By Twyla Franz
God's Brave Women - Twyla's Story
A word for the year can be a like a dare—a weighted invitation to surrender and grow. When I chose the word open as last year’s word of the year it was a solemn acceptance that I wasn’t going to stay safely within the confines of my comfort zone. I was going to grow, and that meant it wasn’t always going to be easy. Or comfortable.
The word open is like a paradox next to my personality. On the temperament color test I am green. All green. I prefer peace and harmony and could take a pass on conflict, please and thank you. (There are 4 temperaments, for anyone unfamiliar with the color test, and the green quadrant is on the people side of the people-task continuum, and the introverted side of the introvert-extrovert continuum.) I am also a 9 on the Enneagram, which basically reinforces that I prefer peace to a fault and get squeamish around conflict.
Yet here I was, on the brink of 2019, armed with a word that would unravel the tightly wound threads within, nudge me into vulnerability, and posture my heart like an open door. Adorning my own front door was a handwoven, natural burlap wreath. The wreath looked like a capital O. O for Open.
"I carried the word open with me—literally, as a screen saver on my phone. The reminder was ever present, but it took a conscious decision every time I chose to take a risk and crack my shell further open."
I carried the word open with me—literally, as a screen saver on my phone. The reminder was ever present, but it took a conscious decision every time I chose to take a risk and crack my shell further open. I still felt hesitant and far from brave, but I am also stubborn to a fault and I was determined to keep pressing in against my natural bent to retreat.
Baby steps don’t feel brave in the moment. After all, inviting neighbors in out of the rain when my counter was still full of unwashed dishes is never what I would have pictured next to the word brave, but it was certainly an assault to my preference to be seen only when I felt I (and my space) was in presentable order. So was confiding in neighbor-friends that my oldest knows how to push all my buttons and I struggle with knowing how to parent her well. And so was voicing an ask for something small that would have been more comfortable to buy than borrow.
For me, open was about authenticity, but it was also about staying in conflict instead of wishing it away. This, too, doesn’t sound brave when said aloud, but for me it’s never been easy. We value a missional lifestyle of living in community with our neighbors throughout the week, and when kids play long hours with neighbor-friends, squabbles are inherent. Engaging in these discipleship opportunities takes grit and challenges me to go against my grain. So too does vulnerable, honest conversations that are so necessary for the health of my marriage.
Brave doesn’t always come in loud. Sometimes it’s a whisper in the back of the room—unassuming and ordinary from the outside. But inside we know that we are not the same. And our courage grows as if each non-descript choice to be brave fuels the next step.
"Brave doesn’t always come in loud. Sometimes it’s a whisper in the back of the room—unassuming and ordinary from the outside. But inside we know that we are not the same."
Ann Voskamp captured it best when she wrote, “You are as healable as you are vulnerable” (The Way of Abundance). And I know the way I feel more alive when I offer my authentic self to my family, my neighbors, and my readers. I know the way community is built when we gather with neighbors in our living room and talk through the tough stuff we are experiencing and the questions we’ve been asking God. I know that life is richer when I invite my neighbors into my heart, home, and life, even when it’s messy.
A year of walking hand-in-hand with the mantra of living open has taught me this: I don’t want to disengage. I don’t want to stop pressing into open because, as Brené Brown encapsulates, “belonging . . . doesn’t require us to change who we are; it requires us to be who we are” (The Gifts of Imperfection). That’s really what open means—owning who I am, even the less-than-perfect parts—because community and belonging wins out over perfection.
"That’s really what open means—owning who I am, even the less-than-perfect parts—because community and belonging wins out over perfection."
Perhaps today you too find yourself stuck between a choice to keep up the appearance you’ve maintained or let the walls down so you can let others in. I invite you to consider that the things God is still working out in your life are not meant for you to hold inside but are opportunities to help others learn to love both God and people better. And perhaps as you make your life available to others, you will find that in a multitude of small, ordinary ways, you too are braver than you realize.
Brave Woman Manifesto
Make sure to check back next week as another courageous Sister shares her story!
And by the way...
You are Brave!
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Twyla blogs about her passion, neighborhood missional living, hoping to make it feel less intimidating for others to begin to open their own hearts, lives, and homes to their neighbors. She sees our call to fulfill the Great Commission as an invitation to be disciple-making-disciples, not just in the faraway places, but also right where we live—in our own neighborhoods. Twyla writes weekly at The Uncommon Normal, and an audio version of the posts is now available as a podcast under the same name. You may also connect with her on Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, or Twitter.