A Long Post About a Poser Wandering in the Desert (and Maybe Learning a Few Things)

There are times I think I’m the biggest poser on the planet.  This past Saturday was one of them, at least at first.  I had this compulsion to get out to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and go on a hike through Palm Canyon to the palm oasis there.  I didn’t even want to do it as much as I felt like I had to do it, and that right there should have clued me in to the fact that the whole darn escapade was going to be a series of life lessons…

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Indianhead Mountain. Palm Canyon is to its left.

The actual hike is 3 miles round-trip, but when you tack on the walk from the park Visitors’ Center to the trailhead, it’s closer to 6.  But the weather was in the unseasonably-cool low 80s, and I’ve walked that kind of distance many times.  I figured I could get away with about half of the strongly-recommended gallon of water per person since it wasn’t too hot, so I tossed a few water bottles, my camera, and my journal in a backpack, and off I went.

The walk to the trailhead is paved all the way to the campground at the entrance of the canyon, and it’s marked with signs detailing what kind of flora and fauna you might encounter on your way.  Easy peasy.  And then suddenly, you get to a sign saying “Palm Canyon Trail” with a little arrow, and you launch yourself into a vast expanse of sand dotted with creosote bushes and ocotillo.

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I bet this jackrabbit knew where HE was going!

But what that sign doesn’t say is that you’re merely on your way to the trail, not on it yet.  You have to cross a campground parking lot and pass a toilet with no doors and apparently look lost enough that a passing park ranger rolls down his truck window and asks if you’re okay, and when you say you’re trying to find the trailhead, he looks at you dubiously and points, and says, “You mean where those 3 palm trees are?” and you just know he thinks your poser self is gonna die on that trail.

Just past those 3 palms I found another sign warning me that the trail is HOT and DRY, and PEOPLE HAVE DIED OF EXPOSURE HERE, and begging me to PLEASE TURN BACK WHEN YOU HAVE CONSUMED HALF OF YOUR WATER.  It might as well have said, “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here,” because there really wasn’t a marked trail.  All I saw in front of me were downed tree trunks (which I later found out were remnants of palms destroyed in a huge flash flood in 2004) and boulders strewn haphazardly across the sand.  But the canyon walls formed a V shape ahead of me, so I figured it would be hard to get lost.  And I assumed the trail would be pretty clear…hahahaha.  First life lesson time!

1. Sometimes you have to learn to see in a different way.  And usually, you’re in the middle of a completely unfamiliar, potentially panic-inducing situation before you figure that out.

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Most of the trail looked like this.

Based on past hikes, I assumed the trail would be clearly signed/mapped/marked.  It was not.  I had the hardest time even getting into the canyon, until slowly, slowly, it began to register that some of the rocks weren’t so randomly placed (TRAIL EDGES! HALLELUJAH!).  And some of the palm trunks seemed to form barriers (YO! DON’T GO THIS WAY!).  And, lo and behold, there were even a few, teeny-tiny, rust-colored arrow signs tacked here and there!  It felt like learning a new language by immersion, but I started being able to see the trail more clearly…unless I looked too hard.  Then I came to a standstill.  Life lesson number 2!

2.  In a life lived by faith, if you get too bogged down in the details, you lose momentum and bearing.  Keep your eyes on the prize.

I found it fascinating that if I didn’t think too much, my brain seemed to identify the trail with no problems, and I didn’t feel panicky from not knowing where to place my foot.  I heard the Lord whisper very clearly, “Just like following me.  Faith transcends your understanding and keeps you moving in the right direction, even when you have no idea where you’re going.”  However, life lesson number 3!

3.  Don’t get complacent.  That will get you off track, too. 

A few times, I found my mind wandering and then realized I’d lost the trail.  I had to stop, get my bearings, and backtrack.  I also had to revisit life lesson number 1.

Finally, I began to see desert willows, a sure sign of water, and soon there was an actual trickle of liquid in the creekbed.  I could see palm trees ahead of me, but I couldn’t figure out how to get across a very slippery boulder.  As I shot photos and thought, a couple caught up with me and asked if I had been to the palm trees.  I had to say no, that I couldn’t get across the rocks, and I turned to go.  A minute later, I heard the woman call for me.  Her boyfriend had been able to climb it, and they wanted to show me.  Life lesson number 4!

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The seemingly-insurmountable boulder

4.  Sometimes you’ll cross paths, however briefly, with people who can figure out things you can’t.  There’s wisdom in being teachable. 

He found a way around a side I hadn’t seen, and he offered to give me a hand if I needed it.  His girlfriend took my camera so I wouldn’t accidentally drop it, and we all continued to the palm grove together.

Eventually, the couple took off in search of a seasonal waterfall, and I sat in the cool shade and wrote in my journal.  Then I began to head back toward the trailhead, and that’s when I learned life lesson number 5!

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Palm Canyon Oasis

5.  Don’t think just because you’ve been somewhere or done something once, you’re an expert.  Stay humble, and remember past life lessons as you move forward.

I suppose it was silly of me to think getting back would be trouble-free because I did lose my bearings a few times.  Nothing ever looks the same coming and going; plus, I was getting tired and hungry, and I had to pee (guess I took enough water after all?).  But I did get back, and I had such a lot to think about.  I suppose I had felt like a poser because people are always telling me how adventurous/competent/in control I am, and I felt woefully inept on this hike, even a little nervous.  But as I trekked back to my car, the Lord whispered the clearest life lesson I heard all day:

6.  Courage is not the absence of fear.  It’s approaching full-on freak-out mode and going ahead into the unknown anyway.  It’s preparing as much as you can and then trusting Me with the rest.  Good job, daughter.  Go get a taco.  And drink some more water.  You need more than you think you do.

🙂

 

 

 

 

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It’s All About Us

The 12th of March was the hubby’s and my anniversary.  We observed it with the usual Facebook tribute, a beautiful rose (he picks out the BEST flowers!), cards, and the umpteenth round of  the “tell me again why we chose a wedding date right in the middle of Spring Break” conversation*.  We didn’t make any plans to go out until the next night, when M would be sleeping over at his Honorary Grandma Lulu’s house.

So tonight was that next night, and we found ourselves with a dilemma (1) and a realization (2):

  1. We live in a city that neither one of us particularly likes, and because of that,
  2. We usually end up going to other places to celebrate our day.

Escaping our town wasn’t feasible this year for various reasons, so we had quite the discussion about finding things to do that were “us” in the vicinity.  And it was tough.  We’re not into most of the things our city is known for, and going the “fancy dinner and a movie” route seemed disingenuous (not to mention at odds with our dietary habits) since part of our issue with this area is that the food scene seems a bit pretentious.

[GASP!  Wait a minute!  What do you mean, you don’t like our fair city?  It’s the best city on the planet!  Everybody loves it here!  And why don’t you like the things our city is known for?  We’re so cool!  We have music and weirdness and hipsters and more music and festivals and a vibrant downtown scene and music!  And our food is awww-suhm!  You must be out of touch.  Or you’re old.  Or you just don’t get it.  Maybe you should move!]

Yeah, I know.  I heard the collective protests and sighs of dismay before I even started writing this.  Because truthfully, this city is full of people that feel exactly that way.  And it’s okay that they feel that way.  But it’s also okay that we don’t, which leads into the point I’m trying to make.

My husband and I were initially attracted to each other for a number of reasons, including the fact that we think quite a bit alike about many, many things.  Tonight we celebrated the fruits of that attraction: our marriage, our friendship, our very unique relationship that is unlike any other I’ve seen, the fact that we both LIKE how different it is.  We celebrated US…by not doing things we wouldn’t normally do, anyway.  This is not a moral or ethical, “there’s only one right way” issue.  Our marriage, as we see it, is about laughing joyously with God, acknowledging His crazy sense of humor in putting the two of us together, and just enjoying who we are individually and as a couple.  And honestly, that’s what I wish for everyone: Find the truth of whom you are, and enjoy BEING it, regardless of what anyone else thinks.  I firmly believe that every single person was made to reflect a facet of God that no one else does, and when you find the freedom in being whom He says you are, you shine.

I’m not going to tell you what all we ended up doing, but I will say that this Texas girl could eat those In-n-Out grilled onions by the spoonful…

[GASP!  Mighty Fine/P Terry’s/Elevation/Whataburger/Hopdoddy is sooooo much better!]

Shush.  Let us be.  And you go be. 🙂

*In case you decide to get married on a date that falls during the week of Spring Break, you might want to rethink it.  Destinations are  way more expensive – and crowded – around that time, so if you’re wanting a quiet, romantic little beach getaway, or a visit to Disney World, or a ski trip, well…good luck to ya.

Cheese, Not-So-Glorious Cheese!

A corpse is meat gone bad. Well and what’s cheese?  Corpse of milk.
~James Joyce

Cheese is zombiefied milk. James Joyce pretty much says so, so it must be true.  Or at least, that’s what I’m telling myself for the next 30 days because I’m about to embark on the Whole30 (http://whole9life.com/2010/12/whole30-2011/) program in an effort to (healthily) completely detox my body from foods that are irritants to it.  Since I eat a fairly primal diet already, this isn’t too much of a stretch…except for one small detail: dairy.

Wait, what?  What’s Whole30?  The basic idea is lots of protein and fresh veggies, and some fruit. No processed foods, whatsoever.  No grains.  No sugar.  No dairy, including milk, cream, yogurt, ice cream, and cheese.  See the link above for a more in-depth explanation of the plan, as well as what I mean by irritants.

What’s primal?  Essentially, it’s eating the way people ate before the advent of agriculture.  So lots of proteins and fresh seasonal veggies plus some fruit.  No grains.  Sugar only from natural sources like honey or maple.  Limited dairy, but you CAN have it.

NO CHEESE?  Are you nuts?  No, but I can eat those on the Whole30 plan!  🙂

Sigh.  The thing is, I really, really want to do this.  But I really, really don’t want to give up the cream in my coffee.  Or cheese.  So…in an effort to up the accountability factor, I’m going public with my plan.  (AND imagining festering wheels of rotted cheese rolling after me shrieking, “BRAAAAAAAAINS!” too.)  It’s only 30 days, and I know I’ll feel so much better at the end…and it’s a great exercise in self-discipline, which I freely admit I could use more of.  So.  If you’ve made it through this whole post, hold me accountable.  Ask me from time to time how I’m doing.  Ask me how I’m feeling.  Ask me if I’ve bitten any zombies…

On Favor, the Socratic Method, and Tire Shops

Two things about this past month:

1) It has been even more insanely busy than “normal” and

2) I have been asking the Lord to speak to me in myriad ways – it is my goal to learn EVERY language He speaks (c’mon, I’ve got eternity to do this.  It’s not an unreasonable goal!)  And boy, has he been obliging me.

It actually started at the end of September.  I was given several words concerning the increase of favor, both God’s and man’s, in my life.  Of course, I said, “Bring it on!!!”  And when I went to Indianapolis on October 7 for the wedding of a friend I hadn’t seen in 23 years, favor showered me with full force (this, of course, is one of the ways He communicates).  I wrote down every single occurrence, and within a 2-day period, I had 11 things on my list.  These included a rental car upgrade and meals being bought for me, for starters.  But then there was also the very sweet rental car place manager who lived 6 houses from the wedding venue.  He drew me a map, wrote out directions, and gave me his cell phone number in case I got lost – all unasked for.  And there was also the cashier at the Chinese restaurant I went to with my friend.  I was dubious, to be honest, about Chinese food in Indiana, especially considering the place was called the Side Wok Cafe or some such.  I asked for jasmine or green tea, whatever they had, and the cashier informed me they only had “regular” tea.  But the man manning the wok ( 🙂 ) started speaking to him in rapid-fire Chinese and gesturing at the shelf above him, and the next thing I knew, the cashier was bringing me a steaming cup of the not-for-sale  tea they, themselves, drank.  (And the food was actually pretty good, too.)  There were other things, too, but perhaps the most significant occurrence of favor was my hotel room upgrade.  Not only was I given a suite with a Jacuzzi, but I also learned a very important lesson.  Because, see, the suite was not really all that.  It was an older hotel, for one thing, and the room must have been a smoking room at one time or another because it still smelled pretty strongly of smoke.  The toilet ran alllll night until I finally shut the water valve off, and the a/c made a very loud clunking noise every time it cycled off, so solid sleep was minimal.  BUT. (And it’s a big one, haha).  The Lord told me clearly that sometimes it’s less about what’s being offered and more about the fact that it IS being offered.  I was offered the suite because it took over an hour to check in to the hotel, and the clerk on duty had disappeared from the front desk for about 20 minutes of that hour.  So the night clerk wanted to make amends for the poor service and offered me the suite.  Here is what I wrote in my journal that night:

And the offer of favor and honor should be accepted with graciousness.  This is what makes the difference between arrogance and understanding/inhabiting my position.  You have placed me where I am placed; You have lifted me up.  I receive favor and honor because of Your pleasure in me, and I desire to honor You with my reception of it.  What a fun notion that I benefit by making it all about You.  Because when I accept what You give me, when I accept what You say about me, I accept You anew.

There was more to that Indiana trip, too, including some healing that I literally felt break open over me as my old friend shared an opinion – she has no idea about this, but what she said brought me freedom in a sensitive area.  I went back to Texas profoundly grateful for the seemingly out-of-the-blue wedding invitation that positioned me for a major God-encounter.

The Lord spoke to me again about a week later.  This wasn’t nearly as profound, but it tickled me immensely.  I was sitting in my Wednesday night class listening to a presentation on Socrates, and  I was already kind of amused because whenever I hear the word “Socrates,” I hear it in Bill and/or Ted’s excellent voice.  So I was smiling to myself and listening to my classmate tell us about the Socratic method (which, in its basic form, is a series of questions formulated as tests of logic and fact intended to help a person or group discover their beliefs about some topic), when I saw the Lord (who was sitting next to me as I perched on a tabletop) lean over and punch me lightly on the shoulder.  He grinned and wiggled his eyebrows and said, “You know, Peg, I use this method with you all the time.  It’s not really Socrates’.”

I very nearly burst out laughing.  I think I might have actually clapped a hand over my mouth.  Because it’s true.  The Lord is ALWAYS posing questions to me and not giving me the answers.  He knows I’m going to go after them, and he knows I love rabbit trails…so if I ask HIM questions, he answers me with questions.  And he’s smiling the whole time, which aggravates me and makes me smile, too.  He’s so much fun – if anyone ever tells you the Lord doesn’t have a great sense of humor, pray that he/she would get a revelation because God is the funniest person I know.

Finally, a few nights ago, driving home from class, I was thinking about the recent Rosh Hashanah, or Jewish New Year that took place at the end of September.  I was thinking that I really need to learn more about the Jewish calendar and the connections between it and what’s happening in the Christian world, when I passed a tire shop that advertised Goodyear tires.  Except that one of the “O’s” was burned out, so the sign read “G odyear.”  I saw that and IMMEDIATELY heard the Lord tell me that this new year was going to be full of Him and His purposes, that He had it covered, and I felt such a sweet sense of both peace and anticipation.  I can’t wait to see what He does.

I’m sharing all of this to encourage you and tell you that God is rarely silent.  It’s just that sometimes He speaks languages that you may not yet have learned.  But if you pay attention, He’s definitely speaking and He wants you to understand.  Ask Him to teach you a new language this week – and then open your eyes and ears and get ready to receive some fun stuff!

The Garden of Eden/Turdburger Rant

Sigh…today I read an article about a Japanese scientist who has figured out a way to make a meat substitute from “sewage mud,” which is the polite Japanese way of saying “human poop.”  (If you really want to read about this, here’s a link: http://www.naturalnews.com/032715_turd_steaks_human_waste.html?refid=0 ).  Upon reading said article, I quickly cycled through the “That is rePULsive!” and “Who in his right mind would even think to do this?” and “Who in his right mind would actually EAT this?” stages and landed with a decisive THUD on the “Why do human beings think they can improve on every single thing God ever made?” stage.  And there I have stayed.

Quite frankly, this trait of ours irritates me.  In regard to this latest “scientific” discovery, it’s bad enough that we now raise most of our meat in gigantic, unethical, unsanitary feedlots. (In fact, I only buy grass-fed, organically-raised meat from a local farmer to feed my family because of how gross feedlots are.)  But at least it’s actual meat and not POOP!  I mean, really.  Why have we taken a perfect source of protein, made for us by a very smart Creator, and decided to “improve” on it by making a fake version of it out of caca????  Do you think the Lord is up there shaking his head in unbelief at our stupidity?  Or maybe even questioning his decision never to flood the earth again?  I would, if I were in charge.  It’s probably good that I’m not…

We do this kind of stupid stuff a lot, us humans, and we’ve done it from the very beginning.  We thought we needed to eat from the one verboten tree in the Garden, to “improve” ourselves – and look where it got us.  We built a giant tower in homage to ourselves, to “make a name for ourselves,” and yeah, that worked out well, too (reference Genesis 11:1-9).  In modern-day society, we’ve added antibiotics and hormones to food animals and genetically modified food plants in the name of making them “better.”  We’ve got a pill for every ill, real or imagined, to fix the issues created by our “better” diet.  We’ve set up unrighteous laws and regulations because we are convinced we can govern ourselves “better” with them than with the original Law (and its fulfillment).  We’ve bastardized the covenant of marriage – because it’s “better” for us if we give it a trial run before committing.  We’ve made “gods” out of all kinds of things because the idea of a sovereign, holy God is outdated, uneducated/unenlightened, inconvenient to our self-serving lifestyle.   And on and on.  Very few things have remained “unimproved,” much to our detriment…

The question of why we do this was completely hypothetical, by the way.  I know why we do it.   It’s pride, pride that has gone way past healthy and into sinful territory.  And it bugs the daylights out of me that we are so stubborn and locked on to this desire to elevate ourselves above all else.  God created us to be creative beings, and that is an amazing thing.  But for some of us, it’s not enough.  We must be the best or the only creator.  We must make all things “better” than their original design.  The saddest part about it is what a counterfeit of freedom this results in, and how many people accept it as the real thing.  Kind of like turdburgers.  They will never, ever come close to being as good as real burgers made from ground-up cow.  Ever.  But the scientist who developed the product feels that with the right kind of marketing, people will buy his poop meat happily.  If that doesn’t sound like the marketing tactics employed by the enemy, I don’t know what does.

I just want to scream at the top of my lungs, “HEY, WORLD!  STOP SETTLING FOR POOP MEAT!  STOP BELIEVING THE LIES!  TRY THE REAL THING FOR ONCE AND SEE IF IT ISN’T TOTALLY AWESOME!!!”  I wonder if anyone will listen.

Save the Drama for Yo’ Daddy…or Not

We had some minor drama go down at the casa tonight.  It started after the hubby and M finished reading their nightly chapter together and Hubby promised M a bonus chapter after he took a shower and got into his pj’s.  Unfortunately, my exhausted husband, who rarely gets a solid night of sleep because of his job, fell asleep on the couch while M was showering, and I sent him upstairs to bed at 7:30.  My normally unflappable six-year-old fell to pieces when he discovered this.  In an attempt to divert his attention, I suggested we take a couple of chairs outside and enjoy the beautiful evening before he went to bed.  It seemed to work…for a few minutes.

So there we were on the back porch, talking about finches and herb gardens and the like, and everything was fine until M said, “I wish Dad was out here with us.”  Aaaaand, round 2.

M:  It’s not faiiiiiiir.  Dad prooooomised.  Waaaaahh!

Me:  Dad was super-tired.  You know he works very hard for us, and he just needed to sleep.

M:  I’m so disapoiiiiiiinted!  Waaaaahhhh!

Me:  You’re really upset, aren’t you?  I’m sorry this has disappointed you so much.  Dad didn’t do it on purpose.  His body was just very tired, and he couldn’t stay awake.

M:  This has ruined my life!

Me (dubiously):  It has?

M:  Well, a little.

At this point, I had turned my face away because I couldn’t keep the smile off it.  But M saw it and said, “MOM!  DON’T LAUGH AT ME!  THIS IS SERIOUS!”  [If anyone on the planet can offer me hints on how not to burst into laughter upon hearing something like this, please share.  It’s too late this time, but at least I’ll know for the future.]  I did actually manage not to laugh until M started giggling.  He climbed in my lap and said, “I knew your ninja powers would make me laugh!”

Well, thank the Lord for small miracles, and for Mama ninja powers.   We went upstairs, and as M said his goodnight prayers, I was concerned we were going to have round 3.  I suggested that we say prayers for Dad to get good rest and blessings for taking such good care of us, and M, back to his normal self, did so gallantly and without another meltdown.  One of the things I love best about my kid is that he’s never been prone to temper tantrums.  Even when he was two and three years old, I found that if I gave him the freedom to express his feelings and then explained what was going on in a way he could understand, he would respond in a thoughtful, intelligent way.  I can honestly say that he never once threw a fit in the grocery store or in a restaurant, etc.  So this little episode tonight caught me a bit off guard, and it got me to thinking.

How many times have we overreacted to a situation because we didn’t truly understand what was going on?  I’m not discounting M’s disappointment, which I think went beyond the fact that he didn’t get his way and actually had more to do with the fact that he adores his daddy and cherishes their reading time together.  But M does not have the understanding of how taxing J’s job truly is and how tired it makes him because M doesn’t have to work for anything yet.  M doesn’t know how it feels not to get enough sleep because his world is such that he always does – his mom and dad make sure of it.  M can’t comprehend his father’s heart towards him, which is never, ever to hurt or disappoint him if possible, because he is not yet in a position to have paternal feelings of his own.  Like M, sometimes we find ourselves in situations we can’t comprehend, and we act out according to our lack of knowledge.

I wonder how often we do that with God.  How often do we try to process His big, gigantic plans through our teeny-tiny understanding?  How often do we whine, “It’s not faaaaaaaaiiiir,” or “You haven’t done what you said you’d do,” never realizing that there is so much more going on behind the scenes than what we know?  If you’re anything like me, you’ve caught Him trying to hide His laughter more than once.  And if you’re like me, you realized how silly you sounded and started laughing, too.

I’m glad my ninja powers made my son giggle and feel better.  And I’m even more glad that my Daddy has way more than ninja powers to set my world right.  I just need to trust that He knows what He’s doing, even when the situation makes no sense to me.  If you’ve got one of those situations right now, ask Him about it.  He’ll explain it to you in a way you can understand, if you just listen.  Or maybe He’ll just hold you in His lap, if that’s what you need more than information.  Either way, He’ll ask you to trust Him.  And it’ll be okay.

Shivering @#!% Balls, Batman!

DISCLAIMER:  This post is COMPLETELY the hubby’s fault!

I had thought I wasn’t going to write on the weekends, you know, save my time for the family and such.  But I was sitting here laughing at a friend’s blog, and it stirred the urge to create.  Unfortunately, the urge and the actual creating just weren’t cooperating, and I refuse to phone it in.  I looked at the hubby and said, “I got nothin’.”  To which he replied, “You got bupkis.”

Me: “What?”

Hubby: “Bupkis.  You got bupkis.  Google it.”

I commenced Googling, and Oh, Em, Gee.  The hubby began to get slightly alarmed, as I started laughing to the point of tears.  While he was correct in believing it’s a way to say “absolutely nothing,” the word bupkis comes from the Yiddish for “large beans or goat droppings” and is often translated as meaning small round fecal pellets, referring to the shape of  said goat droppings.  A colorful, though more emphatic expression (in Yiddish more so than in English) is “Bupkis mit Kuduchas”, translating roughly to “shivering @#!% balls.”

Maybe I’m just sort of immature, but you’d be laughing, too, if you could see the visual I got upon reading this.  I’m not even sure I can explain…

At any rate, there IS a lesson to be learned here (and it’s not “don’t listen to your husband.”) 🙂 🙂 🙂  What I got from it was this:  Make sure you know REALLY well what you’re talking about before you open your mouth.  You never know who’s in your audience, whom you might offend inadvertently, or how easily you can make yourself look like a blithering idiot. (See Proverbs 13:16)

Happy rest of the weekend, y’all!