Smoky Mountain Vacation!

On Tuesday I unpacked (read: dumped) my, John's, and Arie's suitcases out after a two-week-long cabin/camping vacation in Tennessee and North Carolina. The t-shirts, the shorts, the bathing suits, my skirts... all wrinkled and worn, falling out of their duffle bag homes into a colorful pile. I find post-vacation laundry to be more satisfying than most. It's mostly because completing this chore is going to be like doing a little clothing "makeover"... a dramatic BEFORE (they're stained! they're wrinkled! they smell!) and AFTER (they're clean! they're folded! they smell good!), but also because just the simple act of tossing each article into the wash brings with it a flood of good memories: the buff John wore when he hiked up a mountain I still can't believe he did that... the small shorts Arie stained with his chocolate milkshake in Asheville He was so excited about that treat!... and oh look, the pair of jeans I packed in the bottom of my suitcase are still there, folded and unblemished because I never had to take them out. We had great weather, didn't we?! 

Yes we had fantastic weather and created even better memories. 

I have to tell you that I feel two ways about vacations. On one hand, they are a privilege. When we were in Tennessee we stayed in a cabin that overlooked the Smoky Mountains. This was the view from our porch and our bedroom window:

Every time I took that mountain view into my eyes, sealing it into my mind, I felt lucky. Not lucky in a "something randomly good happened to me!" way, but lucky in the sense that I knew that view- that time off and away from everyday life- was something special and I should be humbled and grateful for the opportunity to enjoy it.

On the other hand, vacations are necessary. Not that they have to be big and fancy, but simply a time away from our usual routines and responsibilities: a time to play. Particularly a time to play with your family. Each year after our vacation, John, Arie, and I come away stronger and more connected to one another. Our vacations are a time for us to put aside the worries of our regular days and enjoy each other. Laugh together! Rest. To not only love one another, but to love being with one another.

This year we enjoyed being with our little family of three and also being with my side of the family- making us 10 in all. We began our vacation spending a week near the Smoky Mountains with my parents, siblings, their spouses and my little niece. After that week John, Arie and I drove a little farther to camp near Asheville, NC for a few days.

The idea for the Smoky Mountain side of our vacation was born from a few sources of inspiration: a friend who traveled there years ago and came back with the most beautiful pictures (I want to go to there! I thought), a re-occuring comment that John and I had made on numerous past vacations: I wish [insert family member] was here to see this!, and- maybe strangest of all- a cabin rental recommendation from an office assistant at Arie's dentist!

That last one was incredibly serendipitous. Back in January I was scheduling his summer appointment and she asked if we would be away for any vacations (which we would schedule around). I mentioned we were looking into a trip to Tennessee and she replied with Oh I have just the place for you! She scribbled the name of a cabin rental company on the back of a business card and just a few days later (with many emails, calendar checks, and Skype conversations) we had the 10 of us booked for a week in the Smokies! (Lots of you who followed our trip on Instagram and Facebook have been asking me where we stayed! Here's the link to our cabin.)

As you know, this past spring was incredible painful for me and John having finally conceived after years of infertility only to miscarry. Through those painful months we spent a lot of time researching and thinking about our trip to the Smokies. It wasn't just a happy distraction for me. I knew at that time when God's presence seemed so far away what I needed was to be awed. I've always been this way: some of my earliest memories of being comforted by God's presence happened for me as I stared out across the endless sea of Lake Ontario near my home. I've noticed the Psalmist bends this way too: finding relief from the personal cries of his heart by looking up and around at the vast creation. Reminding himself of the power, the creativity, the dominion of his God.

I love Psalm 121:1: I lift my eyes to the mountains- where does my help from from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. 

How often in our time of need do we struggle to conjure up the trust we need to survive? My well of internal strength quickly runs dry and I am learning as I get older that I cannot make myself trust God. I don't have enough optimist or will-power to do it. I need to look outward. I need to look to Him to fill me. He has left evidences of his power all around our planet and often what I need to do to reestablish my trust in Him, is simply to look at them. To lift my eyes to the mountains.

That's what this trip to the Smokies was about for me. Lifting my eyes.

To that end I had a three part "bucket list" of things I wanted to see and do on our trip:

  • Swim in a swimming hole. 
  • Hike to a waterfall.
  • Stand on a high point with a breathtaking view. 
I also hoped to hike along a babbling brook like we did last summer when we were in New York state, but that experience last year was so magical I didn't want to set myself up for disappointment so it didn't make the list. However I am happy to say it did indeed happen and much to my surprise the experience was even more beautiful than last year's. 

Enough talking, more pictures! (I'll leave the names of these places in case any of you find yourself here one day.) 

Swim in a swimming hole: check. ("The Sinks.")
My sister-in-law Kaitlin leading the boys in a plunge off this rock! #girlpower

Hike to a waterfall: check. ("Laurel Falls")
Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls:
all your waves and breakers have swept over me.
Psalm 42:7

Stand on a high point with a breathtaking view: check. ("Clingman's Dome")

Hike alongside a babbling brook: bonus check! (Chimney Tops Picnic Area)

I went into this trip wanting to be awed and I was. In the face of those mountains I felt small and vulnerable, but I also remembered how enormously powerful my God is. I feel like I've been put in my place. I know we don't usually use that phrase "put in your place" in a positive sense, but I mean it in one. Not in a shameful way; in a right way. I've been put in my place in a way that humbles me and opens me to trust my God. I need that. I want that. I'm getting that.

Part two of our trip to Asheville to come.... once I get this laundry pile sorted out. ;-)



  1. Anonymous8/13/2015

    I hope you check out my blog and please follow by email. creatingpreciousmoments.blogspot.com
    I hope you will enter my Bible or Scripture card giveaway! :)
    Love in Christ,

  2. That looks like an amazing trip! I have been called to the great Smokeys, and am waiting for a time where it is right for us to go - this just makes me want it all the more.

    Your writing and perspective is so wonderful - I look forward to each post.

    1. Thank you so much! I'm excited for you to go someday. It is a beautiful place!


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