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

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Highs and Lows of Travel

After our week in Ocala we officially began the road trip home. We didn't know at the time that it would still be a week and a half before we got there, but we planned to not have a plan, so everything worked according to plan. So to speak.

We spent a day and a half in Pensacola, touring the Naval Air Museum and the Pensacola lighthouse. We also swam at Perdido Key beach. Again, when I say "we" I mean "they". I sat on the beach in my jacket and read a book or took brisk jogs to warm up while my half polar bear children played in the water for several hours.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Next we went down to Louisiana, staying in a beautiful state park in Mandeville. The park was clean, and it backed onto a big, slow Louisiana river, where one could fish, should that be something one enjoys. One could also sit and read a book, which I, in fact, did. It was also a great place for buying and consuming crawfish.

We drove over the 26 mile bridge on Lake Pontchartrain the next day to go into New Orleans. I have been begging to see the National WWII Museum for years, and Aaron agreed that this was my chance to do it since it wasn't too far out of our way. He's a nice boy. I wandered around the museum for three blissful hours while Aaron and the kids went to the Audubon Aquarium down the road. (They were the same exorbitant price, and, let's be honest, kids would rather see an aquarium than a war museum.)

                                    After surviving the wilds of New Orleans, we felt prepared to handle anything, and were certainly tested on that in the next few days. I won't go into all the details of flats, spares and blow-outs, but I will say that Mississippi is our least favorite state now. The interstates were awful, and by awful I mean driving on them while dragging
a fifth-wheel feels like sailing over high waves in a small fishing vessel.

We stayed the night in Vicksburg, MS, for which I take full responsibility. Not only was the campground in terrible condition, but someone had decided to burn several huge piles of wet leaves just downwind of the trailer sites. At least we didn't have a mosquito problem. We pulled out of Vicksburg the next morning, thankful to still be the owners of a trailer and a pick-up truck, and thankful that none of our home defense devices were necessary. (Yes, I actually slept with a small bottle of mace close at hand.)

Friday, April 17, 2015

One Whole Week at the Same Location!

When we got to central Florida, it felt like spring had finally arrived. The grass was green, the trees were green, and there were saw palmettos and southern live oaks in abundance. It was time to stop and take a breath. Spanish moss covered everything, and I do mean everything. We looked like tourists, staring up at the trees with our mouths open. (a dangerous pastime in any situation)

They don't kid around with their Spanish moss in Florida.
We spent an entire week at a little RV park in Silver Springs, which is essentially a suburb of Ocala, FL. They even had a swimming pool that was well-maintained and perfect for kids. Granted, ours were the only kids there, but they didn't really mind. We went to parks, climbed trees, swam with the local retirees and played shuffleboard and Bocce ball. I even went to the community Trivial Pursuit game one slow afternoon.

Southern live oaks are the best climbing trees!
While there, we also went to nearby Dunnellon, FL, to vist I-TEC or The Indigenous Peoples Technology and Education Center. It is an organization that uses technology and innovation to prepare the indigenous church to reach their own neighbors and others with the message of the gospel. It's a fascinating place, with a unique ministry, and I would encourage anyone who wants to know more to check out their webpage and watch some of their videos.  Steve Saint, (son of Nate Saint), started the organization, and he and his family continue to do great work there.

Rachel Saint's Chair
The Main Spring and Swimming Hole
After our tour of I-TEC we went to Rainbow Springs State Park. It was a lovely place to visit, and I would highly recommend it to other travelers through central Florida. The springs are impressive and beautiful, and there is year round swimming if you can handle water that is perpetually 72 degrees and crystal clear.

Goggles are Fun When the Water is Clear!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Life is a Field Trip

After we left Virginia, we spent a few days working our way towards warmness. We spent two nights on the Outer Banks of NC, walking the ground at Kill Devil Hills where Orville and Wilbur Wright flew the first powered flight, and learning about the Lost Colony on Roanoke Island where we stayed. We all wrote down our theories on the provided cards in the Visitor Center. Aaron's may have involved Kaiju and a Tardis.

Then it was on to South Carolina for one night and Georgia for the next. We met the infamous John, part of which is seen in the picture below. He walked over with his coffee mug and talked non-stop while Aaron tried to set up the RV. He offered advice and criticism in a constant stream, which I thought was hilarious from the safety of inside. As you can imagine, Aaron was less than thrilled.

The next two nights were in an exceedingly low rent trailer park in Palatka, FL. In that park the other patrons were almost exclusively long-termers who had chosen RV living as a last resort. Let's just say they were comfortable with a different standard of cleanliness and personal hygiene than we were used to, and had decided that cheap furniture from...somewhere...made more convenient firewood for their outdoor fire-pits. Throughout the evening, Mim would say things like, "Mom! They're burning a chair now!" or, "Mom! Now it's a little table!"They were all very friendly, though, and this was not the campsite where we felt the least secure in our travels. That was yet to come (Vicksburg, MS, I'm talking about you!)

While we were in the area, we spent a day in St. Augustine, touring a Castillo from the 1600's and swimming in the Atlantic Ocean. I say "we" but I did no swimming. I sat shivering on the shore in my long-sleeves and blue jeans while Aaron and the kids cavorted in the waves. It was cold (upper 60's) and very, very foggy, so we didn't think about sun screen, but since they kids spent several hours outside they were like little steamed shrimp when we got back to the trailer. Lesson learned.

There is a little park in Palatka, FL called Ravine Gardens, and we spent a nice evening walking around there. We found a geocache and picked out a little blue robot guy that Mim named "Steve". He dances when you wind him up, and she has since used him as a tie breaker in discussions with her brother. "Steve agrees with me. Let's go that way."

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Sweet Friendships, Right Off the Vine

Two great volunteers - Mim W and Mary Lou
We spent the second week of March with a family who feels like part of our own now, but who were almost complete strangers when we pulled up to their vineyard on Saturday afternoon. Mim W. came to Crisfield in January as a short-term volunteer. She did a whole lot of drywall mudding and sanding and still wanted to see her crew leader again someday. She told Aaron and me that we were welcome to come stay with her and her family on their vineyard in the Shenandoah Valley.

Sherando Lake, still iced over

We planned to spend a few days with the W family, but they were so hospitable and fun that we stayed a whole week. Either they were good actors, or they actually had a good time with our family too. We not only were able to visit with the W's, but our former project director, Alvin, lived in the same town, and Ms. Mary Lou, another MDS volunteer, was also able to join us for a morning hike.

It was a very full week. We got to hike on the Appalachian Trail, climb a mountain, go on a homeschool co-op field trip, visit a museum, bowl, shop, work in the vineyard, and just generally have a wonderful time in what Miriam called "our home in Virginia."

The actual Appalachian Trail
       Mim W. has a daughter and her family (whose names will be changed here) living almost next door, and they homeschool their two boys. That means the kids got to play with other people close to their age, which they really enjoyed. "Zack" was a real trooper, hiking and throwing snowballs and playing board games as if he's known us all his life. His four-year-old brother, "Silas", was one of the cutest kids ever, and played right along with the others with no trouble. Their instant friendship was one of those little things that make homeschoolers laugh when people say our kids aren't "socialized."

We went on a field trip with this family and they made it a fun experience, despite the weirdness of the museums and cave that we visited. In fact the whole day was pretty hilarious, and we accidentally taught "Silas" the word "creepy." In our defense, it was a series of museums by a guy who not only purchased his own tourist cave, but also collected giant animatronic parade floats and shop window displays.

Giant Zombie Bears!

We left the Valley with homemade grape jelly, juice, and various canned goods and other things. It was a great week, and we're eager to go back and visit someday when the grapes are growing and we can help with some of the other things that Mim and her awesome family will be doing.
Mim and Zack dig a hole for a new vine
Zaya learned to drive the tractor

Working even a tiny bit with grapes make you think about all those parts of the Bible where we are compared to grapevines. I have a little better understanding of those now, and I look forward to learning more someday. There's nothing like pruning or carefully tying a vine to make you think of the 'fruitfulness' of your own life.
Mim W and Mim T made a great team.