Stand tall, and look up.

Sophia loves everything “big girl.” More than that, though, she loves that she can do (almost) everything “big girl” on her own. Newest to that list is showering all by herself. She loves the water, the glee of spraying the walls and floors, and the simple joy of being able to take care of her own body with minimal assistance from me. Of course, some elements of the “showering” escapade come more easily than others: if there is one thing that Sophia still hates, it’s water in her face. So, we’ve devised a plan for washing her hair, and every time she gets ready, I hear her chant the mantra upon which we agreed: “Stand tall, and look up.”

Simple words, aren’t they? “Stand tall, and look up.” They are a simple reminder that if she does as those words suggest, everything will work out just fine. For her, this little saying brings comfort, peace, and direction: she knows exactly what to do, and no matter where the water squirts or what amount of soap runs down her face, she has a plan that brings her confidence and hope. Tonight, as I was washing my little one’s hair, her little chant resonated with me more than usual — especially as I’ve considered all that waits for me in the new year.

2014 offered challenge after challenge; it has been, without a doubt, the hardest year of my life. We began the year finishing the most intense semester of Joseph’s Masters program. We prayed for and delivered our third son who, like his brothers, didn’t survive his birth. We moved out of the home we’d known for our entire marriage, away from both of our families, and to a state we’d never even laid eyes on. We switched roles: Joseph moved from being the full-time parent/full-time student into being the sole provider. I transitioned from working 2-3 jobs to working from home with our little Sophia.

Thankfully, our struggles were interrupted by moments of joy and peace, but I’d lie if I said that I wasn’t looking to the new year with a certain amount of anxiety: surviving one hard year doesn’t mean I won’t be forced to survive another. I’ve no idea what waits for me as we turn the clock from one year to the next, but I do have a plan.

I’m going to stand tall, and look up.

When everything falls apart and when everything works out perfectly, I am going to stand tall and look up.
When life looks exactly as I feel it should and when my entire world feels strange and foreign, I’m going to stand tall and look up.
When I succeed and when I fail, when I do everything right and when I do everything wrong, I’m going to stand tall and look up.

Because in the end, my fear and anxiety gets me nothing more than more fear and more anxiety. Because I hope these words ring in Sophia’s ears long after “water in the face” is the least of her concerns. Because there is no better monument to this year than the lesson of standing strong when all I wanted to do was curl into a ball.

Maybe you’ll join me.

Instead of swimming and sweating and swearing and swerving, perhaps this year’s resolution could take a more peaceful turn. Perhaps you’ll take more time to stop, to stand, and to look. When life hits you hard in the face — and there will be a moment in 2015 when it will — when everything seems to melt around you and it becomes impossible to see the way, just stop. Stop and stand. Don’t spend your energy trying to squirm your way out of it.

Just stand.
Stand tall.
And look up.

Keep your mind and heart on the promise that, eventually, everything will come together in peace and in hope — because someday, in some small way, it will. Look up towards the light, knowing that “this” too shall pass, and remembering that no matter how good or bad it gets, God is here, in the middle of your pain and acquainted with your grief. He revels in your joy, and weeps in your sorrow.

So working and worrying aside, my plan for this year is simple: to stand tall, and to look up. Please join me.