I am the Beverly Hillbillies…

I love taking long drives with my husband because they allow us to spend hours in the car together uninterrupted by phone calls and business meetings. It gives us opportunity for great conversations while discovering places that we have never visited.

While driving around the Florida countryside on one of these get-aways, he turned to me and said, “I have something to tell you. Please don’t take this the wrong way.” ANY statement prefaced with “Don’t take this the wrong way” piques my curiosity. We don’t get many opportunities to get away from work and spend time together; what deep insights did he want to share?

Chuckling, he declared, “I’ve been thinking about this, and I have decided that YOU are the Beverly Hillbillies.”

“Which, Beverly Hillbilly, I asked.” (I have been negatively compared to Granny Clampet by my children when attempting to knock out a cold with a home-brewed remedy, but Ellie Mae is pretty, so that might actually be a compliment.)

“Not just ONE Beverly Hillbilly,” he snorted. “You are ALL of them!” He then elaborated that I am like Jed Clampet because I am frugal and down-to earth and don’t mind the idea of wild game dinners. I am like Granny Clampet because I gardening and canning and use home remedies. I like animals, so I am like Ellie Mae and her “critters” and I am like Jethro Bodine because I am always learning things and watch NASCAR! The only thing missing is striking oil on my property!

The oil companies are drilling all around our ten acres in Michigan but haven’t tried sinking any wells on our property yet, although there are new active oil wells on neighboring farms. I think it is time for me to grab my shotgun and go rabbit hunting to see if I can hit some “bubbling crude.” I hear the “Hills of Beverly” calling my name!

Advertisements

Learning Contentment

Several of my Northern friends have been asking me how I like living in Florida. I have answered, “It depends on the day. Weekends are great; weekdays, not so much.”

Living in a place is very different from vacationing in a place. On a vacation, there is relaxation, a step out of the ordinary routine of life, and usually a planned change of environment. There is a suspension of normal chores and dedicated time spent with one’s family or spouse. I like vacationing in Florida. What is not to like about palm trees, sun, sand and surf? When one lives in a place, however, life’s demands continue. There are meals to prepared, laundry and cleaning, and work. You get to do the same things you normally do, only you get to do them in a different place. And the sun, sand, and surf become nice weekend activities.

We are something of a hybrid in the Snow-birding world, being younger than all of the people we have met and at a different life-stage. They are truly retired and living on their savings and pensions, no longer punching a clock or having work dictate the hours of their days. The rhythm of their days is much different than ours.

My husband is still employed, and works remote from our motor home via the internet. His workdays are long, absorbed by meetings and phone calls, spent seated at his “desk,” interrupted only by three-step trips to the coffee pot and table for meals. He has made this sacrifice for me, to relocate me to a warmer climate and avoid more cold-induced asthma episodes from Michigan’s frigid winter weather.

My days have changed from full-time employment to having vast stretches of time on my hands – for study, for reading, for writing and whatever else I choose to do from the confines of the park, providing it is quiet and does not interrupt his workday.

Weekends feel much more like being on vacation. The laptops are put away, and we spend time together exploring the area, poking around antique shops, visiting the coast, and making the necessary weekly grocery run.

Do I like living in Florida? Not as much as I like vacationing in Florida. I miss my house, my family and friends, my job, and my life. But, the warmer climate is very nice and I love the freedom of being outside without needing to wear a cold-air mask; February in the Panhandle feels much like June in Northern Michigan. We have discovered a great Spirit-filled church that feels like “home,” and I am now volunteering some of my free time working at a local non-profit agency.

The Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 4:11 “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” I am sure he didn’t like all of the circumstances in which he found himself , but he learned to be content in them. I hope, like Paul, I am learning the secret to contentment during my tenure here in Florida. I would like to be able to echo his sentiment, that I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.

A Twist of Fate

I have been battling homesickness on this Snowbird journey, so I was elated when my husband announced that we needed to spend the following week in Michigan for an important work meeting. A week of living in a real house, seeing my friends and family and doing laundry in my own (free) machine was definitely worth a two day drive with drugged cats. My week’s activities were quickly planned and I was terribly disappointed when the meeting was suddenly cancelled.
That cancellation meant that instead of being on the road, we would now be spending the weekend in Florida and I didn’t like the weather forecast. The weatherman called for severe thunderstorms, gale force winds, and tornadoes. The thought of riding out a twister in a trailer park made that two day drive on winter roads all the more appealing.

Authorities tell you to go to a safe place in case of a tornado, only there are no safe places here. There are no basements because the water table is very high, and ditches quickly fill up with water, snakes, and gators. The desk attendant at the RV Park told us the standard procedure for dealing with tornadoes is “get in your car and try to outrun it.”

So, we prayed for God’s protection and sat and watched and waited. The sky turned black in mid-afternoon and the tall trees began to whip from the wind. The RV began to rock and shimmy. The torrential rain was so strong we couldn’t see outside of any of the windows.

At the peak of the storm’s fury, the RV sprung a leak. A seal on a stationary window gave way and water poured in and down the wall. It soaked the floor in the front third of the RV, including everything stored under the sofa and in front of the driver and passenger seats. We moved what we could to higher ground and went to bed.

The next morning we bought a shop-vac and pulled at least a quart of water from the carpet, washed the towels, and tried to dry out. We have been running electric heaters, the air conditioner and a small dehumidifier to dry out of the flooring before it grows mold and mildew. The window is now resealed and survived last night’s rainstorm, but the carpet is still damp three days after the flood.
I can only imagine the mess we would have walked into, had we followed our original plan and returned to Michigan for the week. The storm and flood would have hit on the first day of our absence. Outside temperatures are ranging in the mid seventies, which would have turned the inside of our soggy RV into a mold and mildew breeding ground. Chances are, the interior of the unit would have been destroyed.
Now I look at the cancelled meeting with grateful awe at God’s protection. Not only did He protect us from the storm itself, He protected us from the property loss that would have ensued had we been away.
And it makes me wonder how many times our plans don’t work out because a merciful God was protecting us from very unpleasant consequences. Yes, I am disappointed that my week at home didn’t happen, but I am ever so grateful for God’s providential intervention on my behalf!

My “Fantasy Island”

I have a fantasy, which I visit when I feel I am being pulled in every direction and need a “Calgon Moment.” In my fantasy, I am spending the winter in a large summer “cottage” on the back-side of Michigan’s Mackinaw Island. The walls are made of golden pine logs, with original wood floors that are covered with worn Persian Rugs and hand-made rag rugs. The living room is furnished with a well-worn leather sofa and comfy over-stuffed chairs, complete with cozy red Native American wool blankets thrown over the sofa’s back. There is a wood-burning stove in the living room, topped with a simmering pot of soup.

In my fantasy, it is snowing outside, with big white, fluffy snowflakes drifting to earth, and the water of the lake outside the window is rough and grey, but inside the cottage, the light is golden and warm.

I am snowed in for the winter, armed with stacks of canvases and paints and I spend my days painting wonderful, artistic pictures. There is no television, no radio, and no internet. I am content to be snowed-in alone with my art.

This is totally a FANTASY! In reality, my cold-induced asthma would take me out the first time I had to reload the wood box. And, despite the pretty surroundings, they would become a lonely cage. I need to be involved with other people.

Nothing has brought that need for human interaction into crystal focus better than spending a few months in an RV park in northern Florida. Instead of being a “jeans and tee shirt” winter, it has been “sweater and jacket” weather. One night, the wind-chill was actually zero!

Winter weather here in the panhandle is cold and wet and people stay holed up inside their rigs most of the day. Temperatures may top out around 70 for about 30 minutes in the late afternoon, but quickly plummet once the sun start to set. Folks bundle up, walk the dog, and scurry back inside where it is warm. The best place for conversation and chance meetings seems to be the laundry facility.

There are only so many books one can read, so many pod-casts one can hear, and so many hours on Facebook before the need for human interaction drives you out. And rightly so! God created us for relationship, both with one another and with Him. We are called to be conduits of God’s blessings instead of reservoirs. Life is intended to be shared in fellowship.

Do you know people who are “shut-in” at home? It might be health issues, age, or a new baby in the home that confines a person to their house. When I was a young mom, at home with two little ones, I had a friend in a similar situation. When the Mr. Rogers television program came on, we had a scheduled daily thirty minute phone date that carried us through the rest of the day. Nearly thirty years later, and living in different states, we are still in contact and consider ourselves friends.

We are blessed when we bless others. Who is in your circle of influence that would be blessed by a visit, a phone call or a note? I encourage you to reach out, brighten someone’s day, and be a welcome blessing to someone else.

What’s YOUR Story?

I am meeting new people on this snowbirding journey. Protocol for meeting new folks covers the same questions: “What’s your name?” “Where are you from?” “What do you do for a living ?” (Or “What did you do for a living?” – because most of the people I am meeting here are retired.) And, “Which rig is yours?”

There is the usual mental sizing up and rating system: Yankee vs. Confederate, blue collar vs. white collar, urban vs. country dweller, those who camp in huge, shiny RVs vs. those who stay in older ones. We tend to classify and pigeon-hole people as if we are scientists cataloguing plants. We smile and nod, are polite and play nicely, but it takes time and shared interests for real friendships to develop, so conversations rarely move on to deeper things.

People shut down if the conversation moves into tricky waters, such as religion or politics, too quickly. You look for little clues and nudge the conversation, all the while being ready to side-step the issue if they are not receptive to the nudge. So, we stay in the shallow end of the pool and tread water instead of diving in an risk alienating a potential friendship. Everybody has a story, but you have to build that bridge of trust before they are willing to share it with you. Trust takes time to develop. As a result, most stories remain untold.

Last night I had a dream about heaven. I was with a huge crowd of people, from all ethnic backgrounds. We were all wearing whatever “street clothes” our culture or time period deemed, and we were all roughly the same age. There were no children, teens, or elderly in the group. Folks were clad in jeans and tee shirts, prairie dresses, sari’s, buckskin, and silks – a wide assortment of humanity, both men and women,

There were people standing shoulder to shoulder as far as the eye could see in any direction. We were all facing the same direction, and way off in the distance was an elevated platform with some people seated in fancy chairs. We in the crowd were all very excited to be there, and were eagerly sharing our stories with those standing near us.

These stories were intense, personal, and vivid. There was no reference to names, places, jobs, or titles.. Instead, the question was, “How did you meet Him? How did you meet Jesus?” And, we talked, sharing our stories in heartfelt, deep details, giving glory to Jesus for His grace to touch our lives. There were no half-hearted, “Well, my grandma used to take me to Sunday School, so I decided I was a Christian” or “Well, my family all went forward on an altar call when I was little and I didn’t want to stay in my pew, so I guess I’m a Christian.” stories. These stories were rich, detailed, personal, and powerful.

There was no classifying, no judging, no rating system of who had the “best” story. Instead, there was a deep excitement, acceptance, and overwhelming joy. Everyone had a story and everyone was intensely interested in hearing what anyone had to say.

One day we will all be called to tell our story, to give a personal account for our life. What will your story be?