Life's Sweet Journey

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2015! Let it Ring!

A bad habit I am going to break:
Worry! I want to surrender worry. To let go of things I can’t control (ie everything) and just let it be.

A new skill I would like to learn:
I would like to learn how to best be still. To sit in the quietness of the morning with an empty mind and open heart so that I can best be available to just listen. I want to be able to sit and take in a moment with God without my own thoughts for the day ahead, or the latest worry that I have already spent time obsessing over, trying to out shine the still small voice to I so need to hear.

A person I hope to be more like:
My Mimi. She was a woman filled with such quiet grace and so much wisdom. When my mom said to me recently “you are your Mimi's kind of Christian, must skip a generation” I thought so much about what that meant. The thought made me smile. Though she may think I am more like Mimi than her I don’t know if I am as much like Mimi as I would like to be. Quiet? Nope! Wisdom? Doubtful! Loud grace? Maybe. I want to work on the rest of it.

A good deed I am going to do:
I am not sure how much I like this one, because I would like to think that I just do them when the moment arises and that I need not think about it. However, I know that I feel short on something that had been sitting on my heart. There is a homeless man that I pass every morning on the way into work. I often try to avoid him because I have nothing for him. But that isn’t true. I can smile, I can try to arrive early so that I have time to say hello, to talk to him. I had meant to bring a little Christmas bundle with me the last week of school, a gift to give him, but also something to spark a conversation. When the last day rolled around and I walked out of the parking garage, my heart sank because I realized I hadn’t done what I had intended too. I currently have the bag packed with goodies and plan to take it on the first day back in the New Year.

A place I would like to visit:
Though I doubt I will make it this year, I would really like to go to Africa and it is something that I would like to start planning and saving for. Going to Africa is something that I have always been afraid of, for many reasons. 1.) I am not an out of my comfort zone traveler. I decided during our honeymoon trip abroad that I was a US traveler. But a trip to Costa Rica to work with Agua Viva Serves changed that perspective, at least in terms of mission work. I want to REALLY go out of that comfort zone. 2.) I can’t help but think that it will forever change my heart, my life and my perspective. And while I know that it will all be for the better, change at all, terrifies me. I want to let that go!!
And so I just want to do it. I want to let go of the fear and go, for myself and for the Still Small Voice that I hear saying, “Just go.”

A book I would like to read:
I received Unwrapping the Greatest Gift, The Family Christmas Treasury by Ann Voskamp. Next year at Christmas I hope to read through it with my family during Advent. That and the Jesus Storybook Bible, again! I know I have mentioned it in pretty much every other post, but seriously! I love it!

A letter I am going to write:
I have so often thought about this letter. I have started to form it so many times in my head. It is a letter to a girl I do not know, a friend of a friend, who wrote to me after my brother died. Her letter meant so much to me and I have never let her know. I want to do that. I want to actually finish it. I had been at such a loss of words right after and even now I am not sure how best to tell her just how much it touched my heart. But I plan to!

A new food I am going to try:
Try all the foods!! That is all!

I’m going to do better at:

Being present! Being fully enveloped in each moment. In the stillness when it’s still, in the chaos when it’s called for, in the sad moments when your heart just needs to weep or when you just need to be someone’s shoulder and in the joy when God graces my life with unbound, mouth-splitting, teeth-shining glory. Present in all the moments; big, small and in between.

Here's to 2015!! 

I would love to see your plans for 2015! 
1.)Link-up using the link below! 
2.) Use the image at the top of this post and share what you hope to have in store for the new year. Have other plans not on the list? Create your own 2015 list and share it! 
3.) Link back so that others can link-up too! 
4.) Explore all the 2015 fun!! 

Monday, December 29, 2014

The Ache of Christmas

The tree stands glowing in the center of the window, in the same place it has always stood, adorned with the same ornaments for over 20 years. It looks the same as it always has, yet it means something different this year. It holds on its limbs the sweetest of memories, but they are memories so very sweet that they leave an ache behind. An empty, dull, pit in your stomach ache, because they hold all that isn't there. It meant the same last year, but I may have been too blinded with grief that I didn't see them. Or they were too hard to put up. This year the sting wasn't so fresh. It didn't take just the feel of the breeze to make the world hurt. But the ache is still there, it will always be there. In the mention of a name and in the ornaments that hang amid light draped branches. They are the sweetest memories and they still can be. But it's the texts you get from your dad, who is putting the ornaments on the tree, saying it's a slow going process. He doesn't say why, but you know. So you go over and you help and though you don't hang but one ornament its just the fact that there is someone there to look and see. To look and see and not need to say anything, because you both know what the other is thinking. You both know that the ornaments mean so much, but feel so hard. 
The ache is still there on Christmas morning. It's there when you are making waffles and eating them. And it's there as tears fall down faces during a pre-breakfast prayer. It's there in between all the wrapping paper and bows. It's there when presents are presented. Beautiful paintings that so artistically brought sweet memories to life. Yet, the ache is there because on this side of heaven the closest we will get to life here on earth with my brother is the smile in the paintings and in the memories that fill our hearts. It's there when you smile at the joy of a three year old opening presents, hugging Elsa dolls close. It ebbs and flows and sometimes gets forgotten, but it comes back. And really that's ok. 

The ache can be handled, it can be tolerated. Though we hate that it has to be tolerated, we will tolerate it all the same. Because it's better than forgetting all together. For numbing it down so much that you crawl blindly through the holidays. That's about where I was last year, there isn't much that I remember. This year the picture is different. There was more color, more light. There was so much more life in this Christmas. I am glad for that. I am glad that on Christmas, on the time of year that we celebrate life, that we celebrate the greatest Birth there ever was, that I can ache. When a part of you is gone, some of you will always ache. I think it is similar to the way our hearts are hardwired to ache for Jesus. We think fondly of the sweetest gift, the gift that filled the whole world with hope. We ache for the fact that we are so far from sitting face-to-face with Jesus, but we are glad for the fact that someday we will. I am glad that the ache can remind me of all that was good. I am glad for the sweet memories of life that will make it just as hard to take down the tree as it was to put up. And I am glad for the fact that, while I ache here on earth, it is just a matter of time before I see my brother again and get to rejoice at seeing his face. I get to rejoice because the sweet memories will be there, but all the hard things will be long forgotten. 

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas

Love. On a day like Christmas that is what we need; to know that we are loved. Loved so much that God became Love here on Earth, in the body of a vulnerable baby. The baby, His only Son, that was sent to save the world. Jesus, sent to save the world because we are loved; loved for just being His. Loved with the truest Love of all. No strings, no requirements, nothing we must do to earn it. Just loved!

Merry Christmas to all
And to all a good night! 

Monday, December 22, 2014

A Very Merry Disney Christmas!!

I love Disney at Christmas!! There is so much to see and take in and it is simply beautiful!!

Here are some of my favorite things about Christmas at Disney! 

1.) Osbourne Family Lights 
You just can't beat them! And, it even snows!! In Florida! 
2.) The Trees
I love seeing the trees at all the different parks and resorts!! Each one is so unique. 
3.) The Grand Floridian
If  you are a Disney lover, if you are a Christmas lover, then the Grand Floridian can not be missed. The Grand Floridian is gorgeous no matter when you go, but at Christmas it is just perfection! The trees, the banisters, but mostly? The gingerbread house! Babe and I went the other night and spent almost two hours just walking around. The gingerbread house is covered in hidden Mickeys and we spent a good chunk of time trying to find them all. It's also wonderful to just stand in the middle of the lobby and take it all in. I can't get enough!

4.) Epcot
We are waiting to go to the Candlelight Processional, but I am can't wait to see it now as adult. To see the meaning it will take on when I can understand it more than I did as a child and it was just this thing my parents drug me too when I really wanted to just ride rides. Epcot grows more dear to my heart each time I go. I can't wait to hear the story of Jesus and walk around the world showcase to explore (and eat yummy food) holidays around the world. 
5.) Jesus
Yup, Jesus! I love so much that the true meaning of Christmas is not left out of the beauty that is a Disney Christmas. Hark, the Herald Angels Sing plays through the light show. A beautiful manger scene sits at the opening to a street with endless lights at Hollywood Studies. At Epcot a wonderful cast of people is set to tell the Christmas Story, while a glorious chorus sings about the Good News! It really doesn't get a whole lot better than Jesus and Disney together!!

This year I dropped hints pretty much screamed at Babe that I would love for Santa to fill my stocking up with Disney love (that an honey). I figured since he might need a refresher on some fun stocking ideas that I would share some of my favorite Disney stocking stuffer ideas with all of you. Just join the giveaway below for your chance to stuff your own stocking with a little Disney magic. I will email the winner the day after Christmas! You will get all these fun goodies, plus a few extra Disney surprises. Nothing like getting presents once it's all said and done. All of these little happies are some of my favorites. I especially love the his and hers car toppers, because my Minni always makes my car so easy to spot!!
*Also, if you are ever looking for a cheap souvenier to buy when you visit Disney, head to the Grand Floridian and check out their bath shop on the second floor. Great gifts in general, but for something inexpensive they put together little baggies of the ends of their bar soap that is left over from the bigger soaps people buy per slice.  They are usually about $3 dollars a bag and often full of the Mickey ear soap options.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Breezy Unpacking// Our Time on the Carnival Breeze

This current post is a tactic, an unpacking tactic. I hate unpacking! I hate unpacking so much that my suitcase (which has now been home for over almost 2 weeks) is still in the corner of my room... FULL of clothes. And since this post here beat out unpacking it, it will probably remain full for another week. My husband encourages urges me to please unpack it... bless his patience! So while it sits and soaks in the glory of its island smells I figured it would be a great time to "unpack" said trip.
We are big cruisers. We have spent the last two years cruising over New Years. This year however, due to rates, it was A LOT more economical to cruise during Thanksgiving. We have never been gone on a big family holiday and I will be honest when I say that I missed being with everyone more than I thought I would. I did NOT miss the sometimes added stress that the day can be bring though. Our Thanksgiving (with the exception of trying failing to get wifi to faceTime home) was as relaxing as could be. We spent it exploring Aruba and enjoying a nice dinner aboard the Carnival Breeze.

Most of our previous cruises have been through Carnival, but the Breeze has by far been our favorite ship. The amenities were wonderful and we loved the food choices. Our ports of call were all spots we had never been too and were all fantastic.
  These are my top 5 loves of the Breeze
*Please pardon my grainy iPhone pics... I did not bring my good camera. Yes, I am sad about it.
1.) The Food- The food choices on the Breeze are great. With other cruises there are always options, but it can usually mean subpar option 1 vs. subpar option 2. The Breeze has wonderful lunch options, Guy's Burger Joint,  Fat Jimmy's BBQ, and my personal fave, the Blue Iguana Cantina burrito bar. Guy's burgers were Babe approved and had all kinds of yummy additions/ sauces to use to build your own burger. Burgers were even open into an early dinner and so we chose to do that a few times. We only ate in the main dining room 3 out of 8 nights. And don't worry about the waits, even with a full ship we never waited any longer than we would wait for Chipotle or Five Guys during lunch at home. The Italian restaurant that required a small fee for dinner was free for lunch. It was sit down and really good (lasagna, yum!). This did take a while and the basketball court was overhead, but it was worth it. The Red Frog Pub also had really yummy small plate options for just $3.33. Andrew got the wings and I got the sliders, which we both devoured and quite enjoyed over a game of checkers!
**Cruise insider tip- If you are willing to pay for the steakhouse on ship we totally recommend it!! Great food and not unreasonably priced for the food you get. However, if you set a reservation for the first night of the cruise (when less people are willing to go) you receive a free bottle of wine with your meal. We chose to have 1 glass with dinner and then take the bottle with us to our room. We use it during the cruise to make wine coolers for by the pool. Use the morning juice (mix orange and the passion fruit) with white wine for a fresh and light flavor.
** You are also able bring a bottle of wine (or a 12 pack of soda/water) per person on Carnival ships. We brought a sweet red with us and use that make sangria. Mix the red wine with the lemonade available for lunch and some fresh fruit from the salad bar and your afternoon pool refreshment is set to go!
2.) The Movies- Another reason we only ate dinner in the main dining room half the nights was because of all the great Dive in Movies! There is a big theater screen out on the pool deck. Deck loungers + blanket + a wonderful movie line-up + POPCORN = one happy me!! You may be able to take the girl away from her house, but home can be with her wherever she goes! The last night of the cruise we literally watched movies from 6 until midnight. Movies included newer releases like Fault in our Stars, Maleficent, How to Train Your Dragon 2 and Divergent.
Photo from Carnival
3.) The Spa- Oh how we "enjoyed" the Dominican Republic! We didn't leave the ship. This was the one day that we didn't have anything researched and so we were planning to just get off the ship, explore town and then get back on. However, the nearest town was still a bus ride away and it had started to rain as were were exiting the ship. We made it down the gang plank, discussed our options for -5 minutes and turned right back around and headed to the spa. We chose to spend the money, that we would have spent on getting into town, on the use of a days access pass to the spa suites. These were thermal therapy rooms with these body-form, heated, tile beds that were just glorious. There was also a Thalassotherapy pool that we are still not sure of how it works other than the fact that after a day using all of these amenities our bodies felt 10 years younger. If we can splurge the next time we will choose to stay on the spa floor... all the rooms have balconies and full week access to the spa rooms. However, I think if we choose that option we may never see any other part of the ship.
4.) The Activities- From the awesome water slides, to the sports square with a high-ropes course, to the Harry Potter trivia this ship had so much for us to do. Though we did spend a lot of time lounging in the sun we were able to get active when we wanted to. Which was good for Babe, because while I could sit, unmoving (save turning the pages of my book), he prefers to have something to do every now and then.
**Cruise tip- Cruising at Thanksgiving was the perfect time for people looking for a spot by the pool. Maybe it was because the Breeze is a bit bigger than our past ships, but I didn't really feel it had much more lounge space than other boats. However, we never had to fight for a place to soak up the sun. On previous cruises we Andrew would have to rise at the crack of dawn, scrounge for chairs and hope our stuff didn't get moved onto one chair should he get up. That or we would have to find two chairs, at opposite ends of the ship and move them into a crook in some obscure corner. On this ship we always had a spot. It may be because the Thanksgiving cruise included a lot of younger families, whose kids wanted to be by the slides, verses when we cruise over New Years when there are very few kids on the ship and mostly couples or college groups looking to lounge during the day and party at night.
Grand Turk Lighthouse Trail
5.) The Destinations- We loved  the stops on this cruise (Grand Turk, Curacao, Dominican Republic, Aruba). And while we did have to drive to Miami, which is the furthest we've gone to get on a boat, we found that it was worth it. We are also getting our cruise legs and are a little more adventurous with how we spend our time. We don't book through the ship and it usually ends up serving us well. More on all of that later, because Grand Turk (my new favorite spot) needs its own post, this one is getting long enough as it is. To see my reviews of each port head here

Insider Tips
**If you are going to book a spa service, always wait for a deal. You can attend the spa raffle that goes on right before/ during the sail away party. You can win services or the will offer a deal for any of those who attend and don't win. While this is one of the cheaper deals they offer, the prices are known to go down during days when the ship is in really popular ports.
** Depending on your VIFP (Very Important Fun Person Status) you may get invited to a member cocktail and appetizer party. Your cruising partners can go with you even if they are not the same status as you. You get free drinks and food during the party and while they bring around pre-made drinks, you can order anything you want. Also, do NOT agree to take part in the stage act for a free prize unless you simply enjoy dancing on stage. Your free prize is the already free pizza and you miss out on actually getting to enjoy the free food at the party.

Any other cruising tips you know of that you would like to share? 
I am always looking for insider extras.