Life Lessons on the Hiking Trail

hiking trailI did some hiking recently in, what was to me, uncharted territory in northern Arizona.

It was quite an adventure since I am a novice when it comes to hiking. I love to walk, mind you, but hiking is quite different, so I learned. I do believe one of the hikes was several miles long. It was a totally isolated trail in the woods, leading to the top of a mountain.

My friend and I headed up the narrow trail, stopping occasionally to take a quick break, drink water, and marvel at how far we had come. I’ve learned over the years, it’s always best to have someone walk beside me when I’m on any unfamiliar path, or trail in life.

And isn’t that true – having someone come along side you when you are going through something you’ve never experienced before can make it a little easier. It’s also helpful to have the support and share the experience together. Besides that, it’s certainly better than talking to yourself.

There were a couple of times I just wanted to give up, turn around, and go back. I have also learned over the years, that when any journey I’m on seems steep, long, and difficult, I put one foot in front of the other and keep moving forward. It’s never easy, but reaching my goal is worth it. In times like this, I remember the story of “The Little Engine That Could”. I think I can, I think I can, said the little engine, as she pushed up the hill. I become that little engine pushing on up the hill.

About half way up, we met two people on their way down the trail. Well, let me tell you, it’s always good to meet someone who’s been where I’m going. If for no other reason than to know someone else has made it! I asked the first questions that came to my anxious mind as they passed by rather quickly. What’s it like ahead? How much farther is it to the top? What’s it like there? They calmed any fear I had of the unknown trail ahead. They told us how much farther we had to go and gave us insight into what we could expect.

It’s kind of like anything we’re going through in life, isn’t it? There is comfort in knowing someone else has been there, done that. There’s nothing like someone saying, it’s going to be alright, here’s what you can expect, I’ve been through this and you can make it.

Needless to say, we made it to the top of the mountain… and back down! The amazing views of the landscape below were breathtaking. The emerald green forest was rippled with wild flowers and distant lakes sparkled and swirled like ribbons. I wouldn’t have missed it. It was worth every step, every anxious moment, every tired bone in my body.

The next time you face a challenge, or something unfamiliar ahead of you—don’t do it alone, don’t give up, and be on the lookout for someone who crosses your path, who’s been where you’re going. You will learn a lot along the way and discover you really do have the ability to reach your goal.

I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back. Philippians 3:12-14 The Message

Everything I need to know, I learned from my grandchildren

grandchildrenCousin Camp has come to an end for another summer. Every July I look forward to having all six grandchildren, ages eight to fourteen, together for a cousin reunion. I must have fixed 12 gallons of lemonade, made 35 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, found 12 missing shoes, fixed an overflowing toilet 5 times, took at least 100 pictures to the tune of “Nana, please…n-o  m-o-r-e pictures,” and said “wash your hands,” at least 8 times a day. I do believe my daughter can fix mac n’ cheese and chicken nuggets 10 different ways!

It was reminiscent of my childhood as I watched them enjoy the simple fun of playing hide and seek in the dark, learning how to play the old-fashion game of Jacks, watching the boys play roly-poly races with small, round bugs on the sidewalk, and for everyone to run around in the rain as they squealed with glee. You can imagine the laughter when a Nerf ball was accidently (?) thrown, and hit a plate of pancakes filled with sticky syrup, or when hands were washed in the sink where the spaghetti was draining in the colander, and we all ate “soapy spaghetti.”

I set up the now famous “Nana’s Nail Salon” on our deck, and painted nails for my three granddaughters and their friends for a whole morning. My three grandsons, their friends, and all the girls, played board games on our deck, and played soccer, dodge ball, and capture the flag in the park for hours of fun. Kick-ball was a late afternoon ritual, with a growing number of kids participating every day. Even the parents would gather to watch. I made the world’s largest chocolate chip cookie (on a huge pizza pan), along with a “build your own ice-cream sundae” for a dessert-night treat.  Bunk beds and sleeping bags filled the loft and the sound of giggles and conversations continued until “lights out” echoed up the stairs.

I loved every minute. I watched, participated, listened, and learned. I captured the memories with pictures, and have tucked the tender moments in my heart.

God teaches me life lessons through the world of my grandchildren, and reminds me of things I know, but can easily forget in the busyness of my daily life. I thought it was worth repeating the things God continues to teach me at Cousin Camp each summer.

It’s not about me. I learned to put aside my schedule, my agenda, and my wants. Cousin Camp is just that—it’s all about the cousins.

Have no expectations. The sooner I learned to relax and let go of any expectations of our time together, the smoother the days went, and the more fun we had.  God had to work with me on this one!

Above all, don’t compare. I was reminded that comparing grandsons and granddaughters who are different ages, have different personalities and temperaments, and come from two different family life-styles, is unfair to the child. Accepting their differences allows each one to be who God made them to be, without the pressure of performance to please.

Movies vs. games. There is a huge difference in watching movies and playing board games together. You have to be quiet to listen and watch a movie. Board games encourage conversation and interaction. There is a time for both, but I learned not to defer to movies to keep everyone occupied.

Crafts are good for all ages. I was surprised to learn that everyone from eight to fourteen, both boys and girls, loved doing crafts! It was fun, messy, and an opportunity for them to express their individual creativity. A lot of things happened. They shared ideas and supplies, learned from each other, and complimented each other on what they did.                                                                       

Deck talk is magic. After dinner, we would sit on the deck, with only a few lanterns to give us a glow in the dark. It was amazing how the conversation flowed, when there were no distractions. With a few questions, I learned about what they were thinking, things they were doing, and caught a glimpse of life through their eyes.

A little space is a good thing. Every child needs some time and space to do their own thing. I learned they don’t have to always do everything together, or in a group. 

It’s caught, not taught. Kindness, thoughtfulness, and being considerate of others are best caught through the example of how I treat them and others. Pointing out the error of their ways, in front of everyone else can be embarrassing and humiliating. If I had to resort to correct someone’s behavior, I would do it one-on-one, away from everyone else. We would sit on the floor together, eye level, and talk it through, ending with a hug and a smile that conveyed my unconditional love.

Choose your battles. I learned to ask myself—“Is this a hill high enough to die for? Am I making a mountain out a mole hill? At the end of the day, will it really matter?” 

A sense of humor goes a long way. I learned to lighten up and laugh a lot, and that being silly brings giggles from all ages.

Manners matter.  Please, thank-you, excuse me, I’m sorry, chew with your mouth shut, elbows off the table—have always been a part of “Nana’s Manners,” and manners are not left at the door at Cousin Camp.  My daughter often says in jest, “You don’t want to have to go to “Nana’s Manners School”—it lasts for hours!” I learned that you don’t give up on what matters.

Hold hands, and stick together.  Cousin Camp is all about connecting with each other, building memories, and learning the importance of being a part of something bigger than yourself: your family. I learned that when you encourage them to hold hands and stick together, one day you will have the joy of seeing them do it on their own.

I am also reminded that these are not just lessons learned regarding my grandchildren, but also with my adult children and their spouses, extended family, friendships, and those I serve with in ministry. Lord, keep teaching me, reminding me, and never let me forget.

May Cousin Camp memories live on…

Susan Miller signature

A Summer To-Be List

 

To be list

Is your summer to-do list growing? Mine sure is. Over the next few months, my calendar looks full, not empty. It’s not supposed to be that way. The summer months are supposed to be my time to think about ministry plans for next year, quietly listen to God’s voice, rest my body and soul, renew and refresh my mind.

I am beginning to feel resentful of the time that is so quickly slipping away. Once fall is here, I’m back on the merry-go-round of a wonderful, blessed, but full life. I yearn for a break—to read a good novel, to wander aimlessly through Wal-Mart, to sleep in without guilt, to have nothing scheduled to do for a whole day. It’s so easy for me to focus on the to-do list, rather than the to-be list. Summer is a time I want to “be” more, and “do” less…

 

I want to be more spontaneous, and less cautious.

1307.tobe

I want to be more of a listener, and less a talker.

I want to be more patient, and less annoyed.

I want to be more authentic, and less guarded.

I want to be more of a risk-taker, and less afraid.

I want to be more understanding, and less critical.

I want to be more determined, and less indecisive.

I want to be more willing, and less hesitant.

I want to be more loving, and less judgmental.

I want to be more forgiving, and less intolerant.

And then, I stop and think. I’m looking at my full calendar, when I should be looking at my empty heart—a heart that is weary and worn out from the craziness of a full, non-stop life. It doesn’t matter if it’s winter, spring, summer, or fall—God controls my schedule (and yours) when we give it all to Him. He fills our neediness and instills in us the ability to change our thinking, actions, and behavior.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”  Matthew 11:28 (The Message)

l know who I want to be with…where I can go to be more… It’s now at the top of my list.

Susan Miller signature

Run the Race

run the race“I’m going to run in the Pat Tillman race,” she said.

“That sounds great,” he replied.

“It’s only 4.2 miles. I know we could do it,” she continued.

Running had become a bond between a brother and sister as they grew up, and as they got older over the years.

Even though they lived in different states, there was a competitive edge between them when they trained for a race. “I ran 5 miles today,” he would say. “I ran 5 ½ miles,” she would respond with a smile. It was the motivation needed to reach a common goal together. Their claim to fame had been running a half marathon and crossing the finish line side by side.

“I’ll be traveling with my family that weekend, so there’s no way I can be there,” he explained.

“Oh, okay,” she answered, with a hint of disappointment.

On the day of the race, she got up at 5:00am to get ready and quietly slip out of the house while her family was sleeping.

Her phone beeped. It was a text that said, “I’ll be thinking of you this morning. Good luck in the race.”

She smiled. His text was the encouragement she needed as she got in the car and drove to the city to find her place among thousands of runners.

An hour later, she was at the starting point when her phone beeped again with another text.treadmill

The words simply read, “I’m with you this morning. Check out the treadmill. Have fun.” She took a closer look at the picture. The numbers displayed on the treadmill read 4.2 miles.

Tears came to her eyes. He had gotten up when she did, gone down to the hotel workout room, and ran the exact distance of the race!

He had run the distance to encourage her on to victory, and indeed he did.

My daughter, Ginger, finished the race in record time, and my son, Bill, had been right there for his sister,  like so many other times over the years– in spirit and support.

Sometimes all it takes is for someone to “be there” for us, believe in our ability, or come alongside us when we need encouragement to reach a goal, push through circumstances, or take the next hard step in life.

Take a minute and think of who you know that needs an extra measure of kindness and thoughtfulness today. It could be as simple as words in a text or a caring gesture that expresses your support.

It just might spur them on to the victory line.

Susan Miller signature

For a time such as this

God is faithful

Have you ever walked away from a perfect day that left a smile on your face and memories in your heart? I had a day like that at our Spring Luncheon and Auction to benefit Just Moved Ministry. Oh, you would have loved it too! Our theme was “ Stepping Stones of Faithfulness,” and 200 women enjoyed the ambiance of a beautiful place overlooking spring flowers and a lake, stunning decorations, connecting with friends, browsing (and buying) our amazing auction items, and a wonderful three-course lunch served in grand style. Over 30 volunteers, and our staff, worked months to plan, prepare, and create; and gave sacrificially their time and talent to make it a glorious day.

As part of the program, some of our newcomers shared their stepping stone of God’s faithfulness in their move. One young woman said her stone was “trust”, and that she had learned to trust God with the unwanted changes that have altered her life since moving. Another woman’s stone was “joy”, and she shared how God returned joy to her life and her marriage since she moved.  As  woman after woman shared her testimony, wrapped with God’s faithfulness, emotions were stirred throughout the room, and there wasn’t a dry eye among us.

It was fun and enlightening for everyone as I shared how far and wide our Moving On After Moving In groups reach:

From Florida to AlaskaMoving On groups around the world

Ohio to California

Hawaii to Virginia

Louisiana to Belgium

Kentucky to Iowa

Arkansas to Montana

North Carolina to The Netherlands!

And then all the women loved hearing the quote posted on the Just Moved Facebook page from the leader of the Ex-pats group in The Netherlands:

“What do Malaysia, Taiwan, Russia, Brazil, Greece, the Netherlands and the US have in common? All those nationalities have been represented at Just Moved Eindhoven!” (A town in The Netherlands.)

I will savor the sweetness of that day for a long time. I am reminded that Just Moved not only has an impact on lives for Christ all over the world, but is also a community of women who are committed, faithful, and devoted to serve Jesus through this ministry. For these things, I am most grateful.

From My Heart to Yours,

Susan Miller signature

I always keep pom-poms in my car

pom poms
I always keep pom-poms in my car. You just never know when you might need to cheer someone on, or who might need a wave of encouragement. I’ve shown up with pom-poms at the airport, the hospital, birthday parties, sports events — anywhere I can add a touch of sunshine to someone’s day. I especially love showing up at soccer and basketball games to cheer for my grandchildren and their teams. My family used to give me that look that says, “Oh no, she’s going to do THAT again!” But after all these years, they are used to it, and even expect the pom-poms to appear.

When my son, Bill, told me he was coming to Phoenix to run the P.F. Chang Half Marathon, you can imagine my excitement. He had been training for the thirteen mile run for months, and wanted to break his previous running time. A few years ago, Bill and his sister  ran the race together, and I have a picture on my refrigerator with them crossing the finish line. Of course I was there, along with all six grandchildren, all of us waving pom-poms for their mom and dad. (I have a picture of them too!) So for the race this year, I was ready to cheer him on to victory at the finish line. I was so proud  when he accomplished his goal and beat his own record!

Someone said they couldn’t believe I would get up before daylight to get Bill down town for the race, fight the traffic, find a parking place, and join the crowds of spectators, when he could have done it on his own. But that’s what we do for our children, isn’t it? No matter how young or old they are, we are their cheerleaders through life. Whether it’s with pom-poms, words of praise, an expression of encouragement, or simply by being there for them — the things we do and say have a powerful positive influence on their lives. They don’t ever outgrow the need to be loved, affirmed, valued, and encouraged.

And, by the way, I’ve passed the pom-pom tradition on to the next generation in my family. They are equipped to cheer one another on to run the race of life and become the best they can be.

Susan

Right Under Your Nose

mother and daughterWhen I was growing up, mama used to always say, “It’s right under your nose, Susan!” In our family that always meant, what you are looking for, or what you need to do, or say, is so obvious!

The other day I had a “right under my nose” moment. It was so obvious, that I almost found myself saying, “Duh!” I acted on it immediately, and reaped the reward of being spontaneous and flexible with a dear friend.

So—what are some of the things that are “right under your nose” this year? Maybe it’s an old habit you want to change, or a new habit you want to cultivate. It could be a word you want to leave out, or perhaps add to, your vocabulary. You might want to write a note to someone encouraging them through a difficult time, or write an overdue letter asking for forgiveness. Is it something you’ve always wanted to take the time to do, a dream you want to make a reality, a promise you want to keep, or a phone call you need to make?

Perhaps you’ve been looking in all the wrong places, and making all the wrong choices this past year—to fill a need, to avoid the obvious, to cloud your judgment, to distract you from what’s important, to keep you from doing the right thing—when it’s been right under your nose the whole time.

Susan Miller

An old bench filled with memories

the old bench

One of the sweet memories I have of my daddy many years ago, was sitting beside him on a hand-made, hand-painted bench in our back yard. He made it out of scraps of wood from his wood pile, and it has remained strong and steady for over 40 years. He built it with the skill of a fine carpenter, although he only referred to himself as a handyman around the house.

The weathered green bench sat in mom and dad’s back yard for many years. Anytime I came home to visit, I would watch from the kitchen window when daddy was raking the back yard, and wait for him to take a bench break, then I’d head for my spot next to him.

We would sit together and talk about anything—from the birds and the squirrels scampering around in our wooded back yard, to the rising cost of living, to how hot the weather was, to stories of the years he served in the military and what the Bible says about how to live life. My daddy was a quiet, gentle, soft-spoken man of few words. The bench seemed to spark magic conversation between us.

When mom and dad went home to be with the Lord many years ago, my brother and I sorted through the keepsakes we wanted. I took the bench. It traveled from Florida to Arizona, and sat on the front porch of three homes, and then finally ended up in the back yard, all the more weathered.

This summer, as I walked by the all-but-forgotten-bench, I stopped, and ran my hands across the rough surface. I sat down thinking that it might not hold me, but it held firm. The memories of sitting on it with my daddy, my husband, Bill, my children, and my grandchildren, flooded my heart and emotions.

stripping the paint

“It is time to restore this bench,” I said to myself. I became excited about stripping and sanding it, filling the holes with wood filler, nailing down any loose wood, re-painting it a different color, and adding a cushion for the finishing touch!

Moved to a special place, the old-but-new bench continues to spark conversation magic. I watch my daughter and my grandchildren find a spot to sit next to me, and then we talk about many things….

Five lessons learned from an old bench:

1. Seize the moment to sit awhile with someone you love.
2. Talk about lots of things—important and not so important.
3. Share stories and recall memories.
4. Listen and remember.
5. Never forget that something old can be a treasure, and sometimes, can be restored to new again.

finished bench

Susan Miller

 

Knee Deep in Lemonade and Life Lessons

Cousin CampCamp NanaPapa, better known as Cousin Camp, has come to an end for another summer. Every July, I look forward  to having all six grandchildren, ages seven to thirteen, together for a cousin reunion. They make crafts and bake cookies, play board games and kickball, swim and bike ride, take long walks and watch movies. They laugh and cry, scuff knees and feelings, stay up late, and sleep in, drink gallons of lemonade, and eat countless peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I love every minute. I watch, participate, listen, and learn. I have captured the memories with pictures, and have tucked the tender moments in my heart.

God continues to teach me life lessons through the world of my grandchildren, and reminds me of things I know, but can easily forget in the busyness of my daily life. I thought I would share a few things God taught me at Cousin Camp this summer.

It’s not about me. I learned to put aside my schedule, my agenda, and my wants. Cousin Camp is just that—it’s all about the cousins.

Have no expectations. The sooner I learned to relax and let go of any expectations of our time together, the smoother the days went, and the more fun we had.  God had to work with me on this one!

Above all, don’t compare. I was reminded that comparing grandsons and granddaughters who are different ages, have different personalities and temperaments, and come from two different family life-styles, is so unfair to the child. Accepting their differences allows each one to be who God made them to be, without the pressure of performance to please.

Movies vs. games. There is a huge difference in watching movies, and playing board games together. You have to be quiet to listen and watch a movie. Board games encourage conversation and interaction. There is a time for both, but I learned not to defer to movies to keep everyone occupied.

Crafts are good for all ages. I was surprised to learn that everyone from seven to thirteen, both boys and girls, loved doing crafts! It was fun, messy, and an opportunity for them to express their individual creativity. A lot of things happened. They shared ideas and supplies, learned from each other, and complimented each other on what they did.                                                                        

Deck talk is magic. After dinner, we would sit on the deck, with only a few lanterns to give us a glow in the dark. It was amazing how the conversation flowed, when there were no distractions. With a few questions, I learned about what they were thinking, things they were doing, and caught a glimpse of life through their eyes.

A little space is a good thing. Every child needs some time and space to do their own thing. I learned they don’t have to always do everything together, or in a group.

It’s caught, not taught. Kindness, thoughtfulness, and being considerate of others are best caught through the example of how I treat them, and others. Pointing out the error of their ways, in front of everyone else can be embarrassing and humiliating. If I had to resort to correct someone’s behavior, I would do it one-on-one, away from everyone else. We would sit on the floor together, eye level, and talk it through, ending with a hug and a smile that conveyed my unconditional love.

Choose your battles. I learned to ask myself—“Is this a hill high enough to die for?  Am I making a mountain out a mole hill? At the end of the day, will it really matter?”

A sense of humor goes a long way. I learned to lighten up, laugh a lot, and that being silly brings giggles from all ages.

Manners matter.  Please, thank-you, excuse me, I’m sorry, chew with your mouth shut, elbows off the table—have always been a part of “Nana’s Manners” and manners are not left at the door at Cousin Camp.  My daughter often says in jest, “You don’t want to have to go to “Nana’s Manners School”—it lasts for two hours!”  I learned that you don’t give up on what matters.                                                                                                                           

Hold hands and stick together.  Cousin Camp is all about connecting with each other, building memories, and learning the importance of being a part of something bigger than yourself—your family. I learned that when you encourage them to hold hands, and stick together, one day you will have the joy of seeing them do it on their own.

I am also reminded that these are not just lessons learned regarding my grandchildren, but also with my adult children and their spouses, extended family, friendships, and those I serve with in ministry. Lord, keep teaching me, reminding me, and never let me forget. Humble me all the more…

Susan Miller

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