We did do a few interesting things on this trip. We got to check something off of our "want to do" list. We watched the Blue Angels during their homecoming practice at the Naval Air Base. I believe that 90% of the other people vacationing in this area ALSO decided to attend. The web site actually says that only 1,000 people can get into the viewing area, but today they did not stop the crush of people entering through the gates. I can not imagine just how many people crammed into that area. Ken and I waited in a line to get in for over an hour. Then I waited in line for about 40 minutes to buy water! It was HOT and SUNNY - but we saw the show! I actually missed the take off (while waiting in line) but I can assure you that I heard and felt it! The dollar we paid for ear plugs was certainly worth it! Ken has actually seen the Angels several times at the Air and Water show. I had never seen them before. It was special to see them at their home base. We also got to see the 2017 show for the first time ever. Ken took lots of pictures. We walked through the museum but didn't spend much time there. We had visited it on a previous trip to this area. We did stop for a photo op with this Blue Angels plane!
We had a couple of interesting things happen during this trip. There is a toll bridge to get out to the outer island that we were staying on. We made several trips back and forth over that bridge - in spite of the toll. Let's face it - we live in Chicago and pay tolls ALL THE TIME! So a buck to go for ice cream seemed well worth it. On Sunday (following our ice cream run) we were told by the friendly toll taker that someone else had paid our toll! While it was only a dollar, it was a reminder that there are kind and caring people out there, spreading good cheer to others. Such a simple thing, but it sure made us smile!
The hotel was very busy, as you might expect at this time of year. We had several families with small children in rooms near to ours, but we never had any noise at all! We figured that swimming and the sun and the beach must have tired them out. It was all quiet on our floor after 10pm! We have stayed in some very noisy hotels before, so we were especially thankful for the quiet on this trip. Again, it might seem like a small thing, but we sure appreciated the nights of good sleep.
The last time we visited this beach was in 2007. There had been really bad Hurricane damage in the fall of 2004 from Hurricane Ivan. There was very little rebuilt around the hotel and there was no access to Fort Pickens. The National Seashore did not exist. They had started to build two more hotels just down from the hotel we stayed at. It was interesting to see the development that had happened in 10 years. So many more places to eat. And the pier and public beaches are so nice. It really puts into perspective just how quickly material things can be "blown in the wind". I love the reminder that no matter how much destruction seems to be in our life, Jesus is in the reconstructing business!
As always, this time away has filled my mind and my spirit with so many thoughts and images and things to ponder. The fierce winds that started our trip reminded me to pray that the wind of the Holy Spirit would surround me and fill me with all that Jesus has for me. Several nights, as I went to sleep with roar of the wind in my ears (instead of the lapping of the waves), I prayed for more insight and wisdom and direction. And Jesus was faithful to speak to me in my dreams! As I walked in the water while searching for shells, I was reminded that Jesus doesn't just look at "perfect" people. I was seeking that perfect shell, but more often than not, the shells were broken and chipped from the intense waves caused by the strong winds. I have certainly felt pushed around and tossed in the waves of life over the last few years. And I know that I have broken and chipped places in my heart and spirit. I am so thankful that Jesus looks ESPECIALLY for us broken ones. In His hands, held by his heart, we are whole and perfect in his sight. Yes, I will treasure those broken, chipped shells more than the few "perfect" shells that I did find.
On the last day of our trip, I found out via Facebook, that an old friend, Dave, had passed away. Ken and I had spent many, many hours with Dave and his wife Marie in the years right before and after our marriage. As a matter of fact, I was the Matron of Honor in their wedding. Shortly after their wedding they moved to Wisconsin. We kept in touch with Christmas Cards prior to Facebook. In the last few months we realized that one of their daughters lives just blocks away from Gwen and her family. What are the odds of that? We were hopeful that we could connect with them when they visited their daughter. Sadly, the last time they were in town was the weekend that our new little Grace was born. So we were otherwise occupied and couldn't connect with them. It has been a reminder to me that it is important to make time to see people that are important to you. You just never know when it will be too late. It certainly makes me appreciate all of my great friends - those that I see often and those that I only connect with via Facebook! Every contact, every picture or post helps me stay close with friends and relatives - in spite of distance! Today I am thinking about Marie and just how broken she must be right now. I am praying that Jesus will hold her and her daughters close during this difficult time. And thanks to those broken shells, I am sure that He will.
Jesus, thank you for a wonderful time away. Holy Spirit, help us keep our eyes on all of those little simple things that happen each day and remind us to share your love with others - even in small ways. Thank you for winds that help clear away the clutter in our mind. Thank you Jesus for holding close all those who grieve. Thank you for your healing touch. Amen