Psalm 121

Statistic time. Did you know that compared to people in other developed countries, Americans don't ask for more vacation time, don't take all the vacation time their employers give them and continue to work while they are on vacation? France leads the world with 30 days off a year. Employees in Britain, German, Australia, Spain and Sweden have 20 or more days off a year, and Canada and Japan have 10 days off, about the same as some American corporations allow their workers. The Chinese get three weeks off a year, and this is only the legally mandated vacation time. Many employees in other countries take six or more weeks off a year.

Lately my little family has been in dire need of a little vacation getaway. My husband and I decided that even though it was financially practically impossible, we WERE going to get away. Last year we were able to stay at a friend's cabin in Asheville and loved every minute of the serenity of the mountains and the remoteness of having no cell phones or internet. Asheville is a beautiful little city right off the Blue Ridge Parkway- it has all kinds of little coffee shops and boutiques with the best people watching. Even though Asheville was great and we looked into a return visit, it was out of our budget.

When looking for a new place to vacation, we knew we wanted two things- remoteness and a mountain view. After what seemed like months of researching, we were finally able to find a cabin in Blue Ridge, Ga. And when I say it was remote, I mean I had to grip my chair, close my eyes and pray my way up that mountain every time we went to turn onto the final road that our cabin was perched on. I literally thought our car was going to start sliding back down the dirt road that led us up it. I think it was God who gave my 2 year old, Preson a comical case of the giggles every time we hit the bumpy road to help me lighten up! But that scary little drive about a mile straight up was SOoOoO worth it! (although I think our van's transmission may be slipping as a result of it :-/)

The view was ri.dic.u.lous.

I have been craving some fresh mountain air with crisp, sweatshirt-worthy mornings and evenings. Though the days were blazing hot, we didn't mind it as much since the atmosphere was not as humid. I read. I prayed. I played. I reconnected with everything that was most important to me in my life.

The mornings were spent on the porch swing, taking in the gorgeous sunrises with a steaming cup of coffee and my precious kitten, Penelope. I didn't mind one bit waking up at 6:15 for that. My husband would watch the children and let me have some "me" time.
I was able to just relax and get in the Word of God, read some books I've been wanting to read for a long time and dive yet again into the book I have been infatuated with for the last 6 months- "The Celebration of Discipline" by Richard Foster. A book I return to again and again that the Lord uses in ways I cannot describe to connect me to Himself. There is something about being in nature that connects me to God in the most meaningful way. I can see why the life of a monk would be appealing at times- just check out, spend all day every day just you and God, living a life surrounded by the most beautiful nature you can take in...but we all know that is not real life. Not to mention I could not imagine my life without the richness of the people in it. Which is why some of us take vacations. :)

The afternoons were spent either tag team napping with my husband, exploring nature around the cabin with my children and taking long drives through the mountains.

A couple of highlights...
Prior to our arrival to Blue Ridge, I researched the area and discovered a passenger train that traveled through the mountains. My little boy is totally addicted to his Thomas the Train book his Mimi Sissy and Poppy gave him for Christmas. So you can imagine the excitement of this book coming to life for him! We had the choice of either riding in a closed or an open car and we decided we would get the most bang for the (very large) buck if we sat in the open car. We traveled through the woods, alongside river rapids and crops, over bridges and into a little mountain town for an afternoon of antiquing and taking in the scents of BBQ. If only we weren't vegetarians. This was our biggest temptation we have had yet since we have been veggies- but we stayed strong! It was an amazing day with memories made.

We also took a day to revisit the town of Helen, Ga. It is a little town replicated to look like the swiss alps. It also happens to be the same area that Tommy and I took our honeymoon. We spent some time in a park located on a hill overlooking the town.
It started raining while we were there, so we retreated to a pavilion that Preson deemed, "CASTLE! CASTLE!"
...where I took a moment to soak in my family...

Once the rain calmed down to a sprinkle, we spent the rest of the afternoon moseying through the shops, picking out russian nesting dolls, sampling fudge and drinking coffee. My kinda day!

One afternoon we got a late start and decided to just drive. As we were coming out of the forest, we started seeing signs for Chattanooga, TN. Turns out we were only 20 minutes away from the city that has been a very big part of Tommy's family's life. So we took the evening and had dinner at Big River, where we last ate with Tommy's brother, Scott and his wife and baby, Jennie and Moses. We drove through the campus of Tennessee Temple University where Tommy's Grandfather was a professor and where his dad grew up. It's always neat to take a spontaneous stroll down memory lane.
This is the house Tommy's dad grew up in and where Tommy has some great childhood memories.

One morning we got up and walked around the Ocoee Whitewater Center, which was host of the 1996 Olympics whitewater rafting games.

It was a blast! We walked alongside the rapids and watched all the whitewater rafters and kayakers passing through. I cant wait for the kiddo's to get old enough to do it one day- many moons from now. They had these massive bridges that made me feel like I was entering Sherwood Forest or something.
It was breathtaking views in every direction. I had been craving some Waterfalls, so I asked the guide in the Center if there were any nearby off the highway. She told me where we could find some that were a short, kid-friendly hike off the main road. So we drove and drove to find ourselves at the top of a mountain, where we landed in this JAM PACKED campground of mountain folks. It was really strange. Anyways...
We started on our trek, which was the furthest thing from a short hike OR kid friendly. It ended up being 2 miles of up-and-down-hill hiking. Here is the picture: Tommy and I in our flip flops- my ankles buckling every 5 minutes from the rough road. Preson on Tommy's shoulders, while I had a sleeping Penelope in the sling. We rotated carrying a massive beach bag which God knows why I insisted on bringing. Preson melting down every 10 minutes. We are drenched in sweat and keep expecting the fruits of our labor any minute- for about an hour. We walked and walked and walked finally to discover this beautiful- almost mystical waterfall that stood about 65 feet over us. Worth it.
It was a lovely destination that few had taken the time to discover. Tommy walked Preson over to show him the falls. Preson was a little nervous at first, but soon warmed up to it. He played in the icy water and discovered throwing little pebbles into the water over and over again.

meanwhile back at the blanket...Penelope. She is pure bliss.

So much symbolism in our little unexpected journey. Provided some meaningful conversation on the drive back to the cabin.

So those were our days.

The evenings were spent cooking dinner together and sipping hot tea out on the Adirondack chairs while taking in the views. We talked for hours in those chairs about life, God, ministry and countless other things.

Needless to say it was a great time of recharging and a great kickstart to many of the eye-opening life changes I have recently been making.

So I guess I write this ridiculously long blog not only to document the memories of our family's 2nd vacation, but also to urge anyone reading this to take the time to stop and be still and refresh your body mind and spirit. Don't feel guilty about doing something for yourself every now and then. Trust the Lord with your position at your workplace and know he is taking care of it while you are away. Refocus those things in life that will always be there. The things that are most important.

PS- Pardon the standstill on porch updates- we are on hold for the moment due to going on vacation and are presently broke. Check back next month! :)


rachel.lyn said...

i have been craving a vacation for quite some time!! zac has a week of vacation time left this year and i think we'll save it for the Fall weather.

i LOVE the mountains... Tennessee is where we've always gone and i can't wait to take willow on the next trip!!

looks like you guys had such a beautiful (and well deserved!!!) time of rest and your description made me feel as if i was there :)


Elizabeth said...

Love these pictures! So glad you all were able to make the trip. It looks so peaceful and relaxing! And that VIEW! Gorgeous. Now, let's hang out already!