Back in Asheville again!

Dear Ones, I have intended to write but have just been gently trying to catch up and refresh a little from all the travels and speaking engagements. I am in Ashville, North Carolina again--seems we have been here 5 or 6 years for a few days in Spring to ponder life, eat well and catch up on rest. Sarah and I have been here together. It started when she was a teen and we were living in Nashville and we snuck away for a few days to begin the writing of a book I think I will try to finish this summer. You will read the story of how we discovered a wonderful place when the book comes out so I will let that be a surprise to those of you who don't yet know the story. It is a gift to be able to get away with this precious, first born. Indeed, she is one of the deepest, most beautiful of souls that I ever invest time with--and again just being with her is filling my soul. Sarah reads and ponders and thinks and evaluates life constantly (sound familiar?) and she also enjoys all the things I enjoy, so it is a gift to both of us.

Why do I love Asheville? It embodies much of what I enjoy--physical beauty--mountains, flowers beginning to bloom this time of year; old, artistic architecture; great homemade food--organic and whole and fresh in many of the restaurants; great music; wonderful bookstores; lots of trails and neighborhoods to walk and numerous places that serve a great cup of tea. (Chealsea's tea room has been a place we have visited for many years at least once during our stay. A great little cafe and shops in the Biltmore village area.)

We brought my wonderful, dear friend, Lynn Custer, with us for one day. She has taught many mom's groups for 12 years and has traveled with us all over the United States, at her own expense, for many years--just to be able to help moms. We wanted to spoil her just a bit for all the faithful labor she has accomplished. We took her to a new, cute cafe where we enjoyed a lovely breakfast. It is called Tomato Jam Cafe. Great tasting, huge whole wheat bisquits (had some yeast in them.) Potato pancakes, grilled with Applewood bacon and wonderful, grits. A lovely little four year old girl greatly entertained me as she sat near her mom, who was busy cooking our breakfast, and cut out an owl. She reminded me so much of Sarah when she was a little girl-so it was great to be in this environment.

Walking downtown, we came upon several bookstores, old and new, which definitely required a couple of hours of our time. And then an antique store beckoned and we obeyed. Each of us found treasure with our name on it! Sarah found old, hard-back books for a dollar apiece; Lynn found some beautiful glass-wear that she has been collecting since she was married; and I found 4 sconces with glass--two large and two small, for table-side candles. They all had the glass in tact, so I couldn't resist (the large pair were $45 in one part of the store--and I found another identical pair in the back of the store for $15--so I had to get them! The others were brass and were only $8. I can't afford much with all of these older children in my family who are in school, driving cars, using computers and wanting to eat and wear clothes in the midst!)

We walk miles and miles while we are here--to the nearby grave yard where O'Henry and Thomas Wolfe are buried. Also, by the old, rambling turn of the century homes with grand porches and great yards. We stopped in at a local Jamaican cafe where we split a delightfully spicy meal of grilled veg's, fish over almond, rice--and then walked home. I could go on and on--but then I wouldn't get to write in my journal and dream of what God has for me and my family. It is good to get away and ponder--the Lord always shows up and I get refueled enough to create new dreams. (How do I afford this? I put away $10-20 dollars a  month in a special little hidden drawer all year long--and if I get any Christmas or birthday money of a windfall--there it goes--it is how I have afforded many pleasures over the years with my children--rigorous saving of dollars and dimes that I can then go to for fun, special occasions. It is also how many moms afford our conferences--by saving all year--a bit here and a bit there!)

This has become a very special time for Joy, too. She is such an extrovert and dearly loves the families we are close to--so she gets to stay with 3 families and plays her heart out in between classes, and dance and her regular babysitting job for Mops! She loves the ways she is spoiled and makes memories with her friends. (I have adopted friends as family since we don't really have any family that our kids can stay with--I found I had to learn to create my own support systems and small groups and accountabilty and friends over the years--by planning, initiating, and providing a structure through which fellowship could take place.--More on that in another article! But the Lord has indeed built some angel friends into my life!)

Why do Clay and I not travel together? Sweet Clay decided years ago that he would almost always rather stay at home and not travel in between our conferences--so since he knew I needed the break, (when I go on my little trips like this--there are no dishes to wash, meals to cook, people who know where I am--just total invisibility) he would always help me plan these times during  his busy writing season when he has to work long hours. He loves home as a haven and can't be away from the office very long without it overtaking him, so he stays home and so enjoys home. I am very grateful for a husband who blesses me by allowing me to get away! And I am so blessed to have built, in my home, my own very best friend to go with me! (Though, all of my kids are really my closest friends and that is why I do take them alone on trips--to have talk time and to search souls together while on adventures!)

However, do please pray for Clay this week as he is on his way to Texas (after having been gone from home for 2 weeks), where his brother will meet with him. They found some big issues confronting their 86 year old mom--of a financial sort--that has developed in the few months since we last saw her and her capacity for perceiving reality has gone downhill. Please pray for grace and wisdom and provision for Clay and his brother as they seek a solution for his mom--who probably cannot stay by herself any more--but the cost for such help is almost beyond us--so yet another place where we will have to rely on the Lord.

There are so many ideas and dreams that have bubbled up during this time which I will be sharing in the future weeks--what does it mean to step out expectantly in faith? What is the result of complacency and passivity for believers? How do we provide structures in which blessed fellowship takes place so that we our selves may be nurtured? What does it mean, in a good Biblical sense, to wrestle with God? Why is work so important? and much more.

I was so blessed today, when Sarah, who has been very weary from so much travel, said, "Mom, I think all children should grow up working as hard as we have had to and learning to serve people as we have. It gives them a pattern to follow the rest of their lives! Sure I get tired, but when I have had a good night of sleep, I see how necessary it is to keep going and keep working and keep reaching out!"

Thank you, Lord. I often feel that my children could be tempted to be critical of the amount of work they have had to do to help us in our ministry--but so far, by God's grace, their attitudes turn to thankfulness--at least most of the time!

So, tomorrow, we will be back in the saddle again--one more airplane, hauling more books, setting up more tables, sleeping on one more hotel bed as we speak for three days at the Hearts at Home conference in Normal, Illinois. I look forward to seeing many of you there. I know the Lord will be there to encourage and bring hope to many as He has done for me this week.

Blessings to you of God's grace, peace and beauty today! Sally@who