Tuesday, April 26, 2016

family vacation : florida

I love to document vacations!  They are never quite predictable and there are such sweet memories to record!

We just got back from Florida!  We went to Ormond-by-the-Sea, for the second year in a row, once again with our friends, the Nienhuis' and the Koerts.  Although this year we stayed across the street from the beach in our own house.  (It was a $400 savings and we love to save...!)  Since we weren't staying at the same condo, we relinquished our rights to the pool but we didn't mind that at all!  The beach was amazing and such a blast!  But that's not where our story begins.  Let me start from the beginning!

We got a large part of the van packed on Thursday evening and we planned to leave on Friday at one.  Thursday night, Jordan was sick all through the night.  Neither of us, but especially Jordan, got quality sleep and all I could think was, 'how are we going to drive straight through and will Jordan be able to even ride if he's sick?'  The next morning, Jordan was pretty much in bed until an hour before we left.  Still nauseated.  Natalie had a morning field trip that interfered with our departure so she stayed home and helped pack but Ruby and Charlie went to school for a half day.

We met at 1:30 in the afternoon and started off!  Made a couple of bathroom breaks and ate dinner... and hours later, Jordan was still gloom and doom.  I didn't know how on earth we'd (I'd) be able to drive through but we made it.  Jordan took a couple of hours and we stopped for an hour to sleep at a rest stop but we still made it to Brian and Dorothy by 11.  It was so great to see them!!  They fed us lunch and we lounged and visited.  Jordan napped and was still not feeling well.  Emmy napped as well while the other three chased lizards and played in the yard.  Jordan woke up and shortly after Emmy woke too.  She went right to Dorothy and cuddled up by her... and then threw up all over her!  I felt terrible not knowing what was going on now and poor Dorothy!  Of course, she took it all in stride being one of the most gracious women I know!  We got out of there not knowing what was going on!

We got to the beach house and Emmy got sick a couple times more.  Aaron and Heidi walked over to see us and I practically slammed the door in their faces!  But after two hours, Emmy was perfect again.  We went to the beach and got some fresh air.  We didn't know what we were in for with the vacation.  (Especially after some large vehicle expenses days before leaving!)

So day 1 was not so great.  But thankfully, the rest of the vacation went down without a hitch! Jordan and Emmy felt fine on our first full day. We went to the beach at least by 9 every morning and stayed til 4ish, sometimes going back to the house for lunch, sometimes eating on the beach.  It was so delightful!  The kids hunted for crabs for hours each day.  And the remaining hours were spent swimming, burying each other, or the occasional nap.  Natalie made a really great booby-trap one night and the next morning we discovered that someone must have stepped in it!

We cooked in often and had a couple of meals with our friends who still hung out with us despite our bug.  No one else got sick!

A stroll on the beach at dusk with the kiddos was special... just us and them next to the mammoth ocean under a gigantic sky.  How small we were but huge my heart!

One night we ventured to Disney Springs with the kids. The kids pretended it was Disney World!  They loved it and we did too.  We got there around 8 and we didn't leave until after 11.  The kids had ice cream and they each bought something special there.  We sat down to listen to the amazing musicians and we walked under twinkling trees.  It was magical!  I admired each of the kids and Jordan while we sat in the warmth.  They are all so beautiful to me and I was struck once again by how blessed I am.  I can't believe this family gets to be mine.  The kids were troopers and it was a blast to be out with them so late.  I love how flexible they can be on vacation.  We got home late and slept in a little later the next morning.

AND!  We got to see Brian and Dorothy again!  Just a few short days after Emmy had thrown up on Dorothy, they came to see us again!  Unafraid of whatever it was that had marred our first day in Florida!  They had lunch and we spent some time enjoying their company!  And with teary eyes (mine anyway), we said goodbye again.  Those people... can't help but love them so much!

Our last day was spent on the beach, of course.  And it was perfect as always.  The girls liked to surf with their boogie-boards and got better all the time.  The dads buried the kids up to their armpits.

Also on the last day, a native Ormond Beach woman joined us on the beach with her young daughter.  We got to talking and she openly shared that she's anti-Christian... that Christians believe that in Revelations God kills everyone that isn't a Christian and they're doomed to hell. She shared that she is a Jew (although not a practicing one or very knowledgeable of her faith) and that they follow 'Father Abraham'.  Up until that point, she had hardly stopped to take a breath (we're talking over an hour's worth of words!) but as soon as she did I politely announced that I'm a Christian and that I sincerely valued what she had to say.  We chatted quite a bit more and I was able to explain what Revelations is really about: a loving God (who even in His wrath is holy and loving and all-encompassing in His perfection) and He gives chance after chance and proof upon proof of His existence, calling mankind to Himself so that they can join Him in heaven.  But unfortunately, even so, many will choose not to worship Him.  She listened and also respected what I had to say.  Her 'Father Abraham' provided the perfect testimony to use as to who God is and who our Savior Jesus is.  I just hope and pray it clicked.  Not by coincidence, I had my Revelations study along on the beach only this last day.  I had read and underlined only from the first page but I know it was about God's love.  I reached out to give it to her and as she grabbed onto it, I locked eyes with her and poured my heart out about who Jesus is to me.  She held the paper and so did I for some time and it was intense... not something I was expecting from myself!  She said she'd read it.  Meanwhile, my girls were talking with her 5 year old about Jesus!  I write this not for anything I did.  But out of gratitude for how God spoke through me!  It was exhilarating and divinely appointed!  And after looking back on it, I wonder if this lady was even real or if this was a practice run on sharing my testimony.  We've learned so much through Bible Study Fellowship this year on sharing the gospel... the importance, the urgency, the privilege!  I leave the study feeling empowered by the Holy Spirit, knowing what's at stake.  But then I avoid deep conversations and fail to make the most of every opportunity.  And for what?!  What could I possibly be afraid of?!  This woman literally walked up to me and started talking about 'religion.'  And directly confronted theories on what Christians believe about exactly the topics I had been intensely studying!  Something I am deeply passionate for!  And we were both keen to listen to each other's point of view.  But God had the last word in that intense moment when I didn't just casually pass off my bible study.  He used me not just for her benefit.  But for mine.  I CAN speak up about my GOD!  I CAN proclaim that JESUS is REAL!  And my testimony about my God CAN direct a change to the course of someone's life and eternity!  And I'm still praying for 'Lilly's mom' (didn't catch her name!) and that we have a sweet reunion in Heaven!  I can't wait to hear what her response was after reading about God's intense love, demonstrated by Jesus' sacrifice, for the first time!

The last morning, Justin and Mindy treated us to an amazing breakfast at their condo.  Such a TREAT!  We got on the road before noon and made our way to Fernandino Beach... the same beach we visited the year before in search of sharks teeth.  We searched for some time with no luck.  Jordan asked a fellow hunter what we should look for and she showed us her stash and shared a tooth with each of the kids!  After that, Charlie and I sat in one place and we found 5 just like that!  This is such  a great beach!  But a storm was brewing (just like the previous year) so we hit the road.  On our way into this beach area, we saw the list of flags and their descriptions.  Included was the purple flag that we had seen flying nearly everyday at Ormond Beach.  And we learned what it stood for:

Dangerous Marine Life!!  WHAT?!?!

We drove until we were just outside of the mountains (got stuck in another treacherous hail storm... just like last year!) and we got a hotel.  Slept great!  And got to enjoy the mountains for once in daylight!  We were back home by bedtime, another AMAZING vacation!!

Friday, April 15, 2016