Which road?

What do you do when you don’t have success?  Or worse yet, you fail?

For the last three weeks I have risen with the sun with blurry eyes, thrown on a t-shirt and shorts and driven to meet a good friend to exercise.  I usually arrive at her house groggy, more often than not I’m late and sometimes don’t even have my tennis shoes on.  Meanwhile, Ms. Energetic is coming out to greet me and let me know she’s been up for hours, gardening, squeezing in an extra workout or decorating a room.

For the last three weeks I have met Ms. Energetic in stifling heat (yes, even at 6:30 a.m.) to walk.  We’re not walking in an air-conditioned gym on treadmills, but rather outside around town.  On blistering blacktopped roads.  On steamy steep hills.  On broiling busy streets.  Walking.  Not one mile.  Not two miles, but usually at least 3 miles.

For the last three weeks, at least 4 times a week, I have walked, marched, trekked, tramped and traipsed through town.

For the last three weeks, at least 4 times a week, I have sweated, perspired and excreted odor-causing water through my skin and my clothes.  I don’t even bother combing my hair in the morning, because after a quarter of a mile, I know the sweat will take over and cause my hair to look as if I just stepped out of the shower.  Meanwhile, Ms. Energetic gets mildly warm and may sport a slight sheen to her forehead.

For the last three weeks, at least 4 times a week, I have worked.  For what?  To lose weight of course!  I have failed.  Absolutely no weight change in 3 weeks.  Well, that’s not entirely true.  After 2 weeks I actually gained weight, then went back to original weight.

I am grateful to Ms. Energetic.  She is best friend and worst enemy, personal trainer and therapist all rolled into one.  She is not a miracle worker, however.

Beginning Monday, Ms. Energetic will not be able to be my personal trainer and therapist in the mornings. I will have to be accountable for my own exercise.  Will I continue to walk every morning?  Will I quit?  She is not giving up on me, but I am not so certain about myself.

So I am at a fork in the road.

Courtesy of Creative Commons
Courtesy of Creative Commons

To the left, I see a newly paved road that is wide.  Very wide.  It’s lined with large shade trees and has lots of rest areas. Its name is Quit.   I can easily travel on this path and give up.  I mean, I tried, right?

To the right, I see a small narrow path that is overgrown with weeds, and undergrowth that I will have to cut back to even walk on it. The obstacles are numerous. Its name is Continue.  I can keep walking in the morning.  I could give it more time. I could try adding another dimension, such as, hmmmm, maybe eating healthier? Ugh. This is going to be hard.  What did that left road look like?

Each time I think of a fork in the road, I’m reminded of one of my favorite poems by Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken.  

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

I’ve been told that you’re always a failure if you quit.  You’re never a failure until you quit. But failure is not final, and you can change course.  I can choose the right road.  This is what God wants for me…and you—to be a finisher, not a quitter.

So, I will take the narrow path.  And I will try to rely on the One who really wants to see me…and you — succeed.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Eph. 6:10

The LORD is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him. Psalm 28:7

I will go in the strength of the Lord GOD; I will make mention of Your righteousness, of Yours only. Psalm 71:16

But they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. I Cor. 9:24


Faith fog


While driving to work last week one day, the clouds were very low.  So low, in fact, that it limited my visibility.  I was in the midst of a morning fog.  And, of course, I had to take a picture of it (see above).

I always get a weird feeling while driving in fog.  I subconsciously slow down and wonder, what’s next?  Even if I’ve traveled the same road for years there is still lots of possibilities for things to pop up unexpectedly. The road is uncertain.

However, if I’m on an unfamiliar road, the sense of unease is raised several notches.  Uncertainty is sure.  Yet, not once have I ever stopped completely in the middle of a fog covered road.

I have talked about what faith feels like before, but that day I was prompted to think about what faith looks like.  It looks like a fog covered road in the country.  You have to trust that the road will continue even though you cannot see.  And, for it to be more like faith, you must not stop.  Though you might slow down (especially for safety’s sake), spiritual faith requires you to keep going.

So, if you’re feeling a little disoriented and unsure because you cannot see the miles ahead of you, maybe you need to trust the one that built the road.  He knows the way.


V-A-C-A-TION…in the summer sun!  That song always comes to mind at least once when I do go on vacation.

I recently returned from a family vacation and I’m exhausted.  What’s that, you say?  You can relate?  You’ve been there too?

Our great trip to the Grand Canyon in 2004.
Our great trip to the Grand Canyon in 2004.

Isn’t it sad that as Americans our few vacations are usually packed with go-go-go, itineraries and non-stop activities that leave us more drained than recharged?

Merriam-Webster defines vacation as a respite or a time of respite from something or a period spent away from home or business in travel or recreation.  I was amazed to see that the first known use of the word was in the 14th century.  Really?  During the Middle Ages in the 1300s, people were taking vacations?  Ah, that’s a whole other post.

What I wanted to point out is that vacations are meant to be relaxing, however, it seems most Americans really don’t know how to relax on vacation, and yet we are described by other countries as lazy and fat.

Trip to Grand Canyon with an unplanned stop in a Wild West town. ~ 2004
Trip to Grand Canyon with an unplanned stop in a Wild West town. ~ 2004

According to the U.S. Travel Association, employees rarely use all the time allotted to them for vacation, nearly 5 days a year.  Forty-one percent of Americans don’t take their paid time off. On those days, you’re paying your employer to be at work!

Why do we not use the time?  Most workers cite the mess that awaits them upon their return.  As a former teacher for over a decade, I can relate.  Of course, I took my ‘vacation’ in the summer, but for ‘mental health days’ or doctor visits, I would take hours to plan for a substitute in my absence and it was a true headache.

I have found in the newspaper business, it’s just as much of a headache, only worse, because there’s no substitute for you.  In that case, you have to work extra hard before you leave and/or your co-workers have to work extra to make up for your absence.

Some might feel no one can do your job if you leave or that they’re indispensable? Or worse, do you worry that if you take a break, no one will think you really are worth keeping?

These feelings that lead to not taking a vacation at all is called a “Work Martyr Complex.”  It often costs workers their health, well-being and relationships.

I’ve often heard people say that when in the twilight years of their lives, no one is wishing they had spent more time at the office.  Instead, most regrets would seem to involve relationships with people, and possibly time spent with others.

I’m blessed to have a husband that puts priority on “time away”. Not all of these I call vacations, but we have had many “mini-vacations” for birthdays, anniversaries, and trips during the summer.  I have great memories of the Grand Canyon and a Wild West town in Arizona, along with breathtaking views in Sedona, Arizona.

I’ve been to Elvis’ Graceland in Memphis, multiple visits to cabins in the Great Smoky Mountains and too many state parks to mention.

Our trip to Boston, I think this was 2010.
Our trip to Boston, I think this was 2010.

Because of great friends and family (and their generous rent-free rooms) we have had the chance to visit Boston, MA, with a side trip to Salem, MA, Orlando, Florida and a quick getaway to Watauga Lake in Butler, TN, which I’ve bet you’ve never heard of, and most recently, New York City.

The times that we didn’t sightsee ourselves to death have been the best.  One of our favorite memories is going to Ft. Morgan, Alabama on the Gulf of Mexico as a family.  That was truly relaxing because we did nothing but go to the beach and back to the condo.

As I’m reminiscing, I realize that it sounds like we have tons of money, however, it’s just the opposite.  Without really consciously doing so, we have made time away important in our lives, and hopefully a good example for our kids.  While work is worthwhile, so is play and rest, and neither require huge budgets.

Our most recent trip to NYC.
Our most recent trip to NYC.

What are your best vacation memories?