Thirteen More Weeks

February 6th.  That is the new day we will end our time here in Cambridge Ohio.  From the sound of things from the hospital – Lisa may be employed there for much longer than that.  But, for now, our date is February 6th.

We feel blessed being here in this little hamlet.  The campground we are staying at is battening down the hatches (whatever that means) for the winter and the seasonal campers have winterized their campers and headed south or wherever.  All that is left here is mostly the oil and gas workers and Lisa and I.  This should be an adventure.  God has been good to us in that this will be the first time since we started traveling that we have been able to go home for a week at Thanksgiving and a week at Christmas and have a job to return to after that.  It is a good feeling knowing that we can stay in a place for another three months just six hours from home.

Cambridge is already gearing up for the Christmas season and everyone has told us the decorations downtown themselves are worth staying around for.  A life-sized Dickens Village is already being set up all over the downtown area with scenes of Dickens characters placed on park benches and in front of the downtown shops.  Really cool!  I’m amazed how little towns we have lived in are able to pull off some rather stunning events.  I wrote about the amazing fireworks display here in July and can only marvel at how the citizens pull together for various parades and other events.  I suppose when you live in small town America – these events have extra special meaning.

My favorite television show of all time is “The Andy Griffith Show” and I can’t help but think of Mayberry when I walk the sidewalks of downtown Cambridge.  People here seem to know each other and I love how, with the exception of Lisa and I and the oil and gas transplants, everyone seems to have their place and position in the town.    Here there is one hardware store, one bakery and one grocery store.  Also you will find at least one church from nearly every denomination known to man and God.  There may be a “Floyd’s Barbershop” somewhere here – I just have not found it yet.  I understand how people can make this place home and never leave.  But, may I say right here and now – we really like Cambridge, Ohio – we love the people here – but we do not see ourselves making it our home for good.

Aside from Owensboro, Cambridge Ohio will be a place that we have spent more time in our lives than any other.  By the first of February we will have been here ten months.  We are just six hours from our real home.  We are also just a few weeks away from being home for an extended vacation.  And that is not too bad.

We love you all!  Lisa and Steve

 

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Home and Away

There is one thing that Lisa and I have concluded in regards to traveling with her job –  we absolutely need each other.  As sappy as it may sound – we have learned that life apart just does not work as well as life together.  This past weekend I had to return home alone for a friends funeral (see “A Sock Hat and a Sacrifice”) and to take care of some other business.  Lisa stayed back in Cambridge.  It was just strange for both of us.

I have heard it said that occasional separation between a husband and wife is a healthy thing and I agree that couples should have the ability to be apart while maintaining trust and affection.  That being said, Lisa and I have had to depend on one another to such an extent while traveling, it seems abnormal to be apart.  We are all each other has as we settle into one place or another.  Now that we have been here in Cambridge for six months, we have made friends and can now feel safe being separated for extended periods of time.  But separation is not an easy thing – it is an adjustment that does not come without some anxiety for both of us.  We don’t sleep as well at night and find ourselves worried and anxious about each other while we are apart.  The truth is we have so much fun together – life apart just seems incomplete.

My heart goes out to those who have lost a spouse.  I know of several who have had to reset their lives without their lifelong partners and I have a great admiration for their ability to pick up the pieces and carry on. There will come a day when that will happen in our lives – perish the thought.  Knowing that – we cherish the time we have.  We could not wish anything more for our children and their marriages.  Lisa and I have fun together.  We laugh a lot.  We talk a lot.  We dream a lot.  We are aware of many (mostly men working in the oil and gas fields) here in our campground who are alone due to either being unmarried without a spouse or geographically separated from them.  Loneliness must be the most horrible of human experiences.  After my dad passed away, I witness my mother slip into loneliness and depression and was helpless to alleviate the pain in her life.  Looking back – I almost wish I had been more sensitive to her situation and may have even considered moving her into our home.  It was a hard lesson I learned about how life changes can be devastating.  These men in our campground are making enormous amounts of money in the oil fields – but many seem so unhappy as they have nobody to share it with – no one to come home to.  Money cannot buy that. (Well, I suppose money can buy that – but let’s not go there.)

So I write today thanking God for having someone to share my life with.  Lisa is glad I am back here in Cambridge.  I am glad to be back here with Lisa.  It may be she was tired of fixing her own supper and lunch and hated driving herself to work.  I’d like to think that she still thinks of me as that good-looking stud she married thirty-one years ago and missed seeing her hunk of a husband.

But who am I kidding?  It was the lunch.

See Ya’s!

A Sock-Hat and a Sacrifice

It is the one truth in my life that effects everything.  It is the credo that frames every action, every thought and every regret.  It has changed my life.  That one belief is this:  Jesus Christ died in my place.  Nothing comes close to comparing to that marvelous revelation.  No material good, no honor or award, no accolade or compliment can even be in the same orbit as this profound fact – the most holy God – died for the most unholy me.

But there was one moment long ago that can, at least, be in the same conversation as the ultimate sacrifice Jesus made for me.  It was an event that happened when I was about twelve years old and one that has had a lasting impact on my life.  It is a story about a friendship.

Billy Devine and I were best friends.  Billy grew up, ironically, in the very house that Lisa and I have called home now for the past fifteen years.  I grew up across the street and we spent the better part of our childhood playing trucks and cars in his backyard or throwing a football or walking to school or watching television and just being friends.  His life was not easy.  Certainly not as easy as mine.  He lived through a difficult upbringing and had a strained relationship with his father.  The difficulties of his childhood shaped much of what he became as an adult and his struggles with life would eventually get the best of him.  Even though our lives went in different directions as we lost contact with one another – I always regarded him as a friend.

Billy and I loved sports – every kind of sport.  We played youth football together and attended many sporting events.  We shot basketball on my gravel driveway “court” for hours on end and hardly a day went by that Billy and I did not throw a football back and forth or get a game together with others in our neighborhood.  Growing up in a predominantly Catholic neighborhood there were always plenty of kids to play with and a daily game of touch football was the norm.  Billy and I made sure to always be on the same team – me playing quarterback and he the receiver.  He could catch anything – often willing to dive on the asphalt to keep a drive alive.  He was a superb athlete and we hardly ever lost.

One very cold Saturday Billy and I went to watch a youth football game at a local high school and had gone into a restroom to get warm when we encountered a group of boys who began to pick on us.  Being outnumbered, we knew it would mean either fighting our way out of the situation or be in for a major beat down.  At one point one of the boys grabbed the sock hat off my head and placed it under the sink faucet as if he was going to soak it under the freezing cold water.  I was helpless to stop him.  It was then that Billy (who was a year older and at least a foot taller than me) stepped up and did one of the most amazing things anyone could do.  He pulled his hat off and offered it for their humiliation game in exchange for mine.

It’s funny – I don’t remember what happened after that.  I don’t remember what the boys looked like or how we got away unscathed.  All I remember is Billy offering his hat so that mine would remain dry and warm.  To this day I don’t know of a single act of kindness directed toward me that has had such a lasting impact.  More to the point – I can’t remember anyone acting more like Jesus.

Billy’s mother was a strong Christian influence in their family’s life and I remember actually hearing his mom praying out loud inside her bedroom from across the street.  She poured her heart out to her God for Billy, his father, and Billy’s two sisters.  I would not be surprised that somewhere in her pleas – my name and our family was mentioned.  Over time Billy seemed to resent religion and the church and it became the tipping point for his rebellion.  I don’t know if he ever reconciled with God – but I do know his faithful mother never stopped praying for him.  It is my belief that Billy knew Jesus all along – he certainly acted like Him that day on my behalf.

During high school Billy was involved in a motorcycle accident and suffered a severely broken leg.  His athletic career sort of ended that day but I remember sitting with him at his home while he recuperated.  We watched TV and talked.  Friends do those kind of things.  We helped each other through some difficult times.  We helped each other grow up.

Years would go by and like many relationships, Billy and I got lost from one another.  After high school – his family moved away from our neighborhood and I only saw him on very rare occasions.  When my brother passed away in 1987, I remember walking to the rear of the funeral home during his visitation and there on the back row, sitting all alone – was Billy.  He had come to the funeral home by himself to pay his respects.  He seemed understandably uncomfortable.  We talked and I thanked him for being there.  I don’t remember ever talking to him again.

Billy passed away on Monday October 13, 2014.  He was 56 years old.

For me Billy was not the gray-haired man in his obituary picture.  He was a boy of thirteen throwing a football with me on 22nd St.  His time was not the day he died but the summers of our youth when three months of vacation seemed stretched into three years where every waking moment was full and alive.  His life was not that of sadness and struggle ending in Hospice care – it was a life of laughing, when metal toy cars and a pile of dirt could bring joy indescribable for hours on end or a trip to the Saturday matinée in downtown Owensboro, Kentucky seemed more exciting than a trip to Disney World.

And Billy Devine’s legacy will not be the mistakes and bad decisions he may have made in his life.  For me – he will be remembered for a sock hat and a sacrifice and the day he became Jesus to me.

I love you, Billy!  Your friend, Steve

 

New RV

sandpiper

A funny thing happened to Lisa and I when we recently went home to Owensboro, Kentucky for a weekend.  We bought a new RV.  After two and a half years of living in our very small, very used, leaky, fifth wheel camper – we finally decided to buy a new one.  It has been quite a journey.

Very soon our new forty-two foot camper will roll off the assembly line and we will move our old camper one last time.  Part of us is a little sad to leave our old camper behind as we move into a new one.  Our adventures in this little RV have been memorable and we will always remember those experiences with fondness.  It was in Abbottstown, Pennsylvania that I had a middle of the night epiphany to purchase an RV even though we did not have a truck to pull it.  Our poor luck in finding an apartment in Hanover, where Lisa would work her first traveling assignment, left us with very little choice and by noon the next day we had purchased this used RV that would, eventually, survive the Arizona desert heat and an unusual snow storm in Atlanta.  It has served our purpose well – but it is time for something new.

It is hard to know how many RVs Lisa and I have looked at over the past two plus years.  Maybe a thousand.  We looked at them in California, Arizona, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Ohio.  Twice we attended the nations largest RV show in Hershey, Pennsylvania – but never found one that felt right.  So – we waited.  In the meantime Lisa kept up her chant of “New RV!, New RV!” and I pretended to ignore her pleas.  But I could ignore them no longer.  With winter fast approaching and our stay here in southeastern Ohio now extended until at least February, it was time to find something better able to handle the weather.  We drove to Columbus one Saturday and found one to our liking – but the price was not in our budget.  So we kept looking.  And then we went home.

Never in our wildest dreams would we have thought that the best deal and the best RV for us would be found right in our hometown of Owensboro.  On a whim – we decided to stop in and talk to them not really expecting them to have much or offer much for our used camper.  To our shock and surprise, a new Forest River fifth wheel camper with everything we were wanting was on its way to their lot and before we hardly knew what happened – we bought it.  Actually – we ended up with one with a few changes that is now being built.  We hope to be in it by the early part of November – if not sooner.  Their very generous offer for our trade was the real tipping point and it will be good to deal with people from our hometown rather than in California or somewhere else far away.  The bottom line is – it just felt right to both Lisa and myself.

I am not one to trust my emotions.  More often than not they lead me into bad decisions.  But, of all the RV’s we looked at over the past two years, Lisa and I never felt at peace with any until we found this one.  Maybe there was some spiritual guidance that was given us in making this decision – we certainly prayed enough about it.  Peace of mind is a wonderful thing and we have had that ever since we made the decision to buy.  Why should we not believe that God has intervened in this matter?  Our buying an RV is trite in comparison to the problems going on around the world.  Knowing God is moving and doing in matters as small as this – gives us assurance that He also controls the big stuff.  And that is really good to know.

Our new RV will have the capability to sleep up to nine people.  That includes an extra bedroom that can also serve as my man cave and/or Lisa’s sewing and craft room.  It may take us two to three days to get it backed into place.  And I have a feeling my sphincter will get very tight as we move it north here to Cambridge.  That may be the longest six-hour drive of my life and may turn into ten.  It will be ‘slow and steady as we go’.  We have even had to modify our truck to pull the extra load of an RV four thousand pounds heavier and thirteen feet longer than the one we have now.

And finally – mercifully – I will no longer have to deal with a leaky roof or store my clothes in the kitchen cabinets due to lack of closet space.  That will be very nice.  But the nicest part of all is not hearing Lisa chanting, “New RV” – “New RV”.

Come and visit us anytime – we will have plenty of room.

Love, Steve and Lisa