Departing editor Sharon Rice is Baja bound

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The short version for why I’m leaving my position at The Friday Flyer is this: I’m moving to a beach in Baja with the man of my dreams. It’s an exceptionally sweet love story, and I could leave it at that without writing another word.

However, being the writer that I am, I feel the need to tell the longer version.

I have loved writing for The Friday Flyer these last 20 years. I actually began writing for the paper even longer ago, in the early 90s, when I began submitting articles about my kids’ soccer teams to editor Carolyn Knight. At some point, when she realized I had a good grasp of spelling and punctuation, Carolyn asked me if I’d like to write articles for the paper and get paid by the inch. By 1996 I had been hired as a reporter.

One of my first articles was about all the sports opportunities available to Canyon Lake kids via local recreational leagues. To illustrate it, I took a picture of my three children and my friend’s two children wearing the uniforms of several local youth leagues.

Under the Carolyn’s mentorship, my writing and reporting skills blossomed. I became assistant editor in the early 2000s and, in June 2007, when Carolyn decided it was time to retire to spend more time with her husband, the late great Vick Knight, she turned the editorial reins over to me.

Now I find myself wanting to retire for the same reason – to spend the rest of my life with a man. My acquaintance with Scott Butler is both new and old. I first met Scott in 1983 when my husband hired him into a network marketing company called A.L. Williams. He and his wife became our friends. Mike had a very high opinion of him for the seven years they worked together in the Pasadena/Burbank area. Scott knew me when I was pregnant with two of my children.

Later, the Butlers went their way and we went ours. At some point they moved to the Murrieta area, though we did not run in the same circles. Scott’s commercial real estate loan business failed during the real estate crash of 2007-08 and his wife left him.

My husband passed away suddenly in October 2007, six months after I became editor of The Friday Flyer.

I don’t know when Scott and his wife separately became my friends on Facebook. Probably soon after my husband died. But for at least the past five or six years, Scott’s occasional posts appeared in my Facebook news feed. They often consisted of scripture or hymns that gave him comfort after his wife divorced him. Sometimes they were thoughtful sayings that gave him hope, like this one:

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.” (Elisabeth Kübler-Ross)

For a while, I couldn’t understand how Scott and I connected so quickly after we got together early this summer. I later came to realize it was because we had been observers of each other’s lives via Facebook. I didn’t know the details of his losses. I just knew he was experiencing them and trying to remain courageous.

I saw when he started working for Baja Bound (a home-building ministry in the Ensenada, Mexico area) and realized he had found a way to get back on his feet by finding a new environment and a cause he believed in. I remember thinking, “You go, Scott, good for you.” But he was a married man. I wasn’t interested in him other than that he and his wife were old friends.

In the same way, he knew me as Mike’s widow and was pleased when he saw me thriving and surrounded by family. He was happy for me. Nothing more. We see only the surface of people’s lives on Facebook, but if they post anything at all, I think we often can get a sense of what they value.

In early July, when he was passing through town, he messaged me about getting together to catch up on old times. At that first reunion, when we talked about our losses in more depth, Scott saw how I had supported my husband and loved him through his darkest days. It triggered a response in him that was completely unexpected. We connected deeply, not out of some superficial stalking urge to find someone, but because we already knew each other’s character and trusted each other.

After that initial conversation, Scott returned to Baja; but getting to know each other in the days that followed was extremely easy because we communicate well in writing – and we did that day and night. Thousands of words, scriptures, hymns, praises to God and love songs. He pursued me and I responded.

Family and friends are surprised at the speed at which our relationship blossomed – we are too – but we see it as a gift. We are crazy in love and deliriously thankful to God for what he has wrought. And we know it’s for something much bigger than just us. Since we began thinking about joining our lives together, the Lord has shown us many other desires of our hearts being fulfilled. These include (for me) all my life wanting to live and work in a “camp” setting.

Scott’s ministry involves building houses for the working poor in a small coastal region near Ensenada. He is the construction supervisor for teams that come there from churches or other organizations. The teams stay in a 4,000 sq. ft. house on the beach in a gated community of American ex-pats called Punta Banda. Scott lives at the house and often has it all to himself. When the teams stay there, it’s pretty much like a retreat center – an environment filled with youthful energy, joy and desire to serve the poor.

We plan to be married on Thanksgiving in a quiet exchange of vows at an extended family retreat in the mountains. We’ll keep my house here and visit regularly, especially to see two new grandbabies born two days in a row the last week of August.

There is much more to this story, but my journalist instincts tell me it’s already too long. In closing, I’d like to include a comment Scott made recently. It sums up what I consider to be the perfect way to end a rewarding career and enter “the golden years.”

“God has plans for us that extend beyond our own personal satisfaction and our praises of Him. There are many, many people who will be comforted, encouraged, motivated and saved because He brought us together. I am totally convinced of that. That is all part of the joy. The fact that we will get to do it together, living at the beach, enjoying time together and time with family and friends, all while serving Him – that is just part of His extravagant love.”

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Sharon Rice