She sits back and presses in to her father’s familiar warmth. She knows what’s coming; she’s been here before. And there I stand beside her, offering words of comfort underneath my conjured smile; words that I know she will trust completely despite how helpless I actually feel. It’s as though my words are not even words but empty space in time, designed to pass the seconds and distract her from what waits in the minutes ahead.
She braces, and then winces with the pain. It’s not excruciating, but enough to feel unnatural about leaving her arm out in a way that invites more. Her father holds her tighter, as I anxiously apply more words to ease her mind, trying looking past the moment and simultaneously praying for a miracle. She wants to pull away, I know it, but holds still… because she’s in her daddy’s arms.
This is brave… and she is some kinda hero in my book.
The testing only lasts minutes, but they are packed full of meaningful, shattering seconds, and during them she even manages to smile at the person inflicting the pain. For those of you who don’t know, our daughter was diagnosed at five months old with ‘multiple severe food allergies’, a condition requiring, at the minimum that she be tested every twelve months to assess its progression, and at the maximum, that she would need an auto-adrenalin injector quickly followed by an ambulance, should she could go into shock from peanut and cashew nut dust or egg particles, or that milkshake I used to take for granted. So as each year’s test rolls around, like clockwork I shake when I drink my morning coffee that day, wondering if today we will have our miracle.
“I was brave, wasn’t I daddy?” she asks.
“Yes, princess, very brave,” he answers.
“So brave,” I say.
We never expected this to happen to us, I guess you don’t think about it, really. But we do now. For us, and I can only imagine, for other mums, dads and carers with a child who has a life-threatening condition, being on high-alert is a full-time thing. Hope occupies the heart, and the bravery of your child as she defies your expectations, accepts her version of normal without a fuss and becomes spectacularly resilient in the face of it is nothing short of inspirational.
She has given me a new perspective on life and it’s fragility. And though she has reason to be timid, that is the one thing she is not. Not in any way. Instead, she’s daring, hilarious, energetic, adventurous and just plain delightful; her joy and cheekiness infectious.
My youngest daughter’s challenges have formed in me a new courage; one that grows ever so slowly as we push boundaries together. Because I have to do brave as well, whether I’m particularly fond of it, up to it that day, or not. I have to do brave with my daughter when we visit a playground, a grocery store or cafe, and when we accept the invitation to spend time in a new friend’s home, not knowing what we’ll find there. And I never expect the world to change for us; I guess it’s so that my expectations aren’t smashed to pieces if I was to become unguarded, leaving us wide open to devastation.
Our whole family does brave, because our whole family are in it together. We all want to protect her from every day, taken for granted substances that could ultimately… well, I don’t want to think about that. We do brave every time we walk out of the safe haven of our front door, where behind it the environment has been adjusted to suit. And I say do because it’s not something I am or something I feel. It’s just something we do, despite how we feel.
How to be brave around this has been on my mind a lot lately. It’s been on my mind when I think about school enrolments or birthday parties. It’s on my mind when I imagine what camps, holidays and plane trips might look like. How we’ll move smoothly through them I’m not completely sure. But two things are sure: one, that being brave continues to be a constant theme in my home, and two, that there is definitely no shortage of it wrapped up in the little girl who is currently sleeping in the green bedroom with the silver stars. She’s already braver than me, I know that for a fact.
But, okay, this is our story, this is our brand of bravery. There are many others. Others that are relative to the people who carry them. Others that matter to those who live them. And in every… every corner of our world there is always something tearing at us, asking us to bring our nerve, no matter the odds. Literally everywhere you look… a story of courage is being born.
It’s in the young girl who has been told that she is worthless, yet refuses rightly to believe it…
It’s the teenager who jumps from a two-story window – not to end her life, but risking all to save it from her traffickers….
It’s the mum who steals away with her children in the middle of the night, because she refuses to let them grow up thinking that beating up your wife is okay, and she might… just might… have a thread of self-worth left in her battered soul…
It’s the anxious and depressed woman, who gathers her courage and asks for help…
It’s the child living in indescribable poverty who jumps on a bus dressed up as a school and dares to believe he can change his stars…
It’s the dad who, with every last drop of sweat works himself to the bone to provide for his family even when he knows it just won’t be enough…
And it’s the mother who fiercely loves, protects, encourages and nurtures her family, putting their precious lives above her freedom to act however she wishes, day after day. Strength and courage. And breathtakingly beautiful.
Incredible, inspiring stories of enduring courage.
Bravery. Wherever it exists, things shift and change. New directions are formed; better and stronger. It is the singular most potent thing, that suffocates fear on its way to new horizons.
I can’t begin to imagine what it must be like for some of the brave souls in our world, when I sit in my comfortable lounge room, enjoying the spoils of western culture. But there is a style of courage required here, in our homes and lives that can go unnoticed and therefore, far less celebrated. But it’s still significant. It’s still relevant. And I see it all the time, in all of the women I know. Women who juggle career, family, ministry; life. Women who feel the pressure in everything they put their hand to. You know, it takes a lot of nerve when you’re exhausted and you just want to crawl into bed to take a deep breath, put on your best smile, hide the bags under your eyes, and be fierce in motherhood while doing everything else all at the same time. Just watching all of you, I’m simultaneously inspired and worn out, because I know the feeling, perhaps to a different degree, but it’s familiarity resonates with me. And even if we’ve never spoken, then secretly I’m cheering you on.
I guess that when it comes down to the bare bones, when you count the cost and find it worth the sacrifice, that’s where an infusion of bravery and strength come in handy. Watching my daughter in her discomfort taught me a lesson; the way she trusted and drew courage and strength from her father… reminded me that the only way to be brave against the overwhelming tide, is to draw on the Father’s strength.
He’s Creator of all you can see or imagine.
He doesn’t get tired out, doesn’t pause to catch his breath.
And he knows everything, inside and out.
He energizes those who get tired,
gives fresh strength to dropouts.
For even young people tire and drop out,
young folk in their prime stumble and fall.
But those who wait upon God get fresh strength.
They spread their wings and soar like eagles,
They run and don’t get tired,
they walk and don’t lag behind. (Isaiah 40)
Those words are so refreshing, and so needful at times when I feel like we’re running an endless marathon, looking to make a difference, hoping it’s all worth the effort. In my world, there are so many everyday heroes running on God’s endless supply. And so many stories of courage and strength that go unknown, and unnoticed. And to me, courageous acts done behind the scenes, without ceremony or reward, are the most courageous of them all.
Yeah, brokenness can seem ugly. Regretfully, I’ve looked away, too. But I love to imagine a world where everybody has the courage to not only stand with others in the face of brokenness, but to not fear its ugliness or transfer-ability, and actually let our hearts break over it. To move to change it. That’s brave. To have the same kind of courage as a woman who was marked by scandal yet stood at the feet of someone whose body was broken beyond recognition, when most others ran. A woman who stayed, as he took his last breaths, when many couldn’t stomach the view. I imagine her, planting her feet, eyes fixed on his face, when everything in her screamed that she should look away. But she refused; hoping her presence might offer some small comfort and strength. A woman who I imagine was the last to look away … and who was the first to lay eyes on his resurrected face. An every day hero and to me, the most fascinating woman in history.
Standing beside brokenness, looking it square in the face and being unafraid, that’s brave. I’ve been lucky enough to know people with that kind of resolve. Mothers who know pain beyond words, and stand courageous anyway.
You brave each day, with your busy schedules and family demands, and still, out of that you stand with people; people who have broken dreams and broken lives, on which you pour rivers of compassion, provide solution and bring encouragement… even when you feel helpless to take away the pain, and in doing so, you give them a voice… all the while resting and drawing strength in the Father’s faithful arms.
You are all heroes, in my book. I am thankful for your hearts, your example, and for what you mean to future generations of women who are watching you, with new eyes and fresh courage.
You are paving the most incredible path for them to follow. And, as International Women’s Day approaches, I guess I just wanted to tell you that. xx