When I was a little girl, I dreamed.
I dreamed of big things, huge things. Places I had never imagined seeing, people with skin shades I’ve never known, skies of stars that made different shapes than the ones over Cottage Grove.
I remember being in the back yard one night when I was in my teens, watching the clouds move and knowing that my feet would walk places I’d never even heard of, and I stood there and told Jesus, all big hearted and hopeful, that I would follow Him to the ends of the Earth.
But I didn’t know what dreams cost when I was 15. I didn’t know what being made into a woman who had the capacity to see new places and interact with people different skin shades than my own and possess a sense of direction that wasn’t dependent on familiar sights, actually meant.
Let me tell you what I didn’t think it would mean:I didn’t think it would mean quitting stable jobs; I didn’t think it would mean not knowing what for sure was next; I didn’t think it would mean watching my (new) husband sit in a hospital for nearly 2 months; I didn’t think it would mean being pregnant, sleeping on a cot next to that new husband, in a hospital for a month; I didn’t think it would mean a baby in the first year of marriage; I didn’t think it would mean selling the things we owned…the lovely things we were so excited to get after the wedding; I didn’t think it would mean living in a tiny apartment with a baby in our room; I didn’t think it would mean living with friends, again with our baby in our room; I didn’t think it would mean disappointing family and hurting them so much by our decision; I didn’t think it would mean doing things differently than the majority of people around us, thus leaving a lot of people confused at our lives or our decisions; I didn’t know it would mean being afraid, being scared, being angry, being frustrated and out of control the majority of the time.
I didn’t know it would mean that in order to live, to have a place to sleep even, we would be asking everyone we know for their money and support.
I didn’t know, in all that dreaming, that it would look like this.
To be honest, had I known what these dreams would cost, what becoming a woman who actually believes God is good despite circumstances that beg to differ, what becoming someone who was unshakable would actually take, I’m not sure I would have dreamed and asked God for those same things.
Because the truth is we’re living in the most vulnerable way I can think of.
And let me tell you about vulnerability: most people avoid it. We create systems and structures and patterns in our lives that shield us and protect us and prevent us from needing to wander into vulnerable spaces. Because it’s scary and hard as hell. It’s uncomfortable and unnerving. We have jobs that are secure so we can pay our own bills and provide our own places to live, we work hard to meet our own needs, we handle our junk.
Because the alternative goes against all our instincts.
And because vulnerability, puts you in the arena.
Asking people for the things you need, the things you were once fully and totally able to provide for yourself, puts you in a position where you are at the whim and the grace of others. You are, just by asking others to support you, giving them permission to sit as a witness to your life and determine if it’s worthy of them or not. It puts you in a position to be criticized, judged, affirmed, supported and rejected.
You’re asking people to look at your life, look at your choices, and chose to either align themselves with you or not. To support you or not.
And being in the arena is hard. Our lives are open for many, many people to chime in on. Some of that is amazing and helpful and encouraging, and some of it isn’t. Because the reality is, we fail. A lot. We make mistakes, we mess up, we make decisions not everyone understands or can accept. And when we’re making those mistakes and failing, it’s not behind closed doors in the privacy of our home, it’s in the arena.
Teddy Roosevelt said something profound about the arena:
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
When I was a little dreaming girl, I didn’t know that those dreams would require a ton of failure.
But what we’ve found in the last year of risking greatly, is that even when we fail, when things don’t work, when bodies don’t heal, when money doesn’t come in, when bills don’t go away, those are the things that build the result of vulnerability: courage.
When I dreamed, I saw myself as brave. I saw a courageous woman who would do the things others wouldn’t, who would love those others were afraid of, who would not give fear and anxiety a place at the table.
What we learned this past year is that vulnerability is the precursor to courage.
The things we thought were weaknesses a couple years ago are now commonplace. It’s how we live now.
And we no longer label those things as weaknesses. Needing people, not having everything we need on our own, not knowing what’s next, all the things we worked so long and so hard to prevent, now it’s just a day in our lives.
And we’re getting used to it. We’re learning our way around vulnerability and rejoicing when we are able to recognize the courage that’s growing in places that used to house fear.
We’ve had to reach out to our donors and let them know we, as of right now, aren’t leaving until January. We don’t know why, and sometimes it’s easy to get really upset with God about it, but Stephen isn’t still isn’t healthy enough to leave.
Someone throw us a towel to wipe the blood off our faces.
Yes! We are pregnant! And we are so, so excited. We know though, that like many of the decisions we’ve made, this may not make sense to a lot of people. We’re leaving the country, Stephen’s health is in the air, we’re fundraising and, oh yes, we already have a baby.
But, children are such a blessing. And we asked God for blessings, a big family with whom to do missions, siblings that are close in age and can be little besties. In everything that has happened this last year, Shepherd has without a doubt, been the best thing to happen to us. He is our little reminder of God’s faith in us and His faithfulness.
Yes, we’re scared. We’re scared about leaving the country, we’re nervous about having two babies, we’re worried we many never have answers about Stephen’s health, we get anxious about the medical bills. We feel all those things on the regular.
But we also feel brave. And, most of the time, we feel ready. We feel ready for kids and Thailand and even ready for hospitals and sleepless nights and living uncomfortably with seven other people.
Because, man, while it’s vulnerable and scary, it’s the best life ever. Yes, we chose to put ourselves in the arena, to be loved and not loved, supported and not. Because we want to see victory. And in order to see big victory, to see dreams become reality, we must risk greatly. There is no way around it. So, we will risk the failure. We will risk the questions and the raised eyebrows and the people saying no to supporting us, because we have the chance to see some amazing things happen, so it’s worth it. So worth it. And for every raised eyebrow, there’s a row of people saying, “YES! We send you! We believe in you!”.
So, we’re going to keep going. We’re going to keep asking you for money. We’re going to keep going to the doctor. We’re going to have more kids in other countries. We’re going to live with people or move or quit jobs or sell things or have surgeries or whatever. And we will keep inviting you to come watch us in the arena, to watch us live vulnerably in search of courage. To be a massive part of what we’re doing. To cheer us toward victory and throw us Band-Aids and towels when we’re bloody and hurt.
We will not stop until we are dead. Whether it’s Thailand or some other insane dream, we will always willingly place ourselves in the arena. We will stand in the arena and ask you to watch, to cheer us on. To throw a towel in when we fail and fall and get bloody, and to clap and yell loudly when we succeed.
This is how we will live until we are with Jesus. Because, for us, there is no other way. We will risk greatly and love deeply and believe God is Who He says He is.
And you can have a front row seat.