Cancer may have taken my incredible namesake, but it never beat her.
One of the strongest, most faithful, joyful, and steadfast women I’ve ever known, she fought to the end and finished well. If along with her name, I can bear even half her strength, a fraction of her courage, and a healthy dose of her laughter in the course of my lifetime, I will count my journey a success…
Alicia, thank you for leaving me such enormously huge shoes to fill and such a beautiful life of bravery and strength to aspire to.
How different would things be if I approached each situation, each person, with bravery?
That’s the question that’s been bumping around my head since last autumn. It’s gnawed at me — challenging me to make hard choices, nudging me to open my mouth, inspiring me to move past the constraints others have placed on me. So as this new year began (six weeks ago already — woah!), I knew there was only one thing I could do. My OneWord365 simply had to be…
B • R • A • V • E
The more I mulled it over, the more I came to discover that, at least for me, in this season, brave looks very different from risk. My year of risk led me to do so many things I would likely never have been willing to attempt on my own without that extra nudge. Taking brave to heart isn’t so much about doing adventurous and challenging things — although I’m sure those elements will still come into play.
Choosing to be brave is more a choice to embrace who I am, value my own voice, and walk in confidence.
Last year, my OneWord365 was enough, and I worked hard for my heart to start grasping more than ever before that I am enough because He is enough. And I know now that being brave can only come from that fuller sense of enoughness.
(I am always amazed to see, when looking back, how God weaves the tapestry of my journey. What seems random and messy while I’m in the middle of it, ends up being purposefully beautiful when He’s done with it. But I digress…)
If I truly believe I am enough, I will approach every situation, every person, with bravery.
And that will change everything.
I have to be honest. I’m terrified of being brave.
It feels vulnerable and exposing. It stirs up hard questions with even harder answers. It challenges the very foundation of who I am and the breed of Christianity I was raised in. It flies in the face of some deep-seated beliefs that have been instilled in me (and at times forced on me). How can I be brave while also being quiet… supportive… humble… modest… gentle… submissive… selfless…? Now, before you start soapboxing to me about each of those, please know that I can soapbox with the best of you. But if I’m being Velveteenly vulnerable, the voices of my past still plague me at times, and knowing the truth isn’t the same as knowing the truth…
It takes a healthy dose of bravery to choose to be brave.
But I’m choosing it. Or at least I’m choosing to choose it, which is really how anything truly starts. And I’m already seeing that choice play out in significant ways…
I’m leaning into the joys of my new life.
I’m putting myself in uncomfortable situations to find and foster community.
I’m facing the question marks of health concerns head on.
I’m letting go of my need to belong in circles where I used to fit but no longer do.
I’m extending grace to others and to myself.
I’m planning for the future in ways I’d never imagined.
I’m speaking up.
I’m getting to know who I really am now, rather than simply pining for who I used to be.
I’m leaning away from toxic relationships and environments.
I’m tackling things I’ve always said I didn’t have the skill set to do.
I’m living more open-handedly and open-heartedly.
I’m giving myself permission to embrace my now, even when I don’t have all the answers.
:: DEEP BREATH ::
I’m still terrified, but that’s okay.
I know that being brave doesn’t mean there’s no fear… It simply means doing it afraid.
So that’s what I’m doing.
Right here… right now… with everything and everyone I face today… I will approach it all with bravery.
And it will make all the difference in the world.
OneWord365 is going on its 6th year running (Happy Birthday to us!), so it was time to do some spring cleaning. Thus, the amazing new website (thanks to the incredible work of Cross & Crown!) and the tools that allow you to find others who’ve chosen the same word as you or who live in your area. (Seriously. Have you checked out the Find Your Tribe page? It blows my mind.)
And now it’s time for one more change.
I want this journey to be accessible to as many people as possible, not to gain numbers but because I believe strongly in the value of intentional living in the context of community. Being able to journey together with others all year is, in my opinion, one of the best things about OneWord365.
So, in an effort to make that easier for people, you no longer need to have a blog in order to join.
:: Cue loud cheering ::
If you are a blogger, I still hope you will take time to write about the word you’ve chosen—not just now, but throughout the year. Same for those of you who use Facebook—being intentional to unpack your OneWord365 in a status update will make it more real (and will invite others into the process with you). There is so much power in saying our words out loud.
But if you don’t want to write about it anywhere, that’s okay. Still join. Because the point of all this isn’t to gain blog followers or Facebook likes. It’s to determine right now who you are going to be this year. It’s about committing to live with purpose every single day. And you don’t need to write your word publicly in order to do that.
I’d still encourage you to tell someone what your OneWord365 is and why you chose it. Even if it’s only your spouse, your family, or your closest friends. Don’t miss the value that comes in sharing honestly with those you care about (and who care about you). Growth is multiplied within the context of safe and trusting community.
I know there were a lot of people who couldn’t sign up because they didn’t have a blog link to include. I want to get the word out there that we’ve made this significant change so that all of them know they can come back and join! Will you help me spread the word by sharing this on your social media streams?
You guys are amazing, and I feel so honored to be on this journey with you. Thank you!
: : : :
PS — I know I still need to post about my own OneWord365 for 2014!
I haven’t forgotten, I promise!
PSS — What’s your word?
I’ve spent my entire life on a seesaw, teetering back and forth between feeling like I am too much and feeling like I am too little.
My insecurities keep me convinced that I’m “too little”—that I’m simply not enough. I’m not old enough, married enough, mother enough. I’m not spiritual enough, experienced enough, educated enough. I’m not the right gender, the right personality, the right fit. My skills are too few and my flaws are too many. I simply don’t measure up. I’m too little.
My fears keep me convinced that I’m “too much”—that I’m a burden, an inconvenience. I’m tolerated, rather than desired. I’m accepted, not chosen. I’m a project, an obligation, a responsibility. My baggage is too heavy, my laugh is too loud, my diving-all-in is too fast. I’m a challenge to be endured, not a friend to be sought after. I’m simply more than anyone bargained for. I’m too much.
My One Word for 2013 was enough. While I didn’t end the year conquering this lifelong achilles heel of mine, I did learn to embrace my enoughness more than I ever have before. I feel oddly more comfortable in my own skin, and though I still care far too much about what other people think, I’m learning to let it go much quicker.
Embracing my enoughness means learning to silence my insecurities, fears, and expectations. It requires extending more grace to myself—and trusting others enough to take them at their word. It is also a journey of gratitude, recognizing that what I have—and who I have—is enough.
I am not too little or too much.
I am not less than or more than.
I am simply enough.
And that’s all I need to be.
It is the same with Mandela as it is with pretty much everything:
There is always more to the story than most of us want to acknowledge.
There is much that can be said about Mandela’s past (and while we’re at it, much can be said about mine and yours as well). His life wasn’t one that always stood for peace, yet that is what he is most known for now. He is an undeniable example of the power we each have to change our own story. A life surrendered and transformed has unrivaled potential in the hands of our Creator.
Brené Brown said it perfectly:
“Owning our story can be hard, but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. If we own the story, then we can write the ending.”
Yesterday we mourned the loss of a great man who rewrote not only his own story, but that of the entire nation of South Africa. Mandela drew a line in the sand that forever changed the trajectory of a continent and inspired hope around the globe.
His life makes it impossible to deny the far-reaching ripple effect of even one solitary life, and his legacy reminds us that no one is ever too far gone for a second chance.
Farewell, Mandela. The world stands grateful…
I stand grateful…
While I wish it weren’t so,
I know that it wouldn’t really be grace
if it were as easily dispensed as PEZ candy.
If it felt good
and made me smile
and came as naturally as a hearty laugh,
it wouldn’t be grace.
It couldn’t be grace—
not the genuine, utterly needed and utterly undeserved kind of grace,
which is really the only grace there is,
because it’s the need mixed with the undeserving
that makes grace grace.
We call it ‘amazing’,
but it feels anything but amazing in the moment it’s given.
It feels grueling
It tastes like swallowed pride
and bitter tears.
It’s as exhausting as going the extra mile
and then another
and then another.
It feels like forgiving 70 times 7,
and turning the other cheek,
and kissing Judas right back.
It’s nothing like a dinner table prayer
and everything like a wilderness experience.
It’s the 40 long days and 40 long nights
of saying and wishing and hoping that I can do this,
but feeling like I can’t.
It’s the heaviness of one foot in front of the other
when there’s no end of the road in sight.
It’s enduring the heartache of betrayal,
the sorrow of loss,
the pain of deception,
and the humiliation of being made a fool—
and still locking eyes
‘I’m not going anywhere.’
It’s what sets apart not only Christ,
but also Christ followers.
Without it, we are but hardened hearts
and ungrateful, calloused souls.
We are blind eyes and deaf ears and unfeeling hands.
We are amnesiacs,
quickly forgetful of our own need and undeservedness.
Oh, but with it—
with it, we are extensions of His likeness,
reflections of His character,
bearers of His light,
glimpses of His face,
beats of His heart.
When we extend grace,
when we offer it—even through tears—
like a beautifully wrapped present held out in our hands,
our hearts stoop low,
remembering the gift that’s been extended to us,
and over again.
I’m still caught off guard at times.
A memory will rise to the surface, seemingly out of nowhere, bringing with it fears and doubts and insecurities and tears. I question everything, wondering about hidden motives and looking for anything I missed the first the time around. There isn’t anger—not really. There is distrust. There is hurt. There is grief. But no anger. At least not toward anyone other than myself. Feelings of foolishness spiral into “How could I be so stupid?” Inevitably, as the emotional dust settles, I’m left with a deep missing of all the people who were once my whole life who are no longer even a part of it. I hunt for pictures, and sit mesmerized by how grown up my nephew is. By how tall my honorary nieces and nephews of old have become—tall not only with stature but with personality and vivaciousness. Smiles mix in with the sadness, and I take a deep breath…
I’m still caught off guard at times.
I walk through the arched doorways of my home, past the wainscoting in the living room, and all I can do is shake my head. Moving about the beautiful kitchen, shuffling around the mess on my office desk, sitting on the front porch with a cup of coffee… over and over again, it hits me: This is my now-life. This is my new life. And I smile—the kind of smile that erupts from deep down inside, that sacred place for which there are no words. I can’t believe I get to live here. That I once again have a place that looks like me and feels like me. That I once again have a home. Because as much as I know that home isn’t about a house, I’ve discovered there’s something uniquely incomparable about a four-wall refuge. It’s anchoring, and rooting, and settling in all the best ways. And the past 6 months of living life unpacked have been better for my heart than I ever anticipated.
I’m still caught off guard at times.
And I’m learning to give thanks in it all…
Would you share some of your own highs and lows?
What are things that have caught you off guard lately—for better and for worse?
“Let us live up to what we have already attained.“ (Philippians 3:16)
What I hear in that verse is this: Act on the truth you know.
I may not feel ready to do the next-right-thing that’s in front of me. I may feel as though I lack the knowledge, skills, or sheer courage to put one foot in front of the other. I may not know the fullness of what to do in any given situation. But I typically know enough to start. I can act on the truth I know. I just usually don’t.
It’s easier to wait for God to lay it all out. Because then I can blame my paralysis on Him, instead of myself.
When I feel overwhelmed by a situation or an aspect of myself I need to work on, the enormity of it all makes me shrug. “I just don’t know where to start.” Because I don’t know how to do it all, I do nothing.
I call it “waiting on God”.
Meanwhile, He’s waiting on me.
Why should I expect God to show me the whole plan when I’m not being obedient to the small thing He’s already shown me? Why should I expect Him to keep speaking when I haven’t acted on what He’s already said?
As small and inconsequential as it may be, I need to do the bit I know to do. Take that first step. And trust that His light will shine at the exact moment I need to know what to do next.
Two verses earlier in that Philippians passage is the more familiar encouragement and challenge to “press on”: “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14)
But it finally clicked for me that, as I read on, the following verses continue the thought. It’s as though the next part tells me how to press on: By living up to what I’ve already attained.
So the challenge stands for me and you today:
Press on. By acting on the truth you know.
Our culture has a skewed perception of what it is to be a hero. Images of caped crusaders, sports icons, and action movie stars come to mind. We picture big names in bright lights, known around the globe for their accomplishments.
What we don’t picture is a surrendered heart dreaming big dreams for the betterment of others. Or the faithful and obedient stepping of one foot in front of the other in the face of great adversity, far away from the limelight. Or the blood, sweat, and tears shed by persevering souls to advance a cause that will outlive them, even though no one knows their names.
But those are the truest heroes, and the ones most deserving of honor.
When they set out to celebrate those unsung missional heroes at Epoch 2013, the response was staggering. People around the world paused to shine a light on those who seek faithfulness over recognition. They received nearly 600 nominations from 33 countries, 32 states, and 6 continents! Clearly, we are eager for a different kind of hero.
Over 400 people gathered last Monday night at the historic Fox Theater in Atlanta, Georgia for the red carpet, black-tie event. The evening was truly one of celebration and inspiration as six social innovators were awarded grants totaling $50,000. In tuxedos and gowns, we recognized those working to solve some of the most complex challenges around the world, such as poverty, the need for clean water, HIV/AIDS, and sex trafficking.
It was a night to joyfully and extravagantly honor not the achievements of man, but what God is doing through our collective lives. Organizations, businesses, churches, and individuals rallied together to recognize the often-unnoticed champions who daily lay down their lives to fight injustice and bring hope to hard places.
Together, we declared to those laboring in the trenches, “You’re not alone.” We showed them they’re seen, valued, and embraced. Their work matters and we will no longer let it go unacknowledged.
Nations are being transformed by that roomful of sacrificial servants in evening attire, and it is an honor to stand with them in their open-handed and open-hearted work.