When Falling Behind Isn’t

Our bus dropped us off, so we could walk the narrow street to the Church of Annunciation in Nazareth. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, most walks in Israel involve an incline, and this one was a long one. As usual, our tour guide led the way, and I trailed behind to make sure if anyone got misplaced, I would be with her. As long as our guide could turn around and see me, he knew everyone was accounted for.

The steep inclines were rough at times, and anyone with any kind of breathing problem would have to slow down and pause. As the sidewalk got steeper on the way to the church, one woman slowed and took several breaks. Our group got ahead of us, but we could see where we were going. We followed a little girl with her mom and grandmother, and her cuteness distracted us from the effort of the walk. The little girl paused and turned around. We smiled and waved, and she smiled back at us. We didn’t share a spoken language, but a smile bridges all language barriers. The mom saw our smiles, and I imagine it was obvious we thought her daughter was beautiful. She smiled warmly at us. I motioned at my camera and asked permission to take a photo of the girl. The mom smiled and nodded and stepped aside, telling the little girl to smile (I assume).

@2014 PurePurpose.org
©2014 PurePurpose.org

Had we kept up with the group, we would have missed that beautiful smile. We would have missed the wordless exchange with the women. We got to have a brief, yet sweet exchange that bridged our cultures.

Sometimes, falling behind is worth it. We want to be at just the right place at just the right time. We don’t want to miss out on anything. However, the right place at the right time isn’t ours to decide. God knows best where we should be and why. People might say, “You should have been there! You missed out!” but we only missed what they experienced, not what we experienced because we weren’t with them at the time. We can’t experience it all. We can’t be at all places at all times.

I’m sure I didn’t hear every word our tour guide said throughout our journey through Israel. I was more often behind him than beside him. But it’s okay. God sent a smile through a little girl and her mom and grandmother to remind me to run, walk, pause, or stop in His timing. There is a time for everything, and that time is His to decide, not mine.

Fit Faith: Health: Open Air Therapy

Several years ago, my husband and I started walking together. We had tried many times before that, but I wasn’t a very good walking partner. I liked to power walk, and I didn’t have much patience for anyone who wanted to stroll. I was on a mission, and my focus was on a good workout, which I defined as pushing myself physically. Walking didn’t have anything to do with anyone else but myself.

Then I made a concession. I would go for my walk and push my limits. When I was done, I’d go for another, shorter walk with Tim. It was a compromise we could both live with. The focus began to shift from the walk to the time we got to spend together. We talked about our days. We talked about our daughters. We talked about anything that was on our minds.

As we grew accustomed to walking together, we adjusted again. Instead of waiting until I got home from a walk, Tim would text me when I’d been gone for a while to find out if I was ready for a walking buddy. I rarely said no, even if I hadn’t been walking long, because I looked forward to walking with him. It wasn’t so much about me as it was about the time I got to spend with my husband.

Being able to walk and talk occasionally invited topics that spurred disagreements. That’s going to happen between two married people! Disagreements when walking, however, had a different tone. We were walking side-by-side, and as we’d work through the conflict toward a resolution, we avoided much antagonism, because we were headed in the same direction. We walked and talked it out.

The occasional disagreement and more frequent sharing took on a therapeutic effect. We were spending time together. It didn’t matter if we were talking about our relationship or things that impacted each of us as individuals, we were growing together. We still are.

We’re not in a regular routine of walking together, but we miss it when we go very long without it. We know we can spend time together in many other ways, but there’s something special about our walks – so much so that many times I don’t insist on a walk before our walk. He walks a bit faster, I walk a bit slower, and that’s okay with me. I’m just glad to be by his side, listening to his heart.

Health isn’t just about the physical. That’s often the focus, and it was certainly my main focus when determined to walk fast and far. However, there’s an emotional and relational health benefit I was missing and have been able to infuse into my walks as Tim has joined me. The physical benefits become secondary.

How do you compartmentalize your health?

How and when do you sacrifice one aspect of your health for another?

My child, pay attention to my words; listen closely to what I say. Don’t ever forget my words; keep them always in mind. They are the key to life for those who find them; they bring health to the whole body. (Proverbs 4:20-22)

Surround yourself with healthy relationships. Let them infuse health into many other areas of your life. Let God’s perspective invade your perspective. Let his words nourish you so that you know where he wants you to be when and with whom. He will help correct your focus if it’s misguided, and he’ll impact everything in your life when you develop a healthy relationship with him.

The Point of the Path

My husband and I drove as far as we could on the road leading to a point near where we were staying on Oahu. The road stopped short of where we wanted to be. Technically, the road continued, but it was only fit for 4-wheel drive vehicles. We turned around and explored another direction, but our curiousity was piqued and we returned a couple evenings later to walk the road. The sun was setting quickly, so we kept a quick pace. We got as far as we felt was safe, then returned to our parked car. If we wanted to explore further, we’d have to wait until daylight.

We decided to return a couple days later. We wanted to get to the Kaena Point National Reserve. It was only accessible by foot. Since the path was technically a road, it was an easy hike, but we hoped it would be worth it since we could have spent the same time and effort hiking into the mountains. We try to choose our hiking paths strategically to experience as much as we can in an area.

We weren’t disappointed.

We enjoyed views along the road before reaching the national reserve, where we had to enter through a narrow gate, insuring only foot traffic. We continued along the path, savoring natural vegetation, birds and even a monk seal.

The view from the point was breathtaking. We sat and ate lunch on the rocks worn from years of pounding water. We watched the waves crashing into and spraying over the rocks of the coastline. We absorbed the blues of the water meeting the blues of the sky. And while our hike to the location had been quiet with no one around us, others were at the same point. There were only a few, but we hadn’t encountered them before, because they had taken the path from the other side.

Two groups of people travelling from two different areas, meeting at a point for similar purpose for a limited time.

It happens all the time. We come in contact with someone we will never know deeply but have a shared interest or purpose for a brief moment.

The point of our paths is often the interactions God has planned for us. He invites us to enjoy the journey. He exceeds our expectations. He surprises us. He wants us to be attentive, because he knows who is on another path to intersect with us. It’s not all about us. There are people who need us and people we need. We impact each other whether it’s in actions, words, or simple presence. We share experiences with people even when our paths aren’t exactly the same.

God will cross your path with others today. Stay attentive. You will not always understand the significance. You might look for the big moments and ignore the little ones. I assure you God pays attention and is intentional about every detail, large or small.

Serve. Smile. Speak.

There’s a reason you’re at the same place at the same time. Listen to God’s leading.

Jesus said to them, “After you go into the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him into the house that he enters…” (Luke 22:10)

This Week’s 7 – Fall Favorites

Each Monday on the Pure Purpose blog, I feature This Week’s 7, a simple list about an everyday topic, giving you ideas and encouragement. This week’s list includes some of my favorites of fall. Depending on where you live, you might not experience some of my favorites because the temperatures or terrain, but I’m sure you have some favorites of fall, too. And I hope you’ll share!

  1. Raking leaves. Okay, so the raking process itself might not be much fun. In fact, I usually get a blister, because I’m not used to it. But the jumping in the leaves is a blast! I remember hiding my girls under the leaves and “being surprised” as they jumped out. They loved sliding into a huge pile of leaves at the bottom of their bright yellow slide. The joys go back to my childhood, when we’d rake our large yard with giant (from my perspective) leaves. Lots of work, but lots of fun, too!
  2. Colors. The colors of fall are like no other. As the leaves die, the color deepens. The sun sprinkles through the leaves and follows them as they drift to the ground. I feel as if I’m walking on a carpet of color with an umbrella of color overhead.
  3. Campfires. Ah, the warmth of a crackling fire. I savor the smell of the campfire (as long as the smoke isn’t filling my eyes). I enjoy the chatter of the circle of people, often huddled together. Of course, I like a perfectly-roasted marshmallows – sometimes savored on a S’more. By the way, have you tried variations of S’mores, replacing Hershey’s chocolate bars with Reese’s or KitKats? 
  4. Crisp, clean air. With the chill in the air comes a cleanliness, as if the air is more pure than any other time of the year. I know it’s not the case, because I’m surrounded by farm fields, but the cool air energizes me. Especially enjoyable is the first night’s sleep on clean sheets dried on the clothesline.
  5. Cozy bundling and snuggling. Fall takes away the need to dress minimally to avoid sweating as well as the need to bundle so heavily you can’t move or be identified. A hoodie worn over a lighter-weight shirt and perhaps an earwrap and mittens is cozy and comforting. And snuggling under a blanket on the couch with family is the best!
  6. Walking. Fall is one of few times I can walk for miles without absolutely needing an instant shower when I’m done. Nor do I need to bundle so heavily I can’t move. The fresh air energizes me and vibrant views inspire me.
  7. Harvest. Growing up on a farm, fall harvest was an important part of the year. It was a celebration of growth and cultivation. Of course, there were always anxious times (but as a child, I was often oblivious). After watching the planting and growth through the previous seasons, I watched the seasonal circle turn upon itself.  My favorite childhood memory of the fall? Hanging out with my dad in the combine!

What’s your fall favorite?

This Week’s 7 – Challenge for Today

Each Monday on the Pure Purpose blog, I feature This Week’s 7, a simple list about an everyday topic, giving you ideas and encouragement. This week’s list includes a challenge for your day. Will you accept? I’m making assumptions about some of the things you’ll do today, so I’m not challenging you to add something to your day. Choose one or accept all the challenges. Let me know how it goes!

  1. Walk. As you take physical steps today, think of the impact your steps have on your spiritual journey. Are you blazing a trail on your own? Are you asking God to bless your steps – after you’ve already taken them? Are you second-guessing yourself to such an extent you’re frozen and don’t move? Be intentional as you walk today. I will walk with the Lord  in the land of the living. (Psalm 116:9)
  2. Talk. Be mindful of the words you say today. Encourage others. Build others up. Are you making excuses for what you say? Are you taking others into consideration? Are you being bold in what God wants you to say but remaining silent when he guides you to silence? Be intentional in your talk today. When you talk, do not say harmful things, but say what people need—words that will help others become stronger. Then what you say will do good to those who listen to you. (Ephesians 4:29)
  3. Rest. Life is busy. How well do you rest? Quiet yourself – even in the middle of a busy time or place. Look around. Take a deep breath. Soak in all God provides. Sink into his blessings. Trust him to refresh you throughout the day. Be intentional in your rest today. Anyone who enters God’s rest will rest from his work as God did. (Hebrews 4:10)
  4. Pay. How are you spending your time, money, and energy? Do you hoard time, money, or energy? Do you overspend time, money, or energy, resulting in emotional, financial, or spiritual debt? God provides. Respond with good stewardship. Be intentional in how you spend your life today. When people work, their pay is not given as a gift, but as something earned. (Romans 4:4)
  5. Read. How are you filling your mind? What sources do you trust? Be discerning in what is worthwhile to read, hear and see. Step beyond the basic choice between what’s good and bad. You’ll more often need to choose between good and good. Choose the best. Consistently soak in God’s Word. Be intentional in what you read today. Until I come, continue to read the Scriptures to the people, strengthen them, and teach them. (1 Timothy 4:13)
  6. Eat. Does your day revolve around food? Do you ignore what your body is telling you? Does the ease of eating override the health of eating, or does the short-term pleasure override the long-term effects when you’re making a decision? What do your habits reflect about your priorities? Make healthy choices – one at a time. Be intentional in how and what you eat today. The answer is, if you eat or drink, or if you do anything, do it all for the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31)
  7. Tech. You will likely use a variety of technology tools today. How are you using them? Are they helping you connect in healthy ways, or are they pulling you away from relationships? Reflect on your priorities. Choose each click well. Honor and glorify God in all you do. Be intentional in how you use technology today. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as it loves its own. But I have chosen you out of the world, so you don’t belong to it. (John 15:19)

Sunday Drive

I think the days of Sunday drives might be obsolete. When I was growing up, “Sunday drivers” referred to slow drivers who seemed to be gawking instead of moving along on the road. I knew the reference well, because I’d been a Sunday driver – well, at least I was a passenger. I wasn’t old enough to drive at the time.

Sunday driving was a common routine. Families would attend church services in the morning, enjoy a dinner together and then drive through the countryside. I remember several Sunday drives with my grandma. She had been a teacher in a one-room country school. She knew the countryside well. My cousin and I sat in the backseat as she pointed out where kids had lived and how far they had to walk, made connections of who was related to whom, and reminisced about many memories and funny stories. Some might have been bored with the Sunday drive. Personally, I like the serenity of it.

Sunday drives are a thing of the past, in my opinion, for two main reasons. First, people are busy and focused. They drive with purpose: to get somewhere in order to do something. (The exception is motorcycles. I know many people who take off on bike rides with no clear idea of where they’re going. They just want to ride, feel the wind, and enjoy the adventure.) Second, higher gas prices have caused us to discriminate between necessary and unecessary drives. If we don’t need to go somewhere, why spend the money? Even teenage “cruising” is down.

I’ve found an alternative: Sunday Walks.

I’m a walker. Even when I’m pushing my pace, walking is relaxing to me. I live in a small town with lightly-travelled roads, so I can walk just about anywhere without worrying about traffic. I often walk into the country, because there’s something about the open air. Walking is energizing and relaxing at the same time. I often end with co-existing feelings of rejuvenation and exhaustion.

When unseasonably moderate temperatures were forecast for a Sunday recently, I knew there was one way I wanted to spend my afternoon: walking. I announced my intentions on the way to church that morning. After lunch, I laced up my walking shoes and set out. I wasn’t sure when I’d return home, but I estimated two hours.

It ended up being a two-and-a-half hour walk…plus an added bonus walk with my husband when I returned home. I covered many miles as the minutes ticked by. I thought about many things, let go of several concerns, let God pour energy into me and encouragement over me, and savored the sights and smells around me. I met very few vehicles, reminding me of the passing trend of Sunday drives.

I thought back to those drives with my grandma and what they had in common with my walks.

  1. It’s a time to relax. Life is busy. We all need time to recharge…with intention. God pours into us when we seek opportunities to meet him in breaks among the bustle of life.
  2. It’s a time to retreat. Life is painful. A retreat doesn’t make the messiness go away, but it helps to orient us to a healthy perspective as we replace our vantage point with God’s.
  3. It’s a time to relinquish. Life isn’t about us. We might be walking the steps or driving the car, but it’s God who is guiding us along the journey.

It’s easy to keep moving, moving, moving without stepping aside long enough to take a Sunday Drive, but I’ll tell you from experience, whether on a Sunday or any other day, the time and effort is most definitely worth the experience.

Around the Corner

A friend recently encouraged me by reminding me the answer to something I’m anticipating is right around the corner. I wondered, “But where’s the corner?” Is the corner three steps ahead or three miles? Life isn’t built in neatly uniformed city blocks. We don’t know if we’ll be rounding a corner in the next few seconds or next few months. There’s uncertainty and transitions in life.

The reality is…I don’t want to know where the corner is. Sort of. I caught myself asking God if he could at least let me know when this particular time of transition would end, and then I added a condition: “Unless it’s going to be a couple months, because I don’t want to know I’ll have to wait that long.” I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. I’m certainly difficult to live with at times! “Never mind, God. You’re right. I only want to know that something will work out and prefer you leave out all the sticky details. I withdraw my request. I’m just going to live today in obedience, and we’ll take tomorrow when it comes.”

What a relief. I don’t have to figure it out. I’m going to enjoy my walk to the corner. After all, if I stay on the sidewalk, I’ll come to a corner. Along the way…

  • I’ll stop to visit with a friend at an outside cafe.
  • I’ll help someone who spilled her purse contents all over the sidewalk.
  • I’ll listen to the street musician, who is talented enough to play in a concert hall.
  • I’ll pry the gum off my shoe.
  • I’ll be startled by the sudden honk of a passing car.
  • I’ll lift my face to feel the warmth of the sun.
  • I’ll get preoccupied with the bee buzzing around the flowers.
  • I’ll hear bits and pieces of passing conversations and wonder at the diversity of people.
  • I’ll see a couple walking hand in hand and appreciate the simple joy of relationships.
  • I’ll feel the achiness of my muscles.
  • I’ll appreciate my ability to continue walking.

When I’m too focused on the corner, I miss a lot along the way. I avoid some messes, but many joys as well. I can anticipate the corner, or I can anticipate the journey. Sure, I need to keep moving and stay on track; movement is essential to a journey. But I can certainly appreciate the details along the way.

God has a journey planned for me – today. I woke up this morning and started walking. I’ll stop this evening. Have I covered the territory and noticed the things he wanted for me today? In the obedience of today, I realize…I reached the corner. Perhaps not what I thought was the corner. Transitions look different from my perspective than God’s. I prefer his journey. It’s more manageable, less stressful, and much more beautiful.

Are you waiting to hear from God around the corner? Be sure to enjoy him – and all he’s surrounding you with – right where you are. Savor each step forward in obedience. It’s the best place you can be.

And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love. 2 John 1:6