I used to believe that figure competitions, marathons and century bike races were a sign of courage. Im coming to realize, at least for myself, that while those accomplishments are AWESOME, they aren’t the truest definition of the word “courage”. As I ponder the driving force behind my “biggest accomplishments” I would have to say the thing that moved me to run and train and run and watch my stop watch and register, in fear, and run some more, for race after race; the thing that drove me to hop on my mountain bike, with no training and no equipment, and ride 100 miles; and what drove me to eat nothing but egg whites, chicken and asparagus while lifting for 90 minutes a day was not courage at all…. It was all done in an attempt to prove to myself, and others, that I was good enough.

No, that was not courage. It could be identified as strength, drive, determination, dedication, will-power, even bad-assery. (which used to be my favorite way to think of myself) but not true courage.

Today, courage has a completely different meaning to me. True courage comes not from weight lifting, comparison or competition. Courage doesn’t come from money, status or longevity, and courage certainly doesn’t come from hardening. Courage comes from softening. Courage isn’t riding your bike around the world or running a marathon a week. Courage is the ability to be present and to stay with yourself, feeling and moving through each emotion, even the scary ones, as you face situations, people and events in your life that seem impossible to face. Courage is allowing your self to feel every emotion, while exploring every hallway and corner of it to learn all there is to learn from that emotion. Courage is not me standing on my head to show the world the most impressive yoga pose, it is sitting with my son and listening to him tell me that if it’s part of his mission, he is not afraid to die. Courage is accepting what life hands you with grace and trusting that God is in charge. Courage is loving and serving others when you, your self are carrying a load larger than seems possible. Courage is saying the hard things because you know you’ll regret it if you don’t. Courage is the act of softening your heart and allowing others to experience the real you. Courage is the ability to let go of the life you thought you would have and learning to embrace the life you were given. Courage is faith, gentleness and compassion, and not just compassion for others, but compassion for yourself. Courage is finding yourself in a situation you never dreamed in a million years would be your situation, but making the best of it, finding joy in it, and lifting others along the way. Courage is recognizing that this trial is too big to carry on your own and having the humility to seek the help of the Savior. Courage is letting go of pride and surrendering to align your will with God’s.

I am sad. I am crushed by the unknowns and the heavy load that one of my dear sons carries. I am sad for my family, for the heart aches and for the scary places we continue to visit. I am sad for the loss of normalcy and I mourn the loss of life events that have been altered or eliminated because of our situation. Often times tears are forced from my eyes like a gentle waterfall because I cannot contain the sadness. Automatically, when I feel the sadness come, my mind tries to “fix” the problem, I’ve visited this place enough to have learned that there is no “fixing” this. I am helpless and I have no other option but to hand it over to Father in Heaven.

Sadness is not a place I can avoid, everywhere I look I am reminded of the pain. It is interesting to me, how I used to think this sadness was something to avoid with all my might. I did not want to feel this emotion. I used to have the sense that it would ruin me, hurt me, or destroy me. It is different now. I’ve discovered sadness is a place where I can come to feel the depth of my love for my family. It is a place where I can access the love and sacrifice of the Savior as well as His understanding, having felt all that I feel. It is a place where I can absorb the love and compassion of Father in Heaven, who clearly must love us more than we comprehend in order to watch His Son suffer more than the human mind can possibly understand. Sadness is a place where some of my sacred and tender memories of my children are stored and if I never allow myself to feel this place I would be denying myself the precious and treasured gifts that lie herein. It hurts… a lot… but it’s a different kind of hurt, maybe the tears are like a healing salve for the heart.

I recognize the gift in my ability to comprehend and access these feelings, and for that I am grateful. So many believe that mourning and sadness are horrible emotions to be felt and should be avoided. I am blessed to have the understanding that I do.

The face of courage is not 7% body fat with a spray-tan, it is staying present, with the companionship of the Lord, through life’s challenges and the emotions that accompany them. Courage is not proving to yourself you are good enough, it is offering compassion to yourself while you accept yourself exactly the way you are. Courage is not running… it is staying