Skiing Past Fear and Failure


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My friends invited me to a Gal’s day out in the sun at their family’s lake house to celebrate the beginning of summer, there would be tanning, and eating, and water sports like skiing and jet skis. As I agreed to this fun-day several thoughts ran through my mind. Although I welcomed a day with my friends sans children near the water (yippee – translated peaceful day without the fear of small peoples drowning and this Mama jumping in with all her clothes on and yes this has happened … more than once;) I also had other thoughts like …

How I don’t like getting dirty

Fish pee and poop in lakes

A lake is a large (pretty much stagnant) body of water

That water could possibly touch me

I might get dirty

Then surface thoughts delved a little deeper into memory thoughts like …

Remember when you last tried to ski?

How old was I again?

What were the names of those people?

Ohh, wait! This memory doesn’t feel so good.

Ug. That was horribly awkward.

I was totally embarrassed!

I don’t want to think about that anymore.

Stuff it!

Are you completely lost? Let me bring you into that memory but with purpose in mind. You see I’m going to take you into a completely insecure moment from my life only to show you we all have the ability to overcome fears and failures that attach themselves to memories from our past that want to define how we react to trying new things in the future.

I was nineteen years old and in Teen Challenge (TC is a one year Christian resident program for those overcoming many addictions, primarily alcohol and drug addiction) in southern California. On one of my weekend passes home towards the end of my Teen Challenge program I met a wonderful Christian woman on an Amtrak train. We talked about God, about my testimony of all he had done in my heart, she shared about her two sons and her daughter a couple years younger than myself. I enjoyed her company and her spirit to love me and revel in God’s plan to restore and renew me. We became pen pals.

When I graduated Teen Challenge she invited me out to visit her at her home. I thought I’d be spending time talking with her like we had in letters and on the train. Trying to “think of me” and what I would “like” to do, she  set up for her two sons slightly older than myself and their friends (guys and gals), all of which I didn’t know, to take me skiing out on the lake with their boat. Ok! I have to add that they all knew how their Mom met me, where I recently came from and why I was there. They knew my whole story. I didn’t know one thing about them. Can we say … charity case? Because that’s exactly how I felt. Not to mention I haven’t been around any males my age in a year (Teen Challenge has separate facilities per gender), let alone in a bathing suit. As she shared her arrangements with me and I met these young people I became completely insecure and traumatized. The whole plan to come visit with this sweet God-loving lady had gone terribly wrong. I came to be encouraged and left mortified.

I understand, there are people (you may be one of them :) ) that grew up on lakes … doing water sports. You don’t care about the fish pee. You love the adrenaline of going fast and being athletic. I admire that. I however grew up in San Diego, California riding boogie boards in fresh salt water.  I was not prepared to try and learn how to ski with a group of young adults that had been skiing their whole lives.

The car and boat ride were awkward to say the least. Bless their hearts! They did their best to ask questions about me and talk about themselves, which only led to clearly defining the vastly different lives we had led. I thought … please just slap a scarlet letter on me already. I felt judged and see through but it wasn’t them … it was my own insecurities and fear. And then it was my turn to ski. I mustered what dignity I could find to put those dumb skis on. I jumped in that fish pee water (totally grossed out) and endeavored to (if you’ve participated in this sport before you know just what these next words mean and what it takes for them to happen) … “Stand Up.” The others patiently waited their turn as I would go on to fall on my face several times. I wanted to get out but they would say (trying to be nice),  “Try again! This time you’ll get it!”

It was torture. I never got up. I felt embarrassed. I felt alone. I felt naked. I NEVER wanted to do that again. I wanted to go home. Fast.

So fast forward, I am a 34-year-old Mom of four boys not a 19-year-old young woman. My friends have invited me to the lake. There will be skiing there. I’m revisited by an inner-vow, “I will NEVER do that again.” And come on, this stuff is subtle  … I didn’t make a big deal about not wanting too. I just simply made the decision before I went that I was just going to tan and enjoy watching my friends, preferably from a place where I touched the least amount of water 😉 .

I watched my friend Beth who has three small children get out there and fearlessly (and I say fearlessly!) rock her water-sport self on her skis. I thought good for her. I love that. I watched some of my other sweet mama friends get out there and give it a whirl. It didn’t matter if they “stood up,” it was that they tried. I loved that!

And then I heard the Holy Spirit speak to my heart two words, “Go try.” My precious friends were unaware of this internal dialogue as I looked and assessed the skis and assessed my ego 😉 . I had a choice to try something new and change the memory that associated itself with skiing every time I heard it mentioned. I had the opportunity to fail or succeed (not in front of complete strangers), but in front of my closest friends who didn’t offer obligated words of encouragement but deep rich words that came from relationship.

I started preaching to myself on the inside, “Don’t you let this rule you! Ris, you can do this! Conquer your fears!” I put those skis on, in the fish pee water, well, after practicing how I was supposed to hold the rope and pull up a few times on the deck. I wish I could tell you I magically “stood up” the first time. But I didn’t. It was probably the fifth time that I felt what they were talking about and snapped up to standing. It was kind of a huge moment, that didn’t last long, because I fell again (and since I synced my new phone and lost all my phone pictures from June, I can’t show you one of the truly glamorous times I flew forward on my face). I went on the get up a few more times. It felt good. It felt good to break the inner-vow and good to conquer fear and failure. It felt like … freedom! Here are a couple pictures of what the process of freedom looked like for me.

The next day as I was pondering these events in my heart and bragging on myself to my boys and husband. I heard the sweet whisper of my precious friend (the Holy Spirit) as He affirmed my heart with these words of wisdom, in which I cannot take credit,

“When trying new things, Falling isn’t failure … it’s practice.”

So I pray that when you have opportunities to redeem the past with the heart decisions of today, you would choose to risk failure all the while  you are conquering fear!

So with one hand on my tiara and band-aids on my knees (from trying more new things, of course!),

Your friend,



  1. rlgates
  2. Joanna
  3. Beth Williams
  4. Princess Sarah

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