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Monday, October 12, 2015

The Last Shall Be First

 Last week, I posted this Facebook status:

I know that's not what Jesus was talking about in Matthew 20. It's just that crazy, random thoughts pop into my head, and if they make me giggle, I tend to share them. But seriously, this is one of my favorite passages of Scripture. You see, I'm one of those workers who were hired in the ninth hour. I didn't make that journey down the aisle to the altar until my forties. February 2001. Right before I married the tall guy.

I know ladies in my church that have been devoted followers of Jesus since they were young children. They have spent their entire lives living for Christ, sharing the Gospel message, and laboring for His kingdom. The time I've spent mentoring children and teens, serving meals to homeless people, etc. is but a drop in the ocean when compared to their service. Yet, when the day comes that I stand before God, I will be their equal. I will receive a denarius. The same eternal reward as these Godly women.

I looked up the dictionary definition of salvation:

When a weather advisory tells us of an approaching storm, we protect what we care about—what we say is valuable enough. Worth saving. Worth protecting from harm. To God, we are worth saving from destruction.

All of us.

The joy in my heart from this promise is especially strong today. My friend's husband received Christ. In his eleventh hour. Short of a miracle, this man's time with us is just that—short. He is battling that dreaded disease that takes so many before their time.

I also have a favorite passage that talks about  another man short on time...

Jesus answered him,

“I tell you the truth, today you will

be with me in paradise.”

Luke 23:43
Do you know to whom Jesus was speaking? The criminal next to him on another cross. A condemned man. A sinner. A dying sinner. Why would Jesus promise the reward of paradise to this horrible man?

He asked.

Then he said, "Jesus, remember me
when you come into your kingdom."
Luke 23:42

Did Jesus ask, "Are you truly sincere?"  Did He ask, "How are you going to prove it?" Nope. That's not how it works.

It is simple. 
You ask. 
He forgives.

No matter where you are, what you've done, who you've been...
None of it matters.

If you've never accepted Christ as your Savior, it's not too late.
Don't wait. We aren't promised tomorrow.

If you have any questions about salvation
through Jesus Christ, ask me.

The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard
1 "For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard.  2 He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.  3 "About the third hour he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing.  4 He told them, 'You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.'  5 So they went. "He went out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour and did the same thing.  6 About the eleventh hour he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, 'Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?'  7 " 'Because no one has hired us,' they answered. "He said to them, 'You also go and work in my vineyard.'  8 "When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, 'Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.'  9 "The workers who were hired about the eleventh hour came and each received a denarius.  10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius.  11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner.  12 'These men who were hired last worked only one hour,' they said, 'and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.'  13 "But he answered one of them, 'Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn't you agree to work for a denarius?  14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you.  15 Don't I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?'  16 "So the last will be first, and the first will be last."

Friday, July 17, 2015

We're Traveling - Florida! Part 3

After all our running around along the gulf coast, it was nice to settle in back home. 
Home being the temporary address at the RV park near Sanford.

Having visited family in this area for decades, I know of many off-the-beaten-path attractions. Anxious for a break from the unusually hot temperatures, I thought a trip to an air-conditioned museum would be nice. I figured Ray would love to see some classic cars, so I took him to The Mount Dora Museum of Speed.

From an autographed guitar collection and jukeboxes to drive-in theater speakers and embalming tools and fluids, this museum has a bit of everything old and odd. There are collectible metal and neon signs, old televisions, antique baby strollers and push/peddle cars, gas pumps and air pumps, model airplanes,  and much, much more, you can spend a lot of time in this small place.

We looked around for almost an hour and still didn't see everything. It's quite a small place, but it's crammed to the rafters! For less than the cost of going to the matinee and having popcorn, we went on a trip down memory lane.

The cars and other items are placed very close together, and the neon lights reflect off all the auto glass. Some areas are cordoned off, making it difficult to see the small details. There are signs, trophies and other collectibles displayed in front of the cars. If you enjoy taking pictures, this place will frustrate you. But if this museum had enough space to properly display their items, it would be huge! Still, we very much enjoyed all the pointing and 'had one just like that' moments.

We returned to that area the next day for a Blue Springs/St John's River cruise. I highly recommend this trip. Don't we look like we're having fun?

The main wildlife attraction here is the Florida alligator   and we saw a bunch!

They were along the shore, floating in the lilies, and swimming across the river. You can't ride down the St John's River and not see alligators.

Some people see these creatures as creepy predators. I see them as a glimpse back to a prehistoric age.  I am fascinated by their power.

I really missed this river. Before my family moved here, we vacationed here. So I grew up water skiing and swimming here. 

Yep, there were gators here then. Nope, wouldn't do it now. 

  The second main attraction here is the manatee. When I was a kid, I swam with them.I remember standing in the clear spring water, watching one of the gentle giants up close, when suddenly I felt the earth move! I had been standing on one.

It's really sad to see all the scars they wear from the boat props. Ironic that, if not for these vegetarians, boat traffic along this river would be more troublesome   choked off by water hyacinths and lilies.

We saw osprey, blue heron, snow egrets, and turtles galore! There is a lot of wildlife along this river, but one of my favorite sites has to be the cypress trees with their knees reaching skyward to the Spanish moss swaying in the breeze.

 Back on solid ground, we spent
 some time walking around the 
grounds of the park.

I like to discover crazy stuff in nature, 
like this palm that appears to be 
growing out of the huge oak tree. 

The palm is actually growing out of the ground 
right behind the oak, and the oak tree decided 
to lean back and wrap around the palm.


One of the things I HATE about Florida is the size of the bugs!
I don't know what this thing is...
But I do know that I don't want to find it inside the camper!

It is probably on the way to becoming a beautiful butterfly.
That is what I tell myself so it doesn't show up in a nightmare.

Along the bank of the spring, there are wooden walkways.
This one leads out to a deck 
from which you can observe 
the gazillion gar and catfish swimming from under the lilies.

 Along the walkways are signs posted, telling you about the
wildlife and history of Blue Spring.

 Note to self: 
When camera shopping, include a polarized lens for taking photos in the sun's reflection.

Just then I got a text from my step-daughter's fiance...
He asked if I'd seen Sasquatch.
Yes, I have!
I couldn't resist sending him
this photo of my 6' 5" husband 
next to the sign that reads, 'Protecting the Gentle Giant.' 

There is a lot of history behind the Thursby House, as water traffic was the major means of settling this area.

This park, with the river boat cruise, is a wonderful way to spend an day, enjoying the native critters and scenery, as well as learning a bit about the history of Blue Spring. 

Sanford also has a river boat cruise that is worth the time. I'll be sharing that in my next post.

I've never been on a cruise ship in the ocean, although the one to Alaska is on our bucket list.
Riverboat travel down the Mississippi is also on my list. I've always wanted to travel down 
the Ohio River, to the Mississippi River and all the way to the Gulf of Mexico
Do you have a favorite cruise that you've taken, or one on your bucket list?

Sunday, June 28, 2015

We're Traveling - Florida! Part 2 - Sunset on Anna Maria Island

I really enjoyed the day we spent on Anna Maria Island,
but I was most eager to be there for the sunset.

We arrived back at the beach
as the sun was getting low
in the sky.



Unfortunately, the clouds rolled in...


...but that didn't stop me from 
getting lots of colorful photos.

Over 150.
No, I won't post them all.
You're welcome.

My favorite photo-bomber...
Is there any sound more beautiful than the surf? Okay, baby noises. But still...

I have never seen such 
intense yellow in a sunset.

This photo doesn't do it justice.
Imagine radio-active egg yolk.

I just love how 
the evening light
turns the beach blue!

Well, time to roll up the awning
 and head back 'home' to Sanford.

I'll be spending a month
in this area next winter.

I'm sure to get some good photos
of the sunset in all its glory!

In upcoming posts,
you'll see photos from
a cool car museum and
a river cruise or two.

Friday, June 19, 2015

We're Traveling - Florida! (Part 1)

We planned a month-long trip to Florida for March, but things got in the way and made us postpone until April.  GOOD THING! We could never have pulled the RV out of the driveway in March. SNOW. ICE. WINTER. OHIO.

So I said, "At least it won't be July weather..." WRONG. Check out the temperature on the mirror.

Last year I spent six weeks there with below normal temps from February through April. The locals froze, but I loved it. This year made up for that.

Last year, I also spent those six weeks living out of a motel room. UGH. It was so nice this time to have my own 'home' with me.

Twelve Oaks RV Resort in Sanford was our home-away-from-home for most of April. I reserved it for the whole month, even though we wouldn't be there the entire time, it saved us $$$ by paying the monthly rate over the weekly. And in the hot Florida sun, it only cost us around $40 in electric to run the AC 24/7.

We spent a few days in Sanford visiting family before heading south to Bonita Springs. I didn't take any photos of our campsite there, but here is one from the website of Bonita Lake RV Park. It's not a shady village like the Twelve Oaks, but it was roomy enough and in a good location.

Ray wanted to visit the Everglades and take an air-boat ride, so I booked three nights here. (I have been through the Glades and had an awesome ride years ago.) I had an ulterior motive for staying an extra day...

I got to not only meet, but spend several hours with my favorite author! I became friends with Terri Tiffany through her blog, and after many years, we finally got to meet face-to-face. Our husbands enjoyed visiting, too. We met for dinner and, as you can see by this photo, we sat and talked until late in the evening.

If you aren't familiar with Terri, I wrote about her on my other blog here and here. (There's also a better picture of us there.) I look forward to spending time with her again when I'm in Florida. Her and her husband are the nicest couple!

  Ray did get his air-boat ride. 
We went to Cory Billie's which wasn't far from Bonita Springs, 
just outside of Naples.

You can tell from this photo...
 He. Wants. One.

 This business owns acreage in the Everglades, and had canals cut through for the tour. It was a little disappointing. My first ride was through long grass, across bogs, etc. This tour just winds back and forth through their canals, except for a few spots where it opened up. Most of the area looked like this photo.

In several places we rode through narrower passages lined with mangrove trees. Aside from birds and the 'kept' gators at the office, we didn't see any wildlife. Our guide did point out some trails through the sand that he said marked the path the gators took across the land.

The people were really nice and we had a good time. I would give it three stars.

From Bonita Springs, we headed north to Manatee State Park near Bradenton. Some friends of Ray's were camping there, so we grabbed a spot for one night before heading back to Sanford. Would have loved to stay for two, but they were full for the weekend.

State parks are so much nicer than private RV parks. They might not always have a nice laundry or pool, but the sites are typically more separated. This park was more spacious than the average park. We will probably stay here again, as it is very near Tampa Bay.

 It looks open behind the camper because the lake is back there...

I had a view of the lake from
 the back bedroom window!
There was nothing between our campsite 
and the lake--just wilderness.

This guy had a lot of relatives in the area.
Sorry I didn't get a better picture of them.

The park was close enough to
the coast that we drove out to
Anna Maria Island.

The traffic was enough to convince me I would never live there.

Bucket List: Put my feet in the Gulf of Mexico.  Check!   :-)                                                       Ray and I had a wonderful walk to the tip of the island with his friends. The white sand was beautiful. And except for the areas very near parking lots, the beach was fairly empty. 

 I love the dunes! I wish I could park our RV here at the point!
I wonder if I would love living there as much as I do our farm...

Look what Ray found swimming at his feet!

He quickly returned it to the gulf waters.

We could have stayed much longer,
but our fur baby was waiting for us...

...so we headed back across the bay to the mainland and Manatee State Park.
Of course, we went back for the sunset! I'll post those pictures next time.

For now, I'll leave you with this random photo of Florida cattle.
I felt sorry for them having to live in such a hot place!

Monday, May 18, 2015

We're Traveling - Shawnee State Park

 In late October, we spent a few days at Shawnee State Park...by accident. Accident?

We had seen photos from Shawnee Lookout Park near Cincinnati, and wanted to spend a few days there before all the leaves were gone. It was one of those late-night internet research things, looking for a campground nearby. I booked our site and went to bed. The next morning, I realized the address was southeast and not southwest--115 miles from our intended destination. Oops! How the heck did that happen?

So the first thing I learned from this trip was to not book late at night...
...unless we're ready for adventure!

After looking at the map and photos from the park, we decided to go there anyway. The 1,095-acre park is deep in the middle of 63,000-acre Shawnee Forest--the largest forest in Ohio, and the trails are along the edge of 51-acre Turkey Creek Lake. The hiking trails take you completely around the lake, with a side trail leading to the hilltop lodge and conference center.

The park has a very welcoming camp office.

 The campsites weren't as secluded as 
some state parks, but their sites 
were all a nice size.

Across the lane, the sites backed
up to a beautiful stream.

The weather was perfect!
The skies were clear and blue!
Ray was more than ready to explore!

The trail head was pretty.

We hiked from our campsite (D) around the north side of the lake (C to B) up the hill to the 
lodge (A) back down and around the south side of the lake, past the campground and back.

I mentioned in my last post
about the lousy camera.

A new one is on my
shopping list.

But trust me, this
creek was pretty!

I spotted this creature
just ahead of me
on the trail.
They are very rare.

 Even though a lot of the leaves had already fallen, there were plenty of colorful trees remaining.

The lake was so inviting!

(Note to self: take the 
rowboat next time.)

Electric motors only.

Just like when we go shopping,
Ray finds a bench and
waits patiently...

...and waits...

...and waits...
I love that this side of the lake has a few places to sit and enjoy the view.

At the end of the lake,
we found a stretch of moss
laid out like a pathway
to the Emerald City.

I was tempted to slip off my sneakers!
It felt like the cushiest carpet.

I could really bore you 
with tons of photos of  
trunks, leaves, rocks, 
roots, bark, fungi, etc.

I'll spare you.

But I had to share this photo!

Isn't this so cool?

There is an advantage to 
being a late riser...

By the time we reached
 the end of the lake,
the sun was at a
nice angle for

After hiking up the hill to the lodge, we were ready for the downhill hike back to camp.
The reflections of color on the surface of the water were amazing.
Imagine these scenes in peak color!

I really loved the way
this lone pine stood
on the point.

I'm not a hunter,
but looks like a nice
spot for that blind.

I imagined throwing
a sleeping bag there,
and counting the stars...

This branch hung so far
out over the still water,
and then decided to
shoot for the sky!

Imagine peak color here...
It was late in the afternoon and the sun was getting low in sky.
It made for beautiful pictures from that side of the lake.
But there was a downside to our timing...

It turns out that the trail on that side weaves up and down the hills,
away from the shoreline in many places. Even though it was not yet
late in the day, it was growing darker in the woods. The trail was
rougher on that side, and I was growing anxious to reach the end!
The dog got so tired that Ray had to carry him up a few hills.

I started to worry about getting lost. You hear those stories...
We didn't know it would take us so much longer on that side.
I don't know if we passed a fork in the dimming light,
but we ended up past the campground.

I was quite relieved when we looked
down and saw the tops of campers!

I was tempted to leave the trail
and head straight down the hill.

Next time, we will start out on
the other side of the lake, while
the sun is bright in the sky!

After we're tired from hiking,
we can take the easy route
back to camp.

But we will go again.

Note to campers: the electric on these sites was by the road instead of at the back of the pad.
If you're newbies, make sure you have extra length on your power cord.
We now carry 75 feet! Next time we can get farther off the road.