Small: An Update on my #OneWord365

by Andrea Kolber


Back in January, when my eyes were still bleary from sleepless nights with my newborn, I chose a word for the year. It felt ambitious to pick one at all, frankly. I felt infinitely grateful for the new life in front of me, but also insanely tired and even taking out the trash felt like too much.

And so the word that came to me, after prayer and waiting, was this: small.

Now here I am, five months into 2017, and small feels like God’s grace to me in this season. I’ve learned much about myself recently. I’ve learned how hard it can be to respect my own boundaries; how even when I say I’ll give myself permission to do less, I still struggle under the weight of my own expectations. I’ve learned how humbling it is for me to admit how weak I truly am. Not because I’m incapable, but because some seasons require us to admit our frailty so we can grow stronger.

And so this word continues to feel like a gift to me because I am most naturally a big picture person. I often get caught up in the enormity of a dream or a hope and it can either wash me away or cause me to feel tremendous pressure. This journey toward accepting that I am finite and small is a good one because it feels like a continual grounding of my soul. It serves to root me in truth and reality and in the process I remember, again, that while God made me capable and gifted in some things, I am also limited; I need him and others deeply. 

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Often times in therapy or with any change, it seems it follows a framework. Generally, it goes like this:

First, the acceptance of reality as it stands.

Second, gaining resources to support a person in the change.

Third, utilizing the resources so a person can integrate their new way of being into reality and allow their brain to continue to re-wire.

And finally, repeat the steps again and again as we work toward change.

Any of these steps can take days, months, years, or even decades. And so while it seems simple, it’s not. I bring this up though, because in my own process of honoring the word small, I see myself beginning to utilize the resources in my life to actually love my smallness.

Instead of being angry I can’t do more, it’s beginning to feel a bit like a launching pad so I can focus on the details that are important, but I frequently pass over in my haste to accomplish what feels big. I’ve been trying different methods to help myself stay with the small and some of them have been fantastically helpful while others have been an utter failure (Yay, Sacred Ordinary Days planner, boo to post it notes everywhere!) The piece that feels like success however, is being willing to try it differently; to keep moving toward growth.

So today, I’m focusing on practicing what I preach--attempting to set about a short list that needs accomplishing; doing humble but important work in the midst of my ordinary life; focusing on the next right thing.

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I’d love to hear from you. Did you pick a word for 2017? How’s it going so far? 


Longing for Abundant Life {Featured on the Redbud Post}

by Andrea Kolber


May is Mental Health Awareness Month and the Redbud Writers Guild is focusing their articles on this subject. If you've followed my blog for awhile, you know it's my desire to educate and promote healing through the modalities of writing and psychotherapy. It's my honor to share some of my story on the Redbud Post today. If you or someone you know is struggling, I encourage you to connect with a counselor or a crisis resource. At the end of this article, I have listed some crisis resources for your use. 

All the best, 

Aundi


“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10 ESV).

If I could go back and give anything to my tender adolescent self, it would be an excellent counselor. Unless, of course, I could have healed my family—that would be my first choice. It may sound odd to some but growing up in a family plagued with addiction, trauma, and mental health issues, one of the resources I needed most was someone whose training allowed them to understand how significant dysfunction affects people. And maybe, even more, someone who could provide me with the tools to validate my experience in the middle of what felt like madness.

But lacking this, I shifted and adapted to our unhealthy family system. I became over responsible for dealing with the constant chaos in our house. I became rigid and perfectionistic to ensure success, believing that if I didn’t look after myself, I might fall through the cracks. I created a façade to show the outside world that I was strong and independent—all the while developing severe anxiety, a need to be noticed, and adopting a wounded view of the world and myself.

Photo: Sharon Christina via Unsplash 

Photo: Sharon Christina via Unsplash 

Graciously, faith was also knit into my family in my childhood, and it was a source of hope and joy for all of us. I experienced Jesus at a young age in the midst of my family turmoil, and I am deeply grateful for God’s presence in my life. And yet, he chose not to heal my family or myself in an instant; and believe me, I asked.

I'd love for you to keep reading and join me over at the Redbud Post (while you're there check out the other wonderful posts too!) 


Crisis Resources:
If this is an emergency or if you are worried that you or someone you know may be at risk for suicide, please call your local authorities (911). The hotlines below are 24 hours and are confidential.

I Thought I Was Brave {Learning to Redefine Courage}

by Andrea Kolber


When I was six years old, I entered a talent show and told them I had a dance routine to perform (I didn’t), and I went up on stage and made it up as I went. People told me it was good. I thought I was brave.

image via Unsplash

image via Unsplash

When I was in college, I thought I wanted to attend law school, become a social justice lawyer, and save the world (I didn’t). I thought for sure that was brave.

All through my childhood, I fantasized about the amazing things I would do with my life.

I would be important!

I would save the world!

I would be brave!

I used to think bravery meant performing a big, fantastic act. I thought if I could do something noteworthy, something extraordinary; something that would definitely help another, that would be brave.

But in this season of my life, I find I was wrong. I don’t want to discredit the way bravery can, certainly, include situations where we put ourselves in danger, or feel tremendous fear, or use extraordinary strength.

Yet, I see now bravery is often about doing the small act of service or obedience right in front of me. It is frequently presented as the thing God is gently or not so gently asking of us, and our faithful leaning into that calling.

I see now, courage is almost always small, first; usually, it's woven into our decision to live our ordinary lives, even when they're hard.  

And this holds true in my life now, too. These days, instead of doing what I perceive to be more significant—using my masters degree, running my counseling business, creating volumes of writing—I am sitting at the computer typing with one hand, whilst rocking a baby and wiping the face of my five year old. My eyes are tired as I was up through the night with my youngest and I have soothed and shushed that beautiful baby more times than I can count in the last few months. For most, this would not be viewed as brave or courageous.

But may I share with you a vulnerable thing?

This is extremely brave for me; choosing to step back from my established career for a season was a terrifying decision. The reason it’s scary, is hidden in a remaining fear that occasionally creeps in: maybe I’m not valuable and worthy. Maybe everything that I believe about myself; that I was created in God’s image and that my life is redeemed in Jesus and I don’t need to strive any longer—is wrong.

Maybe, I do, indeed, need to earn my value.

Maybe, I need to keep hustling to prove I’m loveable.

Image via Unsplash

Image via Unsplash

Even as the heartbeat of why I write is about living as the beloved and understanding my value is hidden in Jesus— I occasionally circle back to wondering if it’s ever been true.

Do you know the feeling?

I still wrestle with the idea that my life would matter less if I don’t do something appearing noteworthy, rather than just the ordinary. I share this with you because it’s okay to be unfinished, y’all. Years ago, I would have said if I’m doubting this then none of it was true. Or, I’m a failure.

But instead, I’ve learned this is exactly what courage means, to keep going even in the discomfort and the tension. I’m trusting again, that all my experiential learning and healing was real; that I don’t have to hustle for my worthiness. I’m believing even if no one sees what I do for my kids or the words I write, if God has called me to it, living into that calling is brave.

And so, this is my act of courage for now: listening and acknowledging, again, that my value does not lie in the perception of what I do, but rather if I am called to it. My brave act for now is doing the small and important work of obedience to the right now call on my life: parenting, living whole and writing.

Reader, I don't know what ordinary hard things you are doing in your life today--but I pray you have the courage to keep going. 

"Haven’t I commanded you? Strength! Courage! Don’t be timid; don’t get discouraged. God, your God, is with you every step you take” (Joshua 1:9 MSG).

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What does brave look like for you today? 


On Birthdays {And Numbering Our Days}

by Andrea Kolber


Today I turn 34, which feels ridiculous, really. Every year I say to my husband, “I can’t believe it’s my birthday again!” And every year he says with a little smile, “Yep, it really snuck up on us.”

It didn’t actually though, because usually I’ve been talking about it for a bit. Not in a selfish way, I hope. But more in a I can’t believe time is passing kind of way.

It reminds me of this verse:

“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12 NIV).

This is where I suspect my wonder at another birthday comes from—attempting to number my days. It's in doing this that we often experience deep gratitude. It's only when we pause to survey what is right in front of us that we are able to see it clearly.

I haven’t always been great at this practice, if I’m honest. Even now in the midst of some long nights and days, I'm tempted to throw out all I’ve learned. I write these words with my 11 week old strapped to my chest and most days I can connect to the gift he is. And yet in my rush to be productive or to feel significant I can miss out on seeing it too. I can forget, so easily, how we longed to meet him. I can miss out on his tiny full lips and his blossoming personality.

And so I sit with this, and I number my days. I realize that he will only be this little for so long.

I watch my T girl, and I can feel my heart literally hurt as I see her body start to become long and lean, as she begins to throw off the form of her young days and replace it with the touch of the woman she’ll become. Just last night she lost her first tooth, and my mama heart almost wept at the milestones that are coming faster and faster. Now at night when I go in, briefly, to check on her, I make myself memorize her small face so I don’t forget; and I number my days with her.

I see my husband and the type of partner he is, and I feel grateful. What an honor to watch him be the father I ached for. And here he is, giving this deep connectedness to our kiddos. Sometimes I feel frustrated that we don’t get more time to ourselves. After hours of soothing small bodies and crying tinies, I want to just be with him sometimes. And certainly we try for it, but these are the years of interruptions by small people who need us. But this, too, is temporal.

Together, we are learning to number our days. Because I’m confident sometime I’ll sit at the kitchen counter aching to be interrupted by my kiddos, but they'll likely be busy building the life they're meant for. 

When I sit with the reality of 34 years on this earth and the hope for many more (although, we’re never guaranteed anything) the knowledge humbles me. What a tiny drop in the scheme of it all. And still, it’s my drop.

It causes me to ask these kinds of questions:

Am I satisfied with how I’ve lived my life thus far? What would I change? Am I loving my people well? Does my life point to Jesus?

These are the questions that rattle around in my brain, but I say again: teach me to number my days, Lord.

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Here’s to 34, folks. 

Aundi