You Are Special

Sorry it’s been a few weeks since our last post but I hope everyone is Holiday’d up at this point.

So I was reading one of my favorite books to the boys last night and had such an overwhelming feeling of peace. For those who haven’t read You Are Special, your time has come. I’m convinced that the secret of life can be found in this beautiful story.

Max Lucado does a marvelous job, in this 8 page children’s tale, depicting how each of us is so deeply loved. He reminds us what this life is really all about, and more importantly, what we should be doing each day to soak it up.

If you have kids, nieces/nephews or grandchildren please do them a favor and add one final gift to their stocking this year. The thought of many of you all, some of our nearest and dearest friends, reading these words of truth over your little ones brings a smile to my face.

For those of you who will be celebrating Jesus’s birthday in t-minus 4 days, Feliz Navidad. And to everyone else out there, He wanted me to remind you of something.

God loves you very much.

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Camping at Dry Tortugas National Park

So we finally made good on our promise to take the boys to the beach. And then some.

Dry Tortugas National Park is hands down the most incredible place we have ever visited. It is so remote. It is relatively affordable for being 70 miles west of the Keys in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico. And it is protected which means it is beautiful and pristine.

We snorkeled. We explored Fort Jefferson. We learned to fish and while Daniel and I each hooked a 300 pound Goliath Grouper, he seemed to laugh underwater at us when he easily snapped the line.

We camped overnight. It was pitch black and silent.

Waves. Wind. Stars. Repeat.

Sadly, Irma did not spare this beautiful spot. Entire sections of the moat wall have collapsed into the ocean. Countless large conch shells have washed ashore which is a sign that the undersea life is not as healthy as it should be. The rangers on the island have been working to clean up the island and have done an amazing job in a short time. But there is still so much debris remaining all the way down the Keys and at the Dry Tortugas.

Public service announcement: if you aren’t recycling. Please do. If you haven’t made efforts to reduce your waste. Please do. If you litter or don’t really ensure that you trash is properly disposed. Please do.

I am so sad about the amount of recyclables and trash we have found and cleaned up in this area. This stuff washes up on beaches here and comes from everywhere. So please think about it. Actual real life people and animals are being heavily impacted by our overconsumption and lack of proper disposal.

Ok. Love you guys! No judgement. Just love.

And funny enough the two places that we have loved the most so far on our journey have lacked the same thing. While Dry Tortugas is as far down as you can go on the east coast and Jacques Cartier Park is on the other end of the map, an hour north of Quebec City, Canada, both of these beauties provide zero cell phone reception/internet.

Pictures cannot do Dry Tortugas justice. I encourage you to find a way to make this trip happen in your future.

With that said, below is our attempt to give you a taste of our experience. Love to you all from the southern tip of the US.

Next stop: Orlando 😊❣️

Not a Day at the Beach

Bathing suits packed. Picnic lunch prepared. The boys ready for a great day of sand and sun at Virginia Beach.

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And that’s as far as we got with our plans for the day. As Bex stepped out of the car she heard a man say, “Maryland? You guys are from Maryland? That’s where I’m trying to get back to.”

A tall, slender man with golden aged hair approached, pointing at our license plate. She responded in a calm voice, “Where in Maryland are you trying to get back to?” The man told us that his name was Troy and that he was from Maryland “…well actually Northern Virginia,” he clarified.

Troy described that he had come down to VA Beach with a friend to work an event, but when he arrived the job fell through. He had lost track of his friend and had been sleeping on the beach at night while trying to find work during the day to earn enough cash to catch a bus back home.

From where we were standing, we could see a church building a few blocks away. Bex asked if he had gone there to ask for help, but Troy responded that they told him there was nothing they could do.

Bex replied, “Let’s go ask again. Together.” So off my wife and Troy walked, with the boys and I trailing in the car, 50 feet behind.

help-the-homelessBex talked to a kind woman inside, but was visibly frustrated when she came back out. We started making a few calls to local shelters and after a few minutes Bex informed Troy that she had found a place on the other side of town with a bed available.

And that’s where the normal story would probably end. But then my mouth opened, “We’ll take you over there.”

As we drove Troy from the beach towards the shelter, he began to open up about his life. About decisions he had made. Some good and others not so good. Relationships that had fallen apart. A roller coaster over five decades that had brought him to this point. To the front passenger seat of our car.

We arrived at the shelter and after another hour trying to help Troy get checked in, Bex turned to me with a look on her face that I’ve seen many times before. There was only one thing to do and within a few minutes she had arranged a Lyft home for Troy. Now funny enough, the driver who accepted the job also happened to be staying at the shelter so everything seemed to work out in the end.

Over these past few months we’ve had the opportunity to ‘lyft’ a few other strangers whom we’ve met on the street. Continued prayers for Avela, Crystal, Zarreff and Troy.

As colder weather descends on many parts of the U.S., do you know the local number to call if you see someone who needs shelter?  How can we better care for those whose support system isn’t as strong as our own?  We would love to hear your ideas and experiences.

The Haverherd Habitats for Humanity

For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to see what Habitat for Humanity was all about. I mean seriously, they’re just giving away houses? While we were in Cincinnati, I finally got that chance to participate in the action.

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Now I have to tell you that as much as I’ve wanted to spend a day putting hammer to nail (or at least attempting said feat as America’s Least Handiest Male) I have always wondered how Habitat really worked.

However, after spending a day on the job in Cincy asking some of my trademark former financial planner extraordinaire questions, I am now a big believer in the mission that Millard and Linda Fuller set into motion back in 1976. Their goal then, as it is today, is based upon the concept of “partnership housing”. And this partnership runs a lot deeper than you might think.

Habitat partners with a family by not just giving them the keys to a new house, but rather helping them build a strong foundation on so many critical levels. Each family must invest a certain number of “sweat equity” hours (typically between 200-300) into the building of their home or a neighboring Habitat home. This sweat equity seems a bit intimidating to someone like yours truly who will never even begin to comprehend how in the world a towel bar can extend from a bathroom wall and day after day defy gravity without a single visible nail or screw.

With that said, I can certainly appreciate Habitat’s use of an alternative form of up-front equity from their partners. And it has proven to give Habitat homeowners a deeper level of knowledge so they can continue maintenance of their home for years beyond the celebrated move-in day. As a side note, I wish I had some of this knowledge for our former homes and presently for our Airstream camper….

Construction

Oh yeah, and back to that whole “free house” thing. That’s not actually how it works. Habitat provides interest free loans to their families, which are paid off over a given number of years, just like everyone else who has a mortgage.

downloadHabitat’s underlying purpose can be summed up in a quote from their founder who said, “What the poor need is not charity but capital, not case workers but co-workers”.  Isn’t that what we all need – peer support and true community?

This experience has encouraged us to learn more about community-led housing.

A few of you may have read the article on the Cass Community Tiny Homes in Detroit that went viral over the summer.  We’re curious if any of you have participated in community-led housing programs. Please share your experience with us in the comments below or by email.

Be Well Friends.