Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Down South

 We had a wedding to attend in Georgia and planned to spend a week down South.  It's been over a year since we've seen our family, so we anticipated great times together.  I wanted to pay attention to capture those special moments.  I knew we would be astonished by God's gracious gifts and now I will tell about them so we never forget.

The night before our trip we drove Arielle home from Boy Scout Camp.  She had been visiting Steven on Family Day.  On the way we were treated to a gorgeous super moon glowing low in the sky, following us all the way home.  It set the tone for a week of wonder.

The next morning we packed up the car and headed down the familiar highways we've traveled so many times before--over the rivers and through the mountains to Grandma's house we go.  We cheered each state line we crossed and counted license plates and ate junk food.  In southern Virginia we tried to find that great Mexican restaurant we visited twice last year, but we couldn't remember the exit.  

Monday morning we drove into Grandma's mountains and there she was, as always, opening up the door to her little house, welcoming us with hugs and exclamations of how big the girls were and how handsome Fred was.  Then we enjoyed a grand spread of delicious food for lunch--ham and cheeses, fresh vegetables and fruit.  And of course, lots of talk to accompany the feast.  We're home!

I'm now reflecting back on precious family time as we look at all the pictures and remember what we did.  I think of Arielle and my little niece Kaneya swimming at the hotel pool, both of them bronzed dark brown by the sunlight.  We took our annual trip to Walmart with Grandma (always a tradition), wandering the aisles and picking up goodies.  Then we stuffed ourselves at Ryan's bufffet.  My sister Kelly invited us to chicken barbeque at her house--three varieties of legs! The men of the family grilled and us women folk talked and laughed the night away.  Kelly's husband, a well-known Cherokee sculptor, gave us a gift--an exquisite vase designed with hummingbirds and turquoise.  What is the occasion for this?  Kelly says because they love us.  I am overwhelmed with such a gift!  

My mom and I share an evening making pasta salad and ironing wedding clothes--treasured mother-daughter time.  Ordinary, yet extraordinary.  We exchange stories, remembering our lives together.  I am so grateful to have so many years with the person who loved me first.  Liana didn't want to stay at the hotel with us, so she alone stayed with her Grandma, making their own special memories.  Liana felt so loved and accepted, just like I always did as a child.

Fred, the girls, and I also spent time together as a family.  We strolled through the souvenir shops of Cherokee.  My generous daughters bought me a beautiful wooden bird that caught my eye. It will be a reminder of that day.  Fred bought the girls knives despite my disapproval.  If you're in the South, you just have to get a knife, I guess.  We got postcards and Native medicinal teas and herbs.  These were relaxing days with no agenda.  We often didn't even know what time it was.

One morning we drove across the mountains into Tennessee.  Fred sampled moonshine and we listened to a band playing mountain music with the audience rocking back and forth in wooden rocking chairs.  Arielle said she could have stayed all day.  She felt quite at home there.  On the way back to Cherokee we decided to drive up to Clingman's Dome, the highest point in the Great Smokies.  It's another 7 mile steep drive off the main mountainous road and then a 30 minute hike on foot to the top.  Elevation 6,644 feet.  A sign at the bottom warns of thin mountain air.  The path is steep and my asthma-compromised lungs wouldn't allow me to walk the whole way.  Liana said she would stay back with me and we watched the other pilgrims huffing and puffing their way up.  Fred and Arielle went all the way.  When I see the pictures, I regret I couldn't make the climb. But even at our resting stop on the path, I felt like we were on top of the world.  The air was crisp and cool, and clouds touched the mountain peaks.  The grandeur of it all was overwhelming.  We were in awe of God's creation and felt privileged to witness it.  Check out the color of the sky at this elevation!

One of the highlights of the trip was doing a little genealogy research for a friend of mine.  Amazingly, her mother and my mother lived in the same small town outside of Cherokee.  I did a little investigating on-line before we left home and knew the address of a cousin she had lost touch with through the years.  I thought I would just take some pictures of the area.  But when we found the actual house where the cousin lived, I thought, why not take a chance and knock on the door.  We met a delightful older woman who was so willing to talk.  She wants my friend to call and I was so glad to help them connect.

At the end of the week we left the mountains to go to the wedding in Atlanta.  Georgia greeted us with crepe myrtle blooming in shades of pink and violet all along the highway.  But the awful traffic was a reminder of my one summer there.  So many people in one area!  We dropped the girls off at the wedding venue to get ready and visit with their cousins.  Arielle and Liana were both bridesmaids.  Then Fred and I had time to kill.  (What an expression!  Let's not kill time but make the most of it-- and we did.)  We splurged on a good lunch and then later stopped at Starbucks for vanilla lattes.  We had a "moment" sitting there sipping our coffees, remembering ourselves as a couple and not just mom and dad.  George Harrison sang "If Not for You."  

The wedding was beautiful, worshipful, and sacred.  We enjoyed good food and time with family.  Then came the sad good-byes and a long, long drive home.  We started out with pounding rain and heavy traffic, but soon the sun was shining and the roads clear.  We stopped for the best-ever peaches in South Carolina.  Fred asked where would we put them with our car so loaded.  I said if I have to hold them on my lap the whole way, we still needed these peaches. We stopped for lunch at a crowded Cracker Barrel on our way north through North Carolina and I tried to be positive during the stifling boredom of sitting so long in the car for 15 hours.  (Yes, it really took 15 hours.)  I was thankful for my tireless husband who continued to drive on and on.  We washed and ate peaches at a nice rest stop in Virginia.  But then we had to get back in that car.

We were on the home stretch--the GPS said only 15 more minutes!  Suddenly there were flashing lights in our rear view mirror.  No!  Yes, Fred was being pulled over.  We were defeated.  What a way to end our lovely week.  And would this drive home never end?  The policeman said it was 68 in a 45 mph work zone.  Fines are doubled in work zones. But it was midnight and there was not a worker in sight!  That doesn't matter apparently.  After a long delay the officer gave us just a warning!  Maybe we looked pitiful--two tired girls in the backseat, piled with junk from this long road trip, mom and dad up front exhausted.  We praised God this man had mercy on us!

Home finally!  I almost wanted to kiss the driveway.  We stumbled inside.  Vacation was over, but we have lots of memories and lots of blessings to be thankful for.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Monday, July 07, 2014

Summer Gifts

There has been sadness, worry, and conflict, but blessings abound!  Life goes on, kids grow up, friends see us through, family stays true, little ones bring joy to our lives, new plans are made.  There is always hope.  God reminds us time and again how much he loves us and how he has it all under control.  Amazing grace.

The first week of July is already gone and summer will soon be a memory.  I try to live in the now and be there in the moments that are good and precious. Our little Joey comes for a sleepover and has special Grandpop time.  These two have a special bond.

I haul four kids back from 4-H on a dark night and Arielle puts on a Casting Crowns CD.  I say, "Play the bones song."  And she does, the one about Ezekiel's vision of the dry bones coming to life. 

"And the Lord sent his wind into the valley and breathed the breath of life into their souls..."  And the Holy Spirit passes through our little red car winding its way home as the kids softly sing.

Our township's fireworks were rained out but we had new friends over for dinner and my son manned the grill before the storm came.  Good conversations over dinner enriched our lives and later the kids played board games in the basement and lit sparklers in the backyard with lots of laughter. 

And the holiday celebration wasn't lost.  Damien invited us to dinner and fireworks in his township the next night.  During the absolutely gorgeous day before we leave, Liana helps lay the new deck boards with Fred, sawing and drilling and having great Dad and Daughter time. I pick blueberries from the bushes my sons gave me and eat a lot of berries before I even go back in the house, just standing there in the sunshine.  Arielle and Steven give us a pre-fireworks duet on the piano playing a song Arielle has been working on for awhile.  

I'm not counting stars but gifts.  

Jordan's joy is contagious.  Damien cooks us chicken once again and we sit under the trees in his yard.  It's such a beautiful night.  Gretchen loads the table with good food and we feast.

 We carry our blankets out to the field as darkness descends.  It is so cool we need jackets.  I get hugs from Lana to warm me up.  Our littlest one Eva crawls across the blanket and then into her daddy's lap.  We hear the first boom and the sky fills with lights. Jordan alternates between being frightened to fascinated.  Granddaughters!  How blessed I am.  It takes an hour to get home because of the crowds but I don't mind because it just prolongs our best-ever 4th of July.

"As grace extends to more and more people, it increases thanksgiving to the glory of God.  So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.  For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison."  But as we wait for that, God fills us with good things. Jesus tells us we ought always to pray and not lose heart. 

Photo credits: Liana