A Caving Adventure – You Should Come

Every year for the last three years I’ve gone caving in the Cumberland Caverns with a group of people from Answers in Genesis. It’s literally one of my favorite things to do each year and I’m very much looking forward to doing it again this year, Lord willing. (See my posts from previous years here, here, and here.)
I decided that this year I would blog about it plenty early in case any of y’all wanted to go along on the adventure as well. The adventure takes place September 3rd, and if you choose to spend the night (which is the best part!) then it goes until the 4th. You can find out more information about it here. You should really at least look into it. I would be delighted to meet some of y’all there. 

The first time I walked down into the cave it was like entering a whole new world. It shocked me to think that all this amazing beauty was beneath or feet so much of the time and we are oblivious to it most of the time. It reminds me of snorkeling… The surface betrays so little of what is lurking out of sight. Caving is a perspective-changing event because it helps show that there is so much to life that we don’t even think about until we experience it for ourselves.

So, in reality this whole post is a public service announcement letting you know that you have the opportunity to go caving… And, you’d probably really enjoy it and learn a ton and get to hang out with some really cool people (it’s so much fun meeting the people who are along for the adventure), so you should at least look into it.

And that’s all folks. I’d be happy to (try and) answer any questions you might have.

* * *
The destination for our Around The World in Fifty-Two Weeks post was picked (with her eyes closed) by my little cupcake and blogger-buddy Hosanna, and we are going to: Cambodia!  

Where I’ve Blogged During the Last Four Years

Over the last four years my blogging quarters have been changed up a bit, although when I look back through the picture, I’m amazed at how alike they actually all are. I started out blogging at this table which I used as a desk. I lived in a barn at the time which was pretty cool. 
During November of 2012 I took part in National Novel Writing Month and discovered the wonderfulness of writing from an easy chair. I spent the next three years of my life writing almost exclusively from comfortable seats, often with my legs tucked up under me or propped up in front of me. It was delightful. 
This (below) was my writing corner from November 2012 until June of 2014 when my family moved. Hundreds of blog posts came to life in this cozy nook. In fact, if you look closely at the computer you can see I was drafting a post on it. 

 My new office was a bit more spacious, although not in the loft of an old barn. Since I enjoyed my previous office so much, I modeled my new writing corner in almost the same exact way. (Note the stuffed animals in the right corner. Stuffed animals do wonders for the imagination.)

This was my happy, and bright, writing space from June of 2014 until November of 2015 when I took part in my second National Novel Writing Month. There’s a long story I plan on blogging about some time, but let’s just say I found out that I had deplorable writing posture and an easy chair is not the place to spend hours each day working.

Amusingly enough it was back to the foldable table for me (although a different one than before). I shifted my office furnishings around and eventually came up with this winning combination. Now I write with my feet flat on the floor, my back at least somewhat straight, and my computer at eye-level. It’s not quite as comfortable, but my body feels a lot better.  
So there you have it, the four basic places I’ve written my blog posts from. Of course there have been blog posts written in other locations.
I’ve written posts rocking in a hammock in North Carolina, surrounded by friends in Nebraska, in wind-swept Aruba, outside of caves in Tennessee, in the sound booth at the Creation Museum… At a friend’s house in Asia, in vehicles in multiple states, in a cute beach cottage in Hawaii, in an apartment in Frankfurt, Germany, walking down the road, in doctor’s waiting rooms, in an old palace in Vienna, Austria… In hotels in Colorado, in airports all across the world, in a friend’s basement in Georgia, and the list could go on. 

Pretty much Noveltea, and therefore y’all, have been a big part of my life and followed me around the world and through the ups and downs of being a writer for the last four years. Thank you so much for joining on this journey with me.

I’m reposting the giveaway here so y’all can get more entries (you can get a lot of the entries each day, not just once).

Question of the day: Where is the strangest/coolest/most unique place you’ve read a blog post?

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Extreme Caving

Y’all, we did it again! Happy, happy Monday from a thrilled little blogger who spent part of Saturday and Sunday crawling around in the depths of the earth. I had such a fantastic time and I’m excited to be able to share our adventure with y’all. (I’m spending today at my adopted parent’s I’m dropping the “adopted” for the rest of this post house and the internet is slow so it took what felt like half of forever to upload these pictures, but me oh my, they’re worth it.) 
I went to my parent’s house on Wednesday of last week then Friday morning we traveled to the Creation Museum and had a wonderful time. I had so much fun getting to hang out with my friends who work there. I was especially glad to spend a couple of hours with my good friend, Susan, and her family. 
Early Saturday morning we loaded the car up and drove the five and a half hours to McMinnville, Tennessee to the Cumberland Caverns. This is the third summer in a row that we’ve taken a group of people there and it’s one of the events I look forward to most each year. We had around 130 people take part in the adventure which. 
When we got there we piled all of our backpacks and sleeping bags up and then I had a great time talking to people while Lynae (who was in charge of the trip) was taking care of registration. I especially had fun with Elizabeth and her dad, Chris. Their family has been friends with my parents for a long time but I hadn’t gotten to know Elizabeth until this trip. 

The past few years we’ve done the caving trip a couple of weeks earlier in the year and it’s been really hot outside. This year I did’t feel a huge temperature change when I walked into the cave, except of course because of the lack of sunshine. 
Stepping into the cave is truly like dropping into another world. I tried to keep my gushing at bay, but I kept telling Lynae that I wanted to hug the cave. It’s beautiful. Detailed. Awesome. When I spend time in a cave I’m reminded all over again about how amazing and creative God is. I can hardly grasp the fact that for all we know there can be caves like this under us and we don’t even know it. 

The Cumberland Caverns are huge. And when I say huge, I mean that it’s one of the largest caves in the USA. The place where Dad does his concerts can fit six hundred people. The place where we camp out can sleep four hundred people. There are miles and miles of underground passageways. At some places the ceiling towers more than a hundred feet above the floor. That, my friends, is huge. 

After a walking tour Dad did a concert for our group. It was a lot of fun because Dad let the audience pick the songs that he sang and he told a lot of cool stories that went along with his songs. The caving trip provides a friendly, almost family-ish feeling that I love.

After the concert we had supper and watched the Extreme Caving DVD (which was filmed mostly in the Cumberland Caverns) then it was time for the spelunking adventure. This is my favorite part of caving and I was excited to have Elizabeth as my spelunking pal. 
When we get down into the cave it narrows down and even though 68 of us went on the spelunking tour, most of the time I could only see two or three other people because the group spreads out and goes one-by-one because of how small it is. 

Elizabeth and I hung back so we could be at the very end of the group. We did that for several reasons, but the main ones being: 
1. I don’t like the idea of being surrounded by people while in tight spaces hundreds of feet underground
2. That way we could go at our own pace and we wouldn’t be holding anyone up
3. We got to be with the guide who stays in the very back and that way we could ask lots of questions 
4. I’ve been in the back every time I’ve done it and so I’m partial to that position 

 There were three guides with us. One at the front, one in the middle and one at the back. Andrea was the back guide and Elizabeth and I had so much fun talking with her and learning cool stuff about the cave that we wouldn’t have heard other wise.
This is a picture (below) of Andrea coming out of one of the belly crawling places. I’m not good with distances, but I’m guessing this was about fifteen feet long. And it’s not a straight stretch, either. To get through it you have to twist and turn and wiggle around rocks and use your feet to propel you forward. Plus, you’re going slightly uphill so you can’t see the end of the crawl space. It’s a little bit freaky.
Also, please note that Andrea is really small, so the tunnel is even tinier than it looks like from this picture. To this day I’m not sure how anyone bigger than me fits through these tunnels. But they do.

With crawl spaces like that ^ the spelunking goes really slowly because Elizabeth and I had to wait for 68 other people to go in front of us. Most of the time I didn’t mind waiting, but at other times I would be in a tight spaces when Elizabeth would stop walking and if I could I would back up, but other times it was best to just wait where I was. 
In the picture below I was waiting at this particular place for a couple of minutes and it was so tight I literally could not turn my head more than halfway. (If I took off my helmet I probably could have.) It was times like this that I would come up with a diversion tactic so I didn’t get claustrophobic. Hence the picture and also lots of fun conversations between Andrea, Elizabeth and me. 

I’m a tad bit confused with the names, but I’m pretty sure that this picture below is of the Lemon Squeeze. Andrea was gracious enough to stop for a moment for me to get this picture to show how small it is. Again, I’m not sure it does an adequate job. (For size reference: Look at her hand on the ground. She’s small so therefore her hands are small.) There’s one place that we went through that is only 11 inches tall.

At one part of the cave the ground is all bumpy and looks really cool. The last couple of times that we went though the cave the guides had everyone stop in this room and turn off their lights so people could see what complete darkness looks like. 
The group didn’t do that this time, but I told Andrea how much I liked that part so we waited until everyone else besides the three of us were far down the tunnel then we turned off our lights and experienced extreme darkness. It was crazy. 
I think I’ve worn this sweatshirt every time I’ve gone caving. I’m normally cold when we start out spelunking and then part way through I warm up, then a little bit after that I’m down right hot. I took my sweatshirt off and tied it around my waist, but then when we would go through tight spots I had to untie it and carry it with me. 
When I hit one of the belly-crawling parts I accidentally dropped it and since I couldn’t reach back and grab it I had to pull it along with my feet which made me feel a little bit freaked out because it was such a tight space and my sweatshirt added bulk to the crawl space. 

Elizabeth is so sweet and since she’s pretty small she fit in the tight spots better than me and offered to carry my sweatshirt. At one point in time she warned me that it was going to get dirty. I was so relieved that I didn’t have to carry it that I told her “That’s fine, make it a game and try and get it as dirty as possible.” Next thing I knew she was polishing the rocks with it and truly did get it filthy. I was happy with anything as long as I didn’t have to carry it… 

The last two years after spelunking I’ve been disappointed that I hadn’t stopped to actually think about how far underground we were while in the middle of the adventure. The reason I hadn’t is because I was afraid I would get claustrophobic and freak out and that is not a good thing.
This time I felt like I could handle it, so I asked Andrea at one point how far down we were. She said she wasn’t sure, but probably about 400 feet. I let that thought soak in for a minute while looking at the rocks all around me and imaging the tight spots I had just come through and the tight spots I would be going through. Then I started feeling all hot and weird inside so I quickly stopped thinking about it again.
There was so much neat stuff to see underground. I especially liked all the neat rocks that looked like they were covered with glitter and the fossils.

After spelunking for about two hours Elizabeth announced that it felt like we had only been down there for 30 minutes and she wished that we could keep going and going. I told her I had felt the same exact way the first time I went on the adventure. I’m so glad that Elizabeth and I could do the spelunking together. It was so much fun!

After we were done spelunking I was so tired that I was happy to go to bed. I woke up multiple times during the night and I would open my eyes, stick my head out of my sleeping bag, catch a glimpse of the rocky ceiling in the dim light, smile at the adventure of it all and go back to sleep.

I’m so glad we got to go caving again and I really hope I can do it again next year. It is seriously one of my most favorite adventures that I’ve ever been a part of.

What about you? Have you ever been caving? Does it sound like fun to you? 
*These pictures were taken by my mom, Chris, Elizabeth, Andrea and me. Thanks everyone for letting me use them! 

July 2015 in Review

What I Focused on in July 

1. Spending time with family (visiting family out-of-state, my cousin’s wedding, etc…)
2. A week at the Creation Museum signing books and all that happiness
3. My non-writing job
Birthday Challenge and Dream List Update

1. Read 23 Non-fiction books {7 = 16}
4. Write 23 book reviews {5 = 11} here, here, here, here and here
13. Go to bed before 10:30 23 times (not in a row) {Completed June-something + 2}
15. No texting for 23 days (not in a row) {Completed June 28th}
20. Write a list of 500 things I’m thankful for {Completed July 16th}
21. Fill up a physical journal {Completed June 31st}

None

 Reading Update: 

Fiction: 10
Non-Fiction: 7
Reviews: 5
Traveling 

Nights gone: 11
New States or Countries traveled to: None
What I’ve been Learning

How do I even go into all I’ve been learning? 
I’ve been learning about speaking out and not remaining quiet. About living in faith. About letting go. About being ok with not-so-perfect. About asking God to increase my influence and then doing my part. 
I’ve been learning about how history repeats itself. About the importance of talking things through. About how much family and friends mean to me. About standing up for the truth and not backing down. 
I’ve been learning about writing and what annoys me in other books. I’ve been learning about thinking things through and having well-rounded characters. I’ve been learning about how much work it is to reach excellence. 
I’ve been learning and I’ve been growing. It’s been good. And at times not-so-good. 
Other Things

I’m excited that I got so much done on my birthday challenge this month. Most of the things are the list are pretty important to me and I’m fairly certain I’ll get 22 out of 23 of the challenges accomplished in time. (And, my birthday is at the end of next month so I really have to crack down on it!)
Going to the Creation Museum this month was extremely nice. I normally spend a few weeks there with my adopted parents each year and so I have a lot of friends there, plus I get to sign my books and talk with the guests and get story ideas and all that goodness. 
My first cousin to get married had her wedding in July and so that was nice. I’m happy for her and my new cousin-in-law. They’re great together. 
I read a lot of non-fiction this month which was challenging and good for me. I enjoy reading non-fiction books but I don’t fly through them like I do with fiction. So in July I finished reading three or four that I’d been in the middle of and then added in a few more. Plus reviews. I kinda overloaded Noveltea with reviews, but it was fun letting y’all know what I’d been reading. 
I’m currently visiting family out-of-state and therefore my blogging has been a bit sporadic. I have been getting editing done on When Life Hands You Lymes though, so that’s been wonderful!

How was your July? I’d be delighted to hear. 

Deep Underground

There is something about going deep underground that I can’t quite grasp. I don’t know how to explain the awing-feeling it creates, but it’s one of my favorite things to do. 
It all started almost three years ago when I went to the Cumberland Caverns with my adopted parents for a weekend of caving. As I descended the path into the belly of the earth for the first time and the cool air of the deep passageways hit me I was overcome with a feeling of amazement. 
It was like entering a new world as I realized how much beauty and intricacies and wonder there was below the ground that we carry out every day life on. 
When I went back to the caverns last year for another round of exploring and camping out deep underground I was pleasantly pleased to have all my expectations exceeded yet again. I guess caving only gets better with time.  
Yesterday I went with some of my family on a little tour of some caverns near where we live. We were only underground for about 35-40 minutes, but they were wonderful and made me shiver in happiness (and perhaps because it was about 50 degrees down there). 
It also made me almost prickly with excitement at the thought of going back to Cumberland Caverns and journeying down, down, down again. 

I’m so excited about (Lord willing) going back to Cumberland Caverns this September and drinking in the adventure again. It’s a part of my life that I am so glad I’ve had the blessing of experiencing! 

2014 in a Nutshell

For the past two years (2012 & 2013) I’ve written a recap of my year. 
This post took me probably between eight and twelve hours and several days to complete. It’s been crazy looking back through 2014 and seeing all that’s happened in my life! 
I’ve had a lot of good times, a lot of confusing moments, a lot of oh-my-goodness-is-this-really-my-life experiences, a lot of pain, a lot of joy and a lot of changes. 
This year has been a full-out learning to trust God and rest in Him year (more about that in another post), so it’s not been all lolly-pops and ice cream sundaes, if you know what I mean. 
I’ve decided to share the good, the bad and the fantastic with y’all. 
I hope you enjoy getting to see a glimpse of my life! 
I’ve linked about 95 of the over 320 posts from last year into this post, 
so I hope you enjoy going back and reading about a few of my highlights again. 🙂 


January: 

2014 was ushered in with lots of fun, festivities, Settlers of Catan, and hanging out with family. Our cousins spent about two weeks with us – weeks filled with jolliness, games, and craziness. I would have never guessed at that time that they’d be living here before the year was out!
I also began writing When Life Hands You Lymes and posting a segment each Friday. 
On the 3rd I headed to my adopted parent’s house to work on writing a kids bookCool Critters of the IceAge, with them. I start having ‘no internet, no computer Sundays’. During the first ten days of January I also work on hyper-speed to write the first draft of the first book in my Action Kids series. (I co-authored one book and wrote the first draft of another book during the first 10 days of the year. Short books, but still… Busy times!) I took many long, freezing cold, snowy walks to brainstorm. 
All in all, in January I write the first draft of the Action Kids book, go through it a second time, send it to my beta readers, go through it a third and forth time and then send it to my editor.
We were on a time crunch. 
I enter a short writing contest, but don’t even place in the top 10. I spend part of January working at the house we’re building. Thinking we’ll be moving within a couple of months, I give y’all a tour of my ‘old’ office. Getting my braces off is an exciting time for me and I celebrate by eating sugar for the first time in over a year. On the 24th I head to Florida with my family (cue fun car trip with sisters). 
All throughout January I’m praying about possibly taking a trip to Asia for a month with my brother, but I  can’t find an opportunity to ask my dad about it, so I don’t know if it will work out or not. At the end of the month I finally ask Dad and he’s all for it. I’m going to surprise my best friend (who lives there), so I keep the trip quiet. 
My review of January leaves me feeling happy. 
Nights Gone in January: 12
Books Read in January: 8
February: 
Walking was so nice in the beautiful Florida sunshine that I walked 22 miles one week, a far cry from my previous year in bed with Lyme disease. 
Getting to watch the Ken Ham/Bill Nye debate on the 4th was exciting. 
Hanging out with extended family, getting the first illustrations for my Action Kids book and getting ready for a huge work conference made the first week of February fly by. 
I worked a lot on scheduling posts for the A to Z Challenge I wanted to take part in during April, because I’d be in Asia over that time. 
On the 9th I get to spend the day with my adopted parents, fossil hunting and hanging out with Dr. and Mrs. Parker. It was so very cool! 
Going to GatorLand on the 10th and getting to sit on a gator was also pretty fun. 
A fellow blogger contacted me and asked me to write a guest post for her blog. She requested a subject I’d never blogged about before, but I happily accepted the challenge.
After our conference we spend Valentines day canoeing in the Everglades.
We arrived back home on the 17th, a few days later I introduce Action Kids to Noveltea. 
I then celebrate my upcoming two year blog-anniversery with a giveaway
And of course I review February. 
Nights Gone in February: 15
Books Read in February: 5

March: 

I start out the month with gearing up for the trip to Europe that our family was planning to take in April. I wished I had more time to read books set in the countries we were going to be visiting. My two year blog-anniversery takes place on the 6th while I’m in Nashville with my adopted parents. While in Nashville we got to go to the Hermitage which is where Andrew Jackson used to live. It was a crazy experience. Going to the Grand Ole Oprey was a something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I’m so glad I got to go and see my adopted parent’s old stomping grounds. 
I get home from Nashville on the 9th to find my first royalty check! *cue happy dance* My wonderful sister, Helena, gave me a stuffed animal to celebrate. (Stuffed animals are the best, by the way.)
My brother and I leave for Asia on the 15th and after over 50 hours of traveling we arrive at our destination. I blog about successfully surprising my friend, Sarah, and settle into life on a warm, tropical, bustling island. Walking in the rain, riding the motor bikes, climbing up mountains, shopping at the market, eating exotic fruit and tons of rice, hiking to gorgeous waterfalls and playing countless games of Rook made for a wonderful interlude in my life.
I also spent many hours sitting on the couch, editing my Action Kids book.
My review of March.

Nights Gone in March: 22
Books Read in March: 8

April: 

The A to Z Challenge starts in April and I kick off with the word Attitude. Getting to be in the background taking pictures when my wonderful friend, Sarah, gets proposed to was well-worth the trip to Asia and a highlight of my year (of course!). Finding out a few days later that she wanted me to be in her wedding party was incredible.
 A few days later we hike up the same mountain we tackled in March, this time in the middle of the night. Our plans to arrive at the top of the mountain in time to watch the sunrise were messed up by dense fog hiding the view, but it was still a wonderful experience, ending with two more of my friends getting engaged.
My brother and I arrive home on the 16th after over 55 hours of traveling. With all the time changes, April 15th lasted for over 30 hours for me which was really weird. My phone stopped working about half-way through our stay in Asia, so getting it fixed when we arrived home was wonderful. After a busy 8 days home, my family and I head to Europe for a month.
We spend a week in Vienna, Austria at a business convention.
I don’t take the time to review April. Life is just too crazy.

Nights Gone in April: 22
Books Read in April: 6

May: 

Getting to explore so many countries was spectacular. After Vienna, Austria, (where we got go to into catacombs!) we go to a more rural part of the country and get to see where part of The Sound of Music was filmed. We head to Germany next but take a very long detour to Switzerland and spend the day taking in the beautiful view. I’ve wanted to go to Switzerland since I was just a little girl and I throughly caved each moment of sitting in a wide, flower-strewn field under the breath-taking heights of the Swiss Alps into my memory bank.
In Germany we get to experience the culture for a few days while staying in an apartment where we try our hand at cooking German-ish food. Exploring castles in Germany was a absolutely amazing. Especially going to Heidelberg.
Holland was our next stop and a dream come true for me. I’ve wanted to go to Holland and see the Beje (where Corrie ten Boom lived) since I was about eight. Reading part of The Hiding Place while in the actual hiding place was something I’ll always treasure. Seeing the Beje and the place where Anne Frank lived on the same day was crazy. Hanging out with our friends in Holland made the trip so much better and our day trip to Belgium with them on the 9th was a whirlwind.
On the 12th we head to Paris and I’m amazed at it. After a few very interesting days in Paris (including going to the top of the Eiffel Tower) we take the Euro Star across the countryside and through the Chunnel to London. London was a beautiful, friendly and filled with places I’ve read about. London was one of my favorite cities in Europe. After too-short of a stay in London we meet up with some of our friends who have lived in England for 45 or so years. They treated us like royalty when we were at their house, including delicious meals in the garden. It was dream-like.
While in England we visited Oxford and I got to go into the Eagle and Child, which is where C.S. Lewis used to hang out with his writing friends. On the 22nd we pack up and head home. A couple of days after we get home we have some friends come and visit. Our time together is lovely.

Nights Gone in May: 21
Books Read in May: 10

June: 

Having almost the whole month of June home was a much-needed breather. I spent a lot of the month working with my family on moving to our new house that we’d been building and also discussing plans for Sarah’s upcoming wedding. Midway through the month I celebrate my book’s first birthday. On Father’s Day I surprise my adopted dad by staying with my adopted family and having a totally fantastic time.
I also take time to work on another round of editing. During this time I begin to have discouraging feelings about being a writer that I’ve never had before. I have to make the choice to trust God instead of continuing to freak out. A conversation with a wise friend really helped me during this time.
 We move into our new house on June 24th. Deciding an office is way more useful for me than a bedroom, I ditch the whole bedroom idea and create the perfect office for myself. I just pull a sleeping bag out of the closet each night and sleep on my office floor. My office is everything I dreamed of and more. I can’t stop being amazed at how wonderful it is.

Nights Gone in June: 1
Books Read in June: 5

July: 

July starts out with exciting news: One of my adopted dad’s songs hit number 11 in the national charts! Helping out with the VBS at church was one of my highlights of the month.
Getting to work with kids is so rewarding!
The second week of July I head out of town with a few family members to visit my sister and her family. I also spend a large amount of time planning a bridal shower for Sarah. July is a month brimming with so many responsibilities and emotions I can hardly keep track. There are some really big things in my life that are changing and I’m not sure how to deal with everything. Being thrown out of routine is hard for me and I struggle with finding peace and joy with being where I’m supposed to be. An encouraging note from a special friend came just at the perfect time and warmed my heart. Five months later I still carry the note around in my computer bag.
Spending several days with extended family is a highlight and we have a really wonderful time. Sadly I’m not feeling the best which puts a damper on the time for me, but I still enjoy it. One of the cousins is getting married so we spend a good amount of time talking about that, including phone calls on speakerphone to his fiancée. Good times.
A few days after our family get-together I head to PA to spend a few days with Sarah and work with a wonderful friend to get my dress made for Sarah’s wedding. My day is brightened by the news that I have a brand new, beautiful niece. I end out the month with finishing setting up my new office, I celebrate by taking some pictures. It was a good ending to a hard, crazy, wonderful month.

Nights Gone in July: 10
Books Read in July: 9

August: 

The first week of August rolls around along with Sarah’s bridal shower. The bridal shower didn’t exactly happen without any snags, but I did learn a lot that I’ll put into practice if I ever host another similar event. Overall everyone agreed it was a success. The next week I head out of state for a wedding and I’m shocked to meet a girl who reads my blog while in the food line at the reception.
On the 18th I hit my goal of read 22 non-ficiton books before I turn 22 and I celebrate by sharing a list of the books with Noveltea. Getting the contract signed for the Cool Critters of the Ice Age book that I wrote with my adopted parents back in January was great.
I drop my iPhone and it breaks into three pieces and is only held together by a little thread. I tape it and keep using it, discovering a mixture of tricks to do what I need to even when it begins malfunctioning.
Sarah’s wedding was on the 23rd and I’m blessed beyond belief to have been her maid-of-honor.
The days before and after her wedding are crammed full of tons of out of state guests who came in for the wedding, including some of my most amazing friends ever. At the beginning of the time I prayed that each day would seem like a week so I could store and treasure all the memories I wanted to have. I’m very happy to say it was one of the longest weeks of my life.
(And, one of the shortest, if we’re going according to how many hours of sleep I got.)
So much happiness, emotions, changes, sunset-watching, caring, tears, dreams come true, long hugs and good talks took place. 
I end August by going on an overnight caving adventure with my adopted parents. Fun times!

Nights Gone in August: 5
Books Read in August: 10

September: 

I arrive home from caving to the delighted welcome of a bunch of little cousins who have moved in next door but spend most of there time over at our house. (Yes, the same amazing ones who I mentioned at the beginning of the year.) When the founder of one of my favorite blogs asks me to guest post, I’m ecstatic. We also have some great friends spend several days with us, a life-changing visit.
Getting to spend a week at the Creation Museum (where I get to meet the Duggar family) with my adopted parents is wonderful and my excitement is overflowing when they buy me a rat for my birthday. The fact that they also give me a genuine whip (I’ve been wanting one for several years now) adds greatly to my delight. Being sick with a horrible cold during my stay with them is a bummer, but I still enjoy my time. I arrive home three days before my 22nd birthday, and then wake up on my birthday with pinkeye. Not fun at all. Thankfully we’re able to get medicine and no one else in the family gets sick. My birthday is brightened considerably by the exciting news that I have another niece or nephew on the way. The perfect birthday present.
All throughout September I’m dealing with a lot of changes going on in my life and I’m having a hard time being ok with some of them. I spend many nights praying, reading and snuggling in my sleeping bag trying to comprehend life and growing up and difficulties and changes. It actually takes me about two months and lots of late-night talks with God and heart-to-heart discussions with my sweet sister and a couple of great conversations with good friends before I finally find peace and accept that life is going to be full of changes and that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

Nights Gone in September: 7
Books Read in September: 7

October: 

October starts out with a crazy writing-related list for me to work on. The plan is for me to dedicate the whole month to work on my up coming Action Kid book release. Going to a concert with some of my sisters and cousins was fun break, but not exactly what I was imagining.
When my good friend and neighbor, “Grandpa” Eddie dies, it’s harder on me than I expected it to be, but I’m so thankful for the years I knew him. In the middle of my extremely busy month getting ready for the book release, I head off on an last minute trip to my sister’s house for a week (with pretty much zero internet) to help her out cause she hadn’t been feeling the best. While there I’m amazed time and time again at all the work mothers do. I also get a call from Helena (another sister) asking me if I want to go on a road trip to Nebraska with her in some friends in November, then we’ll fly home. (Our friends live in Nebraska.) Of course I happily accept since 1) Road trips are awesome. 2) Sibling time is amazing. 3) Some of my best friends live out in Nebraska. It was a win-win situation. The last day I spend with my sister I get to see a bunch of hot air balloons which was crazy-cool.
 October also marks the start of my “23 Before 23 Challenge”.
On October 27th I begin the two week countdown until the release of my Action Kids book. My furious paced work on the book release details continue. I self-published the book and we ran into a few snags with the formatting that gave me several days of craziness. My brother, Logan, is a huge, huge help to me during this time. I couldn’t have pulled it off without him. He’s an amazing example of being a servant. I read an extra few books during the late nights when I can’t sleep because I’m mildly freaking out about Action Kids. 
October in review.

Nights Gone in October: 6
Books Read in October: 13

November:

My stressed out, jumbled emotions are totally unexpected and only heighten as November comes into focus. It took me two or so weeks to remember that I felt the same way leading up to the release day of my first book. I have everything (other than runaway-emontions) under control with the book release now, so I can focus on some big events going on at my non-writing job. When I’m not working I’m pretty much curled up in my room, freaking out or reading books late into the night cause I can’t sleep or listening to the Bible on audio to escape the stress. (I read ten books in the nine days leading up to the release.) Mom endures several sessions of me freaking out and asking what is wrong before I finally calm down a bit.
The day of my book release and the launch of my blog tour finally take place and leave me feeling rather let down. I spend several days musing over being an author, wondering if it’s worth every thing I’d been going through. (I’d been working on the Action Kids concept for over four years by this time.) It will take me several more weeks and some really good talks with wise artist friends before I can accept how I felt I failed and move on and have joy in being an author again.
My phone gives up the ghost for good and I miss having my iPhone kindle and music a lot.
Meanwhile, we have some friends visiting and also family coming in for an early Thanksgiving. Our family Thanksgiving takes place on the 15th and the news that I have yet another niece or nephew on the way is the highlight of the week.
On the 21st some of us head to Nebraska, and after about nineteen hours we arrive at our destination. Those nine days were life-changing for me. I was able to let go of the stress of being an author and just enjoy living life as a person, not a writer. I was almost constantly surrounded by sweet children and wonderful friends who were loving and made me feel so special. I had a very healing talk with Helena that helped me overcome some things I’d been going through all year long and change my mindset about some big things happening in my life.
I also had some epic writing related conversations with friends out there that helped me see life/writing in the right perspective again. Right before we head back home, Helena and I receive the news that our long anticipated trip to Africa that had been post-poned is back in motion!
I arrive back home the last day in November.
November in review.

Nights Gone in November: 9
Books read in November: 15

December:

Soon after getting home I read my 100th book for the year. My goal was 50, so I’m pretty excited. December if filled with extra-long hours at my non-writing job, good family time, preparation for my upcoming trip to Africa (leaving Jan. 10th, 2015, Lord willing), lots of editing and reading. I also get to go to the Creation Museum twice: Once with my family for the day, and then the next weekend with some friends and I end up staying with my adopted parents for several days. It was wonderful.
A quick trip out of state with some extend family turns into a great memory-making couple of days and when we arrive home late on Christmas Eve, I’m ready for Christmas.
Christmas and the days surrounding it are filled to brimming with family, board games and fun. The day after Christmas I start on a five day juice cleanse. It’s a good (exhausting) experience and I hope to do it again some day when I can continue for longer.
The last several days of December are spent reviewing the year, working on goals for the next year, deep-cleaning my office, getting work done and getting a yellow fever shot before Africa. We also have tons of family and friends over for multiple game nights and hanging out times.
I have a delightful time finally eating again on December 31st.
December in review.

Nights Gone in December: 3
Books read in December: 24

* * * *

Nights gone in 2014: 133
Books read in 2014: 121

I am so ready for a totally wonderfully God-blessed 2015!

Caving and Belly Crawling and Donald Duck Voices – Oh My!

Where do I even start? There are about ten things I’m bursting to blog about. First things first, though:

HAPPY SEPTEMBER! 

Ahem, yes, now that we have that cleared up, I can move on. Just hang on tight, blogglings, because later on this week I will hopefully devote a whole post to talking about this wonderfully amazing month that we’ve just entered. 

I’ve been hoping, really, really hoping that it would work out for me to go caving with my *adopted parents this past weekend. It was one of those deals where we weren’t going to know until the last minute though, so that was a bummer.

Wednesday evening I finally decided it just wasn’t going to happen and I called my dad to let him know. He was disappointed of course, but understood. Then, low and behold, with a lot of help from some wonderful people, we were able to make it work out!

I arrived at the Creation Museum mid morning on Friday and had a delightful day there (which I’ll blog about at a later date) and then early Saturday morning my parents and I drove the six or so hours to the Cumberland Caverns in TN.

We did this same trip last year (see here and here) which is when my great endearment to the deep recesses of the earth first began to grow in my heart. Caving… What can I say? It’s amazing. It’s fun. It’s adventuresome. It’s freaky. And sleeping in a cave? Oh, so, so much better than just spending several hours down in the belly of the earth.

We had a lot of repeat people from last year, plus a whole host of newbies. There were about 140 people who did the walk-thru part of the cave which included a concert by my dad, supper, and watching the Extreme Caving DVD, most of which was filmed inside the cave.

Then we began the ‘extreme’ part of the caving. One of our friends who was along kept all of us in the back of the group entertained with his mimicking of many different accents and cartoon characters. Of course that launched me into a several hour long British-accent-spree and pretty soon we had other people joining in with different accents as well. When I finally stopped talking in the British accent, one of the guides gave me a weird look and asked “Weren’t you the one talking with a British accent?” I guess I was pretty convincing. One of the best parts of the extreme caving is when our friend sang to us in Donald Duck’s voice. It was like we were standing in the presence of talent. 😉

Last year when we all settled down in the cave for the night I fell asleep right away and was mildly disappointed in the morning to hear that everyone else had slept fitfully and I’d missed out on all the fun by slumbering peacefully until our wake-up call. Well, this year was a repeat. Again, I shut my eyes and didn’t wake up until my mom told me it was almost time for them to turn the lights on. I guess being used to sleeping on the hard ground pays off after all… 

Caving this year was amazing. I got to meet lots of new and interesting people, made friends out of pervious strangers, and thoroughly enjoyed myself. I can’t wait to go again! By the way, if you want to check out my book that includes a caving adventure, you can find it here.

What about you? Does caving sound like something you’d enjoy?

*I’ll be leaving off the ‘adopted’ for the rest of the post