Come Fly With Me

Ah, vacation. My body woke me this morning saying, “It’s 5:30 – time to get up!” To which I responded (inspired by John McClane of the Die Hard series), “No, body, I’m supposed to be on vacation. Sleep!” So for the next 2 hours, I drifted in the twilight zone between sleeping and waking; dreaming, thinking, puzzling.

Eventually my mind turned to yesterday’s flying trapeze class. How could it not? When I stretched, I felt tightness extending from my shoulders to my armpits. When I looked down, I saw deep bruises (I bruise extremely easily. Seriously…look at me hard enough and I’ll bruise) behind each knee. I could still feel the light bruise by my navel from the safety harness, the ropy red lines on each palm from the bar.

Last year, as a sort of bucket list activity – and a NASCAR fan – I did a stock car ride-along. A slightly banked track, a professional driver, and G-forces from hurtling 180mph filled an adrenaline-rush void. This year’s replacement? 2014, my year of risks? An activity requiring signing a waiver in case of disabling injuries. Sounds like a good idea…

I rehearsed yesterday’s tricks as I stretched. That first fly…I never felt anything like it. It was both terrifying and exhilarating, but from a distance. I think my brain was in denial and tried to convince itself, on some level, that this wasn’t happening. Somehow I got through the run and dismount, wondering how I was going to do that again.

I did. Again, and again, and again. And I was scared every time. I was the eldest of the students – there were 3 other previous fliers (around 12 and one in maybe her early 20’s) and then 3 siblings visiting from Dallas. They were 1st-timers like me. We became quick friends, bonding over our mutual fear and excitement. The youngest was an adorable 6-year-old girl, then a girl and boy around 12 or so. We went through ground school, walking the steps before we did the tricks in the air. I was voted to go first – thanks, guys — then they followed in birth order. From my own experience and watching my fellow classmates, I learned how illogical fear can be. There are multiple safety checks in place – you wear a belt fastened tightly beneath the rib cage (I got an idea of how a corset feels) and ropes are clipped to this belt. You get clipped in 1st at the base of an interminable ladder (which reminded me each time I climbed that I’m not crazy about ladders…), then when you reach the platform, you’re clipped in twice more. The person on the platform grips you from behind, the ropes you’re attached to are controlled by the ground caller – who can adjust the ropes to soften your landing, there’s a net to catch, and mats beneath that.

It’s fail-safe. And yet, I fought fear each time I climbed that ladder. On the platform, I wiped sweat from my palms. Each time the gentle voice of the platform person coached me: “Shoulders back, toes over the edge, really push your weight forward, Bees. It will make it easier…I’ve got you.” My brain refused to accept that pushing my weight forward over a ledge was a good idea.

Then came the calls: “Ready (bend your knees)!” “Hep (jump)!” The rush as you jump and sail through the area hanging by your hands. At the top of the first swing, the next call: “Legs up, hook the knees!” I pulled my knees up and over the bar between my hands. Now hurtling backwards, and at the top of the next swing, one of my favorite parts: “Hands off, arch back!” This should have terrified me, throttling backwards, hanging only by the crook of my knees, but this part reminds me of dance, just while airborn. My ballet training kicks in and I arch my back up towards the ceiling, head lifted, and reach my arms straight out in front of me. Swinging back again now, “Hands up!”- stomach clenching again as I have to look up at my knees to grab the bar – “Legs down!” – now hanging straight again, toes pointed (thanks again, ballet) and pushed behind me – then my favorite – the back-flip dismount. The call: “Ok, back-flip on the next swing. Kick forward, back, forward, hands off, tuck knees!” and I’m rolling backwards and into the net.

We fly and fly – scared each time, despite knowing we’re safe – until we’ve gotten our tricks down enough to try a catch. We go through ground school for how the catch will work, and we have a lot more questions this time. What happens if we miss the catch? No prob, the ground controller has us. So, when you say, “Legs straight!” from hanging upside down by our knees, back arched and arms reaching in front, we’re supposed to release our legs from the bar before you catch us? Right. So we’re just flying through the air for that second before you catch us? Right. Ohhhhh.

The trepidation factor goes to a new level. We rehearse the moves and calls on ground, then I’m up first. My platform buddy is soothing, asking if I’m breathing. “Trying,” comes my strained reply. The other instructor is now swinging crazily from the opposite bar. He makes the calls: “Ready! Hep!” I jump, complete the first tricks, hands off and arch back, then the moment of truth: “Legs straight!” I release the bar and he catches me, we complete one swing, then “Sit!” I push against his arms and drop to the net, yelling “That was awesome!” the minute I land.

It was amazing, and I wasn’t the only one who thought so. The boy went next, and after he completed the catch, he was grinning for the first time all class. The middle sister wasn’t sold, though. She watched us and said, “I don’t think I can do that.” But the boy and I both said, “It’s easier than what we’ve been doing.”

That hit me hard this morning. The absolute scariest thing we did yesterday was also the easiest – we let go and just trusted that no matter what happened, we’d be ok. I felt God tell me that my relationship with Him is just like flying trapeze. I like to be in control – or at least feel like I’m in control – because I want to be prepared for whatever happens. I walk through life scared, wiping the proverbial sweat from my palms, not fully trusting that I can throw my weight forward despite all the safeties in place.

This morning’s night stand devotional read: “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” Deut 33:27 (NIV) He’s the safety net, the ropes, the harness, the controller. The past couple of months He’s been telling me, “Let it play.” Never have I been more aware that I’m a make-it-happen person. But amazing things have been happening since He, in essence, called “Legs straight!” He’s been catching me and taking me on exhilarating rides. He’s trustworthy. He’s good. And His plans for me are far better and more exciting than my own.

“Legs straight!”

He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not

I was reading the below text this morning:

19 “Then, just as the Lord our God commanded us, we left Mount Sinai and traveled through the great and terrifying wilderness, as you yourselves remember, and headed toward the hill country of the Amorites. When we arrived at Kadesh-barnea, 20 I said to you, ‘You have now reached the hill country of the Amorites that the Lord our God is giving us. 21 Look! He has placed the land in front of you. Go and occupy it as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has promised you. Don’t be afraid! Don’t be discouraged!’

22 “But you all came to me and said, ‘First, let’s send out scouts to explore the land for us. They will advise us on the best route to take and which towns we should enter.’

23 “This seemed like a good idea to me, so I chose twelve scouts, one from each of your tribes.24 They headed for the hill country and came to the valley of Eshcol and explored it. 25 They picked some of its fruit and brought it back to us. And they reported, ‘The land the Lord our God has given us is indeed a good land.’

Israel’s Rebellion against the Lord

26 “But you rebelled against the command of the Lord your God and refused to go in. 27 You complained in your tents and said, ‘The Lord must hate us. That’s why he has brought us here from Egypt—to hand us over to the Amorites to be slaughtered. 28 Where can we go? Our brothers have demoralized us with their report. They tell us, “The people of the land are taller and more powerful than we are, and their towns are large, with walls rising high into the sky! We even saw giants there—the descendants of Anak!”’

29 “But I said to you, ‘Don’t be shocked or afraid of them! 30 The Lord your God is going ahead of you. He will fight for you, just as you saw him do in Egypt. 31 And you saw how the Lord your God cared for you all along the way as you traveled through the wilderness, just as a father cares for his child. Now he has brought you to this place.’

32 “But even after all he did, you refused to trust the Lord your God, 33 who goes before you looking for the best places to camp, guiding you with a pillar of fire by night and a pillar of cloud by day.

— Deuteronomy 1:19-33 (MSG)

I was struck by how closely my own response to life sometimes mirrors that of the Israelites. God was giving them amazing land, replete with good things…and they turned it down because the scouts mentioned the size of the people/cities. They even went so far as to say that God must hate them, the same God who delivered them from Egypt, dropped food from the sky, gushed water from rocks, and annihilated whole armies for them!

That seemed ludicrous to me until I realized that I do the exact same thing. God will do something incredible for me — provide resources, give me a needed word, send a friend my way just at the right moment — and then the next month I’m declaring God hates me because something doesn’t look the way I think it should. How quickly I forget how powerful, miraculous, and for me my God is, all because of the size of problem! As if God is intimidated.

What scout’s report have you put in front of what God said He would do? He is for you. He didn’t bring you out this far only to abandon you!

Who Cares?

Last week I was listening to my favorite song from the musical, “Rent” (read here for info on the musical http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rent_(musical)) — “Will I.” The song is sung in the round, and the lyrics are very simple:

Will I lose my dignity?

Will someone care?

Will I wake tomorrow from this nightmare?

I get stuck on “Will someone care?” How many of us ask that in our day-to-day lives? Will someone care that I’m hurting? Will someone care about me, in spite of my broken state? It seems like the answer is “no,” that so many people want other people to be easy, pulled together, and ready to serve them. Don’t get me wrong — the greatest fulfillment in life comes from using one’s God-given talents and gifts to help others. However. I can’t help but wonder sometimes if that’s all I am — no, all I’m allowed to be — to other people.

I’m quite certain you can relate. We all have those moments of feeling drained of all we are with no one pouring back into us. When this happens, I start resenting both people and my talents. I become depressed over how empty I feel, wondering when it will be my turn to be taken care of, to be fulfilled, to have what others have that I want.

I had a “moment” last night when I poured out what I was feeling — what I didn’t even know I was feeling until the eruption was triggered — to God. I let it all out, surprised that this torrent had gone unnoticed within me. I realized as soon as it was over that while the emotion was very real, the thoughts behind it were wrong. Some day my visions and dreams will be realized, but in the meantime, I am still blessed. I have AMAZING friends who love, support, and encourage me. I have a God who cares about the tiniest of my concerns and who reaches out to me in the most loving ways. I have a good job, hobbies, passions, and purpose. I’m going to be alright.

Whether or not “someone cares” in the particular way I want them to at that moment, I’m going to be alright!

Crunch Time

A sickening crunch came from behind me. I turned around and saw a BMW had just sideswiped another sedan. One of the car’s alarms went off.

I stared a while at the wreckage, as if staring long enough would recreate the accident and I could understand what happened. I could feel my heart beating faster and the stress-induced hormone cortisone racing through my veins. This accident had nothing to do with me, and I didn’t know the people involved. Yet I felt a deep nausea that somehow wasn’t in my stomach. An uneasiness washed over me.

After a moment or two, I was able to put my finger on what it was that bothered me — it was the feeling of something being wrong, of how quickly our everyday world can change. These people were just on their daily commute, no doubt making the same maneuvers they did each day. And in an instant, their days changed.

I was especially unnerved by the sound of the impact. It was unnatural, foreign among the normal sounds of the early morning, an eerie reminder of how quickly things can change.

Cue the Queue

Last week I had a few periods of waiting, so I took out my notebook and pen and began to write. Knowing that starting out with a lofty goal after such a long hiatus would only generate writer’s block, I allowed myself to just describe whatever flitted across my mind.

I found myself sketching out with words a woman who was anxiously waiting. I saw her adrenaline-fueled movements and listened in on her erratic, bipolar thoughts. The waiting period made her imagination go wild, to her own detriment. She could no longer decipher truth from paranoia, and it didn’t much matter anyways since it was all conjecture.

Ironically, I found myself in the same situation today. Waiting. Agonizingly, with all sorts of monsters racing around my brain unbridled. The trouble is, any of them could have truth to them, but I must wait to find out which one will be reality.

I hate waiting, but I hate uncertainty even more than waiting. I’m forced to contend with both, driven to uncharacteristic distraction. Please, God, I pray. Please, just let the waiting end.

Yet I wait, the control completely out of my hands and the call to trust, trust, trust ringing in my ears.

Waiting…

Anyone Have Some Rust-Eze?

Wrote a poem yesterday…it wasn’t any good, but I’ve had a maddening itch to write the past few weeks, the kind of itch that can’t be willed away but must be scratched.

It felt good to put pen to paper again, even if I didn’t like the dirty water spitting from the rusty faucet. But no matter. You can’t get to the clear water without getting out the dirty water first!

Here’s hoping 2013 will be year gushing with writing!

The Fat Lady is Silent

Rejection. Is there anyone who likes it? Show me a person who does and I’ll show you a person who either a) Is a masochist or b) Really likes challenges

I don’t know about you, but what helps me through difficult situations or issues is someone else’s experience — an inspirational or motivational story, if you will. When facing rejection–yet again–and am inclined to just give up, I think of Fred Astaire. After he did his first screen test, the testing director was less than impressed. These were his notes: “Can’t act. Can’t sing. Slightly bald. Can dance a little.” !!! Can you imagine if Astaire had given up? He is arguably one of the greatest dancers in American history – think what he and all of us would have missed out on if he called it quits!

There is also a writing exercise that Writer’s Digest likes to do from time to time. The assignment is to write a rejection letter to a best seller, i.e., reject J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series or Stephanie Meyers’ Twilight saga. It’s a good reminder for writers (and all of us), that sometimes it takes being knocked down by a lot of people before we find the ones who see our potential.

Thomas Edison, inventor of the lightbulb, once quipped: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”  I like that phrase much better than “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”

Just the other day I read an article on Gisele Bundchen, Brazillian supermodel. She was rejected by 41 agents before finally getting one. 41!!! And now she is one of the world’s most recognized models and is on her way to becoming a billionare. That is some tenacity to keep trying rejection after rejection.

I like the challenge presented by the above examples – will I join the ranks of Astaire, Edison, and Bundchen?

It Ain’t Over

Another one bites the dust

But I’m still standing

Not a fan of lying down

Better vantage point up here

The possibilities are endless