I said good-bye at the door of my daughter's kindergarten classroom and headed for the parking lot; but when I looked back, my daughter came running after me, shrieking down the hallway. Her dad and I had just divorced, and my daughter and I were both going through a period of separation anxiety.
The school counselor suggested I allow my daughter to bring something from home, something small and unobtrusive she could wear or keep in a pocket, something to remind her of the loving adults who would still be there for her at the end of the day.
In my dresser drawer, I found an old, gold-tone locket necklace, and I put tiny pictures of her dad and me inside. My daughter wore that locket every day of kindergarten, and she stopped chasing me, crying, through the hallways when I dropped her off at school.
Some kids carry teddy bears or old blankets to remind them of home and help them feel secure. Most kids outgrow carrying their security objects around all day.
But many adults still have security objects that we keep near to see and touch. Sometimes we all need a physical connection to our invisible sources of strength and love.
When I was feeling particularly anxious and insecure, I found my old Cowardly Lion doll and stood him on my dresser to remind me to have courage and keep moving. I hoard quilts that hold memories of special people. I will never part with the Taz doll my husband won for me at the amusement park game stall. And lately, I've started carrying this smooth river stone to remind me of the strength and solidity of God's presence.
I know all these lockets, dolls, and stones don't hold any special powers. They are not lucky charms, and they possess no magic spells. Our touchstones are merely tangible reminders of the love and safety available to us and the special people who give us comfort and peace.
On first grade picture day, I pulled from the dresser drawer that old, golden locket, now tarnished and tangled. I asked, "Do you want to wear this today?"
My daughter shrugged.
Lockets and stones can never take the place of the love they represent, and once we become secure in that love, the reminders become merely reminders again.
My daughter moved on to wearing necklaces she and her friends made out of safety pins. But I still have that Cowardly Lion doll.
What security objects do your children treasure? What are your own tangible reminders of love?
"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?
Towering above Hannibal, Missouri, 244 concrete stairs lead up the hillside to the Mark Twain Memorial Lighthouse.
We ground through the laborious climb, one tortuous step at a time, gripping the metal handrail and gasping in the humid air, until we finally stood, swaying, on the topmost step.
We journeyed for the view from the top. Through a break in the trees we watched the Mississippi River flowing peacefully far below.
We barely had time to catch our breath before starting back down the 244 steps to the street and the car, but we managed to find a few insights along the way.
We built courage.
A fall on the sharp, stone steps could have been back-breaking. To complete the climb we had to keep looking forward, stay focused on the beacon at the top, and patiently plod toward our goal. We confront our fear of falling when we look past the cracked and crooked steps and just keep climbing.
We helped our companions.
The walk is too long to tackle alone. To make it all the way we need a hand to hold onto, someone to pull us onward when we grow tired, a friend to encourage us when we feel like giving up. Friends propel us forward when our goal seems distant and difficult.
We gained perspective.
When we look down from above, the world seems still and silent. The sky is cool and clear, the wind blows the trees, and the river's dark currents flow without our consent or command. We realize that our power is very small, the world is bigger than we imagine, and only God gives us the strength to put one foot in front of the other.
We will always have new mountainsides to conquer and steeper steps to climb. The only way to appreciate the view is to muster our courage and make the grueling trek to the top. We can never guess what we will discover when we get there.
Where is your climb taking you today? Who are your companions on your way up?
The Lion thought he was a coward. He was frightened by spooks, winged monkeys, and the Wizard. But when called to complete a dangerous mission, the Lion found the strength to pull his friends up the mountainside, invade the castle, and rescue Dorothy.
I thought I would never finish college. I was afraid of completing financial aid paperwork, facing grade reports, and talking to other students. But I managed to pass one class, and then another, until five years later I finally finished my Bachelor's degree.
When I felt most insecure, I found my old Cowardly Lion doll and stood him on my dresser. Every time I saw him I was reminded to continue acting courageously, although I often felt fearful.
"True courage is facing danger when you are afraid." L. Frank Baum
Take One Step
The Lion traveled a yellow brick road lined with talking trees and poisonous poppies, but he kept moving forward. Continue putting one foot in front of the other despite your uncertainty, and you will be rewarded at the end of your journey.
Associate With Courageous People
The Lion had Dorothy, the Scarecrow and the Tin Man to keep propelling him forward. Surround yourself with faithful friends who support and encourage you, and offer to give your help to others who need your encouragement.
Trust the Source of Your Strength
The Lion had the Wizard to award him the medal for bravery. Believe you have access to a source of power greater than yourself, and he is able to give you exceedingly, abundantly more than you ask or imagine.
Everyone can realize miraculous reserves of confidence and purpose. It takes answering the call and stepping forward in faith to truly discover how courageous we can be.
How do you find courage? Remember to comment and share your thoughts and ideas with others. You are always welcome here, and you are never alone.