Last year, I wrote an open letter to my four boys on being men. This year, I write to a special young woman who’s been a divine interruption in the life of our family—especially those four boys I mentioned. You know who you are. And, while you are infinitely inimitable and beloved, there are other women who will understand or need to hear this unsolicited wisdom [my opinions are also free of charge] I’m going to speak into your life on International Women’s Day.
1. Life is Hard, Messy, and Imperfect
People only see what you want them to see—and that’s why social media only shows the pretty stuff [including my own posts, oftentimes]. I know you know this in your head, but I pray it moves to your heart: life is hard, messy, and imperfect. I am still learning this. I have such a creative and busy mind that I love to construct perfect worlds in my daydreams. Trust me, all it does is make one discontent when they wake up.
The sooner you accept the truth that life is hard, you’ll begin to rise above it because your eyes will become fixed, fastened, and focused on the eternal backdrop. That car inspection that’s 3 months overdue, the work notes that are two months behind, and the midterm you’ve been dreading…it takes hours of work and there’s typically zero motivation that comes to fuel you.
2. Discipline is a Practice
When there’s no motivation, rely on discipline. And, if you have no discipline, learn to practice it. If you’ve never practiced it, begin doing one thing better. You’ll soon find that once you’ve mastered the “one” you’ll begin to master the “many.” [Keeping this one short—it’s easy to say and hard to do.]
3. Be Courageous
You know, I always have a word that tends to anchor me each year. This last year, I shared with my [work] team that the word was continue. It was about continuing to press forward even when it is hard and I’m falling on my face [literally] and getting stitches on my chin before a big presentation. [Everyone should experience this fabulous event at least once in life.]
But the single word that has relentlessly chased after me over many years and has become my sacred echo is courage. I used to be so afraid to “speak truth to power” or to tell people “no” when I really didn’t want to go to that social event with 100 other people I didn’t know.
That’s the hard thing about this word: courage is hard (refer to point #1 and #2). And, it’s not like it ever gets any easier, you just get more comfortable with the discomfort as you practice this discipline.
The last thing I’ll offer on this topic is the reminder that your courageous conversations must also be salted with grace. We’ve talked about this before. Truth and grace belong together, just like salt and spice. [Isn’t that what you told me once? Bahahaha.]
Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.
4. Go Deep
What’s built quickly in life rarely lasts; it’s a process.
I’ll leave you with my most priceless secret: You must have a “refuge” where you fuel up. In the quietness of the morning [You know I get up before the rest of the world for a reason, right?!), I collect my strength for that hard, messy, and imperfect life. You must have that place, too. This secret place will give you the strength to wander into “courage territory.”
When that true refuge is firmly established in your life, you’ll be able to “go home” and fuel up. Then, you will wander out again, a little further each time.
Day after day, you’re constantly making these soulful trips down and back, down and back, down and back…until the journey leads you into deep waters. Purpose is found in the cavernous waters, but you can’t make it in one swim. You’re led there, over time. With the counsel of many people and with the establishment of proper buoys in your life, you can do this. Whatever your “this” is in that season.
You’re not alone. Many are swimming alongside you [like me]. I know when even the darkest depths come, you will have the discipline and courage to complete this hard, messy, and imperfect task called life. I’ll see you at the finish line.