I’m interested in writing within the tensions of our humanity with the both and: our joy and our grief, beauty and brokenness, courage and fear, celebration and rage, and everything in between.
My hope is that my writing has the ability to connect to what lies at the core of being human. Whether I am writing poetry, a newsletter, or an essay, my writing aims to be honest, attentive, and centered around connection. May these words housed here meet you and encourage you.
April 2020 & June 2020
In the midst of the pandemic, I wanted to create a space for people to write and share their words. I kept thinking about how much bravery was taking place in so much uncertainty. I was also thinking about how the very act of writing is brave.
And so came the Brave prompt.
These words give such a depth to the word brave and they tell a powerful story too.
“Grief is a Cocoon”
Her name was Lonely. She had lots of friends and she felt deeply loved by her family, but Lonely never felt satisfied with her name. It simply didn’t fit, she’d reason. She didn’t understand why her parents had named her that. “Didn’t they know that I’d be teased for it?” she wondered when she laid awake at night. No one was really teasing her, but she’d imagine that they did, behind closed doors. She never rarely imagined that they were teasing her when they were around, but when their smiling faces weren’t there to reassure her that she was liked, she felt that they hated her name and mocked her for it. So she went on, hating her name, but loving her life. She had basically all she could ask for, even though there were days that were bad and moments that felt incomplete, she couldn’t complain.
When Lonely turned 16, her parents told her “The Secret of Life.” Lonely knew something was missing, some vital piece of knowledge or adventure to be had, so when they told her that she was going to be let in on the “big secret,” Lonely couldn’t believe her luck! Finally!
They pulled her in close and whispered, “When you’re wrapped up in darkness, all you can do is not let go.”
“WHAT?!” Screamed Lonely. “THIS is the big secret? It’s not an adventure? This doesn’t help me at all. This isn’t some great piece of wisdom, this sounds way more like a horror film. No thanks,” she stormed out of the room, full of angst. I’ll just make my own way. No one can trap me in that darkness. I simply will choose to keep my head up and I will avoid all dark places! So Lonely went on, avoiding the shadows.
When Lonely turned 20, she had pretty successfully avoided shadows and was living a rather fulfilling life. That is, before the ache began. She began to ache and ache. She pulled up the covers to push down the ache and then she decided they weren’t heavy enough. So, she became a seamstress. She sewed up her own heavy, weighted sort of quilt. Her friends laughed along and shook their heads . . . Lonely was always up to some new thing.
Lonely loved her new quilt, but she hated it too. It held her, it trapped her. It made her warm, it made her sweat. She stopped seeing a life without the quilt and she always had to carry it around. Her friends began to worry that the quilt was taking a toll on her, but she made excuses. “I’m a seamstress! It reminds me to sew!” She would justify.
Some nights, she would try to sleep without the quilt, and she could. But she’d always miss it and need it’s warmth. She’d always wrap it around herself and be reminded of the time she took up sewing.
After a few years of this, Lonely slowly began to realize that the quilt was keeping her from living. She knew she would have to give it away, but she felt she wasn’t strong enough. One day, as peace flooded over her, she brought it to the homeless shelter and gave it away. But the very next day, she came back and bought it for twice the original price. Lonely couldn’t imagine life without it. It was worth too much to her.
Everyone told her that maybe the quilt wasn’t the problem, that maybe it was something deeper, but Lonely was so sure it was the quilt’s fault. If only it wasn’t so warm and cozy! If only it wasn’t so beautiful! If only I hadn’t spent so much time making it! One day, Lonely looked at the quilt and saw that it was beautiful, but felt a deep knowing that it never meant to be her’s, although she didn’t know why.
With this revelation, she breathed in all the bravery she could and brought it up to the most expensive department store in town for them to put a price on it. The store clerk told her that the workmanship was so beyond anything he had ever seen and the perfect wear on it made it a priceless piece of art. She smiled with tears in her eyes, “I know.” Then she added, “You can have it.” The department store clerk was shocked, “FOR FREE?!” clearing his throat and gaining his composure once more, “For free? Are you sure?” A part of her wanted to rip the blanket out of his hands– of course she wasn’t sure! Who could ask such a question?! But another, deeper, richer part of her whispered: “Yes. I’m sure” She heard her voice respond in the same way. The clerk nodded, feeling an eerie sense that he had entered into a holy, solemn place with the girl. He shook his head, not quite understanding her or her decision, but respecting her bravery. “Okay! If you say so!” and he took the blanket to be sold to someone else.
Lonely came back to her room and cried for 3 days straight. She had no quilt to keep her warm this time, which made the crying both worse and better. There was nothing to do now. She would wait for the quilt to be sold and she would do all the things she couldn’t when she had to carry it around. But she didn’t want to do anything anymore. She thought she’d feel free and joyful, but she mostly felt a battle between confusion and confidence. Which would win? She didn’t know. She felt the darkness settle in, so instead of resisting, she got comfortable. Then a little voice brought to her mind the time her parents told her: “When you’re wrapped up in darkness, all you can do is not let go.” So she decided not to let go. She didn’t know how long it would take or how long she’d feel stuck, but she knew not to let go and that was enough for the moment. For once in her life, she decided to embrace her name and let go of all the fear that someone might tease her for it. Lonely is what her parents named her, so Lonely she would be.
A few weeks later, Lonely walked out of her room and her friends gasped. “WHAT?! Is there something on my face?!” Lonely shrieked. They whispered in awe, “Go look in the mirror.” She walked up to the mirror and saw many delicate butterflies painted all down her arm. Glistening, iridescent, and surreal, Lonely traced the butterflies with her fingertip. Tears rushing down her face, she thanked the secret artist who painted her arm and whispered in revelation: “It was a metamorphosis.”
After the incident, everyone began calling her “Butterfly.” She always smiled at the name because it reminded her of that cocoon of grief she lived in. It reminded her that she had to embrace her true name before being given a new one. It reminded her that she was brave enough to give away the quilt she so carefully made. It reminded her she could still be a seamstress without it. It reminded her that her name came with a price. But most of all, it reminded her that it was worth it.
what does bravery look like for the lion hearted?
for the one whose second nature is to
what does bravery look like for the brave one?
the one honored as resilient and powerful,
the one who wishes she didn’t have
so many places where she had to be
what does bravery look like for the fighter?
for the little girl who had to make her own rules
who was thrown into the battle early on
pushed and pulled
to be stronger,
maybe bravery for her looks unlike any would have guessed —
a gentle kiss
soft licks from a kitty
admitting she was wrong
saying yes to what she wants
not having it all figured out
feeling pretty wearing make up
feeling pretty without it
a flower budding
the sound of light rain
crying in front of a man
asking for help
not being okay
expressing how much she cares
having high hopes
leaving a mess in the kitchen
leaving a mess in herself
laying in bed all day
splurging on perfume
someone calling her sweet
giving grace to others when they make mistakes
giving grace to herself when she does too
writing again…for the first time, in a long time.
you see, we think bravery has to look like this fierce, bold, and bright act of defiance against the laws of nature and our own will. but more often true bravery looks like being yourself, and having enough room to welcome whoever that is. bravery can look like conquering the mountain and championing a foe — it can also look like sitting in a chair, baking bread, singing a song, letting the light in.
for the one who was brave before she was born,
who feels safer in risk than in her own still skin,
who spent all those years stretching, reaching, striving to be brave —
let the warm and lovely tenderness of your soul be exactly what and who it is.
for then, you will be brave.
Please stop putting bravery on a scale
Stop trying to measure it
Stop trying to see if yours looks the same as everyone else’s
If you have that moment
When your heart speeds up
And there’s a voice in your head that asks “are you sure?
Maybe it’s safer to not”
And you even think about doing it anyways
That’s enough bravery for today
Maybe one day you do the thing
The thing you’ve been afraid of doing for so long
And that’ll be enough bravery for that day For some people, bravery is skydiving like they’ve always wanted to
For others, it may look like walking outside of your house when anxiety has been crippling you for months
Maybe it’s finally calling that girl and asking her on a date
Or calling a parent you haven’t talked to in years I don’t know what being brave looks like for you
But whatever it is, please have grace with yourself
Stop being so hard on yourself
Stop having expectations for how your body should react when you choose to be brave Take the steps you can when they feel safe for you
Nothing more, nothing less
Let that be enough
“Brave doesn’t look like I thought it would, but then again the older I get not much else does either.
A lot of small voices accumulated into a roar that said Brave meant I would change the world.
A pat on the back at my highschool graduation party along with a card that said “world changer”
“You’re gonna do big things”
Somewhere along the way Brave and Bold got confused as Loud and Impactful.
But as I dug deeper and unwound the voices whispering these things into my ears, I found that there was more bravery in the staying than in the going.
Brave meant staying when I wanted to run.
Brave meant pressing into the holy and uncomfortable moments.
Brave meant, in the words of my favorite blogger to “punch fear in the face and drink good coffee”
Brave meant choosing to believe that small acts of kindness were actually louder that the grand sweeping gestures that I could have performed on a stage.
Brave currently means choosing to sit with those who feel unseen and making extra cups of coffee for my roommates in the morning and digging my hands into soil and flour.
Brave means that I stay and invest and plant roots when I want to go ahead to the next best thing.
Brave means waking up early and soaking in the golden light and choosing to believe that there is enough to go around.
To have enough courage to find my own definition of brave and wear it proudly.”
I see bravery in the upper-middle class 50-year-old mom who takes every precaution she can to wipe down the groceries and avoid all germs for both herself and her grown kids.
I see bravery in the 22-year-old undergrad who is willing to slow down and face the trauma from her childhood because she has the time to process through it.
I see bravery in the 27-year-old refugee who continues to work two jobs to provide money for his family in South Sudan.
I see bravery in the 22-year-old refugee who has stopped working in order to stay healthy.
I see bravery in the dad who is also a doctor and goes into work each day even though he doesn’t really feel like being a hero right now.
I see bravery in the professor who gives grace to some of her students right now because they are currently caring for their six siblings at home, but who also expects other students to continue working and succeeding as they were before.
I see bravery in the 30-year-old mom and dad who have now taken on the role of homeschooling 3 kids on top of their now virtual day jobs.
I see bravery in high school students adjusting their entire life/learning structure to fit into a laptop.
I see bravery in the students who feel unsafe in their homes that they are used to avoiding with school and sports.
I see bravery in the kids who are taking advantage of the chance they now have to play outside more.
I see bravery in friendships that are building up on trust that cannot be supported by in person contact right now.
I didn’t realize how much I could see here from inside the walls of social distancing.
“Brave” is the small, cracked inhale before emerging from the charred rubble of first, second, third and fourth attempts.
She’s the defiant and subversive breath of anticipation that creeps into your atrophied lungs.
She’s the raising again of your hand to tenderly brush the dust of your failures from your bleeding skin.
She’s every small and feeble movement of your body, soul, mind, and spirit through the carnal desire to freeze in order to remain safe.
She’s the decision to allow the light to come in again before you have the comfortable certainty of knowing whether it will burn or soothe.
“Brave” is not big or loud like anger or passion but delicate and frayed like a flower that chooses to bloom in a bed of thorns or a small moment of grace in the aftermath of great harm.
She doesn’t announce her arrival; she doesn’t need to.
She doesn’t hold arrows, armor, or arguments.
She was born without the ability or desire to keep any of the promises you’ve required her to make.
She’s the openness of a heart unraveled and extended in all its glorious imperfection.
She’s the warm glow your hand holds when you thought the last beautiful thing had slipped through your fingers.
She’s the precious voice that reveals the radiance of the journey and while you’re still a long way off, reminds you that you are more able and deserving than you know.
Every person I take the time to know has a story that will make the muscles in your face tense and stomach flutter. I have always valued and seen beauty in those stories, but not in my own. My story makes me build up a gate to keep everything in and others out. The most brave choice I have made and what I call my “floodgate moment” is the first time I told a friend I had been a victim of intimate partner sexual violence.
The feelings behind the wall I built were dark, lonely, and bred rampant shame. Being brave initially felt like an emotional hangover. Telling even a fragment of my story felt like pouring alcohol into a cut and felt like giving a finite part of myself away. I remember not being able to get sentences out amidst the tears. I remember the look on my friends face as I told my story. Most vividly, I remember the before feeling of what it’s like to hold it all inside.
The instinct to distance from this part of myself still runs deep, and I often feel disassociated from my body because of what happened. For a while it felt pointless, but small victories pave the way to becoming shame resilient. I have gotten to support and navigate the legal process with a teenager who was sexually assaulted. I get to share my experiences with a therapist who conducts research that brings light to age-old rape culture within religious organizations. I have given myself permission to deconstruct what I believe about myself and God, knowing I might emerge believing nothing at all. Most importantly, I get to share the comfort of saying this happened to me too.
My favorite musician says that “yes you need to be there to plant a garden”. When I want to walk away from this part of myself, I have to choose to stick around. I know this deconstruction is going to require me to dig deep and to open up, but I owe it to myself to continue to choose bravery. Through the unknowns, the one thing I am sure of is I don’t want to miss out on the garden.
Sometimes I feel like I’m a ghost
Wandering around from place to place
Wondering if anyone would ever look me in the face
Why does everyone see right through me?
Do I belong here?
Sometimes I feel like I’m a wave
Roaring and crashing into rocks and sand
Wondering if maybe
Someone would wave back from land?
Why does no one ever wave back?
Do I belong here?
Sometimes I feel like I’m a star
Twinkling and glittering in the sky
Wondering if someone is looking back at me with a glimmer in their eye
Why does no one ever twinkle back?
Do I belong here?
Lately I’ve felt like I’m a flower
Dancing and singing with laughs of color
As if singing a song
To the One who created me
I see Him singing back
I belong here
Lately I’ve felt like I’m a tree
Standing tall and waving free
Branches thrust upward, searching for a Hand to hold
I see His Hand reaching for mine
I belong here
Lately I’ve felt
More like myself
For I know and I see
That this is who I’m made to be
I belong here
For I was searching for other things
To make me feel treasured
While the true gift
Was right in front of me
But now I see that I belong
For I stopped searching
And started abiding
And there I found the desire for which my heart longs
It takes bravery – you see
To be a ghost
Or to be a wave
Or to be a star
Or to be a flower
Or to be a tree
To be me.
For it’s in the longing
And in the waiting
And in the crashing
And in the falling
That we find our weakness
As well as our strength
These are all essential steps
In this process of growth
But first we must see
That we were made to be free
But if I spend my whole life
As a ghost
Or as a wave
Or as a star
I’ll spend my whole life
Searching for someone to see me…
And I’ll miss the beauty
Of who I was made to be.
For this is a waste
Because the only One who can truly see me for me
I have found
That courage grows beneath the surface
And bravery is the water
That seeps into our roots
Sometimes the bravest thing you can do
Is to let go
That who you are
Is exactly who you were meant to be
Bile creeps up your throat as you find your seat on the itchy blue couch. Heat rushes up your body coupled with a feeling of lightheadedness, a result of nerves and a lack of sleep and proper nourishment. You know you should have treated your body better, but what is the point?
The wooden block toy table in the corner, a fixture of every pediatric waiting room, mocks you and confirms you are a child, unable to care for yourself. Classical music plays softly overhead and you can’t help but to fixate on the French “Adventures of Tin Tin” posters to affirm you are indeed in the wrong place.
The last few weeks have indicated this is necessary. You can’t find your footing. Fear and anxiety lie ahead while grief and regret lie behind you. The perfect, organized, color-coded ROYGBIV, neatly stacked life that you had laid out is now a heap of rubble and try as hard as you might, you don’t have the tools to reassemble it. How do you admit defeat? How do you admit failure? How do you raise your hand and say “I can’t do this anymore”? How do you say, “I need help?”
You sit there eyeing the door with dread and fear. You could leave. You could send an email explaining you weren’t ready, this just isn’t the right time. You could say you can handle this on your own, but deep down you know this is your hail mary. You’re running out of options. You can’t go back-it’s not possible. You don’t know how to move forward.
Grief and broken trust is what caused you to walk through the door in the first place, but what makes you think the person on the other side is trustworthy? How do you approach a perfect stranger and unfoil every dark place in your mind, body and soul? How do you let the wall down?
The door handle turns, blood drains from your head, you stand and follow. You catapult into uncertainty, unfamiliarity and the unknown. You emerge unscathed, slightly better than before though not quite whole again, with a renewed sense of ability, autonomy and most of all hope.
“Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it.”
Shovel in hand,
You make your way out.
Walking to the earth-spot,
You feel the blisters
Begin to smart on the handle.
You’ve been digging for days,
But you feel different now.
You started timidly,
Unable to give the shovel a good push.
When you arrive, you get to work.
Your muscles feel sore but strong,
Your hands feel tattered but useful,
Connected to your body.
You don’t quite know what you’re digging for,
But you know that digging is the brave thing.
You know that digging calls you to be unafraid of the underneath, of what you’ll dredge up.
Digging requires space and time that you have to ask for,
An accepting and acknowledgment of the self.
So you dig.
For yourself, this time.
Between the dirt and the freedom
The shovel rests.
I’ll dig with it.
The bravest people I know// an ode to my team
We sat in a circle-
more of an unorganized cluster of broken humans.
And we admitted our fears.
Our hopes. Our deepest hopes.
Stopping to laugh at mishaps,
and celebrate success.
We dreamed. Planned. Pushed. Tried.
Failed and lost.
So we sat in more unorganized clusters.
And we admitted our fears again.
Gave them up to each other and to our Father.
We continued to dream. Planned. Pushed.
Tried with everything we had.
I watched as the other 9 broken humans
and went out.
and got knocked over.
Even got kicked in the face a few times,
but went out again.
Choosing to give everything,
for nothing in return.
Bravery isn’t a story of victory,
but the choosing to keep on.
To shake off the dust,
the harsh words,
And to choose to keep loving.
Love with no agenda-
each other and all others.
These people are my definition of brave.
Everyday, for your whole life
You went to work
Not just any work,
But work where you lived
Day in and day out
In people’s worst days and hardest seasons
With angry and rich
Poor and immigrant
Cancer and sobbing mother
Alone old widow
Young widow too.
I didn’t learn until much later
The way you avoid conflict
Near constantly, you hate it.
But every day you went into conflict
With a cup of coffee in hand
Every day into the belly of the beast
Knowing the worst was there,
And you walked right into it
Did you know the only peace
Would come from your bravery
To do the thing every day
That scared you most?
I know bravery
Because i’ve seen it with my eyes
A picture of alabama farmland growing
Applications for grad school
The choice to move home
One-way ticket across the country
I know bravery
Because i’ve felt it with my feet
Walking halls of McGlone
Streets of DC and sidewalks of brookhaven
The empty houses of Athens
The pavements of Raleigh
Bravery isn’t a place, no
But I walk in it when I’m where
The brave people are
I’ve heard bravery too
Coworkers asking how we’re doing
You calling depression by its name
(People feeling– feeling is brave,
Maybe the most brave)
The sounds of tears and laughter
Feeling the fullest range of life
Choosing not to miss even one second of it
The smell of a send-off pot of pasta
Made in love before a big change
Spring flowers on the banks
Press into another season against all odds
The bread, secret strength small and
Bubbling it tall and sturdy in the fire
And the bravery tastes good and tart
Always a bit unexpected
Bravery, given shape by the people around me
Who show me every day what bravery is
NoteThe Way It Was
I once was brave.
Brave enough that is.
Brave enough to share how I felt
When it didn’t matter.
Electrify The Streets,
He left just when they would start having memories
When their minds were old enough to recall
He left when it started to get fun
When their blonde curls started bouncing on their shoulders when they giggled
When they started looking up to their older sister
He left because he was sick
Because he needed to leave
Because he couldn’t see past himself
Oh much to everyone’s dismay
Along the way it became normal
Him showing up on his own watch
Him reaching out as it fit his schedule
I pray it doesn’t become the standard
His sickness ebbed and flowed
As did his presence
Picking and choosing
How complicated is a daughters heart for her father
How riddled with confusion and contradiction
How much can one grant grace, “he’s sick, he’s sick, he’s sick”
How much does it confuse her own heart, her own worth
It came time for the girls to be recognized
Homecoming court beneath the lights
But the father escorts them, the father always escorts
Their hearts more brave than I can fathom
Not giving someone the option
To show up in the good times and not the bad
They chose their mother to escort them
Knowing they would have to face their father who wouldn’t understand
Knowing that older people just wanted them to give in – status quo
Take the more comfortable route
Flee from hurting feelings
After so many years of their hurt feelings
Oh but these girls know their worth
They know they are worth every ounce of effort it takes to raise a little girl
How brave it is to believe you are worth it
How brave it is to live in this way
“Only do what only you can do.”
A friend and mentor said this to me a few years ago, and as I sit at my desk and think about bravery, it comes to mind.
I have always struggled with wanting to feel valuable. I want to feel like my ideas matter, like I’m making a difference, like the things to which I’m giving my time have purpose.
In good times, this plays itself out in embracing leadership, initiating conversations, and challenging those around me.
In bad times, it looks like trying to control my surroundings, becoming very passive, and ultimately shutting down while the only words coming from my mouth are “I’m fine.”
When it’s not true.
I’m learning that bravery is a product of a willing heart, and that in most cases, the recognition and praise I so desire doesn’t come when I choose to be brave. I’m learning that I want to do what I want to do because I think it will make me look good, not because I’m doing it for anyone else. To me, bravery looks like filling the gaps. It looks like doing what you can, because only you can. Because you’ve been given a unique gift that allows you to do whatever it is you need to do.
“The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you.’ And the head cannot say to the feet ‘I don’t need you.’ On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable.”
– 1 Corinthians 12:21-22
Indispensable. What a warm blanket to my soul. To know that in the moments when I feel weaker than those around me, I still have a purpose, a chance to be brave. For my wife, for my neighbors, for my family, for my friends, for those without a voice, for those who may not recognize their own gifts. Thank goodness for those chances.
There is so much bravery is slowing down –
I find the words “no rush”
Are always on my tongue
Because I want to say
“You are worth all the time it takes to get here, there, wherever you want to be”.
And it is brave,
When they take that time,
I am worth it,
The space, I will take it up.
I’ve been teaching myself to skateboard.
Just taking laps around a parking deck.
Learning how to position my feet to ensure balance.
Figuring out the best way to push myself onwards.
Wobbly and smiling down the ramp,
it’s easy to feel brave.
My dad tells me it is a stupid, reckless hobby.
Makes me wonder,
how often are the two mistaken.
Where is the line drawn?
Is it brave or stupid to jump off the quarry walls?
Is it brave or stupid to go to a protest during a pandemic?
Is it brave or stupid to question
the beliefs I have been spoon fed?
Is it brave or stupid to facilitate confrontation?
Is it brave or stupid to move away from my people, my home?
But the line has always been blurry.
The women and men who make up our history books
must have been called stupid
so many times
before we gave them the title of brave.
Doing the unexpected, dangerous, scary,
takes a little bit of stupidity
and a little bit of bravery.
Where is the line drawn?
Stupid or brave.
Based on purpose?
One’s intended end game?
The simple use of logic in decision making?
I’ll write again once I have solved it all.
So maybe skateboarding is stupid.
Maybe i’ll break my ankle tomorrow
while trying to perfect my left side turns.
I won’t be sorry for it.
I’m intentionally implementing a bit of
purposeful stupidity in my life.
Trying to train myself
to think less.
To headlessly say it.
Things you might tell me is stupid
but in time, like the history books,
may just reveal themselves
to be brave.
Fear and love
To really kno me is to kno….
I am full of doubt…
But I am one who wonders this terrain out of fear and love
I fear that what I have for all things will run out
For my love to run dry
For my voice to not ring
For me to fall on my face
For my heart to not beat.
And I if didn’t fear this
I would love for ages
My voice will carry for miles
I would stand tall
And my heart will beat to serve
So here I am searching for faith to Love
Seeking to drive my spirit with words from the kingdom
And shielding away from the words of a death sentenced world
We all share walls that will need help rebuilding
Regardless of the future, there will be something to credit here before us.
You never know the wrath of a storm until it has passed
For myself I’ve survived surges and I can’t believe that now the skies are clearing
I mean this for myself
I must enjoy this sun with or without another silhouette
But truly I have room for you beside me.
This must be what it feels like to invent, to pioneer, or to discover a new world.
…scared sh!tless but more happy as can be…
we must take…
#1 — ••• Teaching in the Unknown
“Father, what have I kept from you?”
A dangerous question from a heart yearning for the stability of the Shepherd’s hands. I grasp at my life, desperately trying to hold it together, yet desperately wanting to offer it up.
A gentle whisper wakes me in the middle of the night:
I see my classroom. My students, my career, my pride. The fear of the unknown crawls up my throat, threatening to take my breathe. How do I win this battle? Paralyzed, I beg:
“Fight for me?”
I cannot do this alone. Prepare me for the battle, cloak me in bravery. Though I smile and nod, I know that I don’t know. I don’t know what this year will look like. I don’t know what school will look like. I don’t know what next month or next week or tomorrow holds. I’m completely dependent on something so much bigger than me. I put one foot in front of the other.
Help me look forward to the future without try to manipulate it, without putting it on my back. Help me see it all through a lens of daily grace. Help me know that you will hold me up when the waves crash down on me.
You lift up my chin.
Brush my hair with your hands.
“My dear, I have never left you.”
Oh; take all my love. Take all my life.
#2 ••• Bravery is in the Jump •••
Change is a cliff. An impending sense of doom fills and weighs my chest as my toes creep over the
I glance down.
What will the fall feel like?
I look back.
Can I step away?
But forward is the only option today. I must jump. I wait. Sickened by the dread, I close my eyes, whining:
“Why must I?? Isn’t there an easier way?”
Blurry vision and angered heart, desperation hardens my will. Who wants to let go of their footing, their perceived safety? Who wants to feel their stomach fly up, to be completely humbled by their lack of control?
But forward is the only way today. I fill my mind of images of how horrid the process will be, I convince myself that looking over the edge, fearing the jump, is a better option than the jump itself. So I stand still. Shaking my head at my Creator.
“No. I’ll just stay here awhile.”
My head swirls, clarity is gone, and I’m not even sure why I’m standing on the cliff anymore. I fall to my knees.
“Why am I here?”
“You said you wanted stability.”
“But this fall isn’t stability?! I’ll lose everything I’ve built. Do you see what I’ve built?”
“Have you forgotten? It was me that brought you the stones. It was me that gave you the strength to build. It was me that directed your every step, that gave you every plan. Do you not trust I will help you to build again? Sweet girl, let go. Let go of it all. In fall, you will remember.”
I look over the edge once more. Have I built it up in my head again? Is this worth it?
I force my eyes to look beyond—
An ancient whisper fills my mind: “Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, Maker of Heaven and earth.”
Weightless, worry-less, free. Finally. My head clears. My dread evaporates. I find shelter in the wings of the Most High.
I look back up, why did I stand at the edge for so long? Torturing myself over the “what if?” I look back at my Helper, He smiles, knowingly.
“Do you trust me now?”
Isn’t it funny how I say I’ve given my life to Christ, but when it comes time to jump, to risk my pretend safety, I cling to the image of fear I’ve created over the very one who created me?
You win, Jesus.
You can have it all.
No cliff or dread can stand against you,
You are the one who catches, the one who provides, the one who holds me up.
Run-ons and comma splices
It’s been a few days in the new house, and everything is starting to come together. The new shower curtain that makes the blue-green tile look purposeful, boxes disappearing from the living room and the contents finding homes, the laundry stack shrinking and closets beginning to fill.
That first night eating pizza and leftover wedding wine on the back deck, sitting on blankets all together was an omen- a sign- that no matter what pieces were missing- plates, chairs, silverware- it would come together. It would be perfect.
I dreamed of married life and it’s all how I pictured and nothing how I pictured. You can envision the chores and the house and the tender moments, but you can’t expect the overwhelming feeling of being one another’s. Worried when he’s gone too long, wondering what he’s thinking, wanting to be close to make the feelings tangible. Some of it’s hard- the little unmet expectations that really make no difference anyway- towels, toilet seats, taking turns. But it’s perfect. You can tell that even though it’s new, it’s exactly what it was always supposed to be. That any other outcome would have been unnatural and wrong. Another life was imaginable, but in the blink of an eye, the exchange of a ring and a simple promise, the image is gone.
So, I’m sitting here, drinking coffee on the front stoop while he has his own Quiet Time- a necessity in our old and new worlds- missing him a little as I imagine the newly-wed do, and I’m wondering how to be brave today. What will I do today that matters, that overcomes, that challenges, that explores and ignites.
And I decide I will stay.
I will remain. I will be steadfast. As the days get shorter, it won’t always be as sugary sweet as this day on the front stoop, but I’ll stay. Stay here. I’ll follow where he goes and stay where he stays.
It’s a new kind of brave for me, working as a team. But I know through seasons and years and the highs and lows and fun and mundane- it’ll come together. It has to, it was always meant to be.
When you’re better together it’s hard to go solo because now you know all that was missing before, and how could you miss out on that again. So I’ll stay here, on his team, him on mine, writing run-ons and comma splices that I see as soon as they leave my pen, an English teacher’s dirty little secret, to make an attempt to put into words how this new season of “us” just might be my bravest yet.
The truth is, I don’t know how to be brave.
I don’t know how to move on
And let go of the past few years
And start over
When it feels like I’ve been building and building this beautiful home for myself here,
And now I have to start at the bottom.
I don’t like the bottom very much.
It’s dark down here, and I’m not up high enough yet
To see what’s up ahead.
I’m walking around with the lights off,
Not knowing which way is up.
I don’t know how to not be good. To just try and fail.
It’s not my nature to want to change
And step outside of what I know.
It’s my nature to know and label all of the things around me.
To put each thing in its right box, wipe the dust off of my fingers, and rest in a job well done.
This year isn’t that.
It requires failure.
It requires discomfort and change.
It requires bravery.
And as I look at the empty seats, the whiteboard and the desk at the front,
I feel the opposite of brave.
I feel such fear.
There are so many questions running through my head:
Doubts, lies, fear, worries
But it all comes back to this:
“Can you do this?”
“Can you really do this?”
And my answer is the same each time.
“I don’t know”
“I don’t know”
“I don’t know”
But then I think about how scared I was a year ago.
And then four years ago.
A fresh page terrifies me,
But it has also made me who I am today.
And failure, unlike I feared, did not defeat me.
It made me better. Wiser. Humbler. More understanding.
Sometimes I think bravery is learned. That it means trusting what I have seen to create a world in the future where I’m okay.
At least in my own head.
But more, I think bravery is this:
I look out at an ocean of my own fears.
I look out and can’t see what’s right in front of me.
I look out.
And still, I take a step forward.
Still, I show up.
Still, in spite of that ocean and the darkness I fear,
I am brave today.
She slowly started losing touch. Speaking about aliens, past lives, her psychic abilities, the list goes on. Lots of people believe in such things, but for her, it was different. For her, these beliefs were slowly taking over her life. The voices began. They would tell her to believe things, things that were not really happening. They would tell her to do things, things that she should not do. They would distract her from eating, drinking, living. She was spiraling down as she thought she was spiraling up, so excited about her new powers. She couldn’t really listen to me. She’d talk to me, but she wasn’t really listening; the voices were more interesting, more important. My friend falling deep in ways I didn’t even realize someone could fall. I didn’t know how to help her. She didn’t realize there was a problem. I was scared to upset her. I was scared to do the wrong thing. I was scared for her to realize that this was all a lie.
Sometimes it takes an event so big to be brave. Sometimes your fear overrides your decisions for weeks. But then suddenly, it escalates so quickly that you know you must get help. And while you’re on the phone still so scared, you’re asking for help, the brave thing to do. You feel guilty for sending her away, taken against her own will. All the people you talk to keep telling you that you were brave, you did the right thing, you saved her. How can you know you were acting out of bravery instead of fear? How can you be so scared and so brave at the same time?
Now, it’s her turn to be brave. As reality is being slowly shoved in her face by doctors, little white pills, and laws requiring her to cooperate, she’s scared too. She’s scared about the things she did, the relationships she lost, where she ended up. Scared of her brain and her thoughts. Scared that she’ll never be the same. I’m scared of that too.
More than anything right now, I hope she can be brave. I know she needs me to be brave again too. She needs me to believe she can get better. She needs me to act out of bravery instead of fear. I hope we will be brave for each other.
Most of the time, bravery surprises us and looks different than we expected. Our past experiences and perceptions form what bravery should, shouldn’t, or could be.
Maybe it is standing up for yourself or a friend. Maybe it is conquering a big fear. Maybe it is taking a leap of faith into something new. While all of these speak truthfully about bravery, I hope we don’t limit ourselves to these ideas.
Bravery is better than we think, and what if we gave it the space it needs in our hearts to dig deep and eventually bloom? What would that look like for you?
For me, bravery came in the lonely, quiet, simple, and even painful moments. I wanted to take that big leap of faith and conquer that mountainous fear by being “big and brave” like we tell kids, but she met me with a different plan. A wild, new plan that stopped me in my tracks to remind me that maybe the lonely, quiet, and simple moments aren’t so bad after all.
They can be where bravery moves in close, finds some footing, and she grows. They can be the beginning of letting something new in.
This way, she teaches me to
Be rather than only do,
Remain rather than only rush,
And trust rather than only hope.
I am surprised, in the best way, that bravery can be a part of me, rather than something I strive for. It may come from inspirational people, places, and words, but it also comes from a place within. Trust it is there and let it go with you!
So, what if we tossed aside our “big and strong” views on bravery to see it in the full light is has for us? What if we let it run wild in our hearts, our thoughts, and even our dreams? I think, if we do, bravery will come much more naturally than we once knew.
At the end of the ropes course, there is only way to get off the course. And that is to jump, trusting that the person below will catch you with the rope. Often people will run through the entire course just to get to this spot and freeze. The early parts are easy, you can rely on the equipment and your own skill to get you through. But at the end you have to put your trust in the person at the bottom to catch you. Letting go of control and putting your trust in someone else is difficult. The most difficult, but I have seen some of the most joyous moments come right after letting go and taking a step of bravery.
Here is where I am brave: feet (and mind and body and soul)
Firmly planted on the scorched ground
Screaming at the sun and moon and stars and gods and ancestors and Life and Death
But not expecting a reply.
Have we always been brave?
No. How could we be,
when we are suspended in just the right place at just the right moment in time
to experience This. Together.
Just like the great waves of the ocean roil and crash and rise and fall and fill our lungs with salt and foam and creatures of the deep,
So too do we swell with the greatest heights
and sink further beneath the waves than we ever could have feared.
That is where we are
Safely cocooned in an abalone shell, ordinary from the outside and extraordinary in all the ways that count
Bravery is exploring the cosmos knowing that we may not be alone after all
(and once you’ve drifted past the Kuiper Belt, understanding that your feet may never touch scorched ground ever again because all you’ve got is Pluto outside your window).
Bravery is finding religion and then losing it in the same breath.
It is standing on the summit of the world’s tallest mountain choking on your own oxygen
and understanding that there Has To Be More Than This,
that There Was Always More Than This.
Bravery is finding out you were wrong about all of it:
life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
standing in front of your dusty childhood mirror one afternoon when you visit your parent’s house and finally recognizing the person you were meant to be all along,
shrugging off the weight of the world like Atlas
like the giants who have come before you
It is accepting more than cracked earth and silent stars and the vacuum of space because you
are the heavenly body
made To Be More Than This.
There Was Always More Than This.
I didn’t know how brave I was
To let you love me
Until you found my wounds
And shown a light on them
I was terrified and resistant
Pushing your tending hands away
But you persisted
The healing was gentle and strong
I didn’t know how brave you were
To love me
Until I felt how it mended me
While you made it look easy
You were certain and unshaken
Moving in closer despite my fight
And you won
My life completely changed by it
The bravery of a simple and deep love…
There is an annual celebration of street art in Denver where artists from all over come to bring art onto the streets instead of in galleries.
This woman chose to recreate some of the letters her stalker had written her. These letters are now on a wall for anybody and everybody to see. This woman is unbelievably brave for sharing her art and letters with the world.
To the brave friend-
who stayed when many others left or hid,
who continuously chose love when it was almost impossible,
who picked me up over and over when I was heavy,
You Are Brave.
you welcomed my brokenness as something beautiful,
you allowed space for my emotions and words to run out,
you opened your life to mine,
You Are Brave.
i was lost, but you helped me find my way,
i was resistant, but you waited with me,
i was hopeless, but you reminded me of truth,
You Are Brave.
you are brave for all of this,
for going the lengths and depths with me,
but most of all,
you are brave for being You
despite the fight, weight, fear, and tears.
you courageously stayed true to you,
and you helped me be brave enough to do the same.
I’ve had a lot of transition within the last year, but I could have not. I chose these changes. I wrestled with these decisions, prayed, cried, struggled because I knew what I’d have to leave behind.There is grief in change, even when you know it pushes you forward.
It takes immeasurable courage to push forward. We celebrate this bravery in one another constantly, honoring the work performed to produce results that we believe are needed, good, just: the work that ultimately spurs progress. Deciding upon and working towards change takes immeasurable courage. I remind myself of this repeatedly, in my quiet moments, in my moments where the change is so loud it’s deafening. My mom called me a strong and powerful force last summer. I own that phrase as I march on. I hold on to this truth. I chose my change for a reason. I hold on to this truth.
But I’m learning there is also bravery in recognizing and acknowledging the pain in the loss that is married to change. Even when you choose it. To grieve is to understand that what is gone meant something and to simply and innately miss something because it no longer exists. We cannot have progress without it, but a recognition of this pain paints a picture of what it’s like to be human. To be uncomfortable when things look different. To love and to lose. To love despite the possibility of loss. To feel all ranges of emotion. We cannot separate ourselves from this reality, so why not be brave and grapple with it when it’s here? There is freedom in making change, but perhaps there is even more in allowing yourself to grieve your losses in the inbetween. There is beauty in this duality. I hold on to this truth.