Spring at Gibbs Gardens

I lived in Ball Ground, Georgia, for eight years and my parents lived there for eighteen, but during that time, we had no idea that Gibbs Gardens was being planned and planted just a few miles farther out in the country. Right down the road from Stancil’s Store, as a matter of fact. We used to visit that old general store at the corner of Conns Creek Road and Yellow Creek Road on the occasional Saturday morning. We’d walk through the stacks of Liberty overalls and always take home a freshly cut slab of hoop cheese. Mmmmm…

Stancil’s Store is now closed up tight, but we pass the old building on our way to see Jim Gibbs’ labor of love, more than thirty years in the making. It’s the largest daffodil garden outside of Holland and the largest Japanese garden in America. And it has officially put Ball Ground on the map…hardly anyone has ever heard of it before now.

We marvel at the myriad of languages we hear around us. It’s unbelievable that the world now comes to Ball Ground. When I lived here, the post office was my window to the world. I had penpals all over the globe, and the 2-block walk to the post office was the highlight of every day. But now I hear languages I don’t even recognize…here in Ball Ground, of all places.

Gibbs Gardens is about an hour north of Atlanta. If you have a chance to visit, it’s definitely worth the trip. Regardless of the season, there’s plenty of beauty to behold. Get more information and find out what’s blooming here. The scenes of heaven in the movie Miracles from Heaven were filmed here…it’s not hard to see why.

You’ll work up an appetite exploring the gardens, so be sure to stop for lunch or supper at a true Ball Ground landmark, Two Brothers Barbecue. There are lots of food options in town now, but Two Brothers used to be just about the only choice. Dusty antiques still line the walls, although there’s no longer sawdust covering the floors. (Perhaps the health department put a stop to that?) It’s local flavor at its best–just be prepared to eat your barbecue sandwich with a fork. Enjoy!

A Season of Rest

Our 3-year-oldĀ had pneumonia last fall and spent the week of Thanksgiving in the hospital. We ate our turkey and dressing and turnip greens on a hospital tray…but honestly, it was delicious, even more so because we were about to go home! (I’ve spent several holidays in hospitals…and all I can say is, God bless the nurses and doctors and staff who give up precious family time to serve those who are sick.)

That Thanksgiving Day I was more keenly aware of God’s blessings and more thankful than ever before. My little one was alive and on the mend! We’d had a few very tense days…including isolation due to suspected MRSA as well as the possibility of being transferred to another hospital for surgery if the pleural effusion (fluid that had collected outside the lung) formed an abscess. Thank goodness both of those scenarios turned out to be only a scare.

She took it all in stride–the IV, the blood draws, the X-rays, the ultrasounds, the CT scan. (I think Doc McStuffins prepared her to face all of that without fear!) As long as Mama and Oscar the otter were by her side, she could be brave.

A few days after we went home, my blood pressure shot up and my lupus symptoms flared. That’s what stress will do for you. But a situation like that will also stop you in your tracks and put life back into perspective.

I mentioned in my last post that we’ve been through some intense trials during the past three years. They followed each other so closely that there was never much of a chance to stop and catch our breath or really rest. I had no choice but to keep putting one foot in front of the other…you know the feeling. That’s exactly what I needed to do during that season to help myself and my family get through those things. But when we came home from the hospital on Thanksgiving Day, our little one had barely enough energy to sit up on the sofa. It was time for something other than just-keep-moving-and-doing-the-next-right-thing. It was time to rest. We all needed it.

Because I have lupus, I try not to overcrowd my schedule, I have to take occasional naps, and I’m used to saying no to extra activities. But for this season, I needed to cut back even further to allow extra downtime for us to recover.

It was the best thing I could have done. Christmas was the simplest it’s ever been…and it was even better without all the stress! I thought life would return to normal after the holidays when she was strong enough to go back to preschool. But she got sick again within a few weeks, so her doctor recommended that we keep her home for several more months to allow her immune system time to rebuild.

I think we all needed this time of rest to be restored. We’ve had our share of ups and downs during this season, just like any other, but we’ve been better able to cope with life’s demands. (And my blood pressure returned to normal, too.) I feel more alive and at peace than I have in a long time.

If you’ve been in a difficult place and feeling overwhelmed, just trying to survive…I commend you for keeping your head above water and just getting through it. I also highly recommend giving yourself the restorative therapy of slowing down. It can be difficult to cut back, but the benefits far outweigh the sacrifice. Even a small change can make a big difference.

A season of rest is good for more than just the body…it’s also healing for the soul.

“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.” Psalm 23:1-3a (ESV)