The pictures in my slide show are ones that I have taken in Tahiti, Ireland, Hawaii, and on 2 different trips to Australia. I love landscape photos and have been blessed to be able to capture photos of some of the most beautiful places in the world. Enjoy!

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Constant thinker and dreamer...just a girl livin for Jesus who wants to make a difference in the world.

Kia Ora

Last night I drove to Myrtle Beach to drop our dog off at the in-laws.  With Gregg being a fireman, anytime I'm out of town we have to arrange for Gregg's parents to watch Mav because we don't want to keep him in a kennel.  This time it worked out the best because the best way to use my airline miles was to fly out of Myrtle Beach.  Today I'm heading to Los Angeles to spend the night before departing to New Zealand tomorrow night.

Kia Ora is a Maori language greeting meaning hi.  I'm pretty excited to go to New Zealand as I haven't been there yet.  I sell a lot of it, but have to experience what better time?  I've been to Australia twice and also to Tahiti, so I'm trying to round out my South Pacific adventures.  :)

I'm excited for tonight as I'm going to rent a car and just hang out in LA/Hollywood.  This is actually one of my most favorite places in the world, believe it or not, and any chance that I get to go and spend some time, I jump on it.   I'm meeting up with my friend Laura tonight, who was my roommate on the Tahiti trip.   I can't wait to cruise around Hollywood and then go up and drive my favorite drive ever, which is the Muholland Drive Scenic drive.  It's so beautiful and you get some great views of the Hollywood sign, LA, Hollywood, Beverly Hills, etc.  There are many stops and lookouts along the way, so it's a great view from above.

Tomorrow, I have a site inspection at the Chateau Marmont.  Being a celebrity freak, this is pretty amazing.  Hopefully, I'll see one while I'm there.  :) If you have the opportunity, why not take it?

I'll be blogging while I'm in New Zealand as well as posting tons of pictures.  This trip is being sponsored by Tourism New Zealand and Air New Zealand Vacations.  They are running a contest on photos and are giving out some great prizes at the gala dinner.  Hopefully I get to win some!

Would love some prayers for traveling mercies as I head out tomorrow night.  That's a long flight across a big ol' pond.  :)

Just another day in Paradise...

I can't believe it's almost December already and I still haven't blogged about one of the most amazing trips of my lifetime.

Back in March, I was invited to take part in a familiarization trip to Tahiti with Pleasant Holidays.  This trip was pretty much all expenses paid except I just had to get to Los Angeles to fly out.  Seriously?  Anyone who knows me, knows that Tahiti has been my dream destination since I started in the travel business and finally found out that those overwater bungalows really did exist and not on another planet.

Here was my chance to go to one of the most beautiful places on earth.  How could I turn it down?  Now, even though I was so stoked about going, inside I felt really sad.  Sad about Tahiti?  How is that possible?  Well, you husband and I were supposed to go to Tahiti on our honeymoon last year.

We got married in September 2011 and I had all intentions of us staying at the Le Meridien Bora Bora for 6 nights and spending our amazing honeymoon week in paradise.  I had actually won the stay from the same company, Pleasant Holidays, in a webinar contest.  So the only thing I had to worry about was airfare.  Well, unfortunately I couldn't get the airfare to work out because the only flight we could get on was leaving that Tuesday.  We didn't want to wait that long.  So long story short, we didn't go to Tahiti, but ended up in another beautiful area of the world.  Hawaii...  :)

Back to Tahiti though.

So after flying to Los Angeles, I met up with about 15 or so other travel agents who I would be hanging out with for the next week.  One thing I do love about fam trips is that usually I never know anyone and it's cool to meet new people.

Our Air Tahiti Nui flight was about half full so we pretty much got to spread out all over the plane and have extra seats for ourselves.  That was awesome, considering their inflight entertainment sucked so bad the only thing left to do was sleep.  You would think that with Tahiti being such an expensive destination, that Air Tahiti Nui could afford to upgrade their entertainment system.

So we arrived into Papeete around 9:30 p.m. and had to stand in line waiting to go through customs...boy was it hot.  We went through customs, got our bags and headed to the Manava Suite resort where we would spend one night.  We literally were there long enough to sleep and have a tour of the resort the next morning after having breakfast.  It was a lovely resort that allowed some amazing views of Moorea.

The next morning after breakfast and our resort tour, we headed to the Intercontinental hotel just to see what the grounds looked like, long enough to take a couple of pictures, and get back in the van.  We arrived at the airport and boarded a flight that literally was about 10 minutes long and went to Moorea.  You do also have the option of taking the ferry over, but our trip took us over by plane.

Moorea has one of the smallest airports I've ever been to and literally has no security.  I think there is only 1 or 2 people that actually even work at the airport, at least that's how it seems.  There is no one there checking to make sure you only have 3 oz. per bottle in your carry on.  What a relief!

After arriving in Moorea, we were taken by van to the Hilton Bora Bora to do another resort tour and have lunch.  The Hilton Bora Bora is absolutely beautiful!!

We got to see the inside of one of the garden bungalows and also one of the overwater bungalows.  The resorts on the islands are not huge and there really isn't a ton of stuff to do at the actual resort, but they are meant more for relaxation.  Most of the time during the day, you are out in the water snorkeling or doing other water activities and by the time dinner is over, you are exhausted and ready for bed.

Anyway, after our little trip to the Hilton, we embarked on a 4x4 safari around Moorea that took us to Belvedere Lookout before going to Magic Mountain.  Which, by the time we made it to the top, I had everyone in our jeep that it was actually Mushroom Mountain and that's where D12 came up with the name.  I actually kept singing the Purple Pills song in my head the whole drive up and kept repeating the whole "i've been to mushroom mountain..."  No, I don't listen to that kind of music anymore, but I'll plead the 5th on the fact that I used to...  LOL

So the arrival to the top of Magic Mountain brought some of the most amazing views EVER!  After leaving there, we finally made it to the Moorea Pearl Beach Resort where we would be staying that evening.  We were given garden/beach bungalows that had their own private little terrace pool.  I loved the size of the bungalows as they were absolutely huge and probably the size of 2 average hotel rooms. They are beautiful.  We had some free time before dinner, so we all threw on our bathing suits and headed to the beautiful infinity pool.  Dinner was awesome as we were joined by the manager of the resort.  After dinner, it was pretty late and we were exhausted so we headed back to our bungalows and went to bed.  Time change can sure make you exhausted.

Your life is a vapor...

In church we have been going through the book of James in a series called "Show Me."  Today we were reminded how life is but a vapor.  In our lives, we want to believe that after our time on earth is over, we will always be remembered.  Unfortunately for us, that's not always going to be the case.   There may be a few who will be remembered through the generations, but only by a few small details.

During the sermon, I started reflecting on my own life and how short it really has been.  One day I'm 16 years old, just getting my driver's license, and taking on the world.  Today I'm 30 years old and 16 literally feels like something that happened last week.  We are but a vapor...

If someone had to describe you, what would they say?  What description words would they use?  Would they tell people that you are nice, mean, a bully, sensitive, etc.?  Can they see Christ in you no matter what kind of day you are having?  Maybe you don't know Christ as your personal savior.  Do people see the hurt and the pain that you may carry around daily, hoping that something better comes along?

I, myself, feel like I have changed quite a bit this past year.  Because of situations and scenarios in my life, I am starting to feel like I'm becoming socially awkward.  For you that know me, know that is not my personality at all.  It's something that I'm definitely working on though.  Through my reflections, God has been revealing somethings to me.  Unfortunately, what I know He is telling me to do is not the easiest.  My pride continues to get into the way.  This is actually sin.  I know what I need to do to move forward in my walk with Christ, but it's so hard.

This quote pretty much sums everything up about how I feel.  Right now, I'm completely falling short.  Luckily though, I have an amazing Savior who is willing to pick me up every time I fall.

Even though my talents for Christ may not be remembered for generations on earth, I know they will last eternally with Christ.  Would you rather the world remember what you did or Christ?

Life is but a vapor, use your time wisely...

Every memory has a song...

I've always been a huge fan of music.  Ever since I can remember, I would always have music around me.  Tonight, there was a special on BET about Aliyah.  She was an R&B artist that passed away in 2001 in a car accident.  When I was in high school, I listened to her "One in a Million" album on repeat.  The song "The One I Gave My Heart To" was my love anthem as all of those young love relationships fizzled out.  The entire album was one that never left my side.

I titled this post "Every memory has a song" because it couldn't be more true.  There isn't one memory I can think of that didn't have a song associated to it.  Growing up singing "Mony Mony", cruising through Winamac listening to "It's a Hard Knock Life" or "Bow Down", spending almost every night at Wendy's house and every time we would fall asleep listening to Kenny Chesney or Def Leppard's "Vault" CD.  We requested songs through WAZY in Lafayette like it was our job.  My girl friends and I, in high school, even had a theme song, "Every Rose Has It's Thorns".  Still not sure how that ever came about, but none the less, we associate that song with each other.  :)
Fast forward to college and Nelly's "Country Grammar" took center stage.  N'Sync and 98 degrees was still high up on the list when we need a good "bounce around the car with a bunch of girls" kind of night.  Ain't no lie, baby, bye bye bye.  :)  After college, most people start thinking more about their life's direction and start listening to songs that have a little bit more meaning.  A song that you can "relate" to.  I can't even begin to tell you how many of those that I have.  Every time I hear "Purple Rain", I can still remember the reasoning I first started listening to that song.

The first thing you do when you get into a relationship is finding the perfect song.  A few weeks after Gregg and I first met, we had went to the movies one night and he had called me on the way home after he had dropped me off at my car.  He told me to listen to the song "Gravity" by Josh Turner and then to call him when I was done.  So I listened to that song, and called him and he asked me to be his girlfriend.  I'll never forget that moment.
After listening to "The More I Seek You" by Kari Jobe, I turned my life back to Christ.  That's another moment I'll never forget.  I was browsing on Myspace and looking at different artists when her page popped up.  I started listening to her music that night and found myself sitting at my computer bawling, knowing which way I needed to head.  Knowing I needed to return to my relationship with Christ that I had abandoned years before.  She's my favorite worship leader and in a way, I credit her with helping me find my way back to Christ. She'll never know that, but that's not the point.

The point is that we associate our feelings with the impact that songs have on our life. I didn't fully realize this until the other day when I was listening to "Someone Like You" by Adele.  Don't get me wrong, it's an absolutely beautiful melody and its addicting to listen to.  However, the song just saddens me.  It almost depresses me.  It makes me sad because I know there are hundreds of thousands of people all over the world right now, listening to that song, because it is a indication of something that they, themselves, are going through in their life.  I can just imagine all of those people who have that song on repeat, thinking about what they once had and dwelling on the fact that they don't have it anymore.  It will take them days, months, or even years to get over the way they are feeling, because they keep hanging onto to those feelings because they keep listening to the songs that are constantly reminding them of those times in their life.

I know when I'm happy, I like to listen to happy music.  When I'm sad, I tent to listen to sad music.  When I want to worship, I listen to worship music.  Each person has the option to allow music to control their lives rather than their lives controlling the music.  Make your own song, live your own life.  If you are constantly complaining that you aren't happy, take a look at the music you are listening to.  Changing that could change your attitude.

To Gregg, you are my inspiration and my song. I dedicate this to you:

Time you'll never get back...

My grandma Irene was able to come down to South Carolina for my wedding.  I couldn't have asked for a better gift.  I wish my grandma and grandpa Ballard could have been there as well, but my grandpa started chemo and radiation treatments the Thursday before my wedding.  My grandpa Ballard was diagnosed with lung cancer back in July of this year.

I was able to get a picture with my grandmother Irene that I will cherish until my last day on this earth.

Oahu & Maui - Honeymoon

Ohhh the honeymoon.  Not only is the wedding a part of every girl's dream, but so is the honeymoon.  It's the age old question.  "Where are you going on your honeymoon?"  Everyone will ask at least 3 times.

When we first got engaged, we weren't really sure where we wanted to go.  We were tossing around all sorts of ideas, staying in the states, going on a cruise, etc. Well a couple of weeks after we got engaged, I ended up winning a trip to the Le Meridien Bora Bora through my job.  We still had to pay for the airfare and food, but the accommodations were taken care of.  If anyone knows anything about Tahiti, only one word comes to mind.  Well maybe more than one, but the biggest one is EXPENSIVE!!!  Tahiti is probably one of the most expensive places to vacation on this planet.  I'm not kidding.  So looking at airfare to go there was going to cost us still around $800 per person plus our internal airfare from Papeete to Bora Bora and back.  We were looking at about $1200 per person plus the cost of food.  Well if you've been around me within the last 2 years, you will know that I absolutely HATE to spend money.  Even when it's not my own. My dad said that he would pay for our honeymoon, but there was no way I was going to let him spend that much.  We still would have to have money for food and activities.  And when you are looking at about $150-$200 per day per person just to eat, the cost gets higher.

So after stressing about that for awhile, one of our suppliers at work had a contest going on.  For every four 4 night packages that you booked, you would get a 4 night stay somewhere for free.  Well that was a no brainer for me.  

Hello!!  Honeymoon!!  :)  Well I ended up booking 8 packages, which landed me 8 free nights.  After talking to my rep for the company, she asked if I wanted Hawaii or Mexico.  Well I already have been to Mexico this year and I had really been wanting to go to Hawaii.  So that's what I picked after talking to Gregg.

I get the certificate in my email and I look at the hotel names and I'm floored.  Four free nights at the Moana Surfrider in Oahu and 4 nights at the Grand Wailea in Maui.  Are you kidding me??

Well I tried making all 8 nights work out, but because of time issues with Gregg's job, we could only stay for a total of 7 nights because the 8th night would be spent flying back to South Carolina.  We ended up spending 3 nights in Oahu and 4 nights in Maui.  The same company that I won the trip through, I also had a $1000 travel credit with them.  So Gregg and I were able to fly from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina to Honolulu, spend 3 nights there, then fly to Maui, spend 4 nights there and then fly back to Myrtle Beach all for $826.  Talk about amazing!  We had to pay for food and activities still, but that was hardly nothing in comparison to what it could have cost us in other places had I not won the trip.  Have I mentioned that I love my job?

These are in no particular order...

View from the Alii Kula Lavendar Farm in Maui
Standing at the top of Haleakala Crater
Our Jeep rental in Maui
our room at the Grand Wailea in Maui
 The entrance to the Westin Moana Surfrider in Oahu - we were here for 3 nights
 The view from the Waikiki beachside of the Moana Surfrider looking at Diamond Head Crater
 On our way to do an Atlantis Submarine cruise.  It was great because we got to see Waikiki from the water
 the view from our room at the Grand Wailea in Maui
 Another view of the lavendar farm in Maui. It was so beautiful!
 Gregg and I up at one of the lookouts on the way up to Haleakala Crater
 Gregg and I at the lavendar farm in Maui - what an amazing view of Maui behind us
 G. W. Albright was my grandfather's uncle who was entombed in the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor at 19 years old. 
 My amazing husband!
What a perfect honeymoon!  I honestly couldn't have asked for a better one.  The hotels were gorgeous, as well as the islands.  Maui was definitely my favorite, but Oahu was great as well.  I'll add some more pictures in another post of some of the adventures we went on, but for now, here are some pics of us while we were there.  :)


So I know I talked about it in the last post, but here is how this whole thing went down.  Kudos to Gregg because he really had me fooled!  :)

Gregg tells me that we have dinner reservations for 7:30 on Saturday night, March 19, 2011.  He asks me if I'm feeling up to going out to dinner and after the week I had had, absolutely!  So he tells me to get dressed up and so I did.  On the way to get into his car, he takes my scarf off of my purse and blindfolds me so I have no idea where we are going to.  After awhile of driving, he is taking all sorts of curves and turns and I get completely lost.  Yes, I'm the person who tries to figure everything out.  So after about a 45 minute drive, we end up at Jamie's parents house.  Of course I don't know this until I walk in the door, Gregg takes off the blind fold and everyone yells SURPRISE!!  :)  Best surprise EVER!  So i'm completely in awe at this party and honestly didn't have words.  So after we hang out and talk for a bit and have some snacks, Jamie tells us its time for cake.  So everyone goes into the living room except Jamie, her mom and Gregg. I'm sitting in the chair as they bring the cake out and I go to blow out the candle when Jamie starts yelling at me to read what the cake says.

I'm so nervous that I completely did not see the "Will You Marry Me" on the cake.  WHAT!!!!!  Just as I realize what is going on, Gregg is on one knee in front of me asking me to marry him!  OF COURSE!!!!!  So with my closest church family watching, Gregg proposed to me.  The only way it could have been more perfect is if my family could have been there.  Wow!  I was freaking out and kept saying "are you serious???"  hahaha  Well it just so happened that after he proposed, within about 5 minutes, someone across the lake from Jamie's parent's house, was shooting fireworks.  The timing couldn't have been more perfect!

So after a month of planning and with the help of Jamie, Gregg was able to pull off one of the most important days of my life.  The next one will be coming up on September 10, 2011.  :)  That day, I will marry my best friend and love of my life.  I can't wait!

My ring.  Isn't it classy and beautiful :)

You never know what life will throw you...

So wow, in about 45 minutes it will have been a month since I have blogged.  And I could not stress enough how much change has happened in this one measly month.  So my last blog ended with me having the MOST amazing night worshiping with Kari Jobe in Evans, GA on the night of March 11, 2011.  Fast forward a few hours from that event, and you'll have the start of the best and worst 2-3 weeks of my life.  I say best, because my life changed incredibly for the good during that timeframe, and I say the worst because it was also the sickest I have ever been in my life.  March 12th marked the day that Gregg was to move to Columbia from the beach.  So I wake up the morning of the 12th in THE best mood EVER!!  See last post.

To make a long story short, I ended up in Drs. Care the afternoon that Gregg moved into his apartment.  I'm in so much pain, that I'm literally throwing up and I can't figure out what is going on.  The nurse tells me I might have a kidney stone.  So $216 later (they couldn't verify my insurance on a Saturday apparently) I'm sent on my merry way and told to go to the ER later if it doesn't get better.  Well it didn't.  So about 8 hours later, I found myself in the ER for about 6 hours.  Final verdict.  A kidney stone.  Not only a kidney stone, but one that I will probably not be able to pass.  So after some extra scripts of pain meds and some iv injected morphine, i'm sent on my merry way again to deal with this at home.  I had a followup appt with a urologist that following week and I find out that not only do I have a kidney stone, but I have 2 of them and will definitely not be able to pass them.  Seriously?  Worst luck ever.  So the nurse comes in and tells me I have to have surgery the next day.  I leave the office almost ready to have a panic attack.  I've never been put under before.  It honestly was my worst fear.  So the next day I go into have the surgery (on my birthday of course) and find out that I have to pay like $1000 up front.  Ummm hello!!! I have insurance!!!  But they don't care.  So after having a mental breakdown, I leave the urologist's office in tears, in pain, without having surgery.  So I go home and find another urologist who would see me that same day.  I head to Dr. Fairey's office (they were able to get me right in) and explain everything.  Next thing you know, I'm being wheeled off to surgery.  Happy birthday to me!!

Not so much.  Thank God for Gregg though.  I would have never made it without him.  I ended up having a lithrotripsy and had the stones broken up. Recovery was horrible as I was really sick from the anesthesia.  The next few days were horrible as well.  I ended up having a stent put in that ran from my kidney to my bladder.  Honestly, after the surgery, that hurt worse than the actual surgery.  I ended up having that taken out the following Tuesday morning.  That night, I started getting so severely sick that I didn't know what was going on.  I ended up in the ER again that following Thursday with a really bad infection that I seriously think I'm still trying to get over.  It honestly was the worse time in my life and I never want to be that sick again.  But Gregg took care of me the entire time, which I know was extremely stressful for him and having to deal with going to the Columbia Fire Academy everyday.

But in the midst of all this, I GOT ENGAGED!!!!  Gregg had planned to throw me a surprise birthday party on Friday, March 18th, but since I had surgery the night before that wasn't about to happen.  So with Jamie's help, Gregg was able to plan a birthday party and a surprise engagement for me that got moved to Saturday, March 19th.  Even though I was still really sick, it was the best night of my life.

I'll save the actual story for the next post.  :)  So long for now!

I am all that He says that I am

So last night was truly an awe-inspiring night for me.  Not only did I get to go worship live with Kari Jobe, but I got to meet her and get her autograph too.  Anyone that truly knows me, knows that I have been waiting for that moment for the past 5 years.  Now, Kari is everything that I thought she would be, but the real reason I wanted to meet her was because of what her music and lyrics have done for my life.  If you have read any of my past blogs, you will have read about her.  Back in 2006, about a year after I moved to South Carolina, I was on shaking ground.  I had a pretty good job, but that's about it.  The girl I moved to SC with had already went back to Indiana and my cousin Jeri was living with me at the time.  I really didn't know in which way my life was headed.  I was on Myspace one night listening to different bands when I came across Kari Jobe's music page.  The very first song that I listened to of hers, "The More I Seek You" dropped me to my knees.  I was desperate for God.  This song seemed to literally come from Him beckoning me back into a relationship with Him.  From that point on, I listened to all of Kari's songs that she had out at the time.  She was a worship leader in a church in Texas.  She wasn't well-known and definitely did not have the success that she does now.  But I would sit at work at TRIPS and open up her webpage and just listen to her music all day long.  It brought me peace and comfort.  After a couple of years, she finally came out with an actual EP in February 2009.  From then on, she started to become a littler more mainstream and famous.  I am sooo excited that everyone can experience what I experienced when I first started listening to her music.  Her voice, music, lyrics, and worship style will truly stir you, they will move you.

It's almost surreal that this happened at the start of one of the most important weekends in my life.  Gregg is moving up to Columbia.  He will be starting with Columbia Fire Deparment on Monday doing 7 weeks of advanced training.  I'm so excited to see how much my life will change with him!  I can't wait. How often does God give us the desires of our hearts?  I know that for me, not only does He give me the desires of my hearts, but always goes above and beyond.  So much more than I could ever imagine.  I'm so thankful for a Creator and Savior who thinks of me and how much I mean to him.

Kari sang this song last night that went:

"I am all that He says that I am
Chains are broken
Scales are on the floor
Truth is spoken
I'm no orphan anymore..."

I don't know who actually sings this song or if it will be on Kari's new cd.  Ive searched the internet and I can't figure it out.  I'm praying its a brand new one from Kari and her band.  It's absolutely beautiful and breathtaking.

Here is the first song I ever heard her sing that has broken me to pieces...

Gathering flowers for the Master's bouquet...

I don't remember the first time I met my grandmother.  Of course she has been in my life since I was born, but I can't exactly pinpoint the first memory of actually knowing she was my grandmother.  I do know that I was young.  Here are a few memories that I do have of my grandmother and grandfather not really in specific order.

I remember being about 10 years old and always going out to the farm.  This was the 40 acres of land that pretty much my whole paternal side lived on.  My grandfather had once owned a sawmill (among many other things) out there and it was the popular place to hang out back in the day.  In the middle of this 40 acre land, he built 2 big ponds with a channel that ran between them.  One we called the shallow side and one the deep side.  When we were children, we were not allowed to play on the pier that was on the deep side.  Of course though, when we were young, we never listened.  We always found ourselves doing everything we shouldn't.

With my mom and dad being divorced when I was about 2, I didn't get to grow up on the farm like all of my other cousins did.  I remember being dragged to church every Saturday night (my family didn't do Sunday morning services) when I was little with my grandparents and most of my aunts and uncles and cousins.  Of course us kids hated it.  The services would go from 7-8 o'clock all the way past midnight, sometimes even later.  It made for a very long night for us kids.  Nonetheless, we made the best of it.

Whenever I would come out to the farm, Sabrina, Kanyon, Jess and myself would always be making forts in the woods, playing hide and go seek, doing whatever we could to have fun.  We always wound up in granny's front yard underneath the apple trees or out in papal's garden.  What a garden he had.  My grandpa was a hands on kind of person.  He loved being outside and being in his garden.  Every summer, he would go on a piece of the property, that we called "the hill", and pick blackberries all day long.  He would bring home buckets of them for my grandma to make jelly with.  This was her passion.  If there is one thing my granny can do well, it's cooking.  Anyway, they were a great team.  Summers at the farm were the best.  We'd come into my granny's from playing outside and she would always have something for us to eat.  Papal would either be sitting at the table or on the couch watching the Cubs play.  He loved the Cubs!  After his health started failing and he couldn't hear, he would blare the tv, almost blowing our eardrums, but it sounded good to him.  I'm surprised you couldn't hear the sounds of Harry Caray from miles away.

I remember always sitting at the kitchen table at granny's and playing with her makeup.  She always wore Covergirl and the foundation always had a distinct smell.  I'll forever remember my grandmother by the smell of her foundation and baby powder.  She always wore house slippers and put baby powder inside them.

Before my grandfather died, I remember staying at their house over Christmas Eve and they let me sleep in between them.  I remember my grandfather telling me that there were elves in the closest making toys for Santa to bring.  Granny didn't believe in Santa so I was always torn as to who was really telling the truth.

 My grandfather passed away when I was 12 years old.  From the moment he died until my grandmother's house burnt down a couple of years ago, she never changed a thing in her bedroom.  You would walk in and still smell my grandfather.  I'm not sure how she did it.  She didn't touch his side of the bed, she didn't wash his pillow, she didn't change anything, she wanted the memory of him to last forever.  He was the love of her life and he let her know that every single day.

As I got older, I would listen to my grandma telling me all about church and Jesus.  I was young, I didn't want to listen.  But God knew she would be right by myself when I did want to listen. When I was 17 and was really dealing with conviction, I decided to start going to church.  She was right by my side.  She was right by my side as I gave my life to Christ.  She was right by my side as I sang and worshiped my Savior.  She was right by my side as we prayed before and after church, holding onto my hand.  You see, out of 19 grandchildren, I was the only one who went to church willingly.  The one thing my grandma wanted in life, was to see her children and grandchildren in church.  Nothing meant more to me than to be able to sit next to my grandmother every Sunday in church.  Just us two as everyone else and my aunts and uncles sat in the other pews.

After I went to college in Fort Wayne, I stopped going to church.  I would always have to listen to her talk to me about it when I would come home.  After I moved to South Carolina and met Gregg and started going to church again, she couldn't wait to tell me how proud of me she was.  When I would come home for visits, we would talk all night long about God and how without Him, our lives mean nothing.  I traded my Saturday nights hanging out with friends to sitting at my grandma's watching the Grand Ole Opry and other shows like Kids Say the Darndest Things and many others.  She had these vhs tapes of some singers who would play songs like "Scarlet Purple Robe", "Gathering Flowers for the Master's Bouquet" and many more.  We would listen and sing along to them all night long and wake up the next morning and head to church.  At the church that we went to, we were able to get up and testify about different things God was doing in our lives.  One time I got up and testified about how amazing it was to be able to sit with my grandmother on those weekend nights not worrying about being wasted or getting into trouble, but knowing that I was creating memories that would forever stick with me for a lifetime.

I've only been able to see my grandmother about 3-4 times a year since I moved to South Carolina.  This is probably the hardest part about living so far away from family.  Never when I moved, did I think to myself, "I will only get to see my grandmother 15-20 more times before she goes to be with Jesus."  Now the thought of maybe never getting to see her again is all too clear in my head.  You see, my grandmother is a very stubborn woman.  Her father was Polish and her mother Austrian which makes for a hardheaded child.  Must be where I get some of my traits.  :)  Anyway, if you talk to her, she will tell you that she is fine and there is nothing wrong with her.  That's not true.  My grandmother is slowly fading away even as I write this blog.  If you knew my grandmother, she never missed a Sunday church service (or a Saturday night back in the day for that matter).  For my grandmother to miss church, the town literally needed to be shut down.  I don't think she has been to church yet this year.  She has been in and out of the hospital over these past few months and things just keep getting worse and worse.  Last week she dislocated her shoulder and didn't know it until about 2 days later.  Since then, she has gotten worse.  I feel sorry for my dad who is with her almost all of her waking moments and he has to watch his mama deteriorate every day.  It's so heart breaking to talk to him on the phone.  As the youngest of 8 children, he is a mama's boy.

I will be coming home for Trent's graduation in May and I pray that sweet, dear granny will be able to hold on at least that long.  When you are young, you never think that the day will come that you will have to bury your grandparents.  They should be able to live forever.  But I know that day is coming.  And I know where my grandmother will be spending her eternity.  I wish though, that I could take away her physical pain.  I wish I could take away all of the stress that she has been put through these last few years with some of my aunts and uncles and with the loss of one of her grandchildren.  Sabrina was the first born granddaughter.  She held a special place in my grandma's heart.  And I know there isn't a second that goes by that she doesn't think about Sabrina.  I know that for a fact.

When it's time for granny to take her last breath, I wish I could be there watching her walk into Heaven's arms.  I wish I could be there at that moment that she meets Jesus face to face.  I know it will be a joyous time in Heaven when Jesus stands there saying "Welcome home My child, welcome home."

To my grandmother Irene,

I know you will never read this, but please know how much you mean to me and how much joy you have brought to my life.  I am so blessed that God chose you to by my grandmother.  I have laughed with you, I have cried with you, and I have worshiped and prayed with you.  Thank you for being an amazing woman of God who has taught me what it's like to live each day for Christ.  Please know that the day you take your last breath, will be the day that my life will never be the same.  I wish you could live forever and that there would be no more death and no more sorrow.  But I know that day is coming.  I don't know how much longer you have on this earth, but know that I pray for you everyday.  I pray that God will provide you comfort through your pain and that when the day comes, you will go peacefully into His arms.  And I know that one day, I will be with you in eternity, where there will be no tears, no more death, and no more sorrow.  We will be side by side again smiling, laughing, and singing songs for our Master.  One day we will be together again, gathering flowers for the Master's bouquet.

I love you!

Love, Tiff

 my grandma and grandpa at my parent's wedding

 waiting to be baptized

baptized in the pond that my grandfather made