Faithinflipflops

Living simply, loving deeply!

Archive for the month “September, 2015”

Bike & Baggage

A few weeks back I began chronicling the adventures I had this summer and the lessons learned. Once I began writing I realized one blog would not be enough. This is the fourth and last installment. I am ready to leave summer behind me and embrace all God has for me this fall. Ministering in Africa and North Carolina are just a few of the things to come!

At the beginning of the summer,  I went for a 17 mile bike ride on a trail not far from my house. The trail extends from rural Kipton, Ohio to the city of Elyria. It is a gorgeous ride. The trail winds through farmland, woods, a golf course, the city of Oberlin plus more. I usually pack a lunch, take my Bible and journal and ride to the city of Oberlin and eat lunch and read and write in a park in Oberlin. I decided to go further along the trail before turning around and heading back.

Scenes from the Kipton Trail

Scenes from the Kipton Trail

On the way back, I got tired so I stopped at CVS (a drug store) to get crackers and something to drink. I ended up buying two facial washes, a huge bottle of body lotion (they were on sale) plus two drinks. Mind you, I still had five miles to go and the grade is higher going back. These purchases added an extra 5 pounds.

It made no sense for me to buy facial wash and body lotion on a scenic, long bike ride.

Not one of my brightest moves.

As I was peddling my heart out with an added five pounds of baggage, I thought about my walk with Jesus and the Scripture I had just read in the letter to the Philippians. Chapter 2, verse 14 said “Do all things without grumbling or complaining.”

Early summer was the end of a tough season for me. I was tired. Spiritually and physically. And frustrated. And angry.  Did I mention how tired I was? Bone-weary tired.  When I’m tired I end up picking up stuff/baggage I don’t need.  I begin to think in my heart “this is too hard, this season is going to kill me, I have it harder than anyone else, God where are you?” I had picked up grumbling and complaining.

I had to stop my bike and pray. And confess and apologize to the Lord for my current frame of mind and how I had been acting.

It was amazing. Once I confessed, peace and joy flooded my soul. This act of confession and repentance set me up for one of the best summers of my life. God was able to move in and through me once I put the baggage down. The ride has been smoother and easier and way more fun and fruitful!

What have you picked up? What is weighing you down in your walk with the Lord? What is God asking you to lay down so you can freely live this life He has given you with joy and peace? Confession is really good for the soul.

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Beach Adventures.

This is the third installment of a blog I began a couple of weeks ago. In the first blog, I wrote about my summer and all the things I learned. I realized one blog would not be enough. A couple of the stories would need their own space. Last week I continued with my experience getting a spray tan. I still cringe/laugh when I think about it.

Anyone who knows me, knows I love the beach, thunderstorms and water. My favorite experience of the whole summer happened in early August and included all three. It was a Sunday evening and I was sitting in my favorite chair after a long day. I looked at the weather forecast and noticed a huge storm was rolling in off of Lake Erie. The clouds on the radar were yellow and red. I had this strong desire to go down to the beach and watch it roll in. It was about 11 p.m. and I texted my nieces and asked them if they wanted to go with me to watch the storm come in off the lake. Their response was “When?”.  “Now” was my reply. They were in. A friend of ours also joined us once we got to the beach.

We went down and sat on the boardwalk and watched the incredible light show! No fireworks could ever compare to what the heavens displayed that evening. Of course, we tried to capture some of it with our phones!

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I love this. I am going to try to paint it!

I love this. I am going to try to paint it!

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This was taken about 1 in the morning.

This was taken about 1 in the morning.

Love it

Love it

Amazing light show!

Amazing light show!

As the storm grew in intensity, the wind began to blow hard. I have no idea why but we ran down to the water’s edge! I think we were going to make sand angels in the sand. The wind was whipping the sand so fast and furious it felt like it was cutting our skin! At one point the wind emptied a nearby garbage can and we were being hit with garbage. Finally, rain drops began to fall. We got in the car and drove to another beach that has a cliff that overlooks the lake. Once we got out of the car we ran down the hill. It felt like we were part of the storm.  We literally danced in the rain. My nieces were running up and down the hill competing with the noise of the thunder. I know this sounds so crazy and weird but it was so in the moment and so freeing. And it made me feel so ALIVE. A couple of weeks later when we went back to the beach to watch the meteor showers and for a midnight pizza picnic the girls said the night we watched the storm roll in was one of the best moments of their whole lives. I would agree.

dance IMG_3034

I crawled into bed about 2:30 in the morning. As I laid in bed thinking about what we had just experienced, this thought came to mind “I had my nieces and a friend running around on top of a cliff in a lightning storm! They could have been struck by lightning.” 🙂 (I guess I was living “Jesus first, others second, safety third” 😉 )

A few weeks after the storm incident, the annual Perseid meteor shower was happening. I ordered pizza, took blankets and  headed back to the beach with my nieces.  My nephews and some friends joined us for a bit. We laid on the beach from 10p.m. until about 1:30 in the morning. The high school science teacher was at the beach as well and pointed out the International Space station as it passed over the horizon of the lake. Very cool.

As we laid on the blankets, watching the sky, we talked about life. The best moments of their lives (which both said was watching the storm come in), the worst moments, Jesus, school, family. We laughed a lot. We also finally made sand angels! And I added something to my bucket list. Before the summer was done, I wanted to sleep under the stars, on a beach and watch the sunrise. And we did that, too! Over Labor Day weekend, we took our blankets and a tiki torch and slept under the stars on a friend’s beach. We swam at midnight and watched schools of fish jump out of the water when we shined the flashlight on the water. And watched the sunrise in the morning before going to breakfast!

So fun...and sandy

So fun…and sandy

Making sand angels

Making sand angels

Making sand angels

Making sand angels

Nieces and nephew at our midnight pizza picnic.

Nieces and nephew at our midnight pizza picnic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What did I learn from all of this? I learned if you really want to make a difference in the lives of the people you love, you spend time with them. I learned if you really want to disciple people and help them become more like Jesus, you spend time with them. We spend our time looking for short cuts and programs to help people grow in their faith. We need to get back to the basics. How did Jesus do it? He spent time with them. We have to get back to the ministry of hanging out. The apostle Paul said to follow him as he followed Jesus. In order for people to follow us, we need to stay close.

Whose life are you impacting?

Beautiful sunrise.

Beautiful sunrise.

Laptops came with us.

Laptops came with us.

Our little camp on the beach in dawn's light.

Our little camp on the beach in dawn’s light.

The sunrise after sleeping on the beach.

The sunrise after sleeping on the beach.

 

 

Heart Shaped Rocks: A Tale of an Optimist

Mondays are my day off. I sleep in and unplug for most of the day. I try to go for a long walk or bike ride somewhere new. I stuff a blanket in my back pack along with my journal and Bible and just go.

Today I went to a place I just discovered a few weeks ago. Sheldon’s Marsh is in the next town over I never knew existed. You walk for about a mile and a half through a beautiful marsh and come out at a barrier beach on Lake Erie. The beach stretches for over a mile. Absolutely amazing. I spent most of my time today walking the beach.

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Flowers in the marsh

Flowers in the marsh

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Beautiful butterfly

Beautiful butterfly!

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Sheldon Marsh

Sheldon Marsh

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Find the heron

As I was walking I noticed a heart-shaped rock. I stopped and took a picture of it. As I continued to walk down the beach, I saw about 6 or 7 more rocks in the shape of a heart. It’s interesting after you first notice something, you begin to see it everywhere. Maybe it’s because you’re actually looking for it.

Heart-shaped rocks

Heart-shaped rocks

Heart

Heart

You find what you are looking for!

You find what you are looking for!

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As I continued walking, I began to think of all the Scripture I knew with the word heart or love in it. What a great exercise. It helped me center on God and His love. God’s love is evident all around us if we are looking for it.

And I thought about church. I love church. I get so frustrated with people who constantly criticize and make fun of the church. The Bible teaches that the church is not a building, it is the people who accepted Jesus and everything He claimed to be and have chosen to follow Him. Scriptures also teaches how much Christ loves the Church. She (the church) may be imperfect and not always live up to her potential but she is who Christ has chosen to represent Him.

As I discovered more heart-shaped rocks on my walk, it reminded me of people who say they do not like going to church or use the excuse of not going to church because the church is filled with nothing but “hypocrites”. My answer to that is whatever you are looking for you will find. If you are looking for a hypocrite in church you most definitely will find them. If you are looking for a man or woman who sincerely loves God, you will find them as well. And you know what? They are probably the same person.

I am an optimist by nature. I recently took a strengths finder test for some coaching I am doing. One of my top 5 strengths is positivity. I understand that a person can be a hypocrite and a person who loves Jesus at the very same time. I am such a person. The heart-shaped rocks I found today reminded me to keep looking for positive. Because you really do find what you are looking for. If you are looking for negative stuff, negative is what you will find. If you are looking for positive, positive is what you will find. What are you looking for?

 

 

Personal Reflections on 9/11

I wrote this a year ago in honor of 9-11. Hope you enjoy.

Faithinflipflops

9/11. This day impacts me every year. It impacts all of us. It has been 13 years since the planes were flown into the towers, the pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania. It seems like yesterday that our security was ripped from us and we realized that we were not untouchable on our own soil. It seems like yesterday we lost over 3,000 of us in less than an hour. It brings me to tears every year. It is a day of reflection for me. It is the day that began the closing of one chapter of my life, preparing for the next.

I was living in Waynesboro, VA at the time on staff at a church. I had just come through a tough season. The battle had been challenging but I had overcome. But not without a cost. I was left with some war wounds…wounds that penetrated the deepest part…

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The One in Which I got a Spray Tan

In my last blog, I wrote about how amazing my summer was,  and some of the lessons that I learned. I realized while writing it one would not be enough. So I ended the blog “to be continued.” This blog is the continuation.

Lesson #3: Sin is a lot like a spray tan…it looks good and makes you feel good for a while but the aftermath is not pretty or worth it!

I had the honor of being a part of two dear friends wedding this summer. I have always liked how I look tan (vain I know 😉 ) but had given up using a tanning bed a few years back. A friend suggested we go and get spray tans together a couple of days before the wedding. I was nervous because I had seen that episode of Friends….you know the one…the one where Ross goes into a tanning bed and gets confused and only gets sprayed on one side multiple times. I so could see myself doing the very same thing. The lady took me back and showed me the awkward poses I needed to do. The most confusing one was the “pose like an Egyptian”. There were two ways to do it to make sure all of your skin was sprayed. She pointed out a poster (that was to the side, outside the tube I would be in), reminded me to listen to the cues and left me on my own. It was way too complicated. I missed a couple of cues because I was looking at the poster to the side but made it out alive. As the evening went on, I began to get darker and darker and darker. In the morning I decided I liked it though it was a pretty drastic change. The day of the wedding came and I was feeling pretty good about it. I had a cute new dress. I was excited for my friends. It was a beautiful, warm August day.

The part I didn’t mention was that I was co-officiating the wedding with my boss. The place for the ceremony was beautiful. It was in a chapel on the shores of Lake Erie. It was also not air-conditioned.

When I get nervous, I sweat. A lot.

Not some dainty, lady-like perspiration but the someone-turned-on-a-faucet-inside-of-me-full-blast kind of sweat.

And I had to stand up there with the bride and groom the whole time. And the ceremony was so touching and the groom was crying and when I see men crying, I lose it. So there I stand…sweating and crying. I’m sure you know where this is headed. As the ceremony was coming to conclusion and they were announced Mr. and Mrs. I looked down and saw brown water trickling down my leg. I was mortified. And it made me more nervous which made me sweat more which made more brown water trickle down my leg. I had forgotten about the spray tan. So at this point I am in full-blown panic mode.  Now I know that probably no one noticed but I did. And it was disgusting. And it was all over my clothes. And it was coming off kleenex like foundation. The next morning I woke up and the spray tan was all over my sheets and comforter. It was a mess.

As I looked at the carnage in my bedroom, I realized sin is very similar to spray tan. It makes you look and feel good for a while but the aftermath and price you have to pay is way too high. With the spray tan there was a lot of cleaning up to do. I looked good with the tan for a while but I got to the point during the wedding with the one thought “I hope no one notices, I hope I don’t embarrass the bride and groom, I hope I’m really not peeing my pants…” A lot of us stuck in sin think the same thing “I hope no one notices, I hope I don’t get found out, I hope I don’t embarrass my family.”

The great thing about Jesus is He sent the Holy Spirit to convict us, to let us know when we are doing things that will harm ourselves or others and our relationship with Him. And even if we ignore it and end up with a colossal mess on our hands and consequences to be walked through, He is always there to forgive and get us up and on the right path again.

I will never get a spray tan again. At least I got a good story out of it.

The Summer of Finding My True North

Summer is coming to an end. Cool nights, bonfires, Friday night football games, and hoodies are just around the corner. I can hear the high school band play even as I type. The changing of summer to fall evokes in me such an overwhelming melancholy feeling…a feeling that can best be described as homesickness. September always seems more like a new year beginning than January does. I am even more sad to see this summer come to an end. It has been an incredible summer.

Back in the spring I was struggling a bit. I am 45 years old. I have been following Jesus for 29 years. I have been a follower of Jesus who has always tried to live a life of love, faith and risk.  I was feeling stuck. I felt stuck because of the decisions I had made early on in ministry (decisions that I know were God’s will for me but the risk involved with these decisions have become more evident as I have gotten older). The older we get, we can tend to fall into a pattern of playing it safe. I have never wanted to play it safe until the early part of this year.

Thirteen years ago God sent me back home to a small town on Lake Erie. To a town I love, a people I love, and a church I love. I have gotten to do amazing things and meet and love extraordinary people. But hitting “mid-life”, I realized that I had nothing for retirement, no house to call my own and I was allowing thoughts and circumstances to get my eyes off of all Jesus has called me to do.  God used a book to challenge me. Bob Goff’s Love Does was a “dead reckoning” for me, bringing me back to my true north. I am wired to take risks. I am someone who shrivels up simply maintaining. I thrive on trying new things and new adventures.  I am someone who has to have a degree of spontaneity in my life. Playing it safe will kill me. Maybe not physically but the core of who God created me to be.

This all led to some adjustments in my life this summer. I purposed to be more present. When I was somewhere, I was going to be completely there…not thinking about what I needed to do next or where I needed to go. Everyone I was around would get all of me. I purposed to spend more time with people. I have always loved being with people but I found that I had no time for people (or so I thought). I purposed to spend more time outside. I purposed to spend more time with God.  I purposed to be more spontaneous.  And the result?  It has made all the difference in the world. I have joy. I have peace. I hear from God more clearly (sometimes in the oddest of ways). People are no longer an irritant or distraction from what I perceived was “real” work. And I am really enjoying life again.

My circumstances have not changed. I still don’t have anything in retirement or own my own house. But I feel like I’m me again. The me Jesus always created me to be. There are still things that need to change in me, areas Jesus is still working on, but I am happy. More than happy, I am joyful. And excited for all the adventures ahead.

I have a lot of stories from this summer. Memories made. Lessons learned. Here are a couple of the lessons:

  1. If transporting your kayak by the inside of a car, make sure you wrap the tip of the kayak with a towel. This will save you $250 (the cost of getting a cracked windshield fixed). As I filled out my claim to my insurance company and came to the question “How did it happen?” I couldn’t help but laugh at my answer. “The tip of my kayak ran into the windshield and cracked it.”
    My kayak cracked my windshield.

    My kayak cracked my windshield.

     

  2. If you’re always worried about being cool, you will never have any fun. (My pep talk to the summer interns at our church before I sent them out to be dancing bananas, Santa Clauses, babies, and elves for our Amazing Race). *I think it can also be said that if you’re always worried about being cool, you will never take risks.

    Characters from our Amazing Race.

    Characters from our Amazing Race.

There are a few more stories from this summer I want to share but that would make this an incredibly long blog. And they each need their own space. So consider this a “to be continued”….

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