How Being Brave Changes Your Life

by | May 8, 2013 | Uncategorized


“You know the reason we all know each other,” I ask during our lazy afternoon conversation, bare feet propped up on the coffee table. “Because we were all brave and said yes to living outside our comfort zone.”

We’re six sprawled out in chairs and couches huddled tightly in the living room at Hope Cottage, basking in the afterglow of Sunday dinner, fighting sleepiness to linger long in conversation. Seven years pass since we did this last time. Our family stopped through England for respite on our way home from Rwanda.

Eyebrows collectively arch, like a dash or an ellipsis in our conversation. Then suddenly, nods of agreement become contagious. I didn’t realize it until that moment. How our life choices in response to the unseen, unplanned, and uncharted opportunities in life yield the gift of enduring friendships with people scattered across the globe.


Twenty years ago, we met for the first time on a quiet, starry night in Colorado as they stepped off the train, tired newlyweds with attractive British accents. Now we sit together laughing in their parents living room about my inappropriate use of the word yard to refer to their lush garden.

We each walked away from predictable paychecks, the security of social ties, and the familiarity of family and perceived future success to be missionaries living on the mercy of kindness. Or as full-time missionaries say, “We lived on support.”

And we learned that trust means believing that miracles are tangible for everyone, not just the chosen few. It’s what I thought of when I read Margaret’s words:

Too many of us play and pray it safe. We allow our aspirations to stay in our heads, our goals to remain barely outside our grasp. Life becomes a series of unrealized hopes and dreams. Rather than engage in the fullness of life, we remain on the sidelines and pass up uncounted opportunities. Our fears become greater than the hope of the One who came to bring us abundant life.

Perhaps this epiphany on the day H and I celebrate our twenty-third wedding anniversary is a greater gift than the silver plated trinkets tradition says that we should get. Risking reputation and security to follow Christ isn’t planned or predictable and it doesn’t produce preconceived outcomes. It’s like swimming upstream while rain pellets blind your path to shore. You aren’t certain how you’ll get there but when you stand on shore and have a look around, you realize the journey was worth it. The beauty He has waiting at the destination is nothing you could’ve imagined or conjured up on you own.


Being brave for Christ is like standing on the banks of bountiful blessings you didn’t even know were yours until you chose to risk; walk right into fear of the unknown with a flicker of trust dangling from your hands to Light the way.

Even if you stumble, you may find your dream expanding into something even more enchanting than you ever imagined. ~Margaret Feinberg, Wonderstruck

Rare sunlight streams in through the solarium. It’s been eighteen months of wet and cloudy they tell us. Perhaps we’ve carried the sun from the beach in our suitcases and opened it up in England. Pink blooms on the trees multiply in three days, weighing branches down over the thick green carpet in the garden.




We laugh until tears run down my cheeks and I’m holding my stomach. And I’m wonderstruck by it all, the way He makes life beautiful.

Are you willing to risk? When God asks will you say yes?


This is the last installment and link-up for the book club Duane and I are hosting on Wonderstruck by Margaret Feinberg. I hope you have enjoyed the book, discussion and the stories on each of the chapters over the past few Wednesdays. Thank you for joining us.

Linking with Jennifer for Tell His Story and Emily at Imperfect Prose.

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  1. Thomas Mason

    Shelly – we both used the same excerpted passage today! Much of my life has been lived on the sidelines – watching everyone pass me by and not being engaged in what life has to offer. Good or bad, I have preferred safety over risk.

    • Shelly Miller

      I’m anxious to read what you wrote Thomas. It’s been lovely getting to know you through the book club. Perhaps its time to step off the curb?

  2. Jillie

    Oh Shelly, this is beautiful! What a wonderful time of discovery and revelation you are having there in Jolly Ole’ England! I’m afraid I’m living vicariously through you. I’ve often played it safe in prayer and in life, having grown up with so many fears. I’m trying to live more dangerously, believe for bigger and better, taking a few baby steps in the area of launching out and doing different things. And it is you wonderful bloggers who have brought this out in me. I thank you! And “Happy Anniversary!!!”

    • Shelly Miller

      What a gift the blogging world has been to you Jillie, I’ve enjoyed being a spectator of your growth since we met. Baby steps are good, it means forward movement. Right?

  3. Jamie H

    Everything you write is beautiful. Glad I visited today.

    • Shelly Miller

      What a lovely thing to say Jamie, thank you.

  4. Lynn Morrissey

    Dearest Shelly, I always love to read *everything you write* (because it is so beautiful and deep), and I read now with especial interest, because we will be visiting the British Isles in July. Sheridan and I are still pinching ourselves. When Michael finally makes up his mind, that’s it. So we’re going. And my dear friend Jo will be joining us on week two of the journey. She is staying with our “pit poodle” (ha!) the first week, and my mother will have the honors after. I freak out when I travel. I hate that word, but I can think of no better one to describe my angst on a number of levels. I don’t like travel, but I like it once I am there, and have always been glad I took the risk. And your post speaks to me about risk on other levels, and I’m sure that’s what you’re driving at. It’s not just about travel risks, but living and calling risks–daring, by God’s enablement–to fulfill the works He has assigned for us to do. You are doing that now, even as you share in words from across the pond—profound-pond sharings! I love that. You’ve dived deeply, and the Holy Spirit is buoying you up on living water. And we are basking in the splashing. Ok…now my metaphors are waxing a little wacky, so I’d best stop. I hope that you and I can compare notes before we leave St. Louis. And in the meantime, don’t you love that the British name their homes? We’re staying at a “named” cottage too–that of our friends (and all because I risked a transcontinental correspondence with a “strange man” whom I met when he visited St. Louis (from England) when I was twenty-three.) Long story, but I answered his letter, and that correspondence ultimately recorded wonderful marriages for us both, and families, and trips between Newark and St. Louis, and foreign families are now friends! Back to naming houses…. And so, adopting the British tradition, we named our first house Linden Cottage and our current home Ingleside, which means hearthside (we have three fireplaces and want to share the warmth of Christ here). Shelly, have a wonderful trip, and enjoy the Enlish springtime. “Oh to be in England now that April’s there,” said Robert Browning. I should think that May is just as beautiful! Enjoy!

    • Shelly Miller

      I’m so glad you get to go to England Lynn, I know you’ll enjoy it. H is driving us all over. We’ve seen all kinds of countryside and the rapeseed is in full yellow bloom. So far, very little rain and lots of sun which is unusual. Risk is good, when God ordains it.

      • Lynn Morrissey

        Amen to that! And so glad He’s ordained it for you in such a beatiful place. I distinctly remember the rapeseed–the shockingly neon beauty of it.

  5. Lynn Morrissey

    Which is H at the table?

    • Shelly Miller

      He is the one with the facial hair, in the blue sweater seated on the left side of the table.

      • Lynn Morrissey

        You mean a beard?! 🙂 He’s darling. My Michael sports one too and has since just after we were married. I threaten to pull a “Delilah” on him while he’s asleep. I tease him and tell him he’s hiding wrinkles. So neat to see you and H! Give him our best. Have a wonderful time!

  6. Nancy Ruegg

    May your words ring in my memory when I’m tempted to hold back or even give up. You are so right: “Being brave for Christ is like standing on the banks of
    bountiful blessings you didn’t even know were yours until you chose to
    risk; walk right into fear of the unknown with a flicker of trust
    dangling from your hands to Light the way.” I love your caveat to lingering fear, even while walking into the unknown. With just a flicker of trust we can push on through to the glories of the other side! Thank you, Shelly!

    • Shelly Miller

      May God grant you the courage you need in those moments he asks you to be brave Nancy. Thankful you are here.

  7. 1lori_1

    I think so many times Jesus is standing on the other side of the bank just like a father, calling to his child that is gripping the side of the back for dear life. “If only you could just let go and see where I can take you” he beckons. I have been that child far too many times and yet the times where I have let go, He has never failed to be there to carry me through to wonder! Why don’t I let go more often?? Great post, I am so sorry to see this bookclub end. Lori

    • Shelly Miller

      I know, the book club has been good for so many of us hasn’t it? So glad you were part of it Lori.

  8. Margaret Feinberg

    Hoping you are having a ball on your trip! Take lots and lots of pictures. Hug to you, friend!

    • Shelly Miller

      We’re having a great time travelling all over England, seeing the countryside and visiting friends. I’ve already taken close to 1000 photos Margaret, and I’m only half way through the trip. Hugging you back!

  9. DeanneMoore

    I have had about eighteen months of wet and cloudy but the sun is shining today. I have found that beautiful shore swimming the against the current and in the rain. I may live outside of the box but I am better for it and so are you. As you know, I admire your brave spirit, that I believe was given to you in copious measure for reasons you are all too familiar with. I thank God for that and for you—-for allowing me to be one of those friends who dots the face of this globe. Thankful for the beautiful day you shared with us. Happy Anniversary my brave friend.

    • Shelly Miller

      Stand there, throw your head back, close your eyes and soak up the rays Dea. I’m standing right there next to you with my arm around your shoulder and smiling. Love you friend!

  10. Mia

    Dear Shelly
    I have come to realize in my life, that even a paycheck is a gift of mercy from our Pappa’s hand of provision. The moment we trust the sweat of our brow to provide food on the table, we don’t really see God as the sole provider of all good gifts. In a country with a very high unemployment rate, having a job is such a blessing of love. What never cease to amaze me, is that way too many people take their work so easily for granted and seldom if ever walk the second mile! So sad. In South Africa we also call a garden a yard.

  11. dramaticelegance1009

    that quote from Margaret Fineberg really sat with me today. i needed those precious words. thank you, sweet friend.

  12. dukeslee

    Intensely beautiful, as always, Shelly. And you’re doing this even while away from your home? Truly stunning. Loved your photos. You captured peace in each one.

  13. Elizabeth Stewart

    In the risking you found relationship…this is simmering in me.

  14. Starla K Smith

    I love the photos!! wonderful post!!

  15. Laura Boggess

    Just look at those beautiful orchids. And those beautiful faces. Your heart is such a beautiful landscape, Shelly (or should I say “yard” ?:)). You make me want to be brave.

  16. Duane Scott

    Can I just say one thing? Your friendship has opened up a new facet of Wonder for me. This isn’t over, dear. We’re gonna keep writing together. 🙂

    • Shelly Miller

      That blesses me Duane, thank you. And yes, we’re in this together, I’m grateful for that.

  17. Elizabeth

    Oh Shelly you just took me on a wonderful journey. I feel refreshed, renewed and restored by the word drench. I just walked under the shower of your words.

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