This is our anniversary. Oh, don’t ask which one. It is certainly getting on, that is for sure. After however many years it has been, this love has endured, and is still a great source of comfort and strength to us both. This is more for Pam, than for you, gentle reader. But this weblog helps us to keep our thoughts and experiences for when we are truly old. I would like to preserve this thought – captured in verse – so that in years to come it could be found.

Love’s not found
in languid looks
or impassioned sighs
and phrases muttered
as soon forgot as uttered;
or gifts that beggar cost
that ages soon will render lost.

Love’s not found in roses faded
or poses jaded by petty
jealousies. Such love only sees
what it most craves, and
not the other’s careworn ways,
or anxious fears and voiceless sighs
through toil of years now weak.

And this I speak, though
words come hard when
life’s brute strength has
worn away the sense and
bluish of love’s first kiss.

But know this: my dear
wife’s love’s a fire. Though
banked with care of those
not there and dearly missed;
it lingers ever kissed in her warm heart.

No flight of startled doves,
her love’s a constant light
to my still soul. A friend enfolded.
On this I’ve built a life
unmoved by ‘if’s and ‘should’s,
but bouldered yet by what
is good and of eternal worth.

Her love is measured
in our enduring tale, in purpose
bound, and futures claimed,
in restoration gained,
and forgiveness found.
To her I owe all this.
In her I find my peace

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We knew before we set out back in January that this would be a long trip. Into our fifth week on the road we were looking forward to having the long trip to Malaysia behind us. These last few days in this whirlwind tour were not deliberately planned, as we had booked the long legs of the journey almost six months ago in order to get cheaper fares; well before we had the details of the US travels in place. When Pam was booking the hotel, she really couldn’t face the idea of a name brand, high rise hotel so looked for something a little different and stumbled across a very small, ten room heritage hotel that looked interesting and was reasonably priced and went out on a limb.

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As is often the case, it is the atypical that turns out to be most interesting. The Cosmopolitan Hotel was originally built as a private residence but was reconstructed and became the original stage coach hotel for the first settlement in California. It is located in Old Town San Diego State Park, a central plaza that is lined with buildings, some dating back to the 1820s, which have been restored and are now museums, shops and restaurants.

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The main floor of the hotel was the restored living area of the home, and the ten rooms are on the second floor with a wraparound balcony that overlooks a courtyard with a lovely restaurant, bar and sitting area. It was all very private and a real experience just to stay there even though we have seen no evidence of the fact that the rooms were thought to be haunted. The rooms were all decorated and furnished with period pieces and there were no TVs or other modern furnishings to destroy the atmosphere. Our room was known as the Pine Tub room as it had an original tub made out of pine. Yes, we did try it out before we left.

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The area was full of life, sights and sounds and we fully enjoyed the time to explore the area as well as other parts of the city. We also had a couple of days to get caught up on course assignments, prepare lessons for Steve to teach as soon as we arrive home, and get this weblog up to date. The Old Town Transit Center was only a few minutes walk away and gave access to not only the trolley systems of San Diego but also the Pacific Surfliner train which skirts the coast line up to Los Angeles and our jumping off point for our flight home. It was a magical journey, and a lovely way to end our trip.

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We will have to hit the ground running. Steve has classes and a huge backlog of projects to get caught up with on his CSR portfolio. Pam has a conference in Indonesia to plan for where she will be presenting to regional CHE leaders. Then of course there is the transition out of Malaysia and into the Caribbean to manage in just four months from now, with all of the packing and shipping and selling that this entails. We have interesting lives, and we would not trade them with anyone we know. It is never boring, but gosh it does take a lot of work to keep up this pace. I would say Lord help us, but then He always does anyway.

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Still reeling from an exhilarating and exhausting weekend in San Francisco, we packed our increasingly dilapidated suitcases once again and headed off to catch our flight to San Diego. Again the timing was perfect, with Jon, Nic and the kids’ flight getting in just five minutes before ours so we easily met up at the baggage claim. Jon has perfected the art of car rental at airports through various Apps, so we were quickly underway for the half hour drive to our seaside resort in Carlsbad.

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The suites were fully furnished and amazingly well equipped with a great kitchen, BBQs in the courtyard, jacuzzi tub, gas fireplace and fantastic views of the ocean. There were lots of activities for the kids to do and plenty of family restaurants just a short drive away. The weather was beautiful although the wind could be quite cool. It is February after all! The pool was in a very sunny but protected area so the kids swam quite happily and we joined them in the hot tub when they were ready to warm up.

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However, the real reason for our stay in Carlsbad was the long awaited trip to LEGOLAND. We were there when the park opened and pretty much stayed to close it down. It was all actually pretty lame by Disney standards, but the kids really enjoyed it and we were just delighted to be with them so it was great fun. They all love roller coasters, Pam not so much, but we did do the dragon roller coaster three times. Fortunately Eli is too short for the big coaster so we did a more sedate ride with her while the others tackled the big coaster. It was a great day and we finished up with dinner a nice seaside restaurant.

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Jon and Nic took a bit of time the next day to explore some of the town and market by themselves while we hung out with Ben, Abi and Eli. Since the resort provided free all-terrain wagons, beach chairs and toys and boogie boards, we packed up and took the kids down to the beach for the afternoon. The waves were great and Ben and Abi turned out to be naturals when it came to boogie boarding, catching quite a few really fine rides. By the time Jon and Nic came home with chicken to BBQ, the kids had warmed up nicely in the Jacuzzi and put on their warm pajamas.

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It was a great visit all around and really difficult to see them off once again as they boarded their flight home. Honestly, the kindness and consideration of our children brings us to the edge of tears. We so appreciate the chance to see two of them and their own kids, and only regret that on this trip we couldn’t see David. Since we still had a few more days until our return flight to KL, we spent the remaining few days in Oldtown, San Diego which is near the airport. After a cab ride from the airport, we made our way there to settle in for the weekend.

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I am 65. I make no bones about it and no apologies for my age. I have earned every one of those years through the toil and dedication of my commitment to educational excellence. It is just that we all live in such a superficial culture anymore where the emphasis is all on what happened 15 minutes ago. Does anyone care that Ebola is still killing people in West Africa? See my point?

My students are always stunned when I say that I have absolutely no desire to be young again. Been there; done that. It was every bit as painful and embarrassing as what you are going through if you are young and you could not pay me enough to go through that again. I like the age that I am. I like what I have learned and done and who I have become. I know what the advertisements say and they all lie. Old is good; old is very satisfying. But it does limit your career options. Many countries will not hire above 65. Some set the limit at 60 and some post it as low as 55. It is their country; they get to do what they like. I may not agree with it, but I have to find a job in an increasingly smaller world.

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With that in mind Pam and I went to the ISS Job Fair in San Francisco. We had registered for this job fair back in October, and had built a good part of this present trip around that weekend. As I noted in an earlier post, for us the Lord is always in the details of these things, and it is marvelous how He works out those details for our good. Pam had us booked in at the Holiday Inn at Fisherman’s Wharf, and the location turned out to be ideal, as the job fair was only a short trolley ride away and the area was jammed with restaurants and night life. We went down to the venue and registered as soon as we arrived and steeled ourselves for what I was sure was going to be a chaotic and demoralizing zoo in trying to land a job in a limited market.

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Through months of careful planning and screening we had selected several target schools and countries as the focus of our search. One by one the Lord eliminated them until only two remained, both in our target destination of the Caribbean. Amazingly, neither school was at all concerned about my age; amazingly, both of them competed for my services. After a whirlwind two days, I accepted what seemed to be the best offer of the two, a school that offered me a chance to teach English in their International Baccalaureate program at the high school level. I start in August.

To say that I am surprised by this development is understatement. One does not expect to be landing a plum job in an area of interest and expertise at my age as easily as this. I know colleagues half my age who are struggling to find a position nearly as advantageous. Not only did I have two schools competing for my services, but I was treated by the hiring agency, ISS, with the utmost courtesy and consideration. If you are a teacher and you are looking to teach internationally, may I highly recommended this organization. They are true professionals

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The long and short of it is that there is going to be another chapter in our lives before retirement. How long this chapter lasts is not ours to know at the moment. We went to Malaysia on the strength of a one year contract. By the time we leave it will be eight years. I will sign on for this position for two years. Perhaps that is all we will get. If so, we will be grateful. Perhaps we will get more. If so, we will be truly old before we retire! All we know for now is that I have a job and we are moving to the Caribbean this summer. You are welcome to come and visit us. If you don’t mind staying with old people.

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As wonderful as Colorado Springs was, we could not wait to get to Phoenix to see Greg, Liz and Russell. Both the airport in Colorado Springs and the one in Denver were super clean and convenient and our timing was super as well as Liz pulled up to meet us about thirty seconds after we collected our baggage. It was so sweet to see our darling daughter again and what a joy to be greeted at Holly and Vern’s gorgeous home by happy hugs from Russ. He has grown up so much since we last saw him, has boundless energy and moves too quickly to even begin to keep up with him. We don’t think we have ever heard such an infectious little giggle, but we could be biased.

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In spite of the fact that Arizona is largely desert, the house where we stayed is built on a series of waterways so that although from the street it looks like a pretty regular subdivision, all the homes open out back onto a waterway that creates the community. Each home has a boat so that the neighbours are able to meander on the waterways and visit around. Although the back yard is small, there is a lovely sitting area, BBQ, pool and a grapefruit tree that was heavy with ripe fruit. The combination created a great diversion for Russ who spent hours throwing grapefruit into the pool and delighting in the splashing that eventually ended up in a short swim in the very cold water.

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It was the perfect environment to relax and get caught up with the kids over BBQs, boatrides and quiet evenings together. After years of smog-filled skies, we actually got to see some stars overhead. We even got to babysit Russ overnight while Liz and Greg had an evening to themselves at a nearby hotel. Russ loves to walk so we had plenty of opportunity to get to know the neighbourhood. Pam even managed a little shopping time with Liz and a last minute visit to Goodwill which became necessary when Steve discovered he was heading off to a job fair without a tie. It is amazing what two bucks can do.

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Our heart aches with the length of time we have to endure between visits with our kids and grandkids. It is by far the hardest part of ministry abroad. For the last couple of years and especially in the last year we have been praying practically everyday that the Lord would allow us to minister for Him closer to North America. It is not just the distance, although that is tough enough, but the time zone disparity means that Steve is either at work on in bed when the kids call, and cost of flights and the amount of time to takes to get home makes it prohibitive to visit for a week even if we didn’t have work and ministry schedules to juggle. This visit just made the whole idea of relocation that much more pressing.

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Pam and I were well into our Master’s at Fuller when we saw an opening for the MAGL (Master of Arts in Global Leadership) program that was a little more geared to our area of ministry. We switched over last September and completed the initial course in December that basically just set out our academic direction for the next two years. This winter semester things got a little more serious as we had to complete residence requirements in Colorado Springs for the degree. Each of the two courses that we are presently taking required a week of on-site instruction from Fuller staff. Dutifully we committed our way to completing this, not really knowing how we were going to fit it in to our already overloaded lives. Fortunately for us, God had a plan.

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God always has a plan, we know that well enough by now. What we didn’t know was both how complex that plan was going to be (anyone who thinks the Lord’s work is simple is just not paying attention), and what an unbelievable blessing it was going to be. The three days we had spent in Los Angeles was enough for us to get over the worst of our jetlag, so we arrived in Colorado well rested and in good spirits. We were met by one of our classmates who lives in the area, and her bubbly 11-year-old daughter. Our $40 a night stay was in a recycled Hyatt hotel that has been taken over by Youth With A Mission and used for training missionary recruits. We had a spacious room and easy access to local restaurants, and the place soon filled up with other classmates coming from all over the United States and the world. It made for very pleasant evenings chatting with others about their ministries.

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Classes started at 8, and worship was special, as several of our colleagues were gifted in music. The classes ran until 4:30 when we would usually all go out for a meal together. Our instructors were first rate and discussions were very interesting with a wide range of views and experiences being expressed. Everyone had a chance to share their own faith journey with the class, which helped with developing deeper relationships with those with whom we are going to share the next two years as we make our way through this degree. On one fine Sunday afternoon we all went over to the home of one of our classmates to watch the Super Bowl and eat nachos.

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We even had an opportunity to meet up with Ken Anderson, with whom we had shared a year in ministry in Germany. He was in town with his mission organization in preparation for going to Nepal to conduct training workshops for Nepalese pastors. During the week we were also treated to a tour and a talk at a local Greek Orthodox Church, which was notable for the beauty of its sanctuary, and a quick drive through some of the regions more interesting rock formations. The take away for us in all this is what an inspiring and selfless group of individuals we have the good fortune of learning with. The courses may be demanding and time-consuming, and certainly they are not cheap. But the journey has been richly rewarding in friendships with the people of God and understanding about the work of God. And at the end of it all, Lord willing, we will both have Masters’ degrees that will be useful in ministry for the next chapter in our lives.

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The older we get and the more often we make the trip across the Pacific, the more difficult the transition from East to West seems to get. Since this visit we needed to go directly into two weeks of classes for our Master’s, it seemed prudent to build in a bit of a buffer to try to acclimatize to the time difference and change in weather. That is what age and wisdom is supposed to teach us. You might have cause to wonder why it took us all this time to build in such a buffer, but we never claimed to fast learners, did we! This year the long flights were in and out of Los Angeles, and never having seen the place, we decided to cocoon for a few days there.

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Pam scoured the internet and found a lovely little guesthouse in Venice Beach. We had some initial moments of panic when arriving well after dark we needed to make our way down a “walk street” that even the local cabby had trouble finding. Our fears were instantly allayed when our very gracious hosts showed us to the renovated garage of their lovely home that had been converted to a cozy and fully equipped studio apartment. A welcome bottle of wine and cheese platter and a comfy couch in front of the gas fireplace was all it took to make us feel completely at home.

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We slept remarkably well for our first night (nearly 5 am!) and headed out in the morning to make the fifteen minute walk down to the beach. The weather was beautiful and we spent the entire morning watching the waves, the surfers and the seabirds. With two days to explore, we were able to wander through the Venice Canals, explore much of the town and try out some lovely little restaurants. We confess to needing a wee nap in the afternoon to get us through the day, but again slept really well at night in our cosy and private little space.

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Saturday we walked several miles down the beach to see the sights of Santa Monica and watch the sunset over dinner on the Santa Monica Pier at the end of Route 66. Why Steve feels compelled to sing lines from every tune that relates to wherever we are visiting escapes me, but that is just one of his quirks, and I suppose there are worse things he could do to get his “kicks.” He insisted on his picture beside the sign as well. Whatever makes the old guy happy! This little hiatus turned out to be a great plan and we felt completely ready to take on the next stage of the journey with a flight to Colorado Springs via Denver.

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