Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Battle Waged

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative

It is when I least expect it that the monster reaches out of the shadows to wrap his icy claws around my heart again. For more than 2 decades, I have run thinking I would outrun the specter. It was almost 2 decades before I knew what I was running from. Once I knew, I felt empowered and confident. The truth shall set you free, right? Ignorance is bliss, and sometimes it might be better to keep it that way.

The truth is: he is always lurking and always hungry for the next moment of weakness. I should have seen the attack brewing this time. I guess my eyes got too full of the future to keep looking back at the past trying to anticipate the next onslaught. I was minding my own business with a head full of plans and a heart full of hope. Truth be told, it was a huge relief to think of something more than looking over my shoulder wondering how to prepare for the next battle.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
My biggest problem was the sense that my blog series on parenting might have been too broad. I was wrestling with how to manage that dilemma while laying plans for 2 new writing ventures. It was a heady time for a fraidy cat like me. Just the kind of time I should have expected the past and present to collide with enough force to derail the future. Monsters don't give up easy.

Here's the thing about fraidy cats, we have a propensity for derailing. It may be, in fact, what we do best. Fear of (insert your fear here) makes it easy for us to shrink back and avoid moving toward the thing we want most in the world. Fear curls up around us like a warm fuzzy blanket on a frigid winter night. Fear becomes our comfort zone.

We become so comfortable that we don't realize the blanket has become a noose around our necks. We waken one day to find all hope has been strangled out of our lives as the blanket became an ever tighter noose. We forget when we forgot to breathe.

Fear sidled up beside me and whispered sweet nothings. “You are getting too big for your britches, Girl. Who do you think YOU are? Why mess up a good thing? Keep on doing what you are doing, but don't dare dream of anything more.”

I choked back the doubt and fear. I had trusted God last May when he had filled my heart with the plan for this blog. I would trust him again as he unfolded plans for these 2 new projects. I am so easily derailed. I am still so very, very fragile. I am easy pickings for monsters who never give up.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
When I ask why, my counselor says it is because I am of a sincere heart. The more sincere the heart, the more paralyzing the fear of failure and of rebuke. How well she knows me. Given the depth of my sincerity, any perceived word of caution, rebuke, or ridicule gives me more than pause. Even if the word of caution comes wrapped as a 'joke', my heart cries, “Oh, NO! Is it TRUE? Is that me?” The fear is so real that I might as well be teetering on the brink of a precipice ready to fall.

When it came, the stealthiness of the attack took my breath away. As the air in my lungs vaporized into nothingness, so did my words. One day became a week which became an eternity in my soul as I waited for the words to come again. Would I ever write again?

I would be lying if I told you words flow freely from my heart onto this keyboard tonight. Every word is agony. I am typing through sheer force of will. I am typing because I refuse to let the monster have one more day of my life. Of our lives.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
I am typing through the fear that questions my humility, my clarity of vision, my sensitivity to God's call, my ability to honor God with my efforts, and even my very way with words. I am typing because I refuse to let fear rule one more day of my life. Of our lives.

Monsters feed on the knowledge that fear controls us. Even if they manage us by proxy from the dark and distant past, fear is their weapon of choice because it works so well. Until it doesn't work anymore.

Courtesy B. Creasy

And so, tonight, I pick myself up and survey the damage. I count the cost of the battle we have waged to survive. I count the cost of the race required to stay one step ahead of the fears that threaten to defeat me. I have lived to fight another day. I have lived to write again.
Isaiah 40:29 (NIV)
He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. 

Psalm 29:11 (NIV)
The LORD gives strength to his people; the LORD blesses his people with peace. 


Thursday, February 2, 2012

A Pregnant Pause....

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
Four conspirators stumbled down the darkened pathway shushing one another when breathless snickers threatened to become hearty echoing peals of laughter. The late spring blush of new leaves and ferns provided some camouflage but not enough to muffle the commotion following them down the path from cabins to lake. The tree frog chorus was deafening cover. If not, the motley crew would surely have been discovered. They resembled excited puppies discovering freedom after being dumped from a basket to play.

Breaking out into the clearing, the group stared back up at the quiet cabins listening to make sure they had not wakened the sleeping campers. Nodding reassurance to one another, they moved over to the canoe and began to ease the aluminum hulk into the water. Nervous laughter again threatened to erupt like a fire alarm when the canoe began to rock and pitch. More shushing followed the sound of muffled laughter. So close and yet so far. Don't ruin it now.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
The dance of twinkling stars over the surface of the lake rivaled sugar plum fairies dancing across the stage of The Nutcracker ballet. She leaned over the side of the canoe to see her own face staring back from inky nothingness. A chill of delight crept up her spine as the canoe eased away from the shore. The moon had not yet risen. Anticipation mounted as they headed for the middle of the lake. All day they had waited for this moonrise. All year. Now it was here.

Even now, decades later, the memory is so crisp that she can feel the velvety softness of the lake air and hear the frogs sing. The frog chorus seemed to echo in four part harmony: “Fat ba-by, fat ba-by,” until her brain all but exploded from the racket.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
The 4 sat in easy, peaceful silence allowing the canoe to drift as it would. A lighter flared, and the smell of hot tobacco began to fill the air. An occasional, whispered sentence or 2 caused the other 3 to lean toward the speaker lest the symphony of the night drown out the words. 

Two moons lit the valley of darkness, the one in the sky and the reflected one in the lake, turning the night-black trees silver. One dipped a paddle in the water filling the water-moon with ripples. Its master in the sky rose higher and higher. The blinding splendor was almost more than hearts could stand. All too soon, the long awaited show was over, but the night was young.

Hey! Let's ease to the bank over there and see if we can find the monster making all that racket. That croaker must be 15 pounds or more.” The paddles cut the water without a sound – a necessity given the clandestine nature of their caper. The canoe carried the conspirators closer to the bank and up under the tree branches.

The smoker spoke again, “Darren, ease over a bit more. Sometimes, snakes fall out of the trees. Maybe one will land in her lap.” He doubles over in quiet laughter dropping his cigarette into the lake. At the sound of the word 'snake', Darren reacts as violently as the smoker thought she would react. In his haste to back-paddle away from the threat, he forgets the need for secrecy.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
The sharp retort of paddle and canoe echoed up and down and around the valley as if a thunderstorm had been building steam for all of a long, hot, dry summer. Time stood still. The night noises stopped so suddenly that it seemed the gang of 4 had gone deaf. No one dared breathe until the mountain chorus broke into night songs again. What of the campers? Did they sleep on?

Above the din, a screen door slammed. The men heaved to, and the canoe returned the way it had come, only faster. Duty called. Suspension of reality had been sweet, sweeter still knowing it would last but for a brief shining moment in time. The pregnant pause in time, when silence echoed over the valley, sealed the memory for all time.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
Minutes gave way to years. The memories dimmed. She had almost forgotten the night when time stood still. Funny how one thing makes you think of another. Excited conversation bubbled back and forth across the lunch-time table. Best laid plans were falling into place. Adrenaline was high. His words were as jarring as the sound of a paddle exploding against canoe.

Time stood still as life became momentarily surreal. It was as if the jarring had transported her back across time. She could see and feel and hear the caper on the lake but was trapped in the here and now. Wishing to be the carefree girl drifting on the lake while fairy tale stars danced just for her. Knowing this moment in time was pivotal and more than just another pregnant pause in life.
Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
Table chatter ceased. Deafening silence rang in her ears. She waited for conversation to flow again. This time, there were no sleeping campers nor the slam of screen doors. Only the stillness of time in her heart. She waited for her heart to beat again and for breath to fill her lungs. Her canoe was adrift in the inky blackness of life. But, where to go from here?


Psalm 121:2
Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative

My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. 

Copyright 2012 Carol Anne Wright Swett