Israel...Day Four

Today began with a morning run through the city streets of Tiberias.  Again, I watched the city wake up.  On the docket today, a wooden boat, which reminded me somewhat of the smaller gullets we saw in Turkey.  The waters were calm that morning and our captain attempted to cast a net and retrieve fish from the water.  Similar to how Jesus and His disciples would have done it so many years ago.  I walked along the benches on the boat, pausing to peer over the edge, trying to look down into the water and imagine.  I allowed my mind to float away and picture Jesus on this very water.  Calming the waves.  Reaching out for Peter.  Standing on the water.  Alive.  Here, in this very place.  I mean, how does one even begin?  It was here, around this water that Jesus’ ministry began.  Tiberias, Capernaum, these cities were the hometowns of Peter, James, Andrew, John and Matthew.  They are described at great lengths in the Gospels.  And me, well I was able to walk there too.  I swam in the water.  I ran the modern day roads built upon these historical places.  When we crossed the lake, we went on shore at a museum, one that housed a boat they believe to be dated to Jesus’ time, over 2000 years old.  It had been found buried under water, completely preserved.  The entire process to excavate and rebuild the boat took over 9 years.  Remarkable.  And we were able to see it, walk around it and watch a video on exactly where this important piece of history was found, how they went about dating the wood and then the preservation of the vessel.  From here we traveled to the Jordan River where some members of our group were baptized.  I dipped my toes in the water and mostly just let the tears flow as I watched.  Never fails.  I was in the singing mood today, on the bus and at the river, I hummed worship tunes and clapped wildly as our friends emerged from the water a new creation.  We traveled to Best Shean, the place where King Saul was beheaded, a town where excavations have unearthed eighteen different cities and the place where in 749AD an earthquake completely destroyed the city.  We walked the streets, shouted in the amphitheatre and imagined what life would have been like with the shop fronts restored and open, the mosaics intact and the pillars standing tall.  Or at least that is what I did.  And I watched.  I watched the young adults run from ruin to ruin exploring.  Lunch was served by a small falafel stand nearby and today I distinctly remember ice cream treats following said lunch.  Maybe because it was especially warm this day or maybe because I love Magnum bars, either way it was enjoyable.  Again we had a bus ride to our next destination, Qumran, the desert mountains that hid the Dead Sea Scrolls until their discovery centuries later.  Never mind the heat, we saw the exact place where they were brought up into the light.  Let the weight of that sink in just a bit.  And then the Dead Sea.  Our hotel was gorgeous, more of a resort than a hotel.  Gorgeous grounds, a pool, gym and access to the Dead Sea, not more than 100 steps from door to sand.  The salt mounds that collect in the sea could be seen on our drive but I do not think that any justice was done to this body of water.  It is unlike anything I have experienced before.  Salty, yes, but the water was this mesmerizing shade of blue-green.  I stepped in and then turned and floated.  Yes, floated in knee deep, rather warm water.  Mud from the "floor" was strategically placed in buckets and quickly became something like war paint and then once photos were taken washed off and the floating continued.  This afternoon was filled with down time and journaling, quiet time and pool antics, a work out and moonlight walk.  It was this night that I witnessed an Israeli fighter jet pass over. Actually I heard it before I saw it and by the time I looked up I was just an afterthought.  At home I've heard it said that the sound of the fighter jest is the sound of freedom, here I'm not certain what the people would call that.  Later in the night I would be visited by Thing 2 and a group of her friends performing a Jewish dance in our hotel room.  That is something I won't soon forget.  Seems they made friends at the hotel and wanted to share in their joy!  And isn't that a piece of travel as well;  Experiencing life with the locals, learning about their lives, their celebrations, their routines and rituals.  I do believe so.  

"We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure."
Hebrews 6:19

View from the boat

2000 year old boat, excavated from the Sea of Galilee

Jumping for joy at the Jordan River

Beit Shean

Qumran

The Dead Sea...as seen from the bus

Floating!  

Moon rise over the Dead Sea


The Baby is 15: This One's For Him

You've done it.  My boy has gone and turned 15, had another birthday and grown a few inches taller.  Five to be exact.  You're catching up to Dad.  Reminding me of your height at every opportunity.  Picking me up bending down when you give me my morning hug.  Tall and more man like than baby.  Shaving for the first time this year.  Camping out alone in the woods.  Landing a job at the local rock climbing gym.  That story is one for the books.  You were being you and helping a younger than you kiddo.  Your kindness was noticed and the next thing you know the  manager was handing you an application and scheduling an interview for you.  Well done.  That is character shining through.  This summer you were baptized.  In a lake at JAM camp.  An opportunity was given to you for a tryout with Sporting KC youth academy in Kansas City.  We spent almost a week there while you trained with the team, walked the locker room and stretched in the weight room.  Experiencing all the amenities of a top notch program.  In the end there wasn't an opening to be filled by you on the squad but you held your head high and allowed the experience to motivate and spur you on.  I'd be lying if I said my Mama's heart didn't feel that defeat every bit as deep.  I see you come alive on that pitch.  Leading and encouraging.  Learning.  I saw loads of that while you played your first season with Middle TN Fire.  Whenever I saw your teammates huddled with arms draped over each other's shoulders I knew you were learning a lesson far more important than any footie match could teach you.  I'm grateful for those moments.  Those boys that lead and taught you.  New friendships have been made in this last year.  You joined a new youth group, began a new discipleship relationship and started high school.  Still home schooling, for now.  Still training in the mornings, only now you drive away with a friend often times.  There are moments when I can not wrap my brain around that one.  You learned some magic tricks this year and at every family gathering you would perform for us.  Cards, straws, coins, you name it and it became a prop for your slide of hands.  I even considered giving you school credit for your newly learned skills.  Mostly due to the amount of time you invested in learning said tricks.  You also traveled to Cali for your week with Poppi and Nani, where you spent the week surfing, deep sea fishing and making memories with family.  14 was a big year for you.

Baptism with Pastor Travis- Summer 2016

On the pitch in Savannah, GA - Fall 2016

And yet, you are still just as tender hearted and silly as ever.  Thing 4, I pray this year of 15 is full of hope and wonder.  Adventures rooted in Jesus and chasing hard after His call on your life.  I pray for humility, you do know that is the mark of the best kind of leader.  I pray for love, big and bold and an attitude of gratitude for this one precious life you've been given.  I say it every year, it is a holy privilege to be your Mama.  Truly.  Fifteen holds so much for you, I believe that.  Let's walk this journey together. Sharing.  Communicating.  Laughing.  Finding the magic in the everyday and being present together.  Praying big prayers.  Standing in the messy and hard side by side, finding strength in Jesus.  You don't always like our reasons or answers but I promise there is reasoning behind it all.  Especially the "no's".  Our words hold weight and when we speak them I pray they bring life to you.  Encouragement.  Courage.  You are stepping into man-hood.  I pray that you understand the meaning of that.  You have had some great examples to witness.  I pray you know that it is healthy to cry.    Healthy to feel deeply.  Healthy to allow others to see that in you.   I pray that you live out Jesus' definition of man and not the worlds.  I pray fervently for your future.  For the responsibilities you have now and those that lie ahead.  I pray that you understand the value of every person you encounter.  I pray you know how to say no and when to say yes and you respect others' decisions for the same.  I pray that you bring peace and unity to your generation.  I pray that your strength continues to flow from the Holy Spirit within you.  I pray and prophetically speak discernment and wisdom to fill you.  At all times.  I pray for forgiveness and grace for you.  I pray that when you make a mistake you admit it.  When you fail, you remember that it is just the beginning.  And I pray your ears are open and your mouth closed when necessary.  I pray this year of 15 is remarkable in an unforgettable way, Thing 4.  I love you so much more than you know.

Happy, happy birthday Thing 4!

Machu Pichu xo

Israel...Day Three (but really day 4 and also Father's Day)



(I must state here that my order of events may not be accurate, as in we were on and off the bus so many times, for so many days, I am simply rereading my journal entries and phone notes and trying to compile the best of my memories and take aways from this beyond amazing trip, thanks for your grace.)

This morning was nothing short of magical.  We woke early, like before the sun early in hopes that God would be showing off for us over the Sea of Galilee.  No surprise, He did.  I witnessed our group of students gather together on a concrete jetty, the very one we had jumped off of the day before, and worship our Creator.  That sun rose, big and bright over the horizon.  Casting a glow on the body of water below it.  Ombre pinks and yellows lighting up the sky before us.  And meanwhile we stood there mouths gaping and in awe of the sight.  It was worth fighting the sleepy eyes to witness this.  



Students.

Barely peeking over the horizon.

 The Mount of Beatitudes.  Walking on to this holy site caused pause in my soul.  We took time to reflect, read through the passage and pray, allowing the Holy Spirit to invade us with His presence.  And that He did.  Other than the sounds of nature surrounding us, there was only silence.  No faces behind phones or cameras, no small talk, no lecturing or scripture references, my Bible open, the hills in front of me and quiet.  Stillness and space to process just how sacred Jesus’ words are, in the place where they were delivered.  Our time in that place set a tone for the rest of my travels throughout Israel.  If I could only remember to call upon that holy place and allow the spirit to invade me as he did there.  While sitting on a bench overlooking the valley below I read and reread the Sermon.  I squinted my eyes shut and maybe even rocked back and forth.  I know, I can't even imagine what that must have looked like.  I was not concerned with that or anything else.  It was me and the Holy Spirit and Jesus up there on that hill.  Communing.  I didn't journal or type or take a picture.  And then I walked, alone, and prayed.  This.  I tried to ignore the Catholic church that was built there.  Looked past the people I was passing.  Shut everything out but His words and I felt them.  To my core. This was a sacred space.  



Mosaic and my toes.  Proof.

I could have stayed on that hill for the rest of the day, but no, there was more to see, more places to go.  So we did.  Onward to Tel Dan.  A nature walk through the Northern most city of Israel in the Old Testament.  This city runs on the headwaters of the Jordan River and is beautiful, filled with plant life and archaeological surprises around every corner.  Again, a recent discovery of an altar built to offer a golden calf for worship by Jeroboam stood waiting to tell it's secrets.  Around the corner, city walls, made of basalt stones, from approximately the 4th millennial.  Just think about that for a moment.  I stood staring, mouth wide open I'm sure, at exactly what was before me.  I am certain we could have spent all day dissecting these walls and all they represent.  


Entrance to the Reserve.


City Gate.

Onward.  To Caesarea Philippi.  The northern most site of Jesus' ministry and a site that had a heavy atmosphere to it.  A population of Druze live in the area, an off shoot branch of Islam.  Previously this land had been used as a place for sacrificial offerings to Baal. When the Greeks took the land they dedicated it to Pan; The god from which the story of Peter Pan was taken.  Caesarea was not my favorite place.  I walked alone on the grounds and wandered off the paths.  And while it was beautiful a sense of darkness hung over the structures and I couldn't shake it.  Enough said about that.  


Looking up into the hills.

Now Capernaum; The center of Jesus' ministry and the hometown of Peter, James, Andrew, John and Matthew.  The city itself is an open air museum with a reconstructed ruin of a synagogue dating from the 2nd-4th century AD.  It's importance during Jesus' time was mostly due to it's access to the Via Marais, essentially the main trade route.  To the east there Gentiles and on the West the Jews.





Bethsaida was yet another stop on our itinerary and one of 350 villages in the Galilee area.    It is on the West side of Tiberias and the hometown of Peter, Andrew and Philip.  A blind man was healed here, as told in Mark 8:22.


Our last stop of the day was the Church of Peter of Primacy.  There is a chapel on site that was built in 1933 to mark the place where our Risen Savior appeared to His disciples.  It is the place where Peter was commissioned to go and feed His lambs.  We sat on the concrete steps and listened to the students read a selected passage, we walked into the chapel and along the shore of the Sea of Galilee. I imagined what it most have felt like for the disciples to see Jesus, with piercings on his hands and feet, walking towards them.  Or Peter, being asked how much he loved His master.  And then the way Jesus answers.  Profound and telling of  three different kinds of love and the response necessary.  This church also happens to be the place where I left my Bible.  All because I was attempting to get the best angle for our group photo using the Sea of Galilee as our backdrop.  I didn't realize it until we were boarded on the bus and ready to head out.  Surprisingly I did not feel remorse about this, no angst or sadness.  I knew it was left behind for a reason.  For someone else, hopefully.  




And that marks the end of this day.  Back to the hotel on the Sea of Galilee for the night.



Scraped Together...(Some lost thoughts from a couple years ago)

Some thoughts here that I've been attempting to piece together for a while.  Lots of journal pages and chicken scratched notes laying around.  Tucked in my Bible, scribbled on the back of receipts.  Reeling through my mind on walks and runs and bike rides.  Waking me up when I'm asleep.  Being wrestled with and crossed out and re-worked.  And most likely still not making sense but still weighing on my heart.  Knocking on the door, wanting out.  Wanting a space of their own.  This happens to be that space.  Here goes.

A few weeks ago a dear friend and I sat in a room, waiting to hear a speaker at a women's event hosted by her church.  First off if you know me then you know "women's event" is not necessarily my cup of tea these days.  I went strictly because of the speaker, Sarah Bessey, author of
"Jesus Feminist".  No shame here people. Anyhow, we sat.  I scanned the room several times taking in the generations represented.  The ease at which everyone moved about the room.  Stood in line for coffee or passed the chocolate around the table.  At our table  I knew not another soul.  With the exception of my friend next to me.  There was a graciousness with which I hadn't been treated to before and it made my heart smile.  I shared small talk with a younger than me woman  when we discovered there was no more caffeinated coffee available.   I laughed as the musician, a young man, joked and made light of his gender amongst all the women present.  Then I cried as he sang the words to a most captivating song.  When it was time for the speakers of the evening to take the stage, I became mesmerized.  Filled with anticipation and ready to experience an authenticity
I had merely read of in her book.

When the words, "You are too..." were spoken I bit my lip and winced.  That statement struck me in a way unexpected.  How often have I said, "you are too much", "I am just too...", whatever that blank may be I have been on both the receiving and giving end of that one too many times.  That was how it all started.  Simply sharing her testimony, being defined as "too much" or not enough.  The label plagues us.  It creates in us a stronghold to lies.  I am thinking mostly of my daughters here.  To the lies the culture tells.  What is spoken into their lives by a society that is as confused about feminism as the Christians are.  Here's the truth people, "Biblical womanhood is not any different than Biblical personhood" as Sarah Bessey was quick to remind us of that evening.  If it seems as though I left a gaping hole in the connection, let me attempt to connect the dots here. 

The message can be deceiving.  Whether females are told they can do anything, or they were created for a supporting role.  One or the other.  Not both and certainly whichever you choose.   As for gender roles we are categorized typically by being too much.  Too much drama.  Too much emotion.  Too much too handle.  Too loud.  Too quiet.  Too meek.  Too fit.  Too organized.  Too angry.  Too bitter.  Too bubbly.  Too stupid.  Too smart.  Catch my drift?  Never enough.  And never who we were created to be.  And that is where the enemy is given the reigns.  He doesn't deserve them and he will not be the one to tell us otherwise.  We were created in God's very own image.  Amen?  So if that is true, which I do believe it is, than how can we be too much of anything?
The answer is simple, we can't. 

Furthermore, being a Jesus feminist is leaning into the One and Only and what He created you to be.  Not the politically correct, breaking glass ceilings, I can do it all on my own, feminism that has really done us all a disservice, both past and present.  To do that, to know who you are, you must know the one that created you.  Healer, King of Kings, Emmanuel, Father of the fatherless, friend.  And I suppose this is where I step on or off my soap box.  Early on in my roles as wife and mother I felt as though I had something to prove.  Being a teen mom left me with a chip on my shoulder the size of the state of Texas.  It affected my marriage and mothering.  More over it took it's toll on my soul.  Creating separation between Jesus and me.  I took it all on my own.  Lesson learned, right?  Well friends, I am a work in progress.  I won't claim to be an expert and I haven't been to seminary but I am in fellowship with my Creator.  That does not mean I have the answers now.  Simply put, I lean into Him.  And when I feel distant, or in the wilderness, as I call the current season I am in, then I lean in a little harder.  Push a bit further.  Hoping that He reveals Himself to me while I try to understand the silence.

Feminism doesn't have to be a scary word.  It isn't really.  Being created a woman, given the privilege of living life in this skin is just that.  A gift.  Thank you Jesus that I am able to choose, to serve, to create, to be exactly who you intended me to be. And all the while changing and growing and learning.  Being a Jesus believer doesn't make me less of a feminist or woman, just as understanding that I need a savior doesn't make me dependent or weak or insignificant. 

Israel...Day Two

To say we hit the ground running would be some sort of cliche, maybe an oxymoron but oh so true.  After a much needed sleep I woke early to run sea side.  I love running in a new city.  Watching the place wake up, locals walking their dogs, the sounds of morning activities and crashing waves.  For me, it was the best way to start the day.  And then it was on to the bus and time to travel.  Today began at Caesarea Maritime.   A port built by Herod the Great and at the center of Israel.  We sat in the theatre and gazed out at the artificial harbor that Herod had built.  Sure, some of the stone had been replaced but there were original stones there, remains of pillars and grandeur that once existed.  This place was a bustling port during it's time and also the same city where Peter was sentenced to prison, where the Apostle James was beheaded and the port from which Paul sailed to Tarsus after his conversion.  In the very theatre we sat in Paul pleaded his case after his arrest in Jerusalem.  Water had eroded and covered most of the city until it was discovered by airplane pilots flying over.  They noticed a black-ish coloring beneath the surface and with that excavations began, uncovering an important city with a theatre, city streets, marketplace, aqueducts, temples, baths and homes.  We wandered around and then down to the water.  It was there with my feet on the stone, watching fisherman stand at the water's edge, atop the ruins, that a certain awe overtook  me.  Thing 2 and her friend were navigating the stones and venturing further out, fearless and perhaps unaware of the significance of the place they were standing; What it once was.  What it meant to have unearthed such a treasure key to our faith.  The moment was not lost on me and as I took their photo I snapped a mental one for me.  One to lock away and remember forever.



My shell, just a little keepsake from the day.


Thing 2 and Adventure Buddy.

And then on to Mount Carmel.  A lush mountain range overlooking Haifa.  Baal was worshipped at this site, grand statues and monuments erected in his honor, until the people ceased to worshiping their little "g" god and the God of the universe answered Elijah.  Worth taking note of?  Yes.  Our God does not fail.  He is not crushed or scared or intimidated by the false idols of His people.  He always prevails.  Megiddo was our next stop, or more commonly referred to as the setting of Revelation's Armageddon, (Revelation 16:13-16) and a battlefield like no other.  Numerous wars have been waged in this valley, a Canaanite city was found here, and today it still is one of the most contested territories on the Via Maris.  We were able to walk around the site, taking in the wells, the walls and even descending underground.   There was an outlook to view the Jezreel valley and across the valley Aaron called our attention to the mountain in the distance.  He claimed that was Deborah the Prophetess' mountain.  Such a sweet moment for me.  I have studied Deborah.  Read her story and been intrigued by her.  She was a judge, approximately 200 years after Joshua had lead the people into the Holy Land.  Deborah lead the Israelites in a battle over the Canaanites and brought peace to her people.  Her song is a testimony to God's power and might and is still sung by the Jewish community today.  Deborah is considered one of the seven mothers of the Jewish faith, quite a feat for a woman and an example for me.  From taking in Deborah's mountain to taking selfies with recent high school graduates.  Just a day in the life here in Israel.


The Jezreel Valley, Deborah's mountain in the distance.


Underground at Megiddo


The Group!


Our last site for the day was "Nazareth".  A village that had been constructed to depict how it would have been in Jesus' day.  Nazareth, the place where the angel Gabriel announced the birth of Jesus to Mary, the place where Jesus grew up until moving to Capernaum, the place where He taught in the synagogues.  Here we went on a journey of sorts, staring at a cross that would have been most like what Jesus was hung on.  We traveled through time to see Lydia (Acts 14), weaving with royal purple  wool, dyed by rare Mediterranean snails.  The land was littered with almond, cypress and olive trees, every which way.  There were donkeys working the land, an olive press and so much more to take in.

With our day coming to a close we boarded the bus for our destination for the next few days, on to the Sea of Galilee.  No time to waste once arriving, we jumped into our bathing suits and headed to the water.  Our hotel was on the Sea, a most breathtaking view.  My roomie and I jumped off the concrete block into the water and I let the rush of blood and adrenaline take over.  I felt 10 years old again.  Giddy as could be and completely in the moment.  Other tourists looked on and a couple joined in.  There we were adults and kids and foreigners all squealing in delight and swimming together, in the Sea of Galilee.  Let me retype that, because I do believe I wrote it twice in my journal.  I was swimming in the Sea of Galilee.

Olive tree in Nazareth


Lydia

The Sea of Galilee, moon rising.

Israel...Day One

So much to share about this complicated land.  More pictures, more words and more thoughts than I know what to do with.  Enough history to keep my nose in the books for years and still I'm not able to wrap my head around this sacred place.  The chosen people called Israel home.  Our heroes of faith walked within her borders, or just outside.  And yet, I walked those roads too.  Stood on the Mount of Olives, walked in the Garden of Gethsemane, climbed Masada, felt the water David spoke of in his Psalms and dipped my finger tips in the Sea of Galilee.  I mean, come on.  Tell me how to process the weight of these experiences.  Months later and I am still reeling from my ten days spent there. 

I'll start the best way I know how.  With pictures and notes from my journal.  Then we'll probably continue that way.  Like in time thoughts as I took in and meditated on each day's events.  Before all that I must comment on what a holy privilege it was to travel with Thing 2.  To venture to Israel with a group of recently graduated high school students that had been preparing for this trip for months, studying, memorizing scripture and note taking during lengthy lectures, was nothing short of incredible.  I did not know many of these students well but I can say that I witnessed a generation rising; And that my friends should be encouraging to us all.  They were a special group, offering their gifts to the masses, overcoming their fears and walking as a royal priesthood where Jesus Himself walked.  It was a beautiful experience.  So here we go.  We'll start at the beginning, not including the travel day escapades, but in Tel Aviv.  Day one as noted in my journal.

We landed in Tel Aviv and hit the ground running.  Through customs and onto the bus that became sort of a home base for us as we trekked across the country.  Our bus driver, Eli, greeted us with a smile and our tour guide, Aaron as well.  On board we were welcomed, and as we drove the city streets the low roar of excitement surrounded me.  With no sense of where we were going I looked out my window and tried to follow the road.  Looking for people, for signs of a long ago story.  And then, once we unloaded at our destination, there it was.  A stone whale, a new addition to the city but nonetheless a tell tale sign of what had happened here.  Marking the port where Jonah was swallowed up.  Beautiful buildings with overflowing window boxes lined the streets.  The Mediterranean Sea bordering us.  Cobble stone roads and hidden alleys every which way.  And the sound I remember the most, the waves crashing on the sand.  I inhaled the salty air.  We walked and talked and ate at a local cafe where again my olfactory senses were on overload   Spices and fermented cabbage and delicate meats, oils for the fryers and deliciousness.  I do remember how delighted I was to hear we would be walking to our hotel in stead of boarding the bus again.  Fourteen hours of sitting in small spaces had begun to take it's toll on this body of mine.  There was a trail along the sea and we followed the winding path, passing play grounds and flying para-sailers, locals sitting down for a snack or smoke break, Mamas walking their babies in strollers and tourists heading down to the sandy shore.  Once room assignments were given no time was wasted.  Upstairs to change in to bathing suits and down to the sea.  I couldn't wait.  I watched Thing 2 and her friends jump the waves and I listened to their squeals each and every time the water came crashing down on them.  And then the squeals took on a different tone as they realized jelly fish surrounded them.  A few stings didn't slow them down though.  The water was a welcome excursion, an introduction of sorts to this foreign land we would be exploring and getting to know over the next week.  I laid back in the sand and closed my eyes.  I felt my limbs relax, all control lost as I melted into the grainy ground beneath me.  Was I really here? My mind was mush.  Possibly from the travel and time zones and general exhaustion of the undertaking but I didn't want to miss anything.  I wanted this first experience to be the marking of the week ahead.  And it was.  The day ended with an after dinner walk through the city center and ice cream from a corner shop.  Stories and lives beginning to be shared and memories being made.

The whale. Or fish.  You decide.

The view from our walk to the hotel, it's one of those tall buildings in the distance.

Cornetto cone-she was a happy girl!


The Fabulous Fourth

Our fourth of July in photos.  But first a recap of the weekend's activities.  We spent the weekend at Pappo and Grammy's house.  The place where there is a garden, that is really more like a small farm, loads of toys for kids and adults alike, a pool with a volley ball net and diving board, horse shoes and rafts and a hammock, countless umbrellas and tables for lounging around and coolers filled with icy cold beverages, again for kids and adults alike.  This place is special.  It's special because Pappo and Grammy are and they welcome everyone in with open arms.  Don't get me wrong, you have to pull your own weight. No free rides are given.  There is grilling to be done and dishes and taking out the trash.  Everyone does their part so Pappo and Grammy don't have to.  They are the most gracious hosts.  Really.  We made some pretty fantastic memories this last time around and we are so grateful they provided us the place to do so.

Uncle Aaron photo bombing!  Classic.

Husband Jared grilling and hungry kiddos waiting.  
Many meals have been shared around this poolside table.

Sparklers in the drive way.

Aunt Maggie joining in the fun!

Thing 2 and Cousin Emme!

The fam bam... Our attempt at a family photo.

Sisters.  

Playtime in the pool.

Thing 4 and Cousin Colin.  The boys!  

We played volleyball, floated on rafts, jumped off the diving board, flipped off the diving board, had water gun fights, lounged in the comfiest poolside chairs, and fell into bed happy, played out and exhausted in the very best way.  Thankful for the time to be with family, and for our freedom which was hard earned!