This Thanksgiving was extra special on many levels. I’m not going to say it was because it brought our family together, or because of the amazing food, or that the Chicago Bears actually won a football game. No, we spent the majority of this year’s holiday recovering from a trip to the ER. Though I wasn’t the one who was ill, and thankfully no lives were in danger, we were forced to slow down. There’s nothing like mandatory down time to make you realize how busy you’ve been! I’ve come to learn that when things like this happen, sometimes it’s God’s way of making me stop and get the rest I need. That rest has helped remind me of why the Thanksgiving season holds such a special place in my heart.
I heard this question over and over again growing up. If left unchecked, my fallen state takes over and I’ll get passive in group settings. That is not uncommon for many, but I’ve been giving it some thought and . . . well I think I’m on to something. Often, the number of people in a group might determine the extent to which we fade into the background. I say “might” because while I may have made blanket statements such as “I feel comfortable speaking up in a group of 10 or less”, I’ve come to realize that it’s not the size of the group that matters, but the extent to which I feel a part of that group. Does that resonate with anyone else?
It’s March 28th. So? Well to me March 28th is what I call “Bike Day”. Thirty some-odd years ago on this day, I was returning from a bike outing along the main beach road in South Florida, Hwy1. We finished up our ride and everyone turned toward their homes. They asked if I knew how to get home from there and I said I did. Of course I knew – sort of. Too embarrassed to admit that I wasn’t sure, I was also confident that I could figure it out. I knew what street I was looking for, and once I found that street, I knew exactly how to get home. The problem was, I walked for hours in the early afternoon sun and never found that street.
What drew me to follow Christ was the joy and community I felt among believers. Even at 4 years old, I could sense the comradery that I saw a church, and around the table at home. I was part of an amazing family, that treated strangers like lost relatives. And yet, I grew up believing that I was less important, less worthy, and just “less” than everyone else. Those were lies. In my head, I knew those were lies, but I still believed them. Especially through middle and high school, they felt true. I wasn’t enough for my friends, even if I was enough for God. And that wasn’t enough for me.
I came to trust Christ as a believer when I was 4 years old. I remember every detail of that moment. I know what I was doing and the comment I made to my mom that prompted her to explain salvation to me. I know where I was in the room and that she was folding laundry at the time. It’s funny how God can use the most routine moments to change someone’s life forever. Over the years, I learned that the testimony of someone who came to Christ young and never strayed far from the path is a powerful one. I would wonder though, what it would have been like to experience that moment of freedom from an adult perspective.
For as long a I can remember, people warn against having tunnel vision. They tell you to “gain a broader perspective”, “open your mind”, or “take in your surroundings”. In general, yes, those are very good things. I’ll always be the first one to take in the scenery and the last one to make a decision if I haven’t considered all the options. But I’ll tell you one thing I learned last weekend: sometimes tunnel vision isn’t such a bad thing. It can save your life when what’s going on around you is too much. I’m alive to prove it.
What is it about water? I was asked recently where my favorite vacation spot would be. The more I thought about it, harder it seemed to provide an answer. I love to travel and can be happy in pretty much any environment. I love mountains, beaches, cities and wilderness. But then it struck me. If I truly want to relax, I need to be near water. Being around water cleanses my spirit. It lets me exhale and release every ounce of anxiety and stress. Jesus talked about sending rain on the just and the unjust in Matthew 5:45. As it did then, water means crops, prosperity, and life.
Find the Joy
It’s there if you choose to see it. It’s in a rainstorm, it’s in housework. Joy is in relationships, kindness, and laughter. You can find joy everywhere if you’ll just look for it. We all go through hard times, and I never want to minimize anyone’s pain. Sometimes we don’t want to find the joy. Sometimes we actually want to be miserable. I’ve had periods in my life where I felt completely abandoned by God and those around me. I wasn’t feeling the joy. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t available to me.
One of the many gifts we have from our Heavenly Father, is that we are not bound by our circumstances. He gave us the freedom to choose joy over sadness and victory over defeat, no matter what we’re facing. And once you find that joy, share it with others. They need it. They are hurting too.
A few weeks ago, I headed into the North Georgia mountains for some time of renewal, rest and reflection. I never imagined how healing 48 hours of complete silence could be! Among the many takeaways, I not only got to spend hours tromping through the woods listening to birds and squirrels, I learned to set up an ENO for the first time (those of you who don’t know what an ENO is – look it up, it will change your life!). Most of all, I relished the freedom to spend uninterrupted quiet time alone with my Savior in His creation.
During one of my writing sessions, I flipped through a planner for 2018 and I came across a page marked for “Personal Notes”. Unable to resist the temptation, I wrote one. What came out surprised me, and I thought I would share it here. I hope you find it as encouraging as I did…
Our company supports an orphan care and prevention center there called myLIFEspeaks. For the last few years, I’ve had the opportunity to travel with a handful of coworkers, to a small village in Haiti called Neply (about 30 miles outside of Port Au Prince). Upon arrival, we’re immediately immersed in the village’s daily life and spend the next 7 days serving the community; connecting with everyone from infants to endangered teens and village elders.
One of the best parts of this trip for me is seeing the impact it has on new team members. On the way home from our most recent trip, I asked them if they viewed the city of Port Au Prince differently coming home than they did when they first arrived. Their answer surprised me. They said that the trip through the city streets was much harder to digest on the way BACK to the airport, than it was when they first arrived. I thought that the biggest shock would be coming from the United States to a city like Port Au Prince. I was wrong.