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.

Peaks and Valleys

megan-peterson-sedona

It’s 2 am and a jolting spasm curves up my legs to the lumbar region of my spine. Painful is not how I would describe the sensation, but is certainly uncomfortable. My room is spilling over with an abundance of pillows. Body pillows, wedge pillows, foam pillows, small pillows, big pillows, flat pillows, fat pillows; if it’s on the market I own it. As I turn over my stomach gnaws at me urging me upright. Saltine crackers and anti-nausea medication have become a staple in my diet. I’m constantly fluctuating between a state of feeling ill and running low-grade temperatures and not being “ill “per say but not feeling like myself. I definitely do not feel like myself. My body has a vast list of symptoms and my emotional state is far from what would be typical for me. Some may call it PTSD, or post surgical depression, generalized anxiety, etc. Label it what you want, I am simply in a place where my mind and emotions have now caught up to my body, and it is a tough place to be. Everyone tells you it will be great to be on the other side of it, and I know what they are trying to say…but being on the other side is the time you finally have a moment to breathe and internalize what has happened. For anyone who has gone through a major medical challenge, you know what I’m preaching and you know how tough it truly is. Grateful to be healing, but struggling to let your emotions run their course

As physical healing increases my emotional and spiritual health is challenged. I’ve gone through the fight, I’ve gone through the trauma and now “the dust settles”. It’s kind of like this:

  • Pre-Tumor – What is wrong with me? Am I overly concerned about how I feel? I know something is wrong with my body but 3 Doctors have told me I’m fine. It’s anxiety, or a pinched nerve. It will pass.
  • Doctors Office– Okay I have a tumor. SHIT I have a tumor. In my spinal column? I didn’t even know that was possible. I have to have surgery. I have to have it in less than 2 weeks. I have to tell my family. I don’t know if it’s cancerous. I don’t know where it came from. I should have listened to myself sooner. I should have known I had a tumor. How could I not know?
  • Surgeons Office- You have no medical options. You are at risk for paralysis, death, spinal fluid leaking, and permanent nerve damage. We need to do an emergency surgery. Those are the only words I heard.
  • Post-Surgery– Primarily terrifying for the first 3 days. Pain beyond belief the 7 days following.
  • Home Recovery– After a few tough days I made a steady increase of improvement and I still am. Physically I began healing extremely well. Now we are at week 4 and I’m just beginning to internalize some of the more difficult emotional aspects of what has happened. It’s as if my body said…okay…we can only take care of one trauma at a time so all of our resources are going to be toward healing your body to a place of stabilization. Now that I’ve reached that foundation my emotions have kicked in and are running ramped. So, what is next?

First and foremost I will not make myself to believe I shouldn’t be feeling these things. I’ve I’m withdrawn and processing the experience it is okay. If I don’t face the emotions and memories now I will not find peace. I will not “just” pray about it. I will feel it. There is no shame in being in a relationship with a living God, receiving his grace, being grateful for his mercy, and STILL not being “Okay.” Too often we tell people who are going through something traumatic to “just pray about it” or instead of saying “what can I do for you?” Granted, not everyone can do something, and often times even if you reach out the person processing a trauma will not really know how to receive help, but the actual act of REACHING OUT is what is important. It is another example of the strength that comes with community. It says, I see you, I hear you, I care about you, and helping you in some way no matter how small is a priority.

If you’re wondering if I’m saying this because I feel somehow that my friends have not reached out, just know, that is not the case. I’m saying this specifically because I now know that had the people in my life not reached out in community I would not be where I am in recovery. My friends in the area here and beyond have been so attentive and receptive to my needs, and for that I am more grateful than they know. I’m also communicating this because often when we are the one wishing to reach out and not the person/family in trauma it feels awkward and uncertain. What can I do? What do I say? Will I bother them if I call? What is their greatest need?

Call. Ask. Be uncomfortable. It is important.

 Being in authentic community with one another takes work. It does not always fit our schedule and we have to be resourceful with our time, energy, and even funds at times. Authentic community breeds on our willingness to admit that we need each other’s encouragement, honesty, joy, and occasional tough love. I think there are too many people skimming through life in surface relationships that leave little room for personal and spiritual growth. Instead of “just saying it” whatever “it” may be, we skate around and try to figure out how to be in the relationship without being vulnerable to rejection and/or discomfort.

My journey through this trial has been a series of peaks and valleys. I’ve had moments of profound gratefulness and I’ve had moments of resentment coupled with a handful of self- pity. I’ve had days where God’s Grace overwhelmed me and I’ve had days where I’ve been angry with God that this had to happen, and of course I’ve felt shame for feeling that way. After all, have I not had my prayers answered? Can I not here and testify God’s faithfulness? Am I not an example of his love? Sure I am. But, as I said before, I will still allow myself to process, to feel, and to be. However that may look, it is okay. God has taken me through the valleys and he’s asked me to wait on his timing, and if I’ve learned anything from this it is that HIS timing IS perfect. Had it been even a month later I would not likely be where I am. I certainly would not be healing the way that I am. I would not have had the surgeon I did, nor the wonderful nurses. God’s timing is perfect. He does not bring the pain but he will pull you through it. All we have to do is show up, walk with him through the peaks and valleys, and breathe. Everyday. Thank you for your love and for being in community with me. We are Christ to one another.

Greatest Generation: Grandma

Grandma’s: We all have them, some of us really get to know them, and others lose them far too soon. I have had the priviledge of learning from two amazing grandmothers.

Wilma Belle Earp – Great Niece of Wyatt Earp the infamous sheriff of Arizona, Mother to 5, Grandmother to 8, Survivor of WWII, and The Great Depression. A Kansas raised farm girl who knew the value of every dollar, never hesitated to wring a chickens neck out back, and woke at the crack of dawn to finish farm chores; then went to school, because learning was important, but learning how to work hard was more important.

Donna Luise Monson – Mother to 9, Grandmother to 23, Great Grandmother to 3 and a devout Catholic. She served her community as a Nurse for 30 years, demonstrated resilient faith amidst lifes greatest challenges and inspired others with her kind disposition. She always spoke her mind, and never hesitated to remind me that following Christ ensured peace, purpose, and prosperity. Our family lost my Grandma Donna a year ago around this time. My deepest sadness is that I couldn’t know more of her in the time I was given.

My Grandma Wilma moved from Colorado a few years ago in lieu of my Grandpa’s Alzheimers. Here, in the small community of Keokuk she’s found a place to live affordibly in her own home with the security of her son five minutes away. She has gained another place to find life as an elder. I am grateful to have been raised in a family where those who built the foundation of our richest blessings are now being blessed with time to share the joy of their children and grandchildren instead of being in a room to be taken care of by someone else. I understand that “someone else” is usually a very caring and hardworking person, and that there comes a time our elders require the support of those outside the family, but for now Gram is in control of her days.

Many in my area know that I don’t hesitate to “share” the countless shenanigans “Gram” and I experience together. Originally I began sharing more than some would, for the mere purpose of having a record of our times together. As the sharing evolved it became apparent I wasn’t the only one who took delight in the hoot that is my Grandma. I questioned what it was about “Gram” that has prompted such a positive response, and I think I know the answer. Simply put: it is nice to see a life that is still being lived at age 86. If you ask Wilma to join in on the fun she will. Not because she feels pressured, but because she thought you would never ask. 

Whether it’s a piggy back ride, jamming in the car, pulling pranks, dancing in the living room, attempting to play guitar, wearing baseball caps backwards, or making ridiculously funny comments just because she’s trying to figure something out there is a constant stream of life happening. Rarely does Gram experience a day without visitors, phone calls, cooking, a little organizing (or as she would say “piddling”), help when needed, and a good laugh.

I’ll tell you, there is nothing like the love and life of a Grandma. The years they’ve lived are irreplaceable, the love they give feels like home, and confidence they have in you makes everything feel a little bit better. If you put your phone down they will tell you anything you want to know. When you’re short a few bucks, or a few hundred, it is yours if they have it, and if they don’t you still get a bag of cookies and a good luck hug. Grandma’s look at your life and can’t wait for you to live it. They know what is coming. The days you’ll see heartache, loss, and the cruelty of the others. The days when you’ll find the one who loves you wholly, or when your heart will burst with the pride of beginning your own family, and even the times you’ll blossom gracefully through the many unknowns you face right now.

My relationship with my Grandmother, specifically these past few years has taught me that whether you are 24 or 86 there is no better time to live.   We cannot possibly counter all the unknowns of this world, but we can let love bind us to the joy we find in one another amidst the wandering.