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).

**

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. 

Aundi


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?