Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Red In My Painting

 Many years ago there was a movie entitled "I am Sam". I don't recall much of the movie, in fact, there is  only  one part of it that I remember  in any detail. The premise of the movie was about a mentally challenged father who was  trying  to take care of his child. She quickly outgrew him in logic but the delight she found in life with him is what made the most significant impression on her. She painted a picture about her life and splashed colors of red across it. While the picture itself was ordinary, the splashes of red stood out. The line I always remember is…You're the red in my painting. The thing that gives it vibrancy, depth, and beauty. As red is my favorite color, it is perfectly understandable to me how the beautiful things in life are my 'reds' also.

We enjoyed the most beautiful sunsets as we watched the setting sun turn a brilliant blue sky and ocean red. The changing color of the leaves on the tree made the hillsides vivid and alive. While I have always appreciated a good tree for the beauty and shade it provides, I have to admit a tree with color excites my heart.
I found that I could look at the ordinary through a new lens, a red colored one, and found that even the most unremarkable things were beautiful when viewed this way.

There is a lesson here I hope to remember. My perception of my life is mine. There is red all around me. I can choose to see it and enjoy it where ever I may be. Or, I can miss it and my life will become an ordinary canvas. At the end of the day the choice is mine alone to make.

For those of you who read this…you are the real red in my life.

Monday, November 4, 2013

San Juan Islands

The San Juan Islands are a collection of 450 small Islands in the archipelago that is embraced by the Georgia Strait, Puget Sound, and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. They are surrounded by land in Anacortes, WA and the Canadian border. Of these 450 islands of varying sizes, only about 200 of them are named and of
those, only a handful are inhabited. Coming in to this archipelago is like entering another world. It is crisp, green, and the orange-red bark of the madrone trees taint the Island like paint that has been splashed onto a  canvas to give it vibrancy of life. We are content to be here.

 Our days are filled roaming the area on foot. We are staying in a lovely area which is surrounded by the Moran State Forest. There are lakes and waterfalls that surround the areas and we have set out to explore as many as we can.
There is beauty in being off the beaten path. We see deer and rabbit as the scurry across our path. The sound of the waterfalls can be heard long before they are seen. The beauty of this place is not lost on us and we are absorbing as much of it as we can.

We did take a small trip to the town of Olga. It seems Tom's
grandmother Hazel was a resident of this area and was the Postmistress here (we believe) for several years. It is equally quaint and stunning and we find ourselves daydreaming about life here. We were able to stop off at the post-office before leaving and mail ourselves a card from this area which the postmistress hand-cancelled for us.

We have decided that a visit to all the inhabited Islands is a must for us and will put the San Juan's on our "bucket-list". For now, we will savor our time here.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Sail On

Tonight we are sitting by the fire at the bar at the Rosario Resort on Orcas Island in the San Juan Islands. The beauty of this place made my heart feel vulnerable as we sat next to the warm fire and listened to wonderful music. When Robbie Christmas began to sing Lionel Ritchie's 'Sail On' I knew I was in big trouble. There is always a moment on our sabbaticals that I am captured off guard by some seemingly small event and then the beauty of my world becomes crystal clear to me.  Tonight it was listening to beautiful music on beautiful Orcas Island.

We chose Orcas Island in the San Juan Islands for a very simple reason. Tom's grandmother Hazel was the Post-Mistress here for several years and so, for that reason only, we decided to go and check it out.

I cannot tell you how enchanting this area is. It is precipitous, unspoiled, and ruggedly beautiful. Surrounded by the ebbing waters of the Puget Sound, it is nestled in the Olympic Peninsula and was once an important trading post for the North Straits Salish Native Americans. The waters are a cross between emerald and turquoise and the Island itself is like a dream. It is named Orcas Island after Juan Vincente de Guemes Padilla Horcasitas y Aguayo, second count of Revillagigedo, the Viceroy of Mexico who sent an exploration expedition out to the Pacific North West in 1791. It has nothing to do with whales at all...

We chose the Rosario Resort which was once the private home of shipping magnate Robert Moran. The area is stunning and our room is part of his beautiful seafront mansion. We are excited to be here and after our walk we quickly decide we would enjoy the luxuries that this place has to offer. We cannot get enough of the beauty in this area and are pleased to be here.

The young man playing his guitar and singing looked like 
our grandson Dallas. That in itself endeared him to me. He began to sing the songs I had always loved. He sang so beautifully and for just a moment I wasn't sure if I were listening to Lionel Ritchie, Eric Clapton, or Neil Diamond. They were all the songs that captured a season of my life and like all good music, written so much better than I ever could have ever articulated that season myself. Good music can move me...almost as much as the beautiful  ocean or forest that surround me  while I am here.

When he began to sing…Sail on heartache…Good times never felt so good…I was reminded that I am in a good season and these times are good. I do not want to encumber my life with the things that rob me of the beauty of that simple statement.

When we rode the ferry back towards home the wind was blowing through my hair and I felt myself humming the song 'Sail On'. Yes Lionel, you were right…the good times never felt so good…

Saturday, October 26, 2013

All the Places Called Home

When Tom and I travel on our sabbaticals we are often incognito. It's not like we have anything to hide but we are usually off the beaten path and nobody knows us. And, we like it that way. I do have to mention that we once met a guy from Kingsburg  while we were in Zimbabwe which confirms our belief that this really is a small world. This trip has been different for us because we have seen so many people that we know…and it was all intentional.

We began our trip with a visit to our daughter Amy and her family.
We had a lovely time with them (too short) and then were off to visit friends of ours in Napa. It was lovely being in the hillside home of our friends Terry and Cindy Stigall on the outskirts of Napa. After much spoiling from them we were off for a while on our own. Soon we were at the doorstep of our daughter Crystal
who entertained, walked with us, and patiently waited for us as we shopped Portland and enjoyed the benefits of tax free spending. She packed us up with goodies and soon we were off to see Tom's brother Bob. Bob and his wife Carol drove us to Tillamook where we lunched on wonderful fish and then drove  us up the coast to Astoria.
From there we spent some in our log cabin and then travelled up to visit our dear friends Corey and Casara and their family where we stayed with them in their renovated coastal home on Whitby Island.

One of the hardest things for me when we travel is being away from family. I am thankful for the many faces and places of family and for the tender care given to us as we have passed your way. Home is the place where family comes together and so we are thankful for those places called home. We look forward to the next time we are together again.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Because We Can

This morning we were able to see Mt Rainier clearly and vividly from our 'backyard'. It was the beginning of a beautiful day.  It was cool outside and warm in our cabin. We laid in bed and had a cup of coffee chatting about our day. We decided to hike again this morning and explore this area a little more diligently. We are spellbound by the beauty here. As we follow the trails we find we are in a world inside of many worlds. The base here houses many operations and as we meander through the forest we seem to be worlds away from everything. Occasionally there is a reminder of where we are. We try not to cross into restricted areas and we watch for low flying aircraft. 

It is a luxury to plan the days events one thing at a time.
We knew we would hike today and then we knew…well, I think that's all we knew when we set out this morning. We have had a light lunch and glass of wine and I think we will take a nap. Then, well, we will see. We are nestled between Tacoma and Seattle and so, who knows what is next.

I am reminded of the many worlds within my world. I juggle many roles and callings on my life. Sometimes these worlds are very separate and sometimes my worlds all collide. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed and sometimes I have incredible peace. These are gifts from my Creator. It is an honor  to manage these well. He also desires for me to find delight in my days. I may not have the luxury of time that I have at this moment but I do have a choice. I am thankful for that reminder today as I sit content in my room after a day filled with delight and beauty.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Lewis and Clark State Forest

Nestled in the Lewis and Clark State Forest is the McChord/Lewis joint AFB. As we drive into this area we question where we are. It looks like fall on the East Coast and we are struck by its beauty. We have heard that American Lake is on this base and the military has constructed a few log cabins for use by both retirees and active duty families. We have decided that this will be our home for a few days.

 It is lovely and our cabin faces the lakes. It is a studio cabin and everything we need is within reach and yet, we have space to sit and read, watch movies, play games, or just sit on our front porch and look at the stars and moon. We have decided to really give our hiking boots a workout this morning so we will set off after coffee and a bite to eat. We were able to walk another eight miles along the lake today.
There was a nip in the air and the sun was warm and together it made for the perfect day to trek.

We found a place where we could get Turkish food and had a lovely dinner. We have decided to stay a few more days…we may dine tomorrow in Seattle…or maybe not. We will let you know.

Washington Park, Portland OR

Today we will hike a portion of the Wildwood Trail in Washington Park, Portland, OR with our daughter Crystal. The weather has been exquisite and dry and we look forward to being out in this sanctuary that is housed in the center of Portland.

This park is one of the oldest parks in Portland which was designated city property in 1871. The park began its renovation and early zoo life in the early 1900's. The first park keeper was hired in the early1900's and was a pharmacist and seaman from England.
He purchased 'exotic animals' from his sea-faring friends and thus the zoo began. Today the park is approximately 200 acres and the center of many beautiful gardens, children's play areas, a renowned zoo and acres of beautiful redwood trees. The views are spectacular of both Mt Hood and Mt Saint Helens. We are in awe when we reach the top.

We have opted for the eight mile loop which will take us up and around the forest and ultimately to the Pittock Mansion. The trails are beautiful and it is easy to get lost in our thoughts as we meander up and down the trails. We are absorbed in our conversations and then, equally in our quiet times where we enjoy the serenity of all that is around us.

We finish the hike in about three and a half hours and head for a bowl of Pho and a cold beer. We are ready for a warm shower and then some time in front of the fireplace. We have had an exquisite day.

Training Program

As most of you know we are in a training program. These may be dreaded words to some of our grandchildren but to us  it signifies the beginning of our 2014 sabbatical. In 2010, as we were driving through Spain and Portugal the dream to walk the Camino de Santiago began. This is a pilgrimage that begins in the Southern part of France and ends in the Northwestern part of Spain. As it is nearly 550 miles in duration, it is a dream we have had to think about for awhile. Towards the end of our work in Fiji and the Solomon Islands we both committed to this walk and thus began our training program. Tom was the first to let everyone/anyone know as to keep us accountable during this year of training. Opinions vary from "your crazy" to "we are proud of you, wish we were going". Either way, we will come out ahead just by training for the walk.

Our beautiful neighbor Kerry is a physical therapist/trainer/masseuse/cowgirl and all around great woman. She has agreed to help us with the physical training and has set up a "training program" for us. In addition to the regular walking program for endurance, we will be strengthening 'layers' of muscle to help us with the fifteen miles a day we will need to walk to complete this venture in a six week period. We have given ourselves some down days along the way as we are of the mindset that we are not here just to complete the walk but to savor all the places it takes us. A lot of people do it as a pilgrimage and as we put in the miles we begin to think and pray about that component of the walk as well. For me, walking is pray, a time of solitude where I am not distracted by anyone or anything that might take precedence. This began for me when the kids were little and I could sneak out for an hour or so at 4:00 a.m. and not be missed or needed by anyone. Matt will be twenty-nine in about five weeks and I still 'sneak out' for my walk and quiet time at this time in the morning.

 We also have become quite versed in our equipment and REI and its staff are like friends to us. We know the staff on a first name basis and part of our travels will bring us to the Portland REI where we know they carry the shoes we are looking for. Our daughter Crystal  graciously took us and sat for hours as we tried on shoe after shoe. Our friend Patty who works in Fresno had recommended a few brands of shoes and what to look for. When we met JoAnn, we felt as if we had met Patty's counterpart in Portland. She had Tom and I walk around the store and up and down the rocks to ensure a perfect fit. After a few hours we were ready and made this ever so important purchase.

Part of our travels will bring us to places along the Pacific Coast Trail and we hope to break in our new shoes. Not only we will get the miles in for our training, we will be together in some of the most beautiful forests and coastlines on the Western shores. We are happy to be together and will let you know how this goes.

The "…villes"

As we travel North, I am amazed at all the towns that end in …"ville." Geyserville, Marysville, McKinleyville, Garberville…the list goes on. We have taken a moment to stay in Garberville at a place called the Benbow Inn and Resort. It seems this lovely area was owned in the early 1920's by the Benbow family who saw this beautiful stretch of land in the redwoods and decided to build a large hotel and resort area. It was a place ahead of it's time. The Inn was designed by architect Albert Farr, who was most noted for The Wolf House — the home he designed for author Jack London. The Benbow family, nine brothers and sisters, actually built the resort and later the Benbow Dam and Power Company. They were infamous in this region for their hard work and committeement to excellence and their reputation still lingers on to this day. It proudly sits on a rock promatory above the Eel River.

We found it both beautiful and quaint. There are no elevators and so a bus boy carries our luggage up to our room.
 As the young man carried ours up to the third floor I suddenly felt bad for all the reading material I had brought in. We stayed in a historic cottage with a view of the garden and river below. A decanter with sherry was waiting for us upon our arrival. We took and opportunity to walk along the old Redwood Highway which is now very secluded and enjoyed the cool evening and then the full moon.

When we returned night had fallen and the Inn was lit up. The music of Ella Fitzgerald and Louie Armstrong were playing from the bar and I felt as if I were coming home. The fireplaces were ablaze and we were eager to have a warm bowl of soup, fresh baked bread, and a good glass of wine. It was easy to see why this place had been enjoyed by many before us.

We enjoyed this gem of a place and decided it was a place to return to and spend some time. For now, we are heading North into Oregon. Will let you know!

10,000 Reasons for my Heart to Sing

I am excited as this day begins…the millions of things that need to happen before we leave are done (I think). We are packed, the car is loaded, and we have said our goodbyes for awhile. This years sabbatical will be a bit different than our previous journeys in that we are staying in the USA and will only be gone a few weeks. The spirit of the sabbatical remains the same, the venue is the only thing that has changed.

It is beautiful at home as the leaves begin to change color and the weather starts to cool down. It is hard to leave both family and the beauty of fall but we are ready for this time away. We have a few planned stops and know we will head North along the coastline through the Pacific Northwest. We hear it is beautiful and we are excited to see for ourselves. We are comfortable in our car and find that we have packed much differently than we usually do. We have the luxury of home…in our back seat. Audiobooks, music, travel guides, pillows, and snacks…we are set!

As we drive, we have time to chat and catch up on conversations that we have put on hold until a time such as this. We talk about all that is happening and all that is yet to be. We look through our travel books and pick out the places we want to go and the things we may want to see. Then we let go of our agendas and we become spontaneous. I am excited about the little things…the coastline, the unexpected delights of the places we do not yet know, our time together, the coziness of our car, the time to think and the time to be thankful.

I find myself  thinking about a conversation I had with my Physical Therapist earlier this week. It was  the most beautiful conversation about family and the tidbits of experiences throughout our lives that formed us into the adults we had become and  then the joy the recollection of those memories bring. We laughed as we talked about some of things that were most memorable to us and I realized that sometimes the things are most influential in our lives were not really the big things but myriads of small things.

 As we have this time together I realize my life is so very full and rich and in this season of life I am very content and thankful. I take this time to reflect upon God's goodness to me and to acknowledge that are at least ten thousand reasons for my heart to sing. I know there are more to come.

For now, it is off to Sacramento to visit our daughter and her family and then to Napa. While it may not be India or Nepal we are excited just the same to see what lies ahead.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


At the end of our travels we take some time with our teams to talk about the changes that occur within us when we return  home. We leave a small footprint on the place we have been but the mark on our heart is huge in comparison. We do not fully appreciate all that has occurred until we process all that has happened and even then…it often takes a lifetime to work through.

I stood outside yesterday morning just as the trees began to 
 rustle and blow…a breeze was coming and the wind chimes began to sing. I heard the leaves stirring in the trees (God's wind chimes) and I closed my eyes. It felt so soothing to me and I began to cry. Beautiful, sweet, quiet tears which meant the floodgates of my heart were about to open and I was ready for what God would have for me. I sat in my favorite chair in the shade and waited. He had one word for me….Anguish. The word rocked my heart and soul and then my tears turned to sobs. I had forgotten the beauty of the anguish.

I have alluded to this past year as being hard. I have struggled with my calling and all the busyness associated with the changes in my life. I had asked God for a life of ease. I wanted to have the life I perceived others had. I did not want anguish, I did not want my heart wretched and torn. I fought God, and had a million reasons why I needed the break and then went through the motions of life. I had never felt so lost or weary.

For a few of you who traveled with us to the Solomon Islands we heard the words of David Wilkerson on anguish and then I read the account of an ordinary man God called upon to carry the burden of God's own heart. That man was Nehemiah. When I sat outside yesterday these words flooded my heart...

What happened Nancy to your anguish over the things that break My heart? You, who have touched the hem of my garment have now  asked me for a life of ease…Is this really what you want my beloved?  Can you settle for anything less than what I have already shown you?  You have seen the sacred places, the places that break my heart and shared my love with people in places where no on else dares to go. I have broken your heart and then given that heart a capacity for love you had never known existed before. You go in My name and you bring the message of who I am. You care and love those who are forgotten and downtrodden. Whatever happened to the anguish of your calling? Your passion to love was born in that place…that place of wretchedness and heartfelt pain. I have shown you extraordinary…could you ever settle for the ordinary again? You have seen the work of my Hands and I know you are in awe of this. Do you really want this life of ease my beloved?

I had been asking God for ordinary when I have lived the extraordinary. I had wanted ease over anguish

Right before we left Fiji I had thought about pearls. Pearls are in great abundance in the South Pacific and I am a lover of pearls. A pearl is formed when trauma (or disruption of the ordinary) has occurred on the fragile rim of the otherwise tough shell of the mollusk. As part of the healing (restorative) process a pearl sac is formed and over a period of time layers are built up and eventually a beautiful, resilient pearl forms. I am a pearl to my God. He has cultivated me and allowed me to become something I could not have been without His constant influences. He allows me to be at the hem of His garment and to see the
Works of His hands. He has called me by name and I am able to see the bits and pieces of the anguish of His heart. I am His beloved. I live in those places and I long for those places. My heart is home in those places. Lord, true joy, comes out of anguish. I can be no other place...

Friday, August 16, 2013

Home Is Where the Heart Is

Home conjures up many images for me…the place where family is, a sanctuary or place of refuge that is always open, a place of familiarity and unconditional acceptance, and, as my dear friend Nzash says…airplanes. The place where I am and whose 'front door' opens to the place I long to be. I find that statement to be so true as we land again in the Solomon Islands.

I am home again in Verakabikabi. These words bring tears to my eyes. As we head up the red dirt road my heart swells and I am happy to be back to this place that holds a part of my heart. It seems as if only a breath has passed and I am back with those I have come to love so very much. I know they are waiting for us and will greet us with their traditional dance and music. I am excited to share in this moment. The daughter of the chief is waiting for me. She thanks me again for making the home visit last year to her ailing father. He passed away this May and while they are all grieving his loss, they are excited for the gift and legacy he will leave. He has given land to the church and this trip will begin the building of a new church and medical clinic.

We will travel daily in the back of a flatbed truck  to places like Antioch, Tina, and Matanga. We are a well equipped team this year. Two physicians, four nurses, two dietitians, a master gardener, and a construction team. We travel to beautiful remote villages which have never had 'guests' before us. In anticipation of this, some of the chiefs in the neighboring villages  will come to see us on our first clinic day so they will know how to prepare for us on the day we are in their villages. We are greeted with songs everywhere we go and made to feel so very welcomed.

 We are met by a man named Matthew and his friend Daniel who came to see us last year. 
Matthew is 81 years old and he walked four hours today for his "follow-up" visit in our clinic today.
I cannot tell you how honored I am to see and care for him again and hear the details of this last year since I saw him last.

The construction team has laid the beginnings of the foundation for the church and medical clinics. We met with the Minister of Health at the construction site and were given his blessing and support. The village of Verakabikabi will make the 5,000 bricks need for the building during the time we are gone. This is their contribution towards the project and it is huge.

Agriculture sustainability and nutrition were taught this year and the villagers were in awe of all that they learned. We all learned so much on this trip and for that we are enriched beyond what we could ever say. The Solomon Sun newspaper did a front page article on the medical clinics and agriculture teachings and we were honored by their support.

At the end of our work day we join the construction crew at the work site. We are served tea and small cakes by our friends. The clouds begin to gather in the sky and sometimes we are caught in a rainstorm. It is a time of delight that we share together and I can think of no better way to end our day.

I think from God's perspective it was just a heartbeat since we were here last. He was working out the details of a perfect plan. I have come to realize in these moments that sometimes I am the work that needs the perfect plan and Hand of God and sometimes I am apart of His Hand. Either way, I am far richer at the end of the day.