Home again, home again, jiggety jog

We have been home now for 18 days! One of our friends chastised us for leaving our blog “unfinished”…asking us not to be like so many other adventurers who never complete the story once they get home! And although it was never our intention to do that, I can see why so many people aren’t able to get back to blogging.

After 6 months away, returning to our “real” life feels a bit like stepping into a whirlwind. We want to be very intentional as we return to make wise choices in what we pick back up and what we leave behind. Life was too busy before we left, and we would like to slow things down. Or, if we can’t slow things down, to focus the action in a particular direction, rather than feeling blown from crisis to crisis. It is quickly becoming apparent that this won’t be easy. But then again, most things worth having aren’t easy to attain! We have faith that God will guide our steps.

So, today will be a little reprieve for me – a chance to look back to last month… and re-enter a simpler time when our world was small (29 feet) and our decisions basic (what will we eat today?, what will we do today?, where will we go today?).

Black fin tuna  - caught just before leaving the Gulf Stream

Black fin tuna Shad caught just before leaving the Gulf Stream

We spent the month of April working our way slowly home. Our port of arrival in the USA was West Palm Beach. The density of people, crazy amount of selection in the grocery stores, flamboyance of advertising, endless cheap dining options, amount of private property (meaning no place to get to shore) and rules regulating boat traffic were all quite a change! Our first meal out was to a sports bar called “Duffy’s”. That night was one of the college basket ball final games and the restaurant was packed to overflowing with cheering fans. There were at least 10 large screen televisions broadcasting different channels. It was quite fun to sit back and enjoy the over-stimulation of all our senses (including the free refills on drinks)!

Sunset behind Peanut Island

Sunset from our Peanut Island anchorage

We anchored near Peanut Island a couple nights and I thought it was worth mentioning. In the midst of all the fees and fancy private shore-line of the decadent Palm Beach area, this city-funded island park was an oasis of freedom. Day use dockage was free and boaters of all varieties were anchoring their boats any old where, some swimming to shore while dodging the ferries bringing picnickers back and forth. A protected snorkeling area had been created and public washrooms and rinse off showers lined the beach. Lovely walking trails and boardwalks crisscrossed the island…and it was all free of charge. Thank you Palm Beach for keeping some natural beauty open to the public.

As an aside, as soon as we were back in Florida, we began seeing Dolphins regularly again. I really enjoyed all the sightings and encounters we had with them during our trip.

Travis had really been looking forward to checking out the ICW (intra-coastal waterway) and crossing through Florida on the Okeechobee waterway. It is a motoring trip, along a connected network of rivers, estuaries and canals. Our route took us past Jupiter Island, the richest zip code in the USA… the Atlantic bank of the ICW was lined with beautiful homes, towering trees and sweeping lawns (and more swimming pools than I have seen in my life). The grand scale of it all made the shore look deceptively close. When Rachel and Shad took the dinghy to a small beach one evening, they looked like ants and we laughed because we had been worried that we had anchored to close to shore!

A modest house along the ICW

A modest home along the ICW

At Stuart (where the kids and I spent a lovely afternoon at a Oceanic conservation centre learning about sea turtles and game fish and patting rays) we left the ICW to head east. The Okeechobee Waterway cuts right through Florida, by way of Lake Okeechobee, a large freshwater lake famous for bass fishing. Besides saving us a couple hundred nautical miles, Travis was excited at the opportunity to go through a number of locks, bascule and swinging bridges. We had to communicate with the lock and bridge masters via VHF radio. This was quite stressful for me, because when I would request passage through on their next lift or opening, I would hear back “Snnrflk blerbl crflfk”. I did not like the feeling of passing under a bridge wondering if the bridge master had said yes or had said “Don’t come any closer or we will close the bridge on you!”

The kids handling the lines in a lock

The kids handling the lines in a lock

Bascule bridge

Bascule bridge

The Okeechobee Waterway is in ‘gator country and we did see quite a few as we motored through the wetlands and rivers. This made swimming out of the question and so as the weather heated up we were sweltering. So, the first afternoon we checked into the Roland Martin Marina, where we knew they had a pool and showers…ah, refreshment. And we got to try Gator tail at their restaurant. The next day was really hot again, but this time our refreshment was brought by a wonderful downpour in the late afternoon. Rachel and I got on our swimsuits and sang in the “shower” on our deck. That night we watched the movie “Singin’ in the Rain” to complete the experience.

The Okeechobee Waterway empties out at Fort Myers, on the Gulf of Mexico. After 3 full days of motoring across Florida, we took it easy and anchored by an island off of Captiva Pass. We had a lovely afternoon swimming, walking the beach, fishing and people watching. Shadrach caught a mullet while standing in the water. This was pretty amusing, as they do not go for lures and he hooked it in its body when it swam past him! A local guy told us how to cook it….but it was not our favourite. From the beach and our anchorage, we could see dolphins swimming and playing. I began swimming out to them, but chickened out knowing that the people beside us had been fishing (successfully) for shark! It was a pretty idyllic evening. We ate our supper in the cockpit and watched fish jumping, dolphins fishing and birds diving! That night, a knocking noise was keeping us from sleep. Rachel got up and went out on the deck to try to figure out how to stop it and then Shadrach realized it was a drum…a Red Drum. The male fish of this species makes the noise to attract a mate by hitting its air bladder with a muscle! Pretty cool.

Now it really felt like we were on the homeward stretch. We took a couple days sailing north back to our starting point in Tarpon Springs. On the way, we stopped at Madeira Beach.  At the tourist trap at John’s Pass, we purchased the mandatory saltwater taffy and had a great time watching pelicans and other birds fight over scraps thrown by fishermen cleaning their catch.

Hungry bird at John's Pass

Hungry bird eyeing the fresh catch below

Ah...the tacky joys of tourist  traps!

Ah…the tacky joys of tourist traps!

At the end of our sailing journey, we anchored near the docks and boat ramps of the Anclote River Park. It was a busy park on the weekend…Travis had fun watching all the chaos as hundreds of boaters loaded and unloaded their boats in the strong current! My aunt and uncle came out for some boating and to help us pick up Sesame (our van). Rachel was very glad to be reunited with Sesame! We enjoyed taking a couple days to shop, clean the boat up, pack up etc in preparation for taking our boat out of the water.

Up she goes!

Up she goes!

Without too much drama, Schemma’s mast was taken down and she was lifted back onto the trailer. We set out the next morning for our week long van-ride home. We really enjoyed this trip. We visited restaurants on our list of “must-tries”. We watched the scenery change from summer back to early spring. We counted road kill again (over 60 deer this time, 15 armadillos as well as a wide assortment of birds, reptiles and rodents). It was apparent that more animals were active (thus run over) in spring! We wandered around the Opryland Hotel one evening in Tennessee and stayed at a hotel with an adjoining waterpark and ride park in Wisconsin Dells. This was quite a change from the Truck stops where we spent the rest of our nights!

We continued retracing our steps with a lovely visit with my Grandpa, aunt and uncle and cousins in Wadena. We crossed the border without incident…which greatly surprised Travis who had envisioned them tearing the boat apart. To re-acclimatize ourselves to Manitoba, we spent two nights at our family’s cabin in the bush. It really did feel good to take time to unwind, and to reclaim our identity as prairie Canadians!

The family cabin

Last stop: the family cabin

We arrived home in Winnipeg on the evening of April 30th. We expected to spend the evening at my parents’ house and kind of sneak back home one night early.

But the kids were far too anxious to see Daisy (our dog). So, we moved the party to our house and had a really warm welcome from both Daisy and (more importantly) the lovely friends we live with. I came home to a really clean house, which was great. Reconnecting with family, church mates and other neighbours made the first week home pure joy! Both our kids have found it easy and enjoyable to jump back into school and have picked up with friendships where they left off. This is a huge blessing. And although Travis and I are wading through the post-sabbatical blues right now, we definitely feel confident we are returning to a life filled with loving community and purpose. It has been gratifying to see that while we were away our community functioned without us and met challenges with wisdom and teamwork. We are so grateful to our friend Dave and his wife Hannah, who took on much more than we had predicted,  looking after our housing business while we were away. They were quite happy to give back the cellphone and keys when we returned!

It feels strange to have this adventure, which we dreamed of and planned for for so long, be behind us. There is a sense of accomplishment mixed with some sadness. We have definitely fallen in love with the cruising lifestyle and left a little of our hearts in the crystal clear ocean waters. It won’t be soon, but we are already dreaming of when we will return!

Bye bye Bahamas!

We have been without internet access since my last post – over three weeks, I think. In that time, we slowly and leisurely made our way to the southern tip of the Exumas, and then made our way slowly and leisurely back up. Something about the knowledge that we are drawing closer to the end of our sabbatical has made each day feel precious.

We have stopped in at so many beautiful islands and had so many fascinating encounters with life around and under the sea. I am the kind of person who likes to experience things with as many senses as possible. Snorkelling through reefs, walking hot, sandy beaches, clambering over rocks, swaying in my hammock – they have all been great ways of immersing myself in my surroundings.

On our way up to the highest point in the Exumas...Schemma is in the backgrounder.

On our way up to the highest point in the Exumas…Schemma is in the background.

We have eaten well –with a number of our meals coming, in part, from the ocean. I have had the opportunity to fry crack conch, although I was very clear that I would not be cleaning the conch, only cooking it! Shadrach and Travis were both very diligent and persistent in learning this complicated, slimy process!

the conch - freshly pried from its shell

the conch – freshly pried from its shell


Crack conch ready to enjoy!

Crack conch ready to enjoy!

We have eaten a number of different types of fish – on two occasions they were given to us by other boaters.

We have read good books and had fun reading aloud as a family. We recently purchased an autobiography, Out Island Doctor by a man in his forties (and in the 1940s) who left his life as a teacher in the USA to start again as a Bahamian resident. His descriptions of the beauty, isolation, swarming sandflies, razor sharp rocks and eccentric, friendly people have been easy for us to envision. Don’t worry – we are not getting any ideas about staying down here. But it is fun to imagine!

It has been fun getting to know our kids better. A tourist we met in Georgetown asked us who we have learned the most about on the trip and I think for me it is Rachel, followed close behind by Shad. We are seeing our kids respond to very different situations than ever before…and sometimes we are surprised by them. Like the time we were snorkelling and a shark swam between Rachel and the rest of us (about 10 feet away from her). She called out to us “There’s a shark over here!” and we all swam over right away as she swam hastily towards her Dad and the dinghy! She was done with snorkeling for the day, but I was really impressed to see her swallow her fear and give it another go the next day.

Rachel has shown us how accommodating she can be, spending a fair bit of time in the dinghy without complaint when she gets cold and the rest of us are not done snorkeling/spear-fishing. She gets really excited whenever we spear a fish or have a fish on the line, even though she doesn’t eat fish. She has also continued to show us how creative she can be. On her own initiative, she will pull out the art supplies and start working on a wide variety of projects, from painting and paper doll cutting to starting to write her own mystery novel.  We are especially pleased to observe howmuch this trip is strengthening her friendship with her brother. Samurai Sam (aka Rachel)

Shadrach has impressed us with his diligence in researching and putting into practice all kinds of details in fish identification, spearing techniques, outboard motor maintenance etc. He has proven to be quite a careful, calm fisherman – taking his time and only spearing a fish when he is sure it is the right size and one he knows we can eat. He has been a valuable crew member, willingly putting his muscles to work and swallowing his complaints when there is still one more chore for him. And he is really great at choosing to enjoy whatever game his sister wants to play! We see his social maturity in his enjoyment of meeting other boaters and as he listens and takes part in conversations with people we meet. We truly have wonderful kids!

We are now in Bimini – our last port of call in the Bahamas. We plan on setting out at 3 am tomorrow morning to cross the gulf stream back to Florida. We are truly on our way home! When we got here and were able to connect to the internet again, it was surprisingly good to hear news from Winnipeg. I did not have to convince myself that I am happy that I will see everyone soon! We have such a wonderful community of friends, family and neighbours to come home to. That night my dreams were filled with people from home (and a baked potato that started beeping…it woke me up and I realized our anchor drag alarm was going off…but I digress). I am glad we have time to leisurely make our way north to Winnipeg, but feel confident that we will be excited when we get there. For now, we have one last evening to watch the sun set behind crystal clear turquoise waters as we bid farewell to the beautiful Bahamas.

Our last Bahamian sunset.

Our last Bahamian sunset.

Trouble in paradise!

A couple days ago we took our dinghy up a salt water stream, spanning across Shroud Cay. As we rounded the last bend we came upon a breath-taking scene. I do believe it was one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. Pristine white beaches, turquoise water in many shades, sheer cliffs and a forest of palms on the hills. And we had it all to ourselves (for quite a while)! I think we were all filled with joy and a bit of awe as we took it all in. We are so blessed to be here and so blessed to live on such an amazing planet.

Interestingly (and disappointingly), the pictures and video that Travis took that afternoon really did not do it justice. Something was lost in the translation. It got me thinking about something I have been pondering lately…even living in paradise isn’t perfect! There are many small glitches, stresses and discomforts that can dim my view of the beauty all around me.

For those of you who may be wondering if cruising the Bahamas has any “flies in the ointment”, here is a list of a few of my least favourite things!

  • Losing our new fishing lure the first time it hooked a fish
  • Losing Rachel’s new flip-flop overboard
  • Losing our lemon squeezer overboard
  • Losing our cherished carrot cake overboard (when our Backpacker Oven tipped over on the BBQ while baking it)
  • Leaving our backpack (with the dinghy navigation light inside) in a car when we were hitchhiking
  • Leaving a fishing line and lure behind somewhere
  • Spending 3 days waiting for the company providing us with a satellite weather service to reconnect our service (we had to stay where we could access wifi until it connected)
  • Having alternator problems (the alternator is what charges our batteries when the engine is running)
  • Not being able to use a fan at night because we don’t have enough electricity
  • The alternator dying
  • The new alternator we purchased in Rock Sound burning out (after Travis had already spent almost two weeks trying to figure out our alternator problems)
  • The old spare alternator not charging the batteries either
  • The fridge smelling gross when the frozen squid (for bait) melted as the freezer thawed (because of the low batteries)
  • The water maker refusing to take all the salt out of the water (probably because of the low batteries)
  • When it’s too windy to go where we want to go
  • When there’s not enough wind and we have to use the engine all day to get where we want to go
  • When there was no wind, and no-see-ums attacked us relentlessly (flying right through our screens) all night
  • Asking the kids to wash the dishes for the fifth time
  • Asking Rachel to do her math for the fifth time
  • Rachel asking for a snack for the fifth time (before lunch)
  • Asking the kids to settle down and stop making annoying screeching noises (for the fifth time)
  • Paying way more than we expected when treating ourselves to a meal at a restaurant

Whew…if you made it all the way through that list and have not given me up for a completely petty whiner, then thank you! The point I am trying to make is that even when in the middle of having my “dreams come true,” I can find plenty of reasons to be discontent. It has shown irrefutably that entertaining thoughts such as “If only (person or situation that bothers me) would change, I would be totally happy”, is a huge waste of time. There will always be reasons I can choose to be worried, grumpy and stressed. And there will always be reasons I can choose to be grateful and content. It has been very good exercise for my “choosing-happiness” muscles to let each of these unpleasant things go and direct my focus to the wonderful God who loves me, the wonderful people I am travelling with and the wonderful adventure I am on.IMG_6151IMG_6155

The Kindness of Strangers

We have been anchored in two different harbours along the coast of Eleuthera for the past two weeks. It is a picturesque island with caving, bodysurfing, fishing and snorkelling opportunities. We caught our first lobster here and ate the first fish caught on our rod (a type of mackeral called a cero)!

Lovelier than the scenery have been the people. We were advised that the way to see the island is to stick out your thumb and hitch a ride. We were told that everyone here stops if they can and that it is completely safe. At first, we were reluctant to do this and looked into renting a car (too expensive) and hiring a taxi (hard to connect). So, we hesitantly tried it. The first people who picked us up were a mother and her young daughter on the way home from school. Since then, we have had rides in the back of trucks, sometimes crammed in with other hitchhikers, more rides with mothers and children, with a silent, dredd-wearing gentleman, a retired Canadian couple and, quite amusingly, from the taxi-driver we had tried to contact earlier! (I am not sure it is a great business strategy for a taxi driver to pick hitchhikers up…but it certainly is generous!). We’ve also been picked up when we were not hitchhiking, but were obviously heavy-laden with our clean laundry. Basically, we get the sense that in Eleuthera, if you have something that someone else does not have, it is yours to share.

It is so inspiring to visit a place where people still trust others and are trustworthy, and where they notice those they pass by, assuming that it is their responsibility to help each other if they can. Besides free rides, we have been given fruit to try and a free book by a local author. The owner of the pizza restaurant we visited got in her car and went and purchased us drinks (her children had finished off all her own beverages for sale!).

The sailing community behaves in a similar way. Dave, from the boat “At Last” spent about three mornings on our boat helping Travis try to figure out our alternator problems. Another boater gave us a fuse, when the new alternator blew one while being installed. There is the understanding that sailors need to help each other – it is a small community and you may be the only person who can give the assistance needed.

I realize I am a long way from living like this back at home. And I don’t think that the culture around me models this sense of inter-connectedness. Instead,

I think that too often we feel ashamed if we need help and we believe that if someone else doesn’t have what we have, it is our own choice whether or not we share it. There is no concept that what is mine has been given to me to share. I am going to ponder this some more and invite God to change my understanding of what belongs to me and who belongs to me!

The kids ran ahead as we made our way back to the cave entrance. I am looking at them through stalactites and stalagmites.

I’m looking at the kids though stalactites and stalagmites

The kids ran ahead as we made our way back to the cave entrance. I am looking at them through stalactites and stalagmites.

Ghost dolphins at the bow…overnight passages.

We are now safely in the Bahamas! Travis is napping after our all-night passage, Rachel is fishing off the dock with a newfound friend, and Shad is impatiently waiting for his dad to wake up and return to customs to get him a spear fishing license. I am showered and finally feeling awake after a lovely chat with the Mom of Rachel’s new friend.

We have had two overnight passages – a new thing for us. We were excited and apprehensive as we set out the first evening (to Key West from Marco Island). The first half of the night was amazing. As soon as it got dark we could see phosphorescence in the water. Soon after, at least 10 dolphins approached our boat and swam just in front of our bow for a long time. We couldn’t actually see the dolphins, but as they swam and played, they were perfectly outlined by a silvery blue glow from the phosphorescence. I think it may have been one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen! Added to all this, was a sky filled with stars.

After midnight, it became more difficult to maintain the feelings of awe and wonder! I found myself counting the minutes until my shift at the helm was done. Because the winds were light, we motored the whole night…and it was hard to sleep in the noisy, vibrating, diesel-scented cabin. By morning, I was very relieved to arrive in Key West, turn off the engine and crawl into bed for the morning.

I wasn’t excited to repeat the process last night…But the only way to arrive in Bimini during daylight is to make at least some of the passage at night. So, we left Islamorada, Florida at 4:00 pm yesterday. I slept a bit early in the evening, and then took the 10 pm to 1 am shift. This time I pulled out my headphones and listened to music as I kept watch and kept us on course. It made an incredible difference. I was listening to songs selected for us by Diana…many of which had lyrics pondering God’s great love for us, the majesty of his creation and his constant guiding presence. I felt my soul swell with love and gratitude – beautiful stars spread out endlessly above and over 2000 feet of water supporting us below. A song by Gungor contained the lament “How long must we wait” and as I gazed up at the sky and echoed this – “we love you so much – Why don’t you come for us?” – it felt like the heavens shouted back “I love you more!” How wonderful to know that my life, our destiny, lies in the hands of one who loves us so much more than we can ever love him!

So, it was a much different passage, my deep sense of God’s presence calming me as I tried to discern in the darkness how close approaching ships were (i.e. how close we were to death!).

We are very happy to be in the Bahamas. It is warm, sunny and the water is so clear, even in our marina, that we are seeing all kinds of sea life already. Once Travis wakes up it will be time to start exploring!

A Few Days In

(This post was written on December 9th. It is now the evening of December 10th and we are moored in Venice…the Florida one!)

I am excited to report that we have finally set sail from Tarpon Springs and are on our way to Miami. It was a lovely sunny first day on the water, complete with dolphins coming to our boat and swimming just in front of the bow for a minute. There is something special about wild creatures taking an interest in us humans. It feels like a hug or wink from God! Since then we have discovered that seeing dolphins is a regular occurrence in the Gulf, but so far not one that has lost its adrenaline inducing appeal.

Right now we are moored at the north end of Longboat Key, with high winds whistling around the boat. We may stay put for the day, or may decide to motor down the protected Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) instead of heading out into the open sea. We are using the time to get some school work done (blogging for me) and Travis is installing some speakers. We expect to take at least a week to work our way around to Miami. Then we will wait for the right weather to sail across the Gulf Stream to Bimini (in the Bahamas). We did not expect it to take nearly this long to get our boat ready to sail, so we will not be taking our time to explore the Florida coastline. We have to be in Nassau, Bahamas by New Year’s Eve because we are meeting family there on January 1st!

The kids and I moved onto the boat about two weeks ago to help get “Schemma” into ship-shape condition. Every night we would say “maybe we will be ready the day after tomorrow” and then the next day would introduce (or prolong) challenges for Travis to meet in preparing the boat. Technology has not been our friend and we are starting to experience the truth the joke: “What is a boat? A hole in the water into which you pour money!” I have spent quite a bit of time in stores collecting provisions. It is time consuming to shop in another country. Many of the items I want to buy are not on the shelves and there are many other items and brands that I have never heard of! It is surprising how different things are between Canada and the USA. Even when I find the same product it sometimes has a completely different taste! But I have managed to fill every nook and cranny available for stowage on the boat with provisions – so it is probably very good that I couldn’t find everything I was looking for.

One “good” problem we encountered was discovering a crack in our head (toilet) holding tank. Although, gross and messy to deal with, it has finally rid our boat of the unpleasant odour it has had since we purchased it. Travis had replaced hoses and tried all kinds of odour absorbing products with no results…and now we know why! So far, his patching is “holding” and for the first time ever we are odour free!

This is my second attempt at writing this post. Shad, Rachel and I had all written posts on the day we left our marina, only to have our computer freeze up and lose our work. Frustrating? Yes – and basically symbolic of how things have gone for us in setting up our technological communication and navigation systems! So, I will simply list a few other highlights I don’t feel like re-writing about :
– Two days of rollercoaster riding with our adventurous kids!
– Shadrach chipping off his front tooth – again. (we may get it fixed in Miami if there’s time. It is not causing him any pain, PTL)
– Taking my aunts and uncles sailing and shell collecting after they helped us park Sesame (our van) for the winter
– Finally playing the board game “Munchkin” with Shad (he had been requesting this daily)
– Taking the dinghy to walk the beach and pier in Clearwater our first night on the water.

So, in case you were starting to wonder, we are alive and well and feel like we have finally started the adventure we left home to experience.

Two weeks in…

Well, two weeks ago, we threw everything into the van and headed out. It was a bit of a helter-skelter escape in the end. We realized that if we didn’t just GO we might never leave! There are a few things we have left behind because of our rush…but I am writing this from Florida, listening to a thunderstorm, rather than from snowy Winnipeg, so I think we made the right choice.

Heading south was a bit like heading back in time. We passed through winter (in Minnesota Rachel got her wish to play in the snow at least once this year), and day by day watched the leaves on the trees increase in number and take on vibrant fall colours. Finally, a week after we left, we came down out of the hills of Georgia and simultaneously entered Florida and summer. It was pretty bizarre to wake up freezing in a frost-covered boat and be passing palm trees beside the highway in the afternoon!

We have been very blessed by the generosity of my American family and even by some American strangers (a hospitable Georgian pastor and his family who had us over for lunch after church last Sunday). Funny story…we stayed at a hotel last Saturday night and Travis found a Mennonite church in the town we were staying in. So, Sunday morning we took a walk to down town Trenton, hoping to see what Georgian Mennonites were like. We kept circling around the pin on our GPS but could not locate the building. Finally, we took a closer look and realized that Travis had found a Mennonite church in Trenton, OHIO – 6 hours from where we were! So, we joined the First Baptist Church for their service instead.

But back to my family – I am so blessed to have cousins and aunties and uncles who will open their homes and make room in their schedules…even when we are not able to give them exact times or days when we will arrive. And are unsure when we will leave! We filled up any extra space in auntie LaVon and Uncle Neil’s house for the first week in Florida. Right now, the kids and I are staying at my auntie Bonita and uncle Arnie’s house while they head up to Minnesota for a gathering! How crazy are they to leave us in their house with no firm date of when we will leave it?!

The compound where we are staying is a gated retirement community originally only for retired missionaries and pastors. We feel very safe here! I am reminded of the freedom to roam I enjoyed growing up on the SIL mission centre as we walk on the roads between houses and cycle to the pool. They have a weekly chapel service which I attended. It was very meaningful to hear testimonies of thankfulness from people who I know have spent a lifetime serving the Lord.

I’m the kind of person who doesn’t just like to look at things. I want to touch, taste and try whatever comes my way. So, it has been lovely to feel the sand beneath my feet, brave the cool ocean water, try barbecue and other local delicacies, and take a boat tour so we could see alligators up close.

We are enjoying swimming and sight-seeing here in Florida, but do feel a bit like we are living in limbo, waiting to really begin. Travis is spending most of his days and nights out at the boat, which is over an hour awayfrom the rest of us. I really look forward to when the boat is ready to go in the water and we are done making all our set up decisions and purchases.