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Fear had pounced without warning back then. Powerless and trapped, it felt like a nightmare ... and I was afraid.

It's a vivid memory that stretches more than a few years back, a time when I was handed a long list of demands; an agenda that stretched from here to the nearest McD's. At the top were the words, "Ride a roller coaster."

Were the grandkids trying to frighten their grandparents, or what? Just the thought of this kind of rockin' and rollin' was more terrifying than being old enough to join AARP.

Now, I'll be the first to admit I'm a scaredy cat, even though I've braved a few reality TV episodes of "Running Wild with Bear Grylls" or even carried a stunned spider or two outside. But ride a roller coaster? I'd have to be crazy.

I vaguely remember the ground trembling beneath us as we stood in line for the ride. And I sort of remember the periodic squeals of terror that pierced the air; how in less than a heartbeat both grands reminded me that I was embarrassing them. After all, we were only waiting in line.

Looking back, I was most certainly in a daze. The realization that my husband and I were actually paying huge sums of money for this experience already had me reeling. But after a tortuous wait, it was our turn.

At last, our grandchildren could quit asking for the bazillionth time, "Are you afraid, Grandma?"

For at that moment, there was complete silence. A quick look their way told me why. Both were busy concentrating on their own white knuckles instead of mine.

Locked in, we were sentenced to the ride.

The roller coaster started to move. Clickety-clack ... clickety-clack ... our car edged its way up the hill. Anticipation and fear built with each turn of the wheels.

About the time my deodorant failed, the roller coaster reached the top of the first peak. A height where oxygen masks should have been required. As we paused ... and gasped ... at what lay ahead of us, I knew we were in for a harrowing ride ... and there was no getting off.

Amid screams of terror _ that sounded a lot like me _ we rode that swinging roller coaster down the track. The force slammed us to the left, then to the right, like we were launched from a slingshot.

Oh! The darkness was horrifying! But then I opened my eyes.

Uh oh! More turns, more "whoop dee do's"! Would the twisting ride never end?

After what seemed like an eternity — three minutes to be exact — it was over. We'd finished the course. Even then, the whole experience left a bad taste in my mouth. Next time I'll take Dramamine.

But through it all, the grandkids thought their grandparents were the bravest. And we weren't about to set the record straight. Of course, what they didn't know was while on the outside our smiles had been frozen neatly in place, on the inside fear had clutched our hearts.

Isn't that so typical of human nature? Often we hesitate to let anyone know how scared we feel when our world is upside down.

It can happen at any time. One minute we're on smooth ground with just a few rumbles. Around us we may see other people going through drama, but it isn't happening to us. Then, all of a sudden, it's our turn.

With little or no warning we find ourselves locked into a painful ride — one we didn't expect. From then on, our days are up one moment and down the next. Yet, we continue to feign bravado.

Let me ask. Does cancer have you in its grasp? Or has tragedy caught you unaware? Maybe it's depression or heartbreak that seems like more than you can bear? When it comes to what life can hand us, and there's a lot lately, the list can go on and on.

Whatever it is that's slamming you from side to side, hang on. The days may seem dark, but take a look around you. God is right there. He has promised to stay the course. "I am holding you by your right hand ... . Don't be afraid; I am here to help you." the Bible says. (Isaiah 41:13) It's there in print to read again and again.

So hold on tightly, and know that you don't have to brave this alone. No matter how frightening the journey, you can count on this: God is along for the ride, holding your hand.

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