lukeandmanda

The most amazing love story since Romeo and Juliet haha

Archive for the category “Adventures”

Becoming Bold: Bring on 2017

Christmas Card.jpg

2016 was a year of both endings and new beginnings, a strange year, split exactly in half with the first half occurring in Fort Benning, GA and the second in Fort Sill, OK.

This past January, my good friend, Michelle, and I were out to lunch at Thai Thai one of our usual restaurants on our weekly lunch rotation. We were both in a state of transition and wondering what the next year might bring for each of us. I wonder where we will be this time next year….And, I must say that my year ended up everything and nothing like I had envisioned over that plate of sweet and sour chicken and our favorite cream cheese roll appetizer.

I grew stronger this year–mentally, physically, emotionally. 2016 brought many challenges as well as opportunities and adventures.

The first half of the year brought another unexpected eye surgery preceded by countless trips to my traveling ophthalmologist who works several hours away, and I was able to handle this obstacle with a grace I have not possessed with my five previous operations. I was somewhat proud of how calm and collected I was in the face of this adversity. Here is some of the background behind that and the condition I was born with, known as strabismus. It is a condition I have lived with and battled my entire life, and one that I eventually hope to publish a book about in order to encourage others with a similar struggle. But, that is a tale for another day.

In May of this year, we picked up our entire life and left our comfort zones, my job, my sense of community and moved farther away from my hometown than I have ever lived before. We are no longer a quick four-hour drive from family, and creating our new home in the Midwest was both scary and exciting.

The transition out of my job was a whirlwind; I worked until the Monday I left town, our possessions already loaded on the moving truck. I produced six new commercials, trained my replacement and hosted a huge event during my last few days of work. I am always committed to doing my very best at work and felt a very strong sense of loyalty to my company. Thus, I had a hard time adjusting to no longer having that role. As Luke and I traveled around to see family, to vacation in the Bahamas, to our new life, I still felt a need to check in, wanting to make sure my former bosses and staff were doing well. It was a very strange feeling, like ripping off a part of myself, my identity, everything I had invested in and worked so hard for over almost three years. And, it was now going on without me.

In its absence, I found a new sense of peace and a new sense of identity as I began to recognize my preconceived ideals, ingrained for most of my life, that what we do or what job we have can define us as a person. Without my job, I felt that my identity did not exist to the same capacity. It is hard to explain, but Jesus used the time after we moved here, the time when Luke was so sick and I was so scared to learn to rely upon Him alone for my sense of worth and identity. I had more than a month off of work, something I was not used to, and without the busyness of my job to fill my days, I spent more time in the Word, time reflecting and journaling. I used my time to find out more about who Amanda is and what she believes as opposed to what society tells me I should believe and be.

I learned that while it is important to work hard at my Earthly job, and I will always have that same work ethic where I give 110%, my job is not my most important mission to fulfill in this life.

“Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.” – Ecclesiastes 2:11.

My identity and worth is as a Daughter of the King of Kings. No salary, no job title, no duties or responsibilities or bonus compensation defines me or my worth. Or yours. We are all equal in the eyes of God and equally valuable no matter what tasks our hands may find to do. Our job is simply to work at it with all of our heart.

When I started with Chick-fil-A, I saw immediately that I was right where God wanted me. And, He had so many lessons for me to learn in this season and still more to come. As I look back over this past six months, I can say that God is shaping me and defining me in new ways.

A few things that God has spoken to me that have really resonated these past few months:

“Look for the gift of being lonely. Look for the gift of solitude and silence.”

When I first moved to Oklahoma, I was the New Girl again. I didn’t have friends here yet and I was just getting to know my coworkers. Luke got pretty busy in his new job and I found myself alone a lot. And, I found the huge rewards in that time, in getting to know myself in fellowship with Jesus. I have found a new meaning to introspection and am grateful that I began this season somewhat alone, which forced me out of my comfort zone in this area.

“Every difficulty is an opportunity to prove God’s sufficiency to others.”

“Life is a journey, and the less we try to control it, the happier we will be.”

“His grace is enough for me.”

“The Devil’s lies and false accusations are powerless in my life. I stand on the truth of the Word.”

“The enemy will not be victorious in my life.”

“God always fulfills his promises in His appointed time.

These are just a few of the revelations I have been reflecting on during my bible study and devotional reading that I thought to share, both to bookmark where I am in this journey and to possibly encourage you as well.

Oh! What adventures we have had in 2016. We have been so very blessed, no question about that. Here is a look back over the past year.

We started off right with another Roll Tide victory as we rang in the New Year with our friends Michelle and Jeffrey in our apartment in Phenix City.

new-years-2

A few weeks later, our good friends Jessica and Will came down to visit us for a weekend. It was so nice to spend some time with them, go out to dinner, Escape from the Room in Columbus and attend a hockey game with our Army friends and neighbors, Jenae and Greg. Attending hockey games was one of our favorite pastimes in GA, one that we miss here in OK.

hockey.jpg

February was a busy, busy month as we celebrated Luke’s 26th birthday and traveled to NC to celebrate his sister Hannah’s college scholarship signing day for soccer. It was also my friend Jenn’s Confirmation Day at church, so we took her out to lunch to celebrate.

luke-hannah-sally

signing-day-1signing-day-2

manda-and-jenn

With March came Easter, and my Dad and grandmother visited us for the weekend!

eastereaster-3

In April, I had my last eye surgery to date. My mother-in-law came down to stay with Luke and I for a few days. We had a fun trip to Pine Mountain to get lunch and go shopping on the last day of her visit before I had to return to work and she had to get home.

Sally and Manda.jpg

A few days later, I had word that we were officially moving to Oklahoma. The timeline had been up in the air until Luke’s unit was officially shut down at Ft. Benning and our orders sent us on ahead to Ft. Sill. I gave my boss notice and began to organize our home for the move. My heart was a little tougher–I had trouble adjusting to the idea of leaving this “home away from home” where we started our marriage, built strong friendships and a great life together.

ft-sill

commercials.jpg

This was one of my last days of work filming our last set of commercials. It had been a great day getting more than 35 actors through and scenes shot. I knew I would miss my coworkers!

In May, the end was truly here for our time at Ft. Benning. I was sent off with a lovely going away dinner with my bosses at Buckhead Grill, one of our favorite restaurants, and a going away lunch with my team. They almost made me cry with their thoughtfulness and generosity. It was certainly a tough goodbye.

good-bye-gift

PMG.jpg

good-bye-photo

And so, just like that, I said a final Good bye to my train car-shaped office on South Railroad Street. It was truly the ride of a lifetime. Until next time, Phenix City.

I came in the next morning to wrap up the Bible study I had organized with my coworkers at ironically, place of all places, Chick-fil-A. We had been meeting every Tuesday before work during the past quarter to share our love of God’s word and some fellowship before beginning the work day. The last one was tough because I wanted to continue to see God work in the lives of these sweet ladies; fortunately, with social media, I can still do that, even if I am no longer working with them every day! You see I am in a t-shirt here because my car was literally packed to the brim for our long journey and immediately after our study, I was hitting the road for good!

good-bye-bible-study

May brought so many adventures, a week spent in my hometown of Huntsville, a week in Luke’s hometown, Hickory, NC (and his brother’s wedding to boot), and a few days in the Bahamas, just the two of us. Here are just a few snapshots!

Mom and Manda.jpg

fishing-wiht-omi

bowling Sams.jpg

hannah grad.jpg

wedding adri jacob.jpg

Dad and Manda.jpg

Charleston.jpg

atlantiabahamas

We finally made our way to Ft. Sill on the first of June. We drove separate cars of course, and I was excited albeit anxious to reach the destination and begin our new life. Little did we know Luke would get so sick.

state lines.jpg

By the time we reached Arkansas, Luke was not doing well at all. He was having some stomach issues and we thought it was just a stomach virus. 10 days later with no food or drink, three hospital visits and several tests and scans we are pretty sure it was not just a minor stomach bug. But, we made the last leg of the trip, thanks to God alone with Luke throwing up the whole way and still managing to drive his own vehicle. We were so relieved to check into our hotel and to see the Welcome sign for Lawton.

Lawton.jpg

The days that he was sick and I moved into our home alone are hard for me to think back on because I felt so alone, scared and worried about him. He is not the type of person to lie in bed all day, and for over a week straight he was too weak to do more than exactly that. It was terrifying not to know a soul in town. Some kind West Point wives offered to help through social media, and I am very appreciative. Our friends and family from the Southeast were very supportive virtually, and his Mom and brother were on standby to board a flight at any time. But, our biggest comfort came from the ever constant presence of Jesus. We might have been alone in a new land, but God was here with us, walking beside us every day.

The day Luke finally got better was a miraculous one. He had been given antibiotics at our last ER visit, but had been on them for a few days without much in terms of results. He was still severely dehydrated and could not even hold down broth. I had to meet the movers the following day and would have to leave him alone at the hotel for an entire day. Before this, I would only leave in short two or three hour stints to clean the house and return to help him, but I knew this would be impossible on Move In Day. The night before, I messaged all of our friends and family in a group text and requested for everyone to please sign up for an hour to pray for Luke the following day.

We ended up with two people per hour because everyone was so eager to do what they could for us. I felt better knowing that others would be praying incessantly on his behalf while I completed our move in. And, I tell you the truth when I say that when I returned to the hotel that evening, he held down his dinner for the first time in 10 days! Do not underestimate the power of prayer!  Luke made a very swift recovery, was out of bed the following day, and helping me move out of the hotel the day after. God is good. Some may argue with me about timing, about a sickness running its course, about modern medicine, and while all of this may be true, I faithfully believe that God had his hand on Luke that day and heard all of our unceasing prayers. I could not let our 2016 story go by without sharing this God experience with you because it was truly life changing for our family. We still do not have a definitive diagnosis for what made Luke so ill; our best guess is some sort of parasite perhaps? But, God knew. And God healed.

And so, we began our life in Oklahoma six months ago with a clean slate, full of endless possibilities. What would we do with it?

New Home.jpg

In July, my mom and brother came out to visit for Independence Day Weekend. We had a great time with them! The week after, I began my new job with Chick-fil-A and began to complete my training. I am very excited to be taking on my new role as the Director of Sales and Brand Growth this coming year.

mom-visits-2mom-visits-3mom-visits-4

cfa-day-onecfa

In August, we set out for Freedom, OK to attend our first Rodeo, Oklahoma style! There is a whole blog about that adventure and the inspiration for our Christmas Card here, so I’ll just leave you with this image.

img_2523

September 1st brought our three-year anniversary. Since it was the leather anniversary, our gifts could not have been more fitting–my purple leather cowgirl boots and Luke’s brown leather hat depicted above. We went out to eat at Woods and Water Winery in Anandarko to celebrate at the recommendation of a coworker. They had delicious food and cocktails!

Later in the month, we officially joined our church, Crossroads Baptist in Elgin, OK. We love it!

Crossroads.jpg

October brought unseasonably warm weather, Luke’s promotion to Captain, Manda’s 26th birthday and our annual Halloween party in addition to our good friends Rachel and Kevin Sampler moving just down the block from us!!!

 

polka-dots

luke-and-manda

halloween-2016

Samplers.jpg

November was mostly uneventful except I joined the Lawton Chamber of Commerce’s Redcoat Ambassadors team AND completed my very first 5K. This was a huge goal for me; here is another blog post about it if you care to read more about my journey to running the race. We then celebrated Friendsgiving with our Sunday School class, and then my Dad and grandmother came out for Thanksgiving.

5-k-arch5k-a-and-l-selfie5k-a-finish5k-l-1

thanksgiving

table for thanksgiving.jpg

December has brought frigid temperatures to our neck of the woods! I excitedly headed home to Alabama for my brother’s college graduation on the 7th, in hope of warmer weather, but no such luck! It appears Winter may be here to stay. It was great to celebrate Ethan’s accomplishments with our family though.

grad-1

E graduation with Dad.jpg

grad-2

Christmas is coming now, and we cannot wait to celebrate all of our blessings, our journey through this year, the trials we have walked through and the lessons we have learned.

cabaret-1

As 2016 culminates, I can say that I lived out my word of the year that I established last January at that long ago lunch. I wanted to be “bold” this year. And, in my transition, in my adventures, through good times and bad, I can truly say I am on my way to Becoming Bold. I want to live boldly for Jesus, live out my faith and my life in a way that is impactful and meaningful for those around me.

I am excited and thrilled to have a new platform to live boldly through my work at Cameron University. I will be an adjunct professor of Advanced Professional and Business Speaking this Spring and look forward to mentoring and teaching students to shine throughout the coming months!

Cameron.JPG

xoxo and all the best for 2017!

Manda (and Luke) 😉

 

Advertisements

Finding Freedom in Freedom

Did you like my play on words there? 😉

I realized that I never published my promised update about mine and Luke’s anniversary trip to the rodeo in Freedom, OK a few weeks ago. It was one of our most unforgettable trips, so I most certainly have to share.

Texoma has many, many rodeos but there is none quite like this one. Nestled on the banks of the Cimarron River, Freedom is a tiny blip on the map; the town is so small there is no stoplight at all. There are no hotels in the quaint little Main Street area, and the closest place we found to stay was actually 45 minutes away. A throwback to Old Western days, all of the storefronts maintain an authentic Western facade, and there is literally no cell phone service for miles. We spent two nights and three days in total freedom of no connectivity, no worries about work and the outside world. In a rare throwback, it was just us, exploring Oklahoma and enjoying (my) first real rodeo–the 79th Annual Freedom Rodeo and Old Cowhand Reunion!

boots If you’re going to a rodeo, you have to look the part! These beauties were my Anniversary gift from Luke! We have always given one another “traditional” anniversary gifts. (Year 1- Paper, Year 2- Cotton, Year 3- Leather.) It worked out really well that we could incorporate our gifts into our trip. Luke got a cowboy hat!

We both took three days off work and headed out for Freedom, a 3.5 hour drive away. As we drove down winding country roads, past the massive wind turbines that are so common in this part of the country, and farther and farther from modern civilization, we relaxed into peaceful, companionable silence at times and excited chatter at others as we discussed all topics from future dreams to current ones. Then of course were the loud, off sync singing sessions to our favorite songs on the radio! There is nothing like being “stuck” in a car for a few hours to get in some good quality one-on-one time with nothing but miles and miles of green, gently sloping hills, a lot of soil and cattle.

landscape

After we checked into our hotel, we were ready for the first night of the rodeo!

img_2499fullsizerender-80

We grabbed a quick dinner at a local Mexican restaurant, and the rain began to pour. It had been gray and cloudy all day, not ideal weather for our long-anticipated rodeo weekend. But, as we drove the 45 minutes to the town of Freedom, the sky really fell out. We were about 10 minutes out and hopelessly anticipating a cancellation of the whole event. However, the sky cleared up as we were pulling into the parking lot, and in spite of a few sporadic showers during the evening, the show went on! It was less crowded than a normal Friday night at the rodeo, according to the locals, but it was lovely just the same!

fullsizerender-82amanda-rodeoclownfullsizerender-83img_2523horses-close-uphorsesprogramrainbowme

I thought Luke truly looked like a real cowboy; he looked ruggedly handsome, and we got compliments from a few of the very sweet hospitable residents of Freedom on what a cute couple we made!

We called it an early night after the rodeo since we were exhausted from traveling, and because the events did not start until noon the next day, we enjoyed sleeping in and a leisurely breakfast at the hotel before heading back to Freedom for the Chuckwagon Feed on the town square. You have to keep in mind that the Freedom Rodeo is entirely a volunteer event, and church ladies, local stores and even McDonald’s made it possible for every single person to enjoy lunch free of charge! The sense of tightknit community here was impossible to miss, and just like in days gone by, we could tell it is the kind of place where you never leave as a stranger!

chuckwagon-feedfoodchuck-wagon-feed-2

During our brief stay, we met some of the kindest old ranch hands, business owners and rodeo fans. The Freedom Rodeo is considered part of the PBR circuit, so the clowns, commentators and many performers were professionals who come back year after year because it is their favorite rodeo to participate in!

After lunch, we enjoyed just exploring this tiny town! The charm of these buildings drew me in, and I could have taken pictures here for hours. Here were a few of my favorites:

black-and-whitebutcher-amandageneral-storeland-officeluke-museumjailjail-2luke-wagontown-officeundertaker

“You plug ’em, we’ll plant ’em!” The undertaker’s sign truly cracked us up! While we waited under some much-needed shade for the Longhorn Steer Drive to begin on Main Street, a crusty old man in denim overalls approached us on the steps of the Post Office. He spent a few minutes describing days gone by; he has spent his entire life in Freedom, OK. Born and raised, he spent many a day ‘rebel rousing’ in these streets and hanging out at the Cimarron Saloon. He told us of his Pa’s many “punishments” including forcing him to eat raw meat and plow a field under the hot summer sun after he had one too many as a teen and was too sick to help with a pre-planned project. As he described his life between a piece of straw perched precariously between his teeth, leaning against the blue mail box, I could not help but think of what life must have been like here one century ago. Kids played in the street near the General Store, dressed in period clothing for a skit that would be performed later in the afternoon. “Saloon Girls” swarmed the street in front of the saloon, and the butcher stood slicing his meat under a small awning. With no modern amenities in sight, life seemed simpler for a moment, easier. More free.

The Longhorn Cattle Drive is one of the most eagerly anticipated events of the weekend. They bring this herd up from Texas, and it was over so quickly that I am very glad I snapped a few photos to truly appreciate the magnitude and sheer size of these Longhorns.

Next was the Bank Robbery and Shoot Out, a skit performed again by volunteers of the town! This was Luke’s favorite event of the weekend, and it was quite a sight to see. I was grateful for the complimentary ear plugs because rounds (even blank ones) are quite ear jolting.

bankcowboys-possegeneral-storekids-skitkid-toyskit-2skit-6skit-7skit-4skit-5skit-3gunfightgunfight-2

At the end of the reenactment, Luke  I could not resist getting a photo with the Outlaws AND Sheriff’s deputies!

group-photo-outlaws-and-cowboys

We had a few hours to kill before the evening’s rodeo activities began, so we decided to do a little exploring. We had heard talk that the Alabaster Caverns State Park was something to see, so we went down into the Cave for a brief tour. The coolness of the darkened cave felt heavenly compared to the hot Oklahoma sun that had been beating down on us all day. (Rain, Rain, Go Away!) It was nothing but clear blue skies the entire rest of the weekend!unnamed

amanda-cave

The recommendations had been right–it was a sight to see! The guide had us experience “total darkness” for about two minutes, and I was shocked at how pitch black it actually became. You could not see your fingers in front of your nose!

We got in a much needed nap (Yep, we’re old folks now!) and headed back for the closing night’s festivities.

cimarron-rivercimarron-river-view

The Cimarron was illuminated by the most incredible orangey-red sunset; this photo truly does not do it justice. The skies out here are expansive and the sunrises and sunsets go for miles and miles.

Our last night at the rodeo was much more crowded than the first; it seemed like everyone for 50 miles was there to cheer on the local boys (and gals!) And, others, like us, had traveled much farther, some coming from Texas, Arizona, Kansas and Arkansas.

rodeo-last-nightrodeo-last-night-3rodeo-last-night-2rodeo-last-night-flag

I didn’t quite know what to expect, but found myself enjoying the competition, the fast events, the clown’s antics. Laughs and good times were held by all, and even though only one rider qualified in the bull riding event, it was still quite an experience!

I was saddened to head back to Reality the next morning, but so grateful for the opportunity we had to get away from it all and spend one weekend together in Freedom.

Well, I am off to some adventures for THIS weekend, now. (Nothing quite so grand, but looking forward to some relaxation with the hubby.)

Manda

Hello- From Halfway Across the Country!

As I sit in our hotel lobby in Oklahoma at the end of our cross country move, I can’t help but reflect on the wonder and adventure of the last few weeks, getting to spend precious time with friends and family and wrapping up our life in Georgia. I am also so thankful and joyful for this new chapter in our lives. On our drive across 7 states, I watched the rolling hills give way to flat prairies filled with cows, quaint farm houses perched in little valleys and a horizon that allows you to see for miles and miles. This new landscape holds such promise and adventure for us, a brand new fresh start, and I am trying to focus on that aspect of our lives versus my fear, anxiety or homesickness about all of the question marks still ahead.

When I told people that we were moving away, they mostly responded the same way. There was an immediate sadness followed by excitement for me as they inquired about the destination. When I responded with “Oklahoma,” their faces would fall in this kind of grimace/pitying look usually followed by, “Oh no,” “Why?” or “I’m so sorry!” Well, when I became a military spouse, I learned this lesson early and it has stuck with me: Any post/home/duty station is what you make it. It is not the place that defines your life but rather your mindset/attitude, the relationships in your life and the memories you make that transform any city into a home. I am unbelievably excited to be in Oklahoma, in a region of the country I have never before lived, and I am determined to make this a year filled with joy and adventure for our family. I hope that through this time, I can also show my friends and family all of the amazing things here, which I plan to find ASAP, so that when they think of Oklahoma they have a reference point beyond those pesky tornadoes. (For the record, our home out here WILL have a basement or storm shelter. No survivor of the April 27th tornado in Tuscaloosa would move here without one!)

But, before I tell you any more about that, let me fill in some of the details from our month of travels! We left Fort Benning at the beginning of May, and Luke was able to take a few weeks of PCS leave to give us time to enjoy one another, our loved ones, and a nice, long vacation before jumping into our new life! We began this time with my family in Alabama.

Mom and I

The day pictured above was one of my very favorite days of all, a day for just me and my Mom! Because Luke had to work at Ft. Benning a few days after I was free to leave, I headed home early and planned a fun Girls’ Day with my Mom. We enjoyed a shopping spree, going to see a chick flick, tea at Emma’s and chocolate martinis together. It was so wonderful to see her and felt a bit like the old days when I was growing up (minus the martinis of course!)

Omi and I

I also got a full day with my Omi (my grandmother; she is German, so she was supposed to be “Oma,” but I could not say that as a baby so she became Omi forevermore.) When I was little, we spent so many days at our local State Park with my Pa-Pa fishing, swimming in the beach area, enjoying picnic lunches and playing Frisbee on the playground. We haven’t been back together in years since I went off to college, got married and found a full-time grown up job, so it was such a blessing to go and sit in “Our Spot” again with our chairs and fishing poles. The weather cooperated beautifully, and I will always cherish this day with her.

Luke came in that night, so the next day we spent out on the boat with my Daddy. He also likes to fish, but we spent most of the day driving around and enjoying the breeze in our hair and sunshine on our faces. One of our family friends brought his boat out as well so we could do a little tubing and potentially water skiing, but none of us was up for braving the skis this trip! It was a lovely day though, topped off with pizza and bowling with the Sams side of the extended family. I am so grateful that my brother came up from college for the weekend so that he could be there too.

 

We spent several more days in Huntsville and even gave in to my Mom’s idea for a family photo shoot. Here is a big throwback for you: JC Penney’s still has a portrait studio! Luke, Ethan, Mom and I went there after church and got some images that surprisingly turned out so wonderfully! I know we will always cherish them. Here are a few of my favorites:

Ethan and Amanda 2

My brother Ethan and I

Mom and Amanda

Momma and I

Ethan and Amanda

Acting Silly! Sibling Love is uncomparable.

 

Luke and Amanda May 2016

My One and Only! So grateful that Mom included him in our Family Photo Shoot. It means so much to me that we are now one big family and that our tie of marriage makes him another one of her kids now! 🙂

Mom Ethan Luke and Amanda

All 4 of us!

After the photo shoot, we met up with our longtime best friends Jess and Will at one of Huntsville’s Escape Rooms. And, we all made it out in under the time! That was a fun afternoon/evening. After the Escape Room, we joined Jess and Will for dinner. My parents always told me when I was younger that good friends are truly rare to find, and they were right. We are so fortunate to have these two around for the long haul!

Escape Room Huntsville

Always a “Daddy’s Girl” growing up, I also loved my time with him. We got to join him for several meals and a few nights of card playing. I haven’t spent a whole week with my family of origin in over 5 years, so these 8 days were such a blessing!

Dad and Amanda May 2016

However, even the best blessings can be exhausting, and Luke and I knew that time with both sets of family would be busy whirlwinds filled with so much adventure. And, sure enough we were on The Go constantly from the time we left Georgia, although we wouldn’t have had it any other way. I am a notorious planner and squeezed as much as possible (literally) into the days we had. Luckily, we planned for this in advance and knew that a period of vacay and relaxation would be necessary, just the two of us! So, from Huntsville, we headed for Charleston where we got to spend a day with our brother Samuel before boarding a cruise ship destined for the Bahamas.

Day in Charleston with Samuel

Samuel was even able to take the day off, which was so nice, and we walked around Battery Park for a while before going to watch the European Soccer PlayOffs at an Irish Pub(#ProudLiverpoolFansEvenThoughTheyLost #LukeIsReppingTheJersey). Muel treated us to dinner at a delicious seafood restaurant, and we all enjoyed a stroll on the beach afterward, much to Luke’s chagrin. But, you simply cannot visit that beautiful Oceanside city without at least dipping your toes in the frigid water.

The next day, our trip on the Carnival Ecstasy began! It was an overcast, rainy day as we boarded our ship, and as I looked ahead to the weather forecast, I was saddened to see nothing but rain predicted every single day, including in the Bahamas! However, Jesus had other plans and besides that first day, we experienced nothing but sun and sail on our voyage. There was one brief rain shower in Nassau, but we spent our day exploring the extensive water park at Atlantis, Paradise Island, so it didn’t affect us at all. The best part about the cruise was disconnecting from all technology; we didn’t touch our cell phones from the time we boarded until we were back on shore. There is nothing more relaxing than spending your days reading, talking and sleeping with a frozen Pina Colada in hand and no pressures to be anywhere or do anything. Luke got himself a new Citizen watch at the Duty Free store, but otherwise, we really didn’t spend any money on the trip since we had already purchased the all-inclusive tickets. I was somewhat skeptical of the Carnival cruise line based on all of the horror stories of no bathrooms at sea and ships trapped in the ocean, but we had nothing but positive experiences. The ship was clean and well-stocked, the staff was friendly, and they offer a great mil discount on tickets too. It was more of a “Party Boat” than our previous cruise on Royal Carribbean, so if you are wanting to bring kids along, I would think another line may be preferable. But for just the 2 of us, it was wonderful and just the R & R we needed! Here are a few pictures from our cruise:

After the cruise, we headed back to Charleston to help my sister-in-law Adrianna since it was WEDDING WEEK!

Adri and I Middleton

Adri and I at Middleton Plantation in Charleston, SC

We were so thrilled to welcome Adrianna to the family, and she and Jacob absolutely honored us by asking Luke to be the officiant of the ceremony and for me to help out as the Wedding Coordinator. Thus, we knew we had our work cut out for us to make the day absolutely perfect for Jacob and Adri! We spent most of the week at Luke’s parents’ home in NC, and enjoyed this breathtaking view:

Carolina sunset

There is literally nothing in this world that compares to a Carolina sunset from the Bradshaw farm! Luke got to help his Dad with some of the cows, and I spent most of my time helping his Mom and wedding planning with Adri. Some of Luke’s high school friends dropped by during the week, and it was great to see them. We moved into Jacob and Adri’s lake house/wedding venue later in the week, and they were so generous to give us the Penthouse view/room, which made planning and attending the events so convenient. This house was incredible, and y’all (You can take the girl out of the South but can’t take the South out of the girl ;)), their wedding was so beautiful looking out over the lake. Adri was a stunning bride, and I am so glad to have gotten some good quality time with her. Growing up, I always longed for sisters, so it is wonderful that in addition to my cousin Ashley who I always considered a sister, I now have Luke’s sister Hannah and my sisters-in-law, Lauren and Adri. A few pictures of the rehearsal dinner/wedding:

Adrianna

Breathtaking! And this was just snapped with my phone! Can’t wait to see the photos that the professional photographer captured.

We got to stay and enjoy this beautiful home during Memorial Day weekend and had such a blast with the extended family there swimming in the pool, playing cards, laughing, talking and eating. It was so wonderful to see Aunt Mary, Aunt Brenda and Uncle Tommy, Aunt Susie and Uncle Howard, Autumn, Wesley and their family (minus Summer,) Kelly, Aunt Lynne and Grandma Bradshaw. Plus, it was Hannah’s 18th birthday! So we celebrated that AND her high school graduation too. It was truly a week of celebrations. So proud of the 12-year-old girl I met who is now a kind, strong woman of God and a graduate.

We also got some time with our favorite (and ONLY) niece, Marlee, who is about to turn 1 already! Time surely flies.

Kelly and Marlee

Marlee rocking her adorable shades with Kelly!

Miss Marlee didn’t quite know what to make of those sunglasses…LOL!

Luke and Marlee 2

Uncle Luke helping to feed Marlee. 🙂

Extended Family Memorial Day Weekend 2016

Group Picture of the Family Memorial Day 2016

Right after Memorial Day, we began our Westward trek after saying tearful goodbyes to family. The goodbyes were more difficult because although some of them have assured us they will visit in the next year, we know we won’t see others for awhile. Since we are no longer just a quick drive away, we won’t be able to come up for a weekend visit like we used to.

map

 

We divided our journey into three days, and the first day landed us back in my hometown to pick up Luke’s truck and see my parents one last time. We stayed one night with Mom and then headed out for Arkansas in our separate cars.

The trip to Arkansas was pretty rough because Luke had started feeling nauseous after we left NC, but it was manageable. On the drive to Little Rock, he felt pretty sick but hadn’t yet thrown up. That night though, he got maybe 1-2 hours of sleep and spent the rest of the night up vomiting. It was so horrible for him, and I felt terrible for him. We ended up staying in Arkansas until the very latest time we could check out (Noon), and he was so weak and couldn’t hold any breakfast down. Somehow though, we were able to drive the remaining 6.5 hours to Oklahoma by taking frequent stops and giving him an entire bottle of Pepto Bismol along the way. We arrived in Oklahoma and checked into our hotel, and Luke went straight to bed. He tried to eat a little rice for dinner but couldn’t hold that down.

Thus, our very first stop in Oklahoma early the next morning was the Urgent Care Center. They diagnosed him with a stomach flu and pumped him full of saline solution to hydrate him and some anti nausea medicine. He started to feel slightly better after that and was able to do a walk through of our potential home on base! (More on that later and pictures to come!) However, after the tour, he was feeling pretty weak so he came back to the hotel and slept as much as he could between bouts of sickness. Today is our second full day in Oklahoma, and while I want to say the sickness has passed and he is much better, that isn’t the case. He is still pretty sick to say the least. He is not one to get sick usually, and this illness has been pretty bad and has really thrown us a curve ball. I have not gotten it as of yet (Praise Jesus for that!) so I can help take care of him the best that I can, but he mostly just needs to rest. The doctor gave us some anti-nausea medication, which he is taking, but with little improvement thus far. My goal is to keep him hydrated (bring on the Gatorade!) and rested. We are still on the BRAT diet right now, but are hoping to introduce some other foods at dinner to give him some more nutrients.

This has been an absolute crash course into life far away from family and friends, completely on our own as we do not know a soul here. My sweet friend Jessica knew I needed some encouragement last night and texted me the following, which really made my day and gave me a new perspective on our current situation:

IMG_2223 (1)

The reminder that HE is in control of all of this and that we can give our burdens to him was so appreciated. I am so grateful that we have a God who is so good and loving and is all powerful. Plus, He is here with us in Oklahoma, reminding me that we are not really all alone after all.

This sickness took us totally off guard because it was so unexpected and sudden, and not at all how we would have pictured our arrival to our new home, obviously. But, we are doing our absolute best (me especially) to handle it with grace and fortitude. We are so hopeful that Luke will be feeling his normal self soon, especially since he is supposed to begin his new job on Monday. We are thankful to have arrived safely in our new home and look forward to all of the adventures that are to come here in the Midwest!

It is my sincere hope to stay more connected through this blog during the upcoming season, since we are farther away from most of you. For those who follow our story and support us in our lives, thank you so much for everything. Your love and friendship means the world, no matter the distance!

xoxo from the Sooner State,

Manda

Post Navigation