For a number of years, I’ve heard people talk about choosing a word for the year – a personal theme they want to focus on. I didn’t ever feel drawn to this tradition, until now. A friend on Facebook was talking about bringing prayer into the process of choosing a word, and asking God to provide a focus for the year. This captured my attention, and became something I wanted to try.
I had no idea what kind of word God might give me, or even if He would give me anything, but I started praying about it, and the word which became stuck in my mind was “courage”. Suddenly, the word “courage” is popping up everywhere – verses I’m reading, the new book I got for Christmas, whatever.
I can see how “courage” is a common theme in my life right now, in a few different ways:
Last summer, I read a couple of books about boundaries by Henry Cloud, and spent a lot of time talking with a counselor about what I was learning. I came to realize that I’d struggled with people-pleasing issues for so long, I didn’t even recognize the problem. It’s been insanely hard for me to be honest about certain opinions, because I couldn’t bear to have anyone disagree with me. I would only tend to open up about my true opinions once I was sure someone would agree with me.
Friends who read my blog can’t understand this, because I seem like a very open person with strong opinions, but the weird truth is, it’s much easier for me to be honest in front of a computer screen about certain issues than it is to tell someone face to face what I’m really thinking. I would far rather email someone about an uncomfortable topic, than talk to them in person. I like to take my time processing things, choosing my words carefully, and when I have to do that on the spot with someone, I tend to clam up.
My hesitance to be open and honest about what I’ve truly needed or wanted has led to a lot of unhappiness, stress, and confusion in my personal relationships. It is my desire to grow in my ability to own my issues, preferences, and opinions, and to work up the courage to be truthful and gently direct. When I have recently gathered up the courage to be honest about what I really think or want, it doesn’t usually offend anyone! And if it does, I’m starting to see how it isn’t my problem if people don’t want the same things I do – no one should try to force another person to do something they are not comfortable with. They share their opinion, I share mine, and we piece something together that works for both of us. I can see great things happening if I speak with honesty and courage.
My therapists agree it’s time to take my physical therapy to the next level. Until now, my therapists have focused on getting my muscles loosened up from years of pain, tension, and having babies. As long as I don’t go too long between appointments, and keep up with my stretches and yoga, I’m okay – not great, but okay. It doesn’t take much to put my neck or back out, though, which means extra trips to the chiropractor and massage therapist, so now it’s time to strengthen all those weak muscles, in order to prevent further injury. This scares me, because it’s painful, and really hard to know what my body’s limits are when I’m trying new things. Pushing myself too far immediately sends my body into a downward spiral, and sometimes it can take months to get back to a good place.
But it’s time! And it will definitely take a lot of courage to push through the pain, keeping at this until my body gets stronger.
I have the chance to do some speaking/teaching this year, and it freaks me out. I’m not afraid to be up in front of people – I’ve always felt completely comfortable with that. What makes me nervous is the amount of work it takes to get ready for these types of things. Since having postpartum anxiety, I’ve really cut back on how much I’m involved with each week. I’m feeling good now, but I don’t want to pile things back on my plate. Going back to all the things I used to do isn’t the same – we have three kids now, so our family has changed, and I’ve changed. It makes me apprehensive to push myself, because I don’t know my new limits in this area, either. Some stress is okay, but I never want to go back to the place I was at emotionally this last summer.
It also takes courage to try new things, because I have no idea if it will work. I’ve got an idea cooking in my head, and it could be awesome….or it could totally flop. I have limited control over the outcome, which scares me. But it’s an idea I believe God gave me, and the outcome is not really my problem! I can only do my part, and then surrender the rest to God.
So those are some pretty big things I already know I will need courage for, and the New Year has barely begun! I’m sure there are other things I haven’t even caught a glimpse of yet….
What do you need courage for in 2016?