Into the Woods: Southwest NC

This fall has been one of the busiest seasons of our lives. Both Rachel and I are deeply committed on a number of levels, running on wisps of sleep and doing what we can to keep the plates spinning.

In the midst of it all, though, we were blessed to have a long weekend to ourselves (yes, her parents kept all three kids. Thanks!) to celebrate 9 years of marriage.

We got married in October at least partly because of the color scheme, capping off the wedding with a honeymoon in Downeast Maine back in 2006. Ever since, we’ve enjoyed timing our anniversary travel with peak foliage wherever we go to celebrate. We hit the weather/color jackpot again this year with a trip over to the Highlands/Cashiers area of North Carolina.

I grew up in the mountains of North Carolina, but never spent much time in the southwest corner of the state. We had plenty of opportunity to enjoy the sights there this month, though, and we hit the trail. Rachel hasn’t always shared my love of grueling hikes, but we both do enjoy being outside. She let me drag her up and down a number of hills on this jaunt, and I’m pretty sure she even enjoyed herself.

What a treat. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

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The hill behind our condo at Sapphire Valley.

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Whitewater Falls

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Several shots from Black Balsam Knob off the Blue Ridge Parkway. Rachel tells me I should just shout “Balsam” whenever I get stressed and think about this day up there.

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Graveyard Fields/Yellowstone Prong Falls is a one-in-a-million spot…unfortunately everyone knows it. We were tripping over other visitors, even on a Monday.

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We took this one from a Canoe on a rather windy lake.

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Whiteside Mountain in Highlands is something to behold. Quite a variety of terrain and views on a moderate 2.5 mile loop.

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Dry Falls on US 64.

Yep, I think I’ll keep her. =)

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On Work

What is a person’s work worth?

We work to live. True, but there is more to the transaction than this crude equation points out. Should our work be sold to the highest bidder, a straight swap of services for compensation? Or does the act of employment itself create something greater than either party can produce alone?

A couple of weeks ago, as my wife and I wandered through a craft fair in North Carolina, I saw this sign on a booth.

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Tempting though it was to dismiss this as so much salesmanship for hobbyists, it stuck with me. Sure, artists tend to self-importance (No, I’d never do that), but there is something of imago Dei dignity in this statement. Any craftsmanship or professional endeavor is art in the sense described here, and in whatever capacity we are employed, we are selling a piece of ourselves. It is the value created by our knowledge, experience, strengths and weaknesses, successes and failures that makes buying our labor worthwhile.

Of course, there is another side: If no one is buying what we are selling, the fault may not lie entirely with the purchaser. It is certainly not an easy task to turn some of the grimier and more mundane tasks of life into “art”, but excellence can be pursued in any endeavor. Surely this is what the Apostle had in mind when he told Christian slaves (encompassing by synecdoche all of us who work) to serve: “with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ; not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man” (Eph. 6:5-7).

Work runs deeper than paying the bills, and, difficult and stressful though it may be at times, it is not itself a curse (as many have pointed out before, God gave Adam work to do in the Garden before the Fall). Perhaps if we remembered that the work of our hands is an extension of our person, we could serve and be served with greater honor and love.