Several years ago we spent a few days at Disney World and we've wanted to return ever since. In January we took time off to enjoy the Florida theme parks once again! What a treat! We walked 49 miles that week, and although we were tired and achy it was totally worth it!
The excitement began...
We enjoyed staying at the affordable All-tar Movies Resort.
We put on our armbands; we're ready to go...
Animal Kingdom -
We've never been to Animal Kingdom before
and it was by far, our favorite park.
We saw lots of animals on the Kilimanjaro Safari.
We saw A Bug's Life show in the Tree of Life.
We had breakfast at the Rainforest Cafe.
My family assured me that Expedition Everest was a smooth roller coaster and that I could handle it! Ha! That's me in the blue with my eyes shut! Katie is beside me, trying to talk me through it, and Mark and Tara are behind us acting like they're bored. Sheesh!
I bought the picture to capture my VERY LAST rollercoaster ride.
It got a little rainy, but ...
We still had a roaring good time at Animal Kingdom!
A lot has happened in my life/our home during the past year and I haven't really wanted to talk about it outside of the family. We've faced a lot of stress, heartache and changes, but the Lord is faithful. At times, I wish I had been more willing to take you on the journey with us, but often words were just not there. It was easier to not write. There has been fun along the way, but since I was out of the habit of posting, I didn't share the good times either.
To try and help me get back into writing regularly, I'd like to recap our 2015 highlights so far.
Sound good? Let's see what fun we've had.
I'm actually going to start the recap with a visit to the U.S. Botanical Gardens in Washington D.C. during the last week of December. We visited during the Christmas season to see the amazing natural displays of the iconic architecture of the city. Here are a few of my favorite pieces.
The Lincoln Memorial
The Jefferson Memorial
The Washington Monument
The Library of Congress
and three of our favorite people -
my parents (plaid shirts), and Mark's mom (stripes)
Katie celebrated her 13th birthday, first with family -
(looks like a future blackmail photo to me!)
Then with friends -
(fun at the local trampoline place)
Next we were off on a big vacation! Come back tomorrow to see the pictures!
The Fantasy genre of reading material is not my thing. I like the concrete world of humans, not elves, goblins, fairies or hobbits. I want to learn something - something clear - about my world. I do not want to lose myself in another world that takes away real estate from my brain cells. I want to exercise my imagination within the confines of the box God has visually created for me. I don't need any more stimuli.
However, I married a man who LOVES fantasies. He enjoys the craziness of other worlds and likes to escape the all-too-real one in which we live. Because of that, several of my children, if not all of them, also enjoy a rich imagination and thrill at visiting other worlds created by authors.
Recently, my two girls and I had to read The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente for a book club. It was the first book chosen to read, picked by some other girls in the club. We got about halfway through the book and my daughters disliked the book so much, they begged out of joining the book club. I let them off the hook, thinking the book was a little young for them and also because I secretly agreed that the book was strange. Thinking that was the end of our newest read, I put the book back on the library shelf in our home, waiting for it's due date to come.
I couldn't quit looking at it. I wondered what was going to happen to the main character. I figured it would turn out well in the end, but how? The descriptive writing was smart and funny. It was colorful and intriguing.
I asked the girls if they wanted to finish the book, just because.
Well, I hate to put down any book in the middle of it. Even bad books I like to give to the very end. I look for any redeeming qualities. The author worked hard to share themselves and I want to give them every chance I can. Isn't that the heartbeat of a reader?
Of course, I finished reading the book, and I'm secretly thinking about reading the second and third to continue the adventure. I've enjoyed one other fantasy book in my lifetime, but this one was also fun. It was weird enough to be discombobulating, but grounded enough to keep up with the plot. It's the wonderful, descriptive moments that kept me coming back. Here are a couple of my favorite.
"The trouble was, September (our main character) didn't know what sort of story she was in. Was it a merry one or a serious one? How ought she to act? If it were merry, she might dash after a Spoon, and it would all be a marvelous adventure, with funny rhymes and somersaults and a grand party with red lanterns at the end. But if it were a serious tale, she might have to do something important, something involving, with snow and arrows and enemies. Of course, we would like to tell her which. But no one may know the shape of the tale in which they move. And, perhaps, we do not truly know what sort of beast it is, either. Stories have a way of changing faces. They are unruly things, undisciplined, given to delinquency and the throwing of erasers. This is why we must close them up into thick, solid books, so they cannot get out and cause trouble." (pp. 35-36)
"She (a portrait) wore an ivory crown and a smile so wide and kind September felt she could love that lady all the days of her life and never feel cheated, even if the lady never looked twice at such a poor, shabby soul as September. In the painting, she seemed to glow. That is what a grown-up looks like, thought September. Not like the grown-ups in my world who look sad and disappointed and grimy with work and bored with everything. What do the storybooks say? In the fullness of her strength." (pp. 91-92)
The book was strange and confusing at times, but wholly likable. Ms. Valente is a talent, for sure. She has given me a second fantasy book to enjoy.
I received Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good, Jan Karon's latest book, for Christmas. The book resumed the Mitford series and we get to check in on all our favorite characters: Father Tim, Cynthia, Esther Bollick, Dooley, Hope Murphy, Louella and more. On the cold evenings of January, it was a delightful read and I was pleasantly satisfied when finished. New folks were added, mysteries solved and relationships grown.
Some of my favorite quotes: "You love him, I can see it." "More than anything." That alone should be enough, he thought, but of course it never is. Courage has to come in there somewhere, and perseverance and forbearance and patience and all the rest. A job of work, as Uncle Billy would say it, but worth it and then some. (p. 337)
I often wish loving my spouse were easy, but if it were easy, I don't think I would cherish the relationship as much as I do now. It takes work, but I agree with Uncle Billy, it's worth it!
"Always read something that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it...." (p. 339)
Ha! I guess if I died reading Somewhere Safe...I would have looked good. Food for thought about what we leave behind (thinking of those journals that contain more griping that goodness.)
"Sleep in peace, God is awake." (p. 377)
So true! Why don't we remember that He doesn't take a break, forget or not care?
He's got it under control.
"We are all fixing what is broken. It is the task of a lifetime." (p. 421)
Amen! Thank goodness, as believer's in Christ, the "fix" is not ours. He does the work; we do the cooperating.
If you've enjoyed the Mitford series, light fiction books, you will enjoy the latest addition. If you haven't read any of the books, start from the beginning. You'll make some NC hill-country friends you'll wish were real.
You can see what I've read on the "Books Read in 2015" page at the top of my blog. You may find something that interests you.
I have participated in the Siesta Scripture Memory Challenge a couple of times, but I have never made it to the end of the year! At first, I thought, "Nah, I'll just do it on my own," but really, is there ever an excuse to not be held accountable for spiritual disciplines in our life?
So, I added my post to the Living Proof Ministries blog here and jumped into Scripture Memory 2015 with gusto! Want to join me? Just click the link and follow the directions. 24 verses - 2 a month! You can do it!!
I'll be tracking my verses on a separate page above. Let me know if you're joining the challenge and we can encourage each other along the way.
At first I was surprised how gleeful I felt in closing out 2014, but as I look back over the year, the reality of what occurred made the sendoff evoke more of a "duh" response.
I haven't blogged for months. The life I have been living has been difficult so that sharing ANYTHING, whether it be about my circumstances or just disconnected trivial fodder, was impossible. Some of my readers are directly impacted by the same experiences so even if I wanted to get on my blog and share my point-of-view, it would have probably been misconstrued and caused more problems. So, I greatly longed to just have 2014 come to an end! Hasta la vista!!
There have been many lessons learned in 2014 and I wish I could have seen beyond myself to share them with you along the way, but this has probably been the second hardest year of my life. I just didn't have it in me to share the journey, except with a few close friends and family. I've often questioned whether it meant that I could truly be vulnerable, transparent, etc. There have been a lot of questions and life lessons, but in it, I have grown fond of the phrase in Luke that says Mary, the mother of Jesus, "pondered these things in her heart." That's what I've had to do over and over again.
You live through hard times, you ponder what it all means and it can sometimes feel like you will never leave the dark cave. I miss blogging and reading the blogs of other friends/family, but I could never seem to find a way out of the dark and get back to the lightheartedness I enjoyed in the sharing of everyday life. Then yesterday happened...the last day of the year.
I ended up in the emergency room about 7:30am. I have bad knees, and while sometimes they've slowed me down, they've never stopped me in my tracks. Yesterday I could not bear weight on my left leg and the pain was about a 12 on the 1-10 scale. So off we went to the ER. I'm so thankful that there were not, as far as we could tell, any torn ligaments, but the x-ray did reveal several problems, the most comprehensive diagnosis that I have moderate-severe osteoarthritis. I was told my episodes with my knees were not going to get better, only worse and that I needed to make friends with an orthopedist. I was sent home with heavy-duty pain meds and instructions to rest.
The last day of the year gave entertainment to all who had any interaction with the highly-medicated me. From the hospital receptionist when asking for my credit card to pay my co-pay and asked if "she could get that for me?" and I answered, "Oh, sure, you want to pay my bill?" (Mark gasped a little!) to my daughter who said that in my sleep I said, "I want to get in a long boat with Ashley and eat corndogs." What?? I also asked why the cow's nose was so long (not a cow in sight!) and asked if I could purchase a devotional for one of my daughter's Jr. High male friends. She assured me he probably already had one and I answered like a scolded two-year-old, "Ok, fine!" Dec. 31st was filled with laughter at my expense, but I know it had to be pretty entertaining. I do remember saying, "I think I'm a nicer person on drugs!" Let's hope not!
While it made a memorable end to 2014, overnight I gave up the narcotics and switched to OTC drugs so I haven't been quite as entertaining today. Thank goodness!
Somehow yesterday's events summed up my year for me. 2014 was hard and painful, but if you didn't find something to keep you laughing and give you hope, you weren't going to make it. People have been helpful along the way and maybe that's what I should have written about, but sometimes the pain is so overwhelming, you can only hold on to the hope for yourself. It's beyond you to share it.
I pray that 2015 will bring a little more rest and healing. The Lord has been ever faithful in 2014. He HAS healed those who I dearly love and were near death. He has carried us to a new state and a completely new way of life. He has been a friend that sticks closer to a brother when there were no friends readily available. He has given me purpose when what I thought was my purpose was taken from me. He has given me a joy and hunger for Him, because when you desperately need Him, HE CAN BE FOUND. He has promised His love is far greater and far more reaching than my own so that when I don't have any more to give, He is there to fill in the gaps. He IS faithful!
So, while I emotionally can't rehash the events of 2014, I look to 2015 with joy and praise Him for what He will do. It will surely be filled with His amazing works, no matter the circumstances.
I went to a discount bookstore recently and picked up the book, Growing Up Duggar written by JimBob and Michelle Duggar's four oldest girls: Jana, Jill, Jessa and Jinger.
I don't know if you're a fan of the TLC show "19 Kids and Counting," but our family catches the show off and on. I thought the book, written about relationships, might be of interest to my girls, but after reading it, I think they're a little young for some of the sections. It would be a good read for a high school girl.
I did love some of the parenting techniques JimBob and Michelle have used in their home. One of the most innovative ideas, which our kids are too old for now, is right before they have Bible time together each evening the younger kids play the "Obedience Game" with Mom and Dad. They meet at the couch and one adult gives a specific child a command, "Jennifer, run and touch the end of your bed, then touch the front door knob and come back as quick as you can!" Jennifer stands up and says, "Yes, Sir (or Ma'am), I'd be happy to do it!" This helps them get some energy out before they have to sit quietly during Bible time and it also helps them to practice quick and happy obedience. What a fun way to practice doing what you're asked.
I find the parenting techniques talked about in the book truly centered on Biblical principles and Mark and I will be rereading the book to see what ideas we can use in our own family. While we may not have the same convictions as the Duggar family, I found the book to be grace-filled and a wonderful testimony for the Lord. It was a refreshing read and I think they've done a wonderful job raising their children and being a light to the world.
Wow, since the last post in May I feel like we've crammed a whole lifetime into the past few months. We've had multiple hospitalizations for family members, a BIG move to Charlotte, NC, a change in everything for us - house, jobs, church, friends, homeschool groups, a grandmother who moved into our home, and a college son who returned home. I mentioned to a friend that I didn't know if I would continue to blog because I still felt a little numb from all the changes and yet, I also didn't want to rehash any of it. You know what I mean? You just want to keep moving in a forward direction!
There are two women in my life, a sweet sister-in-law and a dear friend who moved to another country, who have enjoyed reading my blog and so, for them, I'm back. There's sadness in thinking about not sharing our farm life with you anymore. There was always an adventure to be had, but we followed the Lord's leading and He is giving us new adventures!
Our first Sunday in Charlotte we hit a local BBQ joint and I knew we were truly in the south when I saw the beverages of choice. Too bad I don't like tea! The BBQ was delicious, but we haven't quite gotten used to the sweet tea choices available to us everywhere.
We were very excited when we stumbled upon Steak-N-Shake! We used to frequent the eatery with my grandmother when we would return to Illinois for a visit. When you just need a greasy burger or a creamy milkshake, Steak-N-Shake fits the bill!
The girls have found ways to enjoy their new house - forts on the stairs!
We spent a semi-drizzly day at Mrytle Beach - our first time, but not our last!
A little rain didn't stop us!
However, our craziest adventure was when we dressed up for Pirate's Day at Krispie Kreme!
We purchased a Duck Dynasty beard for Rhett (he walked through Walmart like that!), and although we didn't sport long beards, we did our part. (even Grandma!)
It was worth it; we took 5 dozen doughnuts home - for free!
(The college class at church finished them off for us.)
Life is starting to take on a routine.
It's all different, but we're doing our best to embrace new friends, new places and new opportunities!