To All You Ordinary Heroes

The following is a portion of a blog post from Lisa-Jo Baker at Tales from a Gypsy Mama website. It speaks so truthfully about finding the heroic in ordinary lives that I wanted to share it. To read the full post, click here

Mountain LionTo All the Heroes – yes you, the ones up to your elbows in ordinary

We all want a hero…

We all want a hero to stand on a stage or a white horse or a battlefield or a football field or a bridge and declare to the darkness, “you shall not pass.”

We want to believe in courage bigger than us and the role models willing to leave their footprints behind for us to tentatively step into.

Prophets and rock stars, preachers and teachers and bloggers and poets. We want them to pour their words and point their lives like warning signs to the tired who come behind all bended over with our ordinary and expecting that others will triumph so that we can live in awe…

We want heroes with grand lives to sweep us up into their stories and propel us out to save the world through their endeavors while we stay home and fold the boring laundry.

And what if we are the heroes we are waiting for?

What if we can change and mold and challenge and fight back the darkness from our own corner of the Kingdom.

What if ordinary is heroic?

Most heroes I know wear jeans and T-Shirts most days and fight fevers more than Hercules.

Most heroes I know don’t have or care about blog platforms or their readership. They are too busy figuring out how to love their kids through a meltdown.

Most heroes I know are sitting right there in the pew behind us with their broken down daughters, their aging parents, their newborns who won’t sleep through the night, their singing off-key.

Most heroes I know are so ordinary we wouldn’t give them a second glance in the checkout line. They reek of homework and figuring out the taxes and how to squeeze a date night into another crazy week of car pool and sports and getting one more stain out of the carpet.

Most heroes I know are brave because they keep going in the face of their overwhelming fears, their worries, the voices in their heads that tell them they aren’t good enough, diligent enough, calm enough, prepared enough, or any other enough that can spit up out of the “perfect-o-meter.”

Eight women spend a morning cooking food for the friend who’s house was trashed by a hurricane, for the single parent who doesn’t have enough, for the family who will likely knock on the church door tomorrow…

There is no showmanship in heroism. There is just the next thing. Sometimes that thing might feel small – like helping your kid with his math homework. And sometimes it might feel big – like standing on a stage, or writing a book, or helping build a school or raising a million dollars or hosting a global webcast. But my guess is heaven uses a very different yard stick than we do.

So keep on, you.

Yes, you. The one up to your elbows in what feels like ordinary.

Lisa-Jo Baker believes “motherhood should come with its own super hero cape.” If you subscribe to her blog posts at www.lisajobaker.com, you’ll get her free eBook The Cheerleader for Tired Moms.

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Heroes Among Us: An Interview with a Firefighter

The following is the first of my interviews with heroes I know, with the hope of revealing the ordinary aspects of a hero’s life and to help the rest of us recognize hero traits or tendencies in ourselves. The name of the interviewee has been changed for privacy sake.

Among the many things firefighters are known for, two things stand out the most – their courage and their cooking.

When I first met Dave the firefighter at a family gathering several years ago, I was immediately impressed by his quiet confidence, and then with his show of kindness and affection while he played with his children.

Becoming a firefighter was a natural career choice for him after finishing Emergency Medical Training (EMT) school and working an ambulance for seven years. Sixteen years after making that decision — and having worked his way up through the ranks, starting as a cadet — he’s now a captain with the fire department.

When I asked him how many fires or emergency calls he’s answered so far, he told me he didn’t know. And then he did the math and was amazed by the answer: well over 20,000 emergency calls over the course of his 23-year career. With all of that experience, Dave understands fear and courage. He attributes the ability to face the dangers in his job to training, saying, “All of the initial firefighters that engage in their first fire are VERY courageous…It takes a different type of being to become trained to the point of entering a building knowingly, realizing that death could take you. After the first fire, your comfort level increases.” Continuing to risk their lives becomes like clockwork after that, he says.

Though he agrees with the Moorish proverb that he who fears something gives it power over him, he also believes that sometimes fear is a good thing. It’s “what a veteran must realize when leading a crew, it’s that sixth sense to objectively analyze the situation and make a decision.”

One aspect of his job is keeping people calm in an emergency, and he has practical advice for dealing with others who are fearful: “Be a solid listener. Make a conscious effort not to…be distracted; make eye contact and ensure that the person you are listening to knows that they have your full attention.”

Dave defines courage as acting or performing for the best interests of others, rather than yourself. Like any good husband and father, his own fears or concerns center around his family. Getting injured while responding to an emergency or being caught up in a domestic violence incident on call could lead to not being able to provide for his family. He’s also concerned he might fail to instill strong ethics and morals in his children or to teach them to always do the right thing regardless of hurting someone else’s feelings. And he believes building confidence in children, that they can do anything, is the first building block of courage.

And what about the rumor that firefighters are good cooks? Chores, like cooking and cleaning, are typically shared in a firehouse. And just like the food at a truck stop better be good enough to please the truckers, food served at a fire station has to satisfy a hungry group of firefighters. Dave always enjoyed cooking green chile sausage gravy to complement biscuits and eggs when it was his turn to feed the “troops.” He was kind enough to share his recipe with us.

Green Chile Sausage Gravy (for 10 good eaters)

  1. Gather up a large pan that holds approximately 3/4 gal.
  2. Place one large “log” of spicy sausage in the pan, cook it down and keep some of the grease for flavor, strain the rest.
  3. Once the sausage is cooked, add in approximately 1/2 gal of milk, bring it to a boil.
  4. In a large cup, place approximately 4 cups of milk, slowly add flour until the contents are very thick, whisk it if possible, lumps of flour are yucky!
  5. When the milk and sausage contents are boiling, slowly pour in the milk/flour contents, until the boiling stops, then stop the pour and whisk the pot to further avoid clumps. Once the contents boil again, do the same. Key here is to do this a few times until the consistency matches your taste.
  6. Once you have the desired thickness, add in approximately three to four cups of thawed frozen HOT green chile. Let this simmer and stir for a few minutes and you’re good! Hint: If your chile isn’t hot enough, you can add black pepper to spice it up.

The Courage of Mothers

To me, mothers are some of the most courageous people I know. In every part of the world, they fight for and defend their children and their homes – many give their lives for both. Sacrifice is a daily offering.

Many women long for the experience of motherhood. They have a deep need to nurture a baby. Their mother’s heart will not let them give up even after the devastation of miscarriage or stillbirth.

Two years before I came into the world, my mother gave birth to my oldest brother. He was born with a handful of physical defects, one affecting his tiny heart. My mother brought him home to a newly painted nursery filled with a secondhand crib, crocheted baby quilts, and the hopes of motherhood. She cuddled my brother, loved on him, nursed him, and made his few days of life as comfortable as possible. Then she tried again – not to replace her lost son, but because she had a mother’s indomitable spirit, a mother’s heart that would not be stopped even by the heartbreak of loss.

It is easier for some people to understand what a mother goes through with the loss of a child she has held in her arms than the loss associated with a miscarriage. But the pain is no different.

In the following excerpt from the website Raising Paityn, Tiffany describes her experience with miscarriage. For the full post, click here.

The grief of a miscarriage is often a hidden pain…not soothed by platitudes…not soothed by logic…but time does bring clarity to grief. My baby is in a better place. I love to picture her in the arms of Jesus, her soul flying from the loving warmth of my womb to his gentle arms. It was an image that I think put me on the first step towards healing.

A piece of my heart is forever missing, flown away to heaven with my baby…I whisper words to the child I never met but I feel I know. I send hugs and kisses and love to the baby I still long to embrace…But for the moment, I sit with my loss in the comforting embrace of the night. Daylight is unfriendly towards grief; sunshine and warmth seem incongruous with the ache of sadness. In the dark, grief sits by me as a friend, acknowledging my right to shed tears and feel this ache in my heart. So I embrace it. No platitudes, no logic. Just tears that bring healing.

Some women will never physically bear a child, but their mother’s heart is evidenced by their love and nurturing of others, whether of adopted children, friends and family, or furry creatures.

And not all mothers are “good” mothers, not all live sacrificially for their children. But for those who do, they are true heroes. And for those who try again after miscarriage or stillbirth, I salute the courage and steadfastness of their mother’s heart.

Live More, Fear Less: Follow a Hero

Growing up, my mother was my hero. She immersed herself in motherhood, and sacrificed a chance at a career to stay home and raise my siblings and I. She loved us unconditionally, taught us to play fair and work hard, taught us to laugh – because that’s how she lived. When I had children of my own, I decided early on to be as much like my mom as I could be. I wasn’t perfect at it (neither was she) but I wanted my kids to know what it felt like to be loved and respected.

If following my mother’s example is any indication, then following a hero can make us better people by emulating their good qualities. Real heroes sacrifice unselfishly for others and strive to make a difference in their world. They push past their fears and climb over obstacles that would stop most people – and as a result, inspire us all. Who isn’t inspired by reading a story or watching a movie based on the true life of a hero?

…in the end, these are [hero] stories not just of courage, but of inspiration, stories that, if we let them, will help us to see our world as a place where the real heroes go about their lives in ways not played out upon a grand stage in front of thousands, but on a small stage, or even back stage, in front of few. ~ Michael Cleveland, Merrimack Journal

Do you have a dream but are fearful to move forward with it? Maybe what you need is a hero to inspire you, or just someone else who is already chasing their dreams. Try looking to your family or friends, a neighbor or co-worker. For movies where the “good guy” wins out (read my take on heroes and underdogs), watch A Beautiful Mind, Chariots of Fire, Coal Miner’s Daughter, Norma Rae, October Sky, Rudy, or The Pursuit of Happiness.

If you still need inspiration, here are a few places you might find it:

♦   Joseph Badal, the author of five published suspense novels, blogs once a month about Everyday Heroes — military and civilian heroes who make a difference in the lives of others, and even a black bear that went the extra mile.

♦   Every Friday at the Living Better Stories website, Jeremy Statton blogs about people who are doing something Secretly Incredible. In a recent blogpost he wrote, “I tell you the stories of amazing people. People whose lives don’t fit the category of normal. People that blow me away. Their lives, especially their decisions to live for something bigger than themselves, inspire me to do more with my life.” He doesn’t call these people heroes but they are.

♦  Lisa-Jo Baker is a mother who inspires and encourages other mothers (and anyone with a heart) at Tales from a Gypsy Mama. She did a great post On (not) Raising Deadbeat Dads, and here are bits and pieces from Daughter, you can take this one to the bank:

I will always come

I’m tired and she’s tired. I’ve already put her to bed more than once tonight. She’s standing in the crib…on tippy toes with soft, chubby arms stretched out to me as far as she can lean. She’s standing with eyes trained on the door and fingertips craning toward me… I will always come, baby…I dance with her slowly – the rock and roll of motherhood – and I know this is a promise I can stake my life on. I will always come…

When the mean girls make you want to shrivel inside your skin…when you get laughed at and people point fingers at your hair and your shoes and your too bony hips. My darling, I will come. When that boy breaks your heart…When you say your “I do’s”, when you start your happily ever afters, when none of it quite feels like you thought it would…when you regret what feels like signing your life away to someone else. When you keep on keeping on…I will so be there…

I will rock and roll you with my love and the promise that I will help you get back on your feet. I will hold your hand. I will rejoice. I will babysit. I will pass the tissues. I will wash the dishes. I will come. Tonight. Tomorrow. And the day after. And after. And then some.

Get inspired. Follow a hero. Take a step today, even a small one, toward making a difference or chasing a dream. Ordinary people can do extraordinary things. Even you.

Who inspires you? Who is your hero?

Live More, Fear Less: Living with a Purpose

I’m the kind of person who roots for the underdog. I like movies where the little guy comes out on top and books where the hero wins in the end.

The thing about underdogs and heroes is they DO something. They’re working towards a goal, often while trying to overcome a personal shortcoming along the way. Even if they give up at some point, they always end up getting back on track. Heroes and underdogs don’t always get what they start out wanting. They might have to shift focus to see what’s really important. And usually what’s really important is something or someone outside of their me-world or I-want way of living.

Another thing that heroes and underdogs have in common is facing their fears. And deciding at a particular moment that something is more important than fear. You can bet firefighters are afraid just about every time the alarm sends them out on a call. They have a purpose in life that is beyond themselves, and so they push through.

Not everyone knows what their purpose is. Some people know early on what they want to do with their life, but some of us are still searching. For me, my faith tells me I’m here in this world at this particular time in history for a reason. God has a plan for me and he knows what it is even if I don’t (yet).

When I start letting my “not knowing” get the best of me, I search out an underdog or hero story. Nick Vujicic is one such person who fits into both categories. Born without arms or legs in 1982, he tried to drown himself at 8-years-old and then fought depression for many years afterward because he didn’t know why God made him the way he is. Then Nick found purpose in his faith. For a truly inspiring story, I hope you’llcheck this out.

Who inspires you to live more and fear less?