Posted in Life

The Big Falls

Niagra Falls was a wonder to behold.

Navigating the area and stuffing in all of the experiences we wanted to experience into five hours was another wonder. Thanks to much research and a little intuition, this day of the trip was probably one of the most enjoyable.

We started the day by finding parking in the very busy town of Niagra Falls, New York. My research had advised parking in the state park lot 1, but since I wasn’t driving, I had no say when the driver changed that plan to park in the $5 lot across the road. Turns out, though, that it was a better spot anyway. It was cheaper and we literally ended up directly across the street from where we would have parked before.

Then we started to get our bearings and look for food. We quickly discovered that the food on the American side was touristy and overpriced, so we decided to head on over to Canada.

I’ve left and returned to the US numerous times, and that was by far the easiest border crossing ever. You do need a passport, and maybe the time of year and day of the week make a difference, but we walked into Canada in about ten minutes time. We went through some interesting turnstiles and followed clearly marked signs that said “To Canada”. As a group we showed our passports to the customs officer, and we walked across the Rainbow Bridge which separates the US from Canada.

For moment there, I was in two countries. Once in Canada, our stomach let the way. Here’s a little travel advice: the first restaurant you approach will probably be the most expensive. Skip it. While the views from the Canada side are more spectacular because you see both falls at once, the roads are like an amusement park.

With more time and stamina, we might have found something a bit more authentic, but we landed on the gimmicky Clifton Hills road complete with its oversized everything and pull-you-in attractions. This road was basically covered with American chains, but we did find a Tim Hortons, a Canadian based chain similar to Duncan Donuts. I enjoyed soup, bread, and a cookie for under $5. Here’s another travel tip: bring your own drink (Nalgene water bottle in my case) to save a bit of money.

Then we were finished with Canada. Crossing back into the US required a $1 toll, but it was just as simple. Never once were we checked in security. In fact the officer simply asked us what we were bringing back. I guess we didn’t look too threatening.

Back on the US side, we gave in to the high prices of the boat tour Maid of the Mist. There is a Canadian side version of this called the Hornblower, but we opted the for blue ponchos instead of the red.

It was full on tourist mode, but when in Niagra Falls do as they do. Overall though it got us closer to the falls than we could have any other way.

Overall it was a great day, tiring, but well worth the journey.

Posted in Life

Facebook

Maybe it’s time to deactivate Facebook again. My heart is drawn there when it’s sad instead of drawn to Jesus. I find myself seeking comfort by scrolling when true comfort comes from Jesus. It’s easy to find myself scrolling mindlessly and letting my more creative outlets fade into the lie of “I don’t have time”. Ultimately it is a temptation to compare and judge myself and others positively and negatively.

“Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.
Matthew 18:7‭-‬9 ESV

I need to run from this temptation to waste time, judge others and myself, and worship a false god. It may be temporary because I do see some benefit in having an easily accessible account. I’m praying about the right way to do this or if God simply wants to shift my mindset towards Facebook. I don’t want to lose contact with people, but I have to trust that God will keep the people I need and who need me in my life other ways.

For now I’ll delete the apps, but I’ll keep listening to God about the heart matter and what methods he’ll use to heal me. Pray with me?

Just so you’re aware, I have a cell phone that works when I hold my head the right way and get signal, another number that runs off WiFi, and a landline. I also update on Instagram (where I feel like I have more control over myself) and this blog (where I would love some comments and interaction). I also answer old fashioned knocks on the door if you’re in the area.

Posted in Life

Church

In the past month, I’ve been in four different churches because of various circumstances such as flooding and travelling. All of them are teaching the Bible, and there are people in each one who are genuinely seeking God. None of them, though, leave me feeling completely content with how I imagine the perfect church to be. The music is too slow or too loud; the lights are too bright or the building too cold; the people are too old or the crowd is too large; the drive is too far or I don’t want to go alone. These are just a few of the complaints that run through my head as I leave a service.

I know being plugged in to one church is what I desire, but the grass looks greener on the other side. Lately it seems as if there’s always something better somewhere else. That’s not normal for me, so I started praying. After some heart-searching, these are the answers that God gave to me. Maybe these thoughts will help someone else in a similar circumstance.

What I need to remember is two-fold. First church is not about all of the frills, which I’m honest is where most of my complaints lie. The most important part of church is God. God can speak with old hymns, new rock, bright lights, a yelling preacher, a long sermon, or a quick devotion. God is not bound by any circumstances. The only thing that binds me from hearing his words is myself.

Secondly, all of these churches are run by people. Granted, I think all of the churches I’ve been at lately are led by people seeking God. Still though, I find myself wanting certain circumstances to worship. Rather than looking for perfection in the man-made aspects of church, I should look for perfection in the God-driven aspects of church. My focus should be on praising God and leaning toward him rather than examining the layout of service.

Lastly, even with all of the imperfections I can find in churches, I still find church to be very important to my faith in God. Yes, all of the answers I need for my relationship with God are found in the Bible and through time with Him, but God made us for fellowship. When Jesus left the Earth, he left a group of believers and told them to stick together. God didn’t design me to navigate this world alone. He intends for me, and others, to meet together regularly to worship Him and study his Word. While I can, and should, worship and study all week long, there’s just something special about gathering with other believers no matter which building I do it in. I have no answers about what the perfect church service or atmosphere looks like, probably because it doesn’t exist, but I do know that no matter where I end up on Sunday, my one focus should be to worship God and learn more about Him.

Posted in Gratefulness, Life

God and I

God and I went on an adventure together today. It was a bit muddy and slick and totally delightful. As followed the trail markers through the quiet forest, he reminded me that he has given me trail markers in life as well to keep me on the path. My heart panged a bit as I saw a couple taking engagement photos, but God reminded me that no matter my marital status he is more than enough to satisfy me. A child’s shriek of fright and the mother’s reassurance as they climbed a hill put a smile on my lips, and God reminded me that he’s given me much to smile about. All in all it was a good day basking in God’s beauty. Enjoy the pictures below and remember how much God loves you.

Cumberland Falls, Kentucky

Posted in Devotion, Life, Weather

Winter Redeemed

Earlier this week my students and I were discussing how symbolically winter often represents death or an ending. 

Then it started snowing.

And hasn’t really stopped at all today.

I think it’s beautiful how God is redeeming something that’s supposed to be dead. He’s making something clean and beautiful out of decay and death.

That’s exactly what he did with me. I was dead because of sin. He redeemed me and made me clean and beautiful. Thanks God.

 “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord : though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.”

Isaiah 1:18 ESV

Posted in Life, Remembering

This Year Will Be Different

I asked my students to complete this prompt, so I thought I would as well.

This year will be different. That’s an intimidating statement to make because who am I to say what this year will hold? Only God knows that. As I look back on the last year, though, I realize I was discontent with many of the relationships in my life. I wanted people to be different, and I sought acceptance from people around me. I was unhappy and insecure when I felt left out, whether I was truly left out or just imagining it. The root of my discontentment was that I was looking in the wrong place for my security. People, myself included, always disappoint, and I will never feel satisfied with a human relationship. Only God can satisfy and define me. This year will be different if I’ll keep that focus and perspective. 

Secondly, this year will be different if I am thankful for the deep friendships I’ve already formed rather than attempting to force those in a new place. There’s no need to strive to be accepted by all. Instead I’ll strive to be a better friend to those around simply because that’s what God put me here to do. I’ll focus on demonstrating God’s love and being vulnerable as God leads rather than being concerned about how someone responds to my friendly gestures.

Ultimately this year will only be different if I’ll keep my focus on God and how he defines me rather than how people define me.

What will make your 2018 different?

Posted in Life

Roxie’s Reminder

My first car was named Roxie after a man who used to come into the restaurant where I waitressed. His last name was Rex, and the advice he gave me lingers in my mind as I drive to visit family and friends this Christmas season.

Drive for yourself and for everyone else.

This man hadn’t had a wreck in all of his years of driving, so his advice on driving seems trustworthy. Of course it’s impossible to completely predict how others will drive, but the idea is to watch other cars. 

This is not saying that his advice kept me accident free (cough, July’s dumb moment that cost me Roxie’s life), but it has probably kept me more cautious in other moments. As you drive this holiday and beyond, friends, be cautious. Pay attention to your driving as well as what others around you are doing. 

Thanks Mr. Rex.