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Beach combing. It is a lost art, in this era of digital entertainment, marathon shopping, and amusement parks. I have been amazed on the recently completed trip to see how many “attractions” are built on the way to or even on sight at natural beauty destination spots like the ocean shore.

Or is it a lost art? Little Frau and I, along with our entourage of Kinder, have made a routine out of visiting the coastline every other year or so, and the list of destinations is growing. And we don’t adopt an aggressive agenda while enjoying this part of God’s creation. As Number One Son expressed a few days ago: “we can do that stuff at home – we came to the beach”. Smart boy! And, I might add, he has to sunburn to (dis)prove it.

As we drew nearer to our destination of home today, I sat in a quiet hotel room with sleeping family members and
reflected on beach visits past.

There was the first family visit, celebrating the first wedding anniversary for LF and myself. It was her first time to see the ocean: any ocean. Remember, she is a West Texas girl, born and raised. She just stood at the water’s edge for what seemed like an eternity, but not going into the water. Her first two statements about the visit still stick with me: “The water goes on forever”, and “Do you see any fish flying the Portuguese flag?”. (that would be a Jellyfish, for those who are beachcomber novices). Little did she know that, one day, Number One Son would be a multi repeat victim of said Portuguese warriors, and she a supplier of the “home remedy” antidote.

As I conclude today’s post, the following two lists are of the beaches that God and career of provided us opportunity to visit over the past 21 years, even if just for a 30
minute stroll while passing thru, and a handful of beaches I would put on “The Bucket List”:

Visited (hopefully, in order):

Virginia Beach, VA (pre family)
Panama City, FL (pre family)
Galveston Island
Frau/Family visits:

Corpus Christi, TX/Mustang Island
Jacksonville, FL/Amelia Island
Sea Island, GA
Hilton Head, SC
San Diego, CA
Cannon Beach, OR
Galveston, TX
Miami/Key Biscayne, FL
and now, Gulf Shores, AL.

And the bucket list? Maybe the eastern coast line of Japan, the beaches of Normandy, France, and, of course, Hawaii. Maybe, someday.

In the meantime, we have the memories, and maybe some
sand in a few places we have yet to find…

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I am preparing to participate in the upcoming OKC Memorial Half Marathon.  This will be a first for me.   I’ve gone from not exercising in years to participating in two 5k events during the past year, and my training has taken me up to about the 7 mile mark twice in the past two weeks. It feels good.   It has not only been life changing on the health front, but a has provided great time for reflection and clearing my mind.

Life is not a short sprint, it’s a marathon. I’m beginning to try out new ways to finish the race without getting injured or fatigued along the way.  But simply finishing the race is not a sufficient objective; “running (walking) with style and purpose” is.    

1 Corinthians 9:23-25 says: I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.   Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.  Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.

In focusing on the long distance, I need to be aware of the landscape and the fellow runners inside each virtual mile.

So as I was training the other day, a few “walking moments” from my past came to mind, and I thought I’d briefly share what each has meant to me:

1) Plunking with Granddad – Howard Pope was legendary for his walks. My favorite ones were spent “plunking”: throwing rocks down into the deep creek across the street from his house and waiting to hear the splash (the “plunk”). It has been 35 years, but I can recall those moments like it was yesterday. Good memories.

2) Dove hunting with my Dad – in the “early years”, we lived out in the country and could simply walk across the street and go bird hunting. I’m not much of a hunter or fan of dealing with guns, but those were good times. Listening to my dad talk about things, watching our Fox Terrier plow thru the fields in search of game, and seeing the birds fall from the sky after my Dad spotted them and fired all replay in my mind’s eye. My son wants to learn to be a hunter. Gun lover, or not, it seems that these random walk moments may begin a new round of filming soon.

3) The stroll out to the fields with Coach Jackson – ever since I was about 12, I began walking fast everywhere I go. It’s called getting in a hurry, and it’s not always a good thing. Productivity of the mind and feet comes at the expense of seeing the sights going on around you. It was my 10th grade football coach, the man who got me started as a trainer or “athletic program assistant” (underpaid grunt who loves the game that he can’t play) who first pointed out that I walk “too fast”. “Slow down: you will get there. The game won’t start without us”. Good advice, and I still struggle with walking too fast today.

4) Trips across campus – not a lot to say on this one. As a college student, I fell in love with the OC campus on beautiful weather days, but I also recall enduring long distances in high winds and driving rain. Great metaphors for life. I still love the campus, and am blessed to walk it every day.

5) Singing in Europe – thank you, Ralph Burcham, for the draft notice.     The walks over several weeks in that summer of 1988, the time after college ended and before “life” began taught me several things:   a love of and fascination for Europe, the knowledge that there is life outside these United States, that we don’t have the monopoly on the world that I grew up believing, and that, quoting the later years words from “Finding Nemo”, we need to Just Keep Singing.   (OK, it was swimming, but it fit in nicely here)    The good Lord may not have given all of us a voice, but all of us have a song.     Whether you are tired, hungry, or “your feet are stained” (there’s a long story behind that phrase), you need to just keep singing.

6) Courting the girl – Ah, yes.  TCU.   Life on a real college campus.   That’s what she used to call it, anyway.     The academic bastion of the Southwest, I think it was?    Anyway, I digress.      Many a walk under the beautiful old oak trees, surviving a near skunk attack, and maybe even a kiss or two (shocking, I know) preceded the inevitable proposal to spend a lifetime together.     Fun times to remember.

7) Spatting with the girl – Yes, we have had a tiff, a time or two(shocking, I know) , but such is inevitable when spending a lifetime together.    Kind of like surviving a virtual skunk attack, not ever admitting who’s the skunk and who is the victim?    I’ll never tell.     Anyway, I digress.   The point is, when disagreeing, sometimes it is a good idea to step away from the “conversation” and go take a walk.    Clearing your head, understanding where you were wrong, and making a case for why she should let you back into the house are all good by-products of a nice walk on a cold winter’s night.

8) Strolling with baby(ies) – Yes, I have done this a time or two, as well.    I remember the first time like it was yesterday.     Baby H was screaming and hollering and would not settle down late at night, and after giving up on all other potential remedies, mom politely “suggested” that I take Baby out for a walk in the stroller, despite the fact that it was after 11:00 pm.     After about 20 minutes of strolling and her crying, the strangest thing happened.   She began to laugh.    I have a hard time remembering that babies do laugh, on occasion, but not this time.    I can still hear it, even now, 18+ years later.     I think she was laughing at me.     Years went by, and many a stroller walk, both the old “single” and the later “double” followed.     Maybe one day I’ll push a stroller again, this time with a GK instead of a simple K, and it will be OK if they laugh at me.

9) Working – I call 200+ of the best acres anywhere home between 8 am and sometime later than it should be every day, and I love it.   It comes with stress, but it also comes with joy in the challenge.   Academic bastion or not (and I would argue, it is, thank you very much) it’s my university, and I want it to succeed.     And yes, I do still tend to walk too fast in the course of a day.

10) Climbing Colorado – “Everybody needs a little time away…from each other”.     Those famous lines from a tune by Chicago, while taken out of context here, ring true in terms of the need for vacation and recharging.      And, I will argue, there are few places better to get away than the high altitudes of the mountains of Colorado.     “The girl” and I went there together after our wedding, and we are blessed to go back every couple of years with a group from church.     It’s an amazing part of God’s creation, and is often best enjoyed in the cool moments during sunrise.

So, back to the Memorial Marathon for a moment.   The theme for the marathon is “We Run to Remember” , and preparing for the event has helped me to do just that.     A few shout outs and thank you’s are in order here.    You see, I mentioned not having exercised in many years, and it was taking its toll on me, physically and mentally.    One day about this time last year, good friends and coworkers Neil, Sonya, and Darci showed up in my office on a Friday afternoon and said “we are not leaving until you sign up for TeamOC.   So I did.     When telling others of my commitment to the upcoming event, my friend  Ted said “don’t do it, you will only injure yourself”.     I owe those four a big thank you for getting me out of the chair and onto the treadmill, and subsequently on the streets walking and occasionally running.      I don’t know why I did not do it earlier, and it’s been a blessing.

As I was out doing a 6.55 mile outdoor prep one morning a couple of weeks ago, the path took me past the Baptist church whose longtime pastor had just been killed in a motorcycle accident.    It helped me to remember, mostly that life holds no guarantees, at least this mortally confined life, that is.

As I close up this marathon of memories today, the desire to just keep singing is there.    And an old song from the younger days is in my head.   Maybe it is the song I’ll be singing when it is too hard to do much walking.    If so, it should be a fund ride….Roll the Gospel Chariot along, and we won’t tag long behind…

 

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