Fearless

kalyanvarma_lion_walking_africaCan you recall a memory when you were fearless? A moment in time without hesitation; an experience or endeavor commanded through audacity but advanced through ambition? Consider a time where you made a choice to be truly fearless. Not because life forced you into a corner, but because you made the choice to not let an emotion dictate the outcome of a given situation or season.

Often when we hear the word fearless we equate its meaning to an individual, aspiration, or experience. When presented with distress we often riddle through our mind and find the perfect explanation as to why our fear is logical. We have all observed someone that appears fearless on the surface correct? In my life a few individuals immediately come to mind.

1.) My parents – They have been taking risks long before I was able to acknowledge them as risk takers. Not only have they taken on opportunities with endless financial uncertainty, they have also taken countless risks on people society may not wish to “deal with” otherwise. As their daughter I have often been on the receiving end of advice I did not ask for, you know, because they are my parents. A younger Anna would roll her eyes and discard about 50% of what was offered up. However, after a heavy dose of humility and hard experiences I am constantly tuned in to receive their advice at every occassion. In this example I encourage you to find fearlessness through humility. Be present, observe those who go after life instead of responding to life as it comes to them, and never discard advice from a wise person.

2.)  My Brother- The truth is, both of my brothers are fearless. For the purpose of this discussion, however, I want to point to my eldest brother. On the surface it is a simple response when I’m prompted as to his whereabouts. He is a Captain in the Army, and working through residential training to become a Cardiothoracic Surgeon. He is waste deep in research and has achieved opportonuites to be published in various medical  articles thus advancing his career. Though I am very proud of his accomplishments I am more proud of the hurdles he has faced with fearlessness. When he was rejected by the Air Force for a medical school scholarship he turned around the next day and applied with the Army. Less than a month later he was the only one of hundreds of applicants to be given full tuition through medical school. I have watched him go after life with a  fearlessness that is rooted deep in the person he has chosen to become. He is confident enough to be the guy you want operating on you, but humble  enough that there is a reverence for the preciousness of life that leaves him vulnerable to fail at any moment. His fearlessness comes in valuing human life enough to sacrifice his own for 12 plus years, only to tend to the most life threatening   and fragile of circumstances. He has instilled in me an understanding that  countless individuals have faced their fears as a means of giving hope to those of us who need their gifts. Be fearless because what you have to offer others depends on it.

3.) Memo and Renay– Memo and Renay operate an orphanage out of Mexico that services the physical, mental, and emotional needs of children. I have great respect for these individuals as I have witnessed the sacrifice of leaving behind what is comfortable and submitting to a life surrendered. More importantly they have created an environment where children can leave their fear, pain, and rejections at the door. Through their willingness to move boldly and fearlessly they continue to plant seeds of hope in the hearts of children that have experienced unimaginable hurt. In many ways I see this couple as far more fearless than anyone I have had the privilege of knowing. Often it is nice to think about sacrifice, to romanticize what it could produce, to wonder what you “might,” offer someone who needs your gift; but to act on sacrifice, and to do so with a heart of service, takes true courage. Memo and Renay didn’t wake up fearless. In fact I’m sure they know better than most what true fear of failure feels like, but, somewhere along the way (maybe many times along the way) they have chosen not to give into fear. In this way they have set a new standard for what it means to live fearlessly. Had they not moved forward because of a feeling, countless needs that they are gifted and equipped to handle would remain unmet.

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In the wake of an increasing need for me to push my own fears aside and go forth in pursuit of utilizing my gifts these examples (and many others) inspire me to push fears of failure aside. They have taught me that fearlessness isn’t a characteristic or personality trait. It isn’t as though some of us are immune to fear while others whither behind the barriers of our mind. They have taught me that yearning to see the fruition of purpose does not eliminate fear but it does change how much fear is allowed to control us. You don’t have to be business owners, surgeons, or head off an orphanage to live fearlessly. Start small; build yourself in the direction of your dreams with diligence and humility. Give your ability to make decisions more power than you give your emotions the right to leave you wavering. My greatest fear is that I will settle as unused potential, limited by fear. For this reason I will continue to break apart fear in every season, moving toward life with intention.

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When I Grow Up

 

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Mrs. Sammons peered over my desk earnestly, clearly interested in how my “career day” poster was coming along. I looked back to her, waiting for some kind of affirmation that my fourth grade aspirations were not without purpose. In the section where it asked, “What do YOU want to be when you grow up?” I had written in red ink “A good person.” Now, with the teacher peering over my shoulder the part of me that felt so sure and so big inside began to dwindle. I remember thinking how stupid it must sound. I began to wonder if my teacher would make me start the flyer over but in true Mrs. Sammons fashion she did not leave me feeling small. “Anna, this is one of the best answers I have seen today. Be sure to include what kind of things you will need to do in the corner section so that I know what it will take for you to become a good person.” With that she was gone and I was left feeling sure, this is what I wanted to be when I grew up, a good person.

Fast-forward 15 years and here I am. By most standards I am considered a well-educated individual with a wide scope of potential careers. It is interesting though, after 5 years of college, a degree in education, endorsements, and a minor in philosophy I was never explicitly focused on “academic excellence.” Ask anyone who went to college with me, I was always chatting away with someone. Be it friends, professors, administrators, strangers, I was/am a communicator! Along the way I managed to maintain strong grades and professional rapport, but really, I just enjoyed being in community with others. Currently I am not using any of my degrees, and to be honest I’m tired of explaining to others the “Why” behind my choice.

Well don’t you want to be a teacher? You would be an amazing teacher!

Are you thinking about going back to school then?

Would you ever be interested in doing the kind of work your mother does?

I know a really great principle in Montana that could use your skill set.

What is it you are hoping to do next?

Obviously I need to have an income. I realize that the world does not simply pay people to be good. Nor am I implying that you can’t be both a great person who lives in community with others AND an astounding professional. What I am insisting is that in general I (and I’m sure many of you) experience that instant underlying tone in conversation that links your worth as a person with your career or lack thereof. Single mothers get the same foreshadowing of shame all the time. Oh, so, you’re just at home with your son for now? No. The stay at home mom or dad is raising a child. They are building a little humans spirit from the ground up. They are laying down a foundation for which their child can stand. They are instilling morals, empathy, balance, and being present for the needs of their child. For the record, it’s also okay for no one to stay home, but why do these tones enter the conversation either way?

Again, it is because the world links our worth to our work, and it is a lie.

Let me tell you what it is I do want. I want to be like Mrs. Sammons one day. I want to work with children in the most open and efficient way possible be it through means of teaching or another career. I’ve considered pursuing a Masters degree in Counseling and related fields. I believe that one day I want to teach in juvenile prisons. I yearn for the moments I’ll spend with kids addressing the whole person and not the percentages plastered in red on exams. The simple yet profound truth that is often said “You can’t ask a fish to climb a tree” resounds with me on every level. Do I want to teach? Maybe. I’m not sure yet. Do I want to work with children and youth? Absolutely. But, I want to be like Mrs. Sammons. I want to be the adult that can look at a child and foster their intelligence. I want every kid I work with to know that their perception of who they are and what they are capable of is far beyond what I can do for them. Building children is the necessity, testing them is just a hoop we’ve created along the way. Whoever you are and whatever it is you do, be the Mrs. Sammons of your career.