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.

PERSPECTIVE

Long Road (2)

Perspective

Today; the first day of 2014; a new year.  

I relish new year’s day and new year’s eve; not for the festivities, the holiday from work, the guaranteed kiss at midnight; nor for the over-booked, over-priced menus at all restaurants that evening ;). Like standing atop the highest peak and looking out across an expansive valley below; this holiday can bring a different perspective.  For me, it’s a time for reflection: to look back on a year and wish it “good riddance!” or to revel in the accomplishments, goals reached and struggles overcome; often both.

January 1 holds in it a clean slate. If you didn’t waste yourself too much the night before, it is a day to behold the promise of new goals, a fresh start and the endless possibilities for the next 365 days!

Or not. It really is just a day. Probably a day of recovery with many people swearing, “I will never again…”

The more precious time I get on this planet, the more I sense God speaking to us through His creation I realize the importance of perspective.

Perspective.

 

I took these pictures from the same location just a few months apart.

Isn’t this how we can feel sometimes? Like there is so much beauty bouncing around life in a kaleidoscope of hope and opportunity, yet other times life is a foreboding, dangerous and dark place.

But it is the same place; just a different time.

I am not one who typically relishes the unknown of what change can bring. I am a planner and seek to control the outcomes. But every season of life contains a bounty of change, so I cling to the constant:

“For the Lord is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!” (Jeremiah 33:11)

As I write down my hopes for this new year, my resolutions for change, and I wipe away the failures and flops of 2013; I envision the possibilities that this road holds as spring sprinkles her magic dew and new life down her path. I can hardly wait to see the buds blossom into a wide array of fruits and fulfillment of purpose as summer breaks through. And I vow to remember that, regardless of dark days, looming fog, or storms that seem they won’t let up, a new season is often just around the corner; His love is an enduring constant that will carry me through those seasons.

So, whatever season you find yourself in, may your perspective be filled with hope and newness, and may you cling to the promise of His enduring, faithful, unchanging love as you travel down your path.

 Happy New Year!