We've been in the US almost 2 weeks now and I'm beginning to feel like we're really on vacation. The first week was spent with Doug's family and it was a good time seeing everyone. Highlights included the surprise party we threw for Doug and his best friend John as they anticipate turning 50, Doug in February, John in March. The boys were totally surprised and it was great fun welcoming old friends and family to the gathering. I gave Doug his gift, which is a trip to the Masters golf tournament in April and all in all, the surprises of the night yielded great joy all around! The low light of being in MN was when the Minnesota Vikings American Football team totally gave away their opportunity to get to the Super Bowl, one of the biggest games in sport. Even though they made numerous mistakes throughout the game, with just seconds to go in regulation, they were still poised to win. A penalty and a bad pass led to their demise and there was much anguish from Minnesota sport's fans worldwide. That would've been the perfect ending to a good week in MN but it was not to be. We enjoyed shopping amidst the ridiculous selection and low prices of American retail, felt a bit of reverse culture shock and had a good time with Doug's family.
The next week took us to Denver, Colorado for a pastors conference sponsored by our denomination, The Evangelical Covenant Church of America. Downtown Denver is a wonderful spot with a pedestrian mall that sports great restaurants and shopping establishments. It was fun to stroll up and down to get a little air and enjoy the atmosphere of a city with a wide variety of people who live there. You could tell that Denver draws a fairly bohemian crowd and sports an anything goes attitude. As charming as this was, the signs of poverty and hardship were evidenced by the homeless dotting the street and the many folks who were digging in garbage cans in order to find something to eat. The conference itself was awesome. Meeting up with old friends and having the chance to be theologically challenged is a winning combination. Two of the speakers, John and Nancy Ortberg, were as good as I've heard in recent years and I really enjoyed my workshop on being an emotionally healthy leader. All in all it was a refreshing and fun experience that has renewed my spirit. Two of my closest friends were present at this conference and we shared deeply on the transparent level that we've enjoyed for years. One woman was our intern in Stockholm for a year and the other is the wife of the pastor that Doug served with in Chicago before our move to Stockholm so the shared history that I enjoy with these women is invaluable. Also present was a young woman from our church in Stockholm who is now living in Chicago going to seminary. It was fun to be with her in our home country and to hear about her on-going journey towards becoming a minister. It is fun to be with people who know your past and your present.
Now we're in Palm Springs, California and if I'm totally honest with myself, I have to admit that I love this place more than any other place in the world. It is just beautiful here and I love the climate and the culture. My full indulgence in this place will have to wait a week as we depart on a 7 cruise of the Mexican Riviera today! I'm hoping for bright, warm sunshine, but Mr. Rain is scheduled to make an appearance now and again. Let's hope he decides to go elsewhere.
I don't think I've fully grasped yet that we are really on vacation for another 5 weeks! When I speak of returning to Sweden on March 10, and today is only January 30 it is a bit mind-blowing. Still...I'm beginning to relax and allow the concerns of work drift away. I feel very thankful for this chance to renew myself professionally and personally and look forward to a week of adventures on the Pacific Ocean.