Category Archives: Florida

When Parents Come to Play

To say my parents’ recent visit with us was pure Florida perfection may be an understatement.  They arrived just in time for one last perfect beach day and left just as a “cold” front came to cool us off while enjoying dinner outside listening to a fantastic band.  In between was a lot of lazy sightseeing, bird watching, music listening and seafood devouring.  There are a lot of (good!) things happening on my side of the family right now, and all of our minds have been on little hamster wheels lately.  Their visit came just in time to help us all take a mental break and enjoy being together.

Our visit began dark and early last Thursday morning when I picked my parents up from their hotel and headed to the beach to see the sun rise over the Atlantic.  It brought back memories of arriving at the beach well before dawn, our car loaded with surfboards, as we chowed down granola bars and hit the waves in the early light.  In fact, while we were there, two little girls raced into the water with their shortboards.  It’s been awhile since I’ve been on a board, but I don’t think I’ll ever look out at the water and not feel that itch somewhere in my heart.


Later that morning we visited the Gilbert’s Bar House of Refuge in Stuart.  This little beachfront home was one of nine homes built in the late 1800s as a safe-haven for sailors whose ships wrecked along this jagged part of the coast.  The home’s keeper would walk the beaches after bad storms and bring back anyone he found to give them shelter, food and what medical assistance he could before sending them north.


It was really interesting to think that it wasn’t too long ago that Florida was still a wilderness swamp which most thought uninhabitable.   I bet they couldn’t have imagined it would turn into a magnet for millions of retirees!

The weather was beautiful that day, so we moved down to Stuart Beach and had a belated birthday picnic for my mom whose big day was earlier that week.  We then changed into our bathing suits and spent a lazy afternoon soaking up the hot sun and warm breeze while watching the shorebirds.  It was definitely one of the best beach weather days we’ve had in awhile, and I was so grateful to share it with my parents.



That night we had dinner at our favorite restaurant in downtown Stuart, The Black Marlin.  Next, it was on to the Lyric Theatre’s Flagler Center for their monthly Jazz Jam.  If Charlie and I had not been there, my parents would have been the youngest people in the room!  I thought this type of open jam might draw a younger crowd, but we soon realized the older audience came prepared.  After an hour-long set from the band, they opened up their instruments to anyone who wanted to play a few songs.  One older lady, in white pants and a coral cardigan twinset, stood up and floored us with her deep, knowing voice that flowed out like water.  Another man in his eighties nearly broke his hip walking up to the drums but, once seated, played like he must have forty years ago.


You just didn’t know who was going to get up next!  We’ve been wanting to go this for awhile, and I really hope we have a chance to go back since we apparently have some real jazz talent in our little area.

The next day we drove south to do some birding at the Hobe Sound National Refuge.  Charlie and I hadn’t been to this beach before, and it was really fun to have access to the last uninhabited stretch of Jupiter Island.  It was colder that day, so we birders had the beach to ourselves minus the fishermen.  My parents saw a lot of interesting species while Charlie and I, pretty clueless in this area, enjoyed the view.



At the refuge’s education center, we walked around the exhibit for a few minutes before going to lunch.  We were almost out the door when the exhibit guide asked if anyone wanted to pet their displayed alligators or snakes.  I kept heading toward the door then heard Charlie behind me practically yell, “Of course!”  Should have known!


After lunch at the Dune Dog Cafe, we spent the afternoon wandering through the shops of downtown Stuart and then enjoying a nap before dinner.  The night turned out to be another hit as we settled into shrimp and grits, fish tacos, and pulled pork at the Kona Beach Cafe in Jensen Beach.  The band that evening was two guys cranking out the southern rock that we love so much.


All the tables are outside at Kona, the place is run by surfers, and we could have sat there listening to the music all night.  Charlie and I are definitely heading back on a Tuesday night when they pull down their projector screen and show old surf movies after dark.

On Saturday morning, we had a pretty drive by the river on the way to the Fort Pierce farmer’s market.  We stopped for breakfast at the PP Cobb General Store and then wandered through the maze of craft stalls and gourmet food booths.  Rain clouds were setting in, so we said goodbye mid-morning and my parents got on the road before any sprinkles began.

We all agreed it was a great few days to just enjoy everyone being together with no real agenda or schedule.  My dad said it best when he called the next night to report, “Well, we just don’t know what to do with ourselves.  We’re not going out for seafood and there’s no live music playing.”

Yep, I could get used to that routine too.

See more pictures here.


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Sand, sun and seafood

Sunday was one of our favorite Florida days so far.  We only have a couple of weeks left here, so we’re trying to soak up as much sun and fun as possible.  After a picnic lunch by the river in Stuart, we headed out for a river cruise on the Island Princess.


There are so many waterways around here that it’s pretty hard to keep it all straight.  We never know which river we’re crossing, which port the boats are docked in, etc., and it seemed even more complicated when we saw how they all came together in crazy water intersections.  It was a beautiful warm day with big puffy clouds, and we enjoyed putting our feet up and feeling the salty breeze.


We went past some barrier islands, tons of waterfront mansions and under the many bridges that connect the little towns around us.  While I was hoping for more of a nature-focused cruise, it was still just fantastic to be out on the water.


With our feet back on land, we headed back to downtown Stuart for the weekly “Rockin’ the River” concert.  Each Sunday a different band plays right on the riverwalk, and this week was an awesome country band cranking out Marshall Tucker tunes.


When the band finished up, we made our way to Port Salerno to the marina-side deck of the Manatee Grill.  We scored a table right by the water and had a blast listening to the band and enjoying a beer and yummy dinner while watching the sun go down.  I don’t think we could have been more relaxed!


With only a couple of weeks left, I’m hoping for some more sunny days in which we can enjoy the sun, sand, and seafood.  You know…before we head to southern California for more of the same.  Travel nursing has its unique challenges, but on days like this, I can’t really remember what they are!

See more pictures here.

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Hurting like a child

The other night I sat in our car, waiting for Charlie to get off work, and turned everything off.  I turned off the radio to silence the news anchor’s voice as he reminded us again that 20 children were dead inside a school.  I turned off my phone so I would stop reading through anxiety-riddled Facebook updates and messages about what should be done.  I turned everything off, closed my eyes, and for the first time since I learned of the Connecticut elementary school shooting, I started to really pray.

The only problem was, I was out of words after about 30 seconds.

I didn’t even know what to say to God.  I thought about the darkness our country is stumbling around in and didn’t know how exactly to talk to Him about it.  What words do I use to pray for a nation in which a young man takes weapons into a school and guns down small children?  What words do I use to lift up parents who were going to sleep that night knowing their little ones were lying in a classroom a few blocks away, dead where they fell? How do I pray for the problems I see in people’s faces at the food pantry, the other evil stories I hear on the news, Satan’s victories that He is triumphantly thrusting in my face every day?

What words, Lord?  What words do I pray that will be effective?

That’s when it hit me – God wasn’t waiting for me to ask Him to do specific things to help us.  He was just waiting for me to ask for help.

When a child falls down and hurts herself, what does she do?  She doesn’t turn to her father and say, “Dad, could you please come over here, then kneel down, then see my wound, then clean it with antiseptic, then put a band-aid on it, then help me to my feet?”  No. She doesn’t even use words.  A child will cry, turn in the direction of her father and raise her arms in a gesture that begs him to come pick her up out of her mess and help her.   And when he comes, he knows what to do without being asked specifically about each step.  He is moved by her cry for help, not by her detailed request for helpful actions.  As for the child, she is mainly seeking the comforting presence of her father because she trusts that when he is with her, he will know what to do.

I realized sitting in our car that God understood that I didn’t have the words to pray for the unspeakable things that continue to happen.  I don’t think He is waiting for our eloquent prayers asking just the right things before He comes to our rescue.  I think He wants our broken hearts and our outstretched arms that, as we sit covered in the dirt of the pit we’ve fallen into, search for our Father and cry out to Him for help, trusting He will come to us and already knows what to do.

“In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”  Romans 8:26

We don’t have words Lord, but our spirits are groaning, crying, under the presence of evil in our world.  Hear our cries, see our humbled, outstretched arms and come work Your plan of rescue.


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The Little Shell

“Yesterday morning, Charlie and I went for a walk on the beach before the rain rolled in.  The storm clouds were dark towers against the horizon, and the water was a bright aqua in the spots where the sun was still shining.  This stretch of sand is really good for shelling and actually can hurt your feet if you go without shoes.


As we strolled along, we stopped every few feet to pick up beautiful shells that caught our eye.  They come in so many different colors and shapes.  I know we’re picking up what real “shellers” would think of as just average pieces, but they’re all so pretty that we can’t help it.  Then, by some miracle, I saw this one waiting for us in the wet sand.


About as large as my pinky fingernail, it’s the tiniest whole shell I remember ever seeing.  Yet, even among the shell bed that gets dumped on every day by waves, crunched by joggers, and battered by rainstorms, it isn’t even chipped.  It’s color and stripes are just as detailed and perfect as similar shells that are much larger.

It struck me that God is so detailed in His control and care for creation that He made sure even this tiniest shell had all the right details and was made complete.  With all the complex things He made, He still put the same level of care and craftsmanship into this small shell.

“When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?”  Psalm 8:3-4

In Luke, Jesus tells us that God has even numbered the hairs on our head.  Why would He do that unless He cares for each fiber of our being?  He’s not just interested in the big things about our lives.  We shouldn’t hesistate to share the small,tiny worries, concerns, triumphs and joys with Him.

This little shell reminded me that He is Lord over all things great and small.  He cares for the tiny, seemingly unimportant things with the same detail and eye for completeness that He brings to the larger issues of our lives as well.  I think we’re tempted sometimes to only cast our big worries onto Him.  We think our little concerns are silly and insignificant in His eyes.

Yet our worries pile up like shells on the beach – some large and obvious, some small and hidden among the pile.  This shell reminds me that God cares equally for every part of our hearts.  His concern for us is not proportionate to the size of the issue.  He brings the same detailed love and perfection to everything.  His creation is wide and varied, yet all equally cared for and made equally beautiful.  This shell reminds me that He wants us to share all things, great and small, with Him.  He will bring His same intense love to all parts of us.

This little shell reminds me to not leave parts of my life hidden in the pile, dismissed as insignificant.  It reminds me to continually open myself up to Him, allowing Him access to every concern, every thought, every desire so that He can touch and perfect them all.

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The simple blessing called “Home”

Oh hey, blog.  I’m sure you’re feeling totally neglected, but don’t worry.  I haven’t forgotten you.  I’ve just been busy these last 2.5 weeks hanging out with family and friends, spending in the kitchen with my favorite ladies, going for walks in the glorious sunshine, and whatnot.  But now I’m back, and it’s time to attempt a recap of the aforementioned massive trip home in the form of a bulleted list of favorite memories!

Charlie was able to schedule himself for seven days off in a row.  We headed up to his parents’ home in Dadeville for several days, where we were also able to visit friends in Auburn and Birmingham.  Then, my parents met us in Auburn and I went home with them while Charlie headed back to Florida to work.  I got to Ocean Springs on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, and Charlie worked six days straight before joining us for a few days.  Being relatively close to home is the reason we came to Florida.  After so much time with our families, we certainly feel blessed that the Lord worked this out!

Favorite Memories from Family/Friend Extravaganza 2012

Dadeville – It was awesome to be with Charlie’s family!  They moved up their Thanksgiving meal for us, and it was so nice to all be together.  The weather at the lake was gorgeous, and we went up to the Smith fire tower one afternoon.  The walk up was pretty steep, but seeing the lake’s fall colors from above was definitely worth it.


Charlie’s mom and I had one afternoon to ourselves, and she told me tons of old family stories I’d never heard.  Being so far away this past year has given me a new appreciation for our families, and I loved learning more about our relatives on Charlie’s side.  I also loved getting in the kitchen with Sheila one morning to make lemon ice box pies!  A neighbor had given them some huge lemons, and we went on a spontaneous run to the store for condensed milk and graham cracker crumbs.  It’s not like we needed any more food, but hey – any excuse to get in the kitchen with family!


Friends – We were blessed to see a lot of friends during our time at home.  We went to Auburn one Sunday, where we had the chance to visit with a lot of families we loved during our time working at and attending AUMC.  It hit us during that visit that it had been a year since we’d been with people who had known us for more than a few weeks.  We stood in the parking lot after MYF was over, and it was just hard to leave.  We were so ready to go last September, and I know the Lord was certainly calling us to travel nurse.  But again, all this traveling – as wonderful as it is – has also made me greatly appreciate the deep community we’ve known before.  We had dinner with two good friends in Birmingham the next night, and sitting down with people who know us, really know us, was just a breath of fresh air.  I’m so glad we have another year of great adventures to look forward to all over the country, but I’m also excited for the coming day when we have a permanent community again.  (and I’m sure six months into that, I’ll be itching to explore somewhere new!)

Ocean Springs – I’m old enough now to realize what a unique blessing it was to get to spend 12 days in my hometown with my parents and grandmother.  Not many people my age have that chance, and I soaked up every minute of it!  On my first night, my dad and I went for a long bike ride through the seashore park near sunset.  It’s something I’ve always wanted to do with him since he loves it so much, and it was priceless.  I loved being in the kitchen with my mom as we whipped up the least-stressful Thanksgiving meal ever!  It seriously seemed as if everything was done by 9:30 that morning and we just got to visit.  My grandmother brought her best pecan pie in recent memory and we were practically fighting over the last slices!  She then led the way as all the girls braved the Black Friday madness.  Dad was smart to stay home and get some work done!

The rest of our time was spent just doing the things you do on the coast – visiting pottery showrooms, seeing the new exhibit at the Walter Anderson museum, having girls’ lunches in the cute downtowns, going for morning beach drives just after sunrise to see the birds, stopping for Tato-Nut on the way home, walking along the beach just after it rains, etc.


We used to only be able to visit Ocean Springs for quick weekend trips, so I really savored this longer visit.  When Charlie finally came, we celebrated his return with more seafood, another pie, and a hysterical accidental karaoke night.

One of the most priceless memories from Ocean Springs was the time I got to spend with my grandmother.  We stayed up for an hour one night after my parents went to bed, and she told me all about her life as a girl, her parents, meeting my grandfather, and what it was like to work for Western Union during the war.  I learned so much from her, and I feel so blessed to still have grandmothers who can pass on little pieces of themselves.  One thing she gave me on this trip was her banana pudding recipe.


One night when Charlie was home, Momer sat at the kitchen table and called out the directions to me at the stove.  She walked over to make sure all my stirring was actually getting us somewhere and approved of the final result when it came out of the oven with a lightly browned meringue.  She said she used to make it all the time for the kids, and I know I’ll be making it for our children one day.  I can’t wait to watch them dig into their little bowls as I tell them how their great-grandmother taught me this recipe one Thanksgiving.  She gave me her pecan pie recipe years ago, but I know it will never be as good unless it come in a tin pie plate covered in saran-wrap that’s taped to the bottom and then tied up in a white grocery bag.  Only then could it be hers.

I feel so blessed to be close enough to have these visits.  It won’t be long before we head back west and can’t come home when we want.  The past few weeks has been a fun time of looking back, but also getting a peek of what’s ahead.  Someday we’ll move home again.  Someday we’ll be part of another community again where we share Bible studies, Sunday lunches, Saturday football marathons, double date nights, etc.  And my prayer is that I don’t lose the heightened appreciation for these simple connections we call “home.”  I love traveling, and I don’t think I’ll ever stop wanting to explore new places.  But there is nothing quite as sweet, as comforting, as wonderful as home.

See more pictures here.


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The road from Wyoming to Florida is…

…LONG, icy, slightly scary, and very sleep deprived.  However, it is also full of lots of laughter, beautiful scenery, welcome climate changes, and lots of yummy “Welcome Home!” southern meals.

I picked Charlie up from his last shift at the Wyoming hospital at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, October 24, and we hit the road for Florida.  Even though it would mean a late night, we wanted to at least drive the four hours to Cheyenne in order to help us get to his parents’ house in Alabama by a reasonable time on Friday.

I had all of our directions for each day printed, hotel reservations made, and we felt great about our 2,600 mile, four-day trip across the U.S.

Except, it started snowing the day before we left and didn’t stop.

We were wondering if we’d see a Wyoming snow, and at first we laughed that it came just in time to wish us off.  We enjoyed getting out in it during our last few days and seeing how beautiful it looked against the mountain sky.  Then, we almost cried as we got on the interstate Wednesday night and realized it was iced over for most of the way to Cheyenne.

There’s nothing on I-80 between Rock Springs and Cheyenne, not even street lights.  So we suddenly found ourselves driving 30 mph on solid ice in the pitch black late at night.  At one point, we got caught in a group of truckers who had all stopped to put chains on their tires because they couldn’t get any traction.  I saw a pick-up truck slip and slide across the road in our rearview mirror before he regained control.  It took us five hours to make the usual three hour trip to Laramie (45 minutes from our hotel for the night) only to find that I-80 was closed.

As in, it’s now 12:30 a.m., snowing, we’d been up for 20 hours, and now we had nowhere to go.

Since we had to leave the hotel at 5:45 a.m. anyway, it didn’t make sense to stay in Laramie without knowing if they’d clear the interstate in the next five hours.  And the snow was just going to keep coming down, so we’d probably wake up to worse conditions anyway.

Somehow we made the decision to just keep driving and go south to Fort Collins.  It would get us out of the worst of the snow and keep us on track to make it to an appointment Charlie had in Nebraska the next day to get his fingerprints made.  It was still pretty slow-going, but we finally made it another four hours to just past Fort Collins and checked into a Super 8 Motel at 4:30 a.m.

We then checked out at 6:00 a.m.

If that’s not a “Wow, I’m glad we’re going to Florida!” story, I don’t know what is!  Our car had been through hell, our bikes had been through worse, and we were pretty exhausted, but it was certainly an adventure.  The Lord definitely took care of us the whole way, even keeping our spirits up as tired as we were!  Plus, since we left before dawn, we were treated to a beautifully snowy sunrise as we made our way to Nebraska.

The next day was a gorgeous drive to Missouri, and on Friday we hit the road for Alabama and enjoyed the highways through the coppery-colored Ozarks.

We stopped at a little cafe on a small highway in Arkansas for a delicious lunch of fried catfish, okra, hushpuppies, sweet tea, pecan pie and lemon icebox pie.  We were officially in our homeland!

It felt great to drive into Alabama, be called “Sugar” by the gas station attendants, watch Charlie drink a Diet Grapico and see the sun go down through the pine trees.  Pulling into Charlie’s parents’ house at the lake felt even better.  It was a little more than a year ago that we pulled out of that same driveway headed for Connecticut, not knowing what crazy adventures awaited.

We enjoyed a full day with his family, catching up and laughing while keeping an eye on all the football scores.  Charlie ate his weight in his mom’s breakfast casserole, I overdosed on cheese grits and we all enjoyed a gorgeous fall afternoon family walk.  Being with family again was definitely a blessing!  We even got a double-dose as we headed to Florida the next day to stay with my brother and sister-in-law who happened to be spending the week in Sanibel.  Since they live in Costa Rica and won’t be home this year for Christmas, we weren’t sure when we’d see them next.  We were thrilled when we realized we’d all be in Florida at the same time.  They rolled out the coastal welcome mat and we had a great seafood dinner on the island and stayed up late catching up.

On Monday, we finally headed across the state to our new home in Port St. Lucie.  In the last week, we’ve been enjoying seafood on the water, fresh farmers’ markets, morning walks alongside the egrets and blue herons in our beautiful neighborhood, looking for shells on the Atlantic beaches and wearing short sleeves again.  I keep thinking we’re on vacation, but we really live here!

Charlie spent last week in orientation and officially started on his new floor today.  I’ll update more on his new job, where I’m volunteering and our upcoming trip home soon.  But for now, all we can say is: What a marvelous adventure!

See more pictures from our cross-country adventure here.

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