P-NUTTY Experiment

We visited our winter home last week and did some general maintenance around the place. One of the chores was cleaning up the patio and pulling weeds. A large, shrub-like bush was growing in each of the flower boxes along the patio fence. 100_4274

When my husband pulled one out, we discovered peanuts! Being “Yankees,” we had never seen peanuts growing before and were shocked to discover them in our planters. 100_4270

I remembered the neighborhood squirrels digging in the planters last winter. Apparently they were the gardeners.

Feeling adventurous, we cleaned the legumes off and decided to learn how to cook them. Boiled peanuts are a southern delicacy, but we have never tried them.
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Recipes suggest boiling them in salted water for several hours. And, most recipes recommend you start with about 5 pounds of nuts instead of 5 nuts!
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The water was brown and yucky after a few hours on the stove.

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And the finished product was questionable looking but tasty!
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These little guys were far too young to be picked, so I’m glad we left the bush on the other side of the patio alone. More peanut fun is waiting when we return to the south!

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The Gypsy Life!

Life is fluid. Just when you think you have it figured out, it shifts and changes direction. Blessed are the flexible; they will bend but not be broken!

After nearly a year of life in Tennessee, we are moving again. We became Snowbirds and spent last winter in Florida, then became “Half-backers” when we moved half-way back to Michigan and tried life in Tennessee. Despite loving my position as Connections Pastor in Sweetwater, my body did not do well with Tennessee weather. I battled sinus infections all summer and lived on antibiotics and steroids. Once cold weather moved in, my asthma kicked up and I had to go back on the drugs! Enough is enough! You can’t live where you are sick all the time when there are other options.

Our options are many. My husband has retired now, so we are not locked into a location based on a job. We can go anywhere! We revisited our original plan of moving to Florida, and brainstormed over doing something wildly different for a season. We have chosen the wild way!

Our son’s family is in Michigan, and we have a house there. We will use it as a summer retreat and a place for the family to gather for the holidays. This way we can still be involved in our grandchildren’s lives and the lives of our parents and siblings who live in the Frozen Mitten.

Our daughter lives in Virginia so we will buy a condo there. Lots of people in Michigan have a small cottage up in the north woods for vacation get-aways. Our “small cottage” will be near our daughter and we will spend spring and fall in Virginia. And, we have the option to take the RV to Florida for the coldest 6 weeks of the winter and camp! For this season of life, we will be gypsies, traveling cross country, following the spring. We realize that this is for a season; someday we will be too old and feeble to chase the sun and will need to make a decision on a residence for our final years, but not yet!

The down-side of this plan is the inability to serve full time on a church staff, but we are trusting God to faithfully open up doors of ministry where ever we may be. It is the dawning of a new chapter and a new adventure. Life with the Lord is never boring!

Reflections

My snow-birding adventure in Florida is rapidly coming to a close. Winter is over. Tomorrow morning we will embark on a new chapter, as we walk through a door that the Lord has opened and follow His divine direction for our lives. It seems like a perfect time to review and reflect upon the past three months.

I am so grateful for my husband; he is my hero. He has sacrificed so much for my health and comfort; most recently in his decision to file for an early retirement and spend the winter in Florida, working via up-link from our tiny RV. He will not officially retire until the end of April and certainly would have been more comfortable spending his last months on the job in his office in Michigan! Adjusting to life in the RV has been a challenge mostly due to the confined space (and in sharing that space with the cats!). We call our Maine Coon “the House Monkey” because he insists on finding high spaces to inhabit and doesn‘t mind climbing over anything to reach them, including important papers. He has added many a wrinkle to my husband’s attempts to stay organized.

A job lead brought us to Florida’s western panhandle, but my first month in Florida was spent in physical recovery. I battled influenza, a urinary tract infection, and wrapped up January with a viral upper respiratory infection. Other than trips to the Santa Rosa Medical Clinic, my days were mostly spent in bed, listening to sermons or watching DVD’s on my laptop. The job lead fizzled, but I was too ill to care.

This snow-bird experience was not what I had imagined. While in Michigan, I envisioned a winter of summer-like days spent by the water with a book. The weather in January and February was too chilly for extended outdoor activities, I was easily bored, and missed interaction with people. Everyone stays inside when the weather is cold and wet, and only venture out to quickly walk the dog or do laundry.

By February I was feeling better and had my fill of campground life. I asked the Lord to open a door for me, and He led me to the Santa Rosa Pregnancy Resource Center where I became a “full-time/short-term volunteer.” It takes many willing hands to make a ministry function and this filled my days with a variety of activities, from addressing banquet invitations, answering phones, meeting with clients, sorting baby clothes, general housekeeping, and assembling baby equipment. I got to know wonderful godly women, help the ministry run smoothly, and be a blessing to others. The reality is, they were even a bigger blessing to me! I enjoyed every moment spent at the PRC. In this short time I have made friends that I hate to leave.

As I reflect on the past three months, I can say that God is faithful. He protected us from the many storms, answered a multitude of specific prayers, and showered us with innumerable blessings. Jesus came that we might have life to the fullest, and walking with Him is never dull!

Are you bored, frustrated, or lonely and wondering just how and where God will ever use you? Abundant life is waiting for you. I urge you to start investing yourself in others. There are many opportunities for service in your community; not all ministry happens in a church! Ask the Lord to lead you and direct you to where He has already prepared a place for you. You will be blessed beyond your wildest dream as you become a blessing to others. Listen for his voice and be willing to follow whatever He directs you to do. Life’s great adventure is waiting for you just outside your door!

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.

CATastrophic living

Snowbirding takes major adjustments. How do you transition from living in a sprawling 2500 square feet to 300 square feet – a space just slightly larger than a college dorm room? From the nearest neighbor being 1/8 of a mile away to life in a trailer park? How does one transition from commuting to work in an office to working “at home” from a laptop? And, how do you adjust to living with two cats in that tiny space? What do you do with the litter box?

At home, the litter box is a non-issue. The cats have their own space in a room under the basement stairs (which is actually larger than this RV!) where their beds, food, and litter box reside. Odors are no problem. Clean the box daily when you feed them; it is out of sight and out of mind. Here the litter box presents a major problem.

We thought we had the problem preemptively solved . My husband removed a chair from the “living room” section of the RV and replaced it with a cabinet. The top houses the TV and printer, but the litter box is hidden inside with an opening for easy entrance for the cats. And, because we occupy a very small space, I purchased a new brand of kitty litter that is specially designed for small spaces. One would think we had the problem solved.

However, I did not factor in sensitivity to scents. I have allergic reactions when burning scented candles and sitting near someone wearing strong perfumes. A heavily deodorized kitty litter is not the best solution!

My husband’s workspace is next to the cabinet and he has complained since we arrived about the “landfill odor.” It gives him a headache and has talked about moving to a different town just to escape the smell. I have developed a “stomach bug” and have battled an upset tummy and headache, which increases when I step into the RV. Oddly enough, we don’t notice the “landfill odor” when we are outside!

The proverbial light bulb went off today and we finally connected the dots! The rank smell is from the litter box! Since we are using the showers here at the camp, which are far more spacious than the tiny shower stall in the RV, we have relocated the litter box to the bathroom shower stall. We must keep the door ajar for kitty access, but can open the ceiling vent, and hopefully, dissipate the smell.

And, after work today, we have a date planned to visit Wal-Mart for some unscented litter. I can hardly wait!