That's courage

"I didn't want to get well,
because if I got well, nobody would come and save me anymore. And I didn't want to get well, because while I could not control my happiness, I could control my misery, and I would rather have had control than live in the tension of what if." -Donald Miller in A Million Miles in a Thousand Years
(This post is brought to you by the fact that I finished this book last night and my mind is reeling with good thoughts to think. Thank you (again), Donald Miller.)

We need breath-taking stories in our lives. We're made for these stories, and too often we don't choose them. We don't write the book or apply for the job or propose or adopt that child or take that trip or dance because we're scared. And then we stay just where we are and wonder why life is boring and we just simply rev our engines and a whole lot of the time that makes us quit trying at everything. We lose faith and we lose courage because we're so easily bored.

Entertain me, something! Please keep me interested, someone!

There is so much trying involved in both reaching for epic stories, and in finding contentment in the mundane and ordinary things. We need both, and satisfaction in having a balanced life of both takes courage. To live both ends of the spectrum with a fierce determination, who does that? To believe either your epic or your ordinary are exactly where you should be? To trust your conscience and your heart-gut to lead you to either the peaks or valleys or the quiet in-between, to simply keep going inside of both? If a person can do that, strive to do that, they have courage.

Happiness in trials, in joys, and in the mundane. Courage.

For me, when life is spinning its days of repetitive sameness with nothing much happening, I have a harder time continuing to choose to do the right thing, every single day. There's no catalyst, and so I stall and go numb and quit caring, quit trying as hard.

When we do that, we often create drama, even subconsciously, providing our own catalysts, building up an inauthentic plot until we've made a huge mess. Or we get depressed or try to fill ourselves up with the wrong things until we are addicted to those wrong things.

What am I trying to say? I'm rambling my way to my own thoughts again. Here's what I'm saying is the balance: Contentment when there's no catalyst for change, allowing the change to be slow while setting up the pins and knocking them down, day after day. And then saying yes when life is asking for a bigger commitment or adventure that you know is right for you. The ability to listen to yourself in both the times of bigger things that bring fast change, and the quieter times of repetitive sameness, this is what we seek, I think. Being content either way, because both the big and small are inevitable. This is balance. This is courage. Continuing to move forward, to do the right thing, either way. Exciting or not. New or not. Mundane or not.

Isn't this what makes sobriety, motherhood, employment and marriage so very hard? We embark on these adventures believing we've found it, whatever new excitement we've been looking for. We celebrate with feasts and toasts and we truly feel and believe. We're living a grand story. But then we find out how much everyday in and out work is involved in these beautiful big things and sometimes we just don't want to keep going, we want to back up to the joy or even feel the sorrow of loss so that we can have that feeling of starting again, or being rescued. Unless, of course, we're choosing courage. The courage of contentment.

The really exciting and dramatic times are good, even if they're painful for a time. They shape us. But right now I think that the most excitement and joy ends up happening in the ordinary, but only if we're choosing to live our every day stories out loud, no matter how boring they may be perceived by the world. We are the ones that will feel the fulfillment and awe even within what may seem like a cookie-cutter existence, if we live from our heart-guts, obey our God-given instincts in both the big and small things, and just keep going.

That's courage.

And I want it.


"The experience is so slow you could easily come to believe life isn't that big of a deal, that life isn't staggering. What I'm saying is I think life is staggering and we're just used to it. We all are like spoiled children no longer impressed with the gifts we're given--it's just another sunset, just another rainstorm moving in over the mountain, just another child being born, just another funeral....If I have hope, it's that God sat over the dark nothing and wrote you and me, specifically, into the story, and put us in with the sunset and the rainstorm as though to say, Enjoy your place in my story. The beauty of it means you matter, and you can create within it even as I have created you. -Donald Miller

This post is a part of Five for Ten at Momalom. Click on the button below to check out this beautiful community of women, telling our stories together on topics important to us all, and join in if you'd like.

47 clicked right here to comment:

Lindsey said...

Just ordered that book and I am so excited!! I agree with you entirely - being content is a thing of courage. I'm not great at it (yet).

Becca said...

Keep going and live out loud, even when life is ordinary. So true - and for me, acting in Faith, even when there's no emergency trial - that's hard, too. I seem to save it up for the Big Thing, and that makes dealing with the Big Thing so much harder than it has to be.

Corinne said...

my mom and I have been talking about this a good deal the past week, being able to chose to embrace the lives we're in... or chose to be miserable and numb...
I like chosing the joys in today. Very well written Heather.

Lara said...

This is the best thing I've read in a while. So true. And that's why it's all so hard. Major epiphany over here.

I totally resist changing for the better because I do enjoy creatingdrama sometimes. Hard as that is to admit. Wow.

Marking that book as to read, right now.

mandiegirl said...

I needed to 'hear' this today Heather. I need to make my own joy to feel instead of wallowing in the sad things that have happened and are now gone. Good stuff, girl.

Kaycee said...

I want it too.

Fantastic post. Thanks for this.

Kerri said...

I so needed to read this today. I'm not sure if I have enough courage to face the post-Mother's Day disaster of a kitchen, the laundry, the finances, the struggling kids. But I guess I will muster it and manage. Thanks...

Anonymous said...


CaJoh said...

Looking for the big you tend to overlook the little things that make the big things worthwhile. You have summed this up beautifully.

Thank you for sharing your perspective,

Tessa said...

I love this post and speaks so much to me and what I am feeling in my life.
I also LOVE momalom, thank you for introducing me to it. One of these days I will have the *courage* to link up!

~beautyandjoy~ said...

Ugh. And by that I mean how much this gives me to think about. :)

My Bottle's Up! said...

and with that, you sum up every single reason that makes you one of the most courageous women that i "know."

Amber said...

Contentment is a struggle that I am constantly fighting. But, as you said, it takes courage to be content with where you are at in life.

Kathleen Overby said...

May you have the desires of your heart. double portion. overflowing. contentment makes God and your husband both heroes. :) Go girl. I'm giving you a standing ovation for this one.

MidnightCafe said...

Well said! Bravo!! I find myself in the middle of this struggle ALL THE TIME, and it's good to hear how someone else frames it.

Love you!

Laurnie said...

Im so glad I read this post! This book has been on my list for awhile now, and your post just moved it to the top of the list.

Alisha said...

I can really relate to this...in so many ways. Thank you for sharing this.

♥Georgie♥ said...

Okay I'm sold off to the bookstore...I must read this book...what a GREAT post...as usual you rock girlie

Kelly @ Love Well said...

I'm going to bookmark this and read it later this week so I can wallow in it. There's a lot of deep truth here, Heather. And I totally get it.

Sometimes, courage is standing still. Sometimes, it's reaching for the stars. Wisdom is knowing what God is calling you to at the moment.

Lee Vandeman said...

Oh dude. This post is like your personal blog manifesto. Sums up everything really. Everything when I think of you and your extraordinary ordinary place.

The grand and the mundane doing an awesome dance together and spinning a heartfelt tale all the while.

That's you chick.

And I'm loving this courageous contentment thing. The courage to be content. Hell yeah.

DeNae said...

For me, it's the sense of "hurry up and wait" that is so draining. Be prepared for "the moment"; be productive and happy in "the meantime". Be open to change; create stability and consistency for the people who count on you.

Sometimes it's easier to just throw yourself to one side or the other - and that's when you get the drama.

You always get me thinking, Heather.

TKW said...

You want it? Baby, you've got it. In spades. Heather King is courage personified.

Ashleigh (Heart and Home) said...

The courage to be consistent, authentic, and true, day in, day out... I want it too.

(p.s - you. are. on. fire. in your writing these days, girl.)

Anonymous said...

"The ability to listen to yourself in both the times of bigger things that bring fast change, and the quieter times of repetitive sameness, this is what we seek, I think. Being content either way, because both the big and small are inevitable. This is balance."

My God, yes. Wow.

Manic Mother said...

This is beautiful Heather! If my brain wasn't in a pregnancy fog I would have something far better to say, but for now know that it is beautiful!

Jules said...

I love this post! Isn't great when people are filled with a wisdom 'high'?! So full of insight a person would not have unless they traveled the road they traveled! Ironic, huh? I love the saying "Courage is fear that has said its prayers." Well thought out and written lady friend!

Elissa said...

Have you heard of Anne Sexton's poem, Courage? I thought you might like it. xo

by Anne Sexton

It is in the small things we see it.
The child's first step,
as awesome as an earthquake.
The first time you rode a bike,
wallowing up the sidewalk.
The first spanking when your heart
went on a journey all alone.
When they called you crybaby
or poor or fatty or crazy
and made you into an alien,
you drank their acid
and concealed it.

if you faced the death of bombs and bullets
you did not do it with a banner,
you did it with only a hat to
cover your heart.
You did not fondle the weakness inside you
though it was there.
Your courage was a small coal
that you kept swallowing.
If your buddy saved you
and died himself in so doing,
then his courage was not courage,
it was love; love as simple as shaving soap.

if you have endured a great despair,
then you did it alone,
getting a transfusion from the fire,
picking the scabs off your heart,
then wringing it out like a sock.
Next, my kinsman, you powdered your sorrow,
you gave it a back rub
and then you covered it with a blanket
and after it had slept a while
it woke to the wings of the roses
and was transformed.

when you face old age and its natural conclusion
your courage will still be shown in the little ways,
each spring will be a sword you'll sharpen,
those you love will live in a fever of love,
and you'll bargain with the calendar
and at the last moment
when death opens the back door
you'll put on your carpet slippers
and stride out.

Amy Whitley said...

YES. We're so impatient as a species, aren't we? We're so needy. We want change all the time, then complain about it. And it IS in the slow moments, in the duldrums (sp?) of life, in the flat quiet that we flounder.

kirsten said...

ok. so here's the thing: I find myself at a HUGE crossroads this week. The decision is down to me - only to me - and I know what the right thing is. I know what the right path is. And yet here I go "creating my own drama." I'm still not 100% sure I've grasped what you're trying to tell me[us] but what I do know is that I needed to see the words I saw tonight.

I write so much about contentment, about seeing the bigger picture, and yet this week I have consumed myself with my own drama.

Must stop now. Must let it go...now.

Thanks Heather. This has changed much, all of a sudden.

Heidi Ashworth said...

I think you really hit the nail on the head. Everyone falls in love, most have children, many work for a living, these everyday things seem, alternatively, wondrous and woeful. Having done one or two things a bit above and beyond those, I have to say that it is the choice to do those things, day in and day out, that will matter most in the end. It's almost as if, once we have children, we are all about sustaining them and giving them all of ourselves so that they can reach the point where they will do the same. In some ways it seems very boiled down to the mere continuation of the human family. And maybe it is. However, the love that is knit between the people and the generations and the fabric of time is the acheivment that staggers.

Kelly said...

I am struck by these quotes/graphs. What a man. I agree wholeheartedly, though I could never be so eloquent.

Each and every day is a gift, but so many of us fail to accept and treasure it for the small thing of beauty it is.

The courage is in appreciating that golden nugget for what it is rather than worrying that your golden nugget isn't as good or powerful or worthy as someone else's.

Haley said...

I have always felt that we should live everyday to the fullest, life is just too short not to.

sadiesmom said...

Beautiful! I now know which book I will be reading next! your blog is breathtaking.

Jen said...

Oh, man. You captured my existence right now, Heather. I am paralyzed in a few ways, lately. Focusing so much on the rest of my family that, well, I'm not showing much courage when it comes to taking a few leaps for ME. I have to re-read this one later, when I have a little more time to let it sit quietly.

Billy Coffey said...

You want it? Nah, I think you already have it. And I'm with you. It's the ordinary things that shape us and make us who we are. I used to long for those epic stories in my life, but they were right with me all along. Every moment, I think, is an epic moment. Every moment is a defining one.

Loved this, Heather.

WackyMummy said...

Courage in the mundane... that's the hardest, isn't it? Just to keep going without the "catalyst", as you said. Very well said, by the way. Yep, that's what I'm going through. It's hard.

becca said...

This was amazing. I had to read it a few times to really let it resonate with me and it so did. I create so much drama in my life I think because I can't just be satisfied with the normal (small) days. I feel off balance because the quiet days make me feel desperate. I don't know if that makes sense but it does in my head...

Anyway, thank you for this. It was beautiful.

Stacia said...

The analogy of setting up pins and knocking them down day after day really struck me, so to speak. There is contentment in that, and I am inspired by your idea that looking for that contentment is courageous.

Celeste said...

Ahh. Deep breaths. This right here is what I have been looking for, trying to tell myself for months. But, boy is it so much better hearing it from someone else.

"Contentment when there's no catalyst for change, allowing the change to be slow while setting up the pins and knocking them down, day after day. And then saying yes when life is asking for a bigger commitment or adventure that you know is right for you."

Absolutely this takes huge amounts of true courage. And faith. Two things I often feel I am missing. It is so hard. But this? This helps so much. Thank you. Thank you. I am sharing this with everyone I know.

CC said...

email me and I'll tell you something about Don Miller. :)

Denise said...

To me, you embody courage. You are, with every word, brave and true. Your stories inspire.

maggie, dammit said...

There you are, walking around inside my head again. I'm figuring out that I have probably been chasing a high my entire life, and I'm looking back on all kinds of things differently. I'm figuring out that I am probably addicted to the high that comes from relief after prolonged procrastination. Stuff like that. Yeah, drumming up chaos and drama because the rest of life is so damn boring... learning to love boring... rambling, too.

Too tired to edit this to make any kind of sense, but I'm betting you know what I mean regardless.


Rudri said...

I think we constantly striving to see what isn't instead of what is. Courage in the now, the present, is so important. Love the gentle nudge in helping us think that way.

Maria @BOREDmommy said...

Beautiful post.

I want it too.

Aging Mommy said...

This is a brilliant post. There are lots of great writers but this is a stand out piece. I was miserable and numb for a long time after my daughter was born. It has taken a long time to slowly but surely get where I am now, which is still a work in progress. You are so right, we have to embrace the ordinariness of our lives, because simply being alive is am amazing thing. At the same time if we get too entrenched in the every day then as you say, the little every day niggles of life become major trauma and drama and we lose perspective. So we sometimes have to step back, take stock, note what we have and what is good but also challenge ourselves and work to include in addition to the everyday, things that make us happy and fulfilled.

I am going to get that book

Liz @ Peace, Love and Guacamole said...

"The courage of contentment" ...
That's going on a post-it note over here!

Thank you!

Blessed said...

I like that definition of courage.

I also like Winston Churchill's definition - "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak, it's also what it takes to sit down and listen." (I'm going from memory here so that probably isn't exact...)

I'm working on developing both types of courage - thanks for this great post.

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