Saturday, November 4, 2017

Finding "Joy in the Journey"


Dirt bikes were secured to the bike rack as we maneuvered down the gravel road approaching "The Dismal Swamp" near Chesapeake, Virginia. A sunny, fall day of planned adventure and fun traversing the back roads of the "swamp"was our goal.
The Dismal Swamp is an area of thousands of acres of swampy, untillable land in Virginia and North Carolina surrounding the second largest lake in the state, Lake Drummond. Dating back to George Washinton this area, then millions of acres, provided waterways for transporting people and supplies. During the Civil War it was also a popular "station" for the Underground Railroad transporting slaves from southern states to the north. 
Hunter and I began by walking a 3/4 mile boardwalk which snakes its way through a small section of the swamp giving one a taste of the cypress trees with the cypress "knees" popping through the underbrush and other vegetation. A multitude of birds, of which I am hopeless to identify, accompanied us along the well maintained walkway.
After lunch it was time to ride. We chose a four mile route over a rough, grass covered backroad which promised a lake view at the end. The goal? Rest quietly by the lake after completing the four miles. Sounds easy enough until one realizes the amount of energy needed to ride a dirt bike over tree roots, uneven overgrown grass, and thick muddy tracks pulling at tires already sufficiently dirt-caked! A 25 year old with an overload of testosterone would laugh in the face of this mild ride but a 68 year old lady struggling with balancing issues related to Parkinson's Disease didn't see it quite that way!
Encouraged by my optimistic hubby I peddled along, each 1/2 mile marker bringing a sense of accomplishment and fueling a determination to reach the "end", whatever that played out to be!
But when mile marker four was reached and NO lake was in site frustration set in as did exhaustion.
I sent Hunter ahead to locate the elusive lake. Fifteen minutes later he returned announcing there indeed is a lake view just a mile ahead. I simply then asked three questions: Is there a burger joint there? An ice cream shop? A soda fountain? When Hunter smiled but said no,I replied, from my prostrate position on the ground, then I'm not going!
Defeated with only enough energy left to mount the bike seat I began the return trip. Each 1/2 mile took untold effort! Yet I was rewarded with three beautiful deer sitings and glimpses of several turtles splashing into the water canal as I passed on the bike. Although out of breathe I began to notice the bits and pieces of God's creative genius along the road from the burnt orange of the fall leaves to multicolored butterfly wings. Eventually I rolled my tires and weary body to the car. In reflecting on the afternoon trip I was reminded of my sister's favorite saying: "find joy in the journey"!
As we each walk the path in life God has ordained for us there will be times of defeat, times of expectations not met, times of weariness but through it all we can find "joy in the journey" if we but open our eyes and recognize the blessings along the way!





Friday, October 20, 2017

Sisters


A few weeks ago my two sisters and I rented a condo on Virginia Beach for four days. We talked a LOT, sat on the beach, reminisced, ate fine dining, walked in the rain, and laughed much! In reflecting on those moments I feel so blessed. Although we have the same parents we are very different. One likes drama productions while another would much rather sit in the stadium of a lively football game. Two are rekindling their musical talents while another would rather be peddling a bike than practicing notes! Ha! While all three enjoy traveling one likes a quiet sit at the beach vacation while two others are trip advisor enthusiasts checking off every activity available. All three love being an active part of the "Grandparent Club" and work hard at creatively entertaining their grandchildren when given the opportunities. Loving God comes naturally for all three, as we often reflect on the spiritual heritage left by our parents. 

The following poem best describes how I feel about my two sisters!


Sisters And Best Friends

© 

God sent us to be sisters
So we can be best of friends,
To be there for one another
Even when there is pain.
I thank the Lord for sending my sisters to me,
For whom I truly love and care.
We shared so many things together,
Like laughter and some scares.
It's funny how we sometimes argue.
I guess it's normal in this world,
But having you as my sister
Means more to me, more than you'll ever know.
I wouldn't trade you for anything.
I will never let go.
As our friendship continues to grow,
So will my love for you.
Just always remember you can talk to me.
I'll be the best friend you ever knew.



Monday, September 11, 2017

God "bought" me jeans today!

I absolutely HATE shopping for clothes! This hatred travels back to my childhood. Growing up in a small farming community meant shopping in a tiny town. I distinctly remember Ross's Clothing store and Sears, which was largely a catalog establishment, being the only choices for clothing attire within a 1/2 hour driving distance. The average sized girl could fit into most of their stock of clothing but I was NOT your average! I received the nick name "string bean" in high school for a reason! (Even now, as an older adult, I have a friend who calls me "long tall Sally") So as you can imagine the length of my arms and legs are a bit beyond the normal, in fact 2 inches beyond the "normal"! That presented, as it still does, a challenge when trying to fit into long-sleeved blouses and long pants of any kind. As I reflect back on those days of shopping with my mom I feel sorry for her.  How it must have hurt her as I constantly complained about the lack of any selection that would properly fit me. It certainly was not her fault that my Dad's structure (6' 4"), built for basketball, fell on a young girl who played the clarinet and wanted just to fit into the styles of the time. It was never a problem that went away and to this day it still haunts me. Yes, there is online shopping but companys continue to cater to the average physique, especially in the department stores. 
With this background you can better understand my experience today. I needed jeans for the fast approaching fall temps. Recently I have added on a few pounds, for me a good thing, but that rrequires a size change in pants. With credit card in hand I decided to "tackle" the mall. 
As an added note, with my advancing Parkinson's Disease my left leg has weakened causing some minor foot tremors and muscle spasms making walking a painful challenge. So to walk from one store to another hunting down the perfect fit is sometimes more than I can handle. Yet today I knew it was time. So while driving to the mall I asked God to help me find some jeans that would "fit the bill". In fact I carried on quite a conversation with Him about the struggles I face when shopping. I realize He knows all about this issue but He quietly listened anyway. 
My first store was The Gap. In past years I have been able to locate some clothes there, even though I cringe when I pay the bill. (Thankfully I have a husband who totally understands my problems and always says "If it fits, buy it"!) Well, today NOTHING in that store fit! Since the price tags were $80 and up I didn't feel too badly about leaving with no packages. I ventured out into the middle of the mall, gritting my teeth as I hobbled down to Penny's. By the time I faced the Lee section of jeans I was in pain. To further frustrate me I could find no longs and all the jeans were a jumbled mess. I actually sat down on the floor in despair when I noticed a pair of jeans just thrown on a pile with a tag hanging off the shelf that read 6L. I wondered could they possibly be anything I would want or fit into? 
There is another issue that I also face. I am picky and want my clothes to feel good as well as be somewhat in style. So could these "stray" pants actually be what I need and even want? OK, go try them on. I almost trembled as I slipped into them and faced the mirror. They fit, they looked good, they were the perfect color. YES! I quickly took them to the checkout counter not even looking at the price tag. When the clerk rung them up she did a double take and looked at me and said WOW, what a deal. They were originally $48 and now on sale for $15! I couldn't speak except to repeat WOW. I paid the bill and began walking outside when I suddenly realized these jeans were from God! Tears ran down my cheeks as I opened the car door and sank into my seat. God knew my struggles and met me at my point of need in such a beautiful way. I had asked for His help and He produced the answer to my problem!
On the drive home I pondered the fact that the God of the universe cares about the very details of our lives. Jesus said in John 16:24 "Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete." My joy is complete today as I experienced His marvelous provision for me!

Monday, July 17, 2017

"Unique"

KWhile in Alaska we had the joy of feasting on a multitude of magnificent waterfalls. Some were slow trickles while others cascaded thousands of feet over volkswagon sized boulders. Several fell in crooked paths while others appeared "pencil" straight. A couple sprayed us with cold mist. Color changes appeared in a few as they followed their downward descent. Yet they all shared one trait: being UNIQUE in and of themselves with their own particular beauty! Here are just a few samples:













I was reminded that we are all created unique and special. God is the potter and we are the clay. He made us all perfect having our own uniqueness. Some people have blue eyes, brown eyes, some people can do this, some people can do that, some people are right handed, some write with their left hand. You were made for a purpose. 

God has a plan for everyone and we are all an individual member of the body of Christ. You are a masterpiece. As you grow more and more as a Christian you will truly see how special and unique God created you.

Psalm 139 speaks about this "uniqueness":

Psalm 139:13-14 You alone created my inner being. You knitted me together inside my mother. I will give thanks to you because I have been so amazingly and miraculously made. Your works are miraculous, and my soul is fully aware of it!

Psalm 139:16 You saw me before I was born.Every day of my life was recorded in your book.

Psalm 139:2-4 You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away. You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do. You know what I am going to say even before I say it, LORD.

Celebrate the unique waterfall in YOU!


Thursday, July 13, 2017

Beyond the shops

When planning our trip to Alaska my sister and I knew we were not doing a cruise ship along the inland passage yet we wanted to experience even just a glimpse of that "side" of the state so we decided to spend some time in Juneau. Juneau is a destination of many boats so we figured we would encounter the masses of cruisers and, like them, spend most of our time in the town visiting shops or on a couple of organized tours. For Hunter, strolling the crowded boardwalks lined with teaming shops of ANY town is akin to a dentist visit for a root canal! Thankfully Marlene and I came upon a lovely "local" at a visitor's center that opened our eyes to a number of her "out of the way" destinations, all of them "beyond the shops"! 
So far, with the aid of a rental car, we have hiked over rocks, barnacles, and muscles to Echo Cove, walked down to Sheep Creek to watch Hunter "wrestle in" chum salmon, drove up Basin Road where we hiked both the Flume Trail on Golden Creek and to Last Chance Mining Museum. Finally we found our way to Cope Park where we unpacked and ate our lunch listening to the nearby rushing creek. And those are just the past few days! Two more days await adventure seekers in Juneau!







During my night's devotions I realized there was an interesting spiritual parallel to "Beyond the shops".
I call it "Beyond the pew". I want to be a "beyond the shops" vacationer but it is more important that I strive to be a "beyond the pew" Christian! My relationship with Jesus should be one filled with adventure and spiritual challenges. May I never just follow the crowd or be satisfied with mediocrity. In stead I pray my life reflects "radical" Jesus in all I say and do!

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Content with the Rain!

When the word vacation flashes across your mind do you envision sunshine and warm temps? Of course you do and so do I. At least that is what I thought a vacation should equate.How could there be any fun, any joy, any enjoyable outdoor activities in cold rain and gloomy clouds? This week I am discovering the smiles hidden behind the raindrops, the laughter in the cold rain forest, the beauty in the dark clouds, the pleasures only adverse weather can produce. God is also teaching me a valuable lesson called "Contentment". Contentment is defined as happiness with one's situation. If but a few short weeks ago you would have told me there was happiness to be found among rain and 50 degree weather I would have said,"You are crazy!" Just ask my husband if I am not "allergic" to cold. In the summer the air conditioner sits idle while the winter finds my husband in t-shirts and shorts in the house since he allows me to "control" the thermostat. Ha!
Yet our time in Alaska has opened my eyes to the joys discovered in nature despite and sometimes because of the weather. The green colors of the meadows are more vivid without the interference of the bright sun. Rain drops on leaves sparkle when the sun does take a quick peek through the clouds. Dark mountains laced with wispy clouds have an eerie but simple beauty. Crowds on the hiking trails are non-existent, which makes for a quiet walk while listening for birds singing through the trees. So let the cold rain come! I'm smiling and remembering Paul's words in Philippians 4:11-12
"...for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need (cold and rain)."








Saturday, July 8, 2017

Advice from an Estuary

Today, as Marlene and I walked through Baluga Slough in Homer, Alaska, we came upon this poem written on a placard along the hike. I found it most beautiful and full of wise thoughts. It mirrors Biblical principles.

Advice from an Estuary
Look ordinary
Don't ask for much 
Travel to your edge, then go further
Empty out
Let the moon refill you
Embrace opposites easily
Host travelers without borders, feed them
Listen to the distance in their songs
Nurture the invisible, harbor the young
Send those you've raised out into the world
Digest insults. Reframe and cleanse them
Adopt silence while others speak all around you
Measure change calmly
Mirror the sky
At times,
Be still.
- Wendy Erd


"Be still and know that I am God." Psalm 46:10

Besides just listening for God you can "see" Him in Alaska everywhere you look!