Monday, April 23, 2018

Only in Arizona...

I dubbed my currently inactive Instagram account My Arizona Adventure, but haven't written about this great state recently. (You might not think Arizona is so great after this post, though.) Here a few "only in Arizona" headlines from recent history and the distant past:

Roadside attractions:
  • Castle Hot Springs Gets a MakeoverCome one, come all! Makeover your vehicle by traveling the rutted dirt roads to this elusive resort. It will only cost you $800-$1,000 a night once you get there, tow bills extra.
  • The Trees are the Reason for Excess Water Use: But not for the reason you'd think. I wash my car in Arizona more than anywhere else because of the trees. We live in a desert for crying out loud, but the pine trees drop sap that continually covers my windshield and makes it hard to see. So I'm out in the driveway watering my car instead of the trees.

  • Bobcats Kills Rattlesnakes in the Middle of the City. This video went viral. My sister-in-law in Texas actually saw it first and told us about it.
  • Feeding Wildlife May Result in Death of Animals; Don't Do It! My favorite quote is this one: "The dog was current on its rabies vaccination. The mountain lion was not." The mountain lion at the zoo is there because mountain lions are not acceptable pets in this state. Pet mountain lions are the only ones likely to get rabies shots....
  • It's Open Season! One of my parents' customers had a feral pig ruining her yard. She was told by Game and Fish that the pigs came to the area via an illegal Rottweiler fighting ring, but no worries. Game and Fish said she could pull out her firearm and take the pig out of commission herself. It's open season, so no permit is needed.
  • Llamas on the Loose (circa 2015). Llamas were footloose and fancy free on the streets of Phoenix. Seriously! Watch the video.
  • Missing Goat. Reward! Apparently someone visited our in-town neighborhood with a goat, and it got loose. Where it went, nobody knows.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Be Bold. Be Brave. Be Daring.

My word for 2018 is Brave. (Or at least that's what my Dayspring Word of Truth quiz said.) As a type A perfectionist, being brave is hard, but the #bucketlistproject is teaching me to do it more and more. 

Time flies fast and life is taxing. There are few "good" time to do the things I want to do. I'm often tired and exhausted or don't feel well and would rather sleep or introvert than actually go out and live. (That sounds pretty awful, but I'm afraid it's often true.) There is a time and place for rest, but there are also times and places for risk.

Like eating the delicious ice cream even if it might not make me feel the best later on.

Or staying up late to see King and Country.

Or cutting loose from work early to take a flight to see my brother and sister-in-law.

Or deciding to go for a hike with Mom on Saturday even when it has been a long week.

There is a delicate balance between bravery and risk. And self-care is certainly important. But I'm realizing that for me, self-care requires me to be a little less perfectionistic and a little more brave.

Don't do stupid things, friends. But do make the decision to live now, not later. And if that means taking a few more risks, being a little more bold, being a little more brave, and daring more, DO IT! You only have one life to live.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Convicted: Book Review

I'm working on my #bucketlistproject, and I completed the reading portion of the list with reading a biography/autobiography/memoir. I'd heard about or seen this book somewhere, and felt compelled to read it, so I ordered in off good old Amazon and dug in.

Convicted: A Crooked Cop, An Innocent Man, and an Unlikely Journey of Forgiveness and Friendship by Jameel McGee and Andrew Collins tells a story that seems too good to be true, but it is not. It's real life. The book, as told from both Jameel's and Andrew's viewpoints, reads like a first hand story, giving perspective from both men. There are a few times it feels a little forced, like when Andrew tells about giving his testimony to Jameel the first time they met after prison, but maybe that is real life, too. After all, Andrew is now an ordained pastor working with Young Life.

I do think the title of the book is a bit of an oversell. Jameel was not completely innocent, and Andrew was not a completely crooked cop. Jameel made some poor choices that caused him to "get the book thrown at [him]" when Andrew falsely arrested him. Andrew clearly states that his pride and arrogance led him down a road that led him to accuse Jameel of something he didn't do, but that he had good intentions with her career as a cop. Those issues aside, the book is powerful, both from individual and relational perspectives. God pursued Jameel for years, but Jameel did not always pursue God. At Jameel's lowest point in prison, however, he had an encounter with God. "I...started listening to God" He writes (p. 108). "I listened to what he had said to me with the Bible verses and with the three little words that kept running through my head: Let it go. Finally, I chose to do just that. I let it go. I gave my anger and my desire for revenge over to him. All of it." Jameel did get released from prison early, but he didn't go on to have an easy life. He went on to homelessness and illness and still wanting to harm Andrew. God kept speaking, "Let it go," to him, however, and in a beautiful moment shared at the end of the book, it is Jameel who is speaking these words to Andrew. God truly did reconcile Jameel to himself, and to his brother in Christ, Andrew. (Read Colossians 1:20 about God's overwhelming ability to enact reconciliation).

Andrew is harsh on himself in this book. He did wrong, and he's brutally honest about it. He didn't reach out to God until he thought he might go to prison, and then he did get incarcerated. He feared losing his marriage, and his wife stuck with him, but it wasn't easy. He feared returning to his community and wanted to run, but he did not. Andrew stayed in his community, and then he found out he had imprisoned an innocent man, something he did not think he had done. The pain just kept on coming. Sure, he had "cooked the books," to get arrests, but he had always thought he'd sent the guilty away. Jameel was innocent. With the pain of confronting Andrew's past, however, came healing. Seeing him struggle to forgive himself, and forgive people who had hurt him is powerful. Reading about Jameel's role in setting an example of forgiveness is extraordinary.

This book is not perfect, but neither is real life. That is why I highly recommend this book. It issues a call to readers to be reconciled to God, and to each other. It shows that reconciliation between races (Jameel is black and Andrew is white, though they do not talk about that differences much) and between victims and aggressors is possible. If readers finish this story and are not convicted about the power of forgiveness, they might need to ask if they are being honest about their own struggles and failures. Nobody is perfect. We are all convicted to death for our sins. That is why we all need forgiveness and friendship, and from Jesus Christ most of all!

Monday, April 16, 2018

Easter Island Trail

The week was so long and we were so tired that we almost didn't hike, but then we did. (That's the point of the #bucketlistproject, to live now, not later.) Mom and I had seen an article about Easter Island Trail in our local newspaper and immediately wanted to do it. We had to put it off until the appropriate time, however. The Saturday we chose turned out beautiful with sunshine, but a chilly wind that helped us stay cool as the day warmed.

We walked the Peavine Trail to get to the trailhead. Right away, Mom stopped me with a hand on my arm and said, "Look, look!" There was a herd of deer running down by the lake. The lake is super low right now and I have been on this trail several times, but not seen deer, so this was a special sight.

Going a little bit further, we saw some white birds. Mom whipped out her binoculars and saw that the birds were swans! I have never seen swans in Prescott either, but apparently they exist.

It was about a mile and a half to the trail head.

At that point we cut off and started the switchbacks. These were easy switchbacks, but enough to get our hearts pumping. The trail had lots of great overlooks.

 The rock formations were pretty fantastic. (The rock formations are the reason for the Easter Island name.)

We also saw some beautiful flora and fauna along the way. We don't have a lot of green in Arizona, but the cacti are pretty beautiful when they flower.

The way the rocks are stacked in the Dells reinforces my belief in a worldwide flood.

We cut off Easter Island Trail to Quartz Creek Trail. We saw this line of quartz going through the granite and then almost every stone became quartz. It was so cool that I forgot to take a picture of that part of the trail!

We walked back to Peavine trail via Boulder Creek. 

In total, we walked almost five miles.

It was a good hike, but not too tiring that we couldn't go grocery shopping afterwards. 

I had it on my bucket list to hike one new trail this year, and technically I hiked three with this adventure. I was healthy and Mom came with me, so this hike was a quintuple win in my book! Thanks Over the Hill Gang and Prescott Parks and Recreation for the work they put into this new trail.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Three Everyday Ways to Practice Gratitude

I wrote a few weeks ago about learning to ask, "What is going right?" instead of focusing on the things I don't like in life. To supplement that post, I thought I'd share a few ways that I practice gratitude. Granted, I adopted most of these ideas from others, but I thought it might be helpful to share them all in one place.

1) Five things: I try to start out each day by writing five things I'm thankful for in my journal. Sometimes I dig deep, and sometimes I come up with simple things like a bed, sleep, job, electricity, and food. But even listing these basics helps me have perspective.

2) The Thankful Jar: Mom started this after reading a Max Lucado book that stated we need to learn to celebrate God's blessings. We write answered prayers and "Yeah, God" moments on colored cards and place them in the jar at the table for a month. Then we make a special date to re-read the cards and celebrate. (Normally we go out to dinner.)

3) The Happy List: My Instagram friend Jesse is the kickstarter for this project. She challenged Joy Squad members to join her in making happy lists last year, and I jumped on board in July. I use the lists to document both things that make me happy, and things that I'm grateful for. (These are sometimes one and the same.) I usually stick with five things (my favorite number-can you tell) for my happy list, but there is no set minimum or maximum. I construct my list on Friday and find that this is a good way to remember what's gone right over a span of time. Here's a recent example:

Friends, do you have any ways that you regularly practice gratitude? Please share in the comments section.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

You'll Get Through This (Book Review)

Well I'm apparently roaring through the non-fiction books. I read this one in a week or so, but it was easy reading. And it was what I needed in this crazy season of life.

If you need balm for the soul, Max Lucado's book, You'll Get Through This is it. It reads like poetry, provides plenty of tongue-in-cheek humor, and is full of real life stories that remind readers to hope in God. In chronicling Joseph's story, Lucado sets forth 15 principles that should change the way readers view trials. "You'll get through this," he writes. "God will make good out of this mess." I wouldn't say that Lucado's ideas are necessarily new, but they are very succinct and very quotable. I'd argue that Lucado takes a bit too much creative liberty in places (like when he talks about Joseph's brothers taking pickup trucks to Egypt), but his wry sense of humor makes them tolerable. Lucado isn't really claiming to be a theologian, either. He's a pastor who's trying to help believers apply biblical truths to real life. And I think his book does just that.

Has anyone else read this book? Please share your thoughts after reading the book below.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Comfort Food: Lent Part 2

For me, Lent is a time to refocus and re-prioritize. People traditionally fast from food during Lent, and that was the second part of my fast. (Read about Part 1 here.) I chose to fast from cereal, as that was something I tended to overdo. 

Food is a form of self-care. Eating highly palatable foods for comfort is a choice. The problem was that I was mindlessly eating cereal and not finding it fulfilling.

So I took Lent to focus on other food choices. I went back to chocolate bowl cakes (based on this recipe) and peanuts and raisins and hot cocoa. Sometimes they satisfied and I didn't think about cereal, and sometimes they didn't and all I wanted to do was pull down the cereal box and fill my bowl. But I didn't.

I bought special cereal for Easter: chocolate peanut butter Cheerios!

I expected these Cheerios to be amazing, but  they weren't. Don't get me wrong, the cereal is decent, but not as rich and satisfying as I'd hoped. (I have something against the way that peanut butter tastes when it bakes. It's a hold over from my dislike of peanut butter for the first 21 years of my life.) My mom likes the Cheerios and I'm mixing them with things, so they'll get eaten, just maybe not as quickly.

I'm a little disappointed that my return to cereal hasn't been as satisfying as I hoped, but that's part of the point of Lent. Food isn't designed to give ultimate satisfaction. It's a good gift from God, but only He ultimately satisfies.

Hereby ends my series of reflections on Lent. Anyone else have Lenten experiences they want to share?