Sunset Drive

The challenge for the month was from my friend Tiffany. It’s #155 – Sunset drive listening to worship music (best when the windows are down). As you probably know I’m a planner, so how do you plan well for a sunset drive? You don’t.

I was actually driving home from celebrating a sibling’s birthday mid-September. I was pretty tired and was counting down until I could get home. I usually listen to podcasts while I’m in the car for any extended amount of time. So while it wasn’t worship music, it was a podcast on how to live singleness well and from a Scriptural viewpoint (Vicariously – https://www.audible.com/pd/Podcast/B08JJNTK3M).

There I was on I-30 heading home and the sunset was beautiful! Bright yellow and gold and rich like a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. The planner that I am, I was wondering if I could count my drive home as my sunset drive. I weighed my options and decided that it wouldn’t count. I wanted it to be the adventure it was meant to be rather then just a check-mark.

I decided to take a detour and watch the sun fully set at one of the lakes close to home. I pulled up my GPS, typed in “lake,” and let GPS decide where I went. It sent me about 20 min away to a beautiful lake front in a nearby state park. It was a gorgeous drive and I ended up out on a peninsula. There were a few people out and I was able to get out of my car and just engage God’s beautiful creation!

As I look back on my adventure this month, I realize how much I needed that peaceful time. The Lord was preparing me for the chaos that was going to ensue. In the last 5 weeks, my Dad broke his hip, had surgery, came home, had to return to rehab, and I got COVID all in the mix. Thankfully, we are both doing better and thankful for God’s provision and care these past weeks.

So my takeaway for this month is that I need to take advantage of the beautiful moments (and rest) the Lord gives, because I never know what might be around the corner or what emergency might be coming. Enjoy the pictures below from my adventure.

Lake Sunset Trail

My friend, Tiffany, challenged me to “Use the All Trails app – in the spring/summer there are so many fun waterfall trails! You can find trails on ANY skill level.” I discovered that this is a great app to see what trails are nearby. Whenever I move to a new place I try to buy a local hiking trail guide with the hopes of checking out a few. This app saves me from having to buy different books that can become outdated. I can also track what trails I have hiked and a bucket list of trails that I’d like to hike.

I looked through a couple of the local trails and decided to try the Lake Sunset Trail. I reached out to a friend, Val, to see if she wanted to join me on this adventure. Thankfully she had some free time and we picked a date at the end of month.

This was a great paved trail down by the lake. It was about a 1.5-mile loop. The lake was actually constructed in 1972 and spans 208 miles of shoreline and 13,800 acres. It is an earthen dam that backs up the water from a nearby river. Even though I grew up near a lot of rivers and lakes, I’ve never been much of a water gal. I do enjoy my time on or near the water, it’s just never my first relaxation choice.

I wasn’t sure what I wanted to write about for this blog. I knew I could talk about the actual lake or the hike itself, or the sweet community with my friend as we walked, but something felt like it was missing. Today I was reading in Proverbs 3 and I came across this verse 18.

She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her, those who hold her fast are called blessed.

Proverbs 3:18

The she that is referenced is Wisdom. I love the picture of being able to lay hold of or grasp onto wisdom. The tree made me start thinking about a verse in Psalm 1.

He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields it’s fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.

Psalm 1:3

Granted I didn’t walk by a stream, but there were a lot of trees (did you see the picture at the top of this blog??). Here’s the questions that have been running through my head today. What fruit am I yielding in my life? Where is my tree planted? Am I near the life-giving water? Am I clinging to wisdom? Am I even seeking wisdom?

I can’t say that I’ve found all the answers, but I do know that part of the adventure is the journey. So I’m sure I’ll continue to wrestle through these questions with the Lord over the next days and weeks. I’ll leave you with a quote I’ve been pondering from a commentary on Proverbs.

Human life in this world is to be affirmed, celebrated and enjoyed, and Wisdom points the way.

The Message of Proverbs – David Atkinson

Choosing

https://wisdomquotes.com/discipline-quotes/

Because of the craziness of my July, I wasn’t actually able to do my adventure. I’m hoping to catch up on the missed adventure in the next month or two.

As I’ve been mulling over what to write this month, the topic of choice has been circling around my brain. Specifically choice in regards to singleness. My mentor recommended a book called, “She’s Got the Wrong Guy: Why Smart Women Settle” by Deepak Reju. I highly recommend the book! He clearly highlights qualities to find in a spouse and others to avoid.

It seems that singleness has been a topic of a lot of my conversations lately. People want to know how to do singleness well. Reading Reju’s book got me thinking. Married couples choose to love their spouse daily. Married couples choose to be married every day. Why is it a choice for married couples and yet singleness is something that is thrust upon a person?

Over the last month, I’ve gotten back into the practice of Lectio Divina (https://www.amazon.com/Contemplative-Bible-Reading-Experiencing-Disciplines/dp/1498224334). This is an ancient form of prayerful scripture reading. I first learned about Lectio when I was 24. Twelve years later, it is just as life giving to me!

About a month ago, I started reading the above linked book. One of the passages that they highlighted for Lectio was Exodus 3:1-12. The first part of verse one has stuck with me. “[Moses] came to Horeb, the mountain of God.” Moses might not have realized it, but he was seeking the Lord. He met with the Lord there in a burning bush. But before he saw the burning bush, he had to travel to “the mountain of God.” What traveling do I need to do? How can I travel to “the mountain of God?” Moses chose to go to the mountain and I want to choose to go as well.

I think I’m realizing that I have more choices then I knew. What would it look like if I actively chose to go to “the mountain of God” each day? What would it look like if I chose singleness each day? Would I wake up looking to experience singleness in a new way? Would I wake up choosing to love my singleness? Would I wake up choosing to love the Lord more deeply?

So I guess this is my current adventure. I want to embrace the singleness God has gifted me with today. I believe that my hopes and dreams for the future are meant to be held with an open hand. But I also deeply believe that the Lord wants me to embrace the day that He has created for me. May you wake up tomorrow choosing to embrace the life God has given you!

Garvan Woodland Gardens

If you live in central Arkansas, you’ve probably heard about Garvan Woodland Gardens (https://www.garvangardens.org/). It’s a beautiful botanical garden. I was introduced to this garden when I was in high school with some dear family friends and it is just as wonderful 20 years later!

The adventure for this month came from my friend Bekah. She encouraged me to once again journey through the many paths of Garvan as it’s probably been about 2 years since I’ve been there and it is located about 45 minutes from my house. The drive is along beautiful scenic Highway 7. If you’ve ever driven it, you know what I mean. 🙂 I found a Friday afternoon in June that would work and put it on my calendar.

As I got out of my car, I was greeted by a peacock named George. 🙂

The gardens have a lot of covered trails that are beautiful! It was quiet and not busy. It gave me a sense of rest and I started to think about the times that Jesus rested. He often stepped away to pray and rest.

Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain

Matthew 5:1a

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was.

Mark 4:35-36a

And probably the most well known is when Jesus was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. Christ had a good balance of serving and resting. As I walked around the garden for about an hour, I was reminded of the importance of rest and reflection. The garden has a self-guided tour and I visited 30 of the 49 locations that they highlighted (see map below).

There were places to sit and reflect as well as grassy areas and wooded spots. The gardens are right off a lake, so you can find plenty of water locations if that is what makes you stop and reflect.

While these gardens are cultivated by man’s hands, it is the amazing creativity of our God that allowed it to blossom and grow! I’m hoping to make it back here again soon to see the rest of the spots that I missed. I’ve uploaded a few of my favorite “stop-and-reflect” spots. If you can’t make it there yourself, maybe you can slow down and rest as you mosey through my pictures! Praying rest for you physically, spiritually, and emotionally!

Crystal Bridges

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/306737424596867465/

Most people from Arkansas have heard of the museum, Crystal Bridges (https://crystalbridges.org/). My adventure for the month was to visit. It’s about a four-hour drive from my place, so I knew this would be difficult to accomplish. I had company in during the month, as well as finishing up my work’s school year, which didn’t leave a lot of time for a trip.

I decided to check out the website and see what I could find. They actually had a virtual option for a couple of their displays. I picked a weekend that would be a little slower and decided to sit down to enjoy a virtual guide.

I was very thankful as they gave great verbal explanations of some of the pieces of art. I don’t normally have a great understanding of art, so hearing these quick explanations was very helpful in growing my appreciation for the featured pieces.

I know that there is more that I can see in person and hope to make it there sometime within the next year. I’m thankful for the challenge to expand my knowledge in areas that are weak. The Lord always continually challenges us to grow and I felt that my appreciation of art has grown.

The Lord is a creative God. I am thankful for this activity that slowed me down to appreciate the creativity God has gifted people with. You can see His creativity in the beauty of the temples that He designed, the sunsets and sunrises, the beauty in a field of flowers. May this activity remind me to slow down and see His creativity!

A Cord of Three Strands

Mom & Dad when they were dating (one of my Mom’s favorite pictures).

Lauren was kind enough to give me my challenge for this month. “#122 Scrapbook/journal.” I decided to create the photo book that I owe my parents.

My parents have been married for 45 years. Obviously, we weren’t able to have a large celebration, but we were able to have a great time with immediate family celebrating all that my parents have built.

They met in college and have been together ever since. While they have been married 45 years, they’ve been together for 48. They actually met my mom’s first weekend of college (only after my grandfather told her not to get serious with anyone right away, ha)! They dated throughout college and got married a month after my mom finished her last semester of college.

Last November, family and friends sent letters and notes celebrating Mom and Dad’s anniversary. We, as a family, were able to sit around and read through the notes. Some were from childhood friends who were in their wedding, others were from family who don’t live close. Several sent photos and one dear family friend still had the wedding invitation and program. I’ve scanned all these notes and cards and put them into a photo book. It was a joy to see how much my parents are loved!

As I was working on their photo book, I was reminded of Ecclesiastes 4:12b, “A threefold cord is not quickly broken.” My parents have sought to have the Lord be the center of their relationship. They’ll be the first to tell you that the Lord’s grace and direction has gotten them to this 45th year of marriage.

It is an honor to have them as my mom and dad! I hope someday to have a marriage that I can give to the Lord the way my parents have!

Time Capsule

My March adventure came from one of my brothers and his family, “Make a time capsule and bury it in Mom & Dad’s backyard.” I wasn’t sure how I wanted to execute this adventure. What should I put in the capsule? How long until I open it again? What container should I put it in? Can I even bury it in my parents’ backyard?

I started thinking about the purpose of a time capsule and it reminded me of Stones of Remembrance. I’ve written a blog or two about this in the past (https://adventuresofasinglepretzel.wordpress.com/stones-of-remembrance). I love the meaning behind Stones of Remembrance: thus far has the Lord brought us. That’s when it dawned on me that time capsules are just a modern version of Stones of Remembrance.

With this realization, I had a better grasp on a time capsule but was still struggling with what to put into one. I talked with some of my nieces and nephews and they had great ideas. I also realized that this blog (going back over six years) and my many journals (going all the way back to the ’90s) are my own versions of time capsules.

I decided to split this month’s adventure into a few different phases.

Phase 1 – Ask my nieces and nephews to contribute to the time capsule. They were all excited to participate. They told me the different things they wanted to include. Some ideas were changed over time, but I’m excited to do this adventure with them.

Phase 2 – Read through my past blogs and journals and remember what the Lord has done in my life. Considering that my blog has more than 60 entries, and I’ve been keeping a journal for the better part of 20 years, there was a lot to review. However, I decided to focus mainly on my journals as I hadn’t read them recently. To narrow down the time frame, I decided to find each year’s date closest to the current date. It always surprises me the things that I’ve forgotten! It was bittersweet reading through the entries of when my granddad (Gramps) passed away nine years ago. Such grief in those entries, but the Lord tenderly carried me through.

Phase 3 – Write a letter to myself describing where the Lord currently has me, so that I can read it in 7-8 years when we open the capsule again. I actually really enjoyed this! I didn’t want it to be cliche in my letter. I wanted to be honest about where I am: the hopes, the dreams, the disappointments, and what I feel the Lord is saying and doing in my life. I hope that when I read it I can remember the way the Lord has loved me!

Phase 4 – Find a cute container to hold all these items and find a spot to keep it safe. I found a fake decorative box (see above picture) at my house and thought this would be the perfect time capsule! It should be able to hold all of the fun stuff from my family. And rather than burying it, I can keep it next to my jar of monthly adventures on my shelf.

I also found it interesting that my adventure for March was to focus on remembering as Easter falls the first weekend in April. Easter weekend is filled with remembrance of all the Lord has done for us. May we never forget to take the time to remember how the Lord has helped us!

He [Samuel] named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.”

1 Samuel 7:12b

Psalm 118

https://real-leaders.com/grow-storms-life/

This school year has had very, very odd weather. In the fall semester, we had hurricane strength winds hit us. For some this might not be odd, but I live in a land-locked state. I’m roughly 440 miles from the closest beach, so hurricane strength winds are not a normal thing.

February 14th brought two storms that have been fondly named the Snowpocalypse of 2021. Not odd for northern states, but I live in the south. We normally get a dusting at least once a year, but these two storms in one week dumped 15 inches on us. I actually got snowed in for an entire week at my parents’ home (an hour away from my house). Thankfully, we didn’t lose power and I was able to work remotely. I’m even more grateful that my 90 year old house didn’t spring any leaks!

Then last Sunday we had a tornado warning. No watch, just a warning out of nowhere. As I grabbed my phone and started notifying staff to spread the word to students, I started trying to figure out where I would go. Tornadoes aren’t anything new. I’ve lived here long enough to know where tornadoes typically hit and the best way to take cover. My mom suggested my crawl space, ha! 🙂 I have a closet under my stairs that is in the very center of my house. I grabbed supplies and hunkered down for about 30 minutes. Rotation was seen, but never actually touched down.

After I came out of the stairway closet, and I put my house back together from my frenzied grabbing of items, I started thinking about Psalm 118. Specifically, verse 8 and 9, “It is better to take refuge in the Lord then to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.” Taking refuge strikes me as a physical action. I had to take refuge in the closet because of the tornado warning. I couldn’t just think about getting into the closet, I physically had to place myself there.

In some situations, I don’t have a problem taking refuge as in the tornado example above. Other situations are harder for me. One of those situations surrounded my adventure for this month. I pulled #4, “Write your own song of worship to the Lord.” When I pulled this out at the beginning of the month, it struck fear in my heart. Nothing felt comfortable! I enjoy writing, but poetry is not a language my brain understands. As I sat about trying to figure out how to write a song of worship, I tried to focus on Psalm 118 and what the author was trying to convey.

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever…Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free.

Psalm 118:1, 5

These two verses conveyed what the Psalmist knew of the Lord. Hmmmmm, maybe I could do this for my song of worship. Often times the chaos of my life overwhelms me. Just like the chaos of all the weather has overwhelmed me at points this year. So I decided to try and focus on what I know of the Lord and how He is my refuge.

  • He is steadfast, even when I am not.
  • He is loving, even when I can’t feel it.
  • He is trustworthy, even when I am fearful.
  • He is security, even when I am uncertain.
  • He pursues, even when I hide.
  • He is sabbath, even when I am busy.
  • He is eternal, I am finite.

May the Lord be your refuge today.

Snail Mail Adventure

My first adventure of the year, number 3, on January 9. The challenge came from a sweet friend and co-worker, Abi. Number 3 encouraged me to “Send an anonymous letter to an acquaintance telling them someway that they have made an impact in my life.” I prayed about it for a week and decided to write a childhood friend who I haven’t seen in a while.

I wrote the letter on January 16 and dropped it into the mail the following Monday. I decided to not make it anonymous as anything coming out of Arkansas was going to be a big clue. 🙂 I decided to own it completely and be as encouraging and uplifting as I could be.

I love snail mail so this was a fun adventure for me! Plus, it brought up sweet memories of junior high and high school with my friend. 🙂 We met in 7th or 8th grade and made it through our teenage years together. She’s a precious wife and mom now and I have been blessed to call her my friend for the past 24 years. We haven’t lived in the same state for years, but I know that we’d pick right back up where we left off!

Scripture says a lot about building each other up. I think that’s why this adventure brought me so much joy! My spring semester is always crazy with everything student housing. This goal forced me to slow down and focus on building up a sister-in-Christ. “Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11. “So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.” Romans 14:19. “But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today,’ so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” Hebrews 3:13.

Last weekend when I was home, my parents received a similar note from someone in their church. Because of my Dad’s health, they haven’t been able to worship in person for a while. A fellow member took time out of their day to write my parents and introduce themselves. This brought my parents so much joy and reminded me of my adventure. It made me wonder how many people in my own congregation haven’t been able to come to church for similar reasons. The Lord stirred my heart to continue my number 3 adventure but with a slightly different twist. I was given a list of women (from a friend at church), a mixture of ladies I know and have never met. The first letter was written this weekend.

May I always find the time to build up the Body of Christ. Who will you encourage and build upthis week?

Monthly Adventures

DISCLAIMER: There is a lot going on in the world right now. Lots to pray over. I’ve learned over the years that often times on-line is not the place to have those conversations. I would be talking at you rather then having a conversation. Thus, I am choosing to use this blog to focus on other things. If you’d like to talk with me about anything that is currently occurring (or anything else that you’d rather talk about), feel free to comment and we’ll set up a time to chat!

BLOG POST: I sat last week planning out my goals for 2021. I did this last year and had great success at getting things accomplished. As I was planning, an idea started to develop.

I started realizing that it’s easy for me to stay in my happy little comfort bubble. I go to work, I come home, I take care of my house, I go to bed to rest before doing it all again.

To combat this, I brainstormed some ways to push myself. I reached out to several friends and family members to share what they enjoy doing, what gives them life, or allows them to rest. Have I told you how amazing my family and friends are?!? I thought I’d be lucky to get maybe 12-24 good ideas. I just finished typing up all the ideas and I have 150 ideas!

I printed them off and put them into a jar (see above picture). I’m going to mix them all up and then pull one out at the beginning of every month. As long as it’s not seasonal, I’ll have to complete what I pull out. I have the entire month to complete the adventure.

Some of the ideas are outdoor adventures. Others are service oriented. Others are community based. Others are restorative or restful. I’m excited and a little nervous. I’m hoping to do some documentation of each adventure to share with those who suggested it. I’m also hoping that the Lord will use each of these adventures to grow me this year. I’m also hoping to share how the Lord shows up in each of these “adventures.”

May your 2021 be full of His presence and the growth that He desires for you!