Earlier this year, I read a blog post by someone who was packing up and moving after 38 years in the same house. The writer, Linda Stoll, wrote about depersonalizing her beloved home to prepare it for listing, and about all the memories she would leave behind when she relocates to a new address in a different state.
In the comments section, I told her that the longest I’ve ever lived anywhere (as an adult) has been five years, so I could only imagine how hard it would be to do all that work after nearly four decades in the same place.
Her response stopped me in my tracks and triggered an internal dialogue that continued for weeks.
“Five years, huh?” she wrote. “Wow, Lois, you are courageous. And maybe a bit of an adventurer like (another commenter) was just talking about!”
Out of all the words in the English language, I have never used “courageous” or “adventurer” to describe myself. Not one time.
Deep down inside, I crave security, adjust slowly to change and only take risks with great reluctance. I hadn’t realized it before, but these personal struggles and feelings strongly influenced the kind of person I thought I was. Perhaps that’s why terms like “boring,” “safe” and “structured” often come to mind when I think of myself, rather than other, more exciting adjectives.
Linda’s kind words made me recognize that just because I don’t feel courageous doesn’t mean I’m not courageous, and just because I would never think of myself as an adventurer doesn’t mean I’m not adventurous.
As I shared here, Randy and I have moved eight times in 21 years of marriage, most recently into a foreclosed house that basically needed a top-to-bottom overhaul (which Randy has done almost entirely by himself). This is just the path our residential life has taken, so I never thought of it as very adventurous.
But maybe it has been, just a little.
We’ve also been to China twice to adopt our lovely daughters. Becoming parents for the first time—in a foreign country far away from our own moms and mentors—was what it took to grow our family, so it doesn’t register very high on the courageous scale for us.
But again, maybe it was, just a little.
Thanks to Linda’s affirming words, here’s what I’m discovering:
In real life—the kind that’s lived out loud and in person—actions speak louder than emotions. When it comes to who I am, what I do is far more telling than how I feel.
And this is not just true for me, either.
Everywhere I look, I see people who show up every day, who do what’s right even when they don’t feel like it, who take hard steps for the good of someone else. Based on how they feel at any given moment—or in any given season of life—they would never think of themselves as people of great faith, kindness, patience or generosity.
But their actions speak otherwise. Quite loudly, in fact.
They’re just doing the next thing, taking what comes and trying to make the best of it, attempting to honor God with whatever little or much they have. They don’t realize that, from the outside looking in, they are living, breathing examples of faith in action, love in action, strength in action.
If you know people like this, maybe you should tell them what you see. Take it from me—you just never know the difference an affirming observation might make in someone else’s life.
And remember: Though it’s sometimes tough to believe, our feelings don’t dictate who we are, nor are they the final arbiter of truth about us.