When we were younger, the Ryan kids all loved a certain vacation destination: Mendocino. A rugged county in Northern California, always known for its most beautiful coastline and stunning State Parks. The steep cliffs meet the crashing waves of the incredible (and mis-named) Pacific Ocean. It was like my own dramatic place...like Wuthering Heights. When we visited the shore, I was usually overlooking the scape on a large rock with a pen and notebook, while my brothers and sisters looked for shells, observed tide pools or fished with my Dad.
Mendocino connotes gusts in summer; tastes of camping food; conversations around campfires, and great fun with my family.
Here, Scottsburg has become my "new Mendocino". We just got back from 5 days off (together- in a row!!) spent at the small city just South of Durban on the Indian Ocean. My friend, Debbie invited us to her family's place, and she spent three of our five days there with us. It never got cool, and in the warmth of the "autumn" days we were dunking ourselves in the pool in the garden or getting in the warm and salty waves of the neighboring beach. It was wonderful, fresh and absent of cell phones or internet connection. My laptop stayed in its case.
It's been a long time since I went on vacation in Mendocino...at least 25 years. Then, the thought of appearing on the beach in my swimsuit left me a knock-kneed, self-conscious mess about not being pretty enough, or having enough curves for a swim suit. I never felt comfortable on the beach, where California girls with baked brown skin and long, blonde hair were around. I think the poor girl I was back then would be absolutely shocked to see the woman I have become: running around in a swimsuit!! This plump 48-year-old with no business showing herself on any beach!!
My week off was spent without any makeup, my hair pulled back in an unflattering pony tail and me not caring how I looked because it felt so good to be so anonymous...and to relax. That is, until I saw pictures of myself. "Who the hell is that woman?" I thought to myself... only to comfort myself in a loving embrace. I have wasted too many years believing that I am not pretty, thin or stylish enough and I won't do it to myself anymore. I am precious, and have as much right to wear my swimsuit on a beach as anyone else.
Just not a bikini.
During one night of intense South Coast heat - and in a house with windows for air conditioning , we were flopping on the comfortable couches and watching a movie. I got up to get another glass of wine, catching a glimpse of myself in the TV screen. "Is that me or my mom?" I said aloud. Mario, playing a game on his ipad, answered without thinking. "Stop it, Janet," he said. "You are an incredibly beautiful and sexy woman." Thank God I have him.... he always knows just what to say. Married 24 years this year, he has learned how to switch on the auto-pilot and schmooze his way to a perfect 10 on the scale of good husband support.
The best part of time away is the time I get with Mario. We share our rest times, our meals, and (my favorite time) our study time in the morning. Under a shade umbrella, outside with good coffee and the Word of God, I can look across the table and see the man I married, and who he has become. He soaks himself in studying the intricacies of the Word of God: Biblical chapters and reference materials in front of him, he is seldom distracted by sounds or butterflies or geckos. My orange pen (with which I have a special relationship) is a simple fine point. My notes are made right in my Bible.
We both seek His Voice.
He who is our heavenly father, who is our Great Comfort...our Direction, our reason for living....
In the times of vacation I miss my family, and am reminded of many vacations past. If I mention them more than ever, it is because this season has been particularly hard being separated from them. I guess vacations are reminders of family and family times.
Back in Johannesburg this morning, we are again confronted with reality. A friend and church leader weakening with sickness and in the hospital. Japan's quake and its damage affects us all. Friends taxed and working toward their weekend.... and everyone happy to see us back.
Happy to be back... very. Rest is good, but we are called to Africa to be with others and love them in the best way we know how. Pray,I ask you again, for us to be effective for the Kingdom of God.... and bearers of light.