finally cool enough

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The past three days it has been sweater-weather cool here and we are all breathing a sigh of relief.  Though it is rainy, the humidity does not feel oppressive– much like how it feels in the British Isles nearly year round (especially in the Lake District, my favorite place), where (from personal experience) wellies and wool are required simply for basic comfort.  I am sure it is not a surprise to learn that I love dressing for chilly weather– cozy and warm and all wrapped up.  (Suffice it to say, I will likely never be stylish nor suited well to a beach life, though I suppose anything is possible.)

It goes without saying too, that I really enjoy the peace and relaxation of knitting. These days, though, there is really no time for me to knit, yet somehow, someway, a row here and there over a few weeks and suddenly the stitches all add up to a sweater for someone very small to wear–and finished just in time.  (This is one of the many advantages of a portable hobby.)

Honestly, at the end of each day I am often left with a feeling of having-not-completed-anything / nothing-is-ever-finished (common to mothering small children), but when the yarn is bound off, needles put away and buttons sewn on, I feel like at least one thing is done, and done for my own enjoyment (and that cannot get undone).

And now she is warm and ready for Fall, all snuggled in wool and love: A win-win.

it was happy

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My husband is a wonderful gift giver all year round, always bringing me something he thinks I would like or something that makes him think of me, always surprising me with something.  He is a Giver.  So sometimes it seems like my birthday is year round.  (No complaints from me!)  Even so, this was a special birthday all on its’ own.

He and our children picked out some things earlier in the month that they could not wait to give to me (their excitement over it all was gift enough), and a fabulous cake was brought home to me, pictures drawn for me (my favorite one is entitled ‘Winter House’ (….”and mama, it is snowing outside and it has candles in the windows and wreaths on and above the door and people singing inside”, my 5 year old tells me)).  And we went to a funny Japanese Garden in the middle of a small southern country town that seemed to have no reason for such a garden.  It was very out of place (which made me literally laugh out loud when we pulled up to it and parked) but still very pretty, all of us poking around at what was new to us, enjoying the sun and less-humid weather.

So it was really a happy day, a happy weekend, a happy week.  We celebrate by just being together, which is the happiest part of any birthday and more than enough for me.  This is a rich and blessed life, especially with them in it.

I think this is going to be a great year.

a birthday to remember

332277_4049449707136_1848745203_o332140_4051797005817_1548184931_o415641_4049317063820_1869215815_o326803_4049396625809_706182481_oThree years ago we were in the Bavarian Alps for my birthday week, which was this past week.  So of course I have been recently thinking about our many times in that region of Europe.

Sometimes I don’t realize just how special something is until it is long in the rearview mirror.

We were in this beautiful spot more than a dozen times over our many years in Germany because my husband had work to attend there and we (our children and I) were fortunate enough to tag along with him each time.  But this visit was especially beautiful as I remember it.  It was warm and sunny and clear and the fields were filled with clover and wild flowers for the gentle, wandering, bellowing cows.  The sky was filled with parasails flying high off the mountain peaks, and the air filled with train whistles (for those heading up the slopes for site-seeing and very early skiing) and the melodious deep ringing of clanking cowbells everywhere.  And there was so much space for my little ones to run free and wild.

I remember feeling elated– closing my eyes, turning my face toward the sun, soaking it all in elated — my heart aching, hurting, from how beautiful it was there and then. 477561_4049309543632_858590650_o On my birthday we visited the Zugspitze, the highest point in all of Germany, around 10,000 feet.  On the way to the top you could look down into the Eibsee, a beautiful glacial lake, and at the almost-top, standing comfortably in the biergarten, you could look up to the golden cross which signifies the very tippy top of the mountain peak.  Many climbers actually climb their way from the bottom all the way up to that very peak– It amazes me still that anyone would have that courage, for I certainly do not.

There was a chapel at the top of the mountain too, and snow and children sledding.  And though I had prepared for it to be very chilly up there in that altitude, the reality was that it was quite warm in the sun.

The view was stunning. 340788_4055860747408_1725869977_o133936_4148507063508_359913430_o271345_4051815886289_749790443_o But I began to feel very unwell on that mountain top.  And that unwellness became the suffering of a miscarriage, about which I have been quite quiet about since.  It was profoundly sad to me of course, but it was somehow tempered by the gift of that unexpectedly beautiful birthday week in the Alps.  It was as if the inspirational beauty around me filled me enough so that when the grief came, I was not completely empty.  I could tangibly remember God’s goodness through the gift of those glorious days.

I think a lot of life is like this– the ebb and flow of beauty and pain — and how they are so wound together…  How something could be so beautiful it literally hurts, and how the pain and hurts are shaped into something beautiful in its time, even if only in memory.

I am grateful for being shaped by both beauty and pain, for in and through it all is Love. And I am grateful to have had a birthday to remember that by. 338359_4051794285749_1636584619_o

magnolia plantation

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IMG_1910IMG_1862IMG_1871IMG_1873IMG_1874IMG_1876IMG_1887IMG_1891IMG_1890IMG_1901IMG_1909IMG_1913IMG_1921IMG_1916IMG_1924IMG_1927IMG_1935IMG_1939IMG_1943IMG_1946IMG_1948IMG_1951IMG_1968IMG_1973IMG_1975IMG_1979IMG_1981IMG_1984IMG_1991IMG_2003IMG_2006IMG_1849I never imagined a swamp could be lovely or even beautiful and certainly not enjoyable, especially on a supremely humid air-that-clings-and-slightly-suffocates day.  But it was beautiful and it was enjoyable, and we had a great time at the Magnolia Plantation, one of the oldest and most historic plantations in the South, founded in 1676, set not too far from Charleston, South Carolina.

The greens, lush and slick with rain drops, the landscape heavy with mist– the scenery forced me to walk slowly.  There were new things to see– things like live oak trees filled with cascading moss and thick chartreuse algae carpeting swamp surfaces under bright red bridges.  Colorful flowers poking out from behind green shadows, garden mazes of strong-smelling boxwood,  and tall, soft grasses I had never seen before.  (Not to mention my delighted daughter introducing herself to all the animals, all properly:  “Hi horsey. I’m Eithne!”.  Every animal is her friend, truly. )

I imagine these gardens are stunning in Spring, alive and overflowing with azaleas, but even now in the quiet that is early September in these parts– well, it was still very beautiful.

We did not tour the Plantation home (this season of parenting very young children precludes certain aspects of site-seeing, and home tours are included in the ‘not-a-good-idea-just-now’ category) but we spent a few hours exploring the gardens and animals, all of us noticing new things, finding ourselves exclaiming, ‘Look! Isn’t this so pretty?’.

Truly, there is beauty everywhere– even in swamps.  I had no idea.

I am so grateful we got to see it.

all

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God is over all things

under all things,

outside all,

within, but not enclosed,

without, but not excluded,

above, but not raised up,

below, but not depressed,

wholly above, presiding,

wholly without, embracing,

wholly within, filling.

 

~Hildevert of Lavardin