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Wayah Bald Fire One Year Later

23 Nov

On the Porch

Onisha Ellis


A year ago, this month, wild fires ravaged western North Carolina and Tennessee. Today we took a drive up to Wayah Bald, an area that sustained major fire damage. Although it saddened us to view how many trees were cut down after the fire, still it was encouraging to see signs of new growth on some of the remaining fire blackened trees. The top of the fire tower on Wayah was destroyed and replacing it has been a slow process. We were pleased to see the framework for a new roof in place with an American flag fluttering in the breeze.

This Thanksgiving, I am thankful that I serve a God of restoration. Out of the flames of heartbreak, rejection and shame, He takes the our brokenness and makes me new again.


Before the fire

Before the fire, the tower wasn’t visible from the parking lot.

Road Trip~Amarillo, Texas to Albuquerque, New Mexico

16 Nov

On the Porch

Onisha Ellis


September 11, 2017 Day 5

I awoke early, tired from a restless night and anxious to hear from our daughter who had decided to ride out Hurricane Irma alone.  She sent a video text of her back yard around 7:30 am and I was relieved that she was safe and her property as well.  It was with a thankful heart that we began the next leg of our trip.

You can read her story of Hurricane Irma on her blog, Rebekah Lyn’s Kitchen

Leaving Amarillo we passed fields with beautiful yellow flowers. Unfortunately, the flowers were not the scent we were smelling.  Amarillo is  home to of a number of Cattle and Livestock companies. If you would like to know more about livestock auctions, I found an auction house online.

I hadn’t noticed when I was in the planning stages of this trip, how close Amarillo is to New Mexico. In no time we were crossing the border!




Judy Wills, a blogger here on Old Things R New wrote an extensive series about her life in New Mexico and I was anxious to visit some of the places she wrote of. You may enjoy reading her posts, Memories of New Mexico .

Once we entered New Mexico, the cattle ranches fell away replaced by arid landscapes. One of the most fascinating features of New Mexico was the variety or rocks in their mountains. More about that next week.



We arrived at our hotel in Albuquerque around  3pm and after carting up our ridiculous amount of luggage, we set off to explore. I had asked Judy which restaurants in the Old Town she would recommend. I wanted to experience real  Mexican flavor. We decided on El Pinto. What a beautiful restaurant. It has extensive garden seating with more fountains than I could count and the landscaping was lush. Our server was a delightful young man. He asked where we were from and he was surprised to learn with both grew  up in Orlando!  Even more coincidental, he lived in a subdivision our where our daughter once lived and his grandparents were still there. Small world!  We asked how they fared during Hurricane Irma and were happy to know they were safe. I asked him why he decided to move to New Mexico and he said school and the weather. He hated Florida’s humidity. We could certainly agree with his feelings!




After supper we decided to visit Old Town to walk off some of the delicious meal. There was a lot of road construction in the area, so it took a couple of tries before we made it into the entrance. It is a beautiful and quaint area and we enjoyed exploring it.


San Felipe de Neri Church, the oldest building in the city, which was built in 1793.


We managed to get turned around leaving Old Town. We went down a couple of alleys that seemed a bit dodgy but eventually found an on ramp to the interstate.

Only one more day of driving was left until we would reach Denver where our daughter and a friend were flying into the international airport to meet us. Rebekah had spent the day assessing  a leak in her kitchen due to the storm and trying to find someone to go up on the roof to find the source.

Wisdom From a Nonagenarian

13 Nov

On the Porch

Onisha Ellis


I’m reading a memoir by a 91 year old author that I met at a community sale on Friday. From it, I gleaned this valuable tip on living a good life.





No Matter What…

6 Nov

In the morning before I open my eyes until I close my eyes in sleep.


Road Trip~ Fort Smith, Arkansas to Amarillo, Texas

2 Nov

On the Porch

Onisha Ellis


September 10, 2017 Day 4

September 10 marked our second day of loading and unloading the truck. Since we were carrying sandwich makings for our daily picnic and other items needing to be kept cold, we had to carry in our coolers too.  What is all that stuff?



Our route today on Interstate 40 would take us through the rather monotonous plains of Oklahoma. Fortunately, On a previous trip out west my husband had his heart set on seeing the landscapes that were settings in the cowboy western movies of his youth. Unfortunately, our RV broke down and we had to forego stops to get back on schedule for our camping reservations.  I had a surprise planned for my husband on this leg of the trip.  A picnic in a cowboy canyon!

The tiny town of Hinton, Oklahoma, population 3,220, and is the home of Red Rock Canyon State Park. According to their website:

Red Rock Canyon was once a stop on the famous California Trail. Now visitors can enjoy this beautiful western Oklahoma oasis without bringing the Conestoga wagon. Red Rock Canyon State Park is a great place to hike, climb, or explore. Bring the family or bring the whole wagon train!

The timing of our arrival was perfect. We were ready to get off the interstate for gas as well as lunch. Driving into the park we began a sharp descent into the canyon. I was amazed at the abrupt change in the landscape and my sweet husband was thrilled to finally experience cowboy rocks!



Our daughter noticed that I seem to snap pictures of my husband  while he is chewing. It wasn’t intentional….honest.



After our picnic, we returned to Interstate 40, excited for our first glimpse of Texas. I am not a fan of hot weather, so all of our previous trips west took a northern route. Not the greatest picture, taken by my phone through the windshield.



I was surprised at the number of wind mills in Texas! There were acres and acres of them. We ended our day in Amarillo, Texas and I was ready to try some authentic Texas barbecue. I asked at the front desk and they recommended Dyer’s. It was hard to find as it is located in one of those shopping areas where the businesses blend into to setting.


Photo credit Yelp Review


We enjoyed the atmosphere and ordered a three meat plate. It was all delicious and I particularly liked their brisket and onion rings.The servers were friendly and their sweet tea was as good as my mama’s, strong and sweet.


Not chewing this time!


After supper, I spoke with our daughter on the phone. She had decided to ride out the storm in her home….alone. Hurricane Irma would be passing over her home in the evening hours. I knew I would not be getting much sleep.


Road Trip for Six

30 Oct

On the Porch

Onisha Ellis


For the first time in years, I went on vacation and didn’t take my laptop. I thought I might have computer withdrawals and was pleased to discover I could unplug. Of course, I wasn’t completely unplugged as I had my tablet and a mobile hotspot but I limited my online time to a quick daily check in on Facebook.

Our latest road trip began on a rainy morning, October 23, 2017 from our home in North Carolina. Husband and I along with two other couples loaded ourselves and our scant luggage into a rented Suburban. We were headed to The Ark Encounter in Williamstown, Kentucky.

It was a rainy drive and we were happy to see some sunshine.


Kentucky welcome station


Check in at our hotel was smooth and we were pleased with our rooms. Whew! That was a load off of my mind as I was the one who chose and booked the hotel.



Tuesday morning we were up early. Three in our party needed to rent  scooters and we had been advised to be on the first bus from the parking lot to the ark if we wanted to be certain of getting one.


First in line!


We decided that once the group made it into the ark that each couple would explore at their own pace. But first we had to make a lunch plan! Here is a tip, don’t wait until noon to head to the restaurant.



I found the structure of the ark fascinating. It was built with hand tools as it was in the days of Noah.



The beams inside are huge.



The ark carried supplies for one year. Notice how securely they are stored. It seems Noah was prepared for stormy weather.


There were a lot of bird cages!




I’m not sure which creatures were in these cages but based on the cart positioned with the cages, I would suspect chickens or small animals.



Larger animals were fed from above and had an interesting watering vessel that serviced two cages.


The ark has three decks and we didn’t complete the third deck before our lunch time, but I was ready for a sit down!   By the time we went through the buffet line and found a seat, the line was out the door. We were glad we chose an early lunch time!  The buffet food was delicious and the cost included a beverage and dessert. The price for seniors is $9.99 and $12.99 for younger adults. Sorry, I didn’t notice the child price.



Emzara’s Kitchen


After lunch we returned to the ark to finish the third deck which contained the family living quarters as well as a garden area. It seems Noah was the original small space gardener! The roof of the upper deck could be opened enough to allow sunlight for growing food in containers and hanging pots.  As I stood in the family quarters, I felt the oddest sensation of being on a cruise ship. In the same way that a cruise ship is fully self-contained, so was the ark. One big difference is the ark had a crew of eight people versus the thousand or so on most ships.

The ark was built with three decks filled with scores of world-class exhibit bays. These stunning exhibits allow you to experience what Noah’s life may have been like and answers many questions.




One of my favorites was the door where the animals loaded.



If you are thinking of visiting The Ark Encounter, I would suggest an early arrival. It can become pretty crowded by the afternoon. There is a generous amount of benches for rest breaks and a snack bar on two levels. If you think you might want a souvenir, shop before lunch! The gift shop becomes very crowded late in the day and it is the one space that does not have a lot of benches. I ended up waiting outside for my party to finish and it was a cold and windy day. Our entire party loved visiting the ark. I think it would be an interesting destination for people of all ages.

Our last morning we faced the challenge of getting our luggage for six to fit back in the Suburban. Somehow we managed to tuck our purchases into nooks and crannies.




Road Trip~ Alabama to Arkansa

19 Oct

On the Porch

Onisha Ellis


September 8, 2017 Day 2


Hurricane Irma continued to confuse the heck out of those in her path. Our daughter had offers of homes to share, should she decide to evacuate but like the storm, she couldn’t make up her mind.

Leaving Florence, Alabama (after getting a half-dozen of Krispy Kreme doughnuts for the road) we continued on US highway 72 .The road was for the most part, four lanes with a good distance between towns and light traffic. We marveled at the blessing of this laid back travel. Even though I had multiple books downloaded, should we become bored with the road or each other, I had yet to play one. After 46 years of marriage, we still found things to talk about.

Our back roads adventure ended in Memphis, Tennessee where we had decided to travel the rest of our westward journey on Interstate 40. Once we navigated through the city of Elvis, the interstate was not horrible.  We decided to stop at the Arkansas welcome center for a bathroom break. While I was browsing their brochures the hostess asked if we were evacuating from Hurricane Irma. I explained that we were on a planned vacation and was surprised to learn that the welcome center was seeing a lot of evacuees. This did not ease my “mother” heart.

Later,we enjoyed a late lunch at a rest stop. I had bought two pecks of apples before our trip and ate one everyday at lunch. We hauled those apples over 5,000 miles!



We arrived at our hotel in Fort Smith, Arkansas, tired and hungry. One of my goals on this trip was to not eat in chain restaurants but Denny’s was nearby and an Original Grand Slam sounded good. I was too tired to work at chewing!



When I made our travel plans, I scheduled in a rest day, every third day, so we spent two night in Fort Smith. My hope was to explore the nearby Adirondack mountains but hubby was exhausted and needed a rest. When we were going up to our room the first night we spoke with an older couple in the elevator. They were from Jacksonville, Florida and fleeing Hurricane Irma. They appeared dispirited and weary. My heart broke for them.  On our rest day, we visited the local shopping area and saw the couple again. I hope that meant they had decided to end their evacuation.


Road Trip~ Florence, Alabama

12 Oct

On the Porch

Onisha Ellis


September 7, 2017 as Hurricane Irma churned her way across the Caribbean and the Atlantic ocean, we left our home in Western North Carolina for a three-week road trip. Irma was having a hard time deciding on a track and I was having a hard time hitting the road not knowing how my family in Florida would fare.  From North Carolina, I could get to them in ten or twelve hours but each day we traveled west extended that time. We lifted them up in prayer and began our journey.

We decided to minimize our time spent on interstates for the first two legs of our trip. Day one began with a scenic drive on US Hwy 76 through Hiawassee, Blairsville, Blue Ridge and Ellijay, Georgia. Beautiful area!

Have you ever been driving, or in my case, riding down the road and see a place flash by and wish you had stopped to investigate?  That is what happened to me after we entered Tennessee on US Hwy 72. I saw a sign that I thought read Lodge Factory. I began mumbling about the sign, wondering if it could be the real Lodge Cast Iron factory, and not one of the factory stores one sees in outlet malls. I must have been mumbling louder than I thought as my husband asked if I had wanted to stop there. I admitted that I did and he found a turn around and back we went.



The ladies working in the store were friendly and helpful and the best part is they seemed to genuinely enjoy working there. I told them I was hoping to buy some of their factory “seconds” and I was directed to a fairly large section. Of course, I found some pieces I needed. Just between you and me, a couple of them will end up under the Christmas tree.

Back in the car, we headed toward Scottsboro, Alabama, home of Unclaimed Baggage. My daughter had told me about it and it became a must do on my adventure list. The company purchases unclaimed baggage from airlines as well as freight that is unclaimed. They assess it, then decide whether to donate or sell it. If they decide to sell, the items are cleaned and sanitized before being placed on the shopping floor. It was a fascinating place, and of course my mind wondered about the stories behind the items.  I found the numerous racks of clothing to be overwhelming but enjoyed shopping in the smaller last call area and purchased an amazing stainless vacuum water bottle for $2.00. It was my daily companion on our trip.


We ended our first day in Florence, Alabama.  My husband loves pizza and I love Krispy Kreme doughnuts. We took it as a good omen for our trip that Cici’s Pizza and Krispy Kreme were in the same shopping area near our hotel. Pizza for supper and KK  the next morning.




Some Days We Soar

21 Sep

On the Porch

Onisha Ellis


Some days we soar, other times we are simply hanging on. Then there are the days when we can barely lift our feet off the ground. But ALWAYS Jesus is loving on us.


Photo taken at Pagosa Springs Color Fest


A Night in the Storm

14 Sep

Reblogging from my daughter’s post on Rebekah Lyn’s Kitchen.

As Irma neared Florida, my husband and I were setting off on a road trip that would take us thousands of miles from our daughter. I thought she would ride out the storm with friends but as the storm grew closer, she decided to go it alone. I was upset. But as I prayed for the ability to accept her decision and not “guilt” her, I found peace.


Hurricane Irma was my first hurricane completely on my own. When it was predicted to come up the east coast, I considered going to stay with some cousins on the west coast, or even getting a hotel in Orlando. When the track changed, sending the eye of the storm up the west coast instead, I decided to stay home.

I could have gone and spent the night with some friends a few miles away. Maybe I should have or maybe God wanted me home alone. I learned a lesson about pride when my power went out at 8pm. One of the reasons I hadn’t wanted to stay with my friends was that my power had been so reliable during Hurricane Matthew last year.


Mia trying to open the door with her mind.

Hurricane bunker provisions


I learned a lot about drawing close to God too. After tornado warnings that were sounded as soon as the previous one expired (at one point my area was under three different tornado warnings at the same time), with the wind howling so loud and my bathroom feeling like a shrinking prison, I turned on my lantern and reached for two books: Fervent by Priscilla Shirer and I Am by John Paul Jackson. I Am is a Bible study I am attending about the names of God, powerful stuff, and Fervent is about learning how to pray powerfully against the evil that seeks to destroy our lives. Reading these books brought my focus to God, my deliverer, my redeemer, my refuge. It was more calming than conversing with another person crowded in a small room.

When I turned the light off to try and sleep I kept hearing the chorus to “O My Soul” by Casting Crowns.

O my soul, 

You are not alone

There’s a place where fear has to meet the God you know

One more day, He will make a way

Let Him show you how, you can lay this down

‘Cause you’re not alone.

I don’t know why I have delayed downloading this CD, but once I have power again I will make sure to add it to my library.

I was also reminded of God’s perfect timing. As the worst passed and we were downgrading to tropical storm conditions, I went upstairs to read, there was more light up there. Fervent is broken down into sections to help the reader build a strategy for prayer. The chapter I started reading was on praying for your family. This is important stuff any time, but especially timely for me as there is some stuff going on that needs serious prayer. If I had read this book over the summer as I had intended when I purchased it, this chapter may not have resonated with me as much or I may have forgotten the important points it covers when I need them now.

Finally, I was assured of God’s provision. About an hour after the power went out I went to the kitchen for some reason and found water on the floor. I couldn’t believe the freezer was melting already. Then I heard a drip and swinging the flashlight around I saw water dripping from my pot rack hanging from the ceiling.

I managed to get all of the pots down, then the rack itself, which was a feat. It’s quite a heavy thing. After that the dripping stopped. There appear to be some water spots on the ceiling so I don’t know if the chain was acting as a wick and the weight was drawing the water out of the ceiling beams or what. After the storm I went outside but couldn’t see any shingles missing from the roof.

I put out a call on Facebook for anyone who might be able to come over and take a look. A number of people liked the post, but no one was offering assistance. I went to check on other friends in the area and briefly discussed my situation. I acknowledged that God would provide what I needed and when I got home I found a response on Facebook asking for more information. We talked and arrangements were made for a visit the following day.

As I write this, I still don’t know what caused the leak and I am going on 27 hours without power and yet I am at peace. Don’t get me wrong, there have been times of anxiousness and frustration. There is nothing fun about a house without AC on a warm summer day/night, but I am grateful for this experience.

We talk about God being with us through the metaphorical storms of life, but sometimes it’s good to remember He is with us during the literal storm as well.


Update: Its now been over 65 hours without power but I have been blessed by so many people. Those who have offered their freezer, who have allowed me to charge my devices and provided a hot meal, and two who helped with my roof concern. First, a high school friend came with a ladder and we were able to asses my roof, finding a couple cracks in flashing and slightly lifted shingles. Then I was able to connect with my church’s former maintenance man. He came over and filled in the cracks with caulk. He also checked to make sure there weren’t any other compromised areas. God provided both of these individuals at points when I was beginning to lose hope. I know how fortunate I am to have such minimal damage. Power will be restored eventually. I saw a crew a few blocks away and took them the cookies I made before the power went out as a way to thank them for traveling so far to help us out (they were from Wyoming). Through all of this I have learned a lot about myself and about God. I hope I will carry these lessons with me for a long time.

The sunrises on a new day after the storm


Shameless mom plug.  The first book in Rebekah’s Season of Faith series, Summer Storms, takes place during the 2004 Hurricane season. It is available in most online bookstores in eBook and paperback. The digital version of Summer Storms is free. Here is the Amazon LINK


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