STOP GIVING UP

By Lisa Huddleston

32636_10200983346923055_1308627103_nLike many of you, I usually take a look at my iPhone before even getting out of bed in the morning. Just to catch up on what I missed during the night–awful, I know. Anyway two posts (one on Facebook and the other on Twitter) grabbed my attention right away. The first was this annoying but true photo message: “If you’re tired of starting over, stop giving up.” I wanted to reach into my phone and slap my “friend” for posting it. (Love you, Diana.) And the second message was a Tweet from Rick Warren which said, “Every time you make a bad choice, it becomes harder to make a good one.” Ugh.

Why is it that even when the truth is truly true it can still make me want to argue against it when it isn’t something I want to hear? Today I just felt like giving up. Yeah. I wanted to stay in bed until 10 or 11, eat whatever I wanted to whenever I wanted to, and generally give up on any attempts to exercise. I felt weary of swimming upstream–literally and figuratively.

Instead I read the handwriting on the screen and got up. I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast with my coffee, bagel, a thought-provoking Stott devotional, and the last few chapters of a good book (another Walker Percy–I need to write about him sometime soon). By then it was time to make a choice: to exercise or not to exercise? That was THE question for today.

There was a Zumba class at noon that I have been attending for a few weeks that I had been planning to go to. I’d even passed up an invitation to hang out with some friends in order to go. But, today I just didn’t feel like dancing. Instead, making a tough choice, I dressed to bike, filled my water bottle, and struck out from the garage to take a familiar route. It was HOT (I had waited too late to avoid the heat) and the first big hill on Cedar Grove just about sent me home. In spite of my social media inspiration, I didn’t make it up the hill without quitting. Cursing myself out loud for being such a lazy fatso–yes, I talk to myself when I’m worked up–I pushed the dang bike to the crest then drank some cool water, kicked my butt back up on the tiny bike seat, and pushed the pedals. And I kept going and going and going. I even added about 7 more miles to the ride by taking a new route up Berea Church Road and lots more hills. And it felt sooooooo good–when I finally got home and could get off that bike in victory.

Isn’t that so often the way it is? Something may be really hard to do (THE question is different for each one of us), and it really doesn’t feel great while you’re doing it (the “right” thing), but afterwards you rejoice. And the opposite is also true. It may feel great to eat a cream-filled, chocolate-covered eclair or a delicious, warm apple fritter from the local bakery at the time you’re eating it, but later the regret can be overwhelming. And the price you pay for the bad choice (extra pounds, more exercise required, guilt, etc.) just isn’t worth it.

While you and I both know there’s nothing wrong with an eclair now and then, it’s the general drift that really counts. The direction your choices are leading you. Recently my pastor said something like, “It’s not where you are when God calls you that’s important–it’s the direction you’re facing that matters.” And I can agree.

A beautiful view on my new bike route.

A beautiful view on my new bike route.

Tired of starting over? I am. Next Monday or next week or when I finish this bag of chips or bottle of wine or see that person one more time or … whatever you’re postponing the truth for isn’t worth it. Make a good choice today (and hopefully tomorrow and the next day) and turn your momentum in the right direction. I promise, it’ll feel soooooo good once it’s done.

THE LA LIARS OF LEIPERS FORK (SUBURBS)

Unloading the bikes.

Unloading the bikes.

By Lisa Huddleston

Yesterday we headed back to ride the Natchez Trace. Chuck had surprised me with a new road bike that I wanted to break in, and because the Bike Ride Across Wilson County is only five weeks away, we decided to ride a little further than our last trip out. Twenty five miles seemed like a good stretch to attempt. Five miles more than last time, but still less than the BRAWC.

After circling the parking lot a few times to get used to the gears on my bike, we headed out with plans to turn around at about 12-13 miles. We were covering a few as yet uncharted miles so we were happily surprised to discover a rest stop right around our designated turn around point. We pulled in to sit for a bit at a picnic table under a shady cover, drink some water, and eat a couple of Fig Newtons (our standard bike snack). While there we saw a map of the Trace and enjoyed looking at the various sites there were to see “some day.” We had already passed a ramp that led to Leipers Fork–a small, artsy town that we had heard of but never seen–so we decided to pull off on our way back to the car. Our plan was to see how far it was, and if not too far, then to take a ride through the town.

Near the off-ramp we saw a little market-style gas station which we passed on the left as we rode along the narrow country road. There were beautiful, old homes on either side, but we didn’t venture far before heading back to the market to learn the actual distance to the town. As I said, the road was narrow and hilly, and we had already ridden 15 miles by the time we reached the market.

Pulling in we said hello to two older men who were sitting in rockers on the front porch. They gruffly responded and upon further questioning informed us that we were in the “suburbs” of Leipers Fork. Although only a mile or so away, they said they really couldn’t tell us what was in town. They had been born right where they were and they were not from there. They didn’t know anything at all about “that place” or “those people.”

The famous Loveless Cafe.

The famous Loveless Cafe.

Chuck went inside to buy some ice cream bars while I stayed outside with the bikes and my new “friends.” Trying to make conversation, I said that we were from Lebanon to which the nicer of the two men responded, “Lebanon. It’s different over there.” Hmmm. Okay. Then I mentioned the 15 miles we had ridden and how I hated to add more miles by riding to an unknown destination. Seconds later, the nicer man asked where we had gotten on the Trace and I told him near the Loveless Cafe entrance. Smiling (sort of) he said that we could ride into Leipers Fork and down Old Highway 96 to get back on the Trace without having to backtrack and add unwanted miles to our trip. Chuck was back by then and promptly pulled out his iPhone to check the route on the Maps app which the men claimed to be unable to read as they quickly emptied the rockers and headed back inside the market. We thanked them as they hurried through the door, mounted our bikes, and headed into town.

Leipers Fork cemetery.

Leipers Fork cemetery.

Leipers Fork was pretty cool. We enjoyed looking around a while then decided to follow our instructions and head down 96 to the Trace. It was a nice road that passed beside an old cemetary with tomb stones dating back to the 1700s. Chuck’s phone showed that we were on track to intersect with the Trace and we happily pedaled along. The only problem was that when we arrived at our road there was no ramp to get back on! Real funny. Stunned we just stood there in the shadow of the road and took our bearings for a minute. The highway continued away from the Trace so there was no hope of there being another intersection up ahead. We had no choice but to go back the way we had come. We turned our bikes around and headed back eventually passing the empty porch rockers with angry hearts–at least I know mine was angry as I mentally named our now ex-friends the Lard A** Liars of Leipers Fork.

The worst of the ride was still ahead of us as we faced long climbing stretches of road that seemed to go on forever. It didn’t help that my attitude was terrible, and I kept fighting back tears as I pedaled slowly uphill. By the time we reach the near-empty parking lot my new bike showed 32 miles, my body was aching, and my heart was broken. How could they have done such a mean thing to total strangers? To sweet little gray-haired me?!

How do we get up there?

How do we get up there?

As in most experiences, there were lessons to be learned. First, know who it is you’re following. Anyone can say they know where you should go, but that doesn’t mean they know what they’re talking about. Second, it’s easy to hate those who are different than you. Obviously those mean old men thought we were more like “those people” than we were like them so they felt justified in their meanness. Third, you can never know what is in someone else’s heart. Motives are hard to measure, but there are often red flags–which are easy to ignore when you really want what someone is selling, like to see Leipers Fork and not add miles to your trip (or maybe to believe in another’s innocence or guilt in order to justify your own bias). Ignoring the warning signs, gets you no where but on the underside of the road you need to be on.

Just what I want! Not for sale. :-(

Just what I want! Not for sale. 😦

Well, that’s it for me. No more detours to see the off-road sites, or to save miles, or to find retro porch furniture (another story) …. It’s the main road for me from here on. At least until the next time.

BIRDSONG’S SIREN SONG

Birdsong Hollow Bridge

Birdsong Hollow Bridge


By Lisa Huddleston

After hearing good things about biking on the Natchez Trace, Chuck and I decided to give it a try. We headed out on Saturday morning with coffee and donuts and drove the hour-long route to the beginning of the park with anticipation. It was a beautiful day, and we were looking forward to a great ride.

Happily we weren’t disappointed. We quickly found the parking lot his brother had told us about and unloaded our bikes. There were cars with bike racks all around us with other riders coming and going frequently.

As soon as we hit the Trace, a pack of bikers came roaring by us on the other side of the road. They were flying and the noise of their bikes was unexpectedly loud. I was a little intimidated and, yeah, embarrassed as I pedaled slowly uphill. But I was glad to be there and humbly kept climbing.

Speaking of hills, the Natchez Trace has some loooooong ones–I measured a particularly tough one at over a mile long. I was really thankful for the many speeds on my modest, blue Trek, and I liberally used the lower ones on this route. All in all, we were doing great (Chuck kindly trying to keep his speed down to my pace.)

Then we saw it. Birdsong Hollow Bridge. Wow. Have you seen it? One thousand five hundred and seventy feet of graceful, white ribbon stretched across a 155 foot drop between green hillsides. Beautiful … and terrifying.

Chuck has never liked heights, and although I don’t have a specific fear of it, crossing the bridge caused my stomach to tightened in a knot. Riding over it was really pretty easy. Infrequent traffic, shoulders that were pretty clean. But the railing’s top sat below our hips. And the terrible sucking pull of the drop wouldn’t let me relax. Know what I mean? The same siren song that tugs at you at the top of the Grand Canyon was there. I hummed and tried to ignore it, but it was there all the same. I knew, and it knew it I knew.

On the way out I noticed the sign at the beginning of the bridge telling travelers that there was hope and giving a number to call “day or night” should they want to talk, but I didn’t give it a lot of thought. I hadn’t yet crossed the bridge. On the way back I read the same sign on the other side, and it hit me with deeper meaning. People jumped from this bridge. My imagination took my body flying right over the rail as I considered the overwhelming fear of falling 155 feet very quickly to a very broken death. I tingled all over at the thought and pedaled carefully and quickly across, safely making it to the other side, back to the parking lot, and eventually home.

Bikers heading across the bridge.

Bikers heading across the bridge.

But I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. What would make so many people willingly step or leap off that terrible ledge? In June 2011 when a group added the suicide prevention signs, the number was up to 14. Incredible! Did they change their minds as soon as their bodies left the safety of the concrete? Did they too late grab at the air for a hand-hold on life? Ugh. I can’t stop thinking about it and grieving for those lives lost.

And those thoughts cause me to savor our ride more than usual. Our journey that day was very good. I was humbled in many ways and also happily affirmed in others. We were in a community of travelers who cared enough to ask how we were when we stopped to get water. I had a husband who adjusted his speed to keep pace with me. And I had been provided with the needed equipment to climb the long hills. And, yes, these facts have wonderful parallels in the other arenas of my life.

Humility, community, love, and provision. For these and other blessings, O Lord, make me truly grateful. Amen.

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!