My Old Stomping Grounds…and more

I am thankful:

I have to be honest. I was not super excited about this trip. Of course I couldn’t wait to see all my family. But we all love going to the beach so much, and that’s been our tradition for as long as I can remember. So to spend more than 40 hours in the car with the kids and NOT go to the beach was tough to swallow. I braced myself for lots of whining and complaining.

BUT GOD.

I could not have been more wrong.

God showed out this week. His plans were so much bigger, so much greater, so much grander than mine could ever have been.

We started off traveling through Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas, and then back to Missouri to spend our first stopover in a Kansas City hotel. The next day was Missouri to Iowa and then to our primary hotel in Winona, Minnesota, close to where I grew up. Over the next several days we bounced back and forth between Minnesota and Wisconsin, visiting family and friends. We packed in more activity than I could have imagined possible, visiting my old stomping grounds and places I had never been. Everything was new to the kids, and my eyes were freshly opened on a whole new level:

*”TOTALLY PLANNED” quick stop at the iconic Blue Whale of Catoosa on Route 66

*Driving through Decorah, Iowa to show the kids Luther College, where I went to school, with a stop at the local ice cream hangout

*feasted on authentic Kansas City barbecue

*Swimming at hotel

*Playing at the world-renowned Lark Toys in Kellogg, MN

*Riding the intricately hand-carved carousel

*Mini golf

*4-wheeler/ranger riding on Grandpa’s farm

*Farm tour and tractor rides

*visit to iconic Winona landmark, Sugarloaf and Garvin Heights scenic outlook

*tour of the charming riverside community of Alma, Wisconsin

*Rock hunting and re-hiding

Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum and Cabin at her birthplace in Pepin, Wisconsin

*Family reunion with aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, and great grandparents; complete with water balloons and piñata

*up close train watching and observing the process of boats traveling through the lock and dam on the Mississippi River

*and CHEESE BALLS of course!

stop at gravesite of my Grandpa Henry and Grandma Grace, where I left cherries for the birds like I used to when I was a little girl.

*HARROWING ATV trip down the side of a bluff to creek fish for brown trout in the lush Southern MN countryside

*incredible meal of fresh bratwurst and angus burgers straight from Grandpa’s farm

And that was only Sunday through Thursday.

Thursday we drove 3 more hours North to Spooner/Danbury, Wisconsin to share a lakeshore cabin with my dear college friend Katie and her family. We fished bluegill, black crappie, largemouth bass, and Northern pike.

We boated and tubed, kayaked, paddle-boated, and paddle-boarded.

We spotted deer, loons, geese, and bald eagles, but were disappointed not to see any much-hoped-for bears. We sat in awe beneath the clearest glittering display of the Milky Way I have ever seen. Our families blended well and the kids played until they collapsed in exhaustion, and grownups stayed up all hours of the night talking about anything and everything.

Every. Single. One. of our children said it was the best trip they’ve ever been on. BETTER THAN HAWAII.

Now, they may or may not really mean that. But it doesn’t matter. God blessed this trip every step of the way. Parts that could have been really hard were either fine or better than fine. Every part of our trip exceeded our expectations. And we did so many different things in so many different places with so many different people that it feels like we’ve been gone for a month! And never have I been so remarkably proud of my kids. They were FANTASTIC!

At the moment, we are pressing on through fatigue and rain showers after 13 hours of driving to get to our midway destination of Kansas City, Missouri. We are READY TO GET OUT OF THE CAR!

***UPDATE: we made it to our hotel at midnight, after delays from construction, dead battery, rain, and wrong GPS. ROUGH DRIVE.***

On a very different note, sweet baby Lucas went in for his scans on Thursday. That evening his mama, our beloved nurse Kelly sent me a one word text: “hospice.” Friends, please pray.

Thank you for giving thanks with me.

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day.” Psalm 46:1-5 NIV

8 thoughts on “My Old Stomping Grounds…and more

  1. Wow! You sure managed to fit a lot in to a week! So glad you had this special time to go back and see family, friends, and places from the past. I am sure there is a new appreciation for it all. The photos are wonderful and some of them made me laugh. Your kids are so expressive! Prayers for a safe arrival home and for baby Lucas and his family.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Heather, I’m so sad we were not able to connect and meet up. But I am so very thankful and happy to see how much fun you and your family had. The joy on the kids faces, and YOURS, brings me such happiness. I am so sorry to hear about baby Lucas. Prayers to all for strength and healing in this most difficult time. Hugs to you, my friend.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Well, I have done this again – finally caught up on 3 weeks of Sunday Gratitude! (I never think it has been that long, until I look for the last one I read.) All the pictures were wonderful, especially the sunset light over the lake. Not only did your kids meet and get to know lots of family, but they got to know their Momma in a new context – where she grew up, went to college, etc. Family times are precious! So glad you got to go and that the trip went far better than you thought it would. I love Samantha’s short hair – it does make her look so grown up! And the reason is even more special. Wonderful news about Georgia, but sad about baby Lucas. God is faithful and loving, even in the darkest of times. Perhaps a little bittersweet to have Carson Grace with you this special trip, not knowing if she will be working next summer or going to school. Love always and forever.

    Liked by 1 person

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