a third birthday reflection for just enough brave
On the bottom of our six-level bookshelf, a dozen journals are stacked and cozied up against the left hand corner. That’s my childhood, I think whenever I see them there. And not just my childhood, but my angsty teen years and thought-I-knew-it-all college years, and even the combination of lonely + intense + amazing graduate school years. Every now and then, I pull out these journals that I have kept for a few decades now, and I read through some of the entries. Allow me to entertain you for a moment with a few highlights:
November 5, 2001
Dear Journal - Well, I don’t know where to start; my life’s been crazy lately with school, soccer and a boyfriend. It’s almost too much stress for me to handle. I seriously can’t get anything done.
December 5, 2001
Dear Journal - Guess what, I made All-American! Pretty cool huh? Oh, and Chris left yesterday for the Marines! He left so quickly! I’m really gonna miss him! My mom is really sad about it!
December 26, 2001
Dear Journal - It’s the day after X-mas and winter break is going on right now! It’s so awesome. I’m still doing ok on my diet, but I’ve cheated a few times! Brian and I are still 2together. He got me some really pretty earrings and a Bop It for X-mas. Our 2-month anniversary was last Thursday! Wow, huh?
December 18, 2002
Dear Journal - Well here it’s been a whole year and I haven’t written! I’m so sorry! But I’m not gonna forget for a while now, I promise! Here’s what’s happened: Broke up with Brian (he was so dumb and I had absolutely no regrets), went to Homecoming with Kevin Madsen and it was fun. I didn’t go to my Junior Prom because I was coming home from Florida with the National Team that day, but it was totally ok ‘cuz I didn’t really want to go. Hard to explain but I really didn’t. I played really bad in Florida, and I know it was because I screwed myself over by not eating enough. But I won’t let that happen again! Rage finally beat the Blues in the semis at Regionals. It was so awesome! Then we won the whole thing. But the week before Nationals I tore my ACL at Regional Camp. But I’ll be back on that National Team, I will! And one of the coolest things happened: I’m going to Arizona State! I absolutely love it there and couldn’t be happier about my decision. Gosh a lot has happened that I can’t believe I never told you about. But I promise more details later. This was just a quick recap! I’ll write tomorrow, but it is 12:17 and I have to wake up in 6 hours! Bye!
A few reflections:
*Almost too much stress for me to handle. Oh my. Tell me about it, fifteen-year-old Katie.
*Brian, if you ever read this, you were not dumb. You were a very sweet first boyfriend to me.
*I remember the day my older brother left for the Marines, just three months after 9/11 and with everyone thinking war would be imminent at some point soon. My mom wasn’t just sad about it, she was devastated. I can still picture that day so well, and I remember that I had never seen her like that, with swollen eyes from crying and so few words to even talk about it. I could not have understood that feeling as a teenager, but with three of my own now, I think get it.
*The diet stuff. Ugh. What I see as I read it now is the start of almost a decade of stronghold for me; almost ten years of starving, bingeing, purging, writing down every single calorie that I put in my mouth and now a lifetime of stomach issues that are very likely a result of the way I treated my poor body for too long. All because a fifteen-year-old really wanted a six pack.
*The people in my life as a teenager helped define it. I think I’ll be holding on to that thought quite a bit.
Of course my journal entries got deeper as my faith and maturity did. I wrote through the next decade in much the same way: highlight by highlight - more soccer and more injuries, more food issues, more boy issues. In fact, that last topic took over around 2008, because I had been in about six weddings at that point and had never had a date to bring to one, and a clear sense of longing seemed to accost my words for the next few years. Then children came in to the picture, and it wasn’t so much a place of longing I was writing from, but a place of desperation, with Lord, please help me! sentiments of all kinds.
And that emotion is usually where I still write from.
Three years ago, just enough brave was born. After four years of blogging with my best friend, I had planned on putting the words—at least the ones for the internet—to rest for a while. But when a friend asked me over breakfast one morning why I wasn’t writing, I realized I didn’t have a good answer, and I definitely did not have a God answer. (Side note: these kind of friends are good ones. Keep them around). So I started again from the most honest place I could think of, and that was the desire to be brave. Just enough brave.
Life and motherhood have taken a hard turn off the map I had spent a few decades of life plotting and following, walking me and Alex straight into unknown and fairly scary territory. But I kept writing, and this tiny space on the internet has safely held some of the most vulnerable words that have ever come out of my heart. I have always, always loved this about writing: it helps me see what is true about me in ways I could not have seen before I wrote it all down. And still, the best part comes a few years (sometimes decades) later, when you can look back and laugh at the things you thought were stressful, cry at the hard lessons you thought you understood but had to really learn the hard way, and mostly see how far God has brought you - how his provision has never wavered, and how he has been good enough to not give us what we want, but what we need. My words have truly become an anthology of getting what I needed.
For that reason alone, I’m so glad I wrote it all down.
Here’s the truth: writing for my own heart and writing for an audience are two very different things, and I have found that I am not very good at doing both. But I have also found that when I do the former, the later seems to happen organically. Unforced rhythms are the most sustainable rhythms, and I think that is true in every area of life, but certainly in writing.
Writing has taught me so much; more than I know how to sum up and wrap a bow around, because the lessons never stop. It has taught me to be honest and to be brave. It has shown me my pride and my tendency to compare myself to others. It has been the friend that has never kept score but welcomed me with open arms when I returned after a long break. And it has been what God has used to lift my eyes back up to him. I have loved words my whole life, but now I need them.
An anthology of getting what I needed. Thank you, Jesus.