I fell in love this week. With Palm Springs. I flew down on a four day vacation as a guest of my high school friend, Lisa, who owns a home in La Quinta, one of the desert towns outside Palm Springs. Palm Springs is in southern California about 2 hours east of Los Angeles. It is in the desert, surrounded by the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto mountains, creating a valley filled with date palm trees, golf courses and hidden oasis’ with natural mineral springs. It was first inhabited by the Cahuilla Indians who still reside there and own most of the land.
Today Palm Springs is a haven for wealthy snow birds, elderly people who come for the dry desert heat and sun good for their arthritis. It was once the playground for the rich and famous celebrities from old Hollywood, such as Frank Sinatra, Vivian Leigh and Kathryn Hepburn. Back in the old studio contract days, movies stars had to stay within an hour and a half distance from the studio and Palm Springs fit the bill.
Fascinated with Hollywood since childhood, I once dreamed of being Marilyn Monroe and
followed Elvis’s life with a passion. Lisa surprised me with a tour of the celebrity homes and one afternoon we met up with the tour in downtown Palm Springs after having the most divine corned beef Rueben sandwich from Shermans, the famous old time Jewish deli.
The eight passenger van of 5 Star Adventures whisked us away as they related the early history of Palm Springs. The movie stars first came and stayed in tents, later bringing their own trailers and finally building small desert homes to come play and stay in during the winter and spring months.
We entered the Las Palmas area and I was surprised how small the houses were. I was told they were built without heat or air conditioning, most were 900 to 1600 square feet. We slowly drove past each home, with the tour guide announcing titbits of who lived there.
We we lucky to peak inside the open gates of some houses including Lucy and Desi Arnaz’s home. I jumped out of the van to take a picture in front of Elvis’ home that he owned in the 1970s up until his death. His house was later sold to finance Graceland, his main residence in Nashville, Tennessee.
The most memorable moment was when we stopped in front of Robert Stacks home. With a wooden door surrounded by bright purple bougainvillea, we silently crept into the garden. Small casitas or bungalows were placed
throughout the small property around the main house. The Rat Pack used to hang out at the outdoor bar and Lisa and I took pictures of each other, thrilled to be sitting in the same seats that Frank, Dean, Sammy and Peter once sat in and drank their famous martini’s.
The small kidney shaped pool sparkled azure blue in the sunlight as I glanced at the orange and lemon trees, taking in the beauty of the garden and blue skies. I instantly new this was where I wanted to get married. The tour guide told me it rents for $495 a night and
weddings frequently took place there. She shared the movie Liberace with Kirk Douglas and Matt Damon had just been filmed prior to us visiting. What better place to celebrate my new life with my husband than in the ridiculously inexpensive playground of such history?
Once the tour was over, Lisa and I strolled down the main street, Palm Canyon Drive, looking at all the fun shops and stopping in for a refreshing soda from the 80 degree heat. We sat at tables that swung like a swing, the type you would only find in Palm Springs. Once done we hurried over to the huge 26 feet tall statue of Marilyn Monroe that was on exhibit. Created by artist Steward Johnston, it features her famous skirt blowing up from the subway grate scene, from her movie The Seven Year Itch. It is a traveling exhibit and one Lisa and I both felt should stay in Palm Springs as Marilyn was discovered at the Racquet Club here many years ago.
Every evening I sat on Lisa’s patio under the palm trees looking up at the dark starlit sky with the warm desert breeze blowing through my hair. The Lord whispered to me that He was bringing a new season into my life, a time of refreshment and personal fulfillment, a time to retire from full time ministry and pursue my hopes and dreams.
What did this look like? A job working in a field of my choosing. A time of marriage and motherhood. An opportunity to travel all those places I have dreamed about. A Greece cruise. A footsteps of Apostle Paul tour in Turkey. Training through Europe. Painting the light in Venice. Sitting at a cafe in Paris and writing my next book. Or rewriting my current one! Moving to Lancaster, PA, where the Amish reside, to live a life based around God and family. Canning my own vegetables and learning to make my own soap. Sewing my child’s clothes and homeschooling them. All the dreams that life took from me and a life serving God called me to sacrifice.
For now I drank in the beauty of the desert mountains surrounding me, reminded of the Scripture: As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds his people both now and forevermore. Psalm 125:2. I found Him here in the quiet of the desert, the peacefulness of the air and sunshine. In the laughter of Lisa and I as we told stories of our lives in the years we were apart.
I left behind all the stress and tiredness of my life in the Bay Area. The insanity of a life detached and lived through social media, texts and email. The frustration and difficulty of being in full time ministry. The Lord knew what I needed. He met me here and refreshed me body, soul, mind and spirit.
The trip highlights? I found luscious date shakes. Slow meandering walks gazing on the colorful red, orange and purple bougainvillea. Hiking up the mountain side surrounded by large boulders in shades of brown and gray and prickly cacti with small buds of yellow
flowers peeking through. Eating dinner under a night sky at Morton’s at the old Quinta Inn where Clark Gable and Carole Lombard once ate and stayed to escape the fame of celebrity.
And now it is time to leave. As I sit at the airport gazing out at the mountain ranges turning different shades of rose and purple, I have mixed emotions. I am grateful to the Lord for this new season. Yet I feel a sadness at leaving the desert.
For it is here the Lord brings me to refresh me, whether it be in Israel as I float in the dead sea, surrounded my the huge Judean mountains, or as I hike in the Mohave Desert in Nevada on a spring time retreat. He is famous for calling His servants to the desert to have a time of intimacy with Him and to hear His voice. Abraham, Moses, Elijiah John the Baptist and even Jesus went regularly to the desert.
This trip was particularly special for me as the Lord combined my old time love of Hollywood with the fun and fellowship of my friend, delicious gourmet meals and spectacular sunsets.
I think Psalm 116:7 says it best: Return to your rest, O my soul, for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you. Thank you Lord for this time. I hope I can return time again and again.