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Hilltop House, the home of Beatrix Potter

Chilled to the bone had more meaning to us as we huddled together, swiftly scampering along the cobbled road under too small umbrellas, and being pelted with the sideways blowing rain. Earlier in the morning, as we left our bed and breakfast, our hostess had said, "You're in for a wet day today. Wear your jumpers and wellis so you don't get soaked, as the rain will be pouring all day."

Having no "wellies" (rubber boots English style) and only American style raincoats, we ventured out into the heavy drizzle with adventuresome hearts. Our umbrellas flew inside out  in the brisk wind and downpour so that we were just holding sticks that offered no protection. Literally, lakes of water companioned our steps and soaked our socks and shoes as we plodded our course.

Our destination was a boat, tied up and tossing wildly on the shore of a lake. Boarding the tossing boat was a daunting challenge amidst the mess of the stormy wetness, but the captain of the little ship seemed not daunted in the least.

The four of us giggled and chattered and wiped our faces and wet eyelashes as we marveled at the adventure in which we found ourselves. We had planned and dreamed of a trip to England together where we would visit the homes of many of our favorite English authors, since all of us loved books and the great literature that had stirred our souls. Dickens, Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Beatrix Potter, James Harriot, were some of the homes we would tour on our 8 day adventure. The reality of seeing our dream come true added to our sense of accomplishment and deep mutual pleasure, as we followed our well planned journey.

So the stormy sea just added to our excitement and story that we were living together in this moment. Yet, after 20 minutes bouncing and tipping upon the dark, tossing waves, we were thrilled and relieved to disembark.

"Walk up the path on the side of the road and you will see the way to her house," directed the boatman.

More rain, more wind, more muddy sloshing, but joy still fluttered in our hearts on this mutual story we were living.

Finally, stumbling through the little perfect garden, where Peter Rabbit must have played,  taking mincing strides toward the front of the house and  into the door of the tiny cottage we fell,  taking refuge from the wetness.

A fire was roaring in the grate of the small fireplace and as we began to take in the room, we knew our journey was being rewarded according to our great expectations. Charming was the word that must have started in her little, modest home. In every nook and cranny was beautiful, dark, carved pieces of elegant furniture--a chair here, a hutch there, and lovely little settee and inviting dining table. As we shivered and walked through the house, we knew she had been a kindred spirit, loving beauty, choosing craftsmanship and color and filling her home with treasures of her own finding. Having toured countless historical homes over the years with my children, I think this might be the most delightful and pleasant, warm and inviting place I had ever toured.

As we finished our inspection of all the corners of her little home, we knew we had to brave the cold and wet one more time. Steaming, strong English tea was calling our name, to cheer us along our way. Finding that the local tea house was closed this day, we headed for a tiny, white stucco pub that had curling, wispy  smoke danced out of the old chimney and promised warmth inside its walls.

A tiny, rough wooden table, against the streaming window pane bordering the pathway outside was free for the taking. There, in that moment, my 72 year old, cherished friend Phyllis, 13 year old Joy and 24 year old Sarah, three of my kindred spirits and closest of friends, huddled close, filled with twitters of laughter and the comradery of charging forth into our mutual adventure, knit our hearts even closer together as we shared our soulish thoughts, our dreams, and our hopes around the steaming cups of tea that warmed our hands and hearts.

This called for a picture, a way to capture the memory of joy

The precious hands of my first-born, Sarah--my beloved, on the left; the lovely hands of my cherished friend, Phyllis, 72, who has mentored all three of us and points us to the Lord in the middle, and the darling, soft hands of my delightful and truly "joy-ful" youngest daughter, Joy, then 13, on the right. Such a beloved picture to me!

This picture to me--the joy of love shared, memories made, fellowship embraced. When I think of my purpose in crafting this blog, itakejoy, several years ago, it was this kind of a picture that came to my mind. There is no friendship or companionship like that of spiritually strong women celebrating life and cultivating love together. Blessed to have collected spiritually alive, generously loving companions and the dearest of friends, is what has strengthened me to continue on my trail of ideals through out a life dedicated to finding light, beauty, and cultivating all that is good and godly.

Jesus always gathered people about Himself and then He shared his life. And so, in this gathering around all that is true, life grows and creates a joy from being together in His midst. Joy is best shared around friendship and kinship. And so my hope is that itakejoy will be a gathering of like-minded women, who long for that touch of friendship and kinship of sharing together in the reality of walking with Him, amidst the warp and woof of our lives and sharing together in the joy that can only come from Him, our best and dearest companion.