“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy — the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”
― Brene Brown
“I now see how owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do.”
― Brené Brown
“The willingness to show up changes us, It makes us a little braver each time.”
― Brené Brown, Daring Greatly
This summer, our three oldest grandkids came for a Northwest vacation. Three and a half weeks of connecting with friends, serving with a beloved youth group to build little houses for the homeless to keep safe and dry this winter, volunteering to counsel at camp to encourage 3rdand 4thgraders, some hikes, swimming, and celebrating with family at a wedding.
My oldest granddaughter, at that time about to begin her freshman year at college – has fallen in love with tattoos. She tweeted, “The reason I love tattoos so much is because they tell stories. Your story. All the different things that are meaningful and significant to you, just get added on and play a part in a bigger story. It’s so beautiful.”
I love that. The three tattoo’s I have mean the world to me as they give a window in to my story and remind me of the transformational journey I am on.
We had a few days left to spend with the three of them before they headed back to Texas, and Emma, about to begin college. I got a text one late morning from Emma, excited with an idea: “Hey, Grandma, why don’t we get a tattoo together? And how about ‘be brave’?” As she asked, so many things went through my head: Seizing the moment before she is off and gone to college – her story, my story, our families story – deserves a tattoo and the reminder to ‘be brave’ feels sacred and intimate, and um, “YES, of course I want to get that tattoo with you!”
We called, and Mav was available, and so we did. And I have daily looked at my arm to receive my encouragement to ‘be brave’as life continues to bring waves of adversity, loss, and challenges.
“Those of us who wish to draw near to God should not be surprised when our vision goes cloudy, for this is a sign that we are approaching the opaque spender of God. If we decide to keep going beyond the point where our eyes or minds are any help to us, we may finally arrive at the pinnacle of the spiritual journey toward God, which exists in complete and dazzling darkness.” Barbara Brown Taylor, Leaning to walk in the Dark.
I want to “be brave”when my vision is cloudy – when I am traveling in the dark of unknown land, which seems to be daily. When I’m undone, when the challenge before me feels impossible, when I am afraid, when there is not enough, when I feel alone, when my heart aches from loss, when I am unsure.
So, as I travel through this crazy life on this beautiful earth, I want to embrace strength and courage to walk in grace, mercy, and love even though I can’t always see where I am going. I want to invite you to ‘be brave’as you walk. Being aware that we are not alone – that God is in and around us. That also means choosing to be present and to see. Wait, how can I see if I am in the dark? Actually, when it is darkest, our vision shifts and we stop relying on our eyes and the dark can eventually begin to feel life giving. As I have walked in the dark for some years now, my eyes have adjusted, and I have been faced with some truths that require courage to embrace them and allow them to change me. You know how it is when you are in a seriously dark space, like a cave or in the woods with no moon, and it takes a while for your eyes to adjust. First you dare not move, because you might trip over some unseen object and you feel afraid of what you can’t see. But in time, if you stay there, your eyes adjust and you begin to see. Still not very clear but the fear lessens and you can begin to move around a bit. And eventually, you can see things that come out in the dark, that maybe you didn’t want to see. Some parts of life, I don’t want to see. Some parts of me, I don’t want to see. “Do I have to?” some ask me. Nope, you don’t have to. But . . . Richard Rohr reminds us, “Great religion seeks utter awareness and full consciousness, so that we can, in fact, receive all. Everything belongs and everything can be received. We don’t have to deny, dismiss, defy, or ignore. What is, is okay. What is, is the great teacher.” Everything Belongs.
I want to want to see. Choosing to own our stories, to be vulnerable, to explore the darkness, to show up, and to believe that what is, is our teacher – is the path to freedom, peace and being made new. But it takes courage . . .
It takes courage to “let go” of all I want to control.
It takes courage to show myself compassion – No. Matter. What.
It takes courage to show mercy.
It takes courage to forgive the one who rejected me, left me, hurt me.
It takes courage to love one who is messy – especially when the mess reminds me of myself.
It takes courage to embrace all who are different than me.
It takes courage to not compare.
It takes courage to let go of being the victim, especially if it has become my identity.
It takes courage to trust myself – to believe that I can.
It takes courage to let go of the thought that it is up to me to fix everything.
It takes courage to believe I can be loved for just being me.
It takes courage to believe I am of great value regardless of my accomplishments.
It takes courage to believe I am already unique, extraordinary, and loved.
It takes courage to express my needs and believe.
It takes courage to slow down and feel the hard things.
It takes courage to ask for help.
It takes courage to face conflict and engage in difficult conversations.
It takes courage to forgive reality.
It takes courage to be present to what is.
I believe a key to courageously walking in the dark and being brave to accept what is and therefore to not pass on our pain to others, is to embrace compassion. Compassion for my imperfections, for my wounds, for my pain, and then to extend compassion to others – for their imperfections, their wounds, and their pain. You will hear me say often, “how you do one thing, is how you do everything” (thanks Richard Rohr for that phrase of truth). You can’t extend compassion to others and hate yourself. Compassion will be a huge part of healing your heart and opening you up to the world. Don’t believe the lie that you need to beat yourself up to do better – that only cements any guilt or shame that is hiding. Trust me. Compassion for my own story – that included being bound in tremendous fear – has softened my heart and brought life giving healing.
“MANIFESTO OF THE BRAVE AND BROKENHEARTED:There is no greater threat to the critics and cynics and fear mongers than those of us who are willing to fall, because we have learned how to rise with skinned knees and bruised hearts; we choose owning our stories of struggle, over hiding, over hustling, over pretending. When we deny our stories, they define us. When we run from struggle, we are never free. So we turn toward truth and look it in the eye. We will not be characters in our stories. Not villains, not victims, not even heroes. We are the authors of our lives. We write our own daring endings. We craft love from heartbreak, compassion from shame, grace from disappointment, courage from failure. Showing up is our power. Story is our way home. Truth is our song. We are the brave and brokenhearted. We are rising strong.”
― Brené Brown, Rising Strong
Feel free to join in Emma’s and my ‘be brave’ tattoo movement! Some already have!
Way to go Tara!
P.S. You don’t have to get a tattoo to ‘be brave’!