I had all but forgotten about it, displaced by so many worries and stresses and concerns this year, when my best friend surprised me by bringing it up on the phone.
"I know this year has been a hard one for you guys, and I was remembering how you chose the word Courage for 2014..."
Maybe I hadn't forgotten. Maybe instead I had abandoned it when the going got tough because that's really not what I had in mind when I chose that word. Thinking back to a year ago now, I remember optimism. I remember the feeling of surfacing after months of Rosemary's colic and feeling, for the first time in a long time, strong. Able. When I chose the word "Courage" to be my word for the year, I imagined the courage to make great things happen. The inspiration for positive changes. I never once considered that courage would be required of me through difficulty and that was why it was the word that came to mind at the time.
It's 12 months later and I say it right out into the phone, "I can't wait for 2014 to be over. It's been awful and I'm done." 2014 left me disappointed and disillusioned. 2014 left me jarred and afraid. 2014 felt like one crisis after another dashing into me, into us. I know that no magic switch is flipped on January 1st each year, but somehow it can feel that way. Just get me to a new year, a clean slate, a fresh page - someplace for me to start over.
I expected to need courage for big things. Instead, 12 months later, it looks like not much has changed except the adults in this family are a little more ragged, a little more jaded. It almost seems like this year was anything but a courageous one. This year was survival, pure and simple. There have been blessings, yes, and God turned up in probably the most real ways I've ever experienced, but it has been a hard and fearful year.
But then I take a closer look back. Past the appearances of it all, right into the heart. And that's when I see it: the courage that was required to make it through all of it. Each day when something new cropped up and devastated us, each night when I went to bed with nothing but desperate prayers. Courage isn't just required for those swallowing fears and putting themselves out there in good ways. Courage is required for battle. Courage is necessary for the every day struggles that being a human on this whirling rock brings about. Courage is required for every day that these little ones pat me awake and for every night I tuck them all in. It's required for parenting and marriage and work and play. It's required for letting go and realizing that our control is an illusion and we're all of us just doing what we can with what we have.
This year, there were fears. And tears. And most days I felt that courage was the the farthest thing from my reach. But I think maybe that's where it is. Courage doesn't come easily. Courage requires facing the odds against us and trusting that when all we see is darkness, there's still a Light that never wavers. Courage is the first step into the unseen void, and the breathlessness of being caught - and held - through every battle and every fear.
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