A Trip South Would Be Appreciated

I’m pretty much ready to take a trip down south. I don’t really care where down south as long as the only white stuff around is sand.I don’t have a trip planned or anything, but I’m sure thinking about some way I could make that happen.

I know in February we have a weekend at a cottage with my wife Lily’s whole side of the family. The only problem is that cottage is not south; in fact, it is a little north of where we live.

This weekend sort of finished me off. The cold temperatures came back like they never left. Earlier in the week we had temperatures of + 7 C and + 10 C.

But then the mercury started to drop.

And it dropped fast. In matter of 5 or 6 hours, the temperature had dropped to -12 … a 22 degree fall in one afternoon! What could survive a fall like that? Not much.

The next day I had my early morning hockey game. I knew it would be cold but I didn’t think there would be anything else with that cold.

As soon as I hit the garage door button I saw snow, and as the door continued to slowly rise, I kept seeing a wall of snow that had pressed up against the outside of our garage door.

This wall of snow was over the bumper of my SUV.

Did you get that? I’m not talking about a Mini Copper. I mean, I have 17 inch wheels on my SUV and the snow was over the bumper. I really hadn’t accounted for the snow, so I madly tried to shovel it out of the way so I could get my vehicle out of the garage.

It took a while because there wasn’t a lot of places to put the snow. But that wasn’t my only problem getting to hockey.

Once I shovelled out one side of my driveway, I backed the car out and started forward … only to be hung up on snow in the middle of my street.

The plow had come through in the middle of the night but had only made one pass and left a berm in the middle of the road which I tried to go through.

At 6:30 am, there I was by myself, trying to rock my vehicle back and forth to get through the snow mountain. It wasn’t working so I went and got my shovel and started to dig the snow out from under the front of the car.

I was able to dig enough out that I could get free. I threw the shovel in the back seat and took off for hockey. I was late – I knew that – but I thought I would get in a little skate to make the effort worthwhile. No one was there. Apparently only three guys had made it to the rink and they called it off.

What do you do at 7 am on a Saturday morning when hockey gets cancelled? I shovelled the rest of the driveway. That’s why I’m ready to go south. I’ve had enough.

Here’s the thing: Sometimes you need a break or change of pace, but you know it’s not going to happen. You’re stuck where you’re at. That’s the perfect time to thank God for the good things He’s brought into your life. It’s so easy to just focus on the bad, but you can change your mood when you focus on thanksgiving.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: What are you thankful for right now? Leave your comments below.

My Neighbours Are Dropping Like Flies

I feel abandoned by my neighbours; it seems like we are the only ones remaining strong.

… What I’m referring to is the number of neighbours who are leaving our street … not in a permanent way, just for a vacation.

We live on a small street of only ten houses – it’s actually a cul-de-sac – but three of our neighbours are going to warmer climates just as the cold and snow have hit us.

Christmas Day saw the most snowfall I can remember in this area. Though we were not going anywhere, I knew it was going to mean me having to leave lounging with my family to go and shovel the driveway and the back deck.

We had company coming for dinner and there was no way they could plow through all the snow that got dumped on us during the night.

… I’m even surprised Santa came through with the gifts. It must have been a tough night even with Rudolph leading the team.

Just before I got to stirring myself from my one-day hibernation, I heard a noise outside our door.

It was my neighbour with his snowblower. He plowed the driveway and our walk.

What a Christmas gift!

I shot him a thank you email a little later and his response was, “You’re welcome and we are leaving for southern climates for a couple of months.”

I went out to shovel our deck and clear more drifts from the driveway, and saw another neighbour doing the same. He yelled over Christmas greetings and promptly told me he was going to leave us with the cold and snow for some tropical weather the next day.

We’d already said goodbye to one family who are visiting their native land, where they don’t know what a fall jacket looks like, let alone a full-blown winter coat.

And I’m pretty sure there is yet one more snowbird who is flexing her wings to leave our white winter wonderland.

It’s not usually that bad when people go south. But when they gang up on you and leave when the temperature drops and the snow piles are as tall as your wife, it can be a little discouraging.

It’s not that I interact with my neighbours a lot during the dark part of the year, but even seeing those tail lights going into their garage, or giving a wave while we wipe the snow from our cars, is comforting, like we’re in this together.

I don’t feel that way right now. I feel a little abandoned, like I’ve been left to hold down the fort while others get to enjoy all the perks that come with sun, warmth and beach.

I know they will be back, and I know the present conditions will ease up a little. Some of this snow will melt and we will have some warmish days (that’s Canadian speak right there).

But for right now, looking out my window at all that snow, and the bags being loaded into vehicles, I think it would be nice to trade in a couple of presents for a temporary relocation.

Here’s the thing: There are times in life that we can feel abandoned, alone, like everyone else has taken off and we are by ourselves. At times like that, we need to connect with the Lord because He never leaves us. He is with us, strengthens us and upholds us. There is no need to fear or be dismayed (Isaiah 41:10).

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: Where would you like to be right now and with whom? Leave your comments below.

I Couldn’t Believe The Progress We Made

It’s always interesting to see the progress in the city after being away for an extended time.

There is something about it that’s exciting, seeing what new things are cropping up, wondering if there’ll be something new to do, and new place to eat.

I find it intriguing and in some strange way hopeful. I guess it’s a sign that the city is growing, changing, adapting.

It’s like when you were in public school and your teacher told you to take a bean home, put it in a glass jar and stick a wet paper towel around it.

We would put it under the kitchen sink, but couldn’t wait to look and see if there was any change to the bean.

It was always amazing to see the sprout that would emerge and to track the growth of that new little leaf.

That’s sort of what it’s like to return home and see the changes that have taken place in the city.

I don’t go hunting all over for them. I just look for the progress on my fifteen minute drive to work, along a major route in town.

This year I have noticed lots of progress.

There is a dentist’s office, a stand-alone structure, at the end of my subdivision. I don’t know for sure what they’re doing, but there is now a huge trench that wasn’t there before my vacation.

It’s deep and covers three sides of the building – one more side and they’ll have a genuine, functioning, modern-day moat.

And I say “functioning” because we have had so much rain this summer that there has to be water in that thing.

I’m not sure if the dentist is worried about an army of gingivitis attacking his clinic or not, but he’s going to be prepared when this thing is done.

There are a couple of high-rise apartment buildings that are making serious progress. It’s interesting to see how high they’re getting, and changing the landscape.

Then there are two things I noticed that kind of surprised me. I wouldn’t consider them progress, but they open the door to new opportunities for progress.

One was a RV dealership that has been there for over 25 years, in a prominent spot. You always noticed the trailers in their lot.

On returning home, the place was deserted – no trailers. The building is completely vacant; they are gone.

Then there was an old style motel, probably dating back to the sixties, that closed a while ago. It took up a good chunk of land.

It’s now completely gone. There is not a scrap of evidence that there was a motel or anything on that land.

That was fascinating.

The only thing that didn’t change is the one thing I thought would have progressed: the reconstruction of a section of the mall where the Target store used to be.

You have to wonder if they found an ancient burial ground in the basement or something because the construction hasn’t changed in months.

Here’s the thing:  It is neat to see progress and change in the city, but what about you? Can you say you are progressing in your life, in your spiritual life? It’s easy to just coast along, and not make any headway in your relationship with Christ. Evaluate the last six months or year. Make sure you are doing something to keep your relationship with God progressing.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: What can you do to ensure you are making progress in your spiritual life? Leave your comments below.

Exercising Every Day For a Month – Not Bad!

Going into my vacation, I was concerned about one thing – exercising.

You see, I had gone almost six months without missing a day of exercising at least thirty minutes per day. Who wants to break a streak like that?

When I’m at home, I have options. There are always outside activities that I can do like mountain biking, golf, or baseball. But I have a backup when I can’t do something outdoors. I have a home gym that I can work up a sweat in.

Being at the cottage for an extended period of time, I only had the outdoor option … and this summer’s weather had not given me much confidence in my ability to get thirty minutes of outside exercising in every day.

Looking back, it rained every few days. We would just be getting into a pattern of sunny, warm weather when the clouds would roll in and dampen everything – literally.

Somehow through all this I was able to exercise every day.

There were a couple of times my exercise took the form of a power walk, but walking along the beach really fast is not my idea of enjoyable exercise. If I’m going to walk the beach, I want it to be a little more like a slow stroll.

So mostly I rode my bike. When the mountain biking trail I ride was too wet and nasty, I was able to find time between the rain drops to get a half hour ride down to Sauble Falls and back.

I’ve never looked at my weather app as much as I did on this vacation. I’d get up in the morning, look outside, check my app and think, “Okay, if I get my ride in at 10 o’clock I’ll beat the sprinklers.”

… I remember playing golf years go, early in the morning or late in the evening, before they had underground watering systems.

There were hoses and sprinkler heads on the fairways, with water spraying in a circle like a ticking clock.

If your ball landed in one of the spray zones, you would wait for the spray to pass by and then quickly move in to take your shot before the sprinkler came around again.

You had to dodge the water system in those days.

That’s what I was doing on vacation – dodging the big water system in the sky … even down to the last day!

My plan was to get up and get in one last ride on the trails before I packed the car and left for home.

But no way; the rain started at 7 am. That meant exercising on my last day of vacation would have to happen at home. Well, at least it was there waiting for me, with no weather conditions to consider.

My biggest concern going into vacation was being able to somehow exercise every day outside, regardless of the weather.

I did it! I got wet a few times, I caught a few breaks, and even on those days I just didn’t feel like doing much of anything, I still got it done. Not bad at all.

Here’s the thing: In life there are challenges every day. You don’t know when or what form they will take so you can’t avoid them or even make contingency plans. You just have to deal with them as they come and figure out a way through them. When you know this is true, it only makes sense to seek God every day for His wisdom and direction through the challenges.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: What challenge are you facing today? Leave your comments below.

It’s Always Amazing When The Impossible Happens

Sometimes we wish for the impossible and sometimes the impossible happens.

We opened up our cottage last week and spent our time relaxing, cleaning and walking on the beach. The weather was up and down; it was like Calgary weather.

Calgarians have a saying, “If you don’t like the weather now, just wait fifteen minutes.”

We didn’t have snow but at times we needed jackets, at other times our umbrella, and then one day we just needed shorts, t-shirts and sandals.

That’s right, one day it was hot, humid and 26 Celsius (79 F). It was like a mid-summer day … but it was short-lived.

We were back to wearing jackets later that evening and for the rest of the week, so it was not a difficult decision to leave the cottage early.

But it wasn’t the weather that triggered our decision.

Our daughter, Karlie, had spend three weeks in Cambodia and was flying home Saturday morning. We decided to pick her up at the airport.

Our cottage is a couple of hours away from the Toronto airport so we had a bit of a drive. The traffic wasn’t heavy, but we left kind of late.

In fact, we left so late that when Lily checked Karlie’s arrival time we knew there was no way we would be able to make it. It was pretty much an impossibility.

So I did three things to try to make the drive less stressful.

First, I told Lily we were not going to make it on time, so she would not be stewing over this fact all the way there.

Second, I drove really fast – not fast enough to have my car impounded, but not too far off.

The third thing I did was pray. I asked God to somehow get us there in time. … I felt like a hypocrite asking God for help and breaking the law to assist God in making it happen.

Periodically Lily would check the flight’s arrival time and every time the website indicated it was arriving earlier than before.

I wasn’t panicked by this but I did have unpleasant thoughts of our daughter arriving home and sadly finding no one at the airport to greet her.

That wasn’t a nice picture in my mind and it drove me to push the gas pedal down a little harder.

Along the route there were several little towns through which we had to slow down, but they were so small we’d blink and be through them.

However, coming out of one of those towns, we found ourselves behind a police car.

That really put a damper on our progress. It cut into what I could do to get us to the airport in time. While behind the officer, my speed was cut by about 35 km/h … and he stayed in front of us for 50 kms!

We had no hope of getting there on time in that unfortunate circumstance. But impossible happened …

Amazingly enough, Lily was standing there waiting for Karlie when she came out of customs.

Here’s the thing: In spite of my attempts to help God answer my prayer, the police car was like God saying, “I don’t need your help with this, Paul.” God can do what is impossible and He doesn’t need your help. He can do a really big thing, and sometimes will even make your selfish, personal request a reality. Don’t put off praying for anything and everything. God is able.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: What prayer has God answered for you lately? Leave your comments below.

I Need An Alternate Routine

My routine has been working for me for a few months now, but all that is about to change.

Back in December I developed a new plan for eating (read here) and exercise (read here). It’s been working for me and I feel great. I have more energy, and physically I’m able to play my sports at an increased level.

I’ve really enjoyed this run; I don’t want to see it come to an end. But I need to make some changes and I have a week to figure it out.

I took a week of vacation and we opened up our cottage for the year. But in doing that, it took me away from some of the routines that I have made over the last few months – mainly my exercise routine.

I’ve been trying (successfully, I might add) to do at least 30 minutes of exercise a day. I’ve been playing hockey two, sometimes three times a week and then on the days I don’t play hockey, I work out at home.

There I have a treadmill, a bike on a trainer, and a rowing machine.

On my week away, however, I’m not playing hockey and I don’t have access to equipment other than my bike.

For the summer I can ride my bike, but there will be some rainy days. Because I ride dirt trails, if the trails are too wet from the day before, biking is then also out of the question.

So what am I going to do at the cottage to keep up my exercise?

I can walk, which would make Lily happy because she would love to go on more (or some) walks with me. But for that to be exercise I will have to walk at a fast pace, certainly not the way I walk around a mall.

Some people run, but I have bad knees so that’s not an option for me. I’m at a bit of a loss.

I feel like I need to be a MacGyver in this situation. You remember the TV show, don’t you? He could make things happen even when he didn’t have the proper materials or equipment. MacGyver would rig something up to get the job done.

I need to figure out something I can rig up for those rainy days, and as an alternative to biking every day of my time away.

There is one other thing I need to consider. When Lily and I went shopping to get groceries for the week, I had my eye on the candy aisle the whole time.

For me, vacations or being away is synonymous with snacking. It’s what I do!

I had a very difficult time not throwing a few chocolate bars and bags of candy in the grocery cart.

I can see that the only way forward, the only way that I will succeed, is to have a plan before I go and then to stick to it.

Here’s the thing: Planning is important for accomplishing your goals, but you also need a plan for when your plan doesn’t work. That is exactly the same when it comes to temptation. You need a plan to live right, but you need an alternative plan in place for when temptation comes. Make a plan today.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: What alternative plan do you have for temptation? Leave your comments below.

I Lacked Discipline This Vacation

I’m realizing that I let myself go this year on my vacation. What I mean is I wasn’t very disciplined in exercising or in what I ate.

Candy Store

There are reasons for what led me to this, but the bottom line was I ate way too much junk food and didn’t get out biking nearly as much as I should have.

I don’t know why I didn’t look back half way through my vacation and change my actions to find some discipline, but I didn’t.

That’s the whole thing, isn’t it? I wasn’t disciplined enough to want to do anything about how I was living.

So why now? I’ve come to the end of my vacation and now I start to reflect on how unruly I’ve been in the areas I needed to keep together.

I think it’s natural that when we come to the end of something we start to reflect. For example, at the end of each year, TV networks and sports stations have their year-in-review, broadcasting their top ten sports moments, and the biggest news events of the year.

So, it’s natural to look back on my vacation and think, “Wow, Paul, you really let yourself go!”

I think I ate more candy in the last few weeks than I have all year leading up to this point. When it comes to exercise, this vacation I’ve biked less and golfed less than I have in quite a few years.

I could blame it on the heat, that relentless, energy draining humidity that zaps the life right out of you, that sun the beats down on you to the point where all you can do is lie on a beach chair, or couch and ask for someone to pass you the bonbons.

I could blame it on the weather, but I’m not going to. This was the hottest, sunniest, best vacation weather we have had in about six years. I’m not about to start complaining.

It didn’t help that there was a candy store by the beach that sold imported exotic candy at ridiculously low prices.

And it didn’t help that I stayed up late at night so that I didn’t get up early each day to bike in the cooler temperatures.

As I look back, I could have done a few things differently.

I could have been stronger; I could have thought more of the consequences. … I could have left my money in the cottage when I went for my evening walks to see the sunset.

Now here I am, on the verge of leaving my vacation, and having some remorse for how I conducted myself during the time I’ve been away.

I feel like one of the Canadian Olympians who had a disappointing finish in his last swim race. He said he had trained well, and prepared the best he could for the games. He was simply disappointed that all his training and preparations didn’t produce better results.

That’s me. I came into the vacation thinking I was in good shape. Somehow the different setting – the sun, sand and surf – called out to me to let loose.

And that I did. I’ll be rolling back into town soon … literally rolling in. Then I will get back to my discipline.

Here’s the thing: It’s easy to get off track in your time with God, especially when you change your setting or routine, like on vacation. When that does happen, don’t beat yourself up. Simply make moves to get back to spending quality time with God.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: What gets you out-of-sync with your disciplines? Leave your comments below.

Is Taking A Vacation Worth It?

My life is so overextended right now that I have to work extra hard just to get myself ready for vacation.

Working-on-Vaca

Back when I was a child, and even a teen, when vacation time came around I could literally drop what I was doing and go.

Of course, in those days I had servants (also called parents) that did all the prep work for vacation. I was just along for the ride.

Family vacation was a bonus for me then anyway; I was already on vacation.

But now it’s a different story. In order to leave on vacation, I have to cover my bases, make sure people are in place, and that responsibilities are assigned.

Then there’s the issue of unfinished work.

The experts say that if you really want a rest, if you want to relax, you need to clear up the things you’ve been putting off. In other words, you need to catch up on your work so you can take a break.

The problem is we’re often behind on our work because we’re too tired and need a break.

It seems like a lose-lose situation. I need a break from work, but in order to do that I have to burn myself out before I go so that I have nothing left when I actually take my vacation.

My vacation then becomes a rest AND recuperation.

I have lots of projects that I should tackle before vacation and but there are particularly two things that will stare me in the face all throughout vacation if I don’t do them before I go.

One of those projects involves the desktop on my computer. It is strewn with files and folders, representing work that I need to file or finish.

The filing is not that difficult to accomplish; the time it will take is minimal. It’s the work I need to finish that has me reeling.

The work staring at me from my computer screen has two stages to it. It’s work I need to post to a website.

The first stage is the preparation. I need to get the work in a format that is ready to be posted … I’ve already been working on that.

The second stage involves posting it to the website. This part will take a long time. It’s a tedious, multi-step process for each file.

I remember one year going on vacation, and within an hour of leaving the house, I started feeling sick.

By the time we got to where we were staying the first night, I was sicker than I’d ever been in my life.

I think I had worked so hard getting myself ready for vacation that my body said, “That’s enough!” and it kind of shut down on me.

I was a couple of days into vacation before my body started to come around and I began feeling like myself again.

That seems counteractive to the whole idea of vacation.

Oh, for the days when I had servants to do all the work for me!

Here’s the thing: We tend to overextend ourselves, pushing hard for things, even when we don’t have the power to make them happen. We strive in our own power, and become exhausted, only in the end turning to God for the help He can provide. Why not go to Him first, and seek His wisdom, power and support? Don’t burn out in your own power.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: What work or issue could you take to God, instead of wearing out in your own strength? Leave your comments below.

Take a Mini Break To Recharge Your Batteries

It’s amazing what a mini break will do for you. Recently, we took the opportunity to get away for a couple of days and it turned out to be just what we needed.

relaxing-on-beach

I wouldn’t say that all short getaways are relaxing and rejuvenating. In some situations they can add to the hurried pace we already live at.

When you take a weekend and go somewhere new, you usually don’t end up changing your pace of life that much. Thus you don’t experience the rest you need to recharge your batteries.

Don’t get me wrong, those kind of getaways are nice. They say that sometimes a change is as good as a rest. But when you get back to work and the regular schedule you keep, you still feel like you could have used a breather.

The reason is, when you go somewhere new, there is the urge to see or do that something new.

So by the time you get back home, you feel like you’ve been in a bit of a whirlwind, like it was great and all but you feel exhausted, tired, or hurried.

However, when you go somewhere familiar, some spot that is yours, there is a comfort in that place that puts you at ease, encourages you to relax.

We had two days – less than 48 hours – at our cottage, but as soon as we got there we were in chill mode. There was nothing to check out, nothing that was unexpected, no arrangements that needed to be made once we got there.

It was like coming home and, much like the way you feel after being on an extended vacation, it always feels good to get back home. Well, it felt good to be at the cottage again.

There was nothing to set up, no pressure, everything was familiar. We didn’t have to unwind; just being there unwound us.

We got up when we wanted to, no checkout time, no appointments to keep … except the self-imposed meeting with the beach. There was nothing hurried or pressing, just life in “slow mo”.

It’s like when they show you a highlight on Sports Centre in regular speed – it looks amazing. But when you see it in slow mo, then you see details you missed in regular speed.

That’s what it’s like to take a mini break somewhere that’s familiar. You enjoy the little details, the colours in the yard, the conversations around the fire pit, the quietness on the deck, the sound of the waves.

In a very short amount of time, the dial gets turned down and your muscles start to relax. Your heart beats a little slower and you feel like you’ve had a rest.

Here’s the thing: Life can get you all twisted up, all tied in knots, and spiritually you can feel disconnected or distant from God, making your Christian life a drudgery. The best way to get things back on track is to take a mini break with God. He and His Word are what’s familiar. But then do something out of the ordinary: spend a little extra time with Him, ask yourself new questions about the text, spend some time quietly listening to Him, change the location of where you meet with Him. Whatever time you spend with Him, make it a little extra. You’ll feel rested and rejuvenated if you do.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: Where could you go to take a mini spiritual break this week? Leave your comment below.

The Difficulty of Maintaining Discipline

Have you ever noticed that there is a chain reaction when it comes to discipline? When you are disciplined in doing one thing, you find it easy to be disciplined with other things as well.

need-discipline

However, the opposite is also true: a lack of discipline in one area leads to a rash of indiscipline in one’s life.

I experienced this on vacation this year. I know, vacation is the time when you’re supposed to throw discipline out the window and just enjoy life as it comes.

What I’ve discovered is life isn’t much unless you make it something, and that takes some discipline.

Before my vacation, I was in a routine of exercising thirty minutes or more a day. I could do that because I have a gym set up in my basement. If I couldn’t go biking, I could row or ride my stationary bike for half an hour.

While on vacation, I didn’t have the gym option. But I had time – lots of it – to fit in a bike ride or a brisk walk, or swimming each day.

But with so much time available, the tendency is to not be so disciplined in organizing it. After all, I was on vacation! You tend to not make decisions, to just relax and get to things later.

What happens is, all of a sudden, later is gone or something comes up that keeps you from making a decision to, for instance, go for a bike ride.

Once that happens, it can set you up in a pattern. Pretty soon you’re not making wise decisions on when you go to bed at night, so you sleep in and don’t get a good start to the next day. You become less motivated to make a decision to exercise or take that day trip, and you do what you’re supposed to do on vacation – relax, take it easy.

But doing that makes you a little lethargic. You sit down to read or watch TV and easily fall asleep. You spend some of the best part of the day sleeping and when you wake up, you feel like you’ve lost something, and you don’t feel rested.

So you stay up late, have a few snacks and this becomes the pattern of your vacation.

Instead of the dream of your vacation being filled with biking, golf, beach time, and day trips around the region, you end up with days in a row where you don’t feel like you did anything. They feel wasted.

Even on vacation you still want to accomplish something, even if it’s just having some fun.

Well I’m not going to let this vacation get away from me. I’ve seen what the undisciplined life leads to and I’m changing it now.

I’m going biking before lunch today and then spending some time at the beach. I also think a walk down by the water at sunset is in order … that might only cost me a small raspberry gelato.

Here’s the thing: When you are on vacation or on a business or family trip somewhere, it’s easy to get out of your regular routine. Being out of your routine will lead to being undisciplined with God, not spending time with Him, or following His lead in your life. So when you are out of your regular routine, discipline yourself to a new routine, and keep yourself close to God.

That’s Life!

Paul

Question: When do you find it hard to stay disciplined? Leave your comment below.