Friday, June 18, 2010

I love it when we're cruisin together...

So this past Wednesday, my family returned from an amazingly wonderful vacation. It was probably the best vacation we have ever been on together. For those of you who don't know, last year was a really hard year for my family. We had three deaths within five months on my dad's side of the family. My cousin, Ryan, died from a brain tumor in September. My Aunt Ellen died from complications with her kidney in October. And then in January my Gramma Margie died from weakness and sickness due to the strain that lung cancer had on her body in 2007 and 2008. 

Since it seemed as though we were constantly getting together for a funeral, our family decided that we would get together for happy occasions, too. We wanted to spend time together while we still have the time to do so. It all started with a mini-family reunion in April, then another in September over Labor Day. Talk of a cruise came up, and since Lauren graduated from high school and I graduated from college, it seemed like the perfect excuse to extend the invite to 16 other family members! 

We headed out from Charleston on Friday. We all wore our cruise tshirts and were easily recognized as  a large family. :) Our day at sea on Saturday was spent reading (I was really into The Last Song by Nicholas Sparks and highly recommend it), sunbathing, and eating. We arrived in Freeport, Bahamas on Sunday. We walked around the touristy shops at the harbor and spent the rest of the day at the beach. Getting 20 people to figure out what they want to do and then getting them all to one place is no easy feat, but despite the craziness that is my family, that beach day was amazing.  My sister and I lived it up with some of our cousins on a banana boat. Best $15 I have spent in quite some time. His creation is so amazing. We could see to the bottom of the ocean even when we were far away from shore. Words cannot express the amazing beauty and tranquility of the ocean and the clarity of the water. We played for about 3 hours; we exhausted ourselves and were quite ready for our dinner that night. Our taxi driver, who hit the jackpot by transporting 14 people at $5 a head, had to fight for us when we got back. It was funny, yet uncomfortable to see the two Bahamian taxi drivers going at it, both of them wanting to make a profit. Our taxi driver, Josey, was classy and composed, though.

 My parents at dinner the first night in their cruise shirts.


 Lauren and I at the beach in Freeport, Bahamas.

Our family pretty much took over karaoke, too. We only skipped one night, and we got pretty popular on the ship for our performances. It was HILARIOUS to be recognized. My cousins Patrick, Brad, my Uncle Thomas, and my dad called themselves "The New Temptations" and sang hits like "Ain't Too Proud to Beg" each night. The DJ for karaoke was this hilarious Asian woman named Yanti who could really sing. My Aunt Frances sang "Get Up Offa That Thang," except she didn't really sing...she just danced. And it was so. funny. Yanti would say "You don't have to know the words, you just have to shake the booty!" in her hilarious accent and we would just die laughing...When we got off of our taxi at the beach on Sunday afternoon, two boys asked my sister and I if we were the "girls from karaoke," and in line for food at the lido deck, two ladies asked if we would be coming back to karaoke one night. It was kind of fun to feel like a celebrity, haha. We also had a great time dancing like crazies at the "Electricity Discotheque" to the best of Michael Jackson. That was a party, let me tell you!

Our family had the best waiter ever for dinner in the Celebration Dining Room. (Fun fact: The dining room was named after the ship we went on for our first cruise. It was the oldest ship in the fleet, dating all the way back to 1973...it is now retired, haha.) His name was Kishore, and he was the most adorable little Indian man. Carnival has amazing service, and he made sure he always put us first. At the end of each meal, I ordered tea and gouda cheese, and by the third night, he would bring it to me before I even ordered it. He also was a great dancer--he taught us some great moves. Every meal was special and delightful. The man who cleaned our stateroom was the cutest thing, too. His name was Gusti and Lauren and I (ok mostly me) kind of had a little crush on him. I am sure our towel animals were the best on the ship. 

 
 The family all dressed up for the Captain's Dinner on the second night. :)



Dancing with Kishore to "Low" at dinner.

On Monday, when we were in Nassau, Lauren and I's main objective was to get to the beach or at least see some sights. It was raining, which is uncharacteristic for stereotypical Bahamas weather, but we were told by our amazing tour guide that it "never rains all day." Our family decided to go on a tour of the island. Because we were such a large party, taxi drivers were yet again fighting over us. They could make some big money with $20 a head for 18 people! We were driven through the lower, middle, and upper class. We got to see Atlantis, the world famous resort which is featured in the Mary Kate and Ashley movie, Holiday in the Sun (one of my faves), and various other publications. The Michael Jackson suite at the Atlantis Resort is $25,000 a night, with a minimum 5-night stay, and it is booked for the next 2 years. Um, no thanks! We also saw both the public and private hospitals (the private was where Anna Nicole Smith had her baby and where her son died), St. Andrews Kirk, the financial districts with a jillion banks containing a bunch of offshore accounts, and the Queen's Staircase, which took 160 slaves 16 years to complete. It was a day full of rich history. We also walked around the straw market and took a look at some of the handcrafted things that the native islanders make and sell. It was funny to see the bootleg DVDs and "Coach" purses displayed for all to see. 


  A man collecting conch shells to make conch fritters.

Honestly, this vacation was just what I needed. It was so fun to spend time getting to know my extended family members better, and we laughed so much. The Lord romanced me through all of the beautiful sunrises and sunsets, my dad and I ran on the track, my sister and I bonded, we danced like crazies, and all of the amazing crew put great smiles on our faces. This was a vacation that I will always remember.

Funny story: my Uncle Coleman, who is 70, was not really looking forward to this vacation, but didn't want to be away from his wife...now he wants to plan a yearly vacation like this one. All I can say is sign me up!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

don't judge

So for some strange reason, when the Lord speaks to me, He has to tell me the same thing over. and. over. Like how not to judge people. You see, I am the kind of person who loves to build people up and encourage others. I love to make people smile. But I also have a problem with silently judging and condemning others, all the while forgetting to take the log out of my own eye. How ridiculous is that? My friends and I have this little thing where we'll say something ridiculous like "I just ate three cookies; don't judge," but how often do I really"judge?"

First, I am somewhat obsessed with Bethany Dillon's CD, and the song, "Deliver Me" is so convicting. One line says, "Deliver me from my hateful thoughts; I'm committing murder in the presence of God." The weight of this song lyric always hits me. I pride myself in not speaking too many "mean things," but then I think whatever I want to about others when I hardly know all the facts...something is not right with this picture.

So yesterday, when I got back from my wonderfully amazingly beautifully hilariously fun and relaxing family cruise (more details and pictures later), I of course spent a couple hours on the computer catching up on emails and the countless blogs I stalk follow. Donald Miller, one of my favorite authors, wrote about the importance of loving others instead of judging them. In "The Stuff of Good Friendships," he issued a challenge to go for 30 days without judging others, which he described as not thinking less of anyone. And I thought that was nice when I read it, but I really didn't intend to do anything about it.

Until this morning, when I read My Utmost for His Highest, and Oswald had some truth to share with me, too. With the first line of the entry, he said, Jesus' instructions with regard to judging others is very simply put; He says, "Don't." Ouch. So I looked back at Donald Miller's blog post and figured I should give this whole no judging thing a try. I'm not the center of the universe anyways; He is. What makes me think I can put myself above others? It is somewhat ridiculous...I'm hoping He shows me a lot in the next 30 days.

"Don't speak evil against each other, dear brothers and sisters. If you criticize and judge each other, then you are criticizing and judging God's law. But your job is to obey the law, not to judge whether it applies to you. God alone, who gave the law, is the Judge. He alone has the power to save or to destroy. So what right do you have to judge your neighbor?"
-James 4:11-12

 Bethany Dillon- Deliver Me

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Marvelous May

May was a roller coaster ride of an INSANE month.
Here are the highlights:

Sara Sam, Katie U, me, Lynds, and Twin (J. Summers) outside of Taqueria del Sol for my 22nd

Beautiful and gorgeous friends and sisters in Christ from Cluster F at our education convocation:
Melissa, Mandy, Kristen, Catie, Jacquelyn, and Anna :)

The fam- Lauren and the rents- at the BCM on graduation day

                                                     
Can you find my name?
                                                           
                                            

 Pure joy in Sanford Stadium


Pebbletech Extended at Erica's graduation open house:
Lauren, Jenna, Maddie, Erica, Ali, Kristen, and Heidi
Philippians 1:3



Kristen at Eddie's Attic; she's such a star.


Lauren, Rania, and Lauren at the last orchestra concert
Notice how Lauren debuted my bridesmaid dress before the wedding. ;)

The fam at Lauren's graduation from Poop Pope High School! Graduating class of 2010!!! :D


The coolest 7th grade girls I know at Get It! CAMP 2010


Mr. and Mrs. Lawton Jones
May 29, 2010



Tuesday, June 1, 2010

a conglomeration of things

Things have been crazy. Just straight crazy. So this post is going to be a tad lengthy...

Two weekends ago, my little sister graduated from high school. I am so proud of her, and it was really fun to be there as she turned her tassel and threw her cap in celebration. 4 years down, 4 more to go! She is going to Georgia College and State University in August, and I just know that college is going to change her life.

This past Tuesday was my dad's 53rd birthday, and I was so excited to make breakfast for him. I wanted him to feel extra special since I was leaving to go to CAMP with Watkinsville First Baptist's youth group that morning. 

CAMP was in a word, amazing. We were at Horn's Creek Resort in Ocoee, TN from Tuesday to Saturday. The whole theme was Get It!, and Joel, our youth  minister, had been getting everyone pumped up as they tried to figure out what IT was. IT turned out to be confidence in Christ, and we read the book of Philippians over the course of our 4 days together. God truly moved in the hearts of everyone who was there. It was such a joy to sit under Pastor Carlos' teaching twice each day and to be able to discuss all that the Lord was showing us through His word. My friend Brittany and I got to be with the same 7th grade girls we have taught in small group this year, and that was wonderful. It was such a joy and a privilege to see the Lord use His word to stir their hearts and hear their testimonies. They all got so excited about diving into the Word and opened up to one another, and it was truly beautiful. However, everything came back to this one point: A life of humble confidence in Christ will lead to radical obedience to Him.

Not to mention the wonderful rec time we had... paintball, water park complete with water slide, wave pool, and lazy river; zip line, giant swing, rock wall, lake with the BLOB and canoes and rafts...we played hard. We also got great at running away from a cute little mouse in our cabin who wanted some of our girls' snacks that were everywhere.

Now that I am at home again, I am trying to establish some kind of routine or structure for myself each day. I have been living the lazy post-grad life for about a month now, and it is getting kind of old. I can't focus on circumstances or situations that the enemy tries to throw my way to knock the wind out of my sails. My confidence must be in Christ alone. He is all I need! It is so easy to get frustrated with the little things and think about how the Lord is literally going to have to supernaturally provide in order for me to be in Mexico in 2 short months. When I think of all I need and how much I still lack in order to make this leap of faith, it seems ridiculously impossible. But we serve a God who can make something out of nothing. He makes all things new, and He works for the good of those who love Him.

Yesterday I went for a run and got caught in a thunderstorm. Words cannot do justice to how good it felt to feel the rain on my skin and just welcome the cool relief. I used to hate rain, but now I love it. Why not welcome the storms of life and learn to rest in the Savior? He made the storms, after all.

I heard this song 4 years ago at a BCM service, and now thanks to grooveshark.com, I found it again!!! I have been looking high and low. The lyrics definitely describe my current state of mind- to choose Christ instead of this world.

Choose- Christy Nockels

Let me be in love with what You love
Let me be most satisfied in You
Forsaking what this world has offered me
I choose to be in love with You
I will choose to be in love with You

Let me know the peace that's mine in You
Let me know the joy my heart can sing
For I have nothing Lord apart from You
I choose to call on Christ in me
I will choose to call on Christ in me

For in the fullness of who You are
I can rest in this place
And giving over this, my journey Lord
I see nothing but Your face

Let me know that You have loved me first
Let me know the weight of my response
For You have long pursued my wandering heart
I choose to glory in Your cross
I will choose to glory in Your cross

And I bow down...
Humbly, I bow down...
Humbly, I bow down...
I bow down...

I bow down, I bow down
my beloved- here I am
I bow down, I bow down to You.
And here are my lovely ladies on our last day of CAMP!
Aren't they all just gorgeous?!

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