Thursday, November 26, 2009

Destin, FL (Topsail State Park)

After Arkansas, we drove like crazy (11 hours – way too far for one day) all the way to Topsail State Park in Destin, Florida – one of our favorite spots from last year. It’s a beautiful park with a private walking/biking trail to the beach. The kids enjoyed designing and building a variety of sand castles.

One of the highlights of the week was meeting Kelly and Jared at Amore Pizzeria in Santa Rosa Beach. We biked to their lovely cafĂ© one afternoon for lunch and after tasting their excellent pizza we asked if they would be willing to teach us how they make pizza crust. What a huge blessing to learn this culinary art from such a gifted baker and teacher! Jared showed us each step and the kids got to get their hands in the dough and make pizzas from start to finish. There is a lot more to gourmet pizza crust than meets the eye. We are so grateful for Kelly and Jared’s generous hearts and their willingness to share their expertise with us. If you’re ever in the area, be sure to stop by for the best pizza ever!

We also visited another state park called Eden Gardens where we toured a southern mansion and enjoyed the live oak trees and beautiful gardens. And then it was out for dinner to celebrate another Bendickson birthday…we are always busy blowing out candles this time of year.

This week we were reminded of the forming, transforming, and conforming that God does with us when we allow Him to work in our lives. Nothing gets transformed without going through a process that often includes stirring, waiting, kneading, pressing, stretching – and a certain amount of heat. It’s true for pizza and it’s true for us. Thank you, Jesus, for the work you are doing to refine us so our lives can more accurately reflect who You are.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Star of Bethlehem

It's hard to believe we are once again standing on the doorstep of Christmas.  Like many of you, our hearts desire is to slow down and truly savor the mystery of Christmas.  Last year, we watched a DVD that was a huge blessing to our family. It’s called The Star of Bethlehem.  This documentary-style video drew us into deep appreciation for the incredible lengths God went to when He orchestrated the heavens to coincide perfectly with His Word. What Rick Larson uncovers and shares in this video is simply astounding. One cannot watch and not be moved to worship! This is now one of our Christmas traditions. Here’s a link to the video at Amazon if you want to read the reviews &/or order it.  You may also be able to rent it at your local video store.

Speaking of stars...if you haven't seen Indescribable by Louie Giglio, I invite you to check this out too. You can watch it in five segments on YouTube (or you can buy the DVD at Amazon). Here's the first segment. I'll put links for the other four below.

May you be blessed as you stand in awe of our Creator who designed and built the incredible universe in which we live.  He truly is ... indescribable! 

Part 2:
Part 3:
Part 4:
Part 5:

Friday, November 13, 2009

Village Creek State Park, Arkansas

After bustling, busy Branson, we settled into a quiet peaceful week at Village Creek State Park near Wynne, Arkansas. We felt like we were living in a panoramic picture of beautiful fall colors on a peninsula overlooking a serene lake. We more/less had this sanctuary all to ourselves and every day we woke to the sounds of birds singing, squirrels foraging through crunchy, fallen leaves, and the sun rising across the pristine lake.  We were so content we never even ventured out of the park all week!  It is truly one of the most awe-inspiring places we have ever been.

We celebrated Jake’s 10th birthday in traditional fashion with cake, presents, - and flag football. I knew Ashley and I were in trouble when, on the initial play, I was running full speed ahead carrying the ball toward the end zone when Rich clipped my heal and we both went flying and tumbled to the ground. Those boys take this game seriously! We kept up with them pretty well – at first – but eventually their expertise paid off and they won the game 20-11.

This week we had an incredible opportunity to learn about the Trail of Tears - when thousands of Native Americans were forced from their land in the Southeast and moved to Oklahoma in the 1830’s. We watched a very moving video depicting this tragedy and then actually got to walk on a one-mile stretch of the trail which runs through this state park. Our hearts were drawn to a place of deep repentance for the ways in which our Europeon ancestors played a part this incredible injustice.

It is impossible not to stand in awe of our Creator in a place brimming with so much natural beauty. God, we praise you and we thank you for how You created our environment to sustain itself and us. So often we take things for granted – like the simple act of trees taking in carbon dioxide and giving off oxygen so we can breathe. Yet even this is a testimony to Your love and care for us. Your creativity is beyond compare. You are God alone!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Oklahoma, Fort Rock, Branson

Howdy – how y’all doing? We’ve been in the south for a few weeks now and thought we’d give y’all a shout:-) I just love those southern accents! We hit the road and headed out of MN on October 18th which means it’s now official: We’ve been living in the RV for over a year now. The weird thing is that it seems completely normal. More on that another time…

For those of you who have spent a night in our little humble abode, you will be happy to know that we got our toilet fixed in Kansas City and it no longer sounds like a jet engine! After a few days in KC, we headed south to spend a week at my aunt & uncles house in Oklahoma where they have 40 acres and full hookups. For you non-campers, that means water, electricity, and sewer. Ashley celebrated her 13th birthday while we were there and Aunt Annabelle baked her a beautiful chocolate cake. Oh, and the kids got to drive Uncle Jim’s tractor!

We also took a field trip to
Fort Rock Family Camp in NW Arkansas. It was an incredible blessing to meet Terry and hear how he went from being a work-a-holic real estate agent to building a camp and homeschooling his kids. What a blessing to hear his story and see how the Lord is using this family to restore other families. The camp looks like an 1800’s town set in the backdrop of the Ozark Mountains complete with a diner, a trading post, horses – and the longest zip line in the state of Arkansas! Did we climb to the platform and take a leap of faith hanging from nothing but a wire tied to two trees? (Remember my fear of heights?) You’ll have to watch the video to find out!

After picking up Grandma Carole at the airport and saying farewell to my aunt and uncle, we headed to Branson, MO, to check out this musical city. We saw a couple of great shows:
Pierce Arrow and The Haygoods. The kids got their picture taken with one of the Pierce Arrow guys who holds the Guiness Book of World Records for having the lowest voice and the widest range. Rich and I compare Branson to the Wisconsin Dells…small towns that have a point of interest. For Branson it’s all about shows. For the Dells, it’s all about water parks.

What’s it all about for us? That is a question we are pondering these days on the Bendickson bus.