Lessons in Everyday Life ~ part three

bike path

Pedaling Down the Path

Around and around and around the skinny wheels on my bike spun as I rhythmically pushed against the pedals. The tree lined bike path was identical to days before, my water bottle was in arm’s reach like always and the shoes on my feet were familiar. However, for some reason this cycling experience was panning out to be quite different from days prior.

Normally, I can ride eight miles at a quickened pace without ever having to take a rest. Invigorated by the effort I am applying, the calories I’m burning and sweat pouring from my pores, I can press in and reach my destination. Not this time! By mile four, my resolve was already wearing thin and I was entertaining taking a break. Rolling into mile six, I felt another level of exhaustion and wondered if I needed to turn around.

As I continued to strive for my goal, physical symptoms of fatigue flared. The thick muscle that runs vertically on the tops of my thighs was tingling with tightness. My shoulders felt like lead blocks causing me to lean forward and rely on the handlebars to support the weight of my torso. My upper arms were stiff and my elbows were pointing outward as I strained to spin my wheels. As burdensome as my body was, so were the thoughts of weariness racing through my brain.

“I don’t know if I can do this today,” I thought. “What the heck is going on? Why is this so hard?” I asked myself. At this point, it was either walk myself and my bike back six or seven miles or find a way to go on. Desperate to work off the ice cream from the night before, I yearned to do the distance.

With no cheering squad nearby, I looked inward for a way to keep riding. “Elizabeth, you a097b26c918c7f4b4ed156227cafcbd1are just being a wimp. So what, if you are tired,” I pushed myself to continue pedaling. “Elizabeth, just keep going. It’s OK if you are worthless the rest of the day,” I worked to excuse myself from being productive. “Elizabeth, just ignore the heaviness you are feeling. You can figure out what is wrong when you get home,” I tried to push aside what was ailing me.

After my silent self-help session, I finally reached the half way mark. This was my routine rest stop. And, boy did I stop! Certainly, the heat of the day increased the difficulty of the ride. However, I was certain something else was going on.

In order to give my legs a rest, I slid off the tiny triangular seat and tipped my chin towards my toes. Quickly, I grabbed the edge of my t-shirt and wiped away the sheet of sweat floating on my forehead before it streamed into my eyes. Pausing for a rest, I fussed, “UUggghhhh, now, I need to turn around and do it again!”

Determined, but not delighted, I pushed my buttocks back in the saddle and returned to a racing position. “Hmm, that felt a little bouncy!” I thought. Ready to dig in, I gripped the curved metal bars stretched out before me and peered down at the pavement. “Hmmm, my wheels don’t look exactly right!” I noticed.  It was then, in this crouched position with my body weight crushing the circular rubber tubes that I discovered my problem. It had little to do with my personal state of fitness. Instead, it had everything to do with my equipment!

Simply put, my tires weren’t properly inflated. Somehow the air was leaking out causing the added struggle during my workout session. “Dang! That’s it! My tires are going flat!” I confirmed to myself. There was relief, knowing the reason for the extra exertion needed had nothing to do with me. However, I still dreaded the return ride. Enduring another eight miles on deflated tires didn’t sound like any fun.

bicycle 1There was no use in stalling. So, I flexed the little muscle stored in my upper arms and went for it. Mile nine and ten weren’t easy. Mile eleven, twelve and thirteen proved to be increasingly difficult. During mile fourteen my body was in as bad a shape as before. To carry on, I needed a new strategy. So, I stirred up mental toughness and pulled my muscles taught to endure to the end. I held my breath and squinted the corners of my eyes to tap into the energy that was left. I could see the break in the trees that indicated the opening into my subdivision, but I still didn’t think I was going to make it!

And, that is when the Holy Spirit awakened and spoke to the essence of my struggle. When I was feeling tired, fatigued and wanting to give up, He had something to share,

Elizabeth, this is how people feel when they try to do life without me. They are tired, burdened, weary and ready to through in the towel. They press through time and endure the difficulty of days on their own!”  

Coming into the home stretch, the Holy Spirit was quick to make His point:

“You need to know I never intended for any of you to live this way, relying on your own strength, your own knowledge, your own will power to walk through life. I know it is too difficult to do on your own! Surely, you will wear out!” I sensed the Spirit stressing to my burnt out body.

From now on when you get tired, turn to me!” I was urged. “Allow me to pump up your Spirit! Read My Word for strength and receive My power from the scriptures!

 

By the time I rounded my street corner, I was worn out, yet renewed. Physically exhausted, but spiritually strengthened. The Holy Spirit had shown me He is the One to shore up our souls. Therefore, naturally making the journey of living more doable, more manageable, more enjoyable!

 

bike 2

As I hung my bike on the wall hook, I heard one last piece of wise council, “And Elizabeth, from now on never leave home without first checking your tires!!

Who would have thought, I could learn such a lesson while sweating so much!  

 

He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, And vigorous young men stumble badly, Yet those who wait for the LORD Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.

Isaiah 40:29-31 (NIV)

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being.

Ephesians 3:16 (NIV)

 

 

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In the Middle of Ordinary

 

Lessons in Everyday Life – part two

Three days, three lessons. Each time it occurred, I was engaged in an average activity. Then in the middle of ordinary, the Holy Spirit stood up and had something to say.

Unlike like last time, reclined and relaxed in a beautiful beach setting, I was taught a lesson through everyday life while out on my bike.

Oh, it wasn’t a leisurely ride or one intended as exercise. Instead, riding the bikeit was all about the four legged furry animal that lives in our home. You see, I was riding my bike for the sole purpose of walking the dog. As unusual as it sounds; it’s absolutely necessary. You see, “Faith”, our family pet is a fast runner and has an abundance of energy.

Midway through our normal stunt, I began to perspire. Trying to ignore the heat, I looked down and peered at Faith’s sleek body and shiny black coat. With respect and resolve, I thought, “We aren’t going home, until I wear you out!” Around and around the neighborhood we went. I pedaled and she panted. The faster I went, the faster she ran.

On our third lap, we received a welcomed reprieve. “Hey Elizabeth! How are you today?” my neighbor calldogs-925701_960_720ed out as she walked into the street. As I slowed my pedal stroke, she approached the front tire. “I am well, how are you?” I asked, coming to a soft stop. Instantly, there were four of us squeezing in a visit on a muggy summer evening. My neighbor and I exchanged common pleasantries while watching her puppy, “Bandit” and my full grown mutt roll around.

“The girls have enjoyed watching Faith this summer,” she earnestly remarked. “I really appreciate their help while we are out of town,” I replied. “Elizabeth, she really is a great dog,” my neighbor added in gist.

My immediate response to her complement wasn’t expressed in words. Instead, all I could do was chuckle.

“Really?” I thought. I was sure she was totally unaware of the fact that Faith wiggles when she walks and runs sideways when she gets excited. Despite constant correction, she jumps on every person that walks through the door and has ripped through skin with her claws. On accident, thank goodness! As well, she eats her dinner at midnight and is traumatized when someone attempts to take her picture with a cell phone. Honestly, she hides under the bed for hours!

Regina smiled and nodded her head as I shared my laundry list of Faith’s downfalls. With the door opened to complain about our pets shortcomings, my friend added, “Yeah, I can relate. Bandit tinkles every time he gets excited. And, while out walking, sometimes, he just stops. He plops down and refuses to get up. We have to carry him home every time.”

I laughed, while I listened. After sharing faults as long as Santa’s scroll, Regina punctuated her statement, “It’s a wonder we still love them.”  “You know you are right! They make us crazy with all their antics.” I confirmed.

Jumping, barking, licking, growling and whining all of it can be annoying and difficult to deal with. People spend enormous amounts of time, effort and money trying to train their animals to behave.  Sometimes the pet’s behavior is corrected quickly.  Other times, the furry beast goes back to doggie school.

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Nonetheless, we love them!

 

 

 

As the perspiration beaded my brow, I pulled Faith’s leash a tad bit tighter, pushed back in my bicycle seat, and said my goodbyes. With each rotation of the wheels, Faith and I headed back home. However, I sensed the Spirit wasn’t ready to say, “So long …!”

“Elizabeth, there is more here to learn” stirred in my soul. Again, I felt like God wanted me to listen for His lesson. In a whisper of thoughts that wafted through my brain, I heard, “That’s exactly how I love you!”  “Despite your flaws and personality quirks, I love you!” the spirit of Jesus softly spoke. “In all your mess and madness, I will care for you!” delivered the spirit of God to the depths of my soul.

Certainly this isn’t new news. At the sweet age of two, I was singing Jesus Loves Me This I know, for the Bible tells us so…. By the age of 12, I could recite John 3:16, “For God so loved the world …” As an adult, I became aware of Augustine’s famous quote, “God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.”

However, at that very moment slouched in a bicycle seat, sticky from the moisture that hung in the air and wheeling my way back towards my house it was the mental picture that made the difference. “Lord, thank you for that.” I whispered while climbing the cement curb. “Lord, simple imagery reminded me of your unending love,” I continued to respond to the powerful truth as I rolled down the driveway. Parking my bike in jowls of my garage, I expressed my gratitude, “Lord, I’m so grateful you speak to me in ways I can understand.”

I’m learning  

~ When the Spirit of God mingles with the mundane one can expect to hear a magnetic and mighty message! 

Certainly, a bath was required before I climbed into bed. The residual of a steamy evening spent outside needed to be removed from my skin. As I refreshed myself in the warm water, I soaked my spirit in the love of Christ.  In all my mess-ups, He is going to love me. Through all my failed attempts, He is going to love me. Regardless, of my crazy characteristics and annoying habits, He is going to love me. And, when I finally get it right, He is going to love me.

Who would have thought, I could relearn so much while out on a walk.

~ In the middle of ordinary, it is a blessing to seek and see the Almighty! ~

 

This is the way God put it:

God told them, “I’ve never quit loving you and never will.
    Expect love, love, and more love!

Jeremiah 31:3 – The Message 

 

P.S. – stay tuned for Lessons in Everyday Life – part three

 

 

Lessons in Everyday Life

beach

The sun was shining and the waves were rolling in. David and I sat in lounge chairs, protected from the afternoon heat by a large blue and white striped canvas umbrella. Our seats were angled just a tad, allowing me a bird’s eye view of the family to my right.

Yes, we were at the beach and I was relaxed. The crew next to me, not so much, taking little ones to the beach can turn into a lot of work. I witnessed this as the parents lathered three little bodies with ample amounts of sunscreen. Then, the older boy called out, “Mom, can you help me find my goggles?” I looked on; her shoulders dropped as she pulled herself out of the folding beach chair slung close to the sand. Plodding through the shifting granules of the beach floor, she reach into their overstuffed straw bag and rifled under the brightly colored beach towels. Fumbling her fingers on the bottom of the rattan sack, relieved, she called across to her son, “I found them.” Minutes later her brood of hungry beach goers begged for a snack, along with asking for an ice cold bottle of water. Eventually, everyone was appeased enough to play.

Father and sons frolicked in the waves. Mom stole a few minutes of rest and read a book. Their third child, wearing a sunhat as big as a serving saucer, quietly played in the sand. Her little fingers sifted through the mixture of shiny and matte, tan colored crystals. She poked a plastic shovel into miniature sand dunes and flung what she scochild playing in the sand 2oped up over her soft rounded shoulder. Bowing over her personal playground, she was satisfied and oblivious to the wonder surrounding her. The majesty and motion of the ocean were just steps away. The
seagulls that decorated and danced in the sky were straight above her head. The rays of the sun that warmed the sand were on display behind her back. However, she was calm, content and carefree. Why would anyone want to interrupt such a peaceful scene? Especially one that involved a toddler.

With a peaceful heart, I watched the family drama unfold. The father’s aqua swimming trunks clung to his muscular thighs as he trotted away from the entertainment of the ocean. His quickened steps through the hot sand were aimed towards the youngest of his clan. Without warning and from behind, he tucked one strong hand under the youngster’s pudgy little armpit and slid his other muscular appendage under her diaper clad bottom. Lifting her into his safe embrace, he must have had good reason to disturb her.

Immediately, his daughter didn’t like it. She erupted into a fountain of tears that stung her pink cheeks and rapidly flashed her legs in an attempt to wrangle herself from his firm
dad and little girl in the wavesgrip. I believe, she liked what she was doing and saw no good reason to leave. The father held her tight and took a second to tenderly whisper a few words into her tiny ear. Whatever he said, didn’t work. Despite her two year old protest, he carried her towards the crystal blue waters of the nearby aquatic playground. He knew there were seashells to see, fish to find and the waves offered pure enjoyment, serving up splashes and sprays of cooling mist as they lapped up against the sandy shores. However, the unexpected interruption bringing her to a different place to play was not well received by the independent and absorbed young girl.

Initially, I chuckled at the unnecessary upheaval of an otherwise serene setting. As a mother watching from afar, my first thought was, “You should have just left her alone. She was perfectly happy just playing in the sand.”

Then, the Holy Spirit stood up and clamored for control, posing for battle against my average thoughts. This sacred part of me, which invites me to see the world through the eyes of Jesus began to write it’s version of what was going on across the ticker tape of thoughts passing through my brain. I sensed God was urging me to see below the surface. Within in seconds, I found myself asking,”What should I learn from this scene?”

Living in a new season of life, I have more space to tease out these kinds of questions. No longer do they rise inside of me, only to be swept away by the next item on my to-do list. With Sam in Heaven and Brooke away at college, the demands on my energy and attention have lessened. Therefore, allowing me space to ponder and soak up the wisdom that comes from everyday life. So, in my attuned frame of mind, I worked to reveal what the Holy Spirit told me I needed to see.

blog 1First, my eyes fixated on the father/daughter combo having fun in the sea. No longer did the little girl cry. Instead, she wore a smile that caused her cheekbones to touch the outside corners of her almond shaped eyes. Squeals of laughter and delight filled the heated air as her father tossed her up above the crests of the incoming waves. Her initial intimidation with the overwhelming body of water had given way to a relaxed posture while held in her father’s protective arms.

Sweetly, silently the lesson I was to learn eased into my soul.

“How many times have I acted like that little girl?” I asked myself.  Even as an adult, I have put on such a show.

Comfortable, contented, and complacent, I pitch a fit when God points me in a new direction. Not trusting when He moves me away from my easy-go-luck environment that surely, the place He is leading me will be overflowing with abundance. So many times, I have behaved like that youngest sibling, kicking and flailing when swept away from what’s familiar to try something new.

I had hours in the shadows of a glowing sunset to lean into what I was to learn. As the afternoon eased into a cooler evening, I gleaned the wisdom everyday life has to offer.

See, I believe the adoring dad wanted to share the wonders of the ocean with his cherished daughter. That is reason he returned to the beach and scooped her up, without asking. Actually, it was his job as a pareblog 4nt to always enhance her experience of living. He knew the added joy the ocean would bring. Despite her hesitation and unhappy reaction, he knew what lay ahead was better. In addition, he knew she would like, if she just gave it a chance. Gently he carried her to something more wonderful. When he decided to test her trust by dipping her toes in the bubbling waters below, he never let her go.

As so it is with our Heavenly Father, often He asks us to relinquish our comfort zone. So that, he can lead us to a richer environment. We kick and scream against change and fuss because we become worried about our future. Gently, he carries us as we struggle against what He knows is best, never letting us go as we come to peace with our new place.

Who knew a little girl playing in the sand could teach me so much?

Lord, 

Please forgive me when I choose to kick and scream with every new thing you ask me to do. Help me to rise into your arms willingly and embrace the constant wonder, joy, and excitement you offer. If I start feeling a little scared of what is to come, please cover me with your peace.

I give thanks for the Holy Spirit that stands ready to bring me closer to you. Everything you do, whether we like it or not, understand it or are confounded by it, welcome it or want to walk away from it is for our good. Help me to remember this, so I can step into the abundant living you have promised. 

I ask these things in the sweet name of Jesus.  Amen!

The Doorbell to Heaven

I sat on the sofa, my face contorted from crying. I didn’t have the scripture memorized but, I knew it existed and was well aware of the general gist of what it said. Statements stirred inside of me like, be glad you suffer, give thanks in every circumstance. There, sitting with my friend, I confessed I wasn’t able to, didn’t know how to, didn’t know if I  could ever keep the commands God gives us in

1Thessolonians 5:28

Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

even more so as stated in Romans 5:3-4

Be thankful in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope. 

Sitting together, I believe my friend saw herself sitting as me. Realizing, it impossible to bear the unbearable. Altogether impossible to be grateful for the grief. Samantha and her daughter were friends, sharing the same age and the same interests. Always compassionate and slow to speak, she gently said, “Oh, Elizabeth, I think it is a process.” I remember relaxing, having been given grace. She might not have known it but she gave me the gift of time to get to where I needed to be. The point where God calls me to be, for Him and for myself. In that moment that I mentioned, I was sinking in neck deep grief. The waves of emotions lapping all around my jawline often with salty splashes leaping into my mouth, making me choke and gag on the truths that I knew.

For me, the storm has settled from what it was, the ebbing of sad emotions have subsided and the flow of laughter and life have begun. Oh, definitely, there are still those stormy clouds that drift through but, the dark thick all covering ones have begun to break open to new light.

As Thanksgiving approaches, my thoughts turn toward a story I jotted down in my journal several months ago, noteworthy to the point that it needs to be retold and no better time than this.

I was asked to be the stand in mom for a sweet young little one. Her parents would be traveling for the weekend and they asked if she could spend some time with me. I accepted, looking forward to the life of little ones in my home as well, accepting the task to provide transportation for all of her outings.

My special overnight guest had awoken early, eager to share the day with me. When her sister arrived to spend a few hours with us, they really got involved in figuring what there was to do. I gave them free reign of the closet in the hallway that stored the treasures of childhood. They were in and out the door all morning, front yard, back yard, pantry and all over again. All the while, I enjoyed the familiar but almost forgotten sound of the constant opening and closing of doors. The traffic in my house is definitely not what it used to be.

Finally, the sidewalk chalk that sat unused in my closet was now being pressed into the concrete by sweet little fingers on my front driveway. Oh, how I missed these kind of Saturday mornings, uninterrupted, simple, imaginary play. I had my fair share of these times to enjoy but, that had come to a halt when the unimaginable happened.

Those first few sweet hours of freedom stopped when it was time for the first activity. Anna Kate headed to dance class and I was responsible for getting Shelby to school to rehearse for First Communion. This would be the tender part. It required a trip to Samantha’s school, Our Lady of the Lake. Nothing would have stopped me from doing what I was asked but, I knew I would need to shake off some emotions as I stepped into the gymnasium to ensure Shelby got to her proper seating assignment so she could practice.

Often, while out cycling, I consider about stopping at the school. My thinking causes me not to go, wondering whether it is a good time, will the children be outside or the gates closed? What will I do when I get there, cry, stare? Not sure of myself, it was safer not to stop. Up until this time, I hadn’t gotten there.

Knowing I was bringing Shelby, I surrendered to visit the fountain that is there in memory of Samantha.

With Shelby in the backseat, I drove the familiar carpool path, parked the car and begun  my journey to the gym. I know they looked like simple steps, one in front of the other, then the next and then another.

My steps led me to the front doors, but my mind, replayed the day we dedicated

the

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fountain to Samantha’s memory. We were gathered with family and friends, faculty and staff. Protected by white tents and prayed over by priests. I was in awe at the love and care that surrounded me by those at Samantha’s school. For the most part, I was without words.  Until, someone asked me if I had anything I wanted to say. My focus was on the fountain and the dynamic flow of water and what that represented to me. I went on to testify that God’s word was living water to me. I was, in fact a recipient of what it can do for an individual. That scripture saved my soul. Grateful for the words Jesus left to us after His resurrection that filled my heart with hope for the future and to offer peace for the present. I prayed, before those present that the fountain, what it represents and the constant flow of water, would bring life to any that passed by.

After getting Shelby situated, I tucked out of the building and headed towards the fountain. Sneaking down the side steps with my back towards most of the people in the parking lot. I felt somewhat safe. If I fell apart, I had scoped out an alternate route, one not straight throughout the throngs of parents. Avoiding the possibility of others seeing the stream of tears down my cheeks.

Certainly, I could see the fountain in its entirely before I approached up close. I was doing ok as I walked. Shortening the distance, my eyes fixated on the dates. A plaque marked a beginning and an unexpected ending. A name all to familiar. When the water

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in my eyes began to well, and the stinging was to much, to distract myself, I fixed my gaze on the flow of water. Immediately, I lowered my neck, closed my eyes, tucked my chin and rolled my shoulders, positioning myself for prayer. With this stance in place, I began to personally communicate with my Savior. Trust me, I hadn’t planned for the visit to go this way. A quick stop in and see how it goes was what I signed up for. Instead, I found myself in complete, shut out anything else, prayer. Asking God, for all those touched by Samantha’s life or death, that each of them have a closer walk with Him. Thanking Him and offering praise for the gift of the Living Water left to each of us.

At the very second my prayers were said, the bells of the church tower rang as never before. They pealed. The vibrations rung inside of me in such a way that everything about what had just happened became very special. With my head still lowered, a smile began to spread across my face, lifting my cheekbones high and causing my eyes to squint. I lifted my head, snapped a picture and walked away with a skip in my step, knowing my suffering was known to my Savior, I had been heard. Thinking, I had just rung the doorbell to Heaven.

On hindsight, a few months later, I believe that is exactly what happened. When we give thanks, in any and all circumstances our eyes are turned from our problems and ourselves to the Lord, that we might focus on Him. Being grateful delivers us from the domain of darkness.

I hope I don’t get a grade when I get to Heaven, wondering if I’ve done all that I am to do on a timely basis. I don’t have many answers nor, have it all memorized. I only know it works.

May all hearts be full of gratitude, opening the doors to Heaven in each of our lives. Giving thanks and praise to He who saves. Amen

Happy Thanksgiving!!!