Out On A Limb

Out on a Limb

The iguanas of St. John–

St John USVI Iguana

St John USVI Iguana

We were warned before we went: they’re all over the island; AND–they love red. We didn’t know why, I only knew that I’d  forgotten to change my RED toe nail polish…So, as we explored on our St. John trip, me and my red toes avoided the iguanas until we could find out more. We asked a St. John local and found out that the red hibiscus flower is the iguanas’ favorite treat. The red blossoms are absolutely intoxicating to them. Soooo–they associate all things red with intoxication and, like the moth to the flame, they feel drawn to pursue it. I wanted to keep my toes, so I continued to avoid the iguanas, but they are EVERYWHERE on the island!

And these guys are truly fascinating.

They look like a mini Jurassic World exhibit with their sharp claws, scaly, spiny bodies, their bulging eyes and slow blinking eyelids, their tongues that lap out like a lazy snake tongue and their whip-like tails.

What surprised me most is their agility.iguana dragon

Figuring me and my red toes were safe in the pool, I went for a swim. The Westin St. John’s main pool is lovely: the warm waters, the waterfall features, the mini oasis in the middle of the pool with a water bench shaded by the palm trees and foliage that it houses. It became my favorite hang out, until…

I flipped around on the bench and lifted my toes to prop them on the side of the oasis wall. This way I could semi-float and look up at the palms swaying in the Caribbean breeze. I saw people walking around the pool and floating on their floaties doing the same thing–looking up. I followed their gaze. Those iguanas apparently can swim. Not only can they swim, they can climb! My gaze locked on the iguana napping in the luxury of a large green palm frond about twenty feet directly above my head. And, if he swam out to the oasis, then my red toes were no longer safe just inches away from the dense foliage that could’ve housed many more of his camouflaged green friends!

We left this pool and found another Westin pool located on the hillside with nothing but time shares and concrete to threaten us.

As I sleepily floated around this tiny pool on my float, I looked up at the Caribbean clouds floating by and the branches of what appeared to be bare trees across the street up the hillside. My eyes popped wide open as I realized who was there—another tree top Jurassic friend! I breathed deep, relaxed and observed this creature from the safety of my pool float.

This determined dragon scaled the 30 ft up to hang out in what appeared to me to be a bare branched tree.  There were no red hibiscus flowers or luxurious leaves of green on its branch arms; just bare, spindly branches.  I understood the palm frond locale for an afternoon nap, but why hang out in a bare tree? I watched as he expertly made his way down one of the tree’s crooked limbs. As the breeze kicked up and he made his way toward the end, the branch bounced up and down. The elements threatened to blow him off or to be just enough to break the branch, but it didn’t. And he progressed.

I watched amazed as minutes ticked by and this daring creature patiently balanced his way almost completely to the end of the limb. His tenacious claws held fast to the branch; his long tail skillfully balanced the weight of his body; and my heart skipped a beat, as each whispering wind and movement bounced the branch beneath him. I thought surely, any instant, I’d hear a crackling and watch this amazing creature plummet to the depths.

LOOK CLOSE!

LOOK CLOSE!

I didn’t want to miss a thing.

I couldn’t tear my eyes away; witnessing the patience and determination of this creature!

What was worth this journey to the end? Why the risk? I focused in on him. Then, in the blink of an eye, his tongue whipped out and latched on to the tiny white flower that I hadn’t seen at the end of that tree’s limb. Wide eyed again, I swear I saw him smiling at me as he chomped and chewed the fruits of his labor.

Still not tearing my eyes away, I watched him, inch by inch, retreat and repeat this same journey on a different limb. I now could see the tree that I once thought was barren, housed at least a dozen lightly colored, teensy flowers at the end of its limbs.

I later learned that these guys do this to many trees and all across the island.

And, every so often, you’ll hear a crackling and the plummeting.

I must admit it–I’m more like the pool iguana; choosing the comforts of a large, luxurious palm frond where, if I’m startled awake or if the branch breaks and I plummet, it is into a nice splashy pool where I can swim to safety.  This life can be quite exhausting. It’s really tough to beat a good nap.

But then there’s the daring, skillful, hillside iguana. My heart just beats faster as I remember witnessing him risking it all; traversing out on that skinny limb to secure the succulent flower bud for a snack. Time after time. More risky, but also yielding a reward.

Are we really that different than the iguana?

How often do we sit idly by, in the comfort of whatever palm frond, couch, job, relationship, etc., and not take the chance because of not knowing what is at the end of that branch? And what if you plummet?

Or, how often do we watch others taking great risk or making sacrifices, without understanding that what they are striving for is so worth it to them?

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.—Jeremiah 29:11

God has great plans for each of our lives.

Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.—Psalm 37:4

God created us each with different dreams, ambitions, thirsts, skills and talents.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. –Romans 8:28

He will make a way for us. He clears the path before us and helps us when we plummet.

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.—John 15:7-8

Agile, swimming, risk-taking, hibiscus loving, daring, fascinating!

Agile, swimming, risk-taking, hibiscus loving, daring, fascinating!

I believe that God will place in you a tenacious hunger for something that will require a leap of faith.

Whether you are a risk-taker or not, I encourage you to use the God-given talents you possess to pursue what motivates you.

You have no idea who might be watching or who YOU might inspire.

Go ahead. Go out on that limb.

Because you know how many hillside, succulent flowers the napping “palm frond iguana” enjoyed and savored?

Not a single one.

What’s Your Worth?

Image

Envision the Capital One commercial with the Vikings stating, “What’s in your wallet?”–
WHAT’s YOUR WORTH?

Niki Lauda, the former Formula One race car driver from the Ron Howard movie RUSH (a great rivalry movie!) = $100 million

John Wayne = $50 million (Even after he’s dead!)

David Baldacci, the author = $45 million

Gisele Bundchen (the Brazilian model) = $250 million (I picked the wrong career!) *tongue in cheek*

J.K. Rowling, another author = $1 Billion (Okay—Maybe there’s hope!) 😉

Angelina Jolie= $27 million (Even without Brad Pitt!)

Howard Stern and Magic Johnson are tied with $500 million each
(Data gathered from http://www.celebritynetworth.com & Forbes)

A few curious findings:
Pam Anderson and Nicholas Cage= $0 (Apparently some tax issues tangled them up.)
Also mind-blowing to me, the following people all filed for bankruptcy (some more than once) and bounced back from it:
Abraham Lincoln, Mark Twain, Walt Disney, Willie Nelson, Burt Reynolds and Henry Ford.
(www.moneyreign.com)

So, the question: What are you worth?

I was 17 and grappling with what college to attend and what to study to obtain this so-called “success.”

So I began questioning people.

“What does it mean to be successful?”

Most people answered by citing a famous person they aspired to be like (such as those above) and all answers described the visuals of success: a four car garage with each bay filled with an Italian performance car, the climbing of the corporate ladder, the growing amount of their investments, the lavish amounts of time off and money to travel, etc.

One person answered different. It stuck with me. I will summarize what this very wise individual said, “Success is different for each person. Mostly, I think it is to dream and achieve those dreams, while living a life that honors God with those dreams.”

This didn’t help me in deciding on my college (Go BUFFS!) or what major to declare (not surprisingly I chose sociology!), but it did help me years later, when I was in jeopardy of losing the career and title I’d worked to obtain.

My identity and value was tightly wrapped around my work and how well I did it. “Ten minutes early is ten minutes late” was one of my mottos. I dressed for a position higher than I was in and always took extra training classes and afterwards submitted reports of what I learned to my superiors. Intense study and exams, several interviews, a detailed background investigation, drug testing, and a polygraph took months before I was hired by the police department. Then the full year of “hands-on” training were required (all on night shift) before I was certified by the State of Arizona. I loved the meticulousness of my position. I felt I made a difference in my work when I became the lead trainer a year later and, when asked, I held my head high as I announced I was a fingerprint identification technician at Scottsdale’s crime lab.

And when my situation changed and this was all in jeopardy of evaporating away, the proverbial rug was ripped out from under me. My talents, skills, daily duties, position, pay check and performance all came crashing down around me. Couple this with some health issues and a loved one diagnosed with terminal cancer and I was spiraling out of control. To say I was on my knees was an understatement.

But sometimes, on our knees is just where we are supposed to be.

I didn’t know where to turn, what to do or how to do it, but I knew I still had dreams. I let go of my need to control, released my need to know and, as those wise words about success echoed forward into my consciousness, I laid my life at the feet of the One who planted those dreams in me and the One who is always in control.

With the recession stripping many of their positions, their homes and their identities, this question of WORTH is on a lot of people’s minds.

What is one life worth?

Is it just about the $$$’s above, or about a title attached or possessions obtained? Or what the person can offer? What if that person is sick or very old? Or, very, very young?

Strip people of their millions, their talents, their titles, power, possessions and what’s left?

Is what’s left a life worth dying for?

Take it ALL away and you find out what you are made of–

“…the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and the man became a living being.” (Genesis 2:7)

–You are dust.

The loss of these “things” is no small matter. They are big, and deep and wounding things to lose. But we have a God who is bigger, deeper, wider and so much more mind-blowing-ly powerful.

“You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us”
-Lyrics from Gungor’s “Beautiful Things”

He makes good things from dust.

“By the word of the Lord were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth.” (Psalm 33:6)

God breathes in, taking in the common element of oxygen, and exhales, emitting the stars and galaxies into existence!

And the same God breathes into us.

The same God, regardless of our dusty title, dwindling possessions, meager abilities, lack of talent, unrealized dreams, stripped power or embarrassing net worth, believed we were worth dying for; worthy of sending His Son to die on a cross.

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

So the next time you compare yourself to “the Jones’s,” stress out about your pay check, feel hopeless toward job prospects and the slippery success you sought after; remember you are valuable.

In spite of your efforts, regardless of your talents or where you find yourself, your life is worth the death of a King.

PROFESSIONAL ZUMBA DANCERS

Zumba
(“One of these things is not like the others!”)

I think something tragic happens when we try to be something we aren’t meant to be.

Actually, I KNOW it is tragic.

Take, for example, when a runner attempts something like ZUMBA.
Seriously tragic.
And, you know what they do in those dance places? They place mirrors at every turn. So, even if you could fake it in your mind that you don’t look like a puppet/marionette gone wild–on crack–there is the visual evidence slapping you in the face! It screams at your flailing arms and at every hip shake and misstep saying, “YOU WERE NOT MEANT TO BE A PROFESSIONAL ZUMBA DANCER!”
I didn’t give up; but I wanted to! (-And a few people around me wanted me to!) AND, after two days of recovery, I was actually glad I tried something new!
But, then there is my old Jr. and High school buddy, Kelly. You put her in those mirrored rooms and she blossoms like a flower in spring! Her arms are in perfect sync with the furious steps below and the hips in between, making most blush who witness the ease of her rhythm.

She was meant to dance.

(See if you can pick her out in the photo above—she has this knowing look—like, “These others shouldn’t quit their day jobs!)

It’s truly something to witness when you see someone “in their element;” pursuing a dream; excelling in their passion. Like a well orchestrated song, perfectly pulling together the individual sounds of each instrument, joining up with lyrics, rhythm, melody and it all flowing together like it was always meant to be exactly that way.
But, what when we are forced/or stuck in something that we don’t excel in? That we loathe doing day after day after day…After a while, life turns from musical harmony to a clanging cacophony of unbearable noise.

I get that there will always be things that we struggle with wanting to do–homework, paying pills, Mondays, etc.,—that’s part of life; but it shouldn’t BE your life.

We are promised something more…

“…I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)

And when you invite Jesus into your life and allow him to direct your path and your plans…

“Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” (Ephesians 3:20)

More than we can even imagine??!! Hmmm…I like this idea…A LOT!

As I was struggling with what to blog about this week, I realized…I LOVE to write. I am not pretending that it is easy for me to do—there are many things that get in the way (like two other jobs, laundry, eating, the voices in my head saying, “You can’t,” or “No one cares.”) But I always return to it—the desire to be at my computer, or with a note pad jotting down something that struck me during an interaction. I yearn for the spare minutes to get the “pen to paper” and I get a rush. It is almost like that marionette on crack, or probably more like the runner’s high when I feel God nudging me to write something. It often happens when I am out on a run and when I am undoubtedly at the farthest point from home!

As I write, I am smiling. My hope is that, whatever it is you spend the majority of your day doing, or dreaming of doing, that you will DO IT! –Pursue it. Don’t give up on searching for your “thing;” for what makes you blossom; the fire in your belly; the passion that you can’t get out of your mind. Try it. Don’t give up on it. Keep trying; keep searching and keep pursuing until you find it. Continually ask the Lord into your plans and, I am willing to bet on it, that “it” becomes more than you can imagine!

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)