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Monday, July 6, 2009

Arkansas paradise

No, my Texas friends that's not an oxymoron. Shawn is from an exquisitely beautiful part of Arkansas in the Ouachita Mountains. Here's some trivia for you: the Ouachita Mountains are the only mountains in the U.S. that run east and west rather than north and south.

We drove up to Shawn's parents Sunday night. We needed to pick up Grace who spent a week with the grandparents. Shawn's brother from California also stopped in. He scheduled a couple of days layover on his way back from a business trip in Florida.

It was so awesome to spend some time hanging out with him. I feel so smart when he talks about his job in brain research and I understand what he's saying. Which is true more than half the time! We took him up to the airport in Little Rock this morning. It was a short visit, but better than nothing.

After lunch we headed back South to Albert Pike. This is a camping/recreation area on the Little Missouri River - not far from where Shawn grew up. Of all the places we have ever camped and hiked this remains one of my favorites.

When we first married, Shawn decided to introduce me to the joys of camping. On spring break we loaded up a bunch of stuff, and headed out to Albert Pike. We just lived about 15 or 20 minutes from this beautiful location. Unfortunately, a cold front came through while we were camping. I was skinny and cold-natured back then. I'm pretty sure I put on every item of clothing we had with us while I huddled by the fire. It was my first time to have food cooked over a campfire, and my first experience sleeping in a tent, and I was hooked. Camping is still one of my favorite things to do. Never boring!

Over the last 16 years the facilities have improved greatly. Real bathrooms and showers instead of outhouses. Paved roadways and designated swimming areas. But the park is still stunning in the raw beauty of God's creation.

It was awesome to take my children back to this place with so many great memories. Shawn and I camped there many times, hiked alone and with our youth group, and often swam in the river back in the early years of our marriage. It was cool to go back and be reminded of good times.

I also loved sitting at memaw's kitchen table just visiting. (well, the eating was pretty amazing too). While we were there several extended family members came by. I don't know how to explain the beauty of the experience. Memaw's house is small, the kitchen crowded, crazily chaotic with grandkids and adults all vying for attention. But it's one of my favorite places on the planet. A constant in our crazy life. Warm. That's my best adjective for memaw's kitchen.

The trip lasted less than 48 hours, but I feel like a new woman. Thank you, God, for this family that embraced me as their own 17 years ago. They have taught me so much about life and love and laughter. I am blessed indeed.

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