Courage for 2016

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:

Personal Relationships

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.

Physical Strength

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.

New Opportunities

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?

When You Need to Prove Something to Yourself

Once upon a time, I played the piano.

I also taught a whole bunch of students, and was only two months away from my final piano teaching exam and a diploma on my wall, when things went crazy, and I got tendinitis so bad, I haven’t played piano again in six years.

For awhile, the pain in my arms was intense enough to keep me up at night.

There were so many things I couldn’t do anymore. I couldn’t open jars, carry heavy boxes, or do any housework. (Shoot, hey?! The only problem was that I like a really clean house, and I couldn’t do a thing about it.)

Ben had to be careful not to turn the taps too tight, or else I couldn’t wash my hands or shower, without him coming to turn the water on for me.

Life is not like that for me anymore, thank goodness. I’ve recovered to the point where I can live a fairly normal life, if I pace myself and don’t try to do too much in a day, like wash every window in our house or stuff like that.

But here’s the thing: I had no strength to do things for so long, I started to think of myself as weak and incapable.

I saw my scrawny arms in the mirror, and wanted to hide them. (I’m always very happy to put on long sleeves in fall! My arms don’t look quite so skinny when they’re covered in sleeves.)

I read DIY blog posts about women building things and handling power tools while their husbands were away at work, and I would think, “I could never do that!”

But deep down, I desperately wanted to.

I wanted to be a strong, gutsy girl who builds things.

And then I saw this tutorial for a DIY board and batten wall treatment:


I wanted it. Quite badly.

But when I asked Ben, he said he couldn’t start any project like that until he was finished with his Masters.

So I resigned myself to wait for a few months. But I kept looking at that picture, and thinking about it.

And then Ben’s grandma passed away this summer. At the funeral, one of her daughters talked about how her mom was never the type to sit around waiting for someone else to fix things for her. If there was a minor repair that needed doing, she just went and did it herself.

I thought to myself, “I want to be like Grandma.”

When I said to Ben, “I wish I could do it myself”, he said, “You can.”

He always says, “You can.”

He always believes in me, always encourages me to try. In the twelve years we’ve been married, he has never said, “You can’t do that.”

He encourages me to ask for help, or to do more research first, but he always believes I can do what I dream of doing, when the time is right.

And now, the time is right. I decided to build something. For me, and for Grandma. For our girls, too. So they can see that anything is possible. None of this sitting around, waiting for someone to come do it for them.

Since we moved into our new house, our entrance has felt very bare and unwelcoming.

I decided it was time to do something about it, and I would do it by myself.

Ben was great about everything. He was totally willing to help, but he knew how much I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it, so he gave me detailed instructions, and I set off by myself to buy wood, paint, nails, and everything else I might need.

Well. Turns out that at Home Depot, if you want a certain length of wood, you cut it yourself. With a hand saw.

I built a birdhouse once with my dad when I was a little kid. And I’ve played around a bit with hammer and nails. I know how to use a saw. But I did feel a little weird to be sawing away at some wood at Home Depot. My skirt swished along with the back and forth motion, and my scrawny arms got pretty tired, but I did it by myself.

And I transformed that entrance from this:

To this:

(With a tiny little bit of help from Ben with holding a board or two, and hammering a few nails. Otherwise, all me.)

It still needs some finishing touches, like some pictures on the wall, and some pillows on the bench, but we are definitely getting there.

And I feel proud.

I needed to do it so I would stop having that weak, helpless image of myself in my head.

Do you ever feel that way? Is there anything you need to tackle, just so you know you can? To prove something to yourself?

What Do You Hope to Gain?

I’ve been asked that question by a number of different people in the weeks leading up to my trip to Mayo Clinic – “What do you hope to gain?”

And then again this morning at my first appointment, after hearing the run-down of my list of health concerns, the doctor asked me, “So what do you hope to gain here at Mayo?”

That is a hard question to answer. After 12 years of dealing with health issues, what do I hope to gain in one week?

I would love a miracle cure that would fix everything – that would give me back the body I had before I first got sick – the body that was a healthy weight, that was a lot stronger and healthier, the body of my college years that felt just fine even after staying up half the night, writing papers and eating an entire bag of Fudgee-o’s in one sitting.

But realistically, I know that’s not possible. And with all that I’ve learned about health, nutrition, and my body, I don’t really want to eat a whole bag of Fudgee-o’s in one sitting. Well…I do, but I don’t.

Anyway. No miracle cure. I’m okay with that.

But what do I hope to gain?

The funny thing is that I realized today that I could go home with no answers, and no changes, and live the exact same life that I had before, and that would be okay. I’ve learned to live with the body I have. Maybe I’ll never eat chocolate again, and maybe I will always have a “high-maintenance” body, but that would be okay. It wouldn’t be ideal, but it could be okay. I’ve learned that life goes on.

I hope to get some answers here, and I hope to go home with some new ideas of how to continue getting healthier and stronger.

But what I didn’t tell the doctor is that one of the things that I truly hoped to gain from coming here has already happened – I’m here.

It’s as though just by coming here, I’ve accomplished something: I’ve faced some fears, and I’ve accepted the journey that I’m on. I never realized just how much that was worth until today.

See, for years, my family has been encouraging me to come here – to take care of myself in this way, and get checked out from top to bottom by a team of doctors who could really help me.

But I always resisted. I had a whole list of reasons as to why I didn’t want to, but the real reason was that I was living in denial.

As silly as it might sound, I realize that I didn’t want to come here because that would be admitting that there is something significantly wrong with my body – wrong enough that I can’t deal with it like every other normal person around me. Only really sick people come to Mayo. If I would come here, it would mean, in my mind, that I was really sick.

As long as I didn’t come, I could pretend that I lived a fairly “normal” life. Whatever “normal” means.

For 12 years, I have wanted a normal life. I have hated my health problems, hated my weakness, and was angry with my body.

But in the last while, something has started to change in me. It’s hard to know exactly what.

I accept this body that I have. Instead of being angry with it, I want to take care of it. Somewhere along the way, as I’ve taken care of it, I’ve begun to accept it’s limitations.

I’ve been able to see the truth of my situation – things are not perfect, but they’re not that bad, either. I have so much to be thankful for. And when I focus on that, it is much easier to be positive, hopeful, and optimistic about the future.

I’ve begun to change in the way that I see myself – instead of seeing myself as weak and sickly, I’ve seen strength growing, and new healthy habits starting to make a difference.

Instead of seeing these last 12 years as “stolen time”, taking away from my quality of life, I’m seeing them as a time of growth and learning. The rest of my life will be better because of this experience.

I wouldn’t trade it or change it.

And that’s the first time that I’ve been able to say that.

I’m not bitter anymore. I know that I still have messed up thoughts and emotions buried down deep somewhere that I’ll have to deal with, but something’s changing.

I am on a journey, and I accept that. I can even enjoy it.

I’m here. I’ve already gained a lot.