June 2013

In October of 2011, my family, my daughter's family, and two other families decided to start a new tradition for fall break and camp at Beartree in southwest Virginia. We had camped a lot together--but this time would be a bit different.  Camping at Beartree is real camping with no hook-ups or cell phone service.  There are, however, bears and raccoons and other critters.  It is a beautiful state park--in the wilderness. 

The weather that weekend was perfect, and the fall foliage was at its peak.  Kids and adults settled in, playing games, building fires, riding bikes, and engaging with one another.  In other words, we got busy making the kind of memories that last a lifetime. Looking back, even three years later, I still consider that weekend to be one of the best of my life.

On Saturday, the majority of our group was shuttled to the top of the mountain to bike the Virginia Creeper Trail.  It was the first time for my youngest daughter and three of my grandchildren.  They loved the scenic, downhill ride through the state forest and back country so much that they returned the next day to do it again!  You might say that my family's love affair with the trail and the area started that weekend.  For me, it was to be the beginning of something much bigger than I could have imagined at the time.  A small seed had been planted that was destined to grow a journey.

my family, my daughter's family, our friends

Just nine months later, my world would be shaken so violently that hope would have to be hunted down with an  intensity of new dimension for my very survival.  The sudden, accidental deaths of my eleven-year-old grandson, Nate, and his friend, Noah, on July 4, 2012, would cement the nagging need I had to discern the purpose of God for what remained of my life.  I could no longer live life hoping there was a purpose. 

Yes, the tables were turned for me and my family that day. Gone--at least for a season--were the carefree days of laughter and whimsy.  Profound grief was now our constant companion, and he was an uninvited and unwelcomed guest.  

But there were other children to consider and other memories yet to be made. There were other broken hearts to be mended.  There was hope yet to be found.

So I prayed.  And when I couldn't pray, others prayed for me and with me.  And my family held on for dear life as we navigated waters uncharted and unfamiliar.  The loss was so very great and the trauma of the accident so very haunting. 

And slowly, glimmers of hope did begin to emerge as we allowed ourselves the luxury of enjoying momentary feelings of peace and even pleasure amidst the pain.  Laughter crept in without us noticing from time to time to do her work on our souls. Hard decisions were made by each individual affected by Nate's and Noah's deaths.  They were personal, very personal.

Some would seek times of solitude.  Some would surround themselves with friends and family.  Some would cry a lot.  Some would hold it in.  Some would want to do new things.  Some would want to keep old traditions. 

When October came around again, the family and friends decided that we would return to Beartree.  We would ride the trail again.  For Nate.  For all of us. 

The same four families set up camp, but things were not the same.  How could they be?  Nate was missing, and the cold, wet weather added no cheer.  Our intentions toward healing were thwarted by discouragement and doubt. Perhaps this was a tradition that should have been released.

There is, however, something  magical about the spirit of a child and its ability to distract from what should be or could be.  If allowed, it will embrace the wonder of the moment, releasing a contagious hope that is a force to be reckoned with, giving the weak in spirit a reason to at least try what once came effortlessly--mere living.

So, on a very different Saturday than the year before, we once again set out for the top of the mountain with what I think were  unrealistic expectations--expectations which were totally based on the assurances of the eternal optimist of the group who discounted the cloudy skies.

He somehow convinced us that the threatening rain would await our arrival at the bottom and greet us then and only then. Unfortunately, as sometimes happens, in its excitement, the rain showed up several hours early and decided to accompany instead of greet.

If someone would have asked me what I was passionate about prior to that fateful day, I would have said, "I am passionate about making memories with my family." 

So many of our memories were tied to summers on the lake-- the site of the accident--with friends.  And that October, just three months into the weary road of grief, I was  still very raw, mourning not only the loss of two dear boys, but the loss of our "place" on the water where we had spent years making great memories. 

I so wanted another place to do that.  I needed another place to do that.  Even if the others could return to the water--and I prayed that they would--I knew that for me, the pain was too great to keep that tradition alive. I did not have the benefit of youthful resilience.

So I began dreaming of a new place of escape from the pressures of our lives.  I wanted to have faith to believe that God could and would restore a portion of what was taken from my family that day. 

And as I came down the trail, on that cold, rainy day in October, I saw her, the Little Cabin on the Trail.  Of course, that was not her name then.  I do believe that my heart skipped a beat--and it was not from the 11-mile exhilarating ride in the rain that it took to get there.


CABIN FOR SALE BY OWNER wasn't just a sign about a piece of real estate for sale.  It was a sign from God.  My merciful God heard my cry for hope, and He sent it to me that day.  That little cabin was "it" and I knew it.  God rarely answers my prayers with something as grand as a piece of property; but at that moment in time, I was sinking fast, and He knew that I needed a lifeline.  I needed a reason to go on living in the present.  He knew that I needed to hear His voice telling me that it was okay to live life again.


One month later, we were the owners of the Little Cabin on the Trail, and the process of making her our place began.  The renovations became my husband's and my distraction from grief and pain.  God sent us a job to do to restore our hope. And that job was a huge one.  My husband and I had to compromise on the renovations.  He wanted to go big and add a second story.  I wanted to be able to use the cabin by the summer of the same year. In the end, we agreed that the inside would be totally gutted and reconfigured, but the outside would remain the same, keeping the cozy charm of its mere 600 square feet.  


December 2014

It has been two years since God showed up in a big way and gave us a cabin.  I still have a hard time believing it.  I knew then, and I know now--for sure and for certain--that the cabin came with strings attached.  I am not sure if I attached them or if God did.  Those strings enable us to never take His gift for granted.  They require us to remember the prayer of dedication I offered over that little slice of real estate in the Virginia mountains.  

My prayer was that God would give my family opportunities to serve others from that cabin.  We had been shown such kindness by God's people in the days and weeks following the accident that I knew we had to play it forward.  The opportunities have indeed come--so many, that I have lost count.  We consider it a privilege to be able to share with others the love of Christ--a love that we did not fully understand until it saw us through an unthinkable loss.  

Nate would have loved the Little Cabin on the Trail, and sometimes I feel guilty enjoying it without him.  Sometimes I consider what the cabin really cost us, and I am overcome with tremendous sadness--which brings me right back to the feet of Jesus.  Again and again I must accept the fact that good things do follow tragedy, but I don't ever have to deem the tragedy worth it.  What happened that day will always be horrible; it does not have to be justified.  So I accept the pain, and I also accept the good gift of the cabin.  I accept the loss, and I also choose to serve others in spite of it.

That truly is a model of the Gospel.  

The tagline on the cabin sign reads where memories are made and hearts are healed. That is my prayer--every time we go.  


We moved our vintage camper to the cabin for use as guest quarters when we run out of room in the spacious cabin. It is quite possible that she may never travel the highways and the by-ways again.

You may remember what she looked like when we found her a few years ago.  

The transformation is amazing.  And I have my husband and son to thank for a lot of it.

You can hear the rushing of the creek and the happy sounds of the kiddos playing on the trail.

We recently moved the Little Camper closer to the Little Cabin in an effort to make her feel more like part of the family.  When the weather clears, we will extend the deck to tie the two living spaces together.  I am sure that this is her forever home.  And she could not be more thrilled.

So if you come to visit, you may get to spend the night in the Little Camper on the Trail.

Wouldn't that be grand?

You can check out the entire renovation project here.


APRIL 3, 2011

Call us crazy--it won't be the first time, and it probably won't be the last time either. We are just those kind of people. This is our latest project.

And with these books as inspriration:

And Constance (find her on this site)

And this amazing talent:

It will be fabulous! I just know it. If I could just decide on a theme or a color or a name.  Maybe it's too soon. I will keep you posted.

APRIL 13, 2011


The inside is just as scary as the outside, but that's okay.  We will be gutting the entire thing!

aPRIL & MAY 2011


They say a picture is worth a thousand words, which is good because I don't have time to type a thousand words about the camper progress.  I will say that my son, Michael, is an amazing carpenter and is doing a fabulous job on that part of the redo.  My husband is jumping in on jobs that Michael Jr. will let him do--like scraping the paint off the outside.







So far my camper duties have involved photography and an occasional planning meeting.  I am chomping at the bit to get to the decorating part.  I know all this structural stuff is important, but really   I was very happy to see the light fixture go in above my bed.  Love, love, love it. And it only costs $20 at Lowe's.

Son Michael has made all new cabinets, including doors and drawer fronts.  He is something, that boy!

There is quite a bit of storage in the seats and under the bed area.

He never stops working.  Got to love a guy like that.


In the books I have read about vintage campers, it is suggested that you pick the name before you even start the project. If I had waited until I had the name, the bushes would still be growing out the backside because my guys would have lost interest. Nothing, I mean, nothing came to me for the longest time. And then, there it was. And I knew. After weeks of thinking and praying--yes, that probably sounds ridiculous considering the important things that there are to pray about, but I was desperate--it just was so very apparent. I was at the mall in Bath and Body Works, and saw this:

And standing in that store, I could see it painted on the side.  And I let out a squeal.  And Tessa *got* it right away.  And I was happy, very happy.  And I will try not to get carried away with this post.  It's just that it communicates why I even wanted a vintage camper.  The added plus is that I love the scent and have a gift card to buy it for when I get carried away this summer!


Son Michael has been at the Police Academy for the last two months, so he has only been able to work on the weekends. He has been very generous with his off time considering that he now has so little of it!

I was kind of running out of money for this project--actually, I never really had any money for this project.  The guys had been using this and that from around the shop.  Well, this and that ran out last week, so I had to get a bit creative.  I cashed in a handful of gold jewelry--the majority of which was found in apartments that hubby had cleaned out.  There were a few pieces that I no longer wore or cared about.  The value of gold is high right now, so I was able to get about $500.  Son Michael is happy to now have a bit of a budget.

Michael made a track for the piece that is needed to make the table area into a bed.  Clever, he is!  And the storage area under the bed is enormous.  It can be accessed from the outside also!


And, of course, he hinged the bench seats for additional storage.

The window frames are going to the sandblaster's tomorrow.  What's next?  Glad you asked!

  • Flooring - found in the warehouse (no cost)
  • Old tin backsplash - bought at an auction a while back (no cost)
  • Install cabinet doors (need to buy hardware) 
  • Hook up sink and stove (had sink, stove came with camper)
  • Run gas lines 
  • Caulk and paint
  • Buy new tires and hubcaps (no bargain) 
  • Upholster cushions (foam will cost, fabric have)
  • Make curtains (have several ways I could go with what I have)
  • Design outside lettering and choose colors (hopefully Tessa is on this one)
  • Sell my first born to pay for exterior painting? Just kidding.
  • Accessorize and stock the thing all cute like 

I am sure that there are other things that the guys are planning on doing that I have no clue about like brake lights and such.   Once school is out at the end of the week, I will get to help a bit more with it.




 We took Carried Away on her first outing last weekend--not quite perfect, but still quite capable of handling a weekend at the lake.

Against the strong opinion of my son, I decided to paint the outside myself for four very good reasons.  

1. It was cheaper.  Much cheaper.

2. It was quicker.  Much quicker.

3. Her condition warranted it.  No matter how much I spent, this little girl was never going to look perfect.  She's old and has battle scars that were just not going to be covered up with a fancy-schmancy paint job.  She's a lot like me.

4. It's been done successfully before.  I did my research and there are plenty of hand-painted trailers owned by Sisters on the Fly.  That was good enough for me.

Also against the strong opinion of my son, I chose to paint her bottom bright yellow.  There are some good reasons for that as well.  

1. Everyone in the family (except my son) voted on that color.

2. It was a color on the shelf at Home Depot (Rustoleum oil-based).

3. It made me smile and sing "You Are My Sunshine."  

You may wonder why my son's opinion is even mentioned here. Well, that would be because he did all the inside carpentry work.  I did, as nicely as possible, remind him that he was on the construction committee not the decorating committee.  In the end, he did agree that she looked pretty good--considering.

Tessa had enough sense to take a shot of my beginning efforts. I admit that I had my doubts for a few hours.

I am quite happy with the results.  Of course, I still have the white to paint on the top.  Labor Day weekend did not wait for me to finish. Husband had enough sense to stop and have me take a photo of her first outing.

It was some feat getting this comfy mattress through the door, but oh, it was worth it.  Unfortunately, it came off of my guest room bed, so that room looks weird right now.

There are lots ofthings to notice in the kitchen besides I did not finish painting that board. That was because it was nailed in right before we left.

The old tin was one of the pieces I bought at an auction for $10.

The string of lights I bought on clearance at Home Depot.

The dish towel from William Sonoma came from Goodwill.

The bar and little shelf thing came from IKEA.

Modern conveniences:  micro, fridge, stovetop

And now onto the dining area.

I fell in love with that yellow Waverly fabric at a local outlet.  It was $5 a yard.  I already had the blue that I used for the piping.  I actually had a local guy do the cushions for $25 a piece--worth every penny!  I know that the tablecloth does not really match, but the table was still a little sticky from painting.  *grin*

I made the curtains from some long IKEA ones that I had previously used in the house.  I love the little pinch pleats and the red rings that I sewed on.  I did not want to use the clip-on ones that are so popular . They are hung by twine right now, but that may change. 

I have several more things to finish and tweak, but I could not go another day without sharing. I hope you will stop back to see some more finishing touches.  I have a trip planned for October, so it will motivate me. I promise!  And in closing, the following photos were just too cute not to share.

That sink came in handy.  Temperatures were over 100, and Jett was a sweaty mess!

 I do believe he thought I got "Carried Away" when I pulled out my special shower gel. 

 "Please, Grandma, must I smell so . . . pretty?"

We moved the camper to the Little Cabin on the Trail a while back. You can see the latest photos of her here.


I wanted to decorate the cabin last year, but without having the heat installed, it seemed unlikely that we would actually go there in December.  This year we have heat which means I will definitely be spending time there, so I added just a few things to put us in the holiday mood.

I made garlands out of pompons (Target $1 bin) and by stringing drinking straws and plastic beads (Hobby Lobby).

Next, I wrapped lights around a metal cone that I have been moving around for a few years waiting for an idea of how to use it to hit me.  I placed the cone on a log that I dragged in from the woods.  Because we are not here all the time and our space is tiny, it has made the perfect tree.

I kind of think that Donna at Funky Junk would be proud of me.


I am really hoping to add some decorations to the outside next week when we come to cut down our Christmas tree.  Last year we enjoyed a little bit of snow when we went, and I am praying for a little this year also.

I would love to decorate a bike--if I could find an old one--and put it outside.  


I would also like to add a few decorations to the camper which is now right outside the back door.


Hopefully, I will be posting some more cabin photos next week!  In the meantime, I have some more garland to make.  You should go make some, too!  Kids love it, and it's easy-peasy!


July 30, 2014

It was supposed to be chore day.  I told Kenzie that we would do a little laundry, shake out the rugs, sweep out the cabin, and then go into town for some groceries 

Well, the laundry got done and the rugs got dragged to the deck before those plans were dust in the wind. That is just the way some days are.  Someone says good morning with a British accent, and you are compelled by some unknown  force to just let it be, let it be, let it be, yeah, let it be.  

My new British friend, James, unlike the others, was coming down the trail, heading to Damascus from Atkins, Virginia.  It is about a 75-mile hike, so he had been at it for a while.  He had spent the last two cold nights in shelters with some AT hikers and appeared to be over it.

I offered James some tea--because I assumed that is what any good Brit would drink in the morning--but he surprised me by requesting a cup of coffee.  Coffee?  I had not made a cup of coffee in a very long time, but I somehow managed to serve up something that did not resemble sludge--which is more important than you may think since I poured it through a cobweb on the top.  When will I learn that cabin living means you check the cup before you pour?

From my vast experience of getting to know hikers on the Creeper Trail, I can tell you that it takes time to uncover the fascinating in a person.  James is a very fascinating fellow.   If he had stayed ten minutes, it would not have been enough time to find that out.  Even one hour would not have been enough time to find that out.  It took a couple of hours to peel back the layers of this young man.

He is in the United States because something popped up on his Yahoo news page one day about a program called Workaway.  

From the Workaway website: is a site set up to promote fair exchange between budget travelers, language learners or culture seekers and families, individuals or organizations who are looking for help with a range of varied and interesting activities. A few hours honest help per day in exchange for food and accommodation and an opportunity to learn about the local lifestyle and community, with friendly hosts in varying situations and surroundings.

James made connections with people in many different states before leaving the UK and has been "working" his way around the country.  He has lived with all kinds of people and has done all kinds of work.  I met him today because he took a week off to take a long walk--I mean, a hike.

He started his trek in Boston, and from what I remember, he has traveled to Manhattan, the Catskills, somewhere in Pennsylvania, somewhere in West Virginia, and will finish in New Orleans after a few more stops.  

He just completed his university studies in illustration, and will be going to London for some more schooling when he completes this trip.  He is an amazing artist.  I mean amazing.  This kind of amazing:


You don't learn these things about a person in a ten-minute visit.  It took time for him to realize that I cared to know about his art.  It took time for him to become comfortable talking about his experiences.  So I took the time, for him and for me.

It's a win-win situation when opportunities like these present themselves.  I am able to validate these amazing sojourners and encourage them to keep going--if only through my interest in their stories and enthusiasm for their adventures.   In exchange, I am validated and encouraged to keep going, to keep showing myself friendly.  Proverbs 18:24


I am getting better and better at weaving His story into the conversations.  Hikers have a lot of time to think, so I try to give each of them something to contemplate when they leave the Little Cabin on the Trail.  I try to plant a seed or water a seed, trusting that there will be harvesters up ahead.


James left me with a lot to think about as well.  We discussed the impact social media has had on this generation.  We discussed the growing desire by many for simplicity and how this hike and his entire trip has confirmed the beauty in the uncomplicated.  He shared his concern about returning to his "other" life. He recommended some books for me to read. 

I enjoyed getting to know a young man from across the sea on a day I planned to do chores, a day ordained by God that our paths should cross. 

In my guest book, James wrote, "People like you restore my faith in humanity."

People like James restore my faith in a God who is intimately involved in our lives, a God who knows our coming and our going.

May his journey be blessed.

You can read about AT hiker, Chef John Wayne, here.

You can read about AT hiker, Spectrum, here.


July 29, 2014

The day after our visit with Appalachian Trail hiker, Spectrum, we planned to visit a local attraction, Backbone Rock, on our way home.  So we tidied up the cabin, loaded our things into the car, and headed out.  

We did not get 50 feet before I noticed a hiker coming up the trail.  I turned to Tessa and said, "I have to stop and ask him if he's walking the AT, and if so, what his trail name is.   I promise, it will only take a minute."  Imagine my surprise when he told us that his name was Chef John Wayne.  Tessa knew then and there that it was not going to take a minute.

I could hardly contain my excitement.  "The Chef John Wayne?" (Really? As if someone else had hijacked his identity on the trail.)  "We know all about you." 

He, momentarily, looked skeptical, which quickly turned to what I believe was somewhat impressed that his fame had spread all the way to Hoot Owl Holler. (That really is what the locals call our little neck of the woods, by the way.) I may or may not have read a bit into his expression.  It all happened so fast.  

It did not take long for me to get to the part about Spectrum's visit the day before.  And before we knew it, I was turning the car around to open the cabin back up so that Chef John Wayne could take a shower, wash his clothes, eat some food, and share a few tales of his own.

Chef John Wayne's visit was much different than Spectrum's  though (and for the record, I enjoyed both immensely).  Of course, since they both were hiking the trail, many of their stories shared similarities. His were just a lot more contemplative and philosophical in nature. Chef JW is an observer of all things and very much in tune with the finer details and nuances of his experiences on the trail.  He has the spirit and eye of an artist.

Even now I am having a hard time writing a list of facts  about him, even though I know I asked him a lot of the same questions that I had asked Spectrum.  It seems more appropriate to tell his story with broad strokes as I feel he has chosen to live his life.  

He did not just tell us about his experiences, he attempted to share them with us in a tangible way through his photos--his art.   And we took the time to fully glean from the experience by pulling out our field guide in hopes of identifying a moth he had photographed.  

And in a comfortable exchange, he asked about Tessa's poetry hanging on the wall and her photographs.  He requested that we play the song, "Live Like That," after noticing the autographed picture of the Sidewalk Prophets. He asked and he listened, and then he asked some more and he listened some more. 

And we did the same.

Broad strokes.

He struggled to call Florida his home, as if in doing so, he was limiting his options.  I understood that.  He is a free spirit refusing to land--just yet.

He prepared for this hike by hiking the coast of Florida:  wise.

He was attempting to learn how to play guitar while on the hike.  Fellow hiker, Bach--who gave him his trail name--was teaching him:  willing. 

His brother is a missionary in China:  prayed for.

His family was following his travels:  loved.

He got his boots at a thrift store, already broken in:  blessed.

Someone gave him his walking sticks:  provided for.

He did, in fact, carry spices in his pack:  interesting.

It was he who sprayed his fellow hikers with bear mace--totally on accident:  forgiven.

Chef JW also took us up on the offer to drive him to the next Appalachian Trail entrance. Certain that at least one of his friends was now ahead of him, he had some catching up to do.  I made sandwiches for him--and for Spectrum, just in case, and loaded him up with the few provisions we had left.  And then we took a few photos.

The ride to the trail provided us even more time to get to know one another. Tessa and Kenzie agreed that they were not disappointed at all that we missed our trip to Backbone Bridge.  Meeting Chef John Wayne was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  

So he checked his map, and we marveled at how little one needs to hike in the wilderness.  

And we took a few more photos.  And then we prayed.

For protection.

For revelation.

For God to speak through His creation.


And then we said good bye to our new friend. 


But it was not final.  A week later when I returned to the cabin, I opened our guest book; and it was just like Chef John Wayne had come back for a visit.


July 28, 2014

We will have owned the cabin two years this coming October.   I can hardly believe it. Two years.  

Almost the entire first year was spent renovating, so I was up there pretty sporadically. Since the almost completion of the renovations about a year ago (Are renovations ever complete?), I have visited our home away from home quite regularly.  This summer I practically lived there full time.

I am still amazed at how each and every time I go to the Little Cabin on the Trail, I have the opportunity to meet the most interesting people.  I don't know why I am so amazed since I specifically prayed that God would send us people with whom to share His love.  

Two weeks ago, Tessa, Kenzie, Jett, and I had just returned from creek glass hunting and were having some lunch when a hiker passed by on her way up the trail.  Jett, who is just three, has gotten quite friendly with the folks going up and coming down.  He mimics us and yells, "One more mile, just one more mile to the cafe."  Quite often--and I am not exaggerating--people just open the door to our screen porch and enter, thinking that our little cabin is the Creeper Trail Cafe--which is famous for its chocolate cake ever since Southern Living did a story about them years ago.  So Jett feels it is his job to keep everyone straight and moving in the right direction--toward the cake.  



On this particular day, Jett shouted a greeting to the hiker, and she offered him a friendly salutation.  I turned to see who he was talking to, and I asked her if she was hiking to the top of the mountain, about 11 miles.  When she told me that she was actually hiking the Appalachain Trail, I was shocked, intrigued, a little concerned for her, and instantly willing to become invested in her hiking journey.  

I invited her in to visit, and she said, "Really?  Are you sure?"  Of course, I was sure. I needed to know why in the world a young girl would want to walk from Georgia to Maine, apparently by herself!  I needed to know how long she had been walking, what kind of shoes she was wearing, what she was eating, and what her mother thought of her adventure.


I grilled her, and she didn't seem to mind one little bit.  

She had been walking for about five and a half weeks.  She was from Louisiana.

She is 24 and had never hiked before.

She had started with a friend who quit after a few days. Her friend left the hike, apparently not a fan of sweating and climbing, so took a beach vacation instead.  

She had just loaded up on ten days worth of food.  She had been eating a lot of Ramen noodles.  

Her pack weighed about 40 pounds.


She ditched her tent and all but two outfits.  

She found out that cotton clothing took too long to dry.

She should have bought her shoes just one size too big instead of one and a half.

She slept in the shelters along the trail.

She had been chased by a bear.

She had been sprayed with bear mace by another hiker (completely on accident).

She had mice crawl all over her while she slept--or attempted to sleep--in the shelters.

She was going as far as her money would take her.  It cost her about $1.25 a day, and she had enough to get to West Virginia at that point.

Her family did not seem to have much of an opinion about what she was doing.

Her trail name is Spectrum, given to her by another hiker, as is customary. It means colorful, which she is.

She had been traveling with friends she met on the trail:  Chef John Wayne, Bach, Nails, Wounded Knee, and Crazy . . . something or other.  I forget his last name. 

Chef John Wayne traveled with spices and cooked using green peppers and wore an awesome hat.  

Bach played classical music on his guitarlele and was writing a book about a blind man and his dog on the Appalachian Trail.

I don't know about the rest.  Well, I think Crazy . . . was . .  . well, crazy.

Spectrum's real name is Amanda.

She had veered off of the AT onto the Creeper Trail to make up some time after taking a break in hopes of catching up with her friends.

I asked her what she needed, what we could do to help her on her amazing journey.  I wanted needed to help her achieve her goal, if just her goal of the day.  I felt such admiration for her.  She was determined, confident, polite, and somewhat fearless.  Spectrum was who God sent that day for us to serve.

She asked for a safety pin.  A safety pin?  Surely, we could do more that give her a safety pin.  I was feeling generous.  Take a shower, have a popsicle, eat a nectarine, load up on some granola bars.  Please, let us serve you.

And after some convincing, she did.  

We traded all of the above, including a safety pin to break her blisters and some cash to enable her a few more weeks on the trail, for her priceless stories.  I think we ended up with the better end of the deal.  I really do.

The neat thing about Appalachian Trail hikers is that they are as fascinated by and as interested in the people  they meet along the way as the people are about them.  When they start the hike, they are well aware of the part that others will play in their journey.  People serve hikers all along the trail. They are called trail angels.  

So when I was done asking her a gazillion questions, she asked us a few.  And as we gave her a ride up the mountain to the next entrance to the AT, we shared about God's love for our family and His provision for healing through the Little Cabin on the Trail.  And when I asked her if we could pray for her, she said, "Yes."  

After we prayed together, we said goodbye to Spectrum and watched as she walked past  the 2"x6" painted white blaze marking the entrance to the trail and disappeared under the canopy of trees.  

Read about Chef John Wayne here.


The following post was written as part of a 31-day writing challenge sponsored by The Nester in October of 2013.

It's the last day, and if I had gone into this 31-day challenge with a plan, then perhaps I would have thought to save the best for last.  Although I really don't know what the best would have been.   I do know that there are some things that I wish I had mentioned, some photos that I wish I had shared.  I did not expect to run out of days before I ran out of smiles.  I suppose that is a good thing.

The Little Cabin on the Trail is truly a gift from God, and I do not take that for granted one bit.  The desire of my heart is to walk in faithfulness, discerning the plan and purpose that God has for that little piece of heaven on earth.  With every visit, I want to get to know my Lord and Savior better.  I want my heart to connect with His.  And I pray for the boldness to testify of Christ and to share the good news with whomever He sends my way on that trail. 

In order to do that, I must actually spend time outside.   

The cabin has a darling screened-in porch on the front which, while great for keeping the gnats from circling our heads, serves as a natural barrier between the people on the trail and us.  That's okay sometime; but like I said, I really want to connect with folks.  

Daughter Tessa and I love to say hello to each and every person as they ride by.  Some smile and return the hello, some give us the slight nod, some give the slight wave, and some ignore us altogether.  And every now and then, some stop to visit.  I probably should mention that every now and then, some just walk right on in thinking we are a restaurant.  That is funny: me--running a restaurant.

I was thrilled when Michael added the deck on the back.  It is like having front row seats at a play.  We can be right there, just a few feet from where the action is; and I love it.  We can also see the stream or the creek or whatever it is.  Perfect.

So we eat out there on the deck and play cards and read books and play with little people.

And a few days ago, we kind of enjoyed the snow on it.  

I could just end by saying that the deck makes me smile and leave it at that.  And I would have if I had not met Eduardo and his son last Saturday.  So maybe it is a good thing that I did not plan how to wrap this series up.

The grandkiddos and I had been at the cabin for three very cold days.  We really did not see many people riding, and those we did see were moving quickly because they were half-frozen.  Nobody wanted to stop and chat; they wanted to get to the Creeper Trail Café for some hot chocolate.  On Saturday morning, the sun came out, and it looked like we would be able to spend time outside with the bikers and, of course, Elijah.  

Unfortunately a family situation forced me to make the decision to pack up and head for home.  I was very, very disappointed. 

As I sat down to eat before putting the kids in the car to leave, I was griping in my head about not getting to meet anyone on this trip.  And then through the window, I noticed two people just standing in front of the cabin sign staring.  I felt like I needed to go outside to talk to them, so I left my piping hot lunch and headed outdoors.

The tag line on the sign, where memories are made and hearts are healed, is a conversation starter.  People oftentimes want to know the story behind it.  And if I am led, I will share it or invite them to visit the website to read it. 

I wish I could explain it, but as soon as I started talking to Eduardo, I knew that it was a divine appointment.  He had such a kind spirit, and somehow he seemed to relate to my personal need to make memories with my family and to have my broken heart healed.  He understood in a way that surprised me.  His compassion came from a different place.  I liked him.  A lot. 

I asked him if I could take his picture to put up on the cabin's Facebook page, and he happily agreed.  When I came back with the camera, he said, "Let me tell you my story."

And you can Google his name and read his story for yourself.  You can even watch a movie about it or buy the book his wife wrote about it.  It will break your heart.  It broke mine.  Again. 

Eduardo Valseca was kidnapped in 2007 and held hostage for over seven months in a wooden box.  He suffered the unimaginable at the hands of other human beings.  His loving wife and mother of their three children negotiated his release and became his hero only to succumb to breast cancer last year.

And yet.

Eduardo Valseca got on a bike and rode the Creeper Trail with his son.  Eduardo Valseca stopped at my little cabin sign and talked with me about life and family and choosing to be grateful. 

And he smiled.  And his son smiled.  

And he gave me a hug that I will never forget, causing hope to rise up in my soul.  

A simple act of kindness and there it was:  hope.

And that is what I want to leave you with.  I now know at 1 a.m. on October 31, 2013, that the things I have shared over the past 31 days made me smile because they have represented hope.  Each item had a job to do on my cynical heart. 

God is so gracious and so patient. 

He reminded me no less than 31 times that He really does know the plans He has for me:  plans for a future and a hope.  Jeremiah 29:11

Day 31:  Hope makes me smile.

It has been a grand adventure.  I thank you for sharing it with me.


An overview of all 31 days can be found here.


The following post was written as part of a 31-day writing challenge sponsored by The Nester in October of 2013.

Today you may think I have lost my mind.  And maybe I have, but I love the New Orleans awning that I bought at the Pop-up Barn Show in Franklin, Tennessee last weekend.  I paid too much for it, but I have justified the price because I have gotten so much for the cabin for next to nothing--you know, from my husband Sanford's stash of junk good stuff. 

And I know that Donna at Funky Junk will love it and tell me that it was a deal at any price.  One-of-a-kind items are worth a lot.  And I did not pay a penny for the old fireplace screen that hangs below it.  That has to count for something.

If you are not the chippy, rusty type, you will not understand these decorative touches.  You may even cringe a bit.  It's perfectly okay.  I cringe at matchy-matchy, everything-bought-at-a-store décor. 

Day 17:  The chippy, rusty awning makes me smile.

An overview of all 31 days can be found here.

Like the Little Cabin on the Trail on Facebook.


The following post was written as part of a 31-day writing challenge sponsored by The Nester in October of 2013.

I have been swooning over all white décor for some years now, and figured that the cabin would give me an opportunity to create a space that was pure and clean and uncomplicated--you know, white with a touch of greenery like they do in Sweden.   

Well, that did not last too long.  I just can't help being drawn to color.  Try as I might, you will soon see that I have failed to be true to my design direction.  My second slip off of the wagon--we will talk about the first in a later post--happened when I walked into a design and decorating store in Knoxville called Fig and Company and met the best sales person ever, Julie.  They really should give her a raise.

It is the coolest store, and not just because it is located across the street from the new Anthropologie.  Jammed packed with painted furniture--oh, how I love painted furniture--and affordable accessories, I was almost giddy with delight walking through there.  And they carry the best chocolate ever.

Julie noticed me swooning and caressing the furniture and enthusiastically introduced me to a brand of paint by Amy Howard.  It comes in all kinds of yummy colors and will stick to anything with no prep--even marble.  I fell hard for Massey Hill.  Maybe it was because autumn was just around the corner, and it has always been my favorite season or maybe it was because the rebel in me just needed some attention.  Either way, I just could not pay $28 for the color white.  

And I needed to buy that paint because as luck would have it, my husband, Sanford Michael, found some skinny wood cabinets that I was working on turning into a dresser in the master bedroom.  If that isn't laughable.  I should really say in the 7'x9' room in which we sleep. 

I started painting the cabinets white in keeping with my awesome theme, but soon realized that the paint was just not going to stick well to the shiny surface.  Actually, my husband told me that it wouldn't, but I started to paint them anyway because I was not going to leave them looking like kitchen cabinets even if he liked them that way. 

Thank you, Julie and Amy Howard.

I admit that I felt sick to my stomach when the first coat of paint went on.  With all the white, it seemed to glow.  Glowing was not what I was going for.  I was pretty certain that I would be spending $28 on the color white the next time I was in Knoxville.  But then Kelly and my sister-in-law, Marie, convinced me to give it a chance.  So I have.

I think that the cabinets turned dresser is a clever solution for a cozy space, and I love clever as much as, if not more than, fall.  And that color does bring a smile to my face.  As a matter of fact, the whole room just makes me smile.  But we will talk about that later as well.

Day 11:  A pop of color makes me smile.

An overview of all 31 days can be found here.

Like the Little Cabin on the Trail on Facebook.


The following post was written as part of a 31-day writing challenge sponsored by The Nester in October of 2013.

Sports teams have mascots.  The Creeper Trail has Elijah.  He lives with his great-grandmother next door to us on the trail.  From morning until night, if not in school, Elijah rides his bike back and forth interacting with the folks riding by.  He tells people when to slow down and when their bikes need attention.  He "assists" Doug who rides the trail daily as part of the bike patrol.  He dishes out a lot of attitude but takes none in return.  He is mostly delightful.  :)

I decided early on that I would find ways to embrace this little boy's presence instead of being annoyed by it.  That probably sounds mean, but I go to the cabin to get away--to be alone. 

It has not been difficult to embrace Elijah.  Even when I should be painting or writing, I will take the time to ask about his day and how school is going.  We invite him to join us on our bike rides and trips to the Creeper Trail Café for ice cream.  He has helped me carry rocks back to my garden and has told some tall tales about his mountain home to us. 

He has caught butterflies and learned how to play Uno with Tessa and sat around the campfire eating s'mores with Kenzie.  His eyes light up with mischief and adventure.  His voice, well, I've decided that you must hear his little country voice.  He is hilarious!  Check out this video.

I think you will adore him as well.

God knew what He was doing once again.  Elijah reminds me every time I am at the cabin that a little boy's perspective is priceless.

Day 15:  Elijah makes me smile.

An overview of all 31 days can be found here.

Like the Little Cabin on the Trail on Facebook.