Meet Grizz

We did it. We got a puppy. He has been in our care for six days now and is a joyful, wiggling, floppy handful. His name is Grizzly Adams, but we call him Grizz.

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When we picked him out, we played with his other brothers first. You see, when we got pictures of the litter, Shane had immediately pointed to the all brown one and said, “That one!” At the same time, my finger pointed to the all white, with a brown head fella and I declared, “That one!” We eventually thought the all white one would be easy to see when hunting, so just from a picture said that was choice one and the all brown one was choice number two, even though, initially, he was choice number one.

When we got to the breeder, the all white one was gone, our number three pick, the one with the interestingly symmetrical spots on his back was still there and quite the hefty fella. The all brown one only stood out because he was just that, an all brown one compared to the spotted siblings. We got out the number three pick with another smaller, friendly one to play with as suggested by the breeder. Although the big guy followed the breeder around, he didn’t seem all too interested in us, and he was loud and pushy. We got out another spotted one with the big guy, and it could’ve cared less about us or anything else. Finally we got out the all brown one.

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Not only did he seem interested in us, he was somewhat submissive, not loud, and seemed calmer than all of them. So our number one pick, moved to number two, then ignored for a quick moment at the sight of all the other spotted, mostly bigger brothers, became our Grizz. Even the breeder seemed happy with our choice, as though he knew that was the one for us and was holding his breath until we said, “This one!”

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We stayed and chatted with the breeder for a bit before we headed off, back to my folks place to show him off, and to meet Jagger. From there we went to see our friends at a camp on the Allegheny where Grizz met more dogs, more people, and water! It was a busy first day, followed by a Sunday and Memorial Day of more playing at Shane’s dad’s home. It couldn’t have been a busier weekend for our new little addition.

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Our First New Years

Last New Years, Shane and I were going to leave a day later than my parents to head to Connecticut. I was excited to head up, and had an audio book at the ready for us. That morning, full of vim and vigor, we packed the car, but by the time we were thirty minutes on the road I was doubled over begging Shane to turn back. I had gotten the flu. So we spent New Years at my parents home, Shane kindly bringing me ginger ale and crackers and I really don’t remember much of the first day.

This year could not be the same! I doubled down on cinnamon and vitamin C and felt confident I would not be too sick to miss out on one of my favorite traditions of visiting my New England family. Family that could now be called our New England family.

So up we drove, listening to the audio book intended for last year, The Bride Collector by Ted Dekker. We left a half an hour before my parents, but by the end of the journey, they were following us as I navigated around traffic and eventually landed us on 95, though not before we passed through the town of Bethel, Connecticut, where we passed three bookstores. Three. Also a library. So many books!

When we arrived, we nestled in to my aunts home and the first night enjoyed hot buttered rums. The next evening was our annual gift exchange. It is amazing that we still keep up this gift exchange despite all us cousins being grown, starting families, and new little ones running around.

I think it is less about the presents and more about the presence. We have one night we spend all together, we blame it on the gifts, but in the end it is the togetherness, the food, the laughs that seem to keep this good thing going.

Many of the gifts, at least on the woman’s end, are handmade. This year, an end table I refurbished was bought by one cousin and given to another, meanwhile I painted a sign that read “Merry Christmas” on one side, and “Count Your Blessings” on the other for my aunt. In previous years, my dad has handmade benches, each year giving one to another cousin of mine. One of my aunts is great at knitting, so her talent is often given as a gift. It is this giving of your own gift, ones creativity or talent, that makes the gift giving so unique in our family.

With the men not often making something, it is fun to see their thoughtfulness. Honestly, to date, a gift card has not entered the gift exchange. This year, my cousin Meg’s husband had Shane’s name and got him a throwing ax. His reasoning was simple, he likes sharp things and he likes throwing sharp things, so why wouldn’t Shane? Shane loved it and got to explain how he has thrown axes at competitions and this started a whole new level of stories to be shared.

We have no price cap. We have no limitations. We have no expectations. We just appreciate what is given, because it is so often given out of love and joy, it isn’t some obligatory act. The only rule, get something for your name gift, for the person Kim’s computer randomly lines you up with. And it works.

“You don’t choose your family. They are God’s gift to you, as you are to them.” -Desmond Tutu

Stillness

The rush of the holidays, like a swollen river eating away at muddy banks, is pulling and making the anyone and everyone’s time slip away. Just today, a short trip into town to pick up pictures lasted twice as long as twice the amount of people waited at the once photography now layaway and photography counter. My afternoon floated away giving me no chance to save it. So many eyes rolling at the store, so many sighs from shoppers pushing carts, so much frustration bubbled through the isles as people looked for anyone with a name tag to help them on what ever last minute search they were on. One thing no one was bound to find was more time.

In a desperate attempt to avoid a crowded isle and save time, I cut through the book department to try to get to where I was going. This was the wrong sort of short cut for someone like me, and I probably did not make up any time as I emerged with two books. I told myself not to linger, but two books for my nephews, at least not myself, caught my eye, and another title made me chuckle, but I didn’t pick it up. The title was “Waiting Is Not Easy!” and it seemed so very appropriate for a holiday shopping day. The little elephant on the front of the book looked as exasperated as I felt.

It occurred to me that we cause a lot of this exasperation to ourselves. Personally, I love holidays, holidays of all sorts, because I love the homemade traditions that go with them. I love watching cheesy Christmas movies at Christmas time, wrapping and making presents look pretty, decorating, and baking, but sometimes I think that I will miss out on the magic of the season if I do something out of order, not the same as last year, or not at all.

So despite not having watched all of my holiday favorites, having not baked anything in three days, or having all my gifts wrapped, this weekend I said to Shane, “Let’s go for a hike.” Which he interpreted as let’s go squirrel hunting. Tomato-tomahto. I was glad to bundle up and be outdoors with him and Jagger.

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Not to be too cliche, but all that kept running through my head as we walked through the snow was, “Be still and know that I am God.” The forrest was ever so still that day, it was so peaceful, yet every tree, every branch seemed to be crying out, “Oh glorious day!”

I hope you can feel that sense of stillness and quiet from these couple of photo’s from that day paired with Steven Curtis Chapman’s “Be Still and Know” lyrics.

Be still and know that He is God
Be still and know that He is holy
Be still Oh restless soul of mine
Bow before the Prince of Peace
Let the noise and clamor cease

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Be still and know that He is God
Be still and know that He is faithful
Consider all that He has done
Stand in awe and be amazed
And know that He will never change
Be still

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Be still and know that He is God
Be still
Be speechless

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Be still and know that He is God
Be still and know that He is our Father
Come and rest your head upon His breast
Listen to the rhythm of
His unfailing heart of love
Beating for his little ones
Calling each of us to come
Be still
Be still

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Psalm 46:10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

While You Were Away

Okay, so it was me that was away for most of summer not writing, I just get so distracted with nice weather, places to go, things to do, I don’t take the time to sit in front of my laptop to write. You could say it is fall now, why the hiatus still, but it has been a really warm fall, so getting things done still keeps me from writing. Last weekend, while Shane road Scott’s four wheeler with friends in West Virginia, I stayed home and painted our dreary dining room.

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Our dining room is where I often sit and do things on my laptop, draw, and clearly cook and eat. With gold shag carpet, the unfinished dark red walls were feeling a little suffocating and enough was enough. With the dining room chairs that my mom had gotten refinished for Shane and I now in the dining room, I decided to paint the walls in a bright color that would compliment the Navajo design.

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So turquoise it was! Okay, so the paint sample says something like “Sailing Blue”, but it is a turquoise color, and I love it. To add to that, I had fun, a lot of fun, with texture. It was super simple too, just a little bit of paint on the wall, apply tissue paper, and paint over. Go big or go home they say, and being that I am home, I just went big then sat back and enjoyed my work, excited to show Shane when he got back.

The room is so much happier and I adore the texture. I ordered a southwestern valance, and soon we can check this room off our to-do list!

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Summer Flew By

Summer came and went before I knew it, sunflower decorations have been replaced with pumpkins, and pumpkin recipes are covering my table.

Summer left us with some good memories, a new closet that is oh-so-close to being finished and big ideas for a garage and addition. For now, I’ll leave you with photo’s of our new walk in closet that is still being organized and final touches are being installed.

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This idea of mixing trees into functional furniture always makes its way into Shane and I’s conversation when we are talking about remodeling and doing a DIY project. Of course our closet would have trunks be the focal point. These trees came off Shane’s brother’s property and we came up with all the measurements, or so we thought, for all the piping and set to work on turning the blue bedroom into our master walk-in closet.

The thing is, when we put together our plan for the lay out, we didn’t think about where the studs were. This is fairly important when you are attaching things to the wall. We honestly lucked out by starting with the corner you see pictured above. As we rounded the bend and realized our mistake, we had enough pipe to edit our design. Had we started on any other wall, that may not have been the case.

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We added shelves to the center of the room, and I have put in baskets that act as drawers. You can see Shane getting creative with some left over wood in this photo.

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On Labour Day Weekend, we got busy again with our closet and Shane’s dad helped us put in our very cool lighting. You can’t see it in this photo, but I promise, as soon as it is done, I can’t wait to show it off. It will tie together this whole mix of nature and industrial, or industrial plus nature look.

Ricketts Glen, the Almost National Park

I happened to stumble across Ricketts Glen when researching “things to see in PA” for a Christmas present I was putting together for Shane. I knew it was important that he and I make “He and I Time” in our new marriage, so although not married last Christmas, I gave him a gift of various parks I basically made a report out of that we could do short weekend trips to. The only thing missing was the MLA citations.

Most of his vacation days would be used up on our honeymoon, then what was left over was to be split with his family vacation and time off at Christmas time for my family and muzzleloader, so these had to be trips I researched had to fit into three days. Out of all the places I looked into, Ricketts became the first park we traveled to together that neither of us had ever seen before. Okay, so technically Leah joined us on our travel there. Actually, to get even more specific, she and I were in her car belting out musical tunes and Shane followed us, after all, Ricketts Glen was on her way home, so she might as well join us for a hike.

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And what a hike it was! We hit the big one right off the bat, the Falls Trail that guided you down stone stairs and over wooden bridges to view some of the most picturesque waterfalls you could ever imagine. There were a few options for starting this trail, and we began ours from the Lake Rose parking lot and traveled counterclockwise on this 3.4 mile circular trail, it was a suggestion we had seen on line, and it said by doing this you’d be taking some of the steeper parts descending rather than climbing, and it did seem that way. Our other option would have been to begin the hike on the Kitchen Creek Falls Trail to take us to the loop of all the waterfalls, but it would add a few miles and therefor time.

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I won’t go on about each fall, and I’m not going to post a picture showing each one of the 17 waterfalls featured on that trail alone. You really can’t grasp their splendor in the pictures, and it is something you just have to see for yourself. It is crazy to think that this gem of a park was almost a national park, but now Pennsylvania gets to call it its own. Something Pennsylvania should be proud of! It was neat to learn that bit of history about this place too.

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We really hit it out of the park the first evening going on this hike. The next day was filled with other walks, but the seeing all the falls was definitely my favorite part. It was a hike that you could do multiple times on one weekend trip and still see something new.

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Clarion River Float

Last weekend was filled with waterfalls and small hikes, and this weekend was spent floating down the Clarion River. Our starting point was Ridgeway, Pennsylvania, and we pulled out at the Halton bridge. It is a two day trip in which we always camp overnight at Pine Tree Island. Shane and I were two of a handful of adults on a youth groups trip.

I have been going on this same trip since I was a small child, nestled in the middle of my parents canoe munching on trail mix. Then I got to enjoy the trip with friends as a member of my childhood churches youthgroup. Through college I still wet along as a sort of leader because we never had an abundance of female leaders on the float. I still go as that female leader, and Shane, this year and last, joined us.

I love the Clarion River float with the youth group. I still live for capture the flag in the dark and don’t mind running full speed in the dark woods. I love sitting around the campfire enjoying everyone’s company. I’m blessed that I can still be a part of this long tradition, and love that Shane can come and enjoy and help out too.

Sunday morning, one of the church’s interns gave a brief message about God creating the beauty around us, and how even when we are right in the thick of it, sometimes we miss the general splendor. We forget how wonderfully creative our God is, and we don’t always make the connection that this creative all-powerful, most powerful being loves us. It really is a breathtaking thought.

God, the creator of the universe, whose creativity surrounds us, loves me and loves you.

It made me think deeper into this idea of God’s presence and the idea of kavanah. Kavanah means “intention” or “direction of the heart”. Each time we pray, we should have this intention or direction of the heart, because as rabbis put it, “A prayer without kavanah is like a body with out a soul.” I read that Abraham Heschel described it as an “attentiveness to God” or the ability to “sense the preciousness of being able to pray”.

That idea of kavanah just so matched the awh that the intern was speaking of. Every morning we get up, not always acknowledging that everything around us was made possible by God, and we are blessed to speak with him. That time we share in prayer is precious, is beautiful, and should be a time we are attentive to him too and not just assume it is me time.

We floated the last day in the pouring rain. Rain on the river creates a different kind of silence than any other. One where your imagination can run wild, but also one where there seems to be a buffer between you and the worlds distractions. The outlook for this week appears to be many more days of rain, and I don’t know if that is how the weather looks in your area, but if it is, and if you can, crack open a window, let the breeze flow in, and let that sense of kavanah fill you.

Luke 19:40 “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”