Creating Home

Till now, Home for me has been quite simple. The same home. The same house. The same old farmhouse with a big front yard and soccer balls. The same wonderful parents. The same hilarious younger siblings. The same small town and same set of closest-family-friends who share that unspoken agreement of serving as extra parents, should I ever need prayers or a hug.

Home has been a collection of summer fireflies in jars, hiking boots and dirty shoes on the front steps, too many coats on the coat rack and dishes drying by the sink. Home, for me, is a big backyard where I learned to ride my bike. The same backyard where I bruised a rib while keeping up with the neighbor-boys on their bikes. Home is a series of pets and names and dogs that are too big to call dogs, really. Dogs that feel more like siblings. Like Henry-dog. Home is a series of height-marks on the wall between the living room and the kitchen. Walls that remind us of how small we started.

Home has been those blue mountains in that same small valley and Merrie Woode family camp songs. Home has been old mountain ridge lines that I swear I could trace with my eyes closed. Home has been slippery dock-jumping, ring-neck-snake-holdin’ and porch-swing-swaying with ferns in the front yard. Home has been Lonesome Valley and spin-till-you-fall-down-happy-valley-dancing. Home consists of waterfalls and big rock faces that, for me, remove all doubt of there being an incredible Creator. A Creator and an Artist, for sure. Home has been the same family prayer spoken together, passed down through the generations. “Father, be our Holy Guest…”

Home has been 5 people holding hands around the same old dinner table, with at least one hopeful-hungry-dog somewhere close by.

Home has been defined in one word. Bates.

And right now… I am in sitting in a new home. One that is also mine. But entirely new. With fresh paint and new curtains and new little plants attempting to adjust to their new containers. Home here looks like new artwork and new gifts and lots of thank-you-notes that won’t begin to sum up my thankfulness. Home looks like Galen’s shoes by the front door and lists for what to make for dinner together. Home looks like sticky-notes left well before I woke up.

And while I will always be a Bates at heart, I get to be a King now too.

And I get to shake that deep-bone-feeling of homesickness I felt while Galen King was away. My heart has never felt homesick for a person before, till Galen. Not like that. And with that beautiful release of homesickness, I’ve recognized a new emotion. It is a gentle, subtle, quiet-tugging-homesick-feeling for all those I love at home. For those ferns and that silly dog and those hands around the table.

I’m creating a new home. Which I’ve decided doesn’t mean I ever have to give up those porch swing moments or starry nights. It just means I get to put new roots down, too.

Roots with Galen. Wherever those adventures may lead.

So, right now. I’m focusing on loving the photos on our walls and the furniture in our living room. Loving the running trails and new climbing routes and river-side-yoga escapes. Loving the way the light looks in the morning and the way that big tree sways in the window. I’m lovin’ this husband of mine and runnin on trails when the sun cools down in the evening. And while I am overflowing with happiness, I am still missing the family that brought me to this point. While I’m getting to know Tennessee, I’m still so so thankful for the Cashiers Valley in North Carolina.

With more love and more new emotions than I sometimes know what to do with,

Sara Bates King

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This is why I am home.

It is one of those Shoot-I-am-just-so-thankful-moments.

It. Is. A. Wow. Moment.

A Creation Moment. A Bigness Moment. A Life Is So Damn GOOD Moment.

All the little logistics don’t matter. In this moment, life is as good as it gets.

Mountain trails and rivers will do that to me, from time to time.
‘Bout knock me over with their awesomeness.

Light on the trail, filtering through layers of branches that hold bright green leaves above.
A protective canopy hiding our path. Our Sunday-Afternoon-Adventure.

Just Me, Dad and Henry (the fluffy dog that might as well be another sibling).

Sticks crack and the path soaks up our weight as we skip down toward the Falls.

My Dad and I have always walked fast. Long legs, big stride, I guess. It is a Bates thing.
I’ve made that excuse before when asked to slow down… “Sorry, it is just a Bates thing.”
And I love being a Bates.

Even with our brisk pace, I am taking lots of details in. Locking them to memory. Sealing them for future reflection. There are lots of mountain trail moments. Memories of adventures.

I feel my breath, the crisp air. I smell those unique mountain smells and I hear the predictable, almost rhythmic sounds of Dad and Henry marching along behind me.

Henry, the border-collie-mixed–with-something-much-much-bigger, wishes we would slow down.

But we don’t pause, we continue to hike and chat away.
In reality, this means that I ramble while Dad listens.
He has always been a great listener. A wisdom-giver, whenever I stop talking.

I bounce ahead reflecting out loud on the past, gushing about the present and dreaming about the future. In this moment, the world feels like it consists of just the three of us and this mountain trail by the water.

We’re goin’ toward Rainbow Falls. Toward Turtle Back. Toward Drift Falls- locally known as “Bust Your Butt” (for real good reason, too). To get feet wet and sit by the water and enjoy a Sunday afternoon.

And after soaking up the sun on rocks, bein’ lizards… I slide down the freezing and fast water way and feel alive when I feel my breath momentarily taken away. The drop and splash into the water below gets your attention.

We hike our way back up the trail and head toward home. Dad smiles and says casually over his shoulder, “This is why it is good to have you home.” And I know exactly what he means.
All of this.

“This” sums up the afternoon. All of this laughter and adventure and honest-conversation-time and these wisdom moments. The building memory moments. The hiking and water splashing and laughing-Henry-coomme-onnn-buddddy-moments…

This is what we love to do on a Sunday. And sharing in THIS is why I am home right now.
And I have never felt more thankful for This.

With love from the mountains,

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Maybe, you just need to pick peaches.

Maybe, you just need to pick peaches.
To walk in a peach orchard for a while.
Blue grass pickin’ still humming in your head. From fingers on a mandolin. Lady singing.
Probably about love.

And to get to pickin’ peaches, you’ll need to hang your head out the back car window.
Because it is hard to not smile when this happens. When your face is hit by wind and warm.
Swinging through windy mountain roads.

Keep an eye out. They’ll be horses happy, roaming behind black fences.
(I’d like to be a horse in my next life, if I have any say)

And once you are deep in that orchard, surrounded by lines of fruit, and laughter, looking around-
You’ll slowly start to remember how Life is everywhere. Start to slow down enough to let it sink in.
That everything is growing. Reaching higher. Changing. Turning kinda pink, in its own way.

Come to think of it, you should probably go ahead and take your shoes off.
(I wish I had thought of it at the time)
‘Cause, in the same way that it is hard to not smile when you’re head is hangin’ out of the car,
In that same way-
It seems hard to not smile when toes are covered in wet dirt deep in a peach orchard in Crozet, Virginia.
Barefoot, dirty toes are kinda like hitting reset. Back to the way things really should be.

And remember that the best peaches cave a bit when you squeeze em’. They’ll give a bit. And smell perfect.
And yea- You’ll probably have to just reach, and go for ‘em, I guess.
Because, you’re right. How else could ya possibly know if it is ready? If it will be right. Perfect on the inside.
Firm, steady, fuzzy outside. Secret gold inside.
Just promise you won’t rush, okay? Cause, really, you’ve got all day… and nowhere else you’d rather be anyhow.

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A-too-bright-for-me-pink-sundress and a new-nose-ring

I am sitting in a coffee shop in downtown Charlotte, wearing a too-bright-for-me-pink-sundress.

And a new nose ring. A hoop in my nose. No more little diamond stud, now I have a hoop in my nose.

Dad, nose-rings are “not a moral issue”… remember?

Remember when you sighed, and said, “It is not a moral issue” after I got my nose pierced in India? (I got it pierced twice, actually. The first time I got it pierced, it got horribly infected. (As you predicted). So, I waited a few weeks and got it pierced again. While still in India.

And it was still not a moral issue. Because nose-rings are not a moral issue.

I almost got my hair cut today. (Again). But that would prevent it from actually growing out, right?

And I sometimes think that a pixie cut might actually turn into a moral issue, depending on how badly it is cut.  (For example, don’t get your hair cut short in Ethiopia if you can help it. Learned that lesson last year. That haircut felt like a moral issue).

And besides, my hair almost touches my chin as it sits now, so… that is progress and growth.

And change, in its own way.

And I am wearing this sundress, which is certainly growing on me, but it is still nothing I would buy.

It is something Hayden would buy for me. And then she’d steal it back. Because that is what sisters do.

But I decided to wear it, because today is the first day of summer.


Today is the first day I have rolled over and stayed in bed till almost 9:00 in months. And months.

Today is the first day I haven’t made a to-do-list, but silly enough, it is also the first time I have washed laundry in a bit. And folded it too. Double points for me, please.

Today there are fresh flowers on the kitchen table. And gorgeous ones in my room too.

Today is the first day that I haven’t had all-day-summer-classes and closed-toed shoes and a white coat.

Today is the first day I haven’t played with a microscope and seen the tiny world that lives there.

Today, I will go on a run without thinking of when I will need to get back.

I will walk dogs with a girlfriend that I should’ve gotten coffee with long ago.

It is one of the first days that I’ve let thoughts settle out. Be still. Sink in.

I read, “Where the Wild Things Are” in the bath last night and felt myself shift back toward me.

Because with Chemistry and Anatomy and Physiology and working doubles at a restaurant and schedules and debates about the future and discussions about possibilities and choices…

There has been a lot spinning. And not much settling. Or listening to me.

And now, that I have listened. Everything I kinda thought I was doing has changed.

And everywhere I thought I was moving soon, has shifted.

And the one I thought I was going with- has been told to go on without me.

And the last 3 people that have walked in the door of this café have been talking about Chicago.

The place I was meant to be moving to.

They have friends there, family there, worked there, will work there, froze there, loved it there, hated it there, would never live there or can’t wait to move back.

And, the word Chicago, sticks out- because I won’t be moving to Chicago.

And instead of moving to Chicago. I am wearing a-probably-kinda-too-bright-pink-for-me-sundress.

Because Lord knows that pink is not an earth-tone. And I mostly wear earth-tones.

And I’m wearing a new nose ring. Stuck in my nose. And it will drive my Dad nuts.

And, instead of Chicago…

I’ll probably be moving home after the annual Outer Banks family trip. To the mountains. To my basecamp. To the trails and the frogs and the dog that I swear I’d marry if I could. To two stop-lights and home cooked meals. To regroup. To prepare an application for Vanderbilt, instead of Chicago. To the program I really want. To the place I really want. Toward what I really want. Which, involves lots of big changes. And right now, calls for a really pink sundress and a new nose-ring.


With thanks for love and support and grace,












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And, yet… somehow… today is perfect.

And, yet… somehow… today is perfect.

In the midst of laundry. Piles of it. That (once cleaned and dried) will need to be folded.

Don’t mention ironing. I. Simply. Don’t. Do. That.

(And never do it well. Even when I actually try).

With a surprising lack of groceries. And-shopping-lists-still-yet-to-be-written.

A getaway car without wheels. Stuck. And still waiting to be re-aligned.

(Don’t we all need to be re-aligned?)

(It sounds painful, but necessary. Like when your back finally pops. Releases. Flexible).

I try to realign each morning, but sometimes… I. Just. Don’t.

I. Can’t. Fail. Won’t. Forget. Rush. Go. Spin.

Piles of things to study. Yes, piles. Books. Notes. Diagrams of the bones in our bodies.

(So brilliantly gorgeous to soak in and learn if I pause to actually see it all for what it is).

Life. Creation. Miracle. Perfect. Intricately designed. The work of an Artist.

And Anatomy and Physiology and Microbiology and Nutrition books were in cahoots.

They ganged up with the laundry and the growing-grocery-list and the busted-car.

They plotted and schemed. Go. You. Can’t. Realign. Not. Today. Not. Enough. Time.

They made an attempt to make me forget that… somehow… today is perfect.

But, today is perfect. Good as it gets, perfect.

And not in a “oh, pittiful me… somehow… today must be perfect” kind of way.

And not in a “somehow… it must be perfect in spite of the lists and all the spinning”

But, somehow… today is perfect…

In the midst of it all.

Because of it all.

Because of the spinning.

Because of the learning and growing and back-popping reminders to Realign.

Realign. Realign. Realign.

And to say thanks.

Because… today is perfect.



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Dancing in grocery stores…

I really dislike grocery stores.

Shopping in general really doesn’t turn me on. But, shopping for groceries and playing hide and go seek with the little things that are scribbled on my list can drive me kinda nuts.

I go into system-overload-zone.

For one, I don’t need to look at 6 different kinds of granola, thanks. I’m looking to buy one box.

Same goes for orange juice. You’ve got calcium enriched, or some organic-raw-healthy-vegan thing or fresh squeezed or concentrate? You’ve got “just-a tiny-bit-of-pulp” vs. “slightly-more-than-a-tiny-bit-of-pulp-but-less-than-pulpy.” And then I’ll see that one is on sale… for something dumb like buy 6 bottles get the next ½ bottle free. (Yes, I am being dramatic).

Gaah! Just give me the OJ and I’ll be on my way.

So, with my last trip to the dreaded-too-brightly-lit-too-many-labels-grocery-store, I attempted to change my attitude.

I challenged myself to find JOY in the grocery store. We’re going a joy hunt.

The goal? Find joy, bring joy, deliver joy… While simultaneously finding the edible things written on my sticky note list.


Found joy when I offered the mini-van-mom the closer parking space, even though I (technically) got there first. Found joy when I rolled the lonely-forgotten-shopping-cart left in the road back to his friends at the entrance. When I smiled back at the man putting grapefruit on the shelf and responded to his hello with a genuine-I’m-paying-attention-to-you-and-I-think-you-are-important-kind-of- hello. When I noticed just how yellow a yellow-squash can be. Found heaps of joy as the mist-storm came to mist the fruits and veggies and a little one raced to catch the mist in his hand. (I’ve certainly been that kid). I still try to time it so that I can catch the mist… Who doesn’t love a good thunder-storm in the produce section?

By this point, I was smiling. Shocked by how much I was enjoying the place. Joy started to bubble up everywhere.

Joy sitting in the green grapes. In the kiwi fruit fuzz. (What a neat texture, ya know?).  Joy in the man carefully slicing deli meat. Sliced-perfectly-thin. Joy jumped out as I helped a mom pick up a box of goldfish that had fallen from her cart.

Eyes kept opening, joy was everywhere.

I saw some joy in the flowers. And goofy valentine’s day cards. And in the way the text is written on the labels of Almond Milk. Joy in the way something purple and sticky had stained the tile floor. It has splattered perfectly onto one tile square. Heard joy in the way my shoe sounded as I stepped out of the sticky mess. SHHRRRRPPPPT.

So much joy in those shiny tile floors. Everyone knows that grocery store floors were made for dancing on. And if you don’t have a partner to dance with… you’ve got a freakin’ shopping cart with wheels for goodness sake! Quit complaining and start dancing.

In a matter of 15 minutes, my joy-less-dread-of-shopping-attitude had transformed into a joy-FULL-dancing-behind-the-squeeky-shopping-cart-way-of-living.

Needless to say, I am looking forward to shopping again next week.

Have a great day ya’ll.


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One who brings great Joy…

I feel like writing.

“Should” probably be working on the “Really-Need-To-Do-TONIGHT-List”…

“Should” be reading something bio-related or learning how to better draw a Gram + cell…

“Should” probably be washing some laundry or making a nutritious dinner of sorts…

But, those things can wait.

I’ve had this idea for about a week now and it is starting to bubble up. Might overflow, actually.

Started as a “wow” moment, settled as a gentle idea, transitioned into something like a child’s-little-tug-on-your-pants-leg-pay-attention-to-me-please-thought, which evolved into a rambunctious wild thing that now dances in my head and heart on a regular basis. Where did you come from?!

I feel effervescent. Fizzy.  Full of thoughts that are rising that certainly didn’t come from me.

And I’m starting to think that maybe someone else out there needs to hear this, so here goes nothing. Wasn’t my idea to start with, so I’ve got nothing to lose. (Shoulder shrug and little grin)…

So with Nickel Creek playing, candle flames dancing, soft light smiling through cream-colored-curtains… I’ll set fingers free.

I was named Sara. My name is Sara.

No real choice in the matter, it was the name I was given at birth.

(Was almost an Emma, but nope. Looked like a Sara. So here I am).

Sara means “one who brings great joy”…

Growing up, I always felt like that name carried quite a bit of pressure- “One who brings great joy”- … a title, a job of sorts, a role to play. A duty to fill. A name to live up to. As if being the oldest kid wasn’t enough of a challenge.  Joy, huh? So, that is my job. Bring joy. Greaaat.

And I wasn’t named to bring ‘a bit of joy’ or ‘some joy’ but….  ‘great joy’…

Joy, when taken apart or defined by dictionary things means “the emotion of great delight” or “happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying”… “keen pleasure”… “elation”… Big, right? Kinda intense, right? It is something that doesn’t just swing in easily. Not a happy-fleeting-moment. It is more of knock-ya-off-balance-deep-real-good-steady-thing.

It is the difference between a tackle-hug and just a nice-friendly-hug. Tackle hugs involve running, excitement and lots of smiles. (The four-year old I babysit for is really good at these). It is an I-Really-Missed-You-Hug. That is joy. Not fleeting happy smiles, but lasting awesome joy. Deeper than feeling.

And the idea of bringing that, on a regular basis… as regularly as I am named Sara… that seemed tough. Impossible actually. To always bring Joy. But, then again, I am always named Sara. Not just “Sara” when I feel like being “Sara”…

I am named Sara even when I am not always feeling perfectly joyful myself. So how does that work?

Then this idea hit me the other day. And this is the idea I feel compelled to share.

Sara. One who BRINGS great joy.

I am meant to BRING great joy. Not make it. Not stir it or create it or build it or mix it up myself. I am a messenger. I bring it. I get to carry it. Deliver it. Hold it. Pass it. Throw it your way. Toss you some Joy. I get to have it inside of me and I get to bring it around with me wherever I go, with whatever I do.

It was the most freeing feeling. The most awesome idea. Turned my pity-party-duty-idea on its head.


Don’t worry about making it. Buckets of Joy are already there. It is already taken care of. Always there, whether or not I feel it or see it or sense it. Like gravity. Always doin’ its thing whether or not I take the time to pay attention to it. Like my heart beating or lungs filling up and letting go. Still there.

Joy must be an Always thing.

I’m thinking that Joy exists (and has for forever and will for always) whether or not I am around. There will always be someone to carry it.  Even if all the Sara-joy-bringers simultaneously disappeared or collectively decided to quit being joy-bringers, others would step up.

I mean, they say “Joy comes in the morning”…. Leave it to the morning to still keep kicking along even if everyone else stopped bringing joy. Morning is always there.

Basically, it started to sink in that Joy is not a new idea.

Joy doesn’t change. And my mood doesn’t matter in the slightest. It is my opportunity to bring joy. And actually, it is just my role to be open to it. To see it for what it is. To find it. To bring it for others. To find it in the morning, every morning.

Instead of feeling pressured to fill myself up with joy all on my own, it seems now… after a week of this little thought or meditation… that Joy is pretty incredibly full on its own.

And  I (ME?!)… I get to BRING it.

Sara, the messenger who helps deliver great joy.

One who brings great joy.


So, with that, I’ll return to the “Really-Need-To-Do-TONIGHT-List”…  and you will return to whatever things you ‘should’ do too… But, I’ve decided that I’m going to open up a bit and I’m going to become a Sara-the-joy-hunter. Joy-gatherer. True-Joy-Bringer.

… Cause opening up to Joy seems to be about the only pre-req for getting to bring it around with you.

Off to find the joy in the dirty dishes…






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