What does it mean to be brave?
Being brave, digging deep for courage, living life outside your comfort zone looks different for all of us. After the release of my book last year, I asked people to tell me their stories about what being brave means to them. Today’s guest is the 12th installment in our series What Being Brave Looks Like. If you are new here, you will definitely want to go back and read those other brave stories!
Please meet my precious friend Melinda, another blessing from my FTL experience. I can NOT wait for you to read her exquisite words today. Melinda has a way with words that appeals to all our senses; you can almost taste, smell, hear and touch the images she creates with her lyrical storytelling. The beauty of her words is only surpassed by the beauty of her spirit. She is a lovely human being, inside and out, and I am honored to call her my friend. When I read this story, I begged her to let me share this with you here. You will be moved and inspired.
Please welcome Melinda and, through her words, her dear friend Marianne.
It’s been said there are two kinds of people in the world. Those who walk into a room and say, “Here I am!” and those who say, “There you are!” Marianne was most definitely the latter. While others were naturally drawn to her, she was focused on others.
Marianne was a dear come-as-you-are friend to me. She was my first text when I needed clarity, a soft place to land, an empathetic ear, encouragement, or a hearty laugh. Our standing tea dates were a source of endless refreshment. We invariably sent “The time was so good for my soul!” thank you messages which delivered simultaneously after we’d parted. While I was one of her many dear friends, we shared something uniquely ours.
I am sure I could not name all the things I learned from her. She taught me so much about tender yet fierce mothering and living with passion and humor. She taught me not to minimize my gifts or believe anything less than God’s best. But the greatest lesson she imparted to me was how to live a brave life.
Her oncologist confirmed the worst at her appointment on Good Friday. The day seemed a cruel choice for such a diagnosis. But Marianne came to see the beauty in the timing and lived the rest of her life with vibrant splendor.
She once said she believed our lives were like a big canvas and God was inviting us to show the world a bit of Himself through our lives. As if God had said, Go color!
When Marianne was diagnosed, she could have colored everything grey, drawn the blinds, and covered her head. Yet she made the brave choice to whip out her markers and fill her world with the most vibrant shades. Her life beautifully reflected the glory of God, and she encouraged this reflection in others, which provided the appropriate backdrop for the funeral address she’d asked me to give.
In thinking about what I wanted to say, the word kaleidoscope kept coming to mind. It seemed fitting because of Marianne’s great love of color and art. But when I dug a little deeper, I saw just how divine the illustration is for all of us.
Kaleidoscopes are pretty low tech—just simple cylinders with ordinary objects inside: buttons, pieces of glass, beads. The bits and pieces are on one side, and you look in the other through a tiny hole while twisting the end. But what makes the spectacular images out of ordinary things are two reflecting mirrored surfaces tilted toward one another. And that right there is everything. When we lean into God’s love, we find God leaning toward us and a beautiful reflection creates a stunning masterpiece in our lives.
These reflectors—our dreams, our hopes, our disappointments, everyday life are all enclosed in an unassuming vessel (us!). They’re transparent, no more colorful than we paint them to be. But it’s only when we lean into God that the reflection of His glory appears. And the image becomes more beautiful when things are shaken up a bit. Sometimes in painful, unwelcome, and unexplained twists. Yet when we willingly lean in to God, our lives are filled with dazzling color and light. No matter how many times you look through the spy glass, you will never see the same image twice, it’s constantly shifting as things move and turn.
Many of us have fragments of our lives lying around waiting to be transformed into something beautiful. God can use it all. Our only job is lean in and allow His goodness and glory to be reflected in all the pieces of our lives.
While Marianne’s circumstances were not always watermelon pink and silversage sparkle, Marianne dared to lean in through every twist and turn. She didn’t glitter coat the dreary parts. She let herself grieve disappointments and handed them to God.
She found her God faithful to carry the heavy load. In exchange, He brought her family closer to Him and one another, He surrounded her with extraordinary friends, deep love, and hearty laughter. She welcomed the eternal perspective illness beckoned. She never was one for fluff and small talk. Love became the main thing. The only thing. Marianne’s life of color never dimmed.
She lived in the supernatural here, and she is fully healed and whole in vivid color on the other side. The kaleidoscope of color she created has been passed on like a baton. It’s our turn to be audacious enough to allow God’s goodness and glory to be reflected in our lives.
While I miss my friend in uncountable ways, the masterpiece of color she left behind is like a garland around my neck. I will spend the rest of my days bravely adding to it by leaning into God’s love through every twist and turn.
Melinda Mattson is a speaker and writer who seeks what’s lovely, and savors the present. She raises girls, hopes, and hands. Find more of her work at www.melindamattson.com