March updates

Let’s do this subtitle-style today, alrighty?

Parents Come to Camp, Part 1

We had a wonderful visit with the Warner parents two weeks ago. They came down for about a week, and we got to spend a good chunk of time showing them the ropes at camp and in Charleston. I think I can safely say that we all had a top-notch time. (Special thanks for treating us to some quality restaurants; we’re far past tired of camp tacos and grease-soaked pancakes.)

We’re looking forward to Parents Come to Camp, Part 2: Ford Edition.

Grad School Decision Status: Quickly Approaching

A few acceptances and more-than-a-few rejections later, I’m currently deciding between the University of South Carolina and the University of South Florida. College of Charleston accepted me, but they are a new program and had insufficient funding. I was bummed about that one in particular because, if you haven’t noticed yet, I’m in love with Charleston. I’m grateful that Scott was (and continues to be) encouraging, level-headed, and Christ-centered; together we’re accepting the closed doors and reminding ourselves that we can be sure of our omniscient, omnipotent, loving God.

We visited Tampa (USF) last week and Columbia (USC) last weekend. In all honesty, I’m a blob of fretting verbal-processing. Scott should be sainted for doing all of the driving for these visits and for listening while I repeatedly list the pros and cons of each program, coming not much closer to a decision.

The deadline is April 15; we’ll let you know, then, where I’ve chosen to study and where we’ll be next school year.

Naturalists of BI Blog

I’ve had all sorts of fun with the Naturalists of BI blog this semester; the blog had been semi-functioning in past years, but since the software was old and it’d been eons since anyone had regularly posted, David has let me take over. I’ve written about Local Outreach (our school-visit outreach program that I was hired to help advance), the work teams of the Naturalist staff (including the Garden Team and the Maintenance Team, Scott’s work team), and more. Essentially, I get to write about whatever I’d like to; I’ve chosen to structure the blog informally and to focus on the work/personalities of the Naturalist staff. Click here to see the blog homepage; click on the links to the posts if you want to read them in full.

Guest Appearances

We’ve also been blessed by other visits–Grandpa Acheson visited us last weekend to take us out to lunch and to tour camp before he continued on his prolific travels. We visited one of my high school friends in Orlando on our way back from Tampa.

My mentor from Hope, Kathleen, recently moved to Charleston with her husband, and they’ve been (wonderfully) hospitable, even opening up their home to us for a delicious Easter dinner.

Other Stuff

IMAG1264We had a staff Saint Patrick’s Day Party. Scott’s getting near to identifying 100 bird species in the Charleston area. I got my first snake bite and my first paid publication (a non-venomous snake and a publication of little note, so those are small updates.)

Our church Bible study wrapped up, but we invited the group out to camp to tour/have dinner/meet the reptiles/watch the sunset this evening. A few of the parents brought their young kiddos, and we had so much fun watching them experience camp. In the words of fearless (and pantless, at the time, because he’d soaked his shorts in the ocean and then deemed them unfit to wear) 3-year-old James, “It was a HUGE day today.”

I’m dog-sitting for some fancy puppies for the next week or so; I’m currently enjoying the quiet of a beautiful resort home. It’s a luxury to have all of this space–and a fridge to myself, instead of sharing it with 13 other sometimes-messy, albiet beloved, housemates.

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April 1st tomorrow; that’ll be our one-year anniversary. Doesn’t sound like it’s been very long, does it? Essentially puppy love. (I obviously don’t actually feel that way; I wouldn’t have moved halfway across the country if this had been a passing fancy.)

<<< Look at us, *way* back in our college days. So young. So naive.

Welp. I suppose (in the words of Porky the Pig) that’s all, folks.

 

 

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learning

 
h1First, an apology: I’d promised to post often, and I’ve already dropped the ball on that. “Life got away from me,” I could say, but life’s always getting on and getting away, so that’s a trite excuse.

Scott and I joined a co-ed Bible study a month or so ago. During our first meeting together, our facilitator asked everyone to introduce themselves and to explain why/how they were in Charleston. Often, the stories involved having once left and having since returned. “Charleston gets in your blood,” our leader said every time, nodding as though it were a widely-accepted truth.

I don’t find it hard to believe. This city is quickly becoming home, a home of yellow sunshine streaming through palmetto leaves, a home of praline pecans and peaches, ma’am and sir and y’all, old brick architecture and hush puppies.

I’m sure that each area of the country “gets in your blood” to some extent, if adequate time is spent there. The community in our church and at Saint Christopher, though, are uniquely intimate families that I don’t take for granted.

muddy1With the comfort of finding a home here, though, comes routine. Life here is muddy, bright, humid, breezy, heavily-buttered, mundane and occasionally hectic all tossed into one big bowl of metaphorical gumbo. We often find ourselves exhausted and living for the weekend, but I’m trying to remind myself, as usual, to focus on the now and the here. I know that, years from now, we’ll look back on this season with nostalgia, calling it the “good old days.” It’s messy, and we’re uncertain about so much, but it’s also beautiful, and we’re certain about the things that matter the most.

(On the note of uncertainty: Grad school responses are coming in and Scott is filling out job applications. Please be praying for us, for wisdom as we decide where our next steps will take us.)

I don’t want to get so caught up in trudging through routine that I miss little wonders that God extends. Last week, during one of my Local Outreach visits, I visited a day school–2,3, and 4-year-olds. I usually visit 4th graders for Local Outreach, so this was a change of pace; more show and very little tell, because, as I’m sure you can imagine, words like “ectothermic” and “nictitating membrane” were entirely lost on squealing toddlers.

local4At the beginning of one of the presentations, I was crouched in front of a little girl, holding a box turtle in my hands. “Have you ever seen a turtle before?” I asked her, having long since abandoned any hope of teaching any technical terms.

She looked past the turtle, not acknowledging it as it strained to escape my hands, then looked down at herself. “I’m wearing underwear,” she said. lo

I realized that that’s where these kiddos were–graduating from Pull-Ups, they are focused on accomplishments that, in their perspective, are rather notable. The alligator, snake, etc that I had brought them were exciting, sure, but their everyday concerns were still at the forefront of their thoughts. When they returned to their classes, they’d soon be distracted by Cheerios and learning how to share; when picked up from school, I doubt they remembered my visit long enough to tell their parents about it unless prompted.IMG_2167

Maybe it’s the English major in me, maybe I’ve been reading too many allegorical devotionals, or maybe the parents in our Bible study have made too many parenting analogies and it’s influencing my thought process, but I think there was a lesson here. I hope that I’m never too focused on my minute accomplishments and the routine of the every day; I hope that I’m able to look past routine to see dynamic changes and greater wonders that God is working and holding out to me.

The gap between God and me far surpasses the gap between me and a 2-year-old, so I’m sure that, just as I smiled at her sweet, simple tunnel vision, He also understands that I’m usually too simple to see what He’s trying to show me. I’m thankful for His patience, just as I’m sure that He offers it far more often than I’m aware.

Our regular students are usually around 5th-grade age, however, and that age has given me a different perspective than the younger tots.

As Naturalists, we’re with different groups of kiddos every few days. Though we’ve been here at camp so long that our teaching material and activities have become routine, it’s critical that we remember that the students’ time here is only a short stay. They’ve been looking forward to these three days for a long time, and everything is a new experience. They throw themselves into the mud pit, explore the woods fearlessly day or night, scarf down the pancakes and grilled cheeses that we’ve grown tired of, and at the end of it all, they still run to the basketball court during their break times. Their energy baffles me, but then I remember that this is their only chance to run, jump, splash, explore here. They’re soaking up each opportunity to learn and to have fun, because their opportunity is limited.


Isn’t that how I should be living? Like my time in each season of life is fleeting and I should make the most of it?

Sure, I’m technically employed to teach kids about the environment, but the environment and these kids are teaching me more than I could have anticipated. Now that the novelty of being here has worn off, it’s good to buckle down and learn.

settling in

Hey, y’all!

As promised, I’m due to update you on this SC adventure I’ve/we’ve embarked upon.

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Pre-14-hour drive (a post-14-hour drive shot wouldn’t have been so smiley)

I’ve been here two weeks, and it’s been fantastic.

The other Naturalists are fantastic. The environment is fantastic (we’re quite literally ON the beach). The wildlife is fantastic. The camp staff as a whole is fantastic. The weather is fantastic. And I’m quite enjoying seeing Scotto on a daily basis instead of bi-monthly.

(Sorry if I over-used the word “fantastic.”)

I’ve been welcomed with open arms into this incredible, Spirit-filled community, and I’m so thankful that God orchestrated the details of this season of life. Days are sometimes long and tiring, but I feel rested and renewed  by the surrounding people and Creation.

All photos: courtesy of the talented Mr. Scott Stephen Warner. Click here for his Barrier Island photo gallery.

In case you’re curious, a few details about what my particular role is:

gatorMy technical title is Barrier Island Intern; I’m half Naturalist and half Local Outreach intern. This means I’m teaching a few classes per week here at Saint Christopher as well as visiting one or two Charleston schools per week to teach crash-herpatology classes to the students there. Classes here include a beach/mud pit/environmental succession class, a reptile/amphibian class, a “scales” (fish/estuary) class, a woods/wetlands class, and a pond/ecosystem class. Local outreach classes are usually three to six 50-minute classes in the school, where Cortney and I bring a baby gator, a few snakes, a turtle or two, and some sort of amphibian in for the kids to learn about.

I’ve really enjoyed how much of a learning experience this job has been; though I love the literature and language courses within my English major, I’ve always regretted that I didn’t get to dabble more in other disciplines.

“How many years did it take until you weren’t afraid of the snakes?” one of the kids in my class asked me (as a snake slid into my sleeve and down my back).

“….I’ve been here three days,” I had to reply.

As I mentioned, I’m loving getting to know the other Naturalists–other college graduates, all adventurous and quirky and Christ-centered. We go exploring, bowling, swing-dancing, restaurant-ing; we visit the farmers market and have “scons” (scones) at our (British) boss’s house; at the end of long days, we sit lethargically and play board games and watch movies. Most importantly, we’re determined to encourage one another in our work and in our faith. It’s a community I’m treasuring, because I realize how rare and precious it is.

Blessed and immensely enjoying this experience, to sum it up.

news for the new year

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

IMG_20151231_202805907_HDRWe rang in the New Year with friends, celebrating the marriage of college buds Dave and Claire. What a way to begin 2016!
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It’s going to be a noteworthy one: we’re beyond excited to report that we’re done with this long-distance-relationship nonsense. I was recently offered a position at the camp where Scott has been working since August, and tomorrow we’ll be trekking the 14 hours down to South Carolina together.

Scott’s a full-time Naturalist at Camp St. Christopher, and I’m going to be an intern. God was definitely in this entire process. We’ve been looking for a way to get me south for the past few months, and we were getting nervous, because things weren’t quite lining up. His plan surpasses ours, though, because this internship will be an even better gig than anything we had in mind. I’m looking forward to being a part of the incredible and faith-imbibed community within the camp staff, and Scott and I are looking forward to this new stage of our relationship, one that doesn’t rely so heavily on postage and phone service.

scotthanSo, family and friends, follow us. We’ll try to post often enough to keep y’all up-to-date, as we work and grow and figure out where our road is taking us. We’re stepping forward in faith, and we’re beyond excited to keep moving forward side-by-side.

Good-byes are hard, and I’ve said a lot the past few days to some gosh-darn stellar friends, family, and coworkers. But I’m blessed to know that they’re just see-you-laters, blessed that these friendships are of the pick-up-where-we-left-off sort, and blessed to know so many quality people worth missing.

We’re also hoping to talk many of them into visiting us these upcoming months. Yeah? Beach, alligators, and time with us? What more could you ask?

So Happy (late) Thanksgiving, Merry (late) Christmas, and Happy New Year.

(Check out our 2015 highlights photo album, if you wanna see our year in moasic-tiled-photo form.)

Blessings and love.

 

an allusion: why the “road less traveled”

Our website title deserves some explanation, lest you misinterpret it and think I’m a cheesy cheeseball.

[A Quick Lesson: Allusions] An allusion calls something to mind without mentioning it explicitly. Works of literature often allude to other works of literature, sometimes referencing poetry, sometimes paralleling plotlines, sometimes quoting song lyrics. My theory is that this occurs because writers are immersed in the world of literature and therefore use it as mirror or reference point in their own lives, so this constantly-allusive thought pattern emerges in their writing. 

When I chose this domain name, “our Road Less Traveled life,” I was referencing a favorite poem, Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken:”

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

This poem is quoted often, but misquoted the majority of the time.

“I took the road less traveled,” people say, as though Frost were making a statement about originality, about being an adventurer and spurning the status quo. Reading the entirety of the work, however, it’s evident this isn’t what Frost meant.

The two paths are “really about the same,” their prospects “just as fair,” with perhaps some minor differences. The narrator is sorry he cannot travel both and lingers in deciding which path to take, “knowing how way leads on to way,” knowing that once he makes this decision, other subsequent decisions will follow, and he won’t return to try out the second path.

Our paths are our decisions, and often there is not a “correct” or “incorrect” direction. I think, often, we simply need to make a decision and go. We’re called to remain true to our values and our faith as we walk, but I don’t think that God wants us to wait around looking for signs regarding every decision. 

In the last stanza, Frost points to how our paths affect us:

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

The message here is that the narrator chose a path, and that path “made all the difference,” i.e. his journey shaped him.

Frost didn’t make it clear whether the “sigh” was one of contented nostalgia or one of regret, and I think this is purposeful. Whether our paths take us through joy or trial, we’ll look back and recognize that our decisions made all the difference.

If we hadn’t both chosen the same college, Scott and I wouldn’t have met. Maybe we’d both be happily dating other people right now; maybe we’d have different college majors and career goals. It’s interesting to think about, but just as Frost recognized that he wouldn’t go back and take the other path, we’re moving forward. There will be joy and there will be trial; there will be sunny strolls as well as stormy uphill climbs. Maybe some days we’ll wonder what other paths would have been like. Happiness is finding joy in the journey.

As for me, I’m looking back at my life with a satisfied and thankful sigh, noting every relationship, trial, pivotal moment, and seemingly insignificant turn of events that led to now.

And oh, has this path made all the difference.

endurance

My mentor, a lovely lady who keeps me spiritually grounded, has a theory that God teaches us certain words during life seasons – that, thinking of God as an Author, He has a motif or theme for each chapter of our story. Last year, when I was making all sorts of difficult decisions regarding graduation, career path, etc., my word was Trust. During this season of my life, my word is Endurance.

Lake Tahoe and the boys.
Lake Tahoe and the boys.

This past summer, Scott set off on a three-week cross-country trip with three of his best friends. They hit as many national parks as they could and had an incredible time; it was the perfect way for them to cap off their years at Hope, as they left the day after graduation.

I developed patience and endurance during these three weeks; we had just begun dating, and it was hard to have him gone when I had just been getting to know him. It taught me how to prioritize, and it showed me how important he really was to me.

Moments before I boarded a plane to Vienna. Can you tell I'm just a little bit smitten?
Moments before I boarded a plane to Vienna. Can you tell I’m just a little bit smitten?

When Scott got back from his tour of the U.S., we had four days together, and then I headed off to Vienna, Austria for a month of studying abroad. The tables were turned, essentially: now he was the one left behind, and I was off having adventures. We learned the importance of two-sided communication and what it takes to strengthen a relationship in spite of thousands of miles of distance (4,762, to be exact).

stanley cup scoot(I have to add, though, that he did have plenty of good times when I left him behind in America, including partying with the Blackhawks the night after they won the Stanley Cup Championship. Yes, that’s him drinking out of the Cup.)

Our relationship has never been one of convenience; even in our first weeks of dating, we had final exams and job interviews and graduation requirements that were demanding our attention. Over the summer, after I returned from Europe, we still didn’t have the luxury of living near one another. Time together took planning, and though this meant a lot of time spent together was vacation by nature (see our summer photos for a few glimpses of this), being intentional has been essential from the start.

Couldn't have done it without my bestie by my side (well, maybe I could have, but it wouldn't have been any fun).
Couldn’t have done it without my bestie by my side (well, maybe I could have, but it wouldn’t have been any fun).

I ran a half marathon a month ago – my first ever. It was fitting that I didn’t see Scott until the week following my half; as I was training, I was looking forward to seeing him again, and I imagined that as I was running towards the finish line I was also running towards the end of our 6-week distance.

I’m a sucker for a metaphor, so I thought of our relationship in terms of physical training. The short separations were one-mile runs, the weeks apart over the summer were long runs, and this time apart, though transient in the grand scheme of things, is the marathon. I’m not sure I’ll ever run a half again, just as I’m not sure we’ll ever be apart for this long again, but either way, the training has developed muscles that are going to keep us strong in the future. We’ve been unable to lean too heavily on each other in everyday difficulties, and so we’ve grown in our dependence on Christ and in our overall resolve; I’ve learned it’s critical for members of a couple to be strong on their own before they are able to effectually bolster one another.

I think I speak for both of us when I say that this time apart has been difficult, but that what’s waiting at the finish line is overwhelmingly worth the time and effort invested.

Colossians 1:10-12: And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.

just minutes and highways

Scott left for South Carolina on August 15th, and last weekend, we saw each other for the first time since then.

No complaints about my trip to Urgent Care - doctors were wonderful, and a close friend was there to hold my hand (metaphorically, of course, because my hand was getting stitched up).
No complaints about my trip to Urgent Care – doctors were wonderful, and a close friend was there to hold my hand (metaphorically, of course, because my hand was getting stitched up).

I love baking, so I wanted to bring some sweets along–but I sliced my thumb open on the pumpkin can the night before heading south and ended up with four stitches and no cookies (I made them when I got back to Michigan, though, and shipped them to South Carolina. Because distance relationships survive with the help of USPS. Other than this minor mishap, though, the trip went wonderfully.

We met “halfway” in Nashville (quotation marks because the drive is technically farther for Scott, but he’s a faster driver, and we arrived at the same time). It’s an 8.5-hour drive one way: quite a haul. But as our dear friend Ben Rector sings, It’s just minutes and highways to the one I love.

And it was quite a reunion (picture Noah and Allie at the end of The Notebook – just less rain and less tears and a slightly shorter beard).

Thanks to the hurricane that was hitting the East Coast, we had a few drizzly days. Scott’s camp got hit pretty hard, so he was especially glad to be away for the weekend. We found restaurants and coffee shops to escape the weather: the Frothy Monkey and the Egg & I were two favorites. 12080959_10155996202805391_209832588_n

On Friday, we explored and had dinner at the Grand Ole Opry Hotel (seriously, it’s incredible in there – waterfalls, rivers, pretty much a tropical destination indoors).

Oh, and we played a lot of cards and ukulele.

On Saturday, the rain held off a bit, and we visited the Parthenon – Nashville’s bit of Greek culture. There was a festival of sorts going on, and the vibe was fun and eclectic. If you’re ever in Nashville, add the Parthenon to your list of places to visit. It’s something you won’t find elsewhere (well, unless you’re visiting Athens any time soon).

We explored Vanderbilt University as well – it’s on of the thirteen graduate schools I’m applying to, mainly because of the fantastic faculty (LORRIE MOORE) and the funding. It was fun to imagine ourselves there. Frankly, it’s fun to imagine ourselves anywhere, because it’d mean I was accepted and we were also in the same geographical location. Relationship goals.

AchesonsinNashville

After wandering around Vanderbilt, we got to surprise some of Scott’s family; they were in town for a concert, and we showed up at the restaurant where they were having lunch.

Goodbye on Sunday wasn’t fun, per se, but we’ve already done distance for two months, so we know we can survive until Thanksgiving.

The overall verdict: ain’t no highway long enough to keep me from getting to you, babe.

P.S. Readers: Once we’re able to travel more, we hope for this blog to read like a travel blog – more photos, more locational description, more discoveries and must-sees/must-eats/must-dos of travel destinations. For now, though, you’re just getting to know us a bit.