Category Archives: Sidewalks and jet streams

Surprise Twists and Turns!

It’s called the million dollar highway. Some sources also call it one of the world’s most spectacular (and dangerous) stretches of pavement. However, when traveled carefully in good weather, it’s a breath-taking experience of incredible vistas.

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Each one just as amazing as the last.

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One after the next, so incredible you scan constantly, not wanting to miss a single moment of the beauty.

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Sometimes you have to climb out of the car to see it all.

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But here’s the thing. This road is full of hair pin curves.

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They happen unexpectedly, usually with abrupt drop-offs on at least one side.

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We drove this road last May, our borrowed van full of our son’s stuff. A dresser, bed, clothes. You get the idea. We moved him from his college apartment to his new home and job. It was a full van, and I am not great at driving with decreased visibility out the windows. My husband drives a work van full of stuff every day, so I requested the passenger seat.

The problem with the passenger seat is you have absolutely no control. You can’t hit the brake when you want to slow. You can’t control the position of the vehicle, no matter how close that sheer edge looks. You have to trust your driver. (And as most of you know, a nagging, fearful wife is not very effective in these situations. Your man knows how to navigate the terrain and will likely not do it your way just because you catch your breath and spout advice.)

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But the great thing about being in the passenger seat is you can more fully enjoy the view without the responsibility of navigation.

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If you can just let go of your fears and go with it.

The problem is that while you’re exclaiming over yet another incredible panorama, you don’t see that sharp turn ahead. Suddenly you’re upon it. Disequilibrium makes you gasp and grab something to steady yourself. Fear hits.

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The twist is not only sharp and quick, the grade is also steep.

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Even in the moment I felt the stirring as we drove last May.

The need to pay attention. The prompting to trust my driver to navigate the unexpected turns in the road, to let go of control, to enjoy the glorious ride.

And to remember.

Remember how it felt to trust and enjoy beauty instead of micro-managing.

To drink in the wonder and excitement instead giving into fear of what is around the bend or how suddenly the change came upon me.

Of course I’m not talking about navigating Route 550 from Durango through Silverton to Ouray.

I’m talking about life.

Maybe you relate. Maybe life has thrown you some curve balls, not necessarily bad, but certainly unexpected.

Or maybe you’ve chosen an unknown road. One you’re breathlessly excited about. But you feel insecure. You don’t know the appropriate speed or how to navigate the next bend. You don’t know how much fear you must face to take in all the glory and wonder of the choice.

The weeks following this trip I had both experiences. A breathless choice and an unexpected curve ball. I keep reminding myself to trust the One who guides me on the best pathway for my life, who advises me and watches over me. But sometimes I gasp at the steep road ahead or feel the disequilibrium when the sharp curve redirects.

I’m not ready to write much about the unexpected curve. It’s still unfolding. Right now all He has asked of me is a mindset change, a readjustment of my thinking, plans, and dreams. That alone is a sharp turn, one that causes me disequilibrium.

But I am ready to write about the choice to adventure. To stretch. To follow where His Spirit calls even though the journey is unknown, and I have never done anything like this.

This choice is exciting. A bit scary. Full of joyful wonder. Poking at my insecurities and inadequacies but breath-taking too. Beautiful. New.13903190_10154455712793179_4641395257159691296_n

I was chosen to serve with a women’s team traveling to Afghanistan later this summer. The eight of us will meet with several groups of beautiful, courageous ladies who have worked tirelessly to better their communities and build toward a hopeful future for their children and their country. Our team seeks to build relationship, to encourage, to believe in the hope they possess and to share our own for them.

As I step out into this journey, I am stretching. It’s not just the miles I will travel or the insecurities I posses about navigating an unfamiliar culture. It’s not even the pain and fear that arises when another bombing rocks the world of the people I already think of as my friends. It’s the longing to be better than I am. To love more. To have more strength. To serve well.

What about you? Where are you stretching? What call up your deepest longings and passions. Where do you feel a prompting to something new, something bigger than yourself?

May God bless us all.

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PS Would you partner with me in this new adventure, my friend? If you’d like more information about the Afghanistan service trip, let me know. I’ll add you to my list of people getting updates. You can contact me by email: Paula at paulamoldenhauer dot com.

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How Do You Juggle?

How do you juggle multiple responsibilities and still nurture your heart?

Or do you?

I find it’s a constant choice to seek joy, peace, and balance when the pace of life increases. As I type, I’m less than a week out from my son’s wedding. (Exciting!) A few weeks out from a book deadline. (Exciting!) And coming off a wonderful three-day speaking engagement in February. (Exciting!) Of course there are other joys and responsibilities in between the big events. Finding joy in hardship is a challenge for me, but I’m discovering joy can also be lost in good times if I’m not careful, just because of the pace!

So . . . how to hang onto the joy? To celebrate all this good even as time feels shorter (which of course it never is, really.) How to stay peaceful in the hurry?

A little self-care helps. This morning I took a time out to re-read a few passages from a book releasing on April 1 by a friend of mine Vicki Caruana, of the popular Apples and Chalkdust blog. 20170321_093105Why take the time? The topic is timely. I don’t think it is coincidence that the week my son marries I receive The Joy of Letting Go in the mail. I devoured an advanced copy of this book before it published, and I knew the wisdom and grace Vicki offers would be as good for my heart as my eggs and avocados were this morning.  It was.

The pretty book cover inspired me to an extra bit of self-nuture, so I grabbed this beautiful cup given to me by the lovely bride-to-be (my new daughter!!) and that inspired me to pull out my grandmother’s china and a new cloth napkin I purchased for the bridal shower. (Isn’t it lucky my reading glasses match too?) I don’t usually eat out of china, but this extra touch of beauty only cost me about thirty seconds and it meant something to me!

What touch of beauty would cost little time but mean something to you today?

The other thing I’ve done during this busy season is engage with Colors of Hope, the first coloring book in the new inspirational coloring series by Lisa Joy Samson. If you love good fiction, you’ve likely read one of Lisa’s novels. You’ve also heard her name here because Lisa drew the cover art for my Soul Scents book series.

It seems counter-intuitive to color when you have a lot to get done, but I’ve found that it calms me and makes me more creative and productive later, especially when tackling the novella deadline. Besides it’s fun and playful, and with the Bible verses and beauty of the art, the coloring book helps me spend some restful moment thinking about the One who gives hope. 20170311_082302.jpgHow about you? Is there something you enjoy that is simple and creative that will bring your stress down and free you to more productivity? (A hint: I do set a timer when I color, so this creative endeavor doesn’t suck me into giving up more time than is wise. I take several days to color one page.)

17156189_10211441460007228_7758007868974633871_nI’m still walking, and it still provides great joy and peace. I’ll be honest and admit that it is hard to make myself take the time, and too often I don’t make the choice to get outside, but every time I do I feel better and have more peace and stamina when I return to my work. Added bonus right now? If I pay attention, I see spring coming!

I also often use this time to catch up with a friend. Another great stress reducer!

How about you? Where can you find a few minutes to get some sunshine and a little activity? Time with a friend?

If you know me well, you’re going to be shocked at my last stress-reducing activity. My husband actually laughed out loud this morning when I said I needed to climb out of bed because the sunrise is so pretty.

Honestly, I’m a huge fan of sunsets, but sunrises happen too early for me. That said, for some reason I’ve seen every one of them this week. Instead of letting it stress me out that I’m not sleeping as much as I prefer, I slip into the living room and position myself for the best view. Curling beneath a soft blanket, I take a few minutes just to enjoy.20170318_065141I don’t know whether you’re a sunrise or sunset person–or both! But I hope tonight or tomorrow morning you’ll pause a moment and let the beauty seep in!

Here’s to capturing joy and peace in the midst of the bustle.

Now I’m off to clean the bathrooms for wedding company!

(By the way, after the wedding I’ve invited Lisa to share with us about the benefits of coloring and Vickie to help us process the joy of releasing our progeny to their adult lives. I hope you’ll join us the next few weeks. It’s going to be beautiful!)

Blessings,

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Unconditional

steamboatThe semi-circle of peaks wraps around me, too distant to hug, too soft to stand sentinel. But they do both stand guard and comfort. It is November. Their sides are dry and brittle, beige and grey. The slopes are dotted with rust–almost a pop of color in this season. And dark brown. Even brown is color now. An evergreen rises past this bank of third story windows, reaching past the fourth floor above, a deep green reminding me that the ever-living part of us takes time to reach to the sky. Here and there the miracle of modern sprinkler systems create little circles and squares of green grass, but even that color is November-muted.

All of this has nothing to do with what is on my mind.

Or does it?

I’m thinking of love.

Our youngest son and his girlfriend spent the weekend here with us. We took them to a glorious hot springs nestled among the rocks and slopes, hiding at the end of a long, bumpy road. The natural pools form little ponds of steaming water. At one side the scalding waters flows over tiny falls into the pools. On the other flows the river. Cold, cold river. In the middle we play. Float. Rest. Choose our temperature.

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Jerry and I watch and smile as they dance the dance of young love. He splashes in the cool, river-fed pool, colder because it is November. Freezing because our bodies have been in the hot springs. He splashes and dives. Brings her rocks. They toss them. Skip the flat stones. He begs her come over the wall. Leave the perfect temperature and adventure in the river side. She resists. His eyes soften. Call. Emboldened, she stands first on the dividing rock wall. He counts to ten while she gathers courage, then with a shriek and a splash they are no longer separated.

Young love. Push. Pull. Can’t-bear-to-be-separated love.

They tease. Comfortable enough to be goofy. In love enough to be sappy.

“Momma, isn’t she beautiful?” he often asks.

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Of course she is.

I am fifty-one. Jerry older. These nights we can’t bear to be separated, even by pajamas or space in the bed. We wrap warm bodies around each other as we sleep. Wrinkles are forgotten. Bulges in wrong places of no consequence. We are flawed inside and out, but it doesn’t matter.

Love is unconditional.

We’ve weathered years. Hardships. Joys.

Forgiven each other our weaknesses. Our faults. Our bad choices.

They asked us about marriage, these young ones. About what parts are hard and what parts are not, and now, two days later I panic at all the life they must someday navigate, at all the experiences they’ve not yet had, at the cost they do not yet understand.

And I pray.

And Jesus reminds me I too was once young.

And that He was there. Is there still. And will be for them.

That His unconditional love will teach them how to love, how to weather the hardships and the pain and the unexpected difficulties. That He does this for all who ask. And that we learn, over time, the cost and joy of love.

How to let it be unconditional.

Jerry and I came here to heal. I feel soul weary, the last book demanding more of me than I ever dreamed. I left it in the hands of the editors and formatters and proof-readers and came to this place seeking.

Refreshment. Companionship. Mountain views. Hot springs. Time alone with Jerry and Jesus, surrounded by those two from whom I receive unconditional love.

They take me.

Always.

Flawed. Healing. Joyful and sad. Strong and weak. Tired and energized. They choose me. Accept me like this. Without mask. Without decoration. When my colors are bland.

The pale blue sky, not yet winter, but no longer the bright cobalt of autumn, dims outside the window. A pale line of color clings to the mountain peaks, not orange. Not bright enough to be peach even. Just a dusting of color over the grey peaks which have yet to be decorated with snow.

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All is muted.

At peace.

Accepted in this state of quiet.

Nothing expected.

But beautiful.

Unconditionally.

I sip my Merlot and watch as dusk becomes night and lights come out to twinkle against the mountainside.

(Thoughts from November in Steamboat Springs . . .)

Until next time,

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Breaking Free to a Spirit of Adventure

“You’re like my dog,” my agent, Rachelle Gardner, said.1 thin

Not exactly the way you hope a conversation with someone this important to you will begin. At my humorous, self-deprecating response she quickly assured me she adores her dog. Then she got very serious.

“As long as there is a trail my dog runs free. But as soon as we’re in a open field my dog becomes unsure. I’m offering the gift of freedom. My dog could be exploring and running at will but holds back.”

I’ve pondered her words often, especially lately. I sense God saying, “There’s your field. Fields really. Run free. Plant. Explore. It’s all yours to discover!”

And some days I do.

Other days I seek the safety of the trail. Of the KNOWN. Of a list. Someone else’s box.

It goes back that old tape that says I have to do everything perfectly. That says there is only ONE right way. That tells me I better be careful, or I’ll get my hand slapped.

I was mad at God this week.

I’d tried to run free, and I thought He slapped my hand. The voices in my head were louder than they’d been in a long time, telling me I was doing it all WRONG.

After a lot of tears, some prayer, and a couple of good conversations with my hubby and a best friend I see it differently. God never slapped my hand. He never told me I was doing it wrong. Those were the old voices of religion and perfectionism and fear and . . . the enemy of forward momentum.

The Voice of Love said what He always does. That He loves me, His special girl. That He cheers for me. That I could stop striving, trying to do it RIGHT, and run free.

In joy.

“See the fields?” Love whispered. And understanding flashed as I envisioned open fields as far as the eye could see. Fertile fields of hungry earth. Waving grain. Lush green rows in some, wildflowers in others, and emptiness with dry cracked earth in another. All mine to explore. Places to mingle with what was already planted. Places to scatter my little seeds of hope and freedom. Pour water on thirsty ground.

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During a time of quiet reflection last night I understood the struggle. This week was simply another molting, a shedding of too small skin. And as it fell away to make room for new growth I reverted to vulnerable, unsure me. The dog clinging to Master instead of running free in the gift offered. And I knew I was okay. That the journey was okay. That shedding is good, even when accompanied by a few tears.

Adventure_Sports_Podcast_logo_125x125Then this morning.

Oh this morning!

A podcast where I was a guest aired. My own responses danced over me. Adventure! I am free to live a life of adventure. Love has been working every day, all my life, to entice me to joyful freedom.

This podcast is full of metaphors from my own experiences about the journey to freedom. It shouts out God’s heart for me, for all of us, calling for a life that is stronger, freer, and full of adventure. It talks about how dropping the weight in my body helped me rediscover a spirit of adventure in all of life.

How about you? Any voices trying to pin you down and hold you back? Are you in another molting stage, shedding a skin that’s grown too tight? What choice can you make TODAY for freedom?

Join me. Let’s break free to that spirit of adventure. Adventure is more fun with a friend.

Maybe the interview will encourage you, too. Come on over to the Adventure Sports Podcast where I talk about Breaking Free to a Spirit of Adventure.

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My Girl in Afghanistan

sarah and childrenThank you to all in the blogging community who offered this momma emotional support as her daughter traveled to a war-torn country. While she was in Afghanistan she sent me a picture of the street where she stayed–blocked off with coiled barbed wire and guarded by a strong man with an AK-47 and grenades.

Sarah’s intent was to show me how safe she felt. When she returned her husband pointed out that the picture only accented to me her NEED for such precautions. It didn’t help that her trip there was postponed twice due to political unrest and the murder of a family staying on a guest compound in a city not too far from the one where she traveled.

But despite the scary delays what my girl found in her time in Afghanistan was a vibrant country recovering from 1,000 years of war. Honorable men who pledged to protect her with their very lives. Resilient women full of spirit and kindness and courage. A culture of loving hospitality with high hopes for the recovery and growth of their country.

Sarah longs to return to this place and people who captured her heart, and daily she grieves the distance that separates her from her “second home.”

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She was recently interviewed on this free podcast. You’ll be glad you listened.

http://www.adventuresportspodcast.com/2015/04/ep-017-sarah-grundy-adventure-travel.html

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(PS Sorry I’ve been MIA lately. I’ve been called to some deep times of introspection coupled with graduating my last homeschooled senior! It’s breath-taking to think that after 24 years of parenting and almost that long homeschooling a new season is truly beginning for me!)

Until Next Time,

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PS If you fall in love with Afghanistan through Sarah’s interview on the Adventure Sports Podcast, you can find out how to get involved by contacting my girl at: https://www.facebook.com/GrundyAroundTheWorld

The Glory of a Walk in the Sunshine

1 sAfter a couple weeks of abnormal cold and snowfall, Colorado has finally been released to the blue skies and sunshine that makes much of the country covet our little neck of the wood (or plains as the case may be.) What’s especially glorious about living in Denver this time of year is the incredible views of the snow covered mountain peeks.

After curling up and ignoring the snow and grey skies for the last two weeks, I’ve finally came out of hibernation as the sun and blues skies lured me into the fresh air.

It started last Friday with walking up and down main street in a small town north of us. 1 mountainsHubby and I enjoyed exploring the little shops and sampling one of the best cups of chai we’ve ever had. (If you ever have the choice for bhakti chai vs . . .  well, any of the others, it’s bhakti all the way!)

While I got in some decent exercise, I can’t claim it helped my efforts toward a smaller summer waistline because my husband couldn’t resist the pie factory at the end of the road. I’m positive that whatever calories we walked off found their way back on as we plopped on a park bench and enjoyed a blackberry/raspberry pie. (Both our favorites–blackberry for him, raspberry for me, all in one!) Thankfully, it was a not full-sized pie. This is especially good because we ate every single last bite. He even licked the pan!

After this indulgence, however, I am happy to report that more fruits and veggies (and less unhealthy foods) have found their way into my mouth in the following days, and that I got a walk in every single day since! Those Colorado skies are simply irresistible.

As I browsed online today I found an article that made me feel even better about the walking habit. It’s called Why Steve Jobs Took Long Walks and Why You Should Too. According to this article walking not only improves health, productivity, communication, but also makes us at least 60% more creative. Need proof? Many of the creative giants like Beethoven and Charles Dickens were known walkers!

So lace up those tennies.

See you in the sunshine,

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Destruction or Progress?

IMAG0591Could it be that life is like home projects–that the tearing down is necessary before the building up? And that the demolition of the old takes much longer than ever anticipated?

We are on week 5 of the fence project.

The old fence had to go before the new one could go up. Knocking it down wasn’t that hard. In fact, I think the knock-it-down crew found the process rewarding–all that flexing of the muscles and cheering as a section fell.

But then . . . oh the agony of digging into the hard earth to pull out huge cylinders of hardened cement, still there, still stubborn, despite the fact the the poles above the cement were weak.

Too often i’m like that cement, tenaciously holding onto the past, onto the old me, when the winds of change have weathered the old foundations into something no longer usable.

Sometimes I even get it. I know the way I’m thinking or acting isn’t working for me. I know something needs to change. And I try to tear down the old. The surface stuff falls away. For awhile I think I’ve made the necessary transitions only to find a nubbin of the old pole stuck in a big ole slab of concrete.

Getting that sucker out is grueling. It means letting go of the fear that I can’t change as well as the fear of the change. It can mean deep grief. Digging far enough to get that long buried hurt, that hardened place out of me. Not only is it tough work, it often means anger and tears and sadness, and emotions I don’t want around. But that rough old rock isn’t going to budge without coaxing.

There are all kinds of digging tools. Shovels and hoes and pick axes. Believe it or not one of the best for digging around the slabs and reshaping the hard ground of our fence was an old tuna can.

Isn’t that life, too? Little questions work the soil of our heart as we are faced with change. Then maybe unwanted adjustments, like loss of relationships, income, or other places of security, loosen it further. When life gets crazy enough we loosen our iron-clad grips on status quo.

The first few cement blocks of our old fence were slow to release from their long held home. Lots of digging by different tools. Back-breaking labor, but eventual success.

But it got a little easier. A friend loaned us a tool that made those cement chunks come out in half the time.

Maybe that’s what allowing real emotion does. Maybe anger, or tears, or plain honest grief loosens up the soil of my heart so the hard stuff is released.

Getting those cement casings out was by far the hardest part of our fence-building process. I think the tearing down of the old foundations of our schemata of life is the hardest part, too.

Much of the thinking that holds us back from the life we long for is based on foundations begun in childhood. Our little souls began building them when we had too little experience to do the work justice. We built how we saw God, ourselves, others, and the journey of life on limited information. Some of it was even faulty–like the words that told us we were inadequate or unlovable. The times there wasn’t enough justice or money or hope or relationship to go around. Or how about this one–the angry finger of religion that said we had to shape up and how but that we’d never be good enough no matter how hard we tried.

This list is unending. And it’s built on a limited perspective of the chaos of the world instead of the hope we find in God and the good He offers.

But we don’t have to hang onto the hardened places in our hearts.

You may not recognize God’s construction crew when He come to build something new and good. At first, it may look more like a wrecking ball.

IMAG0574My friend, if you feel crushed today, like what you thought was supposed to be yours has been shattered or torn away, or like there’s a creaking in your heart and something long buried is being exposed, take comfort!

Ask the Creator what’s up. Maybe something new and good is coming. Something so beautiful it could never be built with the old places of your heart hardened like concrete and stuffed down deep.

Once that old chunk of cement is removed, He’ll begin reshaping the hole, then, with your permission, He’ll refill it with the new. And something strong and beautiful will be under construction.

May His peace strengthen and heal you in the tearing down season and the joy of a new morning blow you away when construction begins.

My fence is nearing completion. After several long weekend work days all the old cement is out and new concrete formed around sturdy, new posts.

Today a friend and I finished framing out the last two sides. All that is left to frame is a new gate.

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About half the fence is new and beautiful, the fresh fragrance of wood tantalizing in the crisp autumn air. The process has felt excruciatingly slow, but the there is great pleasure in the strength of beauty of the new.

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Until next time,

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*As I wrote this blog  a couple of thoughts from Scripture came to mind. One of them is a treasured favorite of mine: “And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.” Ezekiel 36:26

I was also reminded of Matthew 9:16-17