From here to there

IMG_7479They say all good things come to an end. They are right to some extent and wrong in others. It's been several weeks since I posted here, as we have been away from home since the end of February. We decided to try our hand at being "snow birds" and got the chance to visit our family. We are grateful for the time God gave us to do this. But nearly five weeks away from home has taught me a few things of who I am and what I'm not. More on that. We began our trip in Portland, Oregon visiting two of our married kids who have lived there nearly a year now. We saw the Pacific from a different point of view than here in California and tried everything from fresh-made donuts to award-winning chocolate! I had the privilege of meeting with five different writer friends, which made the trip extra special. Of course, being with our kids was the highlight as there is just never enough time in a life to be with people you love.

IMG_8251But that trip came to a swift end and we flew down to LAX to see our whole family for a few days. Never enough time, but grateful for the time we had.

IMG_7987Before we left L.A. one of our sons took us to The Last Bookstore. We visited several bookstores on this trip - from Powell's in Oregon to the one on Alcatraz, but this one tops them all. The unique way they use books for decor is fun and creative!

We drove from L.A. to Arroyo Grande, one of California's best kept secrets. I love the Central Coast! Whenever we've been west, it's always been to L.A. since our two oldest moved west, with occasional visits to San Diego and Monterey, but Arroyo is like stepping into a midwestern town. We rented another house, this time in the country. Quiet is something I never really appreciated until we stayed here. The owner has been great. We've met his chickens and his dogs, both of which are also very quiet. The only noise you hear is at night when the frogs and insects and distant coyotes start talking. I don't think I could ever vacation in hotels again, though we did have a few nights in them.

IMG_8244A few days after our arrival here, my agent, Wendy Lawton, and her husband met us two hours from here. (It was a two hour drive for both of us.) We spent the day chatting over lunch and dessert and I don't know how the time flew so fast! I've been Wendy's client now for around ten years and I truly count her a friend. I'm glad the feeling is mutual.

IMG_3783The following week we drove to San Francisco one day and toured Alcatraz the next. (Did I mention how LONG a state California is?) Took us four hours of driving and if I ever visit San Francisco again I will do more research on quiet lodging. Such a busy, noisy city! But the tour was fun and informative and boy, am I glad I have never had to call a prison cell home!

From Alcatraz we drove two hours to Sacramento and spent the next day touring the California State Train Museum. I have never done so much walking that made my calves hurt front and back, as though I'd sprinted a half marathon. Old Sacramento is kind of cool with it's old architecture and horse-drawn carriages. But the five-hour drive back to Arroyo was exhausting.

IMG_8698We've spent numerous visits to the local beaches here - Pismo, Grover, and Avila - all beautiful. Visited a few local sites like Bubblegum Alley and another train museum (Randy's hobby), and spent a day at Solvang and sometimes all that driving just wore us out so we sat in the house trying to recoup! Our house sitter has Skyped with us twice so we could see Tiger - I can't wait to hold that furry baby in my arms again!

IMG_8319San Luis Obispo is another fun city nearby though they are doing a lot of construction right now, so it wasn't quite as fun to walk around town. I found a great coffee shop there that makes their own almond milk from fresh almonds and shaves the chocolate for a cafe mocha. Also found a fun coffee shop in Arroyo that makes a great coconut milk, cherry, coconut, cafe mocha latte. Call me caffeine addicted, but all that driving and fresh sunshine causes one to need a real pick-me-up.

IMG_8654Randy got to golf once with one of our sons, while I had lunch with the other. And too soon we will be seeing them all one last time and boarding the plane for home (this coming week).

So back to the beginning of where I started this. What I've learned spending five weeks away from home--it's too long to stay away. I guess at this point in my life I'm not a "snow bird." That is, we loved getting away from the Michigan cold and enjoy California's earlier spring. The flowers here are in full bloom, oranges ripe on the trees, and the temperatures have been in the 60s and 70s. Perfect. (We get to go home to the 40s.) Not so perfect.

IMG_8188But I also learned that God can teach us things wherever we are. Some of those things have not been easy lessons. I've had enough struggles already this year to last several decades, trials I hope never to repeat. I've also learned that God forgives. He can be trusted. And that the Holy Spirit prays for us and through us with groans too deep for words. We don't know how we ought to pray sometimes, but the Spirit knows and He is working when we least expect it.

I've learned the value of friendships. I disconnected from most of my email groups and only answered email that I felt was work-related or personal enough that it couldn't wait until April. But I have a group of author friends who have been an anchor to me through many a storm in recent years, and I stayed in touch with them. I'm not sure what I would do without those God-given relationships.

IMG_3639Or the God-given relationships of friends from back home. Today I heard from two friends who miss us and that makes me smile. And so grateful. Everyone needs to feel wanted and needed, and vacation tends to skew our view of things. And yet it also helps us value what we have.

So while all good things, like relaxing trips away from home, less reason to cook, hot tub soaks before showers in the morning on sunny days, and spending time with the people we love most do have to come to an end, the gratitude for life doesn't have to stop. God put us here for a purpose and our purpose resides in Michigan for now. Randy has classes to return to and I have a book to write. Hannah is starting to take shape in my thoughts, and I'm grateful I have her story to return home to.

EUUZ4471There are a lot of things I'm going to miss about California. The weather. The scenery - the mountains are green and lush with vegetation since they've finally had some rain. The ocean never fails to remind me of how big God is. But the traffic reminds me how many people find this state just as inviting as I do, and I can definitely do without the traffic!

Mostly, I'm going to miss the closer proximity to family. It's hard having all of our kids on the west coast. If I had my wish, they would all prefer Michigan. But maybe God will make a way for us to move here someday. Right now...that's a long way from my desire. I just want to soak up the sunshine while we can, be grateful for the friendly people in this town, and look forward to one more visit with our kids.

Then Tiger can finally let our house-sitter sleep in his own home in peace! (And hopefully, he will forgive us everything and be glad to have his "mom" and "dad" home again!

Selah~