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Overboard Blog

Living the extraordinary life of faith!

Filtering by Tag: winter

You gotta see this view!


This past week, Traci and I took her parents to see the massive ice blocks on Lake Michigan. The view is hard to describe, but imagine that God has a giant box of building blocks all made out of ice, and that he took that box and dumped it over the 22,394 square miles of Lake Michigan. Of course, if they are God’s building blocks, they are HUGE blocks, and that’s what we took Traci’s parents to see. The amazing ice formations are drawing national attention again (something similar happened last year) and everyone in the area is talking about them. So on a beautiful and sunny Friday afternoon, you’d think the place would be packed. Instead, in the main area of ice block where we visited, I don’t think I saw a dozen people spread out over the miles of ice we could see. Why would so few people get out to the ice?

I have a thought: because it’s so hard to get to them!

It's hard to believe these are "natural" occurrences!

When we parked our van and stepped out into the 20 degree winter air, I warned my in-laws that the wind on the Lake would be significant. We had bundled up before we left the house, but Traci and I started putting on our gloves, cinching down our hats, zipping up coats to the chin and generally preparing for Winter-geddon. I think my in-laws thought we were a little crazy, because where we were standing was actually pleasant. With a 20-degree temp (18 degrees warmer than the previous day’s high!), the sun shining and the breeze just gently blowing, it was hard to imagine that when we stepped out of the tree line, about 100 yards away, we’d be slapped by Old Man Winter!

Then we took the first step onto the shoreline and the wind smacked us from the south. It stung, and we had just stepped on the frozen sand! 30 feet later we were on the frozen waters of Lake Michigan and now we were fully exposed to the gusting wind. And that was only half the problem, because now we were walking in 6-8” snow drifts that were covering the very uneven ice on the shallower parts of the Lake.

It's hard to believe we're standing ON Lake Michigan, on a section of water that is over 100' deep.

While we could see God’s giant ice block collection in front of us, we had to cover a 1/3 mile of this uneven frozen ground to get there! (Basically, think of a small wave rolling into shore, and then freezing while it’s still in wave form, or as it crashes on another wave or on the shore. That’s what the surface of the lake is like in the parts closer to shore that you have to cross in order to get to God’s ice blocks.) About half way out, the wind picked up its intensity and the ground became increasingly difficult to walk on. I’ve never been drunk, but I imagine I looked like a drunk man stumbling around looking for my lost car!

After about 20 minutes of walking/hiking/stumbling we arrived at these beautiful ice structures. The actual view is hard to put into words, and the pictures we took don’t do it justice. The whole area looked like NY City after Godzilla destroyed all the buildings and uprooted the roads. There wasn’t a piece of level ground as far as the eye could see. Ice blocks, the shape and size of airplane wings, stuck out all over. A giant round column, (it looked like God put water in a bucket, froze it, and then tipped it over) probably 10-12’ tall, stood a hundred feet from us. Rectangles, Triangles and just tons of leftover ice parts were strewn about. You could climb up 6-7’ up one ice chunk, and descend 8’ into a little “cave” below it. The whole time you had to keep reminding yourself that you’re standing a 1/2 mile ON Lake Michigan, which has an average depth of 279 feet!!

The ice on Lake Michigan has drawn national attention, and everyone in the area is talking about it. But not many people are actually visiting this Winter Wonder! I’m a little shocked because this isn’t an annual event (although it has happened each of the last two winters), and missing out on it this year could mean missing out for another 20-30 years.

Here are a few thoughts.

  1. The journey is hard, so people settle for the stories of others: Truth is, it wasn’t easy getting out to the ice. The wind was bitterly cold and blisteringly sharp. Walking through the 6-8” snow drifts that covered treacherously uneven ice was hard. More than once I thought I was about to bite it on the ice. Twice we came across open expanses of ice that were clear, and looked straight into the water, giving the sense that it was fragile. (Strangely, there was more comfort in walking on snow-covered ice!) In the same way, so much of what most of us want in life is “out there” and requires a difficult journey to find. How many times have you talked about your future, your dreams, your God-given passions, but when you looked at the journey from here to there, you just settled for the stories of others?
  2. All four of us are glad we made the trek out to ice!

    The destination is so far away, people wonder if it’s really worth it: We could see the ice blocks from the shore, and they already looked impressive. Could the view really be that much better from up close? When the wind slapped us with negative zero wind chills, the distant view seemed like it would be sufficient. Our God-given dreams can have the same appeal, we can let ourselves believe that the view of them from far away will be just as good as the view from directly beneath or over them. It’s like living thru a northern Michigan winter and studying pictures of Hawaii to get your vitamin D fix -- the pictures are great, but there’s nothing like the real thing!

  3. The horror stories of others can keep us in the car: Tons of people talk about how great the ice formations are, and just as many talk about the dangers. News stories of people nearly falling through the ice or slipping into a frozen tomb frequent the local broadcasts and newspapers. Let’s remember, we’re talking about walking on a massive body of water that has a larger area than 9 states and The District, and is just barely smaller than West Virginia! Over the years, I’ve heard a lot of horror stories about people who have chased their God-sized dreams, too. People who have been wrongfully accused, have lost friends, have ended financially ruined because of their pursuit of what they believed God had put in their hearts. They really believed they were following God’s plans, but the outcome was, at least from our finite human perspective, a total loss. The failures of others can keep our own dreams grounded.
  4. Ultimately, getting out on the ice requires quite a bit of work: To walk out on Lake Michigan, you really have to prep. First of all, you have to wait for the right conditions, and the right conditions that can freeze a lake the size of West Virginia involve ultra-freezing temps! You have to own the right gear, you have to know where to research to find the right access points and you have to be willing to drive some less-than-desirable roads to get to a place where you can actually walk on the lake. In the same way, chasing the passions God has given you requires prep, research, patience and a willingness to venture into unchartered (or rarely chartered) waters. The journey is hard (point #1), but preparation for the journey has its own challenges, too.

I’m glad we made the trip to see God’s ice blocks this week. I’m confident we won’t soon forget the amazing formations, and we have a fun story to share with our kids and with others. Even more, I’m glad we’re headed to our next great adventure with God. The journey is hard, but we’re not going to settle for the stories of others. The destination seems like it’s a lifetime away, but we know it will be worth it! The road of faith is littered with stories of those who didn’t get to see their dreams fulfilled in this life, but our our faith is helping us overcome our fears. And yes, it has been a lot of hard work -- and yes, more hard work is in the future -- but being ready when the call comes is worth the work!

What about you? Are you settling for the stories of others? Are you questioning the value of God’s dreams for you? Have you let the horror stories or fears of others derail you? Has the hard work of preparation been overwhelming? “‘I know the plans I have for you’, declares the Lord. ‘Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future’” (Jeremiah 29:11). Will you trust His plans for you today? “Trust me” God is saying to you, “you’ve gotta see this view!”

Go ahead and take the plunge, the view is always better on the water!

What are you thankful for?


By Joe Castaneda We moved to Michigan in March of 2013. There was snow on the ground. There was snow on the ground in April. We actually celebrated our first Michigan Easter by visiting a church, and Celina did an Easter egg hunt with snow boots, heavy coat and gloves. On Mothers Day, May 12, 2013, we had a huge snowfall with big flakes and an inch of accumulation.


Snow 10:14 months

The snow was gone in June, July, August and September, but in October of 2013, we had our first snowfall of “winter”. It didn’t last, but we had several days of snow and understood that when people in northern Michigan said, “Make a Halloween costume that can fit over your snow gear”...they weren’t joking. The snow came to stay in November, and that means, as we near April of 2014, that in the 14 months we have been in Michigan, we have had snow on the ground in ten of those months!

I don’t love the cold and snow like some, but I have certainly come to enjoy it. The snow is beautiful while it is falling and our family has learned to have a lot of fun in this Winter Wonderland we now call home. This particular winter has been very snowy and particularly cold, so that even the most diehard winter fans are ready for the warmth of spring and summer to hit.

When we chose to follow God to Michigan, I knew that I was probably going to be the family member that had the biggest adjustments to make. Tati, our 16-year-old, probably dislikes the cold even more, but she and I have both had ample opportunity to be stretched by this experience. My wife has great childhood memories of the snow, and she has brought a fair amount of joy to all of us as we’ve experienced real winter. But the reality is, cold or no cold, snow or snow, my ability to thank God for my circumstances rests entirely in the freedom God has given me through Christ.

Bottom line, every single moment of every single day, my state of thankfulness is does not have to be hampered by the morning’s weather report.

Since we moved, I’ve prayed and worked hard on being thankful for our situation. Today, for example, thinking about another month of cold and snow, I intentionally thought about those things for which I’m thankful. My list? I am thankful for the amazing beauty of the snow, especially in the morning as the sun comes up over our frozen lake and shines in our kitchen window. I’m thankful for my awesome family that has embraced this journey with courage, joy, laughter, faith and commitment to each other. I’m thankful now -- probably more than ever! -- for the warmth of summer and sunshine. I doubt you’ll ever read a post on this blog about the oppressive heat of summer (please feel free to digi-slap me if you do!).

Paul commands in 1 Thessalonians 5 to, “be thankful always.” One translation says it this way: “Be thankful in all circumstances.” If thankfulness is a command, that means it is also a choice. I can choose to be thankful for where I am in God’s plan, or I can play the victim, and whine and complain about the things I can’t change. You can’t live the Overboard Life as a victim -- you must embrace the journey with thankfulness!

What do you need to thank God for, today? Whatever your state or present circumstance, can you list five reasons why you can give thanks to Him?

Go ahead and take the plunge, life is always better on the water!

When life gives you 200" of snow…make Snice Cream!


Traci and I are experiencing our first full winter here in Northern Michigan. The snow hit the ground for good in early November, and here in mid-February, it’s still falling strong (another 6” fell yesterday). For the year, over 200” has fallen on our 320 acre home, and we sill have the rest of February and all of March (and probably some of April) (ok…maybe the first part of May, too!) to experience more. For our family, we’ve never seen this much snow.  

Of course, in order for so much snow to fall, temperatures have to drop below freezing. I realized the other day that we haven’t seen a day of temps above 32 since December. In fact, we’ve spent a lot of this winter with what locals promise us us is “unseasonably cold” weather; weeks where the temp stays in single digits. It can be a little bothersome at times -- especially since the van heaters don’t ever quite get warmed up -- as you end up walking around the house wearing a light coat, sweatshirt or hoodie.


Then on Saturday as I was doing my morning Bible reading I came across this passage in 1 Timothy 6: “But godliness with contentment is great gain.” In the immediate context, Paul is talking about how easy it is to love money and to make the pursuit of money the highest goal in life, but the application is much broader. Contentment applies to every of life, even weather.


We have actually really enjoyed the winter here, but have marveled at how often people complain about the cold or snow. We live in northern Michigan…it’s going to be cold and snowy! Back in Oregon, though, we remember how often people would complain about the rain. I remember how often I would complain about the rain! Just how our snow starts in November, Salem rain would start in November and go through the first part of July. But that’s the price we paid to have year-around green, gorgeous summers that lasted into October and mild winter temps.


The more Traci and I talked about the weather, the more we realized we’ve heard people complain everywhere, about everywhere weather pattern. We’ve heard complaints of snow in northern Michigan, of rain in the Willamette Valley, of sun in Maui, Hawaii and of wind in the great plains states. I’m sure we’ll be murmuring around here when summer comes and we get our first big dose of heat and humidity on the same day!


I don’t think this weather whining phenomenon points to a sudden increase in local meteorological interest, I think it stems from a chronic problem of a lack of contentment. I don’t have to listen to another Lake Ann local complain to see this reality, I can listen to myself to talk to know this is true! Contentment is a hard virtue to embrace.


First of all, let me be clear about what contentment is not. It’s not loving every situation you’re in, and the virtue does not require you to abandon any hope for a different future. In other words, you can be content, while working toward something different. Contentment does, however, include the following ideas:


* Being okay in whatever circumstances you are presently residing

* You don’t have to be a Pollyanna (does anyone know that reference anymore?!) but you can’t be a complainer

* Embracing your current reality as opportunity from God for you to grow, and to help others grow, too

* Recognizing that you don’t know the end-game, only God does. So being content requires faith in God’s ultimate plan for our lives, even when we can’t see what He’s doing!



So last week, we had another school closure because of snow and below zero wind chills. We’ve had 7 this year (“an unusually high amount” according to locals), and they aren’t always at the most convenient of times. However, my wife is amazing and she chose the path of contentment despite the significant disruption the snow day caused in her work flow. What did she do? She scooped up piles of the freshly fallen white powder and showed the kids how to make Snice Cream (CJs name for ice cream made from snow). And now, almost every day since, we’ve enjoyed Snice Cream (especially tasty when made with frozen strawberries!) in our Winter Wonderland.

Are you living in contentment? Maybe you’re struggling with the weather, or maybe you’re experiencing something more severe. You don’t have to love the circumstances you’re in to be content, but you do have to choose to trust God’s hand in these moments. I wish contentment was always as easy as making Snice Cream, but somedays I have to face my worst fears, my biggest heartache or my greatest failures and have to make the same choices to trust God, while I pray for, and work toward, a different future.


How would you rate your contentment today?


Go ahead and take the plunge, life is always better on the water!



Spring has finally arrived here in Northern Michigan. I was beginning to wonder if we were going to skip to spring and move straight into summer, but indeed -- spring has sprung. flowers

In the past three days, the snow has almost entirely disappeared, the lake has thawed out and the temperature has made a noticeable climb upward on the thermometer. The wind has also changed directions and warmed up. It’s actually quite a pleasant shift.


Today, in fact, I’m sitting in my living room looking out at a 68 degree day. I’m thankful for the sunshine, the return of the birds and the growth that is accompanying this seasonal shift. We may yet get another freakish snow fall, but clearly, winter has passed.


Season are great that way. They come and they go. We each have our favorites and each season serves its purpose. Winter refreshes our lakes, streams and waterways with freshly fallen snow and frequent rain storms. Spring brings life back from the seemingly lifeless ground that took a rest during winter. Summer sunshine allows for rapid growth and a strengthening of structure. Fall allows us to reap the rewards of the harvest and gives us time to stock up before winter. These seasons are important.


As are the seasons in the life.


Sometimes it’s winter for a very long time. Circumstances are bleak. The skies are grey and show no signs of lifting and it feels like every time you look to the sky, God sends more snow, rain and difficulties. Other times, the sun is out. Life is good, and you are energized and strengthened by the ebb and flow of life. It seems like every little rain cloud that shows up on the horizon dissipates quickly or sends a gentle cooling rain that is just perfect. These seasons we never want to leave.


Whatever season you are in right now, remember that it will pass. The re-blooming of life after winter is just a season, one that will eventually give way to another season. The rich reward and hard work of fall is also a passing time, and after it will come another time-restrained session of life. I know our family has been blessed with a season of summer. We have been so strengthened by the journey of late, God’s blessing seems so rich, but we know the hard work of fall lies straight ahead. And soon, we will encounter the struggles of winter as we labor away in this new ministry.


The point is that season are normal. We shouldn’t strive to be in any one season for too long, because without the seasons, they cycles of our lives are incomplete (notice how careful I was to avoid song-sticking-in-your-head mistake of saying “circle of life”). Even in the most tropical places on our planet, physical seasons come and go allowing for everything to experience the necessary changes that come through change. And our lives are no different: we must experience change, if we are going to experience change.


In a pretty familiar passage of Ecclesiastes, Solomon reminds us that everything has a season:


There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:


A time to be born, and a time to die,

a time to plant and a time to uproot,

a time to kill and time to heal,

a time to tear down and time to build,

a time to weep and time to laugh,

a time to mourn and time to dance,

a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,

a time to embrace and time to refrain,

a time to search and time to give up,

a time to keep and a time to throw away,

a time to tear and time to mend,

a time to be silent and a time to speak,

a time to love and and a time to hate,

a time for war and time for peace.


(Ecclesiastes 3:1-8)


Remember that as you live the Overboard Life, you will experience season -- you must! Some seasons are certainly more enjoyable than others, but all of them are necessary if we are to become the people God wants us to be. I love the summer and I love the fall, but if I didn’t experience winter and spring, the things I enjoy about summer and fall would be lost.


Don’t despair if the season you are in is difficult. Hang on in faith, believing that the next season is near. And don’t fret if you are enjoying a great summer (or fall, or winter or spring!). Yes, things will change as seasons do, but each change produces in us what is required so that we are better ready for the richness of the next great season.


Living Overboard reminds us that all seasons are from our God, and for God’s great glory. So embrace them as they come, even the tough ones, and know that God is producing in you what only He can -- and these seasons are His way of working.


Go ahead and take the plunge, life is always better on the water!