Reality Reflection: America is Awesome

As I was thinking about what to write today I discovered that National Park Week ends on Sunday.  National Park Week is a great reminder each year of the natural treasures we’ve got here in the US, and an invitation for us to not only visit them but support them too by volunteering on some upkeep and other projects at the parks.  With over 400 National Park affiliated areas around the US, there’s a really good chance that you can check out at least one in the next few months, or make one part of your summer travel plans.

Visiting National Parks as a kid with my family was definitely a highlight of the vacations we took together, especially some of the ones that aren’t household names like the Black Hills and Salem Massachusetts.  I still love getting out in nature as an adult and visiting some of these places that were discovered and enjoyed by many generations that came before me. One of the cool things about National Parks is that if you don’t want to get into the history there’s tons of great nature to explore without ever having to hear about the history side of things, but there’s lots of history if you want to get into it.

But after exploring the National Parks, you’re usually hungry, and there are some really awesome restaurants around the US to enjoy. Shows like Best Thing I Ever Ate; Diners, Drive-ins and Dives; and Food Paradise give viewers a look into some of the best and unique eats around the US. I’m always amazed when I watch shows like these because there are so many different recipes for the same food favorites and takes on classics that you could easily eat something different every day for the rest of your life and not repeat at any one restaurant (even if you might want to). There are so many chefs around America that are doing great things with food, whether you’re looking for vegan, Mexican, fried, salads, sandwiches or classics, whether you’re looking for a great sit-down meal or something on the go, that it’s impossible to give them all credit, but we can try.

I’m so thankful that we’ve got so many awesome opportunities to enjoy life and food here in America, what are your favorites?

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Who is Writing the Story of Your Life?

Today I thought we’d get some inspiration from the March-born writer John Irving.  

“Good habits are worth being fanatical about.”

“With every book, you go back to school. You become a student. You become an investigative reporter. You spend a little time learning what it’s like to live in someone else’s shoes.”

“If you are lucky enough to find a way of life you love, you have to find the courage to live it.”

“Half my life is an act of revision.”

“I sometimes think that what I do as a writer is make a kind of colouring book, where all the lines are there, and then you put in the colour.”

“The building of the architecture of a novel – the craft of it – is something I never tire of.”

“I write very quickly; I rewrite very slowly. It takes me nearly as long to rewrite a book as it does to get the first draft. I can write more quickly than I can read.”

As I was perusing these quotes and many other bites of insight from him, I was reminded about some important facts of life that we don’t always consider or want to consider.  Sometimes life is more about the distance, enduring and doing the work to see life through.  Life isn’t perfect and that’s something that not only keeps it interesting for us all, but also keeps us thinking, growing and discovering.  It’s really hard to get bored when every day is a new adventure or requires you to be more creative and patient after the events of the previous day.  If life really is like a coloring book, then you’ve got the opportunity to do whatever you want with the colors.  You can color your trees purple, bananas pink, dogs green and sun blue.  You can start your day when and where you want as long as you’ve got enough drive to make it happen.  What story will your life tell today?

Reality Reflection: What is Normal Anyway?

A topic I’ve been contemplating this week is that of what “normal” really is. As much as many people can say that they have standards as to how they’ll be treated, how they’ll treat others or what they think is right or wrong, and as much as I think we could come up with standards about respect and how we treat others and how we share the world we live in, I don’t know that there really is a “normal” anymore. We’re such a wonderfully diverse world with wonderfully unique people who each have different aspirations, world views and passions that my “normal” won’t look like your “normal” and you and I may not even really have a “normal” in our lives!

I understand the appeal of normal, it means that things fit in nice neat boxes, are easy to understand and don’t complicate our lives.  But I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad thing that there isn’t really a “normal” for every life in the world anymore, or the same normal for everyone. It challenges us to think and learn how to interact with others who are different than us. It gives us the opportunity to live a much richer life. It encourages us to learn to live in the moment. It means we can love the life we individually live and allows us to be our own person and not a copy of anyone else.

I think we should stop worrying about our definition of normal not matching up with anyone else’s, or if there’s even a definition of normal that applies anymore.  Personally I think attaining normalcy should be pretty low on your list of things to accomplish.  I think we should work instead on loving better, living more wisely and being more considerate of the others that we share this world with.  Work on finding a “normal” that works for you, or don’t!

Do you have a normal or are you trying to work towards one, or are you happy with your life that doesn’t fit in a “normal” box?

Reality Reflection: Flying Snow Fun

This past week we had some winter weather. It was just enough to snarl some travel and make some piles of snow and ice, but not really enough to really play outside with the kids more than just a few snowballs. As I was driving the next day I was witness to quite a few flying snow roofs. Now, I did clean off the roof of my car but I know it can be difficult to do, especially if you’ve got a big car and you’re short. However, technically you’re supposed to clean off your roof before you drive, because it can be dangerous to have all that flying snow and ice.

So as I’m driving along I was watching these flying snow roofs and I have to admit that I thought they looked really cool. I know it’s not something I should encourage, but there might have even been some oohing and aahing happening. It’s kind of like watching a really big building be destroyed to make way for a new building (blowing up a casino to build a new one for example), or watching a shuttle launch in person, or even something a lot more normal like watching fireworks.

The reality is that icy snow flying from car and truck roofs is dangerous. Yes, it can be a real rush to watch the snow break apart or even to fly over your car, but the rush doesn’t remove the danger. The rush of watching two cars race on TV or around the track in front of you will never be as great as the rush of being in the race yourself, but is the increase of the rush really worth it? I’m not saying you shouldn’t live life to the fullest, just to be smart about the risks you’re taking, especially if it puts someone else at risk or may leave your kids without you should the risk be realized.

I encourage you to embrace life and to love your life but never forget that you’re part of a family, whether they’re blood or not. You matter to other people and you’ve got the ability in countless big and little ways each day to impact their lives, and the lives of others you may never personally connect with.

Reality Reflections: What were we exploring anyway?

This month as we’ve talked about the topic of exploring and doing some exploring myself, I’ve found myself asking a kind of funny question, maybe one you’ve asked before after going through something: what were we exploring anyway? The question isn’t really about the literal “what” of what you were exploring (i.e. a hill, a battlefield, a store, a relationship etc.), but really about why we were exploring it. If you really take the time to think about it you can assign a reason or goal behind each thing you do. For example why watch cat/dog videos? Some might say to not watch the depressing news or because they love cats/dogs and others might say because it makes them happy, and those are all legitimate reasons for watching dog/cat videos. There might be a necessary follow-up question of why did you watch so many dog/cat videos that might bring up some questions to consider about how you spend your time though.

But what happens when the ‘why’ doesn’t line up with what you’re doing? For example if you watched videos of dogs playing in water but your goal is to learn about birthing puppies the exploration (watching dogs play in water) doesn’t line up with the desired result (learning about dog births). Now, we don’t always know what the desired result is and sometimes we know what a general result would be but not the specific result we were really after. For example if you watched videos of dogs playing in water and your initial/large goal was to learn about dogs, you’re doing that. But if when you really think about it your goal is to learn specifically about birthing puppies, you’re not doing the right exploration. I reached that conclusion myself when I was on a date with my partner this week, that the general result was definitely accomplished (being together and visiting a Halloween/autumn attraction), but the unknown specific goal really wasn’t, or that the chosen exploration didn’t really line up with what we needed (a slightly more intimate, less pressured, less rushed evening).

Now, just because the end result doesn’t line up with the initial goal it doesn’t mean that the exploration was pointless or wasted. It could still be a great experience and opportunity to learn. In fact sometimes it’s good to explore something simply for the practice of being curious and seeing what else our world holds. And I’m not saying that every single thing you do needs to be analyzed to this deep level (I can’t stand that), but that taking just a quick minute to really see if what you’re planning or doing is really what you want could help you manage expectations or alter plans. So this week I would encourage you to be a little more mindful about what you’re doing and why and let that help you make smarter decisions about your life and relationships, and have more fun too.

The Expectations of Exploring

This month we’ve been talking in part about the topic of exploring, and I did some exploring with my partner to a Halloween/autumn attraction recently and either I wasn’t in the mood for the exploration or it wasn’t as good as I thought it would be. I think it’s a little of both, but it got me thinking about what happens when we go out and do the brave/courageous thing and explore and don’t find what we expect, or the reality didn’t live up to the hype or we find that the destination is really just a beginning. We get to the end of the road and say something like “now what?” or “that’s it?” or “there’s more?”

I think part of the reality is that life is a journey and even when we explore we’re not necessarily going to end up at a true destination, but that what we thought were destinations are really just stops in the journey. But let’s talk about making the most of your explorations. First, know that not all explorations will be successful or awesome. Even if you put a good spin on them, there are some things that just don’t work out. Yes, they can be chalked up to learning experiences and attempts, and they’re important to have as long as that’s not all that’s happening. If it’s not a great exploration, learn what you can from it and move on.

Second, manage your expectations. Yes, you should go into everything with a positive expectation, or at least the expectation of learning something, but that doesn’t mean that your expectation will be that it’s the end-all, be-all. I can remember going on a trip to a bunch of National Parks among other things with my family as a child and being incredibly underwhelmed by the Grand Canyon, the vast canyon that countless people have raved about since it was discovered. But I’ve seen pictures of the Grand Canyon since then that have blown me away because of the cloud formations or weather that’s part of the image. It’s important to note that I clicked on the link for the picture not because I loved the Grand Canyon, or because I was expecting to see another picture of a hole in the ground, but because I hoped that maybe I would get to see something that was a glimpse of what many people experience when they look at it, and I did.

I don’t know if I’ll ever go back to the Grand Canyon or that Halloween/autumn attraction again or not, but I’m not going to let some not-so-great explorations ruin me forever. I’m still excited to visit more National Parks and more local attractions, and maybe with a little better attitude and slightly adjusted expectations, I’ll have a better time even if it’s not my pick. Sometimes it’s not even about the destination, but about the thrill of exploring. Yes, the destination is great, but sometimes the journey getting there is even better.

Exploring God

This month one of the things we’re talking about is the topic of exploring. I think it’s important for us to spend time exploring as part of our lives, I don’t think it’s healthy for us to stay in our little bubbles and not consider the other people and parts of the world that surround us. I don’t think that God wants us to stay in our little bubbles either, otherwise we won’t be able to share the Good News with the world. But the more I explore the world, the more I hear, the more people I meet, the more I learn that there are some things that don’t change and are universal around the world. These are things like family, enjoying sunshine, wanting to be loved, the power of love, the challenge and power of communication, and the joy of being a child are universal.

Something else that won’t change no matter where you go or what you do is God. That’s not something that I say because it sounds good or just something I believe, it’s something God has committed to. Malachi 3:6 says “I am the Lord, and I do not change…” With that verse in mind we can go through the whole Bible and explore who God is and get to know Him, knowing that what the Bible shares about Him is true and hasn’t changed. Yes, there are things that have changed from when the Bible was written to today with regard to culture/society, but that’s not the case with God. God has remained the same and that’s a good thing.

This week I would encourage you to explore the Bible on who God is and take time to explore your relationship with Him in a new way. Maybe it’s starting a lunch time devotional time or taking walks in the woods or parks to talk with God (without listening to something on your phone/audio device), maybe it’s memorizing a verse or delving into a particular aspect of who He is as the Bible shares, or maybe it’s joining a Facebook group or local group to do a devotional each week. What will you do to deepen and explore your relationship with God this week?