Flying the Not So Friendly Skies, part 2

American boeing 737

The long weekend with my husband flew by.  We laughed, went to some new company training, dined out, saw some sights and then, in a blink, it was time to fly home.

I was still a bit traumatized from my flight to Dallas.

I had spent the better part of the weekend with a return plane ride in the back of my mind.  You know, I realize all too well that fear is not from the Lord and I am also aware He doesn’t want us to spend our lives afraid.  But, knowing I shouldn’t fear does not always mean I live outside of fear. 

I wish it were that simple.

I meet people who don’t really worry or fear about what may or may not happen to them or their family.  They just take life one day at a time and deal with it as it comes. I am so in awe of these people.   If I am being honest, I sometimes feel inferior to these folks.  Talking about my fears somehow makes me feel like my testimony of following Christ and believing in His word is null and void.  I thought about this seeming oxymoron long and hard recently.  Why do I say I believe what the scriptures says about being protected in Christ and safe in His plan only to wake up each day fearing what could possibly go wrong?   

Well, the time came for my return flight and I was a bag of nerves.  I packed my suitcase carefully and made sure my carry-on bags would fit so I wouldn’t get a scolding by the gate attendant.   Then my husband and I headed to the airport.  We checked in, passed through security, and boarded one and then another train to get to my gate.  Dallas airport is like a small city.  Seriously.  My husband said DFW airport actually has its own zip code.  There’s some useless trivia for you.

Once we arrived in our terminal I hunted down a Starbucks and ordered a vanilla latte, all the way.  The stronger the better.  With my coffee in one hand and my bag in the other, we headed down to the gate where I would sit for an hour and wait with bated breath for my flight to begin boarding.

This entire time I had been praying in my heart for a better experience, for a quick return, for peace, to trust, confessing my lack of trust, anything and everything that might help; so many thoughts breathed into prayers swirled around in my mind.  The thing is, I know I am saved, I know if I fall out of the sky I will be in heaven.  I have been blessed with more years than some on this planet and I don’t take a single one for granted.  My kids are grown and if I were to leave this world tomorrow I have been blessed.

I have no complaints.  

BUT I still get this involuntary knot in my stomach and heart flutters that make me want to flee.  It’s like my body is disconnected from my mind or maybe it’s responding to a subconscious set of fears.  Fears the Lord is just not going to let me get away with.  Whatever it is, it’s real.   I can feel in my gut it’s time to drag them out of the darkness where they’ve been hiding, bring them into the LIGHT and stare them in the face. 

And that scares me to death.

I checked the board at our gate, you know the one that tells you if your flight is on time or not, and sure enough we were right on time and close to boarding.

As the gate attendant began to call us up by groups, I stood and gathered all my things.  I clung to my husband and he prayed over me.  Again, I was determined to overcome, so I got in line and walked down the jet bridge and boarded the plane looking much braver than I was. 

All of this felt so familiar since I had just gone through the same sequence a few days earlier.

Once I found my seat, I cinched up my seatbelt and laid my head back on the seat with eyes closed steeling myself for take-off. The flight was relatively full and I expected any minute to be tapped and asked to get up so someone could sit in the window seat beside me, but, to my surprise, that never happened.  

Once everyone was on board I looked across the aisle and there was only one person, a woman about my age, sitting in her row of three.  We were literally the only ones who had empty seats beside us.  I thought it kind of unusual, but whatever, I was too busy measuring each breath to make sure I wouldn’t hyperventilate to worry about who was next to me. 

Unlike the trip TO Dallas, the weather this day was glorious.  Blue skies with white clouds peppering the horizon as far as the eye could see.  Instinctually I knew the flight home was going to be better, well, unless an engine fell off or the landing gear wouldn’t go down, the tragic scenario possibilities were endless.

I don’t know when it happened actually, I’m not even sure who spoke first, but before the plane could take-off the lady across the aisle and I were engaged in conversation.  You guys know me, conversations are my favorite.  She was so cheerful and had a big contagious smile.  She began telling me about her sons, her husband and her many moves with the military and how God had seen them through each one. She shared with me how she could look back and see the hand of God on her life.  She was so glad she hadn’t said no to the many moves because she’d met some amazing people and God had taught her so much. 

In the middle of this messy conversation, each of us laughing and talking over each other, I looked out the window and realized we had taken off.  We were sailing up into the beautiful blue expanse and, interestingly, once I realized we were off the ground my throat tightened.  You know, when I was talking and letting the pilot do his job and the plane do what it was built to do, basically when I was focused on something besides my fear, I was able to relax and enjoy my surroundings. 

Later in the flight, after a can of coke zero and a bag of pretzels, I tip toed into the subject of fear. 

I told her how nervous I was to fly and even though I knew what scripture said and I knew I shouldn’t be afraid, I still had a knot in my stomach.  She leaned her head back on the seat and thought a minute and finally she leaned over and said, “You need to speak to that.” 

Something in me resonated with the words she spoke.

Speak to it.

I know about scripture memory, I know  I need to THINK on “whatever is good, whatever is pure…” but I have not made it a practice to speak out loud the truths that will overcome and break this fear living within me.

So simple, but potentially life changing.  

So, I have started a new practice.  I say practice because I still forget, I still find myself dwelling on my fears and not speaking the TRUTH of God’s word out loud so I can hear it and be encouraged by it.  I know this is only the beginning.  Step one of many I’m sure I’ll have to take.

I heard a young woman speak recently and her words have stayed with me.  She said, “If you’re afraid of something then you need to go there.”  Ouch.  I feel in the days ahead I will be going places I’m afraid of and speaking the TRUTH of God’s word as I go. 

An hour and a half later—and after an extra bag of pretzels and more conversation than I can remember having on a plane—we landed. 

Safe and sound.

When I walked down the jet bridge this time, I didn’t feel like running, I felt determined.  I AM TIRED OF BEING AFRAID.  The Lord reminded me of some truths and used an unlikely stranger to challenge me to live out day to day a principle I knew but had forgotten. 

You know what I’ve learned so far?  Fear is the enemy of joy.  Fear comes to keep you so beaten down that you can’t imagine your life being any different, you can’t imagine being free of it, it comes to make you a slave.  It steals your potential and kills your dreams. 

But, guess what?

Fear doesn’t get the last word.

According to the truth of God’s word, fear doesn’t come from God but it ends with God.

I am speaking the Word A LOT these days, praying out loud so I can be encouraged and strengthened to step out of my fear and not continue to give into it.

It’s a process, a one day, one decision, and one verse at a time kind of process.

I am going to be facing some fears this year, I plan on taking you along for the ride.  You up for it?  Let’s begin to walk out of fear and into JOY together.

**Here are a few scripture references I personally appreciate, maybe you will find them helpful too…

Isaiah 41:10

Philippians 4:13

Psalm 46:5

1 Peter 5:6-7

Proverbs 31:25

2 Timothy 1:7

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Flying the Not So Friendly Skies

737 American Airlines plane.htm

I took a flight to Dallas recently.  That sounds so simple and unimportant really, BUT if you understood that flying makes me a nervous wreck, you might perk up a little and feel sorry for me.  You know it probably wouldn’t be worth noting that flying makes me jittery, it makes a lot of people that way, but my husband happens to be a pilot; flying is what he does for a living, so there’s that… 

I can hear you now, like so many others, saying, “Wow, your husband is a pilot?  You must love to travel.”

Well, the answer to that is yes, I do, love to travel, that is.  But getting from point A to point B is the part I don’t love. 

This year I’ve been focusing on joy and learning to walk in it.  Sounds simple enough, but joy can be a little tricky.  I’m not talking about finding happiness, which is situational and changes with the wind, but real sustaining joy; something that runs like a river in the depths of my heart nurturing everything it touches.  I want that.

I’ve found that the more I stay in God’s word, the deeper and more refreshing my joy is.

As I dig deeper into God’s word I find myself at a crossroads in my spirit.  To grow I am going to have to make some tough decisions, most of them involving facing my fears.  And that brings me to last week where if found myself sitting in an airport getting ready to board a plane.

It was kind of a big week for us as my husband was getting a “promotion” and I was invited by the company to fly out and join him for the first few days of training as they welcomed us to the “family.”  I was so excited, the only thing that stood between me and a special time with my husband was an hour and a half plane ride.

Determined to face this fear and not live imprisoned by it, I checked my luggage at the counter, grabbed my boarding pass, made my way through security, walked the long trek to my gate at the end of the small airport and took a seat.   Only an hour before the flight was to take off, one long hour to fill my mind with something other than fearful thoughts.

It wasn’t long until a group of young men gathered by the gate, they were United States Marines, at least that’s what their back packs said.  Of course, their freshly cut very short hair was a clue that they were probably in one of the armed forces. I am a self-declared people watcher and as I craned my neck around to check out the folks around me, I witnessed a very emotional scene as a mother said goodbye to her son. That was such a heart gripping moment.  He looked so young and he was so very sweet to his mom. She held on to him for dear life until she HAD to let go and I cried with her from afar as she watched him walk away.  I was completely emotionally invested in what had just unfolded before me when the gate agent called my group number to board.

Was it time already?

I took a deep breath, picked up my purse, produced my boarding pass, headed down the narrow jet bridge and stepped onto the airplane.

My breathing was shallow and my heart was aflutter, but I walked down the narrow aisle and took my seat like everyone else, pretending like everything was fine.  I’d been watching the weather (more like stalking the weather app) and I knew it had been raining in Dallas and was supposed to keep right on raining the whole night through.  I know from past flying experiences rainy weather pretty much guarantees turbulence, and that made my stomach tighten.

After we’d sat on the tarmac for quite a while the captain came on the loud speaker and in muffled tones explained to us we were getting more fuel because we’d been rerouted due to the weather.  He also explained the flight would be about thirty minutes longer because of it. 

Great.

I cinched my seatbelt a little tighter and continued to look out the window at the bustling airport to distract my thoughts.

And then, finally, it was time to take off.

Just as I’d expected, the ride was rough, and according to the captain it wasn’t going to get any better.

Why, oh why is it so hard to face our fears?  And why does it feel like they keep coming back?  I had just faced this flying thing a few months earlier, I thought I had made some progress and the next time I flew wouldn’t feel so difficult. But, no, here I sat gripping the arm rests with all of the same fears gripping my heart and mind.

Feeling this way was nothing new, sadly.

Half way through the flight and the seat belt sign went off momentarily only to be illuminated again within minutes.  Here I was bouncing around the skies, stomach in knots, throat tightened when the captain said words you never want to hear, “Flight attendants, take your seats.”  As if saying once it weren’t enough, he said again, with more urgency in his voice, “FLIGHT ATTENDANTS, TAKE YOUR SEATS.” 

At this point I was white knuckling the arm rests.  Everyone else around me looked so calm.  I wanted to stand up and yell out, “what is wrong with you people, can’t you see we’re all going to DIE?!”  But, instead I just sat there in a sitting corpse pose, only moving to blink.

I hate feeling afraid.

I wonder when this fear first took root. I wonder how many small decisions I made that caused it to grow and become a healthy tree right in the middle of my heart. I’m not really sure I remember a time when I wasn’t afraid, maybe when I was a kid and we used to play in the sugar cane fields.  Fear rarely entered my mind then, oh to have those days back!  Unfortunately, as life has unfolded it’s taught me to fear even more.  Some folks take their frightful, life changing experiences and use them as fuel to overcome; not me.  I use mine as an excuse to stay safe and in my comfort zone as much as possible.

It’s too scary to keep putting myself out there over and over again only to be hurt, and no one wants to live with a tense stomach and fluttering heart constantly anyway.   

But, as I continue in my daily reading of the Word, I am challenged again and again to trust.  Ugh.  I know where this is headed, trust involves facing my fears.  And facing my fears feels a lot like my terrified stomach on that plane a few nights ago as we bobbled around the “friendly” skies. 

It wasn’t fun and I know facing deeply rooted fears isn’t going to be fun either.

After the captain made his announcement for the flight attendants to “be seated,” I proceeded to put my head between my knees and pray like my life depended on it.   Seriously, because in that moment, I kind of felt like my life might actually depend on it.

I cannot even imagine what I must’ve looked like.  I know the guy across the aisle had some stories to tell his family when he got off the plane. I was never gladder for a flight to come to an end as I was that stormy night.  I thanked the Lord repeatedly as I deplaned and nearly ran off the jet bridge into the Dallas airport.  My husband was waiting for me and I was never more thankful to see him.

The next thought that came to mind as stood in line to order a late supper was, “now I have to get back home.”

To be continued next week…