Life on Island Time: Learning How to Rest in a Busy World

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Wearing my favorite red rain coat and taking in the scenery you would definitely see in a Nicholas Sparks movie.

“You slept in ’til two,” he said, “and you’re at the BEACH?”

This was the reprimand I received from my friend when I finally arose from my slumber and made my way to the shore. He had a point, but I was not about to spend my trip totally wiped out after the long drive there.

About 100 of us from a college ministry I was involved in had loaded up on charter buses, pulling all-nighters in our seats which grew more uncomfortable by the hour. We didn’t care. We were on our way to a carefree week of equal parts sleeping and shenanigans. A 14 hour drive was worth every agonizing minute for that first view of the ocean, wild and free.

But first, I had to get some rest.

In our go-go-go lifestyles, slowing down seems counterproductive. Sleeping in way too late while at the beach? Sounds ridiculous.

This is the attitude that carries from spring break into our everyday lives. We want to accomplish so much with our lives that we fill our Google calendars with endless tasks to accomplish each day. We keep going and going until we burn out. We have good intentions, but we miss out on the strength a simple day of rest here and there can bring to all our pursuits.

Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, was one place I learned to rest.

img_3703Days pass by more slowly on the island. Softened sunlight on the white sand shores melts into a sunset each evening. Mild air whips around you as you race to your next destination on the bike paths that run all over the island. There are no calendars or alarms to govern the days which pass by at a rate even the gators lazing by the pond could keep up with, and everyone likes it like that.

Little shops and restaurants around the island have a tropical Southern charm. My favorite restaurant was Giuseppi’s, a local pizza place with lots of soup and salad options, too. For nights out, Poseidon is a great restaurant. There’s even a rooftop bar with live music. Kilwin’s is a chain, but it’s one of the best chocolate stores around and a great place to get your ice cream fix.

img_4495Visiting the beach is the main attraction on the island, of course. The water is a deep blue. The shore is perfect for building sandcastles and playing catch. The sand closest to the water is packed down enough to ride your bike across the shore.

img_4536It only takes a few steps away from the beach to immerse yourself in the flora and fauna similar to a tropical forest. Am I in South Carolina or somewhere near the Amazon River? Tough to say. The greenery makes a great backdrop for photos.

For the full experience of a local, renting a beach house is ideal. The quaint beach house neighborhood we stayed in probably wasn’t too thrilled to see buses full of college students in every shade of Comfort Colors shirts roll up. Hopefully, we restored their hope in the upcoming generation (other than a few pranks we pulled on each other that may or may not have happened, but you didn’t hear it from me).

I got to stay in one of the fanciest houses and I couldn’t complain. All the houses were nice, but this one was a cut above.

img_3730I spotted this house on a bike ride and fell in love with the charming shaker shingles and teal accents. It was my favorite one in the whole neighborhood. I had to take some pictures in front of it.

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Here I am, trying to be trendy in my overalls and Chacos.

Biking is the preferred method of transportation on the island. Whatever you do, do not rent a car.

A bike is cheaper and way more fun, whether gliding through the neighborhood streets or trekking into town. Bonus points if you put a speaker in the basket to play The Beach Boys. We rented our bikes from Hilton Head Bicycle Co.

Traveling by bike sets a slow pace. This is just what you want for a week of rest.

Whenever our whole group gathered at one house for a game night or worship night, the driveway would overflow with around 100 bikes. I loved the feeling of community this brought. 100 different people with 100 different backgrounds and perspectives, but some bikes and a beach house were all it took to unite us.

We’d get competitive together over card games, sing together to worship, and laugh together over a houseful of chatter. The nights when we filled every last space in one glowing house were my favorites.

img_4384Community is something that helps me find rest. Knowing I have a home team to go to when everything is falling apart or when everything is coming together sets me at ease. God calls us to live in community and it’s so easy to see why.

I’ve gone through long stretches without a tangible community. Getting involved in one can sometimes take a lot of work and even feel impossible.

When you’re crammed in a house with 100 bikes outside and dying laughing with your best friends, you know the work is worth it.

img_4410The whole trip may sound a little boring to the more adventurous of us, but boring is something I can’t get enough of.

Boring days can be the best days. Boring days allow me to move at my own pace. There is time to think and dream, time to really sit down and listen to family and friends, and time to talk to God.

We often trade these things for fast-paced activities that don’t require patience. Patience is something there doesn’t seem to be a lot of in our society. We want to communicate with two sentence text messages and get our news in 30 second video clips. We like our food fast. We want what we want and we want it now.

We also want constant stimulation. If there should, heaven forbid, ever be an unscheduled moment to sit and wait, we pull out our phones for instant entertainment. We fill our schedules from morning to night. We rush from one activity to the next.

It’s no wonder we put rest on the back-burner.

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Looking back, this pose was a little much.

Sarah Young said, “Hurry keeps the heart earthbound.”

It’s only when we slow down and breathe that we have a chance to lift our eyes to God and think about how He sees it all. He is outside of time, in control of it. Time is not a worry for Him. He knows the perfect time for everything and He is not in a hurry.

Staying focused on eternity with Him helps us stop worrying about the time and, as a result, we are able to make the time we do have count. It keeps us thinking about the big picture and all the things that truly matter at the end of the day.

So, go ahead and let yourself slow down on your days off. Try to experience the world by bike. Schedule some time to do nothing.

Visit an island like Hilton Head if you need to, and don’t be afraid to sleep until two.

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Dental Mirrors, Black Dots, & Attitudes: The Secrets to Living an Extraordinary Life

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Three.

I only spent about three afternoons with the man, and he left an impression on me forever.

Some people are just like that. They leave an unforgettable impression which you will carry throughout your entire life.

There is something different about these people. Try as you might, you can never really put your finger on what it is. They seem quite ordinary when you break it down and look at the facts, but you still can’t shake the feeling that there is something extraordinary about them.

Maybe all of us leave impressions like this on at least a few people throughout our lives, but the really rare people spread this magic to more than just a few.

They invite you into their secret clubs for an afternoon or so, but you leave with the feeling that you have some growing to do. Somehow, they don’t make you feel inferior because of this, either. Whatever it is they know that you don’t, you haven’t yet figured it out. It inspires an endless pursuit of their great secrets.

The man I knew like this told me the secrets.

His name was Rex, and he could make you feel like you were exactly who you needed to be with nothing more than a smile. His skin was wrinkled, but it didn’t take away from his youthful energy. His hair was white with the wisdom of many well-lived years. His eyes shone with that glimmer of knowing a secret.

I met with Rex and his sweet wife, Jan, who carries the same legacy as him, to have coffee. If my memory is correct, this only happened three times. My dad is a contractor and had worked on their house. The couple heard about my sister and I and decided to invest some time and wisdom into us. Being the influential people that they were, I’m sure there are at least a hundred other people they could have given this time to, but they chose to give it to us.

Aside from his time, Rex gave me three things. Each told me one of his secrets to being an extraordinary person.

One: A Dental Mirror.

I keep it in my box of keepsakes on the top shelf of my closet. Rex was a well-respected oral surgeon who founded his own surgery group. He was the Medical Missions Dental Team leader on several trips he took to Nicaragua to give people dental care who otherwise wouldn’t have it. He had a bag of old, extra dental supplies leftover from these trips that he offered to my sister and I. I chose one dental mirror to remember him by.

The great secret found in this is simple: serve. To whom much is given, much is expected. Get outside of yourself. Use the gifts you’ve been given to help others. This is one of the unexpected places that true contentment is found.

Two: “The Black Dot.”

One afternoon at coffee, Rex handed my sister and I each a piece of paper. It had a story on it called “The Black Dot.” The story tells of a professor that handed his students each a white piece of paper with nothing more than a little black dot in the middle. He told them to write about what they saw on the paper. Afterwards, he read the responses to the class. Every last student had written about the black dot on the paper, but no one had written about all the white space around it.

The “black dots” of our lives — the negative things — are what we spend the majority of our time dwelling on. We think about them so much that we don’t even give the white space a second thought. We take all the good things, which far outweigh the bad things, for granted. One of the great secrets, then, is to simply focus on the good more than anything else. You don’t have to deny the bad things, but allow your focus to gravitate toward the good things.

Three: “Attitude is Everything.”

The last time I ever visited with Rex, he was 96 and dealing with a painful medical condition that had been going on for a while. You wouldn’t have known it, just by talking to him. His smile was still genuine and his mood was as chipper as ever. He gave me a spiral-bound booklet titled “Attitude is Everything.” He had used the booklet to teach his employees. The principles in it are so simple, but so life changing.

Filled with his own scribbled notes, the booklet explains that everything begins in your thoughts. It says, “The majority of people do not understand how important thoughts are, and leave the development of thought patterns to random chance.”

Your attitude — the way you think about something — makes or breaks it, and you are the one in control of it.

“You are the gatekeeper of your thinking,” Rex writes.

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These three principles he taught me are incredibly simple, but I know I still have a lot of growing to do.

I keep the dental mirror, the piece of paper with the story, and the booklet on hand for when I need a reminder of how to live an extraordinary life like Rex — a man who lived like Christ.

The secret behind it all was that Rex didn’t make an unforgettable impact on the world because of who he was, but because of the God he knew.

This was a secret Rex knew was best told.

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The Great Parking Lot Adventure

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It was a few months after I turned sixteen when the golden day came. After a lifetime of anticipation, it finally happened —

I got my driver’s license.

And a car (shoutout to the ‘rents!). I was free. Suddenly, I could go to my best friend’s house or meet the squad for ice cream anytime I wanted. I also didn’t have to wait for my parents to pick me up after school anymore. Talk about independence.

When I first started driving, I thought I was invincible. I would fly down the road in my little Toyota Camry, blasting music and feeling like the coolest kid around. I would swing into any parking spot, never doubting that I would be able to fit and make it out like a getaway driver.

This one got me into trouble.

One day after school, I hopped in my car with my Christmas pajamas (it was pajama day — the icing on the cake). I had pulled through, and was facing the car line for the parents. I thought there was surely enough space for my car to turn out of the spot and slide past the parents’ cars.

Only there wasn’t.

I misjudged my turn and scraped my car against my friend’s car. Not just a little scrape, either. I made it alllllllll the way down the left side of my car. Then, it dawned on me that my car was a little too close to hers. Somehow, I didn’t hear or feel a thing until that moment. It was a very graceful scrape.

I was about to call my friend and explain what had happened, when I saw her walk out of the school with a confused look on her face.

She was in for a surprise.

We examined the damage. Thankfully, her car wasn’t damaged at all (a miracle from above). My car, however, had a huge dent brushed with a million little black scrapes. It was quite the masterpiece, if you ask me.

When I drove home and explained what had happened to my parents, they were very forgiving. But, being that the damage would cost about two grand to fix, they decided it wasn’t smart to get it fixed.

Fast forward to the present (four years later), and I’m still driving my lovely Camry, dent and all.

For a while, I was really embarrassed by it. It was like driving around with a big label saying this girl does not know how to drive. Or park.

I tried to figure out ways to save up enough money to get it fixed, or get a new car. Every time I came up with a plan, I decided I would much rather use that money to go on a cool trip or something. Not that I’m very good at budgeting in the first place.

So, I let it go. I learned to embrace the imperfection.

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Throwback to the good ol’ days, just months before the tragedy of ’14.

For some reason, anytime I meet someone new, my car dent story is often one of the first stories I tell them. I figure they’re going to find out at some point, so I should probably prepare them.

If I forget to prepare them, it’s an excellent conversation starter when I roll up.

You know what? I’ve learned that people love that story.

It shows that I’m human. I’m broken. I make mistakes.

I tend to think people will like me better if they think I’m perfect. I try to make sure my hair isn’t too frizzy and my clothes are in style. I try to get perfect grades, do lots of cool things, volunteer, always say the right things, and get lots of likes on Instagram.

I end up living like I’m walking on a tight rope. And I fall off a lot. 

In reality, people don’t like that girl as much as the real me. The real me who is always running late, has an offbeat sense of humor, and can’t remember if she wore the same t-shirt the last time she saw you. The real me who gets cranky when she doesn’t get enough sleep and sometimes can’t stop laughing about something that happened months ago. In the middle of class.

The real me who has a very dented car.

I’ve also learned that the Lord likes the real me the best.

He can’t use me when I’m not being real with Him. He can’t be close to me when I’m putting on a show. He just wants me to be real. Only then can He help me fix the messes I make.

He loves to hear our stories of brokenness, because those are the stories that reveal our weakness and magnify His strength.

Don’t be afraid to talk about your dents.

I’m willing to bet they’d make the best stories.

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I bet you were waiting for this picture the whole time. Well, here you go. If you see me out driving, feel free to wave.

What Pineapple Cake Taught Me

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Circa 2015, when I was a high schooler who thought it was cool to take pictures with produce at the grocery store.

I am always amazed at the life lessons I learn from the most mundane things.

Rewind to about a year ago. I lived in a little house with a couple of roommates. One night, I overheard one of them inviting two of my best friends over. I thought it was awfully nice of them to plan a get together for us. How fun.

A day or so passed, and something strange happened.

They didn’t invite me. 

My roommate, my best friends, my own house. And I wasn’t invited?

The night of their little party came. I walked in the door to find them giggling in the kitchen around a bowl of cake batter and a few spoons. Unbelievable. A baking night without me. They even acted like I was intruding.

So, I did the mature thing.

I stomped up to my room like a drama queen and didn’t come out for a couple of hours. That’ll show them, I thought. Once I got done with my “woe is me” speech, I decided to take the high road and join them downstairs.

There was tension in the air, so thick you could’ve sliced it with a knife. I took a closer look at their messy bowls and the icing splotched on the counter. Things got suspicious.

There were some things laid out on a tray that looked exactly like Pringles. Only they were green? I did a double take. Yep, those were definitely green Pringles.

“Why are those chips green?” I asked.

They all died laughing, and then refused to explain it.

You can’t make green chips and not explain why.

It appeared that they were using yellow and brown icing. Who uses yellow and brown icing? Not the most flattering color combo, unless you’re the Man with the Yellow Hat or something (Curious George, anyone?).

I noticed a can of sliced pineapples sitting on the counter. That’s when it all clicked.

I had an obsession with pineapples for a while. They’re cute, right? As it turns out, my friends had the idea to surprise me with a pineapple cake that actually looks like a pineapple for my birthday. Brilliant.

Just to make sure it turned out perfectly, they decided to do a test run. Enter the exclusive baking night, which I was never supposed to find out about.

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It’s a good thing they did a practice round. The first cake turned out more like a pineapple landslide.

The lesson I learned that day? Don’t be so quick to assume. Things aren’t always as they seem.

I thought my friends had come up with an evil plan to betray me (or, more realistically, just forgotten about me). In reality, they were going behind my back so they could be the best friends ever and thoughtfully surprise me with a homemade pineapple cake.

Boy, were my assumptions off on this one.

There are two specific ways I try to apply this lesson:

  1. Don’t be so quick to assume things about people. About their intentions, their backgrounds, their flaws. Anything, really. We can criticize people all day — that rude lady in the checkout line or that friend who always cancels plans last minute — but our opinions don’t count until we know the whole story. People are going through hard things. We all do. Show grace.
  2. Don’t be so quick to assume things about your own situations. The future. That difficult problem you’re smack in the middle of and just can’t seem to overcome. We can worry about things all day — if we’ll pass that class or land that job — but our worries won’t get us anywhere. We don’t know the whole story yet. Honestly, this one is really hard for me. I have to remember that there’s a reason Jesus constantly tells us to stop worrying and just trust Him, all throughout the Bible. He is faithful. All we can really do is take it one day at a time.

So, stop assuming the worst about rude people, dramatic people, quiet people, loud people, that situation in your life you can’t stop worrying about, and that problem you just can’t seem to solve.

In the end, you never know.

It might just turn out to be a pineapple cake.

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There we go. A professional pineapple cake. This was months later, and the surprise actually worked because I had forgotten all about it. I love a good happy ending.