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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I said a simple prayer today for anyone who needs an encouraging word this morning.

I pray you feel the peace that comes from knowing God will provide your every need.

May you feel the confidence that grows in following God’s plan and purpose for your life.

May you find the strength to stand and start each day anew.

May you enjoy the comfort of God’s presence and gentle influence on your every moment.

I pray all you ask and seek will be revealed to you, and every door that leads to your destiny will be opened wide before you.

Trust God to protect and guide you as you walk with him today.

Amen.

What is your prayer for today? What special request do you need to bring before God?

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I said good-bye at the door of my daughter's kindergarten classroom and headed for the parking lot; but when I looked back, my daughter came running after me, shrieking down the hallway. Her dad and I had just divorced, and my daughter and I were both going through a period of separation anxiety.

The school counselor suggested I allow my daughter to bring something from home, something small and unobtrusive she could wear or keep in a pocket, something to remind her of the loving adults who would still be there for her at the end of the day.

locket-1141737_1920-1In my dresser drawer, I found an old, gold-tone locket necklace, and I put tiny pictures of her dad and me inside. My daughter wore that locket every day of kindergarten, and she stopped chasing me, crying, through the hallways when I dropped her off at school.

Some kids carry teddy bears or old blankets to remind them of home and help them feel secure. Most kids outgrow carrying their security objects around all day.

But many adults still have security objects that we keep near to see and touch. Sometimes we all need a physical connection to our invisible sources of strength and love. img_0503

When I was feeling particularly anxious and insecure, I found my old Cowardly Lion doll and stood him on my dresser to remind me to have courage and keep moving. I hoard quilts that hold memories of special people. I will never part with the Taz doll my husband won for me at the amusement park game stall. And lately, I've started carrying this smooth river stone to remind me of the strength and solidity of God's presence.

img_0640I know all these lockets, dolls, and stones don't hold any special powers. They are not lucky charms, and they possess no magic spells. Our touchstones are merely tangible reminders of the love and safety available to us and the special people who give us comfort and peace.

On first grade picture day, I pulled from the dresser drawer that old, golden locket, now tarnished and tangled. I asked, "Do you want to wear this today?"

My daughter shrugged.

Lockets and stones can never take the place of the love they represent, and once we become secure in that love, the reminders become merely reminders again.

My daughter moved on to wearing necklaces she and her friends made out of safety pins. But I still have that Cowardly Lion doll.

What security objects do your children treasure? What are your own tangible reminders of love?

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"Look! See Mommy way up there?" I lifted the baby higher and swung his chubby arm in a clumsy wave. I don't know if his mother saw us from her perch high above our heads. She was focused on tiptoeing across a tightrope toward the platform 30 feet in the air.

Every summer YoungLives moms bring their children to Timberwolf Lake for a week of camp. Learning to navigate the high ropes obstacle course is one of the group activities the teen moms can tackle. Last year I stayed planted firmly on the ground and held a baby while his mother balanced precariously over our heads.

The ropes creaked and the trees rustled in the slight breeze. The metal hooks of the harnesses clinked as the women moved slowly through the course.

Some ladies clung to the upright supports and cried, but the mom I watched made the journey look easy. She practically danced across the swinging rope bridge and the single rope trail. At the end she faced a sheer drop to the ground. She gave one hysterical shriek as she slipped off the platform and rode the ropes gently back to earth.

Though I watched last year from the relative safety of the forest floor, I recognize we all perform a similar balancing act of grace and endurance. Whether we hold back and cry, or leap forward with joy, all our lives are a high ropes course of stamina and strength.

We walk a narrow, wobbly way of instability and uncertainty. The ground beneath our feet seems constantly shifting. Circumstances change. Dreams sometimes disappoint. Expectations can explode. We have only two choices: freeze in place and hold on tight, or keep moving slowly forward.

We have to trust we are clipped in correctly. No harness or helmet will protect us from the pains of daily life. No safety net will catch us if we fall. Money, resources, and relationships are never guaranteed. God is our only security. His Spirit holds us close, and his support system of guidelines leads us safely to the end of our adventure.

We have to keep trying. We have to take one tentative step, then another, then a few more.

"You must do the thing which you think you cannot do."

Eleanor Roosevelt

When we face our fears, we build courage. When we accept new challenges, we learn new skills. As we realize each success, we grow in confidence and discover the depths of our abilities.

We all face the final leap of faith. We have no choice but to let go, plunge forward, and believe that God will catch us in the end.

Last year I stayed on the ground with the babies. This summer I plan to walk the ropes and learn what is waiting for me beyond the final drop. The best part of freefall is the freedom.

What ropes are you walking today? Who is holding you as you make your way?

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