Sunday, June 1, 2014

Chincoteague Ponies

On Memorial Day.  We created a card with a Memorial Day message and an appropriate scripture on it.  We then made several dozen blueberry muffins and made up multiple plates of muffins.  We stuck a small toothpick-mounted American flag on each plate.  We then delivered the messages and plates all over the marine base.  I think we made about 14 stops.  So we had a busy day.  But it was wonderful to find many of our marines home on this holiday.  It was good to be able to tell them happy Memorial Day and thank them for their service.  These are a bunch of great folks. Sandwiched in with this we also visited our ward friend William the artist, who is helping Lezlie with a drawing.  He is still having some medical issues and cannot drive.  So we gave him a ride to and from the nursing home where his mom lives, and we got to meet his mom.  It brought back many memories of visiting my folks in their retirement home.  William was please to see his mom as well as help Lezlie with her drawing.  Finally we had two elders for dinner.  They are Spanish speaking elders, and they told us many great stories about working with the Hispanic community here.  We gave them cheesecake for desert, with small American flags mounted on top.  We sent a copy of this picture to their moms.  We typically try to do that as well as send a note to the moms telling them what a great job their children are doing as missionaries.  It is a fun little service to do for these young missionaries.  We wanted to tell our family members about something that typically occurs when we have elders or sisters into our apartment for dinner.  We usually ask one of them to say a prayer before they leave.  Almost every missionary says something like, “..please watch over and bless all of the Couch family members while Elder and Sister Couch are away from home serving as missionaries.”  It is always very touching, and we wanted to let you know that a lot of missionaries have prayed and are praying for your welfare. 

On Tuesday we had our The Basic School (TBS) family home evening with a lesson on “Enduring to the End.”  We had great attendance, with seven of our group showing up.  They were lively and we had an excellent discussion on how to endure to the end.  We talked about the word endure.  It can mean just hanging in there and taking whatever comes your way, kind of like a person huddled in the cold and standing there shivering but not doing anything.  It can also mean strengthening yourself and taking action to deal with difficult situations.  Instead of standing and huddling in the cold a person could walk or exercise to warm up.  Anyway, we had a good, practical discussion about what we really need to do to endure to the end.  They loved the Smore cookies Lezlie made.  We had a marshmallow theme because I showed them the Mormon channel video called “Patience.”  In case you have not seen it, this video reviews a study on patience done by a university.  Four-year-old children were seated at a table and a marshmallow was placed in front of them.  They were told that they could eat the marshmallow if they chose, but if they waited 15 minutes they could have two marshmallows.  Very few were able to wait.  The study was done in greater depth than just the marshmallows and it concluded that those who developed patience when they were young were more likely to succeed in their careers than those who did not.  So the Smore cookies carried out the marshmallow theme.  It was another enjoyable meeting with our outstanding group of young marines.  The only down side was the thunderstorm that arrived just as we were leaving.  Although we had our big umbrella (thank you Aaron) we got drenched by the torrential rain and wind as we walked through the 6 inch deep puddles in the lightning.  But we were laughing about it as we drove home.  We knew we had dry clothes and a warm apartment to go home to.

We have some friends in Virginia Beach we had hoped to visit while we were here, and we decided to take an early anniversary trip.  So early on Thursday we headed south for a three hour drive to the southern coast of Virginia.  We first visited an old family friend of Lezlie’s family, Sharlee.  The lady was a close friend of Lezlie’s mom.  They were friends from grade school through high school, and even roomed together in college.  We had a nice visit with her and her husband, and they fed us a delicious lunch.  Lezlie used her iPhone to face time with her mom so that the two of them could talk.  From there we went to the home of a Naval Academy classmate of mine.  We had a terrific time visiting about our families, hobbies, and adventures in the Navy.  This man was a career guy, staying in the Navy for about 28 years.  He had a lot of very interesting jobs, including being CO of a submarine.  It was great fun to hear his sea stories.  They had lived all over the world during their Navy career, so their home was a showcase of international decorations.  It was very interesting.  They totally spoiled us with dinner.  They fed us chips and dips while we visited, then grilled chicken wings as an appetizer.  Then they put steaks on the grill, which we ate with an excellent pasta salad.  Finally they brought us brownies with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce.  We were happily stuffed at the end of that feast.  We spent the night at their home and had a good rest. It was comfortable and warm.

After taking our friends out for breakfast Friday morning, we drove north to the Eastern Shore of Virginia.  We crossed the Chesapeake Bay bridge-tunnel, which is an amazing engineering feat.   It is a 17 mile long bridge that crosses the bay with two deep tunnels that allow for the passage of ships over the top.  I thought it was very cool to drive over this amazing structure.  We then drove on to Chincoteague Island.  This is the island that is famous for its wild ponies that live across the channel at Asateague Island.  To control the size of the herd they sell off some of the foals every summer.   They accomplish this by driving the entire herd to swim across the channel.  Then they separate out some of the foals and auction them off.  The whole process was made famous by the book “Misty of Chincoteague.”  This is a book that Lezlie loved as a little girl.  Huge crowds flock to the island every summer to see the ponies swim across the channel.  The ponies are auctioned off for thousands of dollars to buyers from all over the world.  We drove around both islands a bit and saw beautiful beaches and forests.  We debated about taking a nature tour on a bus, but finally went ahead.  It was well worth it.  We got to see dozens of the wild ponies that walked right up to our bus.  They were so fun to watch.  We were fortunate to see the ponies this time of year because there were many foals.  The tour also included many, many interesting bird sightings.  Our favorite was the Oyster Catcher, that can pry open oysters with its bill.  After the bus tour we had an excellent seafood meal at a restaurant recommended by our bus driver.  We even got to our hotel in time to watch a little live television, something we can’t do at our apartment because we did not buy cable.  It was a great day at Chincoteague Island.   Below Lezlie is posed in front of a statue of Misty and then with a real Chincoteague pony.



After visiting one last gift shop at Chincoteague on Saturday morning we drove up the Eastern Shore of Virginia and Maryland.  This is a huge peninsula that sticks down from the mainland and is primarily farming land.  It was beautiful to drive through, and it was an easy, pleasant drive.  We did not have too much traffic, which always makes things more relaxed.  We stopped at one farmers produce market where we browsed the store and fed some pet goats.  We arrived home safe and sound by 4pm, tired but joyful over a great trip.  We did one last thing Saturday night, which was to attend the baptism of a man into our ward.  It was especially nice, because all of the other members of his family had been baptized over the past couple of months.  He was the last one, and his wife and children were very happy about it.  The spirit of joy was obvious in the church. 

We had a very nice Sunday.  We felt it was time to visit some of the wards in Stafford where several of our marine families attend.  It turned out we were needed there.  After attending the first ward, the Aquia Ward, a man stopped to talk to us.  He said he was the assistant director of the Marine Band, and that he had two band members that were interested in the church.  He had known the previous military relations couple, but then had been traveling when they left and we arrived.  He did not know how to get in touch with us, but has been wanting the senior missionaries to meet these folks.  So he told us about his friends and took our number, saying he would call us for dinner when he could have them over.  We noticed that one of our marine families that we expected to see at church was not there.  So instead of attending Sunday School we went out to find them.  Elder Bednar taught us that when someone is missing from church you don’t just pray for them you go find them.  We found the mom home with some sick kids. The dad had duty so was away.  She was glad to have someone to talk to for a few minutes and we had a nice visit and cheered her up a bit.  After that we went to the Accoceek Ward.  We were expecting at least one family to show, the lady with the difficult pregnancy who had a little girl.  Her husband is away for two months in training.  At the start of sacrament meeting she was not there.  Then about ten minutes after the meeting started she showed up. Immediately after she sat down her baby started to cry, so she took the baby out, leaving her four year old alone in the pew.  We immediately went into action.  Lezlie sat by the little boy and I went out and held the baby so she could go back into the chapel and take the sacrament.  We felt good that we were in the right place to help out.  It turns out she has been having some major challenges, and she wanted to talk to us.  So I took her little boy to primary and then played with the baby while she and Lezlie talked during Sunday school time.  She is having a tough time, and we think it helped her just to talk.  We set up a mid week appointment to visit her and take lunch for her and her son.  I am sure she will want to talk to Lezlie while I play with her little boy.   It is challenging being a military wife with small children.  So for both of the wards we visited, it seems like there were people that needed to see us.  It was a good feeling.  And it was not coincidence.  We know that we were doing God’s work today. 

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