” And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to
His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself
restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”
1 Peter 5:10
There are times in our lives when the brokenness can be so overwhelming. For me it seems like it has come in waves. While I do trust my Adonai in all His plans for me, every so often my human flesh just can’t come to grips with what I am dealing with. The call to “be still” (Psalm 46:10) is just to difficult for me to wrap my head around. How can I be still when everything about my life is rushing about in such chaotic fashion? And yet, because He is a loving Father who wants me to have joy, I find that I must get off the carousel sometimes and just enjoy the view.
While it must seem to you, my dear friends, that sweetheart and I are always going, visiting, doing, traveling….it is usually around an event which requires our attendance ie birth of a grandchild, surgery on a loved one, weddings, graduations, birthdays, etc. It is rare that we just take time for ourselves, time with no agenda, time with no plans other than to be together. We try to yearly take one week where we have no ties, commitments, no plans. Because we are retired military we have access to something called the Armed Forces Vacation Club. It is available to everyone who is serving or has served in the military. For just a little over $300 you can get an 8 day/7 night stay in condos all over the world. (One year we stayed right outside the gates of Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World) These are high quality, five-star resorts that sell their excess rooms to AFVC who then makes them available to military members. The nice thing is that they are condos with full kitchens, bedrooms, and amenities. No cramped hotel rooms here! It’s not a timeshare club, you don’t have to pay to belong, and there are no membership fees. You can use it once or every month.
This year we chose a place in Branson, MO called Stonebridge Resort. High on a ridge overlooking a stunning valley, it has been the perfect place to reset. The weather has been fantastic. Although we are a few weeks before the leaves change color, there is still enough gold touched color to make the drives beautiful. We took some time to do some hiking on some of the local trails as well as visiting the numerous lakes. Of course we had to ride the Duck Boats which gave a great tour of the area. The guide said the local lake has more shoreline than Florida has coastline. Who knew! There are many free things to do around Branson which gave us a balance between tourist trap activities (putt putt, shows, food) and relaxation.
There were a few stand outs on our trip, mostly in the food category. It goes without saying that we are a couple that plans our travels around places to eat instead of eating at places where we travel. We like local instead of chains and Branson certainly delivers in that area. Farmhouse Restaurant (whole catfish, blackberry cobbler), BillyGails Cafe (best breakfast ever, sausage gravy biscuits to die for), Rib Crib (all you can eat ribs on Tuesday), and Vasken’s Deli (Mediterranean food, gyros, sandwiches) were just a few of the places we visited, each with it’s own mouth watering menu. To say we had to hike to get rid of calories was an understatement. I think the only chain we visited while here was Krispy Kreme (no judging) because who can resist Hot Doughnuts Now?
One place we visited that deserves special recognition is the College of the Ozarks. A fantastic college that requires every student to work their way through (think no student loans), it was the highlight of our visit to Branson. Everywhere we went on campus, we were met with smiles and great attitudes. Attached to the college is the Keeter Center which is a hotel/farm to table restaurant which showcases much of what the college is all about. Almost everything they serve was grown or baked or created right on campus by the students. They even make their own ice cream for the ice cream parlor. I think the only thing I didn’t see was their own roasted coffee! We had prime rib from beef grown right on campus. Their presentation is fantastic, rivaling any five-star restaurant. It was especially nice to visit with the servers who were happy to share their stories of why they chose to attend the college. Many famous alumni are showcased as well as a fantastic museum, the Ralph Foster Museum, which is often referred to as the Smithsonian of the Ozarks. The gun collection there was the most extensive I have ever seen. They even have the original Beverly Hills truck from the television show. It is a great place for kids to learn the history of the area as well as see some amazing collections.
There are a ton of shows in Branson. Most are variety shows put on by local people but there are shows with famous entertainers. The show you can’t miss is from the Sight and Sound Theater which puts on live shows based around the Bible stories. We went to see Jonah which was a visual feast. How they portray the whale swallowing Jonah is breathtaking. Next year they are doing the story of Moses which looks to be equally as stunning. Save time to take the behind the scenes tour ($5) which they do at 1 pm daily. It made the show that much more meaningful. It is led by the actors themselves who have stories of faith and redemption to share along the way.
The highlight of the entire trip for me was the helicopter ride that we took. Of course you know that sweetheart is a helicopter pilot but you may not know that I am not able to ride in the helicopter he flies. How I made it this far without taking a ride in one is one of life’s mysteries. But I remedied that this week! Now I can truly say that I understand why my sweetheart loves his job and doesn’t want to retire. Who would ever want to quit a job that takes you up into the heavens for a birds eye view of everything that God created? We chose Branson Helicopter Tours where we met our pilot Ryan, an Apache crew chief in a previous life, who hit it off with sweetheart right away. While they talked shop, I was able to just sit and take in the view. I can honestly say that if you save up for nothing else, make sure you take a helicopter ride at some point in your life. Thanks Ryan for the wonderful highlight of my trip!
As usual there is not enough space to tell everything we did but truly it was a wonderful week. We were able to reset and restore ourselves so that we can go home with an increased strength to do what He has called us to do. We met some amazing people every day who showed us the best side of Branson. It is a place filled with all the things that define America and it was a great place to remind us that God is still very much a part of our wonderful country.
Thanks for coming along for the journey, Blessings,
English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers