In Search of Greener Grass

In Search of Greener Grass

I’ve heard said that in the summer there are two colors in Arizona: brown and blue. The months of 110+ degree temperatures month after month, and the sunny blue skies tend to turn the AZ landscape brown.

St. John, USVI. Heard of it? Some of the most beautiful beaches, lush National Parks and snorkeling adventures and creatures that only God could think up! We were blessed enough to travel there this summer. A relaxing 10 days to escape from the AZ heat, our every day routines at home and to reconnect with my exhausted, worn-down, weary, school teaching husband; a great way to begin his summer break after the grueling school year.

The grass is greener on summer vacation!

Or is it?

If you’re on Facebook, you’ve seen the beauty in the pictures.

A cathedral of granite as we hike through the Baths

A cathedral of granite as we hike through the Baths

St john blog vista mare

Great Cruz Bay from Vista Mare where we met the best bartender–Taylor!

st john blog island time

Felling “Titanic” aboart ISLAND TIME where we met the Georgian couple

st john baths natl park

Here are some of our favorites-The view from Vista Mare where we met our new favorite bartender, Taylor, the boat trip on “Island Time” to see the Baths National Park of Virgin Gorda followed by cave snorkeling.

St john blog baths

On Island Time (the aptly named vessel we toured the islands on), we met a lovely couple. Well, not so much “meet” as admire from across the deck. They were about 10 years younger, perfect, pearly white smiles and bodies that proved they ate from the “Lite menu.” Later we saw her designer sunglasses couldn’t hide the tears that were slipping down her cheeks.

We later introduced ourselves and learned they were from Atlanta, Georgia. This vacation for her was about reconnecting with husband after her grueling school year as a professor at Emory University. They shared later the reason behind those tears. As we traversed the islands on our way to Virgin Gorda, they’d receiving a text that the door had been closed on their year-long attempts to adopt a child.

Circumstances can still find you on vacation.

There were a few things about St. John that I didn’t expect.  Ever heard of closing a beach due to bacterial build up? Heard of a sea urchin? How about sand fleas? No?  Well…I’m sure you’ve heard of jelly fish.

Evidence points toward my being a veritable jelly fish and sand flea magnet.

All places have their downside.

The exterior often tells very little of the condition of the inside.

We stayed at the Westin St. John and part way through our trip, early in the morning, the sound of lawnmowers awoke us.

We got so relaxed, where were we again? Was it lawn day in Arizona?

But, no! We’re still on vacation! We emerged from our room to witness the landscapers mowing the grass down to its base. The previous stretches of green were now brown.

Bummer.

It brought back thoughts of returning home to the heat of Arizona. Where, when summer comes, the grass areas are mowed down to the ground and re-seeded with a different grass; a summer seed of heartier, thicker grass that is better able to withstand the intense Arizona summers. It takes several weeks for the green to re-appear. And when it does, the new seed does pretty well in the scorches of the desert—as long as it gets watered.

So, as we grabbed our pool towels and headed out for the day, we left the brown lawn of the Westin behind us in search of sandy (and open!) beaches. As we walked along the newly browned property, we focused on the beautiful patches of bright yellow, orange and purple flowers, the bougainvilleas, the various types of palm trees: corkscrew palm, date palm, queen palm, coconut palm and all of it being watered by sprinklers that imitated rainfall.

In all, our time on St. John had its highlights. We experienced the peaceful serenity of swimming with a sea turtle (I still have dreams about it!). We read the books that had been collecting dust-(“Unbroken” for Keith and “Love Does” for me.) We soaked in every sunset from a different vista. We splashed in the pool, photographed all the wild life, tried every rum drink the island could offer and supported the local shopping economy. Keith even won a small jackpot at the tiny (awesomely air-conditioned) casino, and we snorkeled where Robert Louis Stevenson received his inspiration for Treasure Island. Pretty cool.

A couple days after the “lawn mowing alarm clock” had awakened us, we emerged from our room to a brand new looking green expanse! The watering, mixed in with the natural moisture of the Caribbean miraculously transformed the brown to green as if it had never been hacked down to near death! In just two days!

Maybe the grass really is greener on St. John?

Westin St. John with GREEN!

Westin St. John with GREEN!

Yet, all vacations must come to an end; time to return home.

Work, work, work, so you can get away to a vacation in a more relaxing place, just to return to work, work, work—as you hopefully plan for the next break.

The green, to the brown, to the green.

In addition to the summer seeding, most of Arizona also re-seeds the grass right before wintertime. Once again, the green summer grassed areas are mowed down to the brown, to be replenished with a lighter winter grass that thrives in the milder temperatures.  And then in the summer: mow, seed, water. And then in the winter: mow, seed, water, REPEAT.

Such are the rhythms and seasons of life. So where is the grass greener?

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”–Philippians 4:12

These words are from Paul. If you know the story, you know—HE KNEW.

He knew of green grass and parched deserts. He knew praises and prosperity, and also punishment and persecution. And yet, content? In all things, times and circumstances?

HOW? Had he been on St. John? Did he schedule lots of vacations and reconnecting time?

I think Paul knew the secret to green grass.  But it isn’t really a secret.

You’ve probably heard it before, because of its profound truth:

Grass isn’t greener “on the other side.”

The grass is green where you water it.

Do I think Paul enjoyed persecution, near death, shipwrecks, beatings, near starvation? No. But I believe he found this seemingly very elusive contentment in knowing there was a strength and sufficiency beyond his own carrying him on the journey.

When life circumstances dealt him some brown parched grass, he knew what to do. He knew “where to go.” And it wasn’t on St. John. He knew the place of the “greener grass” was at the Cross of Jesus Christ. He knew what was beyond his current circumstance. He knew the hope found at the Cross and had the anointing water of the Holy Spirit in his life that would supply the seed for whatever season he found himself.

HE knew of a HOPE beyond his circumstance.

He knew JESUS.

And he could go there anytime.

He knew, with the Holy Spirit in him, his exterior circumstances couldn’t take from him the greenest of grass- –At the end of his journey, he would be returning home. He knew Jesus awaited him there.

I picture Paul, hanging out with Jesus right now. In his trials and ordeals, he KNEW everything he went through would be worth it.

Please don’t misunderstand me on my St. John rantings. We too, count our blessings every day.

In spite of my jelly fish sting, a body covered in sand flea bites and a brutal return trip on American Airlines fraught with delays, a medical incident, no food and lost luggage, and even if we got a little homesick; we have contentment.

As we return home to our routines and the brown of Arizona, we reminisce on the beauty of the Baths, the white, silky sand beaches, the sea turtles…We think of that lovely couple from Island Time and pray for them, and Taylor, our Vista Mare bartender and his adventurous spirit and the other lovely souls we met on St. John.

As we watch the sunset from Arizona and think on our next adventure, I look over at my sweet, newly relaxed (and content) husband and know that, like Paul, we too will be home soon.

Merry Christmas

Image

So this is Christmas.

We spent the last three days driving anywhere between 25 and 85 m.p.h. as we maneuvered my 4 cylinder Toyota, fully loaded with presents and baggage, from sunny Arizona through drought-brown hills of California toward our destination—Vancouver, Washington for Christmas. As my furry kids (two kitties) curl up beneath my bare tree in Arizona with only my cat sitter (and lovely friend!) for company, I realize this is the first Christmas in years and years that I have not been “home” in Colorado to celebrate.

My eyes brim and my heart clinches a little.

I keep the shrinking “Grinch” heart at bay.

I think back on the events leading up to our road adventure on this marvelous holiday and feel so blessed. The lovely Thanksgiving with family and the visits from family and the friends we have celebrated with already. Gifts and good-tidings; celebrations and holiday parties, home-made treats and cups of cheer overflowing—Christmas is the best time of year!

Then there is the Post Office…I don’t EVER wait until days before Christmas to mail, (nor do I recommend this!) but I had a little book-give-away to deliver and had a VERY close call with a “Grinch” in the parking lot just days before our departure. He almost stole my joy.

But I know what Christmas is.

I was leaving my two hour post office escapade, (heart determined to be kind to all who were braving this holiday faux pas,) when a gentleman just beginning his adventure, nearly swiped my bumper. He laid on his horn to get parked in an open space 2.4 seconds sooner than if he would’ve waited for me to inch forward behind the two grey-haired drivers I followed out. All this so he could arrive those 2.4 seconds earlier in into the two hour line in the lobby that awaited him.

My “Grinch” heart shrunk a little as I thought of several choice Christmas carols I’d like to yell at him: “Oh Holy–”

But I know what Christmas is.

I breathed deep and forgave him, knowing the lengths of enjoyment that lay before him with a “honking attitude” like he harbored.

Torrents of rain the night before we left awakened us through the night. We looked forward to grabbing our hot Dunkin’ Donut’s coffee before hitting the road. Avoiding the 15 car drive-thru line, we hoofed it to the entrance. On our way out, we fell silent passing an unkempt man wearing shorts and a light coat, holding a small grocery bag and seeking shelter out of the rain. My heart clinched and I pushed my sunglasses higher on my nose.

I think I know what Christmas is.

We still departed on our journey, but feeling pretty heavy–discovering he had spent the rain-drenched night outside. We left him with some home baked zucchini bread and money.

We ran out of clean clothes along the way, slept on some seriously rock hard mattresses and ate one-too-many continental breakfasts, but we are so blessed with what we have.

We think we know what Christmas is.

Though I am not with my family or at my “home,” I prepare to spend this blessed holiday with my fiancés family. Months ago, I planned a surprise for him. Before our Christmas Eve stop, I arranged for a “starter tree” to greet us and a few sparkling ornaments with which to decorate it. The look of surprise and wonder on his face at the discovery was equal to any child’s on Christmas day! It was pure wonderful!

I am feeling Christmas again.

And, as we prepare to hit the road again; washing our underwear, unpacking and re-packing, wrapping packages late into Christmas Eve, I know Christmas is MORE than family, sparkling decorations, packages and surprises from a jolly, fat, red-suited man.

I think of other travelers, long ago, who were “displaced” from their homes on this magical night.

No grouchy, horn-blowing Grinch can take Christmas from me. Those long ago travelers brought a gift to me and to all who believe.

I know what Christmas is.

The Charlie Brown’s Christmas special is one of my all-time fave’s. Linus wraps up nicely exactly what Christmas is…
Charlie Brown: Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?

Linus Van Pelt: Sure, Charlie Brown, I can tell you what Christmas is all about.

[moves toward the center of the stage]

Linus Van Pelt: Lights, please.

[a spotlight shines on Linus]

Linus Van Pelt: “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not: for behold, I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.'”

[Linus picks up his blanket and walks back towards Charlie Brown]

Linus Van Pelt: That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.

(from www.imdb.com Charlie Brown Christmas Quotes)

 

For the horn- blower, for the Grinch, for the Dunkin-Donut’s rain man, for all people on all the earth–

–Wishing you all a magical and Merry Christmas, where ever you are!

 

HOME

Arvada Trains

HOME
“Home is the nicest word there is.”
― Laura Ingalls Wilder

Dorothy tells us there’s no place like it.

Where do you call home?

You know how you hear something every single day of your life and you end up tuning it out? Even though it continues, you no longer hear it. Until, one day, you leave the place you call “home” and it’s truly gone.
Then you miss it.
But, sometimes it returns…

I am back in Scottsdale, after a fantastic Thanksgiving visit to Arvada, Colorado – my hometown for 25 years.

“Home wasn’t a set house, or a single town on a map. It was wherever the people who loved you were, whenever you were together. Not a place, but a moment, and then another, building on each other like bricks to create a solid shelter that you take with you for your entire life, wherever you may go.”
― Sarah Dessen, What Happened to Goodbye

TOP TEN THINGS I MISS ABOUT BEING HOME:

1) Miles upon miles of railroad tracks criss-crossing through town and the sounds of the trains speeding through at all times of the day and night

2) Family and old friends being only a Starbuck’s distance away
3) My mom’s overflowing generosity and her chicken and noodles
4) Beau Jo’s Mountain Pies and, ACTUAL MOUNTAINS, the glory of the front range
5) Snow softly falling on fallen leaves and the smell of fireplaces burning
6) Layering up and running to Two Ponds, the nation’s smallest urban wildlife refuge
7) Bronco’s fans, after a win
8) Seeing my nephews playing in sports they love and growing a foot taller
9) Old Towne Arvada
10) My dad, my grampy, my grammy and all those who’ve gone before me to a different home

BUT…

THINGS I DON’T MISS ABOUT HOME:

1) Snot actually freezing in my nose
2) Dirty, crusty, chemical coated cars
3) Power windows freezing shut in the drive-thru at Starbucks
4) 15 car pile-up caused after the first snow and the guy with his new 4WD truck
5) Bronco’s fans, after a loss
6) Old town Aurora
7) The five pounds I gain as I eat more of mom’s chicken and noodles and Beau Jo’s mountain pies
8) Watching the melanoma eat away at my dad, seeing the dementia turn my grampy into a different man and visiting grammy in the hospital after the most recent surgery
9) Miles upon miles of railroad tracks criss-crossing through town and the sounds of the trains speeding through at all times of the day and night


“Happiness is home… It is a state of mind. A place of communion and unconditional love. It is where, when you cross its threshold, you finally feel at peace.”
― Dennis Lehane

Wherever you call “home,” may there always be more good things on the list of things you miss.

And may you always have a place of unconditional love and peace.