Take the first step in faith. You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
While I'm enjoying a week of reconnecting with friends and family, please enjoy this repost from my previous blog lizology101.
As a young mom I lived in a small town where my job choices were limited. I had no degree, was afraid to work on the factory line, and desperately needed health insurance for my one-year-old.
I applied three times at a bank for three different positions. I made numerous phone calls, endured repeated interviews, and bombed the first two typing tests. When she finally offered me a job at the bank, the HR manager said, "I'm only hiring you because you were so persistent, I knew you really wanted it."
"[People] always ought to pray and not lose heart . . . Shall not God avenge his own elect who cry out day and night to him?" (Luke 18:1, 7).
I believe God sometimes delays his answer to our prayers to test how much we really want our request to be fulfilled. When we keep returning, keep calling, keep trying; God sees we are committed to our purpose. When we persist in bringing our prayers to God, he knows we are relying on him to give us what we need.
What are you praying for today? How have you been persistent in asking for what you need?
"I can't do it!"
I scrambled onto the platform and wrapped a tight bear hug around the nearest upright post.
"I want to get down now!"
But behind me two women in harnesses and helmets were already clipped into the safety lines and moving my direction.
"There is nowhere to go but forward," the kid on the platform told me, and I knew he was right. Looking around, I could see no secret stairway to the bottom, no easy elevator ride to the wood chips below.
There is nowhere to go but forward.
I slowly put my left foot onto the tightrope. My left knee wobbled while I lowered my right foot to the wire. I felt that at any second both knees would buckle and send me pitching off the line to dangle helpless and unconscious from my harness.
My friends called to me from the ground far below, "You can do it! Just keep moving!"
I couldn't look down. I kept my eyes up and focused on where I needed to plant the next handhold. I proceeded slowly, and eventually established a certain, shuffling rhythm of placing my hands and moving my feet.
Grip left hand. Grip right hand. Slide left foot. Slide right foot.
Inch by inch I worked my way across the wire to the next platform. I still had three more platforms to go, then the big step and sheer drop toward the crowd of cheering bystanders below.
Inch by sickening inch, I crossed that ropes course.
I often feel I shuffle through life the same way. Trembling and uncertain, fearful that any misstep will cause my complete collapse and tumble into helplessness. But I keep moving forward because backward is never an option.
There is nowhere to go but forward.
The rhythm that worked to get me across the ropes course helps me move through life also.
Keep looking ahead. Looking down or backwards only causes overwhelming vertigo. Keep your eyes focused on where your next move needs to be.
Take small steps. Multiple small steps combine to cover great distances. Keep moving, even inches at a time, and eventually you will get where you need to go.
Cheer someone else. Everyone needs to hear that our friends want us to succeed. Encourage others and let them know you believe in their abilities.
At the final platform, I was clipped onto a belay line and told to jump -- just jump -- and trust the rope to lower me safely to the ground. In the end, we're all told to step -- just step -- and trust that God will deliver us to where we feel safe again.
That final leap was a jarring lurch forward and then a jolting, clumsy free-fall toward the ground. The harness left bruises, but I arrived safely and joined the cheerleaders applauding the next woman in line to jump.
What obstacle course are you inching through today? How are you staying focused while you slide your feet along the wire?
While I'm enjoying a week away with other YoungLives campers, enjoy this repost from my previous blog lizology101.
We waited for an hour, standing barefoot on hot sand, sunscreened against the July glare. When our turn finally came, we stepped into heavy wet harnesses, tightened the waist straps, loosened the thighs.
Then we walked to the other side of the lake, barefoot over grass and gravel, carrying the double-webbed straps with heavy cable clips slung over our shoulders. When we reached the zipline tower, we climbed uncountable steps, up and up and up -- to the top, where we were greeted by a teenaged kid wearing a harness clipped into a spider web of safety lines.
He clipped our harnesses into the web, and again we waited, eye-level with the tree tops. The tower swayed gently in the breeze, just enough to be slightly nauseating. Then came the awareness that we really planned to jump off from here.
"Stand on the box," the kid told us.
We stepped to the edge of the wooden platform, toes hanging off into air. The kid attached our clips to the zipline. He unhooked our safety straps from the web. We stood unsteadily on the edge.
"I can't do it!" my companion called.
"There's nowhere to go but down!" I answered.
I counted, "One, two, three, jump!" but neither of us moved.
I leaned back against the line to put tension in the harness, counted to three again, and lifted my feet.
"Where can I go from your Spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? . . . If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, Even there your hand shall lead me, And your right hand shall hold me" (Psalm 139:7,9-10).
God always knows where we are, and he is always with us. Nowhere we go can escape the reach of his protection and love.
Sometimes we wait, wondering, for days or months or years for God's call to jump. Sometimes the call comes as a gentle nudge, sometimes a hard shove. At some time God calls each of us to take a big step. Then we have to trust in him and ride the line wherever it goes.
The zipline was a few screaming seconds before splashdown in the cold lake. Kicking, splashing, spitting water, I looked around for my companion.
I heard her beside me laughing, "Let's do it again!"
I pray you have faith to jump eagerly and often. What step is God calling you to take today?
"Look! See Mommy way up there?" I lifted the baby higher and swung his chubby arm in a clumsy wave. I don't know if his mother saw us from her perch high above our heads. She was focused on tiptoeing across a tightrope toward the platform 30 feet in the air.
Every summer YoungLives moms bring their children to Timberwolf Lake for a week of camp. Learning to navigate the high ropes obstacle course is one of the group activities the teen moms can tackle. Last year I stayed planted firmly on the ground and held a baby while his mother balanced precariously over our heads.
The ropes creaked and the trees rustled in the slight breeze. The metal hooks of the harnesses clinked as the women moved slowly through the course.
Some ladies clung to the upright supports and cried, but the mom I watched made the journey look easy. She practically danced across the swinging rope bridge and the single rope trail. At the end she faced a sheer drop to the ground. She gave one hysterical shriek as she slipped off the platform and rode the ropes gently back to earth.
Though I watched last year from the relative safety of the forest floor, I recognize we all perform a similar balancing act of grace and endurance. Whether we hold back and cry, or leap forward with joy, all our lives are a high ropes course of stamina and strength.
We walk a narrow, wobbly way of instability and uncertainty. The ground beneath our feet seems constantly shifting. Circumstances change. Dreams sometimes disappoint. Expectations can explode. We have only two choices: freeze in place and hold on tight, or keep moving slowly forward.
We have to trust we are clipped in correctly. No harness or helmet will protect us from the pains of daily life. No safety net will catch us if we fall. Money, resources, and relationships are never guaranteed. God is our only security. His Spirit holds us close, and his support system of guidelines leads us safely to the end of our adventure.
We have to keep trying. We have to take one tentative step, then another, then a few more.
"You must do the thing which you think you cannot do."
When we face our fears, we build courage. When we accept new challenges, we learn new skills. As we realize each success, we grow in confidence and discover the depths of our abilities.
We all face the final leap of faith. We have no choice but to let go, plunge forward, and believe that God will catch us in the end.
Last year I stayed on the ground with the babies. This summer I plan to walk the ropes and learn what is waiting for me beyond the final drop. The best part of freefall is the freedom.
What ropes are you walking today? Who is holding you as you make your way?
Long ago a lonely girl lived with her father in a lighthouse. On a scrap of paper the girl wrote, "My name is Esmerelda. I live in the lighthouse on Petri Island. Write to me." She put the paper in a bottle, sealed it with cork and wax, and threw the bottle into the ocean waves. Months later the mail boat brought Esmerelda a letter from the boy who had found her bottle on his beach. Esmerelda and the boy wrote letters for many years. One day the boy arrived in a rowboat and took Esmerelda away to be his wife. They lived happily ever after.
I don't remember when I read that story, but at ten years old, I went with my family on a summer trip to St. Louis. I took along my school picture with my name and address written on the back, put the picture inside an empty cough medicine bottle, and flung the bottle into the Mississippi River.
I remember the gray water slurping at the black mud on the shore and the gray sky stretching above it. The bottle bobbed downstream. I went home and eagerly awaited a letter from my new friend.
I'm still waiting.
I often feel I'm pitching my prayers out to sea and watching them drift away, only to wait and wonder when my rescue will arrive. But I'm developing a few strategies to help me be patient while I anticipate my answer.
Enjoy the view from the beach.
The sun rises over the water each morning. Warm breezes blow. Birds call, circling overhead. The world is bright and beautiful. I rest and appreciate the calm of peaceful skies and the rhythm of turning tides.
Use whatever washes ashore.
Driftwood endures the turbulent waves, abrasive sand, and battering rocks to emerge polished, smooth, and shining. I am grateful and collect all I receive to build shelter from the rains. I have more than enough for fires to warm the dark night.
Answer another's S.O.S.
Sometimes a message from another castaway floats into my harbor and lands at my feet. Then I paddle my little raft through the choppy seas and carry my companion to a new, more comfortable, and safer shore.
I have made many friends since that summer on the Mississippi River bank. We are no longer alone, but huddled together, calling for the Captain who commands the wind and waves, and scanning the distance for signs of his arrival.
I think I see a ship on the horizon.
What are you waiting for today? How can you answer another's call while you are waiting?
"You just loosen this bolt and take off the cover. See how dirty the air filter is?" Greg held the dusty filter up toward the light. He dropped a clean air filter into the tray, replaced the lid, tightened the bolt.
My classmates leaned forward to watch Greg's callused hands work quickly under the car's open hood.
When I got my first car, I learned how to fill a gas tank and turn a key. No one told me to check the oil, the coolant fluid, the brake pads. For too many years I bought old, cheap cars and drove them until they croaked. Too many times I had been stranded outside the laundromat or the grocery store. My small hometown did not have a bus system. I needed a running car to get me to work and school.
I enrolled in Greg's "Do-it-yourself Car Maintenance" class. Greg showed his students how to check oil levels, change the oil and filter, gap spark plugs, change tires, and replace a battery. He lectured us about the importance of brake fluid, antifreeze, and new wiper blades.
I learned something significant from the guy with the callused hands and greasy shirt.
We have to work to take care of what is important to us.
When I take care of my car, it lasts longer and gets me where I need to go. When I nurture my friendships, I build strong relationships with people who support and encourage me. When I honor my goals and priorities, I grow and move forward toward my destination.
With regular maintenance our lives move more smoothly. Cars run better. Relationships flourish. Goals become reachable.
Neglect only leads to more problems. Cars break down. Relationships crumble. Progress stalls. When we neglect to maintain the important things long enough, we get stuck and abandoned on the side of the road.
God never leaves us alone on the roadside. When we work to maintain our faith in him, he will pick us up and drive us wherever we need to be.
What is important to you today? How do you maintain it to keep it running well?