A mom, a treehouse and a couple mountains – an El Salvadoran adventure

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IMG_6492.JPGOn Monday, I walked up the stairs to a treehouse

Near a volcano

In El Salvador

No big deal…

Just a regular ho-hum day for a middle aged American wife and mom who only 48 hours ago welcomed a new daughter-in-love to the family.

I jest. It was this a significant moment. Why, you ask?

1. I’m very afraid of heights.

2. I’m not really a very adventurous person anymore.

3. I am accident prone.

4. The treehouse towered high above the mountains in the El Boqueron National Park

5. And it swayed…

Surveying the land – mountains, volcanoes, crests of the ocean peeking near the sky’s edge – such majesty and glory,

I climbed the steps and held on mightily to the thin railing. My eyes shunned all notice of the open risers. The recent earthquake we had experienced a few days ago from neighboring Guatemala was shoved aside. Up, up, up the stairs I climbed and then with trepidation, down, down, down the same.

I felt the Lord’s open hand and His voice saying, “I’m giving you this moment. Take it.” He gave me a gift. All I needed to do was accept. I said yes.

The park is just 25 minutes away from the Salvadoran capital and sits atop of the San Salvador volcano at an altitude of 5,905 feet which is about 1800 meters above sea level- (special thanks to fellow blogger Traveller Soul for the reference). The air was clear and cool, hibiscus and poinsettia blossomed at every view. The light fragrance of cypress reminded me of Christmas. How I wish I could have bottled the smell!IMG_6602.JPG

Ike then bespied a small swinging bridge near the treehouse. “Mom, go on this with me!” he declared.

Incredulously, my feet advanced. Before I knew it, I crossed the bridge. I’m not sure who was more surprised my orange hair, freckle face OS or I. Though a rather clumsy journey, by golly, I did it.

And now as I sit back in suburban North Carolina and attempt to write on my blog again,

Similarly I feel as if I’m overlooking a panorama of memories, experiences

Emotional mountains and volcanoes

The vista of pain and joy, loss and gain

Do I even dare to share and grant access to this life and try to write again? We shall see.

For the time being, I’m moving one step forward and reflecting on the chances I’m given to be blessed and

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So how about you? Any chance you can relate to my journey? The brave part? The blessed? Hope you’ll share!

Five Minute Friday – afraid

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My son spends a lot of time on the train. I spend a lot of time on my knees praying for his safety.

My son spends a lot of time on the train. I spend a lot of time on my knees praying for him.

“Don’t worry, Mom, I’ve got brass knuckles.”

This was my ministry minded middle’s way of reassuring me.

He has brass knuckles, therefore,

I guess,

if he is attacked on the subway or on the streets

at night

in a high crime part of the city

while walking back from coaching an inner city boys’ basketball team

I’m not to worry.

Uh, yeah, right…

It doesn’t work that way when you’re a mom.

I grew up feeling a lot of fear, that “muscle” is well-developed.

The trust and faith muscles atrophied

I’m building them back, working them out though.

Aaron provides me with many training sessions with the Lord.

“Push past being afraid,” God reminds. “I’ve got this. I’m Jehovah Shammah (God who is there).”

Hurricane Sandy encountering MY olive shoot in Chicago. This is him in the picture!

Hurricane Sandy encountering MY olive shoot in Chicago. This is him and a buddy in the picture!

And when he went to Lake Shore Drive to experience Hurricane Sandy and sent me THIS picture of the waters nearly engulfing him…

Oh Lord, my olive shoots

With only five minutes to write, I featured just one olive shoot currently on my heart but I have a Soldier and an orange hair, freckle face OS too, sooooo,

Funky chicks write for five minutes! Come on and join us!

Funky chicks write for five minutes! Come on and join us! Click here for deets.

At least the crime rate is lower during cold weather – (another one of Aaron’s gems…)

Ambien – setback, stepback, not giving up

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Wednesday around 3am, I felt like a puny junior high girl in PE class…

Good times posing in the Kmart photo booth

Circa 1974ish

My opponent this time wasn’t the rope that was hooked to the gym ceiling that I never could climb at Jefferson Junior HIgh

And it wasn’t the chin-up bar from which I couldn’t pull myself to save my life or my dignity

Wednesday morning, I wasn’t the last one picked for the volleyball match or the girl who lost the softball game

in my red PE  shorts, red and white thin-striped polyester PE shirt with red trim, a lithe and flat female frame devoid of all muscle tone either

No, in the wee hours of Wednesday, I was in bed, in my pajamas, a grown woman!

but I just as felt defeated that night (or should I say morning) sleep mask, pillows, fan going full blast

Tired

because I took the stupid Ambien

it was 3am and I told the Lord I was going to do it

There have been times when I have told Jesus I was going to do something and I knew He wasn’t going to like it

I bet you have too

but I was so tired

and having been up with my orange hair, freckle face OS for yet another night

feeling helpless about how to care for him and desperate for some rest

I swallowed that tiny pill and fell asleep with my sick boy nearby

I continue to trust in the Lord

Middle school Cindy

Blocking out the Enemy’s voices that remind me of my failings

My Holy One is teaching me things

I may falter and get distracted

Day and night

Ambien and life

But there is grace

My Heavenly Father presides over me

And through Him, I can do all things

Even sleep

The Lord loved that little wimpy middle school Cindy way back then and is compassionate towards me now. I’m on his team, He picked me many years ago and doesn’t laugh at my shortcomings but gives me the courage to press on

And so I will try again and claim this promise

Isaiah 40:31 (KJV)

But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

Thanks for listening….I welcome your thoughts and prayers

Doing hard things – the dilemma and the decision

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Land tortoises aren’t especially attractive, are they?

As I navigate into this world of swimming, I am betwixt calling myself a swimmer and a former land tortoise.

Do it? Don’t do it? I did it!

Still on the outside to some extent, I keenly observe human aquatic creatures. How you move about in the water, your level of ease, the effortless way you seem to both inhale and exhale while simultaneously kicking your feet and moving your arms in a horizontal position. And your buoyancy. Me likey your buoyancy. I am among you but not quite ready to say I am one of you for fear I might be revealed as an impostor.


The day before going to Playa del Carmen in Mexico, I could be found at the neighborhood pool. I successfully wrangled my orange hair, freckle face OS to join me and as we all know teenage boys LOVE going to the pool with their mamas, right? And if their mamas are learning to swim, well, let’s just say Ike was BEYOND words for this adventure…




We arrived at the pool and I informed Ike that I absolutely had to jump into the water seven times because his dad had told me so. Ike was very eager for me to get the task completed but when you have spent most of your life as a land tortoise, it’s harder than one thinks especially if one is an impatient, orange hair, freckle face OS.


But I did it.

This is the scene of the incident,
feel the tension!

And then I told Ike what I was going to do next. I was going to jump into the deep end. With a mixture of encouragement and nonchalance, Ike approved. In a flash, I approached the nine foot water and immersed myself into the pool. I repeated this activity several times.


The whistle blew and it became adult swim time. Again I was in the deep end of the water. Everything was going well until I was mistakenly identified as a swimmer.

That ball bobbing in the water…
what was a former land tortoise to do? 



A little urchin of a boy who apparently hadn’t noticed that although I was in the deep end of the pool, I was still clutching the side, approached me. “Could you get the tennis ball for me?” he asked unaware of the enormity of his question.


I was dumbfounded as I looked and saw a bright yellow tennis ball right in the middle of the water. I wish there was some kind of attractive, water-resistant sign I could have as a reminder that I am NEW at this. You know the kind of sign on top of a car used in driver’s ed? 

I’d like something along these lines
but cuter, sassier and water-resistant, please.



“Um,” I stammered. “I’m not that great of a swimmer and I don’t know how to stop in the middle so I can probably get your tennis ball but I’ll have to give it to you on the other side.” That poor child just wanted his toy not a long explanation. He probably wished he had just waited. 

This would also work but in purple and with squiggles.

Without giving him a chance to respond and wanting to look like the heroine, I dramatically inhaled a big glob of air. In a splash (get it, splash?) I swam my way in the deep end, paused momentarily to intercept the tennis ball and returned it to him on the other side as promised.


As it was on the eve of our big vay-kay, I just had to smile to the Lord. I felt Him winking at me from the heavens saying, “We did this.” Another challenge met. It was a proud and humorous aquatic event. I guess  I’m becoming less of a land tortoise after all. But I do have a lingering question…how do you people stop in the middle? 

“Hi, I’m Cindy and I’m a recovering land tortoise.”
A terrible picture of me but I love the dents in my
head from the swim goggles. Btw, I don’t have buckteeth. 

And would you believe that another astonishing thing happened to me on Monday? Another crazy water story I will share forthwith! You bless me, truly you do with every prayer and motivating message! 

Doing hard things – the diving board

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I jumped!

Interrupting my scheduled post about swimming to bring you the latest development in achieving aquatic greatness… on Saturday, for the first time in my life, I jumped off the diving board!!!


This journey began in 1985 when the Hubs and I were dating. He told me he would teach me how to swim. There was a pool in the apartment complex where I lived and occasionally we went there. He soon discovered I was a reluctant learner but it was the beginning of my journey to overcome my fear. I knew he was the one for me because he didn’t let me drown. He was someone I could trust implicitly.  


With great coaxing and reassurance, a few times, I leaped into the deep end of the pool where my boyfriend (now the Hubs) was waiting with open arms. 


It was such a significant moment, I decided to express the moment in a painting. My desire was to depict two feet in mid-air, no longer tethered by a sturdy, secure surface (a diving board) and not yet hitting the water. That fraction of a second when one completely trusts carried great symbolism for me. 

this diving board has intimidated me for too long

I never finished that painting. I’m not really an artist either so honestly it wasn’t great. Last year, after spending decades lugging the picture to new homes only to shove it in a closet, I threw the unfinished painting into the trash. There was no point hanging on to that picture. I possessed a mediocre unfinished drawing depicting a skill I had never accomplished. Who needs another reminder of failure? Um, not me.

“Whatchoo talkin’ ’bout Willis???”

Fast forward to July 9, 2011…we went to our neighborhood pool Saturday and the Hubs encouraged me to jump off the diving board. Through my trusty swim goggles, I gave him my best “Whatchoo talkin’ bout Willis???” face and hopped out of the pool. 


The next thing I knew I was on the diving board plank and a second later, I was in the water. Then I swam to the side of the pool which I did for the first time in my life. I didn’t drown or flounder. This was another breakthrough. 

“Did I look like a normal person doing that?”

Afterward, on land, I whispered and asked the Hubs, “Be honest with me, did I look like a normal person doing that?” I have pink highlights in my hair and a henna tattoo on my arm yet I completely believed him when he nodded and said yes. I’m married to an awesome man. 
My goal is for this to be a normal occurrence. Is it possible for me to fearlessly swim and not think twice about it? I pray, I really do, for the day when I’m as comfortable on a pool slide or diving board (not diving!) as I am in the kitchen. I have no hesitation to try a new recipe and can usually handle a culinary mistake. 


Torpor has robbed me of memories, I’m ready as it says in Romans 8:37 to be “more than a conqueror” especially as it pertains to swimming. 

I need to do this again and again until it no longer scares me. 



I no longer have that unfinished artwork.  Instead I have a new canvas. Perhaps I never completed that painting because I was relying on my own strength and not the Lord’s.  This time it will be better than the original. 

Aquatic greatness 😉

And it will be created, dear friends, not with brush strokes but with swimming strokes.  I’m making progress. This was an epic event! Thanks again for your encouraging words.    

Doing hard things – part four, what am I afraid of?

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I’m trying to process the best vacation of my life. I’m searching for what the Lord is teaching and showing me after five precious days  in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.

As previously mentioned, I’m co-leading a book club this summer for middle and high school girls. The book Doing Hard Things is intended for teenagers but it is speaking to this middle age mama’s heart. While languishing at the beach, in Playa del Carmen, under a cabana, with a fruity, non-alcoholic drink within hand’s reach, a gentle breeze wooed me to contemplation. What am I afraid of?

Here is a partial list:



Heights – looking down from an unsecured area is terrifying
Planes – I often warn fellow passengers that I am not a great fan of turbulence and can grab their hand at any point.
Water – (I’m working on this one)

The view from my beach chair…

Rollercoasters – there’s no point to being scared and nauseous unless during childbirth
Hypodermic needles/IVs – refer to above


and a host of other ones I choose not to mention.


Throw in a nervous bladder and a poor sense of direction. The Hubs is such a lucky guy, huh?


Since facing my fear of water/swimming, I realized I am also afraid of:


Failure – what if I don’t succeed? I have taken swimming lessons before but after completing them, I wimped out when I couldn’t synchronize my body correctly. Convinced that I looked just too stupid plus my knee hurt very badly, I gave up, defeated and land-locked.


It’s scary to ponder, if I’m still at this same point of mastery next year, what does that say about me?


But then, strangely, paradoxically, I am frightened of:


Success – I do not know this new Cindy very well and where is this girl going to take me? Possibly people might expect me to join in aquatic merriment. When doctors suggest swimming as a healthy form of exercise, I might have to heed their advice. I would no longer garner pity for being stranded on the shore. Pity, in a bizarre sort of way, has been part and parcel with summer. If I’m really a swimmer, then people might realize that my swimming strokes are awkward, clearly a sign of a novice.

Summer, I gotta be honest, I find you intriguing and complex. 

And then there’s the biggie –
I might enjoy swimming and then what do I do? I’m getting farther and farther from clinging to the secure side. What is on the other side? What is in the middle? Weird. 

I received this card in the mail from an encouraging mama
whose daughter is in the book club. T
his frog and I understand each other. 

Next post I want to share a swimming story that happened just before vay-kay. It’s becoming an interesting metaphor on my quest. Thanks again for your support. I hear your collective, sweet voices on land and sea, I’m serious.

Doing Hard Things – part two

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As many of you now know from previous posts, all my life I have been afraid to swim. The amount of toil and moil I have wasted in making sure the words of “non-swimmer” stayed on me like the world’s worst tattoo or the longest acting sunblock ev, ugh.


To be sure, there is no badge of honor or virtue attached to the title of “non-swimmer.” Your words of encouragement and support help mend that broken place I have carried too long. 

Last night as we gathered to discuss Chapters 7-8 in Doing Hard Things, I decided to share with the girls in the book study, my personal struggle with water. As suspected, everyone in the room knew how to swim but me. When they heard that I had jumped into the pool SEVEN whole times earlier this week, they giggled good-naturedly and rejoiced in my feat. As I told them how difficult it’s been for me to face this fear, the girls and my co-leaders didn’t show condemnation, instead I sensed…

grace
mercy
understanding
encouragement

flowing from their hearts. As they listened, one of the girls, bless her heart, even clapped for me. When the night ended, those girls said they would be praying for me and I believe this to be true. 

And you know what else has been incredible? 

For years I have told myself that at the very moment I enter the water, EVERYONE and I do mean EVERYONE in the entire pool or any significant body of water for that matter, stops whatever they are doing and begins to notice. Like Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter, adults and young children jeered at me most assuredly. The floundering limbs, exaggerated gasps for air, combined with hopelessly blanche skin all belonging to me, the voice inside convinced me that the world stopped in horror at seeing a middle aged non-swimmer mama in the water.

But you’ll never guess what I have noticed lately. Sit down for this because it’s a biggie. No one cares about me in the pool. The lifeguards are on standby but really no one else gives a whoop. I don’t look like I don’t belong because I do belong. 


A friend who regularly reads my blog, shared this with me in an email…“I think my grandmother was about 65 years old when she took swimming lessons. I remember her proudly showing us she could float. She was a pretty hefty woman at that time of her life. It is a sweet memory. If she can do it, Cindy can do it. 🙂 I also admire her for losing many, many pounds after she had a heart attack. She had always been heavy – great Southern cook with a sweet tooth. Sometime in her sixties, she started walking almost every day and dropped down to a beautiful, normal weight.”

I will be in that water!

An anchor of shame and incompetence has dashed decades of warm weather memories. I’m so over it. It is long overdue that I jump into the turquoise blue ocean of opportunities. I hope to be sharing with you another accomplishment as it pertains to my relationship with water in Mexico! Yes, Mexico