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Traveling: The Retirement Ride

It’s hard to believe.  Rich has finally retired from the Navy after 29 years active duty and one year “delayed entry”, for a total of 30 years career.  No more alarm clocks ringing at 4.15am. No more white t-shirts in the wash.  No more 24/7 being “beholden to Uncle Sam”.  It is still rather surreal and I’m sure I won’t feel the full impact until he has been home 24/7 for at least a month once we return from our bike trip.

And that’s what this post is about – our Harley trip from Jacksonville, FL, through Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois and Wisconsin until we get to north Minnesota where we will spend four days with good friends from Jacksonville in their summer home.  Between Illinois and Wisconsin we will be stopping in Zion for lunch with some old friends from Naples, Italy. We will then swing down through North and South Dakota into Missouri where we will spend a couple of days with some more friends from our time in Naples, Italy. 

After that we will head over to Louisville, KY, passing through Illinois (again) and even touching a tip of Indiana.  we will spend three days with Rich’s family in Louisville, taking in a few hours at the State Fair and enjoying a Bar-B-Q with the family.  We will then head south east to Asheville, NC for two days before going a little further east to spend two days in Fayetteville with LeeAnn, yet another friend from our Naples, Italy experience.  At this point we will point Harley straight down I-95 south for the home leg.

Today is Tuesday 16 August.  We left home yesterday morning about 9am and covered three hundred and eighty three miles, reaching our first night-over in Marietta, GA at about 4.30pm.  We had an excellent day of smooth riding.  There were no traffic problems, the weather was glorious, and we got to enjoy a lot of God’s creation along the way. Because we ate a light lunch at Subway just north of Macon, GA, we were very happy to see an old favorite, Cracker Barrel right on the door step of our hotel.  We enjoyed a great dinner there before retiring early for a good night’s sleep.

This morning saw us on the road by 9am.  It was perfect riding weather: slightly overcast yet warm and not a drop of humidity in the airSmile.  As we made our way through the mountains of northern Georgia and then on into Tennessee, we really enjoyed cool-warm weather with balmy breezes.  Lunch time found us in Joelton, TN where we found a superb Mexican restaurant called Mazatlan.  If you’re ever in the area try it.  The food is really good and the service was excellent.

We arrived at our little B&B called “Escape” in Paducah, KY at about 4pm and we’re just relaxing down and chilling out before heading out somewhere to get some dinner.  There’s a hot tub with our names on it in a room adjoining our bedroomSmile. Hopefully along the road I will get to share not only about our ride, but will also be able to catch up on some other news that I simply have not had the time to right about in the past few weeks.  Happy summer, happy trails!

Spiritual Growth: Grace

I have to write about grace because in recent times I have become very aware of how much grace has poured into my life over the years, and especially in recent times.  It is with quiet joy that I realize that the first three letters of the word grace are the same as the first three letters of two other words that are dear to my heart : gratitude and grateful.  There is no “coincidence” here.  I think that grace is intrinsically connected to gratitude and being grateful.

Because I am a Christian I have a very specific belief in grace and what it is.  Grace for me is a gift freely given by God to those who choose to receive it.  Yes, I believe as with any gift, the recipient has to have hands wide open and be willing to accept the gift of grace.  Within this concept, I also believe that grace is huge, ever present, all around me, and is mine for the taking – or for anyone else to take if they so choose.  The God of my understanding is generous with the gift of grace and is in a state of constant giving.  I am the one who chooses to refuse or ignore or throw away His/Her gift.

Another way that I define grace is as God’s love.  As a believing and practicing Christian I experience God’s love in so many ways in my life.  As I sit,stand, or lie in the arms of my husband I experience grace.  When I accept or give forgiveness, I experience grace.  If I am in a state of turmoil or sadness and take time to place myself in God’s loving presence, handing over any pain to Her/Him, I experience grace.  Looking at a newborn baby, I experience grace.  Taking in the beauty of Spirit’s creation, I experience grace.

Grace has flowed continuously into my life as I have been on the spiritual path.  I have been gifted with so much that as I look back over the last thirty years I am amazed at the richness that has been poured into my life through grace.  To try and chronicle all of it would take several tomes.  So just looking at recent times I will attempt to give examples of unexpected grace that has come to me.

My sons live in Italy and so I do not get to see them often.  Especially with today’s economic crisis, the money required to cover a round trip is prohibitive and not at all readily available.  But God providesSmile.  Two weeks ago my eldest son was sent to Newport News, VA to attend a work-related conference.  I’m no spring chicken any more, so to make a nine-hour road trip alone requires quite an effort on my part, but a God-given opportunity (grace) to spend a few days with my son was not to be passed up.  He was being sent to “my part of the world” that allowed me to see him.  That was grace.

Because I made that drive, I was given another opportunity to experience God’s grace.  On the drive home I chose to stop in Fayetteville, NC to spend an afternoon and over-night with a dear sister-friend LeeAnn.  LeeAnn is another spiritual sister that I am blessed with, so to spend time with her is to spend time in focused personal and spiritual growth.  We don’t talk about the weather or what work is like.  We dive in deep and soak up our time together because it affords us the opportunity to share so much.

Going back abut 6-7 weeks, Richard and I traveled to Seattle, WA.  That was a total gift in and of itself.  Because he was travelling for para-professional reasons, his room was paid for.  He had a bunch of frequent traveller miles racked up, so we were able to cover my air fare.  This gave me the opportunity to be able to visit with a dear friend, George, who I hadn’t seen in twenty five years!!  Can you imagine the gift (grace) that was for me.  On that same trip I was also able to spend a day with a woman who I had befriended a year earlier in Florida.  And the grace flowed!

As Richard and I travelled home from that trip I had an amazing experience.  Richard dabbles in photography and of late has played with time lapse using both still shots and video.  He decided to video our flight home filming two or three minute segments at various points along the way. As we flew into the night we hit some pretty turbulent weather and a storm raged outside. (I reminded God to keep us safely in the palm of His hand and reminded my Guardian Angel to come alongside and hold the plane up!)  Richard was filming the lightening and nudged me to take a look at the view from the window.  This I did, and it was quite spectacular: wide flashes and forks of lightening.

As I watched I found myself not only looking directly out of the window but also glancing into the screen of Richard’s camera as he was shooting film.  All of a sudden, in the screen I saw her, a magnificent angel with huge wings, hair flying out behind him/her, robe streaming in the wind, and arms reached out under the belly of the plane.  I gasped and said “Look at her!”  Richard turned in and looked around the plane and said “Who, Babe?”  I pointed into the screen and said “Her, the angel.”  He looked into the screen and said, “I don’t see anything Babe.”  I pointed again and said “The angel, look there’s her head, her wings, her robe, and she’s holding the plane in her arms.”

Now Richard is very patient and understanding of me and fully accept that I am a little “different”.  So gently, but without any hint of disbelief, he said “I don’t see her Babe.”  Momentarily I felt panic and decided to look directly at the angel out the window, but I couldn’t see her.  With my heart sinking I looked back in the screen and there she was – clear as daylight.  I then thought that perhaps I was seeing a reflection of something in the screen, so I took hold of Richards hand and moved it from side to side.  But there she remained as clear as could be.

I invited Richard one more time to “see her”, but he shook his head and said “I can’t see anything Babe, but when we get home we’ll play the whole video and see what shows up.”  But I knew she wouldn’t “show up”  on the video.  She was there as a grace for me to see and to know that God was taking care of us.  I am grateful for the gifts that God has bestowed upon me and I do not take them lightly.  The gift of His/Her grace is a wondrous miracle that I humbly accept.                  

Musings: Dealing With My Frustration

I know that talking things through with someone helps to diminish the hold that anything that is frustrating me or causing me anger or resentment has on me.  Writing also helps in the same way.  So here goes.  Whether I’ll be able to post is another matter, and that’s where my present frustration is coming from.

I haven’t written in a while.  I’ve given up trying to understand why this happens.  It’s not that I have nothing to write about.  I have been keeping, and adding to, a small list of topics that I want to express my feelings about. But something is getting in the way.  The weather has been gorgeous lately.  We have been enjoying the best Florida spring weather – no grey, no de-pressing stuff going on outside, so that’s not the issue.

Now that I think about it, maybe there is still an issue connected to the weather that’s been keeping me from writing, but it’s the reverse of dealing with the de-pressing grey.  It’s been so perfectly beautiful outside of late that I have been called into the garden and have struggled to balance my time outside with all the other things that I want/am committed to do.

It has been really amazing to watch the garden come to life after the long cold winter.  It seems as though with each passing year I become more aware of the transformation that takes place as plants come back to life, buds appear, then full foliage and flowers blossom out.  The Confederate Jasmine, that I planted as two very small 20-inch tall plants at the base of the front supporting columns of my old gazebo two years ago, has now grown into thick, lush greenery that covers both 8-foot tall columns and trails upwards onto two of the roof supports and is also quite thick as it meets across the front horizontal bar.  It is also full of flowers which I hope will last so that I can see them and enjoy them when I return from this trip.

And therein lies another source of frustration.  I have been travelling on and off since 28 March.  Being out of my normal habitat and routine is always somewhat disconcerting and disruptive, and I haven’t yet learned to handle that with total grace and acceptanceSad smile.  I drove up to Newport News, VA back then to spend a few days with my son who was there from Italy to attend a work related conference.  It was a gift that I had no intention of passing up.  We had a great three days hanging out together.  On the way home from there, I was then able to stop in Fayetteville, NC to spend an afternoon and night-over with my dear sister-friend LeeAnn.  She and I never waste time on pleasantries, diving deep into our sharing from the heart and soul which allows us to broaden, deepen, and strengthen our relationship on all levels, especially the spiritual levelSmile.  Another enormous gift for which I am truly grateful.

Arriving back in Florida after that trip, I had three days to catch-up (I always say that with tongue in cheek because, how on earth do you catch up with time that has already passed??).  So it was a flurry of unpacking and keeping up with some commitments that were on my calendar, before I then had to pack for the trip that I am presently “enjoying” ( barring bad internet connections – grrrrrr!) with my husband.

And therein lies the ultimate frustration.  Yesterday evening I had the first real longing, desire, to do some creative writing.  I sat down eagerly in front of my computer and – nothing.  I don’t mean nothing would come out on the page.  I mean nothing would come up on the computer.  No worries, I have my resident computer technician travelling with me, no?  But after checking things out he told me that there was nothing he could do.  There simply was no internet connection and he had no control over that.  Talk abut frustration!!!

As well as the creative writing I felt called to do, I also had a bunch of emails I wanted to send out, and there were several things that I wanted to check out on Google.  I was stuck.  Couldn’t do a thing.  So I called it a day and picked up a book and decided to read.  But the frustration was there, bubbling under the surface and even though I checked in with God and asked for inner peace, I guess I was wanting to hang onto the frustration and wallow in it for a bit because it was still there this morning, and so was the lack of connectivity!!!!!!!Sad smile.

Rich has struggled all morning to give me some connection, but it has been been frustrating for him too.  Right now I have no idea if I have connection or not, but I did learn (thank God I can always learn something), that I can at least access my Live Writer programme and get the words out and down, and in doing so I have released some of the frustration.  Whether I will be able to post my writing is another matter, but at least it’s ready to go if and when we get a connection.