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The Weird Thing Annie Downs Taught Me About Bravery

My rhythm of life was greatly interrupted last spring. My daily rhythm changed drastically as I sat out a few rounds against Chron’s Disease due to surgery. What I didn’t realize at the time is that it was also being deeply interrupted by something else. I spent a lot of time in various waiting rooms reading tales of bravery penned by Annie Downs in her book, Let’s All Be Brave. It’s weird. I thought in those moments that hearing these stories were to help me to get through surgery and recovery but they seeped far into my heart past those months.

I wouldn’t say I’m a risk taker. The unknown and how everything will play out has always made me a bit anxious with possibilities. It makes being brave hard! When I started reading this book, I didn’t realize what being brave in my life would mean. I didn’t know the steps ahead that God would ask me to take in His name and in the name of courage itself.

Unmarked

I have long felt the desire to write about the words within these pages. Words of bravery beckoning for courage. Doing bravery any kind of justice is something I just I don’t feel I can adequately capture because I struggle with my own bravery. The path to finding my own bravery has been rocky. Some days look crazily more brave than other days.

I’m a doodler. In meetings, in my personal reading, in making checklists for the day – I doodle. I underline, I highlight, I circle, I draw arrows and so much more. After urging my friends to read this book last January and finally finding a chance to have a book chat over Skype, It was a surprise to me when perusing the pages again that there wasn’t even a single pen mark.

I picked the book back up again last week. Still no markings. I have very few books in my possession that are this devoid of pencil, pen and highlighter. In a way, I am so thankful for that. Last week, I read these words again and allowed them to cut into my heart and soul once again.

Annie’s Words That Punched Me In The Gut

“If you are brave, you are willing to walk the map that is yours, the one with twists and turns you’ve never expected, and you must be disciplined enough to stay on the narrow road under your feet. Step by step. Each step leads to the next, and before you know it, you are walking in a rhythm of courage.

I never tied discipline to courage. I never saw the correlation. I guess I should have, since I lack in both. But in all matters – physical, mental and spiritual – I believe that to live a disciplined life leads to a brave life. We long  to be brave in the big moments, in the clutch times, in the times when our backs are up against a wall. But to get there? It’s the everyday. It’s the practice. It’s the steps. It’s the discipline.

Let’s be real; that’s not the most fun answer you’ve ever heard. None of us enjoy discipline. Hebrews 12:11 puts it perfectly: ‘No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.’

And in The Message? Boom. ‘At the time, discipline isn’t much fun. It always feels like it’s going against the grain. Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it’s the well trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God.’

It always feels like it’s going against the grain.
Yet. It pays off handsomely.”
Let’s All Be Brave by Annie Downs

The Weird Connection + My Path to Brave

I’ve always perceived discipline to be a continual rigorous act that requires patience and strength no matter what the discipline is for. Just like Annie, I never thought about discipline to be related to courage. Never in my wildest dreams. It just seems so weird. Yet, as I’ve started adding more bravery to my life, I’ve become more brave.

I quit my job.
I married my best friend.
I began writing and blogging again.
I picked up my camera and started shooting again.
I started a Supper Club.
With the support of some friends, we created an accountability group called the 7th.
I started a new treatment for my Chron’s Disease.
I confronted my fears.

I became increasingly braver with every act. The bravery has opened my eyes to new ventures that I feel like I can say yes to and that I can feel confident about. I don’t know when I became braver. I don’t know when I first embraced courage and said, ‘Let’s travel this road together now’. What I can tell you is that as I’ve given myself the gift of grace to fail, I have become braver.

I didn’t realize this until recently. I’ve struggled a lot with some of these things. When Rick and I were discussing one of them the other night, he turned to me and told me that I showed bravery in my decision. Bravery to follow God and to live true to myself. In that moment, a realization sunk in. I had never pictured it that way, but maybe, I am brave after all. If nothing else, I’ve got to be on the right path to bravery.

I don’t know what you’re struggling with. I don’t know what giants you may be facing or what is lurking in the back of your mind today. What I do know is that my life is being changed through the brave path of discipline. The small disciplines of giving myself grace, allowing myself to fail and in saying both the courageous yeses and no’s, are making myself into a better person as each day goes on.

Annie Downs later says, “Unforced rhythms of grace. Discipline as a rhythm. Could discipline look like grace and make me braver?” Yes Annie, I believe it can. I do believe it can.

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3 Comments

  • Reply Jean Yeager

    Excellent insight! I really enjoyed by first reading of your blog, Ashley! I have not always been one to pick up a book because, unfortunately, I find myself watching a lot of Netflix and HGTV! But…you have inspired me to start delving into books more! Thanks for the recommendations!

    June 20, 2017 at 8:25 pm
    • Reply Ashley Karlen

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it! I definitely get sucked into Netflix too. I’ve found that audiobooks and reading in a room without a tv or even outside has helped my focus. I’d definitely recommend picking up The Turquoise Table. I just finished it. It’s an easy yet challenging read to begin delving into books again.

      June 21, 2017 at 7:07 pm
  • Reply Ashley Karlen | Becoming A Better Me Starting Today - The Special Announcement Is Here! • Ashley Karlen | Becoming A Better Me Starting Today

    […] that you finally know? Great! This past year of learning the path to being brave and starting out on that adventure has been such an exciting one so far. I’ve rediscovered […]

    June 22, 2017 at 7:17 am
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