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.

“I’ll have what she’s having!”

Souvenirs

“I’ll have…”

I’m one of those people who always orders the same thing from the menu.

I say, “Why mess with perfection?”

I like what I like and the possibility of ordering something new and not liking it deter me from venturing out from my “norm.”

Why fix it if it ain’t broke? Right?

But, I have this friend–

She is a “skilled orderer.” Her mother, Grace, raised her with a love for food, an adventurous palate and infused her with passion and skill at mixing and experimenting with all manner of flavors, tastes, textures and variety. She’s been all over the world and knows what to order in every region. Not only does she have a published book titled “Souvenirs: A Creative Collection of Art and Cuisine”  that  fabulously pairs her recipes with her amazing artwork, but every time she cooks dinner, it’s a party for the taste buds.

Whenever we go out to eat, people’s senses are peaked and their eyes follow as the waiter walks by delivering her plate to the table. I giggle as they grab their waiter and point to her plate, trying to covertly ask what it was she ordered.

And, as the aromas from across the table make my mouth water, I watch with envy as she savors her choices.

Her husband is a wise man (for many reasons!) After years of sticking to what he was used to ordering and then sampling off her plate, (and eventually eating all of her food,) he has changed his ways.

Now he just closes his menu, nods and says, “I’ll have…whatever she’s having.”

But I don’t have the same tastes as she does.

But I don’t like hot and spicy.

But I’ve never heard of that ingredient.

But I can’t even pronounce that.

But, but, but…

So, I end up ordering the same thing.

And I miss out.

Isn’t this how we often end up doing life?

Playing it safe; sticking with what we know.

Saying, “That might work for you, but I am just this way…I have always been this way…I always order this.”

And we end up missing out.

But not anymore.

My friend is always gracious and allows me to sample everything she orders. And my taste buds burst out in celebration!

It has taken me some time, and I often think of all I have missed up to this point, but as I grew in trust, I’ve been encouraged and emboldened to try new things as we dine together.

 

And God is cooking up something in life for each of us that is so much more that we could ever ask for or imagine (or order!).

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

Bigger plans than that thing you always do.

And the beautiful thing is–He doesn’t expect us to do it on our own. He brings people into our lives to help us along the way. People who will inspire and encourage, or just another soul who has walked in our same shoes for awhile and who understands.

God knows us inside and out and figured out we would need a helper to move us forward into areas that frighten us.

He brings people into our lives that challenge us, hold our hand along the way and embolden us to try new things.

 

Don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating that all things are good choices for all people. Discernment and trust are key factors. (My friend always asks about my allergies and preferences before cooking up her magic!)

 

But, when we place our trust in Him, seek Him and ask Him for help, He will align himself with us, reminding us we are not alone. He will encourage us, guide us and light the way for our path.

“You hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel.” (Psalm 73:24)

“And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”(Matthew 28:20)

He invites us to spend time with Him; to savor His Words of healing, wisdom and direction. He asks us to dine with Him; to take and eat of the bread of life and sip from an everlasting cup.

“I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.” (Revelation 3:20)

So, the next time you hunger to try something new, or you find yourself salivating with envy over someone else’s choices, just close your eyes. Listen for God’s whispers of faith and focus your eyes on Him.

Breathe deep; smile and envision the café scene in When Harry Met Sally…

Open your eyes, and say it with conviction, “I’ll have what He has for me!” 😉

 

Dedicated to my fabulous, foodie friend Heidi Rosner. –Thank you for encouraging me in so many things!

Check out Souvenirs and all of her artwork at Celebration of Fine Art in Scottsdale, AZ through March! (or at www.HeidiRosner.com)

Or, better yet, just share some food with her! 😉

WRECKING BALL

WRECKING BALL

WRECKING BALL

WRECKING BALL
“What happened to Miley?”

I know this is “old news” but I like to moll things over—

“For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45)

And, I’ve said it before, I just got on Facebook this summer—I’m a little slow to catch on.

Miley Cyrus–Everyone’s seen her visual transformation, the foam finger incident and then there’s the racy video she released as she floats across the screen naked on a wrecking ball for her #1 smash hit. (Pun intended.)
I’m guessing that the people asking the above question must remember her in her youth; her Disney days, her Hannah persona, the images of innocence.

No one asked this question about Madonna when she used sex for her image.

I can’t imagine what it’s like to be raised by a famous father, constantly in the spotlight and also to have such talent. Her world is different. All that fame. All that pressure to perform, to be different, to be the next big thing. A totally different world.

“’If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.’…those who heard began to go away one at a time”…(John 8:7)

I saw part of an interview with her father Bill Ray Cyrus on Piers Morgan Tonight. -(Also apparently old news!)-He asked him to comment about being her father and the “twerking.”

He didn’t raise his voice, yet he seemed pained and a little sad when he said, “That’s still my Miley.”
She is still his child.

I don’t know her world, but I had the same question asked of me.
My sister’s friend had just read my book, “grace.”

“What happened to your sister?” she asked.

She knew me in my college days. The days when my world was different.

Back then, I didn’t care what people thought of me. I didn’t know Jesus. I was breaking the shackles my “good girl” image and wanted to no longer be bound by shyness, insecurities and the labels put on me by my family, teachers, neighborhood, etc.
Behind the new care-free collegiate image was a girl who was taking control, re-defining her world.

I was going to be the wrecker of hearts.

Deeper down I was wrestling with some demons– My heart turned numb after being broken by the one I thought was true. My innocence slipped away on a dark unsuspecting night after too many beers. The two people I counted on for stability became embattled in a lengthy war of worth.
In those days. I was confused, directionless and envisioned no future for myself, so I was going to party like there wasn’t one.

That’s who my sister’s friend remembered.

I have learned these things: this world can break your heart (over and over again), AND every one of us has our stains.
“Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18)

God understands the brokenness and wreckage of which we are so capable.

But these things I also know.

I am His child.

The light of Jesus shines even brighter in our dark places.

“Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29)

I am worthy of my Savior’s death on a cross.

“Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2Cor 5:17)

Transformations take time, but I was pulled from my own darkened depths and know that God has good things planned ahead.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

But people like to cling to their images, their thoughts, their judgments. It’s almost comforting to trash-talk people living wild lives—makes your world not seem so crazy.

God loved me too much to leave me where I was.
What happened to me is He plucked me from my “wrecking ball” and healed my heart.

He is the One who sees you for what you truly are no matter where you are.
He sent His Son as ransom for our wreckage.
And He is still “in the business” of reconciling this broken world.

So the next time you are tempted to judge someone where they are at presently, take a moment–

Guard your tongue.
Check your heart.
And remember:

We are all His children.

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)