Chasing Joy : My Depression & Anxiety Story


I started writing this post almost 9 months ago when I felt led to share about my struggle with depression and anxiety…

I thought maybe I could help someone….to let others know that they are not alone…

and maybe even give one person a little hope…

but just writing the word “DEPRESSION” weighed so heavily on me like an elephant sitting on my chest….refusing to let me breath.

As  soon as I would start letting the words flow out of me, I could also feel myself sinking back again into a place that I did so much to escape. It felt like I was feeding the monster. I was stuck and I kept hesitating to open such a big part of my heart with all of you.

This black cloud that constantly tries to consume me isn’t something that’s easy to share with anyone…even some of my closest friends.

So even as as I felt God was leading me to use my voice, I struggled with sharing this. I kept it saved on my computer, as a rough draft that I poured my heart into every few weeks….then left it unpublished, hidden, and tucked away just like I tried to do with my struggle. I wanted to take more time to edit my words, make my story more pretty and polished before I shared them with all of you…thinking that if I presented it in a more beautiful way, with a positive spin then it wouldn’t be as scary to shout to the world that I was not in control. Staring at the words on my screen left me feeling critical of myself, scared of being judged, far too vulnerable…and also helped me to realize that this struggle wasn’t something that was going to just go away….it was a process…and I wasn’t quite on the other side of it yet..

Thankfully God had a plan.

I just couldn’t find the right way to convey how I was feeling without saying “I’m a complete and utter mess!!!” I still wanted to think I was in control.

But…isn’t that what I really need to say? I was a complete mess….not in control…and I needed help. So much help. Getting to the place where you can finally admit that you cannot do it alone is where the healing can start.

In all honesty, no matter how many times I tweaked my story, it never seemed quite polished enough to share with the world….but dear friends, depression isn’t pretty. Its raw, its painful, and it’s jagged edges are messy and need to be shared so that more light can touch this darkness.

Every depression story begins in a different place. Mine started in a broken home and a genetic predisposition.

I was not a depressed child…but my home life was rocky, and a stable loving environment was simply not part of my story. Genetically I almost had no chance of escaping some kind of mood disorder…but somehow I learned to look at the sunny side of life in order to cope…even when I was dying on the inside.

I was (and still am) a very intuitive person…I can easily soak up all the energy of those around me and use it to understand how to react to my environment. That’s how I spent most of my youth….REACTING. Reacting to what was going on around me, to other people’s actions and choices, and trying to manage their feelings instead of my own. Growing up for me was not the prettiest, but I tried my best not to focus on what was wrong, and got in the awful habit of trying to fix people and help them to survive like I thought I was surviving…always cheering them on and trying to forget about my own suffering. Overall I found more and more ways to keep my head above water and tried to be strong on the outside while stuffing everything I felt deep down so I didn’t crumble. I built walls to protect my heart and I thought that I could only rely on myself, and that all others would disappoint me….

I was so desperate to escape that I lost sight of God’s plan, and I didn’t see a way out unless I created my own path, so I spent the next few decades trying to build a beautiful life on top of all of my broken pieces.

Fast forward through many more years of brokenness, living for myself with no real direction, finding what I thought love was in abusive relationships, struggles with poor self-worth, and searching for all the wrong things to fill the voids that were meant for something bigger. Somehow by the grace of God I met my husband who was exactly opposite of anyone I had ever dated, although he was broken in his own way too, he had such a big heart and I fell hard for him…and eventually I found in a much better life…

instead of being happy, the floodgates opened.

I was nearly 33, married to an amazing man with 3 wonderful children. I had accomplished my goal of getting my degree, and following my passion for photography and working in a flourishing business that I built from the ground up. My life looked great on the outside and my family was everything to me. But all at once I started to crumble. I buckled under the strains of juggling everything in my crazy beautiful life and all my broken pieces rose to the surface.

Everything that had led me to this point plus having a new baby, raising a few children with Sensory Processing Disorder and Tourette Syndrome, mourning the loss of a very dear grandmother, and suffering through the aftermath of some pretty harsh family conflicts….all of this was more than I could bear.

All I could see was not the LOVE that I DID have in my life, but instead the LOVE that I WISHED was there…LOVE from a few precious yet broken people that had never learned how to LOVE or BE LOVED in the first place either.

I just fell apart.

Talking about it was not easy at first…and admitting it to myself was even harder.

I grew up knowing how to pretend things were okay…to put on a brave face….to smile even though I was dying inside….so that’s what I did.

I kept telling myself that I was just in a funk…it would pass soon enough.

Days turned into weeks, and then weeks turned into months….and the thought of even forcing myself to take a shower and change out of my 3 day old pajamas would exhaust me….I just didn’t care. I felt numb. Like I was walking through my life as a zombie. Then I had other days that I would find myself sobbing over absolutely nothing. Eventually The Hubs found me sitting on a mountain of dirty laundry and in a puddle of my own tears overwhelmed and unsure of how to keep going. I knew I was broken and now he knew it too….but I still couldn’t tell him how bad it really was…and I was bordering on something very dangerous. How could someone who had such a beautiful life, so different from where she came still feel so lost?

I ended up in a puddle….unable to love myself, numb to all the love that surrounded me, gripped with fear and frozen in a fog as my life kept passing me by…I was still trying to pick up my own broken pieces and heal myself, but it wasn’t working.

Mentally I was drained and overwhelmed, my mind always raced with worry, to do lists, and stress from work, deadlines, editing and emails that I wasn’t staying on top of. Eventually panic attacks started to become a normal part of my existence. I withdrew a lot from my friends and family and I lost all confidence in myself. I was even more broken than before. Physically, I started losing hair, breaking out in hives for no reason, packing on extra pounds, relying on caffeine and sugar to sustain me, and I lost all motivation to leave the house.

I was a complete and utter mess in dirty yoga pants. Not a pretty sight friends.

During all of this, my only motivation to overcome this giant dark cloud came from my desire to not completely fail motherhood (my poor kids had to deal with my mood swings far too much ) and from my sweet sweet husband who watched me fall apart and had no way to pull me out of it….he wanted so badly to fix me….and truthfully I wished so much that he could too.

No matter how much you try to love someone with depression, it just isn’t enough to pull them out of it completely…its so much deeper than that.

If you are the one on the outside of this roller-coaster, loving someone with depression, and they are not snapping out of it no matter how much LOVE you give….remember that you didn’t fail them, and you can’t DO something more to fix it…

just keep being there and encouraging them to seek help…the brokenness comes from within and has to heal internally with lots of support. Assist them in getting the help they need, advocate for them, be a voice for them and speak life into them as they face this giant.

It will mean more than you’ll ever know that you stuck by them and loved them when they couldn’t even love themselves.


Thank goodness that is what my husband and a few dear friends did for me…

Eventually I felt strong enough to start looking for help…

I finally spoke with my doctor about my symptoms…

I chatted with friends…

I did my best to come up with a plan…

I researched all kinds of ways to help myself naturally (the thought of starting medication that might make me worse terrified me), and I even tried to start an exercise routine (which resulted in about 3 days worth of half attempted physical activity)

but…overall I felt like I was on the road to a better me. The world was my oyster…and I was going to sucker punch this dark cloud hovering over me IN THE FACE!

little did I know I still had a long way to go…because as I was busy conquering it, it snuck in again and knocked me down.

Depression often comes in waves, and must be battled throughout your entire life.

The feeling that I conquered all my problems would last about 2-3 weeks and then I would start sinking back there again…each time harder than before…

like a giant storm pounding against my spirit trying to tear me apart…It was devouring who I was and I felt as if I was shoved into a hole. I never felt so alone.

This time I knew something was terribly wrong with me…I knew exactly what it was…but I just couldn’t make it stop….and worst of all I felt like a burden to all of those who loved me and annoyed with myself for even needing help.

I was at the end of my rope and I knew I either needed to start some medication or go commit myself for a mental breakdown….no really…it was THAT bad. I was terrified to start medication first because my family has a history of addiction, so I decided to try something my sister suggested, and I started taking a supplement called Rhodiola. Thankfully God gave me the motivation to actually follow through and take this supplement each day and I started to feel “normal” again.

After a few weeks I started finding my way out of the hole I was in, and I was ready to deal with all of things I was avoiding without getting so easily overwhelmed. I could finally breathe again. I slowly and reluctantly learned to begin letting go of things that added too much stress in my life, and I made room for the things that really mattered…and most importantly I decided to truly let God lead me.

I knew if I wasn’t intentional with how I lived my life, I would crumble again and again.

Until this point, I felt completely unlovable…I was never enough. I kept trying to fix myself by grasping at everything that surrounded me and stuffing it into the hole I was in, to fill a void that could never be filled by my own hands…I could no longer rely on myself and I had no choice but to make some serious changes. I needed to heal…I needed to bloom again….but this time I had to use who I was created to be to shine for HIM. As I started seeking God’s help in all of this, He opened my eyes to more tools to help me find what I had been searching for…and for more ways to find healing.

I started chasing JOY with everything I had.

I realized that everyday I needed to make more little choices that added up to something greater….a more meaningful life with Christ at the center. I knew that doing this didn’t mean I would be cured from my depression and anxiety, but now I no longer had to live in fear of it. I learned more and more that by being intentional and seeking God in everything, depression was not going to consume me, but instead it was something that had become part of my story, that could breathe more life into others if I let it.

I spent more and more time looking for ways to be thankful even when things went wrong,

I changed my diet and started eating clean as much as I could and also cut out gluten, dairy, and completely detoxed from sugar for 3 months straight…and most of those habits became a lifestyle change that truly helped my mental health more than I ever thought it would.

I also committed to starting my days with prayer, devotions, and journaling, and I began to ask God to help me truly heal. I was ready to BE STILL and WAIT on HIM to guide my steps. I couldn’t do this alone…and now I could see I didn’t even want to.

For a long time, I only wanted a quick fix, but HIS plans are always greater than our plans. True healing takes time.

God was not only healing me from within, but He was leading me to build a better foundation than ever before.

Letting go of the need to control everything and fix it all myself may sound easy….but let me tell you is NOT. Its a process….a struggle each and every day….but its worth so so much.

If I rely on only myself and not God, I will fill my day with to-do lists and loads of work to occupy my mind and avoid the really hard things….but God is leading me down a path that requires me to lean on Him, and not my own plan…

to live on less, to seek the truth, to be more open about my struggles, and to make sweeter memories with my kids and my wonderful husband…a path that will lead to far less stress and regret and much more joy than I ever could imagine.

God didn’t create me to be battle with depression and anxiety, He didn’t intend for me to start off life with such a struggle, or to get stuck in a place where I self destruct…but when I turn to God each day to sustain me, He will use this part of who I am to let His light shine through me….to help others who suffer in the same way know that they are not alone…to remind someone out there that its okay to NOT be perfect, to let go of control, to be broken….

Its when we lean in to these things that could destroy us, with God’s help, that we can find a way to heal.

We are never meant to try to conquer the world with our own feeble hands or to try to be strong ALL of the time. Its okay to admit that on our own we are weak and we can’t do this alone….

So that’s where I am now….I’m on a new path, seeking God each day with a bigger heart for the broken, a desire to LOVE the unloved, and a commitment to living life on purpose….and to shine even brighter for Him.

From now on I promise to share more of my story…even the most RAW and VULNERABLE parts.

I’m still not sure where this will lead me, but I do know that through all of this, my eyes have been opened to who God made me to be….and in my weakness I find strength.





Banyas Family Road Trip 2015 – Part 6 – Mammoth Cave National Park

Mammoth Cave National Park

We said goodbye to Florida after one final swim on the pool….then we made our way through Georgia and stopped for some amazing BBQ at Pit Stop BBQ … yummy! Once we had full bellies and some time to stretch, we headed to our final adventure in Kentucky…exploring Mammoth Cave National Park. On the way we drove through Atlanta, Chattanooga, and Nashville….I wish we could’ve stopped in all of those places to soak in everything each city had to offer, but we will have to save them for another trip….I’m definitely going to be heading back as soon as I can!

Our Road Trip Itinerary

  • Day 1 : Leave our home in Michigan at 5:30am and head to Gatlinburg Tennessee
  • Day 2: Spend the morning and afternoon exploring Gatlinburg, and some of the Smoky Mountains, then head to Florida
  • Day 3: Easter Sunday!!! Spend the day resting with family & soaking up some sun by the pool
  • Day 4: Visit my Dad and family south of Sarasota, Fl
  • Day 5: Relax by the pool, Shopping, Watch the Sunset on Siesta Key
  • Day 6: Visit Grandma Shorty in Winterhaven
  • Day 7: Visit Mote Aquarium & Big Banyas Family Bash on Anna Marie Island
  • Day 8: One last swim in the pool then Leave Florida and head to Kentucky
  • Day 9: Explore Mammoth Cave National Park, Hike the trails, Take a Cave Tour, Earn Junior Ranger Badge #1
  • Head home
  • Day 10: SLEEP!!!

We arrived at our hotel at 3am (more construction)…and we were exhausted! I’m not gonna lie….driving through the night isn’t my fave anymore now that I am older….how do those truckers do it??!! It didn’t take long to unload into the hotel room….thank goodness we packed that over-night duffel bag that I told you about! Total lifesaver! We stayed at the Mammoth Cave Hotel right in the park, attached to the visitors center, so we were close to everything. The hotel offers very basic accommodations, but very clean and so nice to be so close to everything. Next time we might try to stay in there adorable WigWams…aren’t they a dream! I want to live in one!

We were able to schedule our tour in advance (they sell out quickly so be sure to book your tour well before you visit or you might miss out) but we had to wait until 2:45, so we spent most of the day exploring and having a small picnic in the beautiful Kentucky countryside as we waited to see the caves. It was perfect.

Just look at this gorgeousness ya’ll!

We are so very small in this big big world….

We also spent some time helping the kids earn their very first Junior Ranger Badges! Love this program! What a wonderful way to keep kids engaged while learning about our National Parks!

Time to explore the caves! We were waiting for our bus to take us to the Domes and Dripstones Tour that starts at a back entrance to Mammoth Cave. Harrison was very prepared with his miner’s helmet that he bought at the gift shop….so cute right?!

Love my little Explorers! Look how excited they are!

Discussing the possibility of seeing Bats…we didn’t end up seeing any by the way…thank goodness.

Our tour took us almost 300ft deep into the Earth! How beautiful!

I didn’t get to take very many pictures inside the caves…no flash photography is permitted by the way…so I was thankful to have my professional camera. The tour is more fast paced than you realize, and trying to be sure our kids were not tumbling over a railing and into the abyss prevented me from taking too much time for photos. I hope you will forgive me just this once (;

We LOVED the caves…but we were all tired out after exploring for 2 hours…and ready to make the long trip home to Michigan…and more driving through the night! Can you guess what time we got home? 3 a.m. again…must be our lucky number!

Things to Remember When Exploring Mammoth Cave National Park

  • Wear Tennis Shoes – the caves are slippery in some area, and with all of those steps, rugged terrain and tight spaces, its not a place for flip flops!
  • Dress in Layers – The caves are a bit damp and a bit chilly. Be sure to at least bring a sweatshirt or jacket in case you get chilly…even in the Summer months. Most tours last a few hours or more so its better to be prepared!
  • Bring a Water Bottle – Cave Tours are so much fun, but they are about 2 or more hours depending on the tour you choose, you cannot bring any drinks other than water into the cave, so this is the perfect place to bring your refillable water bottle…there’s even a special bottle filling station in the welcome center.
  • “Go” before Go – There are no restrooms in the cave….which means no potty breaks for hours. If you have little ones then it might be a good time to put them in a pull-up just in case.
  • Lots of Tight Spaces – if you fear being trapped in tight spaces, I would highly recommend chatting with the park rangers about which tour would be best for you. There are a few tours with more open space that you would likely enjoy more than the ones with paths called “fat man’s misery” etc…
  • Schedule Your Tour in Advance – The cave tours book up fast and you may be out of luck if you try to show up that day and take the tour of your choice…especially at peak travel times. You can reserve your spot by visiting their website here.
  • Pack a Lunch - Once you get to the cave, there is nowhere around to eat except for one restaurant attached to the hotel. In my opinion its not that cost-effective and not very good food. We ate breakfast there, and its served buffet style…it didn’t seem freshly prepared, the service was really not great, and it cost over $65 for our family for food that we barely liked. You’d be better off to bring a blanket and have a picnic while enjoying the great outdoors…which is thankfully what we did for lunch. After all, you are visiting a National Park…you might as well soak up as much nature as you can…and its beautiful here so I know you won’t be sorry!
  • Plan to Stay All Day or Longer- There is so much more to enjoy here than the just exploring the caves…there are plenty of trails to explore, camping, horseback riding, boating, canoeing & kayaking and so much more… Check out the Things to Do sections of their website packed with tons of info so you can prepare.

 I’m so thankful to have a family full of adventurers!

I hope you enjoyed following along on our road trip…It was such a blast for us and we can’t wait to plan another one in the near future! There are just too many places to explore…perhaps we will return to the Smoky Mountains and go camping, or head out West toward the Rockies…no matter I’m sure we will LOVE it every step of the way!


Banyas Family Road Trip 2015 – Part 5 – Mote Aquarium

Our time in Florida was drawing to a close…so far we have been able to squeeze in so much into our few days in the area. Thankfully we planned ahead to make the most of our time. We chose to spend our very last day there meeting up with some extended family near Sarasota to explore Mote Aquarium, then head to Anna Marie Island for a cookout at Aunt Cheryl’s place…and eventually end the night with a little more beach time.

Here’s a look at our schedule so far…

Our Road Trip Itinerary

  • Day 1 : Leave our home in Michigan at 5:30am and head to Gatlinburg Tennessee
  • Day 2: Spend the morning and afternoon exploring Gatlinburg, and some of the Smoky Mountains, then head to Florida
  • Day 3: Easter Sunday!!! Spend the day resting with family & soaking up some sun by the pool
  • Day 4: Visit my Dad and family south of Sarasota, Fl
  • Day 5: Relax by the pool, Shopping, Watch the Sunset on Siesta Key
  • Day 6: Visit Grandma Shorty in Winterhaven
  • Day 7: Visit Mote Aquarium & Big Banyas Family Bash on Anna Marie Island
  • Day 8: One last swim in the pool then Leave Florida and head to Kentucky
  • Day 9: Explore Mammoth Cave National Park, Hike the trails, Take a Cave Tour, Earn Junior Ranger Badge #1
  • Head home
  • Day 10: SLEEP!!!

Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium

We met up with our Banyas family and spent the day checking out all that Mote Aquarium had to offer. It was such a blast! Anytime we can sneak something educational into our family’s vacations then we are all for it! My kiddos are like sponges and not only want to have fun but they want to learn….they are so curious about the world around them and I want to keep taking full advantage of these years and giving them as many opportunities to explore everything they can. They will carry these moments with them for a lifetime.

I could’ve easily watched these jellyfish all day…they were so mesmerizing.

Lionfish & Jellyfish…oh my!

This Seaturtle loved Madyson…he even came over to say hi….or to high five her…we are still not sure which.

I am IN LOVE with these manatees! Aren’t they the cutest??!! I swear they are holding hands! or Fins! Clearly I need to study Manatee Anatomy a bit more.
Uncle Mike didn’t get a high five….
Our family especially loved the hands-on exhibits….here is Aunt Diane hanging with Eden getting ready to touch some sea creatures….
Out of everything we saw that day, these 3 sea creatures were the coolest of them all…
They also have Sharks at Mote Aquarium!!!!!

This particular Shark was a bit too excited to be in our pictures!

We are so thankful for the friendly staff who volunteered to take a BIG group picture of all of us! Yay for that!

What a fun day! It was very low key, with lots of things that kept the kids busy…but not so fast paced that we were worn out at the end. If you are ever in the Sarasota area, you must check it out!

Anna Marie Island

We spent our very last night in Florida with our extended Banyas crew enjoying a cookout, Aunt Cheryl’s yummy margaritas, and lots of great conversation…We are so thankful that we were able to connect with so much family!

Aunt Diane and Uncle Mike had fun hanging out with “Chicken Little” cousin Jessica’s pet rooster.

Our Last Bit of Beach Time

After all of the family festivities, we headed to the beach on Anna Marie Island right before sunset…thankfully Aunt Cheryl’s place is within walking distance of the beach! Close to sunset is absolutely our favorite time to head to the beach. In the evening you can enjoy less crowds, less threat of sunburn, a bit cooler temperatures, and gorgeous gorgeous light! We spent our last night in Florida playing in the sand, searching for seashells, and enjoying the ocean….all of us absolutely loved it! What makes this even more special is that The Hubs used to come to this exact same place when he visited his grandparents as a child…don’t you just love passing down traditions like this to future generations?

Next time we come to Florida, I vote we spend 90% of our time by the ocean….oh how I LOVE it so…

Oh my stars! The Hubs found a mermaid!

She’s a beauty! I think we’ll keep her!

Eden spent most of her time exploring the sand and digging up little sea creatures….while the other 2 kiddos enjoyed the water and dove into the waves….it was so good for our souls to unwind like this before packing up and starting our long journey home.

I Want to Be Wild, Beautiful and Free Just like the Sea

Coming Up Next : Banyas Family Road Trip Part 6 – Mammoth Cave National Park

Banyas Family Road Trip 2015 – Part 4 – Siesta Key

So far our road trip was packed with places to go and people to see…

We made time to spend with The Banyas’, The Carter’s, and even Grandma Shorty…and we also hit up Gatlinburg Tennessee on the way down where we connected with my dear friend Jenny and her girls. So far we had made so many pretty amazing memories and we still had more to come…

Our Very First Family Road Trip was already shaping up to be a HUGE success!

Our Map


Our Road Trip Itinerary

  • Day 1 : Leave our home in Michigan at 5:30am and head to Gatlinburg Tennessee
  • Day 2: Spend the morning and afternoon exploring Gatlinburg, and some of the Smoky Mountains, then head to Florida
  • Day 3: Easter Sunday!!! Spend the day resting with family & soaking up some sun by the pool
  • Day 4: Visit my Dad and family south of Sarasota, Fl
  • Day 5: Relax by the pool, Shopping, Watch the Sunset on Siesta Key
  • Day 6: Visit Grandma Shorty in Winterhaven
  • Day 7: Visit Mote Aquarium & Big Banyas Family Bash on Anna Marie Island
  • Day 8: One last swim in the pool then Leave Florida and head to Kentucky
  • Day 9: Explore Mammoth Cave National Park, Hike the trails, Take a Cave Tour, Earn Junior Ranger Badge #1
  • Then head home
  • Day 10: SLEEP!!!

There’s Always Time for a Siesta Key Sunset

We were thrilled to make lots of time for family and friends….those moments are such a blessing…but we felt our time in Florida quickly passing us by without enough time to reset, recharge, and to unplug again from devices and even people and just BE STILL as a family. We needed to head to the ocean…where the salty air fills your lungs while you gaze upon the water crashing into the shore and instantly feel calm wash over your soul. We needed this like we needed air to breath…

We quickly realized this would be our ONLY NIGHT we could make this happen…

We couldn’t leave the area without at least spending a little time at Siesta Key Beach...after all it was voted The Most Beautiful Beach in America because of its gorgeous blue waters, and snow white sand. Its breathtaking! I used to visit my Grandma Dorothy every year not far from here during spring break or on my holiday breaks in college…and she would bring me to Siesta Key to soak up the sun. She LOVED showing off how white the sand was…I’m so glad she shared this treasure with me and now I had the chance to share this with my kiddos too.

Just as the mountains have always felt like home and awakened something in me that needed to be stirred…the ocean always helps me to put to rest some things that weigh me down. Here I can quiet my mind. Its the perfect place to find stillness and to reflect on the blessings we have as a family….to let go of the things that haven’t gone as planned….and truly enjoy being in the moment.

Thank you Lord for providing places as beautiful as this to quiet my soul

Live in the sunshine. swim in the sea. drink the wild air. -emerson

We headed from Palmetto to Siesta Key with only a few hours until sunset…and we got there just in time to enjoy the beach, and watch the sun dip beneath the ocean right as a storm started rolling in….it made the most beautiful light for pictures! So naturally I forced my kiddos to pose for my camera….this is what they came up with all on their own….

such goofballs! I LOVE them so much more than they will ever know!

the ocean is not much different from Lake Michigan where we spend our summers….the kids are used to small waves, but they weren’t too sure about salt water….

these 4 souls are my whole entire world….
I decided that this light was too gorgeous to not get more pictures with me in them too…so we handed off my camera to Harrison who took this shot of me and The Hubs….can you tell I was slightly nervous that he’d drop it in the sand? ha! He did a great job right? We have many future photographers in my little crew!

Then we took a selfie…I might have to invest in one of those awful yet amazing selfie sticks because of my short arms!

We spent the rest of that evening watching the kiddos play in the water while we snuggled on a blanket, with our toes in the sand, waiting for the last bit of light to disappear…

I could’ve stayed there forever….

The sunset was so gorgeous, but then the big storm we were watching from afar came rolling in fast, and we knew it was time to go. We almost made it all the way back before it started pouring on us right before we got to our car. It wasn’t so bad to get caught in the downpour…the fresh rain helped us to wash away some of the ocean’s salt that had been stinging our sunburned skin…it reminded me so much of that song that says:

What if your blessings come through raindrops

More days like this please….

Coming up Next : Part 5 Mote Aquarium & Anna Marie Island

Banyas Family Road Trip 2015 – Part 3 – Make Time for Family

Roadtrippin’ to Sunny Florida

This year our little family set our sights on an Epic Family Road Trip for Spring Break…we wanted to escape the cold in Michigan and head to beautiful sunny Florida. It was our very first road trip as a family, and we weren’t sure how everything would go…but we were up for the challenge. Day 1 had only a few minor bumps in the road, but we made it Gatlinburg Tennessee and spent a very short day exploring….

Now it was time to make our way to the Sunshine State!

Our Road Trip Itinerary

  • Day 1 : Leave our home in Michigan at 5:30am and head to Gatlinburg Tennessee
  • Day 2: Spend the morning and afternoon exploring Gatlinburg, and some of the Smoky Mountains, then head to Florida
  • Day 3: Easter Sunday!!! Spend the day resting with family & soaking up some sun by the pool
  • Day 4: Visit my Dad and family south of Sarasota, Fl
  • Day 5: Relax by the pool, Shopping, Watch the Sunset on Siesta Key
  • Day 6: Visit Grandma Shorty in Winterhaven
  • Day 7: Visit Mote Aquarium & Big Banyas Family Bash on Anna Marie Island
  • Day 8: One last swim in the pool then Leave Florida and head to Kentucky
  • Day 9: Explore Mammoth Cave National Park, Hike the trails, Take a Cave Tour, Earn Junior Ranger Badge #1
  • Then head home
  • Day 10: SLEEP!!!

Our Map

Besides the obvious perks of enjoying some Florida sunshine…we wanted to make our trip about Family as much as possible.

Before we left on our trip, we tried to loosely plan out each day so we could make the most of our time…afterall once we arrived it Florida, we only had 5 full days to cram everything in. We kept FAMILY at the forefront of our minds as we created a schedule that allowed us to see as much family as possible without completely wearing ourselves out. Our goal was to create more lasting memories with some pretty amazing people…some of which we rarely get to see. Life is too short and too precious not to make more time for days like these! So for the next few days we spent our time having great conversations, taking tons of pictures, soaking up each others’ presence…and of course giving and getting lots of hugs and kisses… was exactly what we were hoping for.

Its not what we have in life, but who we have in our life that matters

Once we arrived in Florida, it was 4am….yay for construction season! We spent almost all of Easter Sunday relaxing with The Hubs’ parents at their adorable place in Palmetto, Florida. They are the cutest snowbirds ever right?! We are so thankful they let us crash with them for the week! <3

the kiddos had a blast swimming for hours…and riding in golf carts….livin’ the dream!

Visiting The Carter Family

The next day, were so thankful to also get to spend time with my dad and family south of Sarasota. Living so far from family isn’t easy, so getting to spend time with them was such a treat! I didn’t take nearly enough pictures, because its so much better for me to be in the moment and soak it all in than to be stuck behind a camera…that’s literally how I used to spend far too much of my time. This year has been so much more amazing since I’ve committed to living life more and more “unplugged”.

There were some must have photos that I wanted….and one of those was a picture with my daddy

I probably only have a few of these over my whole lifetime. Somehow the two of us seem to avoid the camera…or we are the ones taking pictures. Good thing The Hubs knows how to use my real camera! This picture needs to be printed out and displayed somewhere in my home for sure!

It was also so very special to be able to see my beautiful sisters…Nicki and Aleia! We are rarely in the same place all at the same time!

and I finally got to meet my little sister Aleia’s boyfriend…they’ve been dating for a few years already…they met in High School and have been together ever since. Aren’t they adorable together? ….even with that creeper behind them

…luckily he even fits right in with all of us (:

Then it was time for a picture of just us ladies…my Step-Mom and my sisters and adorable niece Brooke who just turned 18…how did that happen??!! I am dying to go back and visit them again ASAP!
while we were posing for these…this is what was going on behind us….
and this….
then some of this…

which is why we forgot to get a really good group shot of all of us…and why Madyson, Harrison, Logan and Eden are barely in any pictures from this day…we just couldn’t get them out of the pool! That’s ok…how can you blame them right?


Visiting Grandma Shorty

We are so lucky that so much family only lives about and hour or so away from each other! This made it so much easier to make time to visit everyone that we could without being stuck in the car forever. We woke up bright and early to head to Winterhaven to spend the day with my tiny little Grandma.  She’s insanely adorable, about 4’9″ and has a HUGE personality….

more time with her is always a blast!

 Grandma Shorty wasn’t always called Grandma Shorty

….when I was growing up she was “Grandma Cahours”, then after my grandpa passed away and she remarried she was known as  “Grandma Rutherford”

….then after I became an adult with my own kiddos, she gifted the ladies in our family an adorable cookbook of her favorite recipes that were passed down over the years….and on the cover was the title “Grandma Shorty’s Cookbook”. I’m not certain if she came up with the name, or if one of my younger cousins started calling her that for obvious reasons….but it stuck with me….and I love it! She’s completely adorable and sassy and totally where I get so many of my traits. It was such a delight to spend the day with her in her new place in Florida where she spends the Winter.

While we were there she took us to visit her brother Dave….my great uncle…and his wife Aunt Elaine. I have so many fun memories of him from my childhood….its so great to see how much he’s loving Florida life! See that fish above our heads? This is a replica of one that he caught during one of his many deep sea fishing trips….how cool is that??!!

We spent the rest of the day eating wonderful food, swimming in the pool and feeding turtles off the docks….so glad we didn’t run into any alligators! We were warned to watch out for them and I was a bit nervous.

Before we knew it, it was time to say goodbye to Grandma and head back to home base in Palmetto. We made some really great memories over the past few days and we were so thankful! See you back in The Mitten Grandma!

Stay Tuned for Part 4 ….Siesta Key!!!


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April 29, 2015 - 8:45 am

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