When We’re Brave Enough to Risk Falling

Her teacher walked her out of school looking slight distraught, while Brenna sported a spot on her face that was bumped and scratched.

“She fell today,” her teacher explained apologetically. “We feel so terrible about it. I don’t even know what happened; she was running around, and then she was on the ground, crying and bleeding.” And that night, she messaged me again to check up on Brenna, saying the fall scared her.

But I told Brenna’s teacher, “When she falls, I think of it like this: she is taking risks, trying new things, getting stronger. She didn’t move for the longest time, didn’t walk until she was 2, didn’t crawl until she was two-and-a-half. Movement has been so slow for her…

“When she falls, it is hard to see her hurt in that second, but it feels victorious to me that she is being brave enough to do things that come with the risk of falling.”
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You have a much better chance of falling when you’re on the edge, high up, moving fast – in other words, when you’re taking risks. I’m not sure there are many who learned how to take off, soaring, without a trip, a stumble, maybe even a fall, first. Our falls can only define us when we measure them through the scope of failure – and failure is only failure when we refuse to gain from it.

I’m convinced  that in every piece of our life – even the most difficult, the most embarrassing, the most declining – we can still reflect upon, learn from, adapt within and grow because of. The victory is much more triumphant when we have tasted the struggle, the disappointments…when we understand wholly the risks because we have succumbed to them, and then overcome them.

If we never take risks or push our perceived limitations, how can we know how electrifying it feels to stand back up and continue after a trip or tumble, to push up and improve and learn and create again?

Risks looks different for each of us, and overcoming looks drastically different for each of us, too.

But the fact is that we will never know what is our fastest, our highest, our best, our fullest, our biggest…until we try. And yet, we can also never know what we are capable of until we fall and rise once more.

031My oldest was struggling a bit with swim lessons over the summer, and it became a battle of mind over matter.

He wanted to swim across the deep end, but first had to conquer jumping from the side of the shallow end and swimming to the pool’s entry steps without stopping to stand up. Several lessons went by where he fought against this… And after each lesson, he expressed his frustration about just wanting to go straight to the deep end. He wanted the full pool at his disposal without needing to work for it – the success of swimming without learning how to first breathe through the strokes.

“It’s too hard,” he would complain, and I finally told him that not everything will come easy to him, but that will make it even more exciting when he masters it,  because he worked so hard to achieve it. Finally – after all of the gulping and sputtering week after week piled on opportunities to try yet again – the day came when that perseverance took hold, all of those “falls” transformed into the new skill of swimming laps across the deep end.

You know, our kids can do difficult things, big things. However, we need to be willing to let them. Maybe even push them a little. Empower them.

I find myself almost automatically delivering a repetitive cautionary reminder whenever one of my kids is going a little too fast, climbing a little too high. “Careful! You might fall.”

“I won’t fall!” they say confidently. And you know what? Most of the time they don’t. And in the rare instance when they do, it was worth the risk, because they’re learning what it means to have the courage to try again.cimg_5754

My book, A Different Beautiful, is now available for order!

Want to raise kind kids who appreciate differences? You can download a guide to the best children’s books on differences and disabilities when you subscribe to my monthly email newsletter!  Follow me on  Facebook and Instagram.

My 2017 Goals…planning, working toward, and celebrating

These last few days of the previous year and first few days of the new year always send the dreamer part of me flying wildly – recalling the best memories from 2016, reflecting on what was achieved, and dreaming about what I want to see happen this upcoming year. Goal-setting is one of my favorite things, because, well, it involves lists and I’m somewhat of a professional list-maker, but mostly because it gives me a big picture of what my weeks can look like based on what I prioritize and work toward.

In the past three years, I’ve been starting my goal-setting by first outlining my perfect day. Of course, not every day will go this way, but if I had to create my most ideal day, what would it entail? It’s such a great exercise to recognize where my priorities lie and where my goals should focus. How we design our weeks becomes how we design our lives.

It’s always interesting to revisit my previous year’s goals. In this instance, some of them I reached – and most of those were what I would deem the high priority ones. Like launching my book, A Different Beautiful, in August! That was a very full period of time for our family, with Evan in a busy season at work and the kids starting school and me traveling and doing interviews, so there wasn’t much attention or energy to be given to much else for a few months between July and September.

I also had goals of putting birthdays/anniversaries of family and friends on my digital calendar – and I’m happy to say I’m doing a great job with this – as well as reading 40 books (I finished at 58!) Some goals I didn’t quite reach but came close, so I’m also happy with that, such as finishing a 2015 Project Life album (almost done!) and saving for a new roof, new furnace, and partial down payment for land (still in the works).

And then others, I abandoned entirely…some on purpose, such as participating in NaNoWriMo (I started some other writing projects in November that took priority) and completing the Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up on our house (I realized that with kids, it’s never going to be a “one and done” project to organize/tidy). And the last goal I actually forgot about: doing a service project as a family. We still filled our shoeboxes together for Operation Christmas Child, and Connor helped us serve dinner at the winter homeless shelter once a month in the first quarter of the year, but we didn’t do anything big with all four of us. I wouldn’t mind revisiting this idea in 2017 as we look toward more intentional service as a family.

Which brings me to my goals of this New Year!

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  1. Take 5 or 6 day/weekend trips with the kids to new places. It’s becoming much easier to travel with the kids, and we’d like to explore more locations near to us, like Mark Twain’s childhood home in Hannibal, MO, and I’ve heard great things about the children’s museum in Indianapolis. I’m really excited to make day trips a priority this year for the weekends we don’t have other plans – especially when the weather is ideal for Brenna!
  2. Read 75 books. So, I had originally written down 52. I set my goal last year at 40, and I finished out the year at 58 – so excited about this! (You can see what I read on my Pinterest board. I’ll be sharing my favorites from the list at the end of the week.) I suppose setting a goal for 52, then, is pretty do-able and not a stretch. So when my friend Ginger asked me to try for 75 with her, I said why not? The key will be to find books I’m really excited about (I’m always open to suggestions, particularly in the YA fiction category, which I’ve found I have an affinity for!)
  3. Save an entire down payment to purchase some acres of land. This is one investment we’re excited about making for our family’s future.
  4. Purge all old photo albums. When I think about what I’d like to organize most in my house, my mind goes straight to the shelves and boxes filled with pictures from high school and college. I have WAY too many, and I need to go through these and cull to my favorites.
  5. Complete my 2015 Project Life album, and start/finish my 2016 Project Life album. I started Project Life two years ago, and it’s been the one system that I have really enjoyed and been able to keep up with fairly well. I love having printed pictures (have needed those for several class projects!) and it’s such an easy way to document our life in a creative way. I’m 3/4 done with 2015’s album (that whole launching a book thing derailed me a bit…), so I’d like to finish that first before kick-starting my 2016 album.
  6. Set up a strategic plan for intentional family giving and service. This is similar to one of my goals last year, and we’re still figuring out what this looks like for us. Of highest priority is to involve the kids in a meaningful way. I’d like for Connor and Brenna to write two letters of their own this year to our sponsored kids through Compassion International, I’d like to outline key causes that we are most passionate about and how we can best support those, and we plan to open a separate savings account to better organize our giving. It’s easy to want to support everything, because there are so many amazing causes out there, but we know if we want to see a larger impact on what we are passionate about, we need to focus.
  7. Ramp up my freelance writing. As I look forward to this coming year, my main focus is on writing more, and I’d like to not only write for myself on this blog and other such projects, but also write more for others commercially as a copywriter/ghost-writer. I’d like to increase this portion of my work, especially with Brenna going to kindergarten in August (!!), leaving me with more time to pursue writing for clients. I’m really excited about this!

In addition to those 7 goals, I’m contemplating some habits I’d like to work on this year too… namely: 1. Drinking more water every day – and more specifically, reaching for fruit-infused water in the afternoon instead of a soda. 2. Light strength training 3 times a week. I don’t enjoy cardio exercise, but I do like strength training, and I’d like to get stronger. And 3. Delving in much deeper with my Bible this year. I’ve been reading Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin, and I’ve been so encouraged to more effectively study God’s Word.

The most important thing I’ve come to realize with goal-setting and habit-tracking is that this isn’t the sole measure of success – it’s simply a tool to define what my priorities are, what I’d like to work toward, what I’d like to fill in my weeks and my year with…after my main priorities of loving and caring for my family and those around me in the best way I can.

I’m really looking forward to the year ahead as we plan for couple of exciting trips and some big changes like both kids in school full-time, as well as continuing to celebrate all of the beautiful found in our lives, in us and around us!

My book, A Different Beautiful, is now available for order!
Want to raise kind kids who appreciate differences? You can download a guide to the best children’s books on differences and disabilities when you subscribe to my monthly email newsletter!  Follow me on  Facebook and Instagram.