Can I Call Myself Brave?

Can I Call Myself Brave?

IMG_6574I looked up at a cornflower blue sky as fine silt squished between my toes. I clutched a piece of emerald green sea glass in my left hand running my fingers along the edges worn smooth by the current of the river. My husband was up ahead, and I watched him look down at the silt ripples under his feet and look up at the mountains that curved around us. I took a deep breath of spruce scented air and I felt it. Brave. I called myself brave.

It wasn’t because I had made some great decision or given some monumental sacrifice. It wasn’t even because I was far away in a tiny Canadian town. I’ve always saved the word brave for those in the history books, for the ones who moved through the night on an underground railroad, for the ones who donned a uniform knowing they might never return, for the ones who wore yellow stars. And brave isn’t adequate enough to describe those heroes. They are the bravest of the brave. But I wonder–was there a seismic shift in their hearts? Did they wake up one day saying, “It’s all changing today. Today, I’m going to be brave. Today, I’m going to risk my life for truth and light. Today, I might die or I might give up something I love or I might suffer, but I’m still doing it.” Maybe they did.

Or maybe they heard a whisper and said yes with knees trembling. Maybe they saw a hurting person and chose love. Maybe they unfurled white knuckles around the budget spreadsheet or the last bit of food or the well-built reputation and surrendered to the unknown. Maybe brave didn’t happen in one moment. Maybe brave was the culmination of a thousand little yeses, each one like a piece of sea glass in the hand, a bright flash of emerald color. Calling the adoption agency. Looking the homeless man in the eyes. Paying for a stranger’s coffee. Or finding yourself with open hands and an open heart on a remote beach in a tiny Canadian town. Maybe we don’t choose brave as much as brave chooses us. Maybe brave is a fundamental part of our being made in the image of God, but all our fear and insecurities and comfort-seeking ways obscure what was there all along. What if when He fashioned each of us He put brave within us, and every time we surrender to Him a little piece of us shimmers like sea glass in the silt?

On that day and on that beach, I decided to call myself brave because recently I’ve been facing fear head on. I’ve been leaning into it, not running from it. I’ve been calling it to the light, and I’ve been giving my small, quivering yes to God. Brave isn’t fearless, and she isn’t perfect. Brave might not be well-known or ever publicly acknowledged. But Brave wakes up every morning with an open heart and open hands and with trembling knees gives her yes, small as it may be, to a big, big God.

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To Lydia, a Few Thoughts on School

To Lydia, a Few Thoughts on School

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetToday you started school. You will learn many things over the next fourteen years–how to conjugate a verb, the capital of Vermont, the quadratic equation. You will read books and write papers. You will dissect animals and learn long division. Some things will be easy. Others will seem impossibly hard. Don’t give up on either. Sometimes you will succeed mightily, and sometimes you will fail miserably. Both are important. What we adults tend to forget is that school may end, but learning never does. Everything in life is an invitation to learn and grow if we look at it with the right perspective. So, when you fail, which you will do, I hope you will wipe the blood and dirt from your knees and get back up. It isn’t failure that kills dreams–it’s fear. I spent the first two-and-a-half decades of my life playing it safe. I never tried anything unless I was almost positive I would succeed. This left me with a pretty resume but a boring life. Ever since God had to pry control from my white-knuckled fingers, I’ve been discovering a new life–a life that risks and a heart that is vulnerable. I hope it doesn’t take you twenty-five years to learn the same.

I want to tell you something, right now, on this first day of school when the pencils are sharp and the backpack brand-new. Your daddy and I do not care if you are the smartest. We do not care if you are the coolest or the fastest or most likely to succeed. We do not care if you are the most athletic or the most popular. We do not care about those things. We care that you love with the biggest kind of love. We care that you love when it hurts. We care that you love when your reputation is at stake. We care that you love with a heart so big that it seems like it might just burst at the seams. We care that you cheer for others when they have something to celebrate, and we care that you walk beside those who are hurting. We care that you notice the people around you, and we care that you look beyond the surface because a shiny facade might be covering a hurting heart. We care that you see past clothes and hairstyles and, later, tattoos and makeup. We care that you see a soul that is deeply loved and fiercely fought for by the same Savior who loves and fights for you.

You may never win an award for this, and maybe no one will even notice, but we will. And we will be so proud. Because you will have learned the greatest lesson of all–the lesson that trumps algebra and physics, English and history. You will have learned that love works.

For 29

For 29

IMG_1907My girl loves cake. We had her last birthday party at the park near our home. The kids played on the playground and ate hot dogs and then it was time for Lydia’s favorite part… the cake. Unfortunately, the rain decided to show up at the party right as she was blowing out her candles. We were under a gazebo, but this was the type of rain that comes in sheets and blows from side to side. We decided to move the party to our house, and everyone started scrambling for their cars. But not Lydia. In the middle of all the chaos and rain, there she was sitting at the picnic table eating bite after bite of chocolate cake, her mouth covered in chocolate frosting and a giant smile.

My Bible study girls and I are going through Priscilla Shirer’s Gideon study, and last week she had us write down five ordinary tasks we perform on a daily basis. Later on, we were instructed to go back and write beside each ordinary task what that task indicates about God’s faithfulness and kindness to us. When I went back to write down the blessings associated, I teared up. Those mundane, ordinary tasks indicated God’s answer to specific prayers I’ve prayed over the past five years. Shirer writes, “Don’t despise the very things that signify your seat under the umbrella of God’s goodness each day.”

Today, I am celebrating 29 years, and I always try to take time on my birthday to think back on the year before. This past year has been crazy and at times, I thought I might be losing it (those who know me best will tell you I lost it a long time ago ;)) but this year has changed me in a million ways, both big and small. Since my last birthday, we heard, “It’s a girl!” and welcomed our blue-eyed Charlotte to the world. My transition to parenting two was a lot harder than the transition with our first child, and those first few months I felt like I was always two steps behind and ten minutes late. (Now, I’m just one step behind and 9.5 minutes late… progress, right?) Three months after Charlotte was born, God provided the opportunity for me to leave my staff position and be a stay-at-home mom. I was excited and anxious about the change. Excited to be home with my girls and have them as my sole focus but anxious because the staff team had become an extended family. I love them dearly and knew I would miss the daily interaction with them and knowing all the inner workings of what God was doing through our church. But I knew the timing was right, and the team I love so much was extremely encouraging and threw me a surprise going-away party I will never forget with my very favorite, carrot cake.

And then in early spring I got honest with myself about some dreams God had placed on my heart, dreams I was ignoring, dreams I had pushed aside and buried, blaming a lack of time but knowing it was really fear and insecurity that kept them buried. I started writing again, and it terrified me in the best possible way. For a recovering perfectionist, I have found healing in writing and sharing my imperfections and inadequacies and receiving love and grace and encouragement from readers. I’m learning about the power of vulnerability and the strength it provides to relationships. I’m learning that courage isn’t the absence of fear, but, rather, it’s doing what I know I’ve been called to do even when I’m afraid. I’m learning that the mayhem of this season of life isn’t something to fix. It’s simply a daily indication of God’s faithfulness and kindness to me.

As I embark on 29, I want to remember what matters most. I want to learn and grow and stretch and, yes, even fail. My prayer for 29 is that God will disturb and disrupt me, and, to be quite honest, that prayer terrifies me. I want to speak or write one truly honest thing every month, one paragraph, one sentence, one chapter where I show my true self, vulnerable and exposed, and I pray it will give others the courage to do the same. I want to see my weaknesses be the platform for God’s splendor. I want to treasure the right here, right now. I don’t want the storms and the rain to distract me from the chocolate cake sitting right in front of me. Thank you, God, for 29.