Adventures with My Best Friend

One of the things Eric and I have had in common throughout our marriage is our love for travel and exploration. We have often said we would rather have fewer “things” in exchange for the memories and experiences we share in traveling.

This was true when we first got married, and is even more true now that we have two children. I really like my husband and crave all the one on one time I can get with him! Our travels these days take quite a bit more planning, but the effort is always worth it.

Our very first trip together was for our honeymoon. We went to Jackson Hole, Wyoming and spent our week hiking, riding horses, and exploring Yellowstone National Park. This is one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen!

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Faithful companions visiting Old Faithful.

For our one year anniversary, we took an extremely last minute trip to Canada. We flew into Main and then drove over the border into Quebec. It was quite the surprise when we discovered French was the official language! Our final destinations were Peggy’s Cove and Prince Edward Island (Anne of Green Gables anyone?). Simply stunning!

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On the farm that inspired Anne of Green Gables in Cavendish, Prince Edward Island.

The following year we went to Colorado. Eric had a worship conference in Colorado Springs, so we piggy-backed on that and headed to Breckenridge. While in the area, we drove up Pike’s Peak (terrifying!) and saw the magnificent Red Rocks.

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All dressed up for a fancy fondue dinner in Breckinridge, Colorado.

Arizona was the first place we traveled that was warm. We got some amazing views of the Grand Canyon and were blown away by a huge meteor crater. If any of you decide to visit, make sure to wear closed toed shoes. They won’t let you hike the rim of the crater without them! I speak from experience here.

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The Grand Canyon. Breathtaking!

Our fifth anniversary took us to Europe with our friends Seth & Meredith. We spent 10 days exploring Rome and Athens. So many wonderful memories! Unbeknownst to us, there were riots occurring in Greece while we were there. We accidentally ended up right in the middle of one! While it was disappointing we couldn’t explore all the locations we wanted in Athens, it was certainly memorable to be there in an important moment of their history.

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Visiting the Roman Coliseum with friends.

Then came children. Traveling has looked a bit different since then! We have enjoyed our family trips to Williamsburg and Disney World immensely, but there is always something special about getting a chance to be alone together.

When our second child was a little over a year old, I texted Eric saying how I longed to go to an all-inclusive resort in the middle of nowhere and do nothing. It’s a good thing I married the man I did, because we worked together to find a way to make it happen! We got a surprise destination deal on cheapcaribbean.com and found ourselves in Punta Cana of the Dominican Republic. This trip was huge for us. It’s easy to take your spouse for granted amidst the responsibilities of raising a family, and this vacation helped us make each other a priority. We have since vowed to make sure we always find a way to go somewhere just the two of us.

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Waiting for dinner in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

The very next summer we made it happen again. This time in Riviera Maya of Mexico. Beautiful beaches, gigantic swimming pool, no responsibilities, uninterrupted conversation, and fun with my hubby. What’s not to love?

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With my handsome hubby exploring Riviera Maya, Mexico.

Last April we had a blast at the ARC Conference with some of the Daystar staff. Since we were already kid free, we decided to take advantage of the situation and spent a couple of days in Savannah, Georgia. This city is full of history and delicious food!

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Our table was in the basement/cellar of this building. Such a neat experience!

Just last week we went on our first cruise together. You guys, I cannot tell you what this does for our relationship. We love our children and we love being in the ministry, but getting away, just the two of us, revives us for the next leg of our journey. We have seen how these trips strengthen our relationship and believe it is essential to make the nurturing of our marriage a priority.

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Ready to embark on our cruise! We visited Cozumel, Belize, Roatan, and Grand Cayman.

We are already dreaming of our next trip. England perhaps? Where do you hope to travel in the future? If traveling isn’t your thing, how do you and your spouse find ways to connect and make each other a priority?

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A Time to Meet

A Time to Meet

Have you ever thought about the fact that the King of the Universe invites us to speak to Him personally?

How would you feel if you were given the opportunity to grab coffee one-on-one with one of your favorite celebrities? Or a chance to receive personal training by the person you admire most in your job/craft/hobby/passion? Wouldn’t we drop everything for such an opportunity?

Our prayer life with God is like that… but taken to the next level. It’s more than that once-in-a-lifetime 30-minute coffee appointment, more than a 2-hour training session. It’s a lifetime of Him whispering a personal invitation to meet with Him, talk with Him, and get to know Him on a personal level. 

Beyond the ability to have a conference with the King to get His perspective on the latest politics, we can know who He is. We can dine at His table, receive His counsel, express our frustrations, and make known our requests all while He seeks to know us better in return.

I was once told that God seeks our friendship. Isn’t that such a beautiful element of prayer? God didn’t create humans simply to leave us to figure out our lives on our own. Rather, just as He invites us to spend time with Him, He longs to be invited into the inner workings of our lives. He is ready to get in the mess with us. He wants to be the place you turn for a vent session. He desires that you express the deepest needs of your heart to Him. He looks forward to every second you carve out of your day to just check in and say “hello”. 

God is all-knowing. Do we really have to tell Him our needs for Him to know them? Of course not. He knows it all before we even utter a sound. But doesn’t it make it so much more meaningful that we should entrust it to Him? There is a difference between knowing about a thing, and being included in a thing. 

He sees us pushing, striving, running, and seeking advice from all sources but Him. What He wouldn’t give for us to turn to Him so that He can lift our burdens and tell us how much He loves us.

God isn’t a moody taskmaster we have to tip-toe around to keep from setting Him off. He invites us to spend time with Him because He cares and He wants to ease our pain and suffering. The more we meet with Him, the less weight we end up carrying.

Don’t ignore His request. Just like you would if that celebrity wanted to meet with you, give Him priority above all else. Take a moment and thank Him for His invitation. Mark your meeting time on your calendar and show up early. You won’t regret it.

“Look! I Stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.” Revelation 3:20

Strength in Numbers

Strength in Numbers

We are designed for community.

I recently committed to a new gym. If anyone were to look at my gym history and record of attendance at establishments where sweat is expected, it would be determined that this was a very poor financial decision. I’m not a fan of working out.

But one day, I went out on the lake with my family and I couldn’t get back up on the boat. My arms were not strong enough to pull myself out of the water without assistance. I only managed to get back in by (very ungracefully) climbing on top of the motor and then into the back of the boat. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that relying on the motor to act as a ladder is a bad idea.

So, with new motivation, I accepted a friend’s invitation to step into a 14 day trial at her gym.

*Insert official statement that I am not getting paid to advertise anything. Hang in there guys, I have a point.*

Did I mention that I hate the gym? I mostly hate it because I’m not good at it. I also don’t know very much. All those machines look intimidating and I’m sure to hurt myself if I attempt to use any sort of weights. My first day was ROUGH.

Ya’ll, I moved my body in ways that it had never been moved before. I groaned every time I sat down, stood up, walked… my legs hurt so bad!

So why in the world did I sign up for a membership?!?

Because it felt different this time, at this gym. I wasn’t left on my own to figure out a machine. I was in a class and I was taught the movements before attempting them. When I did something wrong, the instructor corrected me. It felt safer to try things out because I had someone to guide me.

But, most importantly, I had people I knew cheering me on. It was easy to join this gym because no matter what time slot I attended, I seemed to know at least 1 person. These ladies either pushed me to do impossible things through their own example, or related to my need to drop the weight that round.

I wasn’t alone anymore. I had a community of people around me striving after the same goal to be strong and healthy.

Here is where I get to the actual point. Life is like that. We can’t do this alone. We aren’t meant to do this alone. We need people to cheer us on and encourage us through the hard things. It’s a relief to have someone else relate to what we are going through. It is a breath of fresh air when a friend takes the opportunity to celebrate with you.

We are designed for community because when we work together, not alone or against one another, we are stronger.

At church, one of my favorite things to do is to help someone else find their community. I love, love, LOVE witnessing the transformation that takes place when a person gets plugged in and finds their home.

I think, deep down, most of us are aware of our need for other people. But it can be scary sometimes. We’ve been hurt by people before. We don’t know how to find the kind of friendship we long for. We tried that once, and were left feeling disappointed. What if we put ourselves out there and history repeats itself?

I can’t alleviate that fear. People are human. Right next to that need for community is a need for a Savior. And that, is where we need to begin.

Have you been hesitant to dive into that community? Small group? Serving? Getting to know that person outside of a Sunday morning? Go first. Realize that all those people have the same needs as you, and simply see if you are able to be a piece of the community they just might be longing for. Not a good fit? Try again. And again. Along the way you will discover that the best part of community is getting to bring life to someone else.

I would fail at going to the gym if there was no one to push me and root for me. My gym community is going to help me become stronger physically. There is another kind of community that pushes us and grows us emotionally and spiritually. Don’t give up fighting to find that and to be that for someone else. Let’s do this together.

Because I’m Privileged

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I’m going to tell you something that I am embarrassed and ashamed to admit. I do this for a reason, so please read this post in it’s entirety.

Not too long ago, perhaps maybe even just over a year ago, I would be scrolling through Facebook and come upon a post about racial injustice. My immediate thought response was often along the lines of, “Ugh, not everything bad that happens to black people is because they are black.” Or, “Why is everything always a race issue? We have a black president, can’t we just get past this?”

Thinking back to these moments makes my heart very, very sad. I am so grateful for this last year, as it has completely changed my perspective. Let me tell you how this happened.

I grew up in a loving, Christian home. This was a privilege. So was the fact that I had a personal home education. I was being raised by both of my parents who were in a strong marriage and living in the same home. I never went hungry. My mom stayed home for years to give us that personal home education. I had the opportunity to ride horses. I was born white and lived in a mostly white community.

Privilege, privilege, privilege.

The thing is, for quite some time, I didn’t actually know these things meant I was privileged. I thought rich people were the privileged ones. I worked in exchange for a discount for those horseback riding lessons, and the majority of my college education was paid for by scholarship and grants. I guess I didn’t realize middle class America was rich in comparison to most of the world.

Looking back, I see how I was/am privileged and how this fact has benefited me in many ways. Unfortunately, in my own privilege I have been blind to the lack thereof in the lives of others. Specifically in regard to the black community.

Now, my family certainly wasn’t racist and I have had black friends throughout my life. But I didn’t live their life. We didn’t talk about the differences in how we were treated just because of the color of our skin. I wonder now, how did that never come up in our conversations?

Here is the pinnacle of where my perspective shift began to occur. It happened during a message my pastor gave that was titled “Overcoming Racism.” I learned a lot in that message. I won’t be able to go into the details in this post, but please, I encourage you, listen to it for yourself. You can find it HERE. The truth that I learned in those few minutes broke my heart.

I started looking at things a little differently. I took that message as an opportunity to talk to one of my dear friends about what her life is really like. She is biracial. I learned things and my heart broke some more. There is an element of protection to the raising of her children that doesn’t even cross my mind in the raising of my own. She told me about working to the nth degree in school just to be considered an equal to her other peers. She is only one voice out of so many.

My husband is a history buff and loves to watch anything of historical nature. I’ve taken a little more of an interest in shows and movies that explore black history this year. Among such is a mini-series called “Roots” and a movie titled “Selma”. Both of these left my heart grieved at the hatred toward black people so ingrained in the history of our country.

This kind of thing doesn’t just disappear. It takes work to eradicate generations of racism in a community. One thing I’m learning, is that often, people don’t even realize a remark or an action could be hurtful toward another. We don’t know any better because we haven’t taken the time or put in the effort to know better.

And so I write this, because I was one who didn’t know any better. And with the privilege that I have in my life, I have an opportunity to speak to others who may be willing to listen and change their perspective in this issue. So, where do we begin? How do we fight against the idea that one race is better than another?

We get to know each other. Really and truly. If you don’t have a friend who is of a different color, background, or heritage than you, find one. If you already have this sort of friend, be open to listening when they share their personal experiences. Get to know each other. Really and truly.

Because the truth is, we are all created equal. He loves each and every one of us just the same and doesn’t play favorites. He gave his life for all, no matter the color of our skin.

“I looked again. I saw a huge crowd, too huge to count. Everyone was there – all nations and tribes, all races and languages. And they were standing, dressed in white robes and waving palm branches, standing before the Throne and the Lamb and heartily singing: ‘Salvation to our God on his Throne! Salvation to the Lamb!'” (Revelation 7:9-10; The Message)

30 Days of Thankfulness: Day 30

I do believe that as the month of November continued, my list of names grew longer, rather than shorter. I can think of two reasons for this:

Reason number one: I am living an extraordinarily blessed life. I am surrounded by people who love me and encourage me. People who have had made significant impacts on my life through their words and/or actions. I never want to lose sight of all the goodness God has given me.

Reason number two: The more I was able to honor people, the more people I saw who I wanted to honor. We live in a culture that loves to embrace the negative and bring to surface all the faults a person may posses. This is tragic. We are called to something greater. Our words have the power to bring someone down, or lift someone up to their full potential. Let’s focus on the latter. My hubby had the opportunity to speak at church yesterday, and his message was all about how positive thinking can be life-changing. If you missed it, check it out here! You won’t regret it.

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A photo from a trip we took to the Grand Canyon about 6 years ago. I chose this because we are just on the horizon of what God has in store for us. Such grandeur, and our eyes cannot see it all.

There is always someone else to recognize. Another person who could benefit from a little love and encouragement. On this final post, I would like to highlight a few more people. I know I am leaving out more than I am including, and I wish this were not so. But demonstrating gratitude and honor should not be a month-long event. It should be a lifestyle. Will you join me in this?

I think of people like Dallas, Emma, and Ella. My go-to babysitters. It takes quite a bit of trust to be able to bring someone into my home to care for my little girls. I want these ladies to know how grateful I am to have them. They are trustworthy, love the Lord, and my girls adore them. I am so so grateful for them.

There are several staff members at Daystar that I didn’t get a chance to mention. Seth, our youth pastor, is so good at what he does and will one day be directly impacting my own children! Jon does community outreach and is working on a special serve day that will make a huge impact in our city. Jennifer is a counselor and has a sweet disposition, yet a powerful woman of prayer. All of these staff members are important and deserve great recognition.

Rick and Amber have been in our lives for a number of years and I have learned so much through their wisdom. They kept our girls for a few days for us while we went on a trip this fall. They give a great deal of themselves to so many people and it is an honor to call them friends.

Then I start to think about people who have impacted me at various times in my life. College friends like Hannah, Rachel, Beth, Amber, Maddie, Kristen, and Vickie. Each of these women left a positive imprint on my life and I love the memories that we have shared together. I also greatly treasure friends from my childhood like Emily, Sarah-Eileen, Caitlin, and Kaitlin.

Trish was someone I always looked up to spiritually. She and her daughter Ashley threw me a baby shower for my first born. The two of them have a special place in my heart. Ashley, we need another girl’s night soon!

In this month I was able to mention all of my immediate family members, but didn’t get a chance to touch on my extended family. There are too many names to list them all here, but I love each and every one of them. They are spread all throughout the country in places like South Carolina, Delaware, Kansas, California, and Hawaii. Some I have known better than others, but I value each moment we have spent together.

My thoughts travel to one who is no longer with us. Leigh Lane was a precious friend of mine during my last two years of high-school. I was a homeschool girl transitioning to public school, and she was such an inspiration to me. She lived with unstoppable joy and had a great peace about her. She was the type of person you knew had a special relationship with the Lord. I wish I had more time with her.

I could go on. There are so many more. But it doesn’t have to stop here. It doesn’t have to be a blog post or a Facebook status. It can be a card in the mail, a text, a phone call, a gift. Let’s live a life that brings honor to others.