I’ve been out of middle school for some time now. Not as long as some, but it’s been a decade.
I don’t feel that old. Sometimes, to be perfectly honest, I still see myself as that awkward 12 year old, unsure about everything (even God), and trying to belong somewhere. In a couple of days, I’m going to be a small group leader for 6th grade girls.
Here’s some things I’ve learned since then that I wish someone told me in middle school.
- Middle School is tough but it’s not forever. It’s only 2 maybe 3 years of your life. When you’re 12 or 13, it feels like forever, but it’s not. It’s only a blimp your long life. I don’t dispute the fact that it’s hard, but it’s not going to be as long as it seems.
- It’s okay to like things regardless of what the “cool kids” like. It’s really okay to like other things. You don’t have to like something just because someone says it is cool or vice versa. You are allowed to like something that’s “uncool” or hasn’t been chosen by the “cool kids”. They are not in charge. Like what you like or don’t like what you choose to-the choice is yours.
- Appearance isn’t everything, but it’s something. Let me explain. On one hand, it’s not good to care too much about what you look like. On the other, it’s important that you take care of yourself. Balance is key.
- This is a time in your life where you start to figure out you like and who you are meant to be. This is a confusing time. You’re trying to figure out what you want to be involved in be it sports, music, plays, etc. This is a key time in figuring out yourself and who you want to be.Embrace the confusion. Eventually, the water will clear but you need to allow the water to remain murky for a while. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t find your niche right away.
- There is time for boys later. Now is the time to figure out yourself. 6th grade. Oh that’s around the time when you figure out that boys don’t have cooties. They go from being disgusting to kind of fascinating. You start to care what they think. There’s time for that later, Oh how many days I spent preoccupied by this boy or that boy. The amount of energy I spent trying to get the boy to notice me when I could have spent that energy figuring out who I wanted to be and achieving that. It’s quite a story if you meet your person in JH, but that is not typical. Your time is better spent chasing after God and who He wants you to be than chasing after boys. In the end, you’ll be more well rounded later when you meet that special person. Even now, I’m 24, but I realize the value of figuring out yourself before adding another person to the mix.
- Make your faith your own. Investigate the Bible for yourself and figure out what you believe what you believe.
- Take ownership of your decisions and their potential consequences. Think ahead and base your decisions on information you have gained. You’re old enough that you can’t just blame every bad thing on others or the universe. Bad things just happen but sometimes there’s something you could have done to prevent it.
These past months have been quite something. All my energy has been spent on simply surviving-putting one foot in front of the other.
A year ago, all my energy was focused on myself and my healing. I resigned myself to this life of second best. Let me explain that. I had my life planned out before my accident and then all of that seemed to have been taken away. I was striving to accept my life as it was then but I couldn’t shake the feeling that it was less. I still had hopes and dreams but I couldn’t grasp them. I didn’t know if it was even possible to grab them without having them slip through my fingers. Recently, I had the opportunity to go to Ukraine. I was simply excited to travel not knowing that the country itself would stamp itself on my heart.
This summer has been one of the most life-changing ones in my short life so far. This summer was hard, but oh so holy. First, I started to get back into hospital nursing, then I went to Ukraine. I was nervous and didn’t know how my brain would react. I was pushed beyond my limits but God was sweet in that. In it, God was showing me I could have a life that I had dreamt of-a life of more. Here are just a few things God is teaching me as I embrace this life of more-more love, more freedom, and simply more God.
- Contentment doesn’t equal complacency. This has been something I’ve been wrestling with lately. I want more out of life but it’s hard to explain because people assume I’m not content with my life. In my wrestling, I’ve come to the decision that it’s okay to have plans and dreams but to hold those dreams lightly. I’ve come to the mindset that I’ll be okay if cross cultural missions is in my future. And I’ll be okay if it’s not.
- God can still use me. I was terrified standing in front of people and sharing my story but it’s not about me. It’s about God. I think I knew He could use me, but I didn’t quite see how. Sharing my story and about the God I love made seeing that possible. I shared. My speech didn’t have to be perfect, but He used my story to bring Himself glory.
- It’s easier to embrace the new me when I attach pleasant emotions to the new me. I’m pretty sure I went through every emotion this summer from heartbreak to joy to terror to happiness to anger to surprise. I’m pretty sure I can encapsulate this whole summer using the word “surprise “. I didn’t know what to expect but God blew my expectations out of the water. I’m definitely not the same Sara who left the States. My soul is lighter and I’m learning the sweetness of trusting God. In the past year, I wrestled with accepting the new Sara because I didn’t know (believe really) that God could use me as broken as I was. God though put people in my life to show me that He could still use me, my thoughts are still needed, and He loves me-the new me-more than I could ever know. Because I’m bravely accepting the new me doesn’t mean the door is shut to everything that I used to love but I’m looking forward not behind now.
As I’m chasing after and embracing this life of more I realize this starts with an attitude of expectation. What’s done is done. Here I am, sitting at the feet of Jesus, patiently waiting with expectation of this life of more that He desires to give me-more love, more freedom-simply more life.
I finished 100 Days to Brave. I don’t feel any more Brave but I’m now armed with the tools and a road map to be brave.
Being brave is not an immediate change. You don’t flip a switch and now you’re brave. It doesn’t work like that (I wish it did), but rather it’s a process. If you continue to take the next brave, right step, you’ll be braver tomorrow than you were today.
As I finished reading the book, here are some of the tools in my toolbox to help me be brave.
- Prepare for change. Hebrews 13:8 states, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever”. Whatever change is coming-because inevitably it will-Jesus never changes. We can be brave in the fact that even if our circumstances change drastically, Jesus is constant. That said, you need to prepare for the inevitable change by spending time in God’s Word, talking to the unchanging One, and keeping your eyes on Him.
- Be brave in the waiting season. Waiting is hard. Be brave enough to be patient-not just outwardly, but inwardly.
- Be brave to know when it’s better to hold on or let go. Sometimes, it would be easier to let go. Don’t let go because it hurts or because it is hard. Hold on. It takes bravery to hold onto something when it’s definitely easier to let go. On the flip side, be brave enough to let go. You can’t grab on to next thing if you’re still holding on to the last thing. Let go of that dream. Let go of that relationship. Annie compares it to monkey bars. Let go even if you don’t see the next monkey bar. She writes, “I have seen, over and over again, that simply letting go is a powerful catalyst God will use to move me toward the next best thing”.
- Life is hard. Mike Foster, the founder of People of the Second Chance, said, “Life is messy, hard, and weird. We don’t need to be surprised anymore”.
- Brave people don’t let failure define them. Failure is inevitable. When you fall down, get up, brush the dirt off, learn what you did wrong, and move on.
- Embrace divine detours. God sees the whole story while we only see a snapshot. Be brave in trusting that He is good, He loves you, and He has a good plan-even if it looks nothing like your plan.
- Brave people persevere. “Brave people realize that we rejoice in our sufferings because it leads to perseverance and perseverance produces character and ultimately, it us to the hope we have in Jesus.” Brave people don’t give up on hope because they know it is worth fighting for.
- Brave people take care of their bodies. Jesus has a purpose for your body-with all its imperfections and sickness. He wants to use you, as you are, to bring glory to Himself. He doesn’t make mistakes. Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, so respect it. Exercise. Eat well.
- Play. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Have fun. Take pictures with the statues at the zoo. Dismiss the lie that your career will fall apart if you spend some time having fun. Blow bubbles. There is something therapeutic about carving out time in your schedule to be carefree for a moment. God made laughter. Enjoy it.
- Brave people carve out time for a sabbath and rest. They realize that there are time that you need to stop and rest. It takes courage to unplug, and walk away from your calling for a bit, believing God will still provide.
- Be generous-with your words, money, time, and wisdom. Nothing you were given is yours. You may think you have nothing to offer anyone, but that’s a lie. It might be a meager offering, but I guarantee that someone needs exactly what you have to offer.
- Let’s all be brave. Bravery and courage affects people the same way being near a confetti popper will make your life different and better and more amazing. It’s kind of like a domino effect. Making brave choices in your life is going to change the world. At the very least, it will change your world.
So let’s all grab our tool boxes and road maps. Let’s continue on this adventure of brave. Let’s all be brave.
This summer has been a great and challenging one. I feel about two years behind my peers. Most of the people I graduated with are getting married, moving on from their first “real” adult job, or having kids. I, on the other hand, don’t know what the dickens I’m going to next. This summer, God taught me again that that’s okay-it’s okay not to have everything planned to the letter.
Here is a list of things that I’ve learned about myself as I learn to take one day at a time with God.
These are a few things I’ve learned, but I think the biggest thing I’ve learned is that the best place to be is at the center of God’s Will by making the next right, brave step.
- There’s not one plan for my life. Just because I’m 24 with no full time job and still living at home, doesn’t mean I somehow missed the turn towards a successful life. I’m a success where I am. Hey, some days, I’m lucky just to be standing at the end of the day. I don’t feel like there’s just one plan, but rather it involves all the things I’m passionate about. It could be littles, missions, or both.
- Sometimes, accomplishments are not about being the best, but simply completing the task. So what if you’re not the best at whatever it is, you finished. About a month ago, some of my family did a 3 mile run. My mom and I walked the 2 miles required. A year ago, I couldn’t walk 10 feet without getting winded. I finished the 2 mile walk. I finished. I finished towards the end of the walkers and got passed by a couple littles, but I finished. I definitely wasn’t the best, but finishing was a milestone for me.
- Being ambidextrous is not all it’s cracked up to be. Don’t get me wrong it’s definitely very cool to use both hands, but sometimes, I think my brain is even more confused than it is already. It’s funny to watch people shocked faces when I use my right hand for one thing, and then in the next breath, I use my left hand.
- Sunsets can be really calming. This is not something new, but it was further reinforced this summer. On days when I was overwhelmed and exhausted, God paints the sky and just looking at it is calming.
- Music is how my soul speaks. I don’t know how that works, but I latch onto a song and play it on repeat for days. My soul needs—desperately needs—to hear the message that that song has its lyrics. When my soul has no words, it finds some. Music defines every season of my life so far. My first job was “Ride” by Twenty-One Pilots. My accident and rehab was “You’re Going To Be OK” by Jenn Johnson. Montana was “Mountains” by Biffy Clyro. Those are only a few of the songs that defined the many seasons.
- Jam sessions are required. It surprisingly therapeutic to turn up music and open the windows while you’re driving.
- Naps are life. It is funny how when we were little, naps were torture as life was not to be missed. When we become adults though, naps are necessary for us to put our best foot forward.
- Jesus loves in the sweetest ways-if you have eyes to see. In the midst of shoving me—not just pushing me—He showed me I’m loved by allowing the kid I was watching to be all cuddly and fall asleep on my shoulder. He knew that I just needed someone to love and allow me to love him.
- I have to push the envelope in regards to my healing. I can’t base how I’m going to be based on how I am right if I keep working towards 100%. I may not get there, but I definitely won’t improve if I sit on my butt and watch TV 24/7.
I don’t know if I can put into words my experience in Ukraine. God has done a myriad of things in my heart these past 3 weeks.
- Just because something is hard, it doesn’t mean it’s impossible. I don’t love sharing my story-standing up in front of people and reliving the hardest season of my life. I grew in that area as God pushed me to share my story and glorify Him. I was able to share because God gave me His strength every time I stood up there.
- God gave me glimpses of my dream of living overseas. Several times during the past couple of weeks, I was overwhelmed by the love of God. The simple fact that I was able to leave the country was a bit overwhelming. A year ago, I thought all my plans of living overseas were out of the question. I couldn’t see how, in the state I was in, that it would ever be an option. Now, I realize I’m not ready right now as the past two weeks and the time change wiped me out, but God, in His goodness, gave me glimpses of what could be.
- God loves me sweetly, even while He is shoving me out of my comfort zone. The first week of camp went well. It was exhausting, but I was pacing my energy well. Then came Sunday. The Pastor asked me to share with no warning, no notes, and no preparation. Inwardly, I panicked. I don’t like speaking in front of people and definitely not without notes-my safety blanket of sorts. When the words flee out of my brain, I can look at them and remember where I was. Trying to pull myself together and not panic took a lot more energy out of me then I dared admit. On Wednesday, when I was asked to watch a child, I said yes, but inwardly, I was questioning everything. I was tired. I couldn’t speak to him. I couldn’t run after him if he took off. The time came and he just simply cuddled in my arms and laid his head of my shoulder. God never ceases to amaze me. He knew I needed baby cuddles-someone to just let me hold and love him. The Sunday before and that day, God was shoving me out of my comfort zone. He was pushing me, but that evening, He was showing me that He was only doing it because He loved me-more than I could ever know.
- Bravery isn’t made up of the grand moments. It’s made up of the small moments of brave decisions. When the pastor asked me to come up and share my testimony, I panicked. I couldn’t do it. What if all the words flee my brain and I’m left standing there dumbfounded. I made my way up front, but in reality, I wanted to disappear. Then I opened my mouth. Suddenly, all the words I had spoken that past week flooded into my brain. I had been brave every day in telling a piece of what God had done in my life that standing up and telling them that was not impossible.
- A smile is the same in any language. One of my favorite things was to get the kids to smile. I couldn’t really speak to them. I didn’t know Ukrainian or Russian, but I could love them and get them to smile. I could understand their smile. It meant that they felt loved and safe.
- Jam sessions with Jesus are needed. Corporate worship is great. Slower songs with good melodies are great to offer God reverence. Sometimes, though, you need to turn up the volume, sing at the top of your lungs, and dance to your hearts consent.
- Sometimes taking a step back is good. Taking a step back is not a defeat. It’s allowing space for you to be the best you can be. Taking time for yourself is good. You can do a million things adequately, or with rest, you could do one thing exceptionally.
- End well. People don’t remember the middle, they remember the end. Don’t let the end trail off, but give them all the energy and love you have left. Finish well.
This is just a smidgen of all God has taught me these last weeks. I’m still processing everything and it will take awhile to wrap my head around everything God did in my heart.
“Courage is doing things even when you’re scared”. -Annie F. Downs
This summer is going to be hard and scary but oh so holy as I try to return to hospital nursing, speak in front of people and tackle two new countries. I don’t know what God has planned, but I do know it will be amazing as I strive to be brave in expectation. I just have to take it one step at a time.
I decided to go on this journey of 100 days to brave. I am 14 days into it, and I’ve already learned so much about myself.
- My bravery inspires others. “Because when we are brave enough to share the God stories in our lives, it changes the people around us. It changes us to share them.” It’s therapeutic for me to process what God’s doing in my life as so much is happening right now, so I end up posting about it. Then I find out from other people it’s been encouraging to them also. It’s like a ripple effect. Bravery and perseverance in one person’s life inspires it in another person’s and on and on. Seeing other people be brave inspires bravery in others.
- I’m braver than I know. I look back on the things people point out that they view as me being brave, and I pause. Those were moments that I didn’t consider myself brave at all. I was just surviving, but to others looking in, I was doing the next right thing, saying the next brave yes. To others, I was brave even if I didn’t feel brave. It’s been hard, frustrating, painful, tearful, and lonely, but God has shown me when I look back, how he has orchestrated my brave decisions into a story that he is continually unfolding as I say the next brave yes.
- We need to call out the brave in each other. I think there is something special about putting brave decisions on display. Seeing brave acts inspires bravery in yourself and others. It may just be a post it note that reminds you of a time that you made a challenging decision, or a word that reminds you of a situation where you were brave. Maybe you share your story, and it reminds someone else of their story. They realize they were braver than they even knew. I think we need to celebrate the brave in each other because we can tack a pleasant emotion to a sometimes hard and scary thing. When you see brave, say so.
- I need to speak truth over myself. I’ve been notorious for speaking bad about myself. I’ve told myself “I’m not pretty enough.” “I’m not good enough.” “My mistakes define me—I mess up.” Those are lies…the God of the Universe, the One who is breathing life into my lungs, is full of love for me. When I choose to believe that and live into that, my insecurities are quieter, and my worries are lighter because I know and believe how God feels about me. It’s sometimes a daily choice—a moment by moment choice—to choose to believe what God says about me. I am loved. I am brave. Speak kindly to yourself because you’re doing the best you can.
- I need to love what I love and not be ashamed. When I first moved back to the States, I was about two years behind everyone else in what they liked. I had just discovered American girl dolls, but my peers had been through that phase and were onto makeup and boys. I always felt like I needed to do the “cool” thing rather than do the thing I loved. I needed everyone else’s approval because without it, I was this uncool weird kid from Africa who didn’t know anything about anything. It’s been a journey. I think, looking back, over the years, I wrestled heavily with this area. At times, I still wrestle with having the confidence to be the person I want to be or love the things I want to love. Annie F. Downs reminds us that bravery is giving yourself permission to do the thing you want to do or like whatever you want to like regardless if anyone else does. You are accepted by God—He’s the only one other than yourself that whose approval matters. I hope you learn to accept yourself as I am learning and striving to accept myself.
So I’ve been a school nurse for about a year. It wasn’t anywhere in my plans, but God knew I needed this in this season. Here are a few things I have learned on this journey so far.
- Littles are honest and unbiased. They don’t care who you are, and they love you unconditionally. I had one girl just come in my room for a hug. It’s moments like those when I’m reminded of the soft hearts of littles and fact that they need nurturing on all fronts.
- Just because it’s not what you pictured yourself doing doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter. At the beginning of the school year, I sat in my office, hearing all the hopeful voices, and I felt deep down in my spirit that this was where I was meant to be. It was nothing like I pictured a year ago. This was the perfect job for right now because it allowed me to still practice nursing without all the stimulus and fast pace of hospital nursing. It gave me lots of little successes that boosted my self esteem rather then tear it down with everything I knew I used to be able to do and now can’t.
- Never underestimate the power of a smile and listening ear. Half the time, littles are in my office for a short span of time, but they just need to know someone is listening and cares. I treat their pressing ailment and send them back to class with the option that if they can’t do it, they can always come back to the clinic. Often knowing they have that option reassures them, and they are good for the day. Sometimes, the older humans just need someone to smile at them and tell them everything is going to be alright.
- Littles give the best hugs. I definitely think in this season of my life, I needed to hear that I’m needed and wanted. After something traumatic happens, you start to doubt yourself and wonder if you’re still a valuable member of society. Being at MCS showed me that I’m still valued as a human being and nurse. My opinion is still wanted and unique. I may not know everything, but I’ll learn. Recently, I had a birthday, and I was sung to by 3 different classes. It made me feel so loved by this community—this community of littles and teachers that know and love me fiercely. My heart simply melts every time I hear a little voice say “Miss Walthour”, see those bashful smiles, or receive those timid hugs.
Yes, it’s definitely not as fast paced as hospital nursing, but just as impactful on lives.