Have Courage

“With courage you will dare to take risks, have the strength to be compassionate, and the wisdom to be humble. Courage is the foundation of integrity.”

Mark Twain

Just recently I watched as my daughter exuded courage. She had been given a bike, this bike didn’t come with training wheels. We attempted to ride this bike once before and that ended in frustration all around. I had a squirming toddler in my arms and it made holding her stable on the bike nearly impossible.

Having a perfectionist, strong-willed daughter makes for a challenge all its own, but it makes for a bigger challenge when something is not mastered the first time. She is good at many things, she is wise beyond her years… but she is stubborn and determined. Since the first attempt at bike riding was an epic fail she was determined to never ride a bike without training wheels again.

Well the other day seemed like a good day to ride a bike. The weather was beautiful, the sun was shining and it was just one of those days you didn’t want to spend inside. Daddy was home this particular day so we decided to give bike riding another go. Emma huffed and puffed and threw a tantrum of epic portion. She was determined to never ride that bike again. She stormed all over the house with her arms crossed and yelled all about how her bike was “stupid” and she “was never riding the stupid bike.” Now in our home “stupid” is a word we don’t use and she is fully aware of that. She faced a consequence and then my husband and I pulled her close to us and talked with her.

We talked about how we have two choices in life– we can choose to always do the easy things or the hard things. Les Brown says it like this, we can do the easy things and have a hard life, or we can do the hard things and have an easy life. We went on to talk about how in life we have to do things that are hard, things that scare us, things we might not want to do and things we may not be any good at. It’s how we experience life. It’s what makes us who we are. We all have to do it. We talked about how its okay to feel afraid. It’s okay to not be perfect at the task or to even master it. We talked about how we don’t have to rely on our strength, but that we have the strength of Jesus Christ and because of that we can do all things. We shared moments when mommy, daddy and her baby brother had to do something hard. She agreed to give the bike a try as long as daddy promised he wouldn’t let her go.

So outside we went. She hopped on her back and after just a few minutes she asked her daddy to let her go. He did and she rode her bike. She only made it a few feet before she took her feet off the pedals and fell down, but she got right back up and did it again. She rode her bike for a long time that afternoon. She would repeat the falling down and getting up bit every few feet but she never gave up. She was determined. She was beaming with pride. The smile she wore across her beautiful face said it all. We celebrated and cheered her on. We filled her with praise and told her we were proud of her.

We got back home and asked her how she felt. Her response floored me. She said, “I’m happy that God gave me the strength to do it!” A few nights later at dinner she shared her most thankful, “That God gave me the strength to ride my bike.” She gets it. God is going to use that girl to help him move mountains. She humbled herself. She knew that accomplishment was not done on her own accord. She took a risk and she had courage.

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Youthful Perspective

“Those who look for beauty, find it.”

-Unknown

The other morning I was driving with my daughter and we had come to a red light. We had the most beautiful view of the snow-capped mountains right in front of us. Nothing was blocking that view. I sat in silence admiring the view and taking it all in. It’s so refreshing. It breathes life into my soul.

My daughter broke the silence. She wasn’t speaking to me per-say, she was just stating what she was seeing. From the back seat I hear her say, “wow that is such an amazingly, beautiful view.” To which I responded with, “yes, isn’t it so amazing to look out and see the snow-capped mountains in all their beauty?” She then said, “no mom, I was talking about those little dirt piles that look like mountains and have snow on them. They are so beautiful.”

Instantly my five year old is teaching me a lesson and reminding me of truth.

She reminded me of what was said in John 1 verse 3, that through Him all things were made. God created that very dirt. God created man from the dust of the ground. He created the snow and He told the snow when to fall and it obeyed and because of that it lay peacefully on the pile of dirt. Then I was reminded of what was said in Ecclesiastes 3 verse 11, “He has made everything beautiful in its time.” EVERYTHING is made beautiful. God made in that perfect moment a beautiful snow-capped pile of dirt in line with beautifully, majestic snow-capped mountains.

I wonder what our lives would look like if we decided to stop for a brief moment and look around at the beauty that surrounds us. Would we even notice? Would we stop and let that beauty breathe life into our souls? Would we thank God himself for the beautiful snow-capped pile of dirt, knowing He created that?

Not only was I reminded in that moment that EVERYTHING has been made beautiful in its time, but I was reminded about perspective. It really is all about our perspective. In that moment all I saw was what I wanted to see. The beautiful mountains in front of me. I didn’t want to look around and notice the piles of dirt or anything else that surrounded me in that moment.

Then I think about the things that happen in life. The crappy, painful things we all have to endure at one point or another as the cost of living in a fallen and broken world. I really have two choices in those moments. I can chose to only look at the mountain in front of me or I can open my eyes and see the beauty around me.

What would happen if in the face of ugly dirt piles we clung to the truth and clung to the promise that God will use EVERYTHING for His purpose? What if we looked evil square in the eye and spoke the words of  Genesis 50 verse 20, “as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” How much more beautiful our lives would be if we simply looked at the piles of dirt and reminded ourselves that God works all things together for good (Romans 8:28) and He has made EVERYTHING beautiful in its time.

It’s easy to be consumed and narrow minded in the face of adversity. Let’s start being consumed more by God and less by ourselves and the things of this world. Let’s start opening our minds and seeing beauty in the snow-capped dirt piles rather than only the snow-capped mountains.

Fighting the Good Fight

I was reminded of Theodore’s words in his speech often referred to as The Man in the Arena this morning.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
–Citizenship in a Republic, Theodore Roosevelt
Oh what a true and powerful statement and one that is oh so fitting for my current stage of life. My passion and calling are coming alive before my eyes and I am sometimes holding on for dear life wondering what the hell I am doing. I am in the arena right now and in some moments I feel like I am getting my face marred and at moments I am failing. My failure may not be seen by those on the sidelines watching. But my opponent sees and he relishes in that. He knows where to hit to knock me down and he knows which words to speak to weaken me. He is cunning. He is a master of the arts. He knows how to fight. He is ruthless. But I’ll let you in on a little secret… He is weak. He has no power, unless I relinquish control to him.

He tried last night to knock me out of the arena. He tried to convince me I couldn’t do it. He was right. I couldn’t do it without my trainer. It’s my trainers knowledge and strength I draw from. When I wanted to be selfish and enjoy my night my opponent fed that. He almost had me for a moment. Until my trainer reminded me that this was what I was built for. This is what I had been training for. He put on my gear and sent me into the arena. When I struggled with what move to make next he gently reminded me. When I was up against the ropes he gave me a little extra push off so I could regain my composure and keep pressing on.

My place will never be with the cold and timid soul because that’s where my opponent rests. Even if I loose a few I will not fail. I have a trainer who always wins out. The victory belongs to him and to him be the credit, because after all it really isn’t about me.

Morning Tea

I had just put the baby down for his morning nap and my daughter and I had a little bit of time before she had to be at school. My daughter asked if we could have a tea party.

We went into her room and we had a pretend tea party. We then decided we needed real tea and rice cakes (her new favorite snack). As I reached into the cabinet to get the coffee mugs I saw two mugs that were packed full of memories.

When I was a little girl I spent a lot of time with my grandparents because I loved being there. We played, we rode horses, we played in hay bails, we rode in semi trucks and roamed pastures for hours.

Those memories are wonderful- but the most wonderful memories happened in the mornings. My grandma is an avid coffee drinker (must be genetic). She would sit in front of the mirror in her robe with curlers in her hair and sipped her coffee as she put on her makeup. I would sit next to her and watch her as I sipped my coffee from a cup that matched hers. They were sweet moments I cherish to this day.

As a kid we would always joke about how long it took grandma to get ready in the morning but I always admired and loved how she eased into her day. She never rushed. She took time to pamper herself and to make herself feel important. I rarely do that. I feel as though I am rushed from the moment I open my eyes to the second I close them at night.

As I sat there in my jammies and had a tea party with my little love I realized I am “missing it.” I am missing life because I am so often rushed from one thing to the next. I miss out on the things happening in front of me. Had I not taken a moment to slow down and just sit with my daughter for a tea party I would have missed a wonderful conversation with her. I would have missed out on creating moments for her and I to cherish with those same mugs my grandma and I used.

I could continue to live this rushed lifestyle of bouncing from one thing to the other and miss out on life. Or I could be like my grandma and take things slowly. I could sip my coffee rather than drink cup after cup just as quickly as I pour it.

For today I will choose to sip my coffee and embrace the day because I don’t want to spend another day “missing it.”