Ordinary Courage

“…speaking honestly and openly about who we are, about what we’re feeling, and about our experiences (good and bad) is the definition of courage. Heroics is often about putting our life on the line. Ordinary courage is about putting our vulnerability on the line. In today’s world, that’s pretty extraordinary.” – Brené Brown

We’re called to be courageous. For many of us, that most likely won’t look like fighting in epic battles with weapons at our sides, at least not in a literal sense. And it probably won’t mean taking a bullet for someone or saving anyone from a burning building.

But that doesn’t mean that we aren’t courageous.

We exhibit courage when we show up, presenting our authentic selves to the world, offering everything we have for the taking. Courage is saying, “Here I am, all of me, opened up for you to see, poured out for you to use as you will, as you need.”

It’s taking risks. It’s admitting when you just don’t know. It’s stepping up to help whenever and wherever you can, even when you’re not sure how much your efforts will really make a difference. It’s being willing to try even when you know there’s a good chance you might fail. It’s sharing your stories of failure and imperfection, encouraging others by letting them know they’re not alone. It’s asking for what you need and being honest about how you really feel.

None of us want to live in fear, held back by the weight of the things that scare us. But it’s far easier said than done. It’s not as simple as saying, “Don’t worry. Be happy” (even if that does make for a catchy slogan).

In order to overcome our fear, we need to believe we can conquer it, that we will be victorious in the end, even when we encounter setbacks (which we will). And we need to know that the risk is worth the potential reward ahead.

It begins with an adjustment of our beliefs. If we think we’re alone and it’s all up to us to conquer our giants, we’ll fall. But if we know that we’re not alone, that we have the strength to knock down our obstacles, we’ll be setting ourselves up for success.

And if we’re trying to be really careful to avoid any and all setbacks or risks, we’re going to miss out on opportunities to grow. We have to take risks and step outside of our comfort zones in order to challenge ourselves to grow and develop new skills and become the best versions of ourselves.

 

What does ordinary courage look like for you? What courageous things are you aspiring to? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

 

 

Further reading:

The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brené Brown

 

Image source: https://morguefile.com/creative/hotblack

Advertisements

What I Can Do

Do you ever get tripped up complaining about how things aren’t going the way you want them to? Wishing things could just be different?

I do.

I find myself listing off things that aren’t the way I’d like them to be in a perfect world. But, in case you weren’t already aware, our world isn’t perfect.

And worse, it isn’t at all productive to just sit and stew in the midst of a pity party, feeling sorry for myself because things aren’t being handed to me on silver platters.

I’m trying instead to ask myself a follow-up question. When I begin to think, ‘I wish this was different,’ I probe further to ask, ‘What can I do about that?’

Can I change the situation?

Can I change my expectations?

Can I do something to prevent it from reoccurring?

Can I react better?

Can I put on my big girl pants and just deal?

Asking myself what I can do about a situation is productive. It takes the blame off the shoulders of others and puts the responsibility on mine. But it doesn’t burden me with unnecessary worries about things I can do nothing to change.

Sometimes challenges seem really, really intimidating, and I think I’m incapable of doing anything to make a difference. But when I take a moment to think about it, there are little things I can do to make small differences.

I can’t wipe out hunger, but I can donate money and pack some meals with organizations that serve the hungry.

I can’t magically transform the atmosphere of my workplace, but I can choose to be positive regardless of the negativity around me.

I can’t resolve the refugee crisis, but I can support organizations who are working on it.

I can’t stop child labor, pollution, or animal testing, but I can buy products from companies that are sustainable and responsible.

I can choose love. I can choose hope. I can choose faith, perseverance, and humble service.

There are times when I can’t do much of anything except trust that things will work out. There are times when I can only have faith that God will carry me through, believing that He’s doing something even when I can’t understand it.

My job is just to trust. To trust and do my part to make the world (or at least my little corner of it) a better place. And I do that by living like love, pursuing joy, and having faith through it all that while my abilities are limited, there’s nothing my God cannot do.

 

What are you reminding yourself that you can do today?

 

 

Further reading:

How We Can Love Refugees Today- List of Organizations by Jennie Allen

 

Image source: Kathy Jeffords, The Dreamy Giraffe

What’s Saving My Life Right Now

This is inspired by Modern Mrs. Darcy’s link-up as a reminder of the things –both large and small– that save our lives and our sanity in the midst of the chaos of life.

So what’s saving my life right now?

  1. Tea. It’s my drink of choice, and really comes in handy in the winter months when I need something hot to warm my hands and soothe my throat. I tried Nourish Move Love’s detox ginger turmeric tea, and while I still have to play around with the ratio of tea concentrate to hot water, it’s been really good! I like knowing that I’m putting good things into my body that not only taste delicious but also help my body function better.
  2. The Hope*Writers podcast. I sat in on the webinar last week, and it was just the motivation I needed to really work on my writing. I’ve been listening to the podcast (is binge-listening a thing? I think it is!) like crazy since then, and all the information and encouragement is so good! I’m actually taking notes.
  3. Rest. I’ve been doing a lot less in the last month or so than I was in the previous several months. Some of that has to do with the cold and dark days and the lack of motivation that brings. But I’ve also been giving myself permission to just sit and rest after work and on the weekends. I’m trying to find the middle ground between productivity and rest, and I feel like I’m getting closer.
  4. Dark chocolate. It’s just the best. Nothing makes a long day feel better like some dark chocolate.
  5. Mail-order products. I’m not talking about ordering tchotchke things from a catalog. I mean having things delivered to my house that I would otherwise go to the store for. I signed up for Express Scripts prescription delivery to save trips to the pharmacy, and notify me a few weeks before the prescription runs out. Hooray for not running out because I forget to pay attention! I also started a subscription to Cora, which is a feminine care service that uses organic, vegan products that are comparable to traditional ones, and every subscription provides products for women in developing countries who don’t otherwise have access to them. Win-win! And again, it arrives on my doorstep. Hooray! If you’re interested, you can use my code and get up to your first month free (a $7 discount): jessica6483
  6. “Yes To” products. I’ve been trying to find better personal care products, and these are great! I love the Yes to Carrots body lotion and the Yes to Tomatoes face care line. They have a charcoal face bar soap that I love! I like knowing that I’m not putting dangerous chemicals on my skin, since what we put on our skin really matters (it’s the largest organ of our body and absorbs what we put on it, into our bloodstream).
  7. Mrs. Meyers and Norwex household products. Again, I’ve been working on having cleaner products– this time for my home! I don’t like the idea of having a lot of toxic chemicals spread all over the surfaces in my home. I like Mrs. Meyers soaps (hand and dish) and their all-purpose cleaning concentrate. They have so many lovely products and scents! I also like Norwex products because of their BacLoc technology. Because of the natural antibacterial properties of the silver in the cloths, I don’t have to worry about germs. And with their polishing cloth, I can finally get windows and mirrors clean without streaks!
  8. Community and friends. As an introvert, it’s often a challenge for me to balance social commitments and “me” time. I’ve been working on finding the sweet spot in the middle, and I feel like I’ve been making some good progress. I’ve spent some fun time with some wonderful people– crafting, pampering, chatting, cooking, and more. It’s been a great time and a good reminder that I need people in my life. 😉
  9. Books. True to form, I’m reading a few right now. I’m still plugging along through The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and it’s as great as I expected. It’s massive (we’re talking 1169 pages, people!), though, so I’m going at what seems a turtle’s pace. I’m also reading Eligible: A Modern Retelling of Pride and Prejudice. I think my love for the original is tainting my view of the new book, but it’s interesting to say in the least. I’m eager to see how it ends. And I just finished reading Ann Voskamp’s The Greatest Gift: An Advent Devotional. It was lovely. I read more than a day at a time since I borrowed it from the library, and after Christmas since it was unavailable in December, so that was a little odd, but I loved it nonetheless.
  10. Netflix. I’m so grateful that my parents let my sister and me use their Netflix account, especially since we don’t have cable. There are so many good movies and shows on there that I hardly know where to begin. I like having familiar shows on in the background while I cook, and sitting down to watch a movie after dinner or on the weekend is a nice way to unwind. Sometimes I just need to de-stress and find something funny, and I often turn to Netflix for that. Lately I’m liking A Series of Unfortunate Events, One Day at a Time, Bones, and The Imitation Game.

What things are saving your life right now?

 

 

Further reading:

What’s saving my life right now by Anne Bogel, Modern Mrs. Darcy

That Reminds Me

Do you ever hear a song and feel like it was written specifically for you? Or played at the perfect moment, just when you desperately needed to hear it? That happens to me quite often.

I decided that my word for this year is beloved. I’ve been asking myself if my knee-jerk responses to circumstances, conversations, and actions of myself and others are loving or not as a filter to determine how I should respond. Sometimes I do myself proud and choose a more loving response. Sometimes I forget completely and allow my default reaction to surface– one that is often not very loving in nature.

But I’ve heard several songs on the radio lately that remind me of who I am, and they have served as well-timed and desperately-needed reminders of my identity, regardless of how well I perform or try to respond more lovingly.

So whether I need to remember who I am, who Christ is, or what my purpose is, these songs (and plenty of others) come to the rescue with little daily reminders that I so desperately need.

You are loved
If your heart’s in a thousand pieces
If you’re lost and you’re far from reason
Just look up; know you are loved
Just look up; and know you are loved
When it feels like something’s missing
If it hurts but you can’t find healing
Just look up, know you are loved
Just look up, know you are loved

And you, don’t have to prove yourself
Don’t try to be someone else
You don’t have to prove yourself
Don’t try to be someone else

You are loved

-“You Are Loved” by Stars Go Dim

You are essential, not accidental
And you should realize
You are beloved
I wanted you to know
You are beloved
Let it soak into your soul
Oh, forget the lies you heard
Rise above the hurt
And listen to these words
You are beloved
I wanted you to know
You are beloved

-“Beloved” by Jordan Feliz

I’m tellin’ you somethin’
This racing, this running
Oh, you’re working way too hard!
And this perfection you’re chasing
Is just energy wasted
Cause He love’s you like you are!

So go ahead and live like you’re loved
It’s okay to act like you’ve been set free
His love has made you more than enough
So go ahead and be who He made you to be

And live like you’re loved
live like you’re loved
live like you’re loved
live like you’re loved

And live like you know you’re valuable
Like you know the one that holds your soul
Cause mercy has called you by your name
Don’t be afraid to live in that grace

…Live like you’re loved, walk like you’re free
Stand like you know, who he made you to be
Live like you’re loved, like you believe
His love is all, that you ever need

-“Live Like You’re Loved” by Hawk Nelson

I’m sure there are many other songs with similar messages, but these have been hitting me square between the eyes lately. If you’re looking for more uplifting, encouraging music to remind you of truth and give you better perspective throughout the day, I suggest you check out Air1 and KLOVE— they’re some of my favorites! In the meantime, look these songs up on YouTube. You’re welcome. 😉

 

Are there songs that have impacted you deeply? Feel free to share below in the comments!

For When I Don’t Understand 

Sometimes I just don’t understand. I don’t have an answer for my questions, and they just run on a loop in my head.

Why do bad things happen to good people?

Why are precious little babies lost?

Why does cancer strike?

Why do people think violence is the answer?

Why does the prospective job fall through?

Why, why, why?

I can’t say I really know. And I’m not going to pretend I have all the answers. I know we live in a broken world. I know God is in control. I know He has a big, glorious, mind-boggling plan for this world. I know life won’t be perfect this side of heaven.

But sometimes I’m struck anew by the weight of the brokenness in the here and now. When things happen to my people. When the headlines draw my attention to yet another instance of injustice or natural disaster.

In those moments, I’m forced once again to admit that I just don’t know. I have no real choice but to fall to my knees, admit the limits of my understanding, and commune with the One who knows the whys behind it all.

Lord Jesus, You are with us in the midst of our pain and confusion. You lend us Your strength when ours has run out, and give us hope knowing that we don’t have to understand but can still have faith in our doubting. Help us to have faith beyond what our eyes can see. And help us to love one another through the times when we just don’t understand. Help us live like love.

Now What?

I generally stay away from posting about politics, but now that the results are in, I wanted to share some brief thoughts on the subject as we move forward.

Despite how we may feel about the results of this year’s election, may we all remember that:

God is good. He has given me (and us, collectively) so much, and nothing that goes on in the world of politics can change that.

God is in control. I have no idea how things are going to play out, but He does.

God works outside the confines of the American political system. He is far bigger and greater than we give Him credit for.

God, the Gospel, and our purpose have not changed. We are called to love those around us. That’s what our life is about. That hasn’t changed.

We, the Church, are not limited to our ability to vote for a particular political individual or party to enact change. Our influence reaches into the lives of those around us by other means. We can do more. We are called to care for widows and orphans, to give a helping hand, not just to cast a vote and call it good.

Fear hinders us only if we let it. The future is unknown and scary, but God knows what it holds. We’re called to be faithful to the end, not cowering in the face of change or challenges. We can tap into God’s strength and press on even when we don’t know what lies ahead.

God allows all things to happen for a reason and makes it all work out for good and His glory in the end. Even when we can’t see it because we’re standing in the middle of the mess. He sees the bigger picture.

We are blessed to live in a country in which we can take part in electing our government representatives. Whether or not the people we are rooting for are the ones who garner the most votes, we got to have a say. There are many places throughout the world where people don’t have that privilege.

This election really could have gone one of two ways, and neither one would have been a smashing success. We all know this political season was especially volatile, and we would have chosen an imperfect, fallible human to guide us forward regardless of which box we checked on the ballot.

Our hope for the future shouldn’t hang on who wins or loses, because our hope shouldn’t rest on the shoulders of people at all. Neither administration would have solved all of our current problems or avoided causing any future ones; believing they have that kind of power immobilizes us as citizens and strips us of our motivation to utilize our own strength to stand up.

We have a responsibility to one another, despite the divide that politics has caused in this country. We have to fight for the truth and stand up for causes that are nearest and dearest to us. We have to stand together.

The newly-elected officials have limited reach and a finite term in office. While not everything hinges on who we elect, we get the opportunity to do so again in the future. Whether you’re content or concerned about how things played out, this is not the end.

There is a myriad of emotions surfacing in the wake of this, but I hope we choose compassion and hope over fear and hate.

We have so much to be thankful for. If nothing else, the ads are over and we have four more years until we have to go through this again!

 

Further reading/viewing:

Ellen DeGeneres’s Post-Election Message

Kid President on Disagreeing Respectfully

James Corden’s Post-Election Monologue

How the Church Can Move Forward Past Election Day by Janice Wood, Relevant Magazine

How to Be Worry-Free in Times Like These by Jennifer Dukes Lee, (in)courage

5 reasons why America will be OK, even if your candidate didn’t win by Josh Hafner, USA Today

Donald Trump Is the President-Elect. What Now? by Aaron Cline Hanbury, Relevant Magazine

Great Expectations

What kind of expectations do we have, either consciously or subconsciously for this life we’re living?

Do we feel entitled to certain things? Do we think our lives are supposed to be easy, free from pain? I think it’s very easy for us to get comfortable and assume that we’re secure, ignoring the fact that hard times come, and that’s not a sign that we’re not loved, but an indication that we live in a world fraught with sin.

Do we forget that we were told that we would have trouble (John 10:10)? Do we forget that we were given hope for that very reason? There’s a reason that the reminder that we will have trouble in this world is followed with the command to not fear. Our first response to trouble is often one of fear. But that’s not the end of the story. We don’t have to live in that fear.

Do we remember what lies ahead of us? Do we remind ourselves of how this story ends? No matter what happens here and now, we have eternity set before us, a promise of a life to come with no tears, sorrow, crying, pain, or death (Revelation 21:4). Good and truth will win out. Our God conquered death and overcame sin and evil for us, and we are more than conquerors through Him. That is what we should expect– not that life will be easy or that we will win every battle, but that in the end, we will be on the winning side of the war.

Do we live in anticipation of God working in the world, and in the lives of those around us? Or do we let our eyes deceive us? It’s easy to think that because we don’t see God moving in our daily lives or working some big, dramatic miracles in the ways we expect that He isn’t at work.

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. – Ephesians 3:20

He is at work. He is moving. In big ways and small ways, through some of the most unlikely circumstances and people, He accomplishes His purposes. And He wants us to be a part of it. But I think sometimes we let our expectations get in the way.

Do we expect too much? Do we expect some big, grandiose enlightenment or life-changing moment to happen to us before we can do something? Are we waiting for the next big thing before we really live our lives? Are we holding back in the hope that something has to happen before we can step out and make a difference in the world? What are we waiting for?

Do we expect too little of ourselves? We’ve been blessed with the resources and gifts we have, given a unique personality and calling, a precise footprint to leave behind us in this world. We are all where we are for a reason, and there’s always something we can be doing, even while we wait. Our lives are made up of small moments, and we can always love those around us like He loves us, no matter what our day jobs or present circumstances are. We can live differently. We can be present. We can love. We can have faith. We can encourage and uplift. We can serve. In big ways and small ways, we can live like love.

May you and I both consider what expectations we’re holding for our lives and be willing to let them go in favor of understanding the truth of what we’ve been promised. There is a great inheritance for us ahead, but the road we have to take to get there is sometimes bumpy. If we’re willing to hang on and even adjust our outlook from time to time so that we can see the bigger picture, we might just find that life exceeds our wildest expectations. Now wouldn’t that be something?