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The Freeman Family in the Month of November

2 Dec

The thankful receiver bears a plentiful harvest. – William Blake

Above is the Freeman family in the month of November! I honestly don’t know where the time has gone. Or what really went on this month. I seriously just asked Jonathan the help me with this post, and he was like, “What happened this month? I don’t remember.” Yeah. Me too. Well. That’s… interesting. It’s been a whirlwind!

Let’s see now, every day Tessa grows more and more expressive. She giggles over silly things, like us making pigeon cooing noises at her, or having her diaper changed, or being dipped into the bathtub. Suddenly we have a BABY. How?!?!??!?!?! Time is moving too quickly! Pretty soon there will be “Tessa is crawling” then “Tessa is walking” then “Tessa is getting married” posts. Oh God. Time. Moving too quickly. *hyperventilates*

This month, the theme was “thankfulness” – for obvious reasons, what with Turkey Day and all. Ever since I became a mother, I’ve noticed that my focus has shifted from tangible, materialistic aspects of God working in my life and has focused on the hidden things that really matter. It’s as if scales have fallen from my eyes, and allowed me to see a world of mercies that I never fathomed before.

I see the world in a whole new way. It’s amazing and joyful and I feel like clicking my heels and singing “I Love the Whole World” with each new task and chore and adventure.

Jonathan is starting his final leg of A School, which is the beginning of the end of our time here in Pensacola. We still don’t know where or when we’ll be stationed outside of Pensacola, but it’s inching ever closer. We’re still taking things a day at a time and it’s surprisingly a lot less stress inducing than I thought it would be. It’s actually rather fun!

We’re putting it all in God’s hands, and we’re wholeheartedly saying, “Your will be done”. I can’t wait to see how life unfolds for us. It’s going to be an adventure, that’s for sure! I’m so excited for Tessa’s first Christmas and I’m eager to greet the New Year. Happy December everyone!^_^

Anna + Cameron – Engagement Photos at Barrancas Beach

1 Dec

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When Jonathan was in boot camp, he told me his best friend was a guy named “Mason”, and that I should look him up on Facebook and add his fiance Anna as a friend. So I did!

Mason is also going to Pensacola A School with Jonathan, so it’s been awesome already having a friend in the area before we had even moved here! Mason has been a great friend to our little family – he’s helped us move into our new place, he’s watched our house and babysat out cats, and has been an all around fun hang out buddy. Over the past few months, Jonathan and I have been super impatient to meet Anna.

Anna (who is also in the Navy) just graduated boot camp shortly after Mason and Jonathan did, and now that she’s all settled at her A School in San Antonio and acquired leave to come visit Pensacola, I’ve demanded they let me do their engagement photos.

So they let me! Today was our first day meeting Anna, and it was awesome finally getting to know her after all of the lovesick pining Mason has been doing these past months. “Anna this, Anna that, I miss Anna, waa waa waa!!” < —- (that’s how Cameron sounds)

So here are a couple of the photos we took of Anna and Cameron at Barrancas Beach at NAS Pensacola. Yes, that beach is on the Navy base. I still maintain this base is less a military training facility and more a luxury beach bum resort. But I digress. Check out the lovely awesomeness that is Anna and Cameron:

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Hiking Along the Gulf Islands National Seashore

17 Nov

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When Jonathan and I had just met, the one event that launched us from “just friends” to “future mother / father of my baby” was a three day, 22 mile backpacking trip along the High Sierra Trail in the Sequoia National Forest in California. We went into those woods all prettied up, looking our best, full of energy and secretly crushing on one another, and came out rugged, dirty, exhausted and madly in love.

I love hiking. And backbacking. And camping. So so so much. So does my handsome husband. It’s one of our many “things” we share, made even more special by our earliest memories forged together – trudging mile after excruciating mile over rocks, rivers and meadows, savoring campfire coffee while laying out under breathtaking starry night skies, talking about God and grace and cosplay and fantasy novels and everything in between. Sparks flew as we chopped firewood, dried out socks, purified alpine spring waters to fill our canteens, tended to blisters and hoisted 80 pound packs in the towering trees so the bears couldn’t reach them. We fell in love with our hiking boots on.

So now that baby Tessa is here with us, and I’m finally feeling up to being active again, I’ve decided to hike on one new hiking trail (or two) every week. I am a sucker for National Parks, and since we’re an easy 30 minute drive from the Gulf Islands National Shoreline, I’m making it a fun challenge to hike as much of the 80 miles of Florida District trails as I can while we’re stationed here in Pensacola.

I so want my little girl growing up feeling at ease and a fondness for nature and the outdoors. I don’t want her to be a stranger to the beauty of God’s creation, from the macro to the micro. And I figure, she’s never too young to start, eh? Wrapped up snug and warm on my chest with our ring sling, my baby girl has seen more of the world than most two month olds! It’s a habit I don’t want to break.

I started this little challenge just four weeks ago, and have had the joy of hiking with my tiny baby girl on the Trench Trail, the Woodland Nature Trail, the Brackenridge Trail and the Fishing Trail. That’s 5.9 miles down! Can I get a w00t w00t?!

These trails are far different from the giant redwood, majestic sequoia, waterfall lined, mountain vista views I’m used to. While part of me longs for the crisp alpine air of the John Muir meadows, I must say I am quickly growing fond of these new sights and smells on my outdoor treks.

The air is humid and salty, with the sound of ocean waves mingling with the sounds of tropic insects and palms fronds swaying in the gentle breezes. Exotic seashell fragments and stark white sands line the trails underfoot. Spanish moss and tropic vines hang from oak and hickory trees overhead, and every once in a while you can catch glimpses of brightly colored lizards and vibrant green tree frogs in the foliage. Everything is so tropic here (it is a stones throw from the Caribbean, after all) that I often find myself exclaiming asinine geeky things like, “That tree with the mushrooms on it looks like something out of Ferngully!” or “The moon over the waters looks like Pirates of the Caribbean!” or, most often, “OMG, this looks just like Jurassic Park. I keep expecting a dilophosaurus to jump out and spit at me!”

This park is chock full of history and mystery – more than 80 percent of the park is submerged lands teeming with marine life. It’s America’s largest National Seashore and one of the oldest “discovered” portions of America.

Europeans first visited the northern Gulf of Mexico in the early 1500s. Spain, in 1559, established a settlement in Florida on Pensacola Bay, but the place was abandoned soon afterward. Spaniards revived the settlement in 1698, surrendered it to the French in 1719, regained it by treaty in 1722, ceded it to the English in 1763, and repossessed it by force in 1781. The park is cluttered with historic forts, buildings, relics, and historic points of interest. I mean, how could it not be?!

The Gulf Islands are vibrant and fascinating in a very energetic way… far from the serenity and absorbing nature of the Sequoias. They’re two different beasts, and each appeals to my sense of adventure. (Though in my heart of hearts, I am a mountain girl through and through.)

I’m excited for the many more miles to hike before the Navy whisks us away to who-knows-where. And I’ll keep posting our adventures here on my blog. But in the meantime, here are some snapshots of the trails we’ve trekked thus far:

The Woodland Nature Trail by Fort Barrancas:

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The Trench Trail by Fort Barrancas:

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The Brackenridge Trail by Naval Live Oaks:

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The Fishing Trail by Naval Live Oaks:

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The Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola

27 Sep

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So I have a TON of belated pre-Tessa posts that I was working on / planning to write about / wanting to share. But a combination of having no internet access from my apartment for most of August, having my mother-in-law visiting for a few weeks, and finally the birth of my precious little princess has kept me from blogging.

So my next few posts over the next few weeks will most likely be “catching up” posts.

When Jonathan and I were making our list of “Cheap and / or Free Things To Do In Pensacola”, the Naval Aviation Museum was at the top of the list. Located inside the Naval Air Station where Jonathan is attending A School, the large museum is one of the world’s premiere air and space museums and offers free admission and free tours daily.

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When my mother-in-law flew in from Washington State a few weeks before Tessa was born, we all made our first visit to the museum. And omgee, this place is frikkin’ HUGE. There is absolutely no way you could do this museum in just one day. I get all OCD about reading every plaque, and watching every interactive video and taking every tour when I go to museums… and it’s just not possible with this place.

There are more than 150 aircraft both inside and outside the museum. These include record-setting aircraft like the NC-4 flying boat, the first plane to fly across the Atlantic, as well as combat veterans, including the SBD Dauntless that flew at the Battle of Midway, two Vietnam MiG-killers, an A-7 Corsair II that logged missions over Iraq during Operation Desert Storm and the last F-14 Tomcat to fly a combat mission.

In addition to the aircraft, there are also more than 4,000 uniforms, flight gear, weaponry, medals and decorations at the Naval Aviation Museum. The museum is also home to the famous Navy Blue Angels.

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Our first visit to the museum I was still on partial bed rest and Tessa was still a wiggle in my belly. Jonathan and my MIL both teamed up on me and made me rent a wheelchair for our visit. Since I didn’t FEEL like I needed to be off my feet, I felt like one of those obese ladies that take the motorized carts at Walmart. Ya know, the ones who don’t have a physical ailment – they just don’t feel like walking when they are perfectly capable of doing so? Yeah. That was me at the Naval Aviation Museum. Only I wasn’t super happy about it and I showered / wearing a bra.

Oh! But I did get to try astronaut ice cream! I had never had it before and it was on my bucket list. I don’t know why I waited so shamefully long to try this stuff. It was great! So, one more “To Do” checked off that list.. next up: Pet a penguin. (Don’t be jelly of my bucket list.)

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On our second visit to the museum, Tessa was just four days old. It was her very first museum visit! Jonathan’s dad had flown in from Washington State to join us and we wanted to show the museum off. That, and I was really stir crazy and desperate to get out of the house! We visited portions of the museum that we hadn’t seen before, and we took a trolley tour that took us to the back of the museum to view extra large aircraft.

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On both visits, Jonathan rode on a flight simulator with his mom and then his dad. It looks amazingly fun, and I was unable to partake in it both visits – first because I was preggers, and the second time because I was still wincing to walk post-delivery. But I will get to ride it SOON! I won’t be leaving Pensacola without having ridden that darn thing.

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Oh! Oh! Oh! Here are some really freaking adorable shots from out two trips… the top photos are the visit with my mother-in-law Connie Jo when I was still pregnant, and the bottom photos are from the visit with my father-in-law Bob when Tessa was four days old! (I hate that I look pregnant in both shots, haha.)

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Anyhoo, we’re planning on returning to the museum to show my dad when he flies in from California to visit next week. That was the ONE THING he really wanted to do when he was here helping us move in last month. And I’m sure we’ll make more visits in the future so I can sate my OCD educational nerdy side with some leisurely plaque reading and video watching. I’ll be Navy savvy before you know it, matey! <—-(Sailors say matey, right???)

The Freeman Family In The Month of August

1 Sep

“We adore chaos because we love to produce order.” – M.C. Escher

Where to start with August?! Well, I haven’t had internet access at the apartment since moving to Pensacola, Florida, and I’m here at the local Starbucks once again leeching internet and trying not to feel guilty for buying yet another mocha. So! My month! I’ll start by filling in where my last blog post left off.

I am still pregnant. I have not had baby Tessa yet, despite the many close calls and declarations of induction at the hospital. Basically, my amniotic fluid was dangerously low and my placenta wasn’t showing a good exchange of nutrients to Tessa. So they wanted to induce. They hospitalized me and started me on steroids and everything. Then my fluids went up and they decided to wait on the induction. Worst lol/jk of my life. After psyching myself up for imminent pain and baby?! Ahhhhh!

Anyhoo, they released me from the hospital and put me on bed rest. Which I only partially adhered to. I mostly spent the next day rushing around doing all the things I thought I hadn’t had time to do. At my last check up (on Friday), my fluid had dipped back down, but overall Tessa’s levels looked good. They offered once again to schedule an induction and I declined. Then they released me on partial bed rest, with another two appointments scheduled right after Labor Day weekend to keep an eye on her fluid and that pesky placenta. They also prescribed me medicine to speed up Tessa’s lung and liver development in case of induction. Because the second my fluid dips down again she’s coming out. So, fun times!

In the meantime my mother-in-law Connie Jo is here from Washington State to help me around the house. She’s been walking the dog, doing my housework, and basically making sure I stay off my feet and drink lots of water and take my medicine. Connie and Jonathan are even making me take wheelchairs when I insist we go out and sightsee Pensacola and go grocery shopping. Ugh! I’ve never felt so gimpy in my life!

So that’s where I am NOW. This month has been the most action packed, change-filled month of the year, by far!

Here’s a fast recap of this month: My husband graduated from Navy Boot Camp in Great Lakes, Illinois. Then he was sent to Pensacola, Florida for A School. Then I packed up our tiny apartment in Hanford, California and hopped in the car with my dad and my cats and my dog and drove the 2500mile cross country road trip to settle down here in Florida. Then it’s been a flurry of moving in, sightseeing, figuring out the area, plugging into the community and getting ready for Tessa’s imminent arrival. It’s been crazy, to say the very least.

While the hospital excursion was frightening, it’s been an amazing month! So much has happened so fast! I’m so thrilled to be near my husband again. I can’t wait for us to be a family of three, living under one roof! God really has been so good to us. We have been showered with blessings and I am amazed at where life has taken us. The Navy certainly didn’t lie when they said a career in the armed forces would be an adventure!

I can say with confidence that all of my fears and concerns and worries of the past few months have melted away. I’m just taking things one day at a time, waiting for our precious daughter to join us here on the outside world, and waiting to see where God takes us next!

The Historic Pensacola Lighthouse

28 Aug

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So. I am still stuck in the hospital. I was told that I would be induced TONIGHT and would be having Tessa TOMORROW. But then they keep changing their minds based on the bazillion and one tests they keep insisting they run. One moment it’s a huge emergency – No water! No food! No going home to check on your cats! Continuous fetal monitoring! You may be induced any moment now!!!- and the next its completely chill. Here, have some food. You don’t need to be on the monitors now. You most likely won’t be induced, but you can’t go home either. We’ll let you know. When will we let you know? We don’t know. Just wait.

The last I heard I won’t be induced because Tessa’s amniotic fluid just stabilized due to my bed rest. So they may just be sending me home any moment now, with bed rest orders and frequent check ups. Who knows? I certainly don’t. It’s nerve wracking, beyond upsetting, and driving me absolutely batty. And in the meantime, I’m stuck in this tiny dimly lit room with my laptop, playing on Facebook and blogging.

So for a distraction I figure, why not catch up on my first week living in Pensacola?

So! Last weekend I told Jonathan that I just couldn’t do stairs anymore. The relaxin in my hips, getting my lady parts all ready to squeeze a watermelon sized infant out, was making going up and down my apartment steps hell. Every step feels like my tail bone wants to fly out and my hips want to pop off, like some comical mechanical toy springing gears everywhere.

So when Jonathan and I had our “date day” this past weekend, what did I want to do? Climb the 177 nearly vertical spiral steps up the historic Pensacola Lighthouse – the fourth tallest lighthouse in the nation. Because I’m brilliant like that.

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The lighthouse was built in 1859 and is one of the oldest still working lighthouses in the nation. It is one of the many fascinating historic spots located inside NAS Pensacola. The top of the tower offers stunning views of Pensacola Pass (where Pensacola Bay meets the Gulf of Mexico), the three forts, the Pensacola skyline and the historic Navy Yard… or so I’m told. It was pouring rain when we arrived and our view consisted of squinting through the fogged panes being pelted with rain.

When we arrived, the gals at the museum urged us to “hurry up” because they close the lighthouse when there is lightening present. Apparently the lighthouse has been struck by lightning multiple times in the past, most notably when it was zapped in 1874, and then struck again on the exact same day the following year. Anyhoo, the rain was really coming down, and lightning didn’t seem unlikely, so we paid our entrance fee, and I rushed us to the foot of the stairs. The first thing we were greeted with is a sign urging pregnant women to back the eff off. I took a picture, thumbed my nose at the sign, and plodded on ahead while my husband tried to gently tell me how dumb I was being.

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It wasn’t until about a quarter of the way up that I realized that climbing this tower may not have been the smartest plan. My hips and legs were KILLING ME. Tessa was riding up high under my ribcage, so I couldn’t get enough air. And to make matters worse, we see a bright flash of lightning right out the first window. Jonathan insisted we just come back on another day. But me, being, well, me – I took this all as a challenge and decided we HAD TO reach the top of the stairs before staff came and dragged us down.

So, at 8 months pregnant, I raced up the stairs with my husband, practically crawling along the railing, with lightning flashing out the windows every step of the way… and we made it to the top, me breathless and shaking. The second we reached the top step we were met by a gentleman who greeted us with, “Great job! Now go back down. We’re closing the lighthouse up.” So we had roughly 60 seconds of staring around the top, and viewing the huge lights, before making our descent back to ground level.

Despite feeling nauseous, weak and breathless from the excursion, and having our victory climb cut short, it was quite the adventure! It’s definitely a story to tell Tessa one of these days, haha.

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So! Here are some fascinating facts regarding the lighthouse, mostly stolen off of pamphlets and internet searches, haha!:

Soon after the United States took control of Florida from Spain in 1821, the federal government recognized the importance of Pensacola’s harbor and moved to establish both a naval yard and lighthouse there. On March 3, 1823, Congress authorized $6,000 for the Pensacola Lighthouse. On March 24, 1824, Winslow Lewis, responding to an advertisement in the Boston Patriot, offered to build the lighthouse and dwelling.

A nice little podunky light tower was built with the funds, but by 1850, regular complaints were starting to be voiced regarding the lighthouse. The trees around the house got in the way of signals. The light was too dim and ships were like, “WTF?” So on and so forth. So by 1852, the newly established Lighthouse Board recommended that a “first-class seacoast light” with a height no less than 150 feet be built at Pensacola. Congress allocated $25,000 for the lighthouse in 1854, and an additional $30,000 in 1856.

A site was selected one-half mile west of the original lighthouse, and work on the tower (the one we climbed!) was supervised by John Newton of the Army Corps of Engineers. Construction was completed in 1858, and the lamp in the tower’s first-order Fresnel lens was first lit on New Year’s Day, 1859 by Keeper Palmes. The tower, which has a basal diameter of thirty feet and gradually tapers to fifteen feet, stands 160-feet-tall. The bottom third of the tower remained white to stand out against the trees, but the top portion was painted black to stand out against a possibly cloud-filled sky.

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Now here’s where the lighthouse history gets really interesting! On January 10, 1861, Florida seceded from the United States. Union forces abandoned Fort Barrancas in favor of Fort Pickens, located on the western end of Santa Rosa Island, allowing the lighthouse to fall into the hands of Confederates, who eventually discontinued the light and removed the lens. The opposing forces warily watched one another across the bay for months.

Then on November 22, 1861, a two-day artillery battle erupted. The “Lighthouse Batteries” were frequent targets for the guns of Fort Pickens, and roughly half a dozen rounds struck the tower. Confederates evacuated the area on May 9, 1862, and the lighthouse fell under Union control. None of the rounds penetrated the outer wall of the lighthouse, and the tower was found to be in good condition. A fourth-order lens was placed in the lantern room, and the tower was lit again on December 20, 1862.

During the twenty-three years following the relighting of the tower after the war, eleven individuals served as head keepers. Nine of them had to be removed for reasons ranging from intoxication to dereliction of duty. Finally, in 1886 the appointment of George T. Clifford ended the string of short-timers. Clifford served thirty-one years, until his retirement in 1917.

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Pensacola Light Station was switched to electricity in the late 1930s, and in 1939 the tower was transferred to the Coast Guard. The station remained manned until automation in 1965. With the dwelling unused and the tower posing possible risk to jets using the airfield completed nearby, plans to demolish the station were discussed. These plans added fuel to a growing preservation movement in Pensacola, and in 1971, Gulf Islands National Seashore was established to help preserve Fort Barrancas, Fort Pickens, and Pensacola Lighthouse.

Oh yeah, and the place is supposed to be haunted. I guess it’s been featured on all kinds of TV Ghost Hunter type shows? I don’t particularly care for all that drivel. But you can YouTube search the lighthouse and find hundreds of paranoid ghost hunters with “video proof” of the frequent hauntings there, if you care to check it out.

But anyway, this was actually my first excursion up a lighthouse! Jonathan’s too. We’d never been in one before. And while we didn’t have time to leisurely stroll the spiraled ascent, chasing the lightning storm and all, it was a blast! It’ll definitely be a fun story to share with Tessa one of these days…

Finding A New Church in Pensacola

27 Aug

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Before Jonathan joined the Navy, he was working at Securitas in Tulare, California as a security guard at a dairy processing factory. He worked 12 hour shifts almost every Sunday, which meant no church for us as a couple. It has literally been YEARS since we’ve sat down to a church sermon that wasn’t just the two of us in our living room listening in on a podcast online or watching a DVD Bible study.

So one of the first things we wanted to do once I arrived here in Pensacola was to find a good non-denominational Christian church to attend.

So I mentioned in a previous blog post that when we were in crazy moving in week, we bought a ton of furniture off of Craigslist. When I was telling the couple we bought our dining room table and chairs from how good God has been to us in this whole moving process, they invited us to their church on Pensacola Beach. Like, literally. ON the beach. Not near it, or by it. But gathering on an open deck patio under a restaurant and spilling out onto the sparkling white sands. (The pure white tropical sands of Pensacola Beach are known as “singing sand”. Because the sands contain silica, are at a certain humidity, and because they are exactly 0.1 and 0.5 mm in diameter, they emit a squeaking, whistling musical note when stepped on. The more you know!)

Anyhoo, we told our new friends that we’d keep their church in mind, and that we’d be in touch. Then, later that same week,Jonathan got involved in a Bible study group on the Navy base. While at the study group he asked his new friends where they recommend as a home church. They invited him to a “church that meets on Pensacola Beach… like, on the beach.”

So guess where we went for church on Sunday?

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While we’ve only been to one service, I can say that Central Waterside Church in Pensacola is something else. Everyone is friendly and inviting. There was a sprawling table with danishes and muffins and free coffee. We arrived late, and hadn’t brought any chairs for the sand, but Martha and David, our Craigslist friends, had saved seats for us.

I found myself sitting under the awning among driftwood and palms, feeling the warm, salty ocean breeze in my face and gently lifting my hair, holding hands with my handsome husband, hearing God’s word over the sound of beach gulls and ocean waves and childrens laughter on the beach as my daughter wiggled around in my belly and I found myself thinking – how did I get here?! Everything has been happening so fast. Too fast.

But there is no denying – I am blessed. God has certainly been so good to me and my family. I can’t wait to see what God has in store for us in the future.

Jonathan met up with his Navy friends and helped them tear down the stage after the service, and I walked along the pier and visited with some of the women, asking questions about how the church gets involved in the community and getting familiar with the dynamics of their fellowship. We’re going to keep checking this church out in the following weeks before making any kind of commitment, but I have an inkling that we’ve found our new home church.

So far, easing into “home” has been astoundingly easy. I am beginning to see why so many look wistfully back at their A School days here in Pensacola and wish they’d been stationed here. I’m going to treasure our time here, and I can’t wait to see where God takes us next!