Sunday, September 28, 2008

No Job, No Dog, No Home!

(Craig writes) Made it back from Florida okay with no problems finding gas. Since we decided to make our lives even more open-ended we did not take the apartment we had already paid a deposit on & now we are officially homeless. I guess we will be better able to empathize with our homeless friends. While finishing up our commitments in Columbia the next two weeks we will be spending some nights with our families here. In our entire lives we have never been in a situation where we were actually without a place to literally call "home". Kind of a weird feeling to put it mildly. We did rent a storage building today to put the last of our earthly belongings in while we take our cross country trip and then decide where to go next. Even though we are truly blessed with great children/in-laws that allow us to spend some nights with them we also remember Great Grandma Lowder's saying that "even fish smell bad after three days" so we are considering an extended stay hotel to augment our gracious overnight invitations.

We are getting even more excited about our upcoming "see the USA trip" but realize that in two more days the description of "no job, no dog, no home" will accurately describe us. All of this freedom and open-endedness is rather facinating to both of us but also highlights the necessity of really "thinking outside the box" at least for the next few months. We hope to connect with other home/simple churchers and missional thinkers as we travel and plan to help out at some ministries along the way. In the meantime, if you see us on the streets looking hungry and perplexed hand us a cup of joe, a bagel and a smile :)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

In Memory of Marilla

(Craig writes) Sad news, our little dog Marilla died on 9-23. We had enjoyed her for almost 15 years. She, (Marilla), allowed me to refer to her as "our pet" over the years but she had bonded with Becky the day we got her and never forgot the puppy/one-owner bond. Marilla was actually an "empty nest present" that I had gotten Becky as our children were beginning to leave home to go to college and find their way in the world. As a tiny 13 ounce chihuahua puppy we had to be extra careful handling her. Since Marilla had bonded so throughly with Becky she tried to stay as close as possible to her all the time. This necessitated the "shuffle step method" of walking around the dog to keep from accidently stepping on her. Marilla joined us on vacation a few times but really preferred to be a home dog staying at our home and visiting with family or neighbors who came in to check on her, always excited to see us, (actually Becky), when we returned. She was a good dog for us over the years and will be missed. Since we were out of town when she died Becky's mom, Billie, and our son-in-law, Tim, handled the burial arrangements. Marilla now rests beneath a pine tree beside other beloved pets that our two oldest grandchildren, Addison and Whitman, have lost over the years. Addie and Whit go to the grave daily to put fresh flowers on it and keep it tidy. One of the hardest lessons in life, people and animals we love don't last forever. Enjoy them while you can.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Random Late Night Thoughts, (or maybe I shouldn't have had the cheesecake for dessert after all!)

(Craig writes) Still in central Florida enjoying a fun vacation at WDW. Went to the Captain's Table restaurant at the Yacht Club for dinner tonight. Nice place, great food and glitzy atmosphere, has an almost "other worldly" feel to it. Kind of feel guilty having a steak dinner in a plush place and at the same time being aware of the thousands of folks trying to recover from the recent devastating floods in several places in the USA who are working hard to just survive on a daily basis. I am also reminded that we were at WDW when hurricane Katrina hit and flooded New Orleans and other places. We ended up going down to NOLA help out with the relief efforts then and that was a huge catalyst to moving us along in our "new thinking". While enjoying the R&R we currently have going on in Fla. we have also been thinking/talking/praying a lot about how to use our time now and our upcoming coast to coast trip to plan for our future involvements. We gave up on planning to be financially set by the time we retired in the traditional sense and have opted instead to work on lowering our financial needs, and our accumulation of "stuff", to the place where we have the freedom and mobility to go when & where we can be used by God to help make a difference. One of our Faith Heros/Heroines is the late, great Mother Theresa who made the statement, "when God calls you to go somewhere and it takes you longer than 15 minutes to pack, you have too much stuff." Just when we think we have divested ourselves of "excess stuff" we are put in a position to see where we can cut back some more and live even more simply. Admittedly, some things were easier to let go of than others and while certainly not martyrs or signing up for a life of poverty we have discovered the tremendous freedom that simplicity brings. We have also met some very interesting people in the process. We came across a rather strong statement in one of the books we read recently. The author suggested that "if you want your kids to live the traditional American dream then don't introduce them to Jesus!" (His ways are drastically different).

Our current lifestyle thoughts are running along the lines of traveling around the USA looking for places/people we can connect with. Then stopping off to live there for a while to see what we can learn, share or help out with. Becky asked me today "if I thought that people would think we were crazy if we did something like that?" I responded "too late, we've already blown our cover!"

There used to be an old TV show about a guy who rode around the US on a motorcycle stopping here and there to help out different people. He would ride into a town, hang around for a while, do some great thing for someone or some community and then ride off into the sunset looking for the next place to do it again. Back then I thought the story line was really cheesy and dumb but lately...

Sunday, September 14, 2008

"Lost in Space!"

(Craig writes) We made it to Disney World on Friday night in spite of the crazy media blitz to raise gas to over $5.00 per gallon. Only saw gas problems in Columbia, seems to be plenty to go around once you get away from Central SC! Paid $3.59 gal. to fill up once we got onsite at Disney, no long lines or limits here!

Honey B., (Becky), and I made it over to EPCOT around 10:00 this morning, had a great time looking & listening in the countries represented there. The steak & salmon meal at Le Cellier Restaurant, (at the Canadian venue), was delicious. My country roots want me to exclaim, "we throwed down on some good eats at that place".

Before leaving we decided to ride Spaceship Earth. This ride is inside the huge silver geo looking ball that almost every picture of EPCOT shows. It was a very short wait to get on and then we were cruising in our little blue time traveler through thousands of years of history learning how man learned how to communicate with each other, (which apparently is an ongoing processs even today). About the time we get to the very top of the ride inside the big ball someone decided they would get out of the car, (excuse me - their time traveler), and take a look around. Well the Disney People, being safety conscious like they are, stopped the ride to catch the offenders and give them an all expense trip to the parking lot minus their tickets. The problem was that the Disney people, (a.k.a. Cast Members), were not able to capture the offending guest quick enough and several other people began to get out of their, now stopped cars/time travelers and walk down the track. The sudden deterioration of common sense left everyone else stranded in their cars waiting "to be assisted by a Disney employee". After several minutes they turned the lights on and sent an employee to release us from our "blue car bondage". In all the years we have been going to WDW we have never gotten stranded on a ride/attraction before. It was actually kind of exciting! We're headed for a water park tomorrow so I will be swimming with the sharks, tubing on the lazy river and hoping that no one fools around with the wave pool controls. Cowabunga.......!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

"Almost Ready", or "Too Much Coffee for Craig!"

(Craig writes) It sounds like one of those sports moments you see on TV when someone wins the big game, "hey (winning athelete), you just won the (super bowl, world series...), what are you going to do next?" The response, "I'm going to Disney World!" So if I put it into terms I am currently going through, "Hey Craig, you just got laid off from your job, what are you going to do next?" My response, "I'm going to Disney World!" Seems kind of counter productive in some ways and a great diversion in all the other ways. Way back months ago when Becky and I planned this 2 week WDW, (Walt Disney World), trip to celebrate our 37th wedding anniversary I never dreamed it would be the the prelude to a second 2 month long trip also! (I sure am glad that nothing surprises God!) I am positively pumped at the opportunities!

While recently contemplating the celebratory mood I was in, a great idea sprang upon me that I shared with Becky. (Actually it was probably the result of a coffee frap with two extra shots from Starbucks that got my brain moving out of sync), anyway here was my idea. If I ever find out that I have a terminal illness the first thing I plan to do is have a huge party. Inviting everyone we've ever known to join in a celebration of life. Catered with really great food, a live band, (or at least a really good DJ), dancing and generally having a ball. What a neat way for people to have as a last memory of someone. Lived a good life for Jesus, did what they could while they could and enjoyed a bit of that abundant life Jesus talked about in John 10.

I heard from an old friend from my TFC print shop days this week, (circa 1983). It seems that he also has a case of the "let me examine everything I've ever done in life and look for the significance" syndrome that I have. We used to call it a middle age crisis but since neither one of us is actually middle aged, (unless we make it to age 115+-), and it doesn't feel like a crisis we need to find a more appropriate label for it. Basically moving away from pushing for success and performance based living to going for significance, be it seemingly large or small.

Well let's see. I've moved from WDW to terminal illness possibilities, (no neither one of us is ill), to life direction all in one short blog entry. Better sum it all up and say that while contemplating the brevity and frailness of life, the frivality of amusements, the need for validation in the human experience and the possible perverse idea of munching on a bbq sparerib while discussing funeral plans I am left with the following conclusion. "Hey Craig, you just wrote and incredibly boring and run-on blog entry, what are you going to do next?" "I'm going to Disney World dude!"

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Backwards living but forward packing!

(Craig writes) Getting ready for a really long trip is a new process for me! In past years it was easy to pack for two weeks at the beach. A bathing suit, 2 T-shirts, the cooler and my flip flops and I was good to go. Planning for a 6000+ mile, 6 to 8 week +- cross country trip is turning out to be a bit more thought intensive. Thankfully, Becky is the Ultimate Planning Guru. She already knows the average temperature, rainfall, road numbers, contact numbers, reservation numbers, probable gas mileage, elevation, "sights not to be missed" as well as the location of every Starbucks coffee shop between South Carolina and Vancouver, British Columbia, (actually her gps system helped a little with the Starbucks info!) Its great that our family has been so encouraging and supportive for us to go on our epic journey across the USA. We have even been provided a sporty, practically new, good gas mileage car to drive on the trip complete with ipod, (thanks again Matt & Amy).

While pastoring a small, rural church several years ago I had a conversation with an elderly pastor friend of mine. He related that he and his wife had never taken a vacation because they thought that they were either too busy or that someone might need them for something so they never left town. He said that they did ride up to see the mountains about two hours away once but came back that same afternoon because they decided they would have plenty of time to travel and see things after they retired. Their retirement time did come but along with it came serious and debilitating illnesses. With a tear in his eye he told me that he guessed he "would never get to take his wife to see any of the things and places they had talked about for all of those years now." He then said "if, while you are young and able, you get a chance to go with your wife to see and do things you both have talked and dreamed about by all means go. Go while you can, don't just put it off like we did".

That's pretty good advice for life, keep a short list of regrets. I'll probably be thinking of J.B. & Evelyn as we go past the Rockies.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Isaac's First Birthday

This past Saturday was Baby Isaac’s first birthday party! It is hard to believe he is already having a birthday. All the family was present for this fun celebration (except Tim – he had to work). The cousins always have a lot of fun playing and they love for Matt to give them a ride in the trailer behind his John Deere! This has become somewhat of a tradition. The trailer gets more crowded as the children get old enough for the ride! Isaac and Tyler were still too small for the trailer but they were able to help out with the driving. Addison learned to drive the tractor and loved it. Whit and Teddy wanted a turn at driving but were told you have to be nine years old to drive the tractor. Addie is nine!

We have lots of decisions to make regarding our upcoming trip. These include choices about our route, where to stay, how long to stay at different locations, etc. At this point our route choice discussions are about how to get to the Pacific Northwest. We are going to head northwest toward Seattle on October 12 but are trying to decide what we most want to see on the way. One route under consideration includes St. Louis (Gateway to the West), Rapid City, SD, southern part of Montana, then through Idaho and into Washington. Another possibility is St. Louis, Kansas City, Colorado, then west through Wyoming, little bit of Montana, Idaho, and Washington. Any opinions or recommendations are appreciated.