The Salt Shaker

The Salt Shaker ~ May 2021

Praises – Range hood ordered for June delivery; safety from more storms; better gas mileage and stability when traveling; back in Illinois again

Prayers – Solution to lock down the tonneau motor cover; install range hood; John’s brother’s health and healing from pneumonia; RV park near Manassas, VA for September

Jesus said to them, “Come, follow me, and I will make you a different kind of fishermen.  You will bring in people, not fish.”  So they immediately left their nets and followed Jesus.  Mark 1:17-18 (Also Matthew 4:19-20) Easy-to-Read Version

Hello to our family, followers, and friends:

We are reminded this month that “immediately” is really not a part of our lifestyle.  Not that we don’t hurry, try to do too many things at once, or get rushed, but once we trust God for direction, we have a steady course. Our second month at Lake Lavon Camp south of Princeton, Texas brought completion to the projects we started last month, which is not always the case in volunteer ministry. We are thankful for this season of travel and volunteering; very refreshing, relaxing, and fulfilling.

Another SOWER couple joined us this month making the time seem to go quicker.  The guys put cedar trim on the ceiling beams and made cedar floor molding for Lakeview Hall.  The kitchen cabinets were rearranged, flooring redone, and counter top installed (with John crawling in the cabinets to fasten it).  They added some more electrical wiring for switches and kitchen lights, put up a few light fixtures, cleaned the foyer doors and their renovation project was complete and ready for guest use!  In addition, the guys spent some time putting up hardyboard siding on one side of the worship center and made the summer staff bunk beds more stable.

Connie continued working on the database and was able to complete her task as well.  A grand total of 423 entries including 418 member churches, all updated with current “online” information.  Our other SOWER gal was kept plenty busy in organizing closets, shelves, and gift shop items; as well as cleaning, dusting, and vacuuming – Connie’s least favorite things to do!

The May weather in Texas was hotter and more humid; lots of clouds, wind, one hail storm, and plenty of rain.  Connie spent a lot of time working on taxes for us and her mother’s estate, getting them done before the extended May 15th deadline.  Once that was over, we enjoyed some meals out with our fellow volunteers and were pleased to find indoor seating in a McDonald’s.  The restaurant of choice was Whataburger, the first time for us in several years. John also was able to get a “flamin’ shrimp/chicken combo” at Popeye’s, one of his favorite places to eat (even though it made his eyes water).  The microwave shelf was built, installed, and we purchased an inexpensive counter top microwave to use.  After many online searches we found the almost perfect range hood, which will arrive in June.

We continued attending Culleoka Baptist Church Sunday School, worship, and evening singing fellowship where we provided some special songs.  Connie played piano two weeks for the worship service which was a treat for her.  On Sunday evening, May 2, we presented a 1 ½ hour concert for the community followed by fellowship with homemade cookies and breads.  That was a great encouragement for us to continue in this ministry and an unexpected financial blessing for us.  God still works mightily through music and our willing hearts.

Our morning devotions with the staff continued to bring more thought-provoking insights. It is interesting how the Bible is able to address so many pertinent areas of our lives today and can be used for all stages and settings of life. So wonderful to hear the application to camp staff and the students they will be ministering to. There were also some discussions leading to further research; Connie is following up from a Sunday School class and from the sermons on being a royal priesthood, a “peculiar” people – which, of course, we are!

Alas, the time came when we started packing up – only the 2nd time we have with this trailer. The lists were made, adjusted, and fine-tuned for next time. We left after a stressful time getting hitched up, and drove through some heavy rain as we headed out of Texas. There was a devotion only a few days before we left saying we need to put our lives in “neutral” from time to time – we realized by late afternoon that time was now! We spent two nights “boondocking” with full hookups on the farm of some SOWER friends near Pretty Prairie, Kansas; fishing ponds, tree swings, and a tree slide with indoor ladder. The fellowship and food were great – spaghetti on arrival, Carriage Crossing in Yoder (Kansas) for breakfast (yes, an Amish restaurant), a late lunch buffet at Pizza Ranch, and a wonderful breakfast before we left for a slightly unlevel Walmart overnight near St. Louis, Missouri.

There were a few additional stops our last two days of travel as we taped and retaped the tonneau motor cover that kept coming unfastened, blowing up and bouncing as we drove along. We had a short final drive day, arriving at our new volunteer project around noon, followed by a great indoor seating Chinese buffet lunch in Carlinville, IL. After that, a short nap, and putting out a few things including the harp, tuned up for some practice over the Memorial Holiday weekend.

We have been so encouraged by the people we meet and work with.  Our final Sunday we were sent off with homemade peanut butter cookies, biscuits, and a prayer circle around us and our fellow SOWER couple for our travels and future work.  We also have this wonderful (huge) trailer and truck that gives us better gas mileage, pulls easy with more stability, and lots more comfort than before. We are so blessed; please pray we may continue to give what we have as an encouragement to all those we have contact with.

“Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to . . . where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts.  When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money.  Peter looked straight at him, as did John.  Then Peter said, “Look at us!”  So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.  Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give to you . . .”  Acts 3:2-6 NIV paraphrased

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 – SaltyStrings@hotmail.com
Facebook – Salty Strings Music Ministry                         Web site – SaltyStrings.com

ONLINE DONATIONS via PayPal through our web site

  • TRAVEL PLANS AND UPCOMING LOCATIONS
  • May 28-July 1 – Lake Williamson Conference Center, Carlinville, IL
  • June 28-July 1 – Travel with truck to Wisconsin for Memorial service and family time
  • July 2-July 16 or 23 – Tentative, Macomb, IL friends and families
  • July 16 or 23-31 – Tentative, Little Galilee Camp, Clinton, IL friends and truck graphics
  • August – Tentative – Central Wisconsin; recording and music engagements
  • September – Tentative – Virginia; friends and family
  • October 2-29 – Volunteer SOWER Project – Fairmont, North Carolina

The Salt Shaker ~ April, 2021

Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.
2 Peter 1:2 (NIV)

Praises – Achy joints and muscles but still going; no damages from winds, thunder storms, or hail; rain and lots of green around us.

Prayers – Changed lives for kids, youth, and adult groups that will be attending here; camp staff; music opportunities for May and summer months; bedroom slide operation; travel to north central Illinois; finding a range hood to fit our space; trailer tire valve stem replacement.

Hello to our friends, family, and followers:

After introducing ourselves to the camp director at our “new” SOWER project, we were shown to the trailer parking area to make ourselves at home.  With the help of another volunteer, we were able to get our 40’10” trailer parked, at an angle, taking up two spots.  We checked in advance to be sure we could fit and there are enough empty spaces while we’re here that it worked!  The very first weekend there were a few smaller groups using the camp; a real treat to see people gathered and enjoying the grounds.  There were fireworks one night, something the camp offers as an option for the groups.  John was also invited to attend the Men’s Retreat!

We start our work days with devotion time with the staff.  Typically, a chapter of the Bible is read aloud and discussed for about 30 minutes before going into tasks for the day/week and long-range plans for all the to-do’s before camp “opens” for the summer.  Quite a long list including counselors, life guard training, hiring a cook, repairs, fixes, and routine things like painting the pool.  Definitely plenty to pray for and about. 

Easter Sunday found us “up the road” about 10 minutes at Culleoka Baptist Church.  Someone explained a few weeks later that the name is Indian for sweet (Culle) water (oka).  We went the next week to Sunday School and the evening service which was a hymn sing encompassing all genres of music.  The next week we played two special songs with the guitar and hammer dulcimer and offered to do a community concert which was scheduled for May 2.  There were several days of practice, getting our fingers toughened up again, deciding on songs, tuning (everything is going sharp with the humidity), and finding pictures to use as background as well as talking about our SOWER ministry.  It was fun going back over the years and remembering so many wonderful places and ministries.  God always leads us to the right place to learn and worship, no exception here and they have free fresh lettuce, spinach, and radishes as well!

Connie was able to spend most of her time in the office (where it is climate controlled) working on updating the camp mail/contact database.  There are six church associations in the camp area, each containing 40-100+ churches to be researched for current contact information as well as staff changes.  By the end of the month, she had almost completed four of the smaller associations.  There were a few days she got to physically work helping with the flooring, installing 4’ LED ceiling lights with John, cleaning up after the guys, and whitewashing a brick fireplace.

John worked indoors with the Lakeside Hall renovations.  That included sink and hot water heater plumbing, flooring and the associated fitting under moldings, cleaning and putting the ceiling fan blades back on, cutting holes and running some wiring in the attic, installing 4’ ceiling and “can” lights, and caulking and painting trim.  There were many stiff days and achy nights with sore muscles, knees, and backs but seeing this building getting closer to a beautiful lake view meeting area is worth it all.  The last day of the flooring tallied 2 cuts, 2 pounded fingers, 1 hit wrist, sore knees for both of us, and thigh muscles that caused Connie to move gently.

The weather in Texas, especially on the lake front, is very unpredictable.  A lot of windy days, coming from different directions, with gusts in the 20-30 mph range quite frequently.  We found the awnings over the slides, that help so much with the heat, are very noisy when they flap about from the winds.  There have been a few, maybe two, days the lake was calm and smooth as we walked to the office for devotions; by noon the winds were back.  Our first severe thunderstorm had Connie on the couch from 10:30 pm to 1:30 am, mostly because of the awning noise.  Our second severe thunderstorm came through in the afternoon, causing the trailer to shake a bit, and bringing gravel-size hail, rain, and some pea-size hail later.  There have been a few storms since, and Connie in particular, is getting a bit calmer – the gusty winds have always been troubling for her.  There has been a lot of rain as well, a whole week where they couldn’t mow, several hot and humid days (Connie’s hair is frizzing again), along with some cool nights in the low 40’s.  Guess spring is about the same everywhere!

We are knowing our way around by now.  Everywhere you travel ends up on a 2 or 3 lane “county road” through endless cities that merge into one another.  We do have Aldi’s again for groceries which is a blessing.  We are finding that our shopping days, some with five or six stops, leave us totally exhausted.  Several hours were spent making trips and online searches for over-the-range microwaves, finally deciding to get a counter unit and range hood, and build a shelf.  One good thing about our shopping days is getting to eat out – and we celebrated our 37th wedding anniversary a few days late with an Olive Garden lunch.  It’s been many years since we’ve eaten there.  On the way home we realized they have “longhorn” trucks – only in Texas!? 

We did manage to get some fuses for the microwave, lasting from two uses to almost 24 hours, before we declared it officially unrepairable.  Right before that decision we purchased some Grand’s biscuits to cook in the convection microwave.  Connie decided we would have to start the oven, which we finally managed to get to stay lit.  A few days later we did some pizza, officially breaking her 5-year 7-month ban on using the oven.

Some of this month included finding niches and putting up some decorative things.  Our stick-up hooks are not holding things on the walls – there have been a few bumps in the night to find things on the floor (nothing broken, yet) even using nails/screws.  Some hummingbirds found our feeder about a week after we put it out, hanging on tightly as it blew about in the wind.  We continue to find changes on our evening walks, our first evening being met by beautiful yellow flowers (they bloom only in the evening) in what we thought was grass/weeds; meeting “Max” the very friendly cat that stalks everything; seeing a blue bird, hawks, egrets, and two geese; lots of pink and very small violet-like purple flowers, buttercups, iris, and blue bells; green fields of perhaps wheat or rye; and lots of goats.  Connie does occasionally ride her bike to the office for the morning or for internet.  We had one bike ride down the road and around a small cluster of houses with the wind at our backs to start which made the ride home very slow. 

Where does the time go?  Another month is beginning bringing another SOWER couple for us to volunteer with . . . may God get all the glory!

“make every effort to add to your faith goodness . . . knowledge . . . self-control . . . perseverance . . . godliness . . . mutual affection . . . and love.  For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Peter 1:5-8 paraphrased (NIV)

Thanks for traveling with us and being part of our family too!

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 – SaltyStrings@hotmail.com
Facebook – Salty Strings Music Ministry
Web site:  SaltyStrings.com

ONLINE DONATIONS via PayPal through our web site

TRAVEL PLANS AND UPCOMING LOCATIONS

  • May 1-24 – Lake Lavon Christian Camp & Conference Center, Princeton, TX
  • May 25-27 – Travel to Carlinville, IL
  • May 28-June 25 – Lake Williamson Conference Center, Carlinville, IL
  • June 25-July 14 – Tentative, Macomb, IL friends and families
  • July 14-21 – Tentative, Lane/Decatur, IL friends and families, truck graphics
  • July 21–August – Tentative – Northwest Wisconsin; possible music opportunities
  • August-September – Tentative – Little Galilee, Clinton, IL; Family Camp
  • September-October – Tentative – Manassas, VA area; friends and family

The Salt Shaker ~ March 2021

Praises – Safe travels and arrival; new friends in Arizona; the comforts we take for granted.

Prayers – Our physical bodies to be strengthened and prepared for the work before us; listening and following God’s leading in ministry while in Texas; protection during spring winds and storms; changed lives for kids, youth, and adult groups that will be attending Lake Lavon Camp.

Because of this, neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but the only one who is anything is God who makes it grow.  The one who plants and the one who waters work together, but each one will receive their own reward for their own labor.  We are God’s coworkers . . .  I Corinthians 3:7-9a  CEB (Common English Bible)

Hello to our followers, family, and friends:

Howdy all y’all!  We’re in Texas now and ready for our April volunteer work at a “new” SOWER project.  More about that next month.

So, March continued our “vacation/time off” patterns, along with getting more comfortable in our new home.  We figured out how to adjust the vents to keep all our rooms most comfortable, used the electric heat pump for heat overnight, started the electric fire place to take the chill off “downstairs” in the morning, used the air conditioning much less, and used less electricity than before leading to a much lower electric bill. 

Connie continued in the plastic mat class, finally completing a 3’ x 6’ mat before we left at the end of the month; finished a free-form design stained glass candle front that she used to better her skills for cutting and soldering; and she started and spent many hours on her large stained glass project, to remain a secret for now until it is finished and delivered.  Because of limited “class” time, she tried to work outside but the wind and weather didn’t cooperate very well, then realized she could get a key to the wood shop and had a very spacious stained glass set up for a few weeks.  Connie also got our new vehicles titled and registered in South Dakota so we could transfer our license plates before traveling, several days of calls and forms going back and forth.

John focused on getting rid of things and packing/repacking the truck and trailer, accompanied by a lot of thought and prayer for practically accessing tools and weight distribution.  He also completed a few shelves in the office/music room for our recording speakers and computer.   We picked up our SOWER friends at Phoenix Sky Harbor airport one afternoon, and John drove and survived the trip!  Amidst all the busyness, God blessed him (and Connie) with some wonderful words for a song that has been “in-the-making” for several years.

Our patience continued to be tested with things breaking or going wrong.  March 1 the main TV quit receiving a signal from the antenna.  (We are spoiled having 2 TVs, really more of an inconvenience.)  The tonneau cover on the truck started jamming in the middle, we straightened and tightened the track, not making it any better, and agreed to use some manual assistance to make it work.  John had a flat on his bicycle, easily repaired with a super duty inner tube.  And a few days before leaving the microwave quit; that really makes one appreciate what we take for granted every day.

With all the move-in boxes cleared there were quite a few things for the RV Resort “free” table, Goodwill, Craigslist, and the resort yard sale.  We prepared ourselves and woke up to cloudy skies, a few sprinkles, and lots of wind.  The morning started at a very cold and damp 45 degrees, eventually making it to 55.  We took shifts, getting chilled to the bone, and did a lot more talking than selling!

Our Monday night Bible studies continued with our final gathering including a fire pit, communion, and anointing (a retired pastor led our studies).  We continued biking/walking to church and Sunday School classes, having lunch with a special couple before we left (she also made some fantastic cookies for our travels).  One Sunday we accompanied our worship leader music friends to their church in Sun City (about an hour away).  It was a wonderful service with people from many nations; truly full of like-minded Christian people.  We were blessed by the message and music, as well as lunch.  They usually have a meal following service but this week they celebrated their Pastor’s birthday with a catered meal of salad, roasted potato medley, grilled vegetables, shrimp, salmon, tarragon sauce, and carrot cake!

Early in the month a “resort regular” arrived from North Dakota (Gordy “Crazy Fingers” Lindquist) and shared his talent in a concert.  Later in the month there was a 2-hour gathering, with lots of finger food, and a guitarist sharing a variety of music genres.  We heard the same comments from each of these musicians, as with us; there are almost no places to share our gifts (due to Covid restrictions) and any audience is so appreciated.  We made another trip into Phoenix to help our son with a few more home repairs (and do laundry).  We met our Chinese family (they refer to us as Aunt and Uncle) at their home for a wonderful time of fellowship, an outdoor Chinese lunch where they work, a bicycle ride ending with cold sprinkles, and Connie shared and demonstrated the making of plarn and how to crochet (very interesting with interpretation).  They sent us home with lots of Chinese greens from their garden.  As travel day became closer, there were several more “goodbye” meals, prayers, hugs, and some tears as well.

Travel day 1 we hit the road again, with much prayer to calm our anxious hearts and fears.  With our new vehicles we decided to take the shorter “mountain” route and had no trouble pulling up hills or slowing down hill!  We stopped early on and realized we didn’t plug in our lights or emergency cord (that will be added to our check list soon to be created!).  We traveled through the Tonto National Forest at 4000 feet, still going up, then downhill with our engine brake feature keeping us safe.  There were some really nasty bathrooms at a city park with neighboring chickens and peacocks.  This day included lots of ear-popping, a 13’6” tunnel, cows, cattle, harvested cotton fields, irrigated lush green alfalfa fields, snow-topped mountains in the distance, and we crossed the Continental Divide.  Still learning about our turning radius (or lack of) we went over a few curbs, but missed the landscape rock, getting parked at Walmart in Las Cruces, New Mexico for our first night with open windows for cool sleeping.

Day 2 of travel started with Connie driving through El Paso, Texas.  Temperatures had us driving with the a/c on (91 at 4 pm, but the trailer felt quite cool compared to our previous trailers) with westerly winds registering 16 mph when we stopped for the night.  We were into Texas oil fire pipes, oil wells, sand pits, and wind farms for scenery.  We stopped at an RV park for an electric hookup with temperatures falling to 40 overnight, dodged tree branches getting into our site, then had power fluctuations causing our surge protector to turn off and on several times throughout the night.

Day 3 of travel was even windier (sustained 20 mph most of the day) making for a slower, harder drive.  The “textured” pavement didn’t help either but having green grass most of the way was nice!  There was a stretch of interstate where we had a Deja vu moment – the scenery looked much like the Wisconsin I-43 rest area between East Troy and Milwaukee; same split in the road, hills, and trees.  We stopped at another Walmart, had trouble getting our bedroom slide out as well as sleeping with noisy gatherings and cars with noisy engines.  Lots of prayers for protection and quiet, and God provided! 

Day 4 – our final day of travel – was short and sweet.  Connie drove the interstate south of Fort Worth and Dallas, then turned north through Dallas and Plano, Texas.  We expected to get into country driving, but that didn’t happen as the cities ran together until the final 20 minutes of our trip.  We arrived at Lake Lavon Camp shortly after noon, managed to get the bedroom slide out again, and relaxed as we put a few things away and assessed our travel skills – not too bad for our first travel with new vehicles!  Our curiosity over handling, gas mileage, and maneuvering were all answered.  With the van/trailer we were around 6.5-7 mpg; now 7.3-10.5 mpg!  Before we were down to 35-45 mph going uphill, and feeling pretty unstable over 65; now steep hills 50-55 mph and easy driving at 65-70 mph.  And, we are much better at judging corners and parking, having no problem with curbs after the first day!

God saved us and chose us to be His holy people, but not because of anything we ourselves did.  God saved us and made us His people because that was what He wanted and because of His grace.  That grace was given to us through Christ Jesus before time began.  And now it has been shown to us in the coming of our Savior Christ Jesus.  He destroyed death and showed us the way to have life.  Yes, through the Good News Jesus showed us the way to have life that cannot be destroyed.  2 Timothy 1:9-10 Easy-to-Read Version

Tune in again next month for our volunteer and ministry update!

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 – SaltyStrings@hotmail.com
Facebook – Salty Strings Music Ministry
Web site:  SaltyStrings.com

ONLINE DONATIONS via PayPal through our web site

TRAVEL PLANS AND UPCOMING LOCATIONS

  • April 1-May 27 –Lake Lavon Christian Camp & Conference Center, Princeton, TX
  • June – heading back to the Midwest to see our friends and families
  • July-August – tentative – Northwest Wisconsin; possible music opportunities
  • September-October – tentative – project(s) and family in Virginia
  • November through winter – tentative – Florida

The Salt Shaker ~ February 2021

Praises – God’s blessings abound even with our struggles; all those who helped us clean and move

Prayers – Getting everything in its place and travel ready; building up our muscles for volunteer work at a project in April; expanding our music ministry-what does God want that to look like; travel protection with new truck/trailer the end of March

Be alert and of sober mind.  Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  Resist him, standing firm  . . . And the God of all grace . . .  will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.   1 Peter 5:8-10 paraphrased NIV

Hello to our friends, followers, and family:

Our opening Scripture last month, “Do everything without grumbling or arguing,” seemed to be the appropriate quote for February.  Thankfully it was a short month and it really flew by!  The first day found us on the road with a fifth wheel trailer owner friend to pick up our “new” trailer.  We are the third owners, and it needed a good cleaning so friends were standing by to clean cabinets, windows, walls, etc.  Move in day was Tuesday the 2nd with 6 others joining us to pack and move lots of heavy boxes.  Connie is an excellent space user apparently – our little trailer filled the big trailer as we ran out of places to put things.

Day 3 saw another “crew,” some from the day before, sorting through and organizing the van items to new locations in the trailer and truck.  Again, we vastly underestimated how many things we have!  The goal for this day was to get the old trailer cleaned; washing walls, light fixtures, floor, and putting Old English on all the wood.  What a transformation.  The 2013 Windjammer was “deluxe” in its day and the quality of cabinets and trim was better than our 2019 new home (also considered a top-of-the-line).  Day 4 we were left alone, overwhelmed, to finish up the move.  Once we started thinking outside our old box, things started falling into place.  By the end of the day, our goals were met except for cleaning the van.  We really enjoyed our new shower, and we didn’t run out of hot water. 

Friday, day 5 of moving, we were hooked up and driving to deliver the van and old trailer to their new owner, meeting in Florence, Arizona at McDonald’s for the transfer in a gravel parking area for semi/large trucks.  Titles signed, final photos taken, lunch (first meal in Black Beauty our new truck), and a relaxing drive home stopping by some thrift stores and Home Depot for tool boxes, totes, hooks, etc. to get serious with stuff organization.  God really answered the prayers for our old trailer have a good home – it will be parked on site at Gospel Rescue Mission in Tucson, AZ for their security guard (Mike) and drug dog (Buster) to live in!

“Do everything without grumbling or arguing,” and the fun begins!  We lost the computer power cord amongst all the boxes, and had another flat tire on Connie’s bicycle.  Lots of the cabinets and drawers needed to be reinforced before putting things away.  John worked at his new workbench and Connie redesigned spaces to fit our belongings.  The computer cord was finally found but the mouse wouldn’t work (operator error, just a bit stressed perhaps?) and the banking/bills were taken care of.  Tools found new homes, the truck bed was “boarded up” so totes wouldn’t move around, our patio disaster was looking better with many things moved under the trailer, the January newsletter was started, lots of things put away, a “to do” list created for the carpenter, and February was half over already.

It was John’s turn to be under the weather, developing a sinus cold that lingered for several days, along with off and on back problems.  Our swimming and hot tub visits were infrequent between not feeling well and some cooler temperatures.  Connie kept attending the plastic mat class and has another foot or so to crochet before her mat is done.  She also did another sun catcher project, a cross, that was much harder this time.  There is another stained-glass project in the works, much larger and more complicated, still in the research and drawing board stage.

The RV park has a volunteer group that goes fruit picking every week and we have had lots of fresh squeezed orange, tangelo, grapefruit, and lemon juice.  (If you mix them all together it stays reasonably sweet.)  Lots of walks around the park, and a few bike rides to Walmart gave us some fresh air and cleared our heads as we enjoyed our surroundings.  Although the instruments have remained in their cases, we are attending Bible Study classes at church and here in the park.  We are learning as well as providing some “salt and light” in the discussions. 

“Do everything without grumbling or arguing.”  A simple repair of a slow leak in a truck tire turned out to be a nail along with two cracks in an aluminum rim.  Quoted price for a new matching rim was $400, but our son and his mechanic in Phoenix found a used one the next day for $75!  Our toilet started spraying water on the wall and floor, so back to the RV supplier for another toilet purchase.  (Our new toilet is now the improved version of what we had in the old trailer).  We woke one morning (Sunday, of course) to water leaking from the under belly of the trailer.  After removing everything from one side of the storage compartment we found the hot water heater was leaking, a quick fix if we had the part and were sure we wouldn’t do more damage removing the fitting.  We were able to get a service man here the next day and since their minimum labor charge is for 1 hour, he fixed the fitting, replaced the anode rod, and installed the new toilet with time to spare.  Connie found an adjustable office chair ($15) and getting it home, the power tonneau truck cover started jumping around and not working.  After several adjustments and tightening bolts and rails it closes now with some “manual assistance.”  Connie’s blender broke after starting to make some mayonnaise, leading to thrift store shopping and eventually a new Walmart purchase to finish the mayo.  Watching TV one afternoon the picture and sound started shorting out eventually displaying a “no signal” sign.  Still haven’t found a fix for that since the trailers are prewired with coaxial cable and the connections appear to be good.  We keep praying that nothing else will go wrong!

February has Valentine’s Day, Sunday this year, and John stayed home from church, not feeling well.  Shortly after was his birthday, and we attended our musician friends’ concert at a neighboring RV park.  The following day we hosted 6 others in our living room, all with fairly comfortable seating, for some fellowship before going to Organ Stop Pizza.  Connie joined the group but John stayed home, having re-strained his back once more. 

By the end of the month, we are much better organized and still finding “blessings” to our new surroundings.  They have a “free” table in the laundry room here where we have deposited some of the things we no longer need, we have sold a few items that came with the trailer (a Ford hitch and water softener), and we have several other things to sell or give away before we leave here.  Our paperwork for new South Dakota titles and getting our plate registration changed over was finally sent in with a call back that we missed a couple of things causing several days delay in the process.  Once the music room gets a little more organized (this is the area we are still stashing things that don’t have homes yet), we can get serious about recording again.  We have managed to start working through the recording software tutorial and samples – we listen and practice until our brains go numb, then call it quits for the day!  Our goal is to do this every day and then start recording some of our songs.

Even with all the moving, cleaning, organizing, repairs, and delays we find there are many blessings and so many people and things we are thankful for.  So, we thank God for leading us to these vehicle upgrades, giving us reassurance to continue with the SOWER work ministry, and the ability to expand our music ministry as time goes on.

“As God’s loving servants, you should live in complete freedom, but never use your freedom as a cover-up for evil.  Recognize the value of every person and continually show love to every believer.”  1 Peter 2:16-17 The Passion Translation

Until next month – thanks for traveling with us!

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 – SaltyStrings@hotmail.com
Facebook – Salty Strings Music Ministry                         Web site:  SaltyStrings.com

ONLINE DONATIONS via PayPal through our web site

  • TRAVEL PLANS AND UPCOMING LOCATIONS
    • March 27-April 1 – Travel to Texas, north east of Dallas
    • April-May 27 –Lake Lavon Christian Camp & Conference Center, Princeton, TX
    • May-June-July – heading back to the Midwest to see our friends and families

The Salt Shaker ~ January 2021

Hello to our followers, family, and friends:

Praises – Abundant blessings that surround us; wisdom of friends; activities here at this park.

Prayers – Wisdom in putting things away and getting rid of unneeded weight; no excuses just obedience to follow God’s leading; recording experiments and memory retention.

Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.”  Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky . . . Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.  Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.  Philippians 2:14-15, 3-4 NIV

There has been a lot going on in January and early February, so this update is a bit late!  We continued our trailer search, finding a broker-listed 5th wheel in Tucson, 2 hours away.  Once we agreed on a price and made our deposit, we intensified the truck search.

Connie wasn’t ready for the whirlwind created when a truck was found, looked at, and purchased within an hour from a private seller.  This purchase led to days of no answer/no return calls from our credit union, transferring funds to the correct accounts, and eventually having the credit union cashier check limit system shut down while our check was “cut” for the purchase!  We are the new owners of a one-owner 2011 Chevrolet Silverado 3500 diesel extended cab full bed pickup truck with the added blessings of a leather deluxe interior, heated seats, tow package, sun roof, power memory seat positions, 20K hitch, power tonneau cover, and more we haven’t discovered yet!  The running boards are a bit high and it is very strange having the huge hood out in front after driving the van for so many years; and also, the new owner of a 2-owner 2019 Grand Design Solitude 5th wheel trailer that is quite intimidating with a bit more width, lots more height, and 41’ length!  Thank you, God, for leading us to these vehicles and for the finances (Connie’s inheritance from her mother).

Now we had to decide what to do with the van and trailer.  With lots of prayers, John started contacting other ministries that take “vehicle” donations and felt led to call a SOWER supported ministry in Tucson.  He made the contact and we had an 11-hour day of driving around Friday, January 15.  We met the truck owner in Casa Grande to receive title to “Black Beauty” the truck, got Arizona 90-day temporary plates, picked up an “eat on the road” lunch, continued in the van to Tucson to the Gospel Rescue Mission to discuss our donations, hurried to the lot for our final trailer inspection, stopped at Dairy Queen for supper, picked up the truck back in Casa Grande, and followed each other “home” to Apache Junction.

Trailer repairs were ongoing, wanting to make our donation pleasing to the Lord, and as nice as possible.  The mobile service technician was here three times finished up the awning, trailer brake lockup, converter replacement, and CO2 sensor; John spent many hours buffing the outside, cleaning the roof vents, researching and replacing the water pump, some cosmetic repairs, adding new propane hoses since the old ones started leaking, and helping Connie restring two day/night shades.  About 10 minutes after the service technician left the last time, the toilet broke!  The next day found us purchasing a new (all plastic) toilet and getting that installed.

Our music ministry was on hold for most of the month.  John was able to sit in on some recording sessions with our friends, learning a bit more each time.  With a new trailer that will have a “music/recording room” we are waiting to get all set up to start some serious experimenting and test recording.

Our almost daily walks around the park continued and one day we rounded the corner to find an old-faithful type gusher.  While parking a new trailer someone pulled forward hitting the water pipe and breaking the larger pipe underground.  The swimming and hot tub visits diminished due to our end-of-the-day energy levels, cooler temperatures, and breezy evenings.  We did have 2-3 days of real rain and enough cloudy skies to make us miss all the sunshiny days.  There were also some interesting clouds in the sky, like nothing we’ve ever seen before. 

We were able to entertain as well!  Even though the trailer was a mess with no space to sit, we had lunch with our Chinese friend Justin and his family of 5.  They brought a mini-van full of people, a stroller, and a bicycle.  Justin said he was looking for 2 more bicycles since there are nice places to ride bike where they live in Phoenix.  God is good; there were 2 bicycles for sale in the park.  Grandma hopped on one and his wife on the other, a bit wobbly with seat adjustments needed, and they were loaded into the already full mini-van (both fitting wonderfully) and purchased for a total of $60, a real bargain!  Our SOWER friends Rod and Chris stopped and stayed for 2 nights on their way from Kansas to California.  We visited a lot, had two evenings in the hot tub, attended church and Sunday School together, enjoyed another outdoor lunch, and prayed for their travels and our sanity getting all the details worked out for our new acquisitions.  They, like most SOWER couples, have found joy in humble service to others and it is such a blessing and encouragement to spend time together in fellowship.

Amidst all this, Connie started the month with a good old-fashioned Wisconsin head cold (she hasn’t had one for a few years now, guess she needed reminding).  With all the precautions and panic of COVID it is really hard to convince people you just have a cold and will be fine in a few days with extra rest.  We also took an afternoon to do some minor home fixes for our son in Phoenix, and were treated to a wonderful meal of split-pea soup and fantastic Mexican cream cake.  Connie continued in her Monday morning plastic mat class, and added a 2-session stained glass class completing a heart-shape sun catcher that accidently (if there is such a thing with God) turned out to be a means of telling the creation story.  (Yellow/purple day 1-God created heaven and earth with no form and divided day and night.  Blue day 2-parted the waters with an arch/heaven.  Green day 3-seas with dry land for grass/plants.  Aqua day 5-waters full of livings things and birds in the sky.  Red day 6-man created with dominion over all creation, sin/separated from God, Jesus died for all who believe in Him to be reunited with God.)

Tune in next month for the continuing saga of change and transition!  January has been a month of hard work, grumbling, disagreeing, wondering, and uncertainty as well as one filled with prayer, wisdom from friends, and great blessings as we allow God to lead us into deeper waters.

Simon (Peter) answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything.  But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”  When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break.  Luke 5:5-6 NIV

Thanks for traveling with us and supporting us with your thoughts and prayers!

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

NOTE:  Mail can come to us directly through February –
Golden Sun RV Resort #E26,
999 W Broadway Avenue,
Apache Junction, AZ 85120

Phone – John 909-336-8910 or Connie 909-336-8912     
Email – SaltyStrings@hotmail.com
Facebook – Salty Strings Music Ministry                        
Web site:  SaltyStrings.com

ONLINE DONATIONS via PayPal through our web site

TRAVEL PLANS AND UPCOMING LOCATIONS

  • November 27- March 27, 2021 – Time off, Golden Sun RV Resort, Apache Junction, AZ; being mentored in music recording, settling into new vehicles
  • March 27-31 – Travel to Texas
  • April 1-May 27 – Tentative Lake Lavon Camp, Princeton, TX
  • May-June – heading back to the Midwest to see our friends and families

The Salt Shaker – December 2020

Hello to our friends, family, and followers:

Praises – Thankful for rest and respite from work projects for a couple months this winter; sunny weather to enjoy the outdoors; safe driving in and around Phoenix traffic; Christmas!

Prayers – Continued wisdom and patience for RV repairs; music opportunities; recording and health goals.

“The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Exodus 33:14

December was our month for shopping!  Seems like most of the month we were traveling somewhere to look at or get something.  We completed our computer shopping which led to needing a table to set up the recording area.  There were many miles and several days spent traveling north and west of Phoenix as well as “trailer dealer row” where we toured 20+ new and used 5th wheel trailers.  From that came Connie’s detailed spreadsheet rating system; 24 was the highest score containing everything we needed (and wanted).  Nothing was quite the right fit, but we see the possibilities of having more space and really feel cluttered and confined in our trailer now.  Can you find the Antillean nighthawk (rock hawk) in the photo?  She was pointed out to us by the salesman, very cozy and not the least afraid of people walking around her sunny resting area.

Arriving here the end of November gave Connie the luxury of putting up our little bit of Christmas decorations early – all done, on and twinkling December 4th!  That is a record!!  Shopping followed again to get a timer so we didn’t have to manually unplug outside in the cold.  Once the sun starts setting (~5pm) the temperature drops fast.  Typically, this is the time we head to the pool to swim and enjoy the hot tub; there have been a few times we skipped the swim and went straight to the tub to stay warm!

We were invited to do a concert on December 11 – what a treat to be able to share some of our favorite Christmas carols and songs.  We didn’t think it went very well, but we were in a room made for 200 people with a COVID limit of 50 in-park people with masks and social distancing.  Just not the same as a closer group with smiling/singing faces. 

The following week the park had their Christmas parade.  Those that wanted dressed up and decorated carts, bikes, trikes, scooters, etc. winding their way through the park with candy treats being tossed to those watching.  That was followed by cookies, hot chocolate, and a movie.

As is the case everywhere, the closer to Christmas we get the more crowded the stores are.  We didn’t plan very well this year and had to stop at Walmart on the 23rd.  What a surprise to find mounted “police” security in Arizona.  They do this every year for crowd control, being up in the air they can observe the parking lot easily.  Four beautiful horses and their riders, complete with a Santa hat and reindeer antlers.  Other “critter” viewings this month – our frequent visitor “I want to be a hummingbird” and the lizard in the passenger side of the van that never has been found again (dead or alive).

Christmas Eve was wonderful.  Connie joined the church bell choir as a last-minute replacement.  The nativity set was a complete version of what we had in Wisconsin/Illinois, bringing back many memories.  Our son in Phoenix drove over and went to church with us, then we had tuna crackers (haven’t made these for many years), holiday banana bread, lattice apple pie (given to us by a neighbor), and eggnog to finish the night.  One of our SOWER friends introduced John to Vietnamese coffee (instant) and John sipped on a cup earlier in the day – a very special day indeed.   

Our church is within walking distance a bit to the north, and we love it there.  We go a bit early to a Sunday School class where our teacher never makes it through his lesson.  He is very knowledgeable, thought provoking, and detailed as we continue through the Christmas story in Luke.  The pastor is also very good, speaking one week on the “discipline” that comes to those who are loved (Hebrews 12).  Our kids grew up with a 9-hold paddle quite similar to his sermon illustration! 

I think we had an “only in California” paragraph a few months ago – therefore this is an “only in Arizona” paragraph!  Connie loves the big dancing wind socks that are advertisements.  She remained in the van while John got more parts for breaking equipment (imagine that) and had the propane tank filled.  This dancing cactus kept her entertained and brought many smiles.  If only we were so flexible and happy in our expression of life!

New Year’s Eve found us in bed early after watching a movie, and hearing the fireworks around our corner of the world.  Traditions, friends, family – relationships we have had and the new ones to come as another year of ministry begins. 

Connie did an experiment in November, making a rock memorial.  She would occasionally pick up a rock during the day and stack it on the pile, recalling the scripture from Joshua 4:1-9.  Much harder than it sounds – picking and stacking.  November 2020 was project #49 through the SOWER ministry along with 4 months at our home church camp in Illinois, two months on an independent church roof project, several months helping family make repairs and clean, and a couple months “off.”  As we look back on our slightly over 5 years of traveling ministry (October 2015-December 2020) we are amazed and humbled at all the memorial stones we have from our journeys.  (Memories of course, it’s not good to carry rocks or stones in an RV!)   

“. . . take up a stone . . . to serve as a sign among you . . . in the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them . . . these stones are to be a memorial . . . forever . . . “    Joshua 4:5-7 paraphrased NIV

Please keep us in your prayers . . . and THANKS for traveling with us! 
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
NOTE:  Mail can come to us directly through February – Golden Sun RV Resort #E32,              999 W Broadway Avenue, Apache Junction, AZ  85120

Phone – John 909-336-8910 or Connie 909-336-8912      Email – SaltyStrings@hotmail.com
Facebook – Salty Strings Music Ministry                         Web site:  SaltyStrings.com

ONLINE DONATIONS via PayPal through our web site

TRAVEL PLANS AND UPCOMING LOCATIONS

  • November 27- March 27, 2021 – Time off, Golden Sun RV Resort, Apache Junction, AZ; being mentored in music recording in our trailer and perhaps a new CD
  • April – northern Texas or Arkansas
  • May – heading back to the Midwest to see our friends and families

The Salt Shaker – November 2020

“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”  Hebrews 4:16 NIV

Hello to our family, friends, and followers:

Praises – Great to be a part of a “live” worship team and share with special music; John, back getting back to normal; Connie, no further migraine issues; being able to take a few months off the road.

Prayers – Wisdom and patience for RV repairs, appointment January 5; a maintenance man for Youth Haven; music opportunities; recording and health goals.

Our November project found us in the real desert – cracked ground, dusty, dry, and lots of sun.  Our temperatures were upper 90’s the first week, waking to 40’s the second week, and eventually back in the 90’s.  We were hoping to have a few swims in the unheated pool, but it remained far too cold for that!  There was one “rainy” day, a few hours with heavy sprinkles and no accumulation – not like rainy days in the Midwest!  After re-leveling the trailer, we had about 24 hours of dust storms with winds reaching 40 mph and air like a dense fog, but we remained stable.

Our first Saturday was our “group meeting” and tour of the grounds.  We were with two couples we had worked with before along with a newer couple whose son works here.  As we finished our “group meeting” with a walk around the grounds and buildings, we heard lots of goat bleating.  Turns out one of their three goats (Tiny, the smallest) had her head stuck through the fence wires.  Our volunteer time started a bit early with a goat rescue – the four guys rounded up equipment and calming hands while the ladies tried to keep the other goats out of the way and took pictures.  There are also 10 chickens on site, producing wonderful fresh eggs for those who wanted some.

Continuing our trailer repair adventures from last month ~ we completed the main trailer plug replacement for the “shore” line (electric power from the meter) and everything was working fine, for a few days, until the battery power was depleted.  So, back to the battery charger!  After some time with online searches and trailer manuals we will probably need a new converter.  We made a call to a recommended mobile RV company and scheduled their first open appointment (January 5) for a technician to come and trouble-shoot our 4 main problems; battery charging, awning final repairs, brake locking up, and water pump.

John worked with different guys to remove the old playground equipment (buried far too deep in cement), rebuild a rabbit hutch, made a second rabbit hutch, repaired the ramp for the goats and two picnic tables (one with custom railing for rabbit interaction), painted the tables and hutches, and repaired a water line break.  We were a few hours short this month in our volunteer hours due to John’s back going out the last 2 days.  It slowly improved and after 5 days he was well enough to get out and enjoy a trip to the local airport where we had lunch at the Bent Prop restaurant and usually sky divers to watch but it was too windy.  We continued to town to look at trailers and a computer for recording before heading home.

Connie worked with the other ladies to clean, spackle, and paint areas in their “mod” (modular) house, the likely home for the new maintenance man when they find someone.  That included a skylight in the kitchen, two solar lights in the bathrooms, baseboards, walls, closets, and door trim.  Two mornings were spent filing, removing “aged out” folders from the teen files and moving the “new” teens from the kids to the teen files.  Each time she pulled a folder there was a little prayer said for these foster and group home kids.  Some were regulars for a season, others came only once; regardless a life was touched and God’s love shared with each one.  She packed lunches one week for the kids that come on Saturday (they can have up to 15 kids for a day camp now).  The extra time was spent cleaning windows in two of their four dorm lodges, cleaning and organizing the kitchen pantry and toys in the toy room (preparing for Christmas giveaways).  There were a couple of days that she had some sparkles in vision and slight headache, migraine symptoms which hasn’t happened for 30+ years, but it went away quickly.

Our hummingbird feeder went up after a week and was found 2 days later, amazing since you don’t see much life here.  A morning walk past some scrub brush flushed out an amazing rabbit that took about three long bounds followed by one soaring leap, 3-4 feet high and very long, before going back to the three lower shorter bounds.  It looked a lot like an antelope running and there is an antelope jackrabbit, but after some research it was a black-tailed jack rabbit – actually a hare not a rabbit – with extremely long black-edged ears, much larger size than cotton-tail rabbits, and of course a black tail!

Connie was dubbed the “goat whisperer” after spending time trying to get the goats to be more sociable and friendly.  They receive the goats in the spring and the interaction with the kids “tames” them.  (No kids this year with COVID.)  One of our ladies labeled them “persnickety goats” since they wouldn’t eat apples or carrots; not much to bribe or reward them with!  With John’s help Connie was able to get two of the three roped and out of the big pen where they were given some pellets and reluctantly brushed.  Most of their kids come from Phoenix and Tucson and they get to see live farm animals here. 

We attended a First Southern Baptist church in Eloy, AZ.  John played with the worship team two Sundays and we shared a song for special music as well.  We took a day trip to Apache Junction and look at two RV Resorts for our winter sabbatical; choosing a spot and making reservations before heading back for our invite to the home of a couple that had worked with SOWERs while at their home in Alaska.  We had a wonderful meal of reindeer stew, cornbread, and chocolate brownies made with beans.  (Reindeer are overpopulated and have open hunting season in Alaska.) 

We went with another couple to Rooster Cogburn Ostrich Ranch where we were able to feed donkeys, deer, ostrich, goats, sheep, ducks, chickens, rabbits, lorikeets, parakeets, and “pet” the sting rays.  Connie started with the goats (who tried to eat her hat), moved onto the rabbit and sting ray feeding frenzy, and finally wised up using a seed covered stick for the parakeets!  John took on the ostrich using the tube method after a hard peck to his hand, on to the determined ducks, then the beautiful lorikeets who removed the lids of their cups and hopped around on his shoulder and arm.  DQ blizzards were our supper that evening.  Other entertainment included numerous campfires (some with hot dogs and/or smores), a few potlucks with the staff, and traditional Thanksgiving dinner for 11.

Christmas came early this year!  Connie spilled broth into the wrong parts of her fancy rice cooker which fried the wiring.  Within 2-3 days she ordered our sound interface bundle for recording, purchased a new coffee pot for John and a larger instant pot (with yogurt and cake settings) on sale!  We have enjoyed great yogurt, rice, and beans; and are awaiting delivery of a cake pan to be able to cook bread, cakes, and perhaps even try bagels. 

The Friday after Thanksgiving found us on the road for the 2-hour trip north east to Apache Junction.  There were cotton and alfalfa fields across from the youth camp (Arizona has the best irrigation system) and we passed huge cotton bales on our way.  About 15 miles away from our destination we were aware of the trailer brake locking up again, we pulled over and backed up to release it, but by the time we arrived it was squealing every time we stopped.  John was able to back into our spot, a tight fit, and get things mostly set up before we rewarded ourselves with a trip to the hot tub.  We officially registered on Monday, November 30th to start our three-month winter stay.  Connie has joined the plastic mat class, folding and cutting Walmart-type bags in strips for “plarn” (plastic yarn to make 3’x6’ crochet mats for homeless) and our Christmas lights are actually up early!  Our goals are to learn home audio recording and finish 10-12 songs over the next three months along with walking several miles each day, swimming several times a week, and working up to a weekly hike and bicycle ride on one of the many trails in this area. 

May each of you and your families have a blessed and wonderful Christmas!
John and Connie Nicholas, Salty Strings Music Ministry

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.  Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice.  And the God of peace will be with you.”   Philippians 4:8-9  NIV

Contact Information:      Mail can come directly to us in December and January
John and Connie Nicholas, Golden Sun RV Resort #E32,
999 W Broadway Avenue, Apache Junction, AZ  85120

Phone – John 909-336-8910 or Connie 909-336-8912     
Email – SaltyStrings@hotmail.com
Facebook – Salty Strings Music Ministry                        
Web site:  SaltyStrings.com

ONLINE DONATIONS via PayPal through our web site
TRAVEL PLANS AND UPCOMING LOCATIONS

  • November 27- February 27, 2021 – Time off, Golden Sun RV Resort, Apache Junction, AZ; being mentored in music recording in our trailer and perhaps a new CD
  • March – heading back to the Midwest to see our friends and families

The Salt Shaker – October, 2020

“For God is fair, not unjust; He will not forget the work you did and the love you showed for him in His name by helping and serving His people.  And He will remember that you are still helping and serving them.  Hebrews 6:10 (The Expanded Bible)

Hello to our followers, friends, and family:

Praises – For those that support us with prayers and funds; safe travels amongst winds and stressful conditions; opportunities to share music; phone and text messages work again!

Prayers – Wisdom and patience for RV repairs; comprehending minds for recording software; patience as we learn new ways of doing things

We remained at YMAM (Youth With A Mission) outside Chico, CA for most of October, enjoying an ice cream social, root beer floats, a family cookout (the 2-week quarantine ended for the Family Discipleship Training folks), and weekly worship times.  Our “boss” took us out to eat before we left and we were invited to a home cooked Italian meal by one of the missionaries; Fiorlisa shared a lot about Italian culture and meals as we had several courses served to us, along with lots of conversation with all the places she had been to. 

We took a few days at the end of September to rest and refresh, had our Sunday hike on Connie’s birthday, then went back to work on the cabin remodeling.  George is the new maintenance lead, on staff, and will be moving into this slightly larger cabin on “Hummingbird Hill” once it is complete.  Our goal was to have all the plumbing complete (so no one else had to crawl around in the crawl space) and the bathroom in working order.  With 156 combined volunteer hours we almost made it!  (One missing part for the toilet.)  We had a lot of fun and were joined the last two weeks by a Mission Builder which made things come together quickly.

John did a lot of crawling around in tight quarters, over and around rocks and boulders, a few places just barely clearing the floor joists.  He did have a friend (whom he never met) that helped keep him entertained.  Some “critter” kept putting his trinkets back on the rocks after John cleared them off.  Some of his collection returned to the same places, and John added a few things (shiny electric wire, old cat collar, and an old pen) that eventually were placed with his favorite foil ball! 

All the PEX plumbing was pulled into place, connected, and tested with only minor leaks to be fixed.  John then connected the drain pipes and “snaked” out the auxiliary sewer pipe for maximum performance.  He also used old baseboard and boards to make what was needed for wall and floor trim, so it matched the old trim in the bathroom and bedroom.  It was also his steady hand that finished trimming the bathroom tile as well.

Connie had various tasks, most dealing with taping, mudding, sanding, and texturing the new areas of drywall (adding a hand print for George to find).  She installed the ceramic tile in the bathroom, the shower light, and painted all the new areas along with a few ceilings too.

We kept track of the various groups of deer, typically 4 or 5 near the trailer, and once 14 with two 4-point bucks near the cabin.  One afternoon as she was finishing up the newsletter mailing, she had 3 deer outside our “dining/office” window!  Our turkeys grew quite a bit, but we lost two by the end of the month.  The humming birds continued to be entertaining, and before we left John was able to stand near the feeder with several flying by and sitting on the line watching him.  There were also lizards (or geckos), a ground squirrel preening herself on the rock edges of a hole in the wall, and a walk one evening finding the YWAM field of goats and llamas.  Most evening walks had clear skies, lots of stars, and even a shooting star!

We returned from our Oregon visit/vacation with new knowledge that the very popular “Dutch Brothers Coffee” shops give free coffee to first time visitors.  On one of our trips to town we waited in line and received great tasting free coffee and chai tea!  (We forgot to mention last month that Oregon has no sales tax, a shock to find the price listed is actually what you pay, as well as attendants that pump your gas for you, it is state law!)  However, California has Sinclair gas stations with the big green dinosaur (how many remember that!). 

We finally received the awning fabric the last week we were there, and the mobile RV repair man and his son arrived one morning to get it installed.  We asked the 6’4” Mission Builder to stick around that morning to help out and he was really needed getting it put back up, followed by an hour or more trying to figure out why one arm wasn’t working properly.  So, we finally had an awning we could put out, but it doesn’t retract property.  We can put it into a zip-tie loop to keep it semi-closed but have to tie it down tightly to travel.

The last two Friday’s we were able to play a few songs and share the stories behind some of them with the elementary kids from their school.  Then we would hold the instrument and let them strum and “play” the autoharp, bowed psaltery, mountain dulcimer, and hammer dulcimer.  They also shared some of their Scripture memory songs with us.  The school is following the themes and scriptures that their parents are studying.  A high school student asked Connie to help her learn a song on recorder for her sister’s birthday (4 days away).  They met one afternoon, both learning a lot, and our old tenor recorder now has a new home.

Would this be the home or work address?

We split up our 3-day drive to Arizona, leaving on a Monday morning and spent an overnight in Bakersfield, CA at an RV park.  Tuesday travel was through the “grapevine” winding through the mountains around Los Angeles and on to Indio, CA.  John started driving for the hilly part and it was still harrowing going down the hills; the final long downhill run into Santa Clarita had a few shudders and some smelly brakes by the end.  Connie drove for a while after that, and had a truck and a few cars motioning us over, getting the idea that there was smoke from the last car.  We pulled off into a Walmart parking lot at the end of the ramp finding a very hot, locked up trailer brake.  We backed up, heard the brake release, and let things cool off for about an hour.  Connie continued driving around Los Angeles, using the brakes as little as possible, and driving in some strong sideways winds with multiple semi-trucks tipped over.  The brakes didn’t have any further problems as we continued to a three-night stay in Indio where we visited with church friends.  This was the same park we were at for April-May and our first night we enjoyed a swim, hot tub soak, large gas fire pit and fireworks (the Dodgers won) to celebrate our arrival (or survival?). 

We had wonderful visits and great swims, but trailer problems crept into the mix as well.  We had a check light on our refrigerator and a power brown-out late Thursday night that we researched and slept on.  The purchase of a new battery before we left Friday morning fixed that problem.  We traveled on to our new home near Eloy, Arizona arriving around 4:30pm.  By 5:30 we had the trailer set up and plugged in, had just sat down for supper, and there were snapping sounds and smoke where our electric plugs in!  We pulled it apart Saturday, tried to find parts nearby (parts departments are closed at RV services on Saturday) and ordered them on Sunday.  We ran extension cords to run fans, borrowed a battery charger so our RV lights and refrigerator would be functional, and learned to rough it without a TV, microwave, and hot water.  Daytime temperatures were in the 90’s, cooling to 65-70 overnight, with parts not arriving until Wednesday!  It was a very long hot five days, especially for Connie, but we managed and had everything working again by noon Thursday (November 5).  You will have to tune in next month for the rest of this ongoing story!

From the darkness into the light!

“The Lord is my light and my salvation; I will fear no one.  The Lord protects me from all danger; I will never be afraid.” . . . “His life is the light that shines through the darkness – and the darkness can never extinguish it.”   Psalm 27:1 Good News Translation and John 1:5 The Living Bible

Thanks for traveling with us and being part of our family too!

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 – SaltyStrings@hotmail.com
Facebook – Salty Strings Music Ministry                        
Web site:  SaltyStrings.com

ONLINE DONATIONS via PayPal through our web site
TRAVEL PLANS AND UPCOMING LOCATIONS

  • Thanksgiving with 3 SOWER couples at Youth Haven Ranch, Eloy, AZ
  • November 27- February 2021 – Time off, Rock Shadows RV Park, Apache Junction, AZ; being mentored in music recording in our trailer and perhaps a new CD
  • March – heading back to the Midwest and our families and friends there

The Salt Shaker ~ September 2020

“Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.  Let us come before Him with thanksgiving and extol Him with music and song.”  Psalm 95:1-2 NIV

Hello to our family, friends, and followers:

Praises – God’s assistance in removing splinters; safe travels and the beautiful country we live in; God is always in the details and cares about the little things!

Prayers – Awning material to arrive soon; travels to Arizona; winter RV parking where God wants us to be; cabin remodel to come together in next two weeks.

We’ll start our September update remembering what it was like on the 9th.  We woke to darkness and ash falling like snow.  By noon it was “twilight” but with dark, red skies.  At 3:30 pm it was like dusk with lots of ash on the ground and a heavy smoke smell.  By evening Connie captured the feel of the day as being like an overnight stay in a Walmart parking lot under the lights – everything is a bit tinted and off in color.  John had attended the evacuation procedure meeting but thankfully we were not included in the evacuation area; we found out later that once the order is issued you must leave in your vehicle without your trailer because of the road width and possibility of meeting fire engines coming in.  It was a very strange day, someone compared it to a 24-hour day in Alaska!

Although we kept busy with 125 volunteer hours, progress seems slow on the cabin remodeling!  Connie removed carpet pad, staples and nails from the bath/bedroom area, sweeping and finding those missed as she went.  The old shower was removed as well as lots of pipe from the crawl space and the old walls.  John rebuilt new ones to accommodate a separate larger shower and smaller bathroom space.  PEX plumbing was researched, materials purchased, and the plumbing started with a central manifold panel and shut-offs for each line.  An opening and wider entry was made in the kitchen, and lots of sweeping!

We continued with Sunday online church services, sometimes two, and it is so good to “see” our church families!  Not quite the same as physically being there, especially in the fall with abundant produce from the gardeners; here we have post office produce!  One Sunday morning we hiked up to “mushroom rock” with our phones (for pictures and making calls).  This is a well-worn 1940’s path that used to go by Indian Rock (a metal sculpture that is no longer there) as well as the grist mill (curved bowl shapes in the rocks where Indians ground grain).  We listened to 3 songs from our phone, heard “I’ll Fly Away” from YWAM worship, and made calls to our families.  We thought the air was fairly clear during our hike but proceeded to get quite smoky by afternoon.  Our Sunday in Oregon we attended an outdoor service with a great worship team and message, even though it was cold and damp. 

As we worked and walked around, we continued to see our animal friends.  We had hummingbirds at our feeder the morning after hanging it up, much to our surprise with the heat.  The deer eventually were identified with a 4-point buck leading his harem of mama’s and almost grown babies; 7 total.  There is a partridge family of 6-8, they scurry around so fast and come down the road towards the cabin we are at.  Also a few turkeys (11 now that travel together) and have grown a lot, almost ready for Thanksgiving!  Not animal friends, but (perhaps) only in California will you see isle robot sweepers, donut peaches, and key cars! 

We make our walk to get “sweet” water for drinking every day or two.  It is so good and refreshing, and doesn’t have a taste or smell like some water does.  As we see it coming from the “mountain” it presented a thought to ponder:  God created everything including an amount of water that changes form and is recycled and filtered naturally so, is this water some of the original creation?  We introduced our nursing home ministry friend Larry to the mineral water and the “sweet” water during his visit with us this month.  We manage to cross paths in our travels every few years and it was wonderful to have him stay alongside us for a few days.

Part of our time this month was spent in preparing three ½ hour concerts for the SOWER “Western Woundup” Reunion held every two years at Aldersgate in Turner, Oregon.  Connie worked most of the month preparing a knit half-pi shawl for the silent auction, and finished it just in time for our travels.  We spent one day driving north, mostly on I-5, passing a few areas where the fires had crossed over the interstate.  On arrival we had helping hands to get our instruments into our “handicapped” lodge room, saved for us because it had the most floor space along with a small refrigerator and microwave.  Our concerts went well, and it was great to be in music ministry again.  We were also able to show our instruments to a young man who retrieved his grandfather’s guitar from a closet.  John worked with him putting on new strings and showing him some chords to start with, we’re sure this was a divine appointment!  We played a few games, hiked around the grounds, experienced real rain, and enjoyed the cool weather.  This is a beautiful place to “retreat” and step back.

After the Reunion ended, we took an afternoon trip to Silver Falls where we hiked some trails in the rain.  It is a beautiful state park, created in the 1930’s with WPA (Works Projects Administration, skilled men) and the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps).  This is considered a temperate “rain forest” with 80” of rain annually producing lush green trees, some covered with thick moss.  Our last stop led us on a downhill hike to North falls (136 feet) where we were able to walk behind the falls, something Connie can cross off her bucket list.  Of course, whomever goes down must come back up the trails and multiple steps to get back to the van.  We then took a 15-mile detour to stop at the Gordon House, a Frank Lloyd Wright home designed when he was 89 in 1957.  We saw the road sign on our way to the park and opted to make the extra drive even though we were a bit chilly, damp, and hungry.  With fall in the air and leaves on the ground, it was worth it!

We took the scenic route home for a mini-vacation, hoping to get a glimpse of Mount Hood.  It was cloudy and rainy, but the drive was beautiful despite the weather.  Our first night was spent in Bend, Oregon at a not-so-great hotel with pool and hot tub; exactly as it sounds, very hot water (which was great) and non-working jets.  Day two was visiting Crater Lake where we purchased our senior lifetime National Parks pass at the north entrance.  We intended to do this back in February but all the parks and sights closed down from COVID.  It was a beautiful, although scary sometimes, drive along the west rim with lots of stops at viewing areas.  We had sunshine to help since it was very windy and cold.  We left on Highway 62, a wonderful downhill scenic drive through the forest along Annie Creek that eventually turned to rolling hills where recent fires had come through, seemingly parting around individual homes.  Our motel in Klamath Falls was wonderful and quiet with a country feel that provided a wonderful night’s sleep.  Day three took us through more Indian territory (no public access to any roads leading off the highway) and through Warm Springs, Oregon which had no public restrooms (water shortages according to the signs).  We finally found the pit toilets just outside of town at the Duschambre River landing, along with panhandlers, one of whom asked us to pray for her father Richard Crooked Arm, dealing with depression from COVID restrictions.  We drove through some fairly desolate buttes and most of the way around Mount Shasta; wonderful scenery making you think of old Westerns and Montana “big sky” country.  We made a stop for a few groceries in Red Bluff, CA and headed for home – how wonderful to sleep in your own bed after 9 days!

Last, but certainly not least, our repairs update.  Fresh water tank spigot(s) have been purchased but we have not made the time to complete the repair.  Kitchen faucet is operating fine without the handle, but will need to be replaced sometime.  Trailer brakes have been a costly repair, only 2 of 4 were working with metal/metal (no pads).  Everything is new now as well as lug nuts and John was able to watch and learn for future maintenance.  Awning repair is in the works, a used arm was located for pieces and the fabric has been ordered.  The way things are going, and as a final attempt to keep us from the reunion perhaps, our water filter canister sprang a leak.  We found water on the floor, thought it was something else, and realized about bed time the filter canister was leaking.  Off went the outside water Thursday night.  (Keep in mind we have no fresh water storage with a leaky spigot even if our water pump worked.)  John was able to bypass the filter by connecting the pipes together on Friday afternoon so we could shower and prepare to travel.  Early Saturday morning there was no water again (thankfully no puddles on the floor) and Connie thought she heard something around 5 am.  On getting up we found the brass fitting for the water hose to the trailer had snapped leaving the hose on the ground with a huge puddle of water under the trailer.  Off again went the outside water, and we packed and left.  (We purchased the part needed at a RV dealer in Salem, Oregon and John made the repair the day we returned!)

This whole year of travel was planned around the SOWER Reunion in Oregon.  As Christians we know Satan is always trying to stop us from accomplishing God’s working in and through us, and this year has been a test of faith and trust for us.  We will say it is getting better but still not easy to understand “why us” in the midst of trials – but why not us?  Our faith and trust have definitely grown, and we have confirmation from our projects as well as our music ministry that God is using us, in the midst of our struggles!  To God be the glory.

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.  Be alert and of sober mind.  Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  Resist him, standing firm in the faith . . .”  1 Peter 5:7-9a (NIV)

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 – SaltyStrings@hotmail.com
Facebook – Salty Strings Music Ministry                         Web site:  SaltyStrings.com

ONLINE DONATIONS via PayPal through our web site

TRAVEL PLANS AND UPCOMING LOCATIONS

  • October 26-30 – Traveling to Eloy, AZ with a possible “layover” in Indio, CA
  • October 30-November 25 – Youth Haven Desert Ranch, Eloy, AZ (south-central)
  • December-January-February – Time off?  Destination(s) undetermined

The Salt Shaker – August 2020

Hallelujah!  Praise the Lord!  How beautiful it is when we sing our praises to the beautiful God, for praise makes you lovely before him and brings him great delight!  How great is our God!  There’s absolutely nothing his power cannot accomplish, and he has infinite understanding of everything.  Psalm 147:1,5 (The Passion Translation) 

Greetings to our friends, family, and followers:

Praises – Ankle much better; insurance; safe travel; God’s amazing creations
Prayers – Wildfires along west coast states; trailer awning and other repairs; Craigslist instrument sales; RV park(s) for our time off

This was our third month in Pacifica, California which was a blessing for us to be in a beautiful place with great weather.  After our week “off” John’s ankle was much better.  He continued to use an ace wrap to strengthen it a bit and only had a few nights that it was sore.  It did make our evening walks a bit shorter and bicycle riding didn’t work at all.  We did spend two days at the coast, sitting on a bluff whale watching (no, we didn’t see any whales) and at the edge of the sand bluff a bit further north just enjoying the wind, waves, and pelicans flying.

John continued repairing the classroom building behind the trailer, working on the corners, fascia, and exterior walls.  More of the same volunteer work, only slower this month working alone.  After getting Connie to help once (?!) he devised a fixture to act as another “set of hands” to continue putting up the new fascia boards.  Final touches included caulking, priming, and painting.

Connie spent most of her volunteer time this month at the Elementary School building, touching up the paint around the base and as high as she could get with a pole.  Her fun project was packing 138 backpacks with candy and goodies for the students to pick up along with books and supplies before online school classes started.  She continued to do the watering along with planting another area with the potted plants started in June, leveling gopher holes, cleaning up a parking area after the storm, and using a saws-all for a couple of hours to trim tree branches.  Evenings were used to redo the pink “Pi Shawl” and our week off we sorted more music with lots of typing to catalog and know where to find each song.  This reduced our weight a bit more and saved some storage space.

Our animal adventures continued as well.  The rest of the deer ball team showed up one evening in a dugout, along with repeated sightings of the 8-point buck and his harem.  Connie said her final farewell to the goats with a handful of leaves and some scratching.  Lots of hummingbirds zooming about the grounds, some new chicks being herded to their pen, and enjoying Ms. Turkey flying over the fence to wander around the ball field and parking areas.

Overall, our weather was wonderful except for a few days with some smoke smell, glowing sky, and ash in the air from fires to the south.  The fires came from lightning strikes from an unusual and unexpected August thunderstorm passing through about 3:30 am Sunday August 16.  Connie woke to John scurrying around outside the trailer, getting things put away and trying to get the awning pulled in.  By the time she was up to help, a gust came up and took the awning to the ground as we were winding it up!  One side up, one side down; one trailer door functioning with a bit of a scrape, the other catching on the protector shield.  Although our insurance will cover the repairs there were lots of calls, paperwork, and connections to be made in less than two weeks’ time.  We had a wonderful insurance adjuster who was able to help John get the awning rolled up and secured so we could travel.  However, finding a mobile RV repair service is turning out to be very difficult, RV service centers are backed up with trailers needed for fire workers in California, and it is very hard to get parts due to COVID shutdowns of factories.

That was the beginning of our stress as we prepared to hit the road again.  There was what we now call our “break” day.  John found cracks along the side edges of our roof which he sealed; we will likely need a new roof in the near future.  In checking out our non-functioning water pump he drained the fresh water tank and the spigot broke off; no fresh water storage, but we didn’t have a way to pump it anyway!  Connie was doing dishes and the kitchen faucet handle fell off; a tiny plastic set-screw type piece broke off so we now use the short rough pokey end until we get a replacement faucet installed. 

Travel “moving day” came and we left on our 5-hour trip inland and north a bit to Chico, CA.  About an hour into the trip the van tire pressure idiot light started flashing, thankfully after driving through the big cities and across the toll bridge.  We pulled over and found our rear tire pressure was over 95# – not good as we requested the oil change service to check the pressure and they should have been 80#.  Once we let some air out, we continued our drive past Vacaville, where a lighting fire had crossed the interstate leaving lots of black grass and white piles of ash where trees had been standing.  There were many other dry brown grass fields and hills with sheep and cattle, and a hulling-shelling business with “gravel” piles of nut shells.  We knew our destination was in the foothills at a resort very popular in the 1940-50s, but didn’t realize the fairly narrow road runs into a canyon and ends at YWAM-Chico formerly “Richardson Springs” known for the mineral (Sulphur) springs that are here.  Yes, there is a rotten-egg smell in the air quite frequently!

It was dry, dusty, sunny, and 95 degrees when we arrived – what a change!  We parked with a swimming pool view out our living room window and discovered the gravel parking area was full of sand burs, which John worked at getting cleared out around the trailer at least.  We have no phone service, no text messaging, but do get 4-5 TV channels and there is great wifi service so we can use email to stay connected to the “outside” world.  Our two air conditioning units are on most of the day (it has cooled off a few nights) and our living room unit has decided to drip water occasionally; add that to our repair list.

We still have wildlife – deer, woodpeckers, squirrels, robins, partridge, hummingbirds (our feeder was up about 12 hours overnight before being found), dragon flies, butterflies, and a report of a mountain lion up the canyon.  On cooler evenings we will take a stroll, seeing a red moon one night.  And we have started our volunteer work – remodeling a small 3-room cabin!

If God doesn’t build the house, the builders only build shacks.  If God doesn’t guard the city, the night watchman might as well nap.  It’s useless to rise early and go to bed late, and work your worried fingers to the bone.  Don’t you know he enjoys giving rest to those he loves?
Psalm 127:1-2 (The Message Bible)

Thanks for traveling with us and supporting us with your thoughts and prayers!
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 – SaltyStrings@hotmail.com
Facebook – Salty Strings Music Ministry                         Web site:  SaltyStrings.com

ONLINE DONATIONS via PayPal through our web site

TRAVEL PLANS AND UPCOMING LOCATIONS

  • August 27-October 29 – Youth With A Mission, Chico, CA (north-central)
  • September 21-24 – SOWER reunion, Turner, OR (north west)
  • October 27-30 – traveling south through California Phoenix/Tucson AZ area
  • October 30-November 25 – Youth Haven Desert Ranch, Eloy, AZ (south-central)
  • December, January (February ?) – Time off, south-east Texas?