If you follow me on social media, you saw a very panicked Valerie asking for prayers on insta-stories the day I was set to go flying in a plane for the first time in 18 years.
A little back story. When I was a kid, I burst my eardrum after a long car ride to Corpus Christi, Texas for the Lamb family reunion. I remember the yellow Psalty shirt I was wearing that was stained with blood from a very painful burst. I remember screaming in the hotel hallway bloody murder around midnight (sorry travelers!!) when it happened. And I remember that pain. And then, I hopped on a plane years later for our eighth grade field trip to Washington, DC. I got a bad cold there and on the way home, my other eardrum nearly burst. This is still a hot debate between me and my mom and the ENT. I swear it bursts and over the last 18 years pretty much convinced myself of it. Since that flight, I haven’t been back on a plane. While my sister was off traveling (we did the math and she’s flown over 60 flights!) I sat home wishing that I could fly but believing I couldn’t because of the fear.
Fast forward a decade plus and I’ve gotten a little stir crazy. I’ve actually gotten to visit some incredible places despite not being able to fly but it has certainly held me back. I’ve long wanted to visit France where my husband has family and spent two summers. I want to visit an all-inclusive beach resort that my sister is now obsessed with and I want to see our Haiti brothers and sisters. (This is what Vivi calls the kids we sponsor).
This year, we made a big change to our giving program that you can read all about here but instead of donating smaller amounts to different charities each month, we decided to make a really big impact in one spot. Our beloved Haiti brothers and sisters. We will be feeding two schools hot meals every school day. Y’all, I still tear up over this. We talked with the directors of Reciprocal Ministries International and they just emphasized what an impact a hot meal makes in their life every day. It helps them focus and learn and it obviously helps their overall nutrition and heath. I have been dreaming about going visit the kids at the end of the school year after we’ve had this program going for a year and honestly couldn’t imagine my fear of flying standing in the way of that.
So I had to get on a plane.
What’s neat is how God has aligned all this.
This year, one of my big goals was to marvel at what my body can do. This thing that I feel is way too broken down for a 32-year-old? I wanted to marvel at it! Hello. Seeing my ears function would definitely have me marveling.
I post to Facebook asking if anyone knows of some way I can test out my ears and go up in a plane with the ability of saying “This hurts! Get me down!” Obviously not possible on a commercial plane so I feel like this held me back. Having it as a goal meant I had to start pursuing how to do this. So I posted to FB not really expecting anything to materialize from it but trusting that I at least needed to obey that push.
My old college roommate sees the post and tells me her dad flies and I should contact him. Right here, I have to pause and say you have no idea the impact you might have in someone’s life. I met my college roommate at one of neighbor’s and childhood bestie’s house when we were not yet 10-years-old. This introduction later meant when we ended up at the same college, we knew enough of each other to room together. (Hey Alexis! You didn’t know you played such an important role in this story, did you??) So all this wouldn’t have happened with her! And my friend who commented on the post about her dad? She could have totally kept that fun fact to herself! (Thank you Steph!!!)
Mr. Greg wasn’t just a pilot. He was a helicopter pilot by trade (helicopters are harder to fly than planes) AND a mechanic and inspector. He was also really excited to help people enjoy flying and get over fears. He was the perfect guide and made me feel as comfortable as I could leading up to our flight. So right there, I had the best case scenario and an opportunity that only God could have orchestrated. As I let my fears take me over the few days before, my husband kept reminding me of all this.
So day of, I’m still panicked. I remember that I haven’t actually been to the ENT in a while and maybe I can’t fly now? I miraculously get an appointment just a few hours later and go in. I tell him about what I’m hoping to do and ask him best things to do to help my ears out. He’s shocked I’m talking about flying in just a few hours. I tell him how I have to pop my ears each morning so they pressurize so I’m just unsure how if I can’t even handle the pressure of land, how I am supposed to handle the altitude. He looks in my ears and feels behind them and tells me. My ears are perfect. Nothing is wrong with them. They are Grade-A, clear as humanly possible, ideal ears. It turns out I have a jaw problem and that’s why my ears pop so often on a daily basis. Mind blown. In all my prayers and scenarios of how God could work this whole thing, I never imagined this. GOD WAYS ARE ALWAYS HIGHER THAN MY WAYS. ALWAYS. I sat there just stunned that an 18-year-old fear had no basis.
So there I am, seeing doors open left and right at this opportunity that truly could have only been God. To be honest, my fears didn’t totally subside at the news that my ears would be fine. The jaw things was a good theory, but not a diagnosis. And to be more honest, I had another lingering fear. My mom’s mom actually died in a small private plane crash when my mom was just 3 years old. You can bet Satan tried to plant seeds of fear thinking about my own 3-year-old, Vivi. But I was seeing God’s hand so much in all this that I constantly tried to renew my mind in truth.
On the 30-minute drive to the airport, I listened to a sermon by Max Lucado called “Who Flies Your Plane?” all about anxiety and as I pulled into the hangar I had Hillsong United’s “Touch the Sky” playing. Why? Because I’m a complete sap and wanted even my pep talks themed to flying. I teared up as I drove up honestly, just amazed that God could create such an opportunity for me. Even before I flew and knew all was good, I was just grateful for how God cares about something as small as my ears and my ability to fly and go places.
Mr. Greg showed me the plane and where we would be flying and we hopped in the small two-seater. Again, I was just floored at the opportunity. I nervously held my hands together and held my breath before we took off. As we lifted off, I felt such an intense mix of “This is it? This is what I was afraid of?” and “This is AMAZING!! I can’t believe I did it!” We flew over the coast of Louisiana, over where my friend, his daughter got married and flew over my neighborhood. And the clouds y’all. They look mighty different when you are floating out there in the sky and I honestly can’t wait to fly again!
It was such an incredible experience and such a rush of emotions as I stepped out into this fear I had had for so long.
I had so many reflections on the way home that I hope will encourage you as you feel fears of all different kinds.
1. I have no idea what I missed out on for EIGHTEEN years.
I remember a year ago telling my husband how different my life might be had I gone on a mission trip when I was younger. Would I have had more of a passion for people different than me? I have felt this only develop in the last few years. How could that have shaped me differently? I strongly believe things happen for a reason, but I know that we can still miss out on things God has for us when we choose not to listen to Him. I don’t want to miss out anymore.
2. Fear doesn’t just stay the same, it grows to irrational proportions.
When I talked to people about the flying, I know it seemed so silly to them. Just chew some gum. You’ll be fine. It’s not that big of a deal. And when I can think clearly, I know that’s true, BUT 18 years of fearing something turned my fear into something completely irrational. The fear had 18 years to build up. I had many dreams at night in those 18 years of being on a plane and not being able to get off. The fear was so much bigger and didn’t match reality. This is why it’s so important to confront our fears before they debilitate us. What you are fearing today can lose power once we choose to take one small step to conquer it. If not, it will grow. It will not simply stay the same.
3. Discomfort is ok.
Right before we landed, we dropped altitude really fast so I did feel a lot of discomfort the 20 seconds or so before we landed. I panicked and even wondered was this all a waste? Are my ears going to do this every time? Will it burst? This goes back to #2. I was irrational. I forgot that most people experience some discomfort when they fly. And they survive. The thing you fear the most right now may never become easy for you, but that’s ok. You can be uncomfortable and survive.
4. Your fears are authored by the devil himself, not by your own heart.
He is determined to make us miss out on life. Don’t let him win. After my big victory, the following day I let myself be consumed by another random fear. Y’all, I conquer this huge fear and then let something dumb cause me to fear. It sounds ridiculous but it’s because there are endless things that we CAN worry about and the devil will keep throwing them at us so we have to keep batting them away with truth. In my case, it stole 30 minutes of my time with the girls as I tried to distract myself with my phone before I could see what was happening. When I realized what I was doing, we switched gears and went to the pool and I am so grateful for that time and that decision, but I can easily see how many moments can be lost to fear.
Here is the verse I clung to that reminds me that life might get a little scary but God called us to live boldly! He didn’t rescue us from death so that we’d live in fear.
This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?”
– Romans 8:15 (MSG)
Ok friends, let’s conquer a little fear right now. Leave a comment and tell me what fear you have been thinking about as you read this? What fear are you ready to make a small step in conquering?
And if you are ready to really let go of fear, I’ve got a brand new 14-day challenge all on renewing our minds coming on Wednesday! The weeks leading up to my flight, I did a ton of soul searching. Over the past year, the word “mind” in Scripture kept standing out to me and now I know why. For me in that fearful moment and for y’all. Are you ready? I’ll be sharing on social media and here on Wednesday! 🙂