Be still and know that I am God.
Psalm 46:10

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Do it Afraid

We recently went on a "mini" family vacation to Crivitz, WI, which use to be an old favorite neck of the woods for our family. The last time we were there was when Megan was just under a year old, so about 12 years ago.

One day Mark & I decided to take the kids on a hike through the woods in search of a good swimming spot.

What we were after (at least I was!) was like a real-life-nature-type diving board. I remembered how much fun I had as a kid doing that kind of stuff. Exploring. Using our imagination with nature to find fun things to do.

Thankfully, we both remembered the way ... and we came upon a small group of young college-aged kids who were already partaking in the fun, but from a much, much higher spot. Laughing and having a blast.

Living Life.

The kids watched for awhile, taking it all in and then the question came: Well, who is going to go first?

I sure expected Megan or Luke to fight for that spot, but instead our more reserved, oldest child, Matthew, stepped up to the edge. This was after he watched one of the other girls do it and he said, Well, if she can do it, then so can I!
Plus, I think he finally is starting to understand & realize at his age of almost 15 that this was one of those opportunities in Life that you just don't pass up!

And in he went with an impressive splash, followed by Luke, of course! ... and then it was Megan's turn.

And she froze. Didn't move or speak.

Put me into a state of confusion because this is the one child of ours who at 2 years old was climbing as high as humanly possible on our Rainbow play set and stubbornly demanded to do it alone! Many times she had people in our backyard in a state of shock or awe as she climbed, climbed, climbed ... and didn't fall.  

No fear comes to mind when I think back to her toddler years and also when she embraced gymnastics as a preschooler. Years later came cheerleading and the higher she could throw a teammate, the better. Yikes! Plus, she is more than willing to go on every single ride at Great America over and over and over, including the Big Drop. {Yep, she didn't get this last one from me!}

I volunteered to jump in then before her {I was planning on doing this anyway, yes indeed!}, then Mark went in, and yet she still couldn't do it.

The other group actually started cheering her on, like us. Words like, Come on! You can do it! ... and her brothers yelling, Megan it is REALLY fun!

I stayed in figuring I could coax her along in that way, but nothing was working. And I was literally running out of steam treading water & starting to remind her of this ... :)

Yet, I knew how much this daughter of ours would enjoy this experience, but what I also recognized all too familiarly was her fear. She was literally having an anxiety attack of some kind.

I sort of intuitively knew that if I got her talking about it, asking her some questions to talk her through it, that she could possibly work through this. Overcome it if she chose to, in her way. More importantly, I was trying to understand her better. Maybe teach her something in this.

She said, "I can't see the bottom, and I am afraid of heights."{huh? I was thinking ... fear of heights?! Okay...}
 I said, "Megan, I understand. I am right here. I won't let anything happen to you! And just so you know, you can change your mind. It's okay!"

Still a long pause ...

And then my final words that came out of my mouth that gave her the courage & that leap of faith, words that have helped me countless times in my own life were: "Megan, Do it Afraid."

She took a deep breath and jumped! And came up from the water with one big Smile on her face.

Well, after that we couldn't get her or her brothers to stop. I said to Mark something along the lines of "free entertainment is sure nice from time to time, huh?" (well, actually $3 for a day pass... not bad!)

Later we talked about the whole experience, and I shared several things on my Do It Afraid list with them.

One was finally getting on an airplane back in 2008 to San Diego, CA after not being able to for over 20 years. My first experience with such severe turbulence leaving Denver wasn't so pretty and that memory kept me stuck in a place of paralyzing fear for years, unfortunately.

Trust me, everybody along the way (including myself!) tried every which way to convince me and/or talk me out of this fear of mine, but nothing worked. So I sort of gave up the idea of ever traveling anywhere by airplane ever again.

But I came to a point in my Life that I knew it was time to set that one aside ... or face the fear head on is what I like to call it.

I obviously survived~ and a big shout out to my sister, Tracy, who allowed me to cling to her for dear life (I think I may have left some bruises~)

I have since taken several more planes and didn't freak out too badly! But each time I had to Do It Afraid still. Probably always will. {Flying is just not my thing and I don't really see that changing anytime soon!}

I sense the kids took away some good lessons from our little trip away, but what they talk about most is our time at the cliff.

I must say that I agree with them. That sure was some good memory making times, but what I keep closer to my mind & heart is what I think Megan learned about herself through it all. Life lessons she can and will take with her. Learn from. Grow. To help her along the next time.

Lessons like believing in yourself. Having courage even while afraid. Being brave and willing enough to try something new. That it is okay to admit how you are feeling.

But much more importantly I hope what she takes with her much more than the words of Do it Afraid is knowing that she is never alone. In every sense of the word. I hope you do, too.

Megan & Luke
Go Matthew!

Luke looking at getting a good cannonball splash!

Yeah Megan!

Mark & Megan

Nice job, girl! You did it!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Breoine's Story

I recently had the rare pleasure of "bumping into" some old friends, ones that I hadn't seen in probably 12 years or so. One of them was my childhood friend, who we knew since we were 5, and then we attended the same high school together.

Life had taken us in different directions, as it does, and we simply had lost touch.

It was great "catching up" and reminiscing about the good old days. That sure is fun to do from time to time!

Naturally, my blog came into the conversation and she said she was going to go home & read it ... later she told us that she read the entire thing from start to finish (this info shocked Mark in a big way! ... seriously! until I explained that she's a reader, like me!}, and then he understood. :)

Her question of: Whatever happened to that one boy you helped? plus several e-mails and/or otherwise asking me the exact same thing has sparked this blog post.

But more importantly, it was what happened to me yesterday morning that got my brain (& fingers) into gear!

I was out-and-about earlier than most! :) doing some shopping, and a man in about his mid 30's approached my car just as I pulled into a parking spot and put the car in park. He approached my side window, but instinct had my fingers already rolling up the window and double-checking the lock.

The words I heard were: "I'm wondering if I could have some money to go to get something to eat at McDonalds?!" The image I saw was a man with a broken arm.

That's all I really needed to know.  

If there is something called having a millisecond-type "flashback" then I think I experienced it at that moment.
From the day I met Breoine on 12/28/10 until the last time I heard from him back in March ... it all came back ... fast. All of it ... and I knew I had a choice to make, then & there.

To essentially walk it out, is what I like to call it.

Walk out the lessons learned.   

Every single "warning" I had heard from the multiple law enforcement people and/or friends/ family instantly popped into my head, as well as the statements along the way such as, I bet you'll never do that again! to I am so sorry that that happened to you guys to Thank God for answered prayers.

Interestingly enough, we never heard I told you so. (Hmm ... I've often wondered why those 'words' always seem so hard to take?!)

But what I found most interesting was how Mother Teresa's poem called Do Good Anyway sort of took precedence over it all, once again, in my mind and heart ... even after all we had been through.

Yet here I was, in like real life ... blind-sided again! ... needing to decide in a moment what to do for this man.

Or not to do.

Say. Or not to say.

I took a very deep breath ...  and then first things first, I loudly told him to please back away from my car and that he needed to give me a minute.

He politely nodded, took a few steps back, and respected my request.

I gathered my stuff ... pulled myself together {prayed big time!} ... and stepped out.

I handed him some cash and gave him a 'vastly reduced readers digest version' of the advice I gave to our neighborhood boy back on my birthday, and probably something along the same lines of what I had also said to Breoine in my time spent with him.

Despite this man's attempt to engage me in his Story (and you know how I love those!), I just kept on walking {pepper spray in hand, yes indeed!}. I did actually 'catch' how he got himself in his predicament (being robbed at gunpoint recently). However, my body language plus my final words of you take care now shut him down, thankfully.

I knew a long time ago that offering  help & extending kindness to a child is a whole lot different than an adult. An adult male at that. Essentially, me alone (at least it felt this way!) in the parking lot in the early morning hours.

So with this incident happening I knew it was time to "update" my readers on how Breoine's Story ended, at least on our end, as I know how much prayer, encouragement, concern, and support was poured out on our family during that time.

The good news to report is that after his last attempt to reach me, and the words that came out of my mouth {I probably shouldn't write them here :)}, I believe made the "money train" stop once and for all.
{Thanks once again to a neighbor's advice who is on the job lending us a hand!}

What started out as an act of kindness turned into a young boy really believing we were going to adopt him, or at least take him in as a foster kid. Understandably so. But not reality. A mistake on our part.

However, this was just something he simply couldn't understand living in his situation, no matter how many times I tried to explain it to him or apologize that the help he wanted from us needed to stop.

After involving two separate police districts plus child protective services, we had come to find out that none of the eight kids living in that house was registered in any school. There was no Dad anywhere to be found ... not ever. The family had been in desperate "need." That the people I had seen at our house that day in a red car was obviously not Breoine.

In it all, I came to realize that he was telling me the truth, in his way. The only way he knew how. His cry for help. Unfortunately, we came to find out that they really didn't get the "help" they truly needed.

As Life just sometimes goes.

We got reimbursed for the fraud against us, but not by them because after his call in March, we found out that the family had once again been evicted.

So ... untraceable since then.

I had to learn to swallow that information and move on. And we have ... The Show Must Go On.

The lessons learned by my chance meeting with that boy are too many to list here, but I'll share a few!

It gave me the courage to go to The Shooter's Shop and ask someone to show me how to operate and purchase my own firearm. I also asked to be educated in every which way about gun safety and children.
{If you are a girl and want to follow my suit, then this is a great place to start with excellent customer service!, plus Tuesdays you can practice for free~}

If you do happen to go into this store, female or not! any one of the employees there were great & helpful, but do please ask for John, who was the one who took me through the whole process from start to finish. He did it all in a very kind, respectful, and compassionate manner, as I told him my reason for purchasing one in the first place. (I never, ever thought I'd be doing this either! Sure hadn't planned on that one coming!)

John is an ex-marine in his 30's, a married Dad of 2 small children, who was in our war and almost died. Living with some pretty bad injuries. His Story is worth listening to, if you've got some time.

The entire experience gave me a whole different perspective and appreciation about our freedoms in America, as well as a more real understanding of the kind of world we live in.

I hope it taught our kids some great lessons too. I sense that it did.

From time to time, they will ask & talk about Breoine. They talk about what they liked about him, what a nice boy he was. How they don't understand how they could've done that to our family. They talk about their concerns about what is going to happen to him. They remember things like how he had gotten no Christmas presents at all. Not one. And remember how much they had gotten. They remember he had only one set of clothes. And that none of the kids were going to school at all.

We talk about how Doing Good Anyway isn't always easy. In fact, it is a very difficult thing to do sometimes.

We talk about a faithful, loving God, and how we can see His fingerprints all over this one!

We talk about all that we have to be thankful for.

Funny how they liken Breoine to our cat, Buddy. He is the one cat of ours that actually purrs if you just look at him :) His name is "Buddy" for a reason.

So all is good in the Grade household, thankfully, as his Story is now told ... through mine.

I know that we will most likely never hear from any of them again, nor this boy. But the thing I pray for most of all for him in this thing called Life, the one thing I hope he remembers me saying that may actually change the course of his life someday is this: God loves you, Breoine, so so much. Never ever forget that. Not ever.

I do understand all too well how hard and difficult that is to actually believe sometimes, for each one of us, especially when Life knocks you down to your knees, time and time again. Or when nothing makes any sense at all. Or when you've lost something called hope.

But what I have learned in my Life, thus far, is this ...

Believe it.

Because it is so true. It really is!