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!



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]


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!”


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

Nada te turbe

In October 2009 just after completing my archaeology Masters coursework and right before headed back to the states, I retreated to Taize– a special spiritual center nestled in the Burgundy region of France.  Sometimes I have trouble believing I was actually there.  Looking back on the solo journey from Bristol to Paris where I boarded a train at the Gare du Nord then got off at a small station in the middle of the countryside where I was just hoping a bus that would take me Taize would show up, I am amazed I had the courage to take so many risks and just trust that everything would work out.

At Taize, the day is broken into periods of rest, prayer, work, and table fellowship.  Prayer happens corporately three times a day and is characterized by silence and song.  The unique music of Taize (sparsely accompanied, simple chanting) is what initially drew me to explore the prospect of retreating there.  It’s simplicity provides a spiritual connection that I find myself falling back into at the most random times.

Tonight as I am laying down to rest, this chant adapted from a prayer of St. Teresa of Avila drifted into my mind.

Nada te turbe, nada te espante;
todo se pasa, Dios no se muda.

In English:
Let nothing disturb you, Let nothing distress you;
While all things fade away, God is unchanging.

I’ve felt distressed over the last few days– not by anything super serious, but just by the everyday struggles of adjusting to a new life phase in which I’m/we’re no longer students.  Learning to adapt to new routines, schedules, and budgets as well as the continuing search for a job is overwhelming.  Add to the mix that my little sisters just turned 25 and I am now less than a month away from a big birthday myself (the big 3-0), I feel a bit like the world is spinning and I’m trying to keep up. Yet God’s love/presence/grace in my life is steadfast and ultimately I know having the courage to trust that all will be well is what I am called to.

Tonight this chant feels like a place to rest for a while.


Escape to Roan Mountain

Roan Mountain, Tennessee

Roan Mountain, Tennessee

A week ago tomorrow, Caleb and I joined some new Kingsport friends (Ben, Emily, and their sweet girls Lily and Eden) for a Sunday afternoon hike on Roan Mountain.  Roan Mountain was a truly magical place.  It felt a lot like we were walking through the wardrobe and into Narnia.  After the wonderful experience of biking the Creeper Trail a few days earlier, I joked that it seems now that I’ve got my Tennessee license and am official I could visit all the special places in Appalachia.  [smile]

These pictures won’t do the landscape justice, but I must share them in the hopes that a bit of the beauty is evident.  I’ve now got it in my head that I must take our Christmas card photos up there in the beautiful wilderness.  Enjoy.

Lily leads the way into the Enchanted forest.

Lily leads the way into the Enchanted forest.

Caleb at the summit.

Caleb at the summit.



Growing in Gratitude: Cooler mornings

The weather is changing.  All around the Tri-Cities this morning communities were waking up to temperatures in the upper 50s and forecasts for sunny days in the low 80s.  It’s not even September and still 28 days away from the autumnal equinox, but fall is almost here.  I can feel it and even caught of glimpse of it’s approaching glory yesterday when Caleb spotted a tree whose leaves were beginning to change– from bright green to yellow and orange.  Though calendars show that fall marks the beginning of the end of a year,  fall feels like a time of new beginnings.  Perhaps its because we’ve been students for so long and every fall marked a new school year.  Whatever the reason, the seasonal change that happens sometime between August and October feels ripe with possibility and promise.

If you couldn’t tell by my waxing philosophical outburst above, fall is our favorite time of year in the Fragwell household and any sign that it’s approaching is greeted with great fanfare.  [smile] This year the first cooler mornings are particularly exciting because they signal the start of my first full autumn in Appalachia.  I can’t wait to see the changing colors in a brand new setting and am already anticipating the beauty of the views surrounding “The Parsonage” that will only be revealed when the leaves begin to fall.

Today I am thankful for cooler mornings.

What are you grateful for?



Growing in Gratitude: A weekly series on “Daily Musings on Life Together”
The psalmist wrote, “Sing a joyful noise to the Beloved all peoples of the earth! Serve the Lord with a glad heart! Join hands in the great Dance of Life!” (from Nan Merrill’s Psalms for Praying). Join me in this dance each Monday as I practice giving thanks for things big, small, tangible, and intangible. Feel free to count your blessings in the comments.

Blue butterflys on my nose…

Soaking in the sunshine.

Soaking in the sunshine.

We made it down the Creeper Trail with no flats, no blowouts, no injuries.  Well no injuries to our party of 6.  We did witness a emergency rescue of a woman who ran off the trail and into the creek.  It was pretty scary and a good reminder to wear a helmet and pay attention while riding.  Aside from witnessing the emergency, the day was a beautiful combination of sunshine, solitude, fellowship, butterflies, and ice cream.  [smile]

About halfway down the trail I was addicted.  Could you blame me?  We were riding thru some of the most beautiful scenery; it was downhill almost all the way; and did I mention the butterflies!  [smile]  A butterfly actually flitted by slightly grazing my face.  It was the exact blue of my bike.  Below are the promised photos from the day.

With our "hosts" Ernie, Gail, Vickie, and Gary

With our “hosts” Ernie, Gail, Vickie, and Gary

We started our ride in the rain and rode into the sunshine.

We started our ride in the rain and rode into the sunshine.

The bikes lined up and ready to go.

The bikes lined up and ready to go.

Finally a picture of the two of us.  I'm thinking this is a contender for our Christmas card! [smile]

Finally a picture of the two of us. I’m thinking this is a contender for our Christmas card! [smile]