Friday, October 14, 2011

The End of This Chapter

We woke up to a high enough overcast that the mountains were clear and beautiful, standing up all around us like we were in some gigantic mouth. We stopped in at my brother Gary's place in Enderby at noon and caught up with him and his wife Joan over sandwiches at a great (and obviously popular) eatery called Hungry Jack's on Cliff Avenue.

Then we carried on to Vernon, to reconnect with our friends Richard and Shaleah, and our puppy Barkley! They have been looking after him since June, which has been a huge help to us and it seems they have enjoyed him too. He went nuts when he saw us and would not stop jumping straight into the air until he got it into his mind that I could toss a ball for him to chase, which he did with as much energy as ever. He has certainly settled down in these past few months and is more obedient than ever. That's what happens in a family of dog trainers.

It was also very cool to watch how Richard & Shaleah's three kids are adjusting so well to life in Canada after eight years in Tanzania. Several families came over that evening for supper and Bible study, all with young kids, which is great because it is often hard for young families to manage getting together this way. This led to a good discussion the next morning about families and parenting and adoption. They adopted their little girl in Tanzania when she was just three months old, and she has fit in so well. But one day she will likely have to process the kind of emotions I have seen in other adopted young women in the past few years.

I realized as we carried on down the road to Kelowna that these girls not only feel abandoned by their birth family, which was just an action once done to them for whatever reason. They also feel "abandonable," which relates to who they are: they feel like people who can be discarded. These may or may not be reasonable feelings or emotions in keeping with the circumstances of their adoption. But the feelings are real nonetheless.

In Kelowna, we went to visit my mom, who soon after my dad's passing in February went into a full care facility. She was angry about it back then, so I was amazed at how calm and content she is in her situation now. She is lonely though, and because memory loss keeps her from knowing how frequently she has visitors or how long we have visited with her, goodbyes are always tough - she never wants us to leave. So we talked and played Scrabble (she beat me the first game, pulling out a 46-point word right at the end) and Skippo (I won, which rarely happens). Then she reluctantly saw us out the door until the next day.

We were glad to be staying once again with Kristie, in her beautiful home overlooking Okanagan Lake, and to see her so much more full of energy and looking like herself again. More of the grace of God! I took a late-night walk down to the Lake, and the stars were beautiful and bright. It felt so good to get air in my lungs - too many days of driving and coffee shops and no exercise.

We had a nice lazy start to the day, took my mom out for lunch at Tim's and then more games of Scrabble. Sorry, I won, though mom had a stretch of 120 points in four turns. But no matter how long we stay, it is never enough for mom, who by necessity lives in the moment. She prefers moments with us over moments alone, and we can't blame her. But it does lift her spirits to have us with her, even if she can't remember afterward why she feels happy.

That evening, Marissa came over - who just moved to Kelowna to take a hairdressing course - and I made a beef stir-fry for us all, which went well with Marissa's great salad and other additions by Kristie and Sarah. So good to see Marissa after a full year. Later we went to see a condo that Marissa might share. "Very tempting," she said, and no doubt since it was brand new, gorgeous and the patio door opens to Woods Lake! We sat there a long time (a friend of Kristie's gave her the key) and talked and didn't want to leave.

The next morning we met Doris - who also just moved to Kelowna, "like all the cool people," as Marissa put it - and had brunch at the Jammery, a popular spot overlooking Duck Lake. Doris amazed us with how quickly God has established her here and opened ministry opportunities with the young adults at Trinity Baptist, my home church.

We took my mom for a drive that afternoon and she enjoyed the sunshine and orchards bursting with apples and the views of the Lake. It's fun because she enjoys the same views multiple times and usually makes the same comments each time! Finished the day at Kristie's with leftovers, the movie Miss Potter (better than it sounds) and a walk with Kristie under a nearly full Moon and with the lights on the water.

After saying farewell to Kristie, we went to the 9:00 am service at Trinity with my mom. We were very glad to see that our friend Storm was leading worship, and it was beautiful. On a Sunday back in February, he came to Trinity to lead worship and be checked out by the church, and it was my dad's last Sunday there before he passed away, and he told me how much he liked Storm and hoped he would get the position of worship leader there. It was good to chat with him and catch up a bit.

We found ourselves in the um... unfortunate?? predicament of being invited to two Thanksgiving dinners on the same day. So we went early to my Mom's sister's place (at 92 she is still hosting the family gathering) and could smell the turkey but couldn't eat it, then confused my mom by leaving early and drove four hours to Chilliwack to have turkey with Sarah's sister and family! Confused? My brain and stomach felt the same, but really it is a blessing to have so much family tugging us about.

Ben and Danny joined us there too, so it was a happy gathering. Danny has been away at a digital film school in Hawaii these past six months and arrived back a couple weeks before. Ben picked him up in Bellingham and they and Amber (K1) drove together down the Oregon coast to California and saw Amanda (K3-5 leader). So it was great to be back together after so many adventures.

We spent a couple relaxing, rainy days there and then continued west to Langley, where Mikayla (K3) and family hosted a gathering of Kaleo students from around the lower mainland.

Lisa (K1 leader); Mark, Matthew, Mikayla, Kirk (K3); Andrew, Sheri, Joel (K5); Bob (K7 - check out his "hair"); Holly, Steve and Bryan (K8) all came together, not all knowing one another but knowing us. So good to see them all, and so little time to talk with each one. As one student said to us on this trip, it's like they are sending Sarah and I off to the next adventure with their blessing. We are truly feeling that, but are still wondering what that next adventure will be.

Well, the end of the journey. We boarded a good old-fashioned BC ferry, all too familiar to us, and rolled into Victoria, 10,000 kilometers older, perhaps a little wiser and definitely blessed. We spent our last night in the camper at Goldstream Park among the giant trees of the west coast, ready to turn the page to the next chapter. We thank you for journeying with us, and appreciate your continuing prayers and affirmation.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Dinosaurs to Mountains

We haven't been to see the dinosaurs since Ben was very little. The Royal Tyrrell Dinosaur Museum in Drumheller is quite amazing, if you can forgive Darwin and zillions of years, and simply be in awe of creatures God once created. It was especially nice that admission was free due to an Alberta Arts thing.

This was our favorite room: set like a gallery with dark walls, well-lit displays, gilt frames around them, classical music, leather chairs and an enormous T-Rex dominating centre stage. We sat here a long time, soaking it in, enjoying the coolness (it was a scorching 31C outside) and breathing. We had lunch under an umbrella outside and then I went for a walk in the badlands, eye out for the next colossal Dino find, but content to get some exercise. Hey, longboarders, there is a brand new paved trail winding down through the badlands. You should check it out, Selena! It crosses the road a bit before the museum.

On the drive to Calgary, we glimpsed the most amazing thing: Mountains! So good to see them again, and a reminder that we are nearing the end of this journey. We arrived and found Laura, who married Ty W (K1&2) a couple years ago and had just arrived home from work. Ty arrived as we were getting to know Laura better, and we went out for burgers at a local grill.

We enjoyed a lazy start the next day. All slept in, except Ty who had a morning event at the boys and girls club. When he got home we took a picnic to Prince's Island Park and tweaked out enough sunshine to make it very pleasant, even at the end of September.

That evening, Phil B (K2) and his wife Nicole came down for dinner - so good to see Phil (who was also a K3 intern) after so many years and to meet the girl who married him in spite of the time he nearly dropped a boulder on her while they were climbing together. We all talked and caught up, late into the evening.

After going to Ty & Nicole's church in the morning, and giving them a fond farewell, we located the Starbucks where we expected to meet a couple of students, and found four! Jahnaya (K5) arrived first, then Kendall (K3) and then Dan & Katie (K5), who we thought we had missed!

Jahnaya, Kendall and Katie are all studying at Ambrose, and both Kendall and Katie & Dan got married this summer! Time flew as we heard their stories and plans and dreams and ministries. All too soon it was time for hugs and prayers, and the road west to Banff, where Michelle (K1) was to meet us at her church.

We were afraid that the weather would be too unsettled for us to see the mountains, but as the sun poked through the clouds it set them in sharp contrast. We arrived at Banff Park Church, where the believers were wrapping up a day of fasting and prayer with worship and more prayer. Michelle and her husband Michael have been married five years and both work (as many Banff citizens do) in the hospitality industry, he as a chef and she at the front desk of the fabulous Banff Springs Hotel. God has blessed them recently with a baby girl named Avery, who is now two months old. Man, I want to be a grandpa! Go find a wife, guys! We went to their condo and made a start at catching up, with Michelle dropping hints of a marvelous day on the morrow. We stayed in the camper on the street, which was okay to do, but the night life of the mini-city of Banff convinced us that we should go find a campground for the next night.

A marvelous day needs to start lazy, and this one did. While the rest got their day started, I went for a walk and found myself crossing the Bow River bridge and along the river to Bow Falls, with the Banff Springs "Castle" towering above. Michelle barbecued steaks for lunch, which was another good start, and told us that she had arranged complimentary tickets through Aussie Matt, who served at Qwanoes back in 2003, and that we were going on a boat tour and gondola ride! We wanted to take Michelle out for dinner later (Michael was working), and Michelle suggested choosing one of the 11 eating establishments at Banff Springs to finish the day, which would give her the opportunity to show us around. Since she gets meals at half price, it was an easy sell.

The boat tour was on Lake Minnewanka under blue skies and no wind. The reflections, especially the fall colors, were perfect. Little Avery seemed mostly content swaddled up with mom, though by the end of the day she began to tell us that she was having too much fun. We couldn't get enough of mountains - it was like we had run dry of them in our travels and needed to soak up every drop.

From there, after a quick feeding stop, we picked up Matt and went to the famous Sulphur Mountain Gondola, where he works as a manager. Michelle can hardly believe that I remember going to the hot springs right in town as a child, as the closing of those springs to save an endangered snail seems like ancient history to her, but I do. I guess I am ancient as well! The gondola reminded me of a memorable story from my youth pastoring days, but no lightning storm and power outage beset us, so it was all good. Fantastic views and good conversation with Matt as we hiked to the lookout at the top.

Whew! Another feeding break for Avery and then to the Banff Springs Hotel. I didn't get a photo, so here's one from the web, and it didn't look like this when we were there but I bet it will in a few weeks. I just like this picture.

Michelle showed us places we would never have seen on our own, like the view from a bridge built between two towers so high-end guests would no longer have to go up three fights of stairs, or the place in the hallway where the room numbers skip one, and where there was clearly (as she pointed out) once the door to a room, now boarded up because of a ghastly murder (well, that's what visitors think, but is was just a renovation to make a larger room), and the huge ballrooms where the minimum food and beverage bill is $20-30,000. We decided on the Rundle Lounge, featuring relaxing sofas and small tables and pub fare. The food was great, but I mostly enjoyed lulling Avery to sleep. Wonderful day, and we felt very pampered. Thank you, Michelle and Matt!

We said our hard farewells that evening, and found a site in the dark in the national campground. Upon waking we found ourselves still surrounded by mountains on every side, despite the promise of rain developing. In fact, the clouds rolled back regularly all day, until we reached our well-researched campground in Glacier National Park and found it closed. A parks staff guy happened to pull up in his truck, and he was surprised too, as the website said it would be open until Thanksgiving. He told us of another one a few kilometers down that we could stay at overnight. When we got there, a tiny sign said it was closed too, but we are going with the parks guy's word and here we are, smack in the middle of the park and mountains towering all around. If you are a National Parks official reading this tonight, please don't come here and kick us out. We are tired and going to bed! Good night!