Some of you may or may not want to hear this. Today is the first day in five? days that I didn't go to the beach. Say what? Yes I have been working, three days last week. But we somehow lucked out and managed six days off in a row because of the holiday coinciding with our travel days. For those of you who are following my journey, I'll fill you in on what I've been up to the past week.
Last Tuesday was our first event at the BMW dealership of Naples. We arrived at the event, learned what needed to be done, and carried out a successful event. We set up the tents, register participants, and help answer any questions of the customers, while talking with them and making sure they have a positive experience. I love it because every interaction is different and every day is so different than the previous. I've been helping with registration, so I've had the opportunity to speak with everyone that goes through the process. There have been some pretty amazing people that have come through, some super adorable older folks in Hawaiian shirts that you can tell are loving life, and just each event has brought so much joy to my life in different ways. After Naples, we traveled to Sarasota for an event, and then Fort Myers. Those were on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday.
On our off days, we did a lot of exploring and venturing off to new places and specifically, new beaches. Tuesday was one of those days that was perfect in every sense of the word. Sure, i've experienced what seemed like perfect moments at the time, times where my heart was so full that every ounce of me was so content and happy. That day, my heart was so full and I could hardly contain my happiness and wanted everyone around me to be that happy.
It started off early at the event. We'd finished setting up and I was at the registration table. One of the client advisors wouldn't accept my no and insisted that he was bringing me Starbucks, so that was a pleasant start to the day. The people that attended this event were mostly older individuals, but they were the jolliest people ever- sporting their Sperrys and Hawaiian shorts, big smiles, and beach hats. They were so friendly and I just loved talking with them. Shortly after, our Olympic athlete arrived. His name was Augusto "Goose" Perez. He is a wheelchair curling champion and he is single handedly one of the most amazing men I've ever encountered. He's battled cancer multiple times in the past years and his story is incredible. When times got hard and he didn't want to train, his wife was there to push and encourage him, to ride her bike next to him as he pushed through his training. Though I only spoke with them for a few hours, it was apparent in the way that they spoke to one another that their love for each other is so strong and true.
They have twins at home, and him and I were talking about that and work. We were discussing how often we see people who work and have to go from meeting to meeting all day long and how much work can consume a person's life, sometimes without them every noticing it. He said if he were to give me any advice it'd be this, "Work to live, don't live to work." It's so true on so many levels. Yes, I want to work so I can provide for myself and afford the necessities in life, but I don't want my work to consume my life, to leave me with no free time for family and friends, to cause so much stress that I forget how to enjoy life. I don't want to be one of those people who spend all day working and miss out on important moments in another person's life because I was stuck at work. I want to work hard but to have a balance in which I will be there for those who've always been there for me. Yes, work is important, but it isn't and it shouldn't be a person's entire life. Time here on this earth is so short and before we know it, we will all be older and looking back at our life. I don't want to look back and regret how I lived. The conversation we had was an eye opener, and I'm so excited that I will be able to work beside him again at a future event!
After that event, we were Fort Myers bound. We had talked about taking the scenic route how because it was a nice evening, but everyone was tired so we decided against it. I had the convertible so I put the top down and turned on some country music and I was off. My sister used to live in Florida and told me one of her favorite places was Venice beach. On the drive, I saw the sign for Venice, and I really wanted to stop. I knew noone else was going and that I shouldn't, but at the last minute I veered off onto the exit ramp and went. As I was on my way, I passed a cow pasture with cows wandering around the palm trees in the field. It felt alot like home!
As I pulled into Venice, the town was lined with local shops and restaurants and gorgeous houses. I pulled into the parking lot and made my way out to the beach. I sat on a bench for a while and just stared out at the ocean. It's crazy how looking at it never seems to get old. It's SO big and so blue, and it just amazes me. Even more so is that the God that created that, also created me and you. I stared out at it and just thanked God for that beautiful sight and all that he's been doing in my life.
As I was headed back in to listen to the live music I had heard, I saw a sign that said beach yoga was in session. I walked into the patio where a man was playing guitar and singing some oldie songs, one being one of my favorites- Sweet Caroline. I sat next to an old married couple and the man was so sweet. He talked with me for a few minutes, and then I was off to find out about beach yoga. The woman in charge said it was going to start at 7:45, and that she had an extra mat I could use. It was right in the middle of the beach, as the sun was setting.
It was one of the most perfect evenings I've ever experienced. I was surrounded by older individuals and married couples doing yoga, on a beach that was full of families, couples, and children watching the sunset over the ocean. Yoga lasted from 7:45- 8:15, and the sun sets around 8:10. As we were doing our finishing poses, she said for us all to face out at the ocean, because the sun was right at the top of the ocean. As it dipped down below it, the beach erupted in applause. It was unlike anything I've ever seen.
Being there and clearing my head, just closing my eyes and listening to the waves crash against the shore as we relieved all of the stress we were carrying, it was so peaceful. And so ended a beautiful day.
Wednesday we left Naples early to go to Siesta Key beach. The sand there was so fine, soft, and white- it was beautiful. Saturday we made our way to Fort Myers beach. It was about to rain after awhile, so we made our way in for pizza and ice cream. Then, once the rain was over we took our ice cream and ventured out for a walk on the pier.
That night, we decided we were going to venture out to the downtown area. We went to a place called the "Skybar." It's a pretty neat place, and one of the guys bought a table up on the top patio, so we had a beautiful view looking out over the city. Not to mention, the table came with chocolate to dip strawberries, cherries, and a bottle of champagne. We sat on our little couches in the corner and chatted; it was a great time!
Sunday I found a church here and went to that. I needed it, and the worship team there was awesome. They even played one of the songs that Eastview used to play, so it made me feel more at home, but it also made me miss being back home! After that, we went to Sanibel and Captiva island. Again, it was beautiful and less populated than the day before. Monday was a more slow paced day which was nice. I got my laundry done and arranged my suitcases a little better so they aren't so much of an overflowing tornado. Let me just say, living out of a suitcase isn't easy, especially when you over-pack like I did! We layed by the pool for a bit and I did some reading, then we loaded up the car and ventured back to Venice.
We got there around 3, so we had a late lunch. As we were finishing, it started to downpour, so we walked through some of the shops. When it was done raining, we drove down to Caspersen beach. My sister used to go there to shark tooth hunt, so we thought it'd be cool to check out. This was probably one of my favorite beaches so far. The water was so incredibly blue, and there were hardly any people there. The guys found some shark teeth, and we enjoyed swimming in the ocean for awhile. Marie and I were going to stay for yoga so we drove separately, but it was raining so we decided to head back after lying by the water and reading our books.
So that brings me to today. Today we didn't go to the beach. Today we went for a hike at the state park, then I came back and found a shady spot by the pool and read my book. I swam some laps, and then our weight room was finally open so I worked out. Then, I went to get a frozen meal with frozen vegetables from the grocery store and drove around. I found some cool neighborhoods with gorgeous houses. It's been quite a trip so far, and I couldn't be more thankful for this opportunity.
Yes, I will be working more. We have almost 50 events, so time won't always be this leisurely. I had written this post earlier, but somehow I deleted the text when I was trying to insert a photo. So I had to write it again. As I was leaving the hotel, Drops In the Ocean came on the radio. I've heard it a few times as I've been driving, and it hits me every time.
The lyrics read:
"If you wanna know
How far my love can go
Just how deep, just how wide
If you wanna see
How much you mean to me
Look at my hands, look at my side
If you could count the times I'd say you are forgiven
It's more than the drops in the ocean."
Sometimes I just lay on my back in the ocean and close my eyes. My ears fill with water and I hear nothing, and as I lay there, I think of these lyrics. The ocean is SO big. And there's so much more on this earth than the ocean I've been in. And there's three more oceans on top of this one. If that's not something incredible, then I don't know what is. God's love is so strong and so big, and He's the ultimate lover, encourager, forgiver, and friend.
That brings me so much joy. Which leads to another song that hit me hard today. As I was working out, "Thrive" by Casting Crowns came on my Pandora. One line particularly stuck with me.
"Joy unspeakable, faith unsinkable, love unstoppable, anything is possible." I've experienced so much joy on this journey thus far, and it's definitely strengthened my faith in ways that I haven't known before. For the first time, I'm hundreds of miles away from everything I am familiar with. I'm surrounded by a group of 8 individuals that I met only two weeks ago. It gets lonely and I miss home, my family and my friends. I miss mom's homecooked meals and laying down to watch Hallmark movies and Chicago Fire and Chicago P.D. with my family at the end of the day, being around my friends who know me for me, seeing the sunset over the barns at home, but I've also been so full of joy being where I am, and I know it's where I'm supposed to be right now.
Interacting with so many people has changed my life. Hearing people's stories and having the opportunity to be in so many different places opens my eyes to different perspectives. It brings me so much joy to do so. I've placed my faith in Christ, to know that He will guide me where I'm meant to be, that He will be there whenever I get lonely or afraid, that I can pray to Him at any time of the day- when I need strength, when I need courage, when I need guidance. His love is unstoppable, and by trusting in that, I've also found a love for everyone I encounter. Listening to people, helping them with anything they need, experiencing new things with my teammates- I've found a new love for different parts of everything I experience. I know that with God, anything is possible. When I miss home, when I don't know the right words to say, when I don't know where to go next, I know that He will guide me. I place my trust in Him, and look forward to continuing this journey for the glory of the One who gave us this beautiful life.