25 March 2008

Jacksonville, Florida to Charlotte, North Carolina

Well I just wrapped up a couple of wonderful weeks with my son Shawn and grand-daughter Antonella in Jacksonville, Florida. And just before that time, with William, Stephanie and baby Brady. It was hard to believe how much Antonella has grown over the last year. As a first grader, she has turned into a “walking-talking-thinking” little person. She asks lots of good questions about everything she observes. She is terrific. Although my German friends will probably cringe when they hear this, I even started teaching her some German. Kids have minds like sponges. I guess there are some advantages to being a kid.

Windy & Wet
Shawn and I did lots of guy things. All three of us went out fishing on his little boat a few times but got blown off water because of fronts moving through the area.

Even though Antonella was cold and wet from the waves crashing over the bow, she never complained. I was impressed with her ability to put up with a pretty miserable time on the water without complaining when she really had a bit of a right to do it. Overall, fishing was not good but still anytime boating with your family is a good time. I regret not getting any pictures on the boat but it was so wet I didn’t want pull out my camera and risk ruining it.

On To Charlotte, North Carolina
Easter Sunday I flew up to visit friends Grant and Emily Gray in the Charlotte, North Carolina area. Grant is a budding missionary, having traveled to Africa last year for a short-term mission’s trip to dig and repair fresh water wells in the remote areas of Kenya. Grant is planning on going again this year. His wife Emily works for Rick Joyner’s MorningStar Ministries. It has been great to see them and their family again.

MorningStar took over the old Jim and Tammy Bakker “Heritage U.S.A.” facility in 2004 and is continuing to do a remarkable restoration of the property since then. Many improvements and repairs have been done since my last visit to the facility in 2006. Rick Joyner’s heart is for restoration not only of people but to this property which was previously dedicated to God’s work.

Back to Phoenix
I return to Phoenix this Wednesday evening and then leave the next day to attend a four-day men’s retreat in Prescott with my friend Nathan Hale. This will be my first time to attend the Tres Dias retreat and I think it is very timely. It will give me some quiet time from all the travel during this trip to the U.S.. More importantly it will give me some quality prayer time with The Lord before I return to Bonn.

Every year, during my trips to the U.S., I get asked how long I will be in Germany. Every year, I take time to see what The Lord’s plans are for me during the upcoming year. It is important not to get “trapped” into doing the same thing every time without “checking-in” to make sure that I am fulfilling God’s plans and desires for me. During the last six months there have been a couple of different thoughts and ideas come up in my heart the last six months and I want to make sure that I am on target with God’s plan for my life.

Friday, April 11, I fly from Phoenix and return to Germany via Atlanta. The last two weeks in Phoenix will be very hectic trying to “meet and greet” as many people as possible before I return. This year, my friends in Phoenix got the “short end” of my total time on this trip to the U.S. with literally only the last two weeks being spent in Phoenix before returning. I’ll try to make the best use of time before I leave. If I fail to see you on this trip, please accept my apology in advance.

God bless you,

09 March 2008

From Snow Storms to "Sons-Shine"

I’ve just spent the best time with my youngest son William, his wife Stephanie and my new three month old grandson Bradley Scott. We really had a wonderful time together.

Winter weather has been following me around the U.S. since I got here. I left Kansas City in cold and icy weather on my way to "sunny" Tampa, Florida. We made an enroute stop in Indianapolis where we needed to de-ice the plane before take off. We approached Tampa, with thunderstorms surrounding the area and got off the plane to find everyone bundled up wearing jackets. I was really looking forward to wearing shorts and t-shirts in Florida and eventually did happen.

Wednesday, 27 February to Thursday, 6 March / Tampa, Florida

Family Time
During my previous annual trips to the U.S., I would take only a few days off during the trip to visit my two sons in Florida. But this year, with new baby Bradley and Antonella now 7 ½ years old, it was important to spend much more time with all of them.

On my last day with William and his family in Tampa, Shawn and Antonella drove down from Jacksonville to join us for a Blakeslee Family Fun Day at Busch Gardens in Tampa. Busch Gardens is an amusement park and mini zoo with many animals and birds from around the world. It was a great place to have a family day. Despite the rain, which started in the afternoon and never let up though out the night, we still had a great time together at the park.

(Left) Proud Grandpa and Bradley Scott

(Right) Bradley's First Pro Hockey Game

(Left) Antonella

(Right) Antonella and Her New Bird Friends

(Left) The Blakeslee Boys & Girls

Friday, 7 March / Tampa to Jacksonville, Florida

Farewells & Tornado Watches
It was great to see William, Stephanie again and meet Bradley for the first time. Yes, I know this is “grandparent talk” but even you have to admit when you see his pictures that Bradley is the cutest baby in Florida, if not the world. I’m going to miss them until I see them again next year. Before we went our separate ways, all of the “Blakeslee Boys & Girls” gathered at a local Mexican food restaurant for lunch and another round of pictures with all of us together.

Shawn, Antonella and I drove north as tornado watches were being posted for the Florida’s Panhandle area that also included touch downs and sighting in a small community just west of Jacksonville.

The heavy weather hit as we drove north of Daytona Beach. Rain just down poured down for the next two and half hours as we traveled north. Coincidently it was also Bike Week in Daytona Beach. This is a huge annual 250,000+ person motorcycle event. All of the riders traveling south to Daytona Beach were just being soaked. The best rain gear would not have kept you dry in this constant torrential rain storm.

The next couple of weeks will be spent with Shawn and Antonella. She has gotten much taller and grown up so much from last year. As you can see in the pictures, she is incredibly cute and smart. More to come from our time together in Jacksonville.