Search Me o God…..Please!

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Psalm 139:23

I have never been a consistent blogger, nor have I ever felt that I should be. This week made me rethink that. As I write this we have just come through the first of maybe many interesting weeks due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

As I wrestled all week to know how to manage leadership and shepherding within our community of faith at Leduc Fellowship Church, I felt that I wanted to reach out to those who wanted to be reached, but I did not want to bother those who felt I had already sent out too many emails.

This blog seemed like the right tool to use. I have used it on and off in the past, but never did I see it as a necessity. Now I do.

It has been one heck of a week with one unusual change after another. Starting with students being told to not attend school for who knows how long, and then that worship gatherings and family events including weddings and funerals were to be no larger than 50 attendees.

What a scramble for parents to find daycare when all have been closed, many churches to figure out the technological side of doing virtual church, brides and grooms cutting their guests lists and families not being able to honour the life and legacy of their departed loved ones. All of these scenarios were part of life for me this week and for so many.

I must admit, this week has caused me some anxiety and stress. Despite this strain, I must say I have seen much good. I have seen neighbour reach out to neighbour, I have seen people turn to prayer and worship over dispair, I have seen teamwork that is off the charts, I have seen an outpouring of love and grace, and I have seen people slowing down to care and share life together.

Over the next days, weeks or months, I hope to use this space to share the good and the great that I see. There may be moments of the difficult, but I believe there will be more moments of greatness.

Keep checking back!

California Dreamin and Northward Bound

It’s been a long time since we’ve put anything on the Blog!  This is Jo, btw…..We’ve been relaxing and loving every minute of this awesome time together!  After an amazing time in Gilbert, AZ, we headed to Anaheim, CA.  We spent 4 days in Disneyland and/or California Adventure. And we played HARD!!  We went on almost every ride, saw a bunch of shows and enjoyed tons of parades!  The weather was perfect!  Let me tell you that I totally felt my age at Disney!  We walked around 42 miles according to Dennis’ Fitbit!  Our feet hurt by the end of the day!

We were blessed at the beginning of the Anaheim trip with a surprise at the restaurant in Downtown Disney.  Some random strangers paid our bill!  Wow!!  Such a humbling experience!!

The girls had a blast!!  They LOVED all the roller coasters and went on as much as they could!  The highlight for me and Dennis was watching the wonder in the girls’ eyes as they saw characters and simply enjoyed the rides and shows.  They are such good girls – so polite and kind!  Can you tell we are proud?  I think the best part for me was seeing Lydia meet her favourite character, Sofia the First.  She was mesmerized!  She actually cried tears of joy after seeing her!!  It was so sweet!!

We are now chilling out in our little 580 square foot beach cabin in Santa Cruz.  Once again, we’ve been fortunate to have amazing weather!  We spent the day at the beach and on the Boardwalk.  We walked, played, watched the seals, dolphins and birds.  The girls just loved playing for hours in the sand. We ended our day with a gorgeous sunset.

Tomorrow we leave for our 11-hour drive to Portland.  We decided to drive straight through instead of taking 2 days to do this.  We are anxious to see family and enjoy the week with them.  It will be the first Thanksgiving we will spend with my mom and my sisters/brothers-in-law since we moved to Alberta 16 years ago!!  Really looking forward to this time together as well as devouring my mom’s famous potato salad!!  We will also be able to spend time with Dennis’ sister, her husband and our niece and other family members.

After the week is over we will be heading back to reality in Alberta.  It’s been an awesome trip and while I’m sad it is coming to a close, I am SO excited to see our older kids!!  We’ve missed them!!

Thanks yet again for the prayers and thoughts along this journey with us.  We feel rested and relaxed and renewed.  We are also feeling prepared to get back to work and real life! God has been speaking to us both along the way!

Much love to all of you!!  Jo

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32 Days, 17 States, 11 Homes and 10621Kms/6600 Miles Later

Sorry that it has been so long since we have updated the blog.  As you can tell from the title of this post we have covered a lot of ground so far on this trip.

Since we last left you we have been to Atlanta, Pensacola Beach, New Orleans, San Antonio and now are spending 2 weeks in Phoenix.  Let me catch you up on a bit of the highlights of the last week and a half or so.

Atlanta:  In Atlanta we rented a converted 3 story loft in the historical Martin Luther King, Jr District, just blocks from Ebenezer Baptist Church, the Church that MLK preached his first sermon in and served for many years.  Our full day spent in Atlanta was spent at the World of Coke and The Atlanta Botanical Garden.

The World of Coke was awesome to see the history of the widest known brand in the world and to hear of its history.  Joanne and I have been there before, but the girls loved it.  They especially enjoyed the tasting room where you can taste all the drinks Coke makes anywhere in the world.

The Botanical Garden was amazing and very relaxing.  Thank you Keisha, the friend that we made in Raleigh for the amazing blessing of the free tickets to the garden.  It was a beautiful setting in the middle of Atlanta.

For a break between The World of Coke and the Botanical Garden, we enjoyed an amazing lunch at the Varsity Drive-In.  This hot dog and hamburger drive-in is an Atlanta landmark and a place that my dad took me when I was a boy whenever we would go to see the Atlanta Braves play.

Pensacola Beach was not originally on our route, but when Joanne realized it was so close to our route and that if we went she could say she had been to Florida our plans changed.  We enjoyed a beautiful afternoon of sitting on the beautiful white sand beach of Pensacola Beach.

New Orleans:  In New Orleans we stayed in a very quaint two bedroom upstairs apartment of a quad-plex just a short street car ride from The French Quarter.  Our full day in New Orleans started with a ride on the streetcar to the French Quarter and beignets at Café du Monde.  These were fried french donuts covered in a mountain of powdered sugar (icing sugar for the Canadians in the crowd).  The coffee was wonderful there as well.  We then took a very hot and humid walk through the French Quarter.

One highlight was the nice gentleman that grabbed me on the street and asked if Lydia was my daughter. When I said she was, he said “She is Ethiopian?” very exuberantly.  I responded with “Yes!”  He then said “I am Ethiopian!”  He was so excited to see her.  He showed us the two stores he owned and gave his blessing as we continued on our way.

We were not sure what to do in New Orleans as we found it to not be the most kid friendly town.  So we decided to take the “tourist route” and went on a Cajun Encounter Swamp Tour.  We actually enjoyed it greatly.

San Antonio:  We loved our brief stay in San Antonio.  We got to our hotel around 7:30.  After checking in, we walked the block from our hotel to the River Walk and found an amazing Mexican restaurant for supper.  We then headed back to the hotel for a good night sleep.

At two in the morning both of our cell phones beeped with a flash flood advisory for the San Antonio area.  I groaned and rolled over to go back to sleep.   Joanne spent the next hour searching the internet for what to do.  I figured we were on the second floor of a 12 story building, if the water got to us we would just keep going up until we were dry.

We awoke the next day to find out that there was some flash flooding in the area and that a number of people had lost their lives, but honestly you would never be aware of that from the downtown area.

We had breakfast at the hotel and then took a short walk to the Alamo.  We took a quick tour of the monument and then listened as a very nice man told us the history of the Alamo.  It was very interesting and amazing to think what happened many years before in the spot we were sitting.

After the Alamo we went to the River Walk again and took an hour gondola  ride as we heard the history of the River Walk and San Antonio.  As it was Halloween, our guide was dressed as Michael Jackson and would strike a pose for anyone that would look his way.   We headed back to the hotel in the mid-afternoon and a quick swim in the 10′ by 12′ pool, or was it just a large bathtub?

We headed to bed early as we knew that we had a long drive the next day as we headed to Phoenix.

Phoenix:  On Sunday we headed from San Antonio to Phoenix.  This was to be the longest day’s drive of our whole trip.  The first direction on my GPS was to go 950 miles on I-10 West and then turn to head to Gibert.  A little over a thousand miles later we pulled into the home we have been blessed with here at 9:30 pm.  I was toast.

We have been blessed with the use of a home owned by Martin and Jeannine Kaup, the parents of our Son-in-Law Isaac.  It is a beautiful and peaceful place with a backyard pool for us to enjoy.  We will be here for two weeks before heading to California and then up the coast to spend time with family in Portland for Thanksgiving.

We have enjoyed the nice weather of Phoenix though the locals are acting like it is cold.  We have also enjoyed the relaxed pace.  Today we went to the Arizona State Fair.  It was nice but not quite as big a shindig as the North Carolina State Fair of a few weeks ago.

Today we also went to “My Mystery Castle” in Phoenix.  This home has an amazing history and was built by Boyce Gulley (must be a long lost relative.)  If you ever get to Phoenix and have not done this tour, you need to do it.  It is cheap and very interesting.

We have been so blessed to have this time to be together, to travel and see such great things, to rest, to seek God’s face and to refresh ourselves for the next phase of family and ministry life.  I am very excited that I feel God’s leading in my life and through a renewed energy for the vision God has for my life and my ministry at Leduc Fellowship.  I wait to hear more as I seek His face!

We will not be posting for the next week or so, just because we will not have much to report.  If you are interested please check back around November 15th!

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Family, Fun and Food in Raleigh

Hello everyone – Joanne here!  We are having a wonderful time here in Raleigh…so much fun that we haven’t had time to post anything on the blog!  So I’m going to attempt to wrap up the last week in a few paragraphs.

Birthdays:  Margaret and Dennis both had birthdays this past week.  We had a great time celebrating Margaret with a bunch of her friends and then Dennis and I went out with Rob and Margaret to celebrate his birthday.  Both times, the kids enjoyed cousin time at home!

State Fair:  We had a blast at the NC State Fair!  Many rides and lots of greasy, fried foods!!  Growing up with State Fairs, Dennis and I enjoyed watching the girls soak it all in!

Beach:  Dennis and the girls and I went to Wrightsville Beach and Wilmington.  We were lucky to have gorgeous weather and just play in the sand, collect shells, and of course, shop a bit!  Abby was excited to see and touch the Atlantic Ocean!

University Campuses:  We had the chance to visit some Universities in the area:  UNC-Chapel Hill, Meredith College, and NC State.  It was extra special to Dennis as his dad (along with many other family members) are UNC Alumni and his mom went to Meredith.  The huge trees and old buildings were incredible.  And Lydia enjoyed her new found love of collecting acorns and chasing squirrels!!

Pullen Park:  This park was nothing short of amazing!  It had a huge playground, kiddie boats, a pond to feed geese, fish and turtles, a carousel, a train and Dennis’ favourite – a statue of Andy Griffith and Opie!  It was fun for the girls to play and Dennis and I caught up on a little reading.  Lydia met a friend and soon we were introduced to her mother and grandmother.  Emma, Keira, and Keisha were a joy to visit with and we feel so blessed to have met them.  Keisha chased after us when we were leaving to give us 4 tickets to the Atlanta Botanical Gardens!  Such kindness!  We continue to enjoy the people we are meeting along this amazing journey!

Church:  We attended 2 churches while here.  We went to Trinity Baptist Church with Margaret and Connor last week.  What a gorgeous church!  It was much more traditional than I’m used to but it brought back many memories of church growing up.  I loved the choir, hand bell choir and the pastor’s sermon very much.  I had to laugh when we left as we told the greeter we were from Canada and she said, “Oh!  Do you know the Wyatts?”  I’ve always heard that joke, but it was hilarious to experience it!!    Today Dennis, Abby and I went to Summit Church in Raleigh.  This was closer to what we experience at LFC, though it was much larger.  We really enjoyed this church as well.  It was nice for Dennis as he wanted to hear JD Greear speak and we were lucky enough to hear him today.

Food:  Oh My Goodness!!  We have been in food heaven since we have arrived here!  Southern BBQ, Mac & Cheese, Fried Okra, Hush Puppies, Sweet Tea, Fried Chicken, Grits….the list goes on and on.  We have experienced a lot of different restaurants as well – many of Dennis’ favourites growing up as well as many new ones!  Let’s just say while we’ve loved it ALL, we will be eating salad for the next week or so!!

Family:  While we’ve done a lot of fun stuff while we’ve been here, the best has been the time spent with family!  Rob and Margaret have been so gracious to let us stay in their home and have made us feel so welcomed here.  We’ve spent a lot of time together talking and laughing and truly loving the chance to catch up and get to know each other better.  Connor has been awesome and has been so great with the girls!  He took us creek walking, built us bonfires, played with the kids at the Life and Science Museum, carved pumpkins with us and played many games at the house with the girls.  Jax was able to come home from East Carolina University for the weekend so that was great!  We didn’t get to spend much time together, but the time we did get was fun.  Let’s just say the next Gulley Family reunion with the WHOLE family is already in the works!!

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Spending a Day in the Past

Today we spent most of the day in Clayton, N.C.  Clayton is the town that was home to the Gulleys for nearly two centuries.  While the city is growing, there were many things that I remembered as they were in my childhood.

I was blessed to have the director of the Library open up the archives to give me some information and to help me fill in a few holes on our family tree.

It was a great day of memories for me to share with my wife and girls.

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Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Sorry we have not posted in a few days.  We were a bit “off the grid” during our stay in Gatlinburg.  We were blessed by our time in the “Ole Creek Cabin” just outside of Gatlinburg.

We, along with most of the south, decided that fall would be a beautiful season to be in the Smoky Mountains.  We forgot that we were going to the mountains on the Columbus Day Long Weekend, in a season when everyone wants to see the fall colours.  It was very crowded in town, but the cabin was a bit more secluded and quiet.  The summer has been a bit longer this year, so the colours were not as plentiful as we had hoped.

We were able to enjoy some hiking in the Smokies and to have a chance to go zip-lining in the mountains.  We also enjoyed some rest and relaxation, reading and playing in the creek.

We left yesterday and headed toward Raleigh, North Carolina.  This is my (Dennis) ancestral home.  We will be staying here for two weeks with Margaret, my one cousin on my father’s side of the family.  We have already enjoyed Margaret and her husband Rob and their son Connor.  Margaret and I have been telling old family stories and catching up on our family tree.

Many great times ahead in the days to come here!

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A Day of Great Memories

This is Dennis.  Today was a day of great memories and connecting with old friends.  We are in Nashville and this is the city of my birth and the place I lived for the first five years of my life.

We started our day with a drive around our old neighbourhood, and the site of our first home here.  The duplex is long gone, but the neighbourhood is very much the same.  We also went by Woodmont Baptist church, the church we attended while we lived here.

After the quick tour we picked up my good friend Lynne, who is really my second sister.  I have known Lynne and her family my whole life.  We met Lynne’s mother, Jean Brantley at The Loveless Cafe for lunch.  The wonderful food made the 2-hour wait worth ever minute.

Mr and Mrs Brantley were my parents’ best friends for most of their adult lives.  True friendship is a gift from God.  Mrs Brantley was telling Joanne that she has known me from the day I was born.  It was so good seeing her!  She is a very lovely woman and very dear to me. Seeing her was my only goal while here.  It was great to be encouraged by her and her love for my family through the years.

Tomorrow we go by our home in Knoxville and then off to our cabin in the Great Smoky Mountains.  I cannot wait for the wonderful fall colours!

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Chicago Day 2

Hi, this is Abby! To start the day off, we got ready for the train. We were on our way to the Shedd Aquarium. Once we got in, we went to an amazing aquatic show! They showed Beluga Whales, Dolphins and a Sea Lion. It was amazing how beautiful and well trained they are. Later, we went to a Stingray touch. They were surprisingly smooth and velvety! After we finished we went to see different amazing water creatures that reminded me that God is so amazing and creative. God made all of those sea creatures. Once we were done the aquarium, we went on a walk to a park then to the big Bean. Then we went to the American Girl Doll store and got a couple of outfits. Finally, we went to dinner for pizza! It was delicious! Then we came back to the house.

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Minneapolis and Chicago

We feel so blessed to be on this trip.  God is blessing us in so many ways.  He is giving us rest, he is also allowing us great times of recreation, which truly does allow us to (re)create our hearts and minds.

We were able to spend a great day in Minneapolis on Monday and learned to quickly love that city.  What a beautiful place.  We spent an hour and a half trying to find the Mary Tyler Moore statue downtown for Hannah, only to find that it has been removed while the city remodels the street/mall it was in.  Oh well, we got a good picture of the spot where it was.

Then we spent some time at the Como Park Zoo and Conservatory.  It was a very relaxed and beautiful place.  It had lots of green space for Lydia to do cartwheels!

We then went to The Mall of America and the American Girl Store.  We must say, we like that mall better than the West Edmonton Mall.  Sorry Edmonton friends.

After the mall we searched out the house in the opening credits of the Mary Tyler Moore Show (once again for Hannah).  It was a beautiful home and in a beautiful neighbourhood.  The house is for sale at a reduced price of 1.95 Million.  We might go back and make an offer.

Then the day ended with a lot of football tossing in the park and a walk around the lake.

We drove to Chicago yesterday and checked in our condo here.  It is very nice with a beautiful view of the Chicago skyline.  Then we walked 5 minutes to the United Center for a Bulls preseason game.  Abby really had a great time, not so sure about Lydia.

Today we are off to the Windy City for the Aquarium and some good deep-dish pizza!  The adventure of the transit system begins.

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More Dear Friends and An Old House

Last evening we arrived in Winnipeg to spend the night with Jill and Kevin Schular and their two beautiful children, Kai and Ava.  It was a great evening catching up with them now that they have settled in their new digs in Winnipeg.

This morning Dennis and Kevin went for an early breakfast and the early service at Kevin and Jill’s new church, Whyte Ridge Baptist Church.  Joanne and the girls hung out with Jill and the kids before they left for the second service.

Dennis enjoyed seeing the location of Kevin’s new ministry and he really enjoyed the worship service there.

We then headed south toward Minneapolis.  We arrived at our home for the next few days around 8:00 pm and were warmly greeted by our hosts who live on the upper floors of our rental home.  The home, built in 1886, is in a beautiful historical district of uptown Minneapolis.

Time for bed now and then off to the zoo tomorrow and to visit the home that was featured as the outside of Mary Richards home on the 1970s “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” This is for Hannah who is the biggest Mary Tyler Moore fan ever.  Hope to have some great pictures of this beautiful city tomorrow.

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