Morning Fawshee with Betsie

Our middle (or “medium”, according to her) child crawled into bed with us this morning at that perfect (NOT perfect) time where my eyes snap open, my brain switches on, and I immediately know that I won’t be returning back to sleep.

Sometimes this happens at 6:30 a.m.

Sometimes it happens at 4:30 a.m.

Today it happened at 5:45 a.m.

On the button.

But it was strange…

Usually this manner of being awakened leaves me a little grouchy and feeling robbed. Today, however, my heart seemed to know ahead of time that I was being given a gift, even though I was still too groggy to fully claim it.

I stumbled into the office, perused Facebook, shuffled around the house a bit, laid on the couch and tried to sleep, but the entire time, the front porch was just calling my name.

“I can’t come outside, Front Porch!” I said. “It will wake up the children and Mr. Gore.”

“Oh, come on…” said Front Porch. “It’s actually chilly out here. In JULY. When has that ever happened before?…”

“I know that, dummy. I want to come out there, but if I open the door, the alarm will beep and this entire house will clamor to life, asking for breakfast and handing me wet diapers. I’d rather sit quietly in the dark than risk it.” I hissed in reply.

“You’ll regret it…” Front Porch taunted me.

“Gaw-LEE, you’re pushy!” I said, rising from the couch. “But yeah. Let’s do this!”

With determination and excitement in my tread, I tiptoed to the master bedroom, retrieved my contacts, the phone and my trusty cardigan, and verrrrrrry quietly shut the door, leaving my husband and eldest children to their slumber.

Now was the tricky part.

Betsie.

It was already growing light outside. If she woke up now, she wouldn’t even think of falling back asleep, even though it was much too early for Betsies to be awake.

I looked at the long stairway separating me from my baby girl and the open nursery door that could foil my rendezvouz with Front Porch and my Dunkin’ Donuts coffee (original blend). If I could hear the upstairs sound machine from where I was standing, Betsie would certainly hear me making my coffee and going outside.

“Please, God…” I breathed, and crouching down on all fours, me and my bulbous womb baby prowled up the stairs like a sneaky jungle cat. (Little known fact: Small Elephants are known to transform into lithe and nimble felines when it comes to caffeinated morning rituals. True story).

And by jing, we did it! The nursery door slid into place with the tiniest ‘click!’ and down the stairs I floated to do some percolating.

“Quick, Percolator!” I said, antsy. “We have to hurry before they wake up!!”

Percolator obeyed, and in a snap, I was doctoring up my first cup of coffee, retrieving a bakery cinnamon roll from the pantry, turning off the security alarm, and opening the front door.

“Welcome…” Front Porch enticingly whispered. “You did well, Padawan.”

An incredibly unseasonable chill atmosphere smacked me in the face. “You’ve got to be kidding me, July!” I squeaked. It felt like one of those early Spring days that is rife with deliciousness and will inspire you to write a sonnet rather than the typical misery that is an Oklahoma summer. I couldn’t believe it.

And I can’t believe I almost missed it, opting to stay in the dark and shut-up living room sans coffee. I’m glad my Front Porch persisted.

There in my Cracker Barrel rocking chair, I slowly enjoyed my breakfast, surrounded by birdsong, dew and the early morning activities of my small community. And eventually, my heart led me to my Maker.

“So beautiful, God…” I prayed.

I began to muse over my life and how I wanted to spend my day. “Please help me today,” I asked. “Show me how to live for my family.”

For sadly, I am getting to that very weary stage of this pregnancy, where I start getting annoyed by my own breathing and grow increasingly frustrated by the extended dry spell of my usually happy and optimistic soul; my patience has been threadbare, and it takes more self control than I sometimes have to savor those little moments that are usually like life and breath to me.

“I don’t want to cast the kids aside today…” I prayed. “I want to enjoy them…show them how much they mean to me…love them with the selfless love of Christ.”

My prayers became quiet meditations and wordless pleas, and as my first cup of coffee slowly dwindled to a close, I tiptoed quietly inside for a refill.

And that’s when I heard her.

7:00 a.m.

That’s still a little early for Betsie to be awake.

And with two shut doors between them, no one else would hear her crying…

“Maybe she’ll fall back asleep if I let her alone…” I thought.

I rinsed the leftover grounds out of my cup.

And then I felt an unmistakable nudge as I heard her cry “Mamaaaa!”

I don’t know if you know this, but it is an abominable sin to obey your Front Porch and then immediately ignore the Holy Spirit. I set my cup down, and up the stairs I went, this time on twos instead of fours.

She was still crying, sitting up with her little skinny legs and arms hanging through the rails of her crib, reaching for her pacifier that lay very far down on the ground.

I picked it up and handed it to her. “Do you want to lay back down and go night-night?” I asked.

“No.” she resolutely answered.

“You want to go outside with Mama?” I asked.

“Uh-huh!” she said.

“Do you want some fawshee?” I asked, leaning in to whisper conspiratorily to her.

“Uh-HUH!!!!” she exclaimed.

Anyone who knows Baby Betsie knows that she has a major thing for coffee. She calls it “fawshee” and she is seriously looney over the stuff.

She likes fawshee with milk and sugar, she likes it black, she likes it hot, she likes it cold. She likes to drink it at her little table on her little tray all by herself, and she loves to drink it with her Grandmother. And if the coffee is all gone, she asks to “smell it”. Taking a big whiff of our empty cups, she says “Mmmmm!!!”

So early in this day, while the rest of our household slept on, God answered my front porch prayer over morning fawshee with Betsie…

"Morning Fawshee with Betsie"...a short story on finding life and life abundant in the simplest of pleasures.

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I loved her. I enjoyed her. I talked to her about God. I rocked her and sang to her. I lived for her, and in doing so, I once again touched base with my very favorite thing in the world: life and life abundant.

How Boys Play in the Snow…How Girls Play in the Snow

I don’t want to get in trouble for making generalizations, but I couldn’t help but notice something as I went through all of our snow pictures yesterday…

I’ll just mostly let the pictures do the talking.

~

How Boys Play in the Snow

Make  a Snowman…

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then tackle it.

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OR make a Snowman…

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then eat it.

(I don’t understand. It’s so…dirty! Boys are weird!!).

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Snowballs fights are fun…

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and the bigger the snowball, the better!!

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When you run out of things to do, I don’t know…you could roll up a big snow-wheel…

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and then you could, like, put it on top of each other.

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and long after everyone else has gone inside, it’s still fun to just hang out in your Winter Wonderland…

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eatin’ dirty snow and enjoyin’ the great outdoors.

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~

How Girls Play in the Snow

Make a pristine and beautiful snowwoman and give her matching accessories…

(these are my beautiful nieces, Anna and Abigail! Love you, girls!!)

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Or make heavenly snow angels with your sisters.

(and that’s little Kate there on the left. Love you, Katerbelle!)

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Or pretend that you are a snow ballerina, dancing and twirling on the ice.

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You get so excited to have a snowball fight with your brother…

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until you (immediately) get hit in the face.

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Snowball fight over.

(we have ALL been here, have we not, ladies?)

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In fact, snow play over. Get me a blanket. I’m done.

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And when all else fails and you have fully realized how miserably cold and wet it is outside…

(I know I used this photo yesterday, but I think it deserves to be seen over and over again).

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Go inside where it is warm and read a book by the fire.

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~

But thankfully, whether you’re a boy or a girl, and whether you play like a weirdo or a perfectly normal person, at the end of the day, when the snowball fights are over, and the tears are forgotten (and the dirty snow has somehow been digested), I’m glad we can all agree on on thing…

Hot Chocolate.

Heavy on the marshmallows.

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Life is Nuts. Snow is Pretty.

Two weeks ago, I was terrified in the walk-in clinic waiting room.

One week ago, I thought I was dying from first trimester misery.

Three days ago, I felt like a new woman when I joined once more with my church family.

Yesterday, I had my second unexpected wave of internet “fame” this year after the author Jen Hatmaker shared my social media etiquette post and my site stats immediately exploded.

Last night, I didn’t need to wear a coat it was so nice.

And this morning, I woke up to…

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That’s a picture of my backyard from my bedroom window.

All that to say, life is absolutely nuts, and you just never know what a day is going to bring.

But as we have observed together over the past two years on this blog, no matter what a day brings, and no matter what you’re going through, there is a level of beauty and abundance when life is lived according to the Word of God and when you are covered by the blood and grace of Jesus Christ.

Especially on snow days.

Miss Sunday and I woke up slowly this morning after one of the craziest nights of sleep our family has ever endured experienced. After hearing her bare feet patter out of my room (Miss Sunday does not pitter) and into the completely windowed laundry room, I heard her gasp.

“Mom!” she reverently breathed. “It’s snowing!!”

I let this knowledge sink into my very fuzzy and sleepy brain. They had forecasted snow. But I never believed it would actually happen…

We had been waiting for this moment for two long years, as forecast after forecast has left my kids disappointed, none greater than the Christmas Day powdering we were almost certainly supposed to receive. (We didn’t).

Miss Sunday had been a wee little tyke the last time she had really played in the snow, and I had looked forward to this moment all winter.

Although I will admit, my excitment was immediately tempered by the thought that I would be spending the next two hours or so dressing and undressing three children and mopping up melted snow from my entryway. But this is motherhood. I should have gotten over these things long ago.

After I peeled the cobwebs out of my brain and eyeballs, Gid, Sunday and I bounded up the stairs to retrieve Baby Betsie from her crib. I don’t know who was more atwitter about introducing her to the white world that awaited her, but I’m pretty sure it was the big, pregnant lady with the frizzy hair (who has a  heart of gold, by the way). Standing in front of the large double window in their nursery, all four of us ooohed and aaahed, and Gideon noted that “God must have decided to do something nice for us since we pray to Him all the time.”

“He must have!” I agreed. “We should thank Him.”

“Thank you, God!” Gideon yelled out the window.

“Thank you, God!” his sister copied, before adding, “I LOVE you!”

One cup of coffee and a “Peppa Pig” episode later we were scrambling around like crazy people, flinging hats and mittens and scarves and long johns all over the place in our haste to be ready to play by the time Papa made it up the hill to watch us. I had one driving motivation: we had to make it out there before the fat flakes tapered off or I would be a miserable failure of a mother who cares more about coffee than children.

And by jove…we succeeded!

Once ready, I surveyed my handiwork.

Be still my heart.

Do you remember days like this? Getting all bundled up with your siblings? Being so excited that God sent you a gift from the sky? Having nothing else on your entire horizon except enjoying what was right in front of your face?

Sweet, precious childhood. My favorite of all created things.

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It was the most perfect snow I’ve ever seen, the kind that makes building snowmen and creating snowballs as easy as pie. And the giant, fluffly flakes that fell down as my kids played were like something out of Narnia.

If only we had a lamppost and a Faun.

Oh, well. Maybe next year.

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Miss Sunday approved of her new winter playground.

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And Baby Betsie reached up in wonder to touch the flakes that were landing gently onto our porch…

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before swiftly deciding that, just like she doesn’t care for swimming pools and sprinklers, she doesn’t care for snow.

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In fact, she hates it.

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But she loves her Papa.

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As unique and particular are the difficulties of life in the ministry, so are the perks, one of which being that Papa can come play in the snow with us while the time is right.

He may have to work on Saturday now, but…how could we have missed this morning with him by our side?

(Please excuse the dirty, grouchy snowman who is still staring at me through our office window. I think he wants to kill me…).

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I will share more funny things about our playtime tomorrow, but for now, I’ll conclude with this: by the time they had shucked all their wet clothes and only long john bottoms remained, my eldest children were wound up. Drinking hot chocolate and eating grilled cheese sandwiches right in front of the fireplace topped off what must have been to them the perfect morning…

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And If they don’t fully realize it now, they will. The only reason we have days like this is because God is good and His mercy endures forever.

We know who butters our bread…

and who sends us our snow.

Thank you, God, for all of it.

~

And I’d like to give a hearty “welcome!” to everyone who joined up with Mrs. Gore’s Diary yesterday! Your kind words and comments just absolutely made my day, and I am so very glad to have you along.

~

Want to read about more of our snow adventures? Here is one of my first (and favorite) posts: How to Survive When Snowbound

The Topsy-Turvy Days…

I felt I would be remiss and dishonest if, after yesterday’s glowing report of the day, I did not sit down for a bit to jot down today’s activities…

I woke up extremely late today (at 10:00 a.m.!) in a stuffy bedroom with a sweaty 3-year old laying on my arm. Gideon was peering over us, and as Rebekah and I began to stir and my two eldest children began to converse, it became immediately obvious to me that there was a different tone in our house than there had been yesterday.

They were jabbing at each other before her feet had even hit the floor.

I quickly changed Betsie, made my coffee and bagel in a hurry, threw some dry cereal in bowls for the kids, and ushered us all onto the front porch in hopes that we could revisit Eden again today.

But it soon became apparent that, if yesterday was Eden, today was the day that Adam and Eve got kicked out of the garden.

The wind was blustery, the kids were restless, and as I tried to slather pineapple cream cheese on my toasted bagel, I had 3 wriggling bodies either on me or in my peripheral…regardless of the fact that we have 5 rocking chairs on our front porch. Today we might as well have had one (the one Mama was sitting in…).

Every conversation ended in an argument, and even Baby Betsie was being a bit of a tyrant. Nothing could please her, especially as she seemed to have picked up an extreme case of clumsiness overnight – every other step she took resulted in a hurt toe or a scratched finger…

in other words, it was absolute chaos.

And I won’t mention the fact that it had been an unprecedented amount of time since I had taken my last shower.

“Welcome back to earth…” I told myself.

But I am learning that moments like these always pass, and so, in between the crying and the whining, I pulled out my Bible to do a little reading (for the SECOND DAY in a row, thank you, Lord!), and instead of keeping the words to myself, I started reading out loud, beginning with 1 Corinthians 1:4, the verse Mr. Gore expounded on this past Sunday.

“Do you know what that means, Gid?” I asked.

He shook his head.

“Just that we should thank God for the people in our church and we should be so happy when we see Him doing good things for them.” I answered, sealing the words in my own heart with a prayer for the grace to do that very thing.

Gideon’s reply surprised me: “Oh, I really liked that story. Read another one!”

And so I did, finding the next reference on this week’s Daily Bible Reading Guide (my husband weekly publishes a study guide to help our congregation further meditate on Sunday’s text). Galatians 6:1-4.

The kids were milling about by the time I finished that one, Betsie squawking at Gideon for some of the crackers he was eating, Rebekah dragging one of my “dry clean only” Pottery Barn throws onto the porch, but I carried on nonetheless, explaining what that passage meant to the children in terms I hoped they could understand, comparing the idea of “bearing one another’s burdens” to Christian and Faithful in the “Dangerous Journey” book they’ve been reading with Papa at night.

And in the midst of my random snippets of reading and talking, and all the scolding and whining and…living…in between, the Spirit began to whisper to my heart…

Yes, we may not live in Paradise yet. Most days are exactly like the one we were having today, full of ups and downs, surrounded by dangers, toils and snares, where it becomes so disappointingly clear that those “best days” like we experienced yesterday can never be orchestrated and are simply unexpected and unscripted gifts from a loving Father…

but, thank God, regardless of what kind of a day we’re having, there is a thread of consistency found in our fallen world, and it springs triumphantly forth from the words of the ancient Book I sat reading aloud to my children.

There, we find solace and direction…

we find truths that resonate so deeply in our hearts that it burns to hear them…

we find a bond that is so much deeper than our earthly familial relations…

and best of all, we find hope, for the perfect days, and for the not-so-perfect days.

All of a sudden, it became a joy to me to share this topsy-turvy morning with my topsy-turvy family, because I was reminded…

the God we worship and set our hearts after isn’t topsy-turvy at all.

He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

No matter how different the days look.

No matter how different we feel when we wake up in the morning.

(And thankfully, no matter how long it has been since we’ve showered).

How Awful Are Thy Branches

~ this post is a revision of one published last Christmas ~

My Dad could easily be misunderstood as a guy who doesn’t love holidays.

But the truth of the matter is, what he really hates…nay, abhors…is going “to town”. A true country boy, he hates the traffic. The noise. The crowds. The dark restaurants. The loud restaurants. The crowded restaurants. The exorbitant costs. The works.

So it’s not so much that he dislikes looking at Christmas lights. He just dislikes going “to town” to look at Christmas lights, waiting in a long line of traffic to do so and then bumping into the five thousand other people who are there looking at Christmas lights, all before paying $50 to buy hot chocolate for his entire family (2 of his 4 children are “in the ministry” – if he doesn’t buy our hot chocolate….nobody gets hot chocolate).

Likewise, he doesn’t hate going to pick out a Christmas tree. He hates having to go “to town” to pick out a Christmas tree.

So a couple of years ago, after hearing my brother, Pete, recount his single favorite Christmas as the one where our family went “out back” to chop down our Christmas tree, my Daddy had a really fun idea: to cut down a tree from the new 9-acre property he purchased in town (our small hometown, not busy Tulsa “town”), that joins up with the acre Mr. Gore and I were building our home on. He drives by the place every morning on the way to work and had spied a whole line-up of potential Christmas trees. The grandkids would love it, he enthused, and the best part? He wouldn’t have to go “to town”.

We’re stupid, so we easily caught his excitement and chose a day for our Christmas tree excursion, and what happened next went down in family history.

~

Now, I’ve got to preface this story by pointing out that my Dad is the MAN. He can do anything. He can measure things with his bare eyes. He can weld upside-down in a fiery hole. He has drained our lake and built islands in it. He knows how to properly secure a Christmas tree in the stand. And he can usually tell with a single glance whether or not a tree will fit inside of a house. That’s what makes this tree story so bizarre and unbelievable…

So here’s my Dad as he gases up his chainsaw. What is not pictured is the line of expectant family members, all bundled up for our outing. It was a frigid day, one I’ll never forget.

This picture of my niece, Anna Ruth, will give you an idea of exactly how cold it was. The children had on two or three layers of clothing, but nothing could shield us from that biting Oklahoma wind.

But freezing or not, here we go! Let’s do this thingy.

The further away we got from the house, the colder it got.

And right about here is when I started to realize that this might not have been the best idea. I’m carrying a 40-pound toddler against the coldest wind, I feel like we’ve walked about 3 miles already…and we’re only halfway there. But there is no turning back. We are committed to this adventure.

Sadly though, once we arrived, the trees didn’t look nearly as good as they did from the road. We just kind of wandered around in circles, surveying this ragtag group of cedars, some more like bushes, others more like…taller than my house.

Sidenote: I love this little boy and would do anything for him. Even carry him to a cedar wasteland in Antarctica.

“Hey, this one doesn’t look so bad!” my Daddy called out. Whether we truly agreed or were just eager to get this show on the road, it was unanimous – it was perfect!

Funny though, standing in the midst of a small forest, no one seemed to notice that this tree, in particular, was…oh, 16 feet tall?!

But yes! This is it! This is the one! Merry Christmas, one and all! Deck the halls with boughs of holly! God bless us, everyone!

And then came my Daddy’s big moment, the one that Granddaddies probably dream of…

As his grandchildren (and his wife) watched with wonder…

he revved up his chainsaw…

and cut that (and I quote) sucker down!

Timberrrrr!!!

And there she is.

Our prize.

(Huh. Is that the same tree? Now would be a good time to start noticing that this tree looks kind of totally different in every picture).

Back uphill we tromped, our brand new Christmas tree leading the way…

for about ten seconds. Then Gideon decided he wasn’t taking another step. So guess who got to carry him? His Aunt Amy. (I’m still thanking her for that).

Almost there (thank God!)…

Once back to the work truck, a quick measure showed that this tree might be just the right size for my parent’s house. Keyword: might.

They load ‘er up and drive ‘er to her new home in the country…

Exhausted Gideon slept all the way there.  (Noteworthy: Was he really that little?? And did we actually think this tree adventure would mean anything to him at this age?!)

So anyhow, we got the tree home and set it up in the front yard and…it seems to have expanded a little during its 10-mile trip down the highway. My Daddy stands in the yard and stares at it.

Mr. Gore drags it inside, nonetheless…

and it self-inflates to twice its normal size. This can’t be the same tree that was just standing in the yard. Impossible.

Scratch that…it has tripled in size! And doubled in plain old ugliness.

My Mom just fled the room, laughing until she cried.

Our ridiculous tree not only dwarfed the living room with its majestic girth, but its cedar scent infiltrated every corner of the house, not fresh and invigorating like a Colorado pine, but dank and dirty like it was from…well, a random pasture in Oklahoma. It gagged us one and all.

I initially tried trimming at the branches with some kitchen shears, but they were no match for this “tree” and I had to fetch some weed whackers.

Two whacks in, however, I gave up, afraid to make it worse. (Not to mention the rash that began creeping up my arms the minute they made contact with the tree).

That’s right…I said rash. I couldn’t go near this tree. Thus, Mr. Gore had to decorate it while I looked on from across the room. (I hate to be repetitive, but again…is this really the same tree? Does it not look like it has now cloned itself or given birth to triplets?)

The next day, Daddy tried to revive our Christmas spirit by heroically decorating the rest of the tree, and I so wish I had the pictures to show what happened next: this giant tree, full of breakable ornaments, fell over, smashing into the living room floor with all the gusto of its initial fall in the wilderness. Screaming in shock and terror, I scooped up both children and ran from the room, never once thinking to take just one picture of the aftermath.

I don’t know what was more disturbing…the heirloom ornaments that were shattered that day or the manic and wild nature of this tree that would cause it to just leap from its stand like that. I think it was sending us a message: You should’ve gone “to town”, suckers.

Christmas morning came, and our Giant Christmas Shrub of 2009 was there to greet us.

I will admit, the tree had its moments. At times, I would walk into the room and laugh, but at others, I would marvel at its beauty and admire its pioneer spirit and smell…

but by Christmas morning, it had begun to settle, and was 100% irrefutably…ugly. And kind of crooked.

You know, though, it’s funny…

We’ve had a lot of really beautiful Christmas trees over the years, and this tree is the only one I distinctly remember.

I could pick it out of a line-up.

p.s. That’s not a compliment.

Selah Springs: The Conclusion

Wow. I had a lot to say about our little vacation to the Hill Country, and I’ve got to thank all of you for hanging in there with me as I recorded some important moments, not only for your hopeful enjoyment, but for posterity and memories, and…for my Mom. What can I say? She loves Mrs. Gore’s Diary.

I could go on and on about Selah Springs Ranch, and especially about the proprietors, Phil and Andrea, but even Mrs. Blogs-a-lot knows when it is probably time to move on to other subjects. That said, I would be remiss if I mentioned all of these wonderful things about our vacation in the heart of Texas without providing the Ranch’s contact information…for surely, you’ll be planning your next vacation to Selah Springs Ranch, yes? (Let me be quick to add, however, that I am not being paid or pressured into this promotion. This is legit, no kick-backs, no nothing…except for a share in all Ranch profits for the next 20 years. Just kidding). At the bottom of this post, you’ll find all the important details that will enable you to further team up with and explore this truly special family-friendly getaway.

But now let’s see if I can wrap this puppy up…

As I mentioned before, our little family stayed in the Ranch’s bunkhouse:

This guest house is smaller and less swankier than the Main Lodge, but it was P-E-R-F-E-C-T for our young family. No stairs, no elevated porch, and our kids (including our little stinker, Betsie) had such fun exploring every inch of this house and yard. And there were awesome bunk beds in each of the two bedrooms:

But the back porch was our favorite place, providing a gorgeous view that we just couldn’t get enough of. We took most of our meals onto the huge table outside and I especially enjoyed having my morning(and afternoon!) coffee from this perch.

The kids, too, loved the back porch and yard and spent most of their time there, exploring, looking for critters, and lazing the day away…

But as much as we loved the cozy Bunkhouse and as fitting as it was for our current situation, I look forward to staying someday at the Main Lodge. This structure is truly magnificent, a testimony to the creativity and ingenuity of Phil’s late father, as well as an obvious display of his love for the family – and the land – he had been blessed with. Elevated on a hill, it overlooks the San Saba River, and would be the perfect location for a large family vacation, or a reunion, or a church staff retreat…or a wedding! Phil and Andrea have just plunged into the wedding business and you can read more about that on their website or facebook page. But if you are looking to visit the Hill Country, or need a place to stay near Fredericksburg, PLEASE…look no further! I can’t imagine how much fun it would be for all of the cousins to get to stay here someday and discover the maze of upstairs rooms that they would get to sleep in.

Obviously, I love everything about Selah Springs Ranch. The lodging, the location…even (for a week) the landscape!

There was so much to see and to do…

But nothing beats uninterrupted time with the ones you love. I will always cherish the days of free time I had at Selah Springs to love on my little ones, to spend time with my husband, to enjoy my parents and to reconnect with Phil and Andrea. I know every day is a gift from God, but on our days at the Ranch, I was fully aware of the blessing and drank it in like a parched and weary traveler. And I come home, resolved, that we should live every day like we did at Selah Springs Ranch.

It was one of those places that I was wishing to get back to the minute we left the driveway…

~

And then, God help us, there was our 8-hour drive home…

~

Want to visit Selah Springs’s facebook page? Click here. To receive special updates and promotions from the Ranch, be sure and “like” their page once you get there (and let them know Mrs. Gore’s Diary sent you! Phil and I are kind of obsessed with tracking the networking…)

And to visit their website, click here. I think the Survivor Weekend sounds especially fun for youth-aged groups, and of course, if I was a bride-to-be in the Hill Country, I would be reserving my wedding date straightaway!

Again, cherished readers, thank you for joining me on this feast of a vacation to Selah Springs Ranch!

Selah Springs: The Cave

Since our arrival at Selah Springs, we had heard adventurous and intriguing stories about a recently discovered cave chamber on the Ranch’s property.

Phil had promised to schedule a time to take us to this underground lair of fascination, and on the 3rd and last day of our stay, he followed through and picked up the willing participants – Mr. Gore, Gideon and my Daddy (and me, with my camera) – and drove us to a location on the map that I could never get to by myself if I tried. A lodger at the Ranch had come across this hidden hole in the ground while exploring the property, and Phil had become obsessed with digging deeper and deeper into the chamber. His exuberance was catching and I was actually quite excited to see this marvel with my own eyes.

Pulling the pick-up to a stop in the middle of the road, Phil instructed us to unload and then challenged us to point in the direction of the cave’s whereabouts. Each of us squinted into the distance, looking for clues, and not surprisingly, the 4 of us pointed in 4 different directions.

None of us were right.

“Follow me!” said Phil, and off we tromped through the wild Texas wilderness, dodging cacti, ducking under mesquite trees, eyes roaming about looking for the hidden cave.

When we least expected it, Phil came to a sudden halt, and pointed at the ground. “Here it is.” he said.

There, right in front of us, was a rock, and in that rock was a triangular hole about the size of my generous hips.

Well…maybe my hips aren’t that big. Still yet, any thoughts I had entertained of following the boys into the cave morphed instantly into a rock-solid resolution that I wasn’t budging from my place safe above ground. I later told Phil “the cave might be fun for you, but for me, it is a collection of too many things I have problems with: claustrophobia, bats, worms, ladders, heights…to me your cave is nothing more than a hole of horrors”.

The men, however, were intrigued. It was a study to watch them, iffy at first, curiously peering into the hole, then unable to quelch their curiosity with what I would call good common sense (just kidding, guys). One by one, they would disappear beneath the ground, first Phil, then Mr. Gore, and then even my Dad, who had retreated to this Texas getaway to rest his ailing back. He had been sitting like a good boy next to me while Mr. Gore and Phil explored the cave, but finally said “I’ve got to go down there,” and soon, he, too, was in the cavernous hole underneath my feet, throwing rest and recovery to the wind.

But as nervous as I was about the ones I loved being trapped underground, I relished hearing their voices and laughter float up to my safe perch on a rock nearby – this was to them what a day of shopping at Fredericksburg was to me, and it was great fun observing their boyish delight at their adventure in uncharted territory under the earth. I even sent my beloved camera down the hole with Mr. Gore, who took a pretty cool photograph from inside the heart of the earth:

But Gideon was holding out.

“I’m not going in there.” he had been saying since first laying eyes on the cave, and had been sitting resolutely on a bucket near my rock.

But he was acting kind of weird, talking a bit like a baby, repeating his mantra of refusal, even though no one was pressuring him…or even talking to him.

“I not going in dere.” he kept saying to me.

“Okay, Gid…” I kept replying, “you don’t have to.”

“I NOT going in dere.” he repeated.

“Okay…” I said once more.

And I soon came to the conclusion that he was waging an inner war with himself. As much as he didn’t want to go in there, he wanted to go in there; therefore, he wasn’t really talking to me as much as he was talking to himself.

Thankfully, I have learned, after 5 years of playing mindgames with this most complex of children, that sometimes it is best to just leave Gideon be and let him work out the conflict that is coursing through his brain and causing him to use bad grammar and vocabulary.

I sat quietly on my rock, knowing that if I pressured him to give it a try, he would step up his refusal, and that if I babied him about it, he would eventually become just that…a baby. And not just about caves, but about life, in general.

Finally, after saying “I not going in dere” one more time, he meekly and quietly asked one question: “Mama…will you ask Papa if he will help me get down there?”

I hopped up, before he changed his mind.

“Chris!” I beckoned through the hip-sized hole, “Gid wants to come!”

We all sprang into action, lest we lose our window of opportunity. It takes a village to raise a Gideon, and the entire family has learned to work fluidly with his quirks and foibles.

Mr. Gore and Granddaddy came to the bottom of the ladder.

“Come on down, Gid!” Mr. Gore exclaimed with what I assume was a huge smile on his face.

But the nearer Gideon got to the hole, the more afraid he became of it. His hands were clinging to my legs.

“I can’t do it!” he cried.

“You can do it, Gid! I won’t let you fall. I’ll hold on to you the whole way,” his Papa continued to encourage him.

“Come on down, Gid!” my Daddy said.

Gideon began to cry. “I don’t want to go!”

“You don’t have to!” Papa assured him.

“But I want to go!!!” he wailed.

“Then come on down!” Papa laughed.

After what seemed like 15 minutes of encouragement and discussion, I’m so happy to report that…he did it.

My baby boy played the man and entered into a secret cave chamber. Now, menfolk are a bit of a mystery to me, but as a sympathetic observer of all people and an avid reader of Christian fiction books, I happen to know that this (cave-mongering) is the stuff of dreams for little and big boys alike. And if I didn’t know that already, I knew it when I saw Gideon beaming up at me from the ladder that took him to his adventure.

With his Papa, his Granddaddy, and a really great guy named Phil, my son spent the afternoon digging in previously untouched dirt and even unearthed a rock that had never been held by anyone else in the history of the world. As far as vacation attractions go, this was pretty stinkin’ awesome.

It is a beautiful thing to watch a little boy – step by step – become a man, and I think this day will go down in Gideon’s history as a very big step indeed.

The last to go down, Gid the Kid was also the first to come back up for air, but he emerged energized and confident. Rather than returning to his bucket of shame, he began to work, pulling up buckets of dirt from the cave and dumping them in the nearby pile. I can’t imagine how it felt to his little heart to contribute to the tunneling process of the Selah Springs Cave. This was important work!

Before too long, the big boys said goodbye to the cave and joined us aboveground. It was really quite strange to see a human head poking up from inside the earth, and was rather reminiscent of a dream I had when I was a child. (Except those heads belonged to aliens. And they were cartoon characters. And there wasn’t any cactus or mesquite trees and we weren’t in Texas..but everything else was exactly the same).

Our cave adventure was over, but I am fairly certain this will be a memory we will cherish for years and years to come, a highlight of our stay at Selah Springs Ranch.

On our drive home, I looked down and noticed that Gideon and his Papa were holding hands, and my heart melted a little at the bonds they are growing as father and son, bonds that I pray remain strong and Christ-centered for the rest of their lives. May the adventures they share be varied and happy and frequent, and may they always love each other as they do now.

Oh, and thank you, God, for not making me go down into that cave.

Selah Springs: The River

On our first full day at Selah Springs, we met Phil and Andrea’s family by the river in front of the Main Lodge for a hot dog cook-out.

Planned arrival time: 11:00 a.m.

Unplanned departure time: 6:00 p.m.

Such is the unscripted joy that takes place when you are surrounded by interesting people, beautiful weather, and a river that is just right for wading and, eventually, swimming – the longer we stayed, the deeper the kids got in the water. The riverbank was soon littered with their clothing and boots, and I have rarely seen them so completely occupied by nature and nature alone. I’ve always wanted to go to Disneyworld with my little ones, but I’ve got to say, a free day in the beautiful outdoors, far away from the fast pace of the rest of the world, is good medicine for the entire family, the kind that vacations should be made of. Oh to revisit this perfect day over and over again!

Take a look…

Behind us stood the absolutely beautiful Main Lodge – this place is a true gem, perfect for large families or church groups.

Cooking hot dogs over the fire…

Betsie didn’t get a hot dog OR swim in the river, but she attacked this can of Country Time Lemonade like a champ!

S’mores!!

Phil saw this photo op and had Mr. Gore capture it for us…wouldn’t it be nice to sit on a riverbank every day with your little boy lying next to you? I could go for that.

My children spent the next several hours exploring the river while we relaxed on the bank and talked with our friends. Who knew rivers made such outstanding baby-sitters? (Unless you’re going out for a night on the town. Then you really shouldn’t let the river baby-sit your kids).

Its funny, isn’t it? You can never really plan perfect days like this. They just happen sometimes, and you realize on your way home that God just showed you immeasurable grace, the kind that makes your heart sing.

The kind that makes you pull your children in closer for hugs and kisses as you get out of the car.

The kind that makes you wish you had a river in your backyard…

~

Coming up next…Selah Springs: The Tweedledummies