We are now a little over a week into our Branson vacation and things are working out just fine. The condo we are renting in Branson West (The photo at left is from our third floor deck.) is clean, cozy, attractive, and very quiet, making it a wonderful place for our get-away. We have been talking, praying, reading, watching the World Series, and engaging in a few projects. Also, my sister and her husband (Sherry & John Whissen from Wichita) came in for a couple of days and we had a splendid time with them. Indeed, the highlight of our trip so far came with the Whissens when we headed up to the little town of Crane. Well, more on that in a moment.
Our enjoyment of a vacation is always enhanced a bit by combining it with a spot of work. And that's the case this time around too. Among the jobs we've taken on down here have been sending out postcards to some of our LifeSharer team, evaluating and planning, and transferring material to a new Vital Signs Ministries website. We also took on the editing of of a daily diary my Mom kept the few months before she married Dad. That was a big job but loads of fun -- touching and inspirational too. We will now create a scrapbook look for those diary excerpts accompanied by relevant photos of people, places, movies mentioned, and so on and give that as Christmas presents to my siblings and a few of our friends who loved my Mom.
In addition, Claire has been reading a Rafael Sabatini novel and having fun with some Christmas-oriented sewing projects. For my part, I've been getting ahead in sermon preparation for the life of David series I've been preaching and doing other reading. The books I've finished here (all novels so far) have been interesting but I wouldn't recommend any of them very highly: Ashenden, a collection of stories by W. Somerset Maugham based on his activities in British intelligence during the first World War; Nuremberg: The Reckoning by William F. Buckley; and The Dogs of Snoqualmie by Calvin Miller. However, I am now into one (a re-read from many years ago) that I'm finding very moving and worthwhile. Though it is somber reading to the max (the theme is the tyranny and moral blindness of Communism), this one I would recommend: Arthur Koestler's Darkness at Noon.
We have also packed into our vacation a few Branson activities. We're generally enjoying simple meals here at the condo but we have had a few meals out. The best of those have been at Vashken's Deli (Lebanese and Mediterranean specialties) and at the Keeter Center dining hall at the College of the Ozarks. We've been twice at each place already and we're probably not done yet. We also had a lot of fun when the Whissens took us out for breakfast at Billy Gail's, an Ozark roadhouse that is much loved by the locals. And finally, I can't leave out Claire's appreciation for the carrot cake down at Dino's in the Branson Landing complex.
Okay, now for that highlight I promised to tell you about earlier. That occurred when Claire, Sherry, John and I drove up to Crane to visit my Aunt Farris, the last relative of mine from that generation. Farris is an exceptional woman; tender, bright, talented, funny; hard-working and wise. She is a devout Christian whose ministry to her family (and way beyond) has been remarkable. Visiting with Farris and her daughters Belinda and Eva was really sweet. We caught up on the latest news of the Ellsworth family and ran back through the memories too. It was an enchanting couple of hours. But none of those dear moments will be as clearly etched on our heart as when Eva launched into a skilled rendition of the lovely old gospel song, "If It Wasn't for the Lighthouse", with her sister and 90-year old mother (just a few days out of the hospital) joining in to provide harmony. It was an exquisite treasure and we're certainly going back up to Crane again before we leave.
Like I said at the outset, we are now a little over a week into our Branson vacation and things are working out just fine.