It’s been a long time since I’ve been truly scared. You know–hands trembling, what in the world should I do next, I just might throw up…kind of scared. And yet that’s exactly where I found myself this week and I’d do just about anything NOT to feel that way ever again. That’s why I’m writing this…to help me process what happened, but also to remind each one of us (and women in particular) to mind that little voice–it’s our God-given intuition…the gift of fear.
Let me start at the beginning…the very beginning (bear with me here.) While Oprah Winfrey and I have been on the outs for several years (LOL), I was at one time a huge fan and watched her show as regularly as any college aged kid could without purposefully arranging their class schedule. One day I happened to catch an episode that honestly changed that way I live my life. Oprah was featuring an author and security issues specialist named Gavin de Becker. You may recall that many of the show’s episodes centered around empowering women and his book titled “The Gift of Fear” focused on the importance of trusting your gut because so often intuition is our best guide (and sometimes our only hope) in alarming situations! This isn’t a religious or faith-based book, but I read it as further confirmation of the Holy Spirit’s activity and presence in our everyday lives. I took his advice and suggestions to heart for a number of reasons…1) I am a small person, young (at the time) and female…all of which could make me an easy mark, 2) the advice was practical and empowering, and 3) I felt like intuition was a God-given gift that had served me well in the past. I believe this book crossed my path for a reason and since 1997 it has never been far from my mind.
Having lived in small and large communities, frequenting cities and as a traveler in general, I make it a point to be aware of my surroundings. Being a news junkie doesn’t hurt (it’s a crazy world out there, right?) I will admit…I may be a little high-strung when it comes to personal safety, but like I mentioned before I think the advice in this book (the validation that comes from trusting your gut) has proven itself on at least a handful of occasions in my life. I can immediately recall a few scary situations where I put the tools from the book into practice…like while viewing an apartment with a questionable potential landlord, parking on a side street with my infant son and walking at night in the Bay Area, and being approached by an overly aggressive woman asking for money in a Dillon’s parking lot in Wichita. In each of these scenarios that little voice spoke and the advice from the book came back into focus.
This isn’t a fun subject. As women, this is a weight that we carry. Men don’t fear for their personal safety like we do. For years I dwelt on the fact that this just didn’t seem fair. It affects my life everyday. I’m careful about where I park, I’m overprotective of my kids, I try to assess every situation. But I must confess: I do get lazy. I’m guilty of letting my guard down and it frustrates me. This is part of the reason for this blog post.
Yesterday, while making a stop at a local store in my small town I was followed into the building by a strange man. I noticed him immediately. His demeanor seemed shifty and he was with a woman who did not enter the store, but instead waited just outside the main entrance. The guy followed me as I went searching for two unrelated items on opposite ends of the store. My antenna went up. I thought it was odd that he turned down the same wrong aisle I turned into. He made his way into the cleaning supplies aisle where I was and never looked at anything or picked anything up. When I zig-zagged through the store in a an attempt to lose him he continued to follow, my mind was racing. Imagine my surprise when this guy appeared to be looking directly at me from the jewelry section. I again changed course immediately. I needed to get out of this store! I purchased my one item (having abandoned the need for the other item) and made my way to the exit…with him about 10 steps behind. He had purchased nothing in the store. Even as I type this my mind is trying to rationalize his behavior. The urge to be “nice,” to not be so suspicious, and to dismiss my uneasiness keeps creeping into my thoughts even at this very moment. “Oh, he probably just needed some help. You’re overreacting. He wasn’t trying to scare you. You let your imagination run wild.” NO. I heard God’s voice whisper to me. I have no doubt about that. I make no apologies for responding to my intuition.
The thing that gets me, though, is that the little flutter in my stomach first occurred before I entered the parking lot that day. As I crossed the intersection to get to the store I clearly heard a whisper that said, “You don’t want to go there.” But I didn’t listen. I just wanted to pick up two items and go. “What’s the big deal?” I told myself. When I parked the car, I noticed that things didn’t feel right. I still went in. I want to be the kind of person who believe in the goodness of mankind, but I have to remember that this is a broken world. I have to remember to trust the voice.
As I scrambled to get out of the store, I called my husband and let him know what was going on. I had my keys ready. My gut tried to soothe my panic by telling me that I was doing everything right. I couldn’t get to the car fast enough. As I pulled away, I saw the guy standing outside the store scanning the parking lot. Look, I live in a small, safe community. My intention here is NOT to scare anyone, but I will not discount what I felt. I refuse to disqualify that voice.
Ladies, if you have not heard of this book…please consider getting your hands on a copy. We need to know that it’s okay (in fact, it’s wise) to listen to our intuition. It doesn’t make us unkind, not nice or even hateful to look after yourself or your loved ones. I’m not saying we should walk around on edge all the time or believe that at any moment something horrific could happen to us. I just want to remind myself and others to trust God more fully and to be open to his nudging in all that we do and everywhere that we go.
When I finally calmed down (several minutes and miles later), I said a prayer. I apologized for not responding to the Holy Spirit while I crossed the intersection. I apologized for not leaving the parking lot when that bad feeling first came over me. And at the same time, I thanked God for prompting me into a state of awareness and for giving me the ability to see the situation clearly. The gift of fear…that Divine presence and the book again coming into focus all at once.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Psalm 46:1
Everyone is the age of their heart. ~Guatemalan Proverb
I didn’t do anything as gaudy as send myself a birthday bouquet but I am about to break a few social mores. That’s right, I’m saying it, “Happy birthday, to ME!” and I’m going to post photos of ME, and I’m writing a blog about ME 🙂 But I hope you’ll give me a pass…mostly because I AM the birthday girl.
Okay, to be clear, I’m not trying to solicit birthday wishes and/or gifts…but I just had to share a few thoughts about turning “the year before THE year.” What???? Doesn’t make any sense? Well, check this out: Most of us know that turning 40 it’s a pretty big deal…as in it’s a pivotal moment (and not necessarily in a good way.) And while I won’t be 40 until next year (2015), I did have a friend tell me that (NEWSFLASH) turning “the year before THE year” is actually a pretty big deal, too! I had no clue. 39 is a BIG thing…really? Since when? I guess…since now.
39 has been called the “creepy-creeper” birthday. This connotation suggests that 39 is both undesirable and sneaky? Maybe even a little scary? Sort of like you’re walking along…minding your own business…when this dreadful number jumps out from behind the bushes and boldly states, “Warning. You’re about to cross over into old age!” Or something like that. Supposedly, at 39 this is the last year that I can be considered somewhat “young.” I’ve been told that I’ve now entered the final months where it’s even somewhat socially acceptable to wear my hair long, paint my fingernails any color other than matronly mauve, or wear jet black mascara (among a great big list of other taboo items.) If there is a distinction in adulthood, apparently 40 is the line for women and so I’m left with this one little year in which to kick up my heels and behave accordingly. 365 measly days left to be young! I can hardly believe it…it all went so fast! Actually, I find all this to be pretty funny. Funny for two reasons: 1) because I think when I was in my 20s that I actually believed these rules and 2) especially funny because in my heart of hearts the first number that pops into my mind whenever someone asks me how old I am has ALWAYS been 22!
Yes, I know. It’s been a long, LONG time since I was 22, but you have to hear me out about this. So when you’re a kid, you can’t wait to be in double digits. 10 is a BIG deal. The next milestone age is 13, right? Because now you’re a teenager. Followed by 16…the year you can get your driver’s license. The next biggie is 18…no curfew, you can vote, live on your own, etc. And finally 21. The BIG ONE. That’s right…all the sudden you’re able to do all the things you’ve been told REAL grown-ups do. (?) I know, we all know…most of them are very OVERRATED. So when 22 rolls around you figure, okay…that’s it. Nothing to see here people and I guess I just stopped counting after that. Ridiculous, right? I know…but that’s the house that I’ve been living in. Sure it’s a crazy house, but it’s still MY house.
At this point, I’m sure you’re laughing at me and I’m actually laughing at myself, too. It’s been ages since I’ve been carded, had a night life, or gone on any adventures that don’t involve having my two kids in tow. I’m not up on the newest trends, nor do I drive a hot car, or keep up with the latest movies or music. I don’t really do any of the things that would lump myself in a category with anyone who is actually 22, yet that’s still the number that sticks in my head. I always imagined that someday I’d graduate to a new birthday number, but it just never happened. So now that I’m turning “the year before THE year,” I thought I’d better do a little research and see what the hubbub surrounding the number 40 is really all about…I mean, since I don’t want to be caught off guard (again) and I’m headed in that direction anyway.
It appears that there really are a lot of resources out there concerning the Big 4-0. Countless books, websites, blogs and articles about embracing the “new and improved” you. As I enter “the year before THE year,” it might behoove me to start reading up on some of these expectations and societal norms. Here’s what I’ve gathered from the headlines so far: 40 is magical. 40 has attitude…it’s called “fortytude.” There’s also a rumor that 40 can be fabulous (but I caution you, there are a lot of caveats to this one.) 40 is the first year a woman can qualify as a “cougar.” 40 is something that needs to be figured out and faced…it also makes you fierce and a force to be reckoned with (don’t you love all the alliteration that comes with 40!) You can also be fit and forty at the same time (who knew?) For those who truly believe in stressing themselves out about the number 40, there are a few websites that offer up 40 things you should accomplish by the time you reach 40. And, by the way… in case you haven’t heard, forty is the new “F” word.
That’s a lot for one girl to take in.
All of this aside, here’s where I’m at. It’s MY birthday and all I really want to do is thank God for another day, another year, and another reason to celebrate life (while eating Dairy Queen cake, of course.) I don’t really get wrapped up in all this aging stuff. I’m sure the day will come when the wrinkles and the gray hairs will win out, when my body doesn’t cooperate like it used to, when people stop asking me just how old I really am (and just start assuming I’m OLD!) Until then, I’m just going to keep chugging along…making up nonsensical songs with my daughter, teasing my son by repeating hip phrases that sound anything but hip when I say them, wearing my hair as long as I want to, and sporting nice, bright nail polish as the mood strikes. I’m not going to worry about figuring out or facing 40 or even reading up on the 40 things to do before you reach this supposed milestone. While society might find my lack of alarm annoying or unheard of, I think the psychological term is called “self differentiated.” That’s right…who says you can’t teach an “old dog” new words. And by the way, I’m going to stick with the age 22 for the time being (especially since Taylor Swift makes it sound so fun!) Sure I’m a long way from it (and you really couldn’t pay me to go back,) but mostly just because it’s a nice number and like I said before… I still have a house there. (Sure it’s a crazy house, but it’s MY house.)
Here’s to 365 days of “the year before THE year!”
I’m not 40, I’m eighteen with 22 years experience. Author unknown
Plants do not grow merely to satisfy ambitions or to fulfill good intentions. They thrive because someone expended effort on them. Liberty Hyde Bailey
I didn’t just believe that I had a black thumb, I had confirmed it…time and TIME again. You probably think that I’m exaggerating, but it’s a well documented fact. Have you ever had someone take a plant AWAY from you? Yes, that has happened to me (and not just once.) I was a cold-blooded plant killer and I’m not proud of it. I wanted to be able to grow things, I really did. I potted, watered, and adjusted for sunlight and shade. I wasn’t above asking for help, checking out library books and looking up tips on the internet. It just wasn’t my knack and, honestly…hey, I was cool with that. But for some unknown reason, people kept giving me plants (I think that happens when you move as often as we have…let’s face it, a plant is a pretty safe “welcoming” gift.) In defense of these plant-bearing gift givers, I realize that you all had no idea what these little green treasures were in store for once they were under my care 🙂
Fast forward several years and while I’m certainly no green thumb, I’m not quite the plant killing queen that I used to be. So, I still can’t grow ANYTHING from a seed, but I have managed to keep three plants alive (and mostly thriving.) One plant has actually been around for nearly five years and I’m proud to report that it has somehow managed to survive three repotting stints as well. (Yes, it’s the little things.) In fact, I actually purchased a plant (my first time) just last month and so far…well, so good. I think my mother-in-law would be so surprised and my mom, well I’m sure she can just hardly believe it’s true! (The black thumb thing runs in the family.)
Thinking about this shift in my gardening abilities reminds me of another change in my life. This one pertaining to my faith in God. While I’ve been a believer just about as long as I can remember, I was never really comfortable sharing that faith. To be honest, I didn’t know how. As a kid I can remember occasionally going to church, however, I really didn’t have any formal faith upbringing. Despite all this, I considered myself a hard-core, pint-size prayer warrior (and I’m not even sure that was a term at the time.) I prayed about anything and everything. My overactive imagination, news junkie status (even as a kid) and an overwhelming realization that we lived in a broken and scary world would occupy my thoughts from the time my head hit the pillow until dawn. So often I found peace and comfort in prayer and somehow knew that there was a great, big God out there who loved and cared about me.
In time, those little prayers eventually turned into a desire to read the Bible…which gets easier once you learn how to read and possess a vocabulary. By the time I was in high school I was working on reading the Bible all the way through. I would read one chapter a night before bed–and I don’t think anyone ever knew. I really didn’t talk about it. I just did it. Looking back, I’m pretty sure that I didn’t understand much of what I read. I just felt called to do it. And when I finished, I started over. Look, I’m no theological scholar and I certainly didn’t consider myself holier than my teenage counterparts. All I know is that the more I learned about God, the more my love for Him continued to grow.
I wish I could say that my Bible reading led me into church as a young adult. It didn’t. Of course, I did do a lot of praying in college…it WAS college after all!!! I had tests to pray for, temptations to avoid, friends who needed help, and then of course there was safety and an entire crazy world out there to worry about. I think in some ways my desire to get into journalism was a love for writing tied into an off shoot of a faith that I was trying to figure out. My end goal in my pursuit to become a reporter was always to make the world a better place. I wholeheartedly believe that knowledge is power. I thought if we could just gain an awareness for the people in our neighborhoods, community and world that we would all have our hearts transformed–we could BE BETTER and DO BETTER. Little did I know that this warm stirring that I so desperately wanted to impart on the hearts of others was in line with a desire to share with the planet the God that I was coming to know.
My faith journey goes on from there, but those early years–the faith planting years–came to mind today as I watered and tended to my plants. Now, I look forward to attending church every Sunday (actually I’m something of a church nerd as I love visiting new churches whenever I can.) I also love being a ministry volunteer and a pastor’s wife. I continue to read and pray and discover more ways to draw closer to God. I often thank God for putting people in my life to inspire and encourage me to pursue this faith. What I once kept guarded and close to my heart, I now openly talk about. I’m not afraid to share what I know about God. In fact, I feel called to talk about Him often…especially with young people. I remind them (and myself) that it takes time to develop and foster any kind of worthwhile relationship. The same if true with faith. The world won’t know about our awesome Creator, if someone (you? me?) doesn’t share it with them. I still wholeheartedly believe knowledge is power. And if faith and following Jesus is the most powerful choice we can make in our lifetime, I want every person to have that option.
I can’t tell you what a blessing it is to have my children grow up in the church. Faith planted…I see their early development (and that of their peers) tended to by good men and women whose lives serve as living testimonies to faith in a mighty God and who desire nothing more than the same for my kiddos and others. In this season of my life, this is where I focus my attention. What a blessing it is to witness a child’s heart discovering God for the first time. Connecting with a young person and letting them know that there is a Creator who loves them. Sharing scripture and Bible lessons with new believers and fostering the kind of environment that says there is so much more out there for each of us. Seeing Christ’s love influence the thoughts and actions in so many young ones…well, it takes my breath away.
Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would have an opportunity or even the ability to share and witness faith like this. I didn’t think I was capable or qualified. I didn’t think I could GROW into that person. God had a better idea and I really can’t wait to see what blooms as a result.
This most generous God who gives seed to the farmer that becomes bread for your meals is more than extravagant with you. He gives you something you can then give away, which grows into full-formed lives, robust in God, wealthy in every way, so that you can be generous in every way, producing with us great praise to God.
2 Corinthians 9:10-11 The Message