Toward the end of 2013, I starting hearing the phrase “Be Brave” in my head, and so, when it became time to choose my word for 2014—a tradition I practice every year at the end of December in letting God give me a word for the new year—I chose “Be” for 2014. Honestly, that sounded a lot easier than “Be Brave.” Plus, I hadn’t accomplished much ‘being’ the prior year—it was a busy one. So, a peaceful and rest-filled 2014 sounded perfect. I would just “be!” I would say no to things that didn’t cultivate resting, and I would throw being busy out the window with 2013. A relaxing 2014. Sounds great, right? Ha. Ha. Ha.
Yeah, it didn’t really happen that way.
I couldn’t get “Brave” out of my head as I started to get clearer glimpses of what 2014 was going to look like. I was going to need some Brave.
But, I kind of just nudged the second word in my phrase, “Be Brave,” to the side. I could focus on Brave another time, right? I liked how it looked doodled in my notebooks and pinned on my Pinterest boards, but I wasn’t too interested in making it a part of my life. I’ll just keep “be,” thankyouverymuch. I wasn’t keen on chasing after Brave. But, buckle up, honey. Because Brave chased, and found, me instead. Part of me wants to find that 17 year old girl that’s hanging out somewhere in January of 2014, sit her down, and tell her all about how Brave she’s going to Be. I’d pour her an iced latte and explain that she’s going to be pushed farther from her comfort zone this year than ever before. Then, I’d rub her back and assure her that she won’t be doing it alone. She’ll be with the best friends, mentors, and mamas, she’s ever known. I’d look her in the eyes, catch her unsure gaze, and tell her God won’t be giving up on her either, even when she’s about ready to give up on Him. But, in reality, I can’t. I can’t tell her all those things. She gets to learn it on her own, and that’s the greatest, and the toughest, part.
There were hard things this past year. Some of the hardest. There were good things this past year. Some of the best.
Throughout the year, I kept a running list of Brave things I was doing. Some of them don’t belong here in the inter webs since they’re saved for my truest and bravest offline self, but I do want to recap a few of them here.
My big thing for the first half of the year was ending my senior year of high school. It was filled with ceremonies and parties, goodbyes to dear friends and hello to college. I was terrified, and so very sad, to say goodbye to high school and almost all my friends. But, by the very kind grace of God, I had a fun time doing it. I felt celebrated and loved through the whole ordeal, even while I took more AP tests than I can count on one hand. It wasn’t without struggle, but it was worth it.
I did, in fact, graduate in May. And it was a good, crazy, and emotional day. As it should be. Goodbyes to people that I’ve grown up with were pretty tough. I know I’ll hold onto to several of those friendships, but so many of them will just dissolve. I know that’s normal, but it was hard not to concentrate on that as I went through all the motions of graduation with those people.
Much of the support during all this emotion and hype came from my second moms, women in my life who have scooped me up and carried me through hard things, and have often stood on the other side of the finish line, cheering me on. 2014 gave me a chance to take some pictures with them. My photographer friend, Beth Dukes, did a series of photo-shoots back in April to benefit the Luca Gold Healing Fund, an organization created by my friends, Christa and Lucas, who lost their beautiful newborn daughter on March 5th. She lived for 40 minutes on this Earth before going to be with Jesus. Beth invited people to be part of her photo-shoots that have stories of hope and healing. I participated with six of my second mamas that have surrounded me since my mom died nine years ago. It was a holy, holy time, and one of the highlights of my year to have them all together and to have such beautiful pictures given to us.
The day after graduation, I drove to Camp Courage to be a counselor to twelve precious and energetic elementary schoolers that have had someone they love pass away. Most of them were the same age I was when my own mom died. That whole situation took some major Brave. I had no idea what I was doing. I still can’t believe I said yes, knowing myself and my hesitancy to jump into situations like that, but I am SO glad I did. Those were some hard days, it was physically and emotionally tough, but it was one of the most valuable experiences I’ve ever taken part in. I think about those kids all the time. I have their stories and their smiles all sealed up in my heart, and I will treasure them for a lifetime. And, I think it’s pretty neat that the name of the camp is “Courage”…it was a perfect puzzle piece to my year of being brave.
The very next week, I hopped in the car with a dear friend and mama to be a counselor at a camp in East Texas that she directs. Anyone wanna take a stab at the camp’s theme for the week? Brave. The theme was Brave. This was when I started to think about the whole concept of bravery and how it fits into my life. I learned just as much as the kids attending the camp, I think. This week alone was one of the best parts of my year. I did a few really brave things that week that didn’t even pertain to counseling, and I watched some of the dearest people I know be the bravest I’ve ever seen them. New Beginnings Camp made “brave” part of my lexicon. It changed the way I speak and think. Because of that week, telling someone they are brave, or that they did something with bravery, is the biggest compliment, and most common word, I dish out. While babysitting this summer, when a child would pet a lizard on display at the zoo, or share with their sibling, or try something new that I cooked, I would tell them how brave they were. Instead of saying: “Good job!” I was more prone to say “That was brave!” My language started changing, and so did my heart.
After my month of camp counseling, I said goodbye to a dear family for a whole six months while they traveled abroad. They’re friends I see a whole lot of bravery in. I spent a good amount of time missing them, and keeping up with their adventures via encouraging and and constant texts from my dear Laura. Also in July I was the Youth Lay Director at a Chrysalis Retreat. Those words probably don’t mean a lot to most people reading this, so in short it meant that I was in charge of some stuff. That took some Brave. One of those things I was in charge of was giving a 30 minute talk to a roomful of teenage of girls about Jesus, life, and other things. That took a lot of Brave. But, I did it. It was scary and awesome and I had a Britney Spears mic hooked up to my face and everything. These awesome friends pictured below sang and danced with me to Amanda Cook’s “You Make Me Brave” in the prayer room before I spoke. How very divine and appropriate.
After that, it was August and time to start college at ACU. It was good and hard, and provided many opportunities to be brave. I didn’t feel brave for all of them, or even most of them, but the whole transition was a brave thing. This semester I’ve struggled and felt deep disappointment, and I’ve triumphed and felt more joy than I’ve ever experienced. (There’s been a lot of in-between days, too. I’m perfectly content eating goldfish and watching Netflix on my bed.) The best part about college, thus far, has been making lifelong friendships. Enter: Bailey. What we lacked in years of knowing one another, we’ve made up for in laughter, tears, and Criminal Minds reruns. She’s one the dearest and bravest people I know. Opening myself up to having, and being, a best friend, has also been a lesson in bravery for me, and I am so thankful to have Bailey to walk that road with me. I’ve been hurt by friends in the past, and I can have a hard time to opening up to people. But through this friendship, I’ve learned more than I could ever put into words about grace, trust, and the heart of God. She makes me brave. And brave things are usually the best things. I have proof.
Those are some of the larger highlights, but my Brave List is somehow, and miraculously, long– a handful of other things on the list include:
- speaking on a panel to parents and youth ministers about teens and technology
- accepting my first job that didn’t include babysitting/nannying
- deciding to learn conversational German, and doing it
Moving out of my house
Working very hard with new people to make my freshman schedule
Praying for my enemies and wishing good things upon someone who’s hurt me
Having hard conversations
- Tutoring in the Writing Center
- Climbing a rock wall
- Working at the Gold Monarch Healing Center
- Holding all my beliefs with an open palm
- Not being sure or certain
It’s been a good and full year, all in all. Transporting myself back to January of 2014, I didn’t feel very brave. But as my wise friend, Dava Lynn, says: being brave doesn’t always start with feeling brave. I repeated those words in my head like a broken record for the better part of the year.
Indeed, I believe I was Brave this year. And I feel like I did more “Brave” than “Be”. But, I still learned invaluable lessons from my word, “Be”… I learned that being doesn’t have to equal resting, and even that resting doesn’t have to equal being still. Rest is, simply, how we connect with God—it’s how we let Him fill us up with His love. A lot of the time, this resembles sitting in a big, comfy chair with music playing in the background, or laying in a breezy hammock. But, not always. Sometimes resting means spending quality time with someone you love, or reading a good book, or writing a story. It may look like traveling to a different country, or to a park down the street. It may not look like resting at all, but God’s love doesn’t know any limits—it reaches up and down into the tiniest of crevices. And resting is simply the act of receiving that Love. This is good news, because I don’t feel like I did much traditional resting this year. Not much “be”ing at first glance. But I can think of countless times that I felt the love of God, sometimes in the strangest of places. I think just choosing to be is brave.
The thing about bravery is that there’s no need to do it alone. That’s the biggest thing I learned through this whole year. To me, being brave sounds horrible to do on your own. No thanks. In truth, it’s all about allowing God to make you brave. That’s the only way I know to do it. I don’t know how to be brave apart from the Holy Spirit. If He allows something to be put in front of you, He’s going to equip you with the bravery to see it through. It’s a foolproof plan. It’s not always easy, and sometimes it seriously sucks, but it’s pretty much always worth it. I promise. I allowed myself to be made Brave, and because of that, 2014 has been my favorite year. I’m looking forward, albeit sometimes with clenched teeth and only one eye open, to the ways that God will make me brave in the future. I had lunch with a dear friend and mentor today who I haven’t seen in years. She had a necklace on that said “Brave.” I asked her about it, of course, and she greatly encouraged me by expressing that Brave isn’t only important for a season, but for a lifetime. And so, although I’ll work on practicing a new word or phrase in 2015, “Be Brave” isn’t one I’ll be giving up anytime soon.