Welcome to my blog! If you enjoy my stories, please leave a comment. I love hearing from you!

Monday, February 29, 2016

Too Close to Home, but Still I Have Peace

 
When we spot any similar image on a TV screen, we tend to briefly stop what we're doing. We look to see if it's something important to us, or just some random item from across the country. Sometimes we shake our heads, and sometimes we are stunned. 

Today, I was stunned.

But I didn't hear about it from the television news team. My phone rang.

My daughter was crying.

She said, "I need you to..." I don't remember the words she chose…
Help me focus? No. Talk me down? Maybe. Perhaps. Doesn't matter. She was in reaction mode
and needed to hear something that would make her feel better about her world at that moment.

There had been another school shooting.

Three of her children--my grandchildren--were in lock down.

My first reaction was what is always my first reaction—
God.
He is my strength in times of trouble.

After culling all the information she had on the situation—it happened at a school next to her district; she knows some of the kids there; so far there were no fatalities being reported; two people had been care-flighted to a hospital; they have the shooter—I let God’s peace speak through me. I calmly reminded her that they don’t take dead people to the hospital by helicopter. I asked her if she remembered the school shooting where all the schools nearby got shot up, too. No. I told her she didn’t remember because it didn’t happen. Never (thank you, Jesus) has that happened. I reminded her that Satan loves it when we worry, and what the Bible says about worry. I told her that she needed to stay focused on what was real, and not what she could imagine. 

We talked until she felt a fraction of my peace. Our girls were safe. Today. I reminded her of the temporariness of this world, and that eternity is waiting and Jesus is still Lord. And I meant it.

I did cry today. Once. After I knew the injuries weren’t life-threatening, after my daughter knew her babies were safe and sound, after all was well with our world again… I began praising God with song. Alone in the room, I sang, ‘Praise Him, praise Him, Jesus our blessed Redeemer…’ and the flood gates opened. Happy tears. Rejoicing in the faithfulness of our Lord. I was thankful for being able to remain calm and show that calmness to my daughter. 

It’s because I practice.

The schools have to practice for these kinds of incidents to be prepared. Our armed forces practice to be prepared. Even public speakers practice to be prepared. We also must practice to be prepared. We practice by daily allowing God to be our strength. 

If you practice something often enough,
it becomes your in-the-heat-of-the-moment gut reaction,
instead of the when-all-else-fails reaction.

No, I haven’t perfected it. I could still get caught off-guard by some extreme circumstance, and crumble to the helplessness of this human experience. But my odds are better. Odds are I will call upon the Name above all names. 

Because I have practiced.

How do I practice? In my relationship with Jesus Christ, I talk to Him daily—pray without ceasing. I study His Word. I do not forsake meeting with my sisters and brothers in Christ—especially my sisters! I don’t know what I’d do some days without my great church friends. If ever I have a time of weakness, falling away from that gut reaction to take it to the Lord, I know they will pull me back.

We practice our faith. And practice makes perfect. Perfect peace in the storm.

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.
Please.


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!