** this is a long post with lots of pics from my vacation**
What do you think of when you hear the word “vacation”? I think of taking a road trip. . . usually to the beach. I guess that is what I have mostly known of vacations in my lifetime. Rick and I have taken a couple of different vacations (before kids). . . we went snow skiing at Lake Tahoe and drove down the coast of Maine looking at all the lighthouses. Fascinating, I must say. This past week I took a sort of “mini-vacation”. Well, actually, I guess it was a real vacation. It was just me and the girls – Rick had to work. I didn’t really think of it as a vacation since Rick wasn’t with us and since we were seeing family. . . and probably because I am just envious of everyone who gets to go to the beach! Oh well, the beach will be there for many years to come. . . and one day we will go back!
Let me just stop for a minute for a little funny irony. . . growing up we went to the beach every year. My dad was in ministry and every year someone would give us a free week at a condo on the beach. Very cool and very generous. That is the only way we were able to take beach vacations every year and I am so very thankful that we did. I have many great memories of those vacations. As a teenager, I went to Florida at least 3 times every summer. I was spoiled. One week of family vacation, one week of church beach camp (those were the days, baby), and at LEAST one week of babysitting for a family at the beach. I was living the life, let me tell you! Through college the beach tradition continued. . . I spent the summer after my freshman year living in Myrtle Beach, SC on summer beach project with Campus Crusade. Suffering for Jesus for sure! 🙂 And for several years I went on GREAT vacations with families I babysat for (Disney, West Palm Beach, and Destin). I was suppose to go to Hawaii with a family, but it didn’t work out with my schedule. HUGE BUMMER! Anyway. . . I suppose I was really spoiled because most of those trips were paid for by someone other than myself. Always better.
All that to say that I was very spoiled with the beach. No more babysitting for others – no more free condos – no more summer beach camp! We were able to take the girls last September to Destin and it was a wonderful trip! It was so fun to see them in the sand and ocean for the first time. They were at great ages (3 and 4) to experience “sea life”! Now we are saving for Disney, so no beach for us for a while! Disney is EXPENSIVE!!! Okay. . . so what I realized on this trip is that “vacation” comes from the word “vacate” – meaning “to leave something”. For me it has always meant “leaving” for the beach! 🙂 But this year it meant leaving the normal routine of our life here in the apartment. So, I did have a vacation last week and it was Great!!
I wrote about our visit with my grandparents. Here is a picture of the girls with each of them.
After a great visit with my grandparents (Grammy and Grandy to my girls), we headed to Spartanburg, SC, to visit my sister and her hubby and their five kids! We spent Sunday afternoon playing outside in the kiddy pool, slip-n-slide and running freely in the big back yard. The kids had a blast. We love playing with our cousins. And the girls especially loved sweet baby Faith, the newest cousin – only six weeks old.
Here are the oldest girls playing dress up! Mary Grace, Addison, Ava Jane and Ainsley.
We spent Sunday night at their house and woke up Monday morning ready for the day. Here they ALL are.
Nothing like SEVEN kids watching morning cartoons! Too sweet. We played all morning and Suzanne and I had some good time to catch up. I enjoyed loving on baby Faith, feeding her, rocking her and then giving her back. 🙂 I would not be a good mom to five children. But I am a great mom to my two! And my sister is the most wonderful mom for the five kids that God has blessed her with. I could not do what she does! She is amazing. I found myself looking around her house at the way she organized and keeps things neat – with the hopes that I can replicate some of that when I move. We left after lunch and headed to my mom’s house in Sevierville.
On our way back to TN, I was listening to some praise music and loving the beautiful mountains surrounding me. I decided to go a little out of the way and visit Black Mountain, NC, where we went to FCA camp every year. It is beautiful there. Black Mountain is where Tracy and I first became friends. We have many memories of camp and sitting on the steps of Lee Hall looking out over the mountains. The girls and I went wading in the freezing cold creek that I used to play in all the time as a little girl.
Isn’t it beautiful? Here are the kids sitting in the famous rocking chairs on the hill.
Here is the view from Lee Hall. Breathtaking! This is what I came here to see. I am in awe of God’s creation, especially when I am enthralled in the midst of it. And when you combine this beauty with what God does during a week of camp, you truly have a “mountain-top experience!”
As we headed down the mountain, I had to let the girls play on the playground where I spent lots of time as a little girl at camp. This caterpillar has been there ever since I can remember. My kids loved it as much as I did.
And this is the road taking you down the mountain. . . beauty surrounds you.
As we headed back to the interstate, the clouds began to swirl. I always get nervous driving over the mountain. Usually because I am driving right along the inner wall and some huge mac truck OR I am driving between a mac truck and the edge of a cliff and I feel like I could easily be crowded off the road and over the edge. Yikes! So, in the midst of singing and praising the Lord I quickly became scared. It started to rain and this meant slick mountain roads and lots of water slinging from cars and trucks. My knuckles were white as I gripped the steering wheel, trying to keep control of our little (and very old) honda accord. And I prayed. And prayed and prayed and prayed. I prayed that God’s angels would surround our car and that God would keep us safe and that we would make it home to see Rick again! I didn’t think I was going to die or anything, but I needed Jesus and so I called on him. And guess what?? He was right there. . . calming my fears, keeping us safe and guiding us around HIS mountains. Again, I was able to really see God in all the surroundings, not just in the beautiful, but in the scary times too. And he never left my side. And I was reminded to trust God “when the rain comes”! Literally.
So, we made it to Sevierville to Mimi’s house. And oh, were the girls excited. I love being at mom’s house. There is something so relaxing and peaceful at your mom’s house. I hope that I create that for my family at our house too. Here is a picture from her front porch (to help you see why it is so peaceful there).
The weather was so beautiful for our trip. We enjoyed eating dinner, the kids playing and us talking on the screened in porch at Mimi’s. Mom got out the “Mimi box” which is full of dress up clothes (from when I was little), toys and more. She has an art box for hours of endless play and she always has little activities to do with the kids when we visit.
On Tuesday we went to Knoxville to a neat little place called Sprouts (sort of like an upscale Fundom that we used to have around here). The girls had a blast playing make-believe and pretending to cook in a restaurant.
Tuesday night we went to Metcaf Bottoms, a favorite spot when we go to moms. We were going to cook out by the river, but it was really cool, so we decided to just play and wade in the FREEZING water instead. Of course, the kids loved it!
While we were there, we drove up a windy mountain road to visit an old schoolhouse (much like the schoolhouse on Little House on the Prairie). The girls were fascinated and immediately stated that this looked like where Mary and Laura went to school. 🙂 We met a park ranger who posed for a pic – which the girls thought was so cool.
Wednesday we went to Splash Country. I don’t have pics from there because we took them with a disposable waterproof camera. But it sure was fun! We stayed all day and enjoyed floating on the lazy river, playing in the wave pool and sliding down the kids slides. Thanks, Mimi, for a fabulous time. We love you and had a great time at your house!
We left on Thursday morning to head back to Hville. We stopped in Cookeville to visit my lifelong best friend, Susan. We played at her house for a while and then went to eat and play at McDonald’s – a favorite for all the kids. Here is a pic of our kids together.
It was good to see her and her sweet kids. My girls talked about playing with Anna and Emma throughout our entire trip. They were excited to play with these friends. About 7 minutes after we hit the interstate from Cookeville, I noticed that the air didn’t feel so cool coming out the vents. Five minutes later the girls were complaining that they were sweating. I looked back and saw their sweet little faces were all red with sweat around their hairline. Pitiful. It was true. The air conditioner had QUIT!! And it was our last leg of the trip. Say it isn’t so! I rolled down the windows, only to hear them (barely hear them) yelling that they couldn’t hear their movie – and it was turned up all the way. I yelled back that we had to roll down the windows or we would suffocate. So, maybe I was stretching it a bit, but we needed air. . . and the outside air was amazingly cooler than the hot air circulating through the car. Once again, I began to pray. And pray and pray and pray. Mostly I prayed that this was a simple problem that could be easily fixed so that Rick wouldn’t have to drive downtown and back everyday with no air in the 90 degree TN heat. I went back and forth from feeling sorry for my sweaty self to being thankful for air that we normally have and that we have in our apartment. Many people don’t have air conditioning and an hour without it wouldn’t kill us. I thought about Hawo, in her mud house in Africa, and became increasingly grateful for just the opportunity to have air! About 10 miles from our exit, my cell phone rang. I had to roll up the windows to hear. When I hung up, I thought I may try the air one last time. . . I turned it on and within 20 seconds – wall-la – AIR! Praise the Lord! We would roast no longer! Thank you Jesus!
So, that brought our road-trip/vacation to an end! We were all glad to be home and especially glad to see Rick! We couldn’t wait for him to get home from work and we showered him with hugs and kisses! Now it is back to the norm. . . and I realize that I really did have a vacation while I was away. I am thankful for the time and resources that we had to be able to travel to see our family and friends. It is always a blessing!