Sometimes in life we are given a gift and it's not wrapped in pretty paper or ribbon but it's something we cherish through the years. This past weekend our family indulged in a true vacation. We rested, relaxed and simply shared fellowship with our friends. Cindy and I have been best friends since college and we try to calendar a rendezvous at least once a year. This is what keeps us connected across the miles since we have both decided with conviction to live on opposite side of the country with our families. We're in California; They're in Florida. We live for the few days we can squeeze in for quality talks and catching up. This year Cindy proposed we meet with both our families in Georgia. She and Greg own a cabin near the Georgia-Tennessee line and we were a day's drive from Georgia because of my graduate work. Knowing we would meet with our kids and hubbies in tow was my little carrot throughout the summer as I plowed through my final coursework at Hollins University. In short, I needed this vacation.
Since the last time our whole families were together in Summer 2006, our clans have grown. Ezekial was born last spring and now we have Baby Gilmore on the way (due in February or March). Maya is now 3 1/2 and Meilani just turned 2 so the girls enjoyed some sister-bonding time together for the first time too. The Van Heysts also brought their two additional family members, dogs Belle and Chloe, to drink in some mountain air with us all. We had no real agenda. One day we decided to take the kids for a hike. We hiked to a small waterfall and let them dip their toes in the cool mountain waters.
The best part of our weekend getaway was the beautiful cabin we rented in the mountains. We drove on windy roads up hills and over mountains and through the trees to get to this cabin nestled in the woods. A huge wraparound porch with rocking chairs and a grill and hot tub in back welcomed our weary bones. Sometimes vacation can be so busy you need a vacation from your vacation when you return home. This was not the way we rested in Georgia. We truly had a vacation. We were out of cell phone an internet reach. We slept in late, sat in the rocking chairs to eat our breakfast, let the kids run free, napped, played Ticket to Ride late into the night. We made some incredible "mountain meals." (Why does everything always taste better in the mountains?) Cindy shared her spicy meatloaf and mashed potatoes. Ericlee grilled flank steak for our fajitas one night. Greg showed off his barbeque chicken grilling skills. I made a meal of Thai Peanut Chicken to go with the Coconut soup Cindy brought. We dipped frozen bananas in chocolate and ate vanilla ice cream with the works.
One day we stopped at Mercier Orchards and bought baskets full of home-grown peaches with sweet juice that ran down the side of your mouth when you bit into them. Cindy and I had fun picking out apple butter, vidalia onion dressing, cinnamon honey, mango jalapeno marinade and other treats for family and friends. The kids found a toy section right away and hauled out every stuffed farm animal and John Deere tractor they could find. We had peach milkshakes and turnovers. Again, I was reminded of what a gift these few days were. We were able to indulge in the local goods and share conversation and adventures with our friends.
Probably one of our fondest memories was Sunday morning (ok, early afternoon) when we headed to a little park near the river. We spread out picnic blankets and pillows and had our own little devotion and prayer time together. The kids played on the nearby swings while the dogs kept watch. The four adults had a meaningful time of sharing about our marriages, parenting choices and where we anticipated going as a family in this new school year. We laughed, talked and prayed. We watched folks in tubes floating down the icy river on that hot August day.
On our very last night in the cabin, I took advantage of the beautiful garden tub in the master suite. We added (a little too much) bubbles and the girls piled in. When we turned on the jets, the bathroom exploded in bubbles. This made for hours of fun as we dressed ourselves in bubble Santa beards, bubble lamb's wool, bubble pregnant tummies, bubble hats and more. We laughed and laughed. What a wonderful memory to conclude our time together as mamas, as sisters, as friends.
I believe in a life of celebration. A life where each day means dancing and giggling and appreciating the simple things. A life where challenges are seen as opportunities. A life that sometimes allows us all to stop swirling in the busyness and actually unwrap the true gift of family and friends and fellowship. I was reminded of this life in the mountains in Georgia. What a gift.