Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Looking Forward

My friend Lois showed me an 'Appa few years ago that I have become quite smitten with. It's called Countdown and its purpose is to monitor the number of days-hours-minutes-seconds until a desired event arrives. I put our sabbaticals in this App  several months in advance and just watch as the days seem to crawl and/or fly by. There are times when I think the departure date will never arrive and then I glance at the number of days remaining and think I will not have enough time to finish up and have everything done and ready before we are to leave. Either way, I find that I am hooked on this App and always excited when I have something to look forward too.

In a few days we will head off for our fall sabbatical. It has been a year of busyness after a tree fell in our backyard onto the deck and roof of our house. That repair has triggered a snowball of work and  there has been a constant flow of workers at our home since February.  I think the work is nearly finished and we are looking forward to its' completion.

As we near our departure I am reminded of one very important gift of our travels. Our sabbaticals are an exercise in living in the present moment. The only forward movement occurs each day as we move forward one step at a time.  I will have moments in which I think of my final destination but most days are filled with the joy of just being exactly where I am and savoring the beauty and newness of that exact moment. I become a different person and I have to admit I like this new me. I am  not checking things off  a to-do list, constantly planning for what is ahead and needs to be done, and who is flexible and intentional about the moment she is in. It is easy to lose yourself in busyness and I have been lost. I am looking forward to a change-mostly in myself.

In the next few days we will be heading back to Spain and will walk  the northern coast along the Camino Norte. We will either walk the Camino Ingles or Primitivo and  meet our friends the Martina's along the Camino Frances. I am excited for that moment but  know the real gift will be the day to day process of simplifying my life and being content and at peace in my present moment. I look forward to the fullness of that gift. 

And, while I may master this process, I must confess there is one event I will still enter in my Countdown App. My return homeward...you are the reason we return and as excited as I am to leave is as excited as I will be to return. Until then...

Buen Camino

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

A Tribute to Leah

I have to admit our travels to Fiji and the Solomon Islands stir a variety of emotions in me. Our weeks in Fiji were idyllic as we left behind the warmest season in the San Joaquin Valley and entered one of the most beautiful islands in the South Pacific. Each day we would awaken to the most stunning sunrise, travel to some of the most beautiful costal villages to hold our medical clinics, then catch our breath at the end of each day listening to the sounds of the waves hitting the shore. Our evening meal was prepared by Millie who oversaw each and every detail and treated us like royalty. We wanted for nothing. There is no doubt that we were the recipients of far more than we ever gave.

It is difficult to leave this almost perfect place with its' ease and softness. There are no kinder people I have ever met than the Fijians. While certain aspects of our travels may seem diffficult in the moment the beauty of this place and the kindness shown to us always surpasses any difficulty these remote villages may present. This time was no different for me except at the end of this trip I would go on to the Solomon Islands and I knew I would soon leave the ease and beauty of this place for the beauty of the next one. And, while the softness and ease may be gone, I found I longed for this part of my travels.

I am not sure why this place holds my heart the way Congo does but I yearn for the times when I can return here. My heart swells as we head up to Verakabikabi and I feel as if I am home once again to a familiar hollow in my heart. I have returned several times and each and every time I am here I have had the opportunity to spend time with my dear friend Leah and her husband Willie as we share this part of our lives together. This year it would be different as I had received the news before my arrival that Leah had died. She was only forty-six years old.

During our last visit I had spent time with her in the hospital and she asssured me she was feeling better. Her chart indicated she was taking a medication for tuberculosis although she assured me she did not have TB. I learned that she had died of cancer 'in the baby house' which is some form of female cancer although I do not know exactly which kind. I do know it must have been hard for her in the end.

Leah and Pastor Willie were missionaries in Verakabikabi and I had the honor of serving with them from the very beginning of their time there. They started the school and feeding program which lifted the children from proverty and offered them a glimpse of life beyond their moment of survival. They were instrumental in the building of the medical clinic and church by overseeing the yearlong project of  having 5,000 bricks handmade by the local village for these buildings.  They loved and cared for the elderly as if each and every soul they touched were their own beloved family. They served selflessly, they gave generously, and they left behind a legacy of love that is being carried on by those left behind. It has been an honor to know and to love Leah.

I have begun to dig deep into my own life and to rediscover what I hold of value and if my life reflects those values. I have to admit, I have been struggling  in a season of emptiness and have guarded my heart in a protective stance.  Leah lived a fearless life with her heart wide open to all God would have for her. I realize that this is where I yearn to be again. I will not forget the many facets of who she was or the impact she has made on so many, nor how courageous she has always been. I thank you Leah for these gifts that will last me a lifetime. I am thankful for the perspective this brings me as a reminder not to sweat the small stuff...and it is almost all small stuff.

So with that being said, we are off for a few days of rest and relaxation and moments of thankfulness as we contemplate all that we have been a part of. 

You are loved...

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

In the Fullness of Time

In the Fullness of Time

It happens in just a mere moment of time. The transition between the past and the present. In the exchange between the inhalation and the exhalation the breath of familiarity awakens in me and I am flooded with the realization of where I am. The air is full and moist and intermingled with the familiar faint scent of sweet smoke from the nearby sugarcane fields.  I am in the South Pacific once again.

I am amazed at how quickly this happens each and every time I return.  We have always arrived early in the morning and as I step outside I know what will await me. The sun will be  rising and a faint breeze will be blowing through the palm trees. It is in this confluence of my senses that I realize that this place is embedded into the very fabric of my being. I may see other sunrises, inhale the scent of burning sugarcane again, or watch a palm tree sway in a soft breeze but none will awaken the parts of my heart as this exact moment does. 

Travel always evokes contemplation within me. We have had the opportunity to travel many places this year and have been able to capture the beauty of places like the Grand Canyon, Hawaii, Capitol Reef, Bryce, Zion, and Yosemite National Parks. Their beauty has reawakened my soul and reminded me of the ever forward movement of life. As I stood in awe of those places I realized I was the receiptent of the beauty of change that occurs within the fullness of time. If these sights had not been breathed over by  the power of the wind, shaken by internal tremors, or washed away and then rearranged by periodic floods they would not be the places that they are now. In contemplative moments I realize that my life is really no different.  I find myself  looking back at the places my journey has taken me and recall, with just the slightest provocation, the breadth and beauty of it all.  Not all the places have been easy or without pain but ultimately formative of who I am now. I continue to be a piece of work always in need of being molded by my Creator into hopefully, something beyond myself as I  am in this mere moment. I also realize that He has a perfect time and season for all things and His ways and timing are perfect. For that I am thankful.

We are heading off into the remote villages of Fiji and the Solomon Islands where we will be medically serving  a seemingly forgotten group of people. Parts of this work will be difficult but my heart is open for all that is to be. I know I will once again be the recipient of far more than I could ever give.

For those of you who read this you are the resting place of my heart. As alway, I carry you with me. My heart next to yours...

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Joy is in the Journey

It seems a lifetime ago that we were in the cockpit of a KC-10 flying from Travis AFB to South Carolina as we began our trek to the United Kingdom. As always, it had been a crazy time getting out of town and so getting to ride with the pilots for the entire flight across the United States was such a beautiful gift to me to as we began our sabbatical this fall. We love this mode of travel because it is unpredictable and out of our control and to truly receive the fullest benefit from it we  
must begin the process of relinquishing our own agendas so we can be free to truly enjoy the joy that is this journey.

Our sabbaticals have always been an opportunity in which we take the time to pull back from the busyness of life and open ourselves to a perspective that deepens and refines who we are. By sheer definition, we are learning something each and every time we indulge in this beautiful ritual and I find I have become both enamored and dependent on it. We happen to be blessed that in this season of our lives as we are able to do it in the beauty and solitude of long distance walking. Walking is akin to prayer for me and so I thrive on it. It is also a time for Tom and I to have some time together and savor moments that feel as if we have them for a lifetime instead of just the weeks or months and season that they really are. It is the beginning of a process I call retrospect…taking time to reflect on what is happening or has happened and allow myself to be made new by shedding the complacent parts of who I am and being open to the vulnerability and growth of who I can become. It is always a deeply spiritual journey and one I pray is from a perspective greater than mine. I found the words to a favorite song of mine lingering in my mind as this time drew near and I was excited for what was ahead…

Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander

I find I am craving depth, longing to go deeper and becoming intentional in my personal relationships with both my Creator and those He has given me to love. I do not need to do a lot of important things in this season, I am longing to do the significant ones. I felt a stirring in my heart to see my father for his birthday this year. I had not seen him for quite some time and, quite honestly, the timing for this trip was a bit inconvenient. We had planned our travels abroad with a specific date in mind which is something we rarely do. We love the spontaneity of our travels and deadlines can add pressures we do not want or need. We had the numerous ‘emergencies’ around here before we left which added to our fatigue and stress. It felt incredibly overwhelming to leave but also incredibly right at the same time. I arranged a flight and quickly called and my dad’s wife to let her know I was coming. It was to be a surprise. I called my sister along the way and she agreed to come out also. My relationship with my father is multifaceted and while not always easy, it is one that I have come to understand and love over the years. It was not until I was an adult that I could begin to understand an adult perspective of marriage and divorce. I was a young, vulnerable, teenage girl during that time of transition and while that season in my life was very difficult, it was the impetus of my formative process and without that season I do not believe I would be the woman I am today. Not an easy process, but, to me, one I would not change. While parts of it were intensely hard, it was also an incredibly beautiful visit and it evoked deep feelings of compassion, empathy, and love for my family. I never go astray when these feelings are brought up to the forefront of who I am. It was a most memorable time and I will always cherish it. Did I mention I pricked myself with a vine while doing yard work with my dad… 

To say the course of events that were to follow were crazy would be an understatement. The details are too long to enumerate but suffice to say the small prick of my skin developed into an autoimmune mediated response and subsequent infections of my skin. Our trip changed in a moment as we were grounded in Spain with daily medical appointments and hospital visits. Many things happened that we had not expected, planned, or wanted but when I think of it today I could not imagine a better way in which these events could play out. We were cared for by a wonderful physician and every physical need met without difficulty on our part. The staff and our friends on the Naval Base loved and looked after us as if we were family. Our ride home was comfortable and expedient and I appreciated the depth and tenderness of care Tom gave me during this period of vulnerability.

Take me deeper than than these feet could ever wander... 

 My prayer…fully answered! Just not the way I had planned or  expected. I have to admit, I love it 
when  my prayers are answered predictably and in beautiful and comfortable ways. Walking along the English countryside, staying at lovely farmhouses while enjoying the beauty of nature and adventure, then celebrating Tom’s birthday with our friends in London would have been my plan and preference if asked. Take me deeper...Our journey was just another way to go deeper, fully dependent upon His care and guidance and cleaving deeply to each other... than my feet could ever wander. It was what I had asked for...

We are home now. Resting as the season changes to my beloved fall. Waiting for the temperature to dip a little more so we can light a fire in our fireplace, watching the leaves begin to change to the beautiful hues of red, orange and gold, wanting to bake bread, cook soup, and spend time with you. Beginning to think of our next adventure but for now, just savoring the beauty and joy that was in this journey...

You are loved...

Friday, September 9, 2016

A Gentlemen's Walk

One of the most outstanding gifts we receive while on our travels are the friends we make along the way. We met a lovely couple from Pacific Grove while we were walking along the Portuguese Way and to this day they have become one of our favorites. Barbara and Terence Zito are definitely like minded travelers and so when we heard that they were going to the Cotswold in the UK we thought we should check this out. We became enamored by the English countryside (we were also watching Downtown Abby) and we decided that we would branch out try some walks in this area. We love Spain and had a few moments in which we felt as if we were betraying her but decided we could handle the change of venue.

We consulted with a few of our friends in the UK and came up with a list of three walks. The Coast to Coast walk which begins in St Bees on the Irish Sea and ends at the North Sea in Robin Hoods Bay. From there we had planned to walk along Cornwall on the Southwestern coast and then finish up with a walk through the Cotswold. If we were so inclined we might finish up with a short holiday London. 

These are much different walks than our traditional Spanish walks in that we will actually stay in some beautiful old English Victorian homes and small country estates. 'Upon arrival we will be served cream scones and a pot of tea' which I think will make my gentleman of a husband very happy. And, while I may long for a glass of wine, a piece of fresh baked bread, and a good goat cheese drizzled with olive oil, I can think of no better way to begin the celebration of Tom's Diamond Year, the 75th anniversary of his birth in this lovely setting! 

So with his loafers and a sweater vest packed we are off on another adventure. We are currently in South Carolina awaiting a flight eastward. Remembering always that the joy is in the journey...

Cheerio and Buen Camino...You are loved.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

The Life Well Lived

The Via de la Plata was an epic journey. The ever changing scenery captivated us as we passed through the many regions and seasons of Spain. Sevilla, The Extremadura, Castillo de Leon, Galicia, each region presenting us daily with the very best it had to offer and solidifying the love we have for this area. We were challenged  by the off road navigating, the length of our journey, and the significant weather extremes. This of course, was offset by the beauty of the area, our solitude along the way, and the experiences we had and the  people we met. We found it a beautiful experience and it renewed our passion to do it again. It will become one of my favorite stories to tell.

These journeys give me plenty of time to contemplate the innermost workings of my heart, mind, and soul. We received the news a few days after we had left that a dear friend of ours had passed away. While we had known of his illness for quite some time we had hoped he would, again, be waiting for us when we returned home. I know he played a round of golf a day or two before he died and so his wife would say he was doing the things he loved until the very end. I have thought about these words many times over the last several weeks.

We know this time was a gift to us. For me, my days were filled with thankfulness as I throughly enjoyed being exactly where I was. There was great peace and joy to be found in the simplicity of our walk and I thought about the things I want to fill my remaining days. This time is my someday life and I want it to be full of the things that move my heart and bring me peace and joy. It is not complex nor does it require a lot of work, I just have to be receptive to all that is waiting for me. I realize that I have lived a full and busy life filled with family, career, and missionary work, which are fine and noble pursuits but now is my time to be still in Him and wait to see what is ahead. I am excited and know I will not be disappointed in His plans for me. They are full and rich and in that I am certain and most thankful.

One of my all time favorite movies contains a quote I have never forgotten and found myself thinking about on these travels. "...the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these we stay alive for."  I would be foolish to settle for anything less.  

So I think of you as we head home. The anchor on my heart, the foundation of all that I am, and the integral and defining parts of my life well lived.

 You are loved. Buen Camino.

Saturday, April 30, 2016


While Finisterre was once known as the "End of the World", for those who seek the roads less traveled, the end of the Way is considered to be Muxia. For us, this was to be our final destination for this trip.  When we arrived we found Muxia to be somewhat of an enigma. It does not have that celebratory aura that Finisterre has and yet it gives one the sense of completeness. In fact, it's outward appearance is a bit solemn and devoid of the everyday busyness of life. The people we met were warm, kind, and validating to us in the completion of the final trek of our journey.

It was a very peaceful time and we enjoyed it very much. It's hard to imagine but people come from all over to visit this area. Muxia's claim to fame and the reason it is so intimately connected to the Camino story is to be found in the legend of the Nosa Senora da Barca, or Our Lady of the Boat at the headland of the Santuario da Virxe da Barca. The legend states that the mother of Jesus sailed to these area on a stone boat to tell the apostle James he had not failed in his evangelism attempts and call him back to Jerusalem. The boat is supposedly petrified in stone and stands erect at the headland near the 18th century sanctuary dedicated to this event. The sanctuary is a stunning sight as it hovers on the waters edge.

For us, it was a beautiful time of solitude and reflection. We have much to be thankful for and in these quiet moments we recognize our blessings. You are among them and we hold your heart next to ours. You are loved. Buen Camino.