Saturday, August 30, 2008

Bike Trip Crazy summer 08

One day, Joanna said to me "Mara, I want to ride my bike to the beach." This was only a few days after we had a crazy adventure of... watching a movie... on a weeknight. So, after a short conversation I realized that she was serious about it. So the dream became a reality as plans fell into place. We had a welcome team/ride home going to Topsail Saturday morning, and about 10 other people waiting for our cry of distress phone call to come get us.

Last friday we packed a duffle bag with food, pjs, inner tube patch kits and cameras. We strapped it to my brand new luggage rack with a long bungi cord, a webbing strap, and a woven belt from Central America. We looked a little rough, but the pack was secure, and we were ready. We mounted our bikes and started pedaling.

4 liters of water, 3 rest/adjustment stops, and 5 photos later we arrived at the Village moter lodge in Smithfield. I went inside to pay for the room while Joanna called anxious family members to announce our safe arrival. As I waited to be helped my legs started to feel funny like a slight burning sensation. I started pacing in the lobby. After 5 minutes of waiting I thought it would be good to streatch. So I went outside and paced and streatched and paced a streatched untill a man came out and asked me if we were going to get a room or what and I'd better be 21. ha. I looked at a Joanna in her layered bike clothes snapping photos of the hotel, our bikes rigged for touring and myself sniffling and wiping my nose on a bandana, helmet off to reveal very new and struggling dreadlocks, and realized that I didn't think I was physically able of standing still. So we paid for that room, passed the ID check. (by 6 years!) and then they were happy.

Wow. We slept like rocks. It was amazing. So thankful we went for the hotel instead of a campsite with no tent. 6:30am Saturday, with a few mini sarah lee muffins digesting and fresh energy we set off on the next 106 miles of our trip. The ride was beautiful, with the sun rising over the trees on fields and cow pastures. Many good photo ops. It was a good morning. We even got to ride side by side and discuss motivation for missions verses other occupations. When we were not chatting or singing, I daydreamed about swimming in the ocean, playing in the sand, and our glorious entry as we rode into the parkin lot. The entire trip we only missed one or two turns and didn't go far before we realized the mistake. Google maps (walking directions modified) was super helpful and accurate... untill we got to the street that was to take us safely over or under US 117. Baker Chapel Church Rd. was our road at the time. We were enjoying the flat scenic road until we passed a "no outlet" sign. All big and yellow and official. We stopped and re-read the directions, pulled out the map and decided to see what "no outlet" really meant. We took a picture of what we found.

What you can't see is that there is a fence on the other side of the bushes. Beyond the fence is US-117. And beyond that... we could only hope for something good. Back to the map. But the map showed Baker Chapel Church turning into McKees Oil County rd on the other side of the highway. And, we would have to add another 3-5 miles to our trip. That could take half an hour, and we would risk getting lost. So, still feeling adventerous, we found a part of the fence that was low and started bushwacking our way toward it. As we struggled to get one of the bikes through the bushes I could feel my patience coming to a halt. I was super uncomfortable, and pretty fed up with the bike that wouldn't budge.... and my legs... they were... warm. I looked down to find in my struggles I had flattened a huge fire ant hill. The occupants were pretty upset and in a matter seconds had retaliated. About 50 of them were attached to my ankles just above my sock line and were pumping my skin with poison. Not having previous experience with fire ants, and still struggling with the bike, I was pretty slow to react. But eventually I realized my task- get them off. I found a piney area a few feet away and tore off my shoes and socks, yelling and sweating. Meanwhile, Joanna continued to drag the bike through the bushes and over the ant hill. Still angry, the ants quickly attacked her chacoed feet. So we sat yelling obscenities and killing the ants. But obscenities I of course mean things like "aaahhhhggg" and "This is how people go crazy!" and "yaahhhhhh". Not saying we did not want to yell other things.

Ten minutes later, we hoisted the bikes over the fence and emerged from the bushes to face the traffic. "My feet feel warm" said Joanna. I looked down. My ankles were red and puffy all around my sock line. They looked like they were exploding out of my socks. We carefully crossed the highway and found ourselves facing a 6' fence with a single line of barbed wire at the top as far as we could see in each direction. Sigh. "Maybe we should have taken the long way around." "Well, at least this will be a fun story to tell" After a 5 minute walk along the side of the highway, dodging numerous fire ant hills, we found our beloved barbed wire break. The fence was lower too.

So, we reached Mckees Oil County rd, found the town of Mt. Olive where we bought gatorate, filled up on water and ate a quick lunch. Back on the road. As we pedaled I watched the odometer/speedometer/clock. I started to do some calculations based on the numbers flashing at me. Little by little it began to sink in that, at the rate we were going, including stops, we may get to the beach around 7pm... IF we didn't have any more Fire Ant incidents or Incorrect Directions incidents. And IF we kept up the pace we were going, wich was hard. I calculated again. maybe 6:30 if we didn't stop as much. but we needed to stop. We dropped things and found things and we needed to eat and use the bathroom. Stopping was essential. 8pm was a realistic estimate. I had secretly hoped to leave the beach by 7pm to go back to Raleigh. I calculated again. 7pm was still generous. We kept riding. I confessed to Joanna how much I was putting my hope in the beach and not in Jesus. She prayed for me. I calcuated again. Realisticly, 8pm. I was tired. I also had a hard time breathing, and I felt low on energy but I didn't feel like eating. So we kept going. Finally, all the anxiety that I had been building up just bubbled over and came out in the form of tears and panic. We found a shady spot and I prepared to vomit. I didn't. I just cried and sucked air as if there was a shortage. It was pathetic. I wish Joanna had been mean enough to take some pictures of me sprawled out in the dirt. Instead she called Blair. And then insisted we continue.

I put the odometer in my pocket and drafted off Joanna as we pushed forward. As we rode, she made plans with blair about picking us up. Basically we keep riding until we see him. We did. We rested alot and drank alot of water. And oh what a glorious moment when the powervan came around the bend! We had biked over 100 miles. Blair drove us all the way back to the beach where we were greeted by our oh so supportive friends and an incredible sand sculpture of sponge bob square pants riding a bike.

The beach was AMAZING. All of a sudden I had plenty of energy to swim and swim and get buried in the sand. Pictured is Ben, Joanna, and the two headed Mara- "which is her real face?"

On the way home we stopped for dinner and I eaten about half of my subway sandwich when my body started to shut down again. It was kind of like I had just enough energy to stay awake and sitting up, so thats what I did, and nothing else. I didn't even think. It was a strange feeling. Not bad, but definately not good.

Sunday morning, I was amazed at how good I felt. Like everything was back to normal. My knee was a bit sore, and we still had welts on our feet. But, other than that, I felt great!

Morals of the story:
1. Fire ants are really nasty, and they have a very appropriate name.
2. Google maps is USUALLY right
3. God is the one who sustains me and gives me life and breath and energy. I can do nothing apart from His grace and I can do everything through Him who strengthens me.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

all done

that is a relative statement though. Apparently these things are somewhat high maintenance. and they will look better in a few months. supposedly.

and those are my dear sisters Alison and Anna, who worked hard all weekend on this.

Friday, August 15, 2008

dreadlocks proccess

Alison and Andrew at work on my hair

enduring pain

As serious as that may sound, this is not real pain. I mean it is relatively minor physical pain. Not emotional. And I am choosing to experience this pain. No, not masochism. My dear sisters are giving me dreadlocks. So exciting. As I enjoy the beautiful woods, Anna is intentionally knotting my hair into thick fuzzy strands. To dispel any concerns- despite rumors, dreads don't have to be dirty. I will continue to wash my hair regularly, and I will not be putting glue or peanut butter in my hair (just beeswax).

Why? Because I think dreadlocks are super cool looking and I have wanted them for years. Various weddings, interviews and rational fears have prevented me until now. my friend Danish (Diane) has inspired me as she had some sweet dreads and much of her hair survived when they came out.

what else? they are fuzzy. I will have 27 when its all done. My sisters really love me. my mom tried to talk me out of it. i like dreads. i don't smoke pot.

photos to come soon.


Here we are sitting on the back deck of our little cabin in wild and wonderful West Virginia. Trees are amazing. I mean, we have trees in raleigh, but as I sit here and listen to the wind blowing through the leaves, I am reminded of the mirical that is creation. I mean, if you didn't see trees all the time, just the size of them would blow you away! They are huge! And the color? Such a beautiful green. Ohh, God is amazing. He is so creative, and He has the perfect balance of functionality and beauty. The greatest Designer ever!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Mourn with those who mourn

Dan and Casey's blog tells the story well.

We have been mourning the death of their newborn son, Asher.

In the midst of sorrow and not understanding, God has made it clear to us- He is good! He is sovereign, and therefore, He is the one who took Asher. But He is good! Praise Him! We do not mourn as those who have no hope.

From Lamentations 3

13 He drove into my kidneys
the arrows of his quiver;
14 I have become the laughingstock of all peoples,
the object of their taunts all day long.
15 He has filled me with bitterness;
he has sated me with wormwood.

16 He has made my teeth grind on gravel,
and made me cower in ashes;
17 my soul is bereft of peace;
I have forgotten what happiness is;
18 so I say, “My endurance has perished;
so has my hope from the Lord.”

19 Remember my affliction and my wanderings,
the wormwood and the gall!
20 My soul continually remembers it
and is bowed down within me.
21 But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:

22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”

25 The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul who seeks him.
26 It is good that one should wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.
27 It is good for a man that he bear
the yoke in his youth.

28 Let him sit alone in silence
when it is laid on him;
29 let him put his mouth in the dust—
there may yet be hope;
30 let him give his cheek to the one who strikes,
and let him be filled with insults.

31 For the Lord will not cast off forever,
32 but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion
according to the abundance of his steadfast love;
33 for he does not willingly afflict
or grieve the children of men.

34 To crush underfoot all the prisoners of the earth,
35 to deny a man justice
in the presence of the Most High,
36 to subvert a man in his lawsuit,
the Lord does not approve.

37 Who has spoken and it came to pass,
unless the Lord has commanded it?
38 Is it not from the mouth of the Most High
that good and bad come?
39 Why should a living man complain,
a man, about the punishment of his sins?

40 Let us test and examine our ways,
and return to the Lord!
41 Let us lift up our hearts and hands
to God in heaven:
42 “We have transgressed and rebelled,
and you have not forgiven.

43 “You have wrapped yourself with anger and pursued us,
killing without pity;
44 you have wrapped yourself with a cloud
so that no prayer can pass through.
45 You have made us scum and garbage
among the peoples.

46 “All our enemies
open their mouths against us;
47 panic and pitfall have come upon us,
devastation and destruction;
48 my eyes flow with rivers of tears
because of the destruction of the daughter of my people.

49 “My eyes will flow without ceasing,
without respite,
50 until the Lord from heaven
looks down and sees;
51 my eyes cause me grief
at the fate of all the daughters of my city.

52 “I have been hunted like a bird
by those who were my enemies without cause;
53 they flung me alive into the pit
and cast stones on me;
54 water closed over my head;
I said, ‘I am lost.’

55 “I called on your name, O Lord,
from the depths of the pit;
56 you heard my plea, ‘Do not close
your ear to my cry for help!’
57 You came near when I called on you;
you said, ‘Do not fear!’


Sorry readers! I just did not feel like blogging for a while there.

My dad is recovering so well! He is walking a mile at a time now and not even feeling much pain. I have only talked to him on the phone but he sounds better every time. I am super encouraged.

Yes, my faith was a bit pathetic for a while there. I think all the anxiety and fear and emotions just crashed down on me after the surgery since I did not have much time to experience them before. I was rebellious about pouring out my heart to God too. (meaning, i didn't) It was a fight and fighting with God is never good. But He is SO faithful and gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love. He changed my heart and renewed my love for Him and my joy in salvation. And what joy!

Dana reminded me that God gave my dad a new heart. He spared his life! That is something to be thankful for! I have been learning to trust God in a new way- this whole thing has reminded me that God is sovereign. He gives and takes away. If my hope is not in Him, I will be dissapointed, I will fall, and be flung into despair and hopelessness.

So, its a miracle. God gave the doctors understanding and knowledge to perform such an intense surgery. God provided all the technology and medicine through other people who he gave wisdom, and God is healing my dad. So glory and praise be to God!

Did you know that in bypass surgery, they stop your heart, put you on a machine that pumps blood and breathes for you, and they take your heart out, and put it on a table while they operate on it? Is that not amazing?! Then, they put it back in, sew you up and you are up and walking around the next day. Tell me that is not a miracle. (I know, i doubted too).