So now that the holidays are over and things are settling down a bit, I have some more time to invest in blogging and documenting our busier seasons. My birthday trip seemed like a good place to start, since it’s still fresh in my mind. Some may say having a birthday in December has its disadvantages but I would beg to differ. I have always LOVED having a December birthday. For so many reasons. The lights, the spirit, the music, the magic…oh and all of that pales in comparison to getting to share my birthday month with the King of the earth! What a treasure! Anyhow, most of you know that my husband tends to spoil me rotten (and I try to do the same for him. hee-hee), so this year when he asked me what I wanted for my birthday, all I could think of was that I wanted to go look at Christmas lights with my family…make a memory. I have everything I could ever wish for in life. I truly need absolutely nothing (well maybe sometimes a good massage and manicure. LOL). I’ve noticed the older I get, the gifts that mean the most to my heart are the ones that include time with family and friends…time to slow down the crazy fast pace of this world and breathe in God’s goodness to me. So that’s what I wanted this year…for my 45th birthday! What?! Can that really be so? How have I been on this earth for 45 years. Sometimes I still feel like a kid (except when my arthritis kicks in. LOL).
So since my husband always goes above and beyond to make my dreams come true (as if he’s not enough himself….he’s totally my dream come true, y’all!), and since he knew that Callaway Gardens is one of my favorite places, he planned a trip to Callaway to celebrate my birthday. Not only a trip to Callaway, but on my actual birthday no less - in the middle of the week - (which meant he had to take a day off work. He tries hard to take my birthday off each year. It means the world to me), and also invited my twin and her family to join us! What?! Seriously yall! Best Gift EVER!!! Anytime I get to spend my birthday with my twin is a slam-dunk of a gift, but to do it at Callaway, with my entire family present as well was amazing (Getting all our kids on a trip is a rarity now because of their ages…they are hard to all get in the same place at the same time. Another reasons a December birthday is a win…normal schedules ease a bit leaving room for more family time! Yay!).
Our first stop at Callaway was the Log Cabin
Me and my twin
Me with the man of my dreams ;-)
My twin and her sweet guy
Our adorable nephews
My twin and her family
The most handsome little guys!
A boy and his mama...nothing sweeter
except for 2 boys and their mama. LOL
My beautiful family! Blessed beyond words
The whole crew
Can we really be 45?! No-way!!!
Our first trip to Callaway for Fantasy in Lights was in 1996 when some good friends introduced us to it. It felt so magical and warm (in spite of the cold) and I immediately fell in love with the place. We have been back a handful of times, but the very last time we were there was 2006 and my mom was with us. She wasn’t nearly as enthralled with it as I was but mostly because it was not just cold, but raining and miserable…that and her grandbaby (my middle child, who was just 4), kept repeating, “Nana, I c-c-c-cold”. Haha. Her Nana’s heart couldn’t bear to not be able to fix it and keep my baby warm. LOL. So this trip was bittersweet since last time we were there was with Mama. Nonetheless, it was still a magical trip and sharing it with my family and twins family made it all the sweeter!
This sign was just too tempting to have a kodak moment with. Ha-ha
For those of you who haven’t been, there are several things to do. Of course there are the gardens, but I have yet to enjoy those, since we always go for the lights in December. But the Butterfly Garden….now that’s a real treat! For one, it’s warm!!! Hehe. and for two, it’s just the neatest thing to walk in and have butterflies from all over flittering around you and trying to land on your arm, or in your hair. It’s really laid out well and a relaxing part of Callaway.
The butterflies in the garden were magnificent
The plants were equally as splendid
The waterfall in the Butterfly Garden was so peaceful
Check out that Blue Morpho Butterfly...and that turtle!
And then there’s the CHAPEL!!! It’s one of our favorite places at Callaway. It’s so peaceful and breathtaking. One advantage to going in the middle of the week is that there were very few visitors. We actually had the chapel all to ourselves for a bit. So we took advantage of it and took some beautiful photos and sang some songs together (since the acoustics are…AMAZING and our girls sing like angels. Really :-).
We simply can’t pass up an opportunity for a lift shot together in front of this gorgeous chapel. One of our favorite poses. He-he
Our beautiful firstborn...enjoying the peace and quiet of the chapel
The lake right outside the chapel. So refreshing
After we left the chapel, we headed to the gift shop and cozy restaurant overlooking the mountains, where we had an early dinner/late lunch and enjoyed a delicious chocolate cake that my twin brought for us all to celebrate with! She is such a thoughtful person. Then after all that, it was time for the best part…Fantasy in Lights! If you’ve never been, you have to go!
Christmas Tree Lane
The best way to do it is to ride the trolley. Even tho it’s cold, it’s so worth it. Y’all, I do NOT do Winter well. I am from South Florida and really like my Vitamin D from the Sun, but I can survive a little bit of cold for this treat. So we bundled up in about 3 layers on top and bottom (Go ahead and get a good laugh out of us, Northerners. Haha), and grabbed heavy blankets to cover with and headed to the trolley to tour the lights.
There are so many different sections of the lights (Scenes, they call them), but one of my absolute favorite is Snowflake Valley! The way the lights fall down around you feels so magical. There really aren’t words to describe it! You have to see it for yourself. Then there’s the enchanted Rainbow Forest, Firefly Cove (with huge lit-up butterflies), Christmas Tree Lane, March of the Toy Soldiers, and more.
FIL the (Leaping)Frog...sooo cute!
Then there’s the 12 days of Christmas…one of our favorite parts as well.
A PARTRIDGE IN A PEAR TREE
4 BIRDS A CALLING (ha-ha)
8 MAIDS A MILKING
There really were 8 but we didn’t think you wanted to see all 8 of them here. You’ll have to just go see for yourselves. ;-)
THE MAGICAL WREATH
It just goes on and on until finally, you travel thru this huge, gorgeous, wreath all lit up. Every time we see, I just want to take it home and set it up in my yard. It’s splendid!!! The whole thing is so well done, and since I travel with my own personal photographer, I get to relive these memories thru his photos. Woohoo! Don’t know if you’ve ever tried to photograph Christmas lights but it’s really not that easy. But Allen really did an amazing job with it, and I just got to sit back and enjoy it all (told ya he spoils me. :-).
12 DRUMMERS DRUMMING
Then after the lights are over, one of the very best parts happens. You go into the big tent known as the Christmas Village where kiddos can play (umm…little kiddos…see below), they can visit Santa, you can purchase ornaments as souvenirs and wait for it….purchase gingerbread cookies and hot cider! YES!!!!! (Total Elf moment there. hee-hee)
Santa's Village Playground
As you can see here, the kid on the left (who looks like ELF..and belongs to us) really is entirely too big for this, but he’s such a kid at heart and wanted to play with his cousins (to the right of him and above him). So there you have it. Proof that this playground was made for little guys. LOL
A REMINDER INSIDE SANTA'S VILLAGE OF THE TRUE REASON
Then right before you leave, just outside the tent, you get one last little goody out of Callaway! There is a light display and retelling of the Nativity Story with music and narration. I don’t even know how to describe this tho. Every time I’ve experienced it, it feels fresh and touches my heart in a deep way. Standing there, watching each piece of the story come to life out of the darkness, as it is being told in such a beautiful way is truly breathtaking! Needless to say, when we left, my heart was about to burst! Full beyond words with love and gratitude for the way Callaway remembers the birth of our Savior in the midst of all the other magic of Christmas. They do such a great job putting this together and they could easily just forgo that part, but I for one am so very grateful that they still include this in the whole experience and choose to remember the true reason for the Season. Thank you, Callaway Gardens!
THE NATIVITY STORY
Beautifully illustrated with lights, narration and music…so heartwarming and it really ties the whole evening together and reminds you that in spite of all the lights, music, spirit, that at the heart of Christmas is always the birth of our Lord and Savior!
So…if you have never been to Callaway to see the Fantasy in Lights, you may want to grab some family and friends and make it priority to go in 2019. I will say going on weekends is a bit crazy tho due to the crowds. If you can manage during the week, you will save yourself a lot of stress, like we did. Thank you to my amazing husband and my twin’s amazing husband for making this happen for us. The sweetness of being able to be together on our birthday, see the lights, and stroll around together and just bask in God’s goodness to us thru our families was an absolute delight…one I will treasure for a very long time!
Keep smiling & making memories together and if you’ve made it this far in this post, then you’re a warrior! LOL. I know it’s a very long one. Hope you enjoyed it.
Allen & Carol
There’s so much joy and sadness wrapped around a season of lasts and firsts. The joy comes from the anticipation and excitement of finishing a season well but the sadness comes from the nostalgia of knowing you are ending part of a journey and you will never be that way again. There’s such beauty in both of those emotions tho. That’s where we are as we enter this season with our beautiful firstborn!
Today, I find myself wondering what Easter in Heaven is like! What is mama doing today? Do they celebrate Good Friday? Do they worship differently this weekend than they would any other week or day? Do they sing different songs, or do they just continue magnifying the Lord as they do every day?
We just celebrated 23 years of marriage last weekend, and we are still having so much fun adventuring together! Actually now more than ever!
The 25th of July makes 9 months! 9 months since mama left this world and passed over into Glory!
How could we have known what 2017 would have in store for us? There is no way we could have imagined all the grief and the all the joy it would bring! On December 13 though, this sweet little angel was born and changed our lives forever!
It was Good Friday 2004 when I received my healing! It began in this exact spot too! Kleman Plaza, Tallahassee, Florida!!! I had a strange spot on my leg and went to see the dermatologist
This time of year can be both exhilarating and also exhausting! The decorations, the parties, the food. It's all wonderful but along that comes daily withdrawals from our marriage "bank". Laughter is one way to make daily "deposits"!
Ever noticed a team that just isn't working together and having very little success, if any? You can see it, everyone can see it, except that team...Sometimes though this is what our marriages look like and can feel like.