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Farm Pond in NebraskaWhile casually chatting with some new friends, one looks up and glances toward the lake where our kids are exploring. He asks about a noise he heard. The other Dad listens. “That’s not a good yell!” He says – and takes off running.

I didn’t hear the commotion, but knowing my kids are about 600 yards away by the farm pond, I too took off running.

Since lunch wouldn’t be ready right away, the kids decided to go explore the farm. I didn’t think too much of it, but later when I heard they were out by the lake, a small voice urged me to go check on them. And yet, I ignored it.

Well, I didn’t actually ignore it, but I did argue with that little voice. As an older father with a long history in EMS, I tend to be a bit cautious. I want my kids to inherit my adventuresome spirit, but I’d like them to survive.

I never feared death until my kids were born. Now, I feel vulnerable to death. It would kill me to lose them, and I’d hate to abandon them through my own death. For someone who embraces adventure and dangerous activities, it’s a weird place to be.

So here I am, running through waist deep grass and weeds about 30 feet behind my friend. We still don’t know what’s going on, but we can hear panicked screams of terror from at least one child. But we can’t see them. I’m praying the whole way and preplanning resuscitation scenarios in my head. I’m also steeling myself, emotionally, to do CPR on one of my kids.

Suddenly the weeds get thick and we can’t run. The vines are wrapping around our ankles and the nettles are stinging our legs. The urgency is still there, but I feel like a turtle running through peanut butter. We’re really in deep weeds now.

I catch a sight of my Smiling Son’s white cowboy hat, and I can see he’s walking around – but he’s near the lake. I call our my Darling Daughter’s name – once, twice, and she finally answers. The screaming calms and the kids appear out of the deep weeds. Just then, I get dive bombed by bees.

As I continue to struggle through the vines and grass, I’m waving my arms trying to fend off the bees. The kids tell us that they were attacked by bees. Ah, now they tell me! ūüėČ

I get through the weeds and away from the offended nest. I have a million grass seeds in my socks and shoes, and few stings from the nettles, but I escaped the angry bees. The kids are fine, except for a few stings, but they are all scared and relieved to see us. I, on the other hand am out of breath and filled with the adrenaline rush of fear, panic, and genuine parental concern.

I take turns holding my kids and soothing their fear.

That’s one of the hard things about being a parent. It doesn’t matter what emotions are in your own heart, your kids’ needs come first. They feared bees, I feared something more tragic and scary. They feared the physical pain of stingers, I feared losing one or both of them. Clearly, my fears trump theirs – but that is irrelevant. I held them. Their fears are real, and deep, and tragic.

At their ages, they could never understand the depth of my love for them. My Smiling Son and I have a little bedtime ritual. He tries to one-up me on how much he loves me more than I love him. I love his confidence and enthusiasm as he tries to show me how much he loves me. It’s a form of worship really. But, without crushing his spirit, I can never let him win this game.

First, he doesn’t understand, really, the depth of love we are really talking about. Second, he can never love me more. And finally, the stakes are high – our kids have to know the depth of our love for them. They have to know that our love is a nearly bottomless pit.

As we walked back to the farm-house, the kids shared their stories of the “hundreds and millions of bees” that attacked them. We two Dads, just held them, listened, and thanked God for the opportunity to still hold our kids.

The kids couldn’t ride with me in the truck because I couldn’t figure out how to disable the passenger-side airbag. So I got had to drive cross country by myself. I know each of the kids would have enjoyed some time in the truck, and my Wonderful Wife would have appreciated a bit of a break. I, on the other hand, really enjoy my time alone on the road. It always gives me time to process.

(this is the missing piece from last week’s post found here)

After dealing with the ordeals of liquidation, packing, moving, and leaving our Oregon life behind, I had two huge fears. First was the fear of mechanical failure in the truck and van. The other was my fear of traffic, motor vehicle crashes, and the loss of my family.

The truck was overloaded. In fact, we left several nice items behind based purely on weight (I kept thinking about all the covered wagons on the¬†Oregon Trail that tossed out prized possessions along the journey). The radiator leaked, I wasn’t too sure about the engine – with over ¬†250+k miles, and the rear tires don’t have much tread left on them. I was actually¬†“OK” with a breakdown, though the prospect of unexpected financial costs were somewhat daunting. It was the fear of a catastrophic accident that frightened me – and leaving my family fatherless.

I read recently that “all emergency responders are wounded.” The PTSD¬†is cumulative. We, paramedics, firefighters, EMTs, and police officers, see things no sane person should see – and few of us remain sane after seeing all of this. Whenever I see loved ones get into a car, a twinge of fear goes through my heart. This is the fear I had for my family driving cross country. Despite my own paranoia, driving does remain on of the most dangerous¬†activities¬†any of us will participate in. I never feared death until I had a family – now, I fear their deaths, and my own.

After realizing the fear and sorrow of this whole ordeal, confessing and admitting it, I was better able to hit the road – but the above fears continued to haunt me. But a few days into the journey, I experienced a breakthrough.

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Several years ago, I had the opportunity to hear¬†Dr. Larry Crabb speak at a conference in Denver. I was impressed with his views on community and God’s love. I bought a couple of his books and MP3 audio¬†presentations, but due to our hectic life over the past six years, I never really took the opportunity to explore his material – until last week. After two days of driving, I pulled up the audio version of his book,¬†Finding God.

I love the synchronicity of perfect timing. I’m sure I would have enjoyed the book before, and I’m certain it would have spoken to me, but the healing power of this book was made more powerful after the perfect storm of fear I experienced during our exodus from Oregon.

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