Friday, July 19, 2013

A Cord Of Three Strands

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Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. ~Ecclesiastes 4:12

A story that seemed way too sensational to be real came across my Facebook news feed the other day.  A girl from Xalapa, Mexico, on her way to World Youth Day, had her passport stolen, was extricated back to Mexico City where the authorities arrested her after finding 20 pounds of cocaine in her luggage.  They threw her in jail and her friends and family had 48 hours to prove her innocence before she'd be shuttled to a maximum security prison for a minimum of a year.  

Say what?!  

A friend posted it, swore it was real.  That the girl was a member of a sister community of the prayer group I belong to.  But my brain just couldn't wrap around this story as being something other than a hoax.  That sort of stuff doesn't happen in real life.  Does it?  I know this is Mexico and not the United States we're talking about.  And the laws are a bit...different than they are here.  

The next day I called my mom to ask if she'd heard the story.  Did she know if it was real?  Had the leadership in my prayer group heard about this?  She hadn't.  A few hours later I got an email from my sister, passing on the story.  Claiming it really is legit.


So we did our tiny little part here in Michigan for a stranger in Mexico with our only connection being that we belong to the same larger prayer group organization.  We liked the Facebook page that was started to help her be freed.  And we prayed.  

In the back of my mind I wondered, does "liking" a page on Facebook really even make a difference in a case like this?  What does some judge in Mexico care if a bunch of Americans on Facebook agree this girl should be freed?  

I know there is a whole lot more back story that I don't understand as I can't read Spanish well enough to translate the news articles and Facebook updates.  But I know enough that the Archdiocese of her local Catholic church got involved.  That the leaders of her local prayer group got involved.  But I do know this...

The page went viral.  The other social media stuff the youth in Mexico set up went viral.  It caught the attention of the media.  It caught the attention of the FBI.  The Attorney General in Mexico.  And all charges were dropped and she was freed within 48 hours.  

The media went nuts.  Asking her friends and did you do this?  How did you get so much help and attention?  This is not normal.  

And this is where the truth of God's Word came in.  A cord of three strands is not easily broken.  By herself, she would have floundered in prison.  There would have been little hope of her being able to prove her innocence in two short days.  Even if it was just her family who stepped up to help her.  Maybe they could have done something.  I don't know them; I don't know their connections.  But my guess is it would have been difficult.  

Instead, the friends of this girl let off a battle cry.  They may have been a small group of people in a town in Mexico that I've never even heard of.  But they are connected to a much greater army through their love for Christ.  See, this prayer group we belong to made a commitment to stand by each other.  To pray for each other.  To help when needed.  To form a Bulwark, a wall, against evil.  

Satan picked the wrong girl to mess with.  Apparently he failed to realize that she wasn't all alone.  She had a world-wide army of prayer warriors who had her back.  

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

My Vacation--By Joy

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I went to the Smokey Mountains.  My favorite part was the water park.  We went there almost every day.  The best part was the water slide that you went down on an inner tube.  I was afraid to go on it at first, but Momma made me.  And I was so scared at first.  But once I went down the water slide, I decided it was fantastic and begged to go down it again, and again, and again.  And I liked the lazy river.  The best part of it was that I could swim and swim through the river.

Then there was this big bucket that filled up with water and then dump on me.  Mommy never wanted to get dumped on by the big bucket.  There was a big yellow water slide, but I was too afraid to go down it.  Momma only went once.  She didn't like it so much, either.

I really really liked the cave

The guide across the gully standing next to a stalagmite

Getting ready to climb down into the cave

We went through this cave and it was really big.  The tourist guy went really high across a gully to climb up a cliff to show us how tall a stalagmite was.  In the cave you could drink out of the river.  Almost everyone tried it.  But I couldn't drink because the water kept dripping out of my hands, and I was terribly thirsty and I had no water.  And there was this waterfall and in the middle of the cave when we were walking, we sat down on a bench.  It was really fun.

We were watching a movie

The condo was kind of small.  I slept on a pull out couch bed with Lizzy and David slept on an air bed.  The condo had a counter breakfast bar and I liked to sit there and eat my breakfast.  We played stuffed animal hide and seek.  Once I hid my stuffed animal in my jacket hood.

Wonderworks Magic show was amazing

I liked the magic show.  One of the tricks the magician was tied up in a box and there was a sharp blade coming toward him.  I thought he was going to die, but then he appeared somewhere else.  It was amazing.

Daddy's funny

The Comedy Barn was the silliest yet.  There was a talking dog, and dogs that did tricks.  It was silly that Daddy got up on stage.  He kept knocking over the comedian's trunk and it made me laugh.  Also, daddy held one of the actress men upside down while holding his legs.

Getting ready for the show--I make a cute pig

The Hatfield and McCoy dinner show was really fun.  We were part of the Hatfield family.  It was weird that the Hatfields and McCoys hated each other.  At the end of the show, the families made up and liked each other.

At the top of Clingman's Dome--I was really cold

I wanted to go down that trail, but Dad said no

The hike to Clingman's Dome was really cold.  I had to wear my Grandma's jacket.  I got my favorite stuffed animal, Otty the Otter from the gift shop.  And I really really liked souvenir shopping.  I got toys and a pretty butterfly necklace.

The End.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

We Took To The Woods

The kids did not approve of my hike choice--I don't get it

Today you get to hear about the nature-ish side of our vacation to the Smokey Mountains.  I may have been a little too over-excited about preparing for hiking in the mountains.  Mainly in buying too much.  But better to have more than you need than to discover you're missing something vital.

Sunday morning we loaded up our fanny packs with lots of treats--sandwiches in flat wraps, jerky, nuts, granola bars, cheese sticks, crackers and water bottles.  We slathered ourselves in sunscreen and bug spray.  We adjusted our walking sticks to comfortable positions, laced up our hiking shoes, and went for a hike in the woods.

All decked out and ready for a hike

I chose the first hike--to Grotto Falls.  It's a nice uphill hike to a waterfall that you can walk behind.  I thought it was my waterfall, but I was wrong.  After much discussion with my parents, we think the infamous waterfall incident happened in another part of the Appalachian Mountains.  Oh well.  One day we'll make it to the right waterfall.

Lunch at Grotto Falls

About five minutes into the hike, the whining started.  "Are we there yet?"  "I'm tired."  "I need to sit down for a minute."  I told Joy to suck it up and keep walking.  All I can say is that I'm glad it was uphill on the way there, because I probably would have been carrying Joy home otherwise.  But we all made it to the waterfall where we enjoyed a hard earned lunch.

The kids loved the waterfall.  That they got to walk behind it.  Put their hands in it.  Get cooled off by the spray.  And it was beautiful.  Definitely worth the three mile hike.

View from behind the falls

Tuesday we went for hike #2.  This time we chose a more unnatural hike up a concrete sidewalk to Clingman's Dome, a tower at the very top of the highest peak in the park.  I'm sure the view would have been beautiful from up there, but we couldn't see a thing due to the fog.  And it was cold.  Did I mention that it was cold?  Because it was.  And we were not prepared for the 58 degree weather--we were all dressed in shorts and tank tops with no jackets.  Lizzy and I wrapped up in my mom's beach towels, Joy wore my mom's spare jacket, and the guys just walked faster.  We were definitely stylin'.

Baby, it's cold outside

Mom and Dad

Wednesday we went on a bear hunt through Cade's Cove.  We saw...nothing.  No bears.  Just a few deer and wild turkeys.  So we tried again Thursday.  After a half hour of driving the loop, we came upon a traffic jam--which means a bear sighting.  We pulled over and got out to get a closer look at our first, and only, bear sighting of the trip.  Sure enough, it was a bear.  We took pictures and then got hustled back into our car by an over-excited park ranger.  Mom says the best bear sightings are when they get there before the park ranger--translation--they can get closer to the bear because there's no one around to tell them they're being stupid to get so close.  I decided to never let my kids go to the mountains alone with my mom.  They might get eaten by a bear.

Our first bear sighting!

Our real bear sighting--do you see that speck of black in the middle?
Ya, that's the bear.

We were unfortunate to be at the mountains during a big storm front that dumped rain on the mountains for basically three days straight.  Which meant we had to amend our plans a bit.  So Thursday we went to see the mountains from a different angle--from underneath.  We went to Tuckaleechee Cave.  One thing you need to know is that when vacationing with my parents, you will see everything from all angles--when we went to Niagra Falls, we saw it from the top, from the bottom, from a boat at the bottom, from behind, in the day time, at night, and with fireworks shooting off.  One view is never satisfactory.

Hanging out in the cave

So the cave.  My kids loved the cave.  It is a wet cave with a river running through it and a 200 foot underground waterfall.  It is a privately owned cave, meaning the long list of rules I remembered from my visit to Mammoth Cave years ago did not apply to this cave.  We took lots of pictures, touched a stalagmite, drank water from the underground river, and put our hands into the waterfall spray.  And the guide was fabulous with my kids--they asked him questions the entire time and he answered all of them.  The cave was probably the highlight of our trip.

View of the mountains from Cade's Cove

As we were driving home, the kids asked me if I wanted to move to the mountains.  I love mountains.  There's something so beautiful about them that calls to me.  But after thinking on it a while, I decided I'd rather give up the mountains than my trips to Lake Michigan.  I wish I could move a few of the mountain peaks to northern Michigan right by the beach and then I would be in paradise.  (Minus the poisonous snakes of course--those can stay down south)

P.S.--For those of you who read my blog yesterday about the start of our big road trip, you will be happy to know that my van is now all fixed up with no Check Engine Light on.  $400 later, we have a new oxygen sensor and a new serpentine belt.  Always a joy to get that call from the mechanic letting you know the damage to your wallet.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Road Trip

Our first glimpse of the mountains

We went on vacation to one of my most favorite places ever--Smokey Mountains National Park.  My parents have a time share at a resort near the park and were very nice in offering to take us with them on their vacation.  Which is great, because there's nothing I like better than a mostly free vacation.  Especially to see my beloved mountains.

We spent a week packing for the trip, making up lists of food to take, last minute items to buy, loaded up the car at 5:30 am and were on the road at 6:00 am.  I admit that I was a little leery of our trip due to our last experience driving through the Poconos Mountains to New Jersey for my brother's wedding two years ago.  We hit the mountains mid afternoon on Memorial Day.  The traffic was horrendous, the temperature was almost 100 degrees, and our check engine light came on.  Quickly followed by our engine temperature gauge going into the red zone of death.  We pressed through, because we had little choice, but we took our car to a garage as soon as we got to our destination.  The garage said our car was fine, just low on engine coolant.  They topped us off and sent us on our way.

Our van drove fine through the rest of the trip.  The day after we got back, I took the car for a drive and didn't even make it out of our subdivision before the temperature gauge went back into the red.  We had the car checked out and ended up needing a $2000 engine repair.

Needless to say, I had reservations about taking our van to the mountains again.  I bought new tires, I had the oil changed.  I got the brakes checked.  And I had the car shop look over the car and make sure all was running fine.  They all gave me the all clear and said we'd be just fine.

Getting our van checked over at Auto Zone

Two hours into our trip, five minutes after I took over the driving, the check engine light came on.  My heart dropped.  And my dream from the night before came rushing back--the one where God told me to trust Him.  NOOOOO!!!!!!  Whenever that happens, it means something bad is going to happen where I'll actually need to trust God.

I tried not to panic.  I prayed.  I watched my gauges more than the road.  Hubby told me to keep on driving for another half hour until we'd hit a city with an Auto Zone where we could get our computer read for free.  A very nice man came out to our car and told us it was one of our oxygen sensors, the better one to go, and that we'd be fine to keep on driving.  The worst that would happen is we'd get a little worse gas mileage.  Which would be fine except for the fact that our gas gauge is broken and we fill up based on mileage, not the gauge.  But the car wasn't about to implode, so I was happy.  After another five hours of driving, the light turned off.

The kids were great in the car considering it took us 10.5 hours to get to our destination, including stops for gas and lunch.  We played Twenty Questions, the License Plate game (we found 45 States on our trip), other random games, listened to loud music, put on a movie for the kids, ate a bunch of snacks, and ogled the mountains as we neared our destination.

The bridge over the Ohio River taking us from Ohio to Kentucky

As we neared Knoxville, I checked our GPS and saw that the traffic was awful the whole way to Gatlinburg, so I used the "alternate route" feature.  We ended up taking the most convoluted, back way, twisty, two-laned mountain roads ever.  It was awesome.  I have no idea how we got to our destination, but it shaved off an hour and led to a whole lot of laughing as we saw parts of Tennessee that only the locals would ever see.  Hubby and I are big fans of the GPS feature on our phones.  We decided that our kids were never going to learn how to get anywhere the "right way" because we are always taking back roads to avoid traffic jams.

Just one of the awesome road names we saw along the way

While I'm not about to take a road trip just for the heck of it, we did end up having a lot of fun driving to our destination.  Life is so much better now that all of our kids are beyond the diaper phase.  And the whiny phase.  And the "I've been in the car too long" melt down phase.  Traveling is actually almost okay with them now.

And in keeping with tradition, on the way home, two hours from our house, the check engine light came back on.  Because that's how we roll when it comes to vacation.  Looks like my van is going to be seeing the car doctor next week to get an Oxygen Sensor repair.  Yeah.

Stay tuned for more posts from our trip where I will share about all the fun things we saw and did.  One of our adventures involves a Comedy Barn Theater show, Hubby, and an actor pulling him up on stage.  And we have it all on DVD.  Can't wait to watch it again.  And again.  And again...