Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Naples, FL

Happy New Year! We are still here in Naples and so grateful for warm weather. The RV park we're at has a lake with a two mile road/sidewalk all the way around, so Macie is loving those nice long walks in the mornings.

In case you are curious...it's official...I finally drove this beast. Ok, so I drove it around the RV park once - for 5 minutes - and nearly hit a parked car going around a corner. Everyone keeps assuring me I'd get used to it, and I'm sure I would, but I think I'll keep my co-pilot job for now. Rich is happy about that too.

Oh, and here's some useless trivia. Anyone want to guess how much we weigh while we are barreling down the road towing a minivan? Our total weight is 34,180 lbs.

We visited
Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary - walked on a 2 mile long boardwalk through a swamp. We saw birds, frogs, spiders, butterfies, and a glimpse of an alligator.

We also checked out the beach on Sanibel Island for a couple hours while the RV was in the shop. Actually, most of our week was spent on RV maintenance. The boys washed the RV and we got our slide fixed. We feel like we're living in a palace now with all this extra space! We also tried to get an oil change that day which is when they discovered a leak in our oil pan. This required a visit to the Cummins engine shop which we did on Tuesday. They were very kind to stay late to finish the job so we could have our house back for the night. Unfortunately, they didn't quite get all the air out of the coolant lines before they sent us on our way. It wasn't long before Rich saw a big bold message screaming "STOP ENGINE NOW!"

So he pulled off the freeway and we put more coolant in and tried it again. He made it another five miles to a rest area before the lights came on again. So we called the engine people. They offered to come out that night, but we decided to wait until morning which meant we spent the night boondocking in the rest area. Rich didn't sleep too well which explains why he is already fast asleep tonight - long before the ball dropped. The engine guys took care of the problem the next morning. Which made me think about how grateful I am for people who know how to fix engines and such.

We are very excited to have my mom joining us on the next leg of our journey. She flies in on the 1st and then we are driving through the Everglades and out to the Keys. How can you drive to an island 113 miles out in the ocean? I'll let you know next week.

Oh, and one last thing...as you can imagine, this journey we are on is much bigger than an exercise in RV travel and sightseeing. It's also a journey of the heart. With that in mind, I decided to share what I'm pondering and contemplating along with way. And I'd love to hear your thoughts too. The Bendickson Family blog will continue to update you on our travels. If you want to read about what is rolling around for me from a heart perspective, head over to
http://conniebendickson.blogspot.com/ I put a little test message out there today.

Wishing you a happy and healthy new year!


Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas

Joy to the world...the Lord is come! We had a wonderful little Christmas here in Naples, FL. For those of you who worried we might have a ba-humbug holiday (after my post on Christmas presents vs. presence), I want to assure you that there was joy in our world as we celebrated the birth of Jesus!

We had lots of "presence" as we decorated our Jessie Tree, played games, baked cookies, etc. And, have no fear, we also had presents. We had a great time one afternoon picking out a few little treasures for each other. We wrapped them in newspaper and put them under the Jessie Tree - which was supposed to hang on the back of the drivers seat...but our slide got stuck in (that's a whole other story), so we had a really cozy Christmas with the slide in all week. (We're getting it repaired on Friday).

We are also celebrating Hanukkah this year remembering the miracle when the Maccabees defeated the Syrians (who desecrated the temple) and rededicated the temple to God with festivities that lasted eight days. When the Jews cleaned the temple, they only found enough oil to light the menorah for one day, but miraculously the menorah burned for eight days straight! Our God is a God of miracles! Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord. (Zechariah 4:6) With Him all things are possible!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Tampa, FL

Merry Christmas from Tampa, FL! We didn't travel far this week, and we didn't do much sightseeing either. We spent the week at the Lazy Days Rally Park next to the "World's Largest RV Dealership." We had beautiful weather and the kids really enjoyed the pool. We played a heated game of shuffleboard - the boys came out on top - two games to one.

We also did some "normal" things this week...Rich met with a client in Tampa, the boys got haircuts, and I went to the dentist to have a crown glued back on after it fell off last week while I was eating a rice bowl at Pei Wei.

We spent some time working on our
Jessie Tree. About five years ago I bought a kit to make this felt tree and all the trimmings, but it never made it to the top of our "to do" list. When I was cleaning out the house before we left MN, I came across the kit and thought it would be perfect for our simple, homemade Christmas this year. Basically, it's a walk through the Old Testament scriptures that reveal the coming of Messiah. Each ornament we place on the tree tells the story of Jesus' heritage and reminds us again of how God's plan of salvation has been unfolding since creation. We're a little behind in decorating the tree - it's supposed to be a daily event to put one ornament on and read the corresponding scripture - but we finished the ornaments now so we'll start decorating this week.

Oh, and we enjoyed having lunch at
The Grass Root - a funky little organic vegetarian restaurant in Lakeland, FL. (They also have a location in Tampa.) We met the owners, enjoyed the healthy fare, and topped it off with a slice of vegan key lime pie - yummy :-)

We met an intersting lady with a cockateal bird named Trinket. She got the bird to have a "trinket" to make some noise after her husband passed away from cancer five years ago. Now the bird goes everywhere with her and they visit hospice patients together. To make sure nobody gets pooped on, Trinket wears a little outfit with a mini diaper to catch the do-do. The bird has over 100 outfits and was all dressed up for Christmas the day we met.

Our slideshow is short this time since we had such a low key week. Blessings to you as you prepare to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior - Jesus.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Orlando, FL

We'll, here we are again in a place we hadn't intended to be. It's not that we don't like Orlando - it's just that we did the Disney thing last April. But the inevitable happened...Rich had to fly to Seattle for business which meant we needed a decent airport and a place for the kids and I to feel safe. Orlando was a short drive from Hilton Head so we spent the week at Disney's Fort Wilderness Campground.

We decided to do the Magic Kingdom since we didn't go there in April. We enjoyed the day including a boat ride to and from the park. Disney was fun, but the highlight of our week was something much less expensive, much less hectic, and much more meaningful. On Thursday night the kids and I spent the evening making Christmas decorations out of construction paper and glitter glue! I cannot tell you how much fun we had - and how much creativity flowed from all three of us! This is not the norm for us at all. Ask my friends - "artsy craftsy" is not my middle name. But this was AWESOME. In past years we've never taken the time to do this. Why? That's the question I'm pondering this week...

On Friday we visited
The Holy Land Experience which was another highlight. We saw musical dramas on everything from Hanukkah to the Passion of Christ to the Tabernacle to Christmas. Talk about the Bible coming to life! It was a glorious day spent immersing ourselves in the Reason for the season. I am so grateful for a place that exists to glorify God in this way. Oh, and we even learned two Hebrew phrases: Shalom (which means peace &/or wholeness) and yom tov (meaning good day).

Rich arrived home on Saturday morning after a very long red-eye flight from Seattle. We are very happy to have him home - and he's even happier to be here!

Which brings us to the video. As we spent time crafting our Christmas decor, we listened to a variety of Christmas music. This song by Go Fish grabbed my attention every time I heard it and it spoke even more deeply to my heart after seeing the passion play at the Holy Land on Friday. The line that really hits me is:


"It's about every drop of blood that flowed from Him when it should have been me."

Christmas is not just about a baby in a manger. It's about Jesus paying for my life with His. It's about the cross.

God's love for us a radical! Thank you, Jesus!! And Happy Birthday!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Hilton Head Island

Greetings from Hilton Head Island! We only planned to be here for one week, but we liked it so much we stayed for two. These two weeks were different than past weeks. We didn't do as much sight seeing, but we did a lot of biking here. Hilton Head is a bikers paradise with trails everywhere and it is so cool - you can bike on the beach! The sand is hard packed and it's just like riding on pavement - for miles! We took Macie in the bike trailer again. It's not her favorite thing, but I think she thought it was worth it once she got to the beach.

We also played a lot of tennis. The kids are really improving. We always play girls vs. boys and its pretty evenly matched. We all give it our best shot and we usually go three sets every time we play.

I think I mentioned awhile back that neither Rich or I were ever big on camping. We did it once a year with our college friends, but it was never our cup of tea. Let me tell you - we have found a campground (if you can call it that), that we could live in! In fact, some people do. Ok, well, it's really not a campground...it's more like a ... resort. Ok, the truth is they deliver the USA Today to our motorhome every morning and there's a tennis pro on staff. I had no idea there even were such places! If you ever get to Hilton Head Island, we highly recommend
Hilton Head Island Motorcoach Resort. It is beautiful!

We enjoyed Thanksgiving here with our usual feast of Mashed Potatoes, Stuffing, Stuffed Squash, and Broccoli Stuff. Speaking of food - we found a delicious Thai place this week called Ruan Thai. We were very excited because we haven't had Thai food since we left MN - and we used to eat it once a week. Rich always says he could eat it every night, he loves it so much.

We did a day trip to Savannah, GA, this week which is only about 45 minutes from Hilton Head. We took a horse-drawn carriage tour of the city which is laid out in a grid fashion around a number of squares with with live oak trees dripping with Spanish moss. Very beautiful and the squares give the town a real feeling of community.

Oh, and we saw a 12 foot alligator along the road making its way into a pond as we were driving around exploring the island. We've seen the signs around about not feeding the alligators, but this is the first time we've seen one. We also saw a baby alligator in the same area.

Stay tuned...we're moving to sunny Florida on Sunday...