A Race, a Balloon and a Newborn 40 Year Old

Posted: 4th January 2017 by Caryn in Posts by Trent

There are things in life worth fighting for. Sometimes that thing is life itself. Overcoming is a sweet victory. Joy and expanding life can be harnessed if we care to find it.

There were two ways I chose to mark my 40th in November 2016. The first involved pain and the second involved pleasure. I didn’t realise how much significance each of these events would hold as I crossed the milestone of another decade. They sum up much of my life, and create foundations for exploring the next chapter.

Both events happened:

  • Trent and I completed an olympic length triathlon and I actually finished in one piece, albeit an exhausted piece. (Trent also finished but that’s not my story to tell.)
  • Trent and I relished the experience of floating to 7300 ft in a hot air balloon.

Both events brought a great sense of satisfaction.



The pain event was a challenge posed a year ago: to complete a triathlon of a 1.5km swim, 40km cycle and 10km run before I turned 40. That’s more than double the distances of anything I’d done previously. The concept was unfathomable to my untrained body. BUT. I had watched Trent and his brother finish complete with the endorphin hit at the end. Couple that with the fact that Trent is a natural born motivator, and I was moved to say “Yes!” in that half hopeful, half determined kind of way.

The rewards from things I’ve had to fight for, or spend myself on, are often sweeter, even if not immediately felt.

Treasures are only valuable when we’ve had to seek them out. The people who have the most impact on me are people who have persevered through struggles or hardship and all the while maintained soft or hopeful hearts. There is something that happens in the fight, in the seeking and in the hardship that tests and solidifies our inner strength, or breaks us to a point of having to rebuild afresh.

I’ve needed inner strength desperately numerous times in my life. There is much advice out there about how that’s achieved. I’ve tried ‘looking within myself to find what I need’ but I have found introspection when my mind and heart are clouded to be quite damaging, sending me into downward spirals. There is also the recommendation of disciplining myself to eliminate negativity and to dwell on positivity. I have found that this can lead to a false positivity, and a denial of difficulty. Help from others has been good but no one can walk my inner healing journey for me, it’s still up to me.

My most trustworthy source of strength without doubt is found in the person of Jesus.

Not only gentle Jesus meek and mild, but also the table-turning, miracle-working, weather-commanding, demon-destroying, future-telling, death-defying, life-giving Jesus. Time and time again when I have been at the end of my own strength I have said to Him, “God I need your help.” Usually the answer is not immediate, but when I reflect back I ALWAYS see how He has responded in love. These times were most powerful when I had nothing left within myself to find, and was finding it hard to see any positivity anywhere. As His faithfulness and unconditional love have proven themselves true, our conversations have progressed beyond the emergency help pleas to become a more regular kind of interaction where inner strength is cultivated through Him. With Jesus in the picture, introspection is much more productive. I DO seek the positive in all things because my life being rooted in the Life-Giver’s hand means that hope is guaranteed in any given circumstance.

During that olympic length triathlon I hit a wall. I needed to run another 2.5km to finish and it felt impossible. My body was starting to tingle all over, my knees were sore, I was overheating, and I could feel my willpower shutting down. A runner in front of me folded and started to cry as another runner put an arm around her. Then I wanted to cry because I felt the same, but I knew if I cried I wouldn’t be able to breathe. It was a battle of the mind that I wasn’t sure I could win. So I did the “God I need your help” thing. A few minutes later…”Caryn, I’m here! I’m catching up to you!”. It was Hanna, a spontaneous running buddy I’d met at the start of the run. We had been intermittently keeping pace with one another. God knew I needed a companion to get me through. The finish was surreal, quietly blissful and it changed me into an overcomer.

It’s good to do hard stuff.

I have discovered that with Jesus I am stretchy. When I invite Him to be present in my life, he stretches the boundaries of my capabilities beyond what I had ever thought of or imagined.

I need people in my life.

I needed Trent who knows me, to tell me that he knew I was capable. I needed Hanna to spur me on. As a shy, introverted, melancholic teenager with a low self esteem, God placed people in my life who saw potential in me that I couldn’t see and who invited me to step into More. I remain a shy, introverted adult with a tendency towards melancholy, but a renewed sense of identity means that I am at far less risk of implosion. I have been invited by Jesus to stretch a bit further into this more meaningful existence, into His good plans and bigger picture.

Something changes in us when we become overcomers.

There is great joy in finishing the race. In that instant we become more resilient and better equipped for what may follow. There is also great joy in receiving the desires of our heart, particularly when we did not think we would ever see those dreams realised.

The pleasure event was one of those dreamy things that simmer in the back of your mind as a nice-to-have but not likely. For me it was the indulgence of flying on a hot air balloon. 40 seemed like a big enough milestone to consider it, and through the love of friends who chose to bless me, it became a reality.

The hot air balloon was a dream realised, but without a pain requirement. There is such a thing. It was the gentleness of that hot air balloon flight that surprised me most. Before I realised what was happening the ground was inobtrusively growing smaller. We were ascending, no – floating – without any power other than that holding the balloon upright and inflated, and a few noiseless engineering mechanisms. We were simply released after being made ready. It was only when I saw other hot air balloons below us that I realised the heights we’d reached. Our spirited pilot took us as high as we were permitted to go. Soon we were out of the valley, above clouds and mountain ranges and could see new perspectives of city skylines on the horizon and other mountain ranges in the distance. It was a feeling of awe and wonder and a peaceful kind of bliss. I think it’s in those moments that we are free to feel the joy of God.

I’ve found that life is pixelated with joy moments.

Sometimes there are many pixels joined together for stronger and more powerful imprints of joy – like our wedding day, and fantastic times with family, a hot air balloon ride, and my friends travelling all the way to Noosa to celebrate with me. Sometimes, though, those pixels are just dotted around everyday things – like the person who lets you go in front of them, or the bill you didn’t have to pay, or the friend who encouraged you just when you needed it, or the verse you read that gave you wisdom for a decision. It’s too easy not to see those pixels or to quickly forget them, but sometimes those things keep us floating. I learned this most effectively during a month-long gratitude challenge when I realised that I didn’t need to use my back-ups in case of a crappy day, because every day, including the crappy days, yielded at least one thing to appreciate and be grateful for. Collect 30 days of those, and you might find the valley quietly becoming smaller as you rise above.

I actually do love people. People bring me joy.

People tire me out and bring me pain sometimes, but those people are not in the majority, and sometimes the God-changes in journeying with those very people mean they ultimately bring the most joy. Most of my cherished moments in the gratitude challenge involved people with whom I enjoyed being, or who had blessed me somehow, or were simply people to be appreciated. I have since maintained a rhythm in my journalling of stopping to catch the joy pixels. Trent frequently features – I never imagined a husband could be such a wonderful gift. And God features every time as I uncover more and more aspects of how gracious and good and real He is. I need people in my life to experience joy. I need God for those things to matter.

There was very little air stirring around us as the hot air balloon rose up from the valley because we were in the wind, and the balloon is made to move with it. The Spirit of God is described as a wind: we can’t see Him but we know He’s there because we see the effect. As we ‘sailed’ the wind in the hot air balloon I thought it was a fitting analogy of how I’ve seen Him at work in my life. I know He’s there even though I don’t physically see or hear Him, but

I am made for movement, and when I invite the dance of moving with Him, He gives direction and momentum.

Without me even realising His influence sometimes, I find myself at higher heights than I imagined, moving in new directions that feel right, gaining new perspectives, and finding a new kind of joy that refreshes and strengthens.

My experience is that life can feel like it’s full of suffering – to the point where it’s quite overwhelming or even daunting. Life can also hold moments of pure ecstasy – those times where there is so much beauty or joy or love that it’s hard to describe or contain. Sometimes I find myself holding these polar opposites in each hand simultaneously. But I think that’s what I’ve learned over 40 years – it’s not usually not just one or the other. Nor do they particularly go hand in hand or balance each other. As I get older I am slowly learning to manage the tension between things that seem to oppose each other. When in the dark valley, don’t forget to look up to where the sun still meets the land. Find the flowers that grow in shade. Enjoy the mountain top experiences fully and unashamedly without letting the valley experiences rob the joy of those moments. Cherish God and cherish people – we were made to enjoy each other as we do this thing called

  1. Nikki Mattisson says:

    Wow Caryn! I needed to hear these words and I am just so inspired by you! So proud to call you my cousin! Love you lots xxx