Be Brave // Pursuit 31 Conference

Something had been off.

Like shoes on the wrong feet, a guitar slightly out of tune, soda gone flat, a frame askew on the wall.

Just not right. Bearable, but not pleasant. Livable, but not good enough.

My life didn’t really… fit. It was sharp in all the wrong places, flat everywhere else, crooked all over. I’d been living my life in shoes that didn’t fit.

Tormented by all the things I wasn’t, feeling limited by my current circumstances, ashamed of who I was.

Lost.

Yet I was here, in a circle of thirty women, and I knew something big was going to happen. Lara stood in the middle. Scarves and sunglasses weren’t allowed. Feet had to be planted. Bodies still. Hands open. Palms out.

I had no idea what was coming, but I was almost positive she was going to make us share our feelings. That I can do. I am a mostly transparent person in a completely complicated way, but this… this felt more like public speaking and that I don’t do.

There’s something about getting still and just opening your hands, though. Closing your eyes and feeling the sun skin on your skin. You become aware of the thoughts and burdens and pains pulsing inside of you. You become aware of how much you can bear. You open yourself up. To everything.

Lara started a statement and each woman finished it. I dreaded saying anything out loud. And then I realized my dread came not from admitting it, but from searching so deep within myself and discovering what I’d find.

It becomes normal to live with the fear.

I thought fear was just part of me, that it was just part of my character or my chemical makeup. I know that’s crazy because I’ve grown up loving Jesus. But I’ve dealt with fear that manifests itself in panic, in anxiety, in terror.

Fear that keeps me stuck. Fear that sucks the hope right out of my heart. Fear that makes me settle for less.

Fear that makes me sob at my computer, unable to even look at what I create. Fear that makes lay in bed a little bit longer. And then a little longer still. Fear that makes me leak tears into my pillow until I fall asleep.

Fear that tells me I’ll never change, I’ll never move forward, I’ll never make a difference, that my life isn’t significant. Fear that tells me I’ll never live up to all that God wants me to be. Fear that tells me I’ll never be enough, that I’ll get it wrong and end up alone, with nothing. Fear that leaves me in a pile on the floor, gasping for breath.

And so the easy thing is to just shut off, to turn the light out on the disappointments, on the pains, on the ugly things growing on the walls of my heart. The thing only thing is to survive.

But I stood with open hands. And those ugly things that had been living inside for too long, they started to see the light of day. It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t fun. It was challenging and it hurt. I was tempted to start comparing my heart’s ugly trash to someone else’s, beginning to downplay my struggles, like mine weren’t real.

But I kept on.

Life is too short…

My life is too short…

I’m saying no to…

I’m saying yes to…

I am…

Each round plowed deeper into my heart, like some archeological dig, excavating what had been lost for too long. With each statement, the junk got thrown like dirt into the air, released as my heart just bled out.

Life is too short to wait… I am brave.

That’s what I heard myself saying, and I didn’t realize those things were significant to me until they were breath coming out of my mouth. I’ve been waiting… for life to be perfect, for my bank account to look amazing, for when I reached "ready," for my business to be where it “should” be, for someone to give me the go-ahead, for a purpose, for a plan, for God to give me a sign, a direction.

Yet, there are things that have been planted in me, adventures to be had, passions itching to see the light of day, inspiration waiting to have its way with me.

And it comes down to this: I haven’t been brave. I’ve allowed the fear to suffocate me, fear that had leached on so tightly I could barely tell where it began and I ended.

After our circles, Mary began her talk and her first slide said, When God Says “Wait.”

I couldn’t believe it. When God says wait? But I just got past that. I just said my life is too short to wait. I’m being brave. That’s what’s been wrong. Really, wait?

And I begin to feel foolish for saying the things that I did, the words that had been so liberating, so life-changing, so life-giving just minutes before.

Then Mary began to tell her story. And my cheeks never dried. Words like lost, waiting, broken, and alone peppered her story, and everything within me resonated with all she was saying. It’s a humbling, heart-wrenching process, stepping further into the light when my soul had adjusted to dark, digging deeper into the hardened reasons of why I felt lost, why I felt alone.

Then, Mary’s last slide flashed on the screen, and she read it aloud. “Be brave.”

Be brave. I would have been in shock had I not suddenly already known that this was clearly and totally God. This journey from waiting to being brave happened twice within the span of a few hours. And I'm only just beginning to understand.

Brave…

Being brave sometimes means waiting, for the next wave that's even better, for the things that may not be ready for you yet. It means getting quiet enough to listen to the voices inside you may be afraid to hear.

Being brave means staring contests with doubt and fist fights with fear. It means arm wrestling comparison to the ground. Being brave means getting out of your own way, when you bring fear to the table and when you feed on hopelessness. Being brave means being strong enough to walk away from yourself because your ways are destructive.

Being brave means believing you’re enough, because you've been made by the One who is more than enough. Being brave means believing all the things God says you are. It means placing your identity in Jesus when everything tells you you're unworthy. It means daring to accept the greatness He placed inside of you, the person He created you to be, and then being all of those things, for His glory.

Being brave is also letting go. It means opening your hands to more and letting your tiny little dreams escape on the wind. Being brave means trusting God to fill the gaps in your heart with His dreams, His purposes, and His plans.

Being brave means running after the God-sized dreams that are bursting out of your heart, even when everything else inside says “no.” Even when the world puts you on a different schedule. Even when a million voices tell you there is no way.

Being brave means dancing. With your life. With your all. Unashamedly. In the best way you know how.

Being brave means loving fully, relentlessly, selflessly. Being brave means being love and doing love, in ways your head doesn't understand.

I want to be brave. But not for me. I choose to live bravely and to love bravely. For Jesus. Without hesitation. Without fear. Without the tidy confines and rules the world puts on love and life and everything in between.

As I was trying to reflect on my time away, I kept reading the notes I had taken in my notebook. Finally, I decided to look in my phone, to see if I’d typed any random thoughts there. I found one quote from the first night, which seemed so far away. This was the one thing I had quickly typed into a note on my phone, said by the lovely Karen Stott:

“He makes us do annoyingly brave things we don’t always like. But hope in Him is trust in His ways.”

I’m still excavating my heart, determining what brave looks like for me. I have a feeling it will take on many faces in the years to come and I know God will show me the ever-widening definition of what it means to live and love bravely.

So tell me, what’s your brave?

You and me. Let's heart-to-heart it out.

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P.S. A note about Pursuit 31, this fabulous group of ladies:

This conference refreshed me in ways nothing else had been lately. Sometimes you’ve had enough of learning to market and blog and run a business and take better images and you just want someone to ask, how’s your heart? You want to be seen as more than a face. With these women, you’re seen as a person with a heart, a story, and a place in God’s plan.

Going in, I got stuck in the comparison trap. Now, I am reminded that I am worth so much more than how I shoot or how good my craft is. My value is found in something much greater than this small thing I do every day.

When we see people as defined only by what they do, when all we see are the accomplishments they’ve made or how renowned they are in their field, we forget that they, like us, are just people, with broken and messy stories. We are all sons and daughters, spirits that need true community, not a fan page or a following. We need opportunities to share our stories and struggles. We need heartfelt moments, full of laughter, tears, and understanding, moments that change us forever. <3

Thank you to all of the amazing sponsors at this year's conference!

Learn more about the conference here.

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