Let Me

Anna B Resting at Grand Canyon

Lord,

Let me be a place of rest for the unexpected traveller. A hot breakfast. A long talk over hot tea. The name of a friend in the next town and a package of cheese sandwiches for the road.[1. (c)2015 Brandon L. Blankenship, Image “Anna’s Canyon Rest” See Guillebeau, Chris, Happiness of Pursuit, Page 208.]

### Brandon Blankenship, Alabama

For the Lack of Ten Men

Ten Men

The ancient cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed because they lacked ten righteous men.

If you don’t know the story, the God of Abraham condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to absolute destruction because the wickedness in the cities had become great and exceedingly grave.

Eating while others hunger.

Sodom’s wickedness and the wickedness of the cities that had grown up around it was that its citizens exaggerated their own importance, had more than enough to eat but didn’t share with the hungry, pushed all of their work off onto others but didn’t provide for the poor.[1. Ezekiel 16:49]

Abraham begged for the cities to be spared.

Abraham[2. He was actually called Abram at this point in history because God had not yet called him by his new name of Abraham.] pleaded with God not to destroy the cities because righteous people might get executed alongside the wicked even though they were innocent. God agreed that if ten righteous men could be found He would stop the destruction. Abraham did not call for the destruction of the wicked. He pleaded for the righteous.

There were not ten righteous men.

The saddest part of this story is Lot who was Abraham’s nephew. Lot sat at the city gate of Sodom (and was therefore esteemed among the city government). Even though Lot was surrounded by hundreds, perhaps thousands of men, he did not have ten friends that he persuaded to be righteous.

The cities were destroyed.

Challenge

What if God was looking at your city right now? Would it be destroyed or would it be saved? What role would you play in either fate? Consider these three questions that might make a difference:

  1. The next time you focus your attention on condemning something you think is bad, can you shift your focus onto something righteous? Something good?
  2. Can you take some step (no matter how small) to care for the poor and needy in your city?
  3. Can you encourage nine others to shift the energy they put into showing off into gratitude?[3. ©2015 Brandon L. Blankenship, Image Ten Men by Sarah Hennington, used with permission.]

###

Say Her Name

An older gentleman just walked up to me and asked, “when is the last time you called your wife by her name?” I couldn’t remember but I’m sure it had been a while. I call her lots of things – but not her name. The gentleman said, “when you get home, before you go to bed, call your wife by her name. Your wife is not just some faceless person you share a house with. She has a name.” Strange encounter.

I thought it was stupid but I tried it anyway. Donnalee stopped and looked and me sort of shocked. “You never say my name,” she said. She didn’t have to say anything more, her eyes told me that saying her name wasn’t stupid.

Try it. If you haven’t done it in a while, call her name.[1. Brandon Blankenship ©2015 All rights reserved. Image credit: CC Faceless by Emma.Maria via flickr 2009.]

Right Here. Right Now.

Be here now couple on bench

Here is the number one gift I can give Donnalee. Be with her. Easy to say, hard to do. Not hard because she is hard to be with. Quite the contrary, there is no better day than one spent with her. I am the problem. I have a hard time just being with her because there are so many other places to be.

It is nearly impossible to be here now when you think there is somewhere else to be.    -Guru Singh

The times that this phenomenon has become painfully obvious to me has been when our married friends have stopped being in their marriage because they were somewhere else. Often they were with someone else (real or imagined). Being with someone and imagining yourself somewhere else is not really being there.

More often I intend to be with Donnalee and just her when I let myself get carried off by the ding telling me I have a text message or some other nonsense. My body is still there but I’ve checked out – fantasizing about what important news might be in that text (after all, I might have won that lottery I’ve never entered).

Try this. Give the gift of being present. It might even help to say it, “For the next three hours, I am in the right place (here), with the right person (you), at the right time (now).” And after you say it, the greatest gift is doing it.

### Brandon Blankenship

Credits: Guru Singh quote is by way of Nirvikalpa. Balance © 2014 Brandon Blankenship Alabama Birmingham Pelham Attorney Lawyer

NOTE TO THOSE CHALLENGED BY QUOTING THE GURU SINGH: I quote Guru Singh here because his language is so clean. Also, Zig Ziglar had a whole work on this idea wherein he explained that many people were unhappy and tired because they traveled so much. When they were at work they wanted to be home and when they were home they wanted to be at work. They were never where they were, always traveling (in their mind) to someplace else. To the married evangelical, read Song of Solomon and ask it about being present in your relationship. If you don’t find the answer, please contact me with what you did find.

 

 

A Word To Newlyweds (or Those Who Are About To Be)

Newlyweds piggybacking on the beach

Maybe so many marriages suck today because they started wrong. I can’t think of a single married couple that I have been close to that didn’t start the same way. Newlyweds. Get as much house as we can get. Get a car, no, two cars. Both husband and wife (or at least one of them) working as many hours as they can get. Grab a movie here, dinner there. If this isn’t you, please comment below and share your experience.

Consider this alternative: For the first year of your marriage, get the cheapest possible place to live together. Try not to own a car if you can avoid it. If you can’t avoid it, only have one car. Work as little as you possibly can. Focus the first year on your marriage.

Consider this passage: When a man takes a new wife, he shall not go out with the army nor be charged with any duty; he shall be free at home one year and shall give happiness to his wife whom he has taken. Deuteronomy 24: 5 NASB

What Newlyweds Can Expect If They Decide To Do It.

If you decide to make this commitment, you can expect naysayers. They will sound something like, “you guys can be married and have a real life” or “you shouldn’t have to give up your life for your marriage.” Of course, that is the mindset we are setting ourselves against, right? So, the naysayer is no big surprise. To them I would quote Chris Guillebea, “You don’t have to live your life the way other people expect you to.” (To learn more about living a remarkable life in a conventional world, read Chris’ Remarkable Life In a Conventional World.

Also, there is the church naysayer that may tell you that Deuteronomy is in the old testament and so it isn’t valid anymore. The response to this is beyond the scope of this blog, but consider in response, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17

So What Do We Do For A Year?

Well, the authority says the husband should “give happiness to his wife….” But how?

A meeting of two: eye to eye, face to face. And when you are near, I will tear your eyes out and place them inside of mine, and you will tear my eyes out and will place them inside of yours, then I will look at you with your eyes and you will look at me with mine. -J.L. Moreno

How do I see with her eyes? How does she see with mine? It certainly starts with talking, listening. It is certainly accomplished over the long term with a plan. Plan to read a book together, take a trip together. Plan whatever, but plan something.

A special note to men: I’ve noticed that when men are interested in a new hobby, they have a certain method they follow. Each man is a bit different, but there are some consistencies in their method. It usually starts with talking about the hobby with somebody that knows a little more than they do. It might involve buying (or at least reading) a magazine about the hobby. Google might get involved and at some point there will be a YouTube video. If there any tools that support the hobby, somehow the money is found to buy them. Why wouldn’t you use the same method in your marriage?

Whatever you do to learn or improve a new job, hobby or craft  —  use that same method to learn or improve your marriage.

###

© 2014 Donnalee and Brandon L. Blankenship Alabama Birmingham Hoover Pelham

 

 

At least infinity stands off

At least infinity stands off,

makes room in the back of

the closet for another

pair of shoes, an old

umbrella, our clutch of

tight memories.  Years to

list become, like a baked

cake, no longer separate,

but melt, mesh, cohere

into the sweet taste of

shared lips.  -Jon Ciliberto

Thanks to Georgia poet Jon Ciliberto for this poem celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary.  During the AJC Decatur Book Festival, several poets set up a booth and demonstrate their talent.  Since it was the weekend of our anniversary, we shared a little bit about our 25 years and this was the result.

Image credit: Infinity Andrew Smithson CC flickr 5NOV2010

Around the West in 30 Days – Recap/Wrap-up

western trip 2014
Backpacks arrived one day after we did.
Backpacks arrived one day after we did.

We are home. Work has begun. The trip is now a memory. Everything is so normal that I’m struggling with the feeling that the trip never even happened. Is that how Susan, Peter, Edmund, and Lucy felt when returning home from Narnia?

Unlike Jules Verne’s characters in Around the World in 80 Days, we were not mistaken bank robbers, hounded by the police and thwarted with unbelievable obstacles along our journey. We did take in some overwhelming and heart stopping sights. We did make it back a little before deadline. Unfortunately, there was no fortune waiting for us.

A little off-road muddin on our trip.
A little off-road muddin on our trip.

We learned a lot about each other. Anna’s repeated phrase throughout the trip was, “I’ve never seen this side of you guys before.” No, baby. Drill sergeant-taxi-maid-mom doesn’t get to laugh and play as much as she used to. Your dad and I really do enjoy each other and laugh a lot. Brandon would sneak a lot of winks and knowing looks in my direction as he watched the wonder of Anna. He ate that up. I gushed at him enjoying her. This goes in my top 5 best trips ever. Maybe I’ll blog about that one day.

Top 10 Travel Lessons Learned:

Oh yeah.

1. Take a camper or RV or take a longer trip than 3 weeks. We were cramped in the car for most of the trip and each stop required unpacking the luggage. With a camper you have more options for pulling over to sleep and no unpacking required. The other option is to take a longer trip so that you can slow down and enjoy some of the places you visit. We actually showed up at some amazing places, jumped out for a photo and kept driving. NUTS!

2. Choose fewer destinations. A trip to Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon is trip enough. A drive up the coast of California with a few stops along the way is a great trip. I don’t know why we chose to do a crazy marathon of a zillion places. That might not be for you.

3. Research the temperatures. We were unprepared for cold July weather. I had a lot of tank tops and light t-shirts in anticipation of extreme western heat. I was always cold. I checked a few temps before we left, but didn’t check many. My mistake.

When you get bored, make faces.
When you get bored, make faces.

4. Do not pay full price for a hotel. Ever. With travelocity.com, priceline.com, expedia.com, tripadvisor.com, hotwire.com and more, you do not have to pay the listed price to stay in a hotel. Go crazy. Do some bidding. Set your own price. Take a chance. Use the extra money for a great meal or an extra activity. Most of our hotels were 20% off. Some were 50% or more. It actually became a game to see how much we could save on the hotel. Another option is stop at the Rest Area after each state line. Pick up a couple of coupon books. We’ve saved on some hotels with the coupons.

5. Save money on food. You do not have to eat every meal out. Many hotels have microwaves and refrigerators. Resist the urge to buy drinks or snacks at every gas station stop. For the price of 2 bottles of water at the gas station, I can get 24 bottles of water at Walmart. It adds up. You will also eat healthier if you pre-purchase some of your food and carry it around with you. Trust me, there is a Walmart or grocery store in most every town. Most of our breakfast meals were fruit, granola bars and yogurt right out of our ice chest. OR we would eat the free breakfast a many of the hotels, and eat the fruit and yogurt for lunch.

Sleeping in the car.
Sleeping in the car.

6. Ask the locals where they like to eat. Don’t just go to the familiar food chains. You don’t want to miss the food adventures. Some places we tried were terrible. Crazy locals. But some were amazing and we would have totally missed that experience without asking.

7. If you are an actual photographer, take your good lenses and go for it. If you are not, don’t worry about the camera. The photos will never capture the grandeur of what you see and experience. Just snap away with what you have to jog your memory, but don’t invest in an expensive camera just for the trip. You will luck up on a few really good pics even if you are a total dork with a camera. Statistically, it just happens.

8. Talk to a lot of people. Be friendly. Don’t be stupid and give away all your itinerary and personal information, but ask people how they are and what they’ve seen and what they liked. Offer to take a pic for their whole group so they can all be in the photo. Make friends. It’s easy to be isolated while traveling. Surrounded by strangers and cut off from everyone. Make the effort to connect. It always pays off.

The beauty of Yellowstone.
The beauty of Yellowstone.

9. Donate $5 to some crunchy people in a VW with a cardboard sign asking for gas money. They are on an adventure that we can only imagine. I came really close to being one of them. We were glad to contribute. Be generous on your trip. Think of Christmas gifts and friends at home. Put a quarter in the gumball machine for the kid whose mom can’t find any change at the bottom of her purse. Let someone else take the last turn on your game token. Let people in a hurry in front of you in line. You are on vacation. Where do you have to be? Brandon and Anna are very good at this mindset. I learned a lot about it and got to practice on this vacation. I challenge you to step outside yourself on your vacation and be generous! It’s a win-win.

10. Adventure awaits. Make a bucket list and start checking it off. This is a HUGE world. Where do you want to go? There is a way to get there, even if you don’t have money. There is a way. Plan it, research it, talk about it with everyone you know. Pray about it. Start a penny jar and before you know it, it will happen. I’ve never met anyone who regretted an adventure. I’ve met several people who regretted not going on one.

Thank yous:

We crossed the Continental Divide several times in several places.
We crossed the Continental Divide several times in several places.

A lot of people helped us make this trip. We did not do this on our own. Vicky and James Davis, and Catherine and Artie Childs, the grandparents, helped Anna with some spending money. Debby and Bill Powers were so excited about the upcoming adventure, they made a sponsor contribution. Our friends Janet and Larry Marvin prayed over us before we left. Jenny Combs is the best house sitter ever. She kept the house safe, and the dog and fish alive. I’m so glad she invited friends over and took advantage of the kitchen. Houston Byrd (Sr. And Jr.) helped keep us out of trouble with the neighborhood by keeping our grass cut. David Karcher and family checked on our garden and took care of our bees. He even split a hive, which is no easy task. Rex Nelson tracked down a dude in Colorado, in a shady part of town, to pick up a tent then ship it to us. Camping would have been hard without that tent. Patti Vincent offered a free place to stay in Colorado and Keith Newman offered many wonderful suggestions on places to visit. Anna’s ice coaches, Eric and Heather Mumper, helped us connect to some fun ice skating places along the way. Mary and Angela at AAA on Acton Road, made sure we had plenty of maps, travel books, a decent/cheap car to drive and helped with hotel reservations on the road.

To everyone who kept up with the blog and made comments on Facebook, you have no idea how that kept my spirits up when the trip got hard. I am grateful for our friendships, your sense of humor, wonderful suggestions, and just reaching out to connect. Thanks to you, every day is an adventure! I can’t wait to read about what YOU are doing now!

Odds and Ends of the Trip:

  • Wind power across the west.
    Wind power across the west.

    Miles traveled: 6,215 +/- some backtracking

  • Average $gas/gallon: $3.64
  • Highest gas price seen: $5.99 on Highway 1 Big Sur. We kept going.
  • Hours in the car: Actual driving: 94 hours. Felt like: 10 billion
  • Steps hiked in the Grand Canyon: about 40,000. Thanks to the pedometer app.
  • State Parks passed through: too may to count, several in every state.
  • National Parks: stayed at: Yellowstone National Park, Grand Canyon National Park. Passed through: Grand Teton National Park (Had to cut out Redwood National Forest from the trip due to time constraints)
  • States stayed in: Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, California, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, Oklahoma, Tennessee
  • States only driven through: Mississippi, Montana, Arkansas
  • Worst traffic: Los Angeles hands down. San Francisco and Las Vegas tie for 2nd.
  • Favorite pic from the trip.
    Favorite pic from the trip.

    Zero traffic: Arizona, Nevada, Wyoming

  • Best sunset: Arizona or off the coast of California
  • Best starry sky: New Mexico (me), Grand Canyon (B&A)
  • Best day drive: Highway 1 up the coast of California
  • Worst day drive: Wyoming, after Yellowstone and Tetons
  • Places I wish we’d stayed longer: Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, Big Sur, Lake Tahoe, Napa Valley, Santa Fe, Carmel, anywhere in Colorado
  • Strangest occurrences: Locust storm in Texas, Sand storm in Nevada, Cold temps in California
  • Most used travel apps: Cheap Gas!, PlacesAround or AroundMe, Google Maps and Maps, AAA
  • Most used packed item: Ice chest. Saved a ton on snacks and drinks
  • Least used packed item: Dress and suit. Did not go to one fancy thing at all.
  • Most unexpected on trip: Cold July temps. Only Texas (104*) and Nevada (106*) were hot. The avg. temps everywhere else were in the 60s or low 70s.
  • Favorite purchase: Anna’s boots
  • Top Activities (besides riding in the car): Copter ride over the Grand Canyon, Trolly ride in San Francisco, “O” in Las Vegas, California State Fair, Osteology Museum in Oklahoma, seeing Old Faithful and elk up close in Wyoming.
  • Wild trip. Weird people. Glad to be home.
    Wild trip. Weird people. Glad to be home.

    Mind boggling: Lost iPhone in Grand Canyon. Found while we were in Las Vegas. Shipped general delivery and picked up at Yellowstone. The timing, the honesty of the person returning it, the grin on the Yellowstone postmaster’s face, the relief on Anna’s face.

  • Mind boggling #2: You are still reading this.
  • Mind boggling #3: We have an amazing creator God. There is so much beauty in the created. I can not imagine the beauty of Heaven or seeing Him face to face.

The End. (For now.)

highway1 california

Start the journey here:

PrepDay   Day1   Day2   Day3   Days4-5   Days6-7   Day8   Day9   Days10-11   Days12-13   Day14   Day15  Day16   Days17-18   Days19-20   Day21   Days22-23

 

Around the West in 30 Days – Days 22-23

alabama sign

OKLAHOMA, ARKANSAS, TENNESSEE, MISSISSIPPI, ALABAMA

arkansas signOk. I have no idea what day it is really. I’ve lost all sense of time and direction. What city are we in now? Are we sleeping in the tent, the car, the cheap motel or something with sheets? I’ll drive. No, you drive. Where are we? Get out and take a photo, we’ll figure it out later. Do we have to? Yes. It’s the law.

tennessee signBrandon thinks I’m making up ailments. “There is no such thing as travel fatigue.” Yes. Yes, there is. I have it. I know. I watched some doctor shows once.

Scoot your seat up, my toes are cramping. I don’t have any room either. Well, somebody had to go and win a giant panda at the fair and it’s sucking up all my air. Are we close to home yet?

osteology museum oklahomaOk. All those were me. Brandon and Anna are great. They smile a lot. They sing a lot. Why am I the grouchy one? I wanted to be the cool mom that calmed everyone down with my cleverness and wisdom and humor. I don’t even know what day it is or where we are. I feel like I’m one straight jacket away from the loony bin.

I’m dragging my feet going back home. Laundry waits there. Dishes, cooking, weeding the garden, bills, responsibilities. While this trip may have been hard on the body, we were loosey goosey. No chores. Fun times. Adventure.

corkys bb1This has been an amazing trip. We packed a lot in 3 weeks. We’ve made memories, learned a lot about each other, had some great laughs and giggles. I’ve got photos out the wazoo. That is a word. It has to be.

No regrets. The real adventure is actually back home. Living the daily, mundane in such a way that shines the light of Christ in a dark world. That’s a real adventure. I will embrace it. I will conquer the mountain of laundry and the winding paths of weeds. I will smile and sing and fondly remember the days I was cramped in a car with the people I love most in the world, and I will rejoice in the blessing of the memories made. God IS good, all the time.

Last states, last thoughts:

corkys bbq anna1. Oklahoma is fun. Carrie Underwood, Chuck Norris, and James Garner. Come ‘on. They wouldn’t be from a boring state.

2. You can skip Arkansas. Bill and Hillary. Enough said.

3. Even though we were close to home, we stayed overnight in Memphis. One reason. Corky’s BBQ. Forget Graceland and BB King and the Blues. Ok, don’t forget the Blues, but you gotta try Corky’s BBQ. They have a dry rub that will make you slap your mama. But don’t. Anna tried. She still can’t sit down.

ms state4. Mississippi is almost like Alabama. It just is. Embrace it people.

5. The Alabama state sign is HUGE. We are proud of our state. It’s good to be home. Home of the 90% humidity, mosquito sanctuaries, kudzu, and family and friends. I think I will go hug every one of our bees, and lick the dog. There is no place like home. There is no place like homealabama sign huganna and lucy back home.

first sign last sign
First selfie and last. I think we do look travel weary.