New Distances

Today was a beautiful, full-of-grace kind of day.  I have been anticipating today with equal parts of excitement and fear – today is the day I will run my longest distance yet.  We are in Escanaba, not super familiar with the town, so yesterday we scoped out possible running opportunities for me.  This morning, I asked Bill to take me and drop me off – and I would call when ready for a pick-up.

Instead of dropping me off, Bill went off in one direction, and sent me off in the other.  This wonderful guy set his own record by logging 13.4 miles!  When I discovered that he had stayed near, I almost cried.  He has put up with my crazy in so many ways – and continues to support each new crazy that comes along.  This is my first grace of this day – realizing that God brought this wonderful man into my life – even though I have done nothing good enough to deserve him.

The next grace was the message to let go of expectations – and this was reinforced in several formats this morning.  Emails, posts, devotional reading, everywhere I turned.  What else could I do?  I let go of any expectation I might have been holding on to, and set off to find joy and dance with the excitement and fear.  I am a slow runner – I don’t care.  (In fact, lots of people walk faster than I run – but that is their journey – not mine.)  I say this about being slow to frame the picture here – 16 miles is a lot of thinking time!  Usually, I plug in my headphones at the onset – not today.  Today, I spent several miles with myself and my thoughts to listen to.  After a bit, I plugged in to what I normally play.  Unusually, that wasn’t comfortable today – so I opted for the setting that said “just run”.  I’ve never used that one before, and am really glad I was introduced to it today!

I was pretty sure I had calculated what I needed to get my intended 15 miles in.  Endorphins, joy, sunshine, and a whole host of other factors can really mess with your mind…at about 10.5 miles, I quickly did the math in my head – and came up 2 miles short if I didn’t add more distance.  I recalculated again, and still came up short by a mile.  Third calculation – and I decided I better add a mile at least, and then I could just finish up whatever I needed when I got back to where I started.  Conveniently, there was a cemetery – so I ran through the cemetery.  What an amazing place to run!  (Yup, more grace!).  Gratitude for the veterans – and this was a pretty old cemetery, so many wars were represented.  Appreciation for the longevity, and long marriages.  Sorrow for those who died at a young age.  And for myself – thankful that I was “topside”, and grateful that runs like this will hopefully keep me that way longer…  Next to the cemetery was the airport – and well, you really shouldn’t just run past the airport without stopping to say “Hi!”.

The next grace was found at 13.3 miles, according to my Garmin.  At that distance, I realized that every step I took was exploring new distance territory.  Almost 3 miles of “new”!  With that realization, each step became a joy, and a sort of prayer of thanks to God for this body.  I’m pretty sure it can do so much more than I ever gave it credit for – I really need to take better care of it!

Bill walked toward me, and met me for the last mile in.  We walked it together – holding hands for part of it (holding hands is THE BEST!).  It still counts – the walking part – we covered the miles.  Life is really so good – so full of grace, we just have to be open to it.  Be intentional about seeking it out, and not be so busy that we just walk right past it.

In two weeks, I expect to have the opportunity to set another new distance record for myself.  I will enjoy the excitement, the anticipation, the wonder, and yes – the fear.  And once again, joy and grace will be the reward.

Being “Present”

What does this mean to you?  Look up the word ‘present’ – so many choices for meanings.  As I consider this simple statement, I can see many grace opportunities.

We live in a time that is rushed, multi-tasking is valued, and competition for our time and attention is fierce.  I’m sure we have all had the experience of trying to interact with someone – in person, on the phone, or even just trying to schedule time – and it is evident that the other person is not ‘present’.  Those times when you’re pretty sure you could start spouting nonsense, and you would get nods of assent, smiles, and mumbles of agreement.  Or you could get up and walk away from the conversation and not be missed?  How do you feel when you try to bring up that subject at a later time and you’re met with a blank stare?

Now, maybe the harder question…how often do you do that to others?  Ouch!  When was the last time you put down your electronics (or, gasp, turned them off) and actually made eye contact with the person that is talking to you.  Now the tricky part – did you really focus on what they were saying, or were your eyes glazed over and your mind on the next ten things you needed to do?  Again, ouch!  This is something that I need to work on.  I know that I am guilty.

Being present – focusing on the person, listening intently, actively participating in conversation – what an awesome gift (present) to give.  Think about how you feel when someone offers you the incredible gift of their time and attention.  It doesn’t cost anything financially.  Have you been on the receiving end of someone’s undivided attention?  It can actually be unnerving – I think we have become so used to being ignored that having undivided attention can actually make you kind of squirmy.

My challenge is to be better at being present – and see how many people I can make squirmy!

 

 

Grace and Inspiration Sighting

We are spending this week in Alpena, MI with Civil Air Patrol (CAP) – a volunteer organization that we belong to, and have for quite a long time.  CAP was a family activity for us when the kids were younger, and Bill and I continue, as does Beth.  Michigan Wing (MIWG) – CAP on the state level – has an annual “encampment”, aimed primarily at youth (although there are leadership opportunities for adults as well).  I could write volumes on the positive aspects of this program for both youth and adults, but I want to focus on grace and inspiration.  If you would like to know more, or chat about whether it might be a good fit for you or your children, feel free to contact me.  (No, you don’t have to be a pilot, your children don’t have to commit to a future in the military, and YES, if you are interested, there is a place for you!)  There are leadership opportunities for everyone.

I want to share the amazing amount of grace that flows during this week (not to mention the months leading up to this event in planning and working together as a team).  MIWG is filled with a diverse group of adult volunteers that are very generous with their time and talent.  They commit unbelievable amounts of time and energy to ensure that the cadets have an outstanding experience.  Some of these members are “legendary” – their reputation is well known and respected.  Many have been in the program as cadets (youth) and have continued on as seniors (adult members).  A fair number are new to the experience and are respected for the gifts and talents they bring.  Everyone is working toward a common goal, the experience is the living definition of teamwork.  I would guess that there are between 75 and 100 adult volunteers – most having a duty day of at least 8 hours for 9 days straight.  That doesn’t count the planning hours, travel hours, time, and personal expense.  This is a sizeable financial aspect to consider, but is a fraction of the value compared to the value of time, expertise, knowledge, and genuine concern expended by each adult.

The inspiration – that is apparent in the youth as well as the adults.  I can’t imagine anyone being in this environment and not being inspired to be more, to be better, and to share what they have acquired here.  Saturday morning is graduation, and is preceded by Pass In Review.  I have lost count of the number of encampments I have attended, but I can say in all honesty that I have yet to make it through a Pass In Review dry-eyed (especially the year that Beth was the Cadet Commander).  These young people, our cadets, are truly inspirational.  All those amazing adult senior members?  They take a back seat during this ceremony and let the cadets shine.

This year, I didn’t have a role at encampment.  I watched from the sidelines, renewed old friendships, and soaked up the grace and inspiration that has flooded the area.  If we stay for Pass In Review, I will load my pockets with Kleenex, and fill my being with more grace and inspiration!

 

 

 

 

Never a “Yes” without a “No”

This is one of those seemingly simple statements that worked itself into my thoughts and has been niggling there for a while.  The premise is that you can never say yes to something without saying no at the same time.  This person was specifically talking about time commitments – you know, when you say “yes” to a project that requires your time and energy – you are also saying “no” to spending that time with family.  The more I thought about this, the more I realized that it applies to so much of our life – and you can flip the statement as well.  Every time you say “no” to something, you are also saying “yes” to another something.

Time:  As I mentioned, in the original conversation – we were reminded that saying yes to commitments means saying no to several things.  Spending time with those important to you, spending time for yourself, possibly even spending time on reasons you feel are more valuable/meaningful.

People:  Who (and why) are you saying yes to having in your life?  Are those relationships building you up?  Or are they exhausting you?  Are your relationships equally yoked?  I find myself looking at friendships and other relationships with different eyes.  Every relationship is going to have a fluid state of give and take – but when it is all give (or take) – is it time to evaluate?  Are you able to give when it is needed?  Are you able to let yourself receive when you need the support?  If you say “no” to letting someone help you, are you saying “yes” to isolating yourself and hurting the relationship?  Maybe this is something that comes with age, but I am looking for more substance from friendships/relationships.  Quantity isn’t as important as quality – trite but true.

Forgiveness:  When we say no to forgiving or asking for forgiveness (someone or ourselves) – we are saying yes to keeping so much alive – bitterness, anger, resentment – just to name a few.  Saying yes to forgiveness allows joy back into life.  A wise person told me that forgiving means that I am realizing that I can’t rewrite history.  Forgiving means saying yes to the future, and no to living in the past.  It offers a new sense of freedom.

Me(You):  Saying yes to being me, being real and saying no to trying to be someone to please others.  Probably AKA being comfortable in your own skin.  If I don’t like who I am, how can I expect anyone else to like me?

Causes:  This is related to time in some aspects.  Yet, it involves so much more.  You are going to invest time and energy, and say no because of this.  Is your cause worth it?  Do you really believe in it – or by saying “yes” to the cause – are you saying “no” to something/someone else as a method of avoidance?

Stuff:  This is a problem area for me that has been under attack with our new living situation!  Look at your “stuff” – the things you have said “yes” to.  Why?  Why did you say yes and continue to say yes to it?  I am amazed at how important I let “stuff” become, and how freeing it can be to say “no” to it.

Two other areas come to mind – attitude and food.  Maybe a third – exercise.  I think the “yes”/”no” concept is pretty obvious with these.

My challenge (and I extend this to you) – spend time and think about all the things you are continually saying yes and no to.  Which are the good “yeses” and “noes” – and which need to be reconsidered?

 

 

Being…

Mom and I just returned from a Mother-Daughter retreat.  It was a 24-hour event that will continue to impact me for quite a while.  One of those times that goes by too quickly, and at the same time, feels longer than a 24-hour experience.  Definitely one of those experiences that makes you sad that it is over while feeling incredibly joyful that it happened.  The coincidence of this falling on my birthday was the icing on my birthday cake.

The theme centered around “Be still and know that I Am God”, further expanded to include “Be Real”, “Be You”, “Be Present”, and “Just Be”; and wrapped up with the concept of “Being” in the ebb and flow of life.  The content easily applies to women of all ages, I know that it is a message that I am in (continual) need of hearing.  There was so much goodness packed in that short 24 hours – in a beautiful setting, a wonderful person to share it with, and more love and laughter than imaginable.

So, another year older, and there is still so much wisdom to gather in this life.  Have YOU ever stopped to think about the “Be’s”?  It’s harder and more challenging than it appears on the surface.  “Be still” – obviously not just talking about the lack of physical movement.  Want to try this?  Set a timer for one minute – two if you’re really ambitious.  Now, be still.  Physically still, yes.  Quiet your mind as well.  Listen, feel, absorb….one of  my favorite statements is “Make time for the quiet moments as God whispers and the world is loud”.  Two minutes seems like a lot a quiet moments at first.  I want to be able to “be still” for much longer.  God has a lot of wisdom to share, and I want to learn to settle in, settle down, and open my heart to hear it.  I know that this challenge will reap rewards.

“Be Real” and “Be You” – these seem (in my mind) to be closely related.  Not only are these attributes important for me to incorporate, but I realize how important it is to look for these concepts in my relationships.  Think about your friendships and relationships.  How many relationships are strictly surface-type relationships?  Always keeping things light, only expending enough energy to keep the relationship afloat.  Those don’t require you to “Be” much of anything.  On the opposite end of the spectrum, those relationships that demand nothing less than a full commitment to drop your shields.  Those friends in your life that know your secrets (good and bad) and still continue to be your friends.  One of the very best decisions I ever made – a long time ago – happened to be one of the very best things I have ever done for my life.  I had reached a point where I was tired of trying to be what I thought others wanted me to be.  I severed some relationships and friendships, and decided to be “just me” and let others take me or leave me because I wasn’t going to change to win their favor.  The first relationship that developed after that decision is still going strong 30+ years later.

After this weekend, I am reminded of the importance of doing this.  It is time to re-evaluate my friendships and relationships.  I see relationships that are very lop-sided – one of us is trying to be fully invested while the other is not.  Some relationships seem unhealthy in terms of manipulative behavior.  Then there are those that are full of goodness – the ones that can withstand the test of time.  These are the relationships that allow you to just “be” – and you know that the other person is doing exactly the same thing.  No secrets, no trying to be better than the other, and sharing the pain as much as you share the joy.

I have some housecleaning matters to attend to – to foster those precious relationships that allow me to “just be” – and to clean out some of those that are not serving.  Making these choices help the next part of “being” to come into play.  Choosing who and when to be present with, and investing that energy wisely.  They are the friends that help you navigate the ebb and flow of life.  The other relationships are important as well – they require less attention and energy – and can certainly be a source of happiness.

One of the activities during the retreat was a painting class.  Painting classes are a “thing” right now, and I will admit to being curious about them.  We attended the class, and I discovered how much of a step out of the comfort zone that was!  General instruction and one stencil to trace were provided.  For someone that is used to following the rules, coloring inside the lines, and following concrete steps – this was an experience.  We were given a blank canvas, 3 colors of paint, 2 brushes, and vague instructions.  The results were incredible – 165 different versions – each beautiful in its own way.  WOW!  I realized that I could be so paralyzed by trying to put just the right brush stroke on the canvas that I would end up with the blank white canvas.  Or, I could be bold, dip the brush in the paint, and create my own little bit of colorful self-expression.  Tentative at first, then becoming bolder and experimenting with strokes and colors – hey, this is really fun!  Even turning what appeared to be mistakes into something much nicer.

So, start working on your “Be”s and make that first brush stroke!

Storms and Writing in the Sand

One of my bucket list items was to watch storms travel across Lake Michigan from Wisconsin to Michigan (another is to see a tornado – but more about that another day).  Checked that item off on Monday.  Thunderstorms are fascinating – so much power in the thunder and lightning, and huge quantities of water (or snow in the winter) that is produced.

After the storm passes, everything is clean, the air smells fresh, and the skies clear.  The pictures don’t really do the storm justice – it was beautiful, and it really wasn’t much of a storm.  I’m hoping for a bigger, “badder” one next time.

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How often do we have storms in our life?  Dark clouds build, the sun hides from view, and you can just feel the tension building.  Personally, metaphorically speaking, I am not very good at unleashing the storm – letting it thunder, lightning, and rain/snow like heck – so that the storm passes and everything clears up.  I tend to just let it continue to build, which leads to those “bigger, badder” storms.  I think I need to practice unleashing thunder and lightning, as opposed letting them evolve into tornadoes!

I did something that I first tried on my beach walks in Florida this winter.  It is really something everyone should try at least once.  I wasn’t sure about trying this here, since we don’t really have tides – but it still works.  When you’re at the beach, write your cares and concerns in the sand near the water’s edge.  Then wait and watch while they are washed away.  This won’t require any further explanation.  Sure, writing all that stuff near the water’s edge guarantees that it will be erased – but then, isn’t that what God promises us if we trust Him?  (Side note here, if you’re bringing a lot of “stuff” that needs to be written in the sand – find a long stretch of sand, and in an area where there aren’t a lot of people :D)

And, I tackled the 77 steps again, alone this time!

Water, Sunsets, and 77 Steps

13 June 2017

We found a new home again today.  If you’re looking for a quiet, small campground with lots of trees, water, great views – try Orchard Beach State Park in Manistee, MI.  The staff here is exceptional.  The park is on Lake Michigan – no beach to speak of, but breath-taking views.  There are park benches placed strategically along the water so that you can appreciate the splendor.

Water, specifically beaches and waves, speak to my soul.  I clarify this, because in our almost 30 years together, we have had some less than pleasant and very memorable issues with water.  Large bodies of water that come with waves – I am discovering that they are like a balm to my being.  I can feel grace – like water – flooding me and filling me.  We watched the sunset, a peaceful and illuminating experience.  The sun cast beautiful colors on the sky and the water.  The water captured the sun’s light and reflected it’s beauty and intensity.  It occurred to me that we need to be both sun and water.  Trying to be one or the other robs of us being truly alive.  When we are both, we absorb light and warmth, and reflect love and beauty when we shine.

The park has a stairway down to the water’s edge.  It has 77 steps, they are wooden, except the last 20 that are aluminum.  There are good handrails, and resting platforms.  And it is steep.  At least, in my book it is steep.  I am afraid of heights, (being a pilot is a whole different story) and I try to take opportunities to work on that fear.  Bill, ever the patient and wonderful person that he is, allowed me the time and encouraged me to tackle the steps.  The trip down to the water was the hard part – and one step at a time, I made it.  It is a small victory, but it is mine.  The trip up was easy.

Take some time to watch a sunset – on the water if you can.  Be the sun and the water…feel the warmth and light, and let others see your love and beauty.  Tackle a fear with a good and patient person at your side.  Be a good and patient person for someone else while they tackle a fear.  Let your guard down, and talk to strangers (friends you haven’t been introduced to yet).  They have amazing stories to tell, and they just might want to hear your amazing story.

Today was filled with grace, and I’m excited to discover more tomorrow!

 

Grace – When and Where You Least Expect It

I was gifted with some grace encounters yesterday – in the form of statements, questions, and conversations.  I wasn’t looking for it, and almost missed them.  The words kept circling back through my consciousness though, poking and prodding until I recognized them.  When you consider all the words you hear in a day, it is easy to miss some of the important ones.  It is interesting the way God chooses to keep replaying key words and phrases until you “get it” – and He is so patient.  Sometimes, He even sends illustrations to highlight what He wants you to know.  For me, He occasionally thumps me on the noggin to get the message through.

Mindfulness, being fully present in the moment – I think this is a key piece in catching grace on the first go ‘round.  It is important to slow down, savor the moment – explore all it’s possibilities – before you let it go.  Multitasking is a good thing, sometimes.  There is a time and place for it – but I think it should not become the default mode of operation.  It is so easy to rush through everything to get on to the next “thing”.  After a while, if you stop to take a breath, you might wonder what the purpose of all that rushing is?  Bill has encouraged us to start exploring our stops more fully.  This week, we embarked on our first “away from Cadillac” adventure.  We have made this particular trip many times before and never really explored.  At his urging, we sat down and made a list of things and people to see.  Although I don’t remember his exact words, Bill’s point was that he didn’t want us to leave town with the thought “Gee, I wish we would have checked out (insert people, places, things here) – maybe next time”.  Not that we don’t ever plan on returning here, instead – fully appreciate the here and now.  Then, do the same next time we visit.  Instead of planning our departure as soon as we arrive somewhere – plan and fill our moments before we leave.  Carefully and thoughtfully plan those moments, and make sure those plans include exploring and seeking out joy.  Sure – you may have some less-than-joyful items to attend to, but that is the “grace thing” – you can also have time for joy.  And leave time to just marinate and consider the amazing things you have found.  Quiet moments to reflect, time to just listen – to birds, to bugs, to the sounds of the world waking up as well as the settling down for night – this is important as well.  Otherwise, what have you gained?  Accomplishing tasks, rushing to get through them – sometimes necessary, yes – but don’t let it be the reason that drives you.  Quit putting off enjoying life for the myriad of reasons that are so readily available.  Enjoy people, places, moments HERE and NOW.

Yesterday, I had a conversation that questioned my commitment to a goal I identified.  It was a conversation that I needed, although I didn’t realize it at that time.  On the surface, it was about one goal.  Gracefully, that question just kept swirling around in my mind, until I realized that it was challenging my commitment to so much more.  As the conversation progressed, a few more phrases found their way into the loop being replayed in my mind.  I am grateful that God chooses those messages, and highlights them as needed.  Even more grateful for the messengers he chooses to make me uncomfortable enough to recognize the need for change and growth.  The church my mom attends has a practice of asking “where have you seen God this week?”  I love that practice – it encourages you, at least once a week, to be mindful.  I am working on adopting that and adapting it to “where have I seen God and grace today?” and being mindful and alert to note those God and grace sightings.

I believe that God takes full advantage of the opportunity when we are able to open our heart and mind to His leading.  Yesterday was one of those times.  Honestly, I know that grace opportunities and God moments are always present – the challenge is to keep heart and mind open, slow down and be mindful and intentional, and recognize what is right before our eyes.

Oh, and by the way – it’s good to pull out those secret, seemingly ridiculous, “things you’ve always to do/be but were afraid you would be laughed at” and try them on.  Instead of laughter, you might be surprised at the amount of support you find!  (Just another instance of grace :D)

 

Whack-a-Mole, Angels, and Vexatious Persons (VPs)

AKA obstructions to grace, givers of grace, and creators of grace.

This appears to be one of those “seasons” (to coin a phrase from a “VP”) when life starts to feel like a game of Whack-a-Mole, and I have the job of trying to fill in for the other 4 moles besides manning my own hole.  You know – just when you think it’s safe to pop your head up, WHAM – there is that dang hammer.  Also, you know with a fairly high degree of certainty that the game will probably go on for way too many rounds.

Fortunately, God sees the very real need to send angels to remind you that it will all work out.  They are the givers of grace.  A friend that sends you an email with just the very words you need to hear.  Meeting a friend that you haven’t seen in a very long time – and she blesses you with some advice in a conversation that was completely unexpected.  Even the simple things – finding little reminders – that help you remember the game will eventually end.  Little things like finding heart-shaped stones, or hearing a song with lyrics that touch your heart.  When the game ends, you will be stronger, more agile, and MUCH more adept at dodging the hammer.

Then there are the VPs – most annoying when they are people that you love, respect, and look to for guidance and direction.  You know – you have them in your life as well.  They are the ones who bring you great joy MOST of the time.  (Otherwise, at times like this, you want to slap the snot out of them.)  This could even be expanded to include vexatious situations (VSs).  These people and situations challenge you in a couple of ways.  First – to not “lose it” completely – and actually slap the snot out of them, or in the case of a VS – not to just throw your hands up and walk away.  Second (and the reason they are in your life) – to grow your grace.  VPs and VSs then become creators of grace.  Because you know, in your very soul, that your VPs and VSs will indeed help you create more grace, you also get a lesson in love.  Because you really can’t slap them silly, now, can you?  Even if they are taking turns holding the hammer……

Disclaimer – I believe that we are all VPs at many points in our lives – to those we love, as well as to strangers.  For the very reason I just mentioned….(heaven forbid I offend anyone reading this).

 

Making Memories

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Today is Memorial Day.  I understand the tradition and solemnity that comes with this day, and honor that.  This day also causes me to reflect on the importance of making memories – the good ones – that will comfort you in the future and bring you smiles (and sometimes tears will accompany).

We are camping at my Mom’s house this week, and planning a trip with her next week.  I am so excited that she is planning trips with us.  This really means a lot to me.  My Mom is amazing.  I want to be just like her when I grow up.  There has never been a time in my life that I felt truly alone, or without someone who loved me unconditionally.  Mom and Dad were always there.  To this day, I know that I can pick up the phone, and Mom will be there – to listen, love, and support.  Yes, Bill does this also – but a mother’s love can’t ever be replaced.  This is the woman who has seen you at your very worst (– and hopefully your very best) and will still answer the phone when you call.

I can always count on Mom to be “in” for my latest wild idea, recipe, or spontaneous adventure.  No matter where we are, when Mom is present, it just feels like going back “home”.  We laugh a lot, sometimes cry together, but mostly – and I am so thankful – we create wonderful memories.  I realize how blessed I am to have this relationship – not everyone has this.  I look forward to celebrating this ability to make memories and plan to exploit the ability as much as possible.

The really important thing to recognize is that you don’t have to do extravagant things, or extreme things.  Some of the best memories are in the ordinary, the everyday stuff you do together.  We walked the dogs together yesterday morning, and some funny stuff happened.  We laughed long and loud, and are still giggling like school girls about it.  Today we are going to buy some flats of flowers to plant – something we do together every year.  I have no doubt that there will be considerable laughter, much dirt, and love and joy that surpasses the imagination.

Go out and make memories.  Let down your guard, drop your protective shields.  Feel – the good and the hurt – and cherish those feelings.  Find joy in the ordinary everyday – because it can turn magical and wondrous right before your eyes!