Sovereign

Wow – Two years ago today…This post had 621 views, the most ever on my blog.

Lately, I have been consumed by a song on Chris Tomlin’s new album – “Sovereign.”  {Song below.}

The last line of that blog post, “The Lord is Sovereign” was on repeat in my mind that fateful day. I’m not sure that I had ever really thought on that before that day. {The Lord’s Sovereignty} I know that thought wasn’t me, it was Him.

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I have had a post-it note on my bathroom mirror for months. It reads, “My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; He is mine forever.” Psalm 73:26  I’ve been wanting to upgrade that verse from a post-it note to a framed, designed version. Last night I finally worked on the design.  I was reading the whole chapter and decided to include more of it…it’s all so applicable.

Truth.

I have reason to believe and live in that Sovereignty.

I don’t want to relive that day two years ago, but I’m thankful for the storm that it was…and all the lessons that came from it. There is sorrow and JOY in looking back on the journey, the race…and then looking forward to what I have to strive for…

Enjoy this song…I just love the lyrics. Truth.

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Remembrance

Happy Ash Wednesday.

This day really snuck up on me this year! I love this “season.” Such a great journey (lent) to remember and honor the sacrifice Jesus made – all because of the deep, wide, long, and high love He has for me (and you)!

Awesome.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:16-17

 

Key West and the “Dive In” Movie!

January 21, 2013
Key West, Florida

Our first stop was Key West. We decided to do our own tour/exploring of the island on foot. Well, not me – I got a ride. As I mentioned yesterday, the walking turned out to be too much for me. So, the morning we arrived at Key West, Caren and Natalie went to guest services and got info on renting a wheelchair for the remainder of the cruise – we even got to utilize it at the ports. It was money well spent. A detail I still can’t believe I overlooked, but very thankful renting a wheelchair was even an option once onboard the ship!

We saw the sights, shopped, tried conch fritters, shopped some more, walked by Hemingway’s house, ate key lime pie and even tried key lime beer. It was a fun day! Once back on the ship we made our second trip for fish & chips and the buffet before going on deck to watch the ship leave the port.

One of the highlights of the week for me was the “Dive-In Movie.” They showed several movies a day/night, but we only got in on one. It was a bit chilly on deck, but blankets were provided and we got hot tea and popcorn, as well. Even though we only lasted for about 15 minutes of showtime – it was still so fun! I loved the thought of being on the ocean watching one of our favorite movies together!

Enjoy the photos!

Natalie - Sunrise

Natalie – Sunrise

Caren - Sunrise - Key West

Caren – Sunrise – Key West

Sunrise while docking at Key West. Mom, Caren and Natalie got up early to work out. I SLEPT IN and missed sunrise. :(

Sunrise while docking at Key West. Mom, Caren and Natalie got up early to work out. I SLEPT IN and missed sunrise. 😦

Key West before we got off the ship for the day.

Key West before we got off the ship for the day.

**Forgot to add this photo with the original Key West post. Mom in Key West photo op!!

**Forgot to add this photo with the original Key West post. Mom in Key West photo op!!

Key Wsst

Duval Street - Key West

Duval Street – Key West

I Heart Palm Treees!I Heart Palm Treees!

Tallest Building on Key West - La Concha Hotel

Tallest Building on Key West – La Concha Hotel

Caren and Key Lime Beer in Key West

Caren and Key Lime Beer in Key West

A parrot in Key West. After Mom snapped this photo the guy walked up and wanted to take our picture (with our camera!) and charge us $10. Hmmm, no thanks!

A parrot in Key West. After Mom snapped this photo the guy walked up and wanted to take our picture (with our camera!) and charge us $10. Hmmm, no thanks!

Hop on, Hop off in Key West

Hop on, Hop off in Key West

Rick showed up in Key West!

Rick showed up in Key West!

Key West

Rolling up to the ship to board.

Rolling up to the ship to board.

Key West - Mom, Caren and I

Key West – Mom, Caren and I

Caren, Natalie and I (I'm in wheelchair) walking back to the ship after exploring Key West.

Caren, Natalie and I (I’m in wheelchair) walking back to the ship after exploring Key West.

It was always fun to watch the ship leave the port!It was always fun to watch the ship leave the port!

Mom & Caren - Dinner at Posh.  Mom's signature drink for the week, "Kiss on the Lips!"

Mom & Caren – Dinner at Posh. Mom’s signature drink for the week, “Kiss on the Lips!”

Nat & Geo - dinner at Posh

Nat & Geo – dinner at Posh

One of our favorite movies, "PS, I Love You" was shown at the Seaside Theatre. It was so fun - popcorn, blankets and hot tea! Unfortunately, we only lasted for the first 15 minutes! We were all cold (and tired)!

One of our favorite movies, “PS, I Love You” was shown at the Seaside Theatre. It was so fun – popcorn, blankets and hot tea! Unfortunately, we only lasted for the first 15 minutes! We were all cold (and tired)!

Such a fun experience to be at sea - watching one of our favorite movies together!

Such a fun experience to be at sea – watching one of our favorite movies together!

So fun!

So fun!

Me at the Dive In Movie - so fun (and cold!) =)

Me at the Dive In Movie – so fun (and cold!) =)

Embarking on the Carnival Freedom!

The Carnival Freedom – January 2012

January 20, 2013
Port Everglades, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

We got on our shuttle – which we had to throw elbows for – to the port. The first glimpse of the ship is always the best, I remember that from my first cruise with Brittany. It is so much bigger and better than I could have imagined – even this time around. We were able to check our bags immediately and get in line to go through security and then to check in at the Carnival desk. All of the steps go so smoothly – even waiting in the long lines seemed to go quickly. It’s so fun to step aboard for the first time. We had to do one extra step once we got onboard and check-in at guest services since I was carrying on a POC (portable oxygen concentrator). At home I have to sleep with oxygen each night, but because we were at SEA LEVEL my doctors thought I’d be okay without it. I won’t lie – it was a nice break. Anyway, since I’ve cruised with Carnival before I got to go to the “VIFP” line (stands for Very Important Fun Person!) and it was a breeze to check-in with the O2! Carnival seems to make complicated things simple  (um, Delta and TSA should take note!!).

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Leaving Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale – almost every home had a pool in the backyard. Locals came outside to wave to us as we left. =)

Once aboard, we started to figure out how to get to our cabin…which is a challenge at first, but once we found it we changed into our swim suits and started to explore. Our first mission was to find food. None of us were hungry, but we separated and came back to the table with a few plates from the expansive buffet (desserts, too) and the fish & chips restaurant (my favorite!! I ate there everyday, but one!)  Eventually, we made our way to the upper decks so we could watch as the ship left the port!

When we finally made it to the upper deck I really thought I might just have to camp out at that spot for the rest of the cruise! One detail that I completely overlooked (and didn’t even consider) was how huge the ship was and how much walking would be involved. I knew I wouldn’t be able to do that much walking everyday. Inwardly, I was freaking out wondering how I’d tackle this challenge.  More on that later. =)

Up on one of the many decks to watch as the ship left the port. ti was so fun – and so cool how such a massive ship can maneuver (almost like a car that is parallel parked) to leave the port. Pretty amazing!

Fun Fact: The swim suit cover-up that my Mom is wearing she purchased in Hawaii in 1986 (I think!). She had NEVER worn it before THIS TRIP – not even once!!

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After we were out to sea, we realized that we were on for our first dinner that night and our seating was the late seating (8:15pm). As we were getting ready to head to dinner we realized that we were seated in two different restaurants! We got that issue fixed and then went to dinner at Posh Restaurant, not Chic Restaurant. Caren referred to that one as “chick” the whole week – it still makes me laugh!

I don’t remember exactly what I ate that night, but I do remember that I didn’t hold back (not that I ever do!), but nothing was stopping me from enjoying every single bite! We got to meet our waitstaff that night (you sit at the same table every night and the same staff serves you). Through the week we got to know them a little bit and asked them a ton of questions…I think they were from Romania, Philippines, Mexico, and….I can’t remember! One of my favorite parts of cruising is the staff – they are from all over the world and have such interesting stories. They bend over backwards to provide the best service. I have so much respect and appreciation for them!

After dinner we went to the Victorian Lounge for the Opening Night show. We were all so tired – pretty sure Mom fell asleep during the show! I definitely had to fight to stay awake. We made it through the good stuff – singing & dancing – and headed to our cabin for the night when the comedian took stage.

Once we got back to our room, our beds had been turned down and chocolates awaited us on our pillows along with our first edition of “Carnival Times.” Each evening this routine happens. The Carnival Times is a schedule of the next days events around the ship and at the ports. So, we finished unpacking and got our stuff ready for the next day (Key West).

It seems there was more packed into this day, but some of the details blur together – time flies when you’re having fun and it seems that we packed a lot of fun into our week away!

Surprise!

On January 19th, my Mom and I boarded a plane to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. On that day, there were SO many things that could have gone wrong…but didn’t. It was amazing how we all made every single flight – no delays. And Caren (who was flying standby) made it to Fort Lauderdale first – it was seriously amazing and a huge answer to prayer!  I got a text from her when she made her first flight (which looked impossibly overbooked): “I am on!!” I remember that surge of emotion (JOY) and thinking to myself, “this is it – we’re really doing this!!”  The day – seriously – couldn’t have been more perfect.

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Made it through security and relaxing before our first flight!  Like our coordinating outfits?! 😉

Doctor ordered mask (on the airplane and around large groups of people) and oxygen in flight. A beautiful sunset from the air as we neared our first stop: Minneapolis. (I couldn’t get that mask off fast enough – one way to get people to stay away – wear a mask!)

My two sisters were already there – waiting for us with the rental car – when our plane landed.  We left the airport at about midnight, ready to “embark” on a fun, tropical week, but little did my Mom know of the adventure that lay ahead.  From the time we left the airport to the time our heads hit the pillow that night at the hotel – each of us girls had accidentally let the words “cruise” or “ship” slip in front of our Mom.  This surprise was getting more and more difficult to keep secret!

holding hands

Our hotel room had one king bed and a pull-out sofa. We all climbed into the king bed to watch tv and chat before going to sleep. Well, my Mom woke up in the night and went to the pull-out bed, but us three girls slept this way til morning. =)

waking up

We woke up to the flash on Mom’s camera…well, and Caren yelling…haha!

Here’s the story:

On December 7, 2012, my Mom turned 60. My sisters and I knew for a long time that we wanted to do something extra fun and special.  We had lots of planning conference calls, emailing and texting in the months leading up to our big adventure.  One thing we knew for sure: we wanted the best part of the trip to be a surprise for our Mom.

On my Mom’s actual birthday, we planned a day of fun surprises/clues all leading up to her gift from us: a custom book FILLED with photos and memories from her friends and family.  On the last page of the book we included a poem:

Happy, Happy Birthday
60 years have flown by fast!
One more adventure to make
the celebration last,

The scavenger hunt
does not end here,
we have more planned
to start the new year.

Pack your bags
for unexpected fun,
we will laugh, play
and enjoy the sun!

January 19th
is the day we fly out,
we have everything ready,
even the route!

You are the best Mom,
you deserve all the credit.
You are deeply loved
please never forget it!

So for the six weeks between her birthday and our trip – she only knew that we were going to Florida.  We wouldn’t give her any more details.

It was so awesome waking up in Florida to a warm, sunny day!

Hotel in Fort Lauderdale

Hotel in Fort Lauderdale

We did some research the night before and found the highest rated diner in Fort Lauderdale.  We asked some locals and they said it was their favorite – and it was good.  We ordered waffles, an omelet and two orders of eggs Benedict and shared all of it (which is pretty much what we did at a lot of our upcoming meals, as well!).  They had a ton of baked goodies, so we loaded up on those, as well.  Then we were off to turn in our rental car and wait for the shuttle to the port.

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Lester’s Diner – Fort Lauderdale, Florida – January 20, 2013

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Lester’s Diner – Fort Lauderdale, Florida – January 20, 2013

At the car rental drop-off, there were shuttles to the port.  At this point, my Mom was very confused as to why we were dropping off the car and where we were going next.  We pretty much lied and said we had to turn in our rental car and then take a shuttle to our “resort.” Well, EVERYONE around us was waiting for a shuttle to the port to go on a cruise.  It seemed EVERYWHERE we went, people were talking about cruising.  We got asked several times if we were there to go on a cruise.  Finally, Mom had asked one too many questions and we decided (while still waiting for our shuttle to the port) that we had to tell her.  I dug out her passport – that I had smuggled from her files weeks before – and got my phone ready to record her reaction.  Caren handed Mom her passport and our Carnival luggage tags…

CRUISE BLOG

There is a video, but she swore in it and she won’t let me post it.  Lame. It is MY blog, after all. Oh wait…


We went on a 6 day cruise…to Key West, Grand Caymans, & Ocho Rios, Jamaica!

(and I did get her permission to post this)

I asked Mom months ago what her dream birthday would be and she said, “go on a cruise, just us four girls.”

Her dream came true. Stay Tuned!

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One of our first views of the ship, Carnival Freedom!

Issues No More

I have been doing acupuncture for a few months and I have to say that it is managing my neck pain quite well.  It only took a few sessions until the acupuncturist figured out how to treat my neck/back.  (Which is awesome!!) The treatment usually wipes me out for the rest of the day, but it’s worth it.  My neck has been really really messed up for years – probably since my first back surgery went awry.  Years ago, a surgeon said that I’d need major surgery to repair it, but it hasn’t given me serious pain until recently.  Well, there was that one incident with the dinosaurs when I worked at the preschool,…

My most recent elbow issue was resolved within a few days of the initial pocket of fluid showing up a week before we surprised my Mom and took her on a cruise!  Thankfully, I got right into the doctor and he drained the blood/fluid that had accumulated on my elbow.  My elbow filled up right away the next day, but it wasn’t painful.  I went back to the doctor and together we surmised that it was just fluid and that my body would reabsorb it – so I decided to not mess with it and just be very careful to protect it.  It is still discolored/bruised, but that might be the new normal.  The outward appearance of my left elbow has changed so much over the past few years. I’d be interested to compare a current x-ray with an old one.

Well, that’s all. Thank you for all the prayers and comments.  I so appreciate it.  I’m so thankful that my neck pain has eased and that my elbow issue sort of resolved itself.  Because of the extensive history, it is kind of scary when it flares!

Happy 30th Birthday, Natalie!

 

Natalie

Happy Birthday to the baby in our family! Cannot WAIT to celebrate with you next week!!

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Natalie is….selfless, kind, loving, caring, loyal, fun, protective, thoughtful, funny, joyful, but most of all…NATALIE IS LOVED.

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Her favorite verse is: “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”” Isaiah 30:21

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HAPPY, HAPPY BIRTHDAY, NATALIE!!!  See you SATURDAY!!

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