New View

This seemed like a great idea at the time, but now not so much. The beginning of this didn’t seem so bad, but it got worse. The descent had taken a steep dive, and the path was slippery. It was not your typical tourist jaunt laid out with cement steps and a railing. There were no smiling greeters to guide you or tell you that you weren’t going to die.

It was rugged and all natural the whole way, and I wondered why this detail had been left out of the description in the vacationer’s guide. It was bordering on treacherous. There was an entire jungle to my right and left, and while it was beautiful, it was dangerous.

She had bought the book to study what would be the most exciting and unforgettable sites to see while in Maui.

“There’s this place called The Secret Beach.”

Anytime there’s a bit of mystery and intrigue involved, she knows she can get me to listen to her. It must be my overactive imagination that pulls me right in.

“Why do they call it that?”

“It’s supposed to be hidden. Not a lot of people go there, so they gave it that name.”

When you are sitting in the comfort of your condo, drinking coffee, looking at professional photographs, you can be talked into anything. Throw on a mystifying title, and now you are in the car trying to find the elusive location.

“Let me read what it says.”

At the bottom of the paragraph, there was a slight mention of it being so undisclosed that people felt free to shed their swimsuits. I looked at her like a mother would.

“Did you see this part right here? Are you prepared for that? Am I prepared for that? I don’t know.”

“It says it’s a rumor.”

I read further, and it did, but could I trust that? What if this ended up being a whole nudist colony? Even if I’m home alone, I lock the bathroom door for privacy!

According to the rest of this blurb about one of the most enticing scenes on the island, surfers wanted the beach to themselves so they made up a wild story to scare off visitors. They didn’t want a lot of traffic to contend with.

That made sense. I hoped.

In fact, it was the least of my worries as I half slid down to wherever this was that I was going. I could faintly hear the crash of the waves ahead, but I was trying to focus on not falling into the abyss on either side of me. Both of us had to stop to catch our breath.

She knew what I was thinking, but I was trying to stay positive. Every muscle in my legs was on fire, and stopping was only prolonging the agony. There was so much sweat and effort being put into this. I looked back up from where I had come as I considered turning around. It seemed pointless because I was at the halfway mark. And I didn’t want to disappoint her. I just can never do that.

We resumed our careful movement as I tried not to imagine a sprained or broken ankle with each step. I didn’t want to be having a medical emergency on Gilligan’s Island.

The narrowness of the trail forced us to walk single file. Coming towards us was a man holding a surfboard. He had no problem maintaining his composure as he easily sprinted upward. We both moved over as far as we could. As he ran past us, he blurted out,

“There are a lot of old naked people down there!”

What was I walking into? They don’t do this in Minnesota! It’s too cold to do this tropical free for all in that neck of the woods. We zip up to our chins most of the time.

“What did he just say to us?”

She repeated it.

“Is he lying?” She asked.

At that point, I needed to sit down, and I couldn’t where I stood. So I had no choice but to keep on going no matter what was up ahead.

“He probably is. That’s what the book said.”

Finally, we reached the bottom, and it was unbelievably beautiful, not only because there wasn’t a nudist retreat going on but a majestic ocean right in front of us. There were only a handful of people that I could see, properly dressed, so I didn’t have to execute my plan of throwing my towel over her head to protect her from anything obscene.

No longer fearing the unknown, we ventured forth to fall back into an exhausted state of being. We sat there unmoving for a while, watching a single surfer perform his magic on tumultuous waves.

It was a desolate place, straight out of a book on being shipwrecked. I stood up, ready to walk again, to take a few pictures. A lady was looking out at the water.

“It’s so pretty here,” she said as I came by.

“Yes. We don’t have this in Minnesota.”

“You are not from there!”

“Yes, I am.”

“I’m from there too!”

We found out we lived about 40 minutes from one another. It was a small world moment for us both in the middle of nowhere.

I noticed an older couple walking close to the water with heavy duty shoes on. That seemed strange to me. He used a huge walking stick as they trudged along. There was no way these two had gotten down there as we had. I saw them stop and speak to the people a little further down from us. There was a lot of pointing at the sand, conversing and pointing downward.

I noticed the people they had spoken to were now moving around quickly like something was wrong.

One of them saw me staring and said,

“Be careful! There are jellyfish all around you! “

The older couple shuffled over. They began pointing out every jellyfish that we were in the midst of, and while they were dead, they could still sting if stepped on. I looked around at the glistening forms that I hadn’t even realized were there.

As our bad news ambassadors moved on, I stood with bare feet on top of my tennis shoes. Both of us decided to ditch this event and return to civilization; I would not let one inch of my bare skin touch a thing, and neither did she. We balanced up against each other as we slid back into socks.

After all was said and done, I was glad I had the experience with her. There were so many reasons not to follow through with it, but we pressed on, determined to see something we hadn’t before.

I realize that is what God wants us to do. We are being called to see things in ways that we never thought possible, even though it may frighten us to the core. It’s a change of scenery with a new perspective. We aren’t to be so mentally locked down that we disregard a message that heaven is sending. If so, we will miss out, and it will be our fault. Not God, but us.

Our reasoning gets in the way. We look at something and make a split-second decision about how wrong or right it is. I have done that, and you have too. It becomes too scary instead of investigating and allowing God to show you something, so it gets immediately shut down. If it doesn’t line up with the comfort zone, then it has to go.

Is that truly living to our highest, most authentic self? The tricky part of allowing more is to surrender what we think we know. The walk is by faith and not by sight.

In Isaiah 55:8, it says:

I don’t think the way you think.
The way you work isn’t the way I work.”(Message)

For some of us, that’s about as appealing as being pushed off a cliff because we want to be in charge at all times with no surprises. We don’t want uncertainty and a free fall without an end. We want rules and predictability, so we feel safe and secure, accomplishing next to nothing spiritually.

So ask yourself: What’s so wrong with taking a chance and letting the One who knows it all and sees it all offer you a new view?

(Before the sharp decline)
Gilligan’s Island

Change of Plans

In the dark ages, better known as my early twenties, I was a social worker at a nursing home. Fresh out of college, I took up this position as an assistant to the director. I had interned that spring and was hired when the previous employee decided to leave. Since high school, I had already been working there in housekeeping, laundry, and the kitchen, so it was an easy transition that didn’t require much of an interview. I walked across the stage with my diploma in hand, knowing I already had a job. 

It wasn’t an easy one, though. I had hardly any real life experience, yet I often found myself comforting those who had said goodbye to a loved one. Other times, I gave a listening ear to a spouse who was visiting and watching as their better half was fading away. 

I think the saddest man I ever met was the one whose wife had gotten early onset Alzheimer’s right after they had both retired. Bill and Lydia had worked very hard to get to this stage so they could travel. They saved every dime toward their future, and now it wasn’t to be. So many tears of grief and anger flowed while we would talk. He confided so much in me, and I often would wonder why? I couldn’t fully understand what he was experiencing, yet the right words always seemed to come out of my mouth to alleviate his pain momentarily. 

In the end, I gave him the permission he was looking for to branch out into the unknown. At first, he could not fathom the idea of leaving his wife to go on an adventure for himself. He felt he had to stand guard over her even though it got to the point where she no longer knew who he was. 

I watched as the months and eventually years dragged on, and he would come in the door with his shoulders slumping more and his eyes filled with an ever increasing depression. As much as she was leaving the earth, so was he. When I would greet him, he would acknowledge me with a quiet voice and eyes to the floor. His withdrawal was apparent to all of us. 

One day, he came into my office, shut the door, and pulled out a pamphlet from his jacket. His hand shook a little bit. 

“What do you think of this?”

It was an advertisement for a group that was going to take a trip to another country.

“I think this is an excellent idea if you think it’s something you want to do. You know your wife is in safe hands here.”

I saw the tears start to well up in his eyes again.

“I think I should try it. It’s not how it was supposed to be. We had it all planned out. We made a decision not to have kids but to work as much as possible. We missed out on so many things together to keep working. But, we thought we would have all our time together now. We chased after money thinking it would give us a safety net. Now, most of it is going for her care.”

“When are you going to do something for yourself? Would she want you to be this unhappy?”

That seemed to strike a chord. 

“No. She would want me to go on without her. I know she would.”

By the time he left, I had a feeling he was going to make a brave move forward.

On his next visit, he held his head high, and a long forgotten smile radiated his whole face. 

“I booked my trip!” 

He excitedly sat in my office in the same spot that was tear stained and told me all the details. There was still a nervousness to his demeanor, but making these plans for himself had given him purpose. He still had some guilt about going, but the joy he was feeling seemed to override it. 

“There’s a group of us, so I won’t feel alone, and that’s important for me right now. I made arrangements for an emergency contact in the family in case she needs something while I’m away.”

I leaned inside the doorframe of her room when he came to tell her goodbye before his excursion. Even though she sat staring at him with absolutely no indication that she knew him, he told her everything and promised he would return with many pictures to show her. 

I saw her take his hand and squeeze it. He looked over at me. 

“I guess that is your sign to go have a great time!”

He agreed. 

He returned with great stories and beautiful scenic photos of where he had been and who he had met. He left nothing out. 

By the time his wife passed on, Bill had an enormous circle of new acquaintances who shared common interests. He had listened to that inner push to put aside what he “thought” he should do and followed a path that seemed a bit less conventional. He was able to grieve the dreams that he and his wife had built by surrendering to another plan that was presented to him. 

Death, divorce, financial loss, retirement, illness, friends moving away…these are all possibilities that can present themselves. And how do we cope? What’s “our” plan then? Usually, we don’t have one. Most of us can hardly handle a slight detour while out driving. Like Bill, we are sidelined and many times try to cling to what’s familiar. 

I have found through my turbulence that God isn’t one to keep you in a comfort zone if there are other plans for you. The resistance to change is what brings unhappiness. I saw Bill blossom the minute he gave up his ideas and traded them in for God’s. He learned a great truth found in Isaiah 43:19:

Watch closely: I am preparing something new; it’s happening now even as I speak,

and you are about to see it. I am preparing a way through the desert;

Waters will flow where there had been none. (The Voice)

Once the initial shock of the event has transpired, and we let ourselves take a moment to sit quietly, consider that ‘our way’ may not be correct, we can be assured that God will always provide the best change of plans.

Messy Development

Road construction is disorderly. It’s inconvenient. Not to mention confusing. Sometimes I wonder if there is a sadistic city planner who says,

“Let’s take the frustration level of the commute up a notch and close down every route possible to see if the average person can get to their destination and back.”

And then that person flies to the store in his or her own hovercraft while the rest of us sweat it out with one another in lines of traffic that inch along. I am not exaggerating when I say that every road around me has been closed down with detours or so ripped up that if you choose it as your course, you can feel every extra ounce of fat jiggle on your body.

Oftentimes while jouncing around on such a thoroughfare my daughters have heard me say,

“This road makes me crabby. It reminds me that I should work out more, and I need a better support bra.”

Today I drove down my street to the makeshift four way stop. This has replaced our usual stoplights that left no room for confusion on whose turn it was to go. Now we all stare at one another and see if anyone wants to take a stab at continuing on their assigned path without being broadsided. I turned my blinker on to take a left and found that someone had put up a barricade. When I looked to my right, I found the same option. No entry. I had no other choice but to go straight. Yet, I really wanted to go left because there was no detour. The street I was on was not going to bring me anywhere near where I wanted to go.

After dealing with this type of circumstance repeatedly since April, I decided to find out what was ahead. What a surprise to see more blockades at the end of the street with a sign letting me know I was not going to continue on. I stared out the windshield at the scene before me. Behind the orange and white enclosures, every type of tall grass, wild flower and weed imaginable took up space. All of which was stopping me from going on any further.

I turned the car around and began a series of turns and stops to try and find my way through the maze. As I did so, I began to think about what I had just seen. No further work could be done on opening up that spot until the neglected land was cleared and smoothed out. As long as nature was allowed to grow in all directions unhindered, that section of the city was not fit for travel.

Driving around gave me extra deep thinking time as I saw the connection between the inner ‘construction work’ I have been doing to eradicate fear, worry and doubt from my life in order to accomodate faith, joy and peace more fully. Removing the negative is never pretty work. It can be quite ugly when you have to admit or face the fact that you are the problem. It isn’t a happy notion when you realize the reason why you are not moving on is because you are hanging onto beliefs that are impeding your own progress.

When I first realized this it was awful news and liberating at the same time. No longer can I blame someone else for the troubles I am in. For the first time, I have felt like my life isn’t vague and out of my control. I question God’s love for me less and less as I go about being more mindful of how I am thinking and do not tolerate unproductive thoughts to consume me. Instead of working against myself, I am taking responsiblity in clearing up the field of my spirit to make way for a new journey on a smoother paved road. It might be a bit of a mess getting there but at least it is development.