CC Day 19 – A Service then Sedona

This Sunday we visited a church in Arizona – our first church service since home.  Though before  go on, I can not leave Phoenix behind without singing the praises of her roads. Imagine our joy, after leaving the streets of L.A., upon finding the best roads in all of America thus far, right there in Phoenix. Flat, wide, quiet lanes everywhere. On the freeway, in the cities, in the suburbs. My brother Ryan told me that the asphalt is even rubberized, minimizing noise! Sure, sure, they don’t have much rain or frost heaves or salt and sand on the streets; but I’ve got to give them credit for the many wide lanes and noise reduction. So far, the most pleasant city to drive in, hands down.

OK, so I found Cornerstone Christian Fellowship online and they appeared to fulfill our two main qualifications: 1) It was a solid Christian church 2) they wouldn’t mind if we showed up in flip-flops. To be honest, this was not a banner Sunday morning for our family. I am sure we are not the first family to encounter pre-church discord. Then our GPS bugged out on us and we wound up arriving 20 minutes late. Oh, how the battle of getting to church rages on ~ and just think…we wanted to go!

The church was pretty big with two buildings, a cafe, store and something like 5 Sunday services. We caught the last couple of worship songs (which were great) and a time of group prayer for our country (it was the 4th of July, after all). The sermon was an informal Q & A – though the questions had been submitted ahead of time. This was fun, funny and we learned some new things or at least heard them in a new way! We all enjoyed spending the morning with fellow believers on the other side of America on the 4th of July. Kinda cool.

After church we drove up to Sedona. The towering, rust colored rocks of all shapes and sizes, even richer in the setting sun, moved us all.I consider this one of the most beautiful places we have been yet. Sedona is a true oasis in the desert. The flowing creeks, majestic rocks, cooler temperatures (and even trees!) make one almost forget she is in the desert. I have heard that there is some vortex in Sedona; I simply know that Sedona felt wonderfully peaceful to me. Even when our family or the people around us weren’t at peace, something about that place just….well, it’s like the breeze blew sweet and the soothing right through me. If ever you are looking for a unique vacation spot, (sans the ocean, of course), visit Sedona!

CC Day 16, 17 & 18 – Home is…

The last three days top our list of favorite vacation experiences. We didn’t visit a theme park or tour a big city or marvel at the sights of a national park. We were with family!!! Before Thursday, we hadn’t seen my brother Ryan, his wife, Val or their daughters, Autumn and Hailey, since our family trip to Disney World in March 2009. This was also the first time we’ve ever visited them in Arizona. What a treat it was to see them in the place they call home!

When we arrived in Phoenix, our car’s thermostat read 117 degrees! Ryan and Val informed us that this is monsoon season so the air was a humid. To be honest, at 117 degrees, I am not sure I could tell you anything other than, it was wicked hot! Later that night a local weatherman reported “high humidity” with dew points in the mid 50’s. Well, now I understood! In CT, weathermen don’t usually call “high humidity” until dew points reach the upper 60’s. A dew point of 53? I’m thinking that just means I can be outside for more than 5 minutes without having to slather Vaseline all over my face. The weather is like Ryan has always described it: like opening the oven door. Even the wind blows hot. And I mean, hot!

 We stayed at the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort and Spa. Mile points covered two of the nights and we paid for one. This meant three nights in one place – our longest stay of the trip. Upon arrival, Doug upgraded us to a magnificent two room suite (which allowed us to entertain family) with a view of the pools. Yes, pools. This resort boasts five pools, two hot tubs, a water slide, an outdoor café bar and poolside service. We all spent lots of time enjoying the amenities and finding relief from the heat!

 I had such fun seeing my “little” brother in his own home, which he and Val have decorated so beautifully. I feel a need to share with you that, in addition to nine- and two-year old daughters, they also house four dogs and a cat! Ryan and Doug find they have much to commiserate about, as men outnumbered by girls, or as they say “living in an ocean of estrogen”. Ryan and Val also graciously allowed us wash about 2 weeks worth of dirty laundry in their washer and dryer! How nice it is to have fresh, clean clothes again!

On our last day, Ryan and his ladies came over for a final swim. As we made our way into the pool area,  we found that the July 4th weekend had transformed our quiet, relaxing, sophisticated resort into something like Spring Break for Adults with Children. The place was a madhouse! Sure, it was nice having someone deliver iced cucumber water to me as I waded in the 3 ½  foot pool. However, dodging splash balls, rubber balls and footballs, (real footballs, mind you, not Nerf balls), children’s feet kicking next to my face and highly intoxicated, stumbling guests, made things a teensy bit chaotic!

For dinner, Ryan and Val took us out for a little local flavor at Joe’s Real BBQ in downtown, historic Gilbert. This counter service restaurant serves down home, comfort food such as spare ribs, chicken, ham, corn, potato salad, cornbread with honey butter, baked potatoes, mac ‘n cheese, homemade root beer, fresh lemonade and a colossal root beer float. You can’t find many, if any, restaurants like this back home. Of all the places we have eaten so far, Joe’s is one my favorites! We finished our night playing a round of Apples to Apples at their home and then saying good-bye. The usual sadness of saying good-bye was eased somewhat by the hope that we will see them all in October at my baby brother, Derek’s wedding.

Arizona was the first place I found myself thinking, “I could live here. This feels like home.” Then I realized that the reason I felt so at home was because I was with family. Being with Ryan, Val and the girls and saying good-bye has made me miss home more than any other time thus far. When we were at Disneyland I met a grandmother who has lived in L.A. all her life; she said she could never leave because her kids live there also. Isn’t that what “home” is all about? Home isn’t a place. Home is loving and being loved. For most of us, that means being with family. For some, it may mean being with your best friend, church body, neighbors or even your pets. I am blessed enough to say that I have all of the above.

As I ponder all this, I can not help but think about a better home, a greater home that calls to each of us. We are all aliens in a foreign land; restless wanderers looking for a place our souls can find peace, security and rest. In a sense, we are all homesick. If this is true, and if being “home” is loving and being loved, then the only place we will ever find genuine rest is in the lap of our Creator ~ the One whose perfect love fills every empty hole, soothes every open wound, heals every scar ~ the One whose love never fails, never wearies, never forgets but passionately endures forever. I love and miss you all and pray that today, wherever you are, your heart is truly at home.