I have always loved the county fair. As a child, 4H kept us sleeping in the cattle barns with friends (who had livestock), working the food stand, entering our exhibits for judging, and watching night after night of tractor pulls, rodeos, and motocross. In Missouri, it was always 100 degrees, but we never cared. Fair week was something we looked forward to all year and nothing could bring us down! We rode rides and played games, all in a blissful sugar coma – life doesn’t get much better than that!
So, I find it ironic that the night I was at my lowest point in my life, I was outside that same county fair years later. A place that once held such excitement, didn’t help the pain I was in.
As I was headed to my dear friend, Heather’s, house, I found myself stuck in the line of traffic headed to the fair. Their home was past the fairgrounds and I was in desperate need of her guidance, yet I found myself sandwiched between two large diesel trucks full of rowdy teenagers. Remembering their care-free spirit I had felt so long ago, only made the tears fall harder. I just wanted to get through that traffic and be held in my friend’s loving arms. The tears wouldn’t stop flowing.
Hours earlier, my ex-husband had taken my children out of town for the first time since our divorce. It was actually out of state to visit his family and I was so scared for them that I was nauseaous all day. See, I knew all too well what that six hour drive entailed – it was full of road rage, blame games, and violence. And for the first time, I wasn’t there to step in the way and take the brunt of it for my babies. They were young and long car rides were hard for their little wiggly bodies. After all, they were only 18 months old and 3 yrs old – at those ages, a car ride to the grocery store can be stressful at times!
As I write this, the anxiety comes welling back up and it feels like just yesterday I told them goodbye. They kept asking me why I was crying before he came to pick them up. I couldn’t tell them the truth – that I was scared that he might hurt them, or worse, that he might cross state lines and I would never see them again. But, as us moms do all so well, I put on my best fake smile, knelt down so I was eye to eye with their little inquisitive eyes and simple said, “Because I’m your Mommy and I am going to miss you so much! Do you know how much I LOVE you? I love you THIS much!” I stretched my arms way out and wrapped them up in them. They left a few minutes later and knowing I needed support, I jumped in the car and headed to Heather’s house, crying so hard I could barely breathe.
I just knew she would know what to say. Months before, she had invited me to church and I reluctantly accepted. But even after the first service I attended, I felt a drawing in. I was full of questions and I couldn’t get enough worship music and sermons. Heather and her beautiful family, took me and my wounded children in and carried us during those transitional months. I am forever grateful for their guidance and wisdom they imparted on us during that time. After all, it was because of their direction that I am free today.
That evening, Heather comforted me – I don’t remember her exact words that evening, just that they kept pointing me toward Christ. She kept telling me that I needed to ask Jesus to take control of my life – to hand it over to Him. I slowly calmed down and after a chocolatey chocolate ice cream run by her wonderful husband, I was finally calm enough to return home. Yet, on my way home I got stuck in that same fair traffic. Oh how I longed to feel that free again like those days of my youth navigating that fair. The tears started to flow once more.
By the time I returned home and realized I was returning to an empty house, I was inconsolable. I was empty and had no where else to turn. I fell flat on my face and cried like I had never cried before. How am I supposed to protect my babies from this far away? Knowing I couldn’t was gut-wrenching. Then I heard it – I heard God’s voice as clear as day saying, “You’re right, my child. You can’t protect them. I can and I will. But, right now you need to choose ME.”
And call on Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me. Psalm 50:15
So I did. Flat on my face, tears unending, I asked Christ into my life. The tears stoppped short and I went to bed full of peace. I slept for the first time in months – REALLY slept, all because the peace of Christ had washed over my anxious ridden heart.
That was ten years ago today and although I don’t ride fair rides anymore or eat funnel cakes, the fair still holds a special place in my heart. For even though the free-spirited days of my youth are behind me, it reminds me that I have found a much greater freedom – the peace-filled joy of salvation. And this Christ centered life is one ride I don’t ever want to stumble off of, no matter how rough and disorienting it can be at times. Because although it can be terrifying (like when God asks you to write for all the world to see), the thrill of being close to our Savior is totally worth it when you’re laughing and loved and happy.
Good thing I don’t have to worry if I have enough tickets – those never stop coming.
Now this is eternal life: that they know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent. John 17:3