Sometimes life stinks. At the Fair, animal barns flank the entry gates. As we enter the gate, my companion always comments about the smell of the barns, as if complaining will change the situation. Life is often messy and offensive, and complaining doesn’t improve it. If we stay home because we can’t handle the occasional stench, we miss out on the fun things life has to offer.

Look for the sweet stuff. At the Fair, food stands line the walkways. Hungry people stand in line to sample decadent treats like bacon-wrapped corn dogs, deep fried donuts, ice cream, waffles, or cookie dough on a stick. Life presents us with an endless array of blessings that make it delicious.  Sometimes we should accept, be grateful, and enjoy the good things life has to offer.

Be patient. A day at the Fair requires standing in line. While we wait for the bus from the parking lot, for our ticket at the gate, for iced tea or lemonade at the food stand; all we can do is accept where we are and be patient for the line to move. Much of life involves waiting for the right time, the right circumstances, the right conditions to propel us forward. When we are forced to wait, we can use that time to learn what we need and practice patience for the change that will arrive soon.

It is OK to rest. Walking all day through Fair crowds and summer sun can make us tired and irritable. Sometimes we need to buy a lemonade, claim a bench in the shade, and watch the crowds pass for a while. In life, we need to know when to step back, take a break, and regroup while we watch the world go on without us. We will know when it’s time to jump back into the flow and move on again.

Wear good shoes. Fairgoers walk for miles across dusty sidewalks, gravel paths, steep and curving trails. Uncomfortable shoes shorten our endurance and make the journey miserable. We see more of life when we are sure of our goals and the footing that carries us. When we are comfortable with ourselves, we can travel farther and faster than when we try to follow someone else’s tracks.

Watch where you step. All those animals at the Fair can leave a mess on streets and sidewalks. Prudent people are mindful of what lies before them on their path. Wise people take care of themselves and watch the road ahead as they travel throughout life. When we are aware of where our walk is taking us, we can avoid those pitfalls we don’t want to encounter.

Life, like the Fair, is a wonderful mix of danger and risk, fun and opportunity. At the Fair, we have to be cautious and know where our limits of endurance lie. In life, we can test those limits and be grateful for the experiences we share and the lessons we learn.

What have you learned about life this summer? What do you enjoy as you walk your unique path?

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“What is that supposed to be?”

We stopped before a crooked metal staircase that stretched up into nowhere. The plaque on the base read, “Where We Goin’?” and “Please do not climb on sculptures.” For a moment we contemplated the mysterious meaning of the twisted metal. I snapped a picture, then we moved on.

 

This morning the wind blew gently, stirring the leafy branches of the trees and the waving stalks of grass. The breeze blew mist toward us from the fountain in the center of the lake. Birds called overhead, and a blue heron watched us from where he stood in the water.

This morning I walked with my daughter, around and around the lake on a winding, narrow path. We walked through bright and sunny spots, alternated with shadowed and shady areas. We enjoyed the cool morning air, the warming summer sun, the sounds and scents of trees and water. We contemplated the towering metal sculptures that stood beside the lake’s circling path, and we enjoyed the time we set aside to spend together.

I love these leisurely walks with my family or longer wanderings by myself. A walk allows me to enjoy the beauty of God’s creation, birds and flowers, trees and grass. Walking reminds me to be grateful for the grace of seasonal changes, sky and sun, wind and earth.

A walk clears my head, awakens my thoughts, clears a way for new ideas and inspiration. Walking allows me time to think, consider my purpose, and wonder where my path is taking me.

A walk with someone I care about offers a time for reconnection and conversation, sharing where we’ve been and what we’ve been doing, or just commenting on the world that turns around us.

“Look, there’s a ground squirrel.”

“Where?”

“He’s gone.”

Walking makes me feel alive and grateful for all the world has to offer. A walk encourages me to commune with the God who created that world and gives us the power and freedom of movement to enjoy it.

This morning, I encourage you to take a walk with someone you love. Find a way to step outside and enjoy the brilliance God has given us to share.

For information on the physical and emotional health benefits of walking, click here or here. For tips on beginning a walking program, check here; or for a plan on losing weight by walking, try here.

How can you enjoy a walk on this summer day? What is your favorite aspect of taking a walk outdoors?

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We started out at 5 a.m. For the first five miles, the morning felt cool and promising. The sun rose brilliantly over the trees. Birds chirped. We covered ground quickly. After ten miles, the air felt warm and heavy. We began to groan. A slight inline seemed like a steep mountain pass. Our tires dragged. Our progress slowed. After 25 miles, our muscles ached and our breaths grew ragged; but it was too late to turn back. We had the trip more than halfway done. There was nothing to do but go forward and finish.

Twice I made this bike trail ride, from my home to the old railroad bridge that had been converted to a new trail destination. The trip covered 45 round-trip miles, under shady trees, through farmers’ fields, past grain silos and cattle corrals.

When we finally reached our stopping point, we coasted to the rail of the bridge and stood eye-level with birds that flapped above the river bed far below. We snapped pictures, sipped water, stretched our aching quads; then we turned around and headed home. We counted off 45 exhausting, creeping miles before we finally careened into the driveway, kneaded out the cramps, and crashed on the couch for the rest of the evening.

Our lives can often feel like that long bike trail ride. The destination seems far off and mysterious, the trail rough and shadowed. We wonder what lurks around the bend, what we will glimpse through the trees, and how we will ever make it home again.

Along the way I have learned a few lessons to help me enjoy the journey.

Train over time. For weeks we rode the trail, first a mile out, then three, then five. We increased our distance gradually, built our endurance slowly. Preparing for success requires time to grow strong. We get ready for the big rides by completing miles of shorter trips and smaller steps.

Have a partner for the trip. For a long ride, it is important to enlist a buddy to accompany us on the trail. Companions help us if we fall, call encouragement, and give us strength to continue. We need friends to keep us motivated and moving forward.

Plan ahead. For a day-long trip, we packed our handlebar bags with: crackers and cheese, apples and bananas. We filled bottle racks with extra water, carried sunglasses, sweatshirts, bandanas, bandages, gloves, tires pumps, Chapstick, cell phones. A life-long journey is easier when we prepare for the future, consider contingencies, and collect the skills and strengths we may need on the way. If we make a mistake and leave something behind, we remember to take it with us on our next long meandering.

Allow time for rest. Along the trail, we coasted on every downhill grade. We took numerous breaks to stop, stretch, and look around. We enjoyed the swaying trees and whistling birds, explored the shadows and scenic stops along the way. Atop the bridge we paused to look down and ponder the drop below and the distance we had traveled. At the end of the day when the ride was done, we dragged into the familiar living room and collapsed on the welcoming couch. Throughout our lives it is important to take periods of rest to relish our sense of accomplishment and feel grateful for the ground we have covered.

Life is one long road, and we are merely riders. We cannot turn back, but have to keep moving. When we maintain our momentum and keep propelling ourselves forward, we find joy and satisfaction waiting for us at the end of the line.

What do you take with you on your trail? How do you stay motivated to keep moving?

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From Saturday morning cooking shows, I learned to make a perfectly-browned pan seared chicken breast, zucchini noodles and spaghetti squash, and the correct balance of butter and flour for a roux (the base for many soups and sauces.) But for many years I refused to try to make risotto.

Risotto is too sophisticated for my skill level, I thought. Risotto is only made by cooking school students and those TV chefs. I am satisfied with boiling rice and adding butter and salt.

But like many new experiences, once I tried making risotto, I discovered the result was easier and better than I ever expected.

Risotto is surprisingly easy to create, uses few ingredients, and can be adapted to many different tastes. Saying “I made risotto” makes me feel more sophisticated and accomplished than saying “I boiled rice,” and the basic technique makes a versatile, delicious dish.

Start with Arborio rice and olive oil. Drizzle some oil in the pan. Add 1 ½ cups of rice and stir it around over medium heat until the rice just begins to turn golden.

Pour in half a cup of chicken stock. Stir until the rice has soaked up the stock and starts to look dry. Add another half cup of stock and stir.

Keep repeating that process: pour, stir, pour, stir. . . until you’ve gradually added about 4 cups (32 ounces) of chicken stock.

Taste the rice. It should be soft and tender.

Then add 2 Tablespoons of butter and a cup of grated parmesan cheese.

The basic recipe is simple and smooth, creamy comfort food. Once you’ve mastered the process, any combination of ingredients and flavors can be added. My favorite is cooked and crumbled bacon with thawed frozen corn.

You could try fresh peas and parsley, or mushrooms and asparagus, or any other combination you can imagine.

Check here, here, and here for risotto recipes and preparation ideas.

And though I am eager to explore new flavor ideas and try new risotto recipes, I can still appreciate the simple comfort in a bowl of basic boiled rice.

What do you enjoy preparing in your kitchen? What have you always wanted to try?

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As I am busily preparing to celebrate Christmas with my family, please enjoy this post from my previous blog, lizology101.

Have a very Happy Christmas!

I spotted this little leftover snowman after last season's Christmas shopping frenzy. When I showed my daughter the picture, she said, "Notice he's still smiling!"

If a dented clearance-sale snowman can keep his smile, we all have many reasons to put on a happy face.

"We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed" (2 Corinthians 4:8-9).

Smile when you are bent, bruised and damaged; because you know you are still valuable to God.

Smile when you feel alone, abandoned and rejected; because you know you still have God's company.

Smile when you are unsure, afraid and uncertain; because you know God still has a plan for you.

Keep your smile because you are keeping your faith, and know God smiles on you!

Be happily blessed today!

 

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