Last Day//Best Day

[Since I don’t post when I’m away from home, this week I’m going to post some of the content I wrote while on vacation…]

When you’ve vacationed in the same place for so many years, you count time in days and traditions and experiences. It’s not just “Monday,” but what did we do on Monday, new and/or traditional? For example, the Monterey Farmers’ Market takes place on Tuesday evenings, and we know we will sample all the fresh fruit and we will buy the biggest bag of kettle corn, and root beer, and Indian food from the vendors all the way at the end, and that will be dinner.

We have to do some of the same things, though they’re always different because we are different; and we have to vary things up just enough to keep things interesting. For example, during Mom’s coffee with a local friend, the guys rented electric fat-tire bikes, something they’ve never done before and now want to do All The Time! Aquarium in the morning: tradition. Bikes in the afternoon: variety, new joy and new memories.

Over the years, we’ve let go of some traditions. We used to spend lots of time at the park (Monterey has a fantastic park), but the boys have mostly outgrown park-play. And once upon a time, they needed naps. Now, the teenagers just sleep in.

As we anticipated our last full day, the guys made plans to hit the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk in the evening, guys-only. Which left a whole day (and then some for Mom and me) to fill. The weather has been chillier than usual this trip, so we’ve had far less beach time. We had hoped for at least a few hours of blue sky and warm sun and sand between our toes…

I went to bed feeling blue—uncooperative weather, the last day, the passing of time… Because the last day could be the last day. Who knows what a year holds?—and determined to enjoy what time we had, even as I tried not to think too hard about time passing…

…and I woke up to seagulls squawking in a brilliant blue sky! It’s trivial to say, “God must have heard my melancholy prayers…” but that’s how it felt. I charged my batteries with an invigorating jaunt along the coast, and we did indeed get in some beach time. The guys put on wet suits and snorkeled along the rocks. We saw more sea lions porpoising. We climbed the rocky cliffs, explored tide pools, and searched for sea glass.

Only God knows what a year holds, but our last full day provided a picture-perfect day filled with memories.

Riding a Bike

[Since I don’t post when I’m away from home, this week I’m going to post some of the content I wrote while on vacation…]

They say, “…it’s like learning to ride a bike!”

They’re wrong.

I don’t remember learning to ride a bike. I do remember lobbying for my first ten-speed. I accompanied my friend when her dad bought her a Nishiki; she got burgundy, and I got blue.

We rode those bikes for what seems like forever, at least until puberty and junior high took us down different trails.

I don’t remember the last time I rode my bike. I do remember riding a rental with a high school boyfriend and a crew of others at one of San Diego’s many coastal trails. I felt way too wobbly. How could I be so insecure on a bike after such a short time? Isn’t the one skill in life you never forget?

Was that it, the last time I rode a bike? Q14 has been chiding me for some time, the only one in our family without a bike, that I have to ‘learn’ to ride. Biking may be his favorite form of physical activity and I miss out on sharing it with him.

The guys rented electric fat-tire bikes. We met along a quiet, flat street. Guy lowered the seat to my height. He showed me how to engage the motor and the brakes.

That’s all there is to it, right?

It was both too easy and too difficult. The motor propelled me forward and distracted me from pedaling. I had to break before I could put my feet down and manually turn around to go the other direction.

Q14 shrieked as he whizzed past: “Look at my MOM learning to ride a bike!” My nephew aimed straight at me in a game of chicken as I begged him to stay out of my way. Q14 laughed and told me to watch him, to follow him, as he showed me how to turn. I stopped, and laughed and watched and said, “Ah, no thanks. I’d fall…”

I’m not a big risk taker. You laugh, too, because riding a bike isn’t a big risk (although the scars on my legs that haven’t faded since childhood might be evidence to the contrary).

This bike felt scary to me. Even on this short, flat street—not so scary and also scary. The frame seemed too big. The motor and pedals, too many things to manage.

Yet, the motor made the bike worth the rental. Worth the risk. We probably wouldn’t have rented regular bikes. And if the guys had, a regular bike wouldn’t have intrigued me into trying it.

I took a very small risk, and it was fun. Exhilarating, and just enough. They had an absolute blast and I can’t recall when I have seen that gush of unmeasured joy on Q14’s face.

I may need to rediscover how to ride a bike.

Greatness

[Since I don’t post when I’m away from home, this week I’m going to post some of the content I wrote while on vacation…]

“Do you think this makes one too many visits?”, my mom asks as we’ve ‘lost’ the teenagers again in the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

“No,” I reply, “never too many visits. The kids just know their way around. They know what to look for and what to expect. And they’re bigger, so they move faster.”

We’ve been coming here for so many years, truly, their lifetimes. We know what we’ll see in each exhibit, each tank. We’ve long ago determined our favorites and, also, the ones we’ll quickly pass by. We know where to find each other for the long looks, the tanks that even now warrant wonder, our focused attention.

Okay, so maybe the teens are a little underwhelmed after all these visits, but that comes with the age.

No matter how many times I’ve been here, the Monterey Bay Aquarium has earned my respect. Their work in research, conservation, and education is nothing less than awe-inspiring.

Just today, we saw a program we’ve never seen before: a live-narrated video presentation about Great White Sharks. We have seen Great White Sharks live, in their tanks (though they don’t have one now); most people have never seen a Great White except in a movie.

I don’t always love a zoo. There’s something about animals in captivity. But the best zoos, including aquariums, care for both animals and viewers. MBA is The Best Aquarium.

These creatures…we’d never see them otherwise. Fish with vibrant colors. Shore birds swimming in silly circles to churn up whatever delicious bite might have lodged itself in the mud. Baby bat rays that swim up and slide down the glass. Penguins treading water as they watch crazy humans. Octopus tentacles clustered against the tank while it sleeps. Cuttlefish marvelously changing color as they glide.

The beauty and variety of these creatures amazes me. No matter how small they might be, they make me feel small. Together, we are the creations of an infinitely creative God who loves all of us.

Later, I walked along the coast, finally perching on one of the many benches (with a coast this dramatic, there should be this many benches). I soaked in the view, the smells and sounds and sights: the crash of waves on rocks; the delighted squawk of a seagull discovering a fat, dead fish; two sea lions ‘porpoising,’ taking turns gracefully arching their bodies up and out of the water; an otter, bobbing and diving in the surf.

I clicked open my daily Bible reading app to Psalm 145, a favorite.

“Great is the Lord! He is most worthy of praise! No one can measure his greatness. Let each generation tell its children of your mighty acts; let them proclaim your power” (vv3-4).

While we admire God’s greatness mirrored in the beauty of His creation, my sister lies in a hospital. Again. For fourteen years, she’s been fighting for her life.

“The Lord is good to everyone. He showers compassion on all his creation” (v9).

If she could be here, she would be as enthralled by the coast and its creatures as I am. But of course she is also fearfully and wonderfully made, more precious to God than all the rainbow fish. So we pray that God will fulfill His promises:

“The Lord helps the fallen and lifts those bent beneath their loads. The eyes of all look to you in hope” (vv14-15).

We pray and we hope…

 

[Update: she is out of the hospital but, given her chronic illness, she will never be entirely out of the woods. We pray and we hope…]

jean wimmerlin

His Mother’s Voice

[Since I don’t post when I’m away from home, this week I’m going to post some of the content I wrote while on vacation…]

Trying to wrestle three teenage boys out of the vacation house and into the vacation isn’t as easy as it should be. Because teenagers: sticky molasses-stubborn.

When they finally realized we were willing to leave them behind—that they might actually miss out on who-knows-what but something—they finally began moving. Like sloths. No matter that we were trying to catch the tail end of a coastal sunset.

Eventually two of three had shoes and sweatshirts; I asked one to tell his brother that we were all going. I meant: Tell him the rest of us are leaving. I didn’t want him to be surprised when he looked up and realized he was ‘home’ alone.

Instead, I laughed when I heard my son yell, “Hey, we’re all going! C’mon, staying here is not an option!”

Those are my words. Because vacation is about togetherness, we stick together. Although sometimes we split up guys and girls or grandma with grandsons, only rarely do we leave someone behind.

So the reluctant one sped himself up. We didn’t make it to sunset, but coastal twilight was still something. The guys hit the sand and discovered the shore littered with kelp bulbs—nature-made salty water balloons—and commenced a ridiculous kelp fight. They ran and tossed and dodged and belly laughed and hollered and shrieked and played.

As they get older, I’m trying to lighten up. If someone wants to stay behind, then someone just might miss out. I don’t want to miss out, so I’m out the door. But in this instance, my son echoing my words nudged his brother toward an experience that has already created a fun memory.

Turns out, Mom is right sometimes. And—evidence—I am the voice in his head.

Thankful Thursday – Road Trippin’ the American West

The longest road trip I remember from childhood took me to Disneyland, which seemed So Far Away, though now I have to admit that the hour-and-a-half drive from San Diego to Anaheim doesn’t truly count.

Guy’s family did real road trips: six weeks coast-to-coast in a Volkswagen Vanagon, a different route each way, every summer.

Our family has been road trippin’ since Guy and I honeymooned, driving from the Washington-Canada border to California’s central coast. We set a precedent on that trip, and most every vacation since has involved a drive (or many) of some length.

So. The Big Kid needed to get to college. With All the Stuff. And we wanted every member of our family of four to participate. Of course we drove.

We made a quick trip out, two days, because Kid needed to just get there. On the way back, we made it a vacation for Lil Bro. We made at least one fun/view stop each day, arriving home with barely enough time to pick up our farmed-out pets, do laundry, and regroup for the start of school.

The first few hours of our trip were beautiful, familiar NorCal roads. Guy and I talked. Kids wore headphones and stared at screens. Once we pulled out of Tahoe/Truckee, I realized we were in unfamiliar territory.

Before we left home, I’d done some reading. Years ago we visited Donner Memorial State Park so our kids knew that story. Our route east took us through historic landscapes, like the 40 Mile Desert, a portion of the Emigrant Trail which saw heavy traffic from 1848-1869. I read the linked article aloud as we drove, a humbling reality as we looked out our windows to the parched landscape.

What surprised me was the beauty. I hear the smack of “boring,” “desolate,” “lonely,” “bleak,” but I appreciated the changes in color and texture. I am so intrigued by the unheard stories of those who live here and there, by circumstance or choice.

Spontaneously, I began taking pictures. Hightailing it down the highway, through my spotty passenger window, click click click. The view, to me, seemed continually remarkable.

The view mesmerized me.

I know, taken via iPhone at speed through a dirty window, that these won’t be great pictures. But they help me remember how much I like road trips, and our country.

The Good Ol’ US of A may be a friggin’ hot mess. But I saw beauty as we drove, and kindness in the smiles and small talk of strangers. Beauty inspires hope. As a people, we are as diverse as our landscape. Others may see us–ahem, we may see each other–as “boring,” “desolate,” “lonely,” “bleak,” [insert your adjective here…]. But we are so much more than labels.

Fallon, NV

Lovelock, NV

Coalville, UT

Fort Bridger, WY

Hannah, WY

Idaho Springs, CO

Rangely, UT – and yes, the “highway” became a dirt road!

Talmadge, UT

Wendover, UT – The Bonneville Salt Flats/Speedway. Snapped as the minivan hit 100mph!

Truckee, CA

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Power Down & Play

“Wow, you really need to get away!” said Co-worker as she realized I had missed something squarely in my easy-peasy realm of responsibility.

I worked frenetically up until fifteen minutes before our car drove away. While I did pull out my phone a few times on the drive, I also made a concerted effort not to talk work with Guy–not to plan, discuss, vent. I put work on a back shelf with fun straight ahead.

About fifteen minutes before we arrived, we lost cell reception. On a different carrier, the friends we were with had reception and those who might need to knew how to reach them. I tucked my phone in my purse and didn’t reach for it again until we headed home. It took the whole homeward drive and then some to power back up.

I’d forgotten how blissful it feels to be completely untethered. 48 hours without calls, texts, email, or media.

Without distraction we talked and talked until the clock announced a new day. We relished the beauty of a frozen lake, of snow flakes melting on our cheeks, of a bald eagle flying overhead. We threw snowballs to a dog happy to catch them in her mouth. We drank thick, sweet hot chocolate and nibbled our way from one snack to another. We read and shared stories. We laughed through old movies. We lit candles and donned headlamps when the power went out. We played games, we learned new games, and we discovered who’s good at what kind of thinking. We slipped into satisfying naps and slept deeply through the night.pinecrest-grp

We woke late. We hiked, and sank, in deep snow. We squeaked in laughter each time a foot broke through ice and we landed on our knees (at least I did!). We enjoyed time together, and we enjoyed every minute.

Before we left home I didn’t know, couldn’t recognize, how much I needed this get-away. In the humdrum of everyday life, we forget that our bodies and souls need to play. We need rest daily–sleep, and a little something fun, like exercise or reading or creativity of whatever sort refuels us. We also need rest seasonally–a quick get-away, like the one we enjoyed this weekend, or something longer, a true vacation.

If we can’t get away, then we at least need to unplug. And when we do get away, we definitely ought to unplug. Funny, isn’t it?, that machines need to plug in for power while human beings find restoration by unplugging from the very devices we expect to make our lives easier.pinecrest

What I Didn’t Pack

Today’s guest post comes from a dear friend. Guy and I were in a church Community Group with Brad and his wife Shawn; for many years we and another few couples met regularly to discuss God’s Word and pray together. We also shared a lot of life, good food and drink, service and outreach, and knit ourselves together as family. Brad is a deep thinker who works out his faith on his feet. I love that this challenge to create nudged him deeper in faith, and I hope it will do the same for you.

Create Challenge #35: Brad White

bwhite-hiMy wife and I just returned from our annual anniversary vacation. We celebrated our first incredible nine years together and are looking forward to many more nine’s. Hawaii is a beautiful place to celebrate and a great place to reflect. It is here where my blog contribution finally came to me.

Getting ready for vacation can be stressful. Right? What to pack? What not to pack? How will this look with this? Are we carrying on or are we checking? “Are you going to golf this year?” “Are you bringing long pants?” All of these questions must be answered. I am pleased to say that I packed light, did not pack a pair of long pants, and wore shorts to dinner every night.

This contribution is not at all about what I did pack but what I did not pack and missed. You see, my friends, I claim to be a man of faith and try to live the right way and practice what Jesus teaches. Yet, when it comes to taking God on vacation, did I pack Him? In my heart yes, but in my practice I did not. Did I need a vacation from Him? No Way! I just didn’t make Him important.

When I start my day in the Word—either in my devotional or other readings—I seem to get grounded and off to a great start. So why did I not pack my devotional and Bible? It was right there on the nightstand. Was it a conscious decision? No. It was not like I said, “You are staying here this week.” It was more like getting my head wrapped around all the other stuff that really doesn’t matter.

My friend Patrick Bradley and I talked about this while we were in Hawaii. Patrick and his lovely wife Lisa are good friends of ours. We met them three years ago on vacation and have vacationed together twice since. Patrick and Lisa are Christians and Patrick is deeply into the Word.

Coming home I was determined to get into my devotional to see what I missed and how I could have used it.

Thursday, October 20 “Confident in the Father” Perhaps if I had read this the flight would not have been so stressful knowing that one of our stores had just discovered asbestos in the flooring and it was going to delay an opening. Did I pray? Did I turn the stress over to God? Did I read this and know that He had me and this situation?

Friday, October 21 “Our Choice to Love” The One who had chosen to love created one who could love in return. Now it’s our choice. Did I show love and compassion to a stranger today?

Saturday, October 22 “Do Something” Did I do something to demonstrate my devotion? Did I pray, teach, go, write a letter? No, I held a table at the bar for three hours so we could have a great view of the TV to watch the Cubs beat the Dodgers. Some will say God is a Cub’s fan…!

Sunday, October 23 “A Crisp View of God” It sure is easy to see God when things are good, but much harder to look for Him and see Him when things get rough. Reading this when I got home made me feel even worse. It made me feel that I see God when it is crisp and convenient and yet I didn’t think enough to bring His Word and guidance with me.

Monday, October 24 “In a Word” Did I have the presence of God with me this day? Well, the day started with three hours of work. I did manage to pack that and knew that opening four stores while on vacation would prove difficult. I was right. This devotion spoke specifically to having the love of God on everything we do. Did I have God’s love when one of my team members told me via email that we were not going to make an opening because we failed to convert utilities? Did I have the love of Jesus in my heart when I made that call? Would I have approached it differently if I had read the Word in the morning? I believe I would have shown more grace. Instead, I needed to ask for forgiveness.

Tuesday, October 25 “What Heaven Holds” Pure Joy! Arguments will cease, for jealousy won’t exist. Every sin is gone. Every insecurity is forgotten. Every fear is past. There is pure hope, pure love, and no fear. What a great way to start your day. Right? I wouldn’t know, since I left it at home. Instead, I started my day with three hours of work and two conference calls.

Wednesday, October 26 “No Secrets from God” That’s kind of scary, don’t you think? I’ve been there. Thinking I can fix things on my own if I work harder, push harder with little to no regard for how it makes people feel along the way. Three more hours of work and calls all day. But hey, we opened four stores today. However, He knows I am going to do that. He knows who I am and He is patiently waiting for me to ask for forgiveness. I believe God is asking, “Brad, how many times do you need to do this before you figure it out?” The good news is He loves me anyway. Even when I don’t deserve it.

Thursday, October 27 “A Gentle Lamb” Thank goodness we have this gentle lamb we can call Father. What an incredible gift. We serve a God who says that even when we’re under pressure and feel like nothing is going to go right, He is waiting to embrace us whether we succeed or fail. What a beautiful message to start your day. This was a beautiful day indeed. We went snorkeling and saw some of the amazing creatures our God has created. Fish of every color, schools of fish being chased by a barracuda, and a huge sea turtle. I came out of this day in this peaceful place totally amazed by our Creator’s power. I sure wish I had started my day that way.

Friday, October 28 “A Heart Like His” Happy Anniversary to us. God certainly knew what he was doing when he brought Shawn into my life. She is my everything. Should I have read this before my anniversary day started? Oh, heck yes! Let me tell you what I missed. This devotion spoke about the ledger we keep when measuring success and accomplishments. The ledger I keep is full of so many unnecessary columns. I think about this as I look at the best earthly being who has ever been part of my life. Why do we keep ledgers? Why do we measure? Why do I find it difficult to display pure love? These matters are irrelevant to God and should be to me as well.

Saturday, October 29. We are Home! I can read what I have been missing. I can pray and ask for forgiveness, and I can get back into my routine. Sounds easy, right? It’s not.

So what did I learn during my vacation? A few things…

  1. Pack your routine with you.
  2. Enjoy the beauty of the Creator
  3. Look at the stars
  4. Breathe
  5. Don’t pack long pants when you go to Hawaii
  6. Love freely
  7. Open your heart to the love of the Creator
  8. No more ledgers
  9. Don’t try to open stores during vacation!

The peace I find in writing this is simple… While I might have forgotten to pack God when preparing for my vacation, He NEVER forgets to pack us. He has us right there in His never failing grip of love.

That’s a good thing.

bwhite
Brad White serves as Senior Manager of Construction, Expansion, and Facilities for Oportun Inc, responsible for the organization’s rapid expansion in California, Texas, Illinois, Arizona, Nevada, and Utah. He has been married to Shawn Casey White for 9 years and a member of MVPC for 9 years. Brad is the blessed son of Bill and Ethel White of Maryville, Tennessee, and proud father of William White, 30, of Sarasota, Florida.