I just got back in town Monday from our vacation to Cocoa Beach, FL this past week. If you've ever been on a vacation with your toddlers, then you know that the hope of relaxation and peace may be more of a dream than a reality. Add to it, my husband was unable to get off work for the week, so I was going to have to travel ALONE with both my kids (1yr and 4yr old). Thank God, for my best friend, Carissa, who graciously accepted my invitation to come along! I know for a fact that I would not have survived this trip without her help, encouragement, and conversation.
The plane ride actually went pretty well. We were able to trap my son between the wall and the isle and let him roam in front of our seats. I loved watching Evalee's face as the plane started to speed down the runway and lift up into the air. She squealed with excitement and anticipation of the lift off. "Look Mom!" she would scream every 10min or so, "LOOK!! We're in the clouds!" I had booked us a straight flight, so 2hours or so and we were in Florida. Woohoo!
And that's where our troubles started...
We waited for the car rental shuttle at the airport for at least 30min in the sweltering heat. Upon arrival, we realized the rental office is only 500sqft; really only big enough for a handful of people waiting in line, so I had to leave the kids and our luggage outside with Carissa again in the heat for another 40min. Despite the fact that I had called the company weeks in advance to reserve the right car seats for my kids, they still brought me out the wrong ones and took another 30min to find the right ones and fill our van up with gas. My poor babies were cranky, hot, and looked like they were about to pass out in the heat. Day one was not starting out like I had anticipated, but eventually we got into the A/C and were on our way from Orlando to Cocoa Beach. The excitement had returned, and we couldn't wait to get to our Junior Suite Ocean View retreat, drop our bags and get a bite to eat.
The drive was an hour long, but Carissa and I had a great time bonding while the kids napped in the back seat. Immediately upon pulling into the parking lot, I realized something wasn't quite right. The hotel didn't look like they had pictured it to look on the website. The exterior was worn down and faded, barely anyone in the parking lot, but I'm not one to judge a book by its cover, so I kept my hopes up. After all, this place had a pirate ship kiddie pool! How bad could it be?
Carissa stayed in the car with the kids, while I ran into the lobby to check us in. The lobby reeked of mold and mildew. From the waiting line, I could see into the hall behind the front desk and the floor boards and carpet were discolored and black, like they had some water damage. STILL, I held my cool and prayed silently that our room would still live up to my expectations. Let me tell you folks, the ONLY expectation that was fulfilled was the proximity of the room to the beach! haha. It was an absolute nightmare. Not only did the room also smell like mold and mildew, all the furniture was chipped and dented, paint splattered all over the floor boards and laminate flooring, the couch had sweat stains all over it, and the single bedroom looked as though it had been ransacked right before we arrived. The mattress and box spring flipped up against the walls and bedding toppling off onto the floor. I didn't feel safe. The staff didn't even attempt to encourage us to stay, like THEY KNEW how bad the conditions were. I said something like, "our room was so scary, I'm thinking of just going to another hotel. Is it possible to get a refund?" and the hostess just said, "Yes, I'll do that for you now."!!! "Here you go!" I assumed they would try and find us something better, but nope..
At this point it was now 5pm and a storm was brewing. We had a car full of tired, hot, hungry kids and luggage and no where to go. Again, I said a silent prayer. I could feel the anxiety and tension growing. I was annoyed and frustrated, and starting to spiral. "of course this would happen to me! I can never do anything right! I needed this vacation so bad, and was so excited about this place... Arg!" / "NO no no no NO! You are not going to react this way. No. This trip is a gift and is necessary for your sanity. There is a reason for everything. Remember that comment you read the other day? That girl who posted about how she is able to bring herself out of a rage episode? Yes! think of 3 things you can see, 3 things you can feel, 3 things you can hear, then 2, then 1." And just as I was regaining control over my thinking, Carissa chimes in, "You know what, Michelle, I think this is going to work out exactly as it's supposed to. I think the universe has something so much better in mind for us this week." She somehow always knows how to calm my soul and bring me comfort in trying times. I knew she would make an awesome travel buddy for this trip!
And that is exactly what God had in mind..
I decided not to further overwhelm myself and worry about the room. I completely let it go and handed it over to God. I told Carissa, that I would contact an AAA agent after we had gotten dinner and at least attempted to enjoy some of our first day on the beach. So we found a great place to grab dinner RIGHT ON THE BEACH! They had live music and a bar and great food and soon our bellies were full and our feet were in the sand. It rained, but we didn't care. Arms spread wide, I twirled and it was a good day again. The AAA agent was able to locate us a room within a matter of a minute and it was a 5min walk from the famous Cocoa Beach Pier. The whole span of our balcony faced the ocean and the only thing that separated our building from sand was a little patch of wild weeds and bushes. We were able to literally walk out of our hotel, over a strip of wooden bridge, and into the sand. It was breathtaking and exactly what I had hoped for over the last couple months.
Wednesday, both my kids came down with some kind of stomach bug. My daughter woke up puking around 4am, then again at the hotel breakfast buffet, then again in the car (thank God we had a trash bag available!)... My son never puked but had diarrhea all day long. We spent the entirety of the day inside our hotel room watching sponge bob, and I thought I was going to absolutely lose it! lol. But here's the thing.. No, I was unable to get up early and go running that morning on the beach, BUT I was still able to breastfeed the baby on our balcony and watch the sun rise over the ocean. No, I was unable to enjoy the sunshine from the sand, but Carissa offered to watch over Evalee while Sully napped, so I could go out and sun bathe on the balcony. No, we did not leave our room, but after the kids fell asleep early, we were able to sip wine in the dark, listening to the waves and crickets, and talk about anything and everything under hundreds of stars, and share life together. It should have been a terrible day, but it wasn't. It is a memory I will likely cherish forever.
So much more happened on this trip.. So much that I won't share as I've already written a novel, but all I can think about looking back over our time in Florida, is how God worked in all of the struggle. How I was able, probably for the first time in a very long time, to calm the storm within me and seek Christ and bring myself peace of mind. To let go my need for perfection and order and embrace the chaos.. the gift.. to be content no matter the situation.
2 Corinthians 12:10
"That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."
"I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want."
"Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”'