I am the cowardly lion friends!
Have you ever been wrapped in a loving hug that you don’t want to let go of? For me, there are immediately individuals I think of whose embrace is something I won’t soon forget. So many of those hugs are like hugs from a giant teddy bear who won’t let go. These longing embraces are something I want to hang onto and never let go because there is just something about their embrace that makes you feel strong and secure.
In 2014, my One Word was “gentle.” In 2015, my word was “brave.” This year, I have waited patiently (or not so patiently) for God to lead me to a word. I wrote down several words; “embrace,” “joy,” “write” and many others. But there was only one word that kept coming up in my mind. This year my word is “embrace.”
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, “embrace” is defined as “to hold someone in your arms as a way of expressing love or friendship”; “to accept (something or someone) readily or gladly”; or “to use (an opportunity) eagerly.”
That’s the thing friends I want to embrace everything God has given me. I want to be better about savoring the every day moments and putting the phone and social media away as I simply bask in the moment. I want to embrace life as a single 37 year old. I want to embrace life and be the best daughter, granddaughter, niece, sister, friend etc that I can be! I want to remember that life is about taking stock of our blessings and embracing ourselves in those blessings.
I think so often it is hard to embrace each day because it doesn’t turn out like we expect it to but God wants us to embrace him and trust him. God wants us to embrace the life God has given us. That is never easy but indeed “there is a time to weep, a time to mourn, a time to plant, a time to pluck up what was planted” and so much more.
Embracing can be so scary too. Embracing change often causes us to catch our breathe, doesn’t it? Embracing anything can be so hard yet that’s what I believe God is calling me to do this year. God embraced the cross by sending Gods one and only son into the world for us and so we are called to embrace life too.
“God’s Word tells us that righteousness is a gift; it cannot be earned. But godliness is not a gift. We must pay a price to touch godliness through a daily decision to die to self and embrace the cross. God calls us to learn godliness in the classroom of life among people as we sit on airplanes and buses, walk among our neighbors and labor at our factories or desks.”–KP Yohannan
So this year, it is my prayer to embrace the “beautiful uncertainty (Thanks Mandy Hales)” of it all. For it is in that uncertainty, that we truly begin to embrace and enjoy life. I love this quote I found on Pintetest, “Embrace uncertainty. Some of the most beautiful chapters in our lives won’t have a title until much later.” (Author: BG) Amen! May I find time to embrace each day, each hour, and each moment that comes my way this year.
Here I sit…the last day of December and the last day of this year 2015. And the last day of living out my One Word 365 “brave” for the year. As I look back over the year, I am reminded of how God showed me this word and shaped me in it. In fact, I can say that like the cowardly lion in the Wizard of Oz, I am braver than I think I am!
To refresh our memories, the word “brave” is defined, according to Mirriam Webster’s dictionary, as “having or showing courage,” or “making a fine show” (Adjective) And then as a verb, it means “to face or endure with courage” or “obsolete; to make showy.” The word brave also is a noun “one who is brave.”
So what does it mean to show courage? As I look back, I see courage and being brave in continuing to share our story of mental illness. I haven’t always seen it as being brave. But my friend Mary commented one day, “Your brave is in telling your story.” Her words caused me to stop and reflect on Brene Brown’s words “The bravest thing you’ll ever do is share your story.” That is so true. The bravest thing any of us will ever do is share our stories.
Brave sometimes looks like caring for an aging parent. My sister and I care for our mom as her legal guardians. We entrust her care to the nursing home she lives at but we are responsible for the big decisions. This summer we made some tough decisions yet again. We never imagined that at such young ages we would be the caregiver for a parent. But we are!
Still yearning deeply for God to answer the desires of my heart, I often…(read almost always)…don’t feel so courageous or brave. Yet what I’ve come to realize especially this year is that it is brave. As Miss Mandy Hales writes, “It’s about the beautiful uncertainty of it all!” Yes, it is brave to trust in God and the beautiful uncertainty of my life. And in that beautiful uncertainty, I realize that it is brave to hear Gods’s voice calling me to unchartered waters for myself. Yet being able to hear that call is brave and causes me to write down brave words like this Post. Is my brave being called to “foster and/or adoption?”
In my one word post last year, I wrote about the cowardly lion. You know a year of living brave has shown me that perhaps we aren’t so different after all. A year of living brave looks different for each and every one of us. Yet God gives us the courage and shows each one of us to be brave.
I’m reminded of these very words I wrote last January “I don’t need a medal. However I’ll admit that it would be pretty cool to own my very own medal! I need to show courage. I am not sure what that might look like. But I do hope that I am able to parade with courage; with bravery. As a single 36 year old female, I am tired of waiting for my Mr. Right. I am weary. I yearn so deeply to be a momma. Perhaps being brave for me will mean looking at other options; adoption, etc. I have no idea where this word will lead me in 2015 but I do know that it will shape me and who I am. And I will continue to pray for the ways that God might shape me as I live into this word this year.”
God did that very thing. God showed me my brave and continues to show it to me earn and every day. Brave is doing things even when we are afraid to do them. Brave is being able to see the fate within each and every one of us. Brave is surrendering fully and 100% trusting in the beautiful uncertainty of life!
“Haven’t I commanded you? Strength! Courage! Don’t be timid; don’t get discouraged. God, your God, is with you every step you take.”–Joshua 1:9 (The Message)
“And that though I am flawed, God is loving me and refining me and reminding me that God in me is where I can place my trust. And that is the place where I find my courage.” (Learning to Be Brave; Annie F. Downs; P.37)
(As my year of brave comes to an end, let’s jam out to this years theme song one last time!)
Linking up with Emily P. Freeman
These words are eloquently beautiful and remind me of the power of God’s grace in my own life especially as a daughter of someone who has lived daily with a mental illness. Without our journey, I wouldn’t be who God has called me to be. I also wouldn’t have been blessed in telling our story to others. Or in the words of Brene Brown, “Loving ourselves through the process of owning our own story is the bravest thing we’ll ever do!” (Funny thing since “brave” is my One word 365 for 2015. And another blog friend recently commented to me that she feels that my brave is in telling my/our story)
Our story begins shortly after my sister was born. Mom had a nervous breakdown. Both my sister and I spent lots of time with our grandparents as Mom was treated for her illness. Dad was busy working and earning money to pay for the doctor’s bills.
Growing up, it seemed like Mom was in the hospital at least once a year. And so as we grew up, I quickly grew up faster than I should have. When I was almost five and my sister was two, we moved back to North Dakota so my Dad could help his family farm. As I got older, while Dad was farming and when Mom was sick, I had to take care of my sister and I. I grew up really fast! Mom’s illness turned our world upside down. Yet when she was well, Mom was the best mom in the world!!! (If you don’t believe me, read this post I wrote for my friend Erin’s blog)
My sophomore year of high school, my parents divorced. It took a lot of courage for our dad to utter the words “It’s not that I don’t love your mom anymore. It is that I cannot handle this illness.” Looking back now, I see those words as words of grace as they seemed to soften the blow even if just a little. But I will also say that those words of grace tasted awfully bitter rather than sweet that day.
My senior year of college, Mom’s lithium level got to high which caused her kidneys to shut down. It was a very scary time. Mom spent several weeks in the ICU of a local hospital. We weren’t sure if Mom was going to make it, but she recovered. However that incident aged Mom a lot. She moved into a nursing home and has been living in a nursing home ever since. In fact, my sister and I became her legal guardians when I was attending seminary.
It would be so easy for me to be bitter about Mom’s illness. And there was a time I questioned God daily about it. But over the years, I have learned so much from my mom’s illness and our journey with a mental illness. I have learned to live each day to the fullest and not take a single day for granted. I have learned what it means to love and be loved. I have learned that we have a God that, like Jacob did, we can wrestle with throughout the courses of our lives. (If you want to read more about our journey, check out my 2014 Write 31 Days series: Being a Daughter: 31 Days of Mental Illness)
But, most of all, I have learned the power and gift of God’s grace in my life and in our life. Mom is one of the most caring, faith-filled women that I know. Her actions continually remind me of the gift of God’s grace in my life. We could have lost Mom my senior year of college, but we didn’t. We could have kept our story of mental illness locked inside our hearts. But instead by unlocking our story from our hearts, we have been blessed by others and been blessed in return. Most of all, what I have learned is that there is power and grace in telling our stories.
Joining in with the online discussion on the book “On Being A Writer” by Ann Kroeker and Charity Singleton Craig. Today we are working through Chapter 3: Surround–I surround myself with people, activities, and books that influence my writing. I am so very thankful for the friendships God has orchestrated this year as I have been surrounded by amazing people, places, and things!
These words echoed in my ear as I read them this past weekend. I find I surround myself with people, places, and things that help me to live this quote out in my daily life. I surround myself with amazing friends and family who allow me to talk about things in my life that I am currently thinking about. Sometimes our conversations lead to a blog post.
I also surround myself with awesome books. I have always loved books and continue to love books. Long before I read Ann Voskamp’s book “One Thousand Gifts,” I began a Sunday series on my blog titled “Sunday Blessings.” But after reading Ann’s book, my series was even more solidified. Each week I keep a list on my phone of the blessings I encounter and then post it on Sunday evenings. I also read Annie F. Down’s book “Let’s All Be Brave.” That book led to a blog post after I read it in just a few short days. That book is a book that spoke to me especially this year since “brave” is my one word 365 for 2015. I recently picked up “Wild in the Hollow” by Amber Haines, “Searching for Sunday” by Rachel Held Evans, and “For the Love” by Jen Hatmaker. Books all recommended by other bloggers. I also am currently reading “Orphan Train.”
But, not only, do I surround myself with books, friends, and family, I find myself surrounding myself with more and more bloggers. Because I have come to realize that these people are “my people.” They remind me of the gifts that I bring. They challenge me to be a better writer when I read their posts and want to sound as elegant as they do. But mostly they understand me and what I write about…God, faith, my family, my friends, singleness, mental illness, yearning to be a mom and wife, adoption…and the list goes on and on.
I met many of these woman through the Write 31 Days challenge last October. I spent those 31 days writing about “Being a Daughter: 31 Days of Mental Illness. I met Theresa Moma because her 31 day series was about her battle with depression. I met Dana whose words are always so beautiful and speak straight to my heart. And as the year went on…I have met others through the snail mail party and through Five Minute Friday. And I actually wait for new posts from so many of these people. (Susan, Bethany, Tammy, Melissa, Anna, Kate, Jen, Janel, Karrilee, and so many more. I wish I could list you all! I love you all!) Karrilee and I have so much in common that it could only be a God thing that our hearts have been united. And I believe that about all of the other woman as well. Only God could orchestrate these surroundings for me!
Each week, I often link up with some of my most favorite writers. These are writers that I want to to be more and more like. I am so thankful for the many who have shared their testimonies of faith over at Holly’s place every Tuesday. I am so thankful for Kelly and the RaRa Linkup over at Purposeful Faith. Some of the best cheerleaders in the world! I am thankful for Holley Gerth and Coffee for your Heart. But, to be honest, my most favorite of all is the lovely Jennifer Dukes Lee. Jennifer always writes words that speak to my heart. And the funny thing is she attends the church where a seminary friend was their intern. Jennifer’s words always weave together like a beautiful tapestry of words. I want my words to do that too! 🙂
There are so many more that I could write about, because I feel like each of them in their own ways surround me with stories and words that help me to write especially when I am feeling like I have NOTHING to say! I think there is so much power when we can inwardly and outwardly share our stories. I wouldn’t have met so many of these wonderful people if I hadn’t decided to be vulnerable and share my family’s story of mental illness. I wouldn’t know how to live if people like Andrew and dear Kara Tippetts didn’t share what it is like to live with an awful illness. May dear Kara rest in peace and may we all surround ourselves with people, places, and things that help us to answer the question on the header of Kara’s blog: “What will you do in the mundane days of faithfulness?”–Martin Luther.
I’ll be honest. I really don’t want to write this blog post AT ALL. But after continuing to read through Annie Down’s book and reading her very own chapter on being single, I hear a resounding “me too.”
I always feel guilty for writing about being single and God not yet fulfilling the prayers that I have continually asked for. As Annie reminded me, it’s not simply about being at home alone, or in bed alone but rather is about a God who can do something about those unanswered prayers but doesn’t. That is perhaps one of the hardest things for me especially when I watch as prayers are answered around me. My heart knows that God will answer those prayers in God’s ways when the timing is right, but my head is irrational and wants those prayers answered RIGHT THIS VERY MINUTE!
I must admit that I sometimes think that I overshare on this topic and that is not my intent at all. I don’t want to scare any of you away. But last night as I read Annie’s chapter on being single, I thought if Annie can be vulnerable and write what is on her heart, I too can muster up the courage to do the same; to put down my fears and share what is on my heart.
I am a thirty seven year old woman who deeply yearns to be a Mom and a wife. Ever since I was a little girl, I would play house with my sister and dream of meeting my Mr. Right and having a family. Yet I am still……….waiting!! And in the midst of that waiting, I know that God has a beautiful plan in store for me but some days; ok must days, it is easier said than done to trust in that plan for my life. It is like taking a giant leap of faith not knowing where the floor is underneath me. But in the book of Jeremiah I am reminded, “For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper and not to harm you; plans to give you a future with hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
A future with hope…YES! That is exactly what I cling to and hope in. These words from Annie’s book were a giant exclamation point for me. She writes, “We walk through seasons that are filled with unmet expectations and potential for radical hope (Lets All Be Brave; Annie F Downs; P. 163).” I read those words over and over again. Then in the margins of the book, I wrote YES in huge letters next to that quote.
That is the truth, my friend, like the seasons change around us, the seasons change in our lives too. And sometimes those seasons can be confused in their own time and space. I am chuckling as I write this as it is snowing big fluffy snowflakes at the moment, yet the calendar says it is Spring. We indeed all walk through unmet expectations and potential for radical hope; a radical hope that is grounded in the promise of the Resurrection.
That radical hope and those unmet expectations are so evident in my life when I sit at home on a Friday night by myself. That radical hope and those unmet expectations are evident when another friend announces a pregnancy or an engagement. That radical hope and those unmet expectations are there as the tears quietly and silently fall from my face in the privacy of my home. Yet the truth is, that in the midst of that radical hope and those unmet expectations, that God still promises to never leave me or forsake me.
“Don’t panic, I’m with you. There’s no need to fear for I’m your God. I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you. I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you.”–Isaiah 41:10 (The Message Translation) Oh how those words grab a hold of me and speak to every fiber of my being. God has a firm hold on you friends! God has a firm hold on me! And yes, somedays I wish that God would loosen that grip. But I also need to be brave and hold on to that grip knowing that God does indeed have a plan for me. We are never alone. Jesus says to each of us, “I will never leave you or forsake you.”
“To be brave here is to know that, no matter what your marital status is, male or female, always single or happily married, or every spot in between, you are never alone.” (Let’s All Be Brave; Annie F. Downs; P. 164)
As you know, I have been working my way through Annie Down’s book “Let’s All Brave. And I cannot put it down. It also has made me realize how many amazingly brave people I have in my life.
Brave is…taking that leap of faith when you are not sure where that leap of faith is going to lead.
Brave is…sharing about an infant loss when it is the last thing you want to do and when
the tears are still wet upon your face.
Brave is…taking a trip to a place you feel called to serve God.
Brave is…hearing the call to ministry and following through with that call.
Brave is…moving on from a relationship.
Brave is…saying yes rather no.
Brave is…also sometimes saying no when you would rather say yes.
Brave is…being authentic and sharing the real you.
Brave is…opening your heart to a child and bringing that child home to be a part of your family.
Brave is…breaking the silence and sharing your authentic self and your own battles with depression and/or a mental illness.
Brave is…sharing your faith story to a huge crowd when it scares you to death.
What is brave to you my friends?
I am linking up for the Five Minute Friday. The FMF is hosted by Kate Motaung on her blog Heading Home. Today’s prompt is “Real” Write for five minutes; unedited.
Yesterday I wrote a post about how there is a book currently wrecking my soul…in a fantastic way. That book is Annie F Down’s book “Let’s All Be Brave.” I cannot stop highlighting in the book and cannot put it down. I think it is wrecking my soul, my friends, because it is reminding me to be “real” with the world around me, with my friends, but most especially with myself.
So I am choosing to be even more real with you tonight, my friends. Anyone who reads this here blog knows my deep desire to be a mom and a wife. But I have come to the realization that God may have a different plan for me. God knows what that plan is. Maybe I am suppose to be a mom by venturing into being a foster mom or adopting a child.
Yep, my friends, I just said it. There is a real part of me especially now as I read Annie’s book that thinks that my bravery might indeed include being a mom through foster care or adoption. A quote spoke to me the other day on Facebook. It said, “Adoption is the visible Gospel.” Wow! What incredible words! God has a real plan for me!
Let’s be real friends! I don’t know exactly where this journey will lead me. But I do know that God is with me on this journey. And God has given me the real strength to be brave.
And God has given you each that real strength too!
Have you ever had a book totally wreck your soul in a totally utterly fantastic way? There is a book that is doing that for me right NOW! That book is the book “Let’s All Be Brave” by Annie F. Downs. Several friends recommended her book to me and I finally was able to pick it up at Barnes and Noble on Sunday. It is one of those books that I cannot put down. It also is a book that I am continually underlining in because there is so much of this book that is already speaking to me.
My #oneword365 for this year is “brave.” And oh how I want to be brave. And sometimes you just need that little shove; that push that calls you to be brave.
“I’m here to ask you to please do that thing in your heart that scares you to death. To make that move or leap or step or sound you wouldn’t have made a week ago. There is no formula and there are no rules. There is the Bible, our guidebook for all things, but other than that, being brave is organic and spiritual and a unique journey for each person.” (Let’s All Be Brave; Annie F. Downs; P.16)
Annie’s words remind me that God DOES indeed have a perfect plan for me. God knows that plan. And a lot of days it is so hard for me to trust in that plan. But then I am reminded that God knows my heart; knows every desire of my heart and indeed has a specific perfect plan for me.
“You aren’t headed out to find courage. It’s in you, it is blooming, and it is with you as you travel and say yes to things that seem scary. Remember, it’s not only the X that matters; it’s getting there .” (Let’s All Be Brave; Annie F Downs; P.23)
The truth, my friends, is that I have the courage to be brave. It is in me. Like a flower blooming, that courage is blooming and growing into a beautiful flower. And as that flower is blooming, I am reminded of how many times in the Bible we hear the words “Do not be afraid.” God promises to walk with us no matter what the journey brings us. And when we trust God has a way of showing up in surprising ways.
“That the moments of my greatest fears–those times when I was sure I was going to wimp out under the pressure of it all–have also been the open doors to the greatest changes in my life. So I step out, full of fear, but trusting that God is on the other side in new and wonderful ways. And so far? He always is.” (Learning to Be Brave; Annie F. Downs; P.31)
“And that though I am flawed, God is loving me and refining me and reminding me that God in me is where I can place my trust. And that is the place where I find my courage.” (Learning to Be Brave; Annie F. Downs; P.37)
See what I mean! As I read Annie’s words, I find myself realizing how I have everything I need to be brave. I can do anything I set my mind too. Sometimes it means just simply say the words “yes!” It means trusting in God who made me. I am “fearfully and wonderfully made.” I am not one hundred percent sure where this journey of bravery might take me, but each day I find myself clinging to and finding a little bit of that bravery that is already in me…that bravery that God is calling me to hold onto.
“You are one of a kind, made on purpose, deeply loved, and called to be courageous.” (Learning to Be Brave; Annie F. Downs; P.45)
I am linking up for the Five Minute Friday. The FMF is hosted by Kate Motaung on her blog Heading Home. Today’s prompt is “Open.” Write for five minutes; unedited.
For a long time I have asked for God to open my heart to that special person to love. It is a prayer that I continually seem to be lifting up to God in prayer. And I patiently wait for God to hear my prayers. There are days that I wonder if God hears them at all.
This year my oneword365 “brave” is finding its way into my head and my heart in a lot of ways. There have been whispers shared with me through friends gently nudging me to pray about being a foster mom or adopting a child of my own. For a long time, I have felt God’s nudgings but I have felt more roadblocks than open doors. Is God continually nudging me to open my heart and to trust God to hold my heart?
I am not sure what door is opening for me, but what I do know is that I need to trust in God…to trust God to make me brave; to fully give my heart up to God! God has a way of opening our doors, sneaking in, and showing up when we least expect him.
As my heart waits to be opened for that special someone to love, I am choosing to be brave. I want to be a woman who is brave and doesn’t tiptoe around fear. In the words of Renee Swope’s, “I want to be a woman overcomes obstacles by tackling them in faith instead of tiptoeing around them in fear.”
Praying for God to continually open my heart!