Passing On The Left

If you’ve ever been on a bike path, you’ve probably heard the call “Passing on your left!” moments before a bicyclist blasts past you as you try to make yourself as small as possible on the right side of the trail. Or perhaps you have been the biker that shouts the warning before swerving around some slower pedestrian or cyclist.

Maybe you have seen people attempt to get out of the way. Or watched someone just continue on their way without noticing, barely flinching as the bike flies past.

Proper bike etiquette says you should warn someone before passing on the left. Be that a shout or a bell or a horn. It’s also nice to see people out and about on the trail, moving over, waving acknowledgement, or smiling when one passes by.

I enjoy riding my bike.  So much so, that in a few short weeks, I will be joining the folks over at Bike the US for MS to pedal 3,785 miles across the country, from Virginia Beach to San Francisco.

And while I find joy in riding my bike, it’s not always sunshine and rainbows. I’m not a very fast rider. In fact, I’m on the slower side of the trail. Just as often as I give the shout before passing on the left, I have to move over to allow others to pass me.

My average speed is somewhere around “stop and smell the roses” and 13 mph. In fact, I think my quickest pace maxed out around 16 or 17 mph on the flats, where a lot of the more experienced riders in the area are topping out at 19-21 mph.

I looked at joining a biking group here in the Upstate, but one of the “qualifications” was an average speed of 17 mph. Yes, there are other groups that go at a slower pace, but those were reserved for children and senior citizens.

So, I putz along at my own pace and I still enjoy it.

One of the things that I love about biking is the same thing I once loved about running (before my joints started screaming at me about the impact). I love the feeling of being alone with my Father above, Abba.  The God Who Knows Me.

When I am biking, it is my time alone with God.

It started a couple years ago, when I would go biking in the early morning hours after working all night. Several members of my community group joined me from time to time. And it became a very intentional and prayerful event.

Now, when I bike, I feel closer to God.  I can get everything else out of my head, my body goes into auto-pedal, and it’s a beautiful moment to be in the presence of the Father.

In less than two weeks, I will be hitting the road and pedaling through the entire months of June and July. And I can’t be more excited (and nervous) about it!

And for a final quick update on fundraising: I have met my fundraising goals for the ride. If someone is still looking to donate, several of my teammates are still in the process of reaching their goals. If you are willing and able, please support them as well (as well as our segment and virtual riders)!

I do plan on updating the blog throughout the ride if I get the chance, but for more day to day updates, you can find them on my Instagram Story by following me at @skerr1932

Until next time, God Bless and PEACE

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Foxes and Dragons

A couple weeks ago, I got the opportunity to head out into the woods with Fell and Fair to participate in filming the second installment of The Fox and The Dragon. If you haven’t seen the original, you should head on over to YouTube and watch it ASAP!

STK_4150 (edited) The second part of the film project is now in the post production phase. Filming is complete and it is in the hands of the people that make us all look beautiful.

There is something amazing about being in costume on set. When you stand in full armor and you hold a steel weapon in your hand, you become a something more than who you are.

I love being a part of Fell and Fair because it allows me to explore different aspects of my own character. I get to embrace the warrior and enjoy people that share the same passion about life that makes life worth living.

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But, its not all about the costumes and the stories that we share. Its about friendships and the community that surrounds us. We are photographers and film makers, storytellers and actors. Each of us brings a new vision to the project.

And all of us are interconnected into this web of the adventure.

I’ll be honest, I had way too much fun. During the first film, I got to stab someone with a spear multiple times because I ruined eight or nine takes because I was smiling. I don’t think I was that bad this time around, but I know there were several times when I was told to stop smiling!

We had several new people that joined us. A couple new actors got mixed into the usual contingent of Fell and Fair members. Some of the film crew came in from Atlanta and Tennessee to join in with people that we are more familiar working with.

We made new friends.

STK_4174 (edited)But lets be honest, who doesn’t enjoy putting on a helm and swinging a sword?

We have fun, and that’s really what it’s all about.

Yes, we all love to tell stories, but the community is what makes it worth it in the long run.

So, my challenge to you is to find something that you enjoy and embrace it, be it storytelling, LARPing, creating music or art. Find others that share your passion and create a community or tribe to gather alongside your side. And, above all, have fun!

Hope

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.” – Matthew 28:5-6

Today we celebrate the defeat of death, when Jesus Christ rose from the grave. When the disciples found an empty tomb. Resurrection Sunday. Easter. As followers of Jesus, we live with the hope and the knowledge of His resurrection each and every day of our lives.

Yesterday, while hanging out with some amazing people, I had a thought that made me pause and think: Despite everything they knew about Jesus the Nazarene, that day between the cross and the resurrection was the darkest moment for many of His disciples.

They had lost hope.

I think it is easy for us to be distracted by the expectations of this world and loose sight of the truth, that victory has already been won. Sometimes we get consumed by our own thoughts and get lost in the darkness of despair. We tend to wander from the path and are unable to find our way back.

Even when Jesus was missing from the tomb, some of the disciples didn’t believe. They didn’t understand. They doubted.

And yet, the Lord and King continued to pursue them and teach them about the Savior. He gave them new hope through His Spirit and continues to pursue us to this day.

Each time I have wandered, He has chased me down like the good shepherd to carry me back to the flock. Each time I have been lost to the darkness, He has blinded me with the love of a father and opened my eyes to the beauty of the struggles of this life and the hope of what is to come. And when the noise of this world becomes overwhelming, His voice breaks through as a whisper to remind me that I am His.

Today, we are reminded that this war has already been won. We remember that the Father has already paid the sacrifice for our sins and failures. Death has been defeated. And, through the Spirit of God that dwells within us, we are able to be in a relationship with the God who Knows Us.

Today is a celebration that continues throughout our entire lives. To trust in our Lord to light the path at our feet. To love as we have been loved. To forgive others and more importantly ourselves, just as we have been forgiven. To live a life that reflects our Fathers love for us.

I know that there will be days that are darker than others, but I also place my hope in something that is much bigger than I can ever dream to be. My hope is placed in the one who not only died for my sins on that cross when the temple veil was torn, but in the one who defeated death and adopted me into His family.

Bike the US for MS

Several years ago, one of the ladies that I served with through AmeriCorps rode across the country on her bike. Throughout the year that followed, we worked side by side in the world of conservation and disaster response, but her stories of biking from the Pacific to Atlantic coast pulled at a desire to challenge myself, to commit to an adventure that was bigger than myself.

A year or so later, I purchased my first bike. And over the next two years, I biked sporadically whenever I could. And in the back of my mind, there was always that desire to go coast to coast.

Back while I was still in AmeriCorps, I started looking around at different bike rides. I knew I wanted to do the TransAm, from coast to coast, but I also didn’t want to try it solo and unsupported the first time through. I happened to come across the organization Bike the US for MS and realized that this was the group I would, eventually, ride with.

BUSMS LogoFor several years, I put it off because of the busyness of life. But that has all changed.

This summer I will set forth from Yorktown, Virginia after dipping a tire in the Atlantic Ocean and head West. Over the following 62 days, I will pedal 3,785 miles alongside of the rest of the TransAm crew towards San Francisco, California.

We, as a group, will be riding to raise awareness for Multiple Sclerosis (MS), an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks the sheaths of nerve cells of the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). A person with MS can experience many different symptoms and no two patients will have the exact same symptoms. Some of the more common symptoms of MS are weakness, severe fatigue, impaired speech, numbness, blurred vision, and loss of muscle coordination.

I will personally be riding in honor of my sister, Katherine, who was diagnosed with MS several years ago. She continues to live with MS and fight each and every day, a symbol of strength for our family, both those connected to us by blood and those we have claimed through love.

I know that there are going to be days that suck, that hurt, that I will want to throw in the towel and say “nope,” but I know that every time it gets difficult, I will remember the warrior that is my sister and know that she has faced much worse. In those moments that challenge the soul (but more realistically physically and emotionally challenged), I will be able to find the strength because my sister has already proved that we can face anything, who has revealed her strength and courage through her fight with MS.

A couple weeks ago, while I was sitting in the Galley with some of the Stewies (Stewards who work in the dining facility here at McMurdo Research Station), one of them asked if I had ever done anything like this before. My response: “Nope,” with a huge grin on my face.

While I am slowly getting more confident in my biking abilities (still need to work on hills and mountain climbs), and there are parts of the adventure that terrify me (going down said mountains after the climbs), I know that I cannot do this adventure alone. I will have an amazing team of riders beside me (including Leads, support vehicles and drivers, and places to throw up a tent all organized) and my amazing group of family and friends supporting me.

Part of the adventure that is Bike the US for MS is that each rider raises funds to support not only the ride itself, but to support MS research and treatment clinics including UVA’s James Q Miller MS Clinic in Charlottesville, Virginia and to UCSF’s Weill Institute for Neurosciences and MS in San Francisco. The goal is for each rider to raise $1 for each mile that they ride.

I would love for each of you to partner with us as we pedal our way across the nation. If you are able and willing, I would appreciate any financial support you are willing to offer! You can go to my official fundraising page (click link here) to make a donation (I’m sure there are other ways you could get funds to me, but this is the easiest because I don’t have to handle the funds myself). If you are unable to support this adventure financially, I would encourage you to support us through your prayers and encouragement.

I’ll probably be posting daily updates either through Instagrams story feature (you can follow me at @skerr1932) both during training and the actual ride (I usually post art and random adventures).

When the World Goes Cold

The summer season is slowly coming to an end down here in the land of ice and snow. The weather is getting slightly cooler. The Polar Star (the USCG Icebreaker) has arrived and has begun to break apart the sea ice in front of the station. People have begun planning for their travel and return home once off the ice.

stk_3193 (edited)Oh, and penguins have arrived.

Some people are excited about getting back to a place where plants grow and it gets above the freezing mark. Others are about as happy about the prospect as a molting penguin.

Part of me wishes I could stay down here through the winter and into next year. Part of me doesn’t want to go back because I know how special this place has become for me.

Every day I get to witness the beauty of creation and the glory of the Father above in every facet of this place. Every day I wake up and get to explore with eyes full of wonder. I get the opportunity to go out and see things that most people will never witness.

stk_3194 (edited)And I’ve learned some things about the world and about myself in the process. I’ve learned that while this continent may be harsh, the people that come to this place are far from cold.

Sometimes, you do everything right and bad things still happen. And you cannot blame yourself for what could have been. You got to lift up your eyes and focus on being the best that you can be. To be there for others and to pour out love no matter what.

I learned that not everyone is going to like me, and that is okay. But no matter what people feel about me, I have still been called to love them unconditionally. My love for others will never change.

I’ve learned about independence from the opinions and expectations of others. The freedom of relying on the Lord above for strength to make it through the days. The comfort of the unknown and the mystery of creation.

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In a month I return from the lands of ice and snow. And while I look forward to returning next season, I will be glad to see the colors of life once again.

Sunshine, Christmas, and Ice

I find it kinda amusing that I keep on seeing posts on social media about the Winter Solstice and the joy of lengthening days and more daylight to come. And here I am, on the bottom end of the globe basking in endless sunshine. While all my friends have just experienced the longest night of the year, I will not see the sun set behind the horizon until the early morning hours of 20 Feb 2019.

It’s also fun to think about the fact that while the rest of my friends and family are enjoying Christmas Eve right about now, it is already Christmas morning here at McMurdo Research Station in Antarctica. And, to top it all off, it snowed last night and this morning, so we kinda have a white Christmas going on down here (ignore the fact that we almost always have snow but due to the 24 hours of sunlight, most of the fresh stuff has already melted).

STK_2735 (edited)Yesterday, we celebrated the holidays with a Christmas dinner of crab legs and lobster tails and all sorts of sweets and desserts. And for the first time this season, it felt like the holidays. Even if I’ve worked Sunday, Christmas Eve, and Christmas (today).

It’s definitely been a journey and a struggle these past couple weeks. It hasn’t been easy, as a community, dealing with the tragedy of loss that we faced together. It hasn’t been easy for some of our coworkers who have never spent this much time away from home. It hasn’t been easy as some of the only people working throughout the holidays.

But I still love it. There is something special about this place that reminds me of who I am. That reminds me of my Father in heaven who we celebrate and remember this day, when He came down to us as an infant, a sacrifice for our sins.

Even though we have all been working non-stop here in the land of ice and snow, I still smile because I know that all this that I do, from dispatching to creating art, answering phones to sharing love through actions and words, all of it is for the glory of my Lord and King. And when I walk through these frozen fields of ice and snow that surround us, I am reminded of His creation and the love He poured out in every detail that we get a chance to explore.

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Today we celebrate the simple fact that our Father in heaven sent down His own Son to become flesh and blood, fully human. He did this out of love to redeem us and to become the sacrifice that was required to bring to Himself.

So to this, I wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Coddiwomple

Every year around this time, I hear people talking about what the next year will bring. And in an effort to define what this will look like, many people choose a word, almost like New Years Resolution, based off their goals and how they wish to grow throughout the year to come.

I have never really been one to make New Year’s Resolutions or to try to make big changes at a specific time of the season. My goals tend to be more abstract, focusing on creativity and art, relationships and faith. Joy and love.

Last week, something strange occurred. A word jumped out at me and I fell in love with it. And I decided that it would be my word for 2019.

Unlike most words chosen, my word is not as abstract as others and describes how I want to walk through life, even if I don’t know the end result.

My word: Coddiwomple.

Coddiwomple: to travel in a purposeful manner towards a vague destination.

To go confidently, even if the exact end is not known. To move through life with faith, even if I don’t have everything figured out. To live fully, without looking back, to embrace the unknowns that God has placed before my feet.

I do not know where this year will take me, but I know I want to walk through it with confidence.