Last week I took a trip to California where I’m from.
I met my sister, daughter and granddaughter in San Francisco where we stayed with my 92-year-old aunt.
One thing about San Francisco - the hills are steep. On my trip we climbed one of the steepest hills, up Hyde Street. At one point I didn’t think I could make it. My sister told me to walk backwards, that it was easier that way. So, I did. I turned around and trudged up the hill, looking at where I had been.
It reminded me that the walk of faith gets tough at times, and when it does, if you look at how far you’ve come it makes the continued climb easier.
When I got to the top and looked down and saw all the tops of the houses and the spectacular view of the fog over the bay I felt exhilarated, like God was giving me his two thumbs up. I didn’t turn back -- I kept going. I won!
Then we hiked down Lombard Street, “the crookedest street in the world,” lined with expensive houses and hydrangeas and brick steps. The view and the experience were breathtaking.
One day we took a boat ride under the Golden Gate Bridge. On the boat, a group of teens from another country were too busy eating their lunch and listening to their iPods to pay attention, but when we got near the bridge, everyone started chattering with excitement.
When I was a kid my dad took us on a walk on it. It’s two miles long, and we walked one mile in, turned around and walked one mile back. The bridge still fills me with excitement and wonder. I think because it’s a symbol of home, and home is a place everyone longs to be.
We took a bus through Chinatown with all its crowded streets and foreign signs and dead ducks and chickens hanging in the shop windows. Then the bus rounded the corner and - boom - Saks Fifth Avenue and Tiffany’s and an eight-story, glass-walled Macy’s.
My aunt used to take us to the big Macy’s at Christmastime to see the huge decorated tree. Next door was Blum’s where we drank lemonade. Blum’s is long gone, but the awe of the city is still there for me.
There’s something about a city and its buildings, the design and architecture, the people and the bustle that invigorates me.
One day on my trip we went to Muir Woods to see the giant redwood trees. You have to drive 10 miles up a winding mountain road to get there. I used to be afraid of that road, afraid of falling off the edge, but I wasn’t this time. That made me curious - where did my fear go?
When I asked God about it, he just smiled and told me to look at the trees.
I tried to capture all of the beauty and majesty of the enormous centuries-old trees with my camera, but really, how can you? It’s like trying to rope the wind or bottle the ocean.
“God made this,” I told my sister. She said, “Yes, he did.” Just stating the obvious and the amazing.
Again, God smiled. He was everywhere, smiling, showing us things.
The next day we went to Fisherman’s Wharf and ate clam chowder out of bowls made from sourdough bread. We ate lemon crepes with powdered sugar and ahi tuna tacos and salt water taffy.
We listened as hundreds of people around us spoke foreign languages, and I thought about the eternal city of God and how one day it will be inhabited by people from every nation and tribe and people group. I wondered if maybe San Francisco wasn’t a little bit like heaven, or if heaven will one day be like San Francisco.
God just smiled as if to say, “You just wait - it’s so much more.”
A long time ago I heard a man say he tried hard to stay in a state of grace. However, that’s not something that depends on you, but on God giving it to you as he pleases.
Last week I was in California, in a state of grace, because God loves me. He let me climb a steep hill and feel salt water and wind blow through my hair, hug my daughter and granddaughter, eat with my sister and see my precious aunt one more time.
God truly has smiled on me. He’s given me grace. He’s been good to me.