You’ve Got to Get Back On. Nancy Velvet Forever.

So.  It happened like this.

I was about eight years old, madly in love with all horses.  My uncle had a farm, and he let me ride all over his land.

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I could have told you then that bliss smells like horse sweat and pine needles.

But, everybody knows that.

Sunlight streaming through shade trees, a peaceful stallion grazed in the dusty light.

I sat quietly on his back for days, thinking if National Velvet could solve mysteries like Nancy Drew, then that’s who I was.  Nancy Velvet.  Did Nancy Drew like burned marshmallows, I wondered, and glanced over at the field full of cattle sleepwalking in the perfect heat.

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One afternoon, they gave me a different horse.  I was disappointed; the other horse and I, we were best friends.  He was going to miss me bad.

But, a horse is a horse, right?

So, I pulled on my boots and walked out, expecting a day of traipsing through tall grass and butterflies, Queen Anne’s Lace.

When I climbed on the horse, he wasn’t friendly like my uncle’s stallion.  He was jumpy and shaking all over.  I thought when he recognized the advanced level of my horseback riding skills, he would calm down, and we could ride on.

He did not.  Recognize them or calm down.

He bolted.

Until that moment, I thought horses understood me and loved me as much as I loved them.  I thought I was a girl in a book, and the horse would know that.

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He and I had not read the same book.

I screamed.  The world was a blue-green blur, and a fence was rushing straight at us.  At the last minute, the horse jerk-bucked a hard turn to the left, and I flew off his back to the right.

I lay in the brown grass in shock.  I couldn’t breathe.  I couldn’t see.  My heart was broken.

I didn’t get back on him the way they always say to do after a fall.  I couldn’t lift my right arm, and the only horse available to ride at that moment was the one who had just pitched me across the corral.

I sobbed my way to my grandmother’s porch, where they fed me Kraft cheese singles and cold Pepsi in a metal cup—Arkansas smelling salts.  My mother found my glasses in the grass and brought them to me.  My uncle stood looking at me, mournful.

Someone said weakly, “she should get back on,” and we all looked out at the horse, now, finally, grazing peacefully.  Everyone looked away, and my grandmother brought me another slice of cheese.

I had known fear before that day.  Night terrors, alone in the dark with every evil creature staring red-eyed across the room.  Fear of an adult’s anger, fear of injury in childish games.

But, this was the saddest fear, laced with betrayal.  My shoulder was dislocated.  I couldn’t hold reins or get in the saddle for a long time.

I never really rode again after that.

Until a couple of years ago, my husband took us on a vacation to the Rocky mountains.

He wanted me to have a chance to get back on.  He knew that I had prayed a thousand times for another good ride.

I told the lady, “a three-legged nag, that’s all I can handle.”

She laughed and said, “Oh, you need Daisy.  She’s perfect.”  Daisy was a spotted gray horse, an Appaloosa.  She tossed her head when I walked toward her.  I looked at the guide.  She said, “Just climb on.  She loves this ride.”

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I thought my lungs would explode.

All I could do at first was clench the reins in sweaty fists and pray and pray and pray not to die.  Pray that none of my family would die.

It was a long way down the side of that tight, narrow trail.

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We rode single file through closely spaced pine trees.  The air was thin, and the shade was cold.

I watched Daisy’s feet stumble over rocks and thought I was going to vomit.  Chad looked back at me and smiled.  I smiled.  Gagged.

I could hear in my mind, reassurance, a peaceful sound.  I so wanted to be healed of that moment, such a long time ago.

The trail guide called out, “plan to stop a minute when we come into the clearing.  It’s a lookout point, beautiful!”

When we stepped out of the dark woods, the horse in front of us stopped, and before I said, “whoa,” Daisy stopped behind him.

I bravely took a picture of the back of her head before looking up to see the view.

I breathed in and sat on that old gray mare and cried.  Tears streaming down my face, the sun burning my neck and a cool breeze blowing, I knew blessing.

Snow covered, majestic green and craggy, the Rocky Mountains faded into white clouds.   The wide valleys rolled out like a carpet.  The sky was so blue.  So blue.

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In that moment, I could have told you that the purest bliss, the purest of all, smells like mountain air and horses and freedom.  It smells like redemption.

What do you need to “get back on?”  What old hurts have caused fears that keep you from your fullest life?  What are those old hurts and fears costing you?  What will it cost you if you never face them?  What could open up for you if you do–healing, freedom, joy, something else?

Prayers.  For you to get back on.  Remember Lady the Fearless and her lightning water?  Have a cup.  Heaven’s smelling salts.   And get back on.  

Nancy Velvet forever.

 

 

Keeping Your Castle: How to Fight Fear.

The following story is similar to the last post but not the same.  Spot the differences?

The egg cracks, and a forked tongue flicks into the night air.  Fragments of the shell, thick and dark, fall into the soil below.  A tiny serpent oozes out of the broken mess, one long and writhing body, two heads.

In a room high above the nest, a woman sleeps.  The walls of the castle keep are too smooth for the serpent’s slick belly, but the vining ivy proves a perfect pathway to her window–or it would, had it not been cut so close.

The double-headed snake slithers its way along the vines and pauses near the window sill.  The smell of life is strong here.  It makes its way a little higher on the vine and then drops, aiming its body at the window ledge.   It nearly falls to the ground far below, but it twists at the last minute and scoots along the edge of the grated screen.

Finding no easy way inside, the serpent stops to warm itself on the rock wall still full of heat from the day’s sun.  Perhaps it has come far enough.  But its instinct is strong, and it pushes along the screen again.  Finding no holes, it presses hard, and the wooden frame comes away from the wall, just enough for the little beast to creep in.  

It makes its way down the heavy curtain and across the floor, but it is weary now from so much effort.  The serpent stops on the floor near the bed and falls asleep,

The woman also sleeps, soundly, having pulled on her helmet before laying her head on the pillow.  This is not her habit, but tonight, a chilly wind blows and bears an ill will.  She holds her sword in her hand.  Intruders would find this maiden hard to handle.

The queen’s guard makes a silent pass through the bedroom, checking to see that all is well.  He approaches the window to check the screen, and as he passes the foot of the bed, his bootheel connects with the serpent’s tiny heads.  It dies without waking, without ever knowing it has lost.

Lady the Fearless sleeps on, dreaming of victories.

***

The castle “keep” was the ultimate fortified tower.  Tall and thick and surrounded by a stone wall, equipped with weapons and designed for fighting, the keep gave the advantage to the defenders inside.

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These towers were made with the understanding of attack, to “keep” the vulnerable ones safe, the ultimate refuge.

In the last post, I gave you a story about a maiden in a tower that was not a keep.

There were several elements to last week’s tale:  a neglected castle yard, a tower covered in overgrown ivy, a wide open window, an unguarded bedroom, a vulnerable maiden, and a lying little snake.

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In  that post, I promised to share some of my strategies for slapping fear out of my head, for creating a different kind of story.  Here they are:

I try to keep fear from ever getting in.

I believe that I have nothing to fear, that God loves me like crazy and works all things together for my good.  This is not always a natural thought, so I  get it in my mind as often as I can, reading scripture and listening to teachers like Joyce Meyer or Lisa Bevere or Graham Cooke.

I’m aware of how I tolerate dark entertainment or heavy conversations, etc.  Sometimes, my tolerance is high.  Other times, I need to walk away.  Regardless of tolerance level, when negative things come in through the news, movies, conversations, or elsewhere, I make time to recharge.

I’m a pray-er.  Is that a word?  I don’t know, but I am one.  The minute I sense anything weird, I say a quick prayer.  Usually something like “Jesus help.”  Sometimes, that’s all I’ve got.

Fear can grab us physically before we know it.  Once in a while, just to check, I do a quick scan of my body.  How’s my breathing?  Deep breaths calm the body and mind.  How tense are my shoulders?  I consciously relax.

I meditate on scriptures, in my head or whispering if I have to, out loud if I can.  I’m working on making a printable for you guys with paraphrases of these verses.  When I figure out Dropbox, I’ll get it to you.

My friends help me think in a way that brings peace.  I surround myself with an atmosphere of peace and guard my territory in any way I can.  I have many friends from different walks of life, but the ones I spend the most time with encourage me in peace and strength.

Last, I rest.  I take care of myself, mind, body and spirit.  A worn out body drags behind and drains mental and emotional energy.

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These are my strategies for keeping fear out, for keeping my castle.  I’m not totally fearless every minute of every day, but I’m so much better than I used to be.

What strategy most resonates with you?  What would you add?  Love your ideas–see you in the comments!

 

Deception. The Adversary Hatches.

The egg cracks, and a forked tongue flicks into the night air.  Fragments of the shell, thick and dark, fall into the moldy soil below.  A tiny serpent, grotesque and deformed, oozes out of the broken mess, one long and writhing body, two heads.

In a room high above the nest, a woman sleeps.  The castle walls are too smooth for the serpent’s slick belly, but the vining ivy proves a perfect pathway to her window.  The double-headed snake slithers its way along the vines and over the window sill, down the heavy curtain, across the floor, and up into the bed beneath the coverlet at her feet.  It pauses a moment, basking in the warmth of legs covered in filmy white silk.

The brains of the tiny snake, vague and primitive, see thoughts in images, and something like firelight plays through its consciousness.  The tongues flicker, and it continues on, following the warmth of her body, leaving the covering of her sheets, and,  finding her head covered in shining curls, it slithers into her ear.  She stirs, but sleep is sweet.

It more thinks the lies than speaks them, and the woman hears its thoughts louder than her own dreams. And, so deep it goes, hiding itself inside her head, that she believes its thoughts are her own.

Each head sends a different message, one of fear and one of pride, and it feasts on the confusion it breeds. The woman holds her head in her hands and cries tears of indecision.  

Her soul opens to Deception.  The little beast settles in, and without waking, she gives it a home.

***

Every good story needs a terrible villain.  Lady the Fearless?  She battles lies.  Fear and pride.  Dream stealers.  They come in when we believe deceptions about who we are, when we dozily accept any thought that wanders through our minds.  Too bad the sleeping maiden left that window wide open.  Too bad she doesn’t put up much of a fight.

If she would jerk herself awake and slap that little two-headed snake, it would fly across the room and crack its tiny skulls.  And the maiden?  She would find herself that much closer to Lady the Fearless.

So many things in this story could be different.  What if someone were on snake patrol, getting the eggs before they could ever hatch?  What if the castle had a more conscientious gardener?

The window could be guarded.  There could be snake traps in the bedroom.  The little maiden could jump up, throwing back the blankets, kicking like a ninja!   She could protect her ears before she slept, some barrier the lying creature could never breach.

What lies do you need to slap, right across the room today?  What barriers could you put in place against lies?  What fears are trying to take you down, infiltrate your thinking, and steal your dreams with thoughts of failure and risk?  What prideful nonsense is invading?

Every healthy person I know deals with lies and fear and pride; it’s an ongoing matter of what we accept and how proactive we are, how often we go on snake patrol, take inventory.  How sleepy are we when lies try to creep in?   Because they are sneaky, and we do love our slumber.

We have got to get control of ourselves, for heavens sake, and give the little beasties a slap.

I’ll share some of my strategies for slapping fear out of my head in the next post, but would you share some of yours in the comments?  What does courage look like for you in those moments of choice, those moments when you could choose to believe a lie or step out on truth?

Lady the Fearless. What a Character.

“Lady the Fearless.”  People are starting to call me by her name, and I’m happy to answer for her, though I have not arrived.

Sometimes, the minute I conquer one fear, another one seems to take its place.

I’m learning.

Lady the Fearless is not really me.  Or, maybe better, she’s not only me.  Lady the Fearless is an essence, a zeitgeist.  She’s a character.

And, what a character.  She is every woman or girl in fiction or in truth who ever fought any battle.  She is courage.  She is grit and joy and abundant life.

I want to know her well.  What she looks like, what her bravery  requires, how she’s punished for it, and how she inspires.

I’m hoping that her bravery, like fear, is contagious, and I’m praying for an epidemic–bravery in the air, in our lungs, pumping in our veins.

I look at the next generation of young women and men coming up, the teens, the young 20s, and I’m blown away by their beauty and their depth.

The glossy viciousness of the world they are growing up in, the world we are all growing up in, is stunning.  But, the one thing I will not do for them or us, is fear.  I choose hope.  I’m putting my trust in the bigger thing at play, the greater thing happening as we run into a fierce world, and it sharpens us into warriors.

It is a dark and stormy night.  

Lady the Fearless steps to the edge of the cliff and lifts the heavy helmet from her head.  She holds it out to collect the rain coming down in sheets.

 She brings it to her mouth like a goblet and drinks.  

“Lightning water.”  She sighs and smiles down at the full moon reflected in the river in the canyon below.  

She is not afraid of death or of the battle raging in the darkness; she will ride into it on her white horse like she has done before.  She will fly planes into it.  She will carry children into it.  She will show them how it’s done.  

She will shine.