A Jump in My Waltz

My instructors failed to tell me how quickly I had advanced before I signed up for this last round of figure skating lessons, so I signed up for a class that is below my skill level. My classmates consist of four middle-aged women who are only just learning to navigate the ice. Naturally they are impressed by my simplest of spins.

“It must be easier when you’re young,” the oldest of my classmates observed. “You’re probably not afraid of falling.”

If I were not afraid of falling, I would be jumping by now.

I didn’t say the words aloud. I’m not even sure I could have forced them from my dumbstruck mind if I had tried. Because as I sat there with the words tucked safely within my thoughts, I wondered if they were true. Is my fear of falling the only thing keeping my blades on the ice? Could it be as simple and yet as complicated as a mind game?

My instructors seem to believe so. I hear their voices filtering through my thoughts.

Elaine: “You’re holding back.”

Austin: “You’re overthinking it.”

Gary: “It’s all in your head.”

It is not “all in my head,” there’s quite a bit in my uncoordinated feet, too.

(For whatever reason, Gary has always been the easiest to argue with.)

But the truth remains that I am afraid of falling. I don’t like sprawling across the ice. I am not fond of limping through Walmart after a particularly grueling lesson. And while purple is one of my favorite colors, I’d rather not see it blooming in bruises across my knee.

As far as I’ve come since I first walked into the Chiller and strapped my mom’s old skates to my feet, I have definitely not arrived. I still don’t fully trust my skates, or my feet, or my balance.

So I hold back. I overthink it. I go through all the motions, but I still won’t put a jump in my waltz. Because I’m afraid the landing might be painful. What is meant to be a three-step routine—waltz, waltz, jump—turns into an endless cycle of waltzing in circles thinking this time I might risk it.

But I never do.

And it’s not only on ice that I feel this way. I let fear cripple me in just about every aspect of life.

My heart says to take the risk, make the leap.

My mind asks, “But what if I fall?”

I think too far ahead. I analyze every possible movement. I worry over the ending before I’ve even begun.

I waltz and waltz and waltz in continuous circles never finding the courage to jump.

When it comes to making the great leaps in life, we could all use a change of perspective.

You could fall. You really could. You could collect a few more bruises, leaving you to limp through life another day more.

Or you could stick the landing. You really could. And just think of how glorious that will be.

Some questions will never be answered until we take that leap.

“But what if I fall?”

Oh, but darling, what if you don’t?

What if you land this? What if you check right into that perfect glide?

Let us all be brave enough to put a little jump in our waltz.

Dance to the Beat of Your Fears

I used to harbor a deep fear that the Indians were going to scalp me.

That probably sounds ridiculous to anyone who didn’t grow up across the valley from Zane Caverns where war drums can be heard at various times of the year. Maybe it sounds ridiculous even if you did grow up within earshot of the caverns because maybe you didn’t have an older brother who was dead set on convincing you that the natives were coming for your scalp. (Brothers can be pretty doggone convincing.)

Even when I wised up and grew skeptical, arguing that if the Indians were coming they would take his scalp too, he responded with a statement so logical I lost the willpower to doubt him: “They won’t want my scalp because my hair is black like theirs. Yours is long and brown and beautiful. The Indians are going to want it.”

I take that as a compliment now, but at the time it served its intended purpose.

From that moment on, whenever the drums would start to pound in the distance, I would stick close to the house lest some Magua-lookalike would appear in my woods and come for me with bloody, outstretched hands. (This is why you don’t let small children watch The Last of the Mohicans. Cough, cough, Dad.)

And I remained confined by the boundaries of irrational fears.

Funny Fact about Fear: so much of it is, without question, irrational.

Our minds conjure up multiple scenarios and we fret and we worry and we dread all these things that never come to pass.

But they might, we think. They could.

And we confine ourselves to the same kind of boundaries I set for myself as a child.

Don’t leave the house. Stay away from the woods. They’re out there waiting, but you’re safe here. If you remain behind closed doors, they won’t find you.

As a child, I resented those festivals at the caverns. I resented them because I loved the woods. I loved climbing trees and splashing in the creek and painting tablets of slate with the juice of wild berries.

I resented the drums that played in the distance because they crafted fears that held me captive indoors when my little feet wanted to create a rhythm of my own, pounding down paths that had been carved by a thousand footsteps that had gone before.

But I was never brave enough to chance the woods when the Indians were on the warpath. I was never reckless enough to face my fears head-on.

Then I got a little older and discovered that the drums were a performance, the natives were friendly, and my scalp was never in any danger after all. And once I realized all of that, something strange happened…

I learned to love those drums.

And the same rhythm that once struck fear into my heart became music to my ears.

Some of us will spend our whole lives believing the natives are hostile. Some of us will never step outside the four walls of our homes because we’re afraid of what lurks in the woods.

But we are restless.

Though our fears may strap us down, the fact remains that, deep inside, We. Are. Restless.

And we want more than these safe little walls offer.

We want the world.

We want wide open skies and and an endless path before us, brimming with new things just waiting to be discovered.

Darling, you have two choices when those drums start pounding in the distance: you can hide, or you can dance.

I hope you dance in complete abandon, twirling to the beat of your fears.

the beat of your fears

A Letter to My Fears

A year ago, I conquered you—held you back for long enough to say to my parents, “So, I’m leaving my job because I just have to write full time. And I know I’ll probably be bussing tables or something just to pay the bills, but what do you think?”

And even as I waited for them to tell me what they thought, I knew what I thought—what you would have me think. This was ridiculous. This was impossible. How could I even think such a thing? And I half-expected my parents to be the rational adults they are and tell me the same thing. But if I conquered you for a moment, my dad wiped you away forever when he said the words, “You have your father’s blessing,” which are words every daughter needs to hear at least once in her lifetime. Because if my father could approve of me just barely getting by, then you had no room to protest.

I chose the words that would propel me onward over the doubts that held me back.

Not that you wouldn’t resurface. Not that you wouldn’t come knocking on my door saying, “About that writing gig… How’s that going for you?” As if you didn’t know I struggle. As if you hadn’t figured out that words are hard to birth some days.

And people might say that your constant presence in my life means that I haven’t conquered you after all. But we both know the truth. We both know there is a difference between the Fear of last year and the Fear of today. While you may still come knocking on my door uninvited, I certainly don’t ask you to come in and stay awhile. Not anymore.

No sir, I’ve wised up to your ways. Now, when I open the door to see your face, I tell you you’ve got the wrong address. The girl you’re looking for has long moved on and, no, I don’t know where to find her.

And I might be the sort of person who would kindly take you in, except my table is already full of new friends. Friends like Hope and Promise and Faith and Trust and Believing, and, well, I’m just not sure there’s room for one more. Besides, you sort of give my friends a bad feeling, and everyone knows that you should never ignore a friend’s warning about a guy. And when you have five friends who are all sharing the same disapproval… Well, call it an intervention if you must, but I’m cutting you out of my life for good.

I used to be in this dead-end relationship with you, but I’ve realized the error of my ways. And don’t think you can come crawling back here and sweet-talk your way back into my heart when I’m feeling a little down.

You see, this world holds something better for me, and you didn’t want me to see it because you knew it meant leaving you. And you knew I had it in me to leave or you wouldn’t have tried to hide the truth for so long.

So this is goodbye—I’m cutting my ties. And don’t you come knocking around here, no sir. Don’t you dare come knocking.

You Deserve More Than Fear

I see you there, trying not to let past experiences define you. Courageously trying to keep your heart open to love and trust and the fragile bond of friendship. But I also see your fear.

And I understand your fear.

I know you’ve been hurt many times in the past. I know you’ll be hurt again. Just as you know you’ll be hurt again.

And it’s hard to hold onto hope when your hopes have been crushed. It’s difficult to take a chance on someone or something that may hurt you. So you accept those feelings of loneliness rather than overcome the roadblocks in your mind. But worse than simply accepting them, you justify them.

You tell yourself that you are strong—that you can stand alone—but we both know that you’re bitter and jaded. And afraid. So very afraid… Of trying again. Of failing again. Of risking rejection for the thousandth time.

Because you’re not strong. And deep down inside you hold onto the belief that one more heartbreak could kill you.

But you know something?

You are more than your fears. More than your failures. More than the clutter that litters your past.

You are strong enough… to break down these barriers. To overcome the insecurities that have confined you for so long.

You have what it takes… to trust again. To hope again. To love again.

You deserve so much more than what your fears have supplied;
You deserve freedom in its most wondrous form.

Today is the day to embrace it. And to live—fully live—free of fear.

When Your Dreams are a Nightmare

So, I’ve been pretty quiet on most of these guest posts, content to let others share their dreams without my commentary, but I feel like this one needs to have something said about it. Because when I read Amy’s post, my jaw hit the floor and all I could say was, “Whoa.” When I asked a few blogger friends to share about their dreams, I never expected any of them to delve into a nightmare. But I admire Amy’s bravery. I love that she pursued this dream that so many of us would be too afraid to pursue. And I love that she’s here today to encourage us that sometimes our “nightmares” are part of the beautiful dream God is creating of our lives.

A Guest Post By Amy Bennett…

I get a warm and fuzzy feeling when I read about people’s dreams.  They want to write a book they’ve been thinking about since they were 6 or they’d like to move to Africa as a missionary or they can’t wait to quit their job and finally be a pilot.  Most desperately want to live out their dream.  But the story of one of my God-given dreams was more like a nightmare I didn’t care to see to fruition.

I had always been on the straight and narrow.  I was the good-girl.  The honor student.  One of the first of my friends to get married.  My husband and I enjoyed seven years together until things started imploding.  Many circumstances led me into an emotional affair that was quickly uncovered but slowly untangled.

Years past and I finally separated myself from this person, my husband and I had repaired our marriage through God’s leading and I thought I could quietly move on.  God had other plans.

He gave me a literal dream one night.  In it, it was clear that I had moved on but my job wasn’t done until I shared my story.  They very last thing I wanted to do was share my story.  No one knew about the emotional affair besides my husband and three or four close friends.  My family had no clue.

I shared this dream with my close friend and for months and months, I would talk about writing about what happened.  But fear gripped me.   I didn’t want to ruin my good-girl image and was sure stop any influence I thought I had. Family would scoff at me and friends would leave me.  I couldn’t imagine how coworkers that found out may react.

Sharing my deepest, darkest secret sounded like playing out my worst nightmare.  And it’s the exact thing God wanted me to do.

Sometimes our dreams and goals aren’t self-prescribed.  And sometimes, they aren’t pleasant and fun.  But when dreams are God-given, it’s exactly what we need.

I published my eBook Entangled last November and it ended up playing out like a fairytale.  The burden of this hidden sin I had been tormented with was lifted off my shoulders and my friends, family and even coworkers rallied around me like I never had experienced.  Through the book, people’s eyes have been open and perhaps, some marriages have been spared.

Perhaps you’re like me and scared to death of the dream God has given you.  Maybe it sounds like a nightmare you don’t care to experience.  If I could say one thing, it’d be to jump and jump big.  Sure, you’ll still experience fear and anxiety but when you wake up?  You’ll realize your nightmare was a fairytale and God was waiting to sweep you off your feet all along.

Amy Bennett is a recovering perfectionist and lover of God.  She is wife to her police officer husband, Scott and mommy to two beautiful girls, Emma and Lexi and hopefully one handsome boy soon. They reside in South Carolina, in a suburb of Charlotte, North Carolina with their two dogs Mattie and Tucker and a picket fence to hold them all in.  Amy spends her day writing code for a bank and her evenings writing blog posts at Permission to Peruse.

Light Bulbs, Airplanes, and Impossible Dreams

“Fear wants to stop our stories,” Anne Jackson writes. And I think I’m going to have to read the chapter over again because all I saw was that simple sentence. So at the risk of writing something that might already be written let me tell you why that sentence stopped me in my tracks.

I think most of us are more aware of our dreams than we care to admit. When someone asks you what you want to do when you grow up and you reply, “I don’t know,” I’m inclined to wonder whether you honestly don’t know or whether you’re afraid of what you do know. Because Fear has a way of killing our dreams.

The thing about dreams is that they’re larger than life. Impossible, even. And maybe in your heart you know what you would really love to do if there were no possible way you could fail. So what do you want to do with your life?

And you’re still saying that you don’t know because the big question I just posed was “if.” I said “if” there was no possible way you could fail, but that’s just the thing. There are countless ways you could fail, says Fear. And if you fail, people are going to laugh. If you fail, you will have wasted your life. If you fail, you’ll have nothing to show for yourself but a pile of shattered dreams.

But listen closely before you close the door on your dreams, because Fear says the same thing I did. “If,” Fear whispers. “If.” And maybe all those things Fear says are true. People may laugh and your dreams may shatter if you fail. But there’s no guarantee that you will fail. And what’s the harder life to live – the life of someone who dared to pursue their dreams regardless of what the critics said or the life of someone who died having never attempted to do that one thing that beat in their heart?

One day your heart will stop beating and your dream will die with it. Unless… Unless you dared to give it life before you encountered death. Because some dreams outlive the dreamer. In fact, I would imagine that most dreams do.

Don’t believe me? Hit the nearest light switch and see what happens. What happens is all because Thomas Edison dared to dream that there was a better source of light than candles. And he burned a few candles in the process of making that dream a reality. A new friend of mine is boarding a plane back to Barcelona tonight, but I never would have even met her if the Wright brothers hadn’t quit their day job and decided to invent a flying machine.

Light bulbs and airplanes… Impossible dreams. You can bet that there were critics. You can bet that Fear screamed that it couldn’t be done. And history shows there were failures. The dream didn’t fall together in a day. There were setbacks and frustrations and things that didn’t work.

And you can bet that these dreamers got discouraged. But they didn’t let their temporary failures destroy their dreams. Because they knew in their hearts that lights were made for shining and men were made for flying and that, one day, in the not-so-distant future their dreams wouldn’t seem so impossible after all.