Celebrating Strong Women

July is a busy month for us – our anniversary, Daisy’s birthday (which, in recent years, has fallen by the wayside), and Bea’s birthday are all in the same week. Should this next little girl arrive on the anticipated due date, she’ll come right in the midst of all this.

www.cathywaltersphotography.com
Excited to meet baby sister! www.cathywaltersphotography.com

I didn’t start blogging until Bea was more than a year old, so I have no idea what time management with a newborn will be like. Perhaps things will be very quiet around here as we settle in and get to know this new human. Or, perhaps writing will be a source of refreshment, one I make time for in the midst of this transition. Who knows?

In anticipation for the unknown, I’ve asked a few friends to write guest posts. As we prepare for our new daughter, I’ve been pondering about raising two strong, opinionated, fearless women. The women you’ll meet over the next few weeks are ones who immediately come to mind when I think of the type of woman I want my daughters to look up to. They are women who are successful for many different reasons, who face life with confidence, and who love people and value making this world a better place.

Each Wednesday, I’ll post their story and I hope you’ll enjoy and learn from them as much as I have. And, because this is a small blog and I’m not that technologically savvy, if the baby arrives on a Tuesday or a Wednesday, a post may or may not go up… I’ll do my best.

In the meantime, if you’d like to contribute an essay about your own journey or a woman who has influenced you, I’d love to hear it! Email me at anniehrim @gmail.com and I’ll consider it for this series.

Review: Let’s All Be Brave by Annie F. Downs

Sometimes it seems that making big, life-changing decisions feels easier and more natural than deciding what to make for dinner. When I decided to attend college in Paris, it seemed the only place I could consider – who wouldn’t want to study art history in the center of Paris? It never occurred to me to be nervous or afraid in the decision-making process. Only until after I moved and settled in did I realize the courage it takes to live abroad at 18 years old. Similarly, when I decided to spend three months teaching in Kathmandu, it seemed the be a very natural transition. I had never been to Asia; I missed the mountains; I wanted to see if I enjoyed teaching – where else would I try it out but in Nepal? Looking back, these decisions were brave. At the time, they seemed the next logical step in my journey.

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In her book, Let’s All Be Brave, Annie F. Downs explores the idea that bravery is born in small moments and decisions. She opens the book by saying how she is not a naturally brave person. She grew up on the same piece of land her grandparents had owned for 50 years; she went to college where all her church friends went; she traveled and did missions trips, but never for more than a couple weeks. She was content living her life in familiar comfort.

In her mid-twenties, Downs felt she should move to Nashville. Even though it’s only three hours from her home, this move starts a series of brave moments. From quitting her steady job to pursue writing to taking a job in Scotland for a season, she learns to say “yes” to those small moments that turn into brave decisions.

Following the trend of telling short stories, Downs uses this format in a cohesive manner. She gives depth in a short space and her stories fit her theme. I also appreciated her vulnerability in talking about loneliness, being single, and the importance of community. The writing style is very informal and it feels as though I’m chatting with Downs rather than reading about her journey. She is able to write conversationally without making me lose the depth of her message.

I’d recommend this book especially to women in college and early twenties. Even though Downs is my age, I didn’t feel a sense that she was writing for my peer group. As I read this book, I kept thinking of twenty-something women I know who I wanted to share this with. I know it’s meant for a larger audience, but Downs’ style and subject seems best suited for young women starting out in life.

What are some brave moments in your life that seemed small or even normal at the time?

Normally I’d put this book up for a giveaway, but as mentioned above, I kept thinking of women I know who would enjoy it. So, I’ll be sending this to one of them. If you know a young woman who could use encouragement to be brave, I’d recommend buying Let’s All Be Brave for her!

I review for BookLook Bloggers
I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

I Don’t Know

Do you ever relive moments that make you cringe, even years or decades later? Maybe it was how you reacted to someone or maybe it was something you said. Maybe it was a moment of vulnerability that went badly or perhaps it was a moment of insensitivity you wish you could rewrite.

In college my group of friends was typical for our age and space. (Though we would have argued we were vastly different from our peers!) We grappled with life and faith, read philosophers and theologians, smoked occasional cigarettes as we discussed Big Issues over espressos at Parisian cafes.

Neighborhood cafe
Neighborhood cafe

A certain subset of this group took things even farther, going deeper, taking pilgrimages, and really exploring the postmodern church. (These were the days before emergent entered our lexicon.) While I was fairly well-read in these areas, I was nowhere near the level of this smaller group. While at parties or at cafes, I could follow along a bit, but usually ended up nodding along, letting them do the talking.

At my going away party, another Big Discussion was happening and I kind of drifted off. By this time, I was tired of thinking about my faith and ready to live it. At some point in the conversation, of of the guys said, “Let’s change the subject. Annie doesn’t know what we’re talking about.” I know he didn’t mean it to sound harsh, but I was mortified. I thought I had done a fairly good job of nodding along.

Looking back, I wish my younger self had the courage to say I don’t know. Those words can be so difficult. They admit a deficiency, a lack of understanding, a certain way of putting myself as less than. They also would have saved me from embarrassing moments, when clearly I didn’t know what others were talking about.

Those three words also open doors. They allow someone else to be the expert – something most of us love. They give a certain vulnerability, yes, but also an underlying confidence in being open and willing to learn. They also let me off the hook for being an expert on everything. Had I simply said, “I didn’t know that! Tell me more!” I would have been able to stay in the conversation without the same expectation of participation.

Years later, these words can still be hard for me to say. I like to think I’m a well-read person, able to converse on a wide range of topics. This diversity in reading shouldn’t mean I’m an expert, though. This unwillingness to let others teach can build barriers rather than relationships.

Allowing others to tell me more and honoring their own experiences and knowledge is such a small but powerful way to show love. I guess some of that comes with maturity, but I wish my 22-year-old self had the confidence, the courage, and the self-awareness to let others teach and be the experts rather than trying to compete.

So now, whether discussing life experiences, faith journeys, political views, parenting practices, or any topic in between, I am practicing the art of listening. Of saying I don’t know. And, perhaps most importantly, following the I don’t know with Tell me more.

What do you wish you could tell your younger self? Are you a listener or an expert?

Linked with The High Calling’s A Letter to My Younger Self.