I have been in a season of learning grace. Over and over I have been tested. I have been tested in small ways and in large ways.
I didn’t know I was in this season until Mother’s day of last year when I was given a necklace with the word GRACE imprinted on it. I didn’t want GRACE, I understood it, I got GRACE. Why was I being given GRACE?!? What I really wanted was something noble, something strong like COURAGE. Courage I can get behind. Strong women, bold plans, GO FOR IT. “She believed she could, so she did.” These are mantras that attract me. GRACE seemed….do I dare say it?
I left GRACE on the shelf in the bag for a few weeks. I kept thinking of whom I would be able to pass on this sweet gift to because surely I wouldn’t wear it. I know it was given to me, but it wasn’t for me. I knew it.
Then, one day I was reading something on forgiveness and grace. I realized that although I understood God’s grace for me, I definitely had something to learn about giving grace to others. My nature is to walk away when I do not like something, someone or a situation. I can let it go and forgive, but then I walk away. The next time I walked past the necklace, I picked it up and accepted the gift. I need to give grace. To love others truly, to love my neighbor, I must offer grace.
Many trials seem to find me to practice this new found grace for others. Instead of walking away, I turned towards people. I forgave and forgot. It has been a few years since I had a difficult lesson to learn. Oh baby, was this hard! Everything in me wanted to bolt, unfriend, hide their feed, tell people straight where they should go, run. But, I stuck with it. I got stuck in grace.
When you give grace, peace comes. It becomes easier to forgive. It becomes easier to slow down. It becomes easier to stay still and not run. Grace. I finally got it. I discovered that I was tired of running. I was tired of shallow relationships. I was tired of the baggage. I was just tired. I want to live in grace and give grace each and every chance that appears.
I was tested over and over.
Over and over.
And over and over. I got pretty good at grace so I thought. Suggestion, don’t ever think you are pretty good at grace. One of 2 things are likely to happen. One, pretty good leaves plenty of room for improvement. Two, claiming you are pretty good at something just sounds like a serious challenge.
Tonight was a challenge. My grace skills were challenged. At first, I didn’t think I was going to pass the test. I actually didn’t realize it was a test. My heart was hurt and it literally hurt, like a weight was on it. I wanted to run. I wanted to curse someone out and then run some more. My mind raced like crazy, my peace was gone.
So, I prayed. I prayed for words and wisdom. For a moment, I was really hoping I got the green light to run. Running seems easy. Sometimes I just want easy. GO, GO, GO was not what I heard. Instead, God’s instead whispered…grace….love like crazy. Sometimes God’s instead seems crazy, seems impossible. But when you trust God and lean on Him, nothing is impossible and grace flows like a river. I wanted to stay mad at one point, but then I smiled secretly and I knew it. I felt it. My heart was still heavy but grace overcomes. Love always wins.
I give you grace.
For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.
John 1:16 (ESV)
My church gave out necklaces with words on it, words that were meaningful to your story. Words to hold on to and words to share. I got grace, which is a story for a different day, but what I wanted was Brave. Brave was one of the first to run out. A church full of woman on Mother’s day and many were seeking bravery. I was one of the many, but why? Shortly after, I had the opportunity to hear a woman speak about peace, the middle east and how she is connecting globally with woman of all beliefs and backgrounds. Her voice crackled occasionally but she was full of passion and compassion. She told of trips she took and brave truth in love conversations. I was fascinated. This petite woman was mighty. She was brave. At the end of the talk, I stood in line to speak to her. I stepped up and jumped right in with my story about all the brave necklaces running out and why do you think that is? Why are we all searching for bravery? She almost froze. She started to reply that she does not know anything about the necklaces. She missed it. I circle back explaining that I was not looking for new necklace but that bravery was what women on Mother’s day wanted more than anything else, more that love, joy, grace etc. Woman want to be brave. She now understood but I believe she was so caught off guard, she did not have much to say. She did not see it. Before me stood a brave woman telling her story bravely and I don’t believe she knew she was brave.
I have thought back to that moment several times. Overall I am a quiet person, but I can be a bit overwhelming to people when I have something on my mind and if it is on my heart, whoa, watch out. I now recognize how I could of better approached her and pulled back, pulled back my 8-ness for all you fellow enneagram followers. More importantly, I think back to bravery. Why didn’t she recognize it? Why do we want it?
Time to dig in.
adjective: ready to face and endure danger or pain; showing courage.”a brave soldier”
courageous, valiant, valorous, intrepid, heroic, lionhearted, bold, fearless, gallant, daring, plucky, audacious; unflinching, unshrinking, unafraid, dauntless, doughty, mettlesome, stouthearted, spirited; informal game, gutsy, gutty, spunky, skookum “they put up a brave fight”
Ready to face danger and pain? Yikes, maybe I am not looking for bravery. If I want it am I inviting danger and pain in? Brave. Brave. Brave. I like comfort and I like peace (again 8 all day) but I have been learning that I was made to do hard things. The hills and valleys of my life have taught me grit, endurance, confidence and grace. These things have prepared me or gotten me ready to face and endure danger or pain. The thing is, most days I don’t feel brave and not sure I want it. I am not even sure what the feeling of brave is anyway. When I wanted that necklace with the word brave on it, I think the thoughts of boldness, fearless and heroic were more of the words floating in my head. I wanted those titles. Strong words are appealing to me but I’m not searching for scary words like enduring pain or danger. Courage is a word that is appealing but at the same time sounds weak on a necklace. Courage. Courage. Courage is not the same as brave, similar. I need to explore it. What is courage?
noun: the ability to do something that frightens one. “she called on all her courage to face the ordeal”
◦ strength in the face of pain or grief. “he fought his illness with great courage”
bravery, courageousness, pluck, pluckiness, valor, fearlessness, intrepidity, nerve, daring, audacity, boldness, grit, true grit, hardihood, heroism, gallantry; More informal guts, spunk, moxie, cojones, balls
Interesting. With courage, one isn’t necessarily ready for the danger or pain. Ready sounds like one was prepared with intentional planning. Courage is a noun, an ability not a an adjective like brave. Courage means you are still frightened and do it anyway.
That awkward conversation taught me something about bravery and subsequently courage. The bravest actions are not from brave people. They are from people like me and like you. People who may or may not be ready to face danger and pain but instead people who say yes to the whispers from God. They are people of courage who sometimes stumble upon bravery. Whether they are ready before the yes or whether God prepares them along the way, they say yes and take a step forward. In that step, they may not see where their foot is going to land, but they have faith that God will guide it, prepare it and light the way for the next right step.
That brave woman, was no expert in bravery so didn’t claim the title. She had courage; courage to yes to God and over and over took the next right step. This is what bravery is, one who has courage and exercises courage repeatedly. She may have not felt ready but God equipped her and she said yes and has not stopped saying yes.
So, are we looking for bravery or are we truly looking for courage? The answer is yes. We need to start with courage and if we live our lives by saying yes even when we are frightened or faced with pain and grief, bravery will stumble upon us too. May we all be brave people, may we be ready and when we are not, may we be filled with the courage to take the next right step even if we don’t know where we are going to land. May we have faith like a child with are arms up in the air, looking into the face of our father instead of down at our feet.
I do not need a necklace to remind me, I have my sisters to encourage and tell me it is okay to be scared, just go do it anyway. As I remind myself, I remind you also. If you are hearing a whisper, if God is opening new doors for you, have faith, step forward scared— God has got you.
“So take me back, back to the beginning, when I was young, running through the fields with you.
Oh make us like children.”
Let it Happen by United Pursuit
After much encouragement, I recently told a friend that I would write my story. I asked what I would write about and she immediately replied, “about YOU, YOUR story.” You see, I like to write for myself. I write to process, well I do not like to process but rather I need to process. Writing forces me to think and dig deep and sometimes I find myself in the dark ugly places of my soul with a bright light on my heartaches and flaws. Writing helps me search for answers. I like answers but I don’t always like the questions. I would rather keep busy and keep going and going rather than rest and search and heal in this slow methodical way, typing away on the keyboard. Hmmm, my story. I wonder which story; all of it? some of it? I will jump around from my encounters in childhood, faith, divorce, death, legacy, stage IV breast cancer, miracles, addiction, family and community. I pray that somewhere in my messy faith, life and stories that you will find a connection. I pray that as you read how I process and work through life that you may know that you are not alone, that I spur on your processing and that you learn something along the way. The road is narrow and broken but beautiful and real. It would be my honor if you would join me. Our stories matter.