Growing in Gratitude: “The hills are alive”

There’s just a chance that we will receive a sprinkling of snow tomorrow.  Can you believe it?  It’s April for goodness sake, but I guess I shouldn’t be totally surprised.  I’m fairly certain the first snow fall I experienced as a child happened around Easter.  [smile]

Looking out at the verdant mountains and blue sky surrounding our little valley I’m not as convinced that these predictions will come to fruition.  The only snow that seems likely to fall tomorrow are the rest of the white petals from our Bradford pear tree in the front yard or the fading pink  petals from our neighbors cherry blossom.  In the last week the hills have come alive with color.  The grey spindly winter branches are all beginning to show signs that after this long cold winter spring is actually on its way.  Along with the signs of spring, I am increasingly aware of the impending arrival of our sweet little one.  Kicks that are not my own are getting stronger and more frequent in my growing round abdomen.  More posts about our little one are for sure coming in the future, but for now I’ll close…

Today I am grateful for the colorful hills surrounding our valley that hold the promise of spring.

-Margaret

[An addendum:  blame my pregnancy brain for forgetting that I had this ready to post last night and not doing so until today.  Looks like the forecasts were true at least in part.  Freezing rain seems to be a real possibility today.  Praying that warm temperatures come back soon and that the beautiful spring blossoms won’t be affected by this late freeze.]

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A light at the end of the tunnel and a very special announcement

Hello Blogging World, IMG_0087

I’m back… well almost.  I am nearing the end of my 6 month stint of working 2 jobs and I’m beginning to see a glimmer of hope that I will return to writing more consistently here soon.  [smile]  In the meantime in case you hadn’t heard via Facebook or in person, Caleb and I are very pleased to announce we’ll be welcoming our first child in early August!  We are half-way through the pregnancy, but still can’t believe how blessed we are!  We’ve chosen not to find out the gender so right now he or she goes by the cool moniker- Baby Fraz.

Look forward to getting back in the writing mode in earnest very soon.  Until then, thanks for sticking with me even during this season of silence!

-Margaret

 

And suddenly we can see the mountains!

Great gusts of wind have accompanied the colder temperatures and suddenly we can see the mountains!  [smile]

I knew “the Parsonage” was perched on a ridge encircled by soft mountains, but we haven’t been able to see them until now.  Directly behind our house is a little wooded area that has been a vibrant green until just a few weeks ago when it mellowed into the yellows and oranges of autumn.  Now that most of the leaves have fallen the outlines of the mountains beyond our little valley/hamlet/cove/holler are visible through the spindly winterized trees.

With every change of the view through our living room window, I think to myself, “This is it! This is my favorite and the most beautiful!”  And several weeks later another phase of the evolving tapestry appears and I can only sigh, “Wow!”  [smile]

Living in Appalachia as fall turns into winter, I feel like I am discovering the changing of the seasons again for the first time.  I think my senses are always heightened in the fall because so much change happens so quickly, but this year living in a new place I feel even more ready to detect the beauty of each little change and surprise that awaits. How wonderful it is to experience the beauty of this created world!

-Margaret

Reflections from the Road

Well I’m on the road again today.  This is my third trip in about 2 months to ASP’s center in West Virginia and I’m beginning to learn the route.  I am beginning to anticipate when I am approaching both tunnels on I-77 and brace myself for the nervousness I feel whenever I travel through the massive mountain in my path.  I imagine in another few months I’ll comfortable enough with the directions that I’ll even be able to flip off my GPS.

Happily a dusting of snow added a little extra magic to what might have been just a regular journey.   If the Farmer’s Almanac is right, the magic might wear off a little after my first winter in Appalachia.  That traditional trusty weather predictor and the prolific wooly worms are foretelling a hard season ahead.  I know I am probably being a bit naive, but honestly I say bring it on.  Even though I’ve experienced plenty of snow in adventures in North Dakota and the UK, the Georgia girl in me still sees snow as a sparkling and elusive gift. [smile]

I am so excited for my first snow day in “the Parsonage” when we’re both stuck at home drinking hot chocolate eating warm chocolate chip cookies and putting together a puzzle.  [smile]  That vision of the perfect snow day will have to wait a few weeks or maybe a month or so to come to fruition.  The small snow shower doesn’t look like it will bring on the blizzard or ice storm that will keep us indoors for very long yet.  Still the promise of the perfect snow day certainly feels closer than it did yesterday and that is something to get excited about.  [smile]

-Margaret

October was too short…

Life is too short to ice cakes; cakes are good without icing.
Life is too short to read all the church periodicals.
Life is too short not to write regularly to your parents.
Life is too short to eat factory baked bread.
Life is too short to keep all your floors shiny.*

October was too short.  Time passed so quickly this month– so quickly that I just couldn’t keep up with all our happenings here in real time and I must confess I’ve felt a little guilty.  [smile]  But October was too short… Full of little anniversaries of our first date and first kiss and bigger celebrations like my 30th birthday and our first wedding anniversary, October is already a busy month in our household, but happily we added a bit more hustle and bustle with a record total of 7 overnight guests this month (my parents and our seminary friends), the wedding of dear friends in Georgia, and of course Halloween.

Life is too short to let a day pass without hugging your spouse and each of your children.
Life is too short to nurse grudges and hurt feelings.
Life is too short to worry about getting ready for Christmas; just let Christmas come.
Life is too short to spend much money on neckties and earrings.
Life is too short for nosy questions like “How do you like your new pastor?” Or—if there’s been a death—”How is he taking it?”

October was too short.  The busyness of October bubbled over into our lives at work as well.  At the beginning of the month, Caleb celebrated his first baptism and we welcomed four new members to “The Church.”  What an exciting Sunday!  That evening at the prayer class I’ve been teaching, I had a hard time focusing our discussions because so much joy was spilling over from the mornings activities.  [smile]  “The Church” is slowly growing and we are blessed to bear witness.  This was my first full month in my new job with Appalachia Service Project and essentially I spent the whole month establishing and living into new routines.  Since October 1st, I have made trips back to each of the centers in Tennessee, Virginia, Kentucky, and West Virginia.  I have loved discovering how I am being called to be present for these young adults who are serving in these centers.

Life is too short to be gone from home more than a few nights a week.
Life is too short not to take a nap when you need one.
Life is too short to care whether purses match shoes or towels match bathrooms.
Life is too short to stay indoors when the trees turn color in fall, when it snows, or when the spring blossoms come out.

October was too short.  The most brilliant transformation during the month happened to the mountains.  Slowly the greens of summer have been replaced by the yellows, reds, deep purples, and oranges of fall.  It’s really been quite a spectacular show!  We’ve tried to be intentional about using down time to take in the colors as much as possible.  We’ve taken long drives, biked the Creeper, and spent mornings just sitting by the great floor to ceiling window in our living room.

Life is too short to miss the call to worship on a Sunday morning.
Life is too short for bedspreads that are too fancy to sleep under.
Life is too short to work in a room without windows.
Life is too short to put off Bible study.
Life is too short to put off improving our relationships with the people we live with.

October was too short, but I don’t feel like we’ve let it pass by without taking in the fullness of this very special month.  So I didn’t write about it all until now… at least I have the memory of having lived this October in a way that I can happily proclaim with orphan Ann-(with an)-e Shirley that “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers!”

-Margaret

*Poem by Doris Longacre, the author of the Mennonite cookbook More with Less and the book Living More with Less.

11 Questions: Who inspires me the most?

Day 2 of the 11 question challenge and I fear that I’m already stumped. [smile]  Read this question and tell me it doesn’t give you pause.

2. Who inspires me the most? Think about the one person you most want to emulate. Who is it? Now what is it about their story or character that draws you to them? …The person you want to be like the most tells you a lot about who you hope to become.

I mean really one person.  Just one person who inspires me.  I am overly blessed and like the gift of great friends, I am fortunate to have many people who inspire me.  Rounding out the top of the list are my grandparents, parents, and in-laws. Each of these incredibly special people have taught me so much simply by being their authentic selves. From them I have learned that it is better to give than receive.  I have seen them open their homes to the world.  I have heard the stories of their perseverance to work to provide for their families and the stories of the stances they took against injustice.  I could do little better than channel a bit of their work ethic, love for family, faith, and passion to help others.

-Margaret

 

11 Questions: Do the people I’m surrounded by bring me life?

There is no more denying it… I am about to leave my twenties behind and journey into a land unknown, a new decade.  In 11 short days, I will be 30!  [wince… I mean smile]  Truthfully, I’m not very worried about turning 30.  I love my current life situation and when I look toward the future I am excited about all the new adventures waiting ahead.

That being said I am still a bit sad about leaving behind my twenties. I’ve loved being a 20 something.  I’ve felt more comfortable in my skin… more empowered… more inspired… more excited about the future… more in love… and mostly more me in this decade than any other. [smile]  I don’t think when I turn 30 any of these feelings will magically disappear, but I feel a little of the sadness I felt when I was leaving behind high school for college or college for the wide world.

The whole big birthday coming up has me in a mood for reflecting and a few months ago I ran across an article from Relevant online that provided the perfect inspiration.  It’s a list of “11 Questions Every Twentysomething Should Ask.”  Follow the link for the full article.  So for the next 10 days (while I’m still a 20 something) I’ll try to answer a question a day.  The first one is easy:

“1. Do the people I’m surrounded by bring me life?… Are your friends anvils tied around your ankles or jetpacks helping you fly? Your life will resemble the lives of your closest friends—does that fact excite you or freak you out?”

The answer is a resounding “YES!”  I am incredibly blessed to have many intelligent, kind, faithful, and all around good people who are my friends.  Their drive is inspiring.  In terms of friends I’ve hit the jackpot! [smile]  And my closest friend/husband well, he’s just the bees knees.  Daily I am amazed by the blessing of living with him and learning from him.  Today is actually the second anniversary of our first date.  October 1, 2011 was just about the best day of my life because I began a conversation that has really never stopped.  [smile]

So yes my friends bring me life and that life is full of peace, hope, passion, service, joy, and love!  Friendship like that is the greatest gift.

-Margaret