Dear, sweet Beth. There are so many lessons to be learned from the quiet, contented March sister. I think because of the time period in which she lived she was able to get away with sheltering herself within her family and her home. She spends much of the book coming out of herself, and it’s with painful endurance that we wait for her to become accustomed to Teddy and Mr. Lawrence. Of course, her narrative is cut short, and we don’t get to see her fully realize her potential or learn to be Brave. While she teaches us all to be content and satisfied with the lives in front of us, I like to think that if she had survived her illness, she would have continuing surprising her sisters – and herself – with just how Brave she could be.
With that, I present 100 Days to Brave, by Annie F. Downs. You might recognize this book from a previous post, but it’s definitely worth a second-mention.
“Hey, I’ve decided to read 100 Days to Brave by Annie F. Downs, do you guys want to read it with me?”
My friend sent that message via Snapchat to our little friend group in the final week of December 2019. Without hesitation, we all bought the book and committed to journeying together through the next 100 days, not knowing (obviously) that 2020 would bring about some of the most drastic opportunities to be Brave that any of us had ever experienced.
I took a lot of notes while I read through this devotional. What follows is my candid – and sometimes quite raw – journey through the book and onward toward Bravery. I hope it inspires you to begin your own journey.
January 2, 2020 – Meg’s Journal
“It’s 7am. I should’ve woken up at 6am to accomplish everything on my list this morning (running, weight lifting, yoga, devotional, prayer, journaling, showering), but I turned out last night’s light at 11:45 and didn’t fall asleep until after midnight. I’m only here now because my friends and I are reading 100 Days to Brave and texting each other in the morning for accountability.
Let’s just say we all failed a little bit this morning.
But I’m here now: 7:05am. I did end up reading and journaling, and I will attempt what I know will be a lazy prayer in the shower.
But I’m here because I believe in routines and I know that habits don’t form overnight…case in point. I’m here because I’m looking forward to doing the work that 100 Days to Brave will require of me. I’m doing this work now so that I can fulfill a bigger vision – Messy Bun Mantras – later.”
2 Timothy 1:8-9 MSG: “We can only keep on going, after all, by the power of God, who first saved us and then called us to this holy work. We had nothing to do with it. It was his idea, a gift prepared for us in Jesus long before we knew anything about it. But we know it now.”
What Does Bravery Look Like?
On January 5th, I wrote that Bravery for me at the time was “doing this devotional, running a half-marathon, and finishing Messy Bun Mantras.” I finished the devotional, trained for a half-marathon (that Covid cancelled), and finished writing my book.
I give you that list not to brag, but because Bravery should be on display. It’s powerful and inspires others to be brave too. We should be a community that cheers each other on toward Bravery. We should encourage one another to start, because Bravery doesn’t happen by itself. It’s not waiting to happen to us, we have to seek it with intentionality. Even if we are only taking baby steps toward Bravery, it still counts. It might not feel like Bravery, but any movement toward our goals or our Father is Brave.
How Do We Practice Bravery?
We start by no longer giving validity and power to anxiety. We recognize that God already holds all the power and we let go of the things we can’t control.
We seek out opportunities to be Brave and lead by example. My children are looking to me to learn how to live well. I want to show them what Bravery looks like. I want them to grow up knowing how Bravery lives and treats other people, and I want them to be Brave little men of God.
We step into Bravery when we accept ourselves. Who am I? I am a nerd and a loyal friend. I am called and beloved. I am of Chinese and English heritage. I am a writer, a hiker, and a runner. I am a redhead. I am a mother, a wife, and a Christian.
We can learn to accept ourselves by speaking kindly to the face in the mirror: I am strong. I am enough. I am loved and cherished. I am a daughter of the King. Words have incredible power over our minds. If we speak kindly to ourselves, we will learn gratitude because we’ll be searching for the positive in our lives instead of dwelling on the negative.
That’s how I accept who I am based on my own mind, but by spending time in the Word, I know who God says I am and how much I mean to Him.
No One Said It Was Easy
Bravery asks the hard questions. It asks that we not be complacent, but that we step forward out of our comfort zones. Bravery requests that we give our worst fears to God.
January 16, 2020 – My Worst Fears: never being published, never amounting to anything, not being a faithful follower of Christ, not being a good mother or wife, never feeling Brave or having “made it” in life.
Bravery is having hope. It’s not hope in the “my dream is definitely happening someday” but hope in the “God knows what He’s doing” kind of way (Downs, p. 53).
January 19, 2020 – My Prayer: “Lord, take me into deeper waters. I know you are there. Remind me to put in the work and not to give up. You’ve brought me this far” (Meg’s journal).
Bravery is recognizing and accepting that plans change. It’s okay to fail. It’s okay when things don’t work out like we thought they would. God’s not taken by surprise. He’s got this.
January 29, 2020 – My Prayer: “Lord, I pray that I have strength to surrender dreams when they die, even the hard ones…especially the hard ones. In that respect, Lord, I ask for new dreams. Lead me to You and to the people You’ve called me to reach” (Meg’s journal).
When God Calls us to Bravery
How do we recognize God’s voice? By engaging in Scripture and through prayer. We’re not always called to big things. More often than not we’re called to consistency. We can work where we are and trust that God can use us there, with what’s right in front of us. Do your best. Be faithful. Believe that the hard work will someday be worth it. Share life with others. Be Brave enough to let people in; be Brave enough to put yourself out there. Be Brave enough to say “no” if that’s what needs to be said. Be Brave enough to rest.
February 29, 2020 – “I want to be ready when God opens another door. I feel like the old me is gone and a new me has come. I cling to many of the Lord’s promises, mainly, that He can do immeasurably more than I can ever imagine. I already feel that coming to fruition. I can’t wait to see what happens next in 2020” (Meg’s journal).
April 2, 2020 – “No matter the political state of the country right now as you read these words, you can be Brave in it. Carry on, friend. Pray for your country and its leaders” (Downs, p. 214).
What an opportunity to be Brave: 2020 and all that’s happened in our country. Between social movements, the pandemic, and finding new ways to stay connected we have no excuse not to seek new ways to be Brave. It might be a mess of a year, but it’s one giant year for opportunities for Bravery. We just have to look a little harder to see past our masks.
“It’s interesting…having lived through 9/11 and now this pandemic, but imagine being Granny’s age and having lived through WWII, the Vietnam war, the cold war, 9/11 and it’s aftermath of wars, and now this. That’s ridiculous, and yet, she’s still here. And she still believes” (Meg’s journal).
100 days is a long time to actively work on Bravery, but it was worth it. It set the tone for the year and it re-shaped my mindset. I want everyone to learn to be Brave, to look within their faith and their trials and find strength from the Father to pick themselves up and be Brave. We aren’t supposed to live in timidity. We were meant to live courageously, fiercely.
We were meant – and created – to be Brave.
Make Brave choices. Choose the path that moves you toward Bravery. Don’t limit yourself. Your Bravery makes others want to be Brave too.
Let’s be Brave together.
Ephesians 3:20-21 NIV – “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”