Last Sunday, July 5, was my 50th birthday. I won’t repeat the original ridiculous idea I had for how to celebrate it, but you can read all about it in last week’s post.
About a month ago, when I shared my revised ridiculous idea with my girlfriend Jenni, she nearly leapt through the phone, “YES! I will join you.” I had called for her advice and in addition I immediately received her promise of participation. My enthusiasm quickly evolved from guarded to gargantuan.
Jenni is a “YES!” friend. Quick with a smile and an “‘atta girl!”, Jenni and I have been friends since the first day we met in 1978 at Southfield Christian School in Mrs. Myer’s third grade class.
Jenni tells it best:
“Poor lonely eight-year-old Jenni was new to the school and had no friends. At lunch I pull out all this healthy food, talking to no one and feeling very lonely. As I was thinking, ’My life sucks with raisins,’ I look over and this girl next to me has a two-pack of chocolate cupcakes, the kind with the white swirl on the top. I’m trying not to stare at these cupcakes. And miracle of all miracles, this girl offers me one of her cupcakes. And we’ve been best friends ever since.”
Shawn Shellnut was that cupcake-sharing girl. As Jenni recollects, I kindly shared my cupcake, but I’m sure there was no trade involved as I have always been raisin-averse.
Jenni Peters and Shawn Shellnut at Cedar Point in June of 1983 ~ Sandusky, Ohio
We spent the next ten years finding our young selves in academic and athletic pursuits that honed our minds and bodies. I admired Jenni as she put her faith into action, serving kids in Detroit with Youth for Christ.
“I became a Christ-follower in 8th grade at SCS, I was on fire for the Lord. Mr. Wood, my Bible class teacher and running coach had a big impact. Also, my dad was a runner. When I learned that Jesus got up early to pray, I wanted to get up early and pray and run with my dad. I was hooked. When running, I definitely felt a connection to my spiritual journey."
She joined track and cross-country, hitting her fastest time in ninth grade as the SCS cross-country team took second in the state that year. “It was all downhill from there,” she jokes.
"But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." ~ 2 Timothy 3:14-17 A portion of Jenni's favorite scripture
As I contemplated my 50th birthday 50-mile journey, I knew Jenni would be a great resource for running advice and encouragement. She quickly became part of a cord of three strands, as Scott, Jenni and I embarked on the adventure together.
"Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken." ~ Ecclesiastes 4:12
We rose early, at 4:30 a.m., ate a healthy breakfast and hit the starting line at the end of our cabin driveway at 6 a.m. There was an awesome full moon setting in the west as the sun rose. Fifty miles and seven hours later, we arrived at the destination on Lake Michigan at Little Sable Point, south of Silver Lake.
It was a fantastic day filled with adventure and a whole lotta love all along the way and at the finish line. Praise God for the idea and the wonderful people with whom I could share it. Here is a photo essay of our wonderful journey:
Power breakfast before the big ride ~ July 5, 2020
(All collages, top left & clockwise): a full moon set as Scott, Jenni and I set off; a beautiful scene as mist rises with the sun in the Huron-Manistee National Forest; long sandy roads wreaked havoc with our tires, but we all stayed upright.
Scott, our navigator, stayed in last place to guide us from behind. Here we approach mile 19 and Knotty Pine Grocery in Bitely where our son Jacob met us along with Julia, Jenni's 16-year-old daughter--an excellent all-state runner herself--who joined in the biking fun for the remainder of the ride. (first three photos, credit: Julia Halterman)
My good friend Diane Fox, of Fox Tail Designs, whipped up these spiffy heat transfer vinyl graphics on a dozen shirts for me. I was hoping to garner interest from passers-by for my birthday blog in hopes of raising support for moms and babies at AWPC. Here, the mother-daughter duo of Jenni and Julia model them before embarking on mile 20 and beyond. Julia, an expert braider, put braids on us girls.
Somewhere around the 31 mile mark, Julia's bike tire blew out. Before we even had time to call our crew for help, Jacob gave us the happy honk as he pulled up on us--perfect timing! Jenni had planned ahead and had a third bike available, so we were all well on our way again, until. . . Shawn saw the cherries . . .
If you're ever near 2264 E. Tyler Rd., in Hart, Michigan, in July, be sure to have an appetite for some juicy just-picked cherries and cash or your smart phone--Crosby Farm Market is self-serve, they accept cash or electronic payment. This was my favorite "pit" stop. I even bought a cool shirt!
We paused for prayer on W. Polk Rd. at the 40 mile mark at this memorial to Michigan babies lost to abortion. In keeping with its mission to defend life from conception to natural death, Oceana County Right to Life has these 72 crosses set up as a reminder of the number of babies DAILY whose lives are cut short by abortion. LORD, have mercy.
My superhero husband Scott earnestly, graciously and lovingly supported my 50th birthday 50-mile plan, scouting the route and meticulously preparing bikes and gear. Here we are on a two-mile section of the scenic 22-mile Hart-Montague Trail State Park.
Less than five miles from our final destination, we reached Silver Lake. Jenni and Julia pause briefly, taking in the surreal dunes in the distance. These two were a delight to have on the journey, full of smiles and encouragement the whole way. Jenni biked coast-to-coast in the summer of 1994 in six weeks! She joined Wandering Wheels (started by Coach Bob Davenport, a contemporary of Bill Bright of Campus Crusade) and traveled 3,200 miles from Seattle, WA, to Rehoboth Beach, DE! "It was a test of endurance and a great way to see the country. We did an average of 100 miles a day, off on Sundays and slept in schools, churches or campgrounds. We often sang in churches on Sundays. It was one of the top five experiences of my entire life." Jenni is a teacher, married to Jon and they have four smart, beautiful children. They currently reside in the Nashville area and have a heart for the Lord and Central America, loving Guatemala and its people.
At mile 47, our sweet Isabella Marie (right) who had been camping nearby with friends, met us, took my bike and finished the last three miles with her dad and Julia. Jenni and I ran to the finish . . .
I had originally thought that for my 50th birthday I was going to run a marathon-length 26.2 miles and walk the other 23.8, but instead, Jenni and I biked 47.38 and then ran the final length--2.62 miles--from Sandy Shores Campground where we met Bella, to Little Sable Point. Notice that killer pace? I made a serious declaration to Jenni: "I will never purposefully go for another run again. Ever!"
To LIFE!! L'chaim!!
A welcoming committee clapped and cheered for us as we arrived. O, happy day!
We all headed straight for the cool waters of Lake Michigan, burning our feet on the scorching hot sand to get there. It was a very toasty 93 degrees when we arrived at Little Sable Point. From left: Jacob, Julia, Bailey, Shawn, Scott, Bella, Jenni, Clay (not pictured, Aaron and Bonnie).
My dear mother, Bonnie, worked all morning to make and pack a gourmet picnic lunch with Amish-roasted chicken salad with pecans and dried cherries on mini croissants with fresh fruit. Here she is with her former high-school student Jenni (Peters) Halterman and her daughter Julia.
Our son Jacob, right, was exceptionally helpful as the chief crew manager, keeping close by with the rescue vehicle and replenishing our hydration along the way. His best friend Clay, center, was moral support and chief welcoming committee manager, rallying the troops to cheer our arrival at the beach.
From left, Bailey and Aaron (who contributed the necessary wedged and chilled watermelon to our picnic), Clay, Scott, Julia, Jacob and Bella as we prepare to escape the sun and heat. The kids swam and played in the water for a good hour. Jenni and I chatted with beach-goers sharing about the purpose of our gathering as people asked what was going on and what our matching shirts meant...
A screenshot of my Instagram story on July 5, 2020. Wish me a happy birthday! Donate to AWPC!
Bella and I relax in the hammock after a long, exhausting, satisfying day. She had planned ahead and baked me the most delicious high-maintenance cupcakes that any chocolate lover could wish for, mmmmm! ~ Paris, Michigan
Hours later, after she treated our car-full of girls to some creamy rich Country Dairy ice cream on our way back to the cabin, Mom and I relax in the shade, taking in the fullness of our day. It was such a joy to share this special day with my mom, another hero of mine. She and my father adopted me and my brother two years apart. He was born July 1, and my mom's birthday is July 6, so the first week of July is a happy reminder of the blessings of birth parents and adoptive parents.
“All people are like grass, and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the Lord blows on them. Surely the people are grass. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.” ~ Isaiah 40:6-8
Dr. Bonnie June Shellnut--Mom to me--celebrated 75 years on July 6. She is a woman of great faith and virtue who models the love of Messiah to her family, friends and community by using her intellect, time, treasures and talent for the glory of the Lord's kingdom. She is also very adventurous, having traveled the world, ridden (momentarily) on a bucking horse and in a hot air balloon and is contemplating skydiving.
The next morning, we had a bang-up breakfast to replenish our depleted energy stores. Ever the good sport, Scott squeezed us fresh orange juice per my request. Julia provided eggs and avocado toast extraordinaire!
Birthday, Birthday Week, Birthday Month . . .
As I age, I am learning the fine art of stretching out the celebration. My family has certainly heard the refrain this past week, "It's my birthday week!" I say, may the celebration extend throughout July! L'chaim! To LIFE!
A delicious birthday dinner with Ken and Gerry Spry, beginning with a special white summer sangria in the backyard . . .
. . . and finishing with a decadent Godiva flourless chocolate cake and truffle. ~ July 8, 2020
My beautiful niece Jordyn and I in the backseat of my sister Heather's cool topless Jeep; childhood memories relived at Cook's Farm Dairy in Ortonville . . . Cowpuccino was not on the menu then, but when we lived less than 2 miles away as kids, a .75 cent chocolate cone was a dream come true. My sister Heather then drove Mom, Jordyn and me around back roads, past our childhood home, as we reminisced and reveled with the wind in our hair. Notice the rainbow--a reminder of God's promise--in the bottom right photo. It was another lovely birthday celebration with very special people. ~ July 9, 2020
A weekend getaway to Northern Michigan with Bella, my bestie Suzi and her son Redding netted hours of fun in Frankfort on Lake Michigan and at the darling vintage Chimney Corners Resort that Suzi treated us to on Crystal Lake ~ July 10, 2020
The highlight of Saturday was Suzi sailing us in her Sunfish on the stunningly clear warm waters of Crystal Lake. The wind was perfect. I did as little as possible, my most important job: blocking any spray from hitting sailor Suzi. I am so thankful for Suzi. She and I met when we were around 12 and have a lifetime of hilarious and tender memories, one of which also includes Jenni . . .
A rare and interesting photo of Jenni, Suzi and me from my 14th birthday, clearly involving gaudy make-up application and modeling. Jenni, you win! ~ July 1984, Ortonville, Michigan
"Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses." ~ Proverbs 27:6
Suzi and I in 1989 on the same pier in Frankfort, Michigan, as our children as seen in the photo above of Redding and Bella. Read more about our friendship at "Closer Than a Brother"
Thank you, my dear Scott--and ALL my sweet family and friends--for making this FIFTIETH birthday so memorable. I received cards, flowers and special greetings from lovely individuals all last week--though I may not name you, just know that every kind word and deed has been a blessing to me and the LORD!
"A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold." ~ Proverbs 22:1