Friday, October 26, 2012

Goodbye Peyt's Island... Hello Peyt's Park

The time has come to move forward from the peaceful, serene space called Peyt's Island. It may seem silly to admit I am tearing up about saying goodbye to a silly blog of all things, but those of you who have stuck with me this long know how much heart and soul I have poured into this place. This place very much represents home to me, and sadly, I find that, ready or not, it's time for Peyt's Island to come to an end.

I remember so clearly the first post I wrote. I woke up very early one morning in Guam (jet lagged) and sat on the floor in front of the bed in the hotel room while Nick slept. I clicked away energetically typing out the first paragraphs about our first 24 hours on island. I was so excited to share the initial stories and perceptions of our new home with everyone we were leaving behind. More than anything, I wanted Peyt's Island to become a space where our friends and family felt they could, in some small way, come with us and join us in what was sure to be an unforgettable adventure ahead. Our island did not disappoint and, in fact, far surpassed any expectations we may have had when our feet hit the ground. And Peyt's Island was the place where I tediously and passionately collected each story as it transitioned from current events into sacred memory. It's where a small, faraway island transformed into paradise.

So today, with admittedly far less excitement, I introduce to you Peyt's Park. While not as romantic or exotic a space as Peyt's Island, Peyt's Park will be a place for me to, well, park. Among the many life lessons I learned in Guam, I learned that I love writing for fun and sharing stories about what's going on in my life and in the lives of those I care about. And much like a park, it will be a convenient and simple place in the neighborhood, close to home, for anyone to come and meet me here, just as you are. Together we can catch up, remember the good old days, and share meaningful ideas about whatever the future holds.

So I hope you will consider dropping in at Peyt's Park (or Peyt Spark depending on any scathingly brilliant ideas that happen to emerge). Please bear with me as I try to get excited about life on the East Coast. Paradise is a hard place to leave, but I know it can also, in time, be redefined. I look forward to sharing those discoveries with you.

And who knows, maybe along the way, this new, unfamiliar place will eventually steal my heart as Peyt's Island sure has.

One last order of duty... saying goodbye.

Goodbye, Peyt's Island. You were the place where all my dreams came true. I will not soon forget you, but rather will fold these island epiphanies into the person God continues to lead me to be. For those who have made the journey with me, I owe an enormous heap of thanks. As I say goodbye to these silhouetted palms, I hope to reunite with you all again back on the mainland for more stories and discoveries at Peyt's Park.

Friends, thank you for joining me on this incredible journey! Hope to see you soon at

Friday, October 5, 2012

The lasting gifts of paradise

If there's one thing leaving Guam reiterated, it's how much love we received during our time there from our friends and Guam family. We had two really wonderful going away parties, one from our church and one from our friends in the neighborhood. I received two going away presents that were among the most special of my life. I was completely floored. Twice.

The first party was a complete surprise! I showed up for my last youth group with one of the 8th graders from my street in tow. We walked into the church and there were tables beautifully decorated and a whole bunch of extra people milling about. "Surprise!!"

The sneaky moms in the group came up with the idea to invite the parents and other church members I've worked closely with to have a last meal together and make my last youth group a really special one. I know how much effort it takes to transform our sanctuary into a dining hall and prepare food for 40+ people, so I was pretty humbled by the whole thing. As if the surprise party wasn't enough, they sat me down in a chair and started handing me what seemed like a bazillion little boxes.

As I opened the first set of boxes, it started to sink in what was going on. A chain link bracelet, a charm of Guam, a sea turtle, a latte stone. As I continued to open each box, I found a charm and a note inside each one. Each family had picked out a charm for me and wrote me a sweet note to go along with it. There was a flip flop from the Collins family and a plumeria cross from the Duenas family and a Scuba diving gecko (OOG!) from Noah, one of our 7th graders. Each tiny piece of silver and each note came together to create a beautiful and special charm bracelet to help me remember all of the special people from our LCG family.

Our last Sunday on the island, our friends from the neighborhood and Nick's work threw us a going away party at our friends the Roberts house. I wrote about the party in a recent post, but what I didn't share with you all was the extraordinary going away gift they told me about that day. My amazing, wonderful Guammie friends all got together and published Peyt's Island into a book! Into two books, actually! They told me the volumes were waiting for me at my parents' house in Houston. At that point, I suddenly couldn't wait to get on the plane to go see it!

As soon as we got to town, my parents brought Peyt's Island (the book!!) over to Nick's house. I spent the next few hours pouring over the pages full of the words and pictures and memories that have reflected and molded and grown my soul over the past two years. I couldn't put it down! There were so many obscure posts I had forgotten about... so many pages of discovering our island and trying new things and going new places. So many stories of jungle exploration and sea creature spotting and the extraordinary details of day-to-day island life.

Never in a million years would it have dawned on me to do this for myself. But thanks to Amy, Erin, Erica, Jaime, Kate, Shea, Nicole, Trish, Erika, Lisa, Kristi, Jenny, and Sara, I will forever have this unforgettable experience bound together, page by page, post by post, to look back on whenever my heart longs to return to Peyt's Island. As hard as it was to leave a place I had grown to love to much, my heart is somehow at peace in this transition knowing these stories are mine to take with me in such a tangible way.

So thank you, Guam friends. From the bottom of my heart. I may have written the words and told the stories, but it was all of you who made Peyt's Island such paradise for us. Thank you doesn't seem quite enough to cover such incredible gifts. I hope you all know how truly grateful I will forever be for this time together and for these special gifts to remember it all.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

A Celebration of Guam's Sunsets

I took some time during our 16 hours of flying back to the States to further organize the thousands of pictures I have taken during the last two years living abroad. Through this sorting process, I discovered that we have amassed quite a collection of photos of Guam's incredible sunsets. So as the sun sets over our time on Guam (I mean, it's the perfect segue...), here are some absolutely stunning sunsets I am excited to share.
 Sunset over the treeline
 Sun set over the ocean

 Our 1st Guamiversary sunset
 Sunset from Dadi Beach
 Sunset from a mountaintop
Sunset from our driveway

 ... and another
 Sun lowering over Orote Peninsula, taken from Gab Gab
 Sunset behind cloud making shape of island of Guam!
Sunset at Mt LamLam - Best sunset watching spot on the island

 Sunsets casting shadows on the mountainsides below LamLam

Sunset behind LamLam cross

 Back to the driveway

 Around town, sunset views are great from Two Lovers Point
 The beach in Agana
 Asan Beach Overlook

 The backyard of our church in Hagatna
Clouds certainly make things more interesting

Tired of sunsets? Okay, fine... here's a rainbow.

And another one... below us at Asan Beach Overlook

 And another taken from our boat just off the coast of Agat

Sunrises aren't too bad either

Back to the driveway

 This was probably the most memorable of the two years of sunsets... taken in Saipan.

And I think of all of them, this one is my favorite. The sun only settles in this crease at the end of Orote Peninsula a few days a year. We were lucky enough to head to Gab Gab on this exact night at this exact time and snapped this incredible picture.

So many wonderful sunsets... so much to celebrate :)

Thursday, September 27, 2012

So Long, Paradise

 I am writing now from 30,000 feet over the Pacific Ocean… which means our time on Guam has come to its end. Monumental as this day is, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t ready to go. Five weeks of being in transition, and especially the last two in and out of hotel rooms, borrowing a car, plus the draining base check-out process makes a person want to get on with it already.  That said, the view from our 16th floor room of the Marriott in Tumon made those last five extra days on island a little more bearable.
We spent our last weekend on Guam saying goodbye to the places and people that have made this island such a wonderful home and rich experience the past two years. Thursday we checked out of our empty, lifeless Happy Gilmore home and checked into the hotel. Friday we played golf at Leo Palace, the nicest golf resort on the island.
Friday night I led one final youth group get together… a photo scavenger hunt at the outlet mall. A bunch of kids and leaders and parents showed up for the fun. We had a blast collecting silly pictures of monkeys and food court pyramids and videos of manikin proposals and thumb wars with Korean tourists. We went back to the church for dessert and a viewing of all the ridiculous shots full of faces that I am going to miss so much.
On Saturday, Nick and I did one final drive around the southern coast of Guam. It started with a stop at Talofofo Caves so Nick could show me the back entrance to the biggest cave, which I hadn’t seen before. There’s a rope where you can climb the hundred-plus feet down to the bottom (he and his brother did this back in April). But it was slippery and wet, and with so few hours left, I decided I wasn’t feeling that adventurous (you’re welcome, Moms).

So we continued on to Inarajan Pools so I could feast my eyes on my favorite island spot one more time. The surf was powerful and the wind was strong. Rather than soak and wade and dip in the fresh pools, we kept our feet on the limestone this time. We stared out over the ocean and marveled again at its incomparable vastness. We breathed in the salty air and toasted to two unbeatable years of island living.

We wrapped around to the Southern Mountains overlook to peek at Mt. LamLam one last time. The weather was pretty terrible our whole last week… not necessarily pouring, but lots of clouds and wind and very little sunshine. I had hoped for another Mt. LamLam sunset climb last week, but each opportunity was met with an evening sky marred by a blanket of cloud cover. We never made that last climb. It sounds disappointing, but honestly, getting out of here during rainy season was the probably only thing that could make it easier to leave paradise.

The same weekend we were staying in Tumon was also a port call for the USS George Washington, an aircraft carrier strike group that’s based out of Japan. Our friends Ben and Mason (the husbands of the girls I visited in Japan, friends from our time in Coronado) were in town, so we grabbed dinner with them at a favorite restaurant. I ordered parrot fish, a local reef fish, which is one of the tastiest there is and probably not one I’ll be able to get fresh in Virginia Beach. When in Rome…

Sunday morning we awoke for what proved to be the hardest part of the weekend… going to church one last time. Since I was singing, I helped pick the songs, so the service included some of my absolute favorites. At the end of the service, Nick and I stood before the congregation during our farewell and shared what it has meant to be a part of this unique and caring church family. We received our parting gift, our last name carved into a piece of wood from a tree taken from the church property. It will sit on our mantle in our future home and remind us to continue passing on the love and fellowship we found at the Lutheran Church of Guam.
After the service, our church voted to extend a Call (yes, call with a capital C) to one of the pastors who visited a few weeks ago. As part of the Call Committee these past 12 months, I found it very satisfying on our last Sunday that after months of prayer the church was able to take this leap of faith towards its future.

Sunday afternoon we found ourselves at our favorite barbecue spot, our friends’, the Roberts, house down the street from ours. We have spent so many Saturday nights here gathering with different groups of people for a great meal and lots of time-passing porch sitting. We joke that these guys are our long lost brother and sister (since we share the same last name and all). After the last year and a half together of dinners and workouts and venting sessions, I think it’s safe to say that we’re only half joking.
So many great friends from the neighborhood and Nick’s work came out to see us off at the party. I was completely surprised when the girls pulled me aside to fill me in on an extremely unexpected parting gift that has to be one of the most thoughtful gifts I have ever received. It is waiting for me in Texas. I will have to leave you hanging for now until I get my hands on it.

Monday we woke up to the reality of our last day. Nick spent the morning at work receiving his parting gifts and awards from the command and leading one final workout with his buddies. I ran last errands and spent an hour at Gab Gab Beach. I went swimming one more time to absorb the beauty of the reef and the energy of all the life swimming around and through it. I ran into a pod of about 50 squid which Nick and I spotted a week ago for the first time. I smiled thinking about how this place continues to amaze me even in our last days.

Monday afternoon we played a final round of golf at Leo Palace then headed back to the hotel to pick up our visiting buddy Ben for our final meal on island. We went to our favorite Thai place and weren’t disappointed. We dropped Ben off back at his ship on base and made one last final journey down Marine Corps Drive. Along the way we said goodbye to the things we are going to miss… “Goodbye 54 Gilmore. Goodbye LCG. Goodbye YogurtLand… Goodbye fish… thanks for all the memories.” We also said goodbye to the things we aren’t going to miss “Goodbye terrible Guam radio. Goodbye crappy Guam Premier Outlets. Goodbye GTA cell phone service… thanks for all the dropped calls.”

This morning, Tuesday, September 25th, we woke up, packed up, checked out, went to Guam International Airport, and boarded the plane for our one-way journey back to America. As the wheels lifted off the ground, I spent the next few minutes looking out over the land, the land that has become our home, the island that has captured my heart and stretched my soul and seasoned us with life.

As the land disappeared from our window leaving nothing but ocean in our sights, I said my final goodbye to Guam. Island time has come to its end and our two years together in tropical paradise have transitioned into the realm of memories now.

And so a new story begins. And thankfully, as all my favorite stories do, it begins together. A new home awaits us, and even if it won’t be on a tropical island full of palm trees and endless summer, it will still manage to be the most wonderful place in all the world whenever we’re together there.
Guam, though, will forever remain a close second.

Grateful and humbled, refreshed and fulfilled. Thank you, island. I pray my feet may walk your shores again one day. But even if that day should never come, there are island-shaped footprints forever on my heart to remind me of all that has been.

So long, paradise. So long.

Monday, September 24, 2012

What I'm gonna miss

In some ways, Guam is harder to leave than other places I have lived before. Sure, it's possible another island tour may be in our future waaaaay down the road, but for the most part it's safe to assume there is very little chance we will make it back here, presumably ever. There is a whole lot about Guam that I haven't mentioned here that I am going to miss like crazy after we leave. I have collected some pictures over the last few weeks to remind me of some of these people and places and things that have made my time here so special. 

Singing in church. I have been helping out leading music during the church services off and on this past year. I had forgotten how much I love singing and harmonizing. My voice isn't so amazing that I will try to pursue this at our next church, which is why I so appreciate having had the opportunity to sing my heart out on Sunday mornings here while services have been transitioning.

The Fish Co-op. I know I have written a whole Fresh Factor post on this place before, but it really is one of Guam's highlights for us. I have gotten to know the guys behind the counter well, and they know me too... by name, by favorite type of fish, by about what day and time of the week I will stop by. They started throwing in a bunch of extra freebies... free poki, free potato salad, free fish (my whole order one time), and even, yes, free lobster. I hit the jackpot with the Fish Co-op. I am going to miss them. I think they might even miss me a little too.

 My Tuesday morning women's Bible study. These amazing women have helped stretch my faith, carry me through the low points, and have filled the place of aunts, sisters, and cousins here on an island where very few of us have extended family. Together we have dug deep and fought hard to have better control over the words we use, the types of commitments we make, how we spend the precious time we are given here, and how we treat others. So many lessons learned and opportunities to reflect. Tuesday mornings have been my soul food.
My crossfit playground group. This group started back in March. My friend Erin wanted to start getting back in shape after baby #2 and was having to juggle child care options. So we started meeting at the playground by her house. Her baby could sleep and her two year-old could run around while we banged out an intense 20-30 minute crossfit workout. It didn't take long before more moms and kids joined in and we started collecting the equipment for a fairly well outfitted gym. Being the only regular without kids, you might presume I was a bit out of place. Let me tell you, I have never seen a more motivated group of women working out than those who are trying to lose baby weight after having their second (or third) child! There was no lack of intensity or enthusiasm from these girls. They are all in ridiculously good shape.

 Our dinner party group! These two other couples from church started a dinner group where we'd take turns eating at each other's houses once a month as schedules allowed. Three of us worked for the church and the other halves are all active duty Navy or Coast Guard. We always had a great time together and I am going to miss them like crazy. This picture is from our last-hoorah karaoke night :)

We have already moved out of our house and are staying at a hotel for our last few days on island, so this picture is something I already miss... the sight of our beach towels, hiking shoes, snorkel gear, etc., drying on the clothesline between the carport and the kitchen window. To most of you it probably looks like laundry. But to me it represents recent adventures in Guam's fabulous sunshine, exploring the jungle or the ocean or just laying on a beach somewhere. Never thought I would miss a clothesline.
Guam's zoo of yard critters. There was almost always a big frog hiding burrowed underneath the flowers in our planter box in front of the house. And we got used to the surprise of geckos behind doorways and shower curtains. And of course I'm doing to miss the herb jungle, though I am already making plans for our herb garden in Virginia Beach. We found a great home for all of our herbs, someone who was beyond excited to take care of them for us. I know it sounds silly, but it makes my heart happy knowing our little herb babies will be well cared for.

 Golfing on Guam. I know we will have plenty of golf courses where we are going, but the beauty about golfing here is that you pretty much never need a tee time. If you want to spontaneously show up on a beautiful, sunny Sunday afternoon without a tee time, no problem! And some of the views are just stunning. I will miss the high cliff views over the ocean.

My friend Kate! I finally made us take a picture because after a year and a half of meeting up almost every week for yogurt, coffee, lunch, or the beach, it dawned on me that I didn't even have a picture of one of my closest friends! The great news is that Kate and her family are also moving to the Hampton Roads area and will be arriving only about a month after we get there. What I will miss, though, is this glorious free schedule of mine that has allowed me to squeeze in our get togethers between staff meetings, worship practice, and errand running. Resumes are heading out the door, so that aspect of paradise will likely be find its end shortly, even though (thankfully!) my get togethers with Kate will continue.

And last but not least... yes, youth group. The hard part of getting to know so many kids so well is that you want to keep watching them grow up. Some of these kids had just finished up fifth grade when I got here and are now a month into eighth. We've spent a lot of time together here and there throughout each week, and they really are all special to me in one way or another. Thank goodness for FaceBook so we can keep in touch :)

Not much time left... just a few hours, actually! Grateful to be leaving a place that has been so good to us. Now to sleep ahead of the long flight back... in the morning. See you soon, America.