May I let you in on a little secret? At the core of my being, I am a coward! However, God, who does not give us a spirit of fear, has graciously given me a husband, children and life circumstances to challenge this lack of bravery in me. Still, I find myself cowering from anything that takes me out of my comfort zone or beckons me on a risk-taking adventure. Although, I have always longed to do something significant and make an impact on the world, so far it hasn't happened. Instead, I cling to what is safe and familiar. Someone once wrote, "Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." This is true. My world is relatively small due to my own lack of courage. Thus, I do inconsequential things that make very little impact.
This year, I made it my objective to change that. In January, I wrote on my list of 2012 goals, Do something courageous! In my mind, I imagined some sort of mission's trip to help or encourage others in another country. However, in the spring, when my husband and I began to make plans to celebrate our thirtieth wedding anniversary, I knew exactly what my courageous act would be. You may laugh, but for me a two-week long trip to the cold, remote wilderness of Alaska and Canada was what I would need courage for, and a lot of it! The reason being, I am a sunshine seeking, warm-weather loving, city girl, who happens to be prone to seasickness. I knew our trip would stretch me far beyond my comfort zone on so many levels.
In July, while I packed my gigantic suitcase with a down jacket, gloves, a scarf and clothing which I could layer, I told one of my children, "It is not on my bucket list to travel to Alaska. This trip is for your dad."
They kindly reminded me, "Mom, isn't traveling to all fifty states on your list? You can't do that without going to Alaska." Out of the mouth of babes...
On the 4th of July, I gathered up my courage, along with my luggage, and my husband and I boarded an airplane to Anchorage, Alaska. Not exactly the courageous act I imagined. Nevertheless, from the start we saw tangible signs of God's love and generous blessings, like first class seats on our first leg of the journey, and visiting with the man seated next to me (the splitting image of Bruce Willis) who works in the oil fields of Alaska (my courage paled compared to his). But the best gift of all was watching the joy and excitement on my husband's face when we landed in Anchorage. Then, for the next fourteen days, God expanded my horizons, and my small world became a whole lot bigger.
We traveled thousands of miles, first by train, from Anchorage to Denali, then on to Fairbanks. From there we loaded a bus (much to my dismay) for a two and a half day adventure through the remote and desolate Yukon wilderness in Canada. We stayed overnight in a place called Beaver Creek (population 89) as well as the town of White River before we finally boarded a narrow gage train back to Skagway, Alaska. Everywhere we went, we found ourselves surrounded by breathtaking beauty as far as the eye could see---snow capped mountain ranges, lush green trees and foliage, meadows full of colorful flowers, as well as cascading rivers, waterfalls, lakes and marsh land. We saw caribou, sled dogs, moose, bears and eagles. In Skagway, we boarded a cruise ship, where we were able to experience the ice blue glaciers, lush green islands and small fishing villages. And, of course, we saw fish, dolphins and whales as well.
On land and by sea, my world grew larger, and as it did my heart also expanded with love. Although my act of courage was not the mission's trip I had envisioned, I enjoyed meeting people from all over the world, from North America to South Africa. And my husband and I noticed something, it seemed like the further north we traveled the more relaxed and kind people were. I was especially taken with the people in Fairbanks. Everyone, from the person walking down the street to the people who worked in the hotels, restaurants and shops, to those who served us on our tours, was genuinely kind, friendly and happy to be of help. God also answered a prayer we said at the beginning of our trip, "Lord, use us to bless others as we travel." Again and again, God answered our prayer by allowing us to be at the right place at the right time. He gave us many opportunities to listen, encourage and even offer our prayers for those we sat next to, shared meals with or who served us along the way.
I knew our trip would stretch me far beyond my comfort zone, and it did. It was apparent just how much when our ship pulled into the Vancouver port. When I saw the city and the downtown skyline, I knew I was back in civilization. I breathed a big sigh of relief. It felt as if I had been holding my breath the whole trip. I told you, I am a city girl. However, I also rejoiced in the fact that my act of courage not only made my world larger geographically, and not only expanded my heart with love for new people, but also, more than anything else, increased my faith in the bigness of God.
You see, one of the reasons I set a goal this year to do something courageous, especially a mission's trip, is because of the life changing effect I have witnessed each time my husband or children return from one. Sadly, until now, I have never had the courage to join them. But, my Alaska and Canada adventure brought me one step closer to being ready to try! One of my favorite Bible verses is this, Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9 My heart's desire is to continue to take steps to be strong and courageous. I no longer want fear or my tendency to cling to what is safe and familiar to keep me from going to places and peoples where God might call. I yearn to be a world changer, who lives a large life, brave and confident in the truth that, indeed, the Lord will be with me wherever I may go.
How about you? Are you holding back from places, people or opportunities God is calling you to? What is one courageous action you could take to enlarge your world, expand your heart and increase your faith this year?