This past week ran the range from dismal to delightful......and most everything in between. Wait-I guess that should be unusual but is pretty much a description of life :)
Monday we woke up to start a new week. As I groggily walked into the kitchen, Elder Ashton observed that it was snowing outside. I gave a little groan because I had checked the weather app on my phone as I went to bed Sunday night and didn't see any snow predicted - only rain. But it was snowing - steadily! Within the 45 minutes time it took me to get ready to go to the office, a little over an inch of snow had accumulated. As we walked out the door, the snow started to turn to rain and by the time we got to the office, it was raining in earnest.....coming down in steady drops. About an hour after we arrived at the office, I looked out the office window to see that it was pouring down in big drops!
When we left the office to go back to the apartment for lunch, we were met with continuing rain and messy sidewalks. The slush was pretty slippery so I made my way gingerly into the apartment and immediately went to the bedroom where I took off my shoes, put on a pair of heavy socks and pulled the "combat boots" out of the closet. My feet were freezing and I didn't care if I committed a fashion faux paux that afternoon - at least my feet would be warm!
Snowy, slushy and wet - in other words "dismal" weather!
Tuesday morning when we woke up we could tell it had been raining in the night but had stopped. However, as we left the parking lot on our way to the office, the rain started again and was coming down pretty hard when we arrived at the office. A group of missionaries were scheduled to meet with President and Sister Baker for some specialized training starting at 9:30. The first set of Elders arrived about 9 a.m. when it was still raining very hard.....big, big drops! This is what they looked like when they made it from the parking lot into the office.
Despite being soaked (notice the big water spots on Elder Ray's suit) Elder Fullterton and Elder Ray are still smiling. Can I just say I am so impressed with these young missionaries and how upbeat they are!
While the meetings were going on, we continued with our normal work. President Baker had invited us to attend the specialized training if we wanted to but it wasn't mandatory and since Monday had been President's Day holiday with no mail delivery, I decided it would be best if I kept to the regular tasks, expecting that I would have many utility bills to pay.....but it turned out I only got 2 tiny bills to pay that day - but on Wednesday I had 17 to pay. I've been here almost 2 years and still have not figured out how to plan for utility bill payments because I never know when they will arrive.
As it continued to rain and be dreary, I looked out the window ready to grumble at all the rain and noticed a blue bird that looked like this land on the tree branch right outside my window. I reached for my phone but it flew away. However, it did lift the gloom a little to see the pretty bird come for a short visit:)
Wednesday and Thursday were "normal" days at the office except that Elder Ashton sold the 4x4 truck that I was sure would never sell based on the price the church was asking. The truck has 70K miles on it and had been driven by the assistants to the president for 2 years - made a lot of trips to North Carolina and back pulling a trailer full of missionary luggage. A man called on Wednesday morning, came and took a look at the truck, left saying he wanted to think about it, called in about an hour and said he was going to take the truck. He came back an hour after that with the big check in his hand.....I think that is the fastest sale Elder Ashton has made of a mission vehicle....and he didn't even have to put on a plaid sport coat!
Wednesday night we had the opportunity to help our neighbor Cathy move and then come to eat dinner with us. They are such a nice family and we had a nice evening with them. As each day passes I begin to feel a little more that it will be hard to leave behind new friends out here...I'm quite sure I will leave part of my heart in the Virginia Chesapeake Mission!
I spent most of those 2 days working on detailed instructions for some of the tasks that I perform - trying to get it ready for whomever is going to replace me. We still don't have any word on what is happening there but hope to learn something soon. On Wednesday I processed travel money payments for those missionaries who will be returning home on March 1. Friday morning I was calling them to let them know to watch for the money to appear on their pre-paid debit card and asking how many suitcases they were going to check. As I called a couple of them, I found myself getting quite emotional as I wished them a fabulous last week in the mission and told them it had been a pleasure working with them. Many of these missionaries hold a place in my heart only a little below the place reserved for my grandchildren and great grandchildren. I will forever be hoping and praying for their success and happiness!
We left the office on Friday at about 1 p.m. and started our drive down to Nags Head. One of the members of the Stake Presidency owns some vacation homes down there that they rent out and each year they give the Senior Missionary Couples and President and Sister Baker an opportunity to use the homes in the off-season. Last year it was really cold and rainy, but this year it was really pretty nice weather and was a perfectly delightful weekend!
A quaint little church along the roadside on the way down to North Carolina
It's pretty common to see this style home along the more rural roads....they are usually set on a large piece of land and generally white clapboard.
We crossed over the Albermarle-Chesapeake canal a couple of times. This canal was dug (deepened and widened from the natural waterway) beginning in 1859 to promote commerce. This crossing doesn't show that in some places it is quite commercialized with boats hauling things up the canal and further inland.
I liked this picturesque view as we passed over Currituck Sound.
We arrived in Nags Head at about 4 p.m. and helped haul the food into the "main" house with 10 bedrooms and 8 baths. We stayed in the "little" house with only 7 bedrooms and 6 baths but all group activities were held in the "main" house. When there was a break in the dinner preparations, I took an opportunity to step out on the deck and enjoy the rolling waves (sights and sounds) of the ocean.
The little black dot in front the the wave in the middle is a surfer. There were eventually 5 or 6 of them out there but I never saw one ride the wave all the way in.
Another view from the back terrace. The "little" house was down the street where you see the pier.
More rolling waves with little black dots of surfers.
I went back inside to help with more preparations and had just completed those when I heard the President say that there were dolphins out in the ocean. So I went back outside to try to capture it in a picture.
If you look very closely you should be able to see 3 little black dots just out past the first wave - those are the dorsal fins of the dolphin.
Waiting for the blessing on the food. Note the lady on the right side of the picture. She is our mission Nurse Practioner and grew up in North Carolina. She was barefoot all weekend long....she says you can tell people are from North Carolina because they don't like to wear shoes :)
We caught President and Sister Baker, along with some others, playing games and eating snacks after dinner and a little devotional where we went around the room and each told one instance or thing that has changed them while they have been serving their mission. We played "Left, Center, Right" with a couple that is currently serving their 4th mission. She says this will be their last and he just laughs :)
Before the partying broke up on Friday night, President Baker said sunrise would be at 6:45 the next morning if anyone wanted to see it. I took a big breath and told Elder Ashton to wake me up (even though that sounded pretty early for a Saturday morning) because I wanted to take some pictures. Below are a couple of pictures of the sunrise that I took.....then I just stood there and took in the beauty with my eyes - my iphone camera is pretty good but couldn't adequately capture the beautiful details of the sunrise..
More dolphin frolicking in the water on Saturday morning. I tried to capture them but wasn't successful :( however I noticed some sunbeams out of the corner of my eye.
The sunbeams shining down from the clouds.....made me stop for a moment and think about how I'm doing with that phrase from the primary song , "Jesus Wants me for a Sunbeam"....am I letting my light shine through the clouds?
After breakfast we had a couple of hours of training/discussion on the Holy Ghost and Pride/Humility. As we concluded the discussion I realized that I still have quite a ways to go in getting rid of pride and being totally humble.....got some work to do.
Elder Ashton wanted to get a bike ride in while the weather was nice, so he got his Spandex on and headed south from Nags Head. We had decided that we would go south along the outer banks andand see a couple of lighthouses - Bode and Hatteras. So we are going to travel south along Highway 12 on the outer banks. The picture below shows how narrow the strip of land is, but for most of the time we could not see the water on both sides because of the tall piles of sand.
Elder Ashton is riding his bike and I am driving the 12 miles to Bode Island Light Station. When I turned off the main road to get out to the light station, I was started to see a doe and a fawn coming out of the trees right in front of me - unfortunately I was driving and couldn't get a picture :(
When I reached this sign I knew I was in the right place. This is the 3rd lighthouse that has been in this vicinity of Bode Island and this one was built in 1872. It is 172 feet tall and I'm sure it was a great warning to seamen to keep them from hitting the narrow peninsula of land.
The lighthouse was open for climbing but I was sure I couldn't make it up that high! Sure was pretty to look at, though. The staff person in the little visitor's center said the small building in front of the lighthouse held fuel to burn in the light.
After I wandered around for a bit I went back to the truck to wait for Elder Ashton. In about 45 minutes he called and wondered where I was - he missed the turnoff to the lighthouse and it was not easily seen from the road so he had ridden about 4 miles too far. He came back and we headed further south with him riding (in the truck this time).
A coast guard rescue station
I noticed all those little black dots in the water and asked Elder Ashton what they were - he said they were duck blinds. I guess the area is a good place to hunt ducks so maybe people go to Virginia Beach where we saw all the duck decoys a few weeks ago, bring them back here and hide in the blinds to get them some ducks. I'm still surprised sometimes at how different the culture is here with all this water surrounding us.
We drove a little further and Elder Ashton found a tiny little cemetery along the road so we stopped to take some pictures of the head stones.
I noticed a little dirt road right there and told Elder Ashton I was going to go turn the truck around. Imagine my surprise when I rounded a curve and this house popped up - sitting right close to the water on that narrow strip of land. This is a very typical style for the beach houses along the coast. We got back in the truck and headed further south with me driving.
Next stop - Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. This lighthouse is quite famous and was chosen as the logo for our mission (yes, this North Carolina area is in our mission). It is considered the highest brick lighthouse in the nation and is 208 feet tall. You will note the large stones placed in a semi-circle where you can sit on them and view the lighthouse. I asked a couple that was there what the inscriptions (names and dates) on the stones meant and they said it was the name and date for each keeper of the lighthouse from the beginning to the last keeper.
This is the stone for the last lighthouse keeper
The two buildings were housing for the lighthouse keeper and his assistant and their families. One of them has been turned into a visitor's center but it was closed for the season.
Pretty impressive sight!
Elder Ashton taking it all in. When we finished wandering around the site, Elder Ashton said he wanted to ride some more on his bike so he told me to drive 5 miles back the way we came and wait for him....what he didn't tell me was that he was going to get sidetracked taking photos of some British sailors graves. I think he told all about that in his email.
Kite surfers just outside the small town of Nags Head
This is the style of the beach homes and quite a bit like the ones we stayed in.
Sand dunes along the road
More sand - you can see it blows across the road and sometimes they have to plow it off
On old bridge we had to drive over. As you can see it is really rusty and pretty loud as you drive over it. I was really glad I was only driving over sand cause it sounded like it was going to collapse
Another view of the rickety bridge!
As we drove back up the narrow strip of land we stopped at a few more small (really small) cemeteries and stopped to get a late lunch. Elder Ashton wanted seafood (of course) and I wasn't very hungry. I tried to just get a salad but they all had seafood in them so I ordered a burger knowing I would not be able to eat it all. Imagine my surprise when they brought me an edible orchid with the burger. I even got brave and tried it - found out it tasted a little like lettuce so I guess that was my salad.
I was exhausted when we arrived home about 7 p.m. but laundry was waiting for me so I stayed up for awhile doing that. Then Sunday arrived and it was time to get up and get ready for church. What a pleasant surprise to see two of these birds flitting around in the bushes outside our apartment.
And I even got a great Sunday afternoon nap! Now looking forward to this next week when we hope our newest great grandchild will be born and hear where our grandson will be serving his mission. Lots of blessings and exciting things happening in our family :)