What a year!!!

I am sitting here in the middle of clean house thinking back about what a year it has been! We have been cleaning this morning to prepare for a NYE cookout tonight with our youth group, so now I have a few moments to spare that I wanted to use to write a post. If you don’t pause and take time to look back over your wins and your losses, how can you successfully move forward and grow in the future. I need to take the time to reflect. I want to learn from my hard times and mistakes so that I don’t have to repeat them. I also want to acknowledge the amazing moments so that I can appreciate them and give thanks!

This year, our family celebrated many milestones. We have been in our house for ten years- holy cow!! We also started our seventh year of homeschool… including Allie’s ninth grade year. (Highschool!!!😳)

We have traveled a lot this year. We went on a week long missions trip in NY city. We also took some of our youth group (including our daughter for her artwork- so proud!!) to Houston, TX for national competitions. These trips took our family of four to thirteen different states this summer! That’s amazing to think about!

We spent a week on vacation with some of our best friends at a beach house. It was a great time of relaxation. We even started the year off with a crazy-for-Charleston-weather snow storm! Our family went stir crazy after a few days of playing in the snow and we desperately needed to make a grocery store run! πŸ˜‚

We absolutely had a year full of many blessings! Like all of you, our year also had many hard times.

We weren’t immune to drama and heartache. We lost our sweet husky, Jasper, this year and it was devastating for our family. We faced some really tough financial moments. We have had stresses and health scares. We faced all of these hard times as a family and have made it through.

We are facing the next year full of hope and dreams. I feel like I say this every year, but I do believe that this will be our best year ever. I can see where God birthed new dreams within us and even aligned partnerships along the way. I believe that our steps are ordered and that dreams that have been placed within us will be coming to pass. I’m excited for this year. Walking in faith is scary and exhilarating all at the same time. I cannot wait to see how God works all of this out for His will! I’m so thankful that we serve a faithful God that is with us through the hard times and the celebrations!

What are your dreams for this year? Have you taken time to reflect? Do you write your goals out? I do!! This is the first year that I am choosing a word for the year. I have seen where people have done this before, but I never have. I may reveal my word for 2019 in a future post, but for now it is just going to be mine to pray over.

I hope that all of our family, friends, and readers have a safe and happy New Years celebration!!

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Stranger Things Filming Locations

A few weeks ago, we took Allie on a tour of filming locations from the show Stranger Things. We love the show and we did this for her as an early Christmas present. We had so much fun and only had a couple of disappointments. I received a ton of questions and feedback asking how we found the spots and things like that. Everyone apparently LOVES the show… so I figured that I would share my research. Now you can go on your own adventure!!

My Planning-

We did not purchase tickets with a tour group or anything like that. Stranger Things tours do exist though!! We had other plans during our weekend trip and so we wanted to be able to make things work with our schedule. All of this research was simply done online by google searches or on pinterest. I did find at least three different sources verifying each address (who wants to drive all over Georgia just because someone posted the incorrect address). I went into the weekend with a notebook full of my plans with triple verified addresses. I was feeling quite confident. The filming locations were scattered all over the Atlanta area of Georgia. I thought that we would get to see everything on my list in one day. Needless to say, I did not take into account the crazy traffic!! For example, two stops were supposedly twenty five minutes apart and it took us over an hour and a half to get from one to the other. So my advice would be to allow yourself plenty of time and to not get frustrated. We ended up seeing a few things per day off of my list over the course of three days. It was great and we had so much fun!

The locations-

The first stop we visited was Starcourt Mall from season 3. This is an actual mall (Gwinnett Place Mall). The day that we went they were filming that night , so there were lots of tents and equipment outside. We got as close as we could without being approached by the security guard who was carefully watching us πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚. We could see Hawkins police cars and the station wagon that belongs to Mike and Nancy in the parking lot. We drove around to the next entrance and they had the actual Starcourt sign up. We walked right in the mall and wandered over to where the barricades were set up for filming. We could peak through and see how the store logos were changed to the eighties logos. The mall is located at 2100 Pleasant Hill Road in Duluth, Georgia.

We also had addresses for all of the homes used during filming. Most of the homes are right in the same neighborhood, so you can see them all in a matter of minutes.

The Wheeler’s House is locates at 2530 Piney Wood Lane in East Point, Georgia. This home did have signs in the yard that said no trespassing- pictures from the street only!

Lucas’s House is just one house over and is located at 2550 Piney Wood Lane.

Dustin’s House is actually the first House we saw when pulling into the neighborhood. It is located on 2886 Piney Wood Drive in East Point.

Barb’s House is also on the same street. It is at 2980 Piney Wood Drive.

We visited the scene of El flipping the Hawkins Lab van. It is located between the houses at 3782 and 3788 Sarah’s Lane in Tucker, Georgia.

The last house that we visited was Max and Billy’s home. As I followed the navigation directions to this address, my husband thought that my research was wrong. You literally pull into a cemetery. There is a dirt road that takes you around to the left and then you can see that there are homes back there. The house is located at 5280 Moore Street in Stone Mountain, Georgia.

We had to find Hawkins Lab and get a picture there! This spot was also being filmed at on the day we went. We saw tents, catering trucks, and equipment. You can actually drive all the way around this building to get the view or picture that you want. Hawkins Lab is a building on Emory University’s Briarcliffe Campus. The address is 1256 Briarcliffe Road NE in Atlanta.

The arcade was a fun spot to see in person. There was a security guard sitting in his car on site, but we got out, took pictures, and looked inside the windows with no problems. Although the sign isn’t up, we could see the arcade sign inside. It was all pretty empty on the inside except for the infamous Dragon’s Lair video game! The arcade is located at 6501 Church Street in Douglasville, Georgia.

Benny’s Burgers from season one was also on our list. This place is an actual cafe (Tiffany’s Kitchen) and the parking lot was pretty full on the day we went. The location is 7413 Lee Road in Lithia Springs, Georgia.

We wanted to visit the grocery store that El goes into and steals waffles. It is a tiny little place in a pretty small town. I could see the employees watching us walk up through the windows and as soon as we walked in they said, “Stranger Things?” We all laughed and they welcomed us to come right in. We were told to grab some waffles and take as many pictures as we wanted. Everyone was super friendly. We even bought a box so that we could take a pic walking out. The address for the store is 504 Center Street in Palmetto, Georgia.

Hawkins Middle School and Hawkins High School are the same actual school. It is just two different entrances. We made sure to visit this location on Saturday when there was no school in session. There were actually other fans wandering the property that day and taking pictures as well. The actual school is called Patrick Henry and is located at 109 South Lee Street in Stockbridge, Georgia. We looked through windows and could see familiar hallways. We may or may not have climbed up on a bar to get a glimpse inside the gym!

Our last stop was at Melvad’s General Store where Joyce works. From standing in front of the store, you can see the courthouse and also the radio shack is right next door (RIP Bob). The location of this spot is 42 S. Mulberry Street in Jackson, Georgia.

The misses of our trip-

I can only think of three things to mention that we’re misses on this adventure. Number one- Bellwood Quarry. Although I had read conflicting reports on this location, I figured to give it a try. After all, those would have been beautiful pictures!! The address led us to basically a ditch. Not only a ditch, but it was in a dead end sketchy area. This was the only time of the trip that I felt slightly unsafe and that was only because someone turned around when they saw us turn and started driving toward us which could’ve blocked us in. Of course, we made it out safely!! From my research, it sounds like the state owns this land and they are turning it into a park. The side that is used for filming ( it’s been in several other movies/shows besides Stranger Things) is not accessible from public roads. That being said, if you find an address…. just be safe!

Number Two- Hawkins Police Station. We didn’t get to visit this location. The day we went there, the town was having some sort of festival and all of the roads were blocked off. We tried to drive around to the other side, but of course it was blocked off completely. There were tons of people and not a lot of parking, so we didn’t think it was worth it to try and park to find it on foot. This festival was not show related. So if you go on a trip of your own… the address for the police station is 8485 Courthouse Square West in Douglasville, Georgia.

Number Three- Lucy Lu’s Coffee. This little shop is not in the show. It is just right by the location of Melvad’s General Store. From everything that I’ve read, their menu is Stranger Things inspired and they have a drink called The Upside Down. We arrived 15 minutes after closing and so we were just bummed that we didn’t get to try it out. If you are going on this trip, plan around their hours- it sounds like it is worth it!

We had so much fun! This is the kind of stuff that I love to do!! If you live close enough to make a trip, I would highly recommend that you do!! We all enjoyed it and are now even more pumped for season three so that we can see all of the places we have been!!

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A great story to tell: God cares about every little detail of your life!

You guys! Otis and I received the greatest, unexpected blessing this weekend!! I knew immediately that I was going to write a post about it!

If you know me or follow me on social media, then you know that one of my favorite bands is Needtobreathe. They are from Charleston, and so they always play here during every tour. We ALWAYS buy tickets to go see them. We have even traveled to be able to see them at other venues. We have seen them in concert eight times now and have loved each new album they release.

They played here this past Sunday night and we didn’t have tickets. 😞

There were a few reasons why we didn’t purchase tickets. The main one being that the struggle in our finances has been major lately. So much so, that we have considered putting the kids in school and me going back to work. That’s a hard choice to make. We know that God led us to where we are…. and we don’t feel led by Him to make that change yet…. so we are just doing our best to wait on His plan and are trusting Him each week to provide and take care of us. The second reason that we didn’t have tickets is because we had the opportunity to purchase twenty one pilots tickets for our daughter as an early Christmas gift. If you haven’t seen the video on my Facebook page… she cried like a baby when she opened the gift! ❀️ That purchase took any spare money that we had saved up. Of course, as parents we are going to put it towards her instead of ourselves.

That doesn’t mean that I wasn’t feeling a little salty when Sunday rolled around. I’m seeing the bands social media posts and am just thinking about how this is going to be the first tour in years that we won’t see. Then I’m blaming myself, like ‘well, you’re the one that isn’t working so you can stay home and teach your kids. It’s your own fault.’

Across from the concert venue is a shopping center with some restaurants and a grocery store. Those restaurants have outdoor seating that faces the venue. I mentioned to Otis that we should go to one of those places during the show. That way we could at least sit and listen for a little while. We came home from lunch and Otis started feeling sick. He laid on the couch and I could tell that he really didn’t feel good. So, I wasn’t sure if we were even going to go at all. He knew how much I wanted to go and got up anyway. #besthusbandever

We drove across town and as we were getting close, Otis said half joking with a laugh, “Lord Jesus, I just pray that someone gives us free tickets tonight.” I laughed and then told him “no, for real, go ahead and pray for that!” He did and as we turned into the shopping area to find a place to park and there were tons of security guards and parking attendants. I guess that they were trying to keep people from parking there. We got really nervous because we didn’t want to get yelled at for trying to park and listen. Some of the places were closed since it was Sunday evening. There is a restaurant in that strip that we enjoy going to as a family, but we couldn’t get parking on that side. On the opposite side of the shopping center, there was a subway open. We parked there. Otis said that he was going to walk through the restaurant and out the other side. He was hoping that since the show had already started that they might be selling any unsold tickets for super cheap. As soon as he walked through, the subway employee just looked at me and asked if I was buying something. I was already nervous about getting in trouble, so I told him that I was! I bought two cookies and a drink. Otis came back and told me that the available tickets were regular price. Disappointed, we went outside and sat down. At least now, we were paying customers. We were going to set some kind of record for how slow we ate these cookies! Haha!!

We sat down and just talked for a minute. Three people came and sat at the table next to us- they had purchased some snacks from the grocery store and it looked like they were planning on just listening as well. I joked that I had already planned my sad IG post where I was going to put a pic of us sitting outside and then video of the outside of the venue. However, we were happy to be there at all and settled in to listen for a little while before heading home.

As we sat there, the line and crowd of people waiting to enter the venue had disappeared. We were just casually chatting. We watched a lady walk from the venue, across the street and right up to our table. She asked us if we had tickets and our response was to ask back if she was trying to sell hers. She replied that she was not. Her date was a no show and she wasn’t going in alone. She told us that we could have her two tickets since she didn’t want to just throw them away.

I’m sure we looked like a couple of deer in headlights. We asked her if she was serious and then thanked her as we gathered our things to leave our table. We couldn’t believe it! Sure we had prayed it, but we just couldn’t believe that it had really happened.

So, Sunday night we were able to go to a concert that we loved! We have been able to share that story and brag on how amazing God is and the fact that every little detail of your life matters to Him!

Some of the things that just amaze us about this story are:

– Otis suddenly feeling sick after church and us almost not coming at all.

-Our half joking but totally serious prayer!

– the fact that we randomly walked into subway and I bought cookies out of fear/guilt that caused us to hang around right there instead of walking to the other end of the shopping center to our usual restaurant.

– the fact that this lady walked right from the venue to our table. I mean she came straight to us.

It was all amazing and left us feeling excited. It is always a nice reminder, especially when you have been in a difficult season, to feel that fatherly love.

You might think this is no big deal… that it was just a random concert.

It meant so much more to us than that. It was a blessing straight from God.

He sees and hears AND He cares.

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Fun Things to do in NYC

This past summer, we took a group to NYC for a missions trip. We planned our itinerary so that we would have a couple of days for sight seeing as well. NYC is a huge place with tons of options to choose from as far as where to go and what to see. It is possible to pack a lot into just a couple of days if you plan accordingly!

One of the first things on our list, was to take our group to Time Square. We wanted them all to be able to take in this iconic place!

We purchased tickets for one of the sightseeing bus tours. It was a great way to see the city and to get from one place to another.

Honestly, the tour guides themselves were not very impressive. They did give us a couple of gems each time as far as famous landmarks. I honestly took the earpiece out and just took pictures as we went. They seemed to be making some of the information up as they went along and then begged for tips as people got off the bus.

Having said that, I would absolutely buy the tour tickets again. If you read the details listed on the brochure, there are tons of attractions that you are able to visit for free with your tour ticket. So, it can be totally worth it if you are able to go to numerous landmarks. I think that next time, we will just walk from one attraction to the next and not even worry about the bus.

We were all anxious to visit the 9/11 memorial site. With our tour bus tickets, we had free admission to the museum. It was all humbling and overwhelming.

We spent several hours there… Otis could have spent all day at the museum. There was so much to read and take in. We will absolutely go back.

As we went over the list of attractions that we had access to, we noticed Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum. We headed there and probably had too much fun! We laughed so much through crazy poses and took hundreds of photos! It was such a fun experience!!

Another place we went to was Top of the Rock. This was also included in our tour bus ticket. When I visited NY as a teenager, we went to the top of the Empire State Building. Comparing the two, I prefer Top of the Rock. At this location, the Empire State Building can also be in your pics!

Many students in our group had never been to NYC. Of course, they wanted to see the Statue of Liberty. Instead of taking the tour to the statue, we opted for the Staten Island Ferry. This was free. It gave us all a nice ferry ride where we went right past the Statue of Liberty. We were able to see her, take lots of pics, and see the skyline from the water.

We were able to fit all of this, plus some shopping, in about two days!!

One more excursion that is totally worth mentioning is Broadway!! If you have the time and the budget, go see a show! We took our group to see The Lion King. Y’all it was so phenomenal!!

If you know me, you know I am a Disney fan anyway…. but I literally started crying during the opening song. They are all singing Circle of Life as I have tears rolling down my cheeks. Otis may have laughed at me. πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚ It was all so magical and well done. The tickets aren’t cheap, but definitely worth it!

If you only have a couple of days in NYC, plan well…. you can fit a ton in a short timespan!!

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Whispers of Lies

This is something that we have all dealt with at some point in our lives. Truth versus lies is probably the longest struggle in all of history. It should be easy to differentiate between the two. Sometimes though that is my greatest struggle.

Advice that I have given students over and over and over again is that Satan is a master at deception. He doesn’t have to destroy your life in one day. He only has to get you to make one bad decision after another and slowly you end up far away from where you started. He slips lies into your thoughts. Those whispers of lies can have an impact on how you view yourself and others. This deception can hurt relationships and your own self worth.

The absolute worst part is that Satan knows your weak areas. He knows what lies will cause the most damage. He knows what he can whisper in your ear in such a way that you struggle to not believe it. You find yourself allowing the lies to tell you more about yourself than your very Creator.

Help us, Jesus.

It happens to all of us. No one is perfect. We all have weak spots, past circumstances or sins that create easy targets.

I’ve shared on here before that I didn’t have the easiest life as a teenager. My relationship with my mom was very broken.

I never had a career in mind growing up. I knew I liked photography and I even thought about being a teacher. I just wasn’t sure. I only knew one thing for sure. I wanted to be a great mom. I wanted to have a happy family. I wanted to be the team mom that spends her time running kids around and has a cooler of Capri Suns in the back of the mini van.

I love my kids. I love our family.

But there are times….

Times when Otis and I might not agree (ok,ok we are fighting about whatever) …. Satan whispers in my ear that my marriage is not any better then the marriage of my parents. And even though my marriage is nothing like theirs… and we have beaten the statistics, since we have already been married longer than they ever were. Those lies still attack me every now and then.

Times when I’m having a tough moment with my kids. Moments when I doubt our calling to homeschool. Even moments when I end up losing my cool and yelling at them out of anger. The enemy whispers to me that I am no different than her. That my kids are going to look back on their childhood and remember that mommy yells when she gets mad. That I am not any better and I will never change the cycle.

Those moments pierce my very soul.

They tend to leave me broken and emotional. If I linger on them- listening to the lies and allowing them to echo in my heart- I feel worthless.

But those lies are NOT the truth.

I know my God that has transformed my life. I know that Otis and I have built a life that breaks several cycles that we faced growing up. I know that even though I am not a perfect parent, that I am a good parent. I know that His grace covers me…. even when I yell.

And some of you might even be surprised to read any of my above confessions. I might appear to be a pinterest mom that has it all together. And I try to be that a lot of the time. πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚ We all have times when life is messy.

All of that to say this… It’s so important to know the truth. Know what God says about you. Know that you are His treasure and that your worth is so much more than past circumstances. The things you went through in the past may have left scars on your heart, but it does not define your future. You have to have it engraved in your heart whose you are. If you don’t know for sure who you are, then lies will try to creep in and define you.

My hope and my life are found in the truth.

β€œLead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you.”

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭25:5‬ ‭NLT‬‬

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I’ve had the intention of writing a post. There has been so much going on, that the subject keeps switching. I want to include it all, but am not sure that each merits it’s own post. So, here is a post with all the ramblings that have been rolling around in my brain the past few weeks.

Summer of a lifetime

It may still be summer weather, but summer itself has come and gone for our family. It was a crazy one for sure!! Over the course of the summer, we were blessed to fit in a vacation with some of our best friends and two major trips. We traveled to or through 11 states during the past two months with our family and Youth. We went on an amazing missions trip to NYC where we partnered with the Dream Center for a week. Literally a month later, we made the drive to Houston, Texas for National Fine Arts Convention. Three of our youth, including our daughter Allie, qualified for nationals when we participated on the state-level back in February. Our summer was full of ministry, trips, and adventures. We reminded our kids throughout the summer, what a blessing this all was to be able to attend. We truly had the summer of a lifetime!

Back to school, Back to school

We have started our 7th year of homeschool. We love it and it fits perfectly for our family. The flexibility that it offers, allows us so much freedom. This year, we started a week earlier than the county. I am already thinking about a conference that we go to in the fall, and that extended Christmas break that we enjoy as a family. I figured that we could go ahead and get a head start. 😁 We are less than two weeks into the school year, and we are still transitioning for sure! The kids are in 9th and 4th grades this year. The workload is a little heavier. Our 4th grader is struggling especially- some school days for us have been nine hours long. That’s too much for this mom! I told him very quickly that this was not going to be how our year looked. I know that everyone is working to get back in the routine of school….. I just wish it would happen in like two days, not two weeks. I’m trusting that we will all finish week two strong and that week three will be even better!

Our Sweet Jasper

I can’t write a post about an amazing summer, without including this terrible note that it ended on. We had planned on starting school a week earlier than the public schools in our county, just to get a head start. I had honestly contemplated pushing it back just to give us more time to recover and lounge after our travels. Unfortunately the Friday before we were scheduled to start, our Sweet husky Jasper passed away. I decided to stick to the early school start, because I knew that the kids would need the distraction. If we had another free week, then it would be a week full of tears. It all happened so quickly and unexpectedly with Jasper… it completely broke our hearts. Jasper had been in our family since he was five weeks old. It was like we lost a six year old kid. It’s been really rough on all of us. We still find ourselves crying at how unfair it is that he is not here anymore. We are working on a project to honor our Sweet Jaspy, and so I’m sure there will be a post in the future detailing what happened as we work to raise awareness. Our family was truly rallied around by our church and family members when this happened. Calls, texts, messages, cards, packages in the mail, and ALL the hugs…. we are so thankful for all of the hugs and love that we received. It carried us through.

Thanks for taking the time to read my ramblings. This is my family and just a glimpse of my heart. ❀️

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Our trip to Magnolia in Waco, Texas

Y’all. Who doesn’t dream of one day visiting the place made famous by Chip and Joanna Gaines on Fixer Upper!?! As soon as I found out that we would be in Texas this summer, I did a search to find out how close we would be to Magnolia. It was a couple of hours away, but we combined it with some more sightseeing and it was absolutely worth it! As soon as we were close and could see the silos, a few of us may have squealed with excitement!

Our group arrived around three in the afternoon. I had read that later in the afternoon was usually better as far as crowds go. We walked up to a line at the bakery, of course, but as every article that I had read stated- it moved fast.

We spent about two hours here and loved every second.

We visited the bakery and purchased some cupcakes, muffins, and cinnamon rolls to go. Many of the articles and blog posts that I had read raved about the shiplap cupcake- a vanilla cupcake with cream cheese icing. I purchased one of those along with a few other options to try. The way the bakery works is that they pass you a card that has all of the available options and a pencil. You write your name and make your selections while you are in line. Then as you enter the bakery, you hand your card in at the register. This helps things run so smoothly. You pay for your purchases and then simply wait for them to call your name. They will have them all boxed up for you.

The shiplap was good, but not my favorite. Make sure that you check out their seasonal options. During our visit, they had a peach cobbler cupcake. This was my favorite. If I was going back tomorrow, I would buy two of those! It had graham cracker crust on the bottom, was a super moist peach cupcake, and was topped with peach purΓ©e cream cheese icing. I may have already checked the website, and unfortunately they do not ship.

The seed shop was so cute! It was a small little shop that had all sorts of succulents and gardening goods for purchase. Everything there definitely had the feel of their style.

The center of the property has an area called “the green” where families can play corn hole or toss a ball around. They have numerous food trucks around (I counted eleven when we were there) and TONS of seating. We purchased some burgers and hotdogs, along with a few mason jars of sweet tea to enjoy for lunch. Even though everything is outside, they really do their best to make it as comfortable as possible. There are fans and misters at the larger seating pavilion and when you are standing in line for the bakery.

We ate lunch before we wandered into the store.

We all had so much fun! It was absolutely worth the drive. We loved seeing it all in person!

Since we were in the neighborhood, we also drove to Harp Design to take a picture.

We did not get to visit the restaurant. It is located nearby, but not on the same property. If you go or have been, let me know how it is!!

If you have never been, I would definitely recommend it. There is enough to do that it makes for a fun and relaxing afternoon!

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Tips for Traveling By Train

Last month, we took our first ever trip by train. We went all the way from Charleston to NYC! It was a twelve hour ride and we were in a group of ten. Needless to say, I was nervous since we had never travelled that way before! I searched online for tips and articles. I wanted to write a post sharing the things that I felt were MOST helpful.

We loved traveling by train and are already talking about when our next trip might be. It is so much more affordable than flying… and not to mention much more comfortable!!

Here are my favorite lessons learned:

1) Don’t stress about your luggage.

We did not want to check any of our bags. Like I said before, we were traveling with a large group and we were going to be gone for an entire week! We stressed to our students to make sure that their bags weighed within the carry-on limit. Our bags were never measured or weighed anywhere. We figured that our local train station was so small compared to Penn Station in NY, that they might weigh them when we were on the way home. They did not.

2) Bring Snacks for the ride.

You are allowed to bring your own food/snacks on the train. We didn’t take full advantage of this on the way there, but we did on the way back home! One of our trains had a full dining cart and the other only had a cafe cart. I had read people complaining about how outrageous the food prices are on board. We ate both times at the cafe cart, and didn’t find it too astronomical. I would find it comparable to eating at a sporting event. Our family of four ate for about $50.

3)Pack a few clothespins.

This is a tip that I read…. didn’t do… but wish I had. Our first trip was overnight, but this would’ve been helpful on both trips. The curtains on a train can be pulled to cover your window, but they don’t stay put. If you toss a few clothespins into your bag, you can simply clip your curtains shut and sleep in peace with no sunlight peeking through!

4)Buy a neck pillow!

Most people that travel a lot already have one of these, but I did not. As soon as we decided that we were taking a train, I knew that I wanted/needed to buy one! The best deal I found was at Ross. I was able to get one for each of us for about $8 each and they are memory foam. I cannot imagine taking that trip without that pillow! Seriously, it was a game changer!

If you have never traveled by train and have been thinking about it, I would encourage you to plan your trip! It is so much fun! The seats are so roomy!

They recline, swivel, have a footrest, and a table. There was so much leg room! I was so surprised when we first boarded. You do not need to buckle up and are free to walk around from car to car. Our trip took us through Washington DC and we could see the monuments as we passed through. It was so much cooler than flying!

It was surely an adventure!

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A Fabulous Friday

Today was a good day. These past few weeks have definitely been a whirlwind for our family. During the past six weeks, we have:

-enjoyed a weeks vacation at the beach

-attended graduations and graduation parties

-hosted a dinner celebrations for Allie’s 8th grade promotion

– gone on a 8-day missions trip to NYC

-taken an overnight trip to youth camp for Otis to speak

-prepared a meal for around 30 volunteers at another local camp

– all of that is on top of orthodontist appointments, library visits, laundry, family visits, a couple of beach days, summer reading, and regular church responsibilities/services.

Believe me, we stay pretty busy all the time & I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I just cannot believe that we have already zoomed past the 4th of July!! Time is flying by this year!!

We function as a family of four and do almost everything together. All of this busy-ness has kept us running around and ministering together. That’s such a blessing! Today, Otis and I decided to go run some errands in the morning alone and then enjoy a lunch date together!

Life really does change so much when your kids are old enough to be home alone!! πŸ™ŒπŸ»

Most of the errands were the boring, typical stuff- bank, post office, etc…

We did make a stop at one of my favorite stores! I love going into Ross! I had three birthday gifts to buy and our son desperately needed some new pants! I always find such great deals there!

This is such a cute pillow that I found! Llamas are a joke for our family and so as soon as I saw this pillow, I knew it would be perfect on our back porch!!

On top of new clothes for our son and Otis, I also spotted this dress for only $10.99! (This is why I LOVE Ross)!

After making our purchases, we headed to a new-to-us lunch spot that is close to our house. We are usually always down for tacos and enjoyed the view and the time together!

In case you are wondering, I had the surf & turf taco and the teriyaki chicken taco! And that view is so relaxing!!πŸ˜ƒ

My brother and his girlfriend are in town and so we are looking forward to some family time tomorrow! Saturday is shaping up to be just as great as Friday!

I hope you all have a great weekend as well!! Be intentional and spend time with those people important to you!!

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NYC Missions Trip 2018

This time last week, we were in NYC on a missions trip with the Dream Center. There were ten of us that went and we had a fabulous time! I’ve attempted to write this post several times, but it almost feels too big to write out. All of the memories and emotions are raw. I’ve decided that I’m going to write three posts about this trip- this one discussing the missions trip, a post about sightseeing and a post about traveling by train. That way the pressure to cover it all doesn’t get the best of me!

Our team has been on stateside mission trips before, but never with the DC and never in NY. In fact, only one of the students had ever even been to NY. This trip was a huge deal to all of us. We had over a year into the planning and worked hard to raise the funds for us to go. I can clearly remember sitting in the first chapel on the first day and praying over each student and where they were in their lives. I wanted this trip to be meaningful and life changing…. and God was faithful and did so much in the midst of our students!

We took part in several areas of ministry during our time with the Dream Center. One of the very first things we did was a prayer walk. We walked through these neighborhoods that we would be ministering in and prayed in various areas- by a homeless shelter, at a playground, near a spot that is being taken over by gangs, at low income housing, and at a public park where so many homeless sleep at night. We prayed for the community, we prayed for the outreaches, and we prayed for doors to continue to be opened for the NYCDC after we left.

We participated in numerous adopt a blocks while we were there. The NYCDC has been so faithful with these events- the people in the community know when they are coming and they are lined up waiting. We were able to minister in the Chelsea and Harlem areas. At an adopt a block, once the initial set up is complete, there are several ways to minister. Some of us helped with the passing out of groceries and hygiene items, some of us passed out hotdogs/cookies/water/lemonade, some of us engaged the waiting adults in conversation, some of us played with the children and some of us prayed with people once they had come through the line. The experience overall differed so much depending on where we were that day. At one spot, people just wanted the free food and then to be left alone. Another day, our students were able to pray with almost everyone that came through the line. Not much could make me more proud then when I looked over from my station and saw my kids praying over strangers in the streets of NY!

The kids in these neighborhoods soaked up every ounce of attention that we could pour on them! A couple of the places, we visited twice while we were there. At the second visit, the kids would remember our names from the first time. They wanted to run and play and laugh.

Another way that we were able to impact the community was through a ministry called visits. People in the area that don’t have family or could use help around their house or someone to talk to are in this program. The students of the dream center go visit these people twice a week for a couple of hours at a time. They can help with cleaning, laundry, cooking, etc…. or they may just have conversation with the people. This really builds community among people that might otherwise feel very isolated. We were able to split up and accompany them on these visits. Each experience was different. Some people simply wanted someone to talk to. Some of our students dealt with hoarders and spent the entire time cleaning. I personally helped change bed sheets and bag up dirty laundry. I swept her apartment and then spent the rest of the time listening to fascinating stories about her life. Even though it was my first time meeting this woman, I could see how much she looked forward to this time each week and the relationships that were built from it.

We were also able to bless the Dream Center team while we were there. We spent a few hours working at their storage unit. We organized, counted, priced, and checked pallets and pallets of donated goods.

We also helped them set up for church on Sunday. They don’t have their own building and hold church in a school, so they set up and break down everything each and every week.

I hope that in some small way we were able to bless them the way that they blessed us.

This trip in general was phenomenal. I watched students that I loved be used of God. I saw them stretched out of their comfort zones and I saw them grow in faith. We witnessed things together that we aren’t normally face to face with here at home- we saw people sleeping in boxes in the street, people digging through trash cans for food, we saw filth and the desperation that must come from being homeless. Not to say that those same things aren’t happening here in Charleston, but we aren’t up close and personal with them like we were there.

We were all inspired, we came back with fresh ideas of things to do here at home and ways to help those around us. It doesn’t always have to be perfect or the exact same- what’s important is that you are doing what you can with what you have.

One of the biggest blessings from this trip came on our ride home. We boarded the train to head home at 6am one morning. A couple from New York boarded the same time as us. It’s a 13 hour train ride. These people were going to visit family near Charleston and were on the train with us the entire time. We didn’t talk a whole lot with them until the last hour and a half of our trip. Otis and some of the boys had gone to the lounge car to play uno. That left me sitting on my row alone. The couple asked me what kind of group we were and what we were doing. They told me that they had been watching us the entire trip. The were amazed at how the students respected us. The commented on the way we all spoke to one another and took care of each other. The gentleman was even surprised that we knew all of the names! That might seem silly to me, but it impacted them! They were so impressed! Otis and the boys came back and we had conversation with them the rest of the time. We talked about church and they connected with our church and Youth group on social media. They wanted to be able to watch our services online! While we are having this conversation with them, the lady in the row behind me asks if she can get the social media page information as well! That was a great moment for me to share with our students that yes they were used all week long on our missions trip. AND yes, God can also use you just by the way you carry yourself. God can open doors anywhere!!

If you are looking for somewhere to serve, check out the New York City Dream Center! They are making a real impact all around them and can use all the help they can get!

I will be forever thankful to the amazing church family that rallied behind our group and helped make this trip possible! We were supported with offerings, sponsor letters, and fundraisers! We could not have done this without you all! ❀️

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