Reaching for Courage

I was introduced to the online magazine Red Tent Living by a friend. She shared Red Tent articles on Facebook, including those she had written and some by other writers. I typically read the ones she shared, but I didn’t seek out any of the other posts.

Once I started being curious about links to my childhood and connecting to my feelings, I became a regular reader of Red Tent Living. I looked forward to every new post, and was disappointed on the days there were none. I often found myself astonished as I read deep insight, saw hearts shared, and found real connections to my own life.

In time, I started submitting some writing of my own. I was surprised when my first submission was accepted. Others have followed. With each acceptance, I’ve been surprised anew that I am allowed among the writers whose works I faithfully read and value.

Another layer of enthusiasm for reading posts by other writers was added as I learned the names and stories of the regular writers and repeat guest writers. Now as I read, I can sometimes ascertain who the writer is, before I get to the biography at the end. At other times I’m thrilled to see new writers with their first posts and others who have returned after a hiatus.

I found myself wishing that I could meet these writers and other readers but I knew they were scattered near and far. Then I wistfully thought that some kind of Red Tent Living gathering would be wonderful, but couldn’t imagine that happening.

Only weeks later, I got an e-mail announcing the Red Tent Living “Brave On Conference.” What?! Even though it’s only one day and despite having to get plane tickets to go, there was NO WAY I could pass on that. I registered immediately and then reached out and asked my local friend to go. She registered soon after, along with our friend from another state. Yes! Excitement reigned.

Following on the heels of my elation, nervousness arrived on the scene. As I explored my feelings, I zeroed in on the possibility that I might be recognized from my own Red Tent writing. There was a positive side to that reality, but it was also the source of my anxiety.

Others will see me. They will know much about me from what I have shared on Red Tent Living. There’s an extra layer of vulnerability that I wouldn’t have had as an unknown. I was also afraid of the expectations of others. Would I “measure up” in person?

The reality is that I express myself best in writing. Writing gives me time to think things through and pick the right words. I can edit my words before they are ever read by another. Writing, in my blog and on Red Tent, has been a good way to share my heart, without the feeling of being put on the spot that comes with face-to-face interaction. Speaking in a conversation is harder.

Writing feels safer than talking and it takes just one courageous step to publish or submit. Once my writing is out there, I can’t stop in the middle. I get it all out there in one chunk, to be read or not, rejected or not. I don’t even have to see who dismisses it or doesn’t like it. When talking with others, my story comes into play constantly. Are my words being rejected? Does the other person even care what I am saying? Maybe I should stop talking now because she probably doesn’t want to hear my thoughts or feelings. My thoughts and feelings aren’t worth hearing. Did I just say the wrong thing? Am I responding to the other in the right way? Am I sharing too much?

Having a meaningful conversation with someone requires minute-by-minute vulnerability and risk.

At the conference, people will be meeting me for real, in person. They’ll be meeting the live person who isn’t quick with words and who fears not being enough.

I return to the name of the conference, “Brave On.” How fitting! This will certainly be an appropriate place for any of us who will take along our fears and weaknesses. Allowing ourselves to be seen requires courage.  We will learn together about being brave with God, ourselves, and others. What better place to do so than with our Red Tent community, which understands and values our stories?

angelaAngela Leffel lives in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. She is a teacher and single mom with four adopted kids, one of whom is now an adult. She enjoys heart sharing with friends, especially over a cup of coffee. She feels closest to God and most at peace when in a forest. She shares what God is teaching her here.