Thank God for the Gift of Fear (with Nods to Gavin de Becker and Oprah)

giftoffearIntuition is God whispering.  –author unknown

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.

woman being followed DSThis 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  

Excerpt from The Gift of Fear

My World According to George Strait

I’m usually in the mood right after dinner.  Something about a full belly, a mountain of dishes, left overs sealed in GladWare, and disinfecting the counter tops seems to put me in a George Strait state of mind.  There’s nothing like classic George when you feel like singing at the top of your lungs while your heart breaks into a thousand pieces as you simultaneously two-step with a broom…the occasional teardrop running down your cheek.  Good times 🙂

imaginary george fan photo

My imaginary fan meet up with George Strait. Hope Martina doesn’t mind that I inserted my face over hers in this photo!

I don’t think anyone would classify me as a country music fan…although there were a few years in the mid-nineties where I “walked the line.”  Okay, I’ll confess—I had a hat at the time, but it was just for the Little Texas concert at the county fair!  My get-up was technically faux cowgirl…you know, trendy “booties” instead of real ropers, but I never went as far as having a belt buckle or Wrangler jeans.  I did have a few radio presets dedicated to the local country music station at age 18, but all of it faded away just as quickly as it set in.  Yet somehow, I managed to fall (and stay) in love with George Strait.  And back in the day, I would have donned all that western wear, moved to Texas and developed a real southern drawl just for him.  I mean, if I was ever going to go for a cowboy…it would have had to have been him—because if you’re gonna love a cowboy, why not love one who can sing?

While clearing the kitchen table and belting out a little George, the thought occurred to me—almost every song reminds me of a place in time.  Memories, days gone by, people who I know and have known.  It appears that several of his tunes have served as the soundtrack to many different seasons in my life.  Crushes, first love, long drives, adventure, good times and bad.  Right or Wrong, Fool Hearted Memory, A Fire I Can’t Put Out…seem to speak to times of young love and the intense feelings that often come with those first break ups and let downs.  It was like George was the only one in the world who knew exactly how I felt!  Then there were catchy tunes like The Fireman that remind me of KU and driving home with my roommate Sara in her hot, little red car.  You Can’t Make a Heart Love Somebody, Easy Come, Easy Go, and Write This Down mark times where I learned important lessons about moving on and trusting God’s plan in both life and relationships.  Twangy feel good music like Am I Blue always make me want to dance the day away.  And two of my favorites–The Chair and All My Ex’s Live in Texas remind me of my parents–especially my dad’s band and concerts in the park downtown on summer evenings.

Unlike my other music phases, my George fanaticism began at a young age.  I remember hearing George in the background while I learned to sew at my Grandma’s house.  His songs seemed to play non-stop the first time I visited the great state of Texas (not to mention every time that I’ve ever stepped foot there.)  George rode shot-gun with my best friend, Amy and I on our great Tulia, TX adventure in college.  Later, his music again played on the radio appropriately setting the stage for a trip to Nashville.  And it was George who traveled with me when I moved from Kansas to California.  He was my cowboy companion as I cruised the interstate…thank goodness for a cassette player with auto-reverse!  I laughed out loud while listening to Ocean Front Property in Arizona…scoping the horizon for his imaginary piece of real estate as I neared Phoenix.  One song after another served as the backdrop to beautiful countryside and endless highway.  And it was Heartland that later satisfied my soul when I found myself homesick for family and friends back in the Midwest.  Other songs like Carrying Your Love with Me and I Cross My Heart remind me of true love, family values, and faith in God.

I know I’m not the only one with memories like these.  And it’s been equally as fun to introduce my children to George’s music.  His CD 50 Number Ones was on our vacation playlist as we traveled through Denver, Cheyenne, Salt Lake City, Lake Tahoe and finally into the San Francisco Bay area a few summers ago.  They claim not to like him…but one glance in the rear view mirror and it’s hard not to notice them singing along.  Just tonight my son belted out three songs in a row as he wandered into the kitchen asking aloud, “How do I know every single word?”  My daughter rolls her eyes when I bust out a little George in the car on the way home from basketball games.  Yet, I wouldn’t be surprised if someday George Strait makes his way onto their playlists.  I imagine them sheepishly trying explain to their friends that these songs remind them of their mom and childhood!  Better yet, I’d love to hear their take on the little ditty I call my “ultimate George Strait life song”—Ace in the Hole.  They frequently give me the oddest looks when I tell them that there’s a life lesson in that song that will serve them well…if they just pay attention.  Sure, Mom…sure.

While my radio presets today run the gamut from News Talk and Christian contemporary to Pop and Top 40, modern technology makes it easy enough to find George when and wherever the mood strikes.  I don’t have any crazy aspirations of ever meeting George Strait.  In fact, it’s probably better this way.  I’ve been lucky enough to see him in concert twice and I’m good with that.  As for me, our occasional kitchen-after-dinner meet-ups will continue to suffice, especially since they’ve been going on for years.  Besides…who would two-step with the broom if George and I  didn’t have these now and again country rendezvous?

Music gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.  —Plato

Smells Like Beef Jerky: A Vacation Personality Profile :)

Who knew the simplest, most easy-going personality type (me) would be the most difficult person to actually go on vacation with?  Doesn’t make sense?  Let me dissect this for you.

Cabin Vacation 2013 051Call me an 80s kid, but when I hear the word “vacation” only two things come to mind:  That oh-so-catchy tune by the GoGo’s and images of Chevy Chase and the crew in the comedy classic “National Lampoon’s Vacation.”  The former, a pop favorite that reminds us that vacation fixes no amount of heartache and the latter warns that vacation with your family is actually not a vacation after all!  Makes one wonder what’s the point of taking a vacation if all it really amounts to is just a temporary distraction from real life (followed by loads and loads of laundry when you return home.)  Obviously, I’m not much fun on a vacation….

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had some wonderful trips.  I’ve been blessed enough to encounter beautiful and scenic places, cities that I’ve always wanted to see and explore, and I’ve visited several inspiring national treasures.  I can easily recall periods of true rest and relaxation, opportunities to unwind and forget, as well as experiencing times of remarkable awareness of God and His perfect peace.  This is my kind of vacation.  Succinct, easy to get to, moderate temperatures, quiet and BUG FREE!  Easy, right?  Not really.

Over the summer I came across a cute, little quiz in one of those popular ladies’ magazines that promises to decipher one’s vacation personality profile (in 10 questions or less!)  Turns out my ideal vacation experience would take place at a spa.  This is hilarious became I’m something of a germ-a-phobe which means the idea of being pampered in a public resort, having gloppy and potentially non-hypoallergenic creams applied to my skin by STRANGERS, provided by an industry that is not held to strict enough standards (in my opinion)…makes me extremely nervous.  Spa vacation is definitely a no-go.

vacation-definitionSimilarly, I didn’t think I qualified for the second vacation category the quiz outlined for me either:  action-adventure!  Those of you who know me understand that I’m a bit of a “mama hen” when it comes to risk taking…as in, I’m the girl who was ALWAYS the designated driver, I accompanied friends to the tattoo parlor in a feeble last-minute attempt to talk them out of getting inked up, and I always carry band aids and Neosporin 🙂  Risk taking like white water rafting and bungee jumping are out.  Just about the riskiest, action adventure type thing I’ve ever done was ride the Timber Wolf  roller coaster and shortly after I did that I heard on the news that…well, you can guess what happened.  Coasters are out.

So what’s a girl to do? The magazine’s vacation personality profile was a bust. As I scanned the other profiles–exotic locale, nature lover, and big city night life–I realized that my own personal vacation preference was a little off the beaten path.  I tend to gravitate toward non-touristy, quiet retreats with beautiful scenery and quick access to air conditioning/heat.  I want to stay up late, sleep in, read books and magazines and basically operate without an agenda.  It would be a bonus if I didn’t have to plan meals, get children up and moving and worry about insects, area crime statistics or crowded airports! It would appear that my (self-discovered) vacation personality profile boils down to one word–ALONE!

Cabin Vacation 2013 016What a marvelous piece of awareness!  All these years, after coordinating spring break getaways, extra long road trips, and family vacations I have finally discovered what I really want.  Too bad this new-found knowledge didn’t occur to me before we took this year’s summer vacation…

The drive was longer than I expected…lake traffic.  A lack of towns on this stretch of highway meant bathroom breaks were time sucks.  The weather was rainy and muggy.  I hate rain.  We had no idea what to do when we got there or where to go.  We kept running out of tick repellent.  I hate fishing.  I got drenched by lake water.  I hate lake water.  Preparing meals was a bigger chore than usual.  We traveled with our kids.  More rain.  Did I mention that I hate rain?

Those are the cold hard facts, people.  But isn’t it remarkable how our memories work.  I read an article once that used science to prove that the “good ol’ days” were really a coping mechanism that our brain uses as a survival tool.  You see we are hardwired to remember the good and sort of overlook the bad.  Think of women and childbirth.  You get the picture.  Nostalgia is funny like that.  So let me retell the story of our summer vacation the way I will always remember it…

We saw a part of the country we had never seen before.  We had the opportunity to share stories and sing and laugh on the drive.  We experienced nature first hand from the darling herd of deer on the side of the road to tiny rabbits and waterfowl all while staying at the sweetest little cabin.  We unplugged from the world and spent the evenings playing board games and cards.  Sean serenaded us with a marshmallow microphone and Casey befriended the worms we used as bait.  We met good and kindhearted people everywhere we went and ran into friends as well.  And although it rained and stormed, we were warm, safe and TOGETHER.  Plus, the van smelled like beef jerky the entire vacation 🙂

I think it’s fair to say that at this point in my life a spa vacation isn’t going to happen.  And as far as action-adventure, well… I think I would use that term to describe my regular everyday life.  I’ve experienced the career of my dreams, completed my educational goals, driven half the country by myself (once) and back again (with a 15 month old in tow), met and interviewed celebrities, survived Las Vegas, lived through scary health issues, had 13 different addresses (8 communities and 3 states) in the last 20 years, driven a carload of clowns through the streets of San Francisco, attended numerous concerts and sporting events, and presently stay busy raising my kids (if that isn’t “action-adventure” then I don’t know what is!)  A vacation alone, well that will just have to wait.

The dictionary defines vacation as a period of time devoted to pleasure, rest, or relaxation, especially one with pay granted to an employee.  A holiday.  I would love to know exactly who gets to go on these awesome getaways! Pleasure, rest, relaxation and PAY!  On the serious side, it makes me wonder if maybe a vacation is something more.  Perhaps, there’s another definition?  One that better fits my vacation personality profile?  I guess I would have to define vacation as anywhere my loved ones are, where we can draw closer to one another, and recharge our spiritual batteries.  I’m not sure where that ideal destination is, but I am positive it’s on a journey where there’s going to be plenty of beef jerky to smell up the van.  And ideally the whole thing would still have to occur in a place without bugs.

Laughter is an instant vacation.  Milton Berle