rearrange as we start to prepare for homeschooling this fall.  I realized I don’t do very many crafts with the kids, and I’d like to have a space with craft supplies and maybe attempt a once-weekly craft time with them, at least.  We play a lot outside, read a ton, and they are often imaginative and having unstructured play time, but children just love doing crafts, having mommy’s full attention and getting to make a mess and create something beautiful at the same time.  I’m checking this book out from the library for some inspiration.  And I’m taking them to story time for preschoolers at the library, which has music and craft time.  I should probably have been doing it sooner, we went this past week and all had such a fun time.  I made this incredible granola this past week (per Alicia’s recommendation), needing a cold summer breakfast option since Brandon and I both are a bit tired of eggs and pancakes, alternatively.  I forgot how much I love having a good granola on hand, and this one is so simple and fast to make with a very small ingredient list.  I think we’ll be living off of it this summer.

Last weekend we drove up to Balsam Mountain on the Parkway to visit one of my best friends from college and her family.  They live in TN and whenever we come close by one another we do our best to sneak in a visit.  They were camping for the weekend there, and we wanted to join them but just didn’t pull things together in time so we went for the day on Saturday instead.  What a treat it is to see our kids play together, and just to be outside together by a campfire, snacking, catching up and laughing.  When Brandon and I were first married and moved out to Colorado, they moved out also to a nearby town and some of our best memories were sharing times with them there.  I told Mary in a text later how much these brief hang outs make me ache to live closer to them.  When we left, we saw an elk on the roadside, and a few wild turkeys as well.

These are the early gifts of summer.  The first fruit from the vine, the gathering with friends, campfires and pools and the hopes and dreams for these sunny warm days.  Our last summer before school begins and we transition into a new season of family life.

 

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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