Monday, January 26, 2015

“I love you, O Lord, my strength.” ~ Psalm 18:1

I've been trying to write this post for about two weeks. I know what I want to write about. I've pulled together a list of quotes and verses that fit my theme. I've started to write several times and thought about writing even more times. But I keep stopping. Although I can't tell you for certain that I know the reasons for sure, it likely has to do with the fact that I want to talk about being brave. And I'm struggling to feel brave enough to talk about it. Crazy, but it makes sense, right?

I've lived most of my life pretty safely. I prefer to be liked, I like to please others, I don't like to cause drama or conflict, I try to be the good girl, I want to make everyone else happy. That's not to say I haven't made some brave choices. I knew God was calling me to go on the 10:10 mission trip and even though it was hugely outside my comfort zone, I went. I was brave that summer....brave enough to leave my family for 8 weeks, brave enough to be surrounded by 19 strangers, brave enough to sing and act in front of even more strangers again and again, brave enough to trust God in so many small and huge ways.

"Sometimes you have to leave what you know to find out what you know." ~ Matthew McConaughey

I read this quote recently in an article about this actor and even though he isn't one I'd think of for wisdom this quote really resonated with me, especially in regards to my 10:10 summer. Prior to going on that summer mission, I thought I wanted to go away for college and I was pondering places like Hawaii, Chicago, Oregon, etc. I'm so incredibly grateful that I had those 8 weeks away which helped clarify for me that I am not meant to be far away from my family and friends. I truly had to leave what I knew to find out what I knew in my heart.

I feel like I'm still kind of shying away from writing about being brave. I live too much in fear...of what people might say, or do...or how it might affect how I'm perceived...or if it might cause conflict or drama. I don't really want to be like this. I know in my head that it's okay to have opinions and feelings and I should feel able to express them...but too many times I just don't. I defer to what others might want instead or pretend that I have no opinion when I really do. I know this isn't good and that my friends and family would prefer my honesty...and yet I still struggle. But I want to be brave. In big ways and little ways. In ways that matter and in ways that don't really matter to anyone.

"I was a good girl and I wanted to be a good girl, but it often kept me from saying what I really meant. In fact, my desire to be good even kept me from exploring my own opinion, and I grew up to believe that my opinion didn’t actually matter much anyway. I avoided vulnerability for fear of being rejected or being labeled needy. Good girls aren’t needy, they are needed. And so instead of living free, I lived safe.”
~ Emily Freeman

I want to step outside of the mask I all too often hide behind. But again...fear creeps in. I know I shouldn't be afraid. I know that ultimately many little choices are not the huge life-changers I imagine them to be and usually people aren't nearly as concerned with my decisions as I think they are. It has a lot to do with my desire to avoid attention, and the fear that certain choices will bring unwanted attention and that scares me.

“I don’t know if you have ever experienced the suffocating confinement of others’ expectations on your life, but it is a very difficult burden to bear. Whether it is a woman shedding the expectations of her parents to become a physician and answering the call to the mission field…or a woman resisting expectations of traditional roles to attend seminary and study theology…putting aside the expectations of others to do what God calls you to do can be difficult.” ~ Sharon Jaynes

“I was in trouble, so I called to the LORD. The LORD answered me and set me free. I will not be afraid, because the LORD is with me. People can’t do anything to me. The LORD is with me to help me, so I will see my enemies defeated. It is better to trust the LORD than to trust people. It is better to trust the LORD than to trust princes.” ~ Psalm 118:5-9

But God has been working on this in me. I didn't see it at first because I thought it was about simply growing deeper in my relationship with Him. But I'm beginning to see that this journey He's had me on for the past few years is not only about deepening my knowledge and faith, but also about being brave. About saying what I think and believe, in spite of other people's opinions and what they might think of me. Standing up for what I believed wasn't about rebelling, but it caused certain people to see me as rebellious, as the "black sheep", as someone whose heart was in the wrong place. That wasn't true though! What I learned was that I was seeking God's desire for my life, for my heart...and standing firm in what I believed made me stronger in my faith and made me brave.

“Don’t be afraid, my people. Be glad now and rejoice, for the LORD has done great things.” ~ Joel 2:21

“Don’t worry. Lay your hand in His hand. You will be safe, even if life today feels like crossing a bridge without parapets over wild rushing water.” ~ Corrie ten Boom

I still struggle with that fear though. Fear about sharing what I've learned in this journey because some people might not understand or might judge me for the decisions I've made. I struggle sometimes with writing this blog and sharing my thoughts and feelings. I struggle with how real to be and how open about my journey I should be. I wonder who might read it and whether or not there might be repercussions. I can see God's work in my life and I can see His hand guiding this journey and I do trust deep in my heart that He is leading my path. And yet, the fear comes back time and again.

“One night before dinner, we decided to ride on one of the horse-drawn carriages through Central Park. As soon as I got into that carriage, the first thing I did was plop my heavy bag onto the seat next to me. I never once considered keeping that bag strapped to my shoulder for the ride. I never once thought of carrying the bag myself so the horse wouldn’t have to. That would be a weird and crazy thing to do. The amount of crazy it would take for a girl on a carriage ride to keep the bag strapped to her shoulder is equal to the amount of crazy I am when I refuse to trust the Lord to handle my worries.” ~ Emily Freeman

In good moments, I know that trusting God is the key. I know that He is in control and that all will work out according to His plans. When I talk to others and give advice or prayers, it's so much easier to have faith for them. I have such faith when it comes to others and what I know God can and will do. I just have to remind myself that the same God who is able to provide for them, also provides for me and is always there. I know this...but my heart forgets all too easily.

“Don’t be afraid, for you are very precious to God. Peace! Be encouraged! Be strong!” ~ Daniel 10:19a

“I’m proud of you for times you wrestled with your problems and discovered how much that helped you to grow.” ~ Mister Rogers

Going through these past few years has been a struggle. I've really had to wrestle with what I believe and why I believe. I've had to stand up, stand out, and be willing to not be liked. I've had to grieve and cry and be angry. I've read a lot, studied a lot, prayed a lot, cried a lot, talked a lot. I've begun to see the world a little differently, see my life and my choices a little differently, and see God and the Bible and the church a little differently. I've made new friends, deepened relationships with other friends and lost some friends. I'm starting to see new opportunities and one of those is about trying to be brave. Trying to step outside my comfort zone and try new things, speak out about my opinions and realize that it's okay to share my thoughts and it doesn't have to be as big a deal as I might imagine it to be.

“God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” ~ 2 Timothy 1:7

I'm not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don't get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I've got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. ~ Philippians 3:12-14

One of the ways I'm going to be brave this year is singing. My dear friend asked me to sing at her wedding. When she asked I was afraid...I don't like being in front of people. But I love my friend, and it meant so much to me to be asked to be a special part of her wedding so I said yes. Am I afraid to be in front of people, yes. But I know I can do this...she trusts me to do this, God has gifted me with a good voice that allows me to do this. I want to do this because it is a special gift I can provide for someone I love. But I have to be brave...and I know God will help me do this.

“The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?” ~ Psalm 27:1

I'm sure there will be other opportunities to be brave this year and in the future. I want to try to accept them with a sense of adventure and purpose, rather than a sense of fear and dread. I won't always succeed, but I want to try. It can even be little things. Like I was always afraid of jalapenos...thought they were too spicy and I avoided them. But in the past few months I discovered that I love them. Like really LOVE them! My new favorite pizza is pepperoni and jalapeno. It may seem silly and not that brave...but to me, it's one more step in making the brave choice. And it turned out so well since they are soooo delicious!

As Your love, in wave after wave
Crashes over me, crashes over me
For You are for us
You are not against us
Champion of Heaven
You made a way for all to enter in

You make me brave
You make me brave
You call me out beyond the shore into the waves
You make me brave
You make me brave
No fear can hinder now the promises you made
You make me brave
You make me brave
No fear can hinder now the love that made a way
~ Amanda Cook, Bethel Music

My mentor Shauna shared this song on Facebook a few weeks ago. She too is wanting to be more brave (one more thing we have in common) and I told her it was meant for me as well. I spend much more of my life being afraid than I should. While some fears can be healthy, in general I tend to have more fears relating to fear of letting go, fear of not being in control, fear of people's opinions, and fears of being rejected or disliked. Those aren't healthy fears and while I don't expect to change overnight, I want to make an effort to go outside my comfort zones and be brave. This is scary, but I need to try and any encouragement would be VERY appreciated.

Dear heavenly Father, I want to be more brave and I feel You calling me to step out in faith. Please help me to trust You and depend on You and know that I don't have to fear the opinion of anyone. That all I need to do is focus my mind and thoughts and actions on You. Help me to be bold in my life and not be afraid to take chances that You place in my life. To try new things and not live my life in fear. Please give me wisdom to know the right choices to make, and the wisdom to know when it isn't that big a deal and there isn't just one right answer. Help me to be brave, and help me to have the kind of faith I have for others. Help me to be an encouragement and support to those people You place in my life and not do anything to hurt or discourage them. Continue to lead me along this journey You have for me and help me to be open to wherever You might lead. Thank You for loving us...I love you too. Amen.

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