Showing posts with label summer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label summer. Show all posts

Saturday, August 18, 2018

10 Reasons Why I Love Watching Baseball

This one's just for fun. There's no spiritual lesson or observation here, except this: every good gift comes from God. I think baseball is one of those. At least it is to me.

A familiar sight: J.D. Martinez praising God upon
rounding the bases after hitting a home run.
I’m making a confession: I love watching baseball. I have watched more this year than any other season in my life, primarily for three reasons: 1.) My favorite team, the Red Sox, are absolutely dominating Major League Baseball; 2.) I’ve got with our (minimal) cable package; and 3.) I had a sabbatical this summer that allowed me time to watch. There are a handful of things that cause me to relax and feel happy as soon as I start. Baseball is one of those things. It doesn’t matter if it’s on TV or live, the effect is the same. So I’ve been wondering, “Why do I love it so much?” On this short post, I’m going to attempt to make a list.
1. I so admire the skill it takes to play the game well. Whether it’s a high school game or the Sox, these athletes are just different from most others. They’re not the fastest, tallest, or strongest athletes in sports. But they are so specialized with certain skills, and could be among the smartest or quickest thinkers in the sports world. I was not a very good baseball player (probably due to that “smartest” thing), so that makes me even more impressed with these talented athletes.
2. It’s a thinker’s game. The rules are many and the strategy is multi-faceted. In many ways, it’s like chess with real people. It’s not just the coaches who must do most of the thinking. One small mental lapse from one player can cost the whole team a game. And often does. And it’s the only sport I know that keeps record of errors!
Who encapsulates class and courage more than Jackie?
3. There is an incredible appreciation for history and tradition. I love that the statistics are riddled with players from every decade from the last one-hundred-plus years. Very little rules have changed. The organ is the same. The uniforms are the same (including metal spikes). The bats are made of wood (I wish this were the case with all ages!). While watching I feel somehow connected with generations past.
4. It’s a game that is diverse. Baseball is no respecter of persons. You can be born in poverty in the Dominican Republic or be from a wealthy family in California. It’s the American pastime, but they play it from Japan to Cuba. I read that about 30% of MLB players were born outside the USA. You can be huge or diminutive in size. I love the diversity. Jackie Robinson. ‘Nuff said.
5. It’s a game that requires courage. You stand in the way of a hard ball coming at you at 100 mph. You sometimes have to dive to attempt a catch or slide head-first. The fights are few, but real. Please forgive me, but I love this part. There is a code of respect that demands repayment for those who do something dirty. Come in cleats up on a second baseman, and expect to get beaned when you get in the batter’s box. Then expect retaliation. And when the benches clear, it gets crazy! It’s a man’s world where pride and honor matter.
6. It offers a break from the usual stressors of life. There is just very little politics or cultural rot that spoils the experience. It occasionally happens, but for the most part people behave because they seem to be there to escape the societal noise, too. There seems to be fewer politically active players using their platform to make their causes known. I really don’t want to know about all their causes. I just want to watch baseball. I hope this doesn’t change.
7. It’s not as intense as other sports. Believe me, I love football. Grew up in a football coach’s home, played it for 13 years of my life, and have coached myself. But football is not relaxing to watch (or play). Basketball seems to stay intense the whole game—and especially the last two minutes (which takes a half-an-hour). But baseball has spurts of intense play and moments of incredible pressure interspersed with long periods of deliberate strategy and intermission. You can have ongoing conversations with others during a game. You can enjoy a hotdog, a pretzel, and eat a whole bag of peanuts, all while sitting down and without spilling your drink.
8. It’s like art marrying science. I almost want to call it beauty in motion. Especially at the professional level; the players catch, throw, and swing with such precision and finesse. They make plays together like a symphony. The mathematical unlikelihood of hitting a small, spinning, spherical baseball moving at 100 mph with a small cylindrical bat into a limited area of play without any of the nine opponents catching the ball…is just amazing in itself. And many players average getting a hit between 20 and 30 percent of the time (some even more)!
9. It is a study on persistence and consistency over time. You can have three terrible at-bats, but the fourth might be a home run. Then you can get in a slump for a few games followed by a hitting streak. Unlike football where you can’t really afford to lose more than one or two games (if that many when you’re in the SEC!), you can lose a lot of games, but if you consistently win more than you lose, you’re in good shape for the playoffs. It really is about who can do the best over the long-haul. A lot like life!
10. Baseball players are just cool. They seem so composed and unflappable. They will accomplish some seemingly impossible athletic feat and just carry on afterward with maybe a quick smile to a teammate. Awesome. I wish I could be so cool!

Monday, July 30, 2018

Lessons From Sabbatical

Having been at Providence for over 21 years, I just finished my third sabbatical. As previously explained, sabbatical is a period of rest, research, and restoration for people in full-time ministry and other professions (like academia and counseling) so that they can avoid burnout and renew their creativity, passion, and effectiveness. Traditionally, a sabbatical occurs every seven years. The word comes from Sabbath (Greek, sabbaton; from the Hebrew, shabbath; lit. “rest”), which usually brings to mind the seventh day of the week, the biblical day of rest. Interestingly, the word is used for an entire year in Leviticus 25:1-5.
The Lord spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel… For six years you shall sow your field, and for six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its fruits, but in the seventh year there shall be a Sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a Sabbath to the Lord. You shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard. You shall not reap what grows of itself in your harvest, or gather the grapes of your undressed vine. It shall be a year of solemn rest…”
It wasn’t just for the land, it was for those who worked the land (virtually everyone in that day). It’s a good idea. And I’m so happy that Providence instituted it for full-time ministry staff from the start.
When I’ve run into people from church this summer, I’ve frequently been asked, “How’s sabbatical going?” I try to give a short answer, like, “Great!” But it never seems to suffice. So here’s one that’s a little more complete with the top seven lessons I’ve learned from sabbatical this summer.

1. I needed some extended rest.
I’m sure there are some who decry a long break (we provide a month after seven years, and two
Darla & I in a gloating selfie after breaking the paddleball record.
The beach was great (um, after the tropical storm that hit us hard)!
months every seven thereafter). I understand the sentiment. In fact you might be saying, “I’ve been working in my job for 20 (30, 40, whatever) years and haven’t taken so much as a vacation!” While that’s a little extreme (someone actually told me this!), the truth is I understand the skepticism of those who have never had a long break from work. I could absolutely do that too because I love my job! In fact, I kind of let this sabbatical sneak up on me and had to pry my fingers away from doing ministry at Providence. It took me about two weeks to just relax and stop thinking about all the things I needed to do.
Let me say it plainly: I needed this long break. Unknowingly, my attitude, focus, and energy was being affected by what has been an unrelenting last few years, the last one in particular. As the weeks wore on this summer, I could feel my brain decompress. I found myself reinvigorated for my calling and job. If you’re struggling, maybe you need a long break too.

Here's what it looks like today.
2. Building a house is not easy. 
Ok, so I already knew that. Let’s just say that Darla and I are learning this lesson even more! After unexpectedly selling our house and unsuccessfully looking for another, we decided (after a whole lot of praying and seeking wise counsel) in June to bite this thing off and build ourselves, so we bought some property near Edgemoor Road, about 15 minutes from Providence. Whew! Making decisions, finding and scheduling subs, and getting all the details worked out is why people wisely pay contractors. And we’ve really only just begun. Seriously, we feel like we're learning a whole new trade (and I guess we actually are).
Here's the goal!
I’ve also met some good people who I would have never met otherwise and have had some great spiritual conversations. I'm super thankful for friends who are helping us and for Darla who is doing most of the contracting (especially now that I have to go back to work)! She's really organized and I'm good at shooting the bull. A great combo!!

3. Writing a book is real work. 
I’m not a writer so maybe it’s just me, but this task is HARD. I spent several days this summer researching and writing about my dad. It is exhausting! And I feel the proverbial mountain I have to climb to get this book written just keeps getting higher as I write.
A 38-year-old Ken Sparks
Some of the hardest parts include these three: 1) interviewing key people who have first-hand accounts, 2) working through the piles of articles, videos, and statistics to find what I need; and 3) fact-checking all the stuff, especially regarding some of the important games I think need to be described (probably not for the reasons you think!). And it’s emotional for me! I can watch a video on him and be in tears.
The next one is related…

4. I’m reminded how blessed I am for the earthly father God gave me. 
Ken Sparks was a great man. He lived and died well. I pray I can be a steward of his legacy and be like him in so many ways.

5. It's great to see what other churches are doing. 
This is a church in Georgia that has a similar mission & vision
as Providence that we visited. And yes, that's Dara leading!
I got to visit a wide variety (regarding style, tradition, and size) of churches this summer. All of them hold to God’s Word as true, all were fantastic (I tend to not be critical), and I learned things from each of them. I collected lots of printed material, shot lots of pictures and video, and made lots of notes. It seems I always heard from God when I went to worship, regardless of the church. That in itself is a lesson! I love that God uses so many churches who do things so differently to reach all kinds of people. I felt kinship with them all. I look forward to discussing with our staff and elders some of the things I experienced that might help us be better at Providence.
But all that visiting other churches makes the next lesson I learned even clearer...

6. I love Providence Church more than I ever knew.
I really do. The church is a group of redeemed people who have covenanted together to accomplish a mission. I love our people. I love our covenant together. I love our mission. I feel more committed to Providence than ever before! The really cool thing is that our church grew (over last year’s numbers) while I’ve been away! That shows what I already knew: Providence (unlike some churches) is about much more than merely following a man (unless the man is Jesus!). There aren't many pastors who stay at churches for 21 years (my 101-year-old grandmother who was a pastor's wife is still amazed), and there are even fewer who can honestly say that there's no church in the world where they'd rather serve than the one they're at. I'm so grateful. I can't think of a godlier group of elders, I can't think of a better staff, and I can't imagine a better group of people than those at Providence. What an awesome spiritual family I have! I have missed being with my church this summer...a lot!

7. I love my wife profoundly. 
Of course, I already knew this. But this break has given us significant time together. I’ve never gotten tired of her and she never gets on my nerves (I don’t think she could say the same of me!). As cliched as it sounds, she really is my best friend. We laugh together a lot. We are totally on the same page spiritually. We work well together and compliment each other’s giftedness. She has been through more hard times in the last year than any other year in our lives, and has come through looking even more like Jesus. I am amazed by her and more in love with her than ever. I made a great choice 29 years ago to ask her to be my wife. I had no idea how great. God had something (read: everything) to do with that.

There were many more lessons learned that I could tell you about like, "Life is possible without social media," "Sugar-free gummies cause violent stomach problems," "The beach isn't fun in tropical storms," "Extroverts need people around," "Abstaining from reading/watching news makes you happier," "Beagles like skunks," and "Ticks & mosquitoes suck" (there are stories for all of these!). And many other good things happened this summer. Among them, I read some good books, hiked some great hikes, made some great new friends, ate some good food, caught up on sleep, got to watch a lot of baseball, and (most importantly) spent some great time with Jesus. Thank you Providence, for allowing me to have this time!

Monday, July 2, 2018

We've Moved!

Well, kinda. I'm still at Providence, we're still in West Knoxville (actually Farragut instead of Karns now), but we're not finished moving. That's because through a crazy set of circumstances we've decided to build a house.

Here's the story...well, first some backstory:

From the time our middle child, Duncan, left for college almost five years ago, all our kids started telling us we needed to sell our house in Karns and downsize or get out in the country or buy an older house with more character or something. We just laughed, because we didn't have any desire to move, much less take on a fixer-upper project. Besides, why did they want us to sell the house in which they grew up? Go figure. So through continued prodding, we tippy-toed into the idea, thinking how it would be nice to have a smaller home, or a house away from a major highway, or something with a big garage where I can work on stuff. This curiosity gained momentum as Darla started seeing how much houses were selling for and some of the cool places she found on realty websites (like Zillow, etc.). Many of you may be familiar with this phenomenon. Once the train gets moving in that direction...I think you get my point. For the whole beginning part of this pursuit, I was dubious and unenthusiastic about moving. Secretly, however, I was thinking about all the appliances that were wearing out in our house that needed to be replaced. I was thinking about how every surface needed to be upgraded and about all the repairs that were needed. And it WOULD be nice to have a decent garage! So the song goes.

Long story short...we put the house up for sale and asked a reasonable price that I believed did not need to be lower. Good friends were our realtors, and they almost immediately got a bite. This older couple from out-of-town who had great credit wanted it—especially the wife. "Whoa! Are we really doing this?" I asked. They signed a contract and so began all the (many) inspections for their VA loan. Meanwhile, we started scrambling to find something. Truth is, we saw that our house wasn't so bad after all, and that it would be extremely hard to find something already built that we would be happy with. After looking at several different houses we were not feeling good. One of the most difficult things (and kinda funny) is that Darla kept extending the search area. So after praying about it (seriously) I gave her a limit. Any house we consider must be LESS than 20 minutes from Providence. For the next month, she almost daily sent me listings of houses that were 26 minutes, 23 minutes, 21, get the point. We had some stress in our marriage over it! Virtually every time she called me and said, "I may have found us a house!" I would reply, "How far from Providence is it?" and she would avoid the question and say something about it that she knew I'd like. "It's got a great garage!" "But how far is it from the church?" It would drive her (and me) crazy! Then, of course, we would find something we liked but it would be way over our price range. I would remind her of that and she would get frustrated. I think our wonderful realtors were getting frustrated with me too (although they promise they were not)! Truth is, I would have been frustrated with me!

Thankfully the couple wanting to buy our house backed out, citing one of the inspectors who had pointed out some minor things that they didn't even ask if we'd fix. They probably just found something they wanted more. Whew! I loved our neighborhood and neighbors, I liked our pretty private back yard, and I like Karns—a community that we had been a part of for 21 years! In my mind, this was all God telling us, "I don't want you to move." We happily decided to stay. Good thing, too, because my Dad soon became very sick and passed away a few months later, and several other things happened that made 2017 an extremely hard year.

But God was really saying, "I don't want you to move...YET."

So now, here's the story.

Over a year later, we were at church on Christmas Eve, when after the service a couple we love approached us and asked, "Y'all wouldn't be willing to sell us your house, would you?" We had invited them over for dinner many months earlier and we may have mentioned at the time that our kids wanted us to move. They told us they loved our house and yard and neighborhood, that their daughter went to school at GCA which is one mile away, and that they had been looking for a house to no avail. "Would y'all just give us a price?" 

Later that week, we invited them over to talk, we agreed on a price and it was done. 

Meanwhile, another good friend who goes to Providence was looking for land upon which to build a house, and found some that had been for sale and tied up in a complex family for years. He began to work hard to clear the obstacles and made an offer to the family to buy the land. He had mentioned it to me back when we were looking to move. We mused about how great it would be to be neighbors (he also likes to work on cars) and how nice the land was (woods two miles from Providence!) and other stuff. But after the sale of our house fell through, the idea faded. But he was still working on it. Months later his efforts paid off and the family sold him the land. Not knowing what was going on with us, he asked me if I thought I'd ever want to revisit that idea to build on some land. I said, "Actually, funny that you should ask..." and told him what happened. That all transpired (I may have gotten some details out of order) WITHIN ONE WEEK! Now Dara, our youngest, had just moved to college and we were empty-nesters. 

But building a house is expensive and we can't build one in a couple of months (when we'd have to get out of the house). So we asked another couple in our church who "just happened" to have bought a project house as an investment that they didn't have specific plans for yet, if they would consider renting it to us. They graciously said they would. This also happened that same week! I'm noticing a theme here, are you? Yes, that's how it seemed to us, that God was indicating it was time.

Again, long story short, we had a HUGE moving sale to off-load all the junk we (like most American families) had acquired as three kids had grown up,  closed on the house, and moved out to our temporary home in Farragut. 

As we pursued purchasing the property two miles from the church, things were becoming a bit tangled, and it had to do with some deed restrictions, neighbors, uncertainty about a graveyard on the property and encroaching Hardin Valley development. Also, our good friend, who was wonderfully helpful (and rather surprised that we were really going to take him up on his offer), was sweating whether or not we were going to be able to do it for a reasonable price and in a reasonable timeframe, as the restrictions hindered our plans.

As we were feeling (for the first time) a little hesitation about the plan, Darla looked on Zillow again. And wouldn't you know it? She hit paydirt. Or, um, dirt we would pay for. Yes, she found a piece of property, 15-17 minutes from Providence (about the same time-of-drive we had from Karns), that was like a little slice of my beloved Jefferson County home! It has a long access to a country road just off of Old Emory Road, just outside Knox County near Oak Ridge (but is actually a Clinton address). We prayed and researched and prayed some more. We found a house plan we like that is smaller than the house we had (3 bedrooms and 2.5 baths, instead of 5 bedrooms+1 bonus and 4 baths). And hopefully I'll get my garage workspace!! 

Oh, and one more "God-timing" thing? This "just happens" to be the year I have a sabbatical, which gives me some much-needed flexibility this summer to get things started.

Ok, here's the quick "So what?": God's timing is right. He is sovereign. As his children, we are wise to simply ask him to show us his pleasure and will. Then, once we recognize and diligently test it, we should move. Sometimes literally! 

"But," someone might ask, "what if you get neck-deep in this build and the economy stumbles and/or Providence decides they want a different pastor and/or you and/or Darla get sick and/or you realize you can't afford this home and/or..." Yep. We've struggled with some of those questions and more. Discerning God's will for something as this-worldly as where we will live is no exact science. It's not like discerning whether God wants me to cheat on my wife (his word is quite clear about that). It's more like applying points of biblical wisdom: will this help/hurt me minister to the Providence flock? Is this unreasonable or enslaving debt? Is this a good investment? Are we motivated by pride or self in this? Or are we motivated by bringing glory to God? Are we placing our hope and desire on this world or the next? These are the important questions that matter. 

I'll try to give updates as we work on our new house. Pray that God will help us be good stewards of what he's given us and listen to his wisdom.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Worshiping on Sabbatical

Laurel-covered cliffs atop Mt. Le Conte.
Thankfully, our church has a policy allowing full time ministry staff to take significant time for rest and restoration every seven years. I am very grateful. I've been at Providence 21 years and am surprised at how much I needed this break. We went to the beach first, then we came home for a week to start building a new house (crazy story about how/why we moved—maybe later!) and then left to go camping in Miss Daisy. We just got back. I've been away long enough now to shed some anxiety that I didn't know I was living in. Do fish know they're in water when that's where they live? And THAT'S why we have sabbatical.

One of the activities I have gotten to do again (in addition to blogging!) is to worship with Christians other than those at Providence Church. So far, I haven't gone to any big hip or happening churches about which everyone is all abuzz. That's what I usually do so I can learn about what new stuff they are doing. Instead, among those I've attended are a small church in Port St. Joe Florida, Providence Jefferson City (a church we planted years ago), and a service at the campground amphitheater led by a college student with A Christian Ministry in the National Parks (ACMNP) at Elkmont. All these worship experiences have been great for me and I could write a post on each of them. But I want to say a little bit about the latter.

Friends, family, and dogs just behind our site.
It rained for parts of most of the days we camped, and Sunday was no different. It had already showered Sunday morning when the student with ACMNP passed by our site while we ate breakfast and told us about the service. We had already talked about going, but hadn't seen any signs that services were happening. We walked to the amphitheater for the 10 AM service and there was only one other camper there, so we took a seat on our raincoats. Then others trickled in—people from New York to Mississippi—about 20 total (not counting the big dog someone brought). The sun peeked through the clouds. Emily, the college student who invited us a couple of hours earlier was the only leader. She welcomed everyone, passed out worship booklets, strapped on a guitar and invited everyone to stand and sing with her. It was a contemporary hymn by the Gettys. No microphone, lights, projector... nothing. We did some responsive reading, sang another song, and she seated everyone asking us to turn to 1Kings 19. She read the familiar passage about Elijah fleeing from Jezebel after defeating the prophets of Baal, and then hitting a wall of exhaustion and discouragement. He just wanted to die. God provided an angel to prepare food for him and told him to eat "for the journey is too great for you." Elijah then walked 40 days to "the mountain of God" and hid in a cave where God finally spoke. "What are you doing here, Elijah?" God asked.

As soon as I read this along with Emily, I almost broke out in tears, which caught me by surprise. The rest of the world went away and [in my heart] God asked me the same question. "What are you doing here, Chad?" It's amazing, the power of God's word, especially when read with other believers gathered to hear from God. I realized God was speaking to me. I, like Elijah, was tired, discouraged, and even after experiencing some ministry success, felt despair after difficulty has come my way. I felt like a failure and I hadn't even acknowledged it. "What AM I doing?" I thought. For that moment I didn't have an answer.
A little wooden bridge across the Little River near Elkmont.

Elijah then spoke for me. “I have been very jealous [some translations: "zealous"] for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” Now, obviously, no one is wanting to kill me (that I know about!). But despite zeal for Christ I have experienced unrivaled spiritual warfare in my life over the past year. And it is lonely. And everything in me has wanted to give up at times. And sometimes it can feel like no one understands. And God doesn't seem to be acting.

God told Elijah to step outside the cave, and we know what happened next:
 And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper.         
1Kings 19:11-12 
Then God asked again, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" Elijah answered just as before, yet perhaps this time (I have imagined) much more softly and contemplatively. I too thought about his [and my] answer more. It seems shallower and more self-focused this time. Here is God who had graciously called Elijah [and me] to serve him. Here is God who had showed up before the prophets of Baal showing his unmistakable presence and power. Here is God who had used Elijah, promoted Elijah, hidden Elijah, and fed Elijah (just as he has me). Now God, like a gentle Father spends time with Elijah reminding him of his power yet speaking to him with tenderness and concern.

Emily's message was much more a devotional than a sermon. It was reminiscent of the kind of talk I've heard numerous times from students who were fairly new to the faith and the Bible. She gave some brief context and then simply shared her take on the story, meshing it with her own journey. She reminded us that sometimes when we experience hard times in the busy-ness of life it takes getting alone with God on the mountain to hear him whisper. Yeah, it was that simple...and great. We sang another song and cited a creed. Darla and I greeted some worshipers (and the dog) and walked back to our camp site. I remembered the rest of the story. Elijah left that experience with specific instructions from God to anoint new kings for Syria and Israel, and anoint a prophet to replace himself. God was about to move by replacing the current political and religious leadership. And things weren't as bad as Elijah thought. God told him, “I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.” Effectively saying, "I've been at work, Elijah. You're not alone, and the story doesn't begin or end with you." Elijah did much more before God took him into heaven in a whirlwind with chariots of fire—one of only two people in human history who never died physically.
Dara and I on a climb.

Yes, ministry is taxing—thank you God (and Providence) for some needed time at the "mountain of God"—the journey IS too great for me. Yes, it's easy to be self-focused instead of God-focused which results in stress and loneliness. Yes, God is at work, whether we see him or not.  And yes, God cares for his children as a loving and gentle Father: whispering, encouraging, reminding, strengthening, and using us for his glory.

Ha! I guess I needed four "so whats" for myself.

I miss worshiping with my Providence family. It is always one of the hardest things about being on sabbatical because I LOVE Providence. I love listening to the podcasts of the services. But God is using my time away in many ways including speaking through different gatherings of Christians and his word to me.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Glamping in Miss Daisy

Most summers have a theme that just kinda happens. For us, this is the summer of Miss Daisy. Daisy is our 1967 (we think, the previous owners thought it was a 1969) Field & Stream vintage camper that we bought and refurbished in less than 3 weeks. What that essentially means is for every waking minute, from virtually sun up to midnight, when I wasn't doing my job as a pastor, I was working on that camper (and so was Darla, and sometimes our kids). And it happened to be during the hottest week of the year so far.

Here's Daisy on Memorial Day as we were stripping her down to the bear metal. Duncan taped off all the aluminum window frames before scrubbing and painting them silver. You can't really see it, but the frame/tongue/rear bumper was rusted and needed much work.

Here's the family giving Daisy her new coat of paint. We put a thick rubberized coat of waterproof roof sealer on the top, and a high-performance marine-grade acrylic on the rest of the body. I used Rust-Oleum black paint from a rattle can on the hitch and new bumper after removing at least three previous coats of old paint, sanding and grinding it to the bare metal.
Here's the camper in fresh white paint, before we put on the yellow stripe. We also had to remove and clean all the old louvered window glass, and repair the windows.
Here's the other side. Notice the ugly rusty wheels.
Duncan did most of the work on the yellow stripe. She gave guidance in picking the right shade, too. I wanted to match the camper's color with that of my Wagoneer (maroon with a wooden stripe), that was summarily vetoed. The yellow color came from the color of the faux wood molding on my Wagoneer. I wouldn't consider that a compromise. More like a not-so-veiled attempt at placating me!

Here's Daisy's old bumper. It was mangled and rusty. I designed a new one that would also serve as a spare tire carrier. I bought the metal pieces and took them to a welder so he could cut off the old bumper and weld on the new. Afterward, I painted it with several coats of Rust-Oleum. Darla wanted it white for looks, but I campaigned for black because I'm afraid white would show rust pretty soon, no matter how hard I tried to get rid of it all. I don't regret it, at the vintage camper rally, I saw several nicely done trailers with white on the bumper/hitch, and they had rust and dirt that marred the camper's looks.

Yes, that's a receiver hitch welded in the new bumper. That's for a cargo cage or bike holder. And yes, if we courageously (stupidly?) wanted to tandem-tow a small trailer, we could (we actually met some folks at the vintage camper rally who did!) but we wouldn't be able to go in reverse.
After the painting was done, we resealed all the windows and other joints and openings so that NO WATER CAN GET IN. After several rains, some quite hard, it seems we were successful. So far, so good.
Here's the finished camper! New "steelie" wheels (that I bought, sanded, and painted yellow to match). I tell you, by the time we drove to Elkmont, getting this thing ready kicked my tail.

Here are some pictures of the inside. We put in new faux wood floors, ripped out any water-damaged surfaces, and repainted or re-surfaced everything. This includes tile backstops, plastic antique-tin-looking wall covering, re-stained original birch ceiling, and aluminum trim. We tried to keep the vintage countertops and appliances (and many of them required repairs).

Thankfully, the previous owners reupholstered the seats and made expensive new curtains. They also tried to salvage the original stuff. Daisy's whole color scheme

Here's the backsplash tile. Also notice the original stove and ice box. I just bought an old gas-powered refrigerator that I plan on fixing and installing where the ice box is. Note also the original gas lamp on the wall above the stove.
One of my favorite parts of the trailer is the birch ceiling. I'm so glad we were able to keep it. There were some rough places where previous owners had peeled chunks of it off, and some areas that had been stained by water. We did our best to either hide or re-stain the damaged parts.

Notice the antique fan on the shelf, the baskets we turned into handy shelves, and all the vintage daisy-themed stuff. It's kind of been fun to look for daisy stuff at yard sales, thrift stores, and online for cheap.

Perhaps the hardest job of all for me on the camper was cutting and attaching the new wall surface. All pieces of the white tin-looking tile had to be perfectly matched and cutting to fit the rounded-corner ceiling was really hard. It looks great, though.
Here's the sink area. Darla did a great job decorating. Duncan painted all the cabinet drawers and doors grey. Darla bought a new hand pump online for the faucet, installed it herself, and it works! It's for when we camp places where there is no hook-ups. We camp more where there are no hookups more than where there are. That's another reason we want to get a gas refrigerator. Then we will have water, light, and refrigeration for food.

After working to fix all these things, we still have some small leakage in the "hook-up" water pipe, and in the drain pipe, but not much.

Other tasks we accomplished include rewiring all the trailer harness lighting and some of the 110-volt system (thanks Drew Sparks), repairing the gas lines, removing the rusty old double-LP-gas-tank-holder and restoring the original one-tank holder.

As I write this, it's the end of August and we've camped in Miss Daisy 4 times. Here's a brief recap:

June 20-25 at Elkmont near Gatlinburg, TN.
After speaking at a marriage retreat for Coaches Outreach in Black Mountain, NC, Darla and I brought Miss Daisy for her inaugural (with us) trip to our favorite family campsite. We put up the usual huge brown tarp (which requires some engineering prowess on my part with ropes and trees). We decided we needed to retire the tarps. Too much hassle and time.

We camped next to the Hicks and the Childresses as we have for the last several years. We miss the Sanders family who moved to Washington state.

July 1-2 Elkmont
My sister had reserved more days than she could use, so instead of canceling the extras, we paid her for them and spent a couple more days (without kids) in Elkmont, moving only a few spaces upstream from our usual spot.
As you can see, we didn't have an awning yet. We had ordered one, but it was being made.

July 17th at Gee Creek Campground between Delano and Reliance, TN.
Darla and I escaped for a weekend next to one of my favorite rivers. The Hiwassee. Darla was gracious and allowed me some time to fish. Both days I caught a limit of trout! Thanks for that good time, God (and Darla).
We had a few new additions with us: a new canopy from Walmart, and an awning we'd ordered from California, and a Dutch Oven. The oven was fantastic! The awning, on the other hand, while practical, was really the wrong color of yellow. This didn't bother me, but Darla couldn't stand it. She thought it clashed. So she sold it on eBay, and bought one made by a lady in Georgia for less!

Thankfully, we haven't needed air conditioning yet. Elkmont is always cool, but we were afraid we would be hot at the Hiwassee. All turned out well. We couldn't have used it even if we had it (because there were no hook-ups). Gee creek is clean and pretty nice. But there's no easy access to the river, and there's poison ivy everywhere.

August 25-27 Near Hiwassee, GA.
We did our first vintage camper rally at the North Georgia Vintage Trailer Rally at the Riverbend Campground.

As God would have it, we got a spot between two senior couples, on one side was the lady who made our new green awning!! Everyone was nice (with a few exceptions), and we learned so much. I got most of my questions answered, like: how do I install an air conditioner without cutting a hole in the side of the camper. We don't want a roof camper, we want one that can sit inconspicuously under the bed or somewhere else.

I also got ideas on how to build a wooden screen door. I will have to fabricate some hinges, but that's going to be a fun challenge.
We went all out and brought old stuff to glam up the camper: vintage suitcases, old-fashioned lawn chairs that we got cheap (that I have re-webbed twice), and several other things. We also had a new green rug to match the awning, and a new coleman canopy over the picnic table.

Most of the day on Saturday, people from all over came to the campground for the show. Hundreds walked through our and others' campers.

Having power and water was pretty convenient. But now we know we need air conditioning! My list is growing of future improvements for Daisy! Stay tuned.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Stay-cation at Grayson Highlands

As I wrote in the previous post, we went on a little trip to SW Virginia/NW Tennessee. It was a great time. Here are some more pictures and comments from our day hanging out at Grayson Highlands:
Yes! We needed the warm clothes. It was chilly there! We've learned that it's always cooler at Grayson Highlands than anywhere else.

Drew climbing up some nameless peak. 
I'm sure this peak has a name, but I don't know it. Yes, the clouds were beautiful! They were whipping by, too. We would get a few moments of sunshine followed by a few of cloud cover.

Happy Drew. Sitting with Sparky, looking toward Mt. Rogers. 

Happy Chad. Yes, I needed the jacket! The wind was kicking! When the sun was behind the clouds it was downright cold! Mo's on the leash because I didn't want him falling off the cliff.

Duncan resting on Sparky in a grassy wind break. Awesome spot!

Drew and Sparky finding a grassy windbreak in the cleft of a rock. 

Duncan made it to the top with Sparky.

Picking blueberries. This is truly one of God's great gifts.  
Blueberry were everywhere! Delicious, tart, and bursting with juice. Mmmm! I couldn't get enough. I could easily live a week playing Survivorman up there.

Sparky and Mo want blueberries too!

Beagle heaven! Too many rabbits to track! And deer... and ponies... and squirrels... and groundhogs... Mo exhausted himself!

Here's me trying to keep up with Mo. 

It's the simple days like this that are great. I want more of them! They also remind us of God's glory.

David sang (Psalm 72:18-19),

 Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel,
   who alone does wondrous things.
 Blessed be his glorious name forever;
   may the whole earth be filled with his glory!
 Amen and Amen!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

To The Easternmost "Tip" of Tennessee

Tennessee is, generally speaking, shaped like a long parallelogram. Of course, a closer look reveals a much different and irregular shape.
Many people think the northeastern tip of Tennessee is a tri-state border with Virginia and North Carolina. There is a tri-state point, but that is not the northeasternmost point. Like a puzzle piece that seems to not quite fit, it strangely protrudes away from the NC line a bit. A few miles, in fact.

This northeasternmost point of the state has been a curiosity of mine since I was a kid. I've known for years that this oddly shaped tip of the state was located near the Virginia Creeper bike trail, but I've never determined to find it. That is until today.

Our family (minus Dara, who was invited by her friend to go to the beach) took advantage of a couple of days when Drew was home from Berry College and before Duncan must begin at Carson-Newman, to take a stay-cation. So we hurriedly packed the Wagoneer and hooked up the pop-up and headed to Bear Tree campground near Damascus, VA.

It is one of our favorite places. After the first night, we ate a big breakfast and spent the day at Grayson Highlands (awesome) eating our fill of wild blueberries (everywhere and delicious), apples, blackberries, and lying around the rocky peaks and grassy fields watching the clouds blow by.

Sparky and Mo (our ten-year-old Chocolate Lab and one-year-old Beagle, respectively) had the time of their lives (Sparky relaxing and Mo running free)!

On the 28th of July, it was around 58 degrees! With the wind blowing, you really needed a fleece or a warm jacket.

On the way back we stopped at a couple of places to let Drew collect some wild Beebalm to make tea.
We went to Damascus for dinner and discussed what we would do on Tuesday. That's when I sprung it on them: "Let's go find the easternmost tip of Tennessee. It's really close to the Creeper trail near Green Cove." No enthusiastic response. It seems that I was the only one who appreciated the novelty of finding the spot. No one had a better idea about what to do so I brought it up again. This time I got questions:
"How do you know how to get there?"
Me: "My topo map shows the place and I have a compass. I even have satellite photos on my phone."
"Is there a trail?"
Me: "I don't know. I don't think so."
"How far down the Creeper from Green Cove do we have to go?"
Me: "It's UP the Creeper, and it looks like about a mile."
"Up?! That will be hard."
Me: "The Creeper isn't steep. We can do it, no problem."
"What will we do with the dogs?"
Me: "We'll take them with us."
"Mo will run in front of the bikes and cause a wreck, and Sparky can't run that fast."
Me: "I'll take care of Mo on a leash, and Drew can get Sparky. We won't go fast. It's just a mile."
Truth is, I was feeling the pressure. This crazy idea had better work.

We got up the next morning, ate breakfast, and headed to Green Cove. A beautiful day. The dogs did fine. Drew ended up giving up Sparky since his bike wasn't working well. Mo pulled me up the trail like a sled dog. He couldn't go fast enough! I was laughing the whole way. We got to the place where I had figured was closest to the point and parked the bikes. Darla wasn't happy when I started up the hill in the thick woods and crossed a barbed-wire fence. "There's no trail! This is crazy!" She almost didn't go. We walked through some pretty thick stuff, including spider webs and brush, all the while keeping an eye on the compass.

I'm standing on the very tip of Tennessee looking west-southwest.
Virginia's border follows the fence lines on either side. Beyond the
fences are thick woods dominated by laurels & hardwood trees.
Drew saw what appeared to be a clearing in the otherwise thick woods. About 30 feet from "the point" there were some stout barbed-wire fences that the girls decided not to cross. Drew and I did, and (imagine the sound of angels' voices from heaven) there it was! It is an unceremonious spot, really. There is no sign. What once was a marker has been broken. But looking west into Tennessee is a beautiful view. I took in the moment. Thomas Jefferson's father was the first to mark this very spot. Since he did, there have probably not been that many more who have stood there. But now we had.

Here is what's left of a border marker that's buried deep in the
ground, inches from the very point of Tennessee. You can see
what's left of a hole that was once carved in this old stone that
perhaps contained a signpost of some sort.
I'm sure there is some spiritual analogy here, but I've not found one. It was just cool. I'll try to add some more pictures later. A great day.

I just wish Dara could have been here with us. I bet she would have appreciated it. Guess I'll just have to bring her back!

Oh, and I want to find the other three corners of Tennessee now, too.