Sunday, July 22, 2012

Checking in at the Two Month Mark

Two months passed.  One month remains.  What?

It is nearly impossible for me to believe that two months have gone by since we left home on this sabbatical journey.  We’ve driven over 7,000 miles; although for the last two weeks the longest drive was forty or fifty miles, with a maximum speed of 50 mph. 

As this month began we were wrapping up our one week visit to southern California.  Visits to old homes are always sweet and bittersweet, for many reasons.  What joy it is to spend precious time with family or friends you haven’t seen.  Reunions remind you of those old times, but you also hear about hard times in the interim since.  You learn of joys and sorrows, and you experience partings again.  But you would not wish to lose those moments, and as we left my dominant emotion was thankfulness. 

With Landen at Hume Lake
We spent a week in the very same cabin at Hume Lake that our family had used for many years when our children were small.  It was old then, and it is older now (our last stay had been sixteen years before), but it was still in good shape, and better yet, filled with many of the memories of those visits that we could share with our grandson, as Landen and Rebekah made the journey with us for the first few days.  How much fun we had seeing him get excited about the same things that his mom and aunt and uncle had been excited about—the screened in porch with the same toys, the deck, the pine cones, visiting the Giant Sequoia redwoods, his room and the kissing Simba and Nala toys on the bed.  We waved goodbye to them on Monday, and for the rest of the week we simply enjoyed the walks around Hume Lake, including the few miles AROUND the lake, hiking UP the steep and winding roads surrounding us.  Uphill hikes at over 5,000 feet elevation are something I haven’t done much of in Ohio.  We think Hume Lake is one of the most beautiful and most refreshing spots we know.

It was a two day trip to our next destination, and we overnighted with our friends, the Kildals, in Roseburg, Oregon, and my uncle and aunt in Hillsboro (outside of Portland) as we made our way north.  The drive through northern California and southern Oregon is breathtaking, and made us wish we could stop and explore much more.  It was a blessing though, to connect again with these dear ones who made us welcome, and visits were too short.

Randy hauling in dinner in the crab pots
Our arrival at our current location was the first to involve a car ferry, the Mukilteo-Clinton Ferry, to be exact.  We are on Whidbey Island, a long, narrow island in Puget Sound, north of Seattle and between the Olympic Peninsula and the Washington mainland (go look at a map).  With quaint towns like Langley, Greenbank, Freeland, and Coupeville, the southern half of the island is sparsely populated, while Oak Harbor in the north is home to a large naval air installation.  Long-time friends, the Wilcoxes, have a home here, and also a beautiful “pond house” across and down the street that looks across the way to the bay and out back has a pond and rolling grassy hills that lead to the real hills in the distance.  We are the privileged occupants of the pond house.  Sunlight Beach (where we are) is on Useless Bay, a long, wide, and incredibly shallow inlet off the sound where the shifting tides can go out a mile and expose tide flats you can walk.  When the tide is in, it is within twenty yards of the homes nearby and boats are floating.  To say that this is picturesque is not doing the setting justice.  These weeks have been a time of relaxing and refreshing.  We’ve enjoyed time with our friends, including making new ones, but the “down time” has been important to us as well.  Lots of reading, some writing, walks along the beach and on the tide flats, and drives to explore the area and its scenery have allowed for us both to experience the rest we had hoped for.  Rest, as I’ve preached before, is not just inactivity, but it is the laying down of burdens and the ceasing of labors (and the thoughts of labors) for a time.  Being in a place so far removed from our home and familiar settings where we have been so well provided for, we consider ourselves blessed beyond measure.
Useless Bay when the tide is out
Our time here draws to a close this week, and we begin our journey eastward.  First stop will be Montana, visiting Kathy’s dad in Hamilton.  We’ll spend a few days at Glacier National Park during that time, then head onward to Mount Rushmore, and then journey north and east to see Mackinac Island and a final week at South Haven on Lake Michigan.

I do want to mention that one other blessing has been to worship and fellowship with believers and churches along the way.  This is the longest stretch I have gone not preaching but just worshiping in church services since my last sabbatical in 1999, and I’ve been encouraged by the messages I’ve heard.  The church here on Whidbey Island wins the prize for most familiar songs—but I’ve enjoyed hearing lots of new songs (or at least new to me) along the way.  Redeemer’s Fellowship in Roseburg is remembered every day through the coffee cup I got (thanks, Mikal!).  Two stops in a row before that we had preachers other than the lead pastors, who were on vacation.  Imagine that—pastors gone during the summer!

We appreciate the emails and Facebook notes we’ve gotten letting us know of people’s love and prayers, and we look forward to seeing everyone in a month…but we aren’t rushing home early either!  We look forward to a final month of seeing sights gearing up for a great season to come when we arrive home, Lord willing.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Sampling and Savoring on the Sound

Puget Sound is not easily described to a person unfamiliar with the Pacific Northwest.  While it is ocean water, it isn’t exactly the Pacific.  It is a large body of water formed between the Olympic Peninsula of Washington and the rest of the state.  Seattle sits on the east side of the sound, and a number of islands are found there as well.  One of them, Whidbey Island, is one of them, and that’s where we are as we pass the midpoint of our sabbatical.

Sunset on Useless Bay

According to my friend and long time Washington resident, David, Whidbey is the longest inhabited island in the continental U.S., longer than Long Island, though not as populated.  The northern end of the island has a Naval Air Station and the largest town, Oak Harbor.  We, however, are on the southern part of the island, where a few small tourist towns serve vacationers, and where our friends have a summer home that they have graciously made available to us.  So, we enjoy a few weeks of watching the tides on Useless Bay in front of us, and behind us seeing all sorts of birds enjoying a pond.  In many ways, it is as picturesque as any setting I could imagine.  The bay’s name stems from the fact that it is so flat that when the tide goes out, you can walk a quarter mile or more away from shore without getting wet, meaning that ships that might try to come to shore would find this spot, well, useless.  But its navigational challenges are more than compensated for (in my opinion) by the sheer beauty of this unique place and the joy of walking a half mile out on the tide flats.  It really is amazing here.  Kathy and I are getting in our share of reading, some writing (including journaling), walking, praying, and thinking.  We do miss our home, family, and friends dearly, but we’re not quite ready to come home J.  But we will be, when the time is up!  For now, here are some pictures to enjoy!
Walking in downtown Langley during Choochokum, their annual arts and crafts festival, last weekend.
The tide coming in!
The tide is out!
Our current home away from home
The view behind our house.  Note the pond and fire pit.  Look inviting?