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Enjoy the Ride (and the view)

“NO SINGLE RIDERS.”

The rules were printed in big, bold red letters and displayed so prominently they couldn’t be missed. Solo rides were not allowed on the amusement park Ferris wheel…under any conditions.

A ride on the Ferris wheel was the sole reason I had entered the amusement park in the first place. It was a perfect summer evening to take in the view of the sun setting over the lake and I planned to enjoy it riding in a solo Ferris wheel car. In hand I had the four tickets needed for one person to enter the ride. I was all set for a single’s adventure until I saw the sign.

Despite the crystal clear no non-sense warning, I paused at the ride’s entrance and considered my options. I wondered if maybe, after waiting in line and putting on my sweetest (most pathetic) face, I could persuade the ride operator to make an exception. If that didn’t work out, maybe I could join a small group that had room to spare in their car. If I asked nicely, I might be able to snag the extra seat.

For a few minutes I stood by the ride’s entrance as groups of teens, families with small kids and couples on dates went dashing up the walkway prepared to enjoy a ride on the Ferris wheel. I couldn’t bring myself to encroach on anyone’s evening nor was it proper to ask for a solo rider exception. So, with four unused tickets in hand, I turned and walked away from the Ferris wheel.

Dejected but not defeated, I decided I would use my tickets and find a different ride that welcomes singles. I heard the roller coaster off in the distance and, for a moment, thought that might be a fun adventure. But the roller coaster ride is over so quickly there would be no time to enjoy a view of the sunset.

To my right I could see single passenger swings flying high up in the air and decided that would be the right ride for me. I was about to walk in that direction until I heard yelling above my head. I looked up and was filled with joy when I saw the perfect attraction for a solo rider.

The Sky Ride.

Fifteen minutes and three tickets later, I was up in the air traveling slowly above the amusement park. The Sky ride didn’t ban singles from riding. In fact, the bench seats were filled with solo travelers enjoying a peaceful ride above the park while taking in a breathtaking sunset view.

On my solo amusement park adventure I was reminded that while traveling through life there are rides that aren’t suited for singles. There are particular adventures, events and occasions that only welcome couples and groups. Certain life experiences cannot be enjoyed alone. But that doesn’t mean that singles should leave the park of life dejected with perfectly good, unused tickets in hand. Attached isn’t the only way to ride through life while enjoying a beautiful view.

The park of life is full of rides that welcome single riders. If one ride in particular can’t be enjoyed alone you need not walk away dejected or throw away your opportunity to experience a full life. All you need to do is look up and out to discover that there are countless opportunities to use the ticket God has given you. In the park of life God has filled it with rides and attractions perfectly suited for singles to enjoy. And they boast beautiful views, too.

Whether single or attached, enter the park, buy the ticket, and live life to the fullest by enjoying the ride that’s just right for you.

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Choose to Smile

“Geez, you’re sure out of breath!”

She was right. I was winded and red faced. My heart was racing, palms were sweaty and I felt like I’d just run a road race.

But this wasn’t a marathon or even a treadmill at the gym. It was the pick-up counter at my local coffee shop.

I paused, unsure of how to respond to the prodding stares coming from the baristas on the other side of the counter. Two women were staring at me, both nodding in agreement, recognizing that I was obviously, and oddly, breathless. The first barista was laughing as the second piped up. “Yea. She’s right! And your face is red, too.” she said with a chuckle.

At that moment I knew I had three options to choice from when it came to how I would respond.

Option A: Cry.

Tears used to be my go-to response whenever I was confronted by unkind, at times rude, commentary regarding my physical condition. If I didn’t cry on the spot I cried later in the bathroom. If I didn’t breakdown right then and there it was because I was holding back the tears with a lump in my throat.

Thankfully, I decided against Option A.

Option B: Educate.

At times this has been my best option when an ill-informed individual has made a statement that, had they known about my sickness, they would not have made. To educate the baristas I could have told them that my out of breath, winded condition was on account of my latest Lyme detox. For the sake of informing, I could have told them that since beginning my latest round of treatments these hot flashes had been striking me multiple times a day.

But it wasn’t the time nor place to enter into a discussion about the details of my disease and so I decided against option B.

Option C: Smile and laugh.

To smile, laugh and respond with grace is always the best option. Even if another word is never spoken, a smile speaks volumes. A smile and a little chuckle signals that life is short and it is silly to take simple comments too seriously. A smile extends grace to those who don’t know the background behind my breathlessness or cause of my condition. A smile says, “You don’t know why I’m out of breath and that’s okay.”

I choice option C.

 

There was a day not so long ago that I would have chosen option A and in some cases I still do choose option B but, in all cases, it is always best to practice option C. Smile. Laugh. Give grace.

Not every person I encounter will know or has to know about my sickness. Every barista that hands me a coffee cup doesn’t need to be enlightened about Lyme and the trials and tribulations of detox. God knows the ups and downs. God knows the cause of my breathlessness and the gory details of my detox and that’s enough.

God knows and loves me just as I am, sickness and all. God sees the fight underway for my life and He is cheering me on. The world doesn’t need to see it or even know that I’m in the fight for my life because the Creator and Sustainer of my body is fully aware of my every battle.

God is fighting for me, with me and through me so I can smile and say, “Ha! You’re right. Maybe I just drank my coffee to fast!”

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The Joy that Freedom Brings

It’s here. The day children wait for all year. And no, I’m talking about Christmas. Jesus’ birthday didn’t suddenly move to June.  The highly anticipated day I’m referring to is none other than the first day of summertime freedom. It’s official. School’s out for the summer.

All year long students have been held like caged birds trapped in small, stuffy classrooms. Confined to uncomfortable desks and a dictatorial bell schedule they have not been free to flit around and fly. For one hundred and eighty days they have waited for summer and all the fun it brings. Now it is here and students are giddy with relief.

In commemoration of the final day of school children and adults of all ages are gathering at amusement parks and picnic pavilions to celebrate. There will be rejoicing on roller coaster rides and suds of fun on water slides. Ice cream will be eaten for lunch and funnel cake will be devoured for dinner. For one day shouts of glee will be encouraged and no one will be shushed.

On school picnic day children are full of the joy that freedom brings.

 

In June or January, while stuck at a desk or basking in the sun, I aspire to live with the joy of a child enjoying the first day of summer vacation. I long to embody a child-like delight and glee as I rejoice in endless freedom.

I have every reason to be full of joy because Jesus Christ has set me free. God has released me from the guilt of my past. I am no longer caged by sin and shame. The door to salvation has been opened and on the other side is an eternity infinitely more glorious than summer.

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36)

We are free to be full of the joy that freedom brings.

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The Most Amazing Come Back Ever

Nighttime waking has become a regular occurrence in my life. Since beginning Lyme treatments my body has taken to battling the disease under the cover of dark while I would much rather be sleeping. Many nights I’m awoken with hunger pains that I gladly remedy with a bowl of “healthy” ice cream (Halo Top is not the world’s most perfect health food but at night all food rules are off the table…especially since I eat my ice cream in bed.)

Last night it wasn’t two AM before I was awoken by a different kind of pain that is not easily cured with a bowl of ice cream. My arch nemesis was back… Literally.

The lower back pain was excruciating. No matter how much tossing and turning I tried I simply could not get relief or a moment of sleep. After moaning, groaning and making all sorts of pathetic sounds I reluctantly rose from bed and ran a bath.

A middle of the night bath is not an unusual occurrence in my tub. It has become my go-to strategy for pain relief when sleeplessness strikes but on this particular night the bath proved ineffective. When I stepped out of the tub I was still stuck in pain. There was no way I would be going back to sleep…. Not yet at least.

So it was on to pain relief plan B. 5:00 AM at-home yoga

“Yoga for the Spine” was a pleasant video and a wonderful stretch for the back but when it ended a dull throbbing remained. It was 6:00 AM when I rolled up my yoga mat and looked out the window with a heavy heart. I was frustrated, discouraged and tired. After a year of battling Lyme I had hoped these sleepless nights would have ended or at least lessened in severity.

Before I had even spoken a word in prayer my gaze was drawn to the window. Outside the sun was just beginning to rise, casting beautiful rays of the light through the leafy trees. At that moment Plan C came to mind like a light bulb turning on above my head…

Get out there and run.

Running (or in my case jogging) goes against conventional wisdom and, arguably, common sense, for a disease battling, eighty pound woman who is in severe back pain. It defied logic and a doctor’s orders.

But I ran anyways.

One short mile later I was sweaty, out of breath and, at last, out of pain. Pounding on the pavement must have knocked the aching out of my back because by the time I returned home I was experiencing sweet relief and collapsed in celebration on the front porch swing.

Right before I finally drifted off to sleep the thought of Jesus on the cross came rushing to my mind. When Jesus died on the cross it didn’t make sense to His followers. They could not understand why their Messiah had to endure such agony. They could not see what God was up to.

What the follower’s of Jesus had yet to realize is that Jesus’ set back into the grave was the set up for heaven and earth’s most amazing come back ever.

 

Jesus has defeated the grave, ascended into Heaven and forever He reigns on high. Since I have been united with Him in His death I have the glorious assurance of His Risen life. I need not fear a single pain or sleepless night because the resurrected Christ has secured my victory and in Him I have eternal rest.

Because Jesus is alive this suffering you see is not a set back. It is the perfectly planned setup for an incredible come back for the glory of our great and glorious God.

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Dandelions: A Beautiful Weed

For the past week I have been wrestling with dandelions and struggling to find the right analogy that describes what I see in them. I’ve tried to flee the very first analogy I saw in their weedy, lawn invading behavior but it has relentlessly chased me down. I am weary from running and can no longer escape the dandelion analogy that is staring me in the face…

Dandelions are to the lawn what chronic illness is to the body: a beautiful weed.

In every dandelion I see another invasion of sickness and disease. The yellow flowered weeds pop up without warning. As they grow they are a nuisance to well-manicured lawns. Dandelions are like disease at every stage of their life cycle. They bloom and then go on float into the air where they replant. Untamed, the pesky weeds go on to grow indefinitely, overtaking entire lawns.

Picturing an entire field covered in dandelions is a pretty image but not the lawn I had hoped for my life. I had always hoped for a manicured lawn with green grass cut on a diagonal. And to be perfectly honest I didn’t imagine myself as the one doing the mowing. In the dreams, I imagined a husband would be handling the lawn care. I had visions of planting flowerbeds with roses and watching children catching fireflies in the yard.

Those were the hopes and dreams I had for the lawn of my life, but now those hopes and dreams are covered in weeds. My life has been invaded by dandelions of disease. I’m covered from head to toe in symptoms and ailments that grow wild and free. I don’t have a bed of roses or even a single well-kept pot of flowers. All I have are bunches of dandelions. All I have is the brokenness of disease. All I have are weeds.

My yard full of dandelions had me defeated until I remembered a fondness I had of dandelions when I was a child. As a young girl I used to roam the yard picking them to make into bouquets. I would then go on to present them to my Mother. When my humble weed offering was given as a gift of love my Mother accepted them with joy and placed them in a special vase. She set the beautiful weeds on the windowsill right by the kitchen sink, right where my Mother could see them best.

In my Mother’s house the dandelions I picked were received like the finest of flowers. 

 

When picked with joy and gifted in love, my dandelions of chronic disease are accepted and cherished by my Heavenly Father. In God’s house my humble offering is received like the finest of flowers.  

My Lord does not see a weed in my symptoms and suffering. He sees a beautiful flower worthy of a vase and a place on the windowsill, right where He can see them best. All He asks is that I keep gathering my dandelions and presenting them before His throne with the faith and love of a child. All He asks is that I love Him and rejoice as I offer Him every one of my beautiful weeds.

 

In the dandelion I see a beautiful weed. I see the finest of flowers. What do you see?

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Surprised by God’s Joy

As hot water pierced the open cuts on my legs I let out a boisterous laugh. That’s when I knew, “I’ve been surprised by God’s joy!”

The bombshell breakthrough took place in the shower, where the best breakthroughs tend to occur. I stepped into the tub completely oblivious of the terror to come. On my legs open cuts have been forming and, as I soon learned, they don’t enjoy hot water.
The second I stepped into the porcelain tub the rushing water transformed into a swarm of bees. The fresh cuts up and down my right ankle and foot screamed in the heat. Shocked by the sudden stinging, I yelped in pain, resembling the sound of an accidentally stepped upon dog. Then, resembling something like a Mexican jumping bean, I hopped around the shower for a few seconds uttering phrases such as, “Golly gee!” and “Hot diggidy!”
After some creative maneuvering, I was able to position my right leg on the side of the tub, out of direct line of the shower’s head. The only trouble was that in such an awkward position I could not step or twist, both of which are quite helpful when showering.
In the not so distant past, this circumstance would have likely reduced me to tears or at least frustration. But not this time. Rather than causing me to cry the strange shower scenario catapulted me into a fit of hardy laughter.
The joy of Jesus swooped in to my shower and delivered me on the wings of uproarious comic relief. The delight of Jesus’ presence was enough to fill my heart (and shower) with laughter and joy in spite of the stinging pain. Once my soul was lifted up in laughter the physical pain did not need to be removed in order for true joy to be experienced.

Only Christ has the power to deliver sufferers from any and every pain, both inside and out. At His resurrection, Jesus removed the eternal sting of suffering and defeated the doom of death. He rose to render the sorrow and sadness of pain completely powerless.
Jesus does not assure His followers a pain-free life but, united with His glorious resurrection, they will be most assuredly be surprised by God’s joy.

“Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now,
you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy,
for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
1 Peter 1:8-9

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Prom Memories

My senior prom dress was fit for a princess. It was my fairy tale dream come to life.

The elegant ball gown was painted in pale pink and sunset hues. From the moment I put it on I knew it was the one. The lace bodice was embellished with sequins and beads stitched in a floral design. Layers of tulle floated elegantly to the floor. Every detail of the dress was perfect. Never before had I felt as beautiful as I did while wearing that breathtaking ballgown.

But the circumstances of my prom night were far from a fairy tale. Disappointments and relationship letdowns had cast a sad shadow on the end of my high school career. I wasn’t feeling much like getting dolled up or going to a dance.

But then I recalled the dream dress hanging in the closet. That dress was too gorgeous and too perfect to be left hidden away and unworn. In that moment I had a decision to make. I could choose to stay home and let defeat win the night. Or I could choose to step into that perfect princess dream dress, go to the prom and dance.

I choose to put on the dress and dance…and I’ve never regretted the decision.

A decade has passed since my senior prom and many of the memories from that night have faded away, but the lesson I learned the moment I stepped into my dress has stayed with me to this day.
Whether I’m wearing a gorgeous ball gown with matching high heels or I’m caught in stretchy pants with memory foam sneakers, I have the Spirit of the Lord residing in my heart.

Heaven’s most glorious gown that hung on the cross rose again to defeat death and conquer my every grave. The love of Christ is heaven’s gown too gorgeous and too perfect to be hidden away. United with His victorious life, the garment of His love can be mine to wear in all circumstances and on all occasions.

The Spirit of the living God compels to wear the dress of His perfect love, go forth in His joy and dance.