The Road Goes On… (May 30)

A man’s mind plans his way as he journeys through life, but the Lord directs his steps and establishes them… (Proverbs 16:9, Amplified Bible)

The road from Bellingham has been….longer than I expected. And in some ways, also shorter!

As usual, when we set out, I had some ideas about how things might unfold. And, also as usual, so many things unfolded much differently than I could ever have imagined! 

While I had planned on settling in Texas for as much as a year or so, it turned out that the Lord had us there to take care of a few things for a few weeks…And then to move on to help Joe’s sister in Alabama with a few things for a few weeks…And then to move on to explore a few properties in the Appalachians for a few weeks….And now to move on to Florida to help a friend with a few things for a few weeks! And we don’t know yet where the road will go from there…

It’s an exciting way to live, a curious way to live, not the usual way to live…And it’s a time when He has really been showing us how to depend on Him daily, forgetting the worldly wisdom that tells us what we should do, what we must do, what we need to do, and reminds us of His wisdom, that the only thing to do is simply to follow His ways, trusting him with all our hearts, and leaning not on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5)!

The road from Texas to Alabama followed the coastline, with a stop for a picnic dinner in Seaview Rim State Park, where we wiggled our toes in the Gulf of Mexico! 

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But our dinnertime quickly turned us into dinner for swarms of flying pests, and we decided not to stay long! So, driven onward by the ridiculously voracious mosquitoes, lol, we kept on driving into Baton Rouge…It was a late night, but there was time in the morning to enjoy the pool!

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The kids continue to be so adaptable during our adventures, and we thoroughly enjoy rewarding them, and the Lord continuously provides great opportunities like this! A warm, sunny morning, an outdoor pool, and cannonballs all around!

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It also shortened the rest of the drive for the munchkins, lol!

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In Alabama, there were 5 acres of yard to enjoy, during work and play…

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And cousins, including a brand-new one!

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And then, in a flash, we were on the road again!

The Lord had quietly put it on our hearts, while we were in Texas, to begin exploring land in the Appalachians. It was just kind of an image of hardwood forests in the low mountains. And after we spent a little time researching, it became clear that we wanted to start our searches in the area around Asheville, North Carolina. It just so happens that the road from Bastrop, Texas to Asheville, North Carolina passes right through the area where Joe’s sister lives, so we were already well on our way!

So, while we stayed, and worked, and played in Alabama, we began to plan a trip to view properties. I found a place to camp in the mountains outside of Asheville, and we made a list of properties to look at, working ever northward and eastward along the Appalachians through the edges of Tennessee, Kentucky, Viriginia and West Virginia. After that, we thought we’d return to Alabama via the Blue Ridge Parkway and just enjoy the scenery.

So, the day arrived, and we set off for Asheville, expecting to be on a 2-to-3-week trip, looking and praying and camping and enjoying all of the beauty of the Smokies and Appalachians in early summer.

It happened that our trip would encompass Asher’s birthday, so our first stop was actually in the city of Asheville to do a little shopping! With birthday presents securely stowed in our truck for later, we arrived at our campsite and settled in, expecting to be there for about a week.

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It was a green and quiet little corner, and we were the only ones there for a little while…But it was not quite as advertised! The campground had been billed as a spacious and peaceful campground with amazing mountain views. Actually, each space between the trees is a campsite, with another row of sites parallel just along the left side of this photo, so you’re pretty cozy if the place is busy. And the fence that you can see in the picture is an electrified barbed-wire fence…To keep out the cows, which come right up to the fence in all their smelly glory…In the middle of commercial farmland. Hmmmm….So on the first night, I just remembered that the air was lovely, it was great to be back in a tent, the hammock was restful, and the stars twinkled…

In the morning, we would head up to the Randall Glen Resort Area that was associated with our campground. It was advertised as a working farm that had been established generations ago amidst the mountains and rolling pastures, with organic fresh produce, milk, eggs, and meat, which they served up daily for lunch in their Guest Center. There were tree-swings, horseback rides, hiking trails, creeks for splashing and swimming, and a cafe with espresso and wi-fi! There was also a gem mine on the property, which would be of special interest to Asher, and so we planned to have his “birthday party” a little early, and treat him to some mining activities, as well as general running around and enjoying the property.

When we arrived, it was a bit different from the pictures…Have you ever had a moment like that? It was kind of a strange sight, lots of bare-dirt pens, disheveled farm-buildings spilling out animal-bedding, and lots of free-running, bedraggled chickens, turkeys and goats…You had to watch your step quite a bit – “Watch out for that chicken! Watch out for that pile! And that pile! And that pile! Oh, nope, that’s not water, step over that puddle!” We tried the Guest Center…There was no lunch, no cafe, and no fresh farm produce – although the host did excuse herself to go grab some organic kale for her own lunch, lol! And her partner offered to sell us some land at a great price, if we were interested! There were no tree-swings, no hiking trails, and the creek ran through the middle of the horse pasture, well-marked with the aforementioned piles 🙂  In spite of this, we were determined to let Asher have a gem-mining birthday party, and so we made arrangements with a really sweet lady to come back the next morning. 

And that evening, back at our electrified-fence-enclosed campsite, I prayed: Lord, did I miss you on this one? I mean, you know I greatly appreciate Your creation, and the peace and beauty of camping out in your mountains. I thought that’s where we were headed, but this is all different. Was I being selfish, and did I miss Your plan? If I did, I’m sorry, and please let me know if I need to do something differently.

The next morning, we headed back for Randall Glen, with three excited kids who were ready to enjoy Asher’s surprise birthday party. We went through a gate and across the creek where a flume was set up, and Asher realized what the deal was – “Yep! Surprise! You get to do some gem-mining for your birthday party!”

The advertising said that the gem mine was located on the property, and that they actively mined it, and that they also brought dirt down to this area by the Guest Center, where you could pay a small fee to dig through and fill up a 2 gallon bucket. Then you could take the bucket to the flume to sift-and-wash and see what you got! (Or, of course, for a much larger fee, they would pre-fill a bucket for you and guarantee you larger gemstones. :-/ ) It was supposed to be rich in native rubies and sapphires. So, I asked the super-nice gem-mining lady if she could explain a little more about the mine to Asher. Oh, she was so sweet and honest, and she said “Um, I don’t know a lot about it, but they buy the gems from someplace in another county, and then they bring ‘em back here. They give me some of ‘em and I dig a hole right over there, and then I throw ‘em in there, and then I cover ‘em with dirt, so you can dig ‘em out and everything!” 

Lord, did I miss you on this one?

And I looked at Asher’s face, and he was just as delighted as he could be. And I prepared myself to simply enjoy what we had without comparing it to what I had expected! 🙂 And, indeed, the sun was warm, the water was cool, the kids’ smiles were glorious, and our gem-mining hostess was delightful!

While Spencer and Vivi splashed in the creek…

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Asher dug for gems! How fun for him! He would carefully sift through with his shovel, “Hey, there’s something!”, and scoop it into his bucket.

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Soon he was full-to-the-brim and headed for the flume, where he began to truly unveil his finds!

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What a sweet boy! 

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He chatted while he worked, rattling off the names and characteristics of the gemstones, whether or not they were rare in this area, what hardness they had, what they might be used for…

His brother and sister meandered up from the creek from time to time to check things out…

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And soon Asher was armed with a sizable bag full of gemstones, and it was time for a final birthday-party-surprise – gold panning for everyone, lol! Asher learned about gold-panning when he first became interested in rocks, and he has always wanted to try it, but the opportunity just hasn’t come up. And now he finally go to do it! He was so excited, it was priceless 🙂

So we spent another hour or so in the creek, panning for gold and collecting it  in two little vials (by “it” I mean, mostly not-gold and some maybe-gold). And wouldn’t you know, a water-snake joined our party! In Asher’s book, nothing goes better with rocks than reptiles, unless it’s amphibians!

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So, after a very successful day, Asher enjoyed sorting out his gemstones at the dinner table…

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And Genevieve…Well…You know.

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And it was neat because I realized, if I had known what this place was truly like, I wouldn’t have come. However, the Lord works all things to the good, and Asher’s joy in getting this simple experience of mining and panning was really delightful! I was so proud of the way that he fully appreciated what he got to do, even when it was significantly different-than-advertised. The Lord gave Asher a special gift, and gave our family a special gift of experiencing that enjoyment together.

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