It was 2:30am and I was 5 years old. I had barely been able to fall asleep earlier, knowing that I would be awakened now. My dad and I stood on the dock surrounded by the night's emptiness. The cool, salty breeze of the Texas coast brushing my face promised adventure to my young heart. The poor shrimp we used as bait didn’t stand a chance as we hurled them into the feeding frenzy below. In 20 minutes we had caught our legal limit of fish for the day. Salty and euphoric, we fell back into sleep and dreams just before the sunrise.

To this day few memories fill me with more satisfaction.

My first love - my sweet Daddy - and the distinct smell of the Texas coast.

First loves forge paths that we travel our entire lives.

The sea is one of those for me. An enduring and powerful love of the sea was birthed while fishing in those wee hours of the night, a love that has since taken me on many adventures.

My dad didn’t mind if I sat on the front of his Shallow Sport boat while we plunged into the white-capped swells. My heart would soar as the wind and salt water unlocked my curly hair, gloriously free now after hours spent forcing it straight.

My friends didn’t share my love for fast boat rides without protective sides. My passion for the salty air in my face led me - a shy, mostly quiet, self-diagnosed uncreative and boring child - to make up stories, songs and games for my nervous friends. Anything to ease their minds in hopes that they could experience what I felt so profoundly.

On the sea, I was fearless and didn’t mind acting like it. I was also confident that no matter what, we were safe as my dad guided us through the waters.

Years later at the age of 21, the sea became my home for four months. An old cruise ship remodeled into a college-at-sea sailed me around the world on mostly smooth waters. I was in heaven. Adventure called us. Adventure changed the way we saw the world. New people, new places, new experiences. Incredible learning opportunities at every turn, but most of all, getting to live at sea.

Invincibility is a default mindset for 21 year olds and the students on my ship were no exception. That changed suddenly near the end of our voyage as we crossed the Pacific headed from Japan to Alaska. After four months away, most of us were ready to return to family and friends in the U.S.A. The last thing anyone was worried about after months at sea was a rainstorm.

The rainstorm that began with a chill in the air and a few bumpy hours turned into a fierce category 9 (Beaufort Scale) sea storm. This is the equivalent of a strong tropical storm just below hurricane category.

Our ship, normally unmoved by the waves, began to feel like my dad’s old Shallow Sport. No longer cutting through the waves, we were completely battered by them: no one could walk, no one could eat, most were in bed seasick, many prayed as they huddled together in corners. Our illusions of control over our lives were dashed by an entirely out-of-control storm. We tried to ignore the inner thoughts of, “what if?” and “will we?” - the eerie silence on board spoke volumes.

I have never claimed to be superhuman. I have actually, for much of my life, considered myself to be incapable and timid. Anxiety occupied an almost constant spot in my stomach as a child, always present to remind me how unsure of myself I was - just in case I forgot. I was mostly quiet and compliant from age 0 - 21, but on this stormy day something in me felt the excitement and physical “joy-leap” that only the ocean brings.

“It’s go time!” an inner voice whispered, somewhat inappropriately considering the situation. I knew exactly which spot would be my perch for the duration of the storm. On the floor right below the top deck at the very front of the boat was the “Captain’s Living Room,” often closed to students. I had a hunch no one would mind if I braved the storm from there. Making my way up to the bow, I reveled slightly in the fact that I was the only person I knew who wasn’t seasick. I zig-zag raced down the hall, the waves tossing my body from one side to the other.

I hesitate to admit this, but at that moment, the Captain's Living Room was heaven on earth. Thirteen floors up, I could watch waves far larger than our boat (far larger than I have ever or likely will ever witness again) rise, build and crash right over us. I could literally feel their power as they crashed inches from my nose. Only one thick window of glass separated my peaceful joy inside from the chaos outside. Ideas, questions, excitement, adventure - it all swirled inside of me as waves from a storm that could be our end became my living IMAX theatre.

Brain science tells us that joy-bonds create the most brilliant brain synapse connections for our mental make-up. These pathways bypass all the ruts formed from the less efficient builder: fear-bonds.

In other words, joy creates superhighways for our mind that will bypass fear.

My memories of the sea whisper to me about the incredible power of experiencing good things with a good and trusted Dad. Fishing in the dark might have seemed trivial for onlookers, but it shaped an important part of me that years later allowed me to wholly bypass fear.

The highway made by joy took me in a different direction than fear and offered me a different story -  one involving adventure, joy, bravery, community and trust. In that story, I was an entirely different participant than the day-to-day version of me - I was a braver, more alive Cayce.

“It’s go time!” for the children of God. It’s time to not trivialize or shame the simple joys that come from experiencing our Heavenly Father. “It’s go time!” for being open to the power of joyful adventures with trusted friends.

Not only are these moments fun - they build new mental models that bypass the fears of younger years. They create mental highways for the bravest, truest and most trusting parts of our heart to show up in the world.

Showing up matters, both for the hidden joys found in life’s storms and for the relief ushered in by the calm waters of a new day.

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