Today is a good day. The sun is shining outside my window and my heart is full.
But oh friend, there are days. There are days that don’t feel good. The kind where you feel like crawling back into bed and hibernating…or at least crying “Uncle!” loud enough for the neighbors to hear. There are days where the clouds of doubt and confusion seem to thick to see through. That’s when we really can live brave.
Being brave looks different for all of us. There are stages of life and there are various platforms that He gives us to walk on and teach from. Living Courageous for me over these past years has looked radically different than I imagined…and it has literally rocked me to my core.
In April of 2016 I received a call about helping a friend who was fighting cancer. Her husband needed someone to take care of her while he was at work. She was one of my mom’s friends…and ironically had the same first and middle names! (photo of my mom and Ms. Laurie) Saying NO really never entered my mind at the time…but I had no idea what saying YES really meant. And maybe sometimes, God does that on purpose.
I began this journey of taking care of Ms. Laurie. At 56 years old, she was full of life and loved to laugh. We laughed a lot together. In between getting her meals, letting her take naps and doing therapy and meds….we had long conversations. She loved to talk about heaven and Jesus. I don’t think I really knew how much those talks would mean to me…but in hind sight…she probably did. We cried together and through the pain…we bonded. Like women do…but also in a special way…almost like a mother and daughter would.
Gradually, we saw that she was slipping away. I think for months I was in denial. I just really always thought she’d pull through. With every passing week, we saw her lose capabilities. She lost her ability to walk, and talk and even feed herself.
That’s really hard. Perhaps one of the toughest times to live brave and courageous is in the middle of heartache. When you’re staring cancer in the face, day after day. Ms. Laurie lived brave. She exampled that to me. But I had to choose to live brave too. I had to get up in the morning and choose to walk in that door knowing that I was investing in someone who wasn’t always gonna be there. That didn’t make a lick of sense in my human brain.
I can remember most days driving to their home and crying all the way there. I can remember looking myself in the mirror and saying I couldn’t. Do. It. One. More. Day. I just kept hearing God ask me…almost like a good coach…”Faith, can you give me just one more?” One. More. Day. In a weird way, that’s one of the things that helped me navigate that year. My patient Coach Jesus just kept giving me a small step to take. One. Day. Always promising, that He would walk it with me.
Maybe Brave Living is just a bunch of small steps towards Jesus. One. Step at a time. One day at a time. One minute at a time.
One year ago today, on April 11th, 2017, Ms. Laurie went to heaven. I don’t think I’ll ever forget what it felt like to sit there next to her and realize that she had finally met with Jesus face-to-face…and I was left behind.
I didn’t know what to do. The grief was overwhelming. I struggled with depression. I battled insomnia. I felt like I was living in a fog and I didn’t know how to get out. I had to fight every Sunday to get out of bed and go to church…and when I did, I’d cry through the service and try to put on a smile in the hallways. I had never lost anyone that close, someone who I loved like a mother.
What does it look like to live strong when the world around you is crumbling and nothing makes sense? Something this big will show you who you really are. Who you really are will come out when you’re under pressure.
In those months of grief, God broke me. I was living my life on the edge. Wondering if I’d make it emotionally past the next day. I cried constantly and I felt like I was burning bridges with friends because that’s all I seemed to talk about and I couldn’t move past the pain.
Then one day, several months after Ms. Laurie had died, I went to her grave. I was so busted up and just felt so sad and lonely and out of sorts. I remember kneeling in the dirt next to her grave and crying. AGAIN. And when I could finally talk, I said, “God, you have to hold onto me, because I can’t hang on anymore.” It was a desperate prayer…because I felt like I was on the fringes of total burnout and disbelief.
I can’t really explain it, but I walked away different that day. It was like I had transferred the weight of my sorrow to Jesus…and I asked Him to stay true to His promises. That He would be there. That He would walk with me. That He would hold onto me and Not. Let. Go. I could feel the freedom to stop white-knuckling my way to the Throne. Because He would do the saving and the keeping and the holding.
That day changed me. Slowly, God began to reveal Himself to me in beautiful, unexpected ways. He let me know how much He loved me. He let me know that He was there. He let me know that He cried with me. And gradually, I could feel the shift in my soul.
He was healing me.
It didn’t come overnight. He came softly. Because I was so broken and fragile that I needed Him to be that way. There were days I cried and just lifted my hands to Him…because I didn’t have words to say what I was feeling…and He understood anyway. He’s that kind of Father.
My brokenness changed my outlook on life. I began seeing others with new eyes. Eyes of compassion. I suddenly saw broken people…because I was broken myself. I could see their needs. Their pain. I could identify with the hurt. I cried when I heard the word cancer. I wept for people like never before.
God doesn’t waste anything. He only builds on our past failures and brokennesses in a way that gives us more of a platform for service to Him. That’s what He was doing for me. All those months of pain and heartache were training ground for Him to send me to broken people. And my mission field was the prison system.
Women’s prisons. I had said yes far before I was equipped. And then God took me through some tough months of training before I ever set foot behind bars.
Prison Ministry was way outside of my comfort zone. I never would have dreamed that it would hold my heart like it has. I stepped into a correctional facility for the first time on October 2nd, 2017 and I’ve never been the same since.
I went in there still broken and hurting from loss. But ya know, that’s the very thing that connected my heart with those women? When I told my story…they cried. They could identify with pain. With hurt. With not understanding why God does what He does sometimes. And then I could also stand there and offer them HOPE. The very hope that held me together for all those months of depression and grief. I could give them Jesus in a way that I never could have a year earlier.
Life doesn’t always pan out how we think it will. In my mind as a girl I figured by this age I’d be married and have a few kids running around with a baby on my hip. I’d have the white picket fence and the porch swing and my house would be full of laughter.
Then there’s Jesus. He wrecked my little plan and instead, has offered me Himself. That journey has been the most painful, brave-hearted trek I’ve ever made. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Because in the storms of life…He makes me courageous. He holds me together. So I can afford to be brave!
Yes, today is a good day, because He is good.