For the past few years I’ve taken up a one word resolution (I’d like to think i was ahead of the curve, before it got super popular, but whatever). I’ve had three years of words: 2013 was beautiful, 2014 was loved. I’ll have a 2016 word, but that’s for another post. While I felt like I did well with these words– that I actually used them to accomplish something in my life– they don’t hold a candle to my 2015 word, brave.
To say brave was a word to shape my year is a bit of an understatement.
But not in the way I was expecting.
Like, at all. I thought I knew what I needed to be brave about... and it all got turned upside on its head.
Funny how life works like that, right?
I thought it was going to take bravery to graduate college… when it took bravery to not walk across the stage on December 19th like I planned.
I thought I was going to need bravery to seek out and find the perfect teaching job… when it took a lot of bravery to say “no” to the one career I thought I’d always wanted.
I thought I was going to need bravery to enter into the next chapter of adulthood… when it took bravery to stay in this chapter longer than I planned. Or wanted.
So, really, God took the word I thought I knew all about… the story I thought I had figured out… and He changed it all. He taught me about bravery by giving me something different to be brave about. A lot of things, honestly.
The things He gave me to be brave about were far from what I was ready to be brave about. They were not what I had planned to be brave about– quite the opposite.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in all this: I don’t get to choose what I’m going to be brave about. I have to be brave in it all.
In the random detours and road blocks, the twists and turns and completely unexpected life shifts– those are the moments where bravery and courage are most needed. Not my carefully constructed plans and wants.
Bravery took on a new meaning to me this year– a bigger and scarier and crazier meaning than I thought imaginable.
I thought I knew what brave looked like going in to 2015. Heading into 2016, I know now that bravery isn’t at all what I thought it was going into this year.
Bravery looks different for everyone, but it even looks different as the year-heck, the days- goes by.
This year, brave looked like:
Choosing vulnerability over hiding:
I have never been one to really tell people everything. I’m an open book in some ways, but I only give one side of the story, one chapter of the book. I never let people fully in, because i’m afraid to. I’ve struggled with being open and honest about a lot of things, but was determined to let go of some inhibitions and be honest– with myself and others. I think I succeeded at this in a lot of ways, and still have miles to go.
So, it was a hard thing to write about my dealings with GAD and depression, but it had been eating at me for months– I’d kept it to myself for so long, and letting myself be honest about what was going on made me feel so relieved. I first wrote about it in February, explaining everything that was going on; then I wrote more intimately about it for National Suicide Prevention Week in September.
Those posts took ages to write– and a long time for me to hit publish. I may look like I’m more vulnerable than I am– and sometimes my social media tendencies to be vulenerable make me look so– it takes a lot of strength for me to do stuff like this. And then I second guess every word I write and worry about people not understanding or taking it the wrong way or insert another bogus thought here.
But I do it anway, because hurting alone hurts way worse than sharing the hurt. By hitting publish, whether here or on instagram or via text (or even talking in person, which I still struggle with), I’m choosing to not let my illness and struggles overpower me anymore– and I’m letting my people into what I’m dealing with. It helps, even if it hurts. But choosing to do it is never easy for me, and i doubt it ever will be. but I do it, because I need it– and if that’s all it does, then it’s worth it to me.
Vulnerability also looks like asking for help, something I have always despised. But this year has taught me that asking for help makes a huge difference. Whether here in writing, or via text, social media… God has given me so many people to do life with– in the good and the bad. Help means leaning on others’s strength when I was too weak to stand alone, encouraging notes or texts or comments from friends, or asking hard questions, for someone holding my hand and praying for me, or letting someone in a little bit deeper into my life– all of these things have been ways people have helped me this year. And I’m a better person for letting them help me. (Along with being so thankful for the helpers… they know who they are). Now I know that help isn’t something I should despise. It should be something I constantly do– and give. We need each other so much, and I really need people to get through life, I learned. Community has been such a difficult thing for me this year– while I haven’t had a community in real life to lean on, I’ve found community through this blog and social media that has lifted me up more than words can say. Community and help come in so many forms, I’ve learned this year. As Mr. Rogers said: look for the helpers. They’re there, and they can and will be there when you need them most.
Obviously, this was the big one this year: saying goodbye to teaching.Is it a goodbye for good? I don’t know yet. But I know that saying no to something that had been planned basically since childhood was not easy. In the slightest. He took away the one sure bet I thought I knew in my life– and asked me to trust Him in the aftermath. It
was is one of the scariest, most heartbreaking, absolutely miserable choices I’ve made. But it was clear: no was the answer. I still feel like that was the choice I was supposed to make, but it sure hasn’t led to anything but stress and questions and worry.
it took everything in me to say no. To my plan, to a dream I’d wanted for years, to what I thought I wanted. But I had to make a choice for me: for my mental health, my phyiscal health, my stress level. There was no way under the circumstances I could do it. I wasn’t sleeping, wasn’t eating, couldn’t concentrate. And I hated every minute of teaching– something that had never happened to me, even when I’d had worse practicums and more difficult topics. I knew then that it was time to stop. But how? How could I be led to this one career, this one gift I have, only for a massive stop sign to be laid out in front of me right at the finish line? I mean, it couldn’t have been worse timing. But, I don’t even want to think about what could have been if I’d kept going. If I was miserable then? I don’t think I would have made it to the end. I really do.
I did it to myself. I made the choice, at the worst time imaginable. But that doesn’t make the choice any easier or the aftermath easier to grapple with.
The aftermath hasn’t been easy. I grieved it hard, and honestly I still am. It sent me into a further depressive spiral, freaking out about the unknowns and the future. It’s been a very hard place to be– this in-between– when I thought I had it all figured out. December 19th– the day I was supposed to graduate– was really hard, for obvious reasons. I was so ready to graduate, then I wasn’t… now, I don’t even know what I’m ready for.
But… it’s been worth it. Even if I don’t know the answers or the future yet… it was a choice for the better. And I learned so much from choosing to leave.
Bravery requires changing plans carefully laid out… even if it’s the last thing you ever thought would happen.
I guess that’s the whole point of my life this year: bravery isn’t bravery when you’re choosing what to be brave about.
Brave is what you are in the unplanned, when your plans go awry.
Even when it hurts to change your plans, or to go into 2016 with more unknowns than knowns… it’s brave to do so. Because brave is braving life through the crazy changes and the hard choices and doing what is right or what is best with them.
While it was hard- so damn hard- to deal with these choices, I made it. I survived it. And while I’m going into 2016 unsure of the future, I still believe that God has it. And he’ll take the plans I had carefully laid out and give me plans that He made- full of him and full of what He‘s called me to.
Even if I don’t know what that looks like, it gives me hope that 2016 will be more of him and less of me. Because up until now, my plans have been all me. And he gave me this year to show that to me.
I said a lot more yesses too this year. Yes to meeting new people (both in real life and on the interwebs); yes to writing more and using my writing to both give God glory and talk about my struggles. I traveled more than I’ve ever traveled: from Mexico to New Orleans to Savannah to Chicago, both planned and unplanned trips. I’ve been more spontaneous and let logic fly out the window when it needed to. I chose to take care of myself instead of other people, which is hard for me as a people-pleaser/caregiver.
I’ve been less afraid to say yes to things that scare me, things I didn’t know how they’d turn out. Almost always I was happy I chose yes– and the times I wasn’t, I still learned something.
And I’ve learned that when I say yes, and when I actually do things– God moves. When I say yes, He uses my yes to do big things– and he uses them to bring me back to where I need to be. He knows me well, and uses my yesses to help me see that.
asking questions and digging deeper: this year was the first year i haven’t been active in church since my freshman year. primarily because of transportation/life transitions and whatnot, but also because I’ve been trying to find my “place.” I went to a Methodist church when I first started going to church, and somehow landed at a Church of Christ college at a non-traditional CoC church. So, I don’t really know which one I belong to, if either. it’s a weird place to be in my faith life. Thankfully he gives me grace to figure it out– and guidance to discover where I need to be.
In the interim i’ve been without community, which has sucked. One goal for 2016 is to find the right faith community for me.
Also, this whole complete life change with quitting student teaching and whatnot produced a lot of questions–both about life and faith. I’ve been reading Out of Sorts by Sarah Bessey, and it’s a book that found me at the craziest most perfect time. I’ve been using it as a guide of sorts (pun not intended) to figure out some things, both about life and faith. It gives me permission to breathe a little, to be okay with asking questions and wandering and wondering. My friend Kaitlyn writes in her new book, “the first step to receiving an answer is to be brave enough to ask a question.” God can handle our questions. He can handle everything we give him, and promises to use it to change us.
So, I’ve asked my questions. I’ve tried to work through them, knowing that they may not have an answer. But I’ll keep asking, keep working, keep looking, keep pointing myself back towards Jesus. Because even if I don’t find my answers, I know He is what He says He is, and that’s enough of an answer to me.
There’s probably more I might think about later, but I’ll end thinking about 2015 here. I don’t think 2015 has been a bad year, despite things that have happened. It was a whole lot better than 2014, I’ll say that. While the situations in themselves were obviously hard and difficult, they gave me hope that there’s something greater in store for me than I thought. While I still struggled with darkness that is mental illness, I allowed others into it for the first time- and surprisingly figured out I wasn’t alone. These things made it a hard year, but I’m a better person for everything that has happened.
Everything this year has pointed me towards making me a person that chooses to be brave. To say yes to things that are new or scary, to say no when it makes life harder. To choose to be honest about what’s going on, and choosing to find the light in the darkness.
It’s all a part of the story he’s writing, and I finally gave him the pen in 2015– even if it was jerked away from me.
(Here’s to hoping I let him willingly keep writing my story this year so I don’t need another wakeup call like that. 😉 )
While it’s not the story I thought 2015 would bring me, it’s the story i was given. And He’s here in this story too– the one he mapped out, not the one I had planned.
While it wasn’t what I thought brave was going to look like, 2015 gave me the ability to be brave about it all anyway. And I’m a better person for choosing bravery, even when I was scared to death.
And I plan to keep choosing brave, beyond 2015. Because despite not being what I wanted? Choosing bravery and having courage about what this year had to offer was one of the best things I’ve done for myself. Now I know what I’m made of, what I can and can’t do, how to make changes and be willing to say and do what I need to get through. And to lean on Him through it all, knowing He’s writing the story and is in all the pages.
Being brave has made me a better me. I’m so thankful that 2015 was the year I figured out what being brave truly means.
Esther 4:14 was my theme verse this year— the 1st time I’ve ever had one, but it made sense. Little did I know how much that verse would shape my year.
This was the year I was created for: all of its quirks and turns and changes have helped me know myself better.Even when it was dark and miserable, this was the year God gave me to find myself in Him. And I am so thankful for it: the good, the bad, and the ugly.
And now, I’m ready to see what 2016 has in store. I’m ready to go bravely into the new year, saying Lord, bring it on. I’m excited, even if I’m a bit fearful of the future. But I know who holds it, so I’ll go into the new year head-on, knowing that 2016 is already full of Him and his plans– may I bravely and boldly seek them with everything He has given me.
Looking back at 2015 wasn’t the easiest thing, but the more I look, the more I find Him at work in the story. And He’s so good in it all, even when it hurts.
Bring it, Lord. 2015 was scary and wonderful, and I’m ready for 2016 to bring new, beautiful, scary things.
because who doesn’t need to start their new years with a little switchfoot? I think I’m going to make it after all. 🙂