October 6, 2011

Smiling in the Face of Fear

I’m enroute home in stages,  scheduled to fly out of Anchorage in a few hours, having spent the night here with kind friends.  My body made the mistake of waking up early and my mind of dashing into conjecture about unseen possibilities and missed planes…Bother!


Now in flight.  ( I didn’t miss it!)…

So began my day of travel home, distracting idle fears with composing a blog, banishing butterflies with busyness.  It’s been a stressful week and a half; I think I’ve collected a few more gray hairs and now I’m ready to unwind.  The surge of acceleration at take-off got me started with tears welling as I thought of what I’m leaving behind, not knowing when I’ll be back or what the situation will be…

I have faced fear this week and stumbled upon two simple strategies to disarm it.  (Thank you Lord!)  It has been disconcerting to me to find I can’t keep fear and anxiety from rising in my heart.  They happen. Especially in the face of the unknown, the unexpected, and the uncontrollable they rise to haunt me.  In a household shaped by Alzheimer’s disease this trio is inevitably present.  What will happen next?  What is he thinking as he walks toward me with that furrowed brow and unfriendly look?  When we’re out walking can I get him to turn around and head back home without calling for help or will he keep right on going into the bush unheedful of my warnings?  What does one do to manage such adult strength tied to a mind unable to reason and full of fears itself?  Every day is a potpourri of the unknown, the unexpected and the uncontrollable. 

But I found that though fear may rise in my heart I don’t have to give it a face or a voice.  I can still smile--a beaming broad smile with a friendly greeting attached.  And in this face that reads: “I like you”, his suspicions are felled and the fierce countenance softens…And I begin to think he likes me too ( :

I learned too the value of singing.  I may be quaking inside as I go about my business unsure of what’s going to happen next, but I can sing anyway—a hymn or chorus quietly…and in the process of voicing words of faith and confidence, my heart is ransomed from the grip of fear.

A smile and a song—simple but effective tools to banish butterflies. It is as though these tangible acts persuade my heart that it is safe and everything will be ok.  Not only my heart, but my dad’s is calmed and reassured.  Everything is going to be ok.  He may not understand the words, but a smile speaks and a song comforts.  This has been my experience.

Ha! I even tried smiling to myself in the night when I woke.  Have you ever tried smiling when worries are on your mind?  It’s counter-intuitive.  But it makes the  worries feel a little silly.  It seems to triggers happy thoughts, grateful reminders of good things… and where did those butterflies flit to anyway?!

So, though I haven’t attained to the fearless posture of the war horse—“he laughs at fear and is not dismayed; he does not turn back from the sword” (Job 39:22), I’m learning to take baby steps.  And when this toddler looks at her Shepherd and sees His smiling face, it’s not so hard to whistle in the dark and sing a happy song.

The LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.” Num.6:25,26


Thanks to all who prayed for me on this journey.  I felt very much buoyed up and sustained, and I’m confident that God is making a way where we are still uncertain of the best path. My mom is a marvel, a testimony to God’s daily grace.  I could not walk in her shoes!  I tried only to smooth the path a little and walk a few steps with her.  There are good things to come; we see the glimmerings.  And His mercies very literally are new every morning!  For this I am grateful. 


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