Snowmageddon & Keeping the Adventure Alive


I don’t know about your area, but over the past couple of weeks, Virginia Beach has experienced two major snowstorms, one unexpected snowfall that delivered two inches, and record-breaking low temperatures.

When we first moved to coastal Virginia about 12 years ago, I recall people boasting that it rarely snows here and that you could play golf 10 months out of the year. This year, Old Man Winter had different thoughts.

Here at Trail Reflections, we talk extensively about living the adventure. However, it can be downright tough to pursue adventure when your teeth are chattering from the blistering cold, you can’t put your arms down like Randy from A Christmas Story, and the snow measures 10 inches deep on your driveway.

During crazy winter weather, you can almost guarantee that the talking heads on local TV news will utter their repetitive motherly advice: “If you don’t need to be on the roads, stay off the roads.”

Certainly I don’t recommend people make irrational decisions and travel in unsafe conditions, but those statements of impending doom and gloom tend to grate on my nerves. It’s a subtle reminder that we have developed into such risk-averse creatures to the point that we continuously allow external circumstances to dictate the direction of our lives.

The night after “Snowmagedden” had draped its white footprints on our region, the roads were quickly scraped clear. Yet, most places of business and restaurants had remained closed or shut down early.

We drove over to Cracker Barrel to grab dinner, but the hostess informed us of their limited menu and the fact that there were no biscuits being served. It was true – the end of the world as we knew it had descended upon Cracker Barrel. Disappointed the my biscuit craving was denied fulfillment, we turned around and exited, making our way to a nearby Mexican restaurant that had not been scared shut.

We dined among the empty booths and afterward made the treacherous journey on the dry, paved roads across the street to Babies-R-Us to pick up some necessary supplies. Barely a soul was found inside, aside from three bored employees. Fear had transformed our city into a ghost town.

Adventure Derailed

Similarly, the pursuit of our God-given adventures is often derailed by any number of circumstances: weather, work obligations, life responsibilities, to-do lists, putting out fires, etc.

I’m currently leading a men’s small group, and we are walking through a fantastic series called The Great Adventure by Robert Lewis. In the first video lesson, Lewis made a profound statement: “Give yourself permission to take a risk.”

Let that sink in a moment. Why do we need to give ourselves permission? It’s because we’ve been taught to stay off the roads, not venture too far from home, pursue what we already know, remain in a job with the safety of benefits and a pension at the expense of our hearts, and watch other people live the adventure from our recliner.

Throughout this long, bitter winter, I’ve noticed a tendency in myself to put aside the adventure at times. Sometimes it’s for no other reason than being Vitamin D deficient.

As much as I disdain the cold, sometimes we just need to get outside of our warm, comfortable surroundings.

VA BeachSo what did I do over the last couple of wintry weeks? Being “essential personnel” at work, I drove to the office on snow-covered, icy streets, returned home, and downed lots of coffee. I’ve gotten pretty good at driving on snow over the last five years, as I’ve had plenty of opportunities to improve my snow driving skills. In addition, I found some much-needed time to work on my entrepreneurial endeavors and play a little in the snow. And of course I grabbed my camera and headed outdoors. While I didn’t find that “perfect” shot that I was searching for, I was able to snag a photo of something you don’t see everyday – the Virginia Beach oceanfront blanketed in snow, with the high tide mark causing the snow to taper off.

We can’t always choose our circumstances, but we can choose to see each one as part of the adventure. After all, why should we let a little snow (or life circumstances) derail our grand adventures?

Making Adventure a Priority

Every now and then, a friend will view one of my nature landscape photos and remark that they wish they could visit some of the atop Clingmans Dome Towermagnificent spots where I’ve hiked or traveled to. I guess it surprises me a bit that others would be envious, mainly because much of my life is spent doing many of the necessary, mundane things just like everyone else. And I’m  just as envious of hikers who have scaled the grand “14ers” in Colorado or those who have mountains dotting the landscape in their own back yards.

Much of our mindset comes from our own perspective. Yet, one major difference in my perspective is that I view adventure, not as optional, but as a priority.

Sometimes that means I take my son out “hiking” with me, even though he’s just coming up on his first birthday. (I’m starting him young!) Other times, it involves taking vacation from work and traveling solo halfway across the country. It may simply include squeezing in an hour at the lake trail or writing a blog about a difficult topic or snapping 200 photos to capture that one “perfect,” magnificent image.

So how do you make adventure a priority, especially in the midst of paying bills, working, spending time with family, shopping for groceries, and engaging in church activities?

1. Create margin. Our schedules are already overloaded. However, until we make a conscious decision to stop saying “yes” to good things while spending the remainder of our time constantly putting out fires, then we will never find the time to pursue the adventures that matter to us.

2. Schedule regular time for adventure. If you don’t carve out time for an adventure, it’s not going to happen. Schedule time to do what makes your heart come alive.

3. Discuss your desires with the family. Come up with a workable solution to allow yourself time to live the adventure, create art, and engage your heart’s desires. If they have the same desires, include them. If not, express your desires openly and honestly.

4. Get uncomfortable. Adventures are meant to stretch us. If you’re not stretching yourself, you’re likely stuck in a place that author Dan Miller refers to as “comfortable misery.”

5. View adventure as quality time with God and bonding time with friends. If you still have trouble making adventure a priority, examine the spiritual and relational benefits. Some of my most rewarding conversations with God and friends have taken place in the middle of the wilderness.

How do you make adventure a priority in your life?


The Fight for Adventure

My house is not my own. It really belongs to the three cats who control the daily flow of activity. I’m simply there to make sure the water is fresh, the food is served at the exact same times each day, and the litter is regularly cleaned.

NemoOur orange tabby cat is named Nemo. I admit it – I’m his enabler. I have gotten frustrated by his desire to nibble because our other male cat will scarf down his own meal and quickly hunt for his second round at the buffet.

Therefore, I often plop Nemo down next to his cat dish at meal times in order to make sure our other male cat does not help himself to two meals. When he won’t eat, his food goes up.

Nemo is fully domesticated. However, little traces of adventure pop up, as he races to explore the garage or the back yard anytime I open either door. Once in the backyard, he has yet to try and climb the tree or jump the fence, the comforts of home are just too ideal for any real adventure.

Something is Missing

Similarly, we have become like domesticated cats. Fully domesticated, citified, and/or suburbanized, we have removed or at least attempted to remove all sense of danger, failure, and the unknown from our daily routines. Yet, we recognize that something is missing, even if we can’t quite pinpoint what that something is.

In Mansfield’s Book of Manly Men, author Stephen Mansfield puts it this way:

…I’ve lost something. I’ve become a domesticated turkey. God help me. I’ve had the risk and the daring and the need for adventure squeezed out of me by duty and the ease of modern life. I don’t plan to stay this way.

In his classic book Wild at Heart, John Eldredge writes,

The most important aspects of any man’s world–his relationship with his God and with the people in his life, his calling, the spiritual battle he’ll face–everyone one of them is fraught with mystery. But that’s not a bad thing; it is a joyful, rich part of reality and essential to our soul’s thirst for adventure.

You see, we’re fighting the wrong battle. Instead of fiercely battling our own discomfort, we should be fighting for adventure.

It’s not completely our fault. Since birth, we have been told “no” more than “yes”. We have been trained to follow a well-worn, safe, and clear path that includes school, career, marriage, children, and retirement.

Fight for Adventure


Photo Courtesy: Peter Bellis (Creative Commons)

Even so, adventure is hard-wired in us, whether we recognize it or not. Adventure must be fought for. When we pursue our God-ordained adventures, we will be paddling upstream against the strong currents of culture, including many arenas of Christendom, urging us to put the oars back in the raft and drift comfortably back downstream.

One of our fights may include simply making time in our lives for pursuing the grand adventures God has instilled in each one of us. Many of us intrinsically know the adventures God has called us to, but they have laid dormant in our hearts of a number of years. Our first fight may include awakening those deadened parts of our hearts once again.

I don’t know what adventures God has placed in your heart, but I do know that they must be fought for and fought alongside a network of allies.

What adventures are you fighting for, and who are you taking into battle?

Five Ways to Know It’s Time to Pursue a New Adventure


Photo Courtesy: Calsidyrose

Back in 2013, I had inquired about whether or not our church offered a men’s life group. I wasn’t looking for another Bible study, but rather to join in with a core group of men who are passionately pursuing God and their life callings. Unfortunately, our church had no such established group. In passing, I mentioned to one of the staff an interest in the possibility of starting such a gathering.

As life shifted gears over the last year with the birth of our son, the idea ended up just being that – an idea. It sat on the shelf and collected dust, as I was already doing all I could just to survive.

Fast forward to last month, and one of our ministers reached out to me and stated his desire for me to lead a men’s fraternity group. He handed me a copy of the DVD series The Great Adventure by Robert Lewis and asked me to check it out.

After watching the first session, I couldn’t believe how much the series aligned with my heart of helping others pursue their God-given callings and live a life of adventure.

Then I started pondering the potential negatives:

“What if no one comes?” “What if I’m not interesting enough to lead this?” “What if I am out of town a couple of weeks?” “What if I don’t know enough about the subject matter?”

I eventually realized that my excuses were the enemy’s usual scare tactics. It’s an old playbook designed to make me run away from a challenge. Yet, the time had come to take on this new, God-given adventure and commit to leading the group that I had always desired to exist.

So, I emailed our education pastor and made the commitment to lead the men’s group. In February, I will be leading a group of men who come together to discover the great adventure that awaits them. Sure, it’s still a bit scary, but the time has come to move into a new season of adventure.

What about you? How do you know whether to pursue a new adventure or not? Here are five ways to know it’s time to pursue a new adventure:

1. When the opportunity aligns with your heart. The next time a new adventure presents itself, ask the question, “Does this opportunity align with who I am, and does it make my heart come alive?”

2. When you sense God’s leading. Not all adventures are God-given, but I would err on the side of giving an idea a shot.

3. When your life has grown complacent. When our hearts become stale, we simply need a change of scenery and a challenge to reignite our purpose.

4. When you start questioning your credentials. “I’m not ______ enough.” (fill in the blank) Consider Moses. He certainly questioned God’s choice and thought of himself too poor a speaker to have an meaningful impact. It turns out all he managed to do was lead the Israelites out of slavery and scribble down ten laws on stone.

5. When you don’t know the outcome. As with any new adventure, we won’t know how the story turns out until the end.  If we know the outcome in advance, then it’s not much of an adventure.

What new adventures have you engaged in recently? What other ways do you know when it’s time to pursue a new adventure?

3,000 Miles Later

After two weeks on the road, it is great to be back with you today at Trail Reflections. Karen, Ryan, and I recently returned from a memorable 3,000 mile Big Texroad trip that included quality family time, a bit of Texas culture, a blast from the past, a photo with Big Tex, and a whole lot of tasty food. I love to plan and take unique road trips that offer a change of scenery and time spent with family and good friends. When I say “plan,” I prefer to have a loose framework in place with flexibility to alter course as interesting spots arise.

Our first stop included our usual trek to Tennessee for quality time with both sets of Ryan’s grandparents and two of his great-grandparents. While in town, attending the disastrous Tennessee football game would be the low point of the trip. Nevertheless, the grandparents marveled at his new-found ability to effortlessly crawl, stand up, and nearly walk.

After a few days in Knoxville, we drove southwest to the Jackson, MS suburb of Clinton, the small town where Karen spent some of the most memorable moments of her life. It was the first time I had the opportunity to visit this quaint town in the heart of the south. With childlike wonder and pride in her voice, Karen drove us out to the soccer fields where she won a state title nearly two decades ago and to the schools and church that had such an impact on her over the years.

LABack on the road, we traversed the entire northern portion of Louisiana, stopping at a Shell gas station where I halfway expected tumbleweed to whisk by and an old western showdown to break out.

Our next stop was to the middle of nowhere, literally. I mean when are you ever so close to Louisiana’s highest point – Driskill Mountain? As some of you may recall, my lifelong goal involves hiking to each state high point, and this trip provided the ideal opportunity to knock out the towering 535 foot summit. More about this next time, but I have now completed five high points.

We successfully emerged from the middle of nowhere, and hit the road onward to Denison, Texas, the town of residence where most of Karen’s extended family live. Denison is about an hour north of Dallas, just a stone’s throw away from the infamous Red River and the Oklahoma state line. My only other time to visit was two-and-a-half years ago for Karen’s grandfather’s funeral. Quite honestly, we didn’t want our next visit to be another funeral, as we wanted the family to meet Ryan while he is in the cute baby stage and not at his high school graduation.

familyPlus the trip offered an excellent excuse to eat a real steak and Texas beef brisket. After consuming arguably the tastiest steak my taste buds have ever encountered for lunch, we spent the evening catching up with Karen’s extended family, including her maternal grandmother, Karen’s only living grandparent on either side. Of course we parents are the side show, as Ryan took a liking to the Texas folks and they to him. We were able to connect with many aunts, uncles, and cousins that we hardly ever have the opportunity to see.

OU-TexasSaturday was a bucket list day, as I took in my first ever Red River Shootout – Oklahoma versus Texas – in the historic Cotton Bowl Stadium in Dallas. After a summer-like, Texas weather greeted us the day prior, fall suddenly arrived just in time for one of college football’s greatest rivalries. Since I was born in Oklahoma, I have always considered the Sooners my second favorite college football team behind Tennessee. Fortunately, Karen’s cousin Jeremy is the biggest OU fan in the world, and he and I had a blast watching Oklahoma defeat the Longhorns at one of the most unique sporting events I have ever attended.

Afterward, we explored a bit of the famed Texas State Fair, although it was extremely crowded with fans clad in crimson and burnt orange that it took us over half-an-hour to purchase two Fletcher’s corn dogs. The line was packed in like sardines, I was just hoping that no one in line had been in contact with any Ebola patients. But as I discovered, you can’t attend the State Fair without downing a couple of the scrumptious dogs.

Sure, there were other aspects of the trip that weren’t always ideal, including listening to a fussy baby who was undoubtedly sick and tired of being on the road and having to adjust his internal clock to central time. Of course we had luggage, baby clothes, and a bassinet to pack, shuffle around, and carry in-and-out of hotels.

However, there is something reinvigorating about escaping your normal routine, traveling to unfamiliar spots, and connecting with people you don’t often get a chance to see.

My time on the road helped me to mentally refocus on some yet-to-be-achieved goals and to gain a clearer perspective of the big picture. The trip also gave us a chance to experience real life, something we often forget to do while buried in work and technology.

3,000 miles is a quite a journey, but one that we will carry with us for the rest of our lives.

Do you ever take time to hit the road and leave the daily routine behind? If so, how does a trip help you refocus and reenergize? If not, what holds you back?

You Don’t Have to Climb Mt. Everest to Live the Adventure

Mt Everest

Our hearts are made for adventure, but “adventure” often conjures up images of brave (and arguably insane) climbers scaling the face of Mt. Everest. However, you don’t have to climb Mt. Everest to live the adventure.


…encompasses an attitude of embracing uncertainty and running with it.

…involves risk.

…is written on your heart.

…embraces fresh experiences.

…challenges you, often both physically and mentally.

…can be found wherever you go.

…connects you with fellow adventurers.

…blazes new trails.

…views failure as a springboard.

…offers a difficult path but one that is much more satisfying.

…is the life for which you were created.

…is worth fighting for.

How and where are you living the adventure?

Photo Courtesy: Kappa Wayfarer