Three. That’s how many times in the last few months that I heard about a loved one who took their last breath in a hospital bed. I got the first call about a great-aunt in early December and had to figure out if I could make the trip with family to say final goodbyes. I couldn’t. And no sooner than the dust settled from coming to terms with that, I got news that a great-uncle passed away. And then, the news came about another great-aunt on that same side of the family.

When I thought about my family and those we lost, I told myself I didn’t deserve to be sad. I told myself I couldn’t be sad because I lived my life from afar, without weekly phone calls or even yearly visits as many of my other relatives had. Instead, I tried to stay strong and bear the burden of those around me. I spent a lot of time crying for my grandmother and all of her nieces and nephews and their children and their children’s children. But I never let my own tears fall. The tears of sadness for having to say more goodbyes almost a year after saying goodbye to my grandfather. The tears of regret for thinking I’ll always have tomorrow or next year even though I’m repeatedly shown that I don’t.

I guess I felt better when things seemed normal–others were smiling, laughing, and getting on with life. So I forced myself to do the same.

After a year of changes that revitalized my family’s finances, my health, and my writing, the new year rushed in with a lot of productivity, but also with a wave of emotion and grief that I couldn’t seem to shake.

I just knew I wanted things to be different. I needed to be different. I needed to do better.

As January morphed into February I still wasn’t sure what that meant, but I kept coming back to the words give and serve.  I wanted to truly know what it was like to be a cheerful giver and better use the gifts and resources given to me to serve others. I didn’t want to be someone who had a lot of helpful ideas in my head or on paper, but was too selfish or scared to live them out.

I didn’t want my life to be all about me. And what was comfortable. And what was easy.

It’s taken me a couple months to sort through all those thoughts and process my grief, but I think it’s leading me to a place where I just need to be less afraid of taking the risks that will help me love someone better while they’re here on earth.

I need to be brave. And this is the year for me to learn how to do it.

I am no stranger to the hustle, the struggle or suffering, but when I get in my comfort zone, it’s a little harder to break out of it. I tend to push against the things that seem scary (because of my fear or insecurity) or a bit uncomfortable–when I need to be willing to do those things sometimes, especially if they could help someone else.

I have to admit thinking about the word brave makes my stomach feel like it’s in knots. In my mind, choosing to be brave is like free-falling out of a small airplane or skiing at warp speed down the tallest hill. I’m anxious. But pushing through to grow in my faith, and in my relationships would be the brave thing to do. So I must do it.

I know doing the brave thing, on my own, will always be hard, but I choose to hold tight to these words:

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)

“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)

On my own, I fail. But with God, anything is possible.

Do you struggle with being brave too? What trait(s) do you think you could use more of to better love the people in your life? 

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