It Has Been 29 Years . . .

I was just 17 years old the first time I went to the Smokey Mountains National Park with the McFarlands. (That was 29 years ago this summer.) Jason and I have our very own 17 year old these days. (That happened so quickly!) And now I have been an official card carrying McFarland for 24 years myself. (That happened rather quickly too!)

It was love at first sight. I was enchanted and dazzled and downright smitten. I was in love with both the McFarland family and the mountains and I still am!

That first trip to Tennessee we climbed Chimney Tops and Laurel Falls. We summited Le Conte. We drove the Cades Cove loop (more than once) and we went to Clingmans Dome. We played mini-golf at Hill Billy Golf (which is sadly no more) and hung out in the Village. We ate at the Apple Barn which way back then was actually out in the country! It was truly a “greatest hits” sort of trip.

In Cades Cove long before my hair turned white . . . but Jason’s very trendy jeans were bleached almost white – very 1992!

I spent the whole trip thinking – “These people are so cool!” “I love their family vacations. This is what I will do when I am the boss of my life. . .”

(It is so kind and generous that they just kept right on inviting me!)

Linda (Jason’s mom) has been going to the Smokey Mountains National Park since she was in kindergarten. She and Bob have been taking Jason and Elizabeth their entire lives. Now Jason and I have been taking Jack and William to Tennessee their entire lives and Elizabeth (Jason’s sister) and John (our seriously awesome brother-in-law) take Nic and Bella (our nephew and niece).

My people . . . my crazy – awesome – beloved – treasured people!

The Smokey Mountains National Park is our special place. The McFarland clan gathers there to be together. We laugh A LOT. We chat and chatter. We tell terrible – seriously goofy jokes. (John tells them.  Then Will attempts to retell them – badly. . .)  We watch the sun rise and the sun set. We hike and we walk. We reminisce and share plans for the future. We amble and some of us (okay – just Jason and me) read and read and read some more. We play in rivers and streams. We admire nature and settle into a slightly slower pace of life.

We open our eyes and our hearts to God’s presence in our lives. We give thanks for the blessing of God’s glorious creation and the blessing of family. We savor life. We make memories. We delight and celebrate. (This year we even curled each others’ hair . . . Covid-19 quarantining left some of us with more hair than others!)

This is perhaps my favorite view of the world. Blue sky spotted through tree branches. It never – ever fails to intrigue and delight me!

What are your treasured family traditions? What do you delight in doing?

What draws you closer to your loved ones and to your Lord?

Are they the same things? Is there overlap?

Now that our lives are starting to resume much more normal patterns can you plan to do something with your loved ones that you ALL love doing?

Don’t get so busy returning to the new “normal” that you forget to see God’s blessings to you. Don’t get so busy you miss the joy and the good stuff!

You are all in my heart – thoughts – and prayers.

In Christ and with Love –

Pastor Kerri

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