Friday, June 27, 2014

He Is Faithful

On May 20th, I was supposed to fly to Kenya. On May 18th, my trip was postponed due to terrorists attacks and threats of more attacks. Needless to say, I was heartbroken. I had waited months after buying my plane ticket to even let my heart be excited about going because it felt too good to be true--that after nearly three years of hoping to go back, of hoping to see friends who had become like family, whose families had grown in the years that I have missed...

And two days after I had decided to believe it was really happening, allowed myself to purchase supplies and gifts, we made the tough decision to postpone my trip until November.

Now, I'm already pretty much a crybaby {commercials, a good TV montage, Taylor Swift songs} I consider it a victory when I make it through a full day without crying.

But, this Kenya trip being postponed kinda destroyed me. I laid in bed for two days straight {watching The West Wing and playing 2048.} I cried in the majority of my meetings at work {thankfully, no one was too surprised--see above.} I was a wreck.

My incredible friends and family members did all sorts of things to help ease the pain of the loss of this adventure {even a few off of my 35 by 35, and my 2014 goals!}

May I present to you, in some sort of chronological order, what happened in the weeks of my life that would have been spent in Kenya.

Our High School small group met for the last time until next Fall. My co-leader and I made a paper chain for each girl to count down to the end of the school year.

I was able to fully unpack, decorate my room, and empty the house of all of the boxes that had been strewn about since we moved in!

Cheryl took me and Cathi on a picnic to watch planes arrive at the airport. 

A whole group of us visited the Aquarium of the Pacific and watched as their boys discovered all kinds of marine life.

The following week I took a spontaneous road trip to Oklahoma.

Oh, I also ordered and received this beautiful package from Japan...

...which contained the washi tape to stripe our living room wall!

In the back of my mind, I knew that no amount of adventuring would cure my heartsickness, but I really did want to try...and we made a lot of really fun memories, for relatively little money {!!!} 

Over the six weeks, I have prayed and cried and argued with God over what felt like a direct withholding of my heart's deepest desires by keeping me away from Kenya. Through some honest confession and some difficult times of listening to His voice, and through the rest and refreshment from each of these activities, I have felt God smiling upon me. I have felt comforted and loved and seen by God in ways that I hadn't dared hope for recently. 

It was a really, really tough end of May, but God was and is and will continue to be faithful...even when I am faithless.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Weekend We Drove To Oklahoma

A few weeks ago, when my Kenya trip was postponed, I was searching for an adventure to help ease the pain of having had two weeks off and then staying put in Orange County.

My friends were fantastically understanding and planned several one-day trips to distract from all of the tears: a picnic and plane watching, a trip to the Long Beach Aquarium, and a weekend in Pasadena. 

As Taylor and I set off for our weekend in Pasadena, I got a text from a friend, jokingly {or so we thought} inviting us to join him and two others on a road trip to Memphis, Tennessee.

Now, you know I love a good road trip. And the hole in my heart--the one in need of some wandering, some really long, scenic drives with talking or not talking and lots and lots of thinking--jumped at the chance to drive half-way across the country and back in four days.

So I sent back a text that said, "Are you serious? I feel like this is a big GOTCHA!"

Once we were certain that the invitation was real, we set out to meet our traveling companions.

In two cars {boys in one, girls in the other} we made our first stop at the Arizona border. Our one request for the trip was to stop for a photo at each state line...

We also realized, as we crossed in to Arizona, that it might be worthwhile to let our parents know we weren't on our way to Pasadena.

Dinner at Cracker Barrel was the first time we'd heard the rest of the plan. The boys were driving to Memphis by Sunday morning to hear Reverend Al Green teach at his church and then spending a week or so making their way back home. This wasn't going to work for the two of us that had to work Tuesday morning, but we decided to drive as far as we could before we absolutely had to turn back for California.

Hibbard, Arizona

At some point after midnight, we made it to New Mexico. First stop: a campground in Gallup.

Two hours of freeeeeezing sleep later, we were on our way to Albuquerque.

We drove to Albuquerque for breakfast {and for a restroom to change and brush our teeth.} The restaurant wouldn't let our friend bring his dog inside, so we ordered the burritos to go and headed toward the park. Turns out, all through summer, this park is full of stands and live music. {This particular morning, the live music was a children's mariachi band...adorable.}

Over pretty tasty breakfast burritos, we talked about what was next. I had done some time math and realized we probably wouldn't make it all the way to Memphis with them since I had to be back by Monday night. {This was Saturday morning.} So, we decided to drive as far as we could before we had to turn around toward home.

A stop at Walter White's house was high on the list of New Mexico priorities, of course.

A few hours later, we made it to Texas. 

We pulled over for a picnic dinner at a rest stop {these boys had packed everything: bread, deli meat options, three kinds of cheese, condiments, chips, fruit--crazy} and a quick photoshoot on this side road which ended up producing one of my favorite photos of the weekend {and vaguely reminds me of this ol' fave}

As soon as we had decided to drive through Texas, I had my heart set on eating some BlueBell ice cream. I had heard such great things about it, but never had a taste myself...I knew, today was my lucky day.

We pulled off the freeway at the last exit before the Oklahoma State Line and found a mini-mart with a questionable bathroom, but a freezer fully stocked with so many flavors I didn't know what to do with myself.

So, we chose four: cookies and cream, mint chocolate chip, and chocolate...oh and butter pecan, but obviously I had no part in choosing that one. 

We found these logs on the side of the road, under a water tower and figured it was as good a place as any to share four (really, three) pints of ice cream.

Lemme tell you--the cookies and cream is where it's at. Don't waste your time with any of the others.

Once we'd eaten our fill {read: ran out of cookies and cream} we slowly walked back to the cars. We had said that we'd part ways with the boys in Oklahoma...and we knew that was the next stop. Taylor began to search for a route back to California and then price checking hotels in Oklahoma and Texas. As it turns out, the shortest way home was to go back the way we came...and the cheapest hotels were back in Amarillo. So we made up our minds to say goodbye to the guys at the Oklahoma state sign.

We all climbed out of the cars to take the typical photo...and then realized that with that giant cement block, we may be able to take a group photo. One shattered iPhone later, we gave up on that dream.

We swapped some luggage and watched as the boys rolled down the front passenger-side window, held out an American flag, and drove away.

Our car was silent as the reality sunk in. We were not going to make it to Memphis. And now we were headed back the way we came, just the two of us.

This sadness only lasted long enough to make it to our hotel--with a hot shower, two comfy beds and air conditioning. {We woke up the next morning to a text from the boys about how hot and muggy the tent had been during their two-hours of sleep in Arkansas...Arkansauna as they called it.}

We still had two days before we had to be home {well, about 36 hours} so we decided to go a little out of our way to visit the Four Corners Monument.

I was so amazed by how beautiful this part of our country is. We stopped a few times to take some photos, none of which really did it justice.

We drove eight hours to get to the Four Corners and when we arrived, we saw that it was a $5 per person admission only. I had $4 on me. I asked if they would let us in with what we have and the woman was not at all amused. I asked if they had an ATM, she said no. And then she told us if we drove about 5 miles back, there was a general store that had an ATM. So, we turned around, got some cash and came back.

$10 for one photo each? Not totally worth it...
Best comment on this instagram:
My caption: "We made it to four states today!"
Jason Bohen: "More like yo BUTT made it to four states today--heyyy-oooooo!"

We left Four Corners around 4pm. Our plan was to drive straight home, thinking we'd make it around 1am. And then, we saw a sign that said "Grand Canyon, 22 miles"

And we thought to ourselves, "How can we have driven an extra four hours to see the Oklahoma state sign, but not drive 22 miles out of the way to see the sunset at the Grand Canyon?!"

So, we turned.

Driving up to the Grand Canyon is one of the most frightening things ever. It's essentially like you're driving on the edge of the cliff. I'm not afraid of heights, but I am definitely afraid of driving my car over the side of the Grand Canyon. So, we decided to race up, take a few photos and race back down to avoid my having to drive next to the black abyss after the sun had set.

Taylor thought it was hilarious to freak me out by standing as close to the edge as possible. 
She had never experienced my 'mom voice' before.

I stood the appropriate amount of distance from the edge for my photo

As we drove though the empty darkness of Arizona, Taylor found us another hotel. This one was nowhere near as comfortable as Amarillo, Texas. In fact, this was Taylor's tweet as we settled in for the night:

I locked and chained the door and then tucked the chair under the doorknob like I've seen in scary movies--you know, just in case.

We were thrilled to wake up alive and not kidnapped, but not nearly as thrilled to be driving back to California. We decided to drown our sorrows in giant iced coffees from Dunkin' Donuts and a box of chocolate munchkins for the road. We drove home with the cruise control on, listening to Joni Mitchell and dreaming of our next road trip.

Because, really, Oklahoma used to seem so far away...but now that we have driven there {spontaneously} in two days, it seems so much more feasible to take weekend trips all over the country!

So, look out friends outside of California--we're coming for ya!