Finding Joy in Him

Through Every Season

Tag: Family Trips (page 1 of 6)

My Cautiously Thankful When it Comes to the Temporarily Temporal Heart

This is our last night in the Smokys. My mom, dad, sisters and their families left for Texas this morning. The rest of us leave for “home” (Alabama) in the morning. Seeing our family this year in December for Josh’s graduation was a special treat. We don’t normally see each other until the spring or fall when the 1000 miles of roads between us are less likely to ice over.

Have you ever thought about the connection to Jesus’ birth and the “longing for home” theme in so many of the Christmas songs? I’ve worked hard at ignoring the “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” songs over the years and taught myself to be thankful for just us.. the six of us.

For many years I was able to ignore the bad.. the hard.. the sad.. and the lonely and work at cultivating a thankful heart by focusing on the good. I was able for the most part to be a blissfully happy and thankful version of myself. I was that blissfully happy and thankful person that last day between Thanksgiving and Christmas before everything came crashing down. I was standing beside Joel in the kitchen just a few hours before, admiring the person he was becoming and expressing to the Lord with a thankful heart, “I like him so much.  I feel honored just standing in his presence.”

Shortly after losing Joel, I had what I called a “Pollyanna” anointing and was overflowing with thankfulness. I was thankful that my son was the only one who died at the birthday party.. that my other children were okay, and so on. I had guarded my thankful heart as one of my most prized possessions for many years and had almost envied Pollyanna’s thankful view of the world in spite of the losses she’d suffered. I didn’t realize I’d have to suffer so much to experience that same anointing.

A few days after losing Joel, my shattered heart ran out of thankful juice and I lost all sense of hope. How could I hope when there was a possibility that everything could come crashing down again? This bad/hard/sad/lonely was too big and painful to ignore. I worked constantly at keeping my focus on Jesus and being thankful that He came, but I’d lost a part of me; the blissfully happy part. I was now broken and so wounded; vulnerable and lost. Mike and I chose to stand together in trust and obedience in the midst of it all.

Our first Thanksgiving without Joel, I earnestly searched for something “safe” that I could be thankful for. Something that wouldn’t crash my world again, if lost. I finally decided on my KIA Soul. It’s my first car. Before it, I drove the family van. I really do like my little car. It’s fun to drive. It’s become my safe place to express all my deepest sorrows. I picked the green one because it’s easy to find in a parking lot. And now that Joel lives in Heaven, it reminds me of him. Green was his color. Green is the color of everlasting life, and I like being reminded of him and our eternal reward. If something were to happen to my KIA, it wouldn’t be big deal. It is “safe” to be thankful for. I wouldn’t be crushed if I lost it.

I am slowly finding other “safe” things to be thankful for in the reality of this broken world that I am being forced to live in. Things that God is using to slowly heal my heart:

Being thankful for my “Soul” was the “vehicle” that helped me find a way back to the anointing that bubbled up from my thankful heart those first few days. I don’t believe I will find that blissfully happy self here on earth again. I’ve been smitten with a homesickness that can only be cured by my real home. I can no longer push aside the groanings that now resonate in my inner man, but I can be thankful for the things He gives me grace to be thankful for in the midst of the longing.

Romans 8:22-24 “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved.”

I am hopeful that learning to lean into the longing and stay connected to my still wounded – slowly healing – cautiously thankful when it comes to the temporarily temporal heart will yield lasting fruit. Hopeful that facing the bad/hard/sad/lonely here will lead to a firmer grasp on our real Heavenly hope to come.

1 Corinthians 15:53-54 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

The “longing for home” theme in the Christmas songs has struck a chord in our hearts this season like never before. The “Home” we really want to be in is the one where our family will be whole again. It still feels “unsafe” to say I am thankful for my family (although, secretly in my heart I am). So, this week I chose to be thankful for what I was able to be thankful for: “time with my family” knowing it would come to a temporary end either when they drove home to Texas today, went back to work and school, or when another one of us goes to our real home in Heaven.

Maybe this verse is why Christ’s birth is connected to so many “longing for home” songs.

John 14:1-4 Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. And since I’m going away to prepare a place for you, I’ll come back again and welcome you into my presence, so that you may be where I am. You know where I am going, and you know the way.

6-7 I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.

Love,

Jenny

Spring Break Photos Part 2

Lake by our tent at sunset
 We got home from Pigeon Forge, unpacked then repacked for
 camping Thursday morning with Josh and Patrick.

Our tent.. Josh and Patrick ruffed it along a river.. no electricity or bathrooms.  I like hot showers.

 The National Forest was beautiful and only 1.5 hours from our house.. 
so we hope to go back sometime.
The river was REALLY nice.. clear.. beautiful.

First of many waterfalls.

You can see the river bed.

My very own Texas Cow Boy.
We read that there are over 100 water falls along these canyon walls.

We didn’t get pictures of the boys.. most of the time they were off on their own..

While we were hiking this trail they were running off the road while messing with their GPS getting a flat tire.  We had no cell service so they were unable to reach us for help.  :-/

Running with Perseverance

Yesterday morning, Mike asked me when I was going to have the trash can the tornado ripped apart picked up.  I made the call a second time.  It isn’t easy to arrange a pick up for when you are home and they won’t forget.  I realized, too that it’s the trash can Joel took the trash out to.. the trash can Joel went and found after the tornadoes.. the trash can Joel duct taped together.. the trash can Joel brought into the garage on Wednesday nights.

It’s hard.  Should I even allow myself go down that thought path?  I
didn’t yesterday morning and here I am now at almost 3 AM.  Maybe it’s
better just to do the hard thing and allow myself to grieve even over the
trash can that is so easily replaced. 

Joel going to fish a trash can out of the April 2011 mess.

I had books (Choosing to See by Mary Beth Chapman, Heaven, and If God is Good by Randy Acorn) on hold at the library yesterday, so I went to pick them up on the way home from the chiropractor.  The best route was the route Joel took the day that he totaled his car.  I decided to take it.. to re-live it.. to face it.  It was hard before Joel went home; harder now.  I am so thankful that the city put in a much needed red light in response to Joel’s accident.

On the way home from the library, I chose another hard path; through the neighborhood just north of ours where I taught our three youngest how to drive just two years ago.  We spent so much time in that blue van.  Judi tipped one of the mail boxes on one trial run.  I learned a lot about self denial and control in that neighborhood.  I continue choosing to make myself do hard things, hoping that they will become easier with practice.

Mike planned this year’s vacations around Josh’s school schedule.  We had originally thought we would spread Joel’s ashes in the Smoky Mountains during Spring Break, but Josh was unable get off from his new stocking job at Walmart and we decided we just weren’t ready.. weren’t sure it was the right thing to do, so we’re waiting for wisdom, peace and more grace.

Judi
and James had the beginning of the week off so we took them and a few
of Judi’s friends up to Pigeon Forge to stay in a cabin.  It was a hard trip not
only because of our original plan but also because Mike and I had spent the
beginning of Joel’s last week on earth in Pigeon Forge.  We were glad
to have the girls there as an extra distraction. 

The girls on the cabin stairs.  Miranda on top, Rebekah, Judi and Nichole.

Spring Break, Mike’s birthday and Passover all fell on the same week this year.  I spent some time meditating on Jesus our Passover Lamb as I do each year while preparing to share the meaning of Passover in light of Jesus’ sacrifice.  That Monday night was our first Passover without Joel.  

I
explained to Judi’s friends that Passover is a Jewish day of
thanksgiving to God for their deliverance from slavery and bondage, and
that Jesus is God’s own dear Lamb sacrificed for our sins so that we
could be invited to join His family and enjoy deliverance from slavery
and bondage to sin.

Our Passover Table in Florida.

In the midst of my thoughts on Jesus’ and Joel’s deaths I found myself living with no will to live.  I had just spent the week before coming to terms with the fact that it might be 60 years before I see Joel again.  I had to accept that I could be in this for the long haul.  Remembering the events leading up to Good Friday, the week of Jesus’
death, and His sacrifice as I was reliving the week of Joel’s death in Pigeon Forge was
not something I had planned.  I needed the will to keep on living.

I began praying over and over, “Lord, if you are going to continue to leave me here to live, please, give me the ‘will and the do’ for it.”

“For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.” 
Philippians 2:13

Finally, the Holy Spirit reminded me how God had instructed me to think of Joel when I was struggling early on.  He had said, “Think of Joel as having pushed ahead of you in the race.. and crossing the finish line in front of you.”

Meditating on this thought worked quickly to renew my mind; gave me hope and light.  It gives me joy to think of myself in a race with Joel, to think of Joel at the finish line waiting for me.  It reminds me to keep my eyes on Jesus, resurrected and beautiful, Lamb on the throne, and it gives me the courage I need to run with perseverance. 

Favorite picture of Joel in the Smokys.

“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race that is marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, Who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning it’s shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”  Hebrews 12:1-2

I remembered last night that Joel was several years old before he could pronounce his name properly.  For the longest time, he would say his name was “Goel” with a hard “g” sound .. trying to get the “J” sound out right. 

Then I realized, that his early mispronunciation was actually a real word with meaning: “Goal.”  I will forever remember Joel and goal together now.. as I run my race, reaching towards my goal.

“I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 3:14

“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the
test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has
promised to those who love him.”  James 1:12

The long trip back Wednesday afternoon to our present home without Joel was still very difficult and filled with tears, but thinking of Joel at the end of his race in his true home did add hope and joy to my deep sorrow.  Maybe our next Passover will be in the New Jerusalem.

Love,
Jenny

More California Adventure

On Tuesday, Savannah had to go back to work and Mike, Judi and I 
went to back to Disney and visited their California Adventure Park.
Our favorite ride was Toy Story Midway Mania.  It almost always has at least 
a 45 min. wait, no fast pass, and it’s basically only a 4D video arcade game??
You have to try it.  
Part of what makes it so fun is the competition between 
the riders in your car to break as many plates, pop as many 
balloons, ring as many aliens and gain as many points as you can. 
We discovered that the lines were a little shorter 
during the nightly water and light show 
which was actually better than Disney Land’s fireworks.
We stood in line around 2 hours for three 5 minute games.
The huge roller coaster behind it, “California Screamin’,” 
was our second favorite ride at California Adventure. 
It’s the second longest coaster in the U.S. and
what makes it really special is that it launches you 
from zero to 55 miles an hour up the first hill in 4 seconds.
Even more fun the first time when you aren’t expecting it.  🙂
Our two other favorite coasters in the Disney parks 
were Thunder and Space Mountain.  🙂
Judi and Mike also really enjoyed riding down Grizzly River right
before the park closed; it was extra special after dark.
Mike spent Wednesday through Friday at his conference 
while Judi and I spent Wednesday running back 
and forth between the two parks for fast passes 
and to ride our favorite rides one last time.
We shared some spicy jambalaya at the Blue Bayou for lunch. 
It was way over priced but has a nice atmosphere as 
it overlooks the Pirates of the Caribbean boat ride.
On Thursday, Judi and I shared lunch at the Cheesecake Factory and
a piece of Kahlua Cocoa Coffee Cheesecake with a fudgy, brownie crust.
We were happy to be sharing the calories, and had more than enough to eat.
Then we walked three miles to our new, favorite outlet mall.
Judi actually asked Mike if we could move to CA so we 
could live near this outlet mall. It was that awesome.
We bought a couple of new t-shirts; my flying giraffe glows in the dark.
And Judi’s Paris shirt gains color sunlight (last photo).
Friday was our girls day out with Savannah.
Savannah braved the traffic and took us to China Town for lunch and
shopping where Judi and Savannah found some cute black lacy shoes 
and I bought a jade elephant necklace and bracelet to match.  
Our next stop was Hollywood Blvd. where I was surprised 
to discover that characters like Mikey Mouse,
Donald Duck and Kermit the Frog have sidewalk stars there.
Then she took us to Universal’s Citywalk where 
Judi found the coffee shop that she’d heard so much about.
Defiantly better than Starbucks.
Before it got too late, we dove back to the mall across from 
Disney Land for a little more shopping and dinner at 
the Cheesecake Factory where we shared three appetizers 
and a piece of Heresies Chocolate Cheesecake for desert.
It was so nice getting to spend so much time with Savannah.
We are so proud of the beautiful young woman she is becoming.
If we get to go again, we hope to spend some time hanging out 
in her neighborhood and at her house with her dogs.
Love,
Jenny

Laguna Beach, California

We flew into CA on Memorial Day weekend.. so Savannah 
actually got to spend 2 days with the 3 of us and a third day just us girls.
On Memorial Day, she took us to the Laguna Beach.
 See the mansions up on the hill?  They have a great ocean view.
 We enjoyed wondering in and out the local shops.
 Laguna Beach is a favorite beach for artist to come and paint.
 It reminded us of our favorite beach 
in Florida (Lido Key)…maybe even a little nicer.
Smile. 
Knew this was a good one.  
It was pretty crowded.. Memorial Day 
Mike decided it was too cold to swim.
 
 We learned that Savannah used to go surfing all the time.. 
She said the water in CA is always cold. 
 We should do this again sometime.  
Love,
Jenny

Disney Land California

Our hotel in Anaheim was next door to the conference center 
and just down the street from Disney Land.  
This was Judi’s third trip to a Disney park.. Mike’s 9th.. 
My first trip to Disney World was with Mike on our honeymoon.
He’s been a few more times than I.
 The two parks are a lot a like.  We decided that the weather makes
Disney Land nicer.. but Epcot makes Disney World better.
 We actually went inside the castle for the first time…
 It was kinda cool.
 Savannah joined us for lunch at Shakey’s 
(Mike and Judi and I had their lunch buffet 3 times that week.)  
then spent the rest of the day at the park with us.
Waiting in line for “It’s a Small World” ride. 
The girls ducking the camera. 
The girls joining in.  Judi was so happy to have someone to ride with.
They hadn’t seen each other since Judi was 6 months old.  
I think they enjoyed getting to know each other.
 Mike and I like the quiet, boat rides the best.
It’s a small world after all.. 
Glad we don’t have to travel to Thailand to visit Savannah.
She got her U.S. Citizenship last year.  🙂
We had smoked turkey legs for dinner.. with plenty left over 
for Savannah to take home to her dogs.  
Love,
Jenny

Trip to LA

We had a great time in CA.  
So glad Judi and I got to go with Mike on his conference trip.
Joel drove us to the airport at 4:30 AM.
 Sunrise at the airport
Of the three of us..
Who looks the happiest to be a wake? 
One of those mountains says HOLLYWOOD..  
Our first time to see the sign in person.
And just outside the baggage claim door we saw
our first and only Hollywood star..
Mike jokingly said, “Look!  There’s Monk!”
He’s always teasing about spotting celebrities..
When I looked up, there he was in the flesh.. the real “Monk,”  
our eyes locked for several seconds as we walked by.
He was calling a taxi.  He may have been on the same 
plane with us.  We could have had breakfast with him in the 
Dallas airport.  I couldn’t believe how star struck I was.
Judi asked incredulously, “Is that the real Monk?”
She couldn’t believe that he actually dressed 
like the “Monk” on the TV show.

Judi offered to take our picture with him.
We couldn’t do it.  
Go back and ask for a picture?  
We’re way too shy.  
Instead I took these lame pictures from where we waited for our shuttle.
He’s the one in the khaki pants and brown jacket standing 
between the kid and his security guard.
 And there goes his taxi.  
Love,
Silly me.

Texas Smile Lines

The night we left for Texas, I looked in the mirror and noticed how
pronounced the little smile lines around my eyes are getting and wondered,
“Will anyone we visit say, ‘You haven’t aged a bit since I saw you last.'”
Savannah said something like that when we saw her last year in CA.
It makes you feel so good to hear it.. even when you know it’s not true.
It had been 16 years since we’d last seen her.
I think she actually meant I was thin rather than young looking.
 I’ve gained 20 pounds since then.
This trip we heard something a little different.
From Mike’s aunt we got, “Where’s all your gray hair?” 
and “Well, you don’t look sickly.”
I think maybe the things they’d heard about us
sounded worse than we looked and hopefully are.
Then when I posted this picture of my new 
cowboy boots on FB, my Mom Commented: 
“Oh, grandmother, what big feet you have.”
Love them both to death.  I think they caused more smile lines in my face.
I had thought about trying to smile less to prevent my lines
from getting worse.. but only for a second.
I guess this camera angle does make my feet look a little bigger.
They are size 8.5.  Is that big?
For those of you who don’t know (Mom), cowboy boots
are made with heals to help you stay in the stirrups  
and with extra inch or two in the pointy ends, 
so if a horse steps on your boots 
(horses can be ornery) they miss your toes.
Will I ever out grow being embarrassed by my parents?
Guess that’s what I get for being so vain.
Love,
Jenny

Texas Trip for Six

We were so please that everyone was able 
to get off work for our trip to Texas this time.
It had been 5 years since we had all been.
The only problem was that the cars we have now only hold up to 5 people.
It worked out well though, with two cars and three 
people in each (divided up by musical taste)
we had plenty of room for guitars and food and 
homeschool curriculum for my nephews and niece.  
The only thing was that it cost us over $600 in gas.
Still cheeper than renting a van.
Our first stop in Texas was at Texas Pride Barbecue.
We arrived just a little too early at 10:45 AM
after driving 14 hrs. and 45 min.
Time to stretch and take photos:
Are these cows?
Joel stayed up most of the night trying to make sure
that the siblings driving his car didn’t fall a sleep.
Lunch family style.

After lunch, we drove the last two hrs. to Mo Ranch to see my family. 

Mike and I saw a big gray fox there.. twice.. no photo.. too quick.

I didn’t take any pictures of my family.. because they are so much more
talented than I at taking pictures and it seems unfair to make
the kids pose one more time for another photo.
 I did take some pictures of Mo Ranch’s Greenhouse.
I need to check out their chapel on another visit.
We had a great time seeing everyone.  
I’ll have to blog more about it later.. 

Someone send pictures.
After Mo Ranch, we spent a few days in San Antonio.
We went to the Alamo, saw Switch Foot in concert and some dear friends..
James took these pictures for us with his ipad.

Remember the Alamo.  It’d been a long time since Josh had been.

Judi and I tried on Joel’s new hippy glasses at County Line BBQ.

He’s so proud of them.  Got a compliment on the 10 seconds after he bought them. Looked for a leather beaded vest to match the whole rest of the trip.

County Line’s BBQ beat out Texas’ Pride’s hands down.

We ate lunch at our favorite Mexican buffet, Ponchos.
Just raise the flag and they’ll bring you more to eat.

This is a picture from our favorite park in San Antonio, O.P. Schnabel.
Its been done up really nice with new maps and mile markers.
And the Bandera YMCA on the premises has a new 
swimming pool with big double tube slide.

We also got a picture of the house we rented when we were expecting Judi.
The things I remember most about this house is that it had a garden 
which I killed and we found mouse droppings on our key board.
We left Christmas day of that year for Mike’s first government job in IL.

Judi was born 10 days later.  Glad she gave us some time to unpack.
One of the places we miss most in TX is our favorite grocery store, HEB.
We got to shop at the newest, largest HEB Plus: a whopping 182,000 sq. ft.
They sell everything from organic food, to T-shirts, to TVs.

We brought two HEB briskets, one large package of 
HEB sausage, and one package of HEB Fajitas home to AL with us.  
Anyone know how we can get it shipped?

We had a great time visiting Mike’s family near Breckenridge, too.
Karen and Kyle have grown by leaps and bounds.
Mike’s parents treated us to dinner at Chester’s, 
the best hamburger place in SA.
There were so many grandkids that we split up to play hands and foot.
The winners of each table played a championship game.
These two computer nerds played a round too.. 
but were unable to defeat the runners up this time.

Mike’s aunt and uncle and two of his cousins stopped by for a visit.
All five of these cousins live in the area now; several are becoming
empty nesters and grandparents.  It was great to catch up with them.

More when I have pictures.

Love,

Jenny

St. Louis Zoo and Goodwill Outlet

Saturday’s forecast was pouring rain, but
 God answered our prayers and after a short rain delay 
Mike spent the day at the Cardinals game with his friend Russ
and James and I spent the day with my friend, 
Ranae and her youngest, Caleb.

While waiting out the rain, we went to 
Ranae’s favorite store: the Goodwill Outlet Store..
where they bring out carts and carts of stuff and sell it by the pound.
I bought 2 tops, a jacket, a skirt, a pair of shoes and shorts for just over $4.
After Chinese for lunch, the rain cleared up and 
we had a beautiful day at the St. Louis Zoo.
Ranae, James and Caleb 
It took me 6 tries to get this picture of this Okapi with his tongue out.
It actually stretches out even farther than this photo shows.
 Giraffes
 Caleb
 They had coolest penguin exhibit.
Cool.. as in a nice break from the heat and
cool because they weren’t hidden behind foggy glass.
Loved the bears and the beautiful day 
God gave us at the Zoo and ball game.
Love,
Jenny
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