Life is often a zip line. Full speed ahead. Barely controlled chaos at best. And sometimes it’s time to focus on the brakes instead of the 80 mile-per-hour scenes that rush past. That’s especially true when your zip line is about to end and the only object greeting you at the finish line is a massive pine tree.
A few weeks ago, Elizabeth’s freshman year of volleyball came to a close, and one of the families graciously invited the team and their families over for a picnic, parents versus students volleyball games, and sweet fellowship. For several hours as we played and ate and talked, I was entertained by my son and several other children taking turns riding the family’s zip line they had recently built between two loblolly pine trees (the emancipated skyscraper pine trees of the South that stand like sentinels keeping all would-be passersby at bay).
Trip after trip, ride after ride, laughter and joy filled the yard as Nate and the others whooshed down the line.
Finally I had had enough of being the causal observer. I wanted a ride. After all, I’m still practically 18, just a kid, at least in my own mind. I totally could handle this. I wanted in on the action. Bring on the fun!
One of the little 5-year-old girls (who happens to be one of my students as well) was about to take her upteenth ride when I asked her if I could take a quick turn. I think she actually said “no” 🙂 but I insisted that I would be only a moment and that she could have the line all to herself again within 60 seconds. She reluctantly conceded with the help of me lifting her unwilling body off the seat, and I sat down before she could change her mind.
Nathan took the seat’s dangling rope and began dragging me up the line to the apex.
What fun this was going to be!
But, WOW! The view from the ground was much less intimidating than the view from 20 feet up. And I began having a few second thoughts as I neared the top.
Nate let go of the hoist rope, and I began a decent down the line that made the sped of skiing child’s play.
The first 2 seconds were complete exhilaration. The next 5, my thoughts/feelings spiraled downward from shock to panic.
I remember thinking 3 things as life sped past me in those last 5 seconds:
1. “WOW! This is going fast!”
2. “Hmmmm…EVERYONE, and I mean EVERYONE–students, siblings, parents–is stopping eating, talking, playing volleyball, to watch me, the crazy mom of the new freshman, go slicing through the backyard full-speed ahead…and perhaps to listen to my screams of terror as well.”
3. “Boy! I wish that I had paid attention when others were discussing how to work the brake on this thing. Because that tree at the end of my line sure is swiftly approaching.”
BOOM! Hello, Mr. Loblolly Pine. I’m so sorry that I just put permanent feet imprints into your coat of arms.
The next seconds after impact, I remember bouncing off the sentinel pine, flying off the seat, and having zip line pieces and particles come raining down on and around me. The good news was that the handle of the zip line contraption was still safe since I hadn’t released my death grip on it and it was still in my hand. The bad news was that it was no longer attached to anything.
Then laughter. My laughter. I was ALIVE!! How could I not laugh?!
Maybe embarrassment had something to do with the uncontrollable laughter escaping from me…and of course Nate contributed to the symphony of guffaws. Who could blame him? I mean it’s not everyday that you get to observe your mom taking down a tree AND destroying a zip line single-handedly. (Did I mention that the zip line was the family’s son’s new birthday present?)
After many rescuers made sure of my health, and more laughter was heard, (and Elizabeth DIDN’T die of embarrassment around her new friends and their parents), we finished our fun afternoon and all was well. The zip line was eventually fixed and now I’m known as the “zip line mom”.
Life is often a zip line. Our focus is on the scenes passing us by at a gazillion miles per hour.
Sometimes, we need, we REALLY need, to focus on the brake.
My “brake” that God is calling me to zero in on is thanksgiving. It’s easy to forget to be thankful in the midst of chaos. And yet God tells us in Psalm 50:14 that it is our sacrifice to Him. He could ask anything from us, but often He just wants our praise because it teaches us to TRUST in Him and His goodness.
And so I give Him my praise. I am so thankful for:
~God who desires my obedience one step at a time rather than my being “perfect”
~His voice that gently and lovingly guides me
~My husband who spends his whole weekend to drive 12 hours round-trip to take Nathan on a hunting trip
~…and who spends time with his children
~…and disciples them
~…and who gets up in the middle of the night to call the local sheriff because some yahoo neighbors are blaring their music so loudly that his wife can’t sleep (even though he was sleeping like a baby)
~…and who is just fine with my less than perfect meals
~Conversations Elizabeth and I are beginning to have about godly characteristics to look for in others, including young men that she may eventually be interested in. And the fact that more and more I find myself listing a quality characteristic and summarize by saying, “…like you dad is…”. So glad for Ben’s example.
~A wonderful transition into a new school to begin Elizabeth’s high school career
~…and for new friends she is making
~…and for old friends who are loyal
~…and her success in classes and on her teams
~A son who lives life intensely, full of laughter and joy and smiles
~…and who is looking more and more like his dad each day, growing in stature and health
~…and who balances his time pretty amazingly, especially for a middle school boy 🙂
~Time with a friend sitting on the bleachers at a football game exchanging parenting stories, encouraging one another, sharing hugs, and tears, and the knowledge that we aren’t alone
~Carpooling with friends!
~A church that readily breaths out grace AND truth to all who enter
~…and that loves people even when they aren’t what the world would consider a “someone”
~A workplace that is a ministry
~Students whose prayers sometimes say, “…and thank you, God, for the BEST PE teacher ever!” (wow. Now, that is humbling and undeserved. And yet is medicine to my weary soul especially when it is spoken by those students whom I have to “disciple” more than others.)
~A kindergartener’s hug
~Being privy to a group of middle schoolers’ inside joke
~Cars that allow me to transport my children and their friends all over creation
~A godly youth pastor who wants the best for my children and who is real
~A pastor and his wife who are patient, kind, encouraging, and gracious…and who speak the TRUTH
~Friends…both old and new
~People who are difficult who teach me how to have godly love
~Trials because they keep me humble and dependent on my Savior
~Extended family who love me…thistles and all
~A home that is often invaded by humanity under the age of 15
“Thank you, Jesus, for allowing me to focus on the brakes for a moment. Thank you for Your many, many blessings. May my thanksgiving be my sacrifice to You. Amen.”