Saturday, September 17, 2016

Redemption Ride

I had been looking forward to this specific ride all summer.  If there were ever a year I need to refocus, it was this one.  Partially because I finally took some significant time off  this summer and enjoyed three weeks in New York.  But mostly due to the fact that last year was the most difficult of my professional career.

Every year, I take a long bike ride before the beginning of the school year to clear my head and set goals for the new year.  This year was delayed for a variety of reasons.  After a full week of school, I finally found the time and energy to take a Sunday afternoon ride. 

Earbuds In.
Playlist on.
Eyes to the path.

It started like any other ride.  I started off slow, gaining speed with each push of the pedal.  I pedaled faster hoping to clear my head.  It was quickly evident, the Lord had other plans.

Redemption.

I just couldn’t get it out of my mind and I wasn't exactly sure why.  For some reason, I had a replay of every redemption story I had encountered.  I couldn't help but wonder if the Lord was preparing me for something or settling something.  Either way, he had my attention.

I witnessed my first redemption story at a young age.  I remember watching the story unfold and wondering if I would ever see things the same way again.  Since then, I’ve seen it happen over and over again.

Fall.
Suffer.
Rise.
Redeemed.

Being a high school principal, I watch the redemption story happen daily.  Let’s face it.  Teenagers screw up.  Over and over and over again.  Just recently, I have watched the most amazing transformation of a student that couldn’t get out of his own way.  Fall after fall after fall, he just couldn’t stand back up.  And then it happened.  He was finally able to claim his redemption story.

The one thing I have learned over the years is that redemption is a journey and it doesn’t happen overnight.  I think that’s the hardest fight we battle as Christians.  We expect that once we accept Christ as our savior, that our struggles should be done.  Wouldn’t that make for a simple story?

A friend of mine once told me, “Forgiveness doesn’t show weakness, it exhibits the greatest of strength.”  I firmly believe if you can’t love through adversity then you never really loved at all.  Redemption is not simple.  Christ’s love for us is just a great example of what he expects from us. I’m thankful he loved first.  I’m thankful he forgave us.  I’m thankful he died for that which he forgave.






Sunday, August 30, 2015

Fall for 45



I finally made it back to the trail.  After a busy few weeks of the start of school, I was anxious to find my way back for a long ride.   My bike would classify in the “oldie but goodie” category.  When I turned 40, I explored the possibility of purchasing a new bike.  I was advised to keep the one I had.  In the words of the bike serviceman, “They don’t make them like this anymore.”  He encouraged me to take good care of it and have it serviced throughout the year.

A few weeks ago, I took my Cannondale into the local bike shop.  I was once again reminded of the character of my bike as I was greeted with, “This is a great bike…a classic.”  I have to admit, it made me smile.  I felt like the guy at the car show with a classic mustang.

As I started my ride, I couldn’t help but notice that something felt different.  I wasn’t sure if it was the new tires or a freshly created playlist.  There were just a few pedestrians and even fewer bikers and it made for a perfect course for speed work.  As the music got faster, my pedals joined the beat.  It was a great day for a ride.

·      Wind in my hair
·      Cool temps
·      No time frame

As motivated as I felt, my mind was cluttered.  I tried to sing along to some of my favorites and pedal faster, but I couldn’t refrain from focusing on the burdens of my people.

·      The friend fighting for their marriage
·      The student running from their homelife
·      The co-worker trying to find their place

What started as a highly motivated time of exercise quickly turned into a place of prayer.  While I didn’t solve any of their problems, I found myself lifting their names up to the one that could. 


As I loaded my bike on the back of my car, I paused.  I am realistic enough to know that those prayers could have just as easily gone up for me at some point in my life.

I was quickly reminded of the words of that young bike serviceman, “Take good care of it and have it serviced often.”

We only have one life.

·      Live it.
·      Love your people.
·      Remember the one that gave it to you.

I have set a goal to ride 45 miles each week throughout the Fall.  While there are definite health benefits, today, I clarified that goal to include spending that time to pray for those around me.  Lord knows I need someone doing the same for me.


#fallfor45

ao

Monday, August 3, 2015

527 Miles


Every mile mattered ~ all 527 of them.  For within each pedal, I found the beauty of the human spirit and the nature of God’s creation all wrapped up into one.  I rode many trails this summer.  All of them were a little different, yet still very much the same.

Smiling people.
Quality time.
His wonder.

I noticed it first on Dawkins Trail.  It’s a long trail that used to be a railroad track and runs about 20 feet from my in-laws house.  I could think of nothing better on my first weekend after school ended, than to take a long ride in the eastern hills of Kentucky. 

It didn’t take long on that trail to see it.  A community that had been ravaged a few years ago by a tornado, had suddenly found its spirit again.  The sun glistened off the trees and a breeze ran down the trail.

I would see them standing in their yards. 
I would pass them riding their horses.
I would wonder if I smiled, would they smile to.

So I did.  I smiled at every human being I encountered (and even a deer and a sly fox that bolted into the bushes).  I started to approach it like a game.  I would smile and wait to see how long it would take for them to smile back.  With every smile I received, I wanted to give ten more.

I rode 50 miles that weekend and I realized something.  I could ride 50 more.  I set a goal to ride 500 miles on a variety of trails over the summer.  Of course there were health benefits, but at the core of my motivation was the opportunity to enjoy God’s country and his people.

This weekend I hit mile #527.  I accomplished something I never thought I would want to do.  Even so, every mile mattered ~ all 527 of them, but the last 15 were rode with more intention than the others.

This Saturday, I rode miles #513 - #527.  Six years ago, I was named the principal of Cleveland High School.  When I found out, I was so shocked and scared, I jumped on my bike and rode 15 miles.  Since then it’s become an annual tradition for some reflection and goal-setting before I start each school year.

Saturday, with each mile I pedaled, I thanked God for blessing me with the gift of a job that I don’t deserve and am blessed to serve.  I set one goal on that ride.

Be more present.

The 2015-16 school year is upon us.  I am sure time won’t allow as many miles to be ridden.  What time does allow for is joy.  I want to make eye contact, shake hands, and engage more.  I want to hear their stories and know their dreams.

And of course, I want to smile.


~ao

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Wonderfully Fearful

A few months ago, I was asked to be a monthly contributing writer for www.meghancobble.com.  In my first piece, we were asked to write our story.  Enjoy! 

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”
Psalms 139:14



The thing is, everyone just wants to be loved.  That’s my story.  Plain and simple.

My story begins peering out my kindergarten classroom window.  As blurry as those days are, life became crystal clear at Marion Elementary School in upstate New York.  I had my first broken bone.  I watched with envy as the rest of my class played outside in the snow.  I distinctly remember feeling disconnected and I didn’t like the feeling one bit.


Actually, my journey begins in my birthplace, five years before, in Sodus, NY.  My parents were young and self-proclaimed “unprepared” parents.  They struggled through the usual stuff…finances, family dynamics, and the future.  I was their first attempt at writing their own stories as adults.  My memories of those times roll through my brain like a very broken movie reel. 

A puppy named Angel
A Red Rocking Chair
Birth of my First Brother
Cutting down Christmas Trees on Austin Road

The broken movie reel became a continuous thread as I watched my friends sled down the hill from inside my classroom.  I guess it’s my most vivid early memory because of the feeling attached. 

I was sad.

A few apartments and several classrooms later and my parents bought a home in Flint, NY.  I remember crying the entire ten-mile trip in the moving truck.  I couldn’t be excited about the move because it was located in a new school district.  As a nine-year old girl, I hated to leave my teachers and friends.

A month later, I walked into Gorham Elementary wearing a white and blue lace dress that Grandma Dee had bought at a yard sale.  I had shiny white shoes and my mom had curled my hair.  None of those things made me feel better about the situation.  I missed my old school.

My principal, Mr. Young, had kind eyes and a big smile.  As he led me to my classroom, he told me all of the wonderful things about the school.  I didn’t hear much.  I just wanted to find my desk and sink into it until the end of the day. 

I was alone.

My home on 5 and 20 was an adolescents dream.  It was a one hundred year old farmhouse with eighteen rooms on five acres.  There were plenty of places to disappear and create a world far from that of a struggling young person.

Mowing the Lawn Listening to Bon Jovi
Writing in the Goat Barn
Bike Rides down Goose Street

My parents always promoted an open home.  They would treat anyone that walked through the door like they were family.  This included my group of friends.  On any given night, mom would have cookies coming out of the oven and dad would fire up the grill for some Zweigles hots.


I spent my time as a teenager involved in everything.  I played softball and soccer, participated in marching band and winterguard, and had a booming social life.  I craved spending time with those I loved.  I spent every Wednesday night and Sunday morning seated on the front pew of my dad’s church.  It was a life that was polarized.  I loved every minute of it, but yet found ways to struggle through those times.

It was because of this culture that I was apprehensive to leave when the time came to select my college destination.  After many tears and arguments, I abruptly decided to attend Lee College, a small Christian school 800 miles away from my home. 

I was scared.

Change is hard.  It’s natural that with change comes feelings of sadness, loneliness, and fear.  When I think about my story, there is a distinct separation of the times when I didn’t know and the times I did. 

The rest of the story…

“For you created my inmost being;
You knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”
Psalms 139:13-14

It’s quite simple.  My story is completely wrapped around a beautiful love.  After many heart breaks and bittersweet loss, his proclamation of love was my only redemption.  I stopped searching for it.  I stopped trying to get attention for it.  I stopped seeking comfort from those that couldn’t give it.  What I found in that place was a tremendous peace and faith.  I remain wonderfully fearful of his works in my life.


A Beautiful Family
A Job I Love
A life I Don’t Deserve
Woven by Him.  


I have had my share of disappointments and despair over the past 41 years.  They pale in comparison to the joy I experience daily.  It is not a bubbly, giddy elation.  It is a blessed, content peace that despite my hopelessly-flawed, human self…

HE LOVES ME.

And he loves you too.

~ao