(Written- Friday, March 8)
Well, we’re one week in and I can already tell you this whole sabbatical thing? Yes, it’s glorious. Everything it’s cracked up to be and more. I've debated sharing the depths of our joy with you¸ simply out of respect for the many we love who are currently staring at piles of snow under grey skies, wishing summer would just hurry up and get here.
Well, more good news for you. I've already received like 10 grad party invites on Facebook. Do you know what that means? Summer will be here in the blink of an eye and our plans in the month of April, May, and June? Already being made for us. Summer is coming! Within days of this sabbatical ending, Trav is headed to Chicago for an event with our students and then the barrage of birthdays, grad parties, weddings, vbs, summer camp, mission’s trips, swimming lessons, and general chaos begins. So, before my heart starts racing and I go diving for my planner and my sharpie pens, with the hope of maintaining some sort of control (whoa…deep thought for the day, do I love my planner because I love control?? Hmm, moving on before I answer that honestly) I’m pushing all of that activity to the back of my mind and simply enjoying the present for what it is. Sunshine. Ocean breezes. The smell of sunblock and tanning oil.
Wrinkly old people at the beach. I mean, spending our days at the beach with delightful retired people, followed by a dip in the pool. Bliss! By the way, give me a beach full of retired people and their grand kids and I’m a happy camper. Seriously! We had the unfortunate experience of being next to some college kids on the beach yesterday and let me tell you, I was quickly reminded why we come to the Gulf Coast and not Miami Beach. Who knows what they were smoking, I do know what they were drinking, and as they trolled for any single girl under the age of 30, I wanted to warn them and yell, “RUN!! They are up to no good! Stop making bad choices! You will regret this in the morning!” But of course those girls wouldn't have heard me either because they were so desperate for attention and also looking for a free drink. But do you know the beauty of being next to an older (and way too tanned) soul?? They don’t have mouths like sailors and they don’t play music that I have to shelter my child’s innocent ears from. They read books, look for shells with their grand kids, talk about the best places to eat and marvel at the price of gas. Yes, and Amen, I’ll take it.
Anyway, before I post some beautiful pictures of sun, surf, and sand while invoking a jealousy in you that makes you delete my blog from your life, let me fill you in on the joys of road-tripping cross country with two kids under 4. Before long you’ll be back on my side, realizing how I've earned this sunshine and these days of lounging by the pool, I promise. You won’t even feel the slightest bit envious. OK, well maybe that’s a lie. This view we wake up to every day is killer.
I started a daily post on instagram called "The Sabbatical Diaries" and I thought I'd share the pics from those posts, with you too. We knew we didn't want the stress of driving through the night or turning a cross country drive into a marathon event. We’re too old for that and more importantly; our kids are too young to be good sports. So we chose our cities wisely and started with a pit stop at my parents on the first night, one week ago. We laughed because literally on the first day that Trav’s official sabbatical began, we got out of dodge, quick! You don’t have to tell us twice to take some time of (wink, wink) so my parents enjoyed seeing the kids (and us) for a night and we flew the Midwest coop just in time to avoid another major dumping of snow. Ten inches of freshly fallen snow, although beautiful, quickly affirmed our decision to get in the car and drive south!
We road-tripped to St. Louis, then Atlanta, and then Tampa, and this was the scene in the car, for all three of those drives:
Ava- Playing princesses, looking at princess books, singing along to Toby Mac, requesting we watch Little Mermaid, Ariel 2, Belle 2, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, and Cinderella, while also asking for a snack because she’s “reawwy, reawwy, reawwy, so, so hungry.” Repeat.
Carter- Requesting a toy, then throwing it 5 min later. Asking to watch “Light-en McKeen!, Mickey, or Thomas and refusing to watch another “pwin-seth movie, Ava!” Repeatedly asking for a treat, namely suckers and fruit snacks, especially after we’d just eaten or minutes before we were exiting to get some food. Also, whining quite a bit, yelling out sporadically, and then collapsing from exhaustion every day around 5. Which by the way, is way too late to nap and way too early to go to bed, but we were way too smart to wake him up or keep him awake, so we enjoyed the silence while we got it, then endured a much later bedtime. And you know what, it worked! Who cares that it seemed illogical or looked nothing like his normal schedule? We were embracing a month of resting from our routines and Carter just pushed us there sooner than later.
Travis- Driving. The whole time (God bless him) and occasionally entering in the middle of the arguing going on behind him. Keeping me sane and offering a Starbucks stop when he knew I was minutes from meltdown myself. Laughing to himself, while listening to something via his phone, with his earbuds in. You gotta do, what you gotta do to survive!
Me- Knitting. Breaking up fights. Knitting. Picking up dropped toys and rescuing princesses from the horror of wearing the wrong outfit. Knitting. Sneaking chocolate from the view of two little beggars, and slipping some across the seat to my man, all while knitting. Also, texting and taking pictures.
We gradually made our way south, avoiding any traffic problems and remaining mostly calm. Yes, and amen, we were some thankful travelers! The kids did as well as they possibly could, and aside from the normal weariness of being in the car so much, they were real troopers. The hotel stops were great; we all slept fine and woke up ready to experience another day in another slew of states and cities. We stopped at the welcome center in Florida to stretch our legs and celebrate actually making it to the state of our choice! While there we had some rest stop races with the kids, which was a much needed 30 minutes of activity for them, especially the boys. When we got to Tampa, we got to stay with Trav’s sister and her family, which was a real treat since we don’t get to see each other very often. The kids loved playing with their older cousins and we loved watching them.
From there we left to head for our old stomping grounds, in southwest Florida.
Let me pause for a minute and just tell you, being back here is exactly the kind of soul rest and refreshment we've longed for. We LOVE it here. When I stop to really think about all the significant things the Lord has done in each of our lives during our stints in Naples, it’s truly staggering. Travis moved here, alone, after college and started working at the Christian school in town. For 4 years he lived in the land of the retired and while here, made some incredible friends and sat under some key, Godly men who have directly influenced him in profound ways. Most importantly, the Lord got a hold of his heart and drew him to Himself, really making a student out of him, growing a deep thirst and love for God and His Word. It was in those years that He called Travis to ministry and began preparing him to be a Pastor. After 4 years, I moved into the picture when I also landed a job in Naples, right out of college. We didn't know the other existed, but met one Saturday night at Church. Over time the Lord drew us to one another as well, but after and while He was doing a big work in my heart and solidifying my affection for Him above all else. We have such precious memories of that time together here. We grew in the Lord, deepened our friendship and began a serious relationship with one another. We got engaged, got married, and all in the beauty of the gulf coast. Our hearts are joy-filled here. These retired blue-hairs? We love them! They make us laugh and remind us of the joy of living here, also the agony of driving around them :)
Because we are from different parts of the country, Naples feels like a mutual “home” to us. So to vacation here, among the 5:30 dinner crowd and a high concentration of retired millionaires, this is sweet to us. We can rest and enjoy our time here, without feeling like we have to see a million things or experience every beach. We did that when we lived here. Now we get to hit our favorite restaurants, see some dear friends, and park it on the beach in Marco. What a gift!
After we arrived on Wednesday, we have maintained a daily rhythm involving early morning reading on our balcony, going to the beach and the pool, eating lunch/dinner outside, and just playing with our kids. Pure joy! It was a little chillier our first two days, but we've hit the perfect temps and now each day is just amazing. God stuns us every morning and evening with a glorious sky and the rising and setting of the sun. His creation wows us; we've seen scores of dolphins, watched ospreys pluck fish from the ocean, seen fish jump through the waters, and enjoyed the flight of many pelicans, seagulls, and ospreys every day. There are endless opportunities for us to point out God’s majesty to our kids and talk about whose voice the wind and waves obey. Endless opportunities for all of us to “worship the Lord in the splendor of His Holiness.”
We are big fans of this sabbatical! What I can’t quite wrap my mind around is that we still have weeks to go. We won’t be in paradise the whole time, but we are blessed to enjoy this for a while longer and we are so grateful. In our first week away, I've knitted 2 scarves and a headband for Ava and I finished one book, with two more in process. It’s amazing what you can do when away from the daily grind!
Maybe best of all, we are making daily memories with our little family and just enjoying lots of uninterrupted time together. This season is so unique, before long we’ll have school schedules and activities that tie us down more, but we are impressed to remember how good it is to get away and protect some family time together. It’s not perfect, there are tantrums, fights, and tears even in paradise! But it seems more bearable with the ocean as a backdrop, right?? One of the best things right now is having Daddy around to help enforce some discipline with a certain strong willed 2 year old who can use some guidance from his Mom AND his Dad. Thank you Lord! It’s also been sweet for Travis and I to just be together all day and night. We've each stolen some time away alone, but mostly I just love being with my friend all day. I’m thankful we really like each other. To love is a choice, but to like is a gift. I’m not totally naive however, after this is all said and done, I’m guessing we will have some moments when going back to work will sound great to both of us! Ha ha!
We are enjoying a Sabbath of rest today and I pray you are as well! In sun and snow, good times and bad, our God is the truest source of rest and peace and joy. May you lean into Him and His strength today…