Home Away From Homeless (part 1)

condo

So we had this great, yet small, condo (1,000 sq. ft. +/-) situated at the front door of The Great Smoky Mountain National Park, our long desired retirement location. 

After much prayer and angst we decided to sell it to find something with a bit more room and a lot more autonomy (a unhappy association with our many investor neighbors was also a huge consideration).  In this decision, we failed to take into account the recent fire in Gatlinburg, which resulted in the shortage of available homes to purchase at our price point…DUH!

SIDE NOTE OF ADVICE:  If you buy a condo in a resort area, make sure that there are a large number of owner-residents onsite. We had a poor experience living in a condo community owned mostly by investors. Investors and homeowners are two different creatures…one treats it like home the other treats it like monthly income.

Pictured below are two examples of the devastating fire that swept through our beautiful park and the upper neighborhoods of Gatlinburg.

We had made plans, prior to selling, for a visit family and friends, out of state, and to go on a cruise out of New Orleans with close friends. Therefore, not being successful in finding a home to buy, in a timely manner, we packed everything and put it all into storage in time to head to Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.

First stop, Orange Beach for Mardi Gras with friends. Sweet husband’s 70th birthday fell on Mardi Gras this year and his youngest daughter gave birth to her first child that very day.

Did you know that south Alabama has a replica of the Stonehenge, called “Bama-Henge”?

Above Bama-Henge

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Second stop, Biloxi, MS for a Yellowstone Employee Reunion. Wonderful friends we had made in 2015 who lived and worked with us at Grant Village.  Two fun-filled days of catching up.

YS Reunion

Prior to this trip and because housing prices were on the rise daily in Pigeon Forge, we decided to move to the Mississippi Gulf Coast (for many reasons, much too long and an unnecessary rabbit trail for this post).  WE placed an offer on a house and started the painful mortgage process…UGH! So while on the coast, we went to tour the house in Long Beach, MS we were purchasing…yep, made the offer sight unseen.  (This purchase has another chapter to it to follow in Part 3).

From there we drove to my youngest daughter’s home south of Baton Rouge for a long needed visit with a cruise sandwiched in the middle of our visit there.

Cruise blog and pictures to follow in Part 2

What’s In A Name – Actually a lot more than I Realized

We have a birth name, a family of origin name, nick-name, and many other relational-names like friend, sister, mother, wife, husband, dad, cousin, uncle, or son. There are also gender and age (or maturity level) names like male/female, infant, teen or elderly. Then there are organizational and educational names like teacher, engineer, accountant, clerk, CEO, president, pastor and so forth. They speak to who we are and what we do, our identity and our purpose. Each name produces a mental picture. Our name also speaks to our realm of responsibility – our own expectations and the needs and expectations of others in those realms of responsibility.

For example, the Queen of England is the Head of The Church of England where our President is The Commander and Chief. Both are the leaders of nations, but are given responsibilities in two different realms; one is religious and the other military. As I mentioned them, you pictured them and who they are in those positions – didn’t you? We have expectations of these positions and when they are not met we become disappointed.

My former boss has a given name, relational names and a job title. She is a wife, mother, grandmother, sister, aunt, daughter, friend, supervisor, Christian and The Chief Executive Officer. She is all these, all the time, but functions as the CEO in her position with our company. All these other names influence all the areas of her life, however some become more dominate with the occasion, location and need.

Likewise, our God has many names; they speak of him as relational, and as the authority in various realms of responsibility. We will look at one of these, later and examine the promise of it.

There are people in our lives who have not lived up to the expectation or need in relational areas of responsibility with us. We have missed the mark on many occasions, as well. These disappointments translate into all our relationships until new trust is built. Knowing this is there any wonder as to how easily the devil puts the goodness and faithfulness and dependability of our God on trial in our minds as circumstances arise where trust is needed.

It would be an effort, crowned with failure and even prison if I attempted to function as the president of the United States. As my bosses executive assistant, however I can speak in her behalf in selected areas, I can arrange meetings, travel and make purchases, but termination would be certain if I attempted to function as the CEO. Yet, I found myself trying to function as, “God” in circumstances which required trust in my God’s realm of responsibility.

Off and on for a number of years I have been the source of supply in the areas of emotional comfort, encouragement and finances for three close family members. I put myself in that position for a couple of reasons; one, I thought I needed to pay for the guilt I felt from my failures (Duh! Hadn’t God forgiven me?!). And because I obviously wasn’t really trusting that God would rise to the need…and He just sat back and let me attempt to be Him. I was told once that God doesn’t force Himself into any situation, I can testify to the truth of this.

Several years ago my husband purchased a small blanket/throw which has woven in it the names of God. It is usually wrapped around me when I have my coffee-quiet time in the mornings because my chair is leather and usually cold to sit on. On a recent morning I was filled with the overwhelming responsibility of these circumstances and the ongoing needs. I bowed my head, began to cry and said, “Lord, I cannot do this anymore, I am just not sufficient and I am running out of resources.” I’m sure there was a collective gasp from the living creatures surrounding the thrown of God that morning when I finally gave up…I could almost hear it. After a few seconds, as my tears dried up, I opened my eyes to the blanket across my lap to see the words, “El Shaddai – The ALL Sufficient One.” That’s the kind of thing to make you laugh and cry at the same time.

I grabbed my Bible to get a better understanding of this Name/Job Title. The first time was in Genesis chapter 17, God told Abram that he and Sarai (now elderly) they would become parents. God introduced Himself as El Shaddai: the ALL mighty, the ALL sufficient, the ALL bountiful, the nourisher, strength giver, satisfier, the supplier of the needs of His people – in short The ALL God.

At the same time He changed their names (job titles) from Abram, which means exalted father to Abraham, which means father of a multitude. He was telling Abraham what he would be, not what he (Abraham) thought he was. He changed Sarai, which means princely to Sarah, which means the mother of princes. The second time is in Genesis chapter 35 when He wrestles with Jacob. God changes Jacob’s name, which means surplanter to Israel, which means God’s Prince. There is so much in the meaning of these old to new job titles, but for the sake of time we won’t go there today.

So I realize as I’m meditating on all this that when God introduces Himself as El Shaddai to someone the next step is a name change. The Spirit spoke to my spirit and asked, “In one word, what is the opposite of ALL?” It was a quick answer, I said, “nil or none or nothing.” He smiled and agreed, “Your new job (name/title) is ‘nothing’. You do nothing and say nothing unless I tell you to do or say something. You are to pray and trust Me. I AM the ALL, you are not”

What a load He has taken from off my shoulders – I really understand and am understanding to trust is to have the “yoke” removed – His burden is easy and His Yoke is light.

(Daniel) saying, “Blessed be the name of God, forever and ever. He knows ALL, does ALL:

He changes the seasons and guides history, He raises up kings and also brings them down, he provides both intelligence and discernment, He opens up the depths, tells secrets, sees in the dark — light spills out of him!” Dan. 2:20-22 (THE MESSAGE)

FEBRUARY BIRTHDAY EXCURSION

We have several family birthdays in February and since all are located in Mississippi and Louisiana we decided to take a trip down south to celebrate with them and get away from yet another snow event here in East Tennessee.  Sweet husband has a birthday tomorrow, but we will celebrate alone together.

STOP ONE: Wilmington, NC to see new friends, Mike and Karen. They live two blocks from the Atlantic, so even with the cold ocean winds, we had to walk down.

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Wilmington is home to Arlie Gardens. 67 acres of paths, lakes, formal gardens, live oaks (one is 500+ years old), 5,000 varieties of camellias, birding trails, thousands of azaleas along with historic, contemporary and primitive garden sculpture. Beautiful even in February.

STOP TWO & THREE: We visited Sweet Husband’s sister and brother-in-law, Martha & Del, in Orlando on our way to stop four and spent a couple of fun days catching up. We also met Del’s sister and husband (Eileen & Stu) in Lakeland for lunch. They are now official Snowbirds from Maine.

Also in Lakeland we toured Florida Southern College designed and built by Frank Lloyd Wright. We count his architecture art work and tour each structure when possible.

STOP FOUR: We had met and developed close friendships with several people in Yellowstone with promises to visit; we keep our promises. Couple number one: Rose and Robert live in Cape Coral, Florida. They crammed in island visits, lunch on a fabulous pier and dinner with Robert’s sister and her husband.

STOP FIVE: Navarre Beach, FL to spend two nights with dear friends, Jim & Sharynn Singleton, from Mississippi, now in Florida.

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STOP SIX: Another Yellowstone couple Jerry and Mel. They live in Texas, but were visiting their son in Ocean Springs, MS. We stopped for a great lunch and sweet reunion.

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STOP SEVEN: Super Bowl Sunday in Baton Rouge with my daughter, Trish, and her family. We had two birthdays to celebrate: Nicholas #6 and Aubrey #16, sweet 16. Aubrey and I exchange flamingos from time to time and have since she was about three, so I had a special cake made for her. Our friend from The Rose Parade and co-conspirator, Teegie (who lives in Baton Rouge) joined us for dinner and the celebration the night after the super bowl.

Teegie

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STOP SEVEN: Jackson, MS. We visited several close friends, John, Curt & Sherry, Kay and her Mom, Gay, my Brother (Bubba) and my sweet son Tony.

Due to circumstances beyond our control we didn’t get to see Leonard’s daughters or precious Grand-Wonder, Liam, for his 3rd birthday, but we left gifts on the porch.

Liam 3

STOP EIGHT: Didn’t happen. We hoped to spend time with my son, Joe and daughter Lorie and their precious families (no birthdays), but they were all fighting a virus and/or the crud.

FINAL STOP: An evening with Rogers and Hammerstein at the Knoxville Symphony Pops for our valentine gift to each other.

KSO

All this in only two weeks. We are getting good at this.

 

The Revenant & Yellowstone National Park

Yesterday sweet husband and I took in an afternoon movie; The Revenant featuring Leonardo DiCaprio as Hugh Glass (c. 1780 – 1833). Based on true events, Glass was an American frontiersman, fur trapper, and explorer of the watershed of the Upper Missouri River in present-day Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and the Platte River area of Nebraska.

Although it was never stated where these events took place, there was one mention that someone was last spotted near the “yellow stone”. Yellowstone is called Yellowstone because the river flows through a yellow stoned canyon.

As you know by now, we spent the summer in Wyoming and Montana, therefore, from the scenery, I believe this part of the story of his life took place in that area; perhaps what is now the Chief Joseph Highway area?

I’m not a movie critic, but the cinematography was academy award quality.

Seeing this movie, which is extremely rough, took me back to Wyoming and Montana; it has haunted me all day.

It started with Glass walking through an overflowing creek in the middle of a forest. The first sounds were of an Elk Stagg trumpet. It is an unmistakable, loud and wonderful sound. One can actually go to YouTube and type in, “Elk Sound”, to hear it, you will never forget it – please do.

There was only one scene involving Bison, but they were stampeding away from a pack of wolves. The Bison’s trumpet or groaning sounds more like a lion. The rocks, cliffs, Lodge Pole Pines, rivers and waterfalls took me “home” to Yellowstone.

This 144 year old national park is located primarily in the state of Wyoming, although it also extends into Montana and Idaho and oh how I love it and miss it.

The stats:

  • It spans an area of 3,468.4 square miles comprising lakes, canyons, rivers and mountain ranges.
  • Yellowstone Lake is one of the largest high-elevation lakes in North America and is centered over the Yellowstone Caldera, the largest super volcano on the continent.
  • This lake has MORE thermal features under water than in the entire rest of the park.
  • The caldera is considered an active volcano. It has erupted with tremendous force several times in the last two million years.
  • Half of the WORLD’S geothermal features are in Yellowstone, fueled by this ongoing volcanism.
  • Lava flows and rocks from volcanic eruptions cover most of the land area of Yellowstone.
  • The park is the centerpiece of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, the largest remaining nearly-intact ecosystem in the Earth’s northern temperate zone.
  • If you work in the park, naturally you live in the park. If you need something as simple as a haircut you will need to drive an hour and half, in good traffic (which is rare), one way.
  • They do have general stores and small health clinics in each village within the park.

One clear evening in August we drove up to Hayden Valley to hopefully see the asteroid events and the Milky Way and, of course try to hear the Elk and Bison trumpet and groan. We were successful on all counts.

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We made friends easily with several of our co-workers and hope to see five of them in the next couple of weeks.

I will not be working there again even thought we had probably the best store manager and cafeteria manager in the entire park. We won’t for three good reasons: (1) it is a long, long drive from Tennessee to Wyoming and (2) my body doesn’t do changing shift work very well and (3) Yellowstone had in excess of 4 million visitors this year; a record. Sadly the company we worked for did not or could not supply our general store with enough help. Oh, my heart will miss it, to be sure.

bisonDSC03988DSC03990 - Copyearth quakeFriends at YSgrandswansYS FallsYS Hotel

 

INFLUENCE

“Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword.” — Jesus. (Matthew 10:34 NKJV)

 CULTURE

I’ve been told that 30% of Americans consider themselves evangelical Christians. The Screen Guild, Planned Parenthood and the Gay/Lesbian groups seem to be having more influence on our culture than we do. These, and many more, are part of the new religion: progressive-liberalism. I know, I was once a part of that mindset. I was also a part of that passive, let’s not shake the boat mindset…peace at any price, mindset.

 Why do you think that the progressive-liberals are having a great influence on our culture? Should Christians be non-confrontational and only peaceful?

Should Christians never be politically involved? I’ve heard Christians say they were not going to vote because the candidate isn’t a Christian. Really? People that is a cop out. One doesn’t need to be a Christian to be a great leader.

 Lord, help us. If we ever needed a great leader, it is NOW.

 If you care about our changing culture, get politically involved at the very least. Stay informed and hold your representatives feet to the fire on our important issues. For example: we need term limits, we need to be rid of lobbyist (which is political corruption), and we need some economic and trade reform. These things, left to the politicians, will not get changed. Let us be logical here. Why should they make these changes? They are profiting from them.

 Martin Luther King, Jr. was an unknown, black, Christian, preacher without mega money behind him; actually with nothing behind him. Did he let that stop him from taking the authority and influence given to him to make changes to the culture? Did he allow intimidation to make him back down?

 We don’t have to develop a powerful position like this to make a difference in our culture. Remember, snowflakes are all very small, but in short order they can completely cover a landscape.

 I believe God gave us this country to occupy until He comes and many other very good reasons I won’t address right now.

 Are we influencing our given territory or are we just letting TV, media, our educators, and/or politicians change our culture and the next generation’s mindset without our involvement? We have influence and authority, are we using it in the realm we have been assigned to? Or are we letting intimidation from the progressive-liberals keep our mouths shut?

 Do you know what your children/grandchildren are being taught in school? It may be a good influence or it may be a bad one. However, if we don’t get involved by reading over some of the materials…that is passive neglect of your influence. PERIOD

 Home schooling and private Christian schooling has had its fair share of ridicule. Wonder why? The progressive-liberals cannot control what is being taught.  

 Do you remember the story of Ester in the Bible (if not read it – the whole book is called, ESTER)? She was a beautiful woman from the Israel captives, who became the queen of the kingdom of her captors. She had the best of everything: food, servants, clothing, entertainment, protection and comfort of every kind. Why, I ask you, would she rock that boat? To go before her King with a request, without being summoned was often sure death. Why would she risk that? Because she loved her people and she culture more than her life. PERIOD

 Jesus was born a Jew in a religious culture, ruled by Romans. He fought the religious culture for three years, within the Roman culture. He made an obvious difference. Such a difference, that thousands of people since have been willing to and have died for Him. That, beloved is influence.

Yellowstone Lake, River, Canyon and MORE

While in the park this summer, we were located just a mile from the southern portion of The Yellowstone Lake area and The West Thumb branch of the Lake. Geysers, fumaroles, and hot springs are found both alongside and in the lake.

West Thumb’s shoreline has suspiciously crater-like contours. Its underwater profile is dramatically deeper than the rest of Yellowstone Lake. Only a massive explosion could have formed West Thumb.

Thought the blowout occurred 125,000 years ago, West Thumb is still thermally active. Hot springs, mud pots, and geysers stream and percolate along the shore, and temperature gauges record high heat flow in lake bottom sediments.

If the lake were completely emptied of all the water, it would hold more geysers, hot springs thermals and mud pots that the whole rest of the park. Unbelievable, but true.

West Thumb of Yellowstone Lake, thermal area

West Thumb of Yellowstone Lake, thermal area

West Thumb of Yellowstone Lake, thermal area

West Thumb of Yellowstone Lake, thermal area

West Thumb of Yellowstone Lake, thermal area

West Thumb of Yellowstone Lake, thermal area

West Thumb of Yellowstone Lake, thermal area

West Thumb of Yellowstone Lake, thermal area

West Thumb of Yellowstone Lake, thermal area

West Thumb of Yellowstone Lake, thermal area

West Thumb of Yellowstone Lake, thermal area

West Thumb of Yellowstone Lake, thermal area

Yellowstone Lake is the largest body of water in Yellowstone National Park. The lake is 7,732 feet above sea level and covers 136 square miles with 110 miles of shoreline. While the average depth of the lake is 139 feet, its greatest depth is at least 390 feet. Yellowstone Lake is the largest freshwater lake above 7,000 feet in North America.

We were told in winter, ice nearly 3 feet thick covers much of the lake except where shallow water covers hot springs. A sight to behold, I’m sure, but it won’t happen for me in this life as I hate winter…and they have REAL winter.

As of 2004, the ground under the lake has started to rise significantly, indicating increased geological activity, and limited areas of the national park have been closed to the public. As of 2005, no areas are currently off limits aside from those normally allowing limited access such as around the West Thumb Geyser Basin. There is a ‘bulge’ about 2,000 feet long and 100 feet high under a section of Yellowstone Lake, where there are a variety of faults, hot springs and small craters. Seismic imaging has recently shown that sediment layers are tilted, but how old this feature is has not yet been established.

Yellowstone Lake, view from the lodge

Yellowstone Lake, view from the lodge

Yellowstone Lake, view from the lodge - sunset

Yellowstone Lake, view from the lodge – sunset

Yellowstone Lake

Yellowstone Lake

The lake currently drains north from its only outlet, the Yellowstone River, at Fishing Bridge. The elevation of the lake’s north end does not drop substantially until LeHardy Rapids. Therefore, this spot is considered the actual northern boundary of Yellowstone Lake. Within a short distance downstream the Yellowstone River plunges first over the upper and then the lower falls and races north through the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. These two spectacular falls flow through the canyon area where the walls of this canyon are all yellow stone, therefore the park name.

At the head of the YS Falls with 4 of our Grand-wonders:  Teegie's three and our one

At the head of the YS Falls with 4 of our Grand-wonders: Teegie’s three and our one

Osprey nesting above Yellowstone canyon

Osprey nesting above Yellowstone canyon

Yellowstone Falls

Yellowstone Falls

Yellowstone falls, river and canyon

Yellowstone falls, river and canyon

Yellowstone Falls

Yellowstone Falls

Yellowstone Falls

Yellowstone Falls

Yellowstone Falls

Yellowstone Falls

Yellowstone falls, river and canyon

Yellowstone falls, river and canyon

In the 1990s, geological research determined that the two volcanic vents, now known as “resurgent domes”, are rising again. From year to year, they either rise or fall, with an average net uplift of about one inch per year.  Kind of scary…

One of our favorite spots in Yellowstone Lake was the Lake Lodge. It is the oldest lodge in the park (over 100 years old) and has been beautifully renovated. Each evening, in their large open reception area, sporting a spectacular view of the lake via huge glass windows, we were entertained by a sensational string quartet. Before you cry, “boring”, they played a range of music from Hendrix (yes, Jimmy) to Pachelbel to Broadway Pops.

Lake Lodge String Quartet

Lake Lodge String Quartet

Each night at 9:00 p.m., when the lodge lowered the American Flag, just outside the massive windows, they would play our national anthem and all would rise to the occasion…This made my heart smile with pride.

We went every other week as our work schedule allowed; often with our new, precious friends.  We celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary in this location, with these wonderful new friends.

Mel and Jerry at the Lake Lodge

Mel and Jerry at the Lake Lodge

Teegie and sweet husband at the Lake Lodge

Teegie and sweet husband at the Lake Lodge

Rose and Rob

Rose and Rob

Grace, Rose and Rob at the Lake Lodge

Grace, Rose and Rob at the Lake Lodge

Brandon, Lilly, Teegie and Grace

Brandon, Lilly, Teegie and Grace

Rose, Rob and me

Rose, Rob and me

Teegie, Grace and Mel

Teegie, Grace and Mel

If you want to stay in the lodge, one must reserve months in advance and be prepared to pay from $363.00 to over $600.00 per night, plus tax—these are the 2015 rates.

Our friends Gay Bissell and Fawn Fortman drove ALL THE WAY TO YELLOWSTONE FROM MISSISSIPPI to visit us.  We took them to visit our beautiful falls and had dinner together in the lodge.  Thank you for making that long, long drive.  We love you.

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Yellowstone Lake Lodge

Yellowstone Lake Lodge