fearlessness

When our kids were small, our favorite Saturday thing to do was to take them on “adventures.” Simply put, we needed to get out of the house with them so we made it sound glamorous. I think that my husband and I needed these adventures as much as our kids. Once we tackled the logistics of gathering up our two kids and all of their stuff, strapping them into their car seats, and setting out, I know we enjoyed these adventures at least as much.

When we lived near Annapolis, Maryland, we had Baltimore to our north, and we spent many a Saturday at the Baltimore Inner Harbor, where we made very good use of a family membership to the Baltimore Aquarium to watch the dolphin show, stand for hours in front of the coral reef exhibit, or hang out near the piranha tank. Washington, DC was to our south. It was a gift to be able to go to DC for one or two museums, or perhaps a kite festival, the national zoo, or a picnic near the reflecting pool below the Lincoln Memorial. We could go for a couple of hours, and when the kids got tired, we were assured that we could always come back again next weekend.

I think about what our kids learned from these experiences. There are the obvious things, like what a piranha eats, or what a giant wooly mammoth might have looked like. Less obvious are things like problem solving a way around a closed metro stop. Watching mom and dad read a map. Finding a bathroom in a huge outdoor open space. Discerning when to buy street food and when to spend $$$ in a museum shop for food. Finding a place in the shade when it is 100-degrees. What we were doing during each and every one of our adventures is instilling curiosity, resilience, and a certain fearlessness in seeking something new.

When Katie was 5 or 6, we decided that she was old enough to tackle hiking Ricketts Glen state park. This beautiful place has 22 named waterfalls and a 3-mile hiking loop that circles down in elevation and then back up. Having taken our kids on many such adventures, we were shocked when, after a 3-hour drive and a walk through the woods, we got to the top of the trail and Katie just sat down and refused to go any further. The noise coming off the falls was a bit intimidating, to be sure, but I think it was the giant step downward to the trail that made her freeze in her tracks. It was a good 2-foot drop. After this initial step, you could see the hewn-rock steps below that were not as daunting.

We got her past this first step, eventually. I can’t quite remember if it was my coaxing or my husband’s more direct approach, but we got her there. Maybe it was just the fact that her older sister showed no fear and took that first step in stride.

We need nudges like this in our spiritual lives. Perhaps a coaxing, or a gentle whisper, or a more direct approach will open our hearts to the ways in which God may be speaking to us at any particular moment. In the spiritual life, it may just be someone else’s example that gets us to move past fear. We can become paralyzed when we know that God is calling us to take a first step that enables us to know God in a more intimate way. In the beginning, curiosity can fuel us. Eventually we need resilience as the way becomes more difficult. In my own experience, I have seen people with immense trust in God who seem to have no fear. I’m not completely there yet. I know, though, that it is only with accepting the grace the God showers on me, that I will be able to take those frightening steps forward.

 

And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself any more, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.
-Isaiah 30:20-21

happiness

My mom always says that my brothers and I have been blessed with dad’s disposition. He had a kind and gentle spirit, and he always found a way to bring humor to otherwise humorless situations. These past couple of weeks, I have needed something to make me laugh. In my world, there have been more than a few reasons why one could easily give in to having a troubled heart. Serious illness, scandal, hurt feelings, fear, division – in other words, human tragedies large and small.

I’ve been pretty demanding of God during these difficult times. God (I plead) grant my heart some peace. God, give me courage. God, shower me with grace.

I will admit (though not quite as freely) to having been pretty demanding of those closest to me, too. My family and close friends have been filled with grace as they listen to me, help me to process, and act as the face of God for me. This is where God has answered the demands I have made. God has given me peace through the loving presence of that person who allowed me to talk through my troubled heart and did not judge or offer solutions. God has given me courage in the response of that person who guides me to find strength in the confusion and light in the darkness. I have known the face of God in the unexpected support of that person who has been strong and wise.

In the midst of these struggles, God has showered me with the grace of a community willing to laugh. A lot. In the midst of the darkness, I have been blessed with a community with a sense of humor. With smiles and heartfelt embraces. With laughing at the absurd, the ridiculous, or the random. With celebration of the good things in life, as small and insignificant as they may seem. God has given me the strength, courage, and grace in the large and small. Grace is in the grins and the guffaws and the hugs and the craziness. Because life is really laughter and tears, and everything in between.

Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy.
Psalm 126:2

do not be afraid

This week a dear friend has been through hell.

His hell is one of those things that could happen to any one of us, unexpectedly, at any time. His wife suffered a brain aneurysm and is in stable but critical condition.

I can not imagine how frightening this must be.

As I reflect on his experience, I pray for his peace, for his wife’s healing, for strength for their family, for grace and guidance from the Holy Spirit in those who care for her. I pray that God’s presence is known and felt in the darkest moments, and that God grant this family consolation and relief.

This past week I have been called again and again to pray with this scripture passage, and I did not understand why. Now, I think I do.

Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters I will be with you;
and through the rivers; they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through the fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God
the holy one of Israel, your Savior.

-Isaiah 43:1-3

Today, I am painfully, consciously aware of those who have loved ones who are ill, not just this friend, but all of my friends who are struggling with illness, cancer, death of a loved one, loss. I pray for all of them this day. I invite you to do the same.