Sunday, August 30, 2015
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.
Monday, August 3, 2015
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.
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.
Sunday, June 28, 2015
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.”
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.”
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.
Sunday, June 21, 2015
A few years ago, I found myself at a crossroads. I had everything I thought I had ever wanted, but couldn’t find a glimpse of who I was. Some might call it a mid-life crisis, although I’m not quite sure I was there yet. Others could say it was the result of being a stressed, overwhelmed mother. Again, it just didn’t feel like that was it either.
I went through the motions, convincing myself that it would get better. It’s funny. Looking back at pictures, it’s so obvious. But at the time, it seemed that I was living the life that was meant for me, but it just didn’t fit right. I did the only thing I knew to do. I stopped.
I stopped writing.
I stopped feeling.
I stopped dreaming.
“Life is like learning to ride a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.”
That February, I embarked on the annual garage clean-out. Just like each year before it, I grumbled about having too many Christmas decorations and nagged my husband to put shelving to add storage. I remember hearing my voice and thinking how miserable I sounded. I decided to take a break.
Sitting there in my dusty, cluttered garage, I thought, “Lord, it just has to be better than this.” I mustered up enough energy to continue, committing to work in silence to spare anyone from the casualties of my foul mood.
At some point that afternoon, I found my old Cannondale leaning in the corner covered by crushed cardboard boxes. For some reason, I pulled it out of the corner and leaned it against the garage door. The rest is history.
"If you worried about falling off the bike, you’d never get on."
I have always loved to ride. Some of it is my DNA. I mean, every average Dutch girl likes to ride a bike, right? I’m sure growing up in the middle of nowhere helped that too.
One of my favorite stories from childhood was when Grandpa Ike finally taught me how to ride. He took me to the top of the hill by the house, gave me a pep talk and let me go. Down the hill I went, bike teetering with each pedal as I would slowly, but surely, steer my way right over the new tree that Grandpa had planted at the bottom of the hill. It didn't matter where he started me, I always ended up riding right over that same young tree.
A few year's later, sitting in the front yard at our new house on Routes 5 and 20, I looked up to see three boys, about my same age, leaning on their bikes in the middle of the road. I hadn't made many friends in my new home, so I was eager to meet them. The O'Hora boys lived a mile down Goose Street and became instant friends. I spent many summer days biking back and forth to their house. Occasionally, our moms would give us permission to ride to Flint or Gorham to buy a pop or ice cream. It was my first test of freedom on the road and I loved it!
One summer, my dad was convinced he had met my soul mate. He introduced me to an avid biker. We spent that summer “riding the lakes”. It didn’t take me long to recognize that avid would definitely NOT describe me as a biker. My rides are more like hiking with two wheels.
Take in the Scenery.
"Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of a bike ride."
~ John F. Kennedy
I was nervous at first. After all, I hadn’t ridden in a long time. My kids made it easier. They loved spending the time together and I loved being with them. My heart felt like it was beating again and I looked forward to hitting the trail every chance I got.
I eventually found my pace again. My short rides with the kids slowly turned into much longer trips. I recently reached my personal best with a 20 mile day trip. With every pedal turn, I smiled knowing it meant something. My soul had returned.
It seems the old adage is true. Riding a bike does actually come back very easily. You just have to start pedaling. Apparently, the same can be said for moving through the crossroads of life. Enjoy the ride!