The Salt Shaker ~ January 2020

 Plant the good seeds of righteousness, and you will reap a crop of my love; plow the hard ground of your hearts, for now is the time to seek the Lord, that he may come and shower salvation upon you.  (Hosea 10:12, The Living Bible)

Praises – Great time with family; Arizona sunshine; cushioned track at school with bleachers for walking and exercise.

Prayers – Upcoming maintenance (trailer and van brakes/suspension); time management for recording and exercise; RV site to open up in Bakersfield, CA for April; guidance as we make travel plans for the west coast.

 Greetings to our families, friends, and followers:

Ever had one of those days where your plans just didn’t work?  That was Wednesday morning, New Year’s Day.  We drove a half hour to stock up on non-perishable Aldi’s groceries but they were closed for the Holiday; then we purchased a few items elsewhere to get our 100 points for a gas discount only to find most of our points expired 12/31.  So much for planning!  We finished packing up and had one final LP tank refill, a blessing provided by the camp during our stay.  Thursday morning we leisurely had breakfast and hooked up, stopped by the office with a few things, picked up some coffee and hot chocolate to go and headed out for 2 hours of back highway driving.  Day 1 of travel included a stop at a rest area where we found a good chisel on the road and an interesting dead tree.  Throughout the day there were cotton fields, goats, sheep, cattle, windmill farms, large dairy operations, and increasing numbers of oil pumps and refineries as we neared Midland, Texas for our overnight stop at a campground for electricity for lows of 28-30.

Day 2 was long, starting with rain and mist in the morning and catching a rock chip in our window.  It was all interstate driving plus we gained an hour.  We exited Texas after El Paso, drove through New Mexico, and into Bowie, Arizona for our overnight stay at another campground.  Again, overnight temperatures found us needing electricity for our heaters but we had a wonderful view of the sunset on the mountains to our east along with snow on the tops of the southwest mountains.

Day 3 was much shorter, treating ourselves to lunch at Denny’s in the Tucson area and arriving at our destination, Phoenix Christian Preparatory School (Pre-school to 12th grade), around 2 pm.  We were the last to arrive and managed to get into our spot, a very tight fit, on the third try.  Our space was at the end of the football field and track, parallel parking between a motor home and a fifth wheel.  We were tight to the fence (had to pull in our slide to access the outside storage door) and still had our wheels and a slide hanging into the track lanes.  We de-stressed by walking around the track and enjoyed our pizza supper special delivered by our son.  We were here four years ago; it is good to be back.

04 20200106_162258Connie took advantage of the empty table from traveling to start her Coco-Cola jigsaw puzzle Sunday after church, finishing it Monday afternoon.  It was taken apart in sections and stacked in a bag for thrift store donation and the table was ready for office space the next day.

Our SOWER organization was 5 couples and we had an additional 3 couples with the RVIC organization to accomplish sprucing up before the school’s open house at the end of the month.  John spent most of his time at the elementary school courtyard, “Shelly’s habitat” that was renovated into a fenced planter and green-space area.  Shelly is the approximately 40-year-old tortoise that was on site.  She went to a new, more spacious home after our first week; turns out she was an escape artist, quite often breaking out of her white picket fence area, along with concerns about her digging under the sidewalks.

05 20200113_141324Our first week found John under the weather with a flu bug of some sort.  He attended devotions and “worked” the first day, then spent the rest of the week and weekend resting and recovering.  He even quit drinking coffee for several days!  Connie mustered the courage to drive alone in the Phoenix traffic to take the van to north Phoenix for windshield repairs and get groceries.  It is amazing how much we do together and get used to having the extra eyes, ears, and hands in navigating detours and such.

The second week John gradually built up strength and put in some extra hours under the tutelage of a wonderful cement worker.  He dug and formed for the new fence, mixed cement, shoveled it into the forms, “planted” the fence, finished the cement surface, and cleaned and touched up the paint on the fencing.  Other tasks included digging trench to relocate water lines and sprinklers, another learning experience.  The planters, built as directed by other volunteers, involved lots of labor as well.  The guys shoveled dirt into the planters, emptied them, used caulk on the inside joints, painted dry-loc on the blocks (inside and outside), refilled the dirt, and painted the finish coat on Friday before the open house.  The plants were added late Friday and early Saturday morning; a wonderful transformation completed.

As we worked we had to be patient with curious children and explain to them why we were painting and fixing things.  There were a few that appointed themselves supervisors, telling us how to do our jobs, and informing us that when they were in charge things would be different!  We also shared with teachers and church members what we do and why we were here, reinforcing to us how blessed we are to be able to travel and volunteer (see 1 Timothy 6:6-8 at end of letter).

Connie spent her time in the church attached to the elementary school, ripping out baseboard, painting in the sanctuary, and eventually painting some bright colors on the elementary room doors before the open house.  Since we were here 4 years ago the school has acquired this property, across the street, already set up for elementary school/church along with the pre-school building they were leasing.  The school uses the church for weekly devotions for all age groups and gains income by leasing it to a church plant for Sunday services.  What a wonderful transformation with clean white walls, removing the window shades for light to come through the lightly tinted glass panels, and new carpeting.

10 20200121_184534We had our devotions every morning in the teachers’ lounge with our other volunteer couples, combining 3 tables and most of the chairs, causing some heads to turn as they hurried in for their morning coffee.  We joined with our other volunteers on Tuesday evenings for a “social” night and Wednesday evenings for Bible Study which was typically provided by one of the school staff.  It was interesting hearing some stories about the staff people and their roles at the school.  There was a magician from the RVIC group that entertained one social night and we were able to provide a short concert for the volunteers the last social night.  All had a great time as we shared some of our songs, some familiar hymns and sing-alongs, and even a brand-new, never before played in public song (even getting good feedback!).   It energized us to work at recording as well as making some time to maybe get some video clips to our web site.

Our last weekend we were able to spend some time with our son (from Phoenix) and our daughter and her friend who flew in from Wisconsin.  On Saturday we took a late morning hike, completing the full trail at North Mountain, followed by a taco and homemade custard pie lunch at our son’s house.  Then it was siesta time before we met at a restaurant in Scottsdale for a wonderful evening meal.  We were all able to meet again on Monday for donuts and conversation before their flight back to Wisconsin.

Other social events included meeting half-way at Organ Stop Pizza in Mesa, Arizona with SOWER friends, lunch out at Cracker Barrel with our SOWER couples here, dinner out with our son and his friend followed by a stop at a great little out-of-the-way home-made ice cream shop for dessert.  On the way back to our trailer our son took us past an arts district that we managed to find again for some day time pictures of the blanketed palm trees.  They are literally “wrapped” in knit/crocheted afghans and stay that way throughout the year!  There were also multiple stops at various Walmart stores and Home Depot trying to find new knee pads for John – and we are still looking; guess they don’t spend a lot of time on their knees in Arizona.

13 20200129_140857Thursday, January 30, found us having our final lunch with our son at “My Mother’s Place” where they are known for their prime rib, which Connie greatly enjoyed before starting to pack up for our trip to southern California.

But godliness actually is a source of great gain when accompanied by contentment, that contentment which comes from a sense of inner confidence based on the sufficiency of God.  For we have brought nothing into the world, so it is clear that we cannot take anything out of it, either.  But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.  (1 Timothy 6:6-8 Amplified Version)

Thanks for traveling with us!  We so appreciate your prayers and notes of encouragement!!

John and Connie Nicholas, Salty Strings Music Ministry

Contact Information:      Mail:  John & Connie Nicholas ~ Salty Strings Music Ministry,
3916 N. Potsdam Ave. #3962, Sioux Falls, SD  57104

Phone – John 909-336-8910 or Connie 909-336-8912      Email –
Facebook – Salty Strings Music Ministry                         Web site:

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  • February 1-March 30 – Coachella Valley Rescue Mission, Indio, CA (southeast)
  • April – tentative month off, Bakersfield, CA area
  • May 1-June 30 – Pacific Bay Christian School, Pacifica, CA (west central)
  • July 2-August 27 – Warm Beach Senior Community, Stanwood, WA (north west)
  • September – tentative month off, Washington or Oregon state