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Posts Tagged ‘facing challenges’

Imagine what life would be like without worry.   I remember that heady freedom I felt as a child  riding in the car with the windows down, long before child restraints became mandatory, my nose stuck out the window smelling the freshly cut grass, the wind rushing through my hair and a big smile on my face, ready for anything.

I thought that by this stage in life I would have worry all figured out.  I recall jumping onto a plane as a young woman full of nothing but excitement, anticipation and wondering whether I’d order a red or white wine once we took off.  I loved listening to Midnight Oil and Angels songs throbbing on my big old Walkman as the plane soured into the air. Taking off was my favourite part of the trip – so thrilling to feel the plane’s  power, energy and oomph as we climbed into the big blue sky.

These days flying is a very different matter.  The loud rock songs and delicious beverage decisions have vanished from my mind, and in their place are whispers of:  that guy in front of us looks a bit shifty – he could be a terrorist;  what was that grinding noise in the plane’s engine;  what if my son vomits all over the smart-looking woman next to him; my ankles are feeling puffy – I hope it’s not deep vein thrombosis;  did I switch off the iron before leaving the house?  And on and on it goes, relentless and immobilising.  Tapping my toes to Peter and Doc has become an exquisite and bittersweet memory.

Worry can act as a giant eraser, rubbing all the colour and beauty out of life.  I noticed this at the end of the school holidays when I visited a local café with my sons for breakfast.  After a long summer holiday I was feeling unusually relaxed and virtually worry-free.   We sat at the same table as last time – the very first day of the holidays – and I was amazed at the striking coloured graffiti on the wall in front of me.  I commented to my sons and one responded with: “It’s been there all along Mum”.  I disagreed as I’d never seen it before…  So when the waitress came along laden with cappuccino and milkshakes I told her how much I loved the new artwork.  “Oh, that was done before we opened the Café, it’s been there for quite a  while…”  Last time I was in the café I was so tired, stressed and full of anxiety that I didn’t even see all of this colour, movement and artistic expression, right in front of me!  It was an eerie moment of self awareness.  My worry was robbing me of all the best bits in life – the beautiful, special and the meaningful bits.

Yet when I reflect on the times I’ve had to face something really challenging, such as a medical diagnosis that could be fatal, I realise that hiding beneath the heavy layers of shock and despair was a tiny glimmer of hope.  Whether it was a line in a song on the radio,  a conversation overheard in the hospital lift, or simply the uplifting presence of a friend by my side – I caught a little glimpse of light that ignited something in my spirit. I knew I would get through this dark valley – there was a way through and a wellspring to sustain me.  Surely, this little glimmer can be ignited now too, when worry springs up uninvited like a weed threatening to strangle all the joy and colour out of life.

Big problems aren’t always solved with big solutions.  Do you know that a mustard seed is only 1-2 mm in diameter?  A wise man once said if we have faith the size of a mustard seed we can move a mountain. It sounds like a crazy concept, I know, but there’s something in it.

So when those worrying whispers start up in my mind I look for the mustard seed of faith, wrapped in whispers of:   all will be well, you will get through this, things will get better – nothing stays the same, God loves you and nothing can separate you from his love, nothing is impossible, you have a purpose, don’t give up, never give up, just put one foot in front of the other and keep on going…

Seeds have an uncanny knack of taking root and growing.  If you dare to have that first little bit of faith and take a look a few years later, you realise that the seed has taken root and it’s growing taller, green shoots becoming stems and branches.  I’ve heard that in ideal conditions a mustard tree can grow to 3-5 metres tall.  Pretty impressive for a 1-2 mm seed.

So never underestimate small beginnings.  The wise man who told this story knew exactly what he was talking about.  He faced insurmountable challenges of his own with remarkable courage and grace.  Moving mountains seems easy compared with what this wise man actually did.  He transformed sickness into health, despair into hope, pain into comfort, oppression into freedom, prejudice and hate into compassion and love, and ultimately, life victorious over death.

I’m hopeful that one day I’ll be truly carefree again – window down and the wind in my face – strands of hair getting stuck in my teeth.  Maybe I’ll even take to the skies with the Oils or the Angels throbbing in my ears – wondering whether to order the white or the red – worry gone at last and freedom firmly in its place.

 

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On my bedroom wall as a teenager I had a poster of a baby chicken with broken shell scattered around his feet, his confused beady eyes gazing at the camera and the words: ‘Now What Do I Do?’ emblazoned underneath.  It captured the uncertainty of youth perfectly and I smiled knowingly whenever I looked at it.  

Long after the poster became torn around the edges and tossed in the bin, I remember it fondly.  There have been many times in my life where I’ve felt just like that chicken, bewildered and wondering: ‘Now What Do I Do?’

One day in particular stands out in my memory.  I lay under a scratchy hospital blanket staring with unblinking eyes at the newborn baby in the crib beside me.   My beautiful baby boy.  My emotions swung between passionate protective love and panicky terror.   I was terrified he would cry and I would need to take action.  But what type of action was needed?   I couldn’t work out which type of cry meant hungry, which meant tired, which meant too hot/cold and which meant he needed a nappy change.  The nurses seemed to know straight away, and they immediately flew into action in their firm and assertive way.   They knew my baby better than I did.   He was glorious but I felt so ill-equipped as a Mum.     I stared at him wide-eyed asking myself silently:    ‘Now What Do I Do?’

Landing in Hong Kong on my first solo overseas trip many years ago, I felt a mixture of elation and fear.  Scanning the crowded airport lobby I felt I had landed on another planet, rather than another country.  How would I tell the taxi driver where my hotel was?  Where did I have to go to find a taxi?  Should I just take the first flight back to Sydney?  ‘Now What Do I Do?’

Another ‘chicken moment’ happened on the leafy balcony of my first home unit.   I had collected the keys from the real estate agent and shared a bottle of champagne with a few friends, but now they had left and I was finally alone in my new little home.   The unit was empty except for my second-hand bed, and I had nowhere to sit except on the floor.    I gazed into the night sky and asked breathlessly: ‘Now What Do I Do?’

There have also been darker times.   One of the worst was the evening the doctor called to say I had cancer.   With trembling legs and a frozen heart, I gazed at my two little boys playing on the floor beside me.  The only coherent words that came to me that evening were: ‘Now What Do I Do?’

I also recall lying on a cold trolley bed outside the operating theatre before my first hip replacement, staring at my toes poking out from the hospital blanket.  Somebody had ‘helpfully’ told me that the surgery involved the surgeon basically cutting off your leg and putting it back on again.   I imagined my toes being disconnected from my body.  Would my leg ever work again?  What would major surgery be like?  Was it too late to escape?  ‘Now What Do I Do?’

Most recently, I’ve started a new job in a school after many years working in a legal firm.   Each day I face new challenges, meet new people and learn so much.  My pulse races and my head spins and I hope one day soon all the ‘newness’ will feel comfortable.   I constantly ask myself:  ‘Now What Do I Do?’

It seems to me that change is inevitable.  Life is a process of perpetual motion.  Travelling through life takes us through deep valleys of pain and breezy hilltops of joy.   When we keep moving, we keep growing and we stay fully alive.   Challenges keep us young in heart and mind.   Perhaps it is only when we refuse to keep moving that we finally grow old.  Change isn’t comfortable, and at times I hate it, but it is necessary.

When I reflect on the times I’ve asked: ‘Now What do I Do?’ I realise I have eventually figured it out.   Each time I’ve despaired over the injustice of my situation, or worried about my inadequacies to face the challenge,  I’ve gone on to learn another valuable lesson.

Through the difficult times, when cancer visited and major surgery loomed, I’ve had to dig deeper.   ‘Now What Do I Do?’ has been a cry to God who, true to his word, has always given me the comfort and strength to carry on.  My favourite verse from the Bible, which I discovered around the same time as I had the chicken poster on my wall, is:   “I will never leave you or forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5), and it has always been the perfect antidote for those frightened ‘chicken’ moments.

I doubt that most of us escape the moments of self-doubt and confusion which change invariably brings.   So if you find yourself feeling like the chicken, asking ‘Now What Do I Do?’ remember that change is good for you, give it time and you will figure out what to do.    If you’re facing something really difficult, God will be there to comfort you too.  Just ask him ‘Now What Do I Do?’.

Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of fear”   Mark Twain

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