By the time we left the Biltmore Estate a couple weeks ago, it was snowing in earnest. The forecast had been wrong. But inside this amazing library, I was cozy and delighted. I'd been here once before, and didn't think I ever wanted to go back, but I'm so glad I did. And I'm glad that one of our dear friends listened to the Holy Spirit when she decided to offer us the free tickets they had for that day. She had no idea what the Lord was going to do in my heart on this wintery day. Their generosity and obedience gave me and Dennis another day at the Biltmore.
The last time we were at the Biltmore was many years ago. Our daughter, Stacie, had treated us to a tour of the mansion (one of her favorite places) and a concert on the veranda that evening. It is a wonderful memory. But as with a few other special places from the past, I thought that going back would cause more sadness than joy, so I usually avoid doing so. When our friend offered the tickets, I wasn't sure if this would be one of those places. But I did remember the library and it was my love of books and libraries, and old houses, that helped me say yes, we would go. Dennis and I love to walk and we knew that our friends enjoyed the estate because of all the trails, so that was another plus. And walk we did!
I was grateful for my winter hat and scarf that Stacie's dear friend, and now one of our adopted daughters, Kimberly, made for me. Kansas University colors, of course. It was fairly nice outside after we finished our house tour, and we headed down to the gardens and the Conservatory. Every once in a while I would see a snowflake fall. But this Kansas girl loves snow, so that didn't bother me. We decided to keep walking after we left the garden area and found this great bridge. I love bridges, too. However, when we looked at the map and made the decision to continue walking around the property to Antler Village, we had no idea how far that was. After walking for an hour or more, we saw a sign that said two more miles to the village. And more snowflakes were coming down. But we pressed on and enjoyed the day, each other, and God's beautiful mountains in the distance. By the time we got to the village, snow was blowing and sticking to the road and grass. We took the trolley back to our parking lot and were very grateful for the ride!
I have talked about "God Hugs" before, those times when something happens that reminds you how much God loves you. I had two that day. One was in the Christmas Shop where a white rose Christmas Tree greeted us at the door. Christmas and white roses were two of Stacie's favorite things. But instead of the sight making me sad, it brought joy to my heart. The other was the pantry in the house, which was the setting for a hilarious scene in one of her favorite Don Knotts and Tim Conway movies, Private Eyes. Much of the movie was filmed at the Biltmore. Both these were God Hugs and Stacie Hugs for me. God is good.
My heart was full at the end of the day. It had been a day full of joy, not sadness. I was reminded that Jesus bore our griefs and sorrows and in their place He offers us His joy if we only take it. I am glad that I learned that fact very soon after Stacie moved to Heaven. I miss her every day, but once again God showed me His love and care by taking my sorrow and turning it into joy. It's amazing to me, though I'm not surprised, at how he can take the things we tend to shy away from, for whatever reason, and even if it takes us years to find the courage to step out and do them, the Lord will turn it around and make it beautiful. I give him all the Glory. But I also thank our friends for giving me another day at the Biltmore.
If God lays something on your heart to do for someone, especially in this time of crisis, don't hesitate. Your obedience may make a huge difference in their life.
One more picture of the library...! Be safe. Be BLESSED!
J.A. McPhail is the author of five books, has been married to Dennis since 1974, enjoys living in the North Carolina mountains. and is an avid collector of books and book related stuff.