She emerged from the bracken with a somewhat bemused expression on her face, hair in front of her eyes and her cycle helmet tilted at a jaunty angle but to everyone's relief there was no anguished crying and actually a broad smile began to emerge. Yes you guessed it, the titian one strikes again! We were with good friends in the Lake District a few weeks ago and had decided to do one of the cycle routes at Whinlatter.
With a confidence which comes from speeding around on toy tractors, the deep and thoughtful one was very much up for this trip and hit the front from the off. His sister though was less certain. She didn't say as much, which in truth gave it away! The time for asking one's daughter 'are you OK?' will usually happen only if she has stopped speaking for at least 30 seconds. This was one such occasion. For whilst she is 'Miss have a go at anything', riding her bike is the one thing where the word 'concern' is etched into her forehead. So, very much at the back of the pack with me following, she headed onto the forest trail and within 10 yards.....she was off! This was not a good start and in my head I thought 'this two mile bike ride could well end up taking a looooonnnnnngg time to complete.' Never mind, she dusted herself down and got back in the saddle. Up ahead, the group had turned down the trail and had kindly waited for her to catch up. As she approached the fairly sharp corner, the obvious thing would have been to use her brakes, but she was having none of it; round she came going way too fast and knowing she was never going to negotiate the turn saw the bracken and made a reasonably sound decision that the now orange tinted foliage would break her fall rather than break her bones! It was a sound assessment but although she came up smiling, her confidence was shot and to say that her riding therafter was tentative would be something of an understatement. I don't know who was more relieved when we got back to base. One of those trips where the word 'enjoy' quickly slips to 'endure'!!
But, twenty four hours later, things were very different. One of the activities on offer at Bassenfell was abseiling down the side of the Manor. 'Yes please' said Biff 'I really want to do this'. The boy who (as previous entries have indicated) won't be persuaded by anyone or anything, crossed his arms and defiantly said 'there is no way I'm coming down from there on a peice of rope'.....risk averse doesn't even come close!
Half an hour later, harnessed and helmeted up with red hair protruding out at all angles, she cheered and encouraged as first two of her friends made there way down the wall and cautiously came to ground. Then it was her turn. As she lifted her legs over the edge, I detected a slight look of anxiety but there was no way she was turning back now. Down she came, with the same level of caution as the others but when she touched the ground there was a huge smile on her face and an eagerness to do it all again. Second time around and with the confidence of 'been there and done that' she abseiled commando like (well perhaps a combination of my memory and being a proud Daddy means I exagerrate!) to the bottom and waved her arms in wild celebration.
What a difference in 24 hours. From tears and anxiety to smiles and exuberance, the journey of one little girl. We can all feel this sense of elation turn to despair or vice versa. Sometimes it can happen in a 24 hour period, other times we can experience it over days, weeks, months or even years. At other times those opposites in emotion can happen very quickly indeed. I went to watch Ipswich play Leicester City at Portman Road last week. It was the boy's first league game and whilst he insisted on telling me ALL the way there that he was in fact a Newcastle fan (!) I still sensed he was looking forward to it. Within two minutes we'd scored. 'Fantastic' I thought 'at least he's seen them winning' but alas it was shortlived and Ipswich went on to lose the match. That kind of up and down emotion is not as acute as it once was; possibly on account of me being older or more probably a lowering of expectations after ten years of following ITFC in the wilderness! Don't get me started on The Ashes however #hurts
We all get 'ups and downs' and for some of us, the down times can be a pretty dark place to be. Nothing so superficial as teams winning and losing but real life issues such as health, debt, bereavement or loneliness. I'm no pyschiatrist or pyschologist so I dont have some, all or for that matter any of the answers to those in these situations.....but what I can do is pray.....for my family, my friends and those I come into contact with on a daily basis no matter what they're going through as well as myself! Being a christian does not protect me from the ups and downs of life, but my faith gives me Hope and Forgiveness, as well as learning about Compassion and Peace. Sometimes (too often) I forget how much God loves us......but when I remember, then I know that on the other end of the line is an all knowing, awesome Creator God, whose mood never goes up or down, but rather listens and is concerned about every little detail of our lives and wants the very best for us........that's why I pray!
PS - Even if you've prayed beforehand, when going cycling.......... wear a helmet!