It’s time to treat your senses to a breathtaking, flavorful and fun-tastic adventure at the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival going on now through May 30, 2016.
In addition to Epcot’s longtime cherished attractions, interactive learning experiences and character meet & greets, you will find an exquisite culinary collection of authentic international cuisine, how-to gardening seminars and workshops, and interactive play gardens that glow at night!
“See” all of the carefully crafted character topiaries including Frozen’s Elsa and Anna, making their 2nd festival appearance.
“Hear” the pulsating beats of timeless and treasured pop music bands with the Garden Rocks Concert Series featuring Peter Noone, Herman’s Hermits and Darlene Love – just to name a few.
“Smell” more than the roses at the Healing and Health Garden display of ancient medicinal plants and herbs, and the grandiose floral arrays throughout the park.
“Taste” some of the finest delicacies showcased around the world, pamper your palate with specialty wines and mixed cocktails, and experience Florida Fresh – a sampling of unique blends of locally grown and produced ingredients.
“Feel” the friendly flutter of butterfly wings against your ears or the soft tickle of their tiny legs as these treasured winged wonders grace the palms of your hands at the Butterflies on the Go exhibit.
Create with children. Fellowship with friends. Make new memories.
Running and chasing after friends as a child will always be a treasured memory. Some kids always got caught first, my sister mostly. Then I would let her tag me so I could help her catch the others. This was our childhood, here in the United States, the land of the free. Traveling, especially to the Caribbean, there is a different childhood story to be told.
We were the envy of the neighborhood, well at least our friendship was. The joy of our youth was evident in the brightness of our smiles and infectious laughter. The walls of our friendship were impenetrable, like a mansion reinforced with pure gold. You were always the beauty queen, I suppose I was the sidekick but most superheroes have one so it never made a difference to me. Neighborhood acquaintances since birth, best friends since preschool, surely we were a match ordained in Heaven. How convenient that our houses were parallel to one another, a quick hop over my backyard fence, a little neighborly trespassing, and there I was, knocking on your door. Sure I was the one doing all of the fence hopping but it didn’t matter, we were peanut butter and jelly, a perfect combination.
It was always fun visiting your house, hanging out with you and all of your sisters. And the coziness of having both parents around was a welcomed glimpse into my alter life. Living in a dual income home you surpassed me on the economic scale and getting a ride home from school from time to time was a welcomed luxury. My mom didn’t drive, didn’t have a car and worked 2 jobs so life was slightly different for me even though I lived just around the corner. It bothered me sometimes that your mom never let you spend the night at our place but our friendship could not be shaken and I was more than happy to stay at yours. We were ebony and ivory, “living in perfect harmony” as I danced to whatever beat you played.
How awesome it was to get to attend private school together! I’m not sure how my mother ever afforded it but I was so glad to have a friend to call my own as we entered elementary school together. Boys always liked you better, that was a given. We were just a couple of schoolgirls growing up and being silly. Sometimes we dated boys that were best friends too just so we would never have to be apart. Ugh! Remember that boy whose backpack I threw in the garbage because he kept getting on my nerves? And the one who visited his grandfather every summer and dated nearly every girl in our crew, one after the other? Boys. Yuck!
Academically we were always at the top of our class. Our dynamic duo was destined for greatness until life as we knew it took a dramatic turn. I was skipped a grade and you weren’t. How could they do this to us?! To make matters worse, your parents transferred you to a different school far away. My new classmates were horrible. I often turned to my sister, who was now only a grade ahead of me, for comfort. You were gone, and I was left sitting alone in a boat without a paddle. I stayed home sick more times in that one year than I had throughout all of my school years combined. We saw each other from time to time but life as we knew it was changed forever. That first year without you was the longest year, at least it used to be. When you re-enrolled for junior high school we were peas and carrots again – just like Forrest Gump and Jenny!
Our celebrated reunion was short-lived. We were the same, but different. There were a few noticeable changes in our lives. New friendships had formed, new habits developed, and our common interests were separating. High school continued on this course with the two of us traveling at different speeds.
Like interlocking circles, I had my friends, you had your friends, and sometimes, not often, it was just us.
High school nearly killed me, literally. Perhaps you didn’t know that or maybe you did but didn’t really care. I’ll never know. Your new clique kept you pretty busy while I was treading water just to survive. Graduation couldn’t come soon enough and before long I was on my way to college in sunny Florida. Our buddy time was further reduced to occasional Spring breaks and holidays but it was always good to see you. We kept tabs on each other from a distance and good news, as they say, always travelled fast. Life doesn’t always work out the way we intend it to but we do the best we can with what we have been given.
Transitioning into adulthood we made a few similar choices. Having our first sons born within months of each other would rekindle the bond between us later on as our children would become regular playmates and even greater friends. Parenting was our specialty. Day trips to the parks, birthday parties and barbecues became part of our regular routine – and we loved it! By the time we were both pregnant with our third child, going to the beach bearing our big baby bellies was the glory of motherhood. Remember when we took turns spelling words on each others’ backs with sunscreen? We’ve been skinny together, fat together, then skinny again and sometimes in between. Happy together, sad together and just trying to figure out what everything means.
Now I suppose a friendship like ours was not meant to last because now we have bad blood, as Taylor Swift describes best.
It was no secret that he was never good enough for you. Not a bad man, just not good enough for you. After countless years of trying to understand the attraction, I think we all concluded it was a mystery that could not be solved. So what do you do when you don’t know what to do? You go along with the program, just to keep the peace, because life with you was far better than without you.
What appeared to be a mansion constructed with bricks and mortar turned out to be a sandcastle, washed away in the first wave. Few losses are greater than when friendships crumble.
“And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.” Matthew 11:6
I love the Word of God. His Word helps me in my everyday life. This scripture in particular is a longtime favorite. Although Jesus spoke these words to His disciples over 2000 years ago, His Word still carries a power-packed punch and is a resourceful arsenal of weaponry with very practical uses today.
According to Strong’s Concordance, the word “offended”, as translated from the Greek, means “to entrap”, also to trip up, to stumble, or entice to sin. This message, in context, was in response to the inquiry of the imprisoned John the Baptist who under the duress of his captivity questioned whether Jesus was indeed the Messiah. John’s faith was shaken for a moment as he must have hoped or expected that Jesus would free him from prison somehow. It was a reasonable expectation but not part of the Father’s plan. In simplistic terms, I imagine Jesus’ message to John was: “Don’t be enticed into doubting Who I am because My ways are not your ways.” When our own faith is prodded and poked, and things are not unfolding the way we hope and expect them to go as Believers and followers of Christ, we are challenged to remain in faith. There is a blessing in remaining faithful.
A practical use of this scripture for me is when dealing with offenses. People say and do things that offend us on a regular basis. How we choose to respond will play a factor in our own peace. “And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.” So if I am in Christ, a Believer, a Christian then I don’t get offended – period. As difficult as it is to reign in my emotions, I purpose in my heart to stand strong in the Word of God and not react unfavorably when people offend me.“Woe unto the world because of offenses for it must needs be that offenses come; but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh!” Matthew 18:7 Offenses will come. The offenders will be dealt with. My hope is in the Word of God and if I stand strong, and take a simple action to walk in the wisdom of His Word, just by not getting offended and allowing my emotions to get the best of me, then I’m one step closer to living in the perfect peace He promised me. I’m one step closer to my blessing!
Peace and Blessings to all that will listen and take action.
As a single mom, family vacations always felt so out of reach. In fact, it was not even part of the conversation. There was always some bill or some “thing” that had to be paid and living paycheck-to-paycheck was par for the course. We had just survived another New York winter and the birds were beginning to chirp again, signaling that Spring was just around the corner. Continue reading →