Rick and I just completed a 10 day road trip that took us from Tampa to Little Rock (via Montgomery, AL) and then back to Tampa via New Orleans and Pensacola. We saw old friends and made new friends at each location and God blessed us with wonderful fellowship and encouragement along the way.
In Little Rock we attended a New Staff follow-up conference for Campus Crusade for Christ, of which Military Ministry is one division. We were given time and expertise to evaluate our Ministry Partner Development process and to mutually encourage other staff members who are doing what we are doing. It was great fun to be together again.
From Little Rock we drove to New Orleans where we visited the Stewarts, our best friends from our days in Charleston, SC where Rick was a DesRon chaplain, Don worked in the shipyard, and Kim and I raised our babies together. On the day we arrived, Don and Kim’s first grandchild was born and so we shared in the celebration!
Next we drove to Pensacola and arrived in time to attend the OCF Bible study at Patterson’s home. I love OCF and I love how the Pattersons do the Bible study. It is a home filled with the Holy Spirit, great food, and amazing young men and women who seek to honor God and serve our country. We saw some old friends, made some new ones and were offered a tour of NAS Whiting Field, where Rick trained as a pilot over 30 years ago.
More time in Pensacola was spent visiting friends and encouraging/being encouraged by each other. We saw Kim, who spends most of his time in Abu Dhabi, but was home and back in Pensacola to be with his family in Gulf Breeze. Rick and Kim met at TBS and he was our introduction to church and beaches in Pensacola. We also visited Mary and TJ, natives and friends from our last Navy year when Rick was stationed at the chapel at NAS Pensacola. We met Mary and TJ at McIlwain Presbyterian Church and we became fast friends through our kids and lots of grace and laughter. We also met up with a number of the Marines from Quantico Rick had worked with over the past 5 years.
Rick was also able to talk to chaplains at both air stations about Military Ministry and the resources available to chapels that will encourage and strengthen Navy and Marine marriages, families, and lives.
Finally, we visited at Scott and Leslie’s home in Grayton Beach, about an hour and a half east of Pensacola. The vista from Scott and Leslie’s porch is amazing, especially to one who feels her heart calm within sight of the beach and sound of the waves. We met GAP Daddy, Leslie’s Marine pilot veteran dad, and we walked through The Red Bar, ate incredible food and caught up on 30 years of time and space.
It is amazing to me how the Lord blesses friendships, in spite of the years of separation. “Blessed be the ties that bind…” rings true in our hearts.
None of our paths have been exactly as we might have predicted 30 years ago when many of our friendships were formed and cemented. And as I walk down Memory Lane with these friends, I find myself asking God the “what if” and “why” questions. I can choose bitterness because our dreams were altered or I can bend the knee and acknowledge God’s sovereign control over the path of my life, our lives and trust that He loves me. If I spend my time thinking of all the things we missed, how will I have the ability to be happy with all I have been blessed with?
“God will only give you what you would have asked for if you knew everything He knows”—Tim Keller
I keep this quote at the forefront of my thoughts and trust my loving Father with my life. I really am blessed with God’s plan for our life.