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!
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!
Challenges are Sure to Come
“Into each life some rain must fall.” —Allan Roberts
Yep, it’s true. No one goes through this world unscathed. Troubles are sure to fall like rain, whether we want them or not. So, if that’s the case, how should we respond?
As far as I can tell, there are only three ways. (If you can think of more, please enlighten me in the comments). You can either resist them by pretending they don’t exist, fight them angrily (blaming others in the process), or accept them, letting the challenges wash over you, knowing that somehow, they will transform you into a better person.
Challenges Are For Our Good
But, accepting them is not so easy, is it? We want to squirm out of them, side step them or squash them, right? If we are a child of God, though, we know He has a plan for our lives, and ultimately, our goal is to reflect our Father.
Sometimes, He uses the ‘controlled burn’ to conform us. Just enough challenges to kill the wayward parts like impatience and jealousy, so new seed can grow into hardy plants that will bear a good harvest (remember the fruits of the spirit?)
Not only do trials make us more like Christ, but when we accept them and allow them to strengthen our faith, in the end, it will bring honor His name. Check out the verses below. . .
1 Peter 1:6-7
Occasionally, we are the reason for the hard times. I know I have used a harsh word in the past, or avoided the truth when asked. I’ve even been jealous or critical, which leads to discontent and depression. No one sees it, of course, but Jesus does. He knows what’s in my heart. And at times, it’s not pretty—and I’m sure it makes Him sad.
Challenges Make Us Stronger
How many of us pray for challenges and trials? Scary idea, eh? But, consider this--we can speed up our goal of being Christ-like by putting ourselves into a situation that requires trust in our Heavenly Father. When everything is going well, why would we need to call out to Jesus?
I have done this a few times in my life. Sometimes, it’s being brave to talk with and editor or agent about my latest project. Other times it’s stepping out in faith, literally, as I walk across a mile-high swinging bridge, or climb a ladder like the one below. You see, I’m afraid of heights. But I was determined to move forward in faith. And I’m glad I did!
I’m not sure if it’s my age (I’m less intimidated), or that my desire to be conformed to Christ’s image is front and center in my heart right now. That, too, could be due to my age, since I have more years behind me that ahead of me.
This nomad journey has at times been a challenge. My time isn’t my own. Neither is my space. And don’t even talk about the issue of mail delivery when we move every few weeks. It’s a nightmare! One thing is for sure. I will appreciate our townhome So, Much. More. when our nomad life is done.
Whoa. I just thought of something. After dealing with this earthly life and our sinful nature all our lives, it will be So. Incredibly. Amazing. to finally step into Heaven and know we are FINALLY HOME and free of all that hinders us!
How have you seen God transform your struggles into something good? Let me know in the comments below!
Letting Go of the Familiar Things
The nomad life can be both freeing and frustrating. Freeing, because I have less stuff to deal with, and fewer responsibilities since I've left my hometown, job, church, friends, and family. Less appointments on my calendar. Fewer options for date night.
But, the nomad life can be frustrating. I don't have the clothes I need for each season because I didn't count on being homeless for a year and a half. Most of my books, files and all of my photos, craft supplies to keep me busy, and, hardest of all, I have only a tiny percentage of my favorite kitchen tools. As I mentioned in last month's blogpost, I'm making do, but it's not the same. I still stubbornly refuse to purchase a new garlic press, even though I need it for almost every dinner I make!
Embracing Gratitude Helps Me Through My Nomad Days
There’s something about being grateful for what I do have, that helps me get through—and even enjoy—my nomad days. Thankful for the roof over my head, and a washer and dryer IN our cabin, and not down the road. Grateful for new (to me) grocery stores that sell organic products and produce. They may not be the brand I'm used to, but they are still organic.
Goodwill has been good to me. I've been able to fill in the gaps in my wardrobe inexpensively, since I did not choose the proper clothing to pack (or not pack), thinking we’d be in our new townhouse by the fall of 2022. Instead, it would be an entire year later. That's four seasons of clothing! I've also found a few pots and pans along with kitchen tools—and even a set of weights.
I've also found ways of exercising, mostly online, Yoga-Go and Grow Young Fitness, both using chairs, since my osteoarthritis excludes me from performing floor exercises. And honestly, the landscape we've encountered is quite hilly and at times, dangerous, as the main road winds around and up and down, mostly through forests. Not a safe environment in which to walk!
But there again, I'm thankful for the ability to drive my car to the grocery store, local restaurants and shopping malls, and a few parks, where I can get out and walk, even for a short while. But I do miss my bike rides around our former neighborhood, and group exercises at the local community center.
One Sunday, we enjoyed a 4.5-mile walk around the largest natural habitat zoo in the world: The North Carolina Zoo We try to explore at least once a week, visiting the larger towns in the area to see the local sights. It's quite an adventure, and you can't beat the price. Another thing to be grateful for in this nomadic life. It satisfies my longings to travel. As long as I'm discovering something new, no matter how small or insignificant, I'm happy!
Embracing the New, the Ordinary and Even the Frustrating
Even something I took for granted—my hairdresser—ended up in a blessing. I found my interim hair stylist after admiring a senior woman’s hair on a visit to a new church one Sunday. She happens to be in the Winston-Salem area, which is accessible from both camps we've volunteered at. And Dara, after I showed her a pic, beautifully imitated my hairdresser Kathy’s technique!
That's another perspective of the nomad life—visiting a variety of churches who worship the same God, but in different ways: some contemporary, others conservative, Some with rock bands and country music, others with traditional hymns and songs led by a small band. We have Christian brothers and sisters everywhere!
And there's always a place to retreat when I need peace and quiet. This outdoor chapel at Camp Mundo Vista is a short (and steep) walk from our cabin, nestled in the Uwharrie Mountain range. It's not my park down the street, nor a place I can bike to, but a quiet respite nonetheless. Another entry for my gratitude journal.
Letting Go of My Idea of Home
A nomad’s home is any place to lay his or her head. Ours at the moment is this quaint camp cabin turned tiny house (yay!) with an added strip kitchen. Spacious and cozy all in one! It might not have comfortable chairs and a dishwasher like our last double-wide, but it’s quiet, safe and has a crockpot and comfy bed! Another change, but we are learning to be grateful and adapt as necessary.
I do whatever I can to make our home livable. In all three locations, I've made sure to have lamps to add ambiance to our environment. Fluorescent lights don't do it for me. So, off I go to our local Goodwill to find the right lamp for our space. Can you see the one in the picture above left? It blends with the pine walls of our cabin. I found it for the incredible price of $3.99 (shade included). And I will leave it behind as a gift for the next occupant, along with extra paper goods.
In lieu of end tables, I got creative and covered a few of the storage bins we carry from place to place. That way, there's no need to clutter the cabin with randomly placed cargo, since we have no closets here..
To summarize, at times in our lives (whether we are nomads or not) we must let go of things we think we need to survive, but in fact, don't. They might be preventing us from living life fully in our sliver years or any stage of life. Because it's when we let go, we see God work in our lives and provide what He knows we need. Isn't that comforting??
Is there anything you need to let go of to enable you to move forward in life? If so, let me know in the comments below!
Well, those are my insights on the nomad life this month. If you (or anyone you know) are a silver sister and would like help in preparing for the next stage of life, click HERE for 10 tips to Prepare You for Your Silver Years and Beyond.
Rethinking My Nomad Life
This post begins my new journey into a life of change. I call it “My Nomad Life.” We all experience change at one time or another, so I hope to give you the courage to flourish in a time of uncertainty and change.
Today, I will share some kitchen hacks I've discovered during our journey. Since our townhouse won't be finished until the fall, my hubby and I have been volunteering at various Christian ministries that offer lodging. We've found it's a double blessing. They bless us with a place to live, and we in turn fill a need neither of us anticipated. And through it all, God is blessing us with a measure of testing and faith—watching Him provide our next location just when we need it.
Why the Necessity for Kitchen Hacks?
So what does that have to do with kitchen hacks? Imaging moving every two to three months to a new location, a different-sized lodging, and an unfamiliar kitchen that does or doesn't have the supplies you normally use to prepare your favorite meals? BTW, if you typically prepare fast food in a microwave, this isn't for you. There are microwaves in every location (including hotels and Airbnb). No worries!
Well, in this nomad journey, I've had to make do with what is available. I can hear some of you say, “What's the problem? Can't you go out and buy what you need?”
I have what I need in our PackRat, but it's hundreds of miles away. Being a minimalist, I certainly don't need an extra one when we finally move into our townhouse. Although I could purchase many of them at Goodwill, we don't have the space to carry them from one location to another. Our two cars, which are essentially our suitcases for a year, are chock full already, and our money has to be used only for necessities.
Kitchen Hacks in Disguise
Some of these are obvious, like using an everyday teaspoon/tablespoon and cup for measuring, as long as it's not a recipe that depends on exact measurements, like a souffle or angel food cake. The large pot with lid I borrowed from the camp kitchen is used for frying eggs, making soup, a casserole, stirfy or chicken cacciatore. After all, pioneers cooked with one iron skillet, and made everything from stew to griddle cakes over the fire.
Since there are no cake or bread pans, I use my Pyrex dish to make a small gluten and dairy-free cake on occasion. And along with my cake, I must have tea! So, in lieu of a teapot, which is packed away, I discovered an alternative: my Yeti travel mug! It keeps my brewed tea (English Breakfast, loose-leaf) hot. I add some honey, collagen, and heated walnut/almond milk. Yum!
This is a favorite hack I accidentally came up with. Since I make all my food from scratch, I like to keep a variety of whole herbs and spices on hand. But, since I don't have the space, I broke down and bought seasoning mixes. Harissa is a North African spice I use in meatloaf or veggies. Curry and Italian seasoning are self-explanatory. Citrus herb is great for steaks, and Herbs de Provence for anything French, including lamb, chicken, zucchini and asparagus.
I had some whole rosemary and stick cinnamon, so I pulverized them in my (believe it or not) coffee grinder, after I had cleaned it thoroughly. Back in my container, I have a coffee grinder specifically for this purpose but hadn't room for it in my travels. Parsley is used in almost every dish, so I dried some fresh organic parsley.
Must-Have Kitchen Supplies
Notice the touches of coastal blue?? It reminds me that some day, Lord willing, we will settle into our home 20 minutes from the Atlantic Ocean. Until then, I will continue to use these hacks even after we move.
No matter the state of your baking sheets (dirty, clean, stainless, aluminum), parchment paper is a worthy investment. You can safely bake on any surface with it, as I have done with meatloaf. Since there were no loaf pans, I formed it on a baking sheet. Easy!
I like to add chopped veggies to almost every meal I make, and meatloaf is no exception. I couldn't live without a processor. I sold my large one and bought this tiny one that is sufficient for our nomadic needs. It can even puree guacamole!
This next hack, although I really wouldn't call it such, is a sharp well-made paring knife (of sorts). This one was a gift from a friend I consider to be a culinary expert. Little did she know how much I depend on this knife! You cannot do without a sharp paring and utility knife.
If you are going to invest in something, make sure it's the best all-purpose knife you can afford. There are so many types to choose from, but this one does all the everyday meal prep work. The next investment would be a knife sharpener if you end up in a place with dull tools. It's a chef’s vexation!
I've managed to make our double-wide trailer (aka The Lodge) a home. All I need is a spot to read and write, and a good hot drink and fragrant candle. I've been a ‘happy camper’ at Hickory Cove Bible Camp. But, it's time to move on. We've had a productive, peaceful and satisfying time here, due to the welcoming nature of the staff. Lord willing, we will continue to bless others as they have blessed us on our nomad journey to the coast.
Which of my hacks have you used? Have you needed to ‘make do’ with something in your kitchen through the years? I'd love to hear how you creatively solved your problem! Let me know below.
My MG Biblical fiction "The Heart Changer" debuted in 2019 with Ambassador International.