The Sabbatical Diaries: Week One

(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!  
Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
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.  
Day 4

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.  
Day 5

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.”
Day 6
Day 7
Day 8 

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…


February Days Gone By

And so it happened, February has recently fallen off thecalendar, leaving a long list of memories in its wake.   It was a COLD month in Minnesota, with tonsof snow. 
Since it is winter, I supposethat’s exactly what we should be like; it’s just that every year it kind ofcatches us off guard.  The weather peoplestart forecasting big snowfalls and we get excited about it like we’re 10 again,until we wake up the next morning faced with piles and piles of snow that willeventually become piles and piles of dirty snow.  It’s rough getting old.  Somehow even as the snow gets dirtier and thewind chills more severe, my children see nothing but sparkling visions ofsnowmen and sledding.  Oh, to see theworld through the eyes of a 3 year old…It’s got to be a happy place and I often want to go there!

I started the month off with a bang, hanging with some fungirlfriends at our annual weekend away, scrapbooking.  I got sick of working on the same projectsyear after year without ever finishing them (baby books) so I decided to bringa much smaller project that I knew I could finish. 

I made alphabet books for each of my kids,with cute pics of them on every page, corresponding with a letter of thealphabet.  Cute and useful J But most of all, aproject I actually FINISHED! 
I came home from that retreat (with a happy husband, a cleanhouse and napping children!!!) and dove right in to prepping for 2 talks I wasgiving to the girls in our student ministry. I spent most of my time poured over books, while my kids watched every TVshow they ever dreamed of.  A freedom I’mstill trying to undo.

In the course of my prepping, I pulled out our wedding videoto use for an illustration, which led to my romance loving, princess obsessed,daughter laying eyes on my wedding dress for the first time and immediatelyasking me, “MOM, do you still have your dress? WHERE IS THAT DRESS???”  I hadsecretly been dreaming of this moment for years, never expecting it to come at3.5, but I think I did a little mental happy dance when I realized it wasindeed time to reveal my own inner princess and show her the dress I desperatelylong hope for her to wearsomeday! 
  And she didn’t disappoint.  There was squealing, some attempts attwirling, a general fascination with every detail (I hear ya sister, it wasgorgeous, wasn’t it??) and grinning from ear to ear! 
Until I told her we had to take it off and no, she couldn’twear it around the house.  Mostly becauseshe couldn’t take one step in it, let alone sashay and strike a pose for all tosee.  It was the day the music died inher heart.  There were tears. 

Shortly after we moved on from that incident, we beganthinking about Valentine’s Day and some sweet conversations ensued.  Ava picked up some glass hearts I put outevery year and she and I had a pretty significant talk about how dirty ourhearts are and how we can do nothing on our own to clean them up.  It’s a real problem that we’re all bornwith.  I explained that God loves us somuch however; that He came up with a solution for us and that was why He sentHis Son Jesus to die in our place.  Hisblood washes over our dirty hearts and makes them clean again, like neverbefore.  I never know how much of thatsinks in, but it’s come up ten times since then and every time she spottedthose glass hearts around the house, she proceeded to tell us (Or Carter, Orher dolls) that “God makes our hearts clean again!” and then Carter would chimein with “I want a keen heart too Mommy!”  

Precious.  May that always be thedesire of their actual hearts and may they live in the freedom and rest thatcomes only from entrusting Jesus to that saving work, not themselves. 
I began the work of what I’ve deemed “my motherhoodprivilege” and started serving them heart pancakes every day and presentingeverything in pink, red or purple.  Ilove holidays and I fully embrace every opportunity to decorate for it J
Due to a few huge snowfalls, we’ve been a little stir crazythis month.  And when I say “we” I meanTravis and the kids.  Honestly, I couldstay bundled up and toasty in my house day after day and be perfectlyhappy.  But I’m married to the greatadventurer and he cannot.  Carter appearsto be a carbon copy of his Daddy so far and Ava, well let’s just say not onlydoes she look like me, but she’s pretty happy to be at home lost in a world ofprincesses and imagination.  But even sheneeds some activity to work those wiggles out too!  So, God bless their Daddy, Travis hasdedicated hours and hours to riding his bike in the underground garage withthese two kamikaze drivers at his side! It’s become our favorite past time in the month of February and thoselittle bikes/cars/ride-on toys have logged hundreds of miles on theirodometers.  

Side note, isn’t it fun toremember a day when you were young and innocent, thinking you could drive a caryou liked forever?  Having no idea there’sa cruel underworld of maintenance, high mileage, and car dealerships???  Maybe that’s just the bitterness speakingafter a last minute, major car repair bill this month.  I digress J

In other news, Ava decided she was ready to tackle nap timewith her brother, as in she flat out kicked me out one afternoon so she could “puthim down” (you’d think we’d coin a different phrase than that one when referringto the work of getting one to sleep.  It’sall sorts of bad sounding).  I listenedto her “read” him 3 books, sing his favorite songs, and even lean over him topray.  It was all sweet and wonderfuluntil he decided to get out of his bed, just to torment her, and broke intohysterical laughter while she was so sweetly praying over him.  

Let’s just say I intervened at that point andreminded him of his sister’s kindness and also, my nearness should hedisrespect her again J it was darling.  And it lasted about 3 days before she wasflat over it, the struggle of getting him to just give in and go to sleep!  I’m with ya girlfriend…Finally someoneunderstands the pain of being a Mom sometimes! It hasn’t seemed to affect her willingness however when it’s her turnfor bedtime.  Funny how that works. 

Ava has seemingly inherited my love for cookbookreading.  She asked me if she could lookat the cupcake book and that led to an hour of entertainment for all.  Oh Ava, if only you knew the joy we couldshare in the years ahead!  Kitchen help that’sactually help.  A girl can dream, right??
Speaking of the kitchen, here’s a little treat Trav and Iindulged in this month.  Smoked Gouda,bacon, and apple slices, grilled, with avocado. If you haven’t tried it, you must. You’ll love me forever, I’m just sure of it. 

Valentine’s Day happened. I had grand plans to celebrate, but learned my cousin was diagnosed withbreast cancer that day and suddenly I felt like sprinkles in our pancakes andglitter crafts were meaningless.  So Icuddled in bed with my kids and cried while we watched a movie.  Because that seemed a lot happier??  I did manage to pull myself together and stepup my game when I learned my cousin was indeed making chocolate molten lava cakesfor her own kids, despite having her world rocked the day before.  So I made a cheesecake from scratch and cameup with a sweet dinner for us anyway. And hugged my valentines a little tighter. We celebrated.  And I read scripture about every 10 minutesto help my hurting heart.  There has beena lot of scripture in my life this month…

Somewhere in the month of February, Travis left for a winterretreat with the Junior High students and after a retreat of my own wascancelled that weekend, I stayed home with the kids.  And decided that I’d had enough of ourdisaster of a home, including the Christmas tree that was still up, because mydarling husband “loved the glow of it” and couldn’t  wouldn’t bring himself to help me take itdown.  Well, I showed him by enduring thework of it ALL BY MYSELF (wait, why did I think that was a good idea??) and inthe process, decided I was also going to re-arrange the living room and give ita major deep clean.  Because that soundslike fun in my twisted head.  So whileCarter napped and Ava tried to watch a movie (which was a real hardship for herwhen I paused it repeatedly so I could vacuum), I decided it would be the yearof angles.  Note, not angels, but angles.  I just needed something different for my souland for this reason, angles were the trick to keep my boat afloat.  I like it. I think we’ll keep it for a while. Or at least until Travis is gone for the weekend again and I’mbored.  I can’t make any promises J
One of the highlights of our month has been diving into anew small group of young families from our Church.  Between us, we have 8 kids, 4 years old andunder, with 1 more on the way!  Sogreat!!  We’ve met as couples, as girlsand as guys, and it’s been great.  Aneeded thing in our world.  We’reexcited.

Perhaps one of the highlights ofmy month (that I can’t believe I haven’t shared on the old blog yet) is thenews that I became a knitter!!!  Yep, Ijust declared that news.  Listen, I’mtainted when it comes to the definition of “news” when BeyoncĂ© is featurednationally for weeks on end and I know more about Michelle Obama’s bangs, thanI do about senate hearings on gun control.  Anyway. I sat across from an extremely talentedfriend on our girls weekend away, and watched her knit and sew (that’s next onthe list, when I have room for a sewing machine) and promptly came homeinspired.  She whipped out this cute headband and then gave one to me later! 
I needed to learn how to knitand especially before our big road trip, where I envisioned myself knitting inthe car and sipping coffee with my darling husband, while the children nappedcontentedly in the back.  Isn’t itromantic to be in my head??  So I didwhat this generation does.  I you-tubedit.  Books on knitting, classes,tutorials from friends??  Ain’t nobodygot time for that!  I needed someinstantaneous instruction so I watched my favorite Norwegian instructor (note,the first video that looked entertaining and easy to understand) and beganknitting.  
It took me a whole day to getthe slip knot, casting on and the basic knit stitch down, but with every row Iadded I exclaimed “I’m doing it! I’m knitting!! I’m a knitter!!!”  It was a bigday.  I had no idea what I was doing,including the needles I chose or the knit I purchased.  As it turned out, I chose one of the harderyarns to work with (of course) simply because Ava and I loved the colors andthe varying texture seemed really fun (read: difficult).  
So there was lots of taking things apart inthe beginning and truly just learning as I went, but having now finished a fewthings, I’m a little more confident when I say “I knit.”  I will tell you a funny story though, only 2days after I started and I realized I really needed some different needles andsome easier yarn, I ventured to Michael’s with the kids in tow and beganbrowsing.  A woman came up to me andsaid, “Excuse me, I have no idea what I’m doing, you must crochet?  Do you know how to read these labels on theyarn?”  To which I promptly answered, “Ohno, I don’t crochet, I’m a knitter but I could probably figure out the labelfor you.”  And as the words left my mouthI started laughing, saying “Ok, actually I’m a knitter of two whole days, soreally I have no idea what I’m doing either! But I claimed that skill with some confidence didn’t I?”  We gota good laugh out of that, but I realized I already loved it so much I was beginningto identify myself with a tribe of knitters. Happily, I might add!  So,February marks the beginning of my knitting obsession and Travis referring tome as his “Knitty Bitty.”  This is oh soappropriate because I’ve become an old lady overnight.  All I want to do is drink coffee andknit.  I read to the kids while I knit,watch movies with the family while I knit, and while Travis reads in bed, Iknit JIt’s a beautiful thing people.  I justcan’t explain the compulsion in me that needs a creative outlet and a reason to“create” except to say that it’s God given in and therefore, you can’t call meweird.  I’m simply inspired! 
So there you have it, ourFebruary of fun, chronicled for generations to come.  Or for me to read in 5 years when I’m tryingto catch up on someone’s scrapbook!  Ican already guarantee that March is going to trump February for a millionreasons, so stay tuned friends.  I’m currentlywatching 10, 75 year olds do water aerobics from the balcony of this condo inFlorida, so believe me, March will be full of stories!  
Before this February post ends, just enjoy this little glimpse into the kids room.  While we were spending the last few days of the month prepping and packing for our trip, the kids were busy doing  this.  It's safe to say ALL of their toys have been played with!