Life's Sweet Journey: April 2016

Monday, April 25, 2016

Happy Things 2016 Linkup// April Happies

This month's happy things post is short and sweet! I will share more of April's wonders later, as I know there will be much to share with you all. 

I am currently making my way back from Africa. I know there will be so much to process- so many thoughts and feelings working their way through me- which is why I found this quote so fitting for this month. With all the uncertainty at the beginning of the month about the things I would experience in Africa, I know that this month and this time away will be something that I will probably long to remember for the rest of my life. 

Happy last Monday of April friends! I hope this month has been good to you! Looking forward to seeing your Happy Things! Feel free to add your link below! 
Link Up Rules: 
- Share a post (up to 2) about anything happy; it can be 5 happy things, 1 happy thing, really just anything for the month that has made your heart smile! 
- Feel free to share the image above, or link back, so that others can link up their happy things too!
- Leave a happy comment on at least one other post
- I will interact with all posts in some way (comments, pinning to Happy Things 2016 board...)
- Share your happy things on Instagram using #happythings2016
- Come back on the last Monday of each month to share your happy things for that month and start a community of people who are adding a bit of cheer to Mondays! 
- Link up will be run through Friday of the same week

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Guest Post: Visiting Scotland with Kristin the Traveling Teacher

Happy Tuesday Friends! 

I am currently over in Africa and so this sweet gal is guest posting for me today! 

Meet Kristin, aka The Traveling Teacher!! She is absolutely the sweetest! The adventure bug bit her long before it ever bit me and she is a great wealth of knowledge for all things hiking and outdoor exploring! She shares some of her awesome adventures on her blog, but you can also find her sharing some awesomely stunning views from travels over on Instagram! She is sharing some of her favorite spots from Scotland with us, but head over to here spot of the internet to check out more of her adventure fun!! 

And don't forget to visit my post from last week and link up your adventures for #TravelTuesday!

Top 10 Places to Visit in Scotland

For two weeks my family and boyfriend traveled around Scotland! These are my top places I recommend to visit!  There are even more places that we went and you can read a more in depth story about we did, how we traveled, and where we stayed in the travel section here!  Scotland is definitely a must visit with many historical sights to visit along with natural beauty!
rosslyn chapel
1)Rosslyn Chapel– The heart of Robert the Bruce is buried there.
2)Doune Castle– Made famous by Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Outlanders
fairy forest2
3)Fairy Pools and Fairy Forest on Isle of Skye- These are located in two different places on Skye but both are EXTREMELY COOL! The fairy pools are beautiful pools of clear water that run from the mountains. The fairy forest are small mounds that you can climb up.  People have left the fairies gifts in different places.
kilt falls
4)Kilt Falls– This is a beautiful waterfall that drops into the ocean. There are also dinosaur footprint fossils nearby!
5)Quiraing– Amazing jagged landforms made by glaciers moving through the land- some good hiking trails around.
6)The Butt of Lewis– Amazing Light house with dramatic cliffs. If it is warm enough there is a beautiful beach nearby.  This is also the windiest place in the UK.
7)Callanish Standing Stones– These are standing stones similar to the concept of Stone Henge.
ardvreck castle2
8)Ardvreck Castle – Located in Ullapool this is a beautiful ruin castle that is surrounded by crystal clear waters of a highland lake.
9)Skara Brae– A 5000 year old stone age village that was uncovered in a brutal storm. It was inhabited from roughly 3180 BC–2500 BC!
dunrobin castle
10)Dunrobin Castle– This is still occupied but you are still able to tour it. There is also an amazing falconry show.
If you have any questions about our trip, please feel free to ask!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

#TravelTuesday 4// Laying Aside Fears of International Travel

As someone who loves adventure and thrill, it surprises people to learn that international travel scares me. I am usually up for anything! But after Greece, international travel scared me and I never really had a strong desire or need to see other parts of the world. Fear told me that the United States was full of enough beauty for a lifetime- and it is, full of so much beauty. But being afraid to step outside my comfort zone, and cutting off anything outside the borders of the U.S., discredits the rest of the amazing world that God created.

What am I afraid of? I think mostly the unknown. I like knowing what to expect. Do I think other places are really any scarier or more dangerous than the United States? No, not really. I think all places have things that it is right to be cautious of, in their own way. I just know the things to be afraid of in the states. Going to a new place means not knowing the things to be that I should be wary of.

It also makes me nervous to not be able to communicate with people. A communicator by nature, I love to talk to people, I love to be able to share stories and learn more about them and speaking different languages makes that hard. It makes me nervous not being able to understand what those around me are saying and not being able to join in on conversations. But my trips to Costa Rica helped alleviate some of that fear. There is a lot that can be spoken with expressions and having interpreters helps and sometimes you just branch out, make a fool of yourself and try to learn their language on-the-go. People are generally kind and willing to be helpful, in between laughs at all the things you said completely wrong! It really is true, that the best way to learn a new language is to immerse yourself in the culture.

But if I am being truly honest, I think the thing that might scare me the most is how God will use this trip to change me. I believe that travel in the U.S. can impact my heart and teach me things, but I am not sure if those trips will ever have as high a probability of creating pivotal moments in my life that can truly change parts of my heart. Change and me, we have never really gone well together- change has a funny way of rocking your entire world off its axis. I don’t enjoy having my world rocked, but I know that anyway He chooses to change me will be for the better- for His glory- it just doesn’t make it almost any less terrifying. God has a way of asking big things of those who follow Him. He breaks our hearts, over and over again, for what breaks His. He invites us to be part of the story He continues to write and it is, all at once, exciting and scary! Pivotal moments in life are usually never easy; they come with challenges and heartache, filling your heart with things that can tear it clean in two. But God is there, always with you, holding you, helping you and mending your heart. I need to remember that! And so I tell myself that, over and over, because I refuse to NOT do things because of fear! Fear will not stop me, because fear CAN NEVER stop God and He is always on my side!!

And so I remind myself of that and of all the wonderful things I would have missed out on if I have chosen to let fear take the wheel... 

//The beauty of Greece & Turkey// Sure, I was already there when my fear kicked in, but if I had chosen to let fear define my trip I wouldn't have truly seen the beauty that the country had to offer! 

//This miracle moment// My first out-of-country mission trip to Costa Rica was all girls (at least those of us leaving from the states) to drill wells with Agua Viva Serves. We worked alongside those in the community where the well was being built and other Costa Ricans employed through Agua Viva. The team helped me learn some spanish and then showed me how to work the drill rig! Helping with the pipes made me feel a sense of strength I had never experienced before and gave the guys a good chuckle to see that a girl could do some of the heavy lifting (they were very wary when I first asked them to teach me, especially since, in the Costa Rican culture, manual labor jobs are seen as men only work). Then, in the midst of all the mud, and the sweat and shoveling, a pipe striped and that pipe, the others connected to it and the drill bit all broke off from the rig and disappeared into the (now very deep) ground. We were worried that we had just lost all the progress, a weeks worth of labor hours, as well as expensive material literally down the hole; but God showed up in a big way and the guys were able to find a way to get the pipes out of the ground, find the striped pipe, replace it with a new one and keep going! I would have missed the elation and praise and smiles of that moment if I had let fear keep me from getting on the plane! 

//Babe's first mission trip// That first trip to Costa Rica, proved to me that I can live outside of the fear I had created in my head! The God moments of that trip began opening a door in my heart which led to another trip with Agua Viva Serves, but this time WITH BABE! This was his first mission trip ever (I had done others in the US when I was in youth group), but this was his first. It was so great to experience that time together and to watch God work through and around him! (man am I going to miss that face while I'm gone!) 

//And now for AFRICA// God used each of those moments to open the door of my heart, inch by inch, to say to me, "You! Go to Africa!" It was small at first, a nudge on a nudge, and then He screamed it at me!! And so, here I am go! And I am ready; even if my heart flutters and my knees shake a bit! I am ready and open and anxious to see what He will teach me!! 

Any travel advice for this nervous girl? Anyone been to Kenya? 
Anywhere fun you've been adventuring lately? Or plans to adventure soon?
Join in for this month's linkup and let's travel together! Just add your link below! 
~On the 2nd Tuesday of every month I will be sharing a new travel destination and would love to see where you have been exploring! 
~Any linked posts will be pinned under Travel Tuesday on my Pinterest
~No real rules, as I am not a huge fan of those sorts of things! Just add any travel related link and I encourage you to peek around and see where everyone else has been. Leave a little love where you like! 
~Feel free to grab the image from the sidebar and add it to your post so others know where to link up. 
Excited explore the globe with you all!!

Monday, April 11, 2016

Laying Aside Fears of International Travel// Part 1: I'm Going to Africa!

Tomorrow is the second Tuesday of the month and time for another #TravelTuesday linkup, but this months post will be a little different than previous ones. Over the next two days, in preparation for Africa, I am sharing some of the things laying on my heart and some big fears I have when it comes to travel. I know what you might be thinking, that with my usual "just do it" attitude and love for big adventures, how could I be scared of travel? Well, to be honest, international travel freaks me out. It has for a while, but I do NOT want to let fear keep me from living life to the fullest and experiencing what God's great world has to offer... 

It’s really funny to me that to start this year off I burned away some of the things I felt were holding me back or weighing heavy on my heart. FEAR was probably one of the biggest of those- of not doing things for fear of the outcome. I have also been calling this my “let it be” year- whatever it is, whatever comes, whatever God places in my path, I am just going to let it be and see where He leads me. Well, this year one of those moments came in the form of the opportunity to go to Africa, on a vision trip, with other staff members from Summit Church, where I work in Children’s Ministry. And as soon as I was asked to go 'fear' tried to rear its ugly head and wrap a vice around my throat.

A little backstory: I discovered, while on our honeymoon in Greece, that international travel was not all I thought it was cracked up to be, at least for me personally. While it was a beautiful trip, I spent much of my time anxious and nervous and out of my element. So after finding Summit, and deciding to make it our church home, we learned that they had a strong tie to working alongside those in Africa. I thought “well, I can be supportive from the states, but going just wouldn’t be something that’s for me.” Flash forward a few years and a mission trip to Costa Rica (I had a “minor” freak out while we were in line to board the plane and was on edge for a bit, until I settled in and soon felt at home among the Costa Ricans and was blessed with an amazing experience) and there I was sitting in service when it was mentioned that people should join and go to Africa. My heart jumped and felt a nudge- you know that little push that says, “hey, you! I want you to listen to this. Maybe you should go to Africa.” I brushed it away, thinking this is the people pleaser in me coming to a head now that we were invested in Summit. So I let it slip away.

A little later and I found myself working at the church, where, as a staff member, it is strongly encouraged that you go to Africa once every 5 years. I thought, “welp, how am I going to work my way out of that one?” And a little voice whispered, “you’re not.” Then the summer teams for Africa come around and I felt my heart jump again- nudge, nudge. I considered looking into joining a team, but then, fear… So I looked for other ways to plug in with our Africa partnerships and we began sponsoring a sweet little guy from Malawi. But the nudges didn’t end.

And so, I sat and I prayed and I asked for a sign, “Lord, you know me. You know the fears that will continue to stop me and you know I am horrible at making decisions. You also know what a people-pleaser I am. Is this really you telling me to go or is it the people-pleaser in me wanting validation? Ok look, if someone asks me to go, then I will know You want me to really consider it!” Yes, I ended with consider it, knowing full well if God wanted me to go to Africa He wanted me to go and not just consider.  So I ended my prayer and I left it alone.  And then trips came and went for another summer and the trips for this upcoming summer had also already been set and I thought I was in the clear. I even thought that I might actually consider joining next years trip, to the organization through which we sponsor, had even briefly mentioned sitting in on one of the Africa meetings to Babe and just decided it wasn't for us right now. And it wasn't, for us... 

Because out of the blue, just a little over a month ago I got asked to possibly go on a trip to Kenya. Not only was the trip just about a month away, but this trip also came with the added possible commitment of going back in August. That God! He’s definitely got a sense of humor! “So you wanted to wait for me to be glaringly obvious that you should go? Well, ok, how about going twice?” Because this trip will include working with kids, they wanted people from our children’s ministry team to go. A few of the people that were first asked could go in April, but committing to go back in August was tough, as the August trip will be the first week kids go back to school. That led to me- no kids, nothing holding me back from being able to commit to going twice. God was just sitting back and shaking His head with a chuckle, I can just picture it now...

To be honest, I still tried to look for a way out. I met with the guy who initially asked me (our global partnerships coordinator, also going on the trip), so that I could get some of my questions answered. Every question I had (every possible excuse I kept in my back pocket if I wanted to let fear win) was met with only open doors that I had no ability of closing. I sat in that meeting and I just knew, “I am going to Africa.” Sure, I had to discuss things with Babe, but I pretty much committed. If God wants me in Africa, Babe isn’t going to stop Him. And apparently neither was I. And so, here I go, on Thursday, to finally say yes to something God has been nudging me about for a while.

Maybe this trip itself is why He was nudging me all along, giving me 2+ years to prepare my heart for something huge! To prepare my heart for truly surrendering this decision to Him. My walk with God has always been one where I keep trying to take the wheel, but after John Wayne died, I realized that trying to steer things myself was only ever going to leave me in a tangled mess on the highway. And so this year I committed to letting it be- to stop trying to take control- and He is using that surrender to take me far beyond anything I could have ever imagined for this year.

Am I still afraid? Yes! But I am excited too! I am excited to see how this will impact my walk with Him. I am looking forward to getting to know the Matlacks more and to meet those they work alongside in Ngando, the community we will spend the majority of our time in while we are in Nairobi. I am so thankful for the opportunity to take part in this trip and so thankful that God is bigger than fear!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Words for Wednesday// A Sense of Companionship!

It's Wednesday Y'all!! 
And we are just that much closer to Friday and I am that must closer to Africa! 
8 days and counting! It is all still so crazy to me! 

Babe informed me that this will be our longest time apart in over 10 years, pretty much since we started dating. I hadn't thought about it much to be honest. I have been so focused on the fact that I am leaving, and SOON, and trying to process everything. I am sad that he won't get to experience this trip with me, but there is also a part of me that knows it is so healthy and good for us to take trips separate from one another. My first out of country mission trip to Costa Rica was also sans Babe and I learned so much about myself, about my abilities and about the way God was personally working in my heart and I know this trip will be no different. But it doesn't mean I won't miss him! 

So we are heading out this weekend for a little time away! We are taking Flo out to Highland Hammock State Park for a little hiking and relaxing! One of my favorite things about our time in Flo is the simplicity of it all; it's the slow early mornings, the late night fires and games of rummy, the endless conversations on our long hikes, the nothingness (no outside distractions, no checklists, no phone service) that brings so much life giving goodness into our relationship! I am looking forward to soaking a weekend full of companionship in, before two weekends apart! 

Middle-of-nowhere Florida, here we come!! 
Happy Humpday everyone! We're almost there!!