Two Short Stories: A Touch of Christmas Nostalgia & The Best Gift Ever Given

By: Marianna Boyce

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My childhood home was situated on a dead end street just outside the town of Lexington. Sixteen modest houses lined each side of the road. Ours was the eighth on the left, placing it directly in the middle of the neighborhood. My entire family is quite fond of this old home place—one that created  countless cherished memories.

I’m the baby of five children. Having two older brothers and two older sisters assured there was never a dull moment in the Caldwell household.

Tommy, Beverly, and Lewis are Baby Boomers, while Cindy and I are from Generation X. We didn’t allow a little generation gap divide our relationships with one another. We’ve always kept close family ties—even to this day. For that, I am truly thankful.

Financially speaking, we weren’t rich, but always had everything we needed. None of us received the constant stream of new toys throughout the year like many kids get nowadays. The only toys we possessed were from the previous Christmas, which is exactly what made each holiday so special.

Of course, we all grew up knowing the true meaning behind this sacred season, but mom and daddy also allowed our vivid imaginations run wild about Santa as well. It was those particular years I remember the most. For me, the early 1970s were simply magical.

At the beginning of each holiday season, mom would hang three silver bells directly in the center of our living room ceiling. These simple glittery ornaments brought me much joy and excitement. I knew once she hung those silver bells, Christmas was right around the corner.

After the ceiling centerpiece was in place, she’d also scatter glass Christmas balls around the bells using white thread and thumbtacks. These brightly-colored ornaments were beautiful, fragile, and quite unique. I wish we had possession of them today.

Mom would decorate the outside of the house with as much pride as the inside. I loved the velvety red striping wrapped around each of the four posts on the front porch. It made them look like peppermint candy sticks. She even made the ol’ mailbox look festive with red ribbon and artificial poinsettias.

She always saved the best ‘til last—her masterpiece—the Christmas tree.

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The old-fashioned multi-colored glass bulbs were particularly hot to touch. No one had miniature lights yet. I’m unsure if they’d even been introduced to the world yet. Mom and Beverly constantly warned us younger kids to handle the hot lights with care, but as we grew older, Lewis, Cindy, and I often had contests to determine who could hold one in our hand the longest. Lewis mostly won. This stands to reason since he was the most rambunctious, stubborn child.

No one’s tree was complete until silver tinsel covered it. Mom always had a keen eye for the perfect balance. The tinsel was strategically placed so it wouldn’t melt onto those hot bulbs. My siblings and I often nonchalantly tossed it on, but Beverly—the motherly sister, cleaned up our mess and helped mom finish decorating the perfect tree.

When the much anticipated Sears and Roebuck catalog was delivered to our house, excitement filled the air. We all laid in the living room floor flipping through the pages seeing what toys would be available from Santa’s workshop that year. It wasn’t uncommon for us to peruse through the thick catalog daily to add to our ever-growing list.

On nights Christmas specials aired on TV, mom encouraged us to bathe early. After the quickest baths known to mankind, we hurriedly put on our flannel pajamas. Since there were no presents under the tree yet, we laid underneath the Christmas tree mesmerized by the colorful array of lights.

Mom usually served popcorn and hot chocolate, both of which were prepared on the stove-top in covered pots. Daddy popped the corn, while mom tended to the chocolate beverage so it wouldn’t scorch. We didn’t have a microwave back then. No one did. They’d been introduced, but were too expensive for most anyone on our street to afford at that time.

Since there was no such thing as a television remote, Tommy and Lewis were typically in charge of changing the channel and adjusting the volume. There were only four stations to choose from. Who remembers having only channels 10 (NBC,) 19 (CBS,) 25 (ABC,) and 35. WACH-Fox Channel-57 didn’t come on the scene until the mid-1980s. Rich or poor, that’s all anyone had. We didn’t have hundreds of channels like we do now.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas, were my favorite TV specials. Santa Claus Is Coming to Town, Frosty the Snowman, and A Charlie Brown Christmas, all tied for close seconds.

I love how several make mention of the birth of Jesus Christ. I know it’s only a quick “honorable mention,” but Linus went above and beyond at the end of A Charlie Brown Christmas as he quoted scripture from the Bible.

When Christmas morning finally arrived, our living room floor was covered from wall to wall. Of course, my sisters and I received all the girlie toys we’d wished for. There were baby dolls, strollers, and Barbies galore. Lincoln Logs and TinkerToys were also favorites. I probably played with them as much as anything else. They may have been Tommy and Lewis’s toys.  Who knows? In my mind, they were mine for being extra good that year.

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Tommy and Lewis received the traditional boy toys—walkie talkies, trucks, wagons, and balls. When Lewis was old enough, he even got a BB gun. He didn’t shoot his eye out, but probably came close a time or two. My sisters and I wisely steered clear when he and Tommy were outside shooting aimlessly into the woods behind our house. Daddy probably took the gun away more than Lewis shot it, but that’s one of two things that happened when rules were broken…

I remember one Christmas, we all received new bicycles the same year. Tommy’s was red, Beverly’s was green, Lewis’s was gold, and Cindy’s was pink—I think, but I know mine was purple.

Later, we learned daddy stayed up all night assembling them before five wide-eyed kiddos climbed out of bed on Christmas morning. Nowadays, bicycles are purchased already assembled. (Daddy—I’m so sorry you didn’t get any sleep that night.)

We eventually grew out of the Santa Clause phase, but cherish the few tender years when this enchanting world existed. I’m thankful the older kids never ruined it for the younger ones.

It seems cliche to mention how fast time passes. Each year zips by more quickly than the last. Living in a day and age where children don’t know what the Great American Wish Book is, or the joy of sitting through an entire episode of a Christmas classic without looking at an electronic device, I’d say, they’re truly missing out.

What a difference a generation or two makes.

The magic of Christmas was always alive and well in our little house on that dead end street in Lexington, South Carolina. What I’d give to experience another Christmas from my past.

What are some of your favorite childhood Christmas memories? What was the best gift you ever received?


jesus christ figurine

Photo by Jeswin Thomas on Pexels.com

The Best Gift Ever Given

Luke 2:8-14 (KJV)

8)And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9)And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10)And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11)For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 12)And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. 13)And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14)Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

“That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.” (Linus Van Pelt – From A Charlie Brown Christmas – December 9, 1965)

May God bless you and your families this holiday season. Merry Christmas everyone.

What Are The Chances?

By Marianna Boyce

MyChart at Lexington Medical Center is an online tool that connects your personal health records from various doctors. It allows fluid communication with your LMC healthcare team, enables easy access to test results, manages appointments and prescription requests, etc. If you haven’t set up your chart, you may want to consider doing so if you see doctors within this network.

My healthcare team at LMC includes only a primary care physician and rheumatologist. My gynecologist, on the other hand, has worked at South Carolina OBGYN located at Prisma Health Baptist in Columbia for many years. I never had plans to change that, but always wished he was included on MyChart in Lexington.

My phone buzzed one afternoon a couple of weeks ago. The number looked familiar, but I couldn’t place who it was. I skeptically answered anyway. It was a recorded reminder from South Carolina OBGYN about an upcoming appointment. I listened to the recording a second time for clarity because I could hardly believe my ears. I smiled with delight as the robot-sounding voice on the other end of the line shared not only the date and time of my appointment but also that SC OBGYN had moved to a new location. You’ll never guess where.

Their new address is Lexington Medical Park 1 on Sunset Blvd. I was elated! What are the chances? But more importantly, why dedicate an entire blog post about it?

Up until only a few years ago, I considered my OB doc my primary care physician (PCP). Having never experienced any health-related issues, Dr. Holladay was the only doctor I needed to see—until the summer of 2016.

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When I went for my annual checkup that summer day, I shared that something was terribly wrong inside my body. The pain I experienced was the worst I’d felt in my entire life. It was far too great for me to handle on my own. My presumption was bone cancer—a horrible thought, having just arrived home from an exhilarating road trip across the United States of America. I recently wrote a summer road trip series for Every Woman Blog about this very trip when I was 100% healthy.

The pain struck quickly, morphing me into a completely different person within fourteen days of arriving home. My appointment with Dr. Holladay was at this fourteen-day benchmark. I was completely miserable.

My symptoms were not in Dr. Holladay’s area of expertise, but I confided in him anyway. He was my only doctor, my friend, and my confidant. He didn’t shrug off my concerns as  symptoms of getting older, nor did he make me feel it was all in my head or even weight-related. He was exactly the type of doctor I needed for the emergence of my daunting new journey.

After pouring my heart out about the unfortunate chain of events, he immediately sent me down the hall for a complete blood panel to check for anything unusual. He suggested I make an appointment with a primary care physician so he could forward the results of my bloodwork as soon as possible. These tests revealed nothing unusual, to begin with, but this jump-started what would ultimately be a desperate search for an elusive diagnosis.

He put the wheels in motion in 2016, and now that he’s here with me at Lexington Medical Center, MyChart is now complete. I’m sure the aging process will add additional doctors in the future, but as for now, I’m completely satisfied with the three fabulous doctors that I currently have.

A weight update is looming, but that’ll be a blog post all in itself—Ugh! I’ll “weight” and discuss that after the holidays—you’re welcome! Until then, enjoy your time with family, friends, and loved ones. Remember to be thankful all year-round, but for this special time of year—Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Routines, RA, and Menopause – Oh My!

By Marianna Boyce

There’s nothing unusual about having a daily routine. No matter how busy or sedentary our lives may be, we mindlessly perform the same tasks without giving it a second thought. If my schedule is out of sync, it throws off my entire day. Over the past several years, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) has forced me to constantly create new routines.

One morning, I’d clearly woken up on the wrong side of the bed. Not only were my joints filled with intense pain, but my brain was also discombobulated. Adhering to my morning regiment was ridiculously grueling. An RA flare made it difficult leaving the house that morning, but I managed anyway.

pexels-photo-313690.jpgAfter making it to the office, I contemplated returning home, going back to bed, and starting the day over again. However, I knew this would not have helped, so instead, I grumpily grabbed my bag and told the ladies in the office, “Hold up y’all, I’ll be right back,” as I rushed out the door.

I feebly limped to my car and got in. As I sat in the driver’s seat with my forehead resting on my hands, nothing helped much in the pain department, but a moment alone in silence allowed me to clear a few of the cobwebs and gather my thoughts. The ladies inside probably thought I was off my rocker for disappearing with no explanation.

A few minutes later, I re-entered the front door as if I was walking in for the first time that day. My big ole smile matched the upbeat sound of my voice as I said, for what sounded like the first time, “Good morning, ladies.” Clearly, I was off my rocker. My coworkers who know me so well quickly identified my forced smile and fake joyful tone. We laughed about my whirlwind tantrum and dramatic exit, then went on with our day. Now, we often chuckle about that funny morning.

It’s taken quite some time figuring out how to (mostly) successfully live with RA, but now, I’m coping with another issue. I’m currently 51, and my body is undergoing another drastic change. Menopause is looming. I still have my cycle, so I’m not quite there yet. However, those premenopausal darts are currently being thrown in my direction.

Person Lying on Bed Covering White BlanketPerimenopause, the transitional phase before menopause, begins several years before menopause. The average length of time for this stage differs for every woman. Ovaries make less estrogen during this stage and eventually, the body stops releasing eggs altogether. When a woman goes twelve months without having a period, perimenopause ends, and full-on menopause begins.

Perimenopausal symptoms include, but are not limited to:  

  • Irregular periods
  • Worsening premenstrual symptoms
  • Severe breast tenderness
  • Hot flashes
  • Mood swings
  • Weight gain
  • Lack of energy
  • Sleeplessness
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Lower sex drive
  • Urinary urgency and leakage

I’m experiencing eight of eleven signs listed above, while also contending with lifelong symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, but I keep moving forward.

RA symptoms include, but are not limited to:

  • Joint pain (especially in the morning)
  • Joint stiffness, tenderness, swelling, redness, and warmth
  • Both sides affected (symmetric or mirroring)
  • Loss of range of motion, or function
  • Joint deformity
  • Fatigue
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Brain fog
  • Anemia
  • Fever
  • Depression

Since I have this wonderful platform, I’ll take this opportunity to also publish one fact and one symptom about RA in my own words:

FACT: Rheumatoid arthritis has absolutely nothing to do with age.

It’s frustrating when people say it is just because we are getting old. While I’m not opposed to getting older, this is not that.

SYMPTOM: Lubricating fluid surrounding the joints feels more like hardening cement instead.

This is the best way I can describe what rheumatoid arthritis feels like to those who have not experienced it. RA is challenging, painful, and life-altering.

Thankfully, I have a wonderful rheumatologist at Lexington Medical Center helping me navigate this life-altering disease. Since Dr. G’s specialty is Rheumatology, I’ll have to seek advice from my OBGYN when the time comes to navigate the menopause department.

I understand that as we age, aches and pains are inevitable. Our bodies snap, crackle, and pop when we wake each morning. As time goes on, we often wonder how in the world we arrived here because it all happens in a flash. We should all strive to grow old with grace and dignity – facing the natural progression of life.

God is good regardless of what curveballs are hurled in our direction. I’m often reminded despite my tough days and everchanging routines that there are many others in more difficult situations than me.

What are you dealing with today? How has it affected your routine? Let me know in the comments!

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

By Marianna Boyce

Breast Cancer Awareness is highlighted in October to bring attention to one of the most diagnosed cancers in women. One of every eight women is diagnosed in the United States alone. Chances are, it’s likely you know someone who has fought or is currently fighting this vicious disease. Men can also develop breast cancer, but their odds are much lower. If you or a loved one have been affected, I’m sure your awareness extends well beyond the devoted month of October every year.

The exact cause of breast cancer isn’t known, but one thing is clear: this global issue is non-discriminatory.

ribbon.jpgAccording to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, approximately 41,760 women, and 500 men will die each year in the United States alone; however, this same website reports that death rates have also steadily declined since 1990. Contributing factors to this trend are increased awareness, early detection, better screening, and improving treatment options.

We should be aware of risk factors, along with small steps we can take in order to fight against breast cancer. Some risk factors can be avoided, such as alcohol intake, but other factors like family history cannot be. A monthly self-exam is a step in the right direction to detect issues early.

According to the American Cancer Society, current guidelines for breast cancer screening is as follows:

  • Women ages 40-44 should have the choice to start annual breast cancer screening with mammograms (x-rays of the breast) if they wish to do so.
  • Women ages 45-54 should have a mammogram yearly.
  • Women 55 and older should have a mammogram every two years, or continue yearly screening if they wish.
  • Screening should continue as long as a woman is in good health and is expected to live ten years or longer.

Every woman is unique. You should know how your breasts normally look and feel. Remember that your monthly self-exam is the most powerful tool in early detection. If you feel a lump, or something that doesn’t feel normal, make an appointment with your doctor immediately.

Visit www.nationalbreastcancer.org/breast-self-exam to learn the proper way a self-exam should be performed.

Life is busy—I get it, but something as simple as a buddy system to help remind one another to self-examine each month could potentially save a friend, loved one, or even your own life. Set a recurring reminder on your phone for a time you can take a moment and devote it to your health.

When’s the last time you did your breast exam? Don’t wait ladies. Do it today.

Summer Road Trip Series: Part VII “You Have Arrived at Your Final Destination”

By Marianna Boyce

Our departure from Sedona took place on a beautiful, sunny day—quite a contrast from the turbulent weather we experienced the previous night. After driving 2,100 westward miles from the Palmetto State of South Carolina, it was time to turn south toward the U.S.- Mexico border. Phoenix and Tucson stood in the way of our anticipated destination.

The thriving metropolis of Phoenix covers about 519 square miles, making it physically one of the largest cities in the United States of America. The layout is incredible and easily navigated, but there’s no gentle transition when exiting this urban complex. One moment, the view is grandiose, architecturally interesting buildings. The next, it’s back to a vast, inhospitable desert. The abrupt contrast is startling. We were suddenly left with nothing to see but swirling dust devils in the distance as we continued our remaining three-hour sprint to the finish line.

Sierra Vista, our ultimate destination, lies seventy-five miles south of Tucson and about twenty miles north of Mexico. This little dot on the map was our prime location goal for one reason only: our precious family lived there.

Tiffany is my bonus daughter (I’m just not fond of the term, stepdaughter). She married Bill, an Army Major at the time, now a Lieutenant Colonel. In 2015, Bill received orders to report to Fort Huachuca (pronounced wah-CHOO-kah) for a two-year stint.

image 4Abby, Emma, and Avery are our precious granddaughters. We also have a beautiful Belgian Malinois (pronounced mal-un-WAH.) grand-puppy named Leo.

As we turned onto their street, the gorgeous mountain range behind their house majestically stood in the distance. Situated on the opposite side of the mountainous terrain lies Mexico.

Little Avery is three. When she spotted us entering their driveway, she rushed outside immediately. Her arms flailing with excitement, along with her pretty blonde hair bobbing up and down as she sprinted toward us, was a wonderful sight to see. Many amazing landmarks we’d seen on our road trip were extraordinary, but this little princess took the prize. This family reunion was sheer bliss.

After a tasty spaghetti supper, we enjoyed each other’s company as we caught up on everything going on in our lives. The girls were thrilled to have an extended bedtime that night.

The following day, we ate lunch in a small town about twenty miles northeast of Sierra Vista. You may have heard of it…

image 3Tombstone is pegged as “The Town Too Tough to Die.” About 450,000 tourists visit each year. Its dusty streets are lined with rustic buildings and landmarks from the 1880s. The infamous gunfight at the OK Corral is re-enacted daily. It’s quite a surreal experience wandering the streets where Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday roamed—two of Arizona’s most popular “ghosts of North America.”

We spent one more night in Sierra Vista before embarking on our journey back to South Carolina. The most exciting news was all our girls were traveling back to the Palmetto State for a two-week stay. Bill remained in Arizona with Leo.

Tiffany drove her garnet-colored Explorer packed with enough stuff for a three-month vacation. Cody was in his comfort zone driving my light sage-colored Lincoln MKZ, so we let him drive. He’d passed the test a few nights earlier after driving in the monsoon weather from Flagstaff to Sedona.

I traveled with Tiffany, Abby, and Avery. Gerry and Emma rode with Cody. It was the perfect setup separating Abby and Emma. They were nine and seven at the time, so sibling rivalry was intense.

A year had passed since Tiffany had been home, so she was anxious to get there as quickly as possible. There would be no cool stops along this route, but the fun was just getting started.

Our travels took us about 1,050 miles that day, a little more than halfway. The decision to stop for the night on the outskirts of Houston was a good call. We were all exhausted, but I was one proud GiGi. We heard no complaints from any of the girls.

We departed the western edge of Houston early the following morning with the potential of being home by midnight. We had 1,000 more miles to go, but our aggressive plan just wasn’t meant to be. After an extended traffic delay, our plan simply fell apart. The back of an overturned poultry truck was on fire blocking all lanes on I-10. The driver was fine, but I’m sorry to report that many of the chickens didn’t make it.

image 1We exited the great state of Texas at mile-marker 880 later than we’d expected, and only traveled 400 additional miles after our long delay. Our sibling drivers, Tiffany and Cody, were both exhausted. Tensions mounted, but they merely needed to rest, stretch, and relax. Abby and Emma weren’t the only rivals in the bunch.

We stopped to eat supper in Slidell, Louisiana. We should’ve found a great Cajun restaurant, but Southern homecookin’ at Cracker Barrel is what we chose.

There was no need to push the envelope, so I devised a new plan. As I ate my chicken fried steak, rice and gravy, and fried okra, I made what my bonus daughter calls, a “Mama Bear” move. There was a newly built Hampton Inn and Suites directly across the road, so I asked Tiffany to book two rooms for us, and she did.

image 5The heated, salt-water swimming pool was calling our name. We basically all stepped into a nice, long, Epsom salt bath. This place was perfect, and exactly what “Mama Bear” ordered. Everyone loved each other again.

The following morning, June 16, 2016, was a Thursday I’ll not soon forget. Eight more hours would officially end our remarkable road trip. Unknown to me, at the end of this time span, I would begin my next journey deep into a dark, unfamiliar place that I often refer to as my alternate universe.

We quickly left Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia in our dust. We crossed the South Carolina state line about 3:00 p.m. About thirty miles from home, Avery began crying uncontrollably. She told me her tummy was hurting, so I cautiously removed her from the car seat and held her tightly in my arms. I know I shouldn’t have, but I did it anyway. Any great GiGi would’ve done the same.

As I silently prayed for her, a tingling sensation started in my feet. I thought they were asleep, just as Avery now was. As we got closer to home, a perplexing coldness began to overwhelm them. Trying not to disturb her as she slept, I haphazardly tossed my sweater over my feet. An odd gesture, given South Carolina in mid-June, is usually a hot, humid, 100-degrees.

Tiffany drove to her Mom’s house where they’d be staying for the next several days. She hadn’t seen her in a year, so it was reasonable for them to spend time together before heading back to Arizona in two short weeks. I jumped in the car with Gerry and Cody anticipating the arrival at our final destination. Bill selflessly planned to fly to the Palmetto State and drive back with them so they wouldn’t have to travel cross-country alone. I know—he’s great, right?

Four-thousand, six-hundred, and fourteen miles after our journey began, Gerry, Cody, and I pulled into our driveway and opened the garage door—home sweet home!

As soon as my feet touched the ground, the intense cold sensation in them immediately changed to insanely hot. It was as though a high fever spiked, but only in my feet. I stopped dead in my tracks not knowing exactly how to react. I’d never felt that type of pain.

My new journey had officially begun.

image 2I told my husband I couldn’t walk on my own, so he assisted as I hobbled along beside him. I literally watched my feet and ankles swell beyond recognition. Gerry instructed me to sit, relax, and prop up my throbbing, fiery-hot feet. I was horrified at the time, but we actually had a good chuckle about it later in the evening. In our infinite wisdom, we thought riding in the car for an extended period contributed to this unfortunate event. Were we ever wrong!

I am; however, thankful my symptoms stayed at bay until our arrival home. Leaving my driveway eight days earlier, I didn’t realize a life-altering illness was lurking inside my body. Stepping out of my car ignited a chain of events that maniacally unfolded and completely unraveled life as I knew it. Not only was coping with extraordinary pain physically debilitating, but it was also mentally grueling. I didn’t recognize myself after two short weeks.

My 2016 summer road trip served as the catalyst that ushered me from my normal life into an alternate universe. I straddled two worlds on a mission to control them both. Horrible symptoms relating to rheumatoid arthritis ruled my life for an extended period, but I was determined not to go down without a fight. I had a great life. I wasn’t willing to give it up to this vicious disease.

All our circumstances differ, but one thing is constant for everyone: change. Life adjustments are constantly transforming our lives. Many changes are subtle and can easily be absorbed with our fighting human spirit, but as in my case, significant negative transitions create utter chaos.

As I conclude my lengthy road trip series, I want to express my gratitude for those who chose to ride along with me. Enjoy your ride in life. What you don’t enjoy—endure. Remember who’s in control of it all. Come what may, God is good, all the time.

Summer Road Trip Series: Part VI God’s Protective Hand

By Marianna Boyce

God had graciously paused a thunderstorm to grant us a couple of hours at the Grand Canyon for some breathtaking views. As we were walking to the car after a phenomenal sunset, Gerry mentioned his throat was sore, so our son, Cody, drove the eighty-mile trek back to Flagstaff. The heavy downpour resumed as we were exiting the park.

Gerry dozed in the front seat while I searched my travel app for room availability at Little America Hotel. I fell in love with this eclectic little place during our visit in 2015, but wouldn’t you know, there would be no vacancies this year. The one reservation I should’ve booked months in advance, I didn’t. Being on a whirlwind road trip, I wasn’t sure the exact day we’d arrive—until today.

Rain 2I was disappointed, but more so, I was concerned when every familiar hotel lining Flagstaff’s main thoroughfare also showed no vacancy. Not sure where to go, Cody stopped for gasoline while we determined our next course of action. I ran inside the store to purchase Hall’s cherry-flavored cough drops for Gerry. Clouds were still pouring buckets of water on this crisp, dark night, so I was drenched and shivering, laughing uncontrollably at myself as I jumped back into the car. Gerry also chuckled at my misfortune but appreciated the nice gesture in my attempt to make him feel better.

I finally found a room available at a Hampton Inn further north of our current location. I asked Gerry for his wallet in order to book it. God, on the other hand, had a different plan.

In transit, I pulled out our Chase credit card and entered the requested information into my iPhone. We’d had this card for more than twenty-five years and never had any problems; yet tonight, it declined—four times in a row.

God’s unique warning in something as simple as this declined credit card is no coincidence.

No longer in the tourist section of Flagstaff, we slowly drove through the relentless rainstorm finding ourselves amidst their local nightlife district—clearly the wrong side of town for us. I’m not sure if there was a college or university close-by, but the young, raucous crew was having a blast, unconcerned about the downpour and thunder clapping around them. Most were beyond tipsy as they entered and exited local bars, so we wasted no time turning the car around to head in the opposite direction. I’m sure the hotel further north of this little party district was a nice one, but we were suddenly okay with our current ‘declined credit card’ situation.

Rain 1Our energy levels were completely depleted. I dreaded mentioning there were no hotels south of us for sixty additional miles. Gerry stated we’d be heading south in the morning anyway, so why not get a head start? We both did our part keeping Cody alert as he navigated unfamiliar roads in the deluge of falling waters from the sky. I’d never seen so much rain in my entire life. The drive from Flagstaff to Sedona was quite treacherous. Little did we know, it was the beginning of monsoon season for North America.

Monsoons originate in Mexico. They quickly form when seasonal shifts in wind direction create an entirely different type of weather pattern. These nasty storms push into the southwestern states and are quite dangerous—especially with flash flooding. We were oblivious to the seriousness of the monsoon winds and torrential rain. God saw fit to safely guide us through it all.

I managed to find a delightful room in Sedona at a Holiday Inn using my handy-dandy travel app, but in order to book it, we needed that pesky little credit card. Surely, it had been flagged for suspicious activity, so I suggested using another card. Gerry, however, was adamant in using the one rejected earlier. With a smirk on my face, I shook my head the entire time thinking it would decline again. This time, he verbally called out the card number, expiration date, and CVV code, as I re-entered them into my iPhone.

I quickly sat straight up in my seat, dropping my phone in the process. I wiped away the smirk as my eyes widened and asked, “Wait—what? What’s that expiration date again?”

Gerry’s calm reply was, “October, 2020.”

Fumbling for my phone in the darkness, I giggled and said, “Honey, no wonder the card rejected earlier. I was giving the expiration date as September, not October. What was I thinking?”

I’m almost positive Gerry rolled his eyes as Cody burst out laughing. We were all clearly amused for the bone-headed moment I had earlier as I tried booking a room in northern Flagstaff.

When we entered the parking lot of our hotel in Sedona, we quietly sat in the car for a few moments. Mesmerized by the rain now gently falling from the heavens, we listened to the soothing sound created on the windshield, but the hypnotic state we were all experiencing could’ve also had something to do with our sheer exhaustion.

Selfie With RocksAs we laid our heads on the fluffy white pillows and drifted off to sleep that stormy night, we were all comforted, knowing every single detail unfolded exactly as it should have. Without God’s protective hand, who knows what we may have encountered otherwise.

He had clearly spoken—not audibly, but God was present the entire day. From the splendor and beauty of the sights we’d seen to the minor inconveniences we needed to block our so-called, brilliant plan—He was attentive to our every need. As always, He had everything under control. God reminded us of how our way is not always the best way. When things don’t go accordingly, it may be for our own good. God’s protection thousands of miles from home was His priority for my family—I’m absolutely convinced of it.

I was elated departing Sedona the following morning on a beautiful, sunshiny day. We were less than six hours from the sole purpose of this entire road trip. It would be our final destination before heading back to the Palmetto State of South Carolina, and I could hardly wait…

Summer Road Trip Series: Part V All Things Grand – A Sunset for the Ages

By: Marianna Boyce

After driving 2,000 miles in forty-eight hours, we were on target to see one of the seven natural wonders of the world before nightfall. I’m a fool for amazing sunsets, so having a unique opportunity to witness one at the Grand Canyon in Arizona was a gift from God Himself. Rest assured, this particular visit was unlike any other.

Before unpacking my personal experiences, I’ll share a few interesting tidbits of information about this internationally famous landmark.

The Grand Canyon was formed millions of years ago. It stretches for 277 miles and is eighteen miles wide. Millions of people from all around the world choose to visit this popular destination each year.

The natural force of plate tectonics and subduction lifted the Colorado Plateau high, and to this day, it remains relatively flat. This uplift was a key element to the formation of a majestic sight, allowing erosion to take over when the Colorado River cut back down into the canyon creating this natural beauty.

grand canyon 2

Gazing into the gorge from lookout points high above, you can see this mighty river—only if you squint. If you didn’t know it was there, you may not even notice it. Some believe there’s no way this itty-bitty river—as compared to the enormity of the canyon—could’ve carved this astonishing sight.

Fossils of fish and sea creatures have been discovered at the top of this famous canyon. This sounds reasonable, especially since the uppermost layer of rock was actually formed at the bottom of the ocean.

Some on the other hand, have said the massive waters of God’s Great Flood in Noah’s day created this gigantic chasm in the earth. Sure, Noah didn’t witness this grand event. God saw fit to place his ark at the top of Mount Ararat in modern day Turkey. Nonetheless, water did cover the entire earth several thousand years ago. Could it be the fossils of fish and sea creatures in the top layer of the canyon are from this historical flood once the waters began to subside?

No matter your belief, the Grand Canyon should be on everyone’s bucket list.

A Double Rainbow to Kiss the Clouds
My Personal Experience

As we approached Grand Canyon National Park, it started drizzling rain. Since the Bible says to pray about everything, Gerry, Cody, and I did just that. We were all confident God could halt the rain, but He must’ve needed to test our faith because the nearer we drew, the heavier the drops became.

As we approached the front gate to purchase our parking pass, we concluded God had a wonderful sense of humor because a heavy downpour had officially ensued, but as quickly as it began, this gully-washer also abruptly stopped. We didn’t see or feel one drop of rain once we entered the park. I wasn’t the least bit surprised. Well, maybe a little…

We slowly drove through the heavily wooded area absorbing the wonder of it all. There were lots of rabbits, squirrel, deer, and elk close by, but no canyon to speak of. Gerry and I were here in 2015 so we already knew, but Cody was curious where this natural wonder was hiding. This great canyon doesn’t visibly appear until you walk around the first bend of the walking path after parking the car. It isn’t there until suddenly, it is.

grand canyonThe initial sight of it is truly awe-inspiring.

It was an hour before sunset so our timing was impeccable; however, we were still contending with a blanket of clouds looming from the thunderstorm that ignited about eighty miles back around Flagstaff. We all surmised a sunset scene might possibly be out of the question, and that would be okay, but we’d no more uttered those words than something miraculous occurred.

The ominous curtain of clouds rolled back as if the portals of heaven opened about the time the sun began to dip behind the canyon walls. The sculpted land masses proudly stood as if they themselves commanded those clouds to clear, but we all know who it was. Only God could have orchestrated such an event.

The late-day sun peeking through after the rainstorm created a brilliant double rainbow that kissed the menacing clouds in the distance. The sunbeams were shimmering on the rim of the canyon walls just before disappearing for another cool night.

When the evening revealed this magical moment, a complete silence fell over the crowd. Time stood still, and in reverence, we all did the same. The splendor God exhibited by revealing such a sunset for thousands of people visiting from all around the world couldn’t have been more perfect.

We witnessed one of the most majestic sights anyone could ever see. I could almost hear the angels singing the “Hallelujah Chorus.”

I certainly didn’t want to miss this moment by looking through a lens on my iPhone, so this sacred picture is unapologetically saved in my mind’s eye.

As we exited the park at nightfall, the temperature dropped dramatically. Once we were safely in the car, it started raining relentlessly—again. We doubled back to Flagstaff to hopefully find a room for the night. That was the plan anyway.

I was amazed how these events transpired, but God wasn’t finished. By the end of this night, He would reveal Himself to us in a very different way. Our safety and protection depended on it…