Thursday, July 31, 2014

A Hidden Gem-Buttermilk Falls

A friend told me about this beautiful gem right around the corner from me in Mendham, NJ called Buttermilk Falls. I wanted somewhere that Lucy could swim, and by golly, we found it! An easy hike, a somewhat secluded pool with a small waterfall. I had no idea what to expect, but here are some pictures I took along the way.



Here's the Seeing Eye "reject" heading down the wrong path...she wasn't rejected for her lack of sense of direction (it was for excitability). Funny though, she was only following her instincts. There was a great little pond down that path. Thank you, Lucy!

Lucy is not a great retriever. Oh, sure...she gets the ball, but she doesn't always bring it back. She is beginning to figure out that if she doesn't bring it back, it won't get thrown again. I can't go in the water to get it.  Thank you, Lucy!


The "shoreline" was quite muddy. I looked around for a stick to try to "grab" the ball out of the water. I found this...a stick with a hook on the end!

A little farther down the path, I came across this creepy dwelling. I stopped long enough to take the picture, then continued before some mountain man with a beard down to his knees came running after me, yelling at me to "get off my property!" What can I say...I'm a writer...I have an active imagination.

We continued on our way, Lucy off-leash since there was no one around. Suddenly she perked up and started running. Oh no, I thought, I hope it's not a bear or some other wild animal. No, it was a new friend! 
Lucy and Stitch looking at the ball in the water. Neither one was smart enough to figure out how to get it. Jen, Stitch's mom had to retrieve it for us!

After Lucy and Stitch played for awhile, we continued to the falls. I admit, I had to laugh when I saw how big the "falls" were. But it sure was beautiful! A hidden gem. A pool for Lucy to swim in! I found a nice rock to sit on to watch Lucy play, but she decided to come join me after she took a nice, cool dip. She stood right behind me...and shook! Thank you, Lucy! So I threw the ball in to get her away from me. She actually brought it back. And stood right over my legs, soaking my jeans. Thank you, Lucy!
Since this was not a loop, and I get bored with returning on the same trail I already went down, I decided to take the white trail back. Except that I never saw a white trail on my way down. The white trail ended up running sort of parallel to the blue trail, the one I took down to the falls, but on the other side of the water. After awhile, I started to wonder if I was truly on the right path. According to my gps, I was, indeed walking parallel, but not as close as I thought. 

Then I heard cars. Oh good, I thought! I'm back. I came out on a road, but it wasn't where my car was parked. And I looked across the street and there was a sign that said I was in Randolph. Really? How did that happen? I figured I just needed to walk up the street and my car would be there, but which way? I was a little disoriented. So I asked some guy mowing a lawn which way was Mendham. He told me, but I have to wonder if he thought I was an Alzheimer's patient gone astray.

All in all, it was a great day. Great hike, but if you go, don't venture off onto unknown paths. The maps don't list a white trail at all. Stick to the trail on the map and you'll be fine. I highly recommend this place, as it's an easy hike, and it's really not that far to the falls. Great place to cool off and rest!
ENJOY!
 (trying to get the hang of this "selfie" thing)

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary


Maps say that the trails are of "moderate" difficulty...if you're not a hiker at all, then maybe they are. I would call them easy.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Importance of Rest Along the Way

Our dog, Lucy loves to hike with us. However, she requires frequent stopping to drink. And she doesn't do well in extreme heat. 

Last weekend we took her hiking with us and she seemed to be doing fine...for the first 3 or 4 miles. But as the day wore on and it became more humid, Lucy's pulling stopped. She even dropped back behind me instead of running out in front. She was clearly tired. So we stopped. 

The problem was that we didn't really want to stop. For some reason, it really hit us this time. We were both very tired, our feet hurt, it was hot and we were starting to get hungry. We hadn't anticipated the almost 6 mile hike. As usual, we were a bit off on our calculations thinking it would be a 3-4 mile easy hike, and for once, didn't bring food. We didn't want to stop; we just wanted to get back. 

But it was important that we maintained our responsible dog owner status, so we stopped. It took Lucy awhile to calm down to the point where she would actually lie down. But you can see that she finally did. 

Rather than enjoy the time of rest ourselves, I think Brian and I both felt somewhat antsy. We just wanted to get back and go find a place to eat. So after about 5 minutes, we pressed on. But I noticed that Lucy was walking with her head down, and seemed to be struggling. We needed to take a serious break. We came upon a huge rock covered in shade. Perfect. And sweet Lucy plopped right down. She wasn't so much thirsty as she just needed to take a rest. And so did we. We just didn't realize the importance of taking a break.

We often do that in life, don't we? Whether it's our spiritual journey or just life in general, we tend to race through it, attempting to get to the next goal, or the next day or the next meeting. We don't take the time to rest. Oh, we rest. For five minutes. But we can't seem to shut our minds off. We can't shut our electronic devices off. We can't shut the world out. We jump back up before we're truly ready to continue, thinking we're refreshed, only to find ourselves trudging through the day, sluggish and struggling.


Sometimes we need to take some time off. To take a serious break. To find a nice big, shady, cool rock to rest on. And then, we can rest on the Rock. He tells us, Come to me, all you who are struggling hard and carrying heavy loads and I will give you rest (Matt 11:28). The Old Testament used a rock to identify with God to symbolize that the people could rely on Him for absolute protection and safety. My God is my rock in whom I take refuge; my shield and the horn of my salvation. He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior (2 Sam 22:3). Sometimes, the greatest weapon against a spiritual, emotional or psychological attack is simply to rest.

As we all know, even God rested. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy because on it he rested from all the work of creating he had done (Gen 2:3).  I love that..."all the work of creating he had done."

And we think we have a lot going on? 

Even God rests. And we're not even close to being like God. So we should rest. We should take a much needed break and rest on the cool, shady rock...our protection and safety. 

After we rested for awhile, Lucy was refreshed and so were we. We finished the hike with much more enjoyment than if we had pressed on without resting. If you rest, you will be refreshed. Simple, right? Remember that next time you're rushing through life. Rest. Refresh. Rejoice!

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary

PS---On the way home, we discovered a wonderful little eatery (with outdoor seating so Lucy could join us...where we all rested) in Hackettstown called Stella G's. I highly recommend it. Great and unique food. Not the usual sandwiches. Open for breakfast and lunch only I believe.

Songs of the Day
I Will Rest in You (Jaci Velasquez)
The Lord is My Rock (Elevation Worship)


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Jump, Jenny...Jump!

New Jersey Folklore tells the tale of Jenny, a young girl in colonial times, who was out picking berries or something with her father. A group of hostile Indians...we call them Native Americans now, but back then, since they were hostile, they were called Indians...came upon them. Jenny's father, wanting Jenny's chastity to remain intact, called to her to jump across a chasm to another, safer rock ledge. You can guess what happened next...that's right, she missed. Way to go, Dad. Her chastity remained intact but the rest of her didn't. She lost her life. Not quite an even trade-off. 

There is now a state forest named after Jenny. It's called, appropriately, Jenny Jump State Forest. Brian and I hiked there this weekend. We never did see the rock Jenny jumped from or to...I guess they keep that hidden so no contemporary dads get the same idea. 

Well, as usual, we got a rough start. No bears, ticks or hostile Indi...Native Americans. It's the book---the darned book again! Trails constantly change and because of that, I have discovered, trail books are often unreliable. I'm throwing out the book. It didn't line up with the trail map we got in the office. In fact, for some reason, there didn't seem to be any loops (as the book claimed there were). Just a few trails that came to an abrupt end. We ended up taking a few of those and turning around and coming back on the same trail. Not ideal, but we made it work.

The most recently developed trail, the Blue Trail, is one long trail which we picked up halfway through and decided, heck, let's just go to the end---to Ghost Lake. We guestimated it to be about a mile and a half. At least the dog will get to swim. Ha! Haven't I learned anything yet? Ghost Lake was a mass of lily pads-very pretty, but no shore for Lucy to wade in from, and I wasn't about to let her just jump in. The last jumper didn't fare too well. Jenny's ghost might decide to grab Lucy from under the maze of lily pad roots. So poor Lucy, panting and pulling, only got to look at the water. That would be like me going into a chocolate shop and not being able to eat any.
Brian and Lucy in the "middle" of Ghost Lake

The hike to Ghost Lake was very quiet, but coming back we encountered people all along the trail. You see, Jenny Jump is also a place to camp. And a humongous group of campers--like 100, interspersed along the trail--decided to "walk" down to the lake. They had no idea of the rocks and scrambles they'd encounter along the way. I guess they thought it was just a "walk in the woods." One group even brought their boom box (complete with very loud music). Way to defile the forest, city people.

Suddenly, there were two young men behind us, which was odd, given the fact that everyone was going the opposite way, and we were a good half mile back from the lake. I don't know if they walked very fast, or if they turned around, but the next thing I knew, all these people were turning around. I heard one of these guys tell a group coming down, "Don't waste your time. It's not worth it."

Clearly, these were not hikers for the sake of hiking. Of course it's worth it! Reaching our destination is always worth it. But if you're looking for a place to swim, I guess it's not. All those people---I couldn't get out of there quick enough. I have become a trail snob.

My lesson? Not everyone shares my passion, whether it's my walk on the trail, my walk in life, or my walk with Jesus. Some will say it's not worth it. Some will say I'm wasting my time. Some will expect more and be disappointed when they get to their destination and it's not what they expected. And then they'll tell the others along the way not to waste their time, simply because of their own disappointment.

Brian and I found that particular trail to be somewhat challenging. Others, not expecting the
challenge, may have found it to be a hindrance, a nuisance, an obstacle that wasn't worth wasting their time attempting to overcome. They wanted easy. They wanted short. They wanted useful. And because they encountered obstacles that they didn't expect, they wanted out.
The rock that Jenny jumped from (??)


We cannot ever let anyone else decide what is "worth it." We cannot allow another to decide if we are "wasting" our time or using it wisely. Your journey is not my journey. It's personal. The only journey that I will tell you is worth it, is discovering Jesus and walking with Him. THAT journey is one that you will not regret. 

You know, that whole experience is not all that much unlike the folk tale...the tale of poor Jenny's demise. She listened to her father and died. Those young men along the trail who told everyone to turn around because it wasn't worth it? They may as well have said, "Jump, Jenny...JUMP!"

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary

PS: when I did a search for images, I found that rock...It's apparently the rock Jenny jumped from and we did actually walk right by it...sort of a let down...I expected it to be much bigger...

Song of the Day
Worth It All (Rita Springer)
Jenny Jump State Forest Info link

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Best Support

I recently read a line in a book where one character said to another: Sometimes the best support is a retreat. 
I remember when my children were younger and living at home, and one of them (who shall remain nameless) would run off and slam her door when she was angry. I couldn't stand for anyone to be angry at me, even if it was my own child, and I wanted to make it better. So I'd follow. And knock on the door. And through tears of anger or hurt, I'd hear, "GO AWAAAAAAY!" I didn't want to go away. I wanted to make it better. But this particular child needed to be left alone in order for it to be made better. Sometimes the best support is a retreat.

Whether it is anger, anxiety or addiction...sometimes the best support is a retreat.

Sometimes we just have to let it go. Let that person go. Let our ideas go of helping/curing/saving that person out of their personal issues. They may not have slammed the door in our face, but the silent turning away from us can be just as loud, if not louder. A silent scream:  GO AWAAAAAAY!

Yes, that hurts to be told that. But it's important for us to remember that it's really not about us. It's about the other person. That person is hurting, angry, anxious...whatever. If it's an addiction, there are deeper issues. We can't make the other person's issue our own. In order to retreat, we must release. 

There's a trustworthy saying in the "rooms" of Al-Anon, and, I guess, AA..."Let Go and Let God." It is only when we truly let go, release and retreat that God can truly work. We are too often a hindrance. And we can't retreat by holding on. We can only retreat after we release.

Who do you need to release today? Who do you need to show support to by retreating? Don't think of it as giving up. Think of it as giving it to God.

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary

Song of the Day
When I Let Go (Sierra)

Friday, July 25, 2014

On Fishing and Golf...I Don't Get It.

There are a few things in life that I just don't get. Fishing is one. Golf is another.

Okay, maybe it's because I have a hard time sitting still. And being patient. Maybe it's because I like to see quick results. Or just results. And sometimes fishing yields no results...no fish. The one time I sort of fished was when my kids were little and I watched them...and got a fish hook, complete with a worm on it, stuck in the back of my knee when my son cast off from an adjacent dock and hooked me (He couldn't do that again if he tried!). If I had to sit or stand or wade, or whatever it is they do, and hold a fishing pole and just wait for a fish to come along and bite, I'd have to bring a backpack full of alternative things to do. Too much relaxing. Too much doing nothing but waiting. Isn't there a way to multi-task while you're fishing?

And golf? The one time I tried to get serious about that I went to the golfing range and bought a bucket of balls and didn't know I had to put the bucket where the balls come out. I figured the bucket would come out before the balls. Nope. 


Okay, I know there is a science behind the sport. Has anyone done a scientific study on why the average person cannot hit a ball that is not moving? For a competitive person, that's the ultimate embarrassment. And once you do hit it, you have to chase it because it generally doesn't go in the direction you were aiming for...also frustrating for a competitive person. (Did I mention that I'm a competitive person?) And it's the only sport that you strive to attain a lower score than your opponents.

Yet the bible is full of fishing references. Jesus told Simon (aka Peter) and his brother Andrew,   Come, follow me. I will make you fishers of men. And they did! They left their nets "at once" (Matt 4:19-20). We've all heard the story of how Jesus multiplied the fishes and the loaves. I suppose someone had to catch those first two fish. The kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish (Matt 13:47). Heck, there's even an entry into the holy city called the Fish Gate.

So I guess God likes fishing, huh? He attempts to teach us through fishing and fish. And I don't have to expound on those things...they're pretty obvious,and if they're not, you can delve into that yourself. But golf? I see no biblical references on golf. I don't think the Israelites played too many games out in that big sand trap called The Wilderness. They took life very seriously back then. And Jonah would probably have been hard pressed to find his ball in the belly of the big fish (see?...again the fish!) I'm willing to bet that Moses would part the Red Sea once more just to find his ball. So what's the point of golf? 

I don't know. Remember...I don't get it? So I can't explain it.

So why the long rant on sports I don't like? Well, because it's my blog and I can. But more importantly, because there are things in this life that we don't "get." Things we don't necessarily understand the rage over, or agree with. Just go on Facebook and read the posts of your "friends." There are probably lots of different opinions, many of which don't line up with yours.

I don't "get" golf or fishing. Men don't "get" a woman's fascination with shopping or shoes. Women don't "get" how a man can walk by the garbage can 50 times and not notice that it's overflowing---or smelling. 

There will always be things that we don't "get". That's okay, because we don't have to figure everything out. It's okay for us not to "get" everything. We don't even have to try to figure God out. Because we never will. How can simply believing something with our heads stir our hearts, deliver us from bondage and change our lives? I don't know. I don't get it. But I don't have to. I simply believe.

What do you believe? Jesus told Thomas (the Doubter) Because you have seen, you believe. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed (John 20:29).

I believe in fishing and in golf. But I will never get why people like either one. But that's okay. I don't have to.

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary

Fishers of Men (Newsboys)

...and just because it's a beautiful song, beautifully sung...
I Believe (Katherine Jenkins & Andrea Boccelli)

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Time and Money

The two things we never seem to have enough of---time and money.

The ironic thing is that when we do get more of it, it's still not enough. Or we just don't notice because we always have more bills to pay and more obligations that steal our time.

How many of us have said, "When my ___________ debt is paid off, then I will do_________ with my extra money."?

Yeah, that never seems to happen. Somehow, something else fills that spot.

Same thing with time. The restaurants would be flooded with customers if we all kept those lunch appointments we say we're going to have when we run into people. "Let's have lunch sometime!" Yes, let's do...sometime.

We all long for that "extra" time and "extra" money. Who really has extra? Time? We all have the same 24 hours.  And money? Let's not even talk about how much it costs today to use your phone...some of us remember when we got a phone, plugged it into the wall and it stayed there...until it died. And they never died.

Bing dictionary defines "extra" as more than usual; added to or over and above the usual, original or necessary amount; more and better. Did you see that word...necessary? It mean essential, absolutely needed. If we sat down and took an inventory of our time and money, how much of it would really be "essential, absolutely needed?" Would it really be more and better?

The other day I got the greatest compliment from a friend. I invited a bunch of people to see a free play in the park that another friend was in. We had a great time, the show was fantastic, and it was free! He told me, "You should give lessons to people on how to live....they'd enjoy their time more." I told him, "I do. On my blog!"

How much of our time is wasted on what we think we need to do? How much of our money is wasted on what we think we need? 

What is absolutely essential in your life? What can you live without? I've personally given up some things I really enjoyed doing simply because they took up too much of my time. Frankly, I was tired of the treadmill. I actually enjoy having less obligations and more free time. 

Those vacant spaces in your calendar? Let them be. Empty calendar space can turn into spontaneous gatherings with friends that can be a blessing to all. 

Budget your money. Budget your time. But remember to hold loosely to both. You might just enjoy life a lot more.

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary


Friday, July 18, 2014

Alternative Blessings

Yesterday I shared about how much I love contests. I recently entered a writing contest. If I won, I would receive a publishing package worth almost $10,000! I submitted my story on the deadline day, and for the next two days I waited for that email or phone call that would tell me I was the Grand Prize Winner! After all, my story was good

Well, as you might imagine, I didn't win. I was a little disappointed, but not really. While I'd hoped I'd win, I also knew that thousands of people entered this contest, and the chances of winning were pretty slim. Of course, someone has to win, but I was more prepared not to win than I was to actually win. I don't have a book together yet anyway. It's not the right time.

Meanwhile, I got a call from the library...I had won a $25 gift certificate to a local restaurant as part of the "adult summer reading program" (I'm such a geek). I was a random winner, but a winner nonetheless! And I wasn't expecting it!

After I picked up my gift certificate, I went to the supermarket where somehow I received a free case of soda. I insisted that I'd been charged incorrectly and pointed it out on my receipt to the cashier, but she was equally insistent that it was right. Another unexpected blessing.

A double blessing...

Isaiah 61 talks of how the Lord will rebuild, restore and renew...and so they will receive a double portion in their land, and everlasting joy will be theirs (Is 61:7). Isaiah was talking about actual land here---and the promises are to the Jews who were returned out of captivity, but there is a spiritual connotation to this as well. When we return to God from our spiritual captivity, He rebuilds, restores and renews our lives.

Not only does He bless us, but he gives us, as my "friend" Joyce Meyer likes to say, "Double for our trouble."

I don't think I did anything special to deserve these unexpected blessings. I think that God just wanted to bless me to remind me that He loves me and He always, always, ALWAYS takes care of me and does what's best for me. It wasn't my time to win that contest. Besides, it was a Christian writer's contest and I'm sure everyone was praying to win. How does God decide?

It's all in our attitude. Sometimes we have to look for the blessing. It might be something tangible, like an unexpected gift certificate or a free case of soda; but sometimes it's the smile of a baby or the laughter of a child. A cool, sunny July morning instead of one so humid, it's like walking through gravy. An ocean breeze. Flowers. A job. Feet that allow us to move. Legs that swing out of bed to stand on those feet. Breath. Life. Freedom. Food. A home.

The blessings abound. They're all around us. Sometimes we just have to look for them instead of giving in to our disappointments. It's all in our attitude.

Go out today and find some "alternative blessings." And when you do, share them with others. Be a blessing to someone else today.

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary


Song of the Day
Blessings (Laura Story)



Thursday, July 17, 2014

No Contest

I love contests. I guess it's because I have a competitive nature. I admit, I do love to win. I saw a sign in the library for a photo contest, and without reading any further, I thought, "Oh, I'll enter that!" Then I saw the specifics...something about the town of Chester in the spring. Well, I have no pictures of that, so I can't enter. But what made me think any of the pictures I take (on my phone, I might add) would be worthy of winning or even good enough to enter? I'm not a photography nut. I don't have a fancy camera. Well, I actually do, but I don't understand enough about aperture and exposure and all that. I just use my phone. You've seen some of my pictures on this blog. They're ordinary. What makes me think I'm extraordinary?

You know what's cool? God thinks that I'm extraordinary. And He thinks that you are too. Because He made us to be that way. And you know what else is cool? That even though I have a competitive nature, I don't ever feel like I have to compete with anyone else for God's love. Because God's love is very different from the love we give to and receive from others...human love...conditional love.

We humans attach conditions and expectations to our love...If/then love. If you love me, then you would_____________. Some of those requests are reasonable; many are not,especially if we're coming from a place of distrust or insecurity from past hurts or abuse.

A child learns love from his/her parents; sadly, too many people enter into parenthood with open love wounds, and don't really know how to love unconditionally. How do you love unconditionally when you've never been loved unconditionally? 

But God does that! He loves us without reservation. Without conditions. Without expectations. He gives us a secure love. A loyal love. A strong love. An everlasting love. Because He IS love (1 John 4:8). There is more than enough of God's love to go around. It's like a spring that just keeps flowing with fresh water and never runs dry. So there's never a reason to feel envious or jealous of someone else's "love affair" with God.

I have loved you with an everlasting love. I have drawn you with unfailing kindness (Jer 31:3)

The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms (Deut 33:27)

Nothing I do will cause Him to love me less. And nothing I do will cause Him to love me more. His love abounds, even when I don't deserve it. There is no contest. God wins---hands down!

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary

Song of the Day
The Love of God (Mercy Me)
I Have Loved You With an Everlasting Love (Kent Henry)

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Ticking the Easy Way Out.

I think it may be time to take a break from hiking. This past weekend's hike didn't pan out so well. We decided to take a break from the mountainous, rocky (bear) region of New Jersey and head south to Allaire State Park in Monmouth County. According to the trail book, it was a 4.5 hike on sandy trails. Sounded like a nice break. 


Well, heading south on a Saturday in July is kind of what everyone in North Jersey has in mind. The traffic just to get on the Garden State Parkway was stopped. So, Bright Ideas Mary decided to take the exit just before and backtrack to the Turnpike. After all, the book said you could get there from the Turnpike. Well, guess what? Traffic was WORSE on the Turnpike. We sat in traffic up until the exit, which was probably at least 10 miles.

It was frustrating, and I turned black and blue from beating myself up over and over for not staying the course. But there was nothing we could do. It was really quite interesting and amusing to watch people driving in the shoulder, weaving in and out of lanes and trying to cross over to the other section of Turnpike where they obviously thought there was less traffic---even though there wasn't and even though the signs above their idling cars said, "For official use only." Turns out everyone wants the Easy Way Out. And certain laws apparently don't apply during times of personal crises.

We finally made it to the park, and followed the instructions in the book, unlike last week, where we relied on a certain person's memory, which did not coincide with the trail blazes. We discovered a lush forest of grass and shade with a nice, flat sandy path. No bears. The tradeoff? Ticks.

Hundreds of them. No, probably thousands of them, since we picked off hundreds. That tall grass? Not so great. About a half hour into the hike, we stopped because Brian found a tick on his leg. Then he found some more. I looked and saw about 10 ticks on my legs and socks. A mixture of wood ticks and black-legged ticks (aka deer ticks). Then we looked at Lucy and she was covered with them. Good thing she'd just been groomed the day before-her coat wasn't as thick and they were easy to find. 

Should we turn back or go on? was the question. Well, it took us over two hours to get here and it should only have taken an hour. We've already gone about a mile. Let's just keep going and pick off ticks. 

The book was wrong. The trail was only about 2.5 miles and part of it was paved. Normally, I prefer a wooded path, but at that point, I was actually glad to be out of the woods!

What is it with these obstacles? Last week it was a bear---let's turn back---no let's keep going. Then it was the road closures---let's keep going, no, let's turn back. This week it was ticks---let's turn back---no, let's keep going. Turning back would be the Easy Way Out. Yes, the ticks were disgusting, but we sprayed DEET on us, which would either kill them or keep them off of us. We would just have to be diligent and pick them off of Lucy, who did have tick treatment on her. Disgusting, yes. Deterrent? No.

Just like the road blocks the other day----how often do we hit obstacles and we try to find the Easy Way Out? Sometimes, like with road blocks, we are forced to go back. When things get in our way, we are inconvenienced and we don't like to wait or add time to our journey because of a detour.

But sometimes, like this week and last week---we hit obstacles that give us a choice to either press on or go back. Going back is the Easy Way Out. But Going Back also seems like Giving Up. We usually learn more by Pressing On. 

So, what did I learn from Pressing On and not taking The Easy Way Out? That there were a heck of a lot more ticks on the path. That people who say ticks don't jump are liars. Ticks jump. I saw them. They jumped on, they jumped off. Ick!

But I also learned that I have more endurance than I thought. I have the ability to press on even when I don't want to. And I can even enjoy myself along the way. And we can't let fear make us turn back (I sound like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz...and all I kept saying was "I want to go home. And they sent me home...oh there's no place like home!") 

Pressing On through the fear makes us an overcomer! So go out, press on, be an overcomer! 

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary

PS-I was going to include a picture of a tick, but when I googled tick images they were so gross I couldn't stand it. What I thought was infestation is nothing compared to some of the images I saw...ew, ew, ew!

Video of the Day
There's No Place Like Home (Wizard of Oz ending)
Allaire State Park Link


Monday, July 14, 2014

No Favorites

Lucy (by the chair)
 and Chinook (in foreground)
The other day, I had two dogs in the office with me: Chinook, my son's dog, who comes to the office several times a week, and my dog, Lucy. They were going to the groomer, so Lucy got to come to work with Mom.  

Chinook tends to follow me around and sit right where I end up, usually right smack up against the chair. But Lucy doesn't seem to like that Chinook tries to get so close to me because I'm her mom, not his. So there was this surreptitious jockeying for position all day. Neither dog is aggressive (been there/done that/Psycho Dog now living elsewhere), so it was very subtle. But I noticed.

There was a very pushy mother in the bible, the mother of the sons of Zebedee (she may have been pushy, but she apparently didn't rank high enough to have a name--but I believe her name was Salome). She came to Jesus and asked if He would give her two sons the honor of sitting on either side of Him when He ruled His kingdom.  He asked them if they were prepared to suffer as He was about to suffer and they said, "Oh, yes, yes, yes!" and then He told them that it was not his place to give that honor, but His Father's. Only God could choose who would sit at those places.

Now, these "sons of Zebedee" were actually James and John, disciples of Jesus. Their mother wanted them to be the favorites and Jesus said no. It's not for me to decide.

Then the other 10 disciples got mad, and with good reason. No one likes to be in a group where favoritism abounds. But even after he said no, they still became indignant. And there was, of course, a lesson from Jesus....You want to be like me? Well, guess what? I came to give my life for you. Are you prepared to do that for your brothers? I didn't come to be served, but to serve. Are you willing to do that? (Matt 20:20-28 paraphrased). 

He was so gracious about it all. I probably would have lost it and yelled, "Everyone just stop it! You guys...did you not hear what I just said? Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn Him to death, and will hand Him over to the Gentiles to mock and scourge and crucify Him, and on the third day He will be raised up (Matt 20:18-19).  Hello??? That's Me I'm talking about here! You're fighting over position, and I'm about to be killed! Thanks for having my back. Just throw me under the chariot!"

Instead, He thought about what they could learn from this and taught them a lesson in humility.


While we all would do well to remember that whoever wishes to be first shall be your slave, we would do equally well to remember that there is no favoritism in God's kingdom. God doesn't love someone who you may think is more "spiritual" than you more than He loves you. He doesn't have a caste system. Contrary to popular opinion and many religious teachings, you cannot earn your way into His good graces, into heaven. Jesus said it Himself. The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many.

Isn't it wonderful that dogs think we are so wonderful? What Lucy doesn't know is that I am far from Jesus, and I do have favorites. I love Chinook, but Lucy is my dog. I love her best. Just don't tell Chinook.

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary

Song of the Day
I'd Choose You (Sara Bareilles)


Friday, July 11, 2014

Road Closures

One of the main roads I take to work has been closed for about 2 weeks. Apparently, it will be closed for another 2 months. I don't live in a city, where a detour goes around the block. Around the block out here in the suburbs/country takes at least ten minutes and is about 3-5 miles. So a detour, a road closure is a real nuisance.

There were signs alerting drivers of the impending road closures well ahead of time, so I'd planned my alternate route. The first day, all was fine. It was a little out of the way, but I found a decent route. The next day, there was a sign in front of my alternate road, along with a police officer. The sign said, "Road Closed." Huh? I knew this road couldn't be closed too. Why? Turned out that the alternate road was closed because it's sort of a one lane road and it winds and twists. I guess the local police deemed it unsafe as a heavily traveled alternate route, so they just "closed" it to through traffic.
The other day, I decided to see if I could go around that detour on my way home from work. If you look closely at the picture above, you'll see a small opening on the side of the road. The road said it was closed to "thru traffic". That's not the same as actually closing the road. I could pretend I was local traffic. Who would know? I simply drove around the road blocks and went on my way. I felt quite smug. 

Well, there was yet another road block closer to the twisty, turny part, which actually blocked the road completely. I suppose the local police felt it was necessary to do this to deter smug, stubborn idiots like myself who thought that the rules didn't pertain to them. I not only had to turn around, but I had to backtrack practically to where I started out (my place of employment). I was not happy and chose to sprinkle the air around me with profanity, which was also stupid (and not very nice, I might add), because I had no one but myself to blame. 

Look again at the signs. Notice that there is not one, but three signs? I suppose the local police also realize that smug, stubborn, self-righteous idiots like myself may have trouble reading as well. Maybe I didn't like it, but maybe the police did that on purpose (ya think?). Maybe it was more for our protection than our inconvenience.

Why do we think that certain rules don't pertain to us? Come on, I know you do it too. None of us follows all the rules all the time. Oh, I'm sorry, my husband does. He's an exception. Okay, maybe some of you do. But there are probably more of us smug, stubborn, self-righteous, indignant idiots out there. 

How often do we ignore the signs? God often puts roadblocks in our path for our protection. But we get frustrated and see it as inconvenient or unnecessary. We know the roads, and we know what's best for us.That doesn't pertain to me. We tell ourselves that we're "local traffic" and everyone else is "thru traffic." 

But God knows us and understands us more than we know. He knows that we may not pay attention to the first three signs; that we'll find a way around the road closure anyway, so he has to put up another road block to literally block any access. We get angry. We cuss. We not only have to turn around, but sometimes we have to start over. We don't always realize that it's for our protection, not our inconvenience. Sometimes we have to just take the longer way. And we don't like it. Sometimes it takes a road closure for us to realize our smug, stubborn, self-righteous, indignant ways. 

Pay attention to the road signs. Trust me, it's not worth trying to find a way around it, because the local police have already figured out your ways before you even think of it. 

Blessings Along Your Detoured Paths,
Mary



Thursday, July 10, 2014

Let Your Dream Out of the Box!


This sign is directly above the window in my office. I put it there when we moved in, to remind me that my dreams are always within reach. There were two problems. The first was easily remedied. The second, I'm still working on.

The first problem is that when I placed the furniture in the room, I put my desk against the long wall adjacent to the window. I had no chair, so I used a hard kitchen chair. I had a shelf on top of the desk, which held various sundries, things that I didn't really need, but I thought I did. It took up valuable real estate space on my desk. And the sign? It was over my shoulder. I couldn't see it. I was highly uninspired in that room I called my office.

Not too long ago, I stopped and looked into my husband's office. His desk is up against the window. Maybe I should try that, I thought. So I did. I got rid of the shelf and all of the unnecessary items. I moved the desk in front of a double window and got myself a nice chair. 

I even drew an invisible line down the middle of the desk. The right side is the creative "artsy" side and the left side is the boring, but necessary financial side (I wonder if it matches the correct sides of the brain...). Not only do I have more room, but now the sign is directly above me. I need only look up (literally and figuratively) to be inspired and reminded of my dreams. And I get to look out the window instead of at a beige wall!

The second problem that I'm still working on? The "going confidently" part. We all have dreams we desire to pursue. Pursuing them is the key. If we don't pursue our dreams, they remain just that...dreams. The reason most of us don't pursue? Confidence, or lack thereof, and fear...which basically comes from the lack of confidence. We're not qualified. Or good enough. Or smart enough. Or attractive enough. Or whatever enough.

We're afraid we'll fail or be rejected, or mocked and our dream will be lost. And then what would we have to live for? To look forward to? For some of us, it's easier to dream and pretend than to dream and pursue. Facing reality means taking a risk...and accepting the possibility of failing...or succeeding more than we thought possible! If we just pretend the dream, we can keep it in our neat little dream box where we can fantasize about it and make it fit into what we want it to look like. Everyone loves us and we are sought after in that pretend dream...the dream box.

The reality is that once we pursue our dream, it often takes on a different shape than the pretend one we kept in the box. Sometimes it changes, or goes in a different direction; it takes on a life of its own, and we have to follow it! (Hence the saying, Follow your dream...)

As we pursue the dream, we realize that it's hard work. We are not quite sought after, at least not at first. Maybe never. Not everyone will love us or even like us. Some may be jealous of our dream, because we stepped out and they're still afraid to. Some may scoff at our dream, because it's different from theirs. Or the same, and they're still holding on to their pretend dream box. Others may tell us we "can't" do that because they already tried it and it didn't work for them.

Going in the direction of your dream means to follow, not so much the dream, but your
heart, your desire. What makes your heart sing? Follow that, regardless of what anyone else thinks. Don't let anyone squash your dream. Don't let anyone project their stuff onto your dream.Go intentionally, confidently where the dream leads you. Be open to the dream constantly changing. Because once you realize your dream, you'll need to get a new one! It's not in the arrival, but in the journey-that's where the excitement comes from.

I talk a good talk, but I'm right there with you. I'm still working on it...but I'm pursuing it anyway, regardless of the outcome. I get distracted...a lot...but I think the distraction is often an excuse to not "go confidently."

Let's not carry our dream box around. Let's let our dream out of the box to soar to heights unimaginable! Don't be afraid of your dream! Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Maybe our paths will cross along the way!

Blessings Along the Path of Dreams,
Mary

Song of the Day--not great audio quality, but great message nonetheless
Follow Your Dreams (Sheryn Regis)

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Importance of a Trail Map


Our journey begins today on the Old Coal Trail at Wawayanda State Park, where Brian has been several times in the past. Because of this fact, we (translate: he) didn't feel a pressing need for a trail map. I was a little hesitant, because the trail he was familiar with was different from the one in the book which listed this hike. The night before, he told me it was 2 maybe 3 miles, although it had been awhile since he'd been there, and maybe it was a little longer. Okay, that was doable. Not too strenuous, not too long. A trail the dog can do. A nice lake for her to swim in.

I hadn't slept well the night before so I was tired before we set out. Each time I asked Brian about the trail, it seemed to grow longer. We were now up to a half a day...I wasn't sure I was up to a hike that long, since I was tired and we'd already had a late start. I like to have an idea of how long we'll be hiking before we set out, and with only his memory to serve us, I was growing more apprehensive. So, now I was tired, cranky, apprehensive and starting to grow a little annoyed. I didn't want to doubt him; I wanted to have faith in my husband, but as much as he seemed so sure of where we were going, he also admitted it had been many years since he'd been there. I couldn't hold him to it, and trails change all the time.

I have an app on my phone which tracks my distance, time, elevation, speed and even the calories burned. It also has a map, which is a good thing, since we didn't have that all important trail map. It's not a trail map, but it does have landmarks, like roads and lakes and such.

Before we reached mile 1, we encountered a bear. A big one. Okay, maybe more like we spotted a bear. An encounter would require recognition on the parts of both parties involved. He didn't see us...thank God! We silently waited until he went off the trail into the woods, then we continued, making lots of weird and loud noises along the way, in an effort to scare off any of his friends.

So, now I was tired, cranky, apprehensive, annoyed and spooked. We got to the end of the trail, somewhere around mile 2 and Brian insisted that the lake was up the dirt road. What seemed like miles up the road, we discovered that it wasn't. I looked at the map and saw that the lake was somewhere...well, not here. So we turned around and veered off to the right, onto another trail. We finally found the lake but guess what? No access. No beach. And Lucy is not the kind of dog that will just jump in and then figure out how to get out. It was very pretty though, and a good spot to have lunch.

We continued on, but by mile 5ish, we discovered that we were pretty much lost. Not lost lost. Because the trails in here are mostly fire roads, they all intersect at some point, so it's kind of hard to get lost lost. So we were just sort of lost. Not where we wanted or needed to be. Off too far on the right if you looked on my app map. We just needed to go left. By mile 6 my feet started to hurt. By mile 6.8, the bug spray had worn off and I could hear a symphony...or cacophony...of gnats around my head. By mile 7, I had to go to the bathroom...and I don't mean number one. Then my phone fell out of my back pocket while I was...well, you know. At least it fell onto clean leaves. And at least we had toilet paper. And the map app.

Never so happy to see the end! (Where we started)
I just wanted to sit down and cry. But what good would that do? If I stopped, I'd get eaten by bugs and I'd be no closer to the end. I had no choice but to suck it up and continue on. I tried very hard not to whine, though I'm not sure how successful my attempts were. Through a series of wrong turns and a series of right turns, we finally...somewhere around mile 7...got back to the red trail where we'd started. By mile 8, the phone died. I'm guessing the end...or the beginning...was somewhere around mile 9.

I was never so happy to see the parking lot. And to sit down. And to take off my boots. And when I asked Brian what he thought the lesson was, he said, without missing a beat, "Perseverance!"

"Hmmm,"  I said. "I think it's the importance of a trail map!" 

It just goes to show you that two people can have the same experience and see two different lessons. Not every hike will be a great experience. Just like not every day in our lives is a good one. Sometimes we have a bad day. Sometimes nothing goes right. Sometimes we need to just persevere through it all and we'll get through, with or without a trail map or a to-do list; a day in which we felt strengthened through our prayer time in the morning can quickly turn into a day where we feel beaten down by lunchtime.
Lucy was as exhausted as we were!

Sure it's nice to plan it all out---whether it's a hike or your day. To know just how long it will take, how far you'll have to go, what the elevation is, how many calories you'll burn (which, by the way,my app told me I burned 735 calories...that was before the phone died). A good trail map is essential for a hiker. And for our every day lives too. Without one, we feel lost. But sometimes we just have to trust that God will help direct us when we do get lost. Because we're never really lost lost. Just sort of lost. Not quite where we need or want to be. A little too far off left or right. But He promises that When you call to me I will answer you. I will be with you when you are in trouble (Jer 33:3----God's direct line)

I should have thought of that at around mile 4.0. 

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary

Song of the Day
Mighty Rushing Breath of God (Kathi Wilson)

Reference
Hiking the Old Coal Trail at Wawayanda





Tuesday, July 1, 2014

It's Okay to Be You

Overgrown perennial Geranium & Lamb's Ear
Last spring I was really into my garden. Since I also work for a landscaper, I set out to learn all I could about perennials. I've always had perennial gardens, but they never looked like the ones in magazines. They still don't. They probably never will. And that's okay.

I didn't memorize every perennial plant and flower out there (but I tried!). I planted a lot of things that came up again that I don't remember planting. And I don't quite remember what they are. And I planted a few things too close together because it seemed so sparse at the time. There is a reason the directions say, "Plant 12 inches apart." Because when they come up again, they will be huge and every plant will be fighting for valuable space. I learned that I enjoy creating and building the garden more than I do maintaining it.

This year I took a break from gardening (as you can tell from the above picture). Instead, I got all into hiking. I love the woods; just tying my boots, binding my feet up thrills me. I don't love climbing uphill, but I do love being on the trail, in the midst of nature. It draws me closer to my
Creator.

Instead of gardening magazines, I turned to backpacking magazines. In the last month I've read about someone who was attacked by a grizzly bear, another person who was washed over a cliff in a flash flood and a strange woman who hiked the Pacific Crest Trail in a record 60 days---she averaged 45-50 miles a day (that's walking, remember).
Someone I do not aspire to be

I have learned how to survive falling in a 50' crevice, how to avoid getting caught in a watershed while hiking a canyon (the flash flood survivor) and I know the best camping gear to buy. I hate camping, don't do overnights, have no desire to hike a canyon (I prefer the woods) and don't plan on hiking 45-50 miles a day (I'm still trying to figure that one out). I have a bit of vertigo, and while I love the views from the summit, I have no desire to conquer that fear by hiking across a tall mountain with nothing to hold on to or stand at the edge of a cliff looking out at the horizon.  

I guess I'm not a hard-core gardener, and I'm certainly not a hard-core hiker. I'm no expert. I'm no professional. I just like what I like and do what I can do. Anything more would take the enjoyment out of it. Sure, it's always good to push yourself to a higher level, and to learn more. I like learning. But at this point in my life, there's only so much space left in my brain, and I need it for immediate needs; things I'll need to call up readily, like how to print a two sided copy and make it flip over on the short edge and not the long edge. I don't need to have flash flood facts at my fingertips at the landscaping office. 

There may be times when we get intimidated by those who know their bible from front to back. They can call up verses at a moment's notice. When they pray, they sound so eloquent; they don't fumble for words. They know just the right thing to say to the lost, the hurting, the sick, the dying. They seem to "pray without ceasing." They're the ones who get up at 5am and intercede for their family, friends, church, leaders and nation. They may even get speaking engagements and lead bible studies and know the Greek and Hebrew meanings of many words. They've probably traveled to Israel and visited all the holy places. They understand end-times and can even explain it to us.They can also explain salvation in an easy to understand format and in a compassionate manner, and they seem to just ooze kindness. They feed the hungry, clothe the homeless and give to the needy. They always tithe at least 10%, but also support other ministries. 

They're the experts on Christianity, while we feel like the gardener with the overgrown garden, the hiker who won't hike to the summit because of vertigo. We don't do half of those things, and the things we might do, we don't do half as well as those people. 
Mary on the A.T. in
non-regulation hiking attire,
but with very cool gear

But you know what? It's okay.It's okay that they do what they do and know what they know and that we don't. It's okay that I don't get up at 5am and intercede, but that I intercede through music. When I'm worshiping during a song, someone might come to mind and I pray through music. Or while I'm walking in the woods, during the silence of the hike. It's okay that I don't do what you do and that you don't do what I do. It's okay that we all have our own style, our own methods, our own desires. Our own strengths as well as our own weaknesses. Our own uniqueness.

Stop comparing yourself with everyone else. Give yourself permission NOT to be who someone else is because you never will be. You can only be you. And if your garden isn't perfect, if some of your plants are a little overgrown, and some didn't grow as much as you'd like, that okay. Stop comparing your growth with your neighbor's. Embrace who you are. You are unique and so am I. That is not something to be ashamed of. That's something to celebrate. Celebrate You!

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary

Song of the Day
You Are Special (Grover from Sesame Street)