Adventure: Bluestone SP

Adventure: Bluestone SP

Cabining in West Virginia

From the day we arrived and took a deep breath of fresh mountain air at Bluestone State Park in West Virginia:

This is perfection. Right here, right now.

I sit quietly in a one-room cabin in the mountains of West Virginia. It’s cold outside, and the chill pierces the room every time the door opens. But a cozy fire in the stately stone fireplace keeps us warm. I love watching the flames flicker, adding even more to the soot that has for many years stained the tan stone.

Knitting by the fire

Husband is grilling steaks and mashing potatoes as I sip hot tea and watch Jane Eyre. The puppy is curled up on the bed, which is covered with a well-worn, well-loved quilt once purchased at an antique store in Amish Country.


In this place, I feel peace. I am at rest — all of me. My heart, my soul, my mind. The concerns and responsibilities of our life are just melting away and leaving behind a purer version of myself. Giddy and grinning, I made a dash for the door when we first arrived, excited beyond belief that we had finally arrived. Arrived at stillness. At quiet. At peace.


I know it won’t last, in a few days we will head back to our real lives. And I remind myself that that isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it is the “realness” of our lives that make it worth living. The messy relationships, the heartbreaking work, the dreams and aspirations. Without them, I’m not sure what life would be. But for the next three days, we’re here. Just here. Just the two of us. At peace.

So tonight, I’m looking forward to a tasty meal. A roaring fire. Perhaps even a hike in the coming days.


The way we celebrate

The way we celebrate

Husband and I celebrated three years of marriage last week. Certainly, it’s not long compared to my parents’ 36 years or my grandparents’ 60 years, but each and every year is something to celebrate.

I love that we are still new to this. It’s an adventure unlike any other and we are navigating it and enjoying it to the best of our abilities.

So to mark the completion of our third year, we chose to do one of the things we love best: camping.

We packed up the truck, the pup and a weekend’s worth of food and took off for the Blue Ridge Mountains. This is one of our favorite places in the whole world. Given the choice, we would move to the mountains in a heartbeat. (But there are little things to consider that keep us where we are, like employment.)

It was three days and two nights of bliss, just Husband, the pup and me. We hiked, we photographed, we made campfires and cooked delicious meals. The things I love to do, like reading and knitting are oh-so-much better done by lamplight in the great outdoors.

We even saw a black bear (I’m sorry to say I didn’t get a photo because it was only for a moment…then again, I’m glad he didn’t stick around).

Happy Anniversary, Husband. I hope and pray each year is even better than the last.

Sherando Lake


Collecting firewood


Trickling waterfall

River rocks


Tree bark

Cooking Thai curry




I turn 27 this week. And it’s been a tough one.

For me, birthdays have always been something to celebrate, not dread. I love celebrating my own birthday and the birthdays of those I love, because it is a way of celebrating them–their lives, their accomplishments, their passions, just simply who they are. A way of acknowledging my own life, my accomplishments, my day-to-day living that I rarely take the time to do.

When I was growing up, before the big birthday dinner, my family would all go around the table and thank God for something about the birthday person. It was a beautiful way to celebrate the things we love about each other, and to thank God for giving us each other. It’s a tradition I hope to continue with my own children someday.

But this birthday…it just isn’t so celebratory. I’m trying to be happy, and I am, or at least part of me is. My mom is coming to town, which is wonderful because I haven’t seen her in seven months–and visits from family are always something to celebrate, especially as they become more rare. So there will be plenty of laughter and good conversation to be had, I am sure.

But is something more sobering that permeates this birthday.

Michael was 27 when we lost him last fall. Had just turned 27. We were celebrating. His birthday. His life. His self. Him.

I was never supposed to be older than my brother-in-law. Never. And now, I will be. Because I will turn 27 and live through it. He didn’t. It’s sobering and hard and sad. I’m amazed at how piercing our loss is, and I wonder when the ache will ease.

Maybe next year’s birthday won’t be so difficult. When it’s been longer. When the number is 28, not 27.

Sunset at Northwest River Park

A grace-filled Christmas

A grace-filled Christmas

Husband and I on Christmas Day.

This Christmas was filled with grace–of necessity and through purpose. Grace for ourselves, grace for others.

We’re still reeling from our loss this fall, and the holidays just didn’t feel as bright and merry as usual. But there is still reason to celebrate–family, friends, and of course, most of all the birth of our Savior. So celebrate we did–even if it was a little more sedate than previous years. The change was actually kind of nice. There were fewer gifts and decorations, and perhaps a little less boisterous laughter, but there was a sacred peace.

We had a lazy start to the morning, ate puffy pancakes and opened our stockings. We even dozed on the couch for a few minutes before we headed out to Husband’s mom’s house. There we spent time with family, exchanging gifts, eating and making merry. It was unusually quiet without the nieces and nephews (who were sick and stayed home in DC), and of course there was the absence of my dear brother-in-law. But friends helped make the day brighter.


Opening stockings

Husband wasn’t feeling well, so we headed home to relax in our own cozy home. We lazed on the couch, opened gifts a few at a time and enjoyed the sparkling tree, crackling fireplace DVD (yep.), and the lovely sounds of holiday music. Our traditional fondue dinner was accompanied by traditional James Bond movies (with Sean Connery, of course).

Ginger asking for toys from her stocking.

Ginger pleadingly asked for more toys from her stocking…

Before long, we were headed to bed–myself to read =), and Husband to sleep off some of the medicine he’d taken.

In all, I’d call it a good Christmas. A quiet Christmas. A grace-filled Christmas.

Our Christmas tree with gifts underneath.

Two wonderful years

Two wonderful years

Dinner together

Three years ago this very week I went kayaking with a new friend. Two years ago today, I married him. You can read a little more about how that all evolved here.

Husband and I have had a beautiful two years of marriage–I find it impossible to sum it up in a single post. Over the past two years we have been stretched, we have grown individually and in unity, we have learned ever more what it means to put Christ at the center of our marriage, and we have learned to put our trust ever more in God to see us through struggles.

I can only pray for many, many more years of growing and changing and learning together.

In honor of what we consider a sacred commitment to each other and our Lord, we have taken every opportunity over the past week to celebrate, remember and simply be together…

Rose petals

Second anniversary

Flowers from husband

More flowers from Husband

Breakfast together

Last year we headed to the mountains to go camping, this year we stuck closer to home, spending a little time in historic Smithfield, Va.

Smithfield Station

Long walks with Husband

Kayaking together

A country sunset bike ride.

Delicious baked apple and ice cream.

A souvenir plaque from Smithfield adorns our bedroom.

For my birthday

For my birthday

I know it’s a little late (my birthday was July 5th), but I thought I would share with you what all we did for my birthday, since I shared a lengthy post about Husband’s birthday earlier this year.

My birthday celebration wasn’t quite as grand in some ways as Husband’s, but it was enjoyable and it was me. Or rather, still is. It isn’t finished.

Let me explain.

Every year, my birthday kicks off with fireworks because I’m just that special. =)

Husband and I (and a good friend named Ivan from the Dominican Republic) took a picnic dinner of Subway to the Chesapeake City fireworks. A lot of our conversation revolved around American traditions vs. Dominican traditions (fireworks for New Years) and odd American sayings that Ivan sometimes has a hard time remembering.

Husband and I at the fireworks.

Then we all three promptly fell asleep waiting for the show. Thankfully, we woke up just as they began.

Fourth of July fireworks.

The next morning, I flew to Ohio to meet my new nephew. A portion of my plane ticket was my birthday present from my wonderful parents, making it affordable. I got to spend time with my little nieces, hold my new nephew for hours on end, and celebrate my birthday with my family.

Meeting my nephew for my birthday.

Birthday cake

My birthday flowers from Husband.When I returned home, Husband met me at the airport with these surprise flowers. They were absolutely beautiful!

Husband also gave me a brand new pair of hiking boots (can’t wait for fall camping!) and an apothecary cabinet for storing tea (which I would like to paint, I think… I might try my hand at milk paint. If I do, I’ll let you know how it goes!).

The next night Husband and I used one of those wonderful buy one/get one coupons you get for your birthday from the local ice cream shop (and we used the last couple dollars on a gift card for the first ice cream cone, so it hardly cost a thing!). And we managed to snap these blurry photos (I don’t think the camera in my phone was really meant for night-time photography.)

Ice cream with Husband.

And on Monday morning I returned to work to find that my coworkers had decorated my office with one of my favorite themes…

Winnie the pooh decorations for my birthday.

As wonderful as those birthday celebrations were, they aren’t over yet. My two requests for my birthday were these: Making homemade mint chocolate chip ice cream and trying stand-up paddle boarding.

We had plans to do both, but they sort of fell through. The unusually intense heat this summer has made attempting any sort of outdoor sport nearly impossible. However, we have it on the schedule for mid-August which I guess we’re hoping will be cooler because it can’t get much hotter than it has been.

I’ll let you know when we wrap up the celebrations!

Big adventures

Big adventures

Sometimes the magic and adventure of life is found in the smallest moments. The ones where families picnic on the beach or couples snuggle by a fire.

But sometimes, just sometimes, the adventures come in the big stuff–like finishing a graduate degree.

On Friday I received my hood… It was a hard fought battle–blood, sweat, and tears went into earning that hood. But I will say, it felt great when they slipped it on. The cap and gown seem like a palate, and it’s the hood, cords, sashes, tassels etc. that make it wonderful. During the hooding ceremony I found out that I had been chosen for the “Outstanding Graduate” award for the Journalism program, thanks at least in part to my thesis project that benefited a local nonprofit. It was a surprise and an honor to have all those hours of hard work recognized.

Saturday was especially sweet for me, in part, I think, because Husband was there. Most of my higher learning has been done on my own. Certainly, my parents’ encouraging support has been wonderful, but I attended school so far from home that I often felt very much on my own.

This degree started out much the same. But somewhere in the middle of it, I got married. “I” became “we.” And it turned into “us” getting me through school. Having Husband there in the audience when I walked across the stage was beautiful.

With Husband at graduation.


With family spread out across the nation, and in fact across the world, it was nice to have my parents come into town to help celebrate the occasion. Phone calls from siblings and in-laws were great as well. Somehow celebrations like these become a catalyst to renewing relationships and catching up. And that I love.

With my father.

With my mother.

And, of course, we celebrated. We had delicious food and drinks galore (a benefit of being married to a chef). And we had conversation. Community. Well wishes. Congratulations. And so much more.

Conversation with friends.


Gathering of friends.

Graduation Party

We had eggs to gather from the neighbors and puppies to play with.

Gathering eggs from the neighbor's house.

Ginger's "cousin" Gracie came for a visit.

And of course, we had ice cream to eat.

Husband serving ice cream.

Eating ice cream.

It was a good day.

Thanks Husband!

But now I need to figure out just what I’m going to do with that hood. Far too much work went into achieving it to just pack it into a box…

The culmination of an era… (aka preparing for graduation)

The culmination of an era… (aka preparing for graduation)

It’s hard to even grasp how much has changed since I first arrived at Regent University to start my graduate school career. Sure, I expected to be starting a new life, in a new place, making new friends, and having new adventures.

But it never once crossed my mind that I would end up…well, married.

It probably should have. After all, during one visit to the area with a friend a few weeks before moving here, she told me that I should find a “surfer boy” to marry. Apparently she’s more prophetic than I give her credit for.


Husband surfing

I came to Virginia Beach following the road I thought lay before me. Graduate school. But somehow I didn’t see all the twists and turns that road would take before I reached my destination. I didn’t know that my degree would take me three years to complete instead of two. I didn’t know I would meet and marry Husband. I didn’t know I would be offered my dream job.

I didn’t see all the blessings that were coming, but I’ve done my best to flex with every curve and embrace every change.

It’s funny how that happens. How we make a plan and set out on our way just to find that our path changes, sometimes we’re derailed, sometimes just gently nudged to take a different road. Sometimes its just circumstances out of our control. Sometimes its so clearly the Lord.

“A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” – Proverbs 16:9

And I’m so glad he does.


Sometimes life has a way of changing us. Three years ago I was just turning 23. I had plans and dreams. I wanted to live in Africa for a year or two. I’d thought about joining the Peace Corps. I had never even been on a date, marriage was the farthest thing from my mind. I just wanted to truly LIVE my life, not just muddle through.

Now my goals are different–not better or worse, just different. Husband and I talk about buying a house…after being a gypsy for the better part of five years, something like buying a house is a huge change for me. But it’s good too.

Not everything has changed though. I still dream of going to Africa, maybe next year. I still want to learn French, publish a book, and travel the world. I still want to live every moment of my life to its fullest.

Sunrise over Virginia Beach.

Saturday morning I graduate. I close this chapter of my life and start a new one. And I wonder, what will be written on those pages?