When Fear Wipes You Out.

 

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Gearing up!

 

On top of the Montana mountain attired in a heavy BMX helmet and pads, I found clarity on why the rental bike clerk responded with an “Ohhh…” When I told him we didn’t have any mountain biking experience. An awkward silence ensued, so I felt the need to elaborate, “We’re from Orlando Florida. The land’s flat there.”

            “Well, in that case I think I should warn you we don’t have any beginner trails. At the top of the mountain there’s only intermediate and expert trails, I’d recommend starting with the intermediate. There’s a good chance you’ll wipe out at least once… probably more. The trails only a foot wide and you’ll feel pretty vulnerable biking on a cliff. The rocks will wiggle your tires a bit. You have to trust your bike to follow through, don’t fight it. But if you don’t like the first mile, bike back up because it’ll be that way for over seven more.”

            At the peak, my boys took off without looking back (it’s a male pride thing) and Peyton rode off after them, but I’m at an age where I no longer think of myself as invisible like I did throughout my twenties. I took a steadying breath and prayed God would not let us fall off the edge before pushing off. Right away there was a ramp and a curve on a cliff that made my stomach flip-flop.  “Are they crazy? This can’t be the intermediate trail!” I screamed. Once the trail leveled a bit, I saw the kids ahead waiting for me.

            Peyton, my niece glanced back. “I already fell!” She said. She seemed a bit shaken.

            We all rode together, at the next curb Peyton wiped out again and rolled a bit off the edge. I jumped off my bike. “Peyton!” I screamed. “That’s it, we are going back. It’s not worth it.”

            “I can’t do it!” she said, rubbing her scraped up arm. I recognized the look of exasperation that crossed her face. It was the look of hopeless defeat. I remembered her Momma giving me that look when she was scared to climb the tree I’d been climbing for a while. Being only seventeen months younger, she was no longer content to stand at the bottom and watch. Tricia wanted to know what it felt like to wrap her arms and legs around the pinnacle and ride in the wind.

            “One limb at a time Tricia, I’ll go with you.” Limb by limb we climbed together until we reached the weakest branches at the top and held on tight. Tricia smiled until she looked down.  “Don’t look down,” I said. “Always, keep your eyes straight out.”

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            Peyton is so much like her Momma and I. We’re all rooted in the southern soil of determination.

            “Boys, go. Leave us.”

            “Are you sure Mom?” Nick said. What if you get hurt?”

            “She’s going to get hurt if you stay. Ride ahead, we’ll be fine.”

            They got on their bikes and rode off.

            I turned to Peyton, “Do you want to do this?”
“Yes, but I can’t.” Her arms shook.

            “Look, the way I see it, is this, you were trying to keep up and that’s why you are falling on the curbs. Walk the curbs until you get used to them. And we’re not competing here. Take it slow and steady and enjoy the ride. This is not a race. We are challenging ourselves to finish something that is ridiculously scary, so we can say we did. Okay? We got this!”

 

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Peyton rooted in Southern determination.

 

            She nodded, climbed on her bike and rode. At the next curb, she climbed off her bike as did I, and we walked our bikes around the edge of the cliff. A few miles down, she gained the courage to bike the remaining curbs, and I biked them too. One curb at a time.

            We completed the eight plus miles downhill, and met the boys at the bottom, standing with my daughter Bella and my husband, Jay. Over lunch, my son Christian bragged about how fast he was going and how he had to wait thirty minutes for Mom to arrive.

            I leaned across the table, snatching one of his fries. “Pretty sad you need to compete with a mother of four who’s nearing 50. Just saying.” I popped the fry in my mouth, shutting his up.

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After the ride, Christian already giving Momma a hard time.

 

            The times I’ve compared myself to others or tried to keep up, I’ve always wiped out defeated. I’ve always lost hope. After Jay and I married, one of our close friends had the perfect home. She enjoyed cleaning and she was a great cook too. Her home was spotless every day, I tried to keep up and soon found I did nothing but keep a clean house. I didn’t play with my children, I didn’t see girlfriends, I didn’t write, I didn’t paint. I neglected to use the talents God gave me that bring me joy and Him glory. My life felt flat all because I thought that was what a stay-at- home Mom was supposed to be. It didn’t take long to realize Jay preferred a happy, well-rounded wife to a housekeeper.

             Recently, I’ve seen friends become published authors, I’m thrilled for them, but cannot help but fill that angst that I’ll never finish my book. Just like Peyton trying to keep up with her cousins, my book will wipe out if I write slop in haste.

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Easier part of the trail.

 

            I admit I’m pretty proud of myself for conquering that Rocky mountain, I know Jay’s tired of hearing about it, but that mountain taught me a valuable lesson. We all have our own trail our own race to complete in this life. A narrow trail God’s already cleared for us alone. It will be filled with hills, cliffs, curbs, and rocks that shake you to the core. I can guarantee you will have the occasional falls and  it will seem to fly by; but if our focus is on  the ones we perceive are doing it better, we will fall off our own trail and miss the blessings and opportunities surrounding us. Think about that the next time you compare yourself to someone else. Til next time take it slow and steady and above all enjoy the ride!

I’m Full of Bull!

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At the farm, there’s a gentle bull in the pasture behind our house. Some mornings he’s standing there by the fence looking through the french doors at me. I step out onto the porch and sweet talk him. If we’re by the fence, he’ll trot over and without warning give you a lick across the face and neck with his enormous tongue.  It’s gross, but you can’t help but walk away feeling loved and a bit sticky. He’s a new Brahman bull the farm has acquired from a ranch in Texas.

While the other bulls buck each other over territory and food, he meanders away, not wanting to participate in the conflict. He not only stands out from the herd in behavior but in his appearance as well. He is pale in color and has an enormous hump on his back that looks burdensome and painful to carry.

            I’ve nicknamed him Ferdinand after the once controversial classic children’s story, The Story of Ferdinand the Bull, by Munro Leaf.  Ferdinand is a bull who’d rather smell flowers in the paddock than fight with the others. It’s a Bella fav.

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I find it intriguing how much we can learn from a bull. His breed is named after the Brahmins who were Hindu priests. It’s ironic considering the Brahman is looked upon as sacred in India, the Brahman breed is the largest source of meat for carnivores today. Due to their thick skin, they are resistant to extreme heat and pestilence. They also do well in extremely cold temperatures.

Traditionally, the Brahman bull is used in a sport called Bull-butting. It is a ferocious game between two bulls until one falls to the ground disabled or gives up and retreats. To prepare for their sport, their bodies are strengthened on a diet of milk and honey. It is beyond my comprehension how so many people enjoy watching sports involving hurting animals. If there’s one thing I would change about this world, it is purposely hurting the defenseless for pleasure, power, or convenience.

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Yet, we have become a world of bullies haven’t we? One can scroll through Facebook and find political rantings written in a way that shames those who have a different viewpoint on the matter.  It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything political or responded to anyone’s comments. God impressed upon me it’s not my place, for I’m His. He doesn’t want me to lose my clout by being a lout (sort of speak. I tried here.)  I’ve been obedient, but I admit, some days it’s not easy. I pursued a Political Science degree in college, and I was raised in a very political family that loves a good debate, but then there’s Jesus. He didn’t waste breath or influence on politics. Although He had the power to overthrow the Roman government, He used his energy and His influence on Kingdom work alone. I love that about Him!

 

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There is also body-shaming going on throughout social media. It’s another kind of bullying it’s just hidden under self-promotion. I was blessed to see what that does to a woman whose breast was chopped off, whose hair and eyelashes had fallen out, and who felt she lost everything that made her a woman. My sister Tricia died of breast cancer in 2014. One night, I found her sitting on the bed staring at a friend’s sexy pictures with tears in her eyes.

“She’s supposed to be a Christian,” she said. “Does she even know how this feels to someone like me?”

I snatched her phone away. “That’s it!” I said. “We’re having a friend deleting party!” I deleted all the women from her friend file who made her feel inadequate. You see, the enemy tried to use those pictures to steal her light, but he didn’t win.

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I say I am blessed to have witnessed this because it gave me a love for women and their struggles. I know the women who reveal their bikini-ready bodies, are not thinking about how this affects women who are hurting, women who can’t lose weight, women who are sick, women whose husbands find them unattractive, but I plead on their behalf that you remember to love them by considering their feelings. We need to be more outward- focused in a world focused inward.

On the flip side, we Christians have to stop being so easily offended. We tend to live with our hearts outside our chest, which causes them to get bruised and banged up. In defense, we want to stand up for ourselves or our Lord, while God is saying “it’d be better for you to get out of My way.” There have been times I’ve wanted to stand up for myself because I felt attacked or accused unfairly, but you know what? God’s got my back.

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We as Christians should carry our cross of self-denial like Ferdinand carries that large hump on his back. We should learn from a gentle bull not to bothered by the heat of politics or the pestilence of a self-obsessed culture. Just as he gives kisses to a carnivore like me, we should be willing to love those undeserving as well. When we see some bucking going on, it’s best to get out of the way and mind your own Kingdom-building business. The cold don’t bother Ferdinand, so don’t let the times people are cold bother you. Allow God to thicken up your skin and see yourself through His eyes.

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Momma often rolled her eyes and said “Bull!” when she felt we fed her a tall tale, or she used the cliche’ “He’s full of bull,” meaning he’s full of you know what (wink). I no longer subscribe to those cliches. Don’t go offending my bull now, Momma! In the case of Ferdinand, I hope someone thinks I’m full of bull, for he’s a bull with a lot of heart. See you soon Ferdinand.

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