Shattering “Never Haves”


Hiking a portion of the Appalachian Trail for the first time in my life.

If you’re like me, you have a mile-long list of things you have never done. I’m talking good things here. Noble or interesting things. Fun things. Daring things. In other words, life experiences. And even though I’ve lived well over five decades now, there’s still a lot of life that I’ve not yet experienced. A lot of things I’ve never done.

I’m happy to report, though, that during our vacation I shattered some of my never haves. On the way home I go to thinking about how many new experiences I had racked up during our time away and decided to make a list. With each item I recorded, I realized how cool it all was. Not that the activities themselves were all so extraordinary—just that I felt really pumped to have done so many new things for the very first time in my life.

Here are some of the never haves in my life that I can now say that I’ve done:

*Finally traveled east of the Mississippi. We spent time in Tennessee and even made brief appearances in North Carolina and Kentucky.

*Visited the Smoky Mountains National Park. Absolutely beautiful.

*Straddled two states at once—along the Tennessee/North Carolina border in the Smoky Mountains National Park.

*Hiked on the Appalachian Trail. So happy to join the company of those who have done this.

*Saw a couple of bears in the wild. I wanted to see a bear while in Tennessee bear country, and my wish came true our very first morning.

*Followed a bear in an excited-but-extremely-unwise attempt to take some photos. Am thankful the Lord was watching over me!

*Ate at a Bubba Gump and a Johnny Rockets. My taste buds are happier for having visited them both :)

*Ate corn fritters—and were they ever yummy.

*Saw an American Idol winner in person—David Cook!

*Drove go-carts. And not only that, but drove go-carts with American Idol winner David Cook in our group of drivers. If I remember correctly, he left me in his dust :)

*Enjoyed a family-only worship service with my parents, my sisters, and all our families.

*Attended the Grand Ole Opry. They put on a superb show. Highly recommend it. During a backstage tour, they also took us out on stage where we got to stand on the famous circle from the Ryman Auditorium where all the performers have stood throughout the years.

*Acted as navigator in Nashville while Don drove. Quite challenging since I had never been there before this trip! :)

*Drove through the area where the Ohio River meets and empties into the Mississippi.

Pretty neat, huh? Some of these things I hoped and planned to do, but some were complete surprises. And now my world is larger simply because I shattered some never haves. I wonder what will be next? Can’t wait!

“Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things . . .” Psalm 98:1a

*What are some of your never haves you hope to shatter soon?

*Photo by one of my family members

*Don’t miss out on the “Back At It” Giveaway. Deadline to enter is 6 p.m. Aug. 28. Details are in my Aug. 15 post.

Free Flying Leaves, Free Flying People

I love to watch the autumn leaves—and not just for their colors. I love to watch them fly as well.

The leaves of fall are free flying. They’re not bound by a must-follow route or a set of rules. No one tells them to drop at a perfect 90 degree angle—or any other angle for that matter. Each one is different. Each one takes its cue from the wind at the moment it falls.

Some fall headlong, landing right below their former homes. Others venture a few feet away as they drift gently through the air before finding a new resting place. Still others fly like crazy on the wings of a major wind gust, soaring as never before, looking like frolicking birds—up and down and all around, going great distances before running out of breath. Yes, autumn leaves are free flying.

Kind of makes me want to do some free flying myself. Anyone else?

The good news is we can. As believers in Jesus, as children of God, we can free fly on the wings of his Spirit living within us. We can abandon ourselves to his leadership, whether on short straight paths, lilting walks, or adventures of a lifetime. Following the Spirit, we’ll soar as never before.

We can also free fly on the wings of encouragement. Sometimes all we need to be spurred on to try something new or go after a dream is the confidence inspired by a friend or family member who is cheering us on. Sometimes all it takes is a little push. We then find ourselves free flying and loving every minute of it.

Other times it takes a little more. It takes a major gust of courage to launch our flight. The ride holds out hope of great and mighty things—but only if we’re willing to take the risk, only if we’re brave enough to step out of our comfort zones or battle whatever problems are trying to hinder our flight.

As the leaves free fly around us this autumn season, let’s ask ourselves if we’re ready to do a little free flying ourselves. Let’s abandon ourselves to the wings of the Spirit, let’s fly on words of encouragement. Let’s be bold and allow courage to carry us to new heights. Let’s free fly!

“. . . where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” 2 Corinthians 3:17b

*How have you been free flying lately?

*Flickr photo by hipea

**Also, the Life Notes Subscriber Appreciation Giveaway is still underway. Details are in my Oct. 17 post and sign-up is to the right. Don’t miss out on the chance to win a $25 gift card to Barnes & Noble!

Go Big

Are you a risk-taker? I tend to choose a safe bet over a gamble, but every now and then it’s good to take a risk. There are times we need to go big. Times we need to try to jump the sun.

In a recent blog post, Hope Clark, founder and editor of spoke about writers remaining in their comfort zones, writing what’s easily published, and dodging the big magazines. She also spoke about being proud of writers who dare, and it reminded me that I need to try to go big sometimes.

Since I had noticed just such an opportunity in another of Hope’s blog posts a few weeks ago, I decided to give it a try. So this afternoon I submitted an essay to The Smithsonian magazine for their back page humor column.

Now, I know it’s a long shot. I know there is only one back page per month and that my seasonal piece will have an even smaller chance of acceptance than most others. I also understand that many times you have to have the right connections, and I certainly don’t have those. But I also know it will never happen if I don’t try. Things don’t get published that don’t get submitted. And who knows? Nothing is impossible.

Is it time for you to take a risk? Is there an area in your life right now where you need to try to go big? Maybe the time has come for you to take a long shot, too. Don’t find yourself regretting some day what you were afraid to try today.

And remember, we have a heavenly Father for whom nothing is impossible. So join me, won’t you? Let’s go big with God. I bet we’ll make Him proud.

“Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” Mark 10:27

*Flickr photo by aramolara, Creative Commons License

*The Life Notes Subscriber Appreciation Giveaway is still underway. Details are in my Oct. 10 post and sign-up is to the right. Don’t miss out on the chance to win a $25 gift card to Barnes & Noble!

Springing Forward

Consider yourself warned. The dreaded spring forward to Daylight Savings time happens this weekend. For some reason, the powers that be have us giving up an hour of sleep in March now rather than in April. I guess it doesn’t matter which month, though. I’ve not met anyone yet who likes to sacrifice that 60 minutes of shut-eye.

Think about it. Just mention that it’s time to spring forward, and everyone groans. Nobody likes having an hour of precious sleep stripped away. Nobody likes getting up in what feels like the dead of night. And most people aren’t particularly fond of the changing-all-your-clocks chore. I think I can safely say I speak for millions when I say, “Springing forward is a pain.”

At least that’s how everyone feels on Saturday night and Sunday morning. By Sunday evening, however, after we get that first taste of an extra hour of daylight, we start to change our tunes. We say things like, “Well, it is nice to have it staying light longer…” and “Boy, I love that extra hour of sunshine.” It seems the thrill of seeing spring at the end of our winter tunnel has replaced our cranky attitudes, and we concede that there are indeed benefits to springing forward after all.

Springing forward in other areas of our lives feels much the same, doesn’t it? Deciding to take that first step of a new venture or getting serious about accomplishing one of our goals usually requires a sacrifice of some sort. Indeed, change is never easy, and sometimes it’s downright painful. But then the benefit comes, and its light overshadows the pain.

As we spring forward this weekend into daylight savings time, are there areas in our personal or spiritual lives that cry out for a spring forward as well? Do some of us need to take a step to conquer a habit or change a long-ingrained way of thinking? Do some need to start eating healthy or begin exercising regularly? Some of us may need to forgive someone who has wronged us. Others may need to make a bold move into a new career or just take up a new hobby or learn a new skill. And all of us surely have an area of spiritual growth that just awaits our step of obedience.

Even though springing forward can be downright painful at times, if we’ll take that first step and get past the initial discomfort of change, we’ll soon see benefits that have us changing our tunes. The thrill of accomplishment and the blessing of obedience will have us saying, “You know, springing forward wasn’t so bad after all…”

“He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.” Psalm 40:3

*Flickr photo by A6U571N

Clearing the Way

A blast of winter white hit the Heartland once again this past weekend, and once again the ole snow shovel got a work-out as Don cleared our drive and walk-ways. He’d probably split hairs and say that he was the one who got the work-out, though. At least that’s what his back told him the next day :)

I tried to help, honestly I did. Since Don’s putting in another very demanding semester, I let him sleep in on Saturday while I got out and started the process, using my trusty broom to clear off the front and back steps as well as a path next to our cars.

Since I was still recovering from a bad flare-up of inflammatory arthritis in my shoulder, I knew I had no business sweeping snow, let alone shoveling it. I couldn’t resist the urge, however, to get out in it, even if it was just for a little while. And I did want to ease Don’s load if I could.

But I couldn’t. The sweeping motion proved to be too painful. I had to wake Don and put him to work, preparing the way for our cars — and our feet — to travel unhindered by January’s last gift to us. That extra effort, that preparation for our comings and goings, made all the difference over the next few days.

When I think back to the life of Jesus, there was one who prepared the way for Him, too. Before He began His public ministry, John the Baptist came preaching, telling the people that they needed to “‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.'” (Matthew 3:2)

Scripture tells us that people from the whole region came to listen to John – and it made a very big difference. Many confessed their sins and were baptized. Many were then ready to embrace Jesus when He began His ministry.

We may have a ministry or task awaiting us today, but some preparation may need to be done first if we hope to proceed unhindered. Someone may need to clear the way. Who’s that someone in your situation?

Me? I’m in the midst of preparations for our daughter’s wedding. I’m doing all I can to help clear the way for a wonderful wedding day celebration. And I have a feeling the extra effort will make all the difference…

“…be prepared in season and out of season…” 2 Timothy 4:2

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*My photo