”Pray for Us”

I’m overwhelmed and my words feel as if they are tumbling out and sliding off my keyboard. Another multiple-victim shooting in our country? Earlier today the horrors unfolded in San Bernardino, Calif., where I lived for more than a decade post-college. Last Friday just about eight miles from my home in Colorado, another mass shooting ripped into our collective psyche. “Close to home” reaches a deeper meaning for me.

prayer - candle in handsThe words brave and resilient are increasingly intermingled in news reports and interviews with government and community leaders. Now is not the time for me to share my opinions on these tragedies in America and around the world. Instead, I am dedicating this brief message to ask for us to pause and pray. Would you join me in praying right now for all the people affected by these senseless murders? One of the women in today’s shootings sent a text to her father: “Pray for us.”

Her three short, tangible words remind us to put our busyness on hold for even just 20 seconds and ask for healing and help for those injured and those traumatized by these merciless shootings. May the grieving loved ones right now sense the closeness of the “God of all comfort” (2 Corinthians 1:3) and may we never let these troubled acts become normal to us.

Bless you for blessing countless others through your heartfelt prayers.

Brave and Resilient Tip #126: Your prayers matter!

Leaving a Little Extra

IMG_4999On a recent trip to America’s Heartland, I sunk my hiking boots into the rich soil of a just-harvested cornfield. Scanning the remnants of the cornrows, I discovered a number of “missed” corn ears scattered across the ground. These ears didn’t quite make it to the grain elevator, but they will supply the local wildlife with nourishment over winter. I love how life invites us all to leave a little extra for others.

We read about this in the story of Ruth, the widowed Moabite who collected leftover crops in the fields of Boaz, a wealthy landowner. In her arduous work called gleaning (see The Gleaners oil painting by Jean-François Millet), Ruth followed behind the servant harvesters, picking up any grain pieces they missed. Boaz noticed Ruth’s dedication and learned of her sacrifice to sojourn with her mother-in-law to Bethlehem instead of remaining with her own people. Boaz directed his workers to look out for Ruth and make sure she could gather sufficient grain.

“As she got up to glean, Boaz gave orders to his men, ‘Even if she gathers among the sheaves, don’t embarrass her. Rather, pull out some stalks for her from the bundles and leave them for her to pick up, and don’t rebuke her’” (Ruth 2:15-6). Boaz modeled leaving a little extra for others. Of course, the kind and perceptive Boaz won the heart of this peasant gal and their love story led to their being ancestors of Jesus, but that’s a remarkable story for another time.IMG_4995

I wonder if we are all called to leave a little extra, so others can glean from our insight, our possessions, our finances, our time. Maybe we share our abundance so that other people can benefit and be encouraged. Or maybe we offer more of a listening ear when we are tired or give another the last piece of chocolate.

Are we leaving just enough with the people or projects on our to-do lists or are we willing to let more of ourselves spill over a bit? Our world could use a few more Boaz types who are generous with extra grain, wisdom or dessert. Dare we be one of them?

Brave and Resilient Tip #125: Be brave and leave a little extra for others.

More Than Along for the Ride

Last weekend I hopped on my aging mountain bike and soared down my hilly paved street several blocks south to neighborhoods with flat, meandering asphalt. Of course, my ride back is an uphill challenge, but it’s always worth the expansion of my lungs and a slight burn of my calves.

A few minutes into my warm fall exercise, I turned a corner to find a little girl in a bright fuchsia helmet wobbling along on her coordinating pink bike. A few feet behind trotted her proud father. The training wheels were nowhere in sight and this excited grade schooler looked at me in my burgundy bike helmet on my coordinating burgundy bike and started yelling

My sweet friend, Maris, in her  early training wheel days.

My sweet friend, Maris, in her
early training wheel days.

“Hey, I ride-ED my bike! I ride-ED my bike! I ride-ED my bike!”

Talk about a moment of pure joy. As I passed by this beyond enthused big-girl- bike rider, I grinned and shouted to her, “Way to go! Congratulations!” Instantly, I flashed back fifty years to the memory of my first attempt without training wheels. I can still clearly see my mom and brother, Dan, trotting behind me on the soft dirt track at our local sports field. (I’ve been riding bicycles for five decades??? Get out!)

As I continued on my Saturday ride, I sensed a fresh lift in my soul (and no, it wasn’t my gasping for air on the incline home). I wondered about the things that keep me from cutting loose with the thrill of accomplishment or the joy of discovering new adventures. I pondered: What is holding back the adult me from childlike glee? How have I let the cares of being a grownup crowd out my celebrating even the little, everyday moments?

How about you? Are you ready like me for bravely tossing aside the training wheels and pedaling ahead with exuberant abandon? I challenge us both to be more intentional about adding some fun and freedom to our days and instead of just going along for the ride. Even if that means a bit more endurance on the hills home.

Brave and Resilient Tip #122: Break free and be brave celebrating new adventures.

Scooching Forward

From the Brave and Resilient Classic Series

“I can’t. I can’t. I can’t.” Those words sear my memory, almost as indelibly as the time I first rode a bike without training wheels. I’m sure during my wobbly inaugural ride (of only a few feet), I chirped, “I did it! I did it! I did it!”

You, too, know the exhilaration of accomplishing something you weren’t sure about at the start. Doing well in the class. Getting a promotion. Giving birth. Working out more often.

oldLadyCroppedI know well the pendulum of I-can’t and I-did-it. Years ago while recovering from a hospital stay, my mom visited me while my dad attended a business convention. Our first morning alone together, I made breakfast while Mom dressed. When Mom reached the carpeted steps joining the bedrooms to my main floor, she hesitated. Three simple steps that take three seconds to descend suddenly appeared a cavernous pit to Mom.Even afraid to grip the hefty railing, she rocked a little forward, stammering, “I can’t . . . I can’t . . . I can’t.” The combination of Mom’s still weak legs and her new medication morphed her mid-60s body into a fearful child. Petrified to ease her foot onto the first step, Mom’s “I can’t   . . . I can’t . . . can’t” faded to a whisper when I suggested Plan B. With my holding her hand, Mom sat down and together we scooched our bottoms down each step.

Decades later I sit here writing to you, pondering how often I, and maybe at times you, stammer, “I can’t. I can’t. I can’t.” Our mortified doubts may not leave our lips, but we all have our share of inferior moments where we are adamantly convinced that we cannot do something. I can’t deal with this marriage anymore. I can’t stand the way my boss treats me. I can’t go another month without enough money. I can’t endure the chemo. I can’t hack being single this long. I can’t get through to my teen. I can’t live like this anymore.

I get your “I can’ts.” It’s why I’ve created this website as a respite for anyone who needs a little encouragement, a welcoming place for those “I can’ts” of life. As much as I identify with your “I can’ts,” God gets them even more. He already knows all about your reluctance, your uncertainty, even your skepticism. He also knows how brave and resilient you are—what you can handle and just where you need a hand.

So before the next cacophony of “I can’ts” rumble and roar, reducing you to an emotional slug, why not share those “I can’ts” with God?

Go on. And sit on your tush, if you need to. He’s already there ready to scooch along right with you. Ready to hear your “I can’t” break into, “I did it. I did it. We did it, God!”

Brave & Resilient Tip #2:  Do not give in to the “I can’ts” of life.   

What helps you scooch forward?

See the Tips & Help page for practical ways to keep scooching forward in your life.

Your Bravery Bucket List

Jumping off the high board. Selling lemonade. Riding a horse. Twirling and swirling on amusement park rides. Trying Dad’s latest barbeque sauce. Letting Mom put lotion on your sunburn.

Pies en el trampolnBravery flourishes in summertime, especially when we’re young and so many life adventures await us. I remember spending my summers making loop potholders and chocolate-covered bananas with my best friend and selling them around our little town. And my brothers “offering” me the role of test passenger in one of their many mini fabricated cars. Bravery knows no bounds when you’ve got two older brothers who give you the double dog dare.

As much as bravery builds its initial courage in our younger years, I think we’ve all got some bravery just waiting to bust out in our lives. Yes, even yet this summer! Maybe it’s that long hike or bike ride or even putting on walking shoes and making it around the block. Or, perhaps it’s letting your teen drive you to work or putting work on hold and taking that vacation. For you, bravery may even mean making amends with someone or looking for a new job. (Or, if you’re me, making and drinking a green smoothie.)

Summer will soon be coming around the home stretch, so now is the time to put some checkmarks on your bravery bucket list. What brave summer memories top your list? Which ones will you add in the next six weeks? We’d love to share your bravery best with your favorite bravery photos. (Use Your Thoughts below and then email your photos to beth@braveandresilient.com).

Bust a bravery move, then tell us about it. We double dog dare you!

Brave and Resilient Tip #114: Put some checkmarks on your bravery bucket list.

 

Circle the Wagons!

When life gets a little more hectic than normal, I love to advise, “It’s time to circle the wagons.” I remember watching many a Western flick on TV growing up and inevitably watching the bad guys wildly chasing the pioneers in their covered wagons. Billows of thunderous dust. Horses galloping at full throttle. Women folk scurrying for their children.

Scottsbluff Nebraska - Version 2With bullets and arrows zipping all around, the lead pioneer would yell, “Circle the wagons! Circle the wagons!” The wagon drivers would maneuver the covered wagons into a tight circle, unhitch the horses, and draw every man, woman, child, cow, and horse into the middle of the ring.

The wagons served as a barricade and buffer to the assaulting marauders on the outside and gave the brave pioneers an advantage in firing back at their unprotected assailants. I feel like I’ve had to circle the wagons a bunch lately. Three weeks ago my 10-year-old dog suddenly showed signs of alarming neurological weakness. I circled the wagons to keep him confined to a small area in my house and using a ramp instead of stairs. This wagon circle is disbanding now as he improves, but other areas in life have me on alert to circle the wagons and hunker down.

I’m sure you can relate to times of drawing inward and stepping out of the fracas around you. I can think of numerous times in the Bible where the people circled their wagons: Moses and the children of Israel just before the Red Sea parted (Exodus 14); David and his men retreating to a cave to escape their enemies (1 Samuel 22); the disciples after Jesus died (Luke 24).

Psalm 5:11 from The Message describes what happens when we include God at the center of our wagon circle: “…You’ll welcome us with open arms when we run for cover to you.”

What is pressing you to circle your wagons these days? How does circling the wagons help you recharge for the journey ahead?

Brave and Resilient Tip #113: Circling the wagons is not a sign of giving up but of getting a better vantage point.

A Better Tomorrow

Walter doesn’t mince words. Never did really. Especially not at the mention of the Nazis who in August 1944 herded his family along with nearly 150 other Polish Jews into a suffocating hot railcar. For five days—in a space designed for only forty humans—the adults and children remained trapped with little food and no water. Roughly thirty of the prisoners died in that traveling oven.

Lamp silhouette in concentration campBut the worst was yet to come: the horrors of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp, where upon the train’s arrival, Walter’s mom was forced directly to the gas chamber.

This week our world commemorated the 70th anniversary of the Soviet army liberating the survivors of Auschwitz-Birkenau camp, where an estimated 1.1 million people were killed. Millions of others murdered in the Holocaust, including some 40 of Walter’s extended family, have no graves.

How did Walter, barely into his teens, survive Auschwitz and eight other concentration/death camps? He credits his father’s coaching to not give in to the Nazi’s cruelty. Despite inhumane atrocities, Walter kept his focus on getting out, not on his present circumstances. He envisioned freedom. Walter refused to let anyone rob him of victory. He looked ahead to a better tomorrow.

After living through the unspeakable, the now 85-year-old prefers to be called a Holocaust victor and not a Holocaust survivor. Still brave and resilient seven decades after World War II, Walter compares his concentration camp experiences to the stresses of today. “I never had a bad day after that,”he wisely reflects.

Brave and Resilient Tip #94: No matter how tough life gets, look ahead to a better tomorrow.

The ABCs

Yesterday I watched my friends’ three little ones: 4-year-old twin boy/girl and 6-year-old big sister. I marveled at their curious questions, “Hey Bethie, how come . . . ?” and I delighted in their artwork. Will made me several paper airplanes and rockets, complete with his wiggly initials. Calyn drew a sunshine photo and decorated a Miss Kitty coloring page in purple crayon—just for me. I am well loved! Maris graduated from kindergarten today and proudly showed me her diploma, which we framed with flower magnets on the fridge.

photoOh, how children help me see life more simply and less stressed. As I was driving home, I pondered being childlike and learning the essentials of moving forward despite life’s ups and downs. So here I offer you a summary of my life ABCs for becoming and staying brave and resilient.

Acknowledge your thoughts and feelings. Stuffing emotions and what you really think rarely helps in the long run. Find a few trusted confidants and be a sounding board for each other. It can also be cathartic to write your raw feelings down or express your thinking out aloud when you are alone. (I sometimes mumble along on my daily walks with my dog.)

Be aware of the Truth. Perceptions of a situation or people can be deceptive. Learn to filter life through biblical Truth, not just human logic. As King Solomon advised, “Do not let kindness and truth leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart” (Proverbs 3:3).

Choose an appropriate response. Pause. Let go of reacting and getting wound up in daily stressors. Instead, step back and think through how best to give a reply or take a next step. Do you need to bring up a touchy subject with someone? Wait until you are settled in your spirit. Do you need to make a milestone decision? Slow down and research your options.

Years ago I read Robert Fulghum’s best-selling All I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. Amazon.com states that the book’s simple, profound wisdom “reminds us to be brave and unafraid to ‘fly’ . . .  life lessons hidden in the laundry pile . . . magical qualities found in a box of crayons.” Today I learned afresh my ABCs and the whimsy and joy in a box of crayons and a child’s imagination.

Brave and Resilient Tip #68: When life presses in, return to childlike beauty and simplicity.

Giving . . . Without Regrets

Some news stories sober you, rattling your reality and etching a groove in your memory. Last Friday’s newspaper story on a local woman who donated her liver, sobered, rattled, and etched me.

In 2005, Becky Atencio gave 67 percent of her liver to a coworker whose own liver was shutting down. Becky learned about the critically ill father of two via a department email, but she barely knew him. Months later, after praying about becoming a better giver, Becky ran the liver donation idea past her 17-year-son. “He didn’t want those boys to go fatherless because he knew what that was like,” Atencio explains. “His father left him when he was six months old.”

gift box tied with a red ribbon in the handsThe single mother was tested as a genetic match for the coworker’s liver. Most donors can give away half of a healthy liver and expect it to grow back. Becky’s liver grew back to 85 percent of its original size and the recipient thrived. But Becky grew terribly ill with intense pain. She struggled to eat and lost significant weight. Three years after the surgery, doctors informed her that the liver donation damaged a nerve to her stomach. Food no longer moves correctly from Becky’s stomach to her intestines.

I met Becky last June at a jewelry party at a local juice bar. While I secretly wanted to add sugar to my carrot-beet-kale concoction, I had no idea that liquid veggies and low-portion solids were all Becky could eat. While others at our table were off eyeing the silver baubles, Becky and I started chatting. We talked careers a bit and I told her about the braveandresilient.com website. Becky humbly shared about her liver donation and the damaged stomach nerve. I took her number and told her I’d love to hear more of her story of resiliency.

Becky’s own body is failing now. She wears an implanted digestive pacemaker that compensates for the injured nerve, but the pacemaker must be continually adjusted and will become ineffective by year’s end. Surgery options are risky and she’ll lose more weight off her already 101-pound frame. Becky has appointment on February 14th at Mayo Clinic in Minnesota for more testing and possible treatment. But she needs at least $25,000 to cover the clinic costs since its outside her insurance coverage network.

Eight years is a long time to struggle so painfully after sacrificing so much—a part of your own body—for a workplace acquaintance. I pause as I write. I bury my face in my hands, the tears cascading freely. Becky is such a gentle soul and is buoyed by faith in her Creator. Her model of bravery lifts me beyond my own distresses.

In looking back on the organ donation, Becky shares, “I don’t regret one single bit what I did. I think life brings on challenges, and there’s always a reason.”

Sometimes a reason we may never know this side of heaven.

People are praying and holding fundraisers for Becky. If you’d like to learn more about Becky’s inspiring story or make a donation to her, visit youcaring.com.

Brave and Resilient Tip #57: Give of yourself to others . . . without any regrets. 

Collecting Jellyfish?

Who’s helping YOU navigate in rough waters?

I remember as a little girl learning to do the “jellyfish” during swim lessons at our rural Nebraska county pool. I loved the new water skill of holding my breath and doubling into a jellyfish form. The jellyfish float is also known as the survival float in which you are in trouble in the water and need to conserve energy.

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In a college zoology class we studied jellyfish, and during a Florida spring break trip that semester, I brought back a freshly beached and deceased jellyfish. I wrapped my specimen well in plastic bags, but let’s just say my professor was not extremely receptive to my exuberance in handing him my aquatic find.

Jellyfish made international news two weeks ago when 64-year-old endurance swimmer Diana Nyad swam some 103 miles from Cuba to Florida. Nyad first attempted the historic swim at age 29, then three other times over 35 years. A lightning storm. Sharks. Asthma. Several hazards forced her to end her previous swims. In 2012, agonizing jellyfish stings thwarted her lifelong goal. For her successful feat this time, Nyad wore a special suit and mask to protect her from the dangerous jellyfish.

“I got three messages,” a thrilled and spent Nyad told reporters after reaching the Key West shore. “One is we should never ever give up. Two is you never are too old to chase your dreams. Three is it looks like a solitary sport, but it’s a team.” Nyad certainly models a brave and resilient spirit, a try, try, try again tenacity. What also impresses me is Nyad’s crew of 35 rallying around her in the choppy sea. During part of her nearly 53-hour swim, divers actually swam ahead of Nyad and moved jellyfish out of her way.

Nyad’s victory makes me wonder: Who’s on our team moving jellyfish out of our way as we navigate rough waters? Who’s jellyfish-collecting team are we on these days? As Nyad reminds us, we need never ever give up and we are never too old to chase our dreams. Today whether we’re smoothly in a backstroke, doing the doggy paddle, or hunched in a jellyfish float, may we always remember that we never swim alone.

Brave and Resilient Tip #41: No matter how rough the waters, you never swim alone.