Beaches

520868-beaches (1)The first time I ever went to the beach was in 1987 when I was seven years old. My family went on a summer vacation for two weeks to Florida. We spent a week in the Orlando area and another week at Daytona Beach. I remember seeing the ocean for the first time and watching this massive body of water. I was a 7-yr-old in awe! I spent hours in the water on that trip – swimming, jumping over the waves, and of course making sand castles on the beach.

Since then I have gone to many beaches. Beaches have been a part of my life – from living in Hawaii to college trips to Belize and San Diego, to youth ministry trips to Myrtle Beach, South Padre Island, and Destin, Florida, to living on Lake Michigan while in college for five years. Those times never got old or boring to me. Every beach was different and breathtaking. I was able to enjoy the sunrises and sunsets, snorkel, swim with dolphins and giant sea turtles, even body board and surf. I was able to observe surfers surfing 30-40 foot waves in Hawaii and watching the thunderous power of God. I’ve had many great moments at beaches in my life with memories that will last a lifetime.

My all-time favorite beach and memory was during my junior year in college. I was part of a group of fifteen students, with five of them being my closest friends, that took a biology class trip to Belize Central America for two weeks during the interim semester. We stayed on a tiny remote island about two miles in circumference and eight miles off shore….no one else on this island but our group. The word “beautiful” couldn’t even describe it. Palm trees. White sand. Crystal clear blue water. This was definitely paradise. While we were there we learned a lot. But most of our learning was done while snorkeling in the water around the coral reefs and watching tropical fish. This type of learning was the most fun I’ve ever experienced. We spent hours a day on the water and on the beach, taking it all in. Unfortunately, the trip didn’t last forever, and soon after we left the island we were back to reality, freezing in the subzero temperatures and snowdrifts up north.

My goal someday is to go back to a beach and island like that. But until that day comes, I spend my days on Seagoville Federal Prison’s Beach – also known as the sand volleyball court. It’s not quite as beautiful as Belize. Actually, it doesn’t even come close, nor is there a vast expanse of water. But we do have a hose and plenty of sand. HA! I like to dream about my future days relaxing in the sun on some beach with my toes in the sand!

What are some of your beach experiences? Any great trips or destinations you’ve been to? Any good memories? Here are some of my runner-up beach experiences in no particular order, just things I’ve enjoyed in my past.

  • Camping on a beach in the Boundary Waters
  • Winning a sand volleyball tournament in college at Dayton Beach
  • Jack and Rose (my mom and dad would understand this!)
  • Parasailing on South Padre island
  • Cross country beach runs while in college
  • Bonfires on Lake Michigan
  • Walking a mile through the ocean to China Man’s Hat Island in Hawaii during low tide
  • Snorkeling on Shark’s Cove, Oahu
  • Body boarding and surfing

God has blessed me with the opportunities to travel, great places to live in my life, and extraordinary experiences that have been etched in my mind forever. On days that I’m feeling down, He allows me to pull them out and reminisce on the good times and bringing a smile to my face. May you, too, remember the places you have been to in your life and all those places that you plan to go in the years ahead! My bucket list is several pages long!!

Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water…and the gathered waters He called seas.” Genesis 1:6 and 9

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Being Free

freefallJust the other day I received a letter from a friend telling me that she went skydiving for the first time. She went on to describe the experience as fun and breathtaking, indicating that she never felt so free before in her life. She felt like all her worries and troubles disappeared in those moments she was free falling back to earth. She felt so alive!

Now that sounds like my type of activity to do. Actually, skydiving is on my bucket list when I get released. Those who know me, know that I am an adventurous person and thrill seeker, and sky diving fits both those criteria. How exciting it must be to jump out of an airplane from thousands of feet and plummet to the earth at hundreds of miles per hour. Granted, the first time you jump, you must jump with an instructor, but I can totally imagine the feeling that my friend felt.

What are some times in your life that you have felt alive and free from all your worries and troubles? Maybe it was a place or a moment in time or some special occasion. For me, it’s being out in the wilderness, sitting in a canoe in the Minnesota Boundary Waters, backpacking the Colorado mountains or skiing the back country with no one around and fresh snow falling around me. These experiences are all experiences I can relive over and over again, and plan to someday. I truly felt alive and free at those times.

There is also another place where I feel free as well. Some of you may think I’m crazy, but being in a Federal Prison behind these razor sharp fences I feel absolutely free. Why, you might ask? Because I’ve given all my worries to God! I’m at peace. I’m at peace with the situation I put myself in I’m forgiven by my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and by the ones that I needed to be forgiven by, and I have forgive the ones that I needed to forgive. My deep desire is to live the way I believe Jesus had in mind when He said that those who have been forgive much, love much. I have been forgiven much by many, and as much as I would like to be free of the prison walls, I have resolved that I want God’s will for me more. If this is where He intends for me to be, then I will serve Him here to the best of my ability. My body is confined, but because of God’s abundant grace poured out on me – someone who does not deserve it –  my soul is at liberty and I am set free. I have a peace in my heart as I seek to do the will of my Father.

Slowly I am learning that Jesus is my closest friend and the only one who truly understands what I’m going through. The fact that being incarcerated is my own fault doesn’t lessen the pain of being here. That’s why the more I can focus on eternity and the adventure of serving Christ today, in this place, the less I’m preoccupied with loneliness or any problem as the result of my lost freedom. The truth is, somebody can be blessed by me today. I need to find that somebody and give what I can – a word, a Honey Bun, a soda, a smile, a handshake, a hug, a prayer. Hope is contagious, you know, and because of that I am free.

 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. John 8:36

P.S. If you would like to know more about a relationship with Jesus, check out www.stjstl.net/watch. You can hear a message from one of the pastors of my home church and you just may learn what being free is all about!