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  • Writer's pictureStephanie Valentine

The Fear Factor

The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear. - Nelson Mandela

There are few things scarier than the responsibility of shaping 3 lives. I have a dear girlfriend who told me that she kept waiting for someone to knock on her door and say thank you for taking care of this baby (her daughter), we will take it from here. It is an awesome and tremendous responsibility. When it was clear that it was going to be just the four of us, I tell people I didn’t have the good sense to be afraid. Looking back, there probably wasn’t time. There was only time for action. Fear is a great paralyzing force. When fear stymies you, bad things can happen. In this instance, it was safer to keep moving.

Growing up, you always wanted to represent your family well. The fear of embarrassment kept us in line. We didn’t want to bring any shame on our family by acting like we had no home training. To reinforce this, we knew there would be consequences and repercussions. Your conduct in public is always a direct reflection on the guidance you received at home. Teachers would especially remind us of this. While there were several things you could overcome as a child, poor behavior was probably the hardest. I also remember that every once in a while you would encounter a stray dog on the street. Word had it that if you were afraid of the dog, it would know so you practiced not being afraid so the dog wouldn’t bother you. What great practice that was!

After my youngest was born, my family took turns staying with me for the first month. They made sure I had enough groceries to last a few weeks, but ultimately, we had to go to the grocery store. So with my 4 year old, 2 year old and 2 month old in tow, we headed out. In my mind this was a make or break moment. Were we going to be able to get all of our groceries without having a meltdown? Was everyone sufficiently rested and fed for this trip? If we couldn’t make it through the grocery store, we were going to be in bad shape. With the oldest holding my hand, the middle in the shopping cart, and the baby strapped to me in the baby carrier we walked in the supermarket. I tried to keep a dialogue going on as we went up and down the aisles. Look at the oranges, let’s find the milk, do you think we need spaghetti? We tried to make it a “find the item we are looking for” kind of trip. This kept them engaged and occupied. I was fully prepared to leave all of the groceries in the middle of the store and walk out if a meltdown occurred.

By the time we reached the checkout counter I was almost in tears. We did it guys, WE DID IT! We got through the entire store, paid for and brought our groceries home without any trouble at all. Even when I share this story with them today, they don’t fully understand the magnitude of that moment. I remember thinking, if we can conquer the grocery store, we can conquer anything. What I learned about myself that day is to run toward your fears. God has a way of showing you that you are stronger than you think you are if you are willing to trust Him.


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