Courage

January 12, 2021

On the morning of January 1, 2021, my girls and I were snuggling up under a sea of blankets on our well-loved couch.  Although we were missing our favorite part of New Years Day, the traditional Rose Parade and all of its beautiful floats, we were enjoying Kermit the Frog as an adorable Band Leader and the virtual montages of marching bands, interviews, and singers.  Seeing past floats make their way down Colorado Blvd in Pasadena gave a tiny bit of normalcy to a day spent welcoming in a much needed new year. 

Between commercials, my older kids and I started talking about 2021.  What our dreams for the upcoming year would be.  Unanimously the girls said first and foremost they wanted to go back to school in person.  Yes, sweet sisters, that is my big wish too. Although my littlest doesn’t share the sentiment.  Lately, she has said she never wants to leave mommy ever again, so we will see what happens when it is her turn to go.

Like a vision board coming to life, we started talking about where we would like to go, who we would like to visit, and all the things we wanted to do.  A road trip to visit my brother in Northern California, a flight to Texas to see their cousins, a much-awaited family vacation to Mexico with dear friends.  

We then dove into the idea of if we had to pick one word for the year, what would it be? I’ll be honest, I was surprised and then immensely proud of their answers.  My eight-year-old piped up first saying her word is Hope. Hope for our country to not be sick anymore.  Hope that she can go to school and see her friends again.  Hope to lace up her cleats and play her favorite sports “for real, not just practice.”  Hope that she can go to Great Wolf Lodge and go down the really fun waterslides (that was her 8-year-old birthday request). To hug her friends, drive a bumper car at Knotts Berry Farm (she’s finally tall enough!), and go back to Sunday School.  Then she said something that truly struck me, she said, “Mommy, I more than hope, I really think it’s going to happen.”  

After so many months of disappointment and endless amounts of frustration, I love that her belief is still intact.  To see the world as a hope-filled place was something I needed to have breathed into me.  The beautiful reminder that hope is quite possibly our greatest resource because even a tiny flicker of light can illuminate a dark room.  While I’m still building mine, perhaps I will borrow some from her.  

My oldest daughter spoke up next.  Holding her favorite blanket under her chin, she shared that her word for 2021 is faith.  When asked a follow-up question, she elaborated by saying how even though there’s so much she doesn’t know or understand, she has faith that God will work it all out.  That He has a plan, even if we don’t know it and can’t see it.  Wow, talk about “out of the mouths of babes…”  Hearing hers, strengthened mine.  Maybe that’s what child-like faith is all about, believing even when it’s not tangible or doesn’t make any sense.  

I know this year her faith has been tested.  Being a 10-year-old girl stuck on Zoom all-day is not easy.  After many tears shed, research done, and nights on our knees asking God for wisdom, we decided to move our fifth grader to a new school where she started the first week of January.  It was like seeing my faith played out in real-time.  I am incredibly grateful that my sweet girl is loving her new classmates and teacher.  I can certainly understand why my oldest picked faith as her word because sometimes that is all we have when nothing else in front of us makes sense.  

After hearing their responses, I then shared that my word for 2021 is: courage. In a year that has taken and altered so much, I resolved on January 1 to do my very best to seek out courage.  To bear hug my heart and mind around it.  To step into it, instead of avoid it.  To courageously tackle the big, scary parts of my life that are much easier to drown out with another glass of wine.  Or chocolate. Or reality TV.  I don’t want fear to win the day or the week or a lifetime.  

Fear has been a motivator of mine for years.  I can remember back to middle school when the whispers of it started guiding my decisions.  If I could go back in time I would wrap that little girl up and say you can accomplish everything you want in life–with joy.  Most of our fear is a fake, a broken promise, and let’s call it out for what it really is: fear is a lie.  The opposite of fear is faith.  Fear means to peer into the future and expect the worst-case scenario.  Faith is to lean over the edge and stare into the same looking-glass but instead see good on the other side.  This takes courage.  

Will everything turn out the way we want or planned? Simply put, we know the answer.  Yet I would challenge that sometimes we do have more influence than we think because our actions start in our minds, with our thoughts.  When our thoughts tend to lean towards faith, our actions will follow.  As a result, even if setbacks happen we can course-correct, ask for help, and try again rather than be destroyed.  This also takes courage.  Sometimes life does get blown up and the pieces seem unrecognizable.  To get back up is so dang hard. I find so much inspiration from watching others walk through their fires even when the flames are sky high all around them. Sometimes just putting one foot in front of the other is an incredible act of courage.

When I look back at the biggest challenges in my life, I can see a bread-crumb trail that does lead to a better version of me.  The courage it took to walk through a difficult season also led to lessons I would not have learned any other way.  That’s the funny thing about life, we only really see how far we have come when we take a moment to reflect on where we have been.  I’d also say, that takes courage because sometimes those places have been dark and incredibly painful.  It’s easier to lock them away rather than relive them.  Tony Robbins speaks to this idea beautifully.  I love his take that rather than relive these hurt filled memories, let’s reframe them.  Let’s scratch them out and make them tiny in our mind’s eye.  Slow them down and quiet the voices, erase the color from vivid imagery and instead make it dim and blurry.  Rather than being such a big memory, let’s make it small.  This helped me tremendously.  Locked things tend to make their way to the surface, but taking away their power is much more healing.  Instead of being held captive by the havoc those memories once incited, we can set them free and in turn set ourselves free.  I found Tony’s book, “Awaken the Giant Within,” to be very helpful.

How does this all relate to where we stand right now? I think we need courage to evaluate our own fears and setbacks, the things in our lives that we can change, and the immovable things we can’t tackle–yet.  It takes courage to see the whole picture of our lives, including our past, present, and dreams for the future. Especially during a pandemic where there are a lot of “not yets.” Things we can’t change today or tomorrow.  However, there is great power in being brave enough to see them.  By creating a compass of what is truly important, then the life vision can grow and better plans on how to build towards it will emerge.   

When I started writing this post, little did I know that only a few days later I would be gripped to my phone watching news reports of our nation’s capital being violently attacked.  After tucking the girls into bed, I curled up in my own bed and turned on the TV.  I could not believe what I was seeing.  How could this be real, in America?  A flood of emotions washed over me.  It was and still is unfathomable.  All three of our words for 2021 hung in the air.  Our nation needs hope, faith, and courage now more than ever.  

As I’m typing this post in the early morning hours from my dimly lit desk, my sleepy four-year-old has made her way into the kitchen.  With her baby doll and blanket tucked under each arm, she asks, “Mommy, what are you writing?” Looking into her sweet face, I said I’m writing about courage.  She then climbed into my lap, a mess of blonde curls under my chin, as she got comfy as only little kids can do.  I asked her if she had to pick one word for the year, what would it be.  Her little blue eyes looked up at me and without hesitation, she said, “Love.”  I couldn’t agree more.