A Year of Brave

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!!

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!

BRAVE!!

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?”

BRAVE!!

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

Sometimes Grace is Pain

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.

Readers, don’t forget to register to win a $500 DaySpring shopping Spree. 
Click here for a chance to win.

The Bravest Thing You’ll Ever Do!

“Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing we’ll ever do”—Brene Brown

It was a beautiful summer day and I was working as a camp counselor at one of my favorite places in the whole wide world. I was taking in every ounce of is the experience when I received a phone message that my sister had called. She was calling to let me know that Mom was sick and in the hospital again. Little did I know that in a matter of moments this would be such a freeing experience for me.

As I sat on the payphone, tears streaming down my face, several of my co-counselors walked by and wanted to know what was wrong. I couldn’t muster up the words to share my story with them. I got off the phone and went back to my cabin. Within moments, the camp director came in and asked me what was wrong? In a moment, I finally opened up and shared my; our story with him. It was the first time I openly shared about my family’s struggle with a mental illness. And since that moment, sharing my story has been very important to me and totally core to who I am!

It is so hard to share our stories, but there is something incredibly holy about sharing our stories with each other. In sharing our stories, we are connected with others who have had similar experiences. I am reminded of when I began my previous call. I was at dinner with my colleague sharing my story when another individual heard me share one word; a name of a pill that only those that have experienced mental illness would understand. In just moments, my story was connected with her story because we had similar experiences in the midst of our own stories. And here in the midst of the #write31days challenge, again I have been connected with others whose stories intersect with my story because we have had similar experiences too. (Here’s looking at you my new friend. You know who you are!)

Story is incredibly important to who we are as people of God. God created us to share our stories. Yes, I realize that isn’t always easy to do. In fact, most of the time it is darn right impossible, yet when we share our story, not only, are we blessed but I also think those that we share our stories with are blessed as well. Story opens our hearts and minds to know that we aren’t on this journey alone and that there are others who hold us despite our own muddiness and brokenness in the midst of our stories. God has this incredible way of using our stories to bring healing, wholeness, and restoration to others in the world. Actress Iyanla Vanzant captures this so well when she said, “When you stand and share your story in an empowering way, your story will heal you and your story will heal somebody else”

So let’s be brave and share our stories!

 
 
 

 

What Makes Me Beautiful!

A friend recently told me about a Ted Talk by Brene Brown about “vulnerability.” Little did I realize how much of a gift her words would be to me until I watched her video this evening. Thank you dear friend for asking me if I had ever watched this beautiful video. These 20 minutes taught me so much about myself and about life and where a complete gift!

“I am enough!” You are enough! Yes, it is so simple. Yet her words are so true! When we are kind to each other, we are kinder to those around us. Brown talks about how those who have a strong sense of love and belonging have a strong sense of worthiness.

But most of us have a hard time being vulnerable. We have a difficult time sharing our sadnesses, our emotions, etc. In fact so often we try to numb those things by overreating or buying something we DONT need. And when we numb these things, we also numb joy, happiness, and the other good emotions. WE CANNOT NUMB these emotions so we need to be vulnerable.

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of joy, of love, of belonging, of creativity, of faith.” Oh how true…when I share who I am with the world. It is who I am and who God created me to be. The words that continually are replaying in my head after watching Brown’s visit are these words. “What made them vulnerable is what made them beautiful.” Oh yes……what makes ME vulnerable is what makes ME beautiful. My struggles in life, my disappointments, my unaccomplished dreams, my family’s struggles with mental illness…all these things make me beautiful!

My friends, may you too find that what makes you vulnerable is what makes you beautiful as well!