When I was seven, I fell in love with the Smokies and left my heart there when we left to go back home to Florida. Today, I got to go drive down the Blue Ridge from Asheville to Knoxville for the night and I've never felt so at home before.
It only took a couple of hours to get to Asheville from our sweet little artist's loft in Charlotte. Nothing was open and the city was asleep when we got there. We walked around, took photos in the first light of this Monday morning.
Eventually we landed at Malaprop's Bookstore and walked around spending an unholy amount of money on gifts for family and friends. Sending surprise presents to people I love is probably my number one favorite pastime.
Emily took me to the top of a parking garage to see the whole city and it was beautiful because we got a moment to really breathe and reflect on the car-ride conversations we've been having recently about love, theology, and making a new home in Portland.
The day started out so breezy, but by about 10am, the sun was warming our faces a bit more than we would have liked. We stopped in the first coffee shop we found called Bomba and got iced peach teas with honey to cool us down.
Oh, and then we got to drive down the Blue Ridge Parkway to Knoxville and it was beautiful. We didn't have any set schedule for the drive and that made it all the better. Just my best friend, my best home, and my best contented, growing heart. I can't imagine a happier place on earth, but maybe Portland will take my heart from the Tennessee mountains (not likely).
SO MUCH JOY!
I made Emily stop on the side of the road to take pictures of the absolutely graceful and glorious mountain-side flowers. They were the perfect summer colors and the green of the world around them showed just how stunning the soon-fading flowers really were.
It reminded me of how the person who God creates each of us to be shows just how glorious He really is in a different way.
Emily also took pictures of me when we stopped to get mountain-road snacks (mud pies, chips, and taffies). It's safe to say these mountains make the light in me shine brighter. Everything just seems so bright, big, and magnificent with thundering mountains around you.
Let me take some time to talk about Emily since most of you have read a bit about her before.
Emily is my true sister in Christ. I can honestly say I don't know where I would be today without her support, encouragement, and accountability. I probably wouldn't be on the way to Portland. God has given us so much mercy and kept us focused on Him throughout our whole friendship and I'm so blessed to be able to have such an innocent heart in my life. In freshman year of high school, Emily taught me that being a Christian didn't mean wearing what the pastor told me to, memorizing bible verses, and hating anything that brought me joy because of selfishness. Instead, she showed me that Christianity is about a relationship with Christ, who daily makes us into the only and truest version of ourselves. Today, she continues to teach me lessons about the love and gentleness of Jesus and about choosing joy in all things. I'm blessed by God to call this girl my best.
Another wonderful thing about Emily is all the beautiful people she's brought into my life. Haley's kind-hearted soul offered to keep us for our night through Knoxville, but she made us feel both so at home. She has the most understated, charming, and cozy home I've been in so far on this adventure. Haley and her husband Logan gave us a bed, a shower, a home-cooked meal, and really comforting talks about growth.
After some snacking with Haley and Logan, we ran off to visit Remedy Coffee before they closed to have quiet time. It was refreshing to sit in a soft, homey, leather chair and read about the God I love so dearly. I read a lot of Isaiah at Remedy, but here are a few verses that stuck out to me in my reading:
For Zion's sake I will not keep silent,
and for Jerusalem's sake I will not be quiet,
until her righteousness goes forth as brightness,
and her salvation as a burning torch.
The nations shall see your righteousness,
and all the kings your glory,
and you shall be called by a new name
that the mouth of the Lord will give.
You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord,
and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
You shall no more be termed Forsaken,
and your land shall no more be termed Desolate,
but you shall be called My Delight Is In Her,
and your land Married;
for the Lord delights in you,
and your land shall be married.
For as a young man marries a young woman,
so shall your sons marry you,
and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride,
so shall your God rejoice over you.
-Isaiah 62:1-5, ESV
I certainly can't end a post without lessons from the day:
Stillness is essential
Growth is a process (a daily lesson)
People are different for divine purposes
It's okay to be a little (or a lot) wild and restless
Schedules are made to be broken
Apple pie cookies from a little mountain road store are the best kind of cookies
Sometimes you have to compromise (rap music in the mountains is the best I could do today)
No memories are wasted memories
Candles and disposable film cameras are good for the soul
Knoxville's been good to me.
ever free, ever true, ever kind.