Travel | The Lake District

Sometimes I get so focused on checking new countries off the imaginary list in my head that I ignore the very place I call home – beautiful England! An entire planet of landscapes seems to have wrapped itself around these little British Isles and, after a recent weekend in the Lake District, I am newly inspired to see as much of this place as I can.

The UK has these magical things called Bank Holidays. I don't exactly understand why they exist, but they roll around every few months and we all get off work for reasons unknown to me and I LOVE IT. Some friends and I made the most of the late May Bank Holiday and (along with every other licensed driver in England) followed the motorway signs pointing to "The North."

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Despite booking in the eleventh hour, we found a great converted stable Airbnb in the teeniest little village called Renwick, which was just a little cluster of houses in an enormous expanse of pasture. As we drove, I kept imagining what the Lake District must look like from above – a patchwork quilt sewn with every shade of green, intersected by stone wall stitches and dotted with scraps of an old floral-patterned dress.

Our first day was spent village hopping. We began in Grasmere, mostly because the town's famous gingerbread had been recommended by no less than ten friends. The village was precious – shops, galleries, little homes, and a tiny church with a healthy dose of wildflowers. Grasmere Gingerbread lived up to every ounce of hype. It was so good, kind of soft and crumbly and spicy. I still think about it at least once a day. (Writing this blog reminded me of how good the gingerbread was and I just ordered some online because I am a weak person. Help!) We grabbed lunch at a teahouse called Baldry's and I tried the British classic rarebit for the first time, despite being deeply convinced it was a rare piece of rabbit meat. To my delight, rarebit is actually a thick slice of toast swimming in a small lake of melted cheese. The things you learn on holiday!

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Ambleside was our next stop on the Village Tour of Cumbria and offered a bit more hustle and bustle than Grasmere (we are speaking relatively, of course). We browsed all the cute boutiques and wandered up to the village church. We excitedly followed signs to a Craft Fair and began dreaming of all the quirky handmade items we'd buy. The signs led us to the dimly lit gymnasium of a community center. It took us precisely forty seconds to see each and every piece of merchandise available. Empty-handed, we took our exit from Ambleside and headed to Keswick.

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Keswick offered a new slew of shopping opportunities and sweet treats. We wandered the street market, scored some British Tweed mill blankets, and eventually found ourselves in a beautiful public park on the banks of a stunning lake. After grabbing some takeaway, we enjoyed a few hours of soaking in the rare sunbeams and warm air. Photo evidence says I took a nap that I don't remember. With sunset quickly approaching, we hopped in the car and headed to Lake Windermere, which came highly recommended for sunset viewing. After finding a place to park, we ran to a nearby overlook. There, with a small gaggle of wide-eyed strangers, we silently watched pink and violet and orange clouds melt into one another like watercolor.

This show plays nightly. Can you believe we live on a planet that has a sunset every single day.

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A new day began with with bad directions from Alex and great driving by Jana and encouraging words by Liz. After a brake-burning, twisty-turny "shortcut" through the mountains, we arrived at the trailhead to a gorgeous waterfall. (Please listen to me: do not take roads that end in the word "Pass." Tears will be shed by at least one person in your vehicle.) Buoyant with the relief of finishing that awful drive, we took the trail past an ancient church, over a wide brook, and through an absolutely pristine wood. Between the trees, the air was dark and cool and calm. After making it to the waterfall, we hung up hammocks and spread out blankets and allowed ourselves a few hours of simply being.

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In search of food (as always), we decided to drive to the biggest town we could find on the coast – Whitehaven. The place was a bit sad, sort of deserted, but we decided to poke around the marina a bit despite the bum-me-out vibes. To our great surprise, we stumbled on a huge jetty and enjoyed some pretty gorgeous views of sailboats on the glittery English sea.

My brother-in-law Andrew once spoke the words that have made me the woman I am today: "You have a limited number of meals to eat in this life, so you better make sure each one is good." That's some gospel truth, y'all. I want to get it tattooed. With this in mind, we kept driving until we found ourselves back at Keswick and in the booth of a super hip restaurant we'd spotted the day before, Merienda. Avocado fries, halloumi frittatas, corn fritters. Hipster heaven.

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We reluctantly awoke to our departure day and decided to make it to Hadrian's Wall before heading back to London. The morning's drive felt like trespassing into one oil painting after another – endless miles of misty emerald mountains dotted with sheep. We stopped for a scone at Blueberry's Cafe (the cutest name in history) in Alston, then navigated to the Wall, ancient Roman ruins near Scotland that spans the entire width of Great Britain. We walked along it for a while and spotted some of the original sections. We also popped into nearby Lanercost Priory, a beautiful old cathedral that sits half-restored, half in ruins in the north English countryside. After coming to terms that the holiday must draw to a close, we pointed our little red car southwards and waved goodbye to the magical Lake District. Our final stop was the town of Carlisle, where we had lunch and a wander before entering the parade of homecomers that stretched all the way to Surrey.

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Travel | The Jurassic Coast

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After taking a little road trip down to the Jurassic Coast last weekend, I'm quite convinced that either a) England's Ministry of Tourism is really dropping the ball in the marketing department  or b) the entire country is purposefully keeping this place a secret so they can have it to themselves. I can't say I blame them. However, I am so pleased a visiting friend discovered the Jurassic Coast on an official inventory of Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty during some pre-travel Googling and proposed that we go. About a three hour car trip from London, the Jurassic Coast is a stunning ninety-five mile stretch of the craggy southern edge of England. We made the jaunt down and, after lunch at a local farm shop, enjoyed a sunny afternoon on the pebbly beaches of Durdle Door. As evening fell we stumbled upon Lulworth Cove, with it's picture-perfect sailboats and thatched roofed cottages. The perfect day ended with an obligatory ice cream/sorbet  stop in a nearby village and plans for our next coastal getaway.

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Journal | Chasing Light

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Grey.

The thick, wooly clouds and chilly morning mists of early June in southern England have reflected my insides a little too well lately. Nothing is wrong, but the monotony of routine and responsibility has simply lulled me to sleep. My gratitude muscles need toning and my wonder reflexes need sharpening. From the atmosphere to my attitude, life has been a bit grey and I haven't made any earnest effort to conjure some color.

Over an afternoon cup of tea with friends (yes, the entire British-tea-drinking stereotype is spectacularly true), the idea of a spontaneous trip to the seaside sprang into life. We volleyed the thought around, we came up with reasons to just stay home,we sipped and nibbled and stayed a little grey.

"We're doing it," a brave soul finally declared. The scones were hastily finished and the bill paid. A few short hours and a bit of petrol later we were sitting on the coast, our palms pressed against the cool beach pebbles and the wind whipping our hair.

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The daytime was living it's final moments. Honey-colored sunlight dripped over the rolling, sheep-dotted hills and my heart ached with the beauty of it all. We'd serendipitously arrived to the coast at Golden Hour, that sublime slice of day in which the dying sun casts the landscape in a delicious golden glow. I imagine every hour in Heaven will look like this. Feel like this. Where the warm sunlight somehow fills up your lungs.

When my feet hit that seashore, the grey of the last weeks evaporated and was replaced with miles of gold.

Sometimes grey is comfortable, like a blanket that keeps you trapped in the fog of sleep, of numbness. It's not until you find the Golden Hours that the grey becomes unbearable.

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Unlike the steady rhythm of sunrise and sunset, which has produced a Golden Hour everyday since His mouth spoke the heavenly lights into being, Golden Hours of the spirit don't come to us by a clock. Sometimes we must chase the light. We must put down the tea, leave the sleepy village, and expend every ounce of our breath climbing the sea cliffs until we glimpse that sunbathed panorama view.

"When Jesus spoke again to the people, He said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." John 8:12

Jesus. He is the burning ball of light that casts this world in a heavenly glow. He is the one who rips off the grey blanket and calls us to live with Him in the light of truth, love, holiness, peace, and joy. He asks us to follow Him, but I want to do Jesus one better. I want to chase Him, to chase the Light until Golden Hour is every hour and all the world drips with honey.

Jesus is alive and I am redeemed. This is golden.

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Chasing the Light can look like a bursting-with-gratitude heart during a seaside sunset or a bursting-with-girlfriends table during a weekly Bible study.

Chasing the Light can look like dusting off a forgotten Bible and reading the words aloud until you believe they are true. Chasing the Light can mean kneeling on the bedroom floor and crying out words you didn't know you had to tell Him. Chasing the Light can mean removing the earbuds on your morning commute so as to truly see each soul that passes by.

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Just as the sun is ever shining on some part of the world, God is always working out His salvation on the earth by bathing the human race in the honey-colored light of His Savior Son. There is no room for grey on this side of the resurrection. The Golden Hour is here. It's up to us to chase it.

"But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light." 1 Peter 2:9

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