WILL RIDE FOR TOTS

By Lisa Huddleston

“Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in.  Study how he did it.  Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever.” (Hebrews 12:2, MSG)

Last summer I foolishly let my husband know that I would like to complete the Bike Ride Across Wilson County this summer.  It was a whole year away.  It seemed safe to mention.  Who knew it would arrive so quickly?

So, with only a couple months remaining in which to train, Chuck and I headed out Saturday morning to do what we call the “Ride for Tots.”  Sounds noble, doesn’t it?  Like a benefit ride for children in need?  Nope.  Just our name for the ride that takes us down Highway 70 to Highway 109 to the Sonic near I-40 and back.  Yes.  Tater tots.

It really is a great route for training.  It has wide, safe shoulders and long, slow climbing hills that force endurance.  Its distance is 16 miles—around half the length of the BRAWC—and its midway point includes tots.  Perfect.

Sadly we hadn’t taken this route since last summer so I was huffing and puffing at some points.  Especially when we arrived at “Shut Up Hill,” so named because the first time we rode it Chuck tried to encourage and distract me from the pain by chatting incessantly until I yelled, “Shut up!”

Anyway, we had already had one interesting incident on 70 before reaching the Hill.  A brand new, Ford Edge had pulled over in front of us in the bike lane and stopped.  We approached carefully and then pedaled by it on the left, because there wasn’t room for us to pass on the right.  Seconds after passing the car, we heard a very loud crash.  Apparently taking a test drive, the driver had decided to make a U-turn to head back to the dealership.  He had carefully waited until we passed (thank goodness) then immediately drove straight into a large “Bubba-sized” pickup.  Wow!  Chuck turned to look then turned back and kept pedaling with a shrug as I exclaimed, “Oh my goodness!”  Nothing slows that man down!

As we reached the foot of “Shut Up Hill” I was thinking of that shocking situation.  Wondering why that driver hadn’t looked beyond the two bike riders to the oncoming traffic and so on.  Then the pain in my lungs erased my concern for anyone but myself.  I no longer looked at Chuck’s back or the top of the hill.  I glued my eyes to the road right in front of my tire and pushed.  Right, left, right left.  And I chanted as I pedaled, “A long obedience in the same direction.  A long obedience in the same direction.”  Occasionally I looked to the top to judge my progress, but mainly I kept my eyes focused on the here and now until I finally began the descent on the other side.  The breeze welcomed and my aching legs enjoyed the rest as I glided down with the Sonic sign in my sights.  Tots!

Immediately I began to ponder my situation and to notice the universal truths it contained.  Life is sort of like “Shut Up Hill.”  Really!  It can be breathtakingly hard, and there are days when I feel as though I’ll never make it until evening let alone to the finish line of life.  Other times are more like the downhill ride.  Everything is right, the breeze blows through my hair, and my reward is in sight.  Wheeee!

Either way, this ride and that car accident we nearly witnessed combined to reveal an important truth.  In every situation I must keep my eyes on Jesus.  Sometimes I need to focus on Him in the here and now—the near sight.  And at other times I need to have far-sighted vision.  But always always my sights need to be set on Him.

Now that unlucky guy who was taking a test drive in that brand new Edge had 20/20 near vision—and I am glad he did or Chuck and I could have been road kill.  But his far vision was lacking.

Others have great far vision.  They think of heaven all the time, but can’t see the beggar at their door.  You know—they’re so heavenly minded that they’re no earthly good.

I am glad to know and to have it made known to me again that Jesus is not just in the hereafter but He is here in the now!  He dragged and pushed my out-of-shape self up “Shut Up Hill” just as He has carried me through so many other trials.  And He is my reward when my race is done.  What a day of rejoicing that will be!

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BEAUTY AT MY FEET

I left the park after completing only three laps of our usual four. Joint pain and heart weariness sent my feet right to my car while my walk/talk buddies veered left for another round.

Driving home I lifted my eyes to the sky for hope. Clouds of witness? Nope. Nothing but the haze of a hot, humid day. No white clouds of promise. Nothing.

So I looked down. And there it was. Fluffy white hope lined the road with lace. Who knew there was beauty in the weeds, hope at my feet instead of overhead?

I guess God knew I would be looking in that direction.

JOY IN THE PRESENT

By Lisa Huddleston

“We should make the most of what God gives, both the bounty and the capacity to enjoy it, accepting what’s given and delighting in the work.  It’s God’s gift!  God deals out joy in the present, the now.  It’s useless to brood over how long we might live.” (Eccl. 5:19-20)

We are experiencing seasonal shifts here at Hudfarm.  My daughter is in her second week of marriage and is learning the fine art of balancing house, work and time with her precious new husband.  My elder son is still in the throes of planning his wedding and is learning to balance two families and seeking to make them one.  My mother, who lives with us, just underwent back surgery and is learning to rely on her children to do more for her than she likes.  Change is the norm right now, and we are all seeking to feel normal in it.

And what am I learning?  A little more every day.   I am learning to live in the now.  Today is a good day.  The sun is shining.  The flowers are blooming.  I feel well, and I just ate lunch.  I have chatted with my daughter who I miss so much.  My mom’s pain seems a little better than yesterday.  My husband called and wants to take me to dinner.  I’ve seen more of my sisters in the past two weeks than I have in ages.  And I am actually sitting at my desk to write which always gives me joy.  I am richly and seriously blessed.

Could I find stuff to gripe about?  Oh yeah.  I couldn’t sleep last night, because I was worrying over everything I just listed in the first paragraph.  I want to fix everyone’s problems.  To take away pain, stress, worry, and grief.  Odd that I think I can do that by painful worrying, stress, and grief.  What needless striving.  “What a waste!  Smoke.  And spitting in the wind” (Eccl. 4:4).

But right now I see the blessings.  I love my cozy study.  The warm earthy color on my walls.  The sound of the dishwasher running in the kitchen.  The peaceful picture of my mom reading in a lounge chair by the window with my dog keeping snoring vigil at her feet.  The view of the garden from the window to my right and books that surround me with promises.

It is useless to brood.  Enjoy the now.  Take joy in the present.   Make the most of every moment.  Accept God’s bounty and be sure to delight in it.  Today is the best gift we’ll get all day long.

CLOUDS OF WITNESSES

By Lisa Huddleston

Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us.”  Hebrews 12:1

I know this comes as a shock to no one but me, but I am not Superwoman.  What was I thinking when I planned to marry two of my children, to celebrate four graduations, to start a part-time job, and to schedule my mother’s back surgery all within three months?  Me—who struggles with depression and anxiety even without all this activity? Me—who needs at least eight hours of sleep even on a great day?  Who knows, but I don’t think there was much wisdom involved in my confident assertions that I could handle it.

Truthfully, some things were beyond my control.  Others were due to my wanting to be in control.  But all the while I’ve insisted I could handle it.   And I am handling it.

It really is okay.  Really.  Sarah and John were married last week in a wonderfully beautiful ceremony.  I managed to work two days.  And Mom had her much-needed back surgery this Tuesday.  My sister stayed with her last night, and my other sister is there right now.  But I am not Superwoman.  No I am not.

Sunday afternoon I needed to get out and burn some stress so Chuck and I took a ten-mile bike ride along some country roads.  On a particularly beautiful stretch, we both looked up and saw the beauty of the blue and white sky stretched across the Irish green valley and I instantly cried out, “It’s the large cloud of witnesses surrounding us!”  We both smiled, and I pondered as I pedaled.

That phrase has always intrigued me.  Why not a crowd of witnesses?  Whoever heard of a cloud of witnesses?  Well in that particular moment on that particular stretch of road in the midst of my particular stress, I saw the clouds.  And they witnessed to me of God’s love and control.  For a split second I saw the truth.  It really was a “cloud of witnesses!”

Hallelujah!  I am not Superwoman.  I am not in control.  And I don’t have to be.  There are times when all I need do is look to the clouds and let them testify as true witnesses to the One who knows all things.  And that is really, really okay.

My mind is flooded with similar phrases from the Testaments.  Let the scales fall from my eyes.  Give me eyes to see and ears to hear.  Fix my eyes upon Jesus.  Make the blind to see.  Show me your Glory.  And always let me see the beautiful clouds of witness in the blinding blue expanse of your love.

My calendar still shows the impending parties and activities to which I have committed myself.  And I look forward to each event—even while I stress over ALL the events.  Thank you, Lord, for your strategic placement of your witnesses.  I need to be reminded that I can always rest in you even when I have no time to rest.