Get Out of Jail Free….

“What is happening!?”, I cried out as the officer secured the cuffs around my wrists and lowered my head to guide me into the back of the patrol car… Right at that moment a large black raven flew past, talons covered in a peculiar but familiar orange dust. The construction worker was giving his statement to the other officer and I watched the raven perch on a construction dumpster, beady black eyes piercing me with a smirking look of accomplishment. Confused, I began to cry and that is when I abruptly shot up in my bed, covered in sweat, confused and yes, there were tears rolling down my cheek.

Thank God, it was only a nightmare… That is the last time I eat seafood after 8 p.m…. So what prompted this subconscious event? I retraced the prior day and there I was taking my morning walk. It was Saturday, so I took the longer route passed the new multi-million dollar home construction site. Surely there wouldn’t be any construction workers that early on a Saturday.

Minding my own business, I made my way through the neighborhood, this was going to be quite a community. I could only admire it from afar, way out of my income bracket. As I began to round the first cul de sac, I noticed that there was 1 lone construction worker at the southwest corner of the unfinished home. passing by the construction debris and dumpsters, I noticed that the workers tools were strewn out on what eventually would be the driveway.

At that very moment, a large raven swooped past me and downward toward the toolbox. The raven targeted an unopened small blue and orange bag of Cheetos. He swept the bag up with his beak and flew away. I was astonished, how on earth did that bird know that the unopened bag had food in it? Then I thought about the poor guy working so hard in the back of the house. He was gonna be sorely disappointed and not a little confused when he took a break for his snack.

I smiled, as I pictured him scratching his head and thinking, ” I’m sure I packed a bag of Cheetos?” As I turned the corner on the cul de sac, there just in front of me was the raven, he had dropped the bag and pecked a hole in it. As I approached him, he picked up a large Cheeto within his beak and casually flew past me. I laughed out loud, as I pictured the construction worker, scratching his head and a raven flying by him with Cheeto dust on his beak and talons.

Then it occurred to me that there were only two people on that cul de sac, the construction worker and myself. I considered telling the man what had happened, but I confess I thought it would be funny if he had to sort out the details for himself. I picked up my pace and moved quickly out of that cul de sac, I did not want to be accused of a crime I did not commit….

Made me think about how I draw conclusions based on what I know from those who have taught me, from personal experience and from glaring reality and facts. But sometimes the whole picture, story and set of facts doesn’t present itself all at once. I must remember when I cast judgment or make decisions, the truth sometimes takes a deeper dive to uncover, but is essential in the long run.

My father always told me “Assuming makes an _ss out of both you and me”. I confess I still make far too many assumptions and then must recant, and ask forgiveness whenever appropriate. I hope to learn to do a better job of holding out for truth. I wonder if that guy every missed his Cheetos? I wonder if that raven came back for more?…..

Personality Quiz…

Several weeks ago, I was at a Lifevantage gathering at one of our team member’s homes. It was cozy and friendly and being a dog lover, I couldn’t help but notice the adorable black lab that sauntered amongst the guests, hoping that they would lose grip on one of the many appetizers available. As the socializing diminished, the team leader called everyone to gather into the living room, and began to present the latest updates on our organization portfolio and promotions.

As the group looked on at the presentation, I scanned the lanai that led to the screened in patio and pool area. To my delight, there were 3 dogs standing with their snouts to the sliding doors looking intently in at the crowd. There was the Black Lab that I had seen earlier, a beautiful large Doberman and a muscular brindle Pit Terrier.

In my former career, I had taken many personality tests and quizzes designed to help the organization learn about the various personality types within a department. Theoretically, if you understand the predominant personality type within each employee or team member, it can help with management and organization and avoid unnecessary strife and discord. As with education, people learn and approach tasks and problems differently.

Well, as I looked at these 3 beautiful dogs, I noticed that the Black Lab was sitting and staring longingly into the house, her tail was wagging and she had an unmistakeable grin on her face as she proudly presented a flip flop. It was as if she was trying to communicate,” See I have retrieved this flip flop just for you, please let me in, I am longing for some hugs and treats.”

Next to the Black Lab stood the much taller and regal Doberman. He too was looking intently into the house, standing on all 4 legs and then with a loud noise jumping up and pounding on the glass door as if to force his way in. I could just hear him, “Let me in! I need to protect my master!”

Lastly, there was the beautiful brindle Pit Terrier. He stood on all 4 legs as well, wagging his tail , looking at the other two dogs and then glancing into the house. He seemed as if he just wanted to be in on the action, any action, and if his two buddies wanted in the house, well he did too…

Now I realize that these 3 dogs may not fit into any Meyers-Briggs or DISC personality quiz, but they do represent 3 personality types that we often find when a part of any group, whether family, work , church, school or numerous other settings. The Lab is the people pleaser, just wanting acceptance and love, very amiable and cozy to be with. The Doberman is the driven individual with a strong sense of identity and intensity in everything they do, nothing will get in their way if they can help it. The Pit Terrier, represents the strong and energetic pal who will work hard, play hard and hang with the group, doesn’t have much depth or concern, but definitely wants to work and be a part of the process.

As with any personality quiz, most of us will find a bit of ourselves in each of the defined quadrants or characters, but there is always a strong leaning towards one of the personality types. It is a beautiful thing when people come together with all of their unique qualities and learn how to work and play well. I know which of the dog personalities portrayed here represent my character traits the most, which one fits you?????

http://www.nanetteehlers.lifevantage.com

Entanglements

About 6 weeks ago, I was at a LifeVantage Conference ( I am promoting their amazing Health and Wellness products, however that is not the purpose of this message). While at the conference, one of the ladies I shared a room with was getting ready for  our session meeting and she became frustrated because her jewelry had gotten all entangled within her luggage.

Together we took turns trying to un-snarl the ensnarled bobbles. She loosened one knot, only to find that the knots tightened more in other areas of entanglement. Finally I helped free up one of the necklaces but not enough to obtain the needed outcome. Ultimately, she knew that in order to preserve the jewelry that was most important to her, she would have to cut away the entangled necklaces that encumbered her.

This morning (December 4, 2018) I remembered a journal entry I had made years ago. I searched for my old journals and found one from 2008. As I dusted it off and opened it, I found an entry I made, get ready for this, on (December 4, 2008), exactly 10 years ago! So I will share what I wrote ten years ago today.

“This morning on my way  to work, I went to grab the necklace that matches the earrings I was wearing. To my disgust 4 of my necklaces had all become entangled. I set out to unknot them and an hour later, I learned a very important thing about entanglements.

  • With focused effort and prayer we can sometimes free ourselves from       “Lesser” knots.
  • Through God’s Grace and Mercy, He sometimes frees us with very little effort on our own, through faith, prayer and patient waiting.
  • Some entanglements are so encroaching as to choke out the beauty and even nullify the usefulness and purpose of the jewel. Those must be cut out completely.
  • All of these entanglements can take time to be loosed, so catch your breath, set your eyes and heart on Jesus and pray and praise Him the whole way through.”

Galatians 5:1
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened  again by a yoke of slavery.”

(www.nanetteehlers.lifevantage.com)

Shades of White….

Went for my usual walk along the sanctuary path, and heard beautiful music… as I made my way, I saw a small wedding ceremony taking place. It reminded me of the beauty and joy in a wedding ceremony. In fact, when I got married in 1990, Modern Bride magazine coined it “The Year of the Stable Marriage”. Of course I beamed with the knowledge that I was headed for “stability” in my marriage, but it turns out that they were referring to the other kind of stable. You know, the stable full of animals, noises, smells and piles of manure.  No wonder they call it “Getting Hitched”.

The stable is  a reflection of life really, and when it comes to the other “stable” referring to “stability”, we each have opportunity to daily move  through and choose that path. Without stability we can stumble and tumble along the way. It is notable that the God of the universe chose to enter this world He created within a humble stable. He came to redeem His Bride (The Church). The wedding ceremony and celebration is a small representation of the celebration that will occur when Jesus returns to bring His Bride Home.

I have been divorced for more than 20 years, and I don’t reveal that with any sense of pride or bitterness. Recently, I broke the seal on the box that held my wedding dress. There was an event I intended to donate it to, however I missed the deadline and there it hangs high and looming in my closet.  In fact just the other night, I got up to go to the bathroom, and almost had a heart attack as I saw the white dress hanging aloft in my path. As I recovered from my fright, I was reminded of  the movie Beetlejuice. Of course, my place isn’t haunted, and neither am I. I regret that my marriage did not last and represent the covenant made before God, but I walk in the freedom of His forgiveness.

Of course I will eventually find the right place to donate the dress to. For a season I had been saving it for one of my beautiful nieces, and then I realized, if she walks into that very vital covenant path, she will want the dress of her choosing. Wedding dresses are very personal and symbolic, as is the wedding ceremony.

Look at what The Message says in Ephesians 5:25-28 “Husbands go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church – a love marked by giving, not getting. Christ’s love makes the church whole His words evoke her beauty. Everything He does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness. And that is how husbands ought to love their wives. They’re really doing themselves a favor – since they’re already “one” in marriage.”

Just pondering these beautiful Words gives me a sense of Awe and Hope. I was surprised that as I walked across the boardwalk bridge, the newly married couple passed me and said “hello” and I was able to congratulate  them and share in that precious moment of joy and promise.

I headed home with a sense of Hope and Stability, one day The Bridegroom (Jesus) will come for me, what a celebration that will be. What about you, are you in The Bridal Party????

 

Alarming…..

Has anyone ever noticed that the battery in smoke detectors always goes dead and starts chirping after midnight? Within the past 7 months, I have had this happen on 3 different occasions. Other than some lost sleep and the need for an attitude adjustment, thankfully my situation was easily resolved on each occasion.

Only a few weeks ago however, I was at someone’s villa and this  individual made the comment that they no longer saw a blinking light on their smoke detector.  I asked them if they had a ladder, and even though my childhood nickname was “Klutz”, I climbed to the tallest rung and proceeded to press the “test” button on the detector. Nothing occurred, no blinking light, no sound, nothing. so I unscrewed it and it was hardwired, but I could not find any battery compartment.

The villa was built in the 80’s, and perhaps those smoked detectors weren’t equipped with a battery backup. I kept playing with it while clenching the ladder, still nothing, no light, no sound. I suggested that they may want to communicate with their community association to learn  what the protocol was for this apparent electrical/wiring problem. Clearly this had potential safety issues, and the smoke detectors needed testing or replacing. The owner wasn’t too concerned, but said they would ask the neighbors, if they were having any troubles. Although they intended to look into it, it was not a priority, or concern, especially since there was no annoying battery chirp to nag them into action.

Less than a week later I called the individual and they had not yet spoken with anyone to uncover how to have their detector evaluated. They did, however, let me know that only 2 days after I left them, one of their neighbors, whom they share a  wall with, had an electrical fire. Thankfully the neighbors weren’t home at the time, but when they arrived home, all of their furniture had melted and the entire home smelled of smoke.

I know that if I were their neighbor, I would be motivated to get my smoke alarm  wiring and battery checked and updated or replaced if necessary. It made me realize that even though I had been very annoyed on the recent occasions when my detectors began chirping, I was grateful for the warning and call to action for my own good.

Our physical bodies can have a similar response. When we experience pain, swelling, fever, and a variety of other symptoms, our body  alarm is sounding off that something is wrong and we must look deeper to find out the underlying problem in order to resolve it before serious illness, injury or death ensue. God created such an amazing system in our body, if we ignore the initial chirping signs our body communicates to us, we may find ourselves struggling with a far more serious health issue down the road.

Taking healthy preventive measures adds to the safety and longevity of our lives in most cases and is well worth the investment of time, money and effort. Some of those measures involve eating a healthier diet, exercising, taking supplements to give you a healthy advantage, and proper sleep hygiene. Recently I have been excited to engage more fully in my healthy lifestyle choices. I have found that this even improves my social interactions, as I meet more individuals on a similar path to the best vantage point in life. And yes, healthy social engagement is also now recognized as a critical factor to life balance.

You know spiritually, we can have the same occur in our hearts and minds. The Bible is filled with God’s instruction on how to live under His gift of forgiveness, grace and mercy. He has given each of us choice and free will to seek Him and serve Him. When our heart, mind and spirit is hard wired through His Holy Spirit, we will respond to the chirping alarm when we enter a situation or circumstance that may be harmful for our physical, mental or spiritual well being.

If we do not keep our heart and mind sharpened and the battery charged through prayer and time in the Word, our spiritual wiring may grow older and we may no longer see the warning light or hear the chirping alarm of the Holy Spirit. Life circumstances and choices may seem pretty harmless, and we may not even realize that we have grown dull to the effects and influence of  behaviors and choices that move us further from His Good and Perfect Will.

I have definitely moved through seasons where my priorities have been compromised, and my attention drawn to relationships, activities and lifestyle habits that contradict God’s plan for my best life. Even though it didn’t seem like that big of a deal at the time, I have, more than once, looked back over a series of years where my heart was drained and broken, due to choices I made while neglecting my relationship with the Lord. I chose  my path, while ignoring God’s alarm system provided to guide and protect me.

Thankfully, Psalm 145:13-14; 17-18; 21, says

” The Lord is faithful to all His promises and loving toward all He has made. The Lord upholds all those who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down…The Lord is Righteous in all His ways and loving toward all He has made. The Lord is near to all who call on Him, to all who call on Him in truth. My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord. Let every creature praise His Holy Name forever and ever.”

This is Good News! Have you recharged your battery system lately???? mentally, physically and most importantly spiritually????

Gripping Fear

Had a dream last night. I was in a dark theater with a son. A large venomous snake came menacingly in our direction. I am dreadfully afraid of snakes and ran to the back wall of the theater. The son went straight after it grabbed it and with a swift action the snake was defanged and unable to use it’s deadly venom.

The son held it towards the center of the snake’s thick body. I screamed that he needed to grab it closer to the head to totally disable it, but he walked straight towards me snake in his grip.  As he drew near, the snake was moving it’s head closer to my face. I kept insisting that the son grab it and completely contain it, but he calmly continued to hold it close to me.

I was terrified, but at the same time I knew the snake needed to  be fully contained, so I grabbed it right below the head and gripped it tightly. The snake was not yet dead, so I felt it’s strength as I clenched it with my hand tightly squeezing. As I did this, my fear subsided and I felt stronger and more calm, the son and I together had completely subdued this dangerous threat.

I realized that the son had averted the eminent danger by eliminating the fangs and the snake’s power to injure or kill with it’s venom. But  he had chosen to leave it to me to complete the job and contain this dangerous creature. He had the power to completely finish it off, but wanted me to recognize that I had nothing left to fear because he had eliminated the deadly bite/sting of this slithering beast. He allowed me to push through my fear and grip the creature tightly, so that I could stand fearless and with authority in this creature’s presence.

It reminded me of some scripture verses:

Genesis 3:14-15 “So the Lord said to the serpent, ‘Because you have done this, cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your offspring and hers. He (Jesus)will crush your (the serpent’s/enemy”s) head, and you will strike at His heel.'”

Luke 10:19-20 “I (Jesus) have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy. Nothing will harm you. However do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

I Corinthians 15:55-58 – ” Where O death is your victory? Where O death is your sting? The sting of death is sin and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore my dear brothers stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourself fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”

When I had this dream, I thought it odd that the son, did not resemble any of my sons, but now I understand that he represented The Son ( Jesus Christ). Currently I myself along with several dear friends have some life circumstances that have the potential to elicit significant fear, financial distress, serious illness/injury, relationship division, and loss. I believe that the Word has declared that in Christ the victory over all things is complete. Instead of feeling gripped by fear, we have the authority in Christ to grip that fear tightly in confidence, strength and assurance.

Now I just have to remember that and Believe it and live it out as I go out into the world each day. How’s your grip????

 

Courage

I do not typically remember my dreams, not sure if that is a good or a bad thing, however, when I am awakened by a vivid dream, I take note.  A few nights ago, I was abruptly awakened from a disconcerting dream. I was on a trip to an urban city, I had a specific task to accomplish, but didn’t know what it was. One of my closest friends and confidants was speaking with me on the phone while I was maneuvering through dark busy streets full of people, but with no sense of community. Everyone  was busy with their own agenda. My friend on the phone was trying to give me advice, they had experience in this city and although the advice was helpful and well intended, it didn’t exactly apply to my immediate circumstance.

As the evening grew into darkness, I realized that I needed to secure a place to stay temporarily until I could make the contact and connection that I needed. My luggage was cumbersome and growing heavier and more difficult to manage through the crowd. I finally found a small place that had an affordable  temporary space for me to collect myself. I paid and got the key, but I could not get access into the building to get to the small space. I dragged my things around and covered the entire structure, but no matter which way I tried to get in, there was a blockade. Frustrated, confused and exhausted, I sat and pondered.

Finally I saw a group of young people lingering in a nearby quad, and as I approached them, I saw some stairs leading downward to an entry that was out of sight to the typical passerby. I approached it and was able to gain entry, relieved, I looked for my rented space and saw an adorable dog with its owner. The man had the most friendly and incredible smile and for the first time since my arrival to the city, I felt peace. I dropped my things off and realized that I had not eaten all day, so I headed back out with the intention of getting a quick bite to eat and back to my temporary pad.

The streets were busier and darker than ever. I did not have much money, but I saw an affordable and familiar restaurant in the distance and headed to it. Out of the corner of the darkness where the street lights had ended I suddenly saw a bear and a lion and some other darker creatures of the night. They were intense and I was in their sight. I anxiously looked for an escape route, and chose a palm tree that had no fronds or growth. I clambered up, simultaneously the bear was leaping and nipping at my feet. I clung to the top of the dead tree wavering. The lion and bear paced below. And that is when I abruptly awoke…

Of course, this dream could very well have been the result of the Mexican Meal I had that prior evening, but nevertheless, I thought about the possibility that I might glean some wisdom from it.

I am in a state of transition, and as I prepare to make decisions and move in the coarse ahead, I am acutely aware that circumstances can feel isolating, even in the midst of crowds of people. It is true that danger lurks and is even sometimes more likely to target the individual in a new environment, not connected or familiar with the surrounding group. Change, limited resources, and isolation can leave one feeling vulnerable and confused.  I Peter 5:8 says “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”

I am comforted by Jesus response to the prowling enemy. In Matthew 16:18-19 He said this, ” And on this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven; Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in Heaven and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in Heaven.”

Years ago a friend gave me the book, The Dream Giver. It is a wonderful allegory about the Love God has for each of His children and how He has uniquely designed us with a Dream to fulfill His purpose for our lives. As I move through my different seasons of life and transition, The white feather has represented the unique Dream and purpose God has for my life. On special occasion, He delivers a beautiful white feather as a reminder to me that the The Dream Lives, and He is faithful always.

“In the U.S., the white feather has become a symbol of courage, persistence and superior combat marksmanship. A historical example of one who wore the white feather was US. Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant Carlos Hathcock. He was awarded the Silver Star medal for bravery during the Vietnam War. He picked up a white feather on a mission and wore it in his hat to taunt the enemy. He was so feared by enemy troops that they put a price on his head. Its wear on combat headgear flaunts an insultingly easy target for enemy snipers.”(Wikipedia)

Today on my walk in the Sanctuary, I found 2 beautiful white feathers. I have not come across any in years, and yet as is true to His character, He delivered a personal message. I am presently in a very big transitional state and if left to my own thoughts, it can feel dark , dangerous and isolating. But the Lord wants to remind me that The Dream Lives and I am SURE that He smiled as He deposited not one, but two white feathers in my path this morning.

Isaiah 61:7  “Instead of shame you will receive a double portion and instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance. And so you will inherit a double portion in your land and everlasting joy will be yours.”  Yes, there is always danger and darkness lurking, but I have every confidence in my Lord that He has provided me with all I need to overcome it and to move joyously within the path and fulfill the unique Dream He has given me.

I may just get a hat to wear so that I may flaunt my White Dream Feathers to the enemy. May it be so for you as well.

The Vantage Point in Life

I headed straight to the sanctuary after work; the Bird Sanctuary, that is. Walking with purpose, increasing my pace, clearing my mind after a long day at work. I looked at the ducks, squirrels, rabbits, and various water fowl. I listened to the grunt of the neighborhood alligator and then I looked at the marshy waters edge.

There were 3 baby Moorhens and one had clambered up a reed and sat perched, looking as though it wanted to leap and test it’s wings. But it swayed frozen at the end of the reed. Suddenly the 2 other little Moorhens saw what their sibling had done, and they scrambled from the marshy patch to the reed and proceeded to compete at the base of it, in an attempt to climb  to the top. They scrapped and wrestled and one finally got a grip and stepped on the head of the other and proceeded to climb past the catatonic sibling. Then it leapt with a few flutters of it’s wings, and plop, right onto the marshy bed below.

The other little Moorhen at the bottom of the reed then clambered up and pushed passed the still “frozen in time” sibling, and as with the other sibling, it fluttered and took it’s first crack at flight, landing practically on top of it’s brother. I watched with curiosity “What will the first Moorhen” ,still perched awkwardly in fear at the top of the swaying reed, “do?”.

Well, it sat awkwardly swaying, looking at the other two down below. It stretched it’s wings and took a firmer bracing stance and posture and then in a much more effective manner, flapped and “flew” (somewhat) to the marshy ground next to his brothers. They proceeded to run off and seek out other sport.

Of course my first impression was that this must be how the episodes of The Three Stooges were developed. It really was clumsy and comical. Second, as the mother of 3 boys, I reminisced over many such similar escapades that my sons attempted. Of course I am certain there are many escapades that I don’t know about and it is probably better that I don’t.

Third, I thought about how this is a reflection of so many scenarios in life. Leadership, ambition, initiative, camaraderie, and success. Each of these  character qualities develop through relationship, trial and error, success and failure, observation, improving a standard (Best Practices), lots of struggle, teamwork, individualism and momentum.

The first Moorhen had an instinct, an impulse, an idea. he took initiative and because he was testing it out without a roadmap, he started slowly, cautiously, perhaps even fearfully. His initiative, even though he paused into a seemingly “frozen” state, drew the attention, curiosity, admiration, envy and ultimately the catalyst that drove the other two Moorhens to follow his path.

The other two followed the path of the first, they learned from his approach and built momentum, assured that the reed could hold them up. ( while their brother flailed at the top. ) The two launched out and in haste had fluttering first attempts at flight.

The first Moorhen observed the actions and outcome of his siblings, made some adjustments, regained some confidence and flapped instead of fluttering, and ultimately had the best “First Flight” of the 3. It was an important vantage point.

In life the vantage point is often for the first one who steps out. Those close by, often gain confidence by association and collectively they each motivate one another to move towards success, growth and flight.

There are some important “Vantage Points” in life:

  • Work collaboratively.
  • Branch out as needed.
  • Learn from each other’s successes and failures.
  • Look for a soft landing whenever possible, but  if need be brace yourself and leap anyhow.
  • Most importantly, don’t stay frozen, dangling at the top of a wavering reed.
  • Leap, flap, fly and most of all have fun….

Heroic

Having lived in Florida most of my life, it is not uncommon when driving along to see a turtle lumbering across a busy road. I have always been impressed when I see a car pulled aside, flashers on and an individual heroically picking up the gentle creature taking it to safety in a nearby ditch or field. In all of my years I have not come across a scenario where I was the “First Responder” who would save the day for the distressed reptile.

Finally a few weeks back I was driving down a  narrow rural road, it was a beautiful day and as I looked ahead I saw a shape in the distance on the other side of the road. At first I could not tell what it was, and thought it was debris from a fender bender, but as I got closer, I realized it was a large turtle slowly crossing the road and there was a car moving swiftly in its direction.

This was my chance to be heroic. I put my car into park put on my flashers and jumped out waving to the oncoming car. Yes, it was dangerous, but I was the “First Responder” and finally I was going to get to save the day. I ran up to my creature in distress and as I drew closer, I realized it was a large turtle, roughly the size of a small dutch oven. I had to move swiftly because the oncoming car drew nearer and I was concerned that a car coming in my lane might not see my flashers or me. This turtle was so big, I wondered how heavy he would be as I prepared to scoop him up in my arms and whisk him away to safety.

But then I came right up next to him, and stopped dead in my tracks with my jaw dropping to the asphalt. This adorable turtle I was heroically going to save, had a hideous head and a ferocious looking face, his legs and tail were spiked like a dinosaur. It was a very large Alligator Snapping Turtle. Ugh!!! It was hideous ugly and looked fierce. So now   my excitement over rescuing this creature waned and I instantly considered leaving it be and jumping in my car and heading homeward. But I knew that if I did not act fast, the oncoming car was sure to run right over it.

I could not pick it up, it was so big and so angry, that it would have made a snack out of my fingers, so I used my foot to scoot it along. The prehistoric creature kept rearing up its ugly head in protest and digging in his  spiked feet and legs, This really was not what I had in mind as my first rescue…  There I was scooting along this angry and resistant Alligator Snapping Turtle, and all I can think of now is, “I sure hope nobody hits my car for this.”  I moved the prehistoric looking creature to safety, with absolutely no assistance or appreciation from him.

I hopped into the car and headed on my way, pondering over the fact that I was much more excited about the idea of being a hero and saving a cute helpless turtle.  Sadly, when reality occurred and the creature that needed my help was cantankerous, and even possibly dangerous, it changed the prospective ROI (Return On Investment) for me. There was much less glory in this rescue.   I almost turned away and let the turtle take its chances with the oncoming car, simply because I did not feel comfortable  based on its looks and attitude. I am not proud of that.

I thought about those people who cross my path in daily settings, such as work, neighborhood, church, check out lines, behind the wheel,etc. Some people can be challenging and cantankerous, and I find that my tendency is to avoid them at all cost. Jesus, came into a world full of complicated and cantankerous people, lumbering in the path of danger. He made Himself completely available to touch, heal and offer Words of Life and Love and the actual path for eternal rescue. Not once did He waiver or change His course and purpose for being here. He came to do His Father’s Will, to pay the price on the cross for our cantankerous  and life threatening/condemning sins . He didn’t allow our unappreciative attitudes, or our snapping protests and our stubborn wills that cause us to dig in and resist His act of selfless love and heroism to keep Him from Heroically offering the Rescue. He loves us, because we are His creation and He longs to bring us into  safety and so much more.

The day that I saved that hideous creature, I learned that Alligator Snapping Turtles are endangered species and in spite of his resistance and ugly demeanor he needed to be saved and there was no way he was going to outmaneuver that oncoming car on his own…..

At the end of the day I didn’t feel heroic, but rather humbled instead….

Happy Feet

I had the opportunity to see the Gin Blossoms 25th Anniversary Tour of “New Miserable Experience”. The event was in a small theater venue and our seats were up front but off to the side. It was a small enough venue that we were within 2 steps of the stage, and the band was excellent! Time has not taken away from their talent, and it is always refreshing to see a band that has managed to maintain their original integrity and skill.

The majority of the crowd appeared to be within my age range or older, but there were some younger fans scattered amongst the gray hair and soft middles. There were definitely some characters and as fate would have it, my seat was right in line with one of the security guards for the evening. He was at least 6’3 and held a menacing demeanor. My girlfriend, who has been to this venue several times, whispered to me, “Bummer, that guy takes his job so seriously, we will never be able to get up and walk the 4 feet to the stage without him sternly sending us back to our assigned  seats.”

I watched as he stood there, arms folded and glaring at the crowd. As the band entered the stage, people around us stood, some moved forward to take pictures and as my friend had suggested, “Dudley Do Right”, moved in swiftly and sharply pointing people back to their place. With the exception of a few V.I.P. guests seated immediately in front of the band, most of the crowd remained seated , hoping to avoid the glare or wrath of the zealot security guard.

His presence was so impacting that the lead singer finally spoke up and told the crowd that “This is a rock concert, not a movie, stand up and join us at the stage.” Even after that invitation, only a few people came forward and took some pics, quickly returning to their seats and those seated in the center aisles sheepishly began to stand and clap. But there I sat with “Dudley” 3 feet in front of me. I could spy the corner of the stage that I wanted to go to, but I had to traverse right past him and even then I would be shoulder to shoulder with him.

I have a reputation for having a dance style like the character “Elaine” from Seinfeld. All I could think of was that if I actually got the courage to jump up and move to the stage corner with my eclectic dance moves, “Dudley” would have an elbow in his eye and I would be escorted out of the building. So I sat there in my seat watching this amazing band , tentatively clapping my hands and my feet were shuffling with stilted energy.

If you have ever seen the movie “Happy Feet”, it is a movie about a little penguin who is different than the others. While the other penguins all sing angelically and in order, “Happy Feet” moves convulsively in place when he hears music, as he attempts to suppress his natural response to the music.  It is a sweet movie, if you haven’t seen it. So I sat convulsively moving in my seat and although I enjoyed the band, it all felt awkward, and I thought this isn’t quite how I pictured this experience in my head as I drove to the concert earlier that evening.

Then something happened, a young man who was probably in his twenties suddenly stormed the stage and leaped up at the feet of the lead guitarist. “Dudley” was on it and that poor young man was dragged off swiftly and escorted out by 2 security guards and a police man. I have a feeling that he had a rough night, and I hope that he is okay and that he isn’t charged too severely for his “zealous” response to the evening. The thing is, that moment changed the rest of the evening. I realized that I didn’t have to sit convulsively in my seat in a stoical state. (Yes, I am aware that this statement is an oxymoron, but if you knew me, you would understand .)

I jumped to my feet and did my best “Elaine” dance and even moved to the corner stage. I even got to “High Five” the lead singer, Robin Wilson.”Dudley” was definitely within my elbow shot, but thankfully, there were no black eyes on either of our part. The concert was excellent, The Gin Blossoms wrapped it up with an awesome tribute song to Tom Petty, which of course made me even more impressed with the evening.

Social etiquette can be so complicated, there is a spectrum within which we all try to fit. For some it is easier than others, and in some cases there are extremes that in all truth for the sake and safety of the crowd, we need to respectfully curb. The young man who stormed the stage created a genuine safety risk for himself ( highly inebriated) and for the band and other concert goers. I understand why there is a need to keep some degree of order, hence “Dudley”.

The rest of the evening, “Dudley” was much more relaxed and less intense towards the crowd. He only approached people to disperse if they lingered too long in areas that had potential to create a hazard risk. I had a great time, and I actually wonder if perhaps “Dudley” did as well. He wasn’t all that bad after all….

Bold, Barefoot and Brilliant!!!!

So a few weeks ago, I had the privilege to attend a Tom Petty Tribute Concert at Skipper’s Smokehouse (If you have never been, you must go to Skipper’s, nothing else like it on the planet). I went with one of my very best friends from high school, back in the day, we were fans of Tom and his rebel band the Heart Breakers and it was nostalgic to attend this event together.

There were bands playing tribute songs beginning at 4 p.m. and going nonstop until past 10 p.m. It was fun to see so many band members of a wide range of ages and genre playing Tom’s songs with such verve… Of course none could outperform Mr. Petty himself, but they honored him well.

One of the band leaders was very young, most likely in his mid twenties. He was good looking, like a younger version of Johnny Depp, and he was dressed brilliantly and had amazing energy and passion. I was impressed, and yet as he sang, I felt as though the performance was just that, a performance. I am sure that this young man has a great future ahead of him, and he definitely has the “It” factor that seems so important in Hollywood and/or Nashville.

There was a different band however, that truly caught my eye. As they came out to set up, the Lead singer and guitar player stepped on stage, barefoot and in a white t-shirt and worn out old jeans. He was older, probably my age, which is to say that he most likely was playing in a band about the time my friend and i were in high school or college.

My girlfriend said,  “He looks like Luke Perry.” and  my reply was “Yeah, Luke Perry after many rough years on the road.”  You see this man was handsome, but he also bore the look of someone who had been through a few more life experiences than the Johnny Depp lookalike.

When the band (Sonic Stew) began to play, it sounded good, but something was off. For a brief bit of time, they seemed to struggle with coming together  with the right sound. That is when I saw something amazing happen. This Barefoot Lead Singer, went over to the Base Player and he began to listen to the cords and essentially lead him into an incredible synchrony. What started out as a sound that was flat and off, turned into one of the best combinations and performances of the evening.

This Barefoot Leader, remained calm, never lost focus, kept smiling throughout and worked with the band to turn the performance into a memorable tribute. At one point he looked my way, and I saw in his eyes calm confidence and sheer joy. I know that Tom P. was honored that evening, and I left that concert impressed with the reminder that First Impressions are important, but be very careful not to put all of your expectations and assumptions in them. You might just miss the best performance of the night….

I do not know the name of the Barefoot, Bold and Brilliant Leader of Sonic Stew, but that evening was a fun hands on expression of Leadership at it’s Best. Sadly, I do not actually see much of that from Leaders in the corporate setting. Many talk a good talk, dress brilliantly and have energy and passion, but the confident focus and genuine passion and leading by example such as the Barefoot Leader exhibited , is far and few between.

Tom Petty wrote and performed many brilliant songs, but the one that comes to mind as I ponder this recent tribute event is “Saving Grace”. The lyrics are so solid and no doubt Mr. Petty was searching as we all are. There was another Barefoot/Sandaled Leader many years ago, and without Jesus, there would be no soul searching Saving Grace.

“For it is by Grace you have been saved, through faith, and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-10

“Happy”

I don’t watch much television, but there is a quirky show on Public Television called
Doc Martin. It takes place in a sleepy seaside English Village , Port Isaac.  The main character is a complex man who is diagnosed with OCD, Attachment Disorder and a myriad of other spectrum issues that leave him “flat” in his human interactions.

His character is married with a child, but due to his lack of emotional attachment, his wife considers divorce. There is a scene where Doc Martin is with a therapist and with great difficulty explains that he is there because he wants to save his marriage, and he wants his wife to be “Happy”. The therapist asks him if he would like to be “Happy”, and he flatly answers that he just doesn’t operate with that realm of emotion or expression. How sad.

It seems that “Happiness” is one of the primary reasons that sales and marketing thrive. The companies want to convince us that we have a problem and they have the solution, and if we purchase the solution, we will be “Happy”. Of course in this scenario, the “Happy” bucket has a hole in it and therefore the companies continue to sell and market newer and improved ways to be “Happy” ,at a price of course.

I was in London years ago and after 10 wonderful days, I was rushing through Heathrow Airport to head home. A vendor caught my eye with her wares and I stopped to look at some beautiful gold jewelry. I noticed a necklace, it was very simple and understated, and it had a Chinese symbol on the charm. I asked the woman what it meant and she beamed as she said “Happiness”. I smiled, purchased the necklace and proceeded to place “Happiness”  around my neck.

It would be great if it were that easy, just put it on like a charm. I confess that I have relied too heavily on my circumstances and relationship status to measure my “Happiness” level. Of course there are times when it soars under this system, but there are times where it plunges as well and if I mapped it out according to those standards, my “Happiness” meter would look like an abnormal EKG.

I believe that true “Happiness” must be stamped on our heart and our head. It is a benefit that swells from the peace and joy of the Lord. Psalm 144:15 says, “Happy are the people whose God is the Lord.”  That is lasting and that is what I desire, but I can still get caught up in my circumstances and forget this truth at times. May I never forget the true source of “Happiness”.

Besides, I don’t truly know what that symbol on my necklace is…..I don’t read or speak Chinese:)

The Richest ….

It has been quite a while since my last post. Many changes occurring in life, which really just means life is as it always is, ever evolving. I spent some time this past week with some very dear friends and it made me think of a phrase that a particularly special friend says to me occasionally, “You’re the richest woman I know.”  If wealth were measured in terms of valuable relationships and the quality of the people in my life, then I will have to concur that I am  indeed rich, regardless of the condition of my bank statement.

I walk daily with the Lord and feel sure in His Loving presence and guidance. I have sons that honor and love me. It  leaves me beaming with pride for the men that they are and continue to grow into, as God directs their paths. I have numerous friends, all of whom have loved me generously through time, laughter, tears and toil. I have siblings, whom although so very different from me, are always there and have my back if life gets too complicated. My 86 year old mother, has the sweetest heart and so much wisdom to impart as number 9 of 11 children raised during the Depression.

Even though  I am grateful to learn that the statistics at present show a positive trend for our nation’s economy, I know many individuals who are still struggling financially.  Living in the American Culture can add to the pressure, since the things we take for granted are often luxuries in other societies. I am thankful for the safe warm place that I and my family reside in. I am thankful that I have a car that is getting closer to 200,000 miles, but runs like a charm. I am thankful for my own health, and that of my family. I am so thankful for the family and friends that God has abundantly Blessed me with.

Matthew 6:33-34 says “But seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (NIV Bible). And I will add to this, that God is Always Good, no matter what the trouble of the day brings.

What  makes you rich????

From Soaring to Sensing…..

A while back our county was bracing for a possible hurricane. The days prior to anticipated landfall were calm and beautiful, and then the day before the anticipated event, the clouds and rains came in drenching bucketfuls.

Being a Florida Native, I had my bare minimum hurricane supply intact, and headed to work in the relentless rain. My job is in a location with an expanse of space and acres, and it is not unusual to see some birds of prey when I step out to stretch my legs during a break.

This particularly dreary morning as I prepared to turn towards my building, I saw a large majestic Red-Shouldered Hawk sitting on a fence post, only 4 feet from the ground. The rain was steady and heavy and I looked at this bird of prey, as she sat in the pouring rain. She looked past me, as if to ignore my presence, and simply sat in the pouring rain.

I thought this was odd, because although I had seen Red-Shouldered Hawks in the area before, they were always perched high looking for prey, or soaring above as if securing their area. This hawk just sat on a low fence post in the rain. How strange I thought, but then I pulled up to my parking spot and got busy with my workday.

Only a few hours after arriving at work, I headed to my car to make a trip to one of our neighboring administrative offices, the rain was still pouring steadily in buckets, and much to my surprise, the hawk was still sitting in the drenching rain. I drove past and thought how weird.

When I was returning to my office, I slowly drove near the area where the hawk was perched, trying to see if it was injured or sick, or if there might be a nest nearby. The area that the hawk was perched in was not typical for the area where I would see them searching for prey, so the whole thing left me concerned and perplexed. The hawk looked at me in my car, as if annoyed.

I parked my car in my spot, donned my rain slicker and walked out to the fence post area. I was certain that something was wrong with this beautiful bird and I had to find out why it was not behaving the way I had always seen these beautiful creatures behave. I slowly approached in pouring rain, I was shocked at how close I was able to get, I was within 8-10 feet of the perch.

There I stood in the pouring rain staring at this large majestic hawk, staring back at me. I needed to understand what was wrong so that I could help this creature. The hawk stared back at me in great annoyance, but did not move. More rain, so I went back to my office, wondering if I should call Wildlife  Rescue. I was determined to help this majestic creature out, it was not itself.

More hours pass, this time I am so curious that I head out with my slicker during a break, just to see if the hawk was still there. By now 6 hours have passed and the rain is still pouring down, and there the hawk remained , so I drew in my breath and went closer,closer, until finally I was within 5 feet or so from the post looking the hawk squarely in the eye.

I confess I spoke to the hawk ( I know, weirdo…), but I asked her “What is wrong?”. This time, she looked straight at me and with a very annoyed movement, she went to a nearby fence post and glared at me. There we were in a standoff in the pouring rain. She must have realized that I was not leaving, so she hopped to the ground clawed at it as if to pretend that she was foraging for food, she looked up at me as if to say “There, is that good enough for you?”, then she flew up to a nearby lamp post.

I was so relieved that she flew higher, my mission was accomplished, she was healthy enough to fly or forage if needed. I had ensured her safety in the midst of a pending storm and danger, I saved the day and went back to my office to dry off and accomplish less heroic but nonetheless important work.

Weeks later, I was outside of my office and it was a beautiful day. nearby high up on a power line, I saw the beautiful Red-Shouldered Hawk. She saw me and moved to a spot closer on the pole and then she began to make this loud screeching sound, the whole time looking my way. I saw a smaller hawk on another nearby pole. This screeching went on for some time, and she did not move from the pole near me. I looked with delight and wonder at these majestic creatures.

Then the thought occurred to me….that hawk was telling the other hawk what an annoying and obnoxious creature I was. She was letting me know in no uncertain terms that she was a capable hawk wired by God to behave as a Red-Shouldered Hawk in any and every circumstance. When a dangerous hurricane is coming, hawks don’t soar or search for prey, they get low and ride it out so that they may soar and search for prey another. day.

I was so caught up in concern and compassion and determination to figure out what was wrong with the hawk in order to save it and save the day. The hawk just wanted me to leave it alone to be the hawk that God created and equipped it to be, even in a dangerous storm. How many times, I wonder, do I try  to observe and query and figure out how to help another  when I am certain I know how to help them or rescue them from pending danger, and yet, in truth, I have not understood that they are in a storm,(we all find ourselves in those at one time or another), but they are equipped to move through it.

Sometimes my assumptions are based on misunderstanding, wrong expectations, or simply my discomfort at another’s uncomfortable circumstance. What are my true motives when I want to behave with compassion or to assist? Am I just trying to make myself feel better, because I am more comfortable when they are acting in a way that feels more normal and safe for me? Of course there are times when others, both humans and creatures, truly need assistance, but I wonder if too many times, I try to rescue more for my own sensitivity’s sake than for theirs? hmmmmmmm…………..

 

 

 

From the Beach to the Barn…Sand to Sawdust…

Not every weekend involves a walk on the beach,  whenever possible I do seek the sand and sun, but Florida has much more to offer and explore. If you have ever  heard of the term Florida Cracker, you may not be aware that it  has a strong agricultural history and livestock has played an important role in it. So, a while back I had the opportunity to observe a Junior Cattleman’s Show. They had a variety of youth showing their prize cattle for ribbons and awards.

Having no personal experience with livestock, I was impressed with the way these young people handled the animals and I was especially amazed when I saw the Pee Wee Livestock Show. There were children who looked to range in age from 3-5 years old. One little girl in particular was approximately 3 years old, and she was dressed like a true cowgirl with the jeans, bling belt, dress shirt , hat and a show stick.

What amazed me was not this cute little girl pretending to be a cowgirl, what amazed me was she truly was a cowgirl in training. She was walking this animal and leading it with a show stick with great confidence and poise. Of course she had her father following closely to ensure both her and all other’s safety, but he too had confidence that this little girl was capable of leading and showing the calf. Keep in mind that when I say calf, these cattle were easily 300 plus pounds and capable of squashing any of the Pee Wee Showmen. But it was clear that these young cowboys and cowgirls have been entrenched in the rich life of agriculture and specifically management of livestock since birth.

What a legacy, these children are apprenticed into a critical part of our life and economic cycle, the management of a farm or cattle takes HARD WORK, planning, coordinating, communication, physical and mental mastery and flexibility due to the unpredictability of weather and the animals themselves. I cannot think of another industry here and now where children are born into a training ground for productivity , purpose and responsibility at such a young age. By the way, although it involves plenty of hard work, these folks have fun and work collaboratively as families and with fellow cattleman and friends. It was an honor and joy to witness this part of our culture that is still crucial and yet forgotten or taken for granted by many.

To punctuate this, a few weeks after observing the show, I had the opportunity to help separate young steer who were being sold for the next  Florida State Fair Youth Steer Show. I mentioned that I have no experience in agriculture or livestock. My background has been primarily in sales, customer service and management. In other words I have spent most of my life in a suit and heels. So a few weeks back I found myself out in a pasture with several cattle pens and as the steer were released from the shoot after being weighed- in and tagged, they were driven by a young man in my direction. Someone would yell out a pen number and my job was to ensure that the steer was directed to the proper pen.

This was quite an experience, literally I would have steer ranging in size from 500 pounds to 900 pounds coming my way and all I had to do was open the correct gate to guide them to their place. Most of the steer were docile and the young man directing them did his best to guide them, but some of the steer were sensitive to the process and had an instinct to run away from the guided path. On occasion they came running straight towards me, with a look that can only be described as “A steer in the headlights”, funny I’m sure that on their receiving end, I was looking at them like “A deer in the headlights”. But this capable young man always ensured that the steer were managed.

This young man just graduated high school, he was raised by a single mom and in speaking with his AG teacher, he worked hard in the program to not only take responsibility for his animal, but whenever the teacher needed help if heading out of town, this was the young man they knew they could rely on to manage all of the animals in the facility. He also had an elderly grandparent who could no longer live independently and so he moved in with her to assist her when he wasn’t at school or work.

I watched this man work, he was quiet , yet confident and followed direction as needed by the teacher. He worked hard in the hot sun and muggy , buggy weather without any complaint. He is very sharp and wants to be an engineer, so he is joining the Navy, because he does not want to burden his mother with the expense of college and loans. His goal is to train in the service and work towards his goal while serving our country.  As the single mother of 3 fine young men, I will tell you that I am impressed with this hard working unassuming young man. I believe he represents the hope of our Nation, and this heritage from agriculture and livestock has been fertile ground and foundation for his future.

Genesis 1:28 “God Blessed them and said to them ‘Be fruitful and increase in number, fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over every living creature.'”

P.S. I may never put on a suit and heels again…..:)

 

 

 

 

 

Natural Light

My sister is a beautiful soul with a big heart. She is especially tenderhearted towards God’s creatures, from furry puppies to even slithering snakes (yikes!). In spite of my love for the beauty of God’s creation, I seem to take it as a part of my surroundings. A duck with her ducklings will catch my eye and even generate a smile and quick word of thanks for God’s handiwork, but for my sister, she stops and soaks it in and if there is any hint of need or danger, she takes action to remedy when able and appropriate.

Earlier this month, we were staying at Don Pedro Island. Typically  in  July , Florida is  brutally hot, humid and filled with random thunderstorms. So the best time to get out and walk the beach and shell is early morning.  My sister would start her morning routine with a walk along the Gulf, taking in the sights, smells and softness of the beach.

It just happens that July is nesting season for the indigenous sea turtles and a local advocacy group carefully monitors the beach for new nests and cords them off and keeps a watchful eye on their progress through  the weeks ahead. You see the sea turtles are endangered and this group is actively working to make people aware of the need to leave their nesting habitat alone.  The goal is  not to hinder the progress and hopeful recovery of this population of  gentle sea creatures. My sister took to connecting with the turtle advocate and she too walked the beach to assist in the monitoring.

Sea turtles  are not nurturing, so once the mother lays her eggs on the beachfront, she returns to the ocean, leaving the eggs to incubate for 45-70 days (depending on the type of sea turtle). From first hatching,these creatures have many obstacles to overcome one of which is the fact that they are color blind. They also have many predators, ranging from raccoons, armadillos, birds,  and in some parts of the world humans who use the eggs for food.

With all of these risks at hand, the newly hatched sea turtles are so slow , it can take days for them to make it from the nest to the water, where of course there are still some aquatic predators to overcome. It is amazing  yet in this cycle of life, as with all living creatures, some of the hatchlings survive and manage to continue the population. Add to this a new hindrance to their progress, the invasion of human habitats into their domain along the beaches, wherever you have  people,  you can expect the comforts and necessities that we humans rely on to live our lives. (buildings, roads, technology, stuff…)

Newly hatched sea turtles use cues to find the water, including the slope of the beach, the white crests of the waves and the Natural Light of the ocean horizon. Any other light source, beachfront lighting, street lights, lights from cars, campfires, etc. can lead hatchlings in the wrong direction. Essentially they become disoriented and follow a false light source, leading to their death. The advocacy group has taken to post signs informing residents along Don Pedro Island  to leave their porch lights off during hatching seasons in order to avoid the unnecessary demise of these beautiful , gentle, endangered creatures. The reason that they take this so seriously is that it is estimated that at the current trend, sea turtles could be near extinction within 50 years. That is pretty sobering.

It got me thinking, as people, we are born into this world and have so many obstacles towards simply living in peace and security for our souls, whether a Christian Believer or not, most people recognize that there is an essential struggle to live life fully with joy and peace. John 8:12 says ” When Jesus spoke again to the people, He said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me, will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’.”  Essentially Jesus is the Natural Light, the true source to Life.

When we, like the newly hatched sea turtles, follow false light, we may believe strongly we are moving in the direction of life and sustenance, but in fact are moving further away towards death. Proverbs 14:12 says “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.”  How many people are on a passionate path towards death? Our news is filled with so much happening throughout the world, much of it reflecting passionate pursuit and yet the result is devastating, not only to themselves, but in many cases to others as well.

Are you following the True and Natural Light that leads to life?

Psalm 119:5  ” Your Word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.”

Psalm 27:1  “The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?”

Psalm 19:8 ” The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.”

My prayer is that you passionately pursue the True and Natural Light of Jesus through His Word. Beware of false light, it can look like the real thing, but it is leading towards a path of darkness and death. Seek His Word and move freely in His path…..

 

 

Delight Full

This past 4th of July weekend, I had the opportunity to spend time at Don Pedro Island. The Gulf was warm and restless, bringing soft waves and beautiful seashells to the beachfront. I spent time walking and praying and collecting a variety of  these treasures. In fact many still had sea life in them, so I found myself heroically tossing them back into the Gulf, hoping my pitching arm did the job sending them to safety.

At one point I was on the edge of the water and sat down to soak it all in. The gulf is typically still, but to my delight, the gentle waves moved in rhythmically and tossed me back and forth over and over. I found myself giggling like a little child, because no matter how hard I tried to resist and sit steadily, the next wave would come and wrestle me to a new spot on the shore.

I soaked in the warm sun, the blue sky, the blue-green water and strong, yet soft waves. In this quiet moment, I felt the presence of God and His smile as I delighted in the gift of this beauty. Psalm 37:4 (NIV) says “Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”   The Oxford Dictionary defines “Delight” as joy, glee, gladness, excitement or happiness. Obviously each of us delights in different things, but I do believe that true “Delight” is of the Lord and consists of purity and beauty.

That same weekend while walking on the beach with my sister, she spoke of her youngest son when he was only a few months old. Our older brother had come to visit and meet his newest nephew for the very first time. She spoke of how he lifted him firmly into the air to get a good look and this adorable nephew of mine gave out the most magnificent gurgle and giggle. Clearly my nephew was experiencing delight and his response brought delight to my brother who continued to do this exercise generating ongoing gurgles and laughs. Even as my sister shared this story 20 years later, I was amazed at how she found delight  in the very memory.

We live in a world that is wrought with the impact of sin. Jesus even said that in this world we will have trouble (John 16:33). The events of the news over the past week are filled with sadness, disparity and darkness, sometimes it is hard to feel hope or delight when we consider the current events both in the world and perhaps even in our personal trials. In that same verse, John 16:33, Jesus said “But take heart, I have overcome the world.” Now more than ever, it is time to draw close to the only one that brings victory even in such harsh times.

Take delight in the Lord, what stirs your heart to delight? He beckons you to meet Him there and let Him give you the desires of your heart…..

Restoration

Back in my early twenties I was dating a guy, and early in the relationship he took me to the beach.  The beach was beautiful, the sand looked like sugar, and along the edge of it were several bluffs and areas with plants that had been enclosed with ropes and posts. There were signs posted, indicating that a Beach Restoration project was in place. Additionally there were signs with warnings that there was a $500.00 fine for anyone who uprooted the sea oats (the vegetation used to create a protective barrier and help restore the receding beach).

Well the guy I was with was hoping to impress me, so he jumped into the corded off area and plucked a sea oat and gave it to me as if it were a rose. I of course swooned over his bravado, and didn’t really think about his cavalier attitude toward the restoration project, or how he would have felt if he had been caught and fined. In fact once he handed it to me, it never occurred to me that I was the one most at risk for being fined since I was holding the evidence of our rebellion.

Nevertheless much time has passed, and the guy and that symbolic sea oat are long gone. The vegetation and bluffs at that beach, however remain and are beautifully built up and continue to stand guard over the beachfront. I began to research “Restoration” and here are a few simple facts

Merriam Webster defines “Restoration” as:
The action of returning something to a former owner, place or condition by the action of repairing, fixing, mending, refurbishing or re-establishing it.

Dictionary.com defines “Restoration” as:
Renewal, Revival, or to Reinstate.

Wikipedia listed Beach Restoration as synonymous with Beach Re-nourishment. It is a process using outside sources to replace and replenish lost sand and beach erosion that occurs from storm damage, and human activity both in the nearby ocean and on the beachfront.

The California Division of Boating and Waterways conducted the California Beach Restoration Study in 2002, and determined that failure to restore the beaches can result in diminished recreational opportunities, lost tourism revenue and increased damage from coastal storms. Basically failure to restore and re-nourish results in a loss of healthy fun, a negative financial impact and the potential for ongoing and increased damage and diminishment is imminent.

There are different options, according to the California Study, to restore impacted beaches. These options include constructing offshore reefs as a protective barrier, building seawalls or restoring sand dunes.  In the case of the nourishment restoration process, sand is used as a coastal defense and is placed against a beach bluff as a protective barrier. The benefit of this more natural approach is that there are less negative affects from artificial barriers and hard structures. The replenishment and nourishment process is ongoing and repetitive because it is not permanent, but it is a more natural and synergistic means of helping create a larger sand reservoir by pushing the shoreline further toward the sea.

In order to gain the most effective nourishment or restoration project outcome, the sand used to fill must be compatible to the native beach sand. Understanding the core elements consisting of the beach is essential to success in using the right nourishment, replenishment, restoration components and process. The success of all of this effort depends on accurately providing the compatible material.

Beaches aren’t the only thing that feel the impact from the storms of life and the potential plethora of negative human impact. Our heart, mind, body and soul can be pummeled by the hardships that life can dish out. We too can try to build protective barriers to stave off further loss and damage to ourselves.  Once initially wounded, many of us tend to use hard structures (emotional walls) and at times unhealthy coping skills to protect ourselves from being hurt, shamed, ridiculed or feeling like a failure. The thing about building hard walls is that they can’t be penetrated in either direction, even good things cannot pass through from ourselves to others, or vice versa. It is difficult to receive or give nourishment, replenishment or restoration through an impermeable barrier, even if it does serve some purpose in keeping out negative debris. The longer term effect creates a stagnant impact in our lives.

When an individual’s heart and soul are worn down and lean, they may become withdrawn or less vibrant and it often results in a loss of fun activity and interaction with others. The financial impact can result as one attempts to fill their empty soul by means that may deplete their resources and heart even more. In a discouraged state, an individual may miss out on opportunities that would enhance or benefit them more financially, emotionally, physically, mentally, socially and spiritually. Essentially in sadness and discouragement we often become even more vulnerable to future life storms and calamity.

So how does one seek restoration, re-nourishment and replenishment when so much damage has left us feeling completely washed out and worn out? Of course some things are obvious, ensuring that we get sufficient sleep, a healthy diet, and exercise for both our mind and body are positive coping skills. Reaching out to trusted, tried and true friends or family for encouragement and companionship is yet another healthy replenishment skill. It is also good to step out of our own limitations and learn a new skill, craft or sport. For some, professional counsel, coaching, pastoral or even possibly medical help may be required. The truth is though, even if we do all of these things, they won’t ensure that we will have re-nourished and restored our heart and soul sufficiently.

Matthew 11:28 (NIV) says “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

Psalm 23:1-3, 5-6 (NIV) says “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He refreshes (restores, re-nourishes) my soul. He guides me along the right paths…. My cup overflows. Surely Your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

Those other attempts at restoration are good and important and may help for a while, but your core (heart and soul), was created by our Heavenly Father. True Restoration and Re-nourishment for our wounded and hungry heart and soul can only be properly replenished by Him. Just as Beach Re-nourishment needs native sand for stability in replenishment, the core grain of our native soul needs our Creator to complete the process in us. In Jesus, we can continue to seek replenishment from Him our true source, and He invites us to do so daily in prayer and in His Word. Don’t miss this important Truth, He (Jesus) is all that you need, so take that step reach out to Him, He is right there with arms wide open.

 

Bundled

A couple of months ago, my kids came to visit while on Spring Break. They have had a busy year, so I was extremely excited to have 2 or 3 days with them. They are after all college kids, and they didn’t want to spend their entire break with their mother. I pondered what to do with my young adult offspring. I wanted it to be special and memorable, so of course I planned a weekend at the beach.

In spite of the ridiculous Spring Break hotel rates, I booked a place on one of our favorite beach spots. It is surrounded by plenty of fun restaurants, live music and available activities on the property. I was so eager to have some fun quality time together, so I invited my sister and her family to join us as well. Our kids grew up together and we rarely have time to get together as a family.

I planned and packed and bought groceries. The weather forecast was indicating low to mid 70’s, perfect! We arrived mid-evening that Friday and it was quite cool, by Florida Standards, it was cold. There was a wind and the temps were upper 50’s, we weren’t packed for this, so we bundled up with what layers we had and went for a walk to find a nice restaurant to grab dinner and catch up.

The restaurant was packed and the only seating was outside. The ambiance and food was excellent, and we attempted to enjoy our time together, but it was cold!!!! Still optimistic, we enjoyed catching up and returned to the hotel. I braved it and went to find some live music, while the kids became absorbed with their electronics.

The next morning was gorgeous! I looked out of the hotel window and the sun was shining, the palm trees were swaying and the gulf was an inviting blue green. I slathered on sun screen, donned my bathing suit and headed out for a walk on the beach and some time with God. Burrrr…. from inside it was a gorgeous beach day, but that wind from the night before was in full spectrum, hence the swaying palm trees. It was early though, and I was confident that the sun would warm things up as the morning moved into day.

Spoiler alert, the weekend weather was gorgeous and stunning, when you were inside looking out through a window. The temperatures were technically in the low 70’s, but the windchill was so strong, it felt like the temperatures were in the 50’s. Now I know that any Snow Birds reading this might scoff and say that’s perfect, but as a Florida Native, that is too cold for lounging on the beach.

My sister and I and our kids made the most of it, we attempted to lounge on cabanas by the water and we certainly enjoyed catching up and had lots of laughs, but the pictures from that weekend  reflect the atmosphere. I am in a bathing suit with a towel bundled tightly around me, no warm sunny glow or smile, just a shivering bundled middle-aged woman.

One thing is for sure, we can plan and arrange how we want life to be, but we don’t have total control of the events, surroundings or people involved. Proverbs 16:9 says “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” (Holy Bible NIV). Of course it is good to have a plan, and to anticipate and work towards the favorable outcome you desire, but it is also good to remember this truth from God’s Word and look for the gift bundled in the unexpected.

That beach weekend was expensive and cold, and not quite how I had envisioned it would be, but our family came together and had a rich time of connecting and laughing. Perhaps if the weather had been better, we might have been more distracted and disconnected, eager to soak up the sun and walk the beach to see the sights. As the weekend concluded, we all agreed that it was good…..

 

 

The Far Side Of The Sea

A dear friend and I were heading back from the beach a few days ago, and he said to me, “You realize that there is only so much you can write about in regards to the beach and sand.”  I smiled, because, of course he is right, and Sand Between My Toes is about the Journey of Restoration,  not the beach in and of itself.

The beach, however is a place that draws me, I never grow weary of it.  I love to look at the natural beauty and marvel at the variety of people as they experience the sand between their toes.This recent trip to the Gulf was especially charmed, it is my favorite beach. The sand is soft and white, and it is composed of a high percentage of Quartz, so it is always cool to the touch, especially between my toes.

This recent season of my life has left me searching for what is next.  I find myself in the “Empty Nest” category, and although I thought I would just slide right into it, this season has proven to create some unanticipated challenges. I won’t go into the details of those challenges, much has been said and written about the “Empty Nest”, but spiritually, I have felt the Lord pressing on me to take inventory of my faults.

My Life Coach training moves me in the direction of looking at the strengths of an individual, including myself, and honing in on making the most of those strengths and thriving in that energy and space. Naturally, I was not eager to take stock of my faults, but I have been taking notes , pondering them and praying release from their grip on my past choices, relationships and future. What could become an exercise that would lead to feelings of failure and inadequacy, is a process by which I am learning to entrust them to Jesus and “Forget the former things….”  (Isaiah 43:18) Holy Bible N.I.V.

Psalm 139:2 says “You perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; You are familiar with all of my ways.” Verses 9-10 go on to say “If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there Your Hand will guide me.” Verse 17, “How precious to me are Your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them, Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with you.”  Holy Bible N.I.V.

I  don’t quite know what is next for me, but I am still and at peace knowing the truth of His Word.  Transformation of my faults start with my thoughts and heart as they are restored by the sacrifice and resurrected life in and through Jesus Christ my Lord. The truth is that the journey encompasses the good and the bad, we each are broken creatures. Despite that truth, we are deeply Loved and given opportunity for New Life in Jesus. In Him, I can even look at my faults and know that they are the former things that have no authority over my life and future.

What is next? New Life in Jesus, even if I settle on the far side of the sea………..I hope and pray that you seek out and experience this gift as well……