I can barely remember that season when words came easily. It seems like ancient history—those mornings when I couldn’t start my day without scribbling some heart thoughts… those nights when I’d gladly stay up way-too-late to clothe my wandering wonderings in letters and words and paragraph breaks…
I like to think that season of willful writing was because of the context of my life. I only half joke that there wasn’t anything else to do in Africa, so my free time was effortlessly spent blogging—and now I have restaurants and city streets and front porches to enjoy. But I know that’s really only a fraction of it…
My life was also bursting with experiences imploring to be expressed, thoughts demanding to be declared, and heart stirrings begging to be shared. My gritty life in glorious Africa was so much larger than myself that I couldn’t contain it if I tried. It pressed and prodded until it broke free. In inadequate syllables, it gave my heart wings to see and to say and to listen and to learn…
Inspiration doesn’t seem as readily available anymore. I have to forcibly seek it out. Make time for it. Create space and even, more often than not, the desire for it. I have to shake the tree until inspiration falls like ripe apples to the ground, waiting only to be collected and enjoyed and shared.
But I’m realizing how much I crave it—both the inspiration and the writing—regardless of how much effort and exertion and force it requires. The free therapy of “thinking out loud” through written words might be just what my broken Icarus wings need…
And so, I write.
Even when it’s only about my difficulty to find words…
I can’t bring myself to part with the Bible I’ve had since I was a teenager. Every time I try to start over with a new one, it just feels… wrong. Sterile. Clean, fresh, and new in all the worst ways. So I inevitably return to my old faithful, held together with duct tape, glue, and rubber bands. It smells uniquely like a combination of the 29 countries it’s traveled to. Sprawled throughout it are notes, photos, stickers, quotes, memories… And all together, they make the words on the pages that much more alive and rich and full.
Written in the back of my Bible is this note, found written in the office of a young pastor in Zimbabwe after he was martyred. And it still stirs my heart just like it did twenty years ago…
:: :: ::
“I’m a part of the fellowship of the unashamed. I have Holy Spirit power. The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made. I’m a disciple of His. I won’t look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still.
My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, my future is secure. I’m finished and done with low living, sight walking, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tamed visions, worldly talking, cheap giving, and dwarfed goals.
I no longer need preeminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity. I don’t have to be right, first, tops, recognized, praised, regarded, or rewarded. I now live by faith, lean on His presence, walk by patience, am uplifted by prayer, and labor with power.
My face is set, my gait is fast, my goal is heaven, my road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions are few, my Guide reliable, my mission clear. I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, deluded, or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of the adversary, negotiate at the table of the enemy, pander at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity.
I won’t give up, shut up, let up, until I have stayed up, stored up, prayed up, paid up, preached up for the cause of Christ. I am a disciple of Jesus. I must go till He comes, give till I drop, preach till all know, and work till He stops me. And when He comes for His own, He will have no problem recognizing me—my banner will be clear!”
My calendar tells me it’s the first day of spring. The winter temps that keep creeping back in beg to differ.
So does my heart.
The past few months? They’ve been crazy hard. For a long list of reasons.
And when I look ahead to the next few months? The horizon gives me no reason to think the hard is gonna let up.
The other day I stumbled on some of Elizabeth Gilbert’s words… “I’m making space for the unknown future to fill up my life with yet-to-come surprises.” And when I read those words, I couldn’t help but wish I could say them with honesty and earnest. But I can’t. Not really.
Most of the time, the “unknown future” takes up plenty of space all on its own. The fog is thick and heavy and makes it hard to breathe.
Most of the time, the “unknown future” looks daunting. It’s scary to no longer see the picture of where I’m headed. I used to—and it was wonderful!—and I loved the image of what lied ahead. And then when I had to grieve the loss of what was, I also had to grieve the loss of what would be.
I’m learning (maybe more than I ever have before) to enjoy the now, to live in the present. But I want also to learn to “make space for the unknown future”—recognizing that it could very well bring with it “yet-to-come surprises” that are—it’s possible—good.
So I’m working hard to lift my eyes, lift my heart, lift my hopes to see the wonder, mystery, grace, and whimsy in the uncharted future. To make space for possibility. To embrace ambiguity. To lean in, even when I don’t know where it’s going.
It might not seem like much from the outside looking in, but I assure you—from the inside looking out—it’s demanding an enormous amount of courage for this tattered heart of mine.
And so on this first day of spring, I am celebrating even the tiniest signs of new life.
Even when they look like small brave steps toward the unknown future…
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.
NBC local news in Nashville ran a story about OneWord365 last night.
(Yes, I’m still freaking out a little bit.)
(Okay, a lotta bit.)
It was exciting and nerve-wracking and more fun than I expected it to be. But mostly I’m overwhelmed with gratitude for this incredible community… I definitely don’t see this as a “me” thing, but a “we” thing.
Thank you for linking arms with me and with each other, and choosing to live with intentionality in the context of this amazing community.
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…