I remember the day a playdate nearly brought me to my knees. My friend Laura and I had been meaning to get together, and we decided to invite Lola along with her pal from school who is also Laura’s niece. The forecast said slushy snow (in April), so a trip to the Humane Society sounded like a perfect pick-me-up. We grabbed the girls after school on a Friday, and stopped them by Jamba Juice & the grocery store for snacks before heading to visit some furry friends, vowing not to let each other buy any new pets on our way.
The Minnesota Humane Society is a wonderful, magical place our household frequents during the isolating Minnesota winter months to warm our hearts and hands with pets. It’s where we have gotten all three of our cats, we love browsing the bunnies and are not repulsed by rodents whatsoever. However, we rarely venture to the back to visit the dogs. On this special visit, the girls asked to see the dogs first.
Good to note here: I am utterly terrified of dogs to the point of not really liking them, at all – I know this is not a popular point of view, but dogs have rambunctious energy that is annoying to me, their unpredictability seems dangerous, and growing up around large Boxers who lost their freaking minds at the slightest door-knock was not a cute way to welcome friends into my home. One of our Boxers (Maggie) actually peed at my boyfriend’s feet in high school right when he walked through the door, to my complete horror. My mom said she was afraid of his cotton candy afro; that didn’t help. So I don’t love dogs but I know Laura does — she has a pup herself and is a foster mom to others — and I wanted to put on a brave face for the girls. In to the dogs we went.
Walking the rows of kennels was sensory overload. It smelled like pee, loud barks echoed from the walls, and every kennel was a surprise — some dogs jumped, others lay lethargically waiting for pets from their future owners, some kennels sat empty. I grew tense not knowing what to expect when a large dog jumped and barked simultaneously, and that was it for me. I walk over to find Laura, Sienna and Lola crouching down next to a little dog named Shore… I joined them, heart still racing.
The girls wanted to take Shore into a visitation room, so I crammed my fears further down, smiled, and said ok. In we went and would you guess whose lap this dog chose to climb into?
Mine. Shore. Of course.
He just sat down and wouldn’t get up. I let him lay across me. Then he wouldn’t leave! This guy was so sweet, and yet I was shaking at the possibility that he might turn on me. Laura asked to fill out paperwork to put the dog on hold. My hands sweat in fear as we snapped photos together and sent them to our husbands, making them guess who’d be coming home with a puppy. I knew as I sent the texts that Christian would never fall for it, but that he might fall out of his chair seeing me voluntarily holding a dog. His perspective on dogs is one of the reasons I fell in love with him!
My heart rate returned to a semi-normal pattern when we visited the much sparser selection of cats up for adoption. One particularly tiny black kitty caught the girls’ attention, so we asked to visit her in a private room. As the humane society volunteers escorted us to the very same spot where I’ve fallen in love with all three of my cats I thought, this is going to be dangerous. Then I ran into my friend Alexis and we spent a few minutes chatting before I caught up with Laura and the girls.
The cat was in the corner, growling a low, almost inaudible, and utterly terrifying sound. The girls were backed into the opposite corner, strategizing their escape. Laura sat close to the little gremlin kitty, shushing her and trying to pet her into a comfortable position. We dangled toys and tried playing with her, but the sound she made only intensified.
Knowing not all kitties are social, I tap the glass wall and ask one of the volunteers to retrieve this little gal for return to her cage. No bother, I thought, the girls are already off elsewhere looking at the ferrets. We join them, and as we sanitized our hands (always clean your hands between petting pets!!!) Laura says, “I have to admit I was pretty afraid in there. I don’t really like cats, they’ve always scared me and I don’t know how to be around them. And that cat seemed a little evil!”
I start to laugh.
“That’s exactly how I felt about being in the room with a dog on my lap! And that dog was so nice and so chill, but I was still petrified he would bite me because ALL DOGS TERRIFY ME!” I would never have told her that, if she hadn’t shared her fears first.
When we admit our fears out loud we free people around us to do the same. And if there’s one thing I know fear hates the most, it’s being exposed.
This experience made me think, how many people walk around a little scared all the time and just need someone else to admit they’re scared first? How will we ever know who else is afraid, if we don’t share how we’re afraid, too?
Truth is, we’re all afraid but the people who succeed are the ones who do the thing they’re scared of anyway. That’s called being brave.
Webster’s definition of bravery states that courageous behavior or character is what classifies someone as brave. But I wanted a kid’s perspective, so one night Lola and I were discussing, what does it mean to have courage? To be brave? And she said, being afraid to do something….and then kind of trailed off. “Is it like doing something scary?” she said. And I said, “yes!” Then we decided having courage means facing scary things, and being brave means you do it, even if you’re afraid.
Fear fades when we take action, operating out of love. God shows us there’s no fear in love — if we love the other, we can’t be afraid of them (and this is an amazing song that reinforces that concept). The phrase Fear Not is used over 80 times in the Bible, no doubt because God knew we’d deal with it throughout the entirety of our lives here on earth. It’s scary. It’s unknown. Every day is different. But because God loved us we love God, and we love the people God made and the earth God’s entrusted to us – we show up, our love for God going ahead of us, driving out our fear of anything that may happen to us along the way. I love getting this song stuck in my head when I need the message to stick to my heart — Fear Not by Kristene DiMarco.
When we operate out of love, self-preservation flies out the window, we do things we’d never dream of doing (like holding a dog!!!) because God’s love for US keeps us going and fear has no place in that circular motion of a big, beautiful love.
Love surrounds our deepest fears and turns them in to our wildest dreams.
I’m so afraid to launch my new business (tomorrow!), but more so than that my heart is so full of love for the women who signed up to work with me and the people who will experience this celebratory product we are making together, their healing hands with mine. I already love them, these students of sobriety turned Confetti-makers who are starting their whole lives over again after overcoming addictions that threatened to consume them. I’m honored to hire them, I’m their biggest fan, and I’m not willing to miss out on the possibility of what may come if we just DO THIS. I want this confetti making company to blow up, want us to get so many orders we have to hire MORE women in recovery and yes I’m scared of failing hard but I’m doing this anyway — Nike it, I tell myself — Shia LaBeouf’s words of “encouragement” screaming in my ears, JUST DO IT.
And who cares if I fail? Failure is never really failure if the effort is rooted in love.
After the humane society we all got snowed in to our houses, the whole city covered in feet upon feet of white fluffy stuff that made for a cozy couple of days baking cookies and making fires, Lola and her friend stretching the playdate long into the weekend. Laura, for the record, did place that pup on hold, but ultimately he went home with someone else. And I’m sure gremlin kitty found a nice place to live with someone who’s not afraid of a little pet project — pun intended.
Do not be anxious about anything. God’s got you covered, surrounding you with the greatest love you’ll ever know. You already have attained this, not out of anything you did to earn it, but because God loves everyone and sent Christ to make things right on behalf of everyone who believes.
And may the God of peace grant you courage in all circumstances, so you too can be brave.
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.