A memo to us when we are good

Can I make a confession? (Of course I can.)

There is a photographer I know on the internet – facebook, Twitter, Instagram – and every time I post any photo I’ve taken, I am painfully and acutely aware that she is there. That she can see. And I wish this wasn’t true, but it is: I am painfully and acutely aware when she says, by saying nothing at all, that I am not good enough.

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And it makes me mad. But do you know what makes me madder? The fact that I care. That I measure my worth over and over again by the standards of someone I barely even know. That I give one person that much power over me, over how I feel about this dream that I am following.

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And I have heard other seasoned photographers making fun of people just starting out. People like me. And I have wanted to hang up my camera, because no one wants to be the butt of someone else’s joke.

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But here is the thing: we have all got to start somewhere. And those guys? They were once nervously posting photos on their facebook pages, on some hidden blog somewhere. Desperate to be good. Desperate for someone better to say, “You can do this. I’ll help you.”

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So, here are my two requests of you:

One:

If you are a seasoned professional, and you see someone just starting out, reach out to them. Try to remember what it was like when you were new, and you were desperate, and all you wanted in the world was for someone to encourage you. And go with that. Be that person.

Two:

If you are new and you are scared, I want us to make a deal: let’s tune out the naysayers. Let’s ignore the mocking voices, and not obsess over the names that are and are not there in the list of facebook likes. Let’s follow these dreams because they are rooted deep down inside our hearts. Let’s surround ourselves with people who believe in us, who encourage us, who are not intimidated by the prospect that we might one day become good, too.

Let’s just start, and then keep going, and when we are good, let’s remember this day. And then let’s find someone with a dream too big for their shaky little hands, and let’s tell them:

“You can do this. I’ll help you.”

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This is Brave. | Meri Leggott

This is Meri. She works for the probation service here in England, and she wrote this post.

She is my friend, and she is brave.

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I used to think that brave must mean fighting war, or ‘beating’ illness, or overcoming huge adversity. I thought it must mean something big, something bold, something other than what I knew; something quite beyond the likelihood of my small life. I never believed that others might one day describe ME as brave, surely never imagined I might be asked even to write about the idea. But yet, it’s a concept my mind has been musing for a while. And it’s taken… a while… to concede I might have something to say.

My job is to spend a lot of time with individuals you’d generally avoid. The angry ones. The violent ones. The ‘dangerous’ ones. The not particularly clean ones. The lost-cause, down-and-out no-hopers. The ones in prison, and the ones just out of prison. And in prison again. And again. And again. When you reach me, it’s because everything society knows to do has been tried, and has failed. Because addiction has a grip that policies cannot release. Because the need to belong is a deep, inherent heart-cry, twisted and exploited by gangs and pimps. Because abuse teaches that your body, your mind are worth nothing and your heart worth even less. Because rejection strangles this heart until it pulsates only with anger and bitterness. Because fear is the most terrifyingly powerful force I know.

Bar one.

There is one thing more terrifying. More formidable. More overwhelming. One thing that chases down the addiction, the anger, the rejection, the bitterness, and does. not. give. up., until every ounce of fear is ravaged and consumed and utterly finished by the furious torrent of perfect Love. This is love, that drove the most beautiful man I know to give his life so completely for me. For you. This love, that pledges itself heart and soul, disregarding the boundaries of geography, or race, or poverty, this Love has won me and captured me and wrecked me for anything but a deeper knowing of Him.

See, when you’ve looked into His eyes, there’s nothing left to do but love Him. Bravery starts here; it starts with surrender, with a lovesick abandonment that comes with knowing his heart’s song intertwining with yours. I have heard his song. He sings with reckless delight over the lost and unlovely, the thief and the prisoner, the violent and the addicted; my spirit replies and my heart lurches fiercely for Him and for the ones he adores.

I don’t think I’m remotely remarkable. And yet, I know I am. You are, too, whether you know it yet, or not yet. You are brave. It is within you. Your dream is your daring, and pursuit of your heart’s deep burning, your own brave adventure. We are designed to live beyond ourselves, to pour our being into something greater than we grasp. This is fearless. This is love. This is brave.

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To hate the vessel

I have wrestled day and night with these marks and scars, this body I used to know that now looks like a stranger to me.

And I could not reconcile myself to it.

Until I sat across from her, tears glinting just below her eyes, in that well where we hold all our pain and disappointment, and she said, “Maybe it will never be.”

 

Suddenly the stretched skin became a celebration of what has been – a glorious, grateful prayer for what was a dream that came to fruition.

 

And I knew that to hate the vessel that carried the dream would be the greatest injustice to us both.

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The Performance of a Lifetime

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I have been writing down boys’ names in notebooks for 20 years, fleshing out my own stories of broken hearts and unrequited love. Some of them were villains, yes, but mostly they were the protagonists of their own stories, seeking adventure and happy-ever-afters, and I was not their leading lady.

When I started university, I was a drama major. I changed my mind one year in (and several times after that), and I said it was because the programme was too competitive and the atmosphere quelled my creativity. But I wonder if, somewhere below where I know things for sure, the reason had more to do with the fact that a 5’10″ blonde rarely gets cast in the part of the ingenue, and it was all just a little too close to the bone.

We all know how the story goes from here: I, the star of my own production, set off for adventure across the sea and there, in the midst of what I had laid out as a story about solitude and adventure, I found him.

Simon, Simon, Simon.

I have penned his name in my notebooks a thousand times in the last ten years, spelled it out as tears soaked the page, scratched it down in angry, angular letters, swirled its looping characters so lovestruck it was as if my fingers were singing it.

It has been my mantra since I was 21, and with every utterance of the beautiful name, my heart has whispered, “loyalty, commitment, Love.”

We are mostly happy, but not all the time.  More than that, we are learning – fighting, more like – to be strong, to be holy, to be wise. And now that we are cast in our own production, I can see that I was never meant to be the star at all.

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This is Brave. | Three things to remember

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1. Sometimes brave doesn’t look like you think it does. My friend Sarah used to live in Scotland, which sounds like a dream. But she was depressed – which is hard to believe if you meet her, because she is fluid joy. Her laugh is infectious. Her smile heals me when she shows up on my doorstep with chocolate, brushes past me to make me a cup of tea in my own house and get down on the floor with my boys and trains and tickle fights.

She told me the other day that brave in those days, in Scotland, was getting out of bed (and I know that, I’ve been there). It was making tea and toast. Leaving the house. Driving her car from A to B. It was just being, just doing. Just eating and drinking and breathing and not letting herself fall off the edge.

Sometimes brave is climbing mountains and rescuing trafficking victims and being shot at on the front lines. But others, it is just being alive.  Just doing today, and seriously considering doing tomorrow.

2. You do not have to be brave all the time. John Stott, in his farewell book The Radical Disciple, wrote this:

“I sometimes hear old people, including Christian people who should know better, say, ‘I don’t want to be a burden to anyone else. I’m happy to carry on living so long as I can look after myself, but as soon as I become a burden I would rather die.’ But this is wrong. We are all designed to be a burden to others. You are designed to be a burden to me and I am designed to be a burden to you. And the life of the family, including the life of the local church family, should be one of ‘mutual burdensomeness.’”

It is a brave thing to carry another person’s burden. But occasionally you can be a coward and let yourself be carried. There is no shame in it. If anything, there is glory in it – in the allowing of your weakness to be seen, to be covered over by someone else’s strength.

3. You are braver than you think. I have gotten emails saying, “But I’m not as brave as you!” Why not? Because I live in England? Because I chose love and moved 3000 miles away from home? It is brave, I suppose. Or it was when I did it. But today it is just a life, though it is on different soil than the stuff I grew up on.

You are just as brave, wherever you are. I promise. Not because of what you’re doing, but because of what you are made of. I know you feel like a scaredy cat sometimes, but that is a lie, so let’s call it what it is and be done with it. You and I are made of courage and grit and power and love. I’m talking to you, and if you think I’m talking to everyone else, you are exactly the one I’m talking to.

Call it what it is. And listen to me when I say you are braver than you think.

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Brave

Faith:

To start off the This is Brave series I talked about yesterday, I’m reposting this entry I wrote back in November, in case you missed it then. (Or you can enjoy it for the second time!)

Originally posted on Great Smitten:

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I want to know how to not be afraid -

how to jump with my eyes closed, like I did

when we were young,

When I believed that death was a thing

that happened to the old.

 

You were taller then (I’m sure of it)

and there were no specks of gray in your hair,

no wrinkles creased deep into the skin by your eyes

I thought we could rule the world -

or travel it, at least.

 

Instead, we have been mostly still, for years,

and fashioned our own little planet here,

in our Victorian terrace,

from blood and sweat and belly laughs

while we wrestle our boys on the floor,

while we teach them to be brave -

while we learn for ourselves

 

that brave doesn’t mean what it once did.

 

Brave means laying bare our bodies and our hearts,

and believing we…

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This is Brave.

Sometimes I get a word stuck in my head – or, more accurately, in my heart – and it just keeps coming back to me.

I’ve seen a lot of bloggers and Instagrammers posting their “word of the year” – a word that feels significant for them in 2014. And maybe that’s kind of what this is…except it feels more like a word for more than that.

It’s February now, which means I will be 32 in just a few weeks. And because this word feels so big to me, I’ve decided to write about it in the coming days. Because maybe it’s my word of 2014. Or maybe it’s the word of my 33rd year…but what I’m really hoping is that it’s a word for the rest of my life.

Brave.

I want to be brave, and I want to be surrounded by brave people, because I think sometimes that’s how we get brave – by linking arms with other people who are desperate for the same things we are…but more on that later.

I’ve asked a few beautiful people to write about bravery, too, and I hope you’ll come back to read their stories, and to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with us as we learn what brave looks like.

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