Savoring Life in General
It took me longer than usual to find my word for 2024. It was a few days before the New Year when I asked God to reveal it. By the time the “ball dropped,” it came to me: SAVOR. Was it an ad for a restaurant (we do have a breakfast place by that name in Wilmington) that brought it to mind? Maybe it was a devotional. I don't remember. But what I do recall was an “ahhhhh, yes—that’s it”!
Lately, I've noticed I'm slowing down. I think it's part of the normal process of aging. I can't multi-task anymore. I have a need to accomplish my tasks one by one, not three at one time. Normally, that would stress me, but lately, I'm enjoying that ‘one thing’ I’m working on at the time. There’s a calm in my day, and a spring in my step. It's a joy to accomplish those tasks because I don't feel pressed or rushed. Partly because I've learned to space out my appointments, tasks and errands. I try not to be out around the town more than once a day—or once every two days.
And Mary said, "Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her. Luke 1:38
Joseph and Mary began their long journey to Bethlehem with an old donkey, a basket of bread, and a flask of water. And, yes, a small bag of coins. Joseph hoped there would be enough to pay the taxes Rome required, with a small amount remaining for necessities along the way. The journey was long and arduous, extending over hills and across the river Jordan. Being close to delivering her baby, Mary found travel difficult as she bounced and joggled along on a scrawny, aging donkey. But walking would have been out of the question.
I can't even imagine what that would have been like. Creature comforts are usually taken for granted. But not for Mary and Joseph. It was a way of life. So, on with the story. . .
Thankful for THAT???
This year, I’m going to be grateful for all the things I didn’t get or didn’t happen as I wished. And for the prayers God answered in the negative. I’m going to thank the Lord for the hard times — the low times — that knocked the wind out of me or caused me to slip and slide. I'll be grateful for those times I would categorize as disappointments or dead ends, and for people God surrounds me with who keep me humble — those who withhold praise, give criticism, or are uncomfortable to be around.
Why, you ask? Isn’t that a bit unorthodox? Or unconventional?
Yes. Well . . . No.
Is Waiting a Choice?
Unfortunately, you don’t choose to play the waiting game. Normally, it’s forced upon you. Some disciplined folks decide to wait in case something better comes along. Or, maybe they just want to add to their character or develop the Fruit of the Spirit.
During our 16 month nomad journey, we’ve had to wait numerous times. Sometimes, God didn’t reveal the next camp or ministry along our way until a few days or weeks before. In one instance, it happened two weeks AFTER we were intending to move on. As we waited for our new home to be completed, the closing date was moved three times, but thankfully only two weeks at a time. In the end, we waited a total of 4 weeks longer to step foot into our townhouse as new occupants.
This was the first benefit we discovered in our nomad period:
you begin seeing the benefits of doing without or waiting for the desired event or object.
Even though it was frustrating to tote our belongings in two cars the entire 16 months, we began to see a pattern: we were brought to the camps/organizations for ‘such a time as this’. In each instance, we were told we filled a need at just the right time. If you wait with open eyes and hearts, you will see God had a purpose in it all.
In each location, it was necessary to live life a bit differently. We’ve lived in a two bedroom apartment, a double wide trailer, a cabin and lastly, a beach house. Sometimes dishes and bakeware were supplied, but other times, I would purchase items from the local Goodwill, and donate them when we left. Although each place had Wi-Fi, the cabin in the woods had internet connection only during the week, since the source (Wi-Fi portable receiver) would be given to whatever camp director was running the event that weekend.
Which leads to our next point:
You find other ways to navigate your situation while you wait.
I learned to do most of my online author’s tasks during the week, leaving the weekend for outings with my hubby. I also worked long hours in the kitchen every other weekend, so Wi-Fi access wasn’t an issue.
I also learned to brew my tea in a Yeti insulated mug and bake a small cake in a Pyrex food storage container, since I had no baking dishes.
This next one was a surprise:
You discover it wasn’t important to you anyway.
Before we moved, it was my habit to never leave the house without earrings, perfume or makeup. If I ever walked out without any of the three (I warned my husband), you’d know something was not right.
As I left the house early for my kitchen shift, I didn’t want to spend the time putting on makeup or earrings. In fact, the staff urged me to leave my wedding ring at home, since it could get caught on machinery, even while wearing gloves. So guess what? I stopped wearing any jewelry except for special occasions (like church or dinner date/field trip). Even then, I walked out of the house without it, with the exception of my wedding ring.
I also cut down on my beauty routine. No more eyebrow pencil, extra moisturizer or eye shadow. Even eye liner was eliminated on a normal day. I’ve been known to go out to our mailbox in my house dress (which looks like a comfy lounger) without a shower or makeup (horrors) and be met by my soon-to-be neighbors. Wow. I’ve really loosened my standards.
Which lead to this observation:
You find out there was a better solution to the situation anyway, and you had time to think it through.
During our waiting period, I dreamed of purchasing all kinds of gadgets and accessory furniture to organize and enhance our living space, including end tables and coffee tables. Turns out, only a few things were necessary.
I thought I wanted a wooden coffee table with a top that raised to lap height as a surface for eating a meal while watching TV. Well, when I saw this square soft side foot rest that could double as a surface for a tray with drinks and appetizers, I was smitten. There was no turning back! But, it took time for me to analyze our needs.
So, what was the grand assessment of of our 16 month nomad waiting journey??
You appreciate what you have waited for so much more!
This one is self-explanatory. It's the best result of playing the waiting game-- GRATITUDE!
What about you? Have you been caught in the waiting game? Are you at the point where you are able to see the benefits of your situation?
Please let me know in the comments below!
In an isolated tropical bush village in Papua New Guinea, one would expect to find creepy critters—and I did. Over 30 years ago, I went to PNG as a single missionary teacher. While there, I experienced millipedes, centipedes (the 4-6 inch kind with crablike legs), and spiders with bodies the size of golf balls (yes, you read that right).
But unexpected situations in North Carolina? No way! This is the USA. With temperate weather, an idyllic coastline, gorgeous sunsets, and stunning mountain vistas, who would expect creepy crawlies?? I soon found out! My first encounter was at Hickory Cove Bible Camp in Taylorsville. It was early summer, and the day was hot, so I wore my flip-flops on my .125-mile uphill trek to the camp mailbox. It was nearing dusk, so as I walked back to our cozy doublewide, I noticed something looking like a long tube stretched across two lanes on the country road. I kept walking, and then slowed. Wait. Was that a snake?? Yikes! Was it dead? Deadly? Ready to slither across the road as I passed by? Would he try to bite me? Oh, great. What a day to wear flip-flops!
I didn't ponder those questions for long. I moved steadily down the road without glancing over at the cold-blooded creature. And I survived. Later that week, I was told he was harmless and had a name: Frank or something similar. Evidently, he comes quite often to the camp, especially to the front porch of the double-wide we are staying in. What?? Snakes climb stairs??! Suddenly, I felt exposed. Unprotected. But still able to sleep at night.
Until. . .
We moved to Fort Caswell, just 50 minutes from our new home, where we are volunteering while we await our move-in date. It's a Baptist camp located at the end of a coastal peninsula, complete with lighthouse, and ships, ferries and fishing boats galore passing by throughout the day. Oh, and there are stunning sunsets, a wild breeze, and an array of seabirds along the shore, calling, catching prey, and sunning themselves on the dock.
So, imagine how stunned I was to find a small snake laying across the threshold between the kitchen and living room in (yes, IN) our beach house (Note the pic at the top). Not knowing what it was, I immediately took a pic and asked my friends on Facebook if it was friend or foe. Turns out, it was a rat snake. Totally harmless. Well, unless, of course, you're a rat.
We had a maintenance man from the camp come and find the source, after we had seen five of these snakes pop up in various rooms of the house—even on the second floor. (Yes, Mabel, it's true— they slither up stairs). He blocked up the hole with foam, and called it a day. Our relief lasted only a day or two, then three more showed up. So bizzare! To this day, we don't know how they get into our living quarters. Thankfully, they are all babies of various sizes.
An Unexpected Web of Intrigue
One day, on our way to work in the cafeteria, we found this beauty just outside the back door. She graced the web like a star. I was shocked because I hadn't seen a spider that large (actual size) since my time in New Guinea. Again, I reached out to my Facebook friends, and they didn't disappoint. I was told it was a banana or orb spider, but both were harmless.
I breathed a sigh of relief until one of the interns showed me a pic of a hummingbird caught in the web of one such creature; life sucked out of him and spun into a coffin to eat later. So sad. Next thing you know, she will be catching rats! Even so, I'm making peace with her. Each time we enter the back door to the kitchen, we say hello. I'm calling her Asmerelda, which seems to fit a brightly patterned spider.
Hide and Seek with Ghost Crabs
You'd think, with my aversion to spiders, I would be fearful of crabs. Not so. For some reason, I consider them comical and cute. Ghost crabs are also shy, and play hide and seek in the bushes. They can be found on the beach at night, popping out of their holes in the sand. But have your flashlights ready—they move fast!
And last, but not least are lizards. They do not strike fear in my heart. But I have been known to strike up a conversation with one, as I did this day. Lizzie is what I called her. And no, this is not a gecko. Their head is v-shaped and a gecko’s triangular.
A Creature of an Unexpected Kind
Although these foes are not alive, they are cause for concern. Sand Spurs are everywhere, so footwear is essential. It is not pleasant to step on one, and they are a challenge to pick out of rugs and shoes without sticking oneself. At least they are not poisonous, nor do they bite.
Although we realize it's hurricane season, we expected to be safe inside our comfy beach house, just yards away from the Intracoastal inlet. Each day, the tide flows in and out (four times a day, evidently), but only in a tropical storm or hurricane is there danger of flooding. We are thankful God has spared us from this disaster so far. But there is another source of possible flooding: water dripping from the porch roof and onto the inside window frame. Here, you can witness our attempt at preventing pools of water in our downstairs kitchen/living room during tropical storm Ophelia. Ahh, yes. The coastal life.
An Unexpected Pleasure
All in all, we are thriving and even enjoying our volunteer work here at Fort Caswell. The setting is relaxing, the staff friendly and helpful, and our kitchen duties workable for our aging bodies. Plus, we have the pleasure of experiencing the hurricane season near a body of water, witnessing the effects firsthand.
God has been good to us every step of our nomad way. But more on that next month. He is teaching us to trust Him in all situations, proving once again--He is enough.
Have you experienced a hurricane? What about a creature invasion? Let me know below!
IS IT WORTH THE WORK? THINGS THAT SATISFY
I never would have guessed that a preschooler would teach me an important lesson about things that satisfy. This past July (and every July for the past 31 years) my hubby and I attended a family Bible Camp at Conference Point in Wisconsin. Our days were full of worship, good food, fellowship, and teaching from God’s Word. And of course there was fun in the sun— everyone’s favorite activity.
As I would rather be on the lake instead of in it, I was satisfied with a front-row seat on the beach where I could people-watch (one of my favorite activities). Kids and adults of all ages enjoyed swimming, diving, playing tag, sunbathing, and chatting. Some were floating on the surface of the water in an inflatable chair.
However, only a subset of attendees were actually satisfied with working during their vacation, and I found that curious. It was the toddlers and preschoolers who were busy digging trenches and building forts, while the older crowd took it easy. One young girl, early on in her task, worked alongside two boys digging a long trench perpendicular to the beach. After a while, the boys got bored and left. But the girl? She soldiered on, like she was engaged in a marathon. Intent on her job, the tike journeyed to and from the lake, filling her bucket with water, pouring it into the trench and then padding back to the lake to fill it again. She must have made the trip 12 times before I lost count.
But what I did note was this: as soon as she'd turn to fetch more lake water the last bucketful would begin slowly seeping into the sand. So by the time she returned, the water had disappeared.
FRUITLESS EFFORT TO SATISFY
I wondered how long it would take before she realized her efforts were fruitless—that no matter how many times she filled the trench, it would never hold water?
Well, soon after I contemplated this, she stopped at one point to examine her work, a puzzled expression forming on her face. I could just imagine her inner thoughts: “What happened to all that water? I know I poured lots in—where did it go?”
And then it happened. The realization was too much. So, with determination, she took a breath and threw the bucket on the sand, then stomped away. Ahh, the youngster finally understood. She had expended all that effort for nothing!
It was a lesson for me, too. How many times had I put energy into something I thought would satisfy, only to be disappointed? A new self-help book that will change my life. A pair of shoes with an arch the ads say will allow you to walk all day in comfort. Classic wicker furniture for our screened-in porch that will fit perfectly. A visit to a nearby tourist spot that promises good food and even better shops.
In reality, the book is shallow and unhelpful. The shoes rub in the wrong places. The wicker furniture is too big for the spot. Most restaurants and shops in the touristy areas are closed on Sunday.
And so on. . .
So what does satisfy? Really, only Christ can satisfy. He has made you and delights in you. He wants what's best and knows what's best for you. Pouring yourself into people and digging into and meditating on God’s Word will change your life. It will bring you peace and contentment. Here’s what the book of Isaiah has to say:
Wow! Can you think of anything more satisfying than to repair the breaches in this world? To restore relationships? To make a difference in people’s lives?
Each one of us has a sphere of influence that no one else holds. Start today—with a friend, a college student or a grandchild. Take them out for a treat. Offer to help them with a problem. Tell them they are in your prayers.
Invest in things that will last. Things that satisfy. Not stuff and meaningless activity, but people. It will renew your heart and give you a fresh perspective on life.
Can you think of one person to encourage or one ministry to engage in that will bring deep satisfaction to your soul? Let me know in the comments below. . .
North Carolina’s Furniture Capitol
In a state that has more than its share of trees, it makes sense that a multiplicity of furniture companies made their home near the foothills of North Carolina. Does the name Thomasville bring anything to mind? If you’ve purchase oak furniture in the past, and in particular, Victorian oak design, the company you bought from was probably Thomasville.
Funny thing—it wasn’t until after we sold our home AND furniture, that it occurred to me this was the brand of furniture we owned. My hubby and I love oak, and I was partial to Victorian Era style. So, we took a Sunday afternoon trip to this quiet town, where one of the furniture companies began.
Thomasville, NC: the Furniture Industry's Roots
When I saw the mural above, the meaning completely escaped me. Standing a few feet from the art work, I couldn’t see the name of the town in the tree’s roots. When I stepped back, I noticed it, and finally understood that Thomasville’s roots were deeply embedded in the furniture industry. See the “fruit” on its branches? You'll find other fascinating art throughout the city by taking a Mural Walk.
The Biggest Chair in Thomasville
Thomasville is noted for the Big Chair—created by to commemorate their town’s history. The original, made of wood, was replaced in 1936 with one that could withstand the elements. It stands proudly near the tiny train station that features a red caboose that is open at times to the public. You can watch trains pass through town at all hours of the day and night via a livestream camera.
The Largest Chest of Drawers in High Point, NC
High Point, a triad city (along with Greensboro and Winston-Salem) is known as the Home-furnishings Capital of the World. Its symbol is World’s Largest Chest of Drawers, towering 36 feet in the air with a pair of socks playfully sticking out of an open drawer as a nod to the city’s hosiery industry. Since 1926 it has been renovated and repainted many times, and disguises a commercial building facade.
The Historic Town of Salem, NC
The original Salem (of Winston-Salem) was home to Moravians, Blacks and Indigenous people in the American South. The historic buildings and interpreters tell the story of its founding. Located near High Point, it's no surprise that Old Salem has an Early Southern Decorative Arts Museum featuring items that would have been created and displayed in homes.
Although the individual buildings were closed on the day we visited, a walk down the center of the street gave us a taste of the cultural history of the early South. Architecture from the 18th century continues to fascinate me. It’s a thing of beauty in my eyes. And who would have guessed that Krispy Kreme Donuts had its beginnings in Old Salem!
For another look at the south, check out my post on Charleston--A Writer's Guide to Travel--one of my favorite historical towns. What are your favorite historical museums? What in particular draws you back to the past? Let me know below!
My MG Biblical fiction "The Heart Changer" debuted in 2019 with Ambassador International.