Monthly Archives: June 2013

FACING YOUR FEARS WITH FAITH

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I wasn’t going to watch Nik Wallenda’s skywire walk over the Grand Canyon.  I just didn’t have it in me.  I have a ferocious fear of heights, and the thought of what he was going to do drove me into a dizzying tailspin.

A few years ago while visiting my Aunt Joan and Uncle Stan in Cave Creek, Arizona, they surprised me with a trip to the Grand Canyon.  It made me excited and anxious all at the same time.  But the thought of the impending trip made me weak with anxiety. How was I really going to experience this majestic place without having a major panic attack.  Small cliffs and bridges made me weak.  How would I manage to look out and down into these enormous canyons?  As we drove the car up the road to the canyon, my heart pounded in my chest, and I was fraught with anxiety.  I thought about asking them to drop me off at one of the souvenir shops along the road and pick me up when they were finished.  But I couldn’t.  They were so excited to show me this magnificent place, and I knew I couldn’t disappoint them.

We walked to the edge of the first lookout point.  Rather, they walked out, and I stayed back a safe distance, stealing quick glances and then looking away.  Words cannot describe the beauty and awe of this sacred place even with my fleeting glimpses.  But my heart once again started palpitating too fast, I started to sweat and had the overwhelming feeling of falling.  I turned and walked away.  I looked for the nearest souvenir shop and browsed until they were ready to move on.  That’s how most of the day went.  At each lookout site, I took a quick peek and then retreated.  I felt like a weirdo. How I survived the day I’ll never know. In the end, I wanted a picture of me with the canyon in the background and stopped at one of the picture points, but instead of moving forward to it, I turned around  and inched carefully backwards.  Then I had the sensation of falling backwards down the canyon, but they took a quick snap before I retreated.  At the end of the trip a lightning storm appeared  over the canyon and flashed brilliant zigzags through the crevices.  I watched in awe.  It was just overwhelmingly beautiful, and I was sorry to have been such a dope.

Fast forward to today and to Nik Wallenda’s skywire walk.  I’m not watching that! I stated emphatically to anyone who would listen.  How could he do such a ridiculous thing? Is he crazy?!?!? The fact was, I couldn’t bear to see him fall, reenacting my biggest fear.  But when the time came for the show, I somehow couldn’t change the channel or turn away.  His family and he prayed at the beginning with Joel Osteen, who is my all-time favorite evangelist.  I watched as he prepared.  I watched as he took the first step on the line.  My heart started pounding.  He started to pray aloud.  I love you,  Jesus.  Guide my steps, Lord.  You are the King of Kings.  Tears started rolling down my face.  I started to pray with and for him. He continued…Steady this cable, dear Father.  Calm this wind.  Calm me.  Use this for Your own glory, Lord. Thank you, Jesus. I stayed with him.  I couldn’t look away, even though the sites were dizzying.  I couldn’t turn the channel. I watched and listened as Nik’s father encouraged him through his earpiece and couldn’t help to think that was just what God does as we face our own challenges. He calms our fears as we trust in Him.

I saw the fear on Nik’s face, but he kept moving forward.  I saw him look down and watched with him as he commented on the beauty below him.  Nik Wallenda is a shining example of a true man of great faith. God was guiding him, and it turned out for me to be a learning lesson in faith and trust.  I’ll never forget the overwhelming feeling of bravery as he prayed and trusted in God to guide him to the other side.  And then 22 minutes and 54 seconds later…he finished the 1,400 ft. walk, touching ground on the other side. I watched as he hugged his wife and children. I watched as he went off for a few minutes by himself with his head bowed, tears streaming down his face, certain he was giving thanks to almighty God. And I couldn’t help but cry as I also gave thanks to God for keeping him safe.

When I heard Nik say…Use this for Your  own glory, Lord…I believe that is exactly what happened.  I can’t help but think that many people who were watching were touched by his great faith.  I know it renewed my own in a way that makes me feel stronger for the fears that I will face in the future…some that I can even see in the distance.  Nik once said in an interview, “Danger was real but fear was a choice.  What would happen if I chose faith instead?”  And that’s exactly what he did.

I will often think of Nik and his treacherous walk of faith with God as he trusted fearlessly in the guiding hand of our Lord. And by his example, I will pray and ask God’s grace and strength as I make my own way across the treacherous skywires that I encounter.

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Happy Father’s Day, Dad

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Me, my Dad and my brother

I ran into a store to pick up an item the other day and went to the register to pay for it.  In front of me stood an old man wearing a baseball cap with day-old gray stubble and white Velcro sneakers looking just like my Dad in his later years. I didn’t think much of it until I looked at what he was purchasing…peanut brittle…Dad’s favorite.

My Dad has been gone for 17 years now, and I hadn’t thought about him in a while. I remembered how much he absolutely loved peanut brittle, and I used to buy a can of it for every occasion along with whatever I thought he might like.  But he never seemed to want anything more than that peanut brittle.

My Dad was a tough guy.  A Great Depression baby.  He survived childhood poverty, an abusive father and World War II.  He was rough around the edges and had a time-bomb temper.  To be honest, we never got along.  When I was young and was his little girl, he would have me running circles around him doing this chore and that chore, and I gladly did anything to please him.  Nothing seemed to, though.  At least that was my perception.  As I got older and didn’t follow his orders as much as he would have liked, the fighting began.  We were always at odds. He was very controlling, and I stepped into my “don’t give a crap” mode. We pulled away from each other as I went out into the world to try to find myself.  I was described by someone during that period as kind of a hippie, but kind of not.  My Dad didn’t care much for hippies, so the fact that I was dressing and acting like one disturbed him.  No matter – I did what I pleased and sometimes did things just to aggravate him.  Anything to get a rise out of him. I did this because I never felt encouraged or loved or cherished by him as a daughter should be.

During this “discovery” period, however, I ran out of gas at 2 in the morning after dancing in a club all night. I called him, waking him out of a sound sleep to ask for help. He was there 15 minutes later with a full gas can and never yelled at me once or mentioned it again.  The only thing he was mad about was that he left the gas can on the side of the road by mistake, and it was gone when he went back to retrieve it. I guess I knew deep down inside he loved me because there were some finely woven shreds of evidence of it throughout my life as in this instance.

My Dad worked hard all his life to be sure we had a nice home, food on the table and clothing – all the creature comforts. Although he yelled a lot, he never touched us like his battering father did him. He broke that chain, which made me proud of him. But he never took me in his arms and hugged me either nor did he ever tell me he was proud of me.  I know that generation wasn’t much for showing their feelings or their emotions, so part of me understood he just wasn’t that kind of guy.  But I always felt something lacking because of it.

I didn’t understand why he cried like a baby as he walked me down the aisle on my wedding day. Or why he sobbed uncontrollably again during our father-daughter dance. It was a revelation to me. I was sure he loved being a good Pop-Pop to my kids, and as an adult he would do anything for me, even encouraging me to move home with my kids during a rough marital period. I finally decided that he must have loved me deep down inside in his own way all along, but it took years for me to figure that out.

I miss him every now and then.  Like on Father’s Day.  I wish he could have seen my kids grow up and graduate and get married.  I wish I could just sit down with him one more time and crunch some of that peanut butter that he loved so much.images

Happy Father’s Day, Dad.

THE MANICURE

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manicureI don’t do manicures often because I’m usually too restless to sit there for too long. I did, however, break down and had a gel manicure with a gift certificate I received recently – maybe someone is trying to tell me something!

While sitting at the “drying station” I met two young girls. One had gotten a really cool gold and black design on her nails to match her prom dress – the event, of which was that evening. She was so very excited and chatting happily with us and her mother who sat next to her. I asked what she was doing after graduation – whether she was going to college. She said emphatically, “Oh no, I’ve never even had a job, and I feel like I should work for a while first.” I tried to make sense out of her statement, but smiled half-heartedly. I wanted to say, “No, no, no! Please try to go to college and get some kind of degree! Start at a community college if you want, but go right away while you’re young. Go now!” I know firsthand how hard the world has become. How awful the job market is no matter how much the politicians try to pull the wool over your eyes with their banter about how things are getting better and how unemployment is down. The competition is voracious. They will literally eat you alive! People will ignore you. You will feel invisible, even when you’re qualified and have the experience.

Then the girl sitting across from us spoke up – she was 25. I know this because someone asked if she were going to the prom as well, and she snickered and told us her age. Turns out she graduated from a great university a couple of years ago. She has a degree in criminal justice but hasn’t yet found a job in her field. She said she had recently taken a civil service exam to try to get into something…anything. She told the younger girl to dance the night away and enjoy the prom and her last days in high school. “It is the time of your life,” she said, “and if you go to college, that will be so much fun, too.” She looked sad. I had a feeling she was thinking that after that it’s all downhill. Struggling to get a job had taken a toll on her as it has on me. I don’t know what the answer is. Work or go to college? College isn’t for everyone, but without it, how can you compete at all?

The younger girl looked at mom and said dreamily, “Besides, I’m going to publish a book and make lots of money, so I won’t have to go to college.” I choked inside. I used to believe the same thing. I wanted to take her by the shoulders, look her square in the eyes and tell her that the reality of that happening was next to nil. That there were only a chosen few who got to live that life and have that dream come true, especially without the experience of what you learn in school. But I didn’t say anything. Youth need to have their dreams and their ambitions. They don’t need to be told how difficult it is out there as they excitedly prepare for the night of their life at prom.

I just smiled and wished her well and told her to have lots of fun at the prom. She smiled brightly back at me with starry eyes and off she went. I hope all of her dreams come true.

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