Medicine For The Soul; Fire In The Sky

Not sure if you knew this about me but I’m a human connection junkie. I look for opportunities at every corner to connect whether through a smile, conversation about the weather, sharing of story or deeper moments of spiritual formation. Some circles call people with this trait an empath, others call it extroverted. Whatever you call it, traveling full-time suites my thirst for this connectivity. I know and trust that seemingly random moments are divinely orchestrated and I wake up with great anticipation of seeing and experiencing these amazing moments of exchange. Security, comfort, and money are unfruitful drivers and I tend to spend little time thinking about them, trusting that my daily bread will come. I wake up longing to speak words of peace and affirmation over those I meet and when needed, to share a hard word of truth in love. I wake up open to receive. I have learned over the years, that filtering (discernment) is essential to being healthy in my gift set. I have learned that I must allow for times of quiet and solitude in order for the Holy Spirit to fill up my empty vessel. It’s important for my well-being and those I am surrounded by. 

And so it was, thanks to Abba’s faithfulness in weaving us together with the Saints, that we were gifted a week of solitude on a beach in South Australia. 

We met Jacia, a beautiful young soul, in Northern Thailand and shared a night of song and story. Before we parted ways, Jacia mentioned that if we ever needed a season of rest, that her family owned a little beach shack and would be happy to share it with us. We exchanged info and tucked it away for a time that only Abba could bring; for South Australia wasn’t yet on our routing pattern. However, that timing came to fruition sooner than we thought as it proved to be the soft landing spot after a tender return from the US where I was caring for my mother. 

img_0159We arrived to what truly was the cutest little beach shack, and a warm welcome from Luke and Diane Hopton, Jacia’s parents. They had us over for dinner and we were delighted by their faith stories. We found a few other times to connect with them and with some of their dear friends, but my normal capacity for friendship was low so as tempting as it was to fill our week up with meals and visits, I reluctantly declined.

img_0148The honest truth was that I was wrecked in my spirit, numb really. I tried to force any sort of feeling in the physical, nearly attacking my husband with affection, dancing wildly on the deserted beach, convincing my sweet son to walk miles and miles with me searching for seashells, trying to work up a sweat, just trying to feel alive. But it was in the stillness of the evenings when the sun was setting that benevolent rays of mercy would shine on me. Craig would bring out the guitar and strum gently or make a lovely cheese platter and we would just sit, quietly, night after night, watching the sun set on the horizon. It was in those moments, that I laid down my pride, laid down my sorrow, emptied myself out and opened up. It was in those moments that waves of Abba’s unending love and faithfulness came rolling in; dividing my soul from spirit, exposing the attitudes of my heart, and washing over me with precious words of healing. 

Words like: 

*The Great Physician is a faithful healer and can be trusted with even the most aggressive aliments. Tonight’s tonic included an epic sunset in the South Australian sky.

*In the stillness… in the quiet hour… You are with me.

*Faith is not a feeling. Faith is not an event. It is not a mystical or magical experience. Faith is not hope. Hope operates in the natural. Faith is the language of the supernatural. It the tether between us and the living God.

*Abba sees the things you and I can not see. You are going to recover. There is a level above science, there is a level above technology. It is the level where faith hovers and with the Creator of the Universe all things are possible.

*Faith goes into the future, secures the future, comes back to get you and leads you into that future.

img_0165I’ve written songs about the beach, about the living water that sustains me, and I’m so thankful that my Creator knows that this is a place that really fills me up. I love going to the beach with God! I’m also thankful for kinfolk like the Hopton’s who graciously care for us along the way, allowing us the time and space to allow the Spirit of God to care for us along the way. 

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Thy Kingdom Come

One beautifully sunny morning in Vietnam.

We were just leaving the beach when a woman, an old woman, carrying big baskets of fruit approached us in hopes of selling her goods but we had just finished lunch, so we smiled, shook our heads no thanks and kept walking.

However, our daughter and son were further behind us and we didn’t see her approach them. So when we turned too look back we were shocked to see our daughter wearing the old woman’s baskets and hat posing as Banjo took her photo. We rush over a little disappointed in our children. To our eyes, it looked as if our kids were exploiting the woman for photo op.

Later however, we found out that the woman actually initiated the process. Apparently, she came up to our kids, took her baskets off her shoulders and thrust it onto Graciana, simultaneously taking her hat off and putting it on Graciana’s head. She snatched Graciana’s camera out of her hand, fumbled around with it for a bit and then handed it to him demanding him to take a photo. This all happened in a matter of seconds and then we turned around.

imageWe obviously didn’t know the backstory so we rushed over thinking surely we should offer her money for this unique photo op. We thanked her and handed her 10,000 dong. Which is about $.50 USD. She took her hat and baskets off of Graciana and we thought the situation was dealt with, but then she began to demand we buy a coconut from her. She took out her machete to cut the coconut and then badgered us to take the coconut. We asked her how much and she mumbled a number we thought was 50,000. Which is above the usual asking price but we thought OK, well just take it and leave. So we handed her the 50,000, she took it but began to shake her head (and her machete) violently. She wrote in the sand 500,000, which is about $22 USD!

Thankfully, by that point, a guard, some of the staff, and our host, saw what was happening and came over to help us deal with the lady. She was angry that they came to our side and waved her machete at them, clenching her fists around the money we had already given her. We all just stood awe as our host dealt with her. She let the woman know that her manipulation was unacceptable and that we weren’t going to pay her. I think we were able to get the 10,000 back but she kept the 50,000. Which was fine, we kept the coconut. She made a sour face and played victim as we all walked away. We left totally bewildered but we weren’t bitter. Honestly the interaction was so swift that we really didn’t have much time to process what was even going on until we walked away.

There was a sadness that came over us for her. What drives an old woman to become a thief? That’s really what laid heavy on our hearts. She was just a sweet little old lady, in the twilight of her life, meant to be enjoying the fruit of her children and grandchildren but here she was stuck in what was probably a long standing cycle of twisted thinking, desperate and demanding. She was roaming this life like a thief in the dark.

It reminded me of another thief, my grandfather. Who was shot (bullet lodging an eighth of an inch from his heart) trying to rob a club in Indianapolis, IN. My father and his twin brother were only 30 days old. I’m sure it wasn’t the first time my paw paw participated in what he would call a “lead pipe synch.” It was just the first time he was caught. It was during is his capture and imprisonment however that his spirit was awakened and he made a decision to change the course of his life. He made a decision to no longer live for himself but for the one who created him. This decision drastically changed the course of my family, this decision and the follow through after gave my family life.

All I could think of after we left this lady was how her con, although sly was so desperate. How I wished I would have had time to catch myself during the interaction to speak truth in love, to let her know that she was wrong for preying on us, but that the deceitfulness in her heart was a burden she didn’t need to carry. I don’t know why or how it all works, this idea of awakening but I do know that I long to see thy kingdom come… And it is during these moments that my heart aches for it most.

Red Apple School

Many people have asked how do connect with so many host around the world? Well it sometimes goes like this, we met a fello Muso at a folk music conference in Austin, TX named Emily Clepper. Over the next five months we became friends with Emily. When we were getting ready to leave Austin and looking at our east coast routing, we mentioned our desire to head up into Canada and hoped to roll through her hometown of Quebec city. She referred us to her friends, Vann and Chantel, who lived just south of the city. We introduced ourselves to them via good old Facebook and they invited us to come. We spent a lovely week with them, sharing meals, story and song. During our conversations, we shared our desire to explore south east Asia. Vanns interest perked and he told us about his friend, Tinh Mahoney, in Vietnam. Vann and Tinh met when they were young teenagers and had kept in touch over the years. Vann told us that Tinh was a musician and film maker and had a wonderful story that included building eight school in Vietnam. One particular school had a unique story as it involved a group of unlikely contributors. The story goes that Tinh was in the United States performing his music and was invited to a prison in Oregon. While there he shared his dream to build a school. The prisoners were touched by his story and collectively decided to donate one year of their wages towards the building of the school. We were inspired by the story and Vann introduce us via Facebook to Tinh. We begin conversation via email and Skype, dialoguing about a potential visit. We looked on the map to see where Tinh lived and began to course our routing his direction.
And that is how it works. And this is the story of our time with Tinh in His hometown, Phan Thiet, Vietnam.
We arrived late afternoon by bus and took a short taxi ride to the Red Apple English school where Tinh works and lives. We were welcomed by his team, Tam and her sister Nguyen. That evening we “sat in” as English speaking guests. Each of us sat at different tables and the students made the rounds visiting each table and practicing conversation with each of us. They asked all sorts of great questions and after the class we all jumped on mopeds and went for dinner. Tinh treated all of us to Pho’ and later we enjoyed a local dessert soup called Che.

The next morning we rose at 4:30 to catch a sunrise at the local beach. It was dark when we left the house and when we arrived, the beach was packed with all sorts of folks. They were exercising, swimming, running the beach, and burying themselves in the sand; as apparently that has medicinal value.

After the beach, we went back home and enjoyed a light breakfast called Xoi (pronounced soy), which consisted of rice black beans coconut crushed peanuts sugar and salt. It was served alongside a big bowl of exotic fruits. My favorite being Dragon eyes. We we napped during the heat of the day, had a light supper and worked with more students in the evening.

IMG_7636We caught another sunrise the next morning. Two sunrises in a row, that’s a big deal for us night owls, but it was worth it. This time we all rode mopeds to a fishing village and watched the fisherman bring in their catch. There were many women on the beach as well, carrying water and making street food to sell. We were absolutely amazed by their strength. And they were absolutely amazed by Craig’s mustache. 🙂

After, we stopped to see the famous red Sand dunes. Rolled up and down the hills. And enjoyed the soft silky red sand.

Then we went to a resort to visit some of the students we had met the night prior. They invited us to come and enjoy breakfast and when we arrived we could hear a beautiful guitar playing. We later found out that it was Tinh’s CD. The food was delicious, the resort was beautiful and the staff very friendly. We were very impressed that one of Tinh’s students named Nhi, could not only speak her Vietnamese and English but she could also speak fluent Russian! We discovered that many of the tourists come to this area are from Russia.

That evening while our hosts taught school I made a simple dinner of Fish, mango salsa, rice and vegetables. We slept hard that night and the next day Craig helped Tinh build the stage and get the side yard ready for that evening’s concert. We took afternoon naps and then begin to prepare a meal to serve all the guests that would come. About 75 guests came, students, parents and a few foreign guests we had met at the resort. The evening was filled with music, laughter and joy. Many of the students performed and even one of the guests who was visiting from Slovenia shared a song. Our set was jolly and we were able to teach many of the students our lyrics so they could sing along, we especially loved hearing them sing “Old Man’s Town.”

The only thing that could have topped our time with Tinh and the Red Apple School would have been to have Vann and his family there to share in the memory. Thankful for those who send us on as connectors and thankful for those who receive us on the other end!

Bahhh Habahhh

That’s how the locals pronounce it, Bahhh Habahhh. It’s one of the most beautiful and unique places to visit along the East coast of the United States. Situated on the northeastern coast of Mount Desert Island in Hancock County, Maine, Bar Harbor is the main hub for those visiting The Acadia National Park.

IMG_3818We left Portland Maine with one extra Bus Rider, named Maricela, whom we met during our five month rest in Austin, TX. A dear friend and fellow creative spirit, we convinced her (without much convincing) to take her vacation with us. She said yes and planned to join us for ten days.

Our time with her began on Mount Desert Island where we camped just nine miles north of Bar Harbor at Mount Desert Narrows RV Resort, using up the last of our ReadyCampGo.com membership for $25 a night. We spent a bit of time in the quaint little town, walking the main drag filled with tourist shops galore. We stocked up on groceries at the only local grocery store, got a coffee at Choco-Latte, and walked the famous sand bar during low tide.

Most of our time however, was spent in the surrounding National park. We bought a seven-day park pass for $25 and trekked up and down the island, exploring the rocky coast line, thunder hole and Sand Beach which is nestled in a small inlet between the granite mountains and rocky shores of the park. This gorgeous 290 yard long beach is one of the most popular points of interest on the island and we spent most of our time here. We’d packed a light supper and made our way to the beach around 3pm to avoid the day time rush and stayed until sundown, climbing rocks, reading, eating, resting and when we were brave we’d take a dip in the icy blue waters.

IMG_3842Most meat eaters flock to Maine for the Lobster. We have a few meat eaters in our lot and decided to take in the local experience of a lobster boil. After investigating all the options from dining out to a home boil, we decided to go DIY. We found a local fisherman and picked out three fresh caught lobsters at $40 total, as well as a pound of fresh clams at $6.99. We took them back to the bus, pulled out our big ol’ pot and boiled them in a water, beer, butter, and Louisiana Slap Yo Mama spice mixture. We accompanied the fish with corn, potato, onion and a salad. The process was actually a bit horrifying and once the meal was complete and ready to be served, a few of us could barely eat. The experience convinced us girls that we probably would never do it again but the fella’s seemed to take it all in stride, engaging fully in the experience. And, that’s just it… An experience.

IMG_3881Our final morning was spent on Cadillac Mountain,  in Acadia National Park, which sits at 1,530 feet (466 meters) above sea level. It the highest point along the North Atlantic seaboard and the first place to view the sunrise on the East Coast. We woke at 4:30am to drive the half hour from our camp site up to the top of the mountain. There was road side parking along the way and a big lot at the top. We wound all the way up to find the hill packed with tourist it was very windy and cold and the view was somewhat lacking. We sat for a moment, but decided to stay would be a disappointment, so we drive down a bit to see if there was more texture and less people. We found just a few turns down the hill that there were not as many people and the view was actually better. The sun was distant and it was a cloudy day but the water sparkled none the less and we were glad that we had made the effort.

Our time in Bar Harbor and The Acadia National Forest felt a lot more like a vacation than we’ve ever had, mostly because we were on our own, flowing in a sea of tourist, with no hosts eyes to see life through. However, it was a much-needed time of reflection, reconnecting with nature, pioneering and time to spend with one another without any other distractions.

It will forever be one of those memories that our family holds dearly.
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Jersey Shore

IMG_3023Most of our stops we neighbor alongside a host family, experiencing their local view of their town and area. That is our preferred way of travel.

However, once in a while we either can’t find a host in a specific area or need some family  time alone. And so, we will search out a state park or RV park to rest in for a bit. State Parks would be our first choice as they tend to offer large sites with loads of outdoor opportunities including hiking, biking, swimming, etc. And, they are usually in our budget of $18-$25 a night. But occasionally the State parks are booked and we have to find an RV Park.

RV Parks can get expensive, up to $80 a night. Although most of them include a coin laundromat, pool/spa and workout facility, they tend to have small sites with only limited outdoor space. Most RV Parks have week and monthly rates, which cuts down on the cost but our typical stay of 2-5 nights usually doesn’t offer any discount. That is until we found ReadyCampGo.com through fellow travelers the Turtletells. We purchased the smallest membership for $50 that includes 15 nights camping at any Thousand Trails/Encore RV parks for $25 a night.  We originally purchased the membership for our recent jaunt down to Key West, where we stayed a week for $168 and have used it on a few stops along the east coast, including two nights at Lake and Shore Outdoor World in Ocean View, NJ.

IMG_3030After a month in the hills of Maryland, West Virginia and Pennsylvania we were needing a little beach break and thought we’d explore the Jersey Shore. We arrived at the campground, took a look around and jumped in our van, driving down to Cape May with the anticipation of a wonderful day at the beach. What we found however, was a beach attendant guarding the shore, selling beach tags that cost $6 a person (that would have been $30 for our crew) to sit on the beach between 9-5pm. So, with pretty smiles and puppy dog eyes we convinced the beach attendant to at least allow us to have a quick gander at the beach and dip our feet in the water. He said OK, but only for a moment. We stayed long enough to take a selfie before heading back to the campground, baffled and a bit miffed by the protocol of the Jersey beaches. Once back at the campground we began to strategize for our next and final beach day, deciding that we would enjoy the amenities at the campground, which included a lovely lake beach, pool, water slide and spa, and then head down to the beach at 6pm for an evening swim, picnic and sunset.

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We couldn’t have planned it any better! We enjoyed sleeping in, breakfast and lunch at our campsite and relaxing day poolside. I packed a light supper of veggies/hummus, fruit, bread, tuna, and chips and we meandered our way down to Cape May. Parking was a breeze and the beach was empty, giving us multiple choices for seating.

Sunsets have been a commodity on the east coast and we’ve only been able to catch them if we are inland. At the beach, the sun sets behind the buildings, so as you look out over the water, you don’t see the sunset, only the glow of the sun hitting the clouds on the horizon and painting a picture in the water. Sort of like a Monet. So, we’ve learned to enjoy the subtle colors of what we call the “backwards sunset” for what they are, beautiful pieces of art and a new perspective on life. Of course, sunrises are in abundance on the east coast, but we’re not really morning people. 🙂

IMG_3123At one point in the evening a large tractor began weaving up and down the beach interrupting our solace but we had fun with him and would dance and wave every time he passed our little area. Our hunch was that the six dollars/per person for a beach tag maybe went to pay the beach combing Zamboni guy, but we weren’t sure.

Then later in the evening we took a drive up to Ocean City and strolled with hundreds of others up and down the boardwalk, then drove a bit further north to Atlantic City to see the wonders of the Taj MaHal. All of which was a bit overwhelming but an insightful cultural experience none the less.

If we had to do it again, we would probably do it exactly the same way, as the memories we take with us from this little part of the world are priceless.

 

Photo Journalist

545371_10150940796765376_1314888666_nIn 2010, Kara Counard started coming regularly to our local shows in Northeast Wisconsin. She would show up with her son, friends and a handful of brightly colored hula hoops. Her spirit was humble and as she engaged with our music, a joy would permeate through out the venue. If there was a show where she wasn’t present, we would all make note afterwards, stating that we missed her dancing and jovial hooping. At a certain point, I remember approaching her and declaring how much we appreciated her presence and noted her commitment as a “fan” but that we were keen to share community and story with her and wanted her to be our friend. She shyly agreed to joining us for dinner on our patio one summer evening and that was the beginning of our dear friendship.

Besides being an excellent hooper, Kara has a natural gift and honed talent as a professional photographer. In fact, her eye is prolific, capturing not only the perfect composition but seeing and embracing the light that makes life look absolutely beautiful.

At the beginning of 2015, a conversation began about her desire to ride along on the Hollands bus, as a photo journalist, documenting life on the road. This spring she flew to Asheville and rode with us for a solid week, camera in tow. She chronicled intimate family time, exploring Asheville, a house concert in Pittsboro, historical Richmond, and a beach day in Virginia Beach.

Prior to Kara’s arrival, our son, Banjo, had developed a desire to try his hand at photography. He had been researching camera’s for months and hoped to purchase one for his 14th birthday. So, while Kara was on board, he really sought her expertise on the subject, discovering even more information about brands, lenses, and the art of photography.

IMG_2500A few days into her time with us, her camera started acting up and we had to visit a camera store. Although it was unfortunate the problem was solvable and she had a rented camera within the hour. Her inconvenience ended up being a blessing in disguise for Banjo, as the forced visit to the camera store accelerated his purchase and he walked out with a used Nikon D90 and 50 millimeter lens. Immediately the photography lessons commenced and before the day’s end, with Kara’s guidance, Banjo conquered the Nikon’s components, ready to practice honing his “eye.”

It’s been a blast watching him explore his new-found love, especially with his sister, who is always looking for a photographer for her Dutchygazelle Blog. Big thanks to Kara for taking time away from family and friends, for honoring us with her amazing gifts and talents and for being our friend!

To see more of Kara’s awesome work visit www.bloomphotographybykara.com

Beach Babies

Some folks find solace in the woods, some shopping on fifth avenue. Most of us Hollands! find refuge at the beach. So, spending a month winding up and down the coast of Florida was nothing short of pure bliss. We started in the Panhandle at Pensacola Beach, making our way south to Naples, ducking down to the Keys all the way to the Southern Most tip of the United States, then back up the Atlantic side through South Beach, Melbourne and finally St. Augustine. IMG_0897Each Florida beach is as different as the grains of sand, each showcasing their own unique beauty. Our favorite beach along the panhandle was Pensacola Beach and if it had been warm enough we probably would have been there everyday. Unfortunately, it was in the 60’s and being north on the gulf meant the water was not much warmer. However, we couldn’t resist throwing on a sweatshirt and sitting seaside, enjoying the emerald-green water, and fine pearly white sand. And, the bonus of Pensacola Beach is that you have access to the shallow calm waters of the Bay and just an eighth of a mile on the other side of the island was the rolling waves of the Gulf. So depending on your mood you could go from one side to the other in a single day.

IMG_1220Our favorite beach in Naples was Clam Pass. It’s $8 to park but they had little gulf cart trolly’s that took us to and fro, starting in the parking lot and ending at the cafe/beach. They had lawn chairs/umbrella’s for rent but we preferred to just take our own supplies and walk down the beach setting up right at the mouth of the pass. The cool thing about this beach is that if its low tide you can hunt for hermit crabs and clams and during high tide the surf is perfect for body boarding. Plus the water is actually warm. On a side note, we’re sand snobs, and prefer the soft powder. Clam Pass with its slightly grainy sand mixed with shells, just makes the cut. IMG_1138Having never been to the Keys and only seeing photos, we weren’t sure what to expect regarding the beaches but we did know that the water was a crystal clear mix of emeralds and blues, so that alone drew us down. However, once we arrived we realized that our ideal of a sandy beach wasn’t going to be met. Rather, we would find delight sitting by the water on a grassy patch to catch a sunset at our campground on Ohio Key or swimming directly off the dock. The waters were calm, and warm which offered the perfect scenario to bring out the blow up raft and lounge in the water all day long. We still longed for a proper beach day and found that Bahia Honda State Park appeased our desire enough by offering a little strip of sand/shell mixture to plop our beach chairs and umbrella on. Most of our time there was spent floating in the knee-deep water. On the actual island of Key West, we parked down near the docks and walked the mile across the island to Higgs Beach to take a quick dip in the ocean and cool off. It’s a small city beach with a long jetty for people to walk out on. The sand was simi soft and the water pretty clear consider how many people were swimming. We were delight by the large demographic of beach goes and specially made note of the unique swimwear at the beaches in Key West.

IMG_1197South Beach, Miami rocked! The water was warm, waves were light and fluffy, and the sand was soft yet grainy with yellow hues.  It’s a city beach and has all of the fixings  of a scene straight out of CSI Miami minus the murder. There were umbrellas, cabana’s, restaurants, and bars all up and down the coast line. With the hustle and bustle of city life all around us, this beach was very reminiscent of Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia. We only got to spend a short morning visiting to this beach and would definitely make it more of a priority next time around. IMG_1256If you’re looking for the surf, Melbourne is the place to be in Florida. Satellite Beach to be exact. Our son loves to surf and had he more time and known someone with a board, he would have loved for us to hang here a bit longer than we allowed. The sand was grainy and the water was cold but the waves were epic. It wouldn’t be where we would want to spend a whole day camped out watching little ones build sand castles but for the purpose of getting in and riding some waves, this beach fits the bill. The only draw back for us was that besides the beach itself, kinfolk in the area and a little burrito stand called Da Kine Diego’s Insane Burritos, Satellite Beach seemed to be lacking in cultural draw. There was just one long double lane road that ran the length of the peninsula and had strip malls or condo’s on either side. We’d go back but probably only to hang with our kinfolk who happen to live there in the winter months. IMG_1362St. Augustine as a destination was probably our favorite. Everything about the area, the history, quant little town, and the beach was fantastic. Unfortunately, we only had one night in St. Augustine. We camped at North Beach Camp Resort, a privately owned RV Park. The sites were a bit above our price range but we were thankful for the opening specially since it was Easter Weekend. The resort was like something out of a Fantasy Island episode, with beautiful live oaks enclosing each site, a pool, shuffle board, restaurant beach side as well as a restaurant river side. The beach was similar to Melbourne in that it was cold and the sand was grainy, however the waves had a gentle crash to shore and was perfect for sea shell hunting. Ideally, we’d hit this one again. Maybe they’d be up for a barter. We’ll do a concert in the park for a week of camping. Wouldn’t that be something! If we could, we’d probably go back to most of them but if we had to pick only one we’d probably pick Pensacola Beach or really anywhere along the panhandle. We’d probably wait until late April or May to visit this area just to give the water a bit more time to warm up. Have you been to Florida? What were your favorites?