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).


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.


Here’s to 34, folks. 


Try Softer

by Andrea Kolber

Things that matter most should never be at the mercy of things that matter least.
— Goethe

This last week has been hard—like forgot if I brushed my teeth in the morning--kind of hard. And I couldn’t help but feel a bunch of feelings about that. As one who has ached for another baby, it felt wrong and a bit shameful to be in this place. But, as one who is also a consistent advocate for owning our experience, I also realize this is all part of the journey; every single gift has some difficult built in too. 

Lately, my husband and I have been reminiscing about our sweet Tia and some of the not so easy parts of when she was a baby. We remembered how challenging the weight of parenting felt. How we had also longed for her and then we were suddenly struck by the reality that parenting is the toughest, holiest thing we’d ever done.

It got me to thinking about my default, which is to be quite persistent. Once, when I was a high school basketball player, our local reporter called me tenacious. I adore this word. I love the idea of persistence and tenacity and what it embodies. But what I’ve noticed is there can be a shadow side to this gift. Sometimes I need to know when to walk away. Sometimes, as I’ve written about in the past—it’s not about leaning in harder, it’s about trying softer. It’s about recognizing if something isn’t working, we may need to re-assess how we’re doing what we’re doing.

And so I’ve come back to this idea again—partially, because I’m still getting it. I’m still figuring out how to practice presence and mindfulness and connection to my moments and people and Jesus, especially in a new season.

But today on this unseasonably warm February day, things seem crystal clear (for once), especially as it pertains to parenting. As I sit and drink my coffee by myself, for the first time in a long time, it seems to click. There are times to lean in, and there are times to back up. It's like a dance where we read the music and the rhythm. We notice and pay attention and occasionally we push to teach or explain or soothe our kiddo a bit more, and sometimes we say forget about it and go outside and do the silliest thing we can think of.

It's paying attention to the rhythm that matters. 


But how will I get anything get done? What if Jude never sleeps? Will Tia ever get a bath? Will I ever actually clean the house? What if? What if?

These are the types of questions that want to pop in my head. Frankly, they’re valid. But here’s where I continue to land: try softer.

We can’t ignore there are tasks to be done. Yes, bills must be paid. Yes, we need food. Yes. Yes. Yes.

But if we spend the best of ourselves on things that matter only a little, what will we have left for those things that matter much? What if, this is the exact space where the Lord meets us? What if this is what he means when he says it's not by power or might, but by (relying on) his spirit (Zechariah 4:6)?

I'm finding--again--in our spaces of surrender we have all the grace we’ll ever need.

Let's lean into that.


How about you? Where are you finding you need to try softer? 

Learning to Abide {Guest Post for the Glorious Table}

by Andrea Kolber

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.” (John 15:4 ESV)

I remember lying in bed at night as a teenager, reviewing everything I needed for the next day at school. Were the papers signed? Had I written all my projects down? Was I going to fail my test tomorrow?

My adolescent body felt anxious and tired at the same time, and the pressure would often take its toll. I would wake at 4 or 5 a.m. to ensure I had everything I needed. Then, sheepishly, I would realize my alarm hadn’t gone off and try to go back to sleep.

I spent most of my childhood trying to remain one step ahead of problems. I came by this honestly as I grew up in a loving but significantly dysfunctional home. My mom and dad both struggled with addiction and mental health issues. Based on our family system, one of the main ways I learned to deal with difficulties was to be hyper-aware of what might go wrong so I could try to stop it from happening. Or at least keep the issue from becoming severe.

Click here to keep reading over at the Glorious Table.