We started the second week of our break with a full week at the beach. Yes, the previous four days were glorious, but what a treat to have seven more! We had five days at the beach with our own little family and then we met up with Trav's sister and her family who were vacationing on the island too, and then his Mom came to stay with us for the last few days of our time in Marco.
We jumped at our first chance to go back to our Church in Naples together for the Saturday night service we used to attend. I mentioned it previously, but this is the Church our lives centered around when we met. We were both single when we moved to Naples and we each found our way to FBCN, four years apart. We met in the 20's group where Trav was a leader and I was new. *Cue the dramatic music*
In the retirement capitol of Florida, God led us to one another, and considering the average age of people in Naples, that was a miracle in itself! We still have dear friends here and a lifetime of memories from that season of falling in love and growing closer in our relationship and eventually beginning our marriage. We love FBCN and always will! It was a no-brainer for us to make the trek off the island so we could go to Church there again. When we lived here, we attended the contemporary service on Saturday nights, went to our 20's class afterwards, and then we'd pick a restaurant where 20 or so of us would go for a late dinner or dessert. We did that every single week and it was so much fun! I really miss having a Saturday night service and would love to have that option now that we have kids! It was SO nice to have all day on Sunday to relax and really enjoy the full weekend. However, now that Travis is a Pastor I'm not sure how much I'd love it as he'd still have to work on Sundays, but we had fun taking our kids to Church "in da dark" as Ava put it!
Is that a cute picture or what?? I wanted to get a quick pic on the beautiful campus there and struck gold with this one. We also ran into our former Pastor's wife and her two daughters while we were standing there, so that was a fun surprise!
One of the highlights of the condo we stayed in, is the incredible view from the balcony every day. To watch the Lord awaken the dawn with brilliant shades of blue and the rising sun, and then to see Him paint that same sky with oranges, purples, and pinks, as the sun slips below the horizon...it was the perfect beginning and ending to every day. Such majesty in the skies, it's no wonder that the Bible tells us all of creation speaks of its' creator day after day. We witnessed it in a glorious way at the beach and although it was chilly in the mornings, my favorite place to be hands down was on that balcony with some coffee and my journal. THAT is Heaven to me!
We established such a fun rhythm every day that involved slow mornings reading and playing, lunch on the balcony and then an afternoon at the beach, the pool or both! We were blessed with mostly warm weather and sunny skies. We only had a handful of times when it was overcast, but usually it was a nice relief from all the sun! We had a hard time not rubbing it in with pictures, knowing we were escaping a HORRIBLE cold snap and one snowfall after another at home in Minnesota. It was SUCH a gift to miss that weather and to enjoy paradise instead. We were pinching ourselves every day!
One thing Travis loves to do is to go fishing and after the kids were in bed, he went down to the dock to do a little fishing with the locals and other people staying on the property. He texted me this picture on his first night when he caught this nice sized fish. It's always a good night when the fish are biting!
The cousins came to visit! We enjoyed two days with our niece and nephew, as well as Trav's sister and brother in law, who were staying down the island at the Hilton. We swam, we fished, we ate out and we had fun catching up!
One of the books I brought with me is this one. I read it last summer pretty quickly and just loved it. It is hands down, the best book on marriage, aside from the Bible! Of course that's just my own opinion, but I appreciate it so much because it is a book that throws aside all of our cultural thoughts and views toward marriage and looks strictly at what scripture says, then interprets the way we ought to behave in marriage based on God's ways, not our's. It's a deep read and one that I've been wanting to pour through again. It hasn't disappointed the second time around and in just the first few chapters, I know the Lord used it to speak a word in my life and my own marriage. It's amazing how deep and how far reaching the ways of the world can influence us, specifically in the area of entitlement and selfishness in marriage. So many of us have bought the lie that our marriages exist simply to make our lives better and that we should choose our spouse based on who fulfills us or brings something to the marriage for our benefit. It's no wonder that marriages dissolve and people grow dissatisfied based on those criteria. This book helps us see the intent of marriage as another way to display the Gospel to the world and reminds us that only God fulfills us and only in Him can we receive what we need to love our spouses and serve them, like He has done for us. Our chief end is to love the Lord and bring Him glory, first as individuals and then together in a marriage. When we pattern our marriages after the Gospel, then we are able to forgive even the deepest offenses, to love unselfishly, to consider others better than ourselves, to lay down our lives for the good of the other, and to find our joy in Christ, not base our happiness on the performance of a spouse. I highly recommend this book! I know several groups going through it right now and I think that's a fabulous way to really dissect it. I'm so glad I brought it!
Just another day in paradise, cruising around in our minivan next to Ferrari's and all kinds of exotic cars! Ha ha, one of us is not like the other!
This view. It just never gets old...
Once Trav's Mom got here, she let us enjoy a little date on the dock, after we put the kids to bed. On this particular night the Hawkeyes were playing in the Big Ten Tournament, so I wore my gear in solidarity and had my sister update me via text while I missed the first half to fish with Trav. And we won, so we decided I should be on the dock for the next game too!
I told Travis I would go with him one night to fish and before I knew it, that became our little date night together :) Once the sun set it was chilly out and even a little windy, so I told him I'd go with him but only under the following conditions; I needed a beach chair, a blanket, the iPad and some hot coffee to drink. Oh, you thought I was fishing too?? Not so much! I came along for moral support and to be a cheerleader, but that's about it! I held a pole here and there, but I don't touch fish and I'm not a fan of them flipping all over the place and getting me wet :) I realize I sound very high maintenance but I won some big wife points as the ONLY wife to come to the dock every night and to get excited over every catch, no matter how small! So, high maintenance or not, I'm taking the credit for making my man happy! He never complained about my conditions but said he was just happy to have me with him and got a kick out of seeing me all bundled up every night, ha ha! One amazing memory we shared was getting totally freaked out by a couple of dolphins who jumped through the water just a few feet in front of the dock and in plain view of where we were. We saw TONS of dolphins during the day and figured out that they also move at night near the boats. Unless you are super close to them, you'd never know how loud they are when they jump out of the water. When they break the surface it makes a pretty big noise and as we were getting settled on the dock, in the stillness of the late night, twice we jumped out of our skin when they chose to swim right by us!! It was awesome! But also maddening for my fisherman because the fish disappear with dolphins around. Usually the fishing picked up after they swam away, but it was fun to see regardless. I loved those nights together! We stayed up way too late, but it was worth it :)
When I knew we were coming to the beach for this trip, I told Travis my only request was to get a family picture at sunset one night. By now you know my affinity for pictures, they are definitely my love language, and after 10 years Travis has graciously cooperated each and every time. So after Texie joined us I knew we had to take advantage of extra hands to help and take photos for us. We watched the time carefully and picked a warm night to catch the last of the sunlight...
...and got the most amazing shots, including this one!! My favorite EVER!!! I'm not kidding when I tell you that I know God did this for me. I just know He gave us the perfect night, and somehow amidst the chaos and the whining and the complaining, He orchestrated a few perfect moments and gave us favor to get them on film! Trav's Mom got this with my iphone and it is the shot I would have paid big money for. What a gift to remember this precious trip together!
I've already ordered it on canvas :)
It was so fun to have Texie with us and we got some darling shots of her with the kids too! Marco was a much better visit than Minnesota in March! I think she could get used to that!!
Our last full day and it was glorious! Perfect weather and tons of fun at the Beach...
One of the best parts of this trip so far has simply been watching Travis unwind and relax. He works very hard for our family and gives a lot himself not only to us, but to the people he serves and loves. I got so much joy seeing a smile on his face day after day and knowing that his only "requirement" was to rest and refresh. I'm so thankful God blessed us with this time and worked out every detail for us to get away together in Florida. I could cry thinking about it again, it's been an incredible two weeks!
Unfortunately as our time at the beach ended, Carter couldn't bear to say good-bye and I couldn't blame him! It was the best and rather than mourn its' passing, I'm choosing to celebrate it instead and remember the fun we had and the memories we made in God's glorious creation.
We praise Him for taking such good care of us and for giving us a taste of what Heaven might be like someday...Where there are surroundings we can't even comprehend, beauty we've never seen, endless days to praise Him and enjoy what He's prepared for us, and the gift of never having to see it end! Amazing!! We enjoyed our time at the beach for all it was worth and then some!