Wednesday, April 16, 2014

An Extended Time of Rest

Over the years, I have done a lot of thinking about the Sabbath. About RESTING. I am thankful and feel very blessed to have grown up in a home where Sabbath rest was of the utmost importance. My parents taught me the value of keeping the Sabbath holy - of setting it apart as a day of rest. With my dad being a farmer, I now understand really, how important that day has been to my dad and mom. Sunday naps were a given and though I couldn't always sleep, it was still time for quiet and rest. Something we all need.

Our Sabbaths a few years ago, used to be just packed. In fact, we were reminiscing about Sabbaths of the past and here was the schedule: worship practice, church, Sunday school, small group, bell practice, youth group, then hang out with kids at our home. We literally did not stop going until 10:30-11:00 at night. We both realize that with Dan's job, his job does require work on Sundays at times. Although, the way the schedule is set up now here in Minnesota, we do not have youth group on Sundays. As the wife of a youth pastor, I have to admit, it has been the most refreshing feeling to just go to church on Sundays. I know that some things we could have said no to, like playing bells, worship team practice, and small group (which we loved), but the others were just part of Dan's (our) ministry.

Now having a fresher look at the Sabbath and having a day of rest, I have learned how valuable it is to take longer rests.

Over the past few days, you have seen pictures of our vacation to Islamorada. We have felt blessed to be able to take the opportunity to go on a vacation - especially to somewhere warm! I have an odd love of finding travel deals and planning a vacation at a cheap rate. Why I don't know, but it is something I have always loved!

One thing we thought of often on our vacation was how old our kids would be, if they were with us. We know if they were here on earth, we would not be in the Keys - but we said a few times, we would trade the vacation for having our two kids with us. God gently reminded us though throughout the week, through that time of rest, that He has our lives in His hands. We also know that the ability to travel right now, is a blessing too. Therefore, we are trying to make the most out of the situation God has us in.

We recognized this week that even though God is giving us no clear direction, except no direction at all (to just be still), that we are to continue to live in contentment in where God has us. Adoption? We don't know. A healed heart? We pray. A stable heart? We are thankful. Each day that I don't need surgery is a blessing. Each day that Dan and I have the opportunity to live out God's calling our life? We treasure.

Being able to sit back and rest last week, reminded us of God's goodness in our lives. We realized the continued need to find rest, relaxation, and refocusing. Learning to focus on what is important in life and not getting caught up in the events of any given week. Learning to take that break (sometimes more than just a Sabbath break), to learn more about WHO God is, in His creation.

We aren't those "go find the nightlife" people. Put us in the middle of pure nature and we will be entertained for hours. There is so much to learn about God in His creation - in different parts of this world. And each of those places offers a sense of rest.

As we adjust back to civilian life in a way, we are thankful for the extended Sabbath stay and God's reminders of His faithfulness to us.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Islamorada Vacation - Part 3

My final installment of pictures of our Islamorada vacation! I apologize if these have gotten boring, but really, there was so much to take pictures of that I couldn't resist!

One of the biggest highlights of our trip was going on a guided fishing charter, just Dan and I. Dan has been dreaming of doing this, and I am thankful that this dream came true for him - he worked hard to save that money! As much as it has been something he always wanted to do, I have to say I equally loved it just as much - it was incredible! We had an amazing guide/captain, which made it all the more memorable!

My first catch, a lizard fish - the teeth on that fish were huge!

 We went fishing on the outskirts of the Everglades National Park. It felt like we were in the middle of no where, out in the Gulf of Mexico. It was an incredible feeling - just us, the water, and God. So many times I found myself just marveling at God's creation and what He created! Many times we found ourselves speechless.
 God even surprised us with a sighting of dolphins!
 Dan's first catch...
 My mangrove snapper, with our guide in the background
 We both caught a fish at the same time - lets not talk about whose is bigger ;)
 The ladyfish were crazy to catch - such fighters and very aggressive!

 Dinner for the next couple of nights! Dan doesn't really like fish, but he LOVED the mangrove snapper! Incredible, I must say!
 Our guide filleting our fish
 Let me tell you, we were in the sticks of the ocean!
 I didn't know pelicans could turn their heads a full 180 degrees - it is awkward to watch, yet jaw dropping!
 The sunsets were so gorgeous
 What a picture - you have tarpon in the background, a giant sting ray in the bottom, with pelicans just swimming by...
 This egret wants a piece of our fish!
 Another gorgeous sunset! We ate a dinner at an outdoor restaurant and watched the sunset. One of the most beautiful settings I have ever eaten a meal in!

 A tree growing in the middle of a bridge...odd, right?
 Crab just crawling along the oceans edge
 Another thing we were looking so forward to was snorkeling! We weren't sure how good the snorkeling was, but our first day at Bahia Honda State Park, was incredible snorkeling! The water was so clear, the sun was shining bright, and it wasn't too wavy. We even were able to see some colorful fish!
 And a sting ray that came EXTREMELY close...a little too close for my comfort, but amazing nonetheless
 Loving it out there!
 It looks like we are in a pool, but this is on the bayside of Bahia Honda State Park - in the Gulf of Mexico
 We had so much fun snorkeling!
 Our ride for the week! A tad small, but worth every penny because it got insane gas mileage!
 Our fish we caught and cooked up for supper!
 One of my most favorite meals while down there! Kale salad with freshly caught fish
 We are continuing our Sterk Skip-Bo tourney that we started 1 1/2 years ago. I am currently ahead 35-30 and we play the best out of 3. You do the math and know that we have played a LOT of Skip-Bo in the past 1 1/2 years :)
 It was hard to see this vacation end, but our home is in Minnesota. It took a day or two to get adjusted to the keys and it took us a day to get adjusted back here in the colder weather. But, we are so thankful that God has brought us to where he has. It was good to take a step away, get refreshed, and refocus. We are hoping to head back there someday...

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Islamorada Vacation - Part 2

A few more pictures of our vacation to the Florida Keys...

If you missed Part 1, you can check it out HERE
One of our most favorite places we visited was Bahia Honda State Park. We loved it so much that we ended up going there twice! The pictures will have you sold!
This is 7 mile bridge - it is one LONG bridge, that stretched across the beautiful waters of the Keys! I could drive on that bridge all day!
 Palm trees always make a picture look that much more beautiful!
 Walking along the Old Bridge Trail, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean
 The other half of the bridge, which is no longer usable and now provides a channel for boats to go through

 I asked Dan to find a good rock for me to put under my chair so that I could "recline"...never underestimate what he can find!
 Loved hanging out with this guy all week!
 Absolutely breath-taking! The different colors of the water were just incredible!
View of the bayside park where we went snorkeling
 The butterfly trail along the ocean
 The butterflies were designs and colors I had never seen before!

 Even though sea grass lined the beach, it was so natural that it just added beauty!
 Dan was able to get an out of state fishing license for a few days, so he was able to fish right by our condo!
 His first catch...
 Lo and behold, it was a barracuda!
 Have you ever seen their teeth? My goodness!

 And another barracuda was caught...I am glad he enjoyed catching them...better him than me! He also had a large nurse shark come within about 7 feet of him!
There is a reason why they call Islamorada the sports capital of the world! Fishing supplies, boats, and fish, are everywhere! We were loving it! Plus, the weather was just absolutely wonderful - even though it was a little windy by the end of the week, it was still gorgeous!

One more day to come with pictures...