Though all love originates in God and is for that reason God's own love, yet we are permitted to catch and reflect back that love in such manner that it becomes our love indeed, in much the same way that sunlight reflected from the moon becomes moonlight. - A.W. Tozer

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Thoughts on Storms and Shelter

 Our family is preparing for the onslaught of Tropical Storm Hermine (not to be confused with the storm from '98 by the same name). Because we're officially Floridians now, we're preparing by...changing our swimming plans, really. That's about it.

I was always so impressed as a child when I saw the pictures of Tropical Storms on radar, and I know they can be serious sometimes, but our experiences thus far have been underwhelming. Last year, Tropical Storm Colin actually had less rain the month preceding it, and the wind around our area was hardly recognizable as wind to Midwestern snobs like us.

I have friends who have lost homes in Hurricanes in the past - brutes like Andrew and the like - but that is not something we've had to deal with yet. So far I'll still take hurricanes over tornadoes any day. I like the week of warning we get before the landfall of major storms.

Which brings me to my wider point, really. I can't help but draw a direct correlation between the storms around me, and the storms in my own life and the lives of people I love. Sometimes they come like a tornado, and we're stunned, swept away, our lives destroyed in an instant of panic, and then it's over - the sudden death of a love one, an accident, a disaster.

Other storms send out warning clouds - a diagnosis, a failing marriage. The pressure changes; the air blows from a new direction. You know the storm is coming, and you know it won't pass quickly. It may blow itself out and be nothing but a gentle rain by the time you feel its wrath, or it may blow up into something that takes away everything you love, drowning your previous existence in floods of tears.

In either case, the tornado or the hurricane, we do not have the strength to survive that storm alone. We cannot, by sheer willpower, stand outside and curse the wind and keep our footing. They are forces beyond our strength, and it doesn't matter how stubborn, certain, or courageous we are.

As Christians, we don't have to stand alone through these disasters. I think we forget. We try to prepare ourselves by pushing away our fears and swallowing our grief and being "tough", being "survivors". We do not have to be the strong one. We do not have to stand out and face the storm alone. We must run for shelter if we are to survive.

Christ is our shelter. He will hold us through the storm: either by keeping our heart in his hands, and carrying us through the rubble when it's over, or by taking us home to be with Him, where storms will no longer rage, and there is perfect peace.

We watch the storms approach, knowing we have a haven - knowing we don't have to be strong -
and there is rest there.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Visitors Make Us Happy

Walking at the Blue Run
We were excited to have family visit last week and tried to show them our favorite parts of Florida in a whirlwind tour.

My young nephew, "Blaze", got to taste honeysuckle, see a couple baby alligators and a racoon, walk much longer than any three-year-old could ever want, and eat two bites of a hamburger at a restaurant by the Rainbow River. Food is so boring, and there are always better things to do.

We went to I-TEC and visited Aaron, who is busy training some  missionaries with the UAV's. They did flight tests on a few new ones yesterday, and there were no crashes, which is always a big relief. Every crash teaches them something new about what works well and what shouldn't be replicated, but it's still hard to watch all that time and effort crash into a tree or, worse, get lost forever in the Cross-Florida Greenway.

After lunch we swam at the headsprings of the Rainbow River. The water there is a brisk 72 degrees year round, which means this Mama just watches from the dock while the kids do their imitations of polar seals. They have fun; I have fun. It's a win-win. Blaze enjoyed it, but the cold was finally too much, and his parents wisely pulled him out when his teeth were chattering too much to carry on a coherent conversation.

Look at the bottom center for the baby gator.
The moral of the story is: Come to central Florida! We have cool stuff to show you, and we like visitors!

Best water for goggles ever!

A bandit checks out his next mark.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Mostly Sunny and Lots of Chlorphyll

Spring, otherwise known as Summer- Part One, is beautiful here in central Florida. There is so much green! I've even been able to grow a successful garden, thanks to the raised bed installed by the previous residents. The kids have been swimming for a month now (off and on, you understand), and our jackets are hanging forlorn behind the laundry room door.

Well, that's not quite true. I still use my jackets regularly, but it's only because the stores around here believe, I mean BELIEVE, in air conditioning. It's like they want you to forget you live in Florida when you enter a Wal-Mart. We keep our house a comfy 78-80 degrees, and one of our cars doesn't even have a working air conditioner, so church, stores and medical offices are always a shock.

Our aquaponics tanks are still filling and draining just as they're supposed to, and the plants are all growing well. Again, I have to say that's not quite true. The kale was a miserable failure, but Aaron won't let me pull all the plants out because the tilapia like to eat it, even if no human ever will. The problem is aphids. Those little beggars have just infested our kale. They love it like I love brownies. To each his own, I guess. Maybe I should go stick a brownie in the kale bed and see if they'll move to that...

A rotten tree was casting too much shade on the grow beds, so Aaron Bunyan and the trust I-TEC chainsaw felled the beast. It is currently dismembered in the backyard, some sections stacked neatly as if we'll ever need firewood again, and the rest making a cozy home for wasps. I know this because the kids were supposed to stack the rest yesterday, and the wasps provided a convincing reason for them to leave it alone.

Aaron and his colleagues are working every day toward the goal of getting their UAV's out into the world. They are doing training, fine-tuning the processes, and thinking about how the planes themselves could be changed for the climates or requirements of their future homes. They've only lost one so far. It was eaten by the trees and brush of the Cross-Florida Greenway, and might require a family hiking trip with binoculars to track.


Thursday, March 17, 2016

Splish, Splash, Zoom!

We have a fun new project going at our house. It serves as science experiment, grocery investment, and possibly a way to help people in other places someday if we can get it all working well, and do a little experimentation.

Aaron has been interested in Aquaponics for a while now, and he has spent the spring finding and preparing his grow beds and fish tanks.

We don't have any tilapia yet, but will soon because we finally got some nitrates to show up last night in the water, which means the nutrient cycle is working just the way it's supposed to.

Our two grow beds are named Lydia and Lizzy. (Lydia is a little more persnickety and high maintenance. Jane Austen fans will get it.) They constantly fill and drain using the water from the tanks which contains lots of lovely fish...nutrients.

The water tanks are Legolas Gimli. (Yes, Gimli is the short one.) The Tilapia will be in the back porch in Legolas in an effort to keep the pesky raccoons from treating them like a freshwater buffet.

We've planted quite a variety of plants in the girls, and the warriors are currently protecting the Merry Minnows, but should have some Tilapia to guard soon.

Everything else is going about the same as ever. Aaron is working on the UAV's, getting the instructions and tutorials ready for the first training sessions and the day when they will finally get the planes out into field. The kids and I are schooling, living, cleaning and generally loving Florida, but missing loved ones. In the following picture, they are having Art Class with Ms. Mercy, one of our Grandma-away-from-Grandmas. They love it, and she does such a good job with them. Oh, and I get to use her computer/internet. Everyone's a winner. Except maybe Ms. Mercy, but she claims to enjoy it too.

We still don't have internet, but I...I will survive! (You have to imagine the tune for that last part.)

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Working, Living, and Loving the Weather

Once again, it's been too long since I've been able to write anything here, and I apologize. AT&T, though, has to bear at least as much of the blame as I do. We still do not have internet, despite a few false hopes we've been given throughout the months. It's very frustrating. I had planned several things for this year that are simply not working, since I don't have regular access. There are several friends who have been very generous and allowed us to use their wi-fi, for which I am very grateful.

Right not, for instance, we are at Mrs. H's house. The kids are taking art classes from her, which is wonderful. They've painted, drawn, shaped clay, and more. It's so nice to have friends who can fill in the gaps of my teaching skillset. She is patient with them, and a great teacher. She had nine kids of her own, so that explains a lot.

We've also been able to get outside and enjoy the beautiful Florida winter. The produce stands here run year-round. It has made cooking and providing healthy options for the family ten times easier. Although it was freezing cold (OK, almost freezing) when the kids did the "Marathon" in Ocala last weekend, most days have been wonderful, and the kids still wear t-shirts and shorts. Compared to this time last year when we were parked in our RV next to the frozen Chesapeake Bay, even the marathon was positively balmy.

In fact, a couple weeks ago we went out on a family hike that we thought would be about four miles in total. We finally go so exhausted, and realized we were still so far from the midpoint of the trail, that we turned around and went back. When Aaron checked the mileage on Google earth the next day, it was eight miles. Eight! I know, all my runner friends are rolling their eyes. Go ahead. The day was warm enough that we had to do some emergency surgery on Mim's long-sleeved shirt. The sleeves made great, if slightly dorky, hats. The were used for a variety of things throughout the trek.

Aaron is continuing to work on the UAV's. This is a tricky time in their development. Now that they've had successful tests, it is tempting to be too optimistic about the time when they'll be ready to send out for use. They want to know that the finished product is so reliable that it doesn't take two engineers and a couple pilots to ensure a safe flight. There are lots of little improvements and corrections, and they want to make sure that they and the eventual users can have full confidence in what they've made. There are already people who have heard about the project and who are interested in having a UAV for their missions work, so there's an added urgency to their work.

We may not have much of an online presence these days, but we're still here. We still appreciate your thoughts and your prayers more than you'll ever know.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Amazon Adventurer Returns

The misty Andes
Aaron spent the last ten days in Ecuador, and he says it was a wonderful trip. They took the UAV's down to test them in the conditions and latitudes they would actually face once in use.

They flew into Quito, then drove down the mountains to Shell Mera. They worked there at I-TEC Ecuador, testing and filming the flights, then flew down into the jungle in a bush plane with an MAF pilot.

At the jungle villages they met many of the Waodani people and had a lot of observers as they prepared for the real test of the UAV (called an RV Jet) that will most likely be used in the future. The villagers were very excited about their presence, and about the idea of a UAV that can carry emergency supplies to other villages in their area of the jungle.

The Team in Tzapino

The flight went very well. The RV Jet flew from Tzapino to Tiwaeno and back to Tzapino, dropping its cargo, a snake-bite kit with anti-venom, and returning exactly the way that it was designed. The villagers, and the engineers, of course, were very excited, jumping up and down and praising God.

One older man especially was so excited he was unable to speak properly. His own wife and son had died from bites in the jungle that happened at night when no one can fly the bush planes. He saw the possibility of this project more intensely than many.

Photo by Brian Reed
While at the village, Aaron also got to meet Mincaye. This sweet older Waodani man was one of the original group that speared the missionaries to death in 1956. Through the faithful lives and ministry of those who stayed down in the jungle, Mincaye learned to "walk God's trail." He has since traveled the world with Steve Saint, the son of the same martyred missionary, and the founder of I-TEC. If you want to know more of that story, I highly recommend the book End of the Spear or the movie by the same name. Of course, there's also an excellent documentary, Beyond the Gates of Splendor, or Wikipedia, whatever you prefer.
Aaron with Mincaye and Ompodae

Thursday, November 19, 2015

It's Beginning to Feel a Lot Like...Summer, Really

Life continues well here in sunny Florida. We are enjoying the balmy temperatures and are amazed every day when we walk outside into the 85 degree November afternoons.

We still don't have internet. I won't elaborate on that particular topic, as it might lead me to say things I shouldn't.

The kids are doing their school work with a minimum amount of fuss, which isn't to say no fuss, but certainly not as much as there could be...or so I console myself. We've found a homeschool organization in nearby Ocala, so they've made a few friends and are being socialized, for all of you that might be concerned about such things.

Aaron and his co-workers are putting the finishing touches on the UAV's, and they are excited about the coming trip to Ecuador. As I've mentioned before, they'll be testing the UAV's with the kind of landscape you just can't get in central Florida. For example, they'll be flying over the Andes to see if the little planes can handle the stresses of wind and elevation. They'll also be taking videos of their flights to use in presentations and to study as well. I hope to be able to link to those videos at some point in the not too distant future.

The kids and I will head to Oklahoma, and Aaron will meet us there when he flies home from Quito. We're looking forward to the actual journey, which will be a long series of field trips if I get my way, but we're especially excited to get back "home" and visit family. 

We really do plan to get internet as soon as we can, and when that magical day comes, I will post much more often. I promise.