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Adventures in the Snow

May 2, 2019

Friends! I’m alive. This blog is mostly dead, but I am not. Thankfully – I think.

Anyway….I’m remembering the reason I started this blog in the first place – to kill some dead time at work. So maybe in my slow moments here and there I will start updating it again, who knows.

Winter is still hanging around Wisconsin these days, it doesn’t seem to really want to let go. This California girl is having serious doubts about why God led her here…but for now it is what it is. But while we are talking about the weather – it snowed last Saturday. April 27th. And I’m beginning to wonder why I thought it was a good idea to plan a trip to Ireland for May. Why did I not think I would want to go somewhere warm and sunny? While I am not usually a fan of the cold, snowy weather here, the snow transforms everything into something simply magical, and I am a fan of magical. I mean, look at these pictures.

I feel a bit like a college student who just lost an entire paper without saving it, since something weird happened and my entire post is gone. Alllll those words. Sometimes I really hate the internet here – because I most definitely saved it as I went along. But the internet in this office is often spotty. Or maybe it’s WordPress’s fault. Either way, I’m debating whether or not I want to type up the entire thing again or just say “nah, here are some pictures.”

But, I will try again. A shorter version this time, without all the details because I just don’t feel like doing that again.

I first heard about the House on the Rock when I moved to Wisconsin 2 years ago. People either told me they had visited “30 years go” or that they had never been. Either way, I was often told I needed to go. But no one raved about it like we did when we walked through it. No one warned us about just how crazy the place is. About how much we really DID need to go. I’m not sure why they didn’t, but I am here to rave about it in their place. If you live in Wisconsin, you need to go. If you are just passing through, you need to go. It’s weird and definitely worth seeing.

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Initially the $29.95 price tag seemed a bit steep, but once we were about halfway through we agreed it was worth it. Just cleaning the place alone must cost a fortune. It’s huge. And there are lots of things to clean. Ha.

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If you go, bring a camera. It’s fairly dark inside all of the rooms so unless you have an amazing phone camera, it’s pretty hard to get good pictures inside. (We tried allll the settings and angles, ha.) Also, bring a water bottle with you (and snacks!). And plan to spend several hours there. We spent 5 hours inside and could have spent longer.

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Then, when you are finished and want a good place to get some food, check out Shifflet’s Bar and Grill at the Wisconsin River Resort. Great location. Great food. Great prices.

I can’t wait to go back to Spring Green and check out more of the area – it’s a beautiful part of Wisconsin!

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Traveling Again

February 23, 2019

IMG_0082You know those moments when God drops an unexpected surprise in your lap? That happened to me a few months ago (2.5 to be exact) when a friend asked if I wanted to come to the UAE by any chance. (Um, YES. The answer is always yes if it involves me traveling somewhere) Dubai has long been on my “someday” bucket list so I was pretty over-the-top excited at her suggestion that I come out to Abu Dhabi and take some pictures for her (traveling and photography are two of my fave things in life). And then just a few weeks ago she asked if I could come near the beginning of February. Again, um, yes, the weather here in Wisconsin has been ridiculously cold. Yes, I will gladly travel anyplace that is warm. And with that she booked me a ticket to the UAE and I started packing (well, actually I didn’t start packing till the night before, but I started mentally prepping.)

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Airshow practice outside Rachel’s apartment. Pretty impressive and loud as they kept flying so close to us.

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And to say that that trip was a blast would be an understatement. I LOVED the UAE just as much as I thought I would. So much good food. So many pretty buildings. Such fabulous weather. And so many great pictures taken. It was such an unexpected gift from God (and Rachel) and I am forever grateful for the way He spoils me with such undeserved blessings.

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Giving Thanks

November 24, 2018

2 years ago I arrived back in the US after having lived overseas for the past 3.5 years in 3 different countries. I thought I was just coming back for a few holidays and then going back overseas, somewhere. Who knew that 2 years later I’d still be here, albeit in a state I didn’t expect to be in? I’m so thankful for those years overseas for so many reasons. One of the main reasons I’m thankful for that time is that it taught me so much about thankfulness. I am certainly not perfect in this area, but living overseas has definitely made me more thankful for all the little things (and big things). Honestly, we in America have so much to be thankful for.

Clean, warm running water to take showers in. Water that we don’t ever have to wonder about. We know it will just be there when we turn on the tap. Clean, cool water to drink whenever we are thirsty.

Air conditioners. Heaters. Good customer service. Laws that are (more or less) followed and appropriately enforced. Safety. Law enforcement that we can trust to not be bribed. Good roads to drive on. Clean, safe, big houses to live in.

Grocery stores with more fresh, edible food than we could possibly want. Grocery stores with choices. Choices of brands. Of prices. Of flavors. Of sizes.

We have so, so much. Sometimes I think it’s too much. Live overseas for a few years and then come back to America and you will realize we have more than we need. That’s certainly not something I ever thought about until I lived abroad and then came back.

And for that perspective shift I will always be thankful. If living overseas did nothing else for me, that alone would have made it worth it.

So today, I am thankful. Thankful for eyes to see beauty all around me. For health to take walks outside and for beautiful weather to enjoy. For good food to eat and taste buds to appreciate it. For healthy and happy family. For salvation. For a Savior who blesses me far beyond what I could ever hope to deserve. For more clothes than I need. For friends who encourage and inspire me. For a reliable car to drive. For a fun job and health to work. And for so much more.

James and Anna

November 5, 2018

A few weekends ago I headed over to Lake Mills to do an afternoon engagement shoot for two of our Cross Country athletes who are getting married in May. I met James and Anna here at MBU last fall and got to know them better when I helped drive the teams down to Mississippi for their Nationals last November. They weren’t even dating then (but started dating shortly after that trip.) Both of them are missions-minded and have a love for the Lord and I’m so happy to know them and call them friends.

A few pics from the day:

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Iceland, Finally.

September 14, 2018

Guys…I know. It’s been 4 months since I got back from Iceland and all I’ve posted is 3 pictures. Who have I even become? If you follow me on instagram  then you’ve seen a few more. But I have thousands of pictures, obviously. Iceland is easily one of the most photogenic countries I’ve been to, and, well…you know me and my camera. We’re good friends. 😉

Iceland had always been a dream destination for me, even before the huge tourism boom of the last 5+ years. But the time was never just right to do the trip that I wanted to do. And then tourism exploded in Iceland. Wow air started offering cheap flights from more US destinations, and Wow and Icelandic Air started offering free layovers (up to 7 days) in Iceland. And then of course Instagram happened. Before Instagram started in 2010, people had to mostly already know where they wanted to travel. They had to do research, read books, or watch travel programs. Now, people just scroll through edited and filtered Instagram pictures and decide where they want to based on the pictures they see posted by their favorite Instagram influencer. As a proponent of slow, meaningful travel (when at all possible) , I’m obviously not impressed by the influx of insta-tourists that are flooding already saturated areas. So when Iceland travel really started taking off, I knew I had to get there sooner rather than later before everything became overrun and over-regulated.

And thankfully both the timing and the travel partners came together perfectly in May of this year. After planning for well over a year, we set off on the trip of a lifetime. This was by far the most challenging trip I’ve ever planned, and even with all the planning not all the details worked out smoothly, but it was still a really great trip and I would definitely love to go back someday.

 

These are just some of the hundreds of pictures I took on my camera. I didn’t expect to take more pictures on my phone than on my camera, but that’s what happened due to the weather. If I go back to Iceland someday I will take a waterproof case for my camera. With how unpredictable the weather is in Iceland, and after getting stuck in a downpour that lasted for a few hours, I decided to leave the camera in the car most of the time. But it was still fun shooting the times I did take it out.

When I look back on this trip, I am so, so thankful for it. It was an adventure, it was fun catching up with friends, and it was such a beautiful display of God’s amazing Creation. If you get the chance to go to Iceland someday, do it!

 

New blog to check out

July 30, 2018

I just stumbled upon this blog today and have laughed my head off reading the few posts that are up so far. I always appreciate a funny writer and can definitely relate to some of her stories about life overseas. Don’t know who she is or where she’s from but check it out if you want a laugh. =)

Overwhelmed by God’s Goodness

July 21, 2018

Are you ever overwhelmed by just how good God is to you?

Tonight I took a quick stroll down memory lane (this is really why I post pictures on Instagram and facebook – they are great for holding and keeping memories for me when I want a quick peek back.) As I’ve gotten settled into American life again, I’ve been doing this strolling less and less as each month goes by. I’m not really sure why. But whenever I do look back I’m blown away by the life God has graciously allowed me to live. I mean really, really blown away. Typical American thinking inside the box doesn’t really look at singleness as a gift but oh how it has been. When you look at life through different lenses, you see things really differently. What if all the years He gives us to travel and live around the world and to volunteer and explore and to have are-you-freaking-kidding-me-this-is-amazing experiences before he gives the normal, routine, pay-the-bills, work 9-5, take care of the kids and change diapers routine are a precious gift? 

I wish I could wrap up and put into words all the incredible, awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping moments I’ve experienced over the last 5 years. All the moments where God felt so close in certain situations I almost felt like I could reach out and touch Him. The moments where I was so incredibly blown away by all His majestic beauty around me all I could do was smile and whisper “you are amazing.” And there have been so, so many of those moments. This is the kind of love and relationship and closeness with Jesus I wish for everyone. Once you have experienced that kind of closeness, that kind of overwhelming sense that He is completely in control of everything and He knows you, you won’t want anything less.

If I’m completely honest, finding that complete closeness with Jesus while being back in America has been challenging. Not impossible, but definitely more challenging. There are more voices around me drowning out His quiet voice. More distractions. More busyness and less stillness. Less time completely alone. Less time surrounded by a million stars overhead and the crash of waves on the beach. Less time immersed in His beautiful creation. I think that’s why I love getting away and getting out in nature now. It takes me back to seasons of a thousand conversations with God while living overseas. Those were good times and I wouldn’t change them for anything.

Sometimes when I’m surrounded by people, voices just chattering small talk, I slip away in my mind to a place where the friendships were formed simply because of a common language (English) and the conversations were deep and thought-provoking. Where conversations often turned to spiritual things as we all reveled in God’s love for us and what He was doing in lives around us. Where we shared funny and sometimes frustrating stories of expat life and the challenges that only we could understand. I don’t expect anyone other than another expat to understand these sentiments. I’ve written before on the challenges of coming back and reintegrating into one’s home country, I don’t need to rehash that here. That was a consequence of life abroad that I never could have expected  – I didn’t know I’d come back forever changed. And yet, even with all of that, I wouldn’t trade that season of life for the world. God knew what I needed and I’ll be forever thankful for those years. They were a gift that I will cherish for the rest of my life.

I recently read something by a girl who said she struggled with having an amazing life, traveling the world as a single person, knowing that someday she’d meet someone special who wouldn’t have gotten to be a part of those stories, those adventures. She was disappointed that all those special moments would be hers alone, not theirs shared. And I understand that sentiment completely. I wish I could play every single moment of my life overseas someday for someone special, so he would understand who I’ve become. So he would get to experience a thousand once-in-a-lifetime experiences and feel the same things I felt in those moments.

But you can’t put your life on hold waiting for someone to show up so that all your adventures can be shared ones. You have to get out there and live the life God meant for you, even if it looks different than you might have imagined. Go see the world. Live your life to the fullest. Dream dreams and chase those dreams. Swim in a hundred seas. Climb mountains and wish on a thousand shooting stars. Make friends on every continent and share Jesus with those you meet. Be daring and courageous. Be adventurous and curious. Keep pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, because at the end of yourself is where the true adventure starts. And that’s where Jesus can meet you and show you that He is enough for wherever you are.

Sometimes…sometimes I get the urge to run free again. But I don’t think the time is right for that anymore. At least not for now. I look back on those 4 years abroad with the biggest smile and the fondest of memories. They were a gift and the time was right. God’s plan was perfect and I’m so thankful I said yes to the great big unknown. The uncertain future. The long dark tunnel with no map. It was a crazy wild ride. It was the ride of my life and there’s no way in a million years I could have written a better plan.

And the God who perfectly orchestrated allll those details in my life, is the one who holds tomorrow. That gets me excited when life seems to be at a standstill. When it seems so mundane and normal. The same God who knew I would leave pieces of my heart in 54 countries on 5 continents, even when my 21 year old heart thought that just getting married and doing normal sounded like a pretty good plan (while simultaneously not thinking that was a good plan due to lack of stellar godly guys to actually marry) is the same God who knows what’s best for all my tomorrows and who knows that if He does give me a husband, I really hope he has beautiful brown eyes. 😉

Whenever I stop and focus on all the good things God has done for me, I’m overwhelmed by His goodness. How faithful and loving and all-wise He is. You can trust Him, friend. He is a good God. And the more you step out in faith, the more room He has to show you just how good He is.