A New Year’s Retreat: Lake Somerville State Park

We all need to get away now and then and starting out the new year with a prayer retreat has always been a favorite of mine.

Given the challenges of gathering and praying with other believers, combined with the desire to get away for a bit, Jon and I reserved (as one must now do) an RV site at Lake Somerville State Park.  We had never been there before and being only a two-hour drive, it was close enough to go and still be back home for other obligations and commitments.

Neither of us knew what to expect but it definitely exceeded our expectations. We were on the Birch Creek side and when we first arrived, we were the only ones on our camping cul-de-sac. I guess that’s the benefit of visiting a lake campground in January. You pretty much have the place to yourself. Even when a few more campers showed up later in the week, each campsite has enough trees and space to provide some privacy and seclusion. However, come summer, I bet the place is packed with boaters, kayakers, hikers and swimmers and splashers.

The lake has thirteen miles of trail plus shorter trails and loops. We hiked two and a half miles (and back) of the long trail and several of the shorter trails. The campground is set up to bring horses and ride the long trail as well. It could be a place we bring our bikes when we visit again.

We didn’t think to bring firewood because we were more interested in looking at the stars. One of the nights we wish we had. It would have been nice to sit out in the cold air next to a fire in the ring the campground provides. But the stargazing is phenomenal. It’s far away enough from big towns and cities to provide mostly dark skies and the campground itself doesn’t have the annoying street lights and camping site lights so many have. The only thing missing was a meteor shower.

Lake Somerville is definitely worth the visit, but I bet reservations fill up quickly in the summer.

We’d go back again for sure. But in the near future, we hope to explore other state parks Texas has to offer.

(Side note, we originally planned to reserve a site at Lost Maples State Natural Area after visiting it with friends in November and finding out it also had RV camping, but it was booked over the days we wanted.)

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This is my Church

I walked through the wood on a winter day. A pleasant day. A pleasant path. Hints of green winter grass poked up amongst the brown. Some of the trees sported bare branches. Some did not. Some trees designed to keep their leaves. Some not, instead waiting for the new growth of spring.

 

I noticed some hints of trouble as I walked. Broken trees. Fallen trees. Amidst the many whole. Curious. How strange, I thought. I wonder why.

 

 

And I came upon a field. A field peppered with tree stumps. Some with just the branches broken off. Some with much broken off. Some entirely toppled. Some cut down. Some still standing. Some younger new growth. But mostly I saw twisted, broken, dead.

 

I paused and pondered. Maybe a fire. Or a windstorm. Maybe a disease in their roots. Or possibly a drought.

So I asked. Jesus, what happened here?

This, he said. Is my church.

I paused. Your church, I asked? Is this what you see, Jesus?

He let me move from pause and return to pondering.

Is this what we have wrought, I thought? I this what we are doing to our people? His people? We’ve created a field of brokenness?

In the summer, it probably looks different. Leaves covering the broken, save for the severely damaged. But now, in the winter season, the broken are all too easily seen.

Is this true of your church, Jesus?

In times of prosperity, when things are going well, we don’t see the broken people, the hurting people, save for the severely damaged. But when difficulty comes, when times are hard, the truth is all too evident.

Is this what we do with our wounded, Jesus?

Some of the damaged trees were covered in vines. Do we try to pretty up broken people with other leaves on the outside, rather than cultivating life and healing within?

 

 

Some of the damaged trees still stood tall next to healthy trees. Do our wounded try to stand tall, to put on a brave front, to look like they’re fine?

 

In the storms, during the difficult seasons, have we have let the weak and vulnerable become more broken?

 

 

Like new growth growing among the broken, have we kept our focus there, delighting in the new life, but forgetting about the hurting?

 

Have we, like one with a chainsaw, cut down the ones we thought unworthy or broken or dead and left them to rot away?

 

 

I continued walking and came to another place. A place where young live oaks grew and flourished.

There are places, Jesus said. Where my church takes care of the broken, the needy, the hurting, the outcast. Other nations where my church grows and is filled with life because it gives life.

But not here, I asked?

No, not here, he said.

Jesus, forgive us.

So, I’m going to camp here for a bit, too.

Because my heart, like the trees, is breaking for what we have wrought.

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When God Closes a Door

The door is closed. You thought it was open. That you’d be going through. You were excited about what was on the other side. Then suddenly, it slams in your face.

You stand and stare at it for a long time. Frustrated. Struggling with the reason. Even a angry at the ones who slammed it shut.

In Acts 16, Paul attempted to spread the gospel in parts of Asia and Turkey, only to have the way blocked (“the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them” it says). NT Wright says of this, “…weeks of wandering and walking, of wondering and praying…”

When the door slams shut, in can feel like that. Wandering. Walking. Wondering. Waiting. Why am I here? Why have I bothered? I thought I was supposed to be here and do this thing. So now what?

There’s more to Paul’s story. But I’m going to camp here for now. Because it’s where I’m at. Like Paul and his companions and the lengthy trek across the continent. Not sure what’s up. Frustrated. Struggling. And praying. Hoping that that I, too, get a clearer vision of where to go next.

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Restart with Whole30

Sunday January 3rd. Day 2 of our restart.

Not bad. A little confession. I still have some of my coffee creamer (Bliss) left over. But I’m only putting a tablespoon in a 12 ounce cup. Two cups in the morning. And when it’s gone I’m switching to coconut milk. After the holidays, that’s a minuscule amount of sugar.

It has been a challenge not reaching for those Christmas chocolates. Or eating Christmas cookies. But my dislike of needles makes me want to get that sugar beast under control.

When I start feeling deprived, I remind myself I am not. I still get to eat a full plate of food at meal time. I can still have snacks. I’m just changing the choices I make. One thing’s for sure, I’m not going hungry.

We got this. But I’ll get back with you when carb fever sets in.

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Revisiting Whole 30: Needing a Restart

Six years ago, Jon and I tried the Whole30 program. If you’d like to read about that initial experience, you can start the series here.

Whole30 is more than just a weight loss program (although it did wonders for both of us). It aims to eliminate problematic foods from the diet for 21 days (to give the body opportunity to cleanse from their effects) and then slowly reintroduce the different food types to identify any issues one’s body might have with them.

Since our first round of Whole30, we’ve done a few versions of it. The problem is we never stick with it. Somehow too many carbs, too much cheese, too many sweets, work their way back into our regular diet.

Wanting a reset from the insanity of 2020, we’ve decided this would be a good way to restart. From our experiences in the past, we knew we’d need to go big or go home. So. Here we go.

While we don’t have any serious issues with food (other than liking it too much), the program provides a means for us to be serious about seriously eating healthy. What I love about Whole30 is that encourages vegetables. The more nutrient-dense, the better.

In my youth, I wouldn’t have been able to survive this. Because I was a picky eater. My don’t like list was miles long. But having married an incredible cook, my don’t like list is dwindled down to about half a page. Even brussels sprouts can be delish when prepared the right way!

The Whole30 book provides a bunch of great recipes so we don’t get bored. And if we need more, a quick google or search on Pinterest provides more than enough for the month ahead.

I wrote down a list of various minor ailments that bother me and I’m expecting to see some improvement in them. Things like occasional joint pain, restless legs, heartburn, bloatedness. I’ve suspected starches to be a culprit for heartburn for me. And sugar, of course, causes inflammation. I really hope I discover the cause of the restless legs.

The first week will be tough. Giving up my diet DP and then pushing through the carb fever that lasts for days. What’s carb fever, you ask? Check out the book, It Starts with Food. It’ll explain it.

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