A PEEK AROUND THE CORNER
A friend just returned for their first ever trip to London. As they were sharing about their experience, I couldn’t help but feel a huge surge of nostalgia (or was that ENVY?). A few years ago my wife and I were able to spend 3 weeks in London, Paris and the surrounding areas. We even stopped in the little village of Whittlesey, England –a town founded by my own ancestors. Those three weeks in Europe were a life-long dream come true. There is so much history, personal and otherwise, that has happened in that small corner of the world. Exploring Westminster Abbey, floating down The Thames, seeing Big Ben in real life, being awed by St Paul’s Cathedral, retracing the founding of the YMCA, seeing Buckingham Palace, walking down the streets of Notting Hill, or visiting the little shops in the birthplace of my family tree — these are memories that will last a lifetime.
Reliving those memories opened up the door for a long conversation between my wife and I about our journey together. We met while we were still very young, started a family early, and invested ourselves in the busy lifestyle of fulltime ministry in the local church. Time and money were both very precious, so vacations primarily were trips to her folks or mine. I have to admit, going to her folk’s house was more attractive than going to my parents, but that is partly because her folks lived 5 minutes from Disneyland and we had three kids that caught the Disney bug from their mother!! I don’t regret those vacations at all! We packed as much fun and laughter as possible into a single week, then headed back up or down I-5 to get back to work. In those years we never gave much thought to the idea of traveling elsewhere.
Things changed as our kids began to get a bit older, our income went up, and opportunities arose to venture out beyond the homes of our kid’s grandparents. It started when my oldest son was getting ready to attend high school. Our first and only family trip to the East Coast included the mandatory stop at Disney World, then a 2 week excursion up I-95, with stops in many of the major cities along the way, including Washington DC, New York City, and Boston. It was an amazing trip, giving us all opportunities to see and do things we honestly thought we would never see or do!! Highlights included a tour of the White House led by the aid of our state’s Senator, being awed by the Lincoln Memorial, looking out from the top of the Washington Monument, and strolling through the expanse of the Smithsonian Museums. We visited Times Square, climbed up to the crown of the Statue of Liberty, saw Rockefeller Center, and patted the bull on Wall Street. We walked through Boston Commons, had lunch at Cheers, and stood on Bunker Hill. And there were countless stops and sights in-between! Of course, the trip ended with one last day at Disney World before flying home.
The photos of that trip (on paper yet….before digital cameras were ever thought about) still resonate with my wife and I. And I suspect my grown children still hold very fond memories of that family vacation. My wife and I felt we had truly done something right! After all, even in those days, taking a family of 5 on a trip like that was a major investment. Life, with all of its hassles and issues, continued to go on both before and after that trip, but we made the decision to carve out the time and money necessary to create an experience that we hoped would long outlive us. Honestly, I think it worked!
Since then God has continued to open up doors for us all to experience more of the world that we share with 7 billion others. My kids can tell their own stories, but my wife and I spent time this weekend reflecting on all that we’ve seen and done over the years of our marriage. Meeting and marrying in Southern California, we’ve lived there, Texas, Nevada, Oregon and the San Francisco Bay Area. We not only had that amazing trip to Europe, and the family trip to East Coast, but we’ve also visited parts of the USA that neither of us thought we would ever see in person — New Orleans, Chicago, St Louis, Nashville, Branson, Buffalo, Las Vegas, Portland (Maine, that is — we live in Portland, OR), Memphis, Kansas City, Detroit, Seattle, Spokane, and places like Norte Dame, the 9/11 Memorial, Niagara Falls, the Gateway Arch, Willits Tower, the Empire State Building, the CN Tower in Toronto, the Capilano Suspended Bridge in Vancouver BC, the Grand Canyon, the National Cathedral, and many, many more. In my years for traveling for work I saw numerous state capitols, football stadiums, university campuses, and visited exotic places like Hong Kong, Chang Mai Thailand, Munich Germany, and Zurich Switzerland. As we talked about all of this, we were amazed at all we had seen and experienced during our years together……more than either of us would have ever dreamed or imagined. God has blessed us with experiences to last several lifetimes!
I’m sure you must be thinking, “Why do I need to read Larry’s travelogue?” I’m assuming most of you have one of your own. But I don’t want to just write about where I’ve gone or how blessed I’ve been to have gone there. I’m writing to express my incredible gratitude to God for these and so many other moments in my life. He has been with me through everything — both the enjoyable and the not so enjoyable experiences of my life. The many sights and sounds of my journey have been mixed with the realities of life’s burdens and complications. There have been 5 ACL operations, my wife’s three miscarriages, the death of my parents, and a couple of near-death experiences (1 for me, 2 for my wife). I’ve had my share of pills, problems and perplexing situations. I’ve had to officiate tough funerals, been asked to help sort out a number of messy relationships, and know firsthand the sting of betrayal. I’ve experienced both success and failure, victory and defeat, genuine friendships and unexplained rivalries, tremendous emotional highs and Death-Valley type lows. Yet throughout my journey, wherever it’s taken me, I’ve never had a doubt that God was leading the way. All the good experiences I’ve enjoyed are because of His goodness to me, and His presence has never deserted me when things haven’t been so good!!
In fact, that’s why I titled this article, “A Peek Around the Corner”. The past experiences are now memories (mostly good), and today’s realities will soon fade from immediate view. At the moment the future remains an unknown quantity to be revealed just one day at a time. In my heart of hearts I know there are some tough days coming, but I also know there will be some more pleasant memories to be made. I feel somewhat like a kid waiting in line at Disney World — I know the ride may be a little bit scary at times, but I can’t wait to experience it. I don’t know what waits for me around the corner, but I am assured of one thing — I know I won’t be alone. I want to take it all in — the new sights, new experiences, new places, and new people God has for me. I know they won’t all be pleasant, but that’s OK! I know who’s got my back.
Still, I’d love to peek around the corner to see what’s coming next