I'm not sure how to explain it, other than the past month or so has been one filled with so much peace.  I have struggled for the past few months spiritually, wondering where the intense intimacy that had once been very present had gone. I've prayed and even grieved a bit for that time last year when the Lord had asked me to do big things.  Because in that time of stretching came such a closeness, a tunnel of immediate access from his heart to mine.  I felt and heard him constantly. I understand it has something to do with seasons.  And he's been reminding me that his word for our family this year is that of peace. I am finally coming around to understand that.
He's still there and I am learning to hear him in the quiet.
 Last weekend, we were blessed with the ability to stay at a cabin as a trade. Of course, it is tucked up high in the mountains where there is no internet or distractions.  It's a perfectly worn in place that allows you to relax without worrying of sweeping constantly or dirtying things up.
It was there where I was really able to understand the purpose of this year.
I was able to completely decompress.  Sit in silence. Enjoy the voices of my children (most the time, mind you, I was alone with them for half the time and there were moments of annoyance!).

It snowed, it rained, it was freezing.  Typically I would pack such a trip full of hikes and exploring but the weather didn't allow for that.  We got out a few times, but mostly we were cozied up, wearing wool socks and the same exact outfit for multiple days. :)

As I was going through the photos I took, this image took my breath away. Not because of the scenery. Because of an older brother resting his chin on his little sister. 
 I'd like to think that I know my children well.  However, when we are in the mountains, I feel like we are tied together on a different spiritual level.  There is such a reverence that they can understand from these young ages for creation. I may help foster it, but I certainly didn't plant it in their souls.  I am so grateful for the Lord putting such a passion in them. I see them light up, praise the Lord, and truly connect with him in these situations. It's become my favorite aspect of being outdoors with them, being able to experience these times as spiritual times rather than just times of recreation.

Once Jason was able to come and join us, we had a break in the rain for a few hours.  He wanted to give me a little time to myself for a run around the lake.  As he was telling me this, Carter overheard (typical!) and asked if he could join me.  We've run together before and it has been some of my most treasured time with him. I asked if he was willing to run the 4+ miles of trail, which will be very difficult in the higher elevation. "Of course!", he exclaimed.

And that he did. He blew me away with his drive and determination.  He wanted to lead the entire time, which I had to respect.  What an apparent leader at this age.  We had a wonderful time. I am so surprised that he was able to run the entire thing.  I told him that he was really sure-footed, to which he replied, "I'm not sure what that means, but if you're talking about my stamina, thanks!".  Oh my, he keeps me chuckling under my breath and consistently impressed.

We brought a little bit of school work. It's not so bad when big, white fluffy flakes are falling from the sky.


Everett had taken a fishing trip with Jason and returned to tell me he discovered some baby Dark-eyed Juncos.  I didn't put much thought into it, but when we returned to the same spot the following day, I was in for a treat.  He begged me to stop over at the spot of their nest.  As he led me there, lifted up a pine branch and revealed to me these precious, newborn baby birds, I was taken back over his ability to find them. I asked them how he knew they were here. He told me he was observing a Dark-eyed Junco in the tree above.  He was sitting still, watching her and listening to her call.  She flew down to the ground and disappeared under a pine branch. He slowly approached the branch and heard baby bird sounds, he lifted it to find these sweet babies.  It spoke straight to my heart as I am watching him learn to observe and listen.  He will sit for a long duration of time bird-watching; with a set of binoculars and a field guide nearby.  But to make such a discovery based on being still and quiet, spoke greatly to me.  I can learn from him...especially in this time of peace.

 If your children love the woods or reading of adventure, I highly suggest reading them, "My Side of the Mountain".  The boys are completely enthralled with survival in the woods and this book spoke directly to them.  Every hollowed out tree now has a different meaning to them, so it came as no surprise to see the little fort they had made from a nearby stump.
Upon our return of this sweet time, we came home to the end of a busy season of sports and activities. I am so excited to spend the summer with these children, doing what we love best. During the next few months, my hope is to take this time of peace to use as a time of great preparation for whatever the Lord calls us to next. One thing I know; He is so good, and all the difficult things he called me to last year have only made me a better mother, a better daughter to him, and have brought such large and fruitful volumes of peace into our home.  He knows what he's doing, guys. I'm not sure why I have ever questioned him!

John 14:27
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I don not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

The Fourth

It caught me by surprise.
 One of my favorite holidays (likely due to it being in the Summer!) is usually spent with friends. But this year, for some reason, it ended up just being us. "Us" turned out to be just fine.

I love summer. I love nature (in case it hasn't been clear in the past!).  Both Jason and I love getting up high in the mountains, where you can feel the elevations stretching your lungs and hear the wind in the canyons above and below you.
The fourth was just that.

Since our adventures are usually just the children and I (with friends), it's not likely that I get to read.
But if you add a spouse to the mix, these outings provide moments of alone time.
We were both able to read, nap, and hike individually with the older children.

I still marvel at how environment shapes the view of what reality is to young ones.
These babies have been frequenting rivers since they were a few months old.  
They know no different.
That amazes me.
How they know to handle scraped feet from sharp rocks, "pokey" hikes from barefoot walks in pine needles and hours upon hours in the sun without toys or entertainment.  It's good stuff.
We set out to this spot early in the morning as there is only one easily accesable spot on this side of the river. Since there is only one spot, we had the river to ourselves.
All day. 

Later in the afternoon, Jason took the three littles into the car for a nap.  As they napped the older kids journaled and I took a snooze along side of them.
A rarity. 
The other day, when we are at a different river, the older kids headed upstream to go explore.
I asked Scarlett where they had gone.
She answered so quickly, "Oh, they're river scouting".
A term I would never expect one of my children to know, let alone my four year old daughter.
I love summer!

So this family photo...wasn't so easy.  This is set up on an ice chest with the self timer.  I don't know how to change the settings to make it longer so I had 10 seconds to run across a slippery slab of granite in the water to meet my family.
Gussy wasn't happy about that as he had to run with me (and got a little too wet).
We made it!
I treasure this photo, just as I treasure our fourth!
We did a quick bonfire with smores before we took off for the night.
Let my growth be known, please, for a second.
These marshmellows were not, in fact, organic.
The graham crackers were not gluten free.
I bought doughnuts (read: DOUGHNUTS) for everyone to enjoy.
As well as nitrate-filled lunch meat.
The family was ecstatic.
And I woke up with what felt like a ginormous hangover (because yes, there was a time in my life where I experienced a few of those).
It was so so good and beneficial for the family. 
Often times we get caught up in the social experiences (because we love them!) that we forget to spend some quiet, quality time with our family.
Carter and I went on a rather long hike upstream.
He told me he loved me about 15 times.  I think we needed that. :)
Jason took the oldest boys to the summit where they came back with a paint can filled with wildflowers for me.
Sissy got a bee sting.
The twins did their thing, cautiously playing along shore, bossing everyone around and hoarding their favorite item at the moment.
And I had to take this photo as we were all packed up, heading home.  It looked like a Toyota commercial, all five kiddos packed in nicely. :)