Promotions Reflections

How An Eerie Scene Provoked Me to Run and Keep Running

The cinematography was foreboding. It was essentially black and white. A stark contrast of light and shadows made me shiver as if I were standing in the mud beside the lake’s eerie, frosted shore.

I had been washing dishes when the movie on the living room TV caught my eye and drew me in. A man and a woman were in an isolated location, living in a cabin which seemed sparsely equipped for the cold. He appeared comfortable there. She did not.

Was he keeping her against her will? I wasn’t sure. He made her get in the frigid water and swim. Was he trying to acclimate her? Was she training for something? I didn’t know.

I watched for maybe 10 minutes before I turned back to my chores. The last eerie scene I saw had the two characters out running in the fog. The man was fit and proficiently able, but the woman was struggling and falling behind. Her respiration was labored, and easily identifiable because the icy air made it visible. He advised her “Don’t try to breathe to keep up with your feet. Find your breath and then set your pace by it.”

That one scene has played again and again in my head. I am a distance walker. I put hundreds of miles on my shoes and wear through them in months. But I struggle to run.

I have the fantastic excuse that I am often holding hands with people I love and enjoying their pace. (See related post: How Hand in Hand with My Girl Plunged Me Heart to Heart with My God.) I jog maybe once every two weeks. It is definitely not often enough for it to get easier.

The woman in the movie was not a runner, yet she settled into a sustainable rhythm when she heeded the advice to set it by her breath. It was a movie, I know. But I was curious. Could I prolong a pace if I used my breath as a guide?

Running shoes: How an eerie scene provoked me to run and keep running
Photo by Mikel Parera on Unsplash

I have always allowed my feet to lead. If I start out too quickly, I will be out of breath in mere minutes. I have learned to slow my pace at the beginning and work into a more robust stride. But my focus has always been on my feet and after a mile or so, I tire of running and settle down to a walk.

If you read Truth 4 of the Halloween Series last Sunday, you may remember that I jogged to my old neighborhood in search of some décor. I expected to run for the usual few blocks and walk the restt of the way, but I wanted to put this new idea to the test.

I walked about half a block, focusing on my breath and hearing its cadence. Then I started to run, my feet keeping time with my breathing. And you know what? I jogged the entire 3 miles! That is the furthest I’ve been able to run nonstop in a very long time.

If you’re a runner, talk to me. Is this something you have known about forever? How did you learn and how did I miss it until I was last-week-years-old?

If you’re not a runner, but would like to be, give this a try! I guess I have to add the caveat that you should always check with your doctor before beginning a new exercise regimen and all of that. But if you decide to experiment, let me know how it goes for you!

I had it backwards. I was allowing my feet to lead when they should have been following. Are there other areas of my life where my cadence is being dictated by that which should be subordinate? I’m praying it all through with the Lord.

I’m thrilled to have a new strategy for exercise, but I suspect God has something deeper for me to learn. Once He gets it through my knuckle head, I’ll be sure to share it with you. Until then, what is God giving you to run with? Have you been impressed lately by any ideas, big or small?

“The drum to which we march reveals the conductor to whom we’re listening.”

Craig D. Lounsbrough

Are a Vacation’s Lows Determined by the Wonder of its Highlights?

Do you live in your dream location? Many people do. I used to live in Hawaii, which was amazing. While there, a neighbor shared a challenge with me, which had been presented to her. Whenever she had a complaint, she was to end it with “in Hawaii”. I tried to make a habit of it too. “I have a flat tire… in Hawaii.” It really did infuse gratitude where I might otherwise have been prone to grumble.

Flat tire in Hawaii: Aren't Vacation Lows Determined by the Wonder of its Highlights?
photo by Olga Subach on Unsplash

Thinking along these lines, I wonder, are a vacation’s lows determined by the wonder of its highlights? If I add “on vacation” to a low point, does it remove the sting a bit? I pondered that question as I thought over my recent trip.

If you follow this blog, you have read about the highlights my husband and I experienced in Phoenix East, Valley, and Northern Arizona. In a previous article about vacation decisions, I also promised to share our lowlights. There weren’t too many, in fact, I’d call them “lessons learned”, for the most part. But, in comparison to the heights of the highs, there were some lower points to mention.

1. We didn’t accurately plan our breaks.

We drove approximately 12 hours each way. But we did not plan our stops at the half-way point. We reserved hotel rooms 4 hours from our home. That meant our 12-hour drive was broken into 4 hours one day and 8 hours the other.

Next time we make this trip, we will stop in the middle and drive 6 hours each day. We are seriously considering a move to Arizona and our adult kids will be staying where we currently live, so we may be driving this route frequently in the future. We are thankful to have learned this lesson now.

2. I got sick.

Well, not sick exactly, but I was under-the-weather the first day we spent in Phoenix. I was lethargic and my brain was a sort of mush. Has that happened to you?

My friend, in whose home we were staying, suggested that maybe something inside of me was just waiting to get on vacation so I could shut down and relax. She encouraged me to nap and take it easy and I did. The next day, and every day thereafter, I was fine. I have determined not to wait as long before I take another vacation. I was at the end of every strand of my extremely frayed rope, so to speak.

Cat resting in fluffy bed: Aren't Vacation Lows Determined by the Wonder of its Highlights?
Photo by Aleksandar Cvetanovic on Unsplash

3. We chose poor entertainment for the ride.

We tried! We planned ahead and purchased 2 audio books. We listened to one on the way to Arizona and the other on our way home. We chose non-fiction, thinking we’d learn while we drove. Well, one of them was odd and the other put us at odds.

Next time, I think would rather listen to an adventure story or podcasts we could easily change for variety. I think either would help pass the time better and feel more like vacation. Do you have any good suggestions?

4. This one still stings. I lost my pillow.

This is not the first time this has happened to me. I like to take my pillow when I travel because it comes in handy. It is great for napping in the car. It is nice when a hotel does not provide enough. My husband and I ‘prop’ and ‘support’ achy joints and use a lot of pillows. Tell me we’re not the only ones…?

But when I leave a hotel, and visually scan the room for anything left behind, my brain does not register a pillow on the bed as ‘out of place’ and I am prone to leave it. My pillow isn’t special enough to warrant a 4-hour drive back to the hotel for retrieval, but I do miss it. Maybe I need to buy highlighter yellow pillowcases for traveling, so I won’t accidentally leave my pillow behind again.

Open road: Aren't Vacation Lows Determined by the Wonder of its Highlights?
Open Road on Pixels

Let me say right here, that I’d endure every one these lowlights over again to repeat my vacation. The wonder of the highlights does determine the depths of the low points. The lows are raised significantly if I say, “We didn’t accurately plan our breaks… on vacation.”, or “I lost my pillow… on vacation.”

Stay with me here, because I want to take this a step further. If we are Christians, if we are “in Christ”, shouldn’t our lows be weighed in light of the wonder we are promised? Doesn’t it stand to reason that our trials can be endured more joyfully because of what Jesus has done, is doing, and will do for us?

What ails you today? If you add the words “in Christ” after your problem, does its burden become lighter? For instance, mine is “I feel inadequate today… in Christ.” Hmm… suddenly my inadequacy is overwhelmed by He who is infinitely able! It is not just a vacation’s lows that are determined by the wonder of its highlights. This applies to all of life! Try it – what examples can you think of?

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 5:23

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…”

Romans 8:1

“It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God – that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.”

1 Corinthians 1:30

“Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us…”

2 Corinthians 1:21

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here!”

2 Corinthians 5:17

“And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit…”

Ephesians 1:13

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 4:7

“And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 4:19

“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”

1 Peter 5:10

1 Best Kept but Emerging Secret You Want to Know: Northern Arizona

When you imagine the state of Arizona, do you think of fields of flowers and evergreens? If not, I have to let you in on 1 best kept, but emerging secret you want to know: Northern Arizona. It has a vastly different topography than the state’s southern side and it feels like an entirely different place.

In winter months, Arizona is a phenomenon where you can ski in the snow-covered northern mountains and be back in the desert warmth in just a couple hours by car. I visited the Phoenix, East Valley (click here to read my 3 favorite things about that portion of my trip) and the mountains of Northern Arizona in the summertime, traveling low to high elevation. This took me from triple digits on the thermometer to cool and breezy low eighties temperatures on a short stretch of highway.

I experienced three main highlights which completely convinced me that Northern Arizona is the 1 best kept, but emerging secret you may want to know.

1. Summer Flowers

Northern Arizona is bursting with life and color! The evergreen trees already provide a surprising year-around hue for what is known as a desert state, but the summer flowers are on a whole other level! Northern Arizona is anything but dusty and dry.

‘Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.

Luke 12:27

The mild, breezy weather and the summer colors of blue sky and vibrant foliage made Northern Arizona ripe for exploration. And explore we did! This brings me to the 2nd reason why I am convinced that this area is 1 of the best kept, but emerging secrets you want to know.

2. Nostalgia

Historic Route 66 runs through the mountains of Northern Arizona. The museums, shops, and restaurants cater heavily to the theme of nostalgic transportation and adventure. Have you heard the famous song “Get Your Kicks on Route 66” song by the Nat King Cole Trio? Everywhere we looked, we saw nods to this idea, but my silly self got a good chuckle out of this one.

Firewood on Route 66: 1 Best Kept but Emerging Secret You Want to Know: Northern Arizona
Get your Sticks on Route 66, Firewood Pile

Here are more photos I took along the few miles we experienced of Route 66.

We got our kicks, even just on this small portion of Route 66, and wow, did we work up an appetite! The third reason I think you should consider Northern Arizona the 1 best kept, but emerging secret you want to know is my favorite of them all.

3. The Food

In Phoenix, we got spoiled with amazing home-cooked meals. On this part of the trip, we had to rely on local restaurants. We found some favorites in the Northern Arizona city of Flagstaff. I just couldn’t keep them a secret. Here are 4 places I simply have to highlight, because… well you’ll see why.

Mexican appetizer platter: 1 Best Kept but Emerging Secret You Want to Know: Northern Arizona
El Tapatio’s Mexican Food

El Tapatio Mexican Restaurant: We’ve been really trying to eat healthy lately, so this appetizer platter was such a decadent treat! Cheesy goodness upon cheesy goodness! This was more than enough to be my meal. You can see my husband’s taco and chili relleno in the background there. Every inch of this restaurant was decorated in native prints, Mexican style art, and authentic textures, even the backs of the chairs! I hope I get to eat there again someday!

Matty G's Steakburgers: 1 Best Kept but Emerging Secret You Want to Know: Northern Arizona
Matty G’s in Flagstaff

Matty G’s Steakburgers: This was the best burger I’ve had in a long time. Ok, to be fair, it is the only burger I’ve had in a while, but even if that were not the case, this place, Matty G’s, would have made my list. I have to say this was a moment of discovery for me.

I expected to receive Matty G’s sauce for my burger (the orange one in the photos) and ranch for my sweet potato fries. When I opened my ranch, it was super sticky! I licked my finger, and it was sweet…?

“Eww!”, I said out loud. “Is this marshmallow cream?” And then I felt my facial expression change from repulsion to curiosity as my mind thought of the possibilities. I cautiously dipped a fry into the white, clingy fluff. I put it in my mouth with some concern, which quickly turned into happy revelation. Boy, was that good! I ate way more of my fries than I had otherwise intended. Have you ever tried this combination? If not, do it – I triple dog dare you!!

Wildflower: This cozy spot had an amazing atmosphere. From the loaves of fresh baked bread to the imaginative menu and indoor and outdoor fireplaces, Wildflower willed us to linger. We savored the delicious cuisine. My husband ordered salmon toast and fried eggs. My entrée was greens and pepitas with sweet potatoes and fresh veggies under fried eggs and a drizzle of sriracha. I want to return to Wildflower again and again until I’ve tried everything on their menu. If you’re nearby, I highly recommend stopping in for a bite.

Tourist Home All Day Cafe: I’m sorry if I’m belaboring the point with the food I ate in Northern Arizona, but Tourist Home Cafe begs to be mentioned. This was the tallest quiche I’ve ever seen, full of spinach, sun dried tomatoes, and roasted bell peppers. You can’t tell from the way it is hidden behind the greens in the photo, but it was at least 4 inches tall, like a majestic cheesecake. My husband enjoyed eggs benedict (look how small it looks next to my quiche!) with homestyle potatoes, which were also scrumptious.

The last thing I want to share is a photo of a sign I found on a wall at a Route 66 gift shop. It seemed a bit out of place where it was, and I resisted the urge to bring it home with me. It would, however, have fit in very nicely above the desk where I write this blog, which I call Mama Lava’s Back Porch.

Life is Better on the Porch sign: 1 Best Kept but Emerging Secret You Want to Know: Northern Arizona
Life is Better on the Porch! I’m so thankful to all who join me here!

Well, are you convinced? I’ve told you about the perfect temperatures and summer flowers. I’ve invited you to surround yourself with nostalgia on Route 66, and I’ve tempted you with photos of amazing food. Could Northern Arizona be the 1 best kept, but emerging secret you want to know? Are you interested in visiting there some day? Have you already been? Do you have any suggestions for rival best kept secret places?


3 Favorite Things to Recommend from my Vacation to East Valley, Phoenix

I am here to testify that a trip to the Phoenix area of Arizona can be an absolute delight, even in the summertime. You may need to explore the hiking trails early in the morning and frequent air-conditioned buildings and refreshing swimming pools for the rest of the day, but don’t let the thermometer scare you away. I am so excited to share with you my 3 favorite things to recommend from my vacation to East Valley, Phoenix. Each are well worth the visit, no matter the season!

1. San Tan Mountain Regional Park

This East Valley destination is one of my 3 favorites because it is jaw-dropping awesome! It contains mazes of trails from short and flat to long and steep. There is something for everyone. The natural terrain is breath-taking, with saguaro cactus and desert colors as far as the eye can see. Did you know a saguaro cactus does not sprout arms until it is 50-100 years old? Just think of what these beauties have seen and endured over the years!

The trails in San Tan Mountain Regional Park are dusty. Bring plenty of water! There are ample opportunities to stop and hydrate while you rest on a benched viewpoint or stand aside the path to let a horse or mountain bike pass you by.

Jumping Cholla Cactus: 3 Favorite Things to Recommend from my Vacation to East Valley, Phoenix
Jumping Cholla:
Photo by Patrick Perkins on Unsplash

Have you heard of the Jumping Cholla cactus? They are totally terrifying and incredibly interesting. In my opinion, they definitely deserve your cautious intrigue. Apparently, their real name is Teddy Bear Cholla, but they are not cuddly! They easily release their wads of barbed spines, so if you or your pet get too close, it will seemingly “jump” and stick into the flesh of whatever disturbed it. Know what they look like and stay on the trails if you hike in San Tan Mountain Regional Park. Watch this short but incredibly informative and also agonizing video!

2. The Queen Creek Olive Mill

Do not miss this attraction if you are anywhere near the Phoenix East Valley. Seriously, this is a must stop! It is one of my 3 favorite recommendations, because whether you are an information junkie, a nifty souvenir hunter, a food connoisseur, or all the above, you will thoroughly enjoy the time you spend here.

Flavored Olive Oils: 3 Favorite Things to Recommend from my Vacation to East Valley, Phoenix
Olive Tree Treasures from Queen Creek Olive Mill

Ok, forgive my ineptness at taking selfies, I’m learning. Focus on the bounty! The large gift shop area of the mill contains bottles upon bottles of olive oil in many varieties of richness and flavors. The best part is you can sample them all! In addition to the oils, they have a section of balsamic vinegars and recommended pairings galore. They also sell wooden treasures made from the bark of the olive trees and olive oil skin care products. We found gifts for all our adult kids at this one-stop souvenir shop!

And the food! You can dine on baked goods, deli creations or signature entrees, and the olive oil is the star of every selection! I’m not yet an olive oil aficionado, but every one of my senses enjoyed this experience. We ate lunch indoors, but the outdoor patio was equipped with misters and a stage for live music. Just one more reason to go back and enjoy the Queen Creek Olive Mill again and again!

Photo by SHVETS production on

We took a guided tour of the working mill and learned that an olive tree can produce, seasonally, for up to 3000 years! If you’ve been to Israel, you may have walked under an olive tree that was there when Jesus walked by. I read that there is an olive tree in Bethlehem that is thought to be 5000 years old. Think of that!

We were given information about the process of making olive oil and how to know if you’re paying a good price for the quality. But honestly, it was the Biblical references that occupied my thoughts. I simply must interrupt this recommendation post with a quick devotional thought…

2 Corinthians 4:8, 9: 3 Favorite Things to Recommend from my Vacation to East Valley, Phoenix
2 Corinthians 4:8, 9: Biblical reference to the process of making olive oil.

Our mill tour guide explained that the olives are pressed, but never crushed. If they are crushed, they fall apart, and the particles contaminate the oil. Suddenly, 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 came alive to me. The Apostle Paul, who may have eaten olive oil from a tree whose oil is still being served in Israel today, was making a reference to something familiar.

We may be pressed, perplexed, and the rest, but only to the extent that Godly purity can pour forth from us and shine. We are not crushed or abandoned by our Lord in any way which would contaminate His goodness. Tell me that isn’t an incredibly relevant picture!

3. Peixoto Coffee Roasters

This was my favorite coffee stop on my trip and coffee is one of my favorite things, so there were many coffee stops. If you are ever in the East Valley area of Phoenix, this quaint shop in Chandler must be on your list. I had a decadent iced coconut espresso, complete with coconut crème and toasted coconut flakes on top. My husband had something similar with cold brew and my friend tried the matcha green tea. We all raved!

Well, those are my 3 favorite things to recommend to you from my vacation to East Valley, Phoenix. The best thing about the whole trip, though, is not a recommendation I can make, only an experience to tell you about. My most cherished thing of all was staying with friends.

They rolled out the welcome mat for my husband and me and made us feel right at home in theirs. I can’t finish a post about the wonders of the East Valley without including a few photos and comments about our time with these dear people.

This gal has been blessing me with the gift of Godly friendship since 7th grade and I couldn’t appreciate her more. Besides being the ultimate tour guides and taking us to each of the above highlighted 3 favorite places, she and her husband spoiled us and made us wish vacations could last forever.

The morning Arizona sunrises were glorious in their backyard hammock. My blogging time was interrupted only by mosquitos, who must have been as surprised to find themselves in that beautiful spot as I was to see them there. Normally, there are very few mosquitos in the East Valley, I learned, but due to the unusual monsoon activity in the Phoenix area this year, there were many.

Any discomfort from mosquito bites was quickly forgotten when I bit into my friend’s from-scratch, oat and blueberry pancakes topped with strawberries and a mountain of homemade whipped cream the size of my face. She also served us huevos rancheros, lemon chicken, carne asada tacos with street corn, several delicious and healthy salads, and so much more! She has inspired me to be more creative in the kitchen again because I’ve tasted the results and they are worth it!

Quality time with Friends: 3 Favorite Things to Recommend from my Vacation to East Valley, Phoenix
My Husband and Me with our Dear Friends!

We all cleaned up pretty well, if I do say so myself! We spent our last evening with a meal out and a movie in. It was the perfect ending to a wonderful visit full of fellowship and fun. My hubby and I are deeply grateful for the warm hospitality we received. We are already looking forward to our next visit to Phoenix, East Valley. Have you ever been there? What were some of your favorite things?

Tell me about somewhere you’ve travelled or somewhere close to home you like to visit. Do you have a recommendation to share from one of your favorite spots? I’d love to hear them!


5 Important Things to Consider when Deciding Where to Go on Vacation

Guys, I’m going on vacation! I am so excited! I cannot wait until it is just me and my best friend (to whom I’m married), the radio, a few good audio books, some yummy snacks and the open road. I expect a deeply satisfying and long-overdue exhale as we leave town.

Where do you think I’m headed? I will tell you. But first, I want to share the following:

5 important things to consider when deciding where to go on vacation

1. Finances – how much money do I have to spend?

This list may not be in order of importance, but for me, finances must always be one of my first vacation considerations. It would do me no good to plan an elaborate trip which was not within my realm of possibility. Once I know my budget, I can make some exciting decisions.

2. Time – what is my desired duration and season?

How much time can I set aside? Would I rather spend my vacation money on a short luxurious experience or spread it out over a longer, but less elaborate get-away? What season will it be and how does that affect my options?

3. Participants – who will be joining me?

A family vacation is different than a lover’s retreat is different than a team get-away. Whose expectations do I need to consider? How do the needs of others play into the plans I am making?

4. Purpose – what do I hope to accomplish?

Do I want to relax, or would I prefer to experience an extreme adventure? Would I like to get off the grid or explore a bustling new city? I can plan a research expedition, take time to visit friends, choose to pursue a hobby, or any number of different things. My favorite vacations usually incorporate a few great ideas into one trip.

5. Transportation – how will I get there?

In a way, this list is more circular than linear. Here we are at number 5 and transportation will link us back to finances, time, participants and purpose. Are we driving? Flying? Taking a cruise? The destination is directly linked to the modes of transportation at our disposal.

VW in rocky terrain: 5 Important Things To Consider when Deciding Where to Go on Vacation
Photo by Alfonso Escalante on

So, where am I headed? Well, it’s the middle of August, so Arizona, of course! (My posting schedule will have you reading this upon my return.) If you know Arizona summers, you might think I’m crazy. But it is the perfect conversion, for me, of all 5 of the above important things to consider when deciding where to go on vacation.

It fits our budget, and we can drive there and back within our 8-day time frame. It is right, even considering the season, because we need to determine if it is a place where we could live one day. We want to experience the Phoenix area when its “Great Ball of Hate” is doing its worst. (That is what my friend calls the Arizona Summer Sun.)

It will just be my husband and I. We are spending quality time together, visiting dear friends, and researching our next place to call home. After Phoenix, we’ll head to the mountains of Northern Arizona, which is currently a front-runner in our list of future homestead locations.

Route 66: 5 Important Things To Consider when Deciding Where to Go on Vacation
Photo by Pixabay on

Whether you love the heat or the mountains or road trips to anywhere, I want to include you on our journey over the next several days. I will write the highlights (hopefully many) and lowlights (hopefully very few) and share them in my next couple of posts. If you’re interested, please be sure to follow along.

Have these 5 important things to consider when deciding where to go on vacation been helpful? Obvious? Humorous? I hope they have added value to your life, relative to the time you’ve spent reading.

But I have one more thing to offer, which may be worth more than everything I’ve just said. I have been waiting for this vacation. I’ve anticipated it for the break it represents from the tough stuff at home, the craziness at work, and all that the normal day to day routine throws at me.

And if I’m so anxious to take a vacation, how much more eagerly should I be looking forward to Heaven?

Sometimes the hope of Heaven gets overwhelming, and I desperately yearn for that place where I belong and will fit in so flawlessly. I dare to imagine what it will be like to have no more sin to contend with, mine or anyone else’s. There will be no more pain, no more sorrow, no more anxiety and no more stress. Everything will be absolutely, stunningly, unimaginably perfect.

I mentioned the exhale I am expecting as my husband and I head out onto the open road. I can’t describe what I believe that first gasp in Heaven will feel like. These 5 important things to consider when deciding where to go on vacation will have no bearing on that blink-of-an-eye trip. Well, except one. Participants matter. My friend, I really hope you’ll be joining me for that eternal adventure.

 Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me

John 14:2-4,6

If you’re not sure where you will spend eternity, read The Gospel in a Nutshell and/or reach out to me. I would love literally nothing more than to help you settle this most important matter once and for all.


It’s My Birthday! May I Serve You a Piece of One of My Favorite Memories?

Aloha! A special day is occasion for a special story, right? Well, it’s my birthday! May I serve you a piece of one of my favorite memories? This is a memoir I wrote a few years back, on the day after it happened, simply entitled:

Sea Glass

I asked Jesus on a date.  I was going to be near our ‘special spot’ and I planned a day and time to meet Him there.  Is that strange? 

It isn’t to me.  After all, I have specific places that hold unique significance to my husband and I and some with my friends as well.  And in my special spot with Jesus, which happens to be a stretch of beach on Oahu, worship flows without coercion, conversation is easy, and my heart seems naturally primed for the Master’s touch. 

However, as my date with Jesus approached, the weather report turned nasty.  I have no qualms about walking with Jesus in the rain, but the expectation for our day was thunderstorms.  I told Jesus it was ok if He needed to change our plans – that I would meet Him anywhere – and I waited to see what could be worked out.  The rest of my family also needed to adjust their outdoor agenda for the day and it was all a bit unsettled.   

Palm Trees against the Clouds:
The Cloudy Sky

Yesterday was the day.  I woke up early and realized I did not hear rain.  I drank my coffee hurriedly and put my shoes on, hoping to squeeze a quick walk around the neighborhood with Jesus before the storm arrived.  As I walked, the sun came out! 

It was as if Jesus said to me “Hey, we have a date today. Aren’t we meeting at the beach?”  I went home and woke everybody up with the good news that our schedule was back on track.  I dropped the family off at their planned activity and went where I had asked Jesus to meet me.   

The tears started flowing as soon as my toes hit the sand.  I felt so personally romanced by my Lord.  He had held back the storm and told the sun to shine on our special day. 

He showed up and was waiting there for me, not with flowers or chocolates, but with delights, created by Him, for all my senses. He provided the smell of sea air, the gentle grind of sand between my toes, the sound of crashing waves, the taste of salt spray, and my favorite view of all time.  

At one especially difficult point in my life, I had lived near that beach. Back then, Jesus and I met there almost daily.  That was where He taught me how to let go of the things that I esteemed in addition to Him.  It was also where He consistently took the broken fragments of me and masterfully molded them into something new.  

Beautiful Beach: Its My Birthday! May I Serve You a Piece of One of My Favorite Memories?
My Date with Jesus

On that sand is where Jesus has taken what I’ve learned about Him in church and ministry and everywhere else and made it personal.  He has altered me copiously on that stretch of beach.  And yesterday was no different. 

We walked and talked; I marveled and adored Him and thanked Him profusely again and again.  And then it got real. 

The focus shifted to the issues of my heart and my confessions poured out. Shortcomings are more difficult to discuss in person, and He was right there.  My tears turned from amazement and joy to sorrow and grief.  

Sea Glass on a woven mat:
Sea Glass Treasure

And yet, Jesus, being the perfect example of confrontation in love, never stopped the perpetual crashing of cool waves over my toes or the consistent exposure of sea glass which I treasure and save.  It was through this interest in sea glass that He would create the most poignant lesson of the day. 

I noticed a rather large piece of blue sparkling in shallow water.  As the sea ebbed and flowed, it covered and uncovered the fragment. I quickly grabbed it at an opportune moment and discovered it to be much more like a broken bottle than a piece of smooth sea glass. 

Blue glass in the ocean: Its My Birthday! May I Serve You a Piece of One of My Favorite Memories?
Photo by natsuki on Unsplash

I promptly threw it back in the water and said “It needs more time with You, Lord.” 

Immediately I heard “As do you.  You are still ‘slick’ and your edges are still sharp. You need more time with me.  And just like that piece of glass, you must submit fully to the churning and pounding.  If I allow you to be tossed against the rocks, it is out of necessity for your transformation.” 

As I heard this, I pictured the hot and dry place where I live and thought, “Oh, that lucky piece of glass, it gets to undergo this daunting process in this most beautiful spot, in these refreshing waves.”  And almost simultaneously I realized that I am privileged to experience this refinement in the sea of Jesus’ love – in the refreshment that covers my soul and never runs dry. He will be with me through every tumble I endure.

Shoreline: Its My Birthday! May I Serve You a Piece of One of My Favorite Memories?
Beautiful Waves

I will remember that blue chip of glass.  As it is carried and bumped and scraped and broken, I will also be.  And I will be grateful.  Because just as one day someone will marvel at the exceptionality of that colored treasure on the beach, I will also be a more brilliant display of the wonder of my God. 

I will be better able to exhibit the majesty and glory of the One who is molding and making me.  When I am finally called to Heaven, I want to stand before Him as resplendent as a piece of sea glass, beautifully bearing the marks of complete surrender to His artistry. 

I had a date with Jesus.  He made it exceptional.  I will never forget it and never be the same.

It’s my birthday! I’d love for you to celebrate with me by going on your own date with Jesus. Don’t forget to write about it! Thank you for stopping by the Back Porch and allowing me to serve you a piece of one of my favorite memories today. I deeply appreciate each of you!