The Journey Begins

When I was sixteen years old, my sister and I went skydiving. I’m not sure what would possibly possess my parents to let their only chldren jump out of an airplane at the only facility in California willing to break the law (I was underage), but I’m tremndousy grateful for their awesomness. It was a dream for both my sister and I.

And yet, as we reached our jump altitude, a sudden and understandable certainty arose: I will not be jumping out of this plane. I analyzed my options with surprising calmness. I will tell them I cannot jump. I will unstrap myself. They will fly me back down. That’s all there is to it. Despite my dream, my desparation to dive, when faced with an open door and the ground SO FAR BELOW, I was satisfied right where I was.

There was, however, that dream still stirring inside. Before I could say anything, my instructor, strapped to my back, began issuing simple and clear directions in my ear. They seemed so straightforward that even in my deer-in-the-headlights fear, I could follow them. That dream wanted to follow them. Move this way. Now that way. One foot on the ledge. Lean forward. And then:

WHOOSH.

I burst out into the open space below the plane with stomach dropping gravitational pull. We were in freefall for a solid minute before he pulled the cord, after which time we drifted in absolute silence to a rough but solid landing. There are no words to express what those five minutes were like, but the fact that twenty years later I can still see the vast landscape spread before me, hear the wind roaring in my ears, feel the force of my descent whipping around me should say something about how profound the experience was.

I’ve restarted this post so many times that I’ve lost count. I’m not really sure what to say. For a year and a half I have set all personal writing aside. Truth be told, most of my personal projects have moved to the back burner. Instead, I’ve poured myself into my famiily and my job, with really positive results. I know I’m where I’m supposed to be, and even if that’s a really challenging place, it feels good to be there. 

But there’s also been a stirring in my heart to return to writing. It was truly one of the great loves of my life, and while there were some really valid reasons I set it aside, but I am realizing that the two biggest may have been weakness and fear.

Weakness and fear are not of God. They are keeping me from what God has for me.

The thing is, I’m satisfied with what God has given me. I love my family, my job, my life. I love my friends and my chuch and my community. So when God has whispered,”There is more,” I have honestly not been tempted, and He, to His infinite credit, is not going to make me. But I’m coming to see this not as a polite no-thank-you but a trade. I am trading a God-sized gift/dream for satisfaction.

That’s not actually satisfying.

I think about what I would have missed if I had been satisfied inside that plane, if I had let my weakness and fear convince me to trade that satisfaction for those five amazing minutes. 

What am I missing out on now? And for what? Is it really worth it?

I don’t know what to do, but I know I don’t want to waste any more time being satisfied. I have an instructor more powerful than anyone else ever, a conviction that He has something waiting for me, and the willingness to take one step at a time.

The journey begins.

I don’t blame her for shaking

You know the cry, the one that swells from regular into wail, the one that says something is very wrong.

As the shift happened, I dropped what I was doing and moved for the staircase, my mind racing through the possible catastrophes. But before I could get far, K speed-walked into the kitchen, one hand held steady by another, her body shaking with panic. A very sizeable shard of wood had gone straight through the end of her finger, starting at the pad and coming out in by her nail, blood already spread around it.

“Oh my,” I managed. Her shaking was uncontrollable. As quickly and delicately as I could, I pulled the shard from her hand (honestly, I just wanted that thing out of her finger, freaked-out as I was). Then I examined it closely, making sure that I’d gotten every bit and that there were no other splinters than the (giant) one. I wrapped it with tissue and got her some ice. I smothered her with kisses and hugs and reassurances that it was scary but fine.

But when she was calm, we went to the banister and I asked her where she’d been holding on. I ran my hands along every inch of that banister, checking for loose wood, making sure it was smooth. There was one little chink and I smoothed it off, then talked about how the banister was old and maybe we shouldn’t run our hands along it too roughly.

I was so thankful that she came to me, panicked as she was. I was thankful that she trusted me to make it better. I was thankful that she knew I would be more skilled at the task than her, because she could easily have broken that splinter off trying to get it out, and then we’d have had a much more unpleasant task before us. I was thankful that I could care for her, both in the moment and in the future, trying to ensure she was safe and also trying to help her learn.

It’s not lost on me how very much I learn about God through parenting.

How many times do I panic? How often do I try to fix it myself? I will do better, I tell myself. I will be different. But those hurts, those struggles, those are the very times that we need our God. He is so much more capable–dexterous but gentle. He sees the big picture, the real place of our hurt, and not just the bloody spot on our hand. And He longs to comfort us, immediately and tenderly.

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1)

I imagine the love I have for my children, the way I want to help them, keep them safe, teach them and comfort them. And then I multiply that by a million. And then I stand awestruck to know that even that doesn’t capture my Father’s love. Why, in the midst of struggle, do I still refuse that love? What do I make worse by not taking my hurts immediately to the one who loves me more than I could ever imagine?

I know enough to not task myself to do better. But I will try to remember: the way I could help K, the way God could help me, the way we could work together. And maybe the next time that I am shaking with fear, I will remember that I don’t have to face it on my own.

Light-up, my life

It took me six trips total to come up with K’s new shoes. After wearing out two pairs of boots in two months, I was determined to find a pair of shoes that would last, and also be fun to wear (without breaking the bank, of course). I hunted high and low and we finally settled on a pair of (heaven help me) clearance sequined up the calf Twinkle Toes. Light-up shoes: my nemesis. I have sworn since they were small that there was no sense in light-up shoes whatsoever, and of course K has wanted them ever since. I caved–they were just so her, and with durable soles to boot.

As we drove to school that morning in her sparkling new shoes, I noticed that I’d left the “I light up!” tag at the base of each set of laces. “I’ll cut it off when we get home,” I told her. Apparently she forgot. Instead, when I picked her up, I noticed the laces of one shoe tied in a knot at the base. “Did you cut those laces?” I asked her, my voice trembling with frustration. She too began trembling, the apology tumbling out of her. “I’m so sorry, Mama. Are you mad, Mama? Please don’t be mad!”

I was mad. I had told her I would cut the tag off later, precisely because I knew that the laces ran underneath and it would be tricky to cut the tag but not the laces. Six trips to buy these shoes, and they were snipped through on the very first day. And she was afraid, because she knew she had made a mistake, that she had disobeyed me and damaged something valuable that I had given her.

“For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; He is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the Lord made the heavens.” (Psalm 96:4-5)

Fear of God is a major theme in theme in the Bible, but I’ve always struggled with the idea of fearing God, partly because the God I know is so full of love and tenderness that it’s hard for me to imagine being afraid of Him. But I also know that it’s critical, because “fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Psalm 1:7), and I can use me some knowledge.

But what God’s been directing me to in this verse is that “He is to be feared above all gods.” Regardless of how my fear of Him is getting along, it’s still possible for me to evaluate instead what I’m fearing above Him. Which can be a lot: Judgement from others. Rejection. Lack of success. Even piddling things like weight gain and blog readers (which, now that I look at them, are related to the earlier three).

These are idols, even though they’re not shiny and gold, even though I hold them in the recesses of my heart instead of on an altar in my home. While my human nature may never allow me to let them go completely, that’s not exactly what’s asked in this verse. Instead, we are called to fear God “above all gods.” I think He knows we’re human, that we struggle to be loved and valued in a crazy, messed-up culture. But He wants us to let that go anyway, because being afraid of God is something much safer and healthier–after all, He is that loving, caring father.

K was afraid of my anger, and rightfully so. But I, a loving though flawed mother, responded firmly but tenderly. I pointed out her mistake, but with sweetness and forgiveness. I told her that we all make mistakes, that I loved her very much, that I was sorry she had cut her laces. Then I worked them carefully, tying a tight knot in a cute bow, finally presenting them back to her as nearly perfect as they would ever be now, with the comfort that it was okay, that it would all be okay.

God loves us even more. We should fear Him, because that fear says that we value His rules above the rule of anything else. But we should also know that in contrast to the harshness the rest of the world doles out when we go against it, God will always love us. No matter how off course we get, He will make our paths straight if we surrender to Him, just as I was able to mend K’s laces only when she surrendered them to me. And just like our fear of something else is replacing our fear of God, if we aren’t surrendered to God, we’re surrendered to something else.

Who knew it would be light-up shoes that would help me see the importance of fear, and the love that follows?