As we live on the road, we try to aim to be in a part of the country that averages about 70 degrees --- something we’ve found is a must because in Autumn, anything cooler is likely to be near freezing at night. Cold nights kept pushing us further and farther south, and we seemed to have a hard time keeping ahead of it.
On our way to Florida, we stopped by what is called Lover's Oak Tree in Brunswick, GA. It is estimated to be about 900 years old and is said to be the meeting place long ago for Native American braves and their maidens. As I took my time to slowly explore in detail and take in the interesting characteristics of the massive trunk and one dragon-like limb, I took a video that landed me an unexpected close up of an eye-to-eye stare down with a little brown lizard.
As I continued to explore, I found a note tucked deep into a hole in the tree. It had been written in neat and tidy cursive script with blue ink on a small, clean scrap of white notebook paper by someone who was definitely looking for love in all the wrong places, and read as so: “Dear Magnificent Mother Please send me a Love Can Your roots reach out and touch him. Let him know I am here. Let him Know I Am Ready Thank You.”
I left behind in the same hole one of my small, black business card sized cards with the words “Only God” printed in white, in case she came back to check on her note. On the back of these cards I often leave behind for others to discover, is a Bible verse about drawing near to God, who of course is the Only one who has the power to answer our heart’s deepest desires. As we drove away toward St. Augustine where Mark had enjoyed our first pass last winter, I prayed this lonely soul would find the card and see it as motivation to instead present her heartfelt requests instead to her Creator, the very One who also created such a magnificent tree. We arrived in St. Augustine, just a short distance from downtown where their annual 3 million white Night Lights display could be seen that so beautifully framed all the old buildings around this “Oldest city in America.”
Almost without exception, RV Parks hand us a stack of advertisements for local businesses and things to do in the area. One of the ads in the advertisement handed to us at the RV Park in St. Augustine reminded me of the note-writing woman who was looking for a tree to help her find love. The ad was for a business that sold crystals, incense, candles, CBD oils, essential oils, Himalayan salt products, tarot decks, and dream catchers. It was called “The Purple Lotus” and advertised itself as “St. Augustine’s #1 Shop For All Your Spiritual Needs.” Wow. Now there’s a (blasphemous) claim for you!
It was good to be back in Florida, but with my vast pile of written work, and the cooler than normal temperatures, I hunkered down in the van for the most part of the week while Mark spent the week taking walks and having great conversations around the RV Park. One young man he reached out to was living in a school bus, trying to get it to run on coal from burning wood, as he recovered from the devastating loss of a girlfriend who had taken her own life. After some long conversations, Mark gifted him a copy of our book Your Fresh Start, accompanied by one of his contact cards, so he could listen to our podcasts, and prayed he’d find the ones about such things as finding purpose in this life by fulfilling the reason for which we were created: to glorify God.
So there we were, quite contented under our canopy of live oaks, in our spot that was by far the most jungle-esque we’d stayed in. We felt productive as we worked on some travel plans for 2022, but just one thing was missing: A plan to spend Thanksgiving with people we love. The holidays had been something we’d tried to figure out for weeks, but Thanksgiving was now just two days away, and still had no firm plans. I knew I wasn’t going to go sticking a note in a tree to get some help, but I did take action of another sort: I communicated my desire to friends on social media as follows, accompanied by a picture of us whitewater rafting in 2009:
“I watched a really cool documentary once called Craigslist Joe, where this guy attempts to survive for 31 days and nights using nothing but Craigslist, relying on online classifieds to find everything from food, to shelter, to transportation and friends.
Then when I road-tripped 11,300 miles for 57 days with three girlfriends in 2017, essentially traveling the outside edges of the entire country, we had a sample of that Craigslist Joe scenario by my posting on Facebook where we'd be and friends who knew people where we were, connected us with fabulous/spontaneous people all over the country who were game to host us (not because we couldn't afford to house ourselves, but solely because we preferred to meet and hang with people). Not knowing the people whose house you just pulled up to, to sleep for the night feels like social white water rafting, and it's really fun because it's so unpredictable and we met fabulous people.
Here's the deal. We will be in St. Augustine, Florida, and I told Mark I think since we have no one to spend Thanksgiving with, we should sit outside Publix's in our camping chairs next to the Fresh Prince (our van) working on our laptops with a big, bright homemade sign that says something to the effect of "WILL WORK IN THE KITCHEN FOR THANKSGIVING DINNER WITH YOUR FAMILY" just to see what happens! My "social whitewater rafting" idea is making Mark leery (creeped out?), so ... anybody know any "the more, the merrier" types within, say, about an hour's drive from St. Augustine, Florida? Private message them this message! They can check out who we are by visiting NomadsYouAndi.com.
Within a short amount of time after posting this request, someone responded to my post and we got an invite! We’d be spending a warm, festive Thanksgiving with 24 members of the Law family, that is the family that one of Mark’s preacher trainees, Derek Long, had married into.
The next evening was the Wednesday night Mark likes to refer to as “Thanksgiving Eve”. We drove to the Julington Creek Church of Christ for Bible class and received not only lots of warm, friendly greetings, but Mark was told something he loves to hear, and that was that this congregation had been making use of his materials for years.
Many members lingered afterward to get to know us and allowed us to get to know them as well, and by the time we parted ways, we not only were invited to another family’s Thanksgiving dinner, we were also invited to come back any time we wanted this winter, so that Mark could preach for the congregation whenever he could work it into his schedule.
In the foyer of the church building, as we exited I picked up a bulletin that very much spoke to the spirit behind Thanksgiving. To me it was a reminder that our wants and needs come neither from old oak trees nor hippie shops. Our spiritual and social needs are fully met by God’s divine providence and His wisdom when He gave us the church to be our family.
JULINGTON CREEK COMPANION
November 2021 T•H•A•N•K•S•G•I•V•I•N•G
"... give thanks to the Lord, for he is good." (Psalms 107:1)
Thanksgiving to the Christian is not a day-it is a way of life. To the Colossians, Paul wrote: "And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful" (3:15).
This month citizens all over America will celebrate what has been designated Thanksgiving Day. As we all know, this began with the pilgrims as they had endured great suffering, but still desired to express their gratitude to the Lord for the preservation of their lives. The World Book Encyclopedia says: "The First American Thanksgiving was celebrated less than a year after the Plymouth colonists had settled in the new land. The first dreadful Massachusetts had killed nearly half the members of the colony. But new hope grew in the summer of 1621. The corn harvest brought rejoicing. Governor William Bradford decreed that a three-day feast be held... The custom of Thanksgiving Day spread from Plymouth to other New England colonies. On November 26, 1789, President George Washington issued a general proclamation for a day of thanks." I am glad to be a citizen of a country where people thank God for their blessings.
When this day originated as a special day, it was set aside by a group of people who had just escaped from religious persecution by coming to America. They were not only thankful to God for religious freedom, but for the many opportunities they enjoyed in their newfound country. They were having a part in making their own laws and building their own country. They had much for which to be thankful and wanted one day to be given for that purpose alone.
We are several generations removed from those who first decided one day in each year should be a special day of thanksgiving. Many things that were fresh in their minds have about been forgotten by us. What they considered a great prize, we think of as something very ordinary.
How thankful are we for religious freedom? The answer to this question can only be expressed in action. One who refuses or neglects to worship God is not thankful....How thankful are we for the "great salvation" which is ours in Christ? There are those who are dying all around us without it. Thankfulness on our part will demand a keen sense of appreciation for the gospel which makes it possible.
We need to praise God for all our blessings by using them to glorify His name in the community...We cannot just use our blessings for our own selfish interests and be the kind of children God wants...Let our hearts be filled with praise and thanksgiving not only on "Thanksgiving Day" but every single day of the year! … In Philippians 4:6-7, Paul said: ‘... in everything by prayer and supplications with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding. shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.’
No book but the Bible.
No name but the divine.
No creed but Christ.
No plea but the gospel.
No aim but to save.
In Christ - unity.
In opinions - liberty.
In all things charity.”
If you are in the greater St. Augustine area, stop by Julington Creek Church of Christ. I think you’ll be thankful you did!
Julington Creek Church of Christ
1630 State Road 13
Fruit Cove, FL 32259