Friday, August 29, 2008

Our Vacation to North Carolina

Well, well, well! It's Family Friday again. And there's only one post between this one and last Friday's post. :)

My suitcase is unpacked - and my backpack, two instruments, hairstuff-box, purse, pillow, and other odds and ends are put away. Hey, I travel light! (not really.)

So...I think I am ready to tell y'all about my week with my family.

Over the years, we have kept an informal list of people and places we'd like to visit some day. When looking for a common denominator, we found that a large number of the things on our list were in North Carolina, so, spontaneously, Dad decided to take us on a trip this month.

When we left home, we weren't sure where all we'd have time to stop, nor what day we'd be coming home. That was a very unusual way to start out - at least for us - but the whole trip turned out lovely. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I had asked God to mightily bless us on this trip, and He sure answered my prayers!


First, Dad had to work in the morning, so we left home right after lunch. Our first stop was at a mission run by friends of ours, who are involved with shipping out many Bibles and Christian literature both here in the United States, and abroad in other languages. They have an apartment connected to the mission which they graciously offered to us during our stay in Asheville.

The place was lovely. It was right outside Asheville, and perfect for our needs.

I don't remember much about Saturday except thinking that a five hour trip wasn't bad at all, compared to the much longer trips we usually take. And I remember being pleased with the scenery all around us.

We ate supper at a fast food place (I'm afraid our diet wasn't exactly healthy this week!), ran out to do a little shopping for the week's food at a nearby grocery store (a really cute store!), and went to bed.


We were blessed to be able to attend the church that our friends went to, which was on the same property as the mission. The church family seemed thrilled to have us there, and quickly "put us to work," asking the six of us children to sing and play instruments in both the morning and afternoon services. It was an honor to be able to do that for them. They treated us so special, and were very kind. The sermons were excellent, full of the gospel.

A noon meal was served between services, and again we were overwhelmed with blessings. The pastor's wife was a lovely hostess.

After the afternoon service, everyone was invited to stay and help a little with an interesting project...

...In the fellowship hall of the church there were huge stacks of banana boxes - reaching the ceiling. Each box was stuffed with envelopes, which were packages full of books and literature for pastors in the southern part of the USA.

There were 9,185 packages. The stacks of boxes were enormous.

Each envelope needed to be labeled with an address; this was the special project.

We, and the church members who chose to stay, took our places around some tables, and went to work. It really wasn't work. It was loads of fun. We worked in pairs, each pair filling a post office bag with 45 packages, then progressing to the next. We quit after each pair had filled 4 bags.

Sunday evening was very relaxing. We just talked, ate supper, sat around, relaxed....


Sunday night, I dreamed of a rainstorm. In my dream, I started crying and praying "thank You!" I continued this all night.

When I awoke Monday morning, it was raining. And I mean raining.

It continued to pour the entire time we were in North Carolina. We found out on Wednesday that the city of Asheville had received 5 inches of rain in three days. We hoped we were getting some back home.

We had intended to go touring that morning, but voted unanimously to instead go help label packages again. So we found the folks who were working in the mission, and asked for permission to go over to the church and do some work. Of course they said yes. :)

Though the hall we were working in was quite spacious, the rain outside gave it a cozy feeling. We labeled, sang songs, laughed, lifted boxes, packed bags, and stacked bags all morning.

At lunch time, we headed back to the apartment for a bite to eat, then decided to see if we could find the bookstore that our friends own in downtown Asheville. Afterward, we planned to head over to take a trolley tour of Asheville's historic area. Sounded like fun to us!

We made it to the bookstore and really enjoyed browsing it. After making a few purchases, we headed out again; this time to find the trolley rides.

Well,... let's just say that we all agreed we hardly needed a trolley tour after the impromptu tour we gave ourselves while trying to find where we were going that afternoon! Asheville is a beautiful city; lots of old buildings, large trees, fascinating architecture, ...and really confusing streets. It took us awhile to find the visitor center, where they sold the trolley tickets.

Once inside the visitor center, at about 3:57, we discovered that the last tour of the day had left at 3:30. Lovely.

Well...our friends had invited us to supper at their house at 6:00. That left us about two hours to do whatever - go get "lost" again, or browse the visitor center and adjoining gift shop.

Though touring the city of Asheville's back streets and highways is fascinating ('specially when you see the same streets over and over again...not on purpose), we decided to restrain ourselves and stay in the visitor center for awhile.

But one can only browse brochures, key chains, mugs, dolls, and T-shirts for so long. At about 4:30, Mom and Dad decided to break the monotony by calling our friends and asking for directions to their house. In doing so, they discovered that going there would take us about 20-30 minutes.

I think our friends forgot to factor in a very important element.

It's called the let's-go-tour-Asheville-no-of-course-we're-not-lost-it's-just-the-streets-keep-moving-on-us-syndrome.

So we left the visitor center at about 4:40.

Despite turning around three or four times on the way there, we had a wonderful evening once we arrived at the house of our friends. This couple really have a heart for the Lord and missions, and just listening to them talk is spiritually refreshing. We got all sorts of first-hand mission news, plus stories of past trips and adventures. The meal was delicious, the fellowship excellent. It was hard to leave.

But we did, hoping to have enough light left to find our way home in the twilight.

Several minutes after sunset, we were at the stop light in front of the turnoff to our friend's house, saying "hey - this is where we came from! We've gone in a circle!"

Ahhh...let me make a long story short and say that we finally arrived safely at the apartment, with more streets of Asheville to add to our repertoire.


This was a wonderful day.

We headed off to Cherokee, two hours away, to do some touring there. My father is 1/8th Cherokee, which makes my siblings and me 1/16th, so we are interested in the history of the Cherokee.

The deluge of water coming out of the sky made our trip a little more...interesting. The mountains all around us were robed in heavy fog - but, actually, it was quite pretty to look at.

Of course, getting in and out at stops made the van a muddy mess, but that was to be expected.

Well, Cherokee has a lovely little visitor center, and we spent quite awhile there, hoping the rain would stop so we could do an outdoor walking tour of a Cherokee village. We had done it once before, about 14 years ago, when we older children were small, and really wanted to do it again. Besides, we knew where it was!

But, though we sat hopefully in the van, in the parking lot where the tour starts, as we ate our picnic lunch, the rain showed no signs of stopping. So we regretfully turned back into town and found a Cherokee museum.

That was good. It was a nice museum, that took us about 2 and 1/2 hours to go through. I got all sorts of craft ideas! I want to try basket weaving, bead work, and making an authentic Cherokee woman dress. The history was also fascinating.

I have some pen pals who live about one and a half or two hours away from Cherokee, and they and their family had been kind enough to invite my family to come to their house for supper that night. I was SO excited to see them!

Well, I remember thinking that Mom and Dad were really smart, because decided that we'd better leave Cherokee about one hour ahead of time.

Hmm. Let me just say that we needed that extra hour. We got to the house about 15 minutes early. Enough said.

The rain actually stopped long enough for us to get into the house without getting wet, and the sun came out to cheer us. (It started raining again, about 20 minutes later.) Not that I needed cheering - I was so excited!

It was great - I love you guys! Thank you so much for the time we had at your home!

I can't say enough about our visit there. It was great. Wonderful. A blessing. Refreshing. Fun. Entertaining. Uplifting. Too short.

I think we actually made it home on the first try.


On this day, we decided to do some Asheville touring, rain or no rain. First, however, we had to do some laundry at a near-by laundry mat. Not knowing how long our trip would be, some folks hadn't brought enough clothing.

I volunteered to spend the morning with Mom at the laundry mat, and I got some reading and embroidery done while we waited for the loads to wash and dry. I also passed out a tract to an older lady who was there.

When we first walked in, we were joined by four other people; a man by himself, and a couple. We had some trouble figuring out how to work the machines, and asked the man for some help, which he nicely gave. Then the woman asked him where she and her husband could find a hardware store;

"We're from out of town," she explained "and we've been camping. We really need to buy a tarp. With all this rain..."

She didn't need to explain.

"Sorry, I'm from New Jersey," the man replied.

The woman turned to Mom and I. We quickly laughed and shook our heads. "We're from out of town, too."

So we foreigners stayed there and washed our clothes.

The jeans seemed to take forever to dry, and it was 11:30 by the time we got all the laundry done. Back at the apartment, we ate lunch, then headed out.

This time, we were sure to get to the visitor center in time for the trolley rides.

It was a great tour. I love old buildings and history, and the tour was full of both. The city of Asheville is beautiful. They say it stood still in time; during the great depression, it crashed from its status as a place for the mighty rich, and had no money to update its old buildings to new ones. Now, new businesses thrive in old buildings, and the city has a flavor all its own.

We even saw the Biltmore Estate, from a distance. At least, we're pretty sure that we saw it. The distance was so far we couldn't be sure, but there just couldn't have been another building around that was that big. Just think; 250 rooms! I wouldn't want to clean it, but I'd love to go inside and take a look.

Wednesday night church services were... moving. It was a true prayer service. The short address before hand was convicting and powerful. Then the men and women separated into different rooms to pray. My mother, sisters, and I were privileged to join with those women in prayer.

I knew the moment we bowed our heads that I was amongst spiritual warriors. I've never been in a room with so many bare hearts. Somehow I knew the Lord was not just "listening," but bowing down His ear to hear attentively. These women knew how to pray. As our pastor would have said, "they had a hold of the foot of God." Many in that room - me included - were in tears by the time they finished.

Then we had to say goodbye. We knew we wouldn't see these folks again before we left, except for the ones that worked at the mission. They had all been so gracious and loving. It was sad to say farewell.

Our going-home day started slowing. We spent the morning cleaning the apartment we had used, and tidying and packing. We were ready to head out at about 11:30.

On our way home, we planned to stop at the grave site of a man named Shubal Stearns. If you don't know his name, this is too small of a place for me to explain. I have been studying his life for the past three years, and am still fascinated with every new detail I uncover.

He was a Baptist preacher who lived in the days right before the War for Independence, and had a mighty part in preparing the way for it. His story moves me to tears. It is due to him that the Bible Belt was created in the southern states. I wish I could tell you everything, but there just isn't time to do him justice.

Most of America is ignorant of this man's life, and it took us hours of trailing around on back country roads before we found the small, tidy little church where he is buried, near where his old church building is located.

I can't explain to you the way I felt as we walked over the grounds and explored the old church. Nothing was locked. No one was there. It was as if no one knew how important this place was. We slipped inside, looked around, and left. But I will never forget that spot.

It was a quiet place. Birds were singing, and the road didn't have much traffic at all. The sun was shining brightly - as if it knew we needed to see everything.

Words fail me. I must proceed with my tale.

The trip home didn't seem very long at all. We were back here in time for a late supper, after which we went to bed. Well... most of the family went to bed. I, brilliant person that I am, didn't go to bed at a proper time at all, but stayed up late finishing a story about Napoleon's retreat from Moscow. A fascinating book. Too fascinating. I won't even hint at what time I woke up this morning. It's still vacation, right? :)

And now I have spent my day unpacking, and going to catch that sale at Joann Fabrics...and a few other things. It's a very unexciting way to end this little history, but I'm sure that some of you are getting bored, if you made it the far down the page. This post certainly makes up for the lack of posting I had this week!

So there you have it; what I've been doing while you've heard nothing but silence from me.

Oh - by the way - thanks for your loyalty. I see from my blog counter that most of you have continued to check in with me every day to see if I've posted anything. I was afraid you would give up on me. It makes me happy to know you cared enough to check in. Thanks!


Alethea Jordan said...

I wondered what had you'll have to check mine out.

Sarah said...

What a fun trip! It sounds like you enjoyed it and had many blessings along the way! :)

Sandra said...

I'm so happy that you and your family had a great trip, Amber! :)
It sounded like it was soo much fun.

Amanda said...

Thank you for making time to include us in your vacation plans! We also had a wonderful time with you! Please come visit again next time you're in our area! We'll try to get up your way sometime!! :)
Also, the rest of your trip sounded interesting and fun! :)

Amber said...

Welcome to my blog, Amanda! I'm so glad you found me.

Visiting y'all was soooo wonderful. I miss you!