Monday, December 25, 2017

This Christmas I just want Rewind

Grief overwhelms. Sadness overtakes. There is a loss hanging in the air that I just cannot shake. A void that only the Father can fill. 
I wanted a different thought to run through my head this morning on Christmas, but 3 little men and a mom were on my heart. I wanted thrills of Christmas instead of ache and heaviness and Lord knows so did they. I had questions God alone can answer. Prayers keep going up that don’t seem big enough. They keep coming like waves. Waves of grief. Waves of questions. Waves of laughter. Waves of why. Like the song, Wave after wave. Washes over me, washes over me. I’m not alone in this. From the magnitude of posts, I'm one of many.  School makes you family. Wayland makes you family.

Scrolling through facebook today just left me hurting and helpless to overcome it on my own. I found myself having to stop the cooking and cleaning, scrambling to get ready for our bunch to come gather at our house tonight. I literally just stopped because I couldn't keep going over this. ~There’s a comfort I’ve come to know. Though this heart and flesh may fail. There’s an anchor for my soul.~  When I know nothing else, Jesus is enough. When my head can no longer wrap around this world, my head can rest to know Jesus came. He lived, he died and rose again. And he is coming back. There’s not a single thing that makes sense the last few days except the realness of Jesus. There’s no question I can’t ask Him. He will answer me. When my thoughts become a storm, He is faithful to respond back before I’m done with His Words and thoughts. There’s not a thought He doesn’t see roll through my mind. He gets our struggle because he became flesh and lived among us. His Spirit is here with us and can handle whatever we ask. His Spirit can handle, if only we take them all to Him. 

Here’s what I know when lately it seems like I know nothing. There is nothing that God cannot handle. Our mind is safest with him. For the Lord orders our steps. We make plans, but He alone has charge over them. When I’m clinging tightly to plans I feel the grip release to Him, knowing that He knows what is best. He sees the whole picture. It may not be mine, but He knows how it all works out. Jesus understood grief. He wept over Lazarus. I picture this as a beautiful ugly cry. Much like a cry I felt coming out Friday when I didn’t know it would be there. It was ugly in dark of the theatre as I blinked at my phone. Furiously texting to friends over a clip and post. What?! How could this ever be? I shook sitting in the seat, thankful that it reclined. I balled up and squeezed my eyes tight. No no no!  If we could just go back to 7:40 this morning. None of this would ever be. My sweet Jody just held my hand and asked if we needed to leave. He read the news in disbelief and knew my thoughts. Nope. I doubt I could make the descent from the top through the tears without having a fun trip down. I’m better off here. God will quite my tears. But oh the boys. I just shook. We both ached for the people in Landon’s life. There’s no way. This isn’t real. Please make the headline go away. Please rewind.

(I woke at 7:50 that morning from a hard sleep. Odd because I was off work that I couldn't sleep in more. Ok Lord, why I am awake. I wanted to sleep. I found myself praying for him and the boys. I hadn't seen a post in a while, but for some reason God put him on my heart in that moment. Random but very, very real. I had an odd fear that I couldn't shake. Only the Holy Spirit can give us that thought to pray for someone AND tell us the right thing to do with it when it feel out of place AND not be distracted and overwhelmed by fear. I prayed and prayed and couldn't shake it. I rolled over at 8:08 and scrolled through Facebook feeds from everyone. I stopped on Landon's goofy picture of him in his sweater ready for the boys Christmas party. Oh goodness that's a shirt! I laughed it off, prayed some more for them and set my phone down for what would be the morning until the theatre.)

I was there that sweet day that he and Michelle wed. There was never a guy with a bigger grin. That grin didn’t fade, but only grew with each birth of the boys. They were the whole world. I can’t shake that their world is shattered and one of their greatest figures is lost. The thought keeps me coming back and doing the one thing I know that God will keep on my heart. Praying and praying still. For Michelle and for the boys. For his family and friends. Heaviness for the heart was never a light load. But it was not our heaviness to carry alone.  There’s a saying in therapy that goes something like this. “No organ (heart, liver, lung, etc) was ever meant to be the bearer or receptacle for emotions. If we house them, they will end up somewhere and imbalance and disease starts. The mind is the only place that can process emotions.” I’ll add to that. Created in God’s image….God is the only one that can possibly help us process through emotions like grief, anger, helplessness, regret, and the unknown. He helps us in our stuck-ness and immovable nature when he has to. So as we grieve the loss, let us process all of these feelings at the foot of the cross, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to process through it ALL. Knowing we cannot handle all the answers, but God’s word will be sufficient. Hidden in our hearts, squeezed under pressure, now it bubbles to the top. Let us not perseverate (process to an unhealthy degree, fixing on one thing, and getting hung up on something, finding no resolve, but rather finding yourself stuck).

LET US FIX our eyes (heart and minds/thoughts) on Jesus. Author and PERFECTOR of our FAITH. It is going to take faith for his family and boys to keep going. Let us PRAY as a body of believers that we are. Pray like the body I grew up with at Wayland. God scattered us when our time there collective was done. But as a body we join together, hammering heaven with our prayers. God hears us.  God help us work through these emotions. Let us not become subjects of our emotions, but rather VESSELS to hear and be used by you alone God.

Pray for Landon’s family, friends, his crew. He would want that from us, not for him, but for his boys!

TO Caden, Colton, and Cannon:
I don’t know if you’ll ever read this but if you do…. Feel the prayers being prayed over you. Feel the Lord wrap His loving arms around you. Take your sadness to Jesus. He hears you and has never ever left you. Your dad would want you to remember that Jesus is the MOST precious, perfect decision that you will ever make. Caden, remember your mom and dad prayed this prayer with you to accept Jesus. (Your mom was so excited and shared this with her friends.) You have to lead now but lead your brothers with Jesus as your guide. He will help you and keep you on the right path. Remember that you are never alone. Remember the things your dad taught you. Remember the lessons he gave you in baseball. Do not store up hatred and anger. Get rid of it. None of it is worth holding and it won’t make it easier. Swing it away. Swing hard. Fight the good fight of FAITH. Keeping playing ball because that would make your dad so proud and you know it. He will be your biggest fan and has the best view. Keep your eyes open—you have the biggest angel in the outfield now! Colton and Cannon—keep smiling that big smile that your dad always had on his face. Keep believing, following Jesus, worshipping Jesus when you don't know what else to do, and one day you will see your dad again. 

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Oh the Places I Might Go: 9/11 Reflections

I sat at home today. When I closed my eyes after scrolling through FB, I realized the significance of today. I should not be sitting on my back porch at this moment. I should be in Greece, or Florence supporting my friends, or in Puerto Rico hearing my mentors and seeing a dear sister. But for some reason, I’m home. I said no to Greece because, well it was a “me time” trip and I just don’t take those. If conference or CEU is not part of it, I say no, because well for me I just don’t do that anymore. I feel sort of guilty if I'm away not bettering myself for my patients. As a mom, I feel like I can’t. As a full-time therapist, I don’t see how I can and leave the patients "for that many days." And it just doesn’t come out economically to take a fun, me trip anymore. What I’m NOT saying about Greece, is that it was a retreat. God time, not just me time. And I know sitting on my porch I should not have said NO to that, especially for pete’s sake…it was in GREECE! The one place over seas I have ALWAYS wanted to go. The one place that calls to me from the pictures of White and Blue mountainside and sea. I’ll go next year I hope. But today I know I could be there instead of here.

I said no to Florence with fleeting thought. Wanting to, but knowing other commitments hold me here. I’ll see it someday. Deadlines loom and call. And that again is why I’m here. That is why I'm off today. 

Puerto Rico. Well….IRMA. God has a funny way of showing me exactly where He wants me. And sometimes making it REALLY obvious. I should be flying out today to beautiful San Juan but here I sit. I’ve always wanted to go there. My dad used to travel to PR often, during his plant research and agronomy days. He cared for crops there and went for 2 weeks each time. Came back with stories of beauty and trinkets for us. And even a funny one of a snake crawling out of the sink while he talked to us one night.  I’ll go someday, just not today.

So here I sit. Breathing in the beauty of my back porch, my sweet place. Calling to God asking what He has JUST FOR ME. Begging Him to not let me miss His blessings, like I sort of feel today. I know that I haven’t, but appearance wise it might look and sound that way. I’m thankful to be alone, in the quiet, breathing in His presence, sitting in His sweetness knowing I have a FULL DAY of task ahead. Knowing I get to create, study, splice, and conquer the day ahead. I know I’m richer for it, but Lord give me your portion and strength to do a good job.

Here’s what I know. I know I’m in my own backyard for a reason. To hear Him speak again. 9/11 will always be a day I remember. Because the night before I was up until 3AM in the Owen lobby at Wayland Baptist University as an undergrad. I was praying, reading scripture, and then wrote Jody out a card. As I wrote, I re-read the front of the card: “God is MORE RELEVANT than this mornings headline." Gracious to remember that now! I dropped the card in campus mail and skipped to class. Jody ran up to me later that day, waving the card. “Did you read this? This is crazy! When did you buy that?” OH MY GOSH! "HE is MORE RELEVANT. Think of when you bought that and TODAY." 9/11/01.

As I scroll through the stories, pictures, and videos of 9/11 this morning, I’m still blown away. That card is the first thing I remember that 9/11 morning at 3AM reading that. Praying. Feeling overwhelmed as I read that in those early hours. Feeling so heavy, so burdened. Not knowing why but knowing all the same. Of course, to my horror and everyone else’s, the news showed pictures that no one wanted. Fear gripped and hearts sank beyond. WHAT ON EARTH is going on? That human spirit overwhelms me this morning. Seeing the video about Gander, Newfoundland was a first for me today. Hope given by a small town of 9 thousand, where NYC flights were diverted to and gained 6,500 more people that day. How people were loved by a town and hope was regained in grief, fear, sadness, and uncertainty. What a beautiful story! I'm praying for Houston, Port A, Dickinson, and all my Texas towns. Praying for Puerto Rico and FL, GA, and SC. Thankful that no terrorist created these, but knowing weather is brutally fierce and loss is overwhelming.

There is so much to learn from the rubble and ashes of 9/11. From any disaster. So much to make time for to be thankful for and reflect over TO REMEMBER. From these photos and memories, we each gain strength. From the blue beam photo below, we send light to the heavens and have HOPE. We gain PERSPECTIVE that each day is so very precious and we are never promised another day. It ultimately reminds me that my most important decision that was ever made was asking Jesus into my heart. There are no guarantees aside from HIM.

One more thing before I go. I feel these words are important:

Do not grieve the Spirit of God in who you were sealed until the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. 
Ephesians 4:30-31

Perspective is BEST gained by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit cannot be rushed, hurried, but is peaceful and brings healing. Healing that this Nation experienced 16 years ago. Healing that we need again. Read Genesis 1:2……Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

The Spirit always watches over, guides, provides, and checks on us. Always present and waiting. Hover with Him today a little longer. Wait on His presence. Let it FILL you up and give you wisdom. Wisdom we need to keep in step with the Spirit. I'm right where I'm supposed to be today. Thankful. Grateful. Filled. 

Love you friends! Have a blessed day!

Quote Inspiration
JOY cannot partner with grumbling. It must partner with FAITH to breathe LIFE!   MH

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Disney Surprise Trip 2017 & TIPS

Disney Adventure 2017

13 day trek across the lower southeastern states

Happy Harveys’
How much longer
Where are we?
Can we swim at the pool?
Where are we eating?
I’m hungry
I’m past hungry
(We must have seen HAN-gry 17 times!)

Kids Disney surprise quotes (before/after reveal):
Why are we driving in Disney World?
Are we going to Disney?
I wish we could go to Disney. We are already here.
We’re going right now? Why right now…it’s so late! (Cale)
Disney for 4 days! (Reece)
We're at Disney! This is crazy!! :)

Reece made friends on every ride, in every single line.
Cale hated drops in general.  
Magic Kingdom:  (several are repeated below)
Rides for fast passes: Space Mountain, Seven Dwarf Mine Train, Peter Pan, Pirates, Splash Mountain, Railroad, Buzz Lightyear
Other cool stuff: Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse
Eats: Crystal Palace-character dinner, Dole Whip (stand), Cinderella’s Royal Table- (didn’t do this but have heart it’s a cool experience but $$)

Download the Disney app to your phone!

Book your fast passes in advance:
Using a travel agent gets you 60-90 day access to book them early before your trip
Book them back to back. Use the 3 up early in the day then you will have more to use through the rest of your day at each park.

Do the Dining Package: easily pays for itself, then some! Know how many quick service, snacks, and sit down/table dinners you have for the entire time. Plan that out, booking table service meals/character dinners AS SOON AS you book your trip. These places fill fast and your reservation ensures that you have a spot and AC in the hot parts of the day! Dinners were nice breaks for the outside. This particular package is so nice when you don’t want to think about $ once your in the park.

Do the Photo Pass/Memory Maker: All the pictures you take in the park are covered and download straight to your app! Remember to download your pictures once your home by the date they tell you!

Get up close for Magic Kingdom fireworks on the upper right side of the castle. Tinkerbell flys over you at the end and makes for some great pictures. Get there 1 hour before the 9pm show to get your seat. I managed to find a spot for us 40 minutes before one but it was a process!

Buy Disney Gift Cards in the Months before you go from Walmart, Target, Sams, etc. That way you have money set aside before you go. We gave these to the kids for money they got to spend on stuff they wanted. Super helpful to give them $$ and YOU hang onto it.

Save on the Disney Hotel: Before you read this, stay where you want. I’m very logical and if you’re at the park from 7-8am-11pm to midnight daily, save your Monday and use an All-Star Disney resort room. You sleep and shower there, literally nothing else. The kids used the pool one night and it was HUGE with a good gift shop and dining hall with free drinks in the cup that is included on the dining package. The cup is free refills only at your resort hotel, not the parks. BUT take it with you to the park. Pour your drink in it from lunch. The cups are huge and some places that are quick service allowed free refills.

Magic Kingdom:
Opening show for the day- front of cinderella’s castle
Fast Passes:
7 Dwarf Mine Train
Buzz Lightyear
Splash Mountain
Jungle Cruise
Peter Pan
Space Mountain

Fun rides/ shows (no fast pass if wait is short):
Dumbo- cool indoor play area at this is optional
Magic Carpets
Astro Orbit: if you hate heights it might get you. It did me and rode it at night. I personally did not appreciate that it angled slightly being up that high and would not ride it again. This is the only ride I feel this way about. J
Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse
Stitch Show
Laugh Floor (Monsters Inc)
Small World (long, cool ride, indoor for most lines if its raining)

Animal Kingdom:
Have a fast pass for Flight of Avatar. GREAT RIDE! One of the BEST! Cale hated it because of thrill/drops. It’s all 3D, so if you hate that you can CLOSE YOUR EYES, which he quickly learned…once he finally listened. J He tried to crawl out but literally you can’t easily thank goodness.
Tusker House is where we did a character safari lunch. Great buffet and good AC. Arrive at your reservation time and check-in, expect a short wait.
Yak & Yeti: quick service- most counters can give you gluten free options, so just ask.
Starbucks: There’s one at every park. You can use a “snack” for this! A bonus because I needed coffee day 2-4!
Rides to Fast Pass:  Kilomanjaro Safari, Expedition Everest, Avatar, Navari Jungle Cruise (Pandora), Dinosaur
Tree Awakening: Check times. Starts at 9pm and goes every 10 minutes
River of Life: Night boat lightening Parade (10:30pm if your not exhausted by this point)

Hollywood Studios:
Jedi Training: through 12 years old. Arrive at the park early!! 2.5 hours before it opens or make breakfast reservations at Hollywood and Vine to get in park early. They only take a certain amount of “Jedi’s” daily so get there to sign them up.
Eats: Drive-In (eat in the old cars)
Hollywood & Vine (character dinner)
Backlot Express (Star Wars quick service lunch)
Fast Pass:
Tower of Terror
Aerosmith Rockin’ Roller Coaster (check the height limit- Cale was 44” and couldn’t ride it)
Toy Story Mania (SOOO much fun you have to do it 2-3 times!)
Star Tours
Fun Stuff:
Storm Trooper March: parade that open the day in AM
Indiana Jones Epic Stunts
Star Wars: Launch Bay- meet the characters!
Beauty and the Beast: check times; for us they were before 2pm so catch it early
Fantasmic: night show
Star Wars Fireworks: 9pm- awesome but overlaps with Fantasmic times a bit
FROZEN (sing-a-long): this was my pick! AND PROBABLY one of the FUNNIEST things I’ve gone to. The 2 hosts are SNL great! Do not miss it especially if you like the music already. Such a fun time! (Times run throughout the day.)

Epcot/Magic Kingdom Day Split: (Day 4):
Sorry if you like this place. It was fine, but not for me. I’m a saver and next trip I will not save time for this park unless the kids just want Test Track again. I’m glad I didn’t give it any more than 3.5 hours on the last day.  
Test Track: This is why you go!! Get there early. We did our fast passes at lunch and on at Magic Kingdom. You cannot book fast passes at multiple parks. Epcot opened at 8 and we walked very briskly to the back left corner to this ride for a 30 min or less wait. GREAT RIDE! Build your own race car and then “test” it out!
Spaceship Earth: Within the famous Epcot ball. Cool ending to the ride.
Soaring: Jody and Reece did this. Cool quick world tour in a hang glider.
Nemo: Cale and I did this. Very special time with my little guy. He’s still a fan of the movie he’s loved as long as he’s been alive. Nemo ride, walk through aquarium section, and do turtle talk show (~10-15 minutes).

Extras to Take into the Park:
-Ponchos: it rains a lot so be prepared!
-Camel Back for water (saved us in the 90 min wait lines when fast passes were not available)
-Water bottles/spray fans
-Chilly Pads
-Extra snacks, Gatorade
-If you have small kids take a stroller! There is stroller parking everywhere across the park. Have a stroller with folding ability, making it easier to go through buses and check points at the parks. Cale was 6 and rode the whole time. He traded Reece whose 9 when she was super tired from all the walking. Animal Kingdom for us was exhausting and many things were back and forth and seemed spread out.
-Take 2 power sources to charge your phone. Switch them to LOW Battery source under settings to save charge. We had 2 charged power packs and used them daily; charge them back up at night.
-Tennis shoes are a must. Flip flops are pain waiting to happen. Do not do it. You’re gone too much of the day to mess with anything but tennis shoes that are supportive. There were people in wedges, flops, converse, etc that just were not great choices when you’re doing multiple days in the park. No jellie sandals. You’re asking for blisters galore!

Other Adventures: 
Savannah, GA
Historic Downtown
Wormsloe Plantation entrance for the famous tree lined drive shot! (This for me was epic!)

Hilton Head, SC
Beach House Resort- highly recommend this place
Good pool, poolside movies for kids, good eats, live bands, beach access is direct from the pool.
Catch 22: dinner
Doughboy Pizza: great chopped salads and pizza

Bonus Stops & Visits:
Duck Commander
Monroe, LA

Kristin & Jonathan
Fairhope, AL
Pier, Lunch, and Mr. Gene’s Beans

Destin, FL

Ole Miss Stop to visit Cara & Brian
Oxford, MS

Big Bad Breakfast is the best!