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At Home in the Here and Not Yet

It has dawned a clear, crisp early November day at the Bluff following two days of gales on Lake Michigan. As I sit at my desk writing, Mark is out with his chainsaw helping saw up the neighbor’s fallen ash tree. The whipping wind pushed it right out by its roots.

There’s something doleful yet timeless about a tree’s newly exposed roots- it is death, and homelessness, and loss, and capitulation and rebirth all rolled into one.”

I have been thinking about home lately-all the places I have called home, making a new home here at the Bluff after pulling up our lives at Trout Creek by the roots, and all the years my heart was searching for a home when what it really needed was God himself.

Being at home is a sense, a feeling of being nurtured yet challenged, content yet ever searching, with a pillow for your head and loved ones within reach. I have been at home in hiking boots on the slopes of the Rocky Mountains, the rain forests of Costa Rica, and the stony paths of the French Alps. I once had a home in Wales for a semester, rope-climbing the steep cliffs that face the Irish Sea, and paddling the wild Welsh rivers. I have made my home in a flat in Paris, writing for a whole blessed month while my daughter was at work. I was at home for many years in my calling as a college professor, enjoying the gift that thousands of students unknowingly gave me to fill the emptiness of infertility.

Nowadays, having endured the moving of the house back from the bluff’s edge and reconstructing the entire lower level, we are finally settled into home at the Bluff. Since I was five years old, I knew I would live here someday. That is because it has always been the place I come back to; on this side of the river, this has always been my one true home. This is where I set down roots and made lifelong friends, clothed in the balm of nature’s call and care. Here, I am embedded in forest and dune, blissfully at home on the long, lonely stretches of beach with a cherished petoskey stone in my sandy pocket. Here is the delight of slowing down, of welcoming the unplanned coffee and conversation with a new friend, and of taking the time to read, and reread some timeless favorites.

We are one short step from heaven here, figuratively, and literally.

 I know full well that this home is as temporary as all the others.”

Even as I wait on God in prayer and obedience, he too waits for me to finish my upward climb to my last and forever home with him. On that day, that most glorious day, my physical body tumbled like a dead ash tree by the gales of age, my soul will be loosed to heaven, my new and forever home. I can’t know from this side of the river what that will be like, but I suspect the surprise outweighs the not-knowing.

Keep climbing-your home awaits.

Thanks for reading,

J.A.P. Walton, Ph.D.

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adventure, Life's Storms, Orienteering, Outdoor Adventures, Saint David, Serving Others, Technical Climbing, Uncategorized, Wales, White Water Paddling, wisdom

Saint David, the Wilds of Wales, & Doing the Little Things

March 1st is Saint David’s Day. My family has always celebrated it with pride, and not a little relief that the winter months are behind us. My great-grandmother was an immigrant from Wales in the 1880’s. Her father left the poverty-stricken slate mines of north Wales to settle in eastern Iowa as a farmer. Nearly one hundred years later, I found myself a student at Trinity College in south Wales where I could study Welsh (a difficult, guttural language to be sure). My other classes were Russian History, Outdoor Pursuits, and Chorale, because when you are in Wales, you must sing!

It was the OP class that captured my heart. Over 12 weeks, we learned technical climbing on the steep western cliffs facing the Irish Sea, whitewater kayaking in the wild, foaming rivers of Wales, hiking up the brooding mountains of the north, and the sport of orienteering. It challenged me physically, and I learned quickly to trust ~ my peers, the ropes, the kayak, and the compass. When we live with our petty suspicions about the motives and nature of others, it is wonderfully freeing to learn, experientially, that trust is a virtue to be cultivated.

My brother is named after Saint David, who was a teacher and a monk in the 6th century. Native Welsh, Saint David established Christian enclaves throughout the country. He was no stranger to challenges, and it was his faith that led him on as he shared the gospel with Atlantic pirates and poor Welsh villagers alike.

His trust in God never wavered. On his deathbed, he admonished people to be joyful, to keep their faith, and do the little things in life.

In future posts, I will describe the thrill of running rapids, racing through deep snow to find the orange control flags at an orienteering competition, and rappelling down the steep sea cliffs in a wildly beautiful, breathtaking country. But today is Saint David’s Day, March 1, and I am thinking about “doing the little things” that, when added up, make for a life of meaning and service…things like sharing a meal, sitting with the sick, imprisoned, or widowed, taking on extra at work so a co-worker can get a break, driving your car without ranting at other drivers, keeping your space neat so people don’t have to live with your mess. Joining folks in their sorrow. Saying thank you.

It’s rarely about the thrill, is it? Life is about trusting God that he made you to lighten the burden of other people. It takes trust to step backwards off a high cliff. To paddle over a waterfall, or to run in deep snow after hidden clues. But to trust in God is so much grander. It means that all will be well, even as waters pour over our heads, even as we slip and fall, even as we persist in the mundane. The secret is in staying focused on the little things of life! Happy Saint David’s Day!   Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Hapus!

~ J.A.P. Walton

Photo Credit: Google images (because mine are all slides!) My chorale class sang a Christmas Concert here on a cold, snowy evening in December 1978.  For more information about Wales, see here: Wales | History, Geography, Facts, & Points of Interest |      Wales travel guide