The assignment.

Ask a few people who know you well, what they think your biggest strengths are and where they see you being brave in the midst of what you’re dealing with. — Niki Hardy (Breathe Again – Learning to Breathe Again, p. 65.)

I followed the instructions as Niki laid out at the end of chapter three. Honestly, I was afraid to pose the question to those closest to me. My reservation was not because of what they might or might not say. My friends are beautiful people, so I knew they would respond with encouraging words. I was reluctant to ask them the question because I didn’t want to interrupt their day. My husband is a busy businessman. His time is reserved for clients all over the world. My friend is a teacher at an elementary school, whose attention is solely focused on the little learners in her class. My other friend is an artist and work-from-home-mom of four, whose care is in constant demand. And my mom, well I am still amazed at how she is less available as a retiree than she was when she worked a full time job.

I didn’t think that they should be interrupting the rhythm and demands of their day on my behalf. “They don’t have time,” I thought. And I didn’t believe that I was worthy of the encouraging words that they would write back. So even as I write this, I have no idea why I actually followed through with the assignment — probably because I am a bit of a perfectionist who has to follow through with what she’s started. So, at the beginning of the day, I quickly typed the question and hit send.

Well at least I did the assignment,” I told myself. I resolved that if no one replied, I would be fine with that. After all, what right did I have to disrupt their day.

The school teacher responded so quickly that I was baffled by how fast she must have read the text and typed her response. It read

Your biggest strengths are your ability to teach and reach all levels.  You do this with such care and you are “super” prepared.  You have such grace for the “ignorant.”

A few minutes later, the artist-mom-of-four replied

I think your strength is your ability to transmit the knowledge and peace God has placed within you.  This comes across to many as grace, acceptance, wisdom, and a willingness to hear someone’s heart.  This connects to how you are brave because you are willing to show this same ability in stressful situations and toward difficult people.  This gives you a strong voice in the darkness holding steadfast with love and humility. 

By the afternoon, my mom had texted back with an abridged response, indicating her level of busy-ness,

Greatest strengths:  love for God and all mankind, positive, focused, honest, determined, sincere.

Brave: stepping out in faith. Trusting God.

And in a fashion that is truly my husband, he crosses the finish line just before bed time with this response

Strengths: Learning new things, work ethic, caring for people that others discard, great a**.

Brave: You are out on a limb doing things that are brand new to you. Connecting all the dots, even the ones outside of your natural strengths and interests.

It was difficult for me to read their words. In the midst of all the challenging and new endeavors that have chased me down and overtaken me, I imagined that those closest to me could only see a world-wind of anxiety, fear, and panic occupying the space where I once existed. I have felt like a mess and was sure that was how I was perceived. But their words described a woman that I long to be, a woman I would admire and celebrate.

So, I paused to admire her. I looked at how she’d said YES to hard things far outside of her comfort zone. I reflected on how her unconventional methods — the ones that got her rejected by the status quo — had afforded her seats at tables that had been longing to host her. The cost has been significant, but she is confident that the rewards will be exponentially greater. I rejoiced that her fear is overshadowed and outweighed by her courage. And this woman, the one those closest to me described, knows that she is not alone. She knows that she is simply an expression of a loving and generous God.

Although I had been reluctant to reach for them, I reflected on their words, their accolades and affirmations. In that gifted moment, I desperately needed to gaze at their picture of me. I inhaled. I decided to believe them. I exhaled, refreshed. I was reminded that the struggle and stretch to endure the race is actually the win. And as Niki stated, “I’ve got this because God’s got me, and together we can do more than I could ever do alone.”

Niki, thank you for reminding me to breathe…again!

Continue to follow the Breathe Again online book tour to hear our stories of learning to breathe again. Big inhale. Big exhale.

Download your FREE intro & chapter 1 to discover how life doesn’t have to be pain-free to be full, then go live it. —Niki HardyBreathe Again