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A recipe for living happily

Brave Love: Making Space for You to Be You by Lisa Leonard, Zondervan, US $22.99, Pp 254, January 2019, ISBN 978-0310352303

When Lisa Leonard said her marriage vows, she promised to be the best wife. When her first son was born with a severe disability, she again promised to be the best mother. Lisa Leonard was not alone in making such vows; most women do this — and at the cost of her their own identity. In the process of being the best, many women fall broken and afraid. In Brave Love, Lisa Leonard tells her story of how she overcame her fears and became the best wife and best mother and best person by simply bravely loving others. She argues that women do not have to pay the price of their own identity in order to be the best wife or mother.

Lisa Leonard says that when life goes normal, it looks beautiful. But when it becomes messy and ugly and downright awful, everything appears wrong. She continues, “You feel overwhelmed; you feel you are a failure. In those broken-down moments, you need to be brave. You need love. In fact, you need brave love.” Lisa Leonard tells us what brave love is and how we can achieve it. It is achievable but it is not as easy as you may think. Lisa Leonard says that her journey to brave love has been up and down, forward and backward. She writes, “I have had to unlearn wrong thinking, learn new ways of thinking, practice and then practice more. I have had to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. I have had to engage in conflict when I wanted to smile and nod. I have had to face my biggest fears – not knowing what the outcome would be. There have been desperate moments and amazing victories. And I still don’t have it figured out. I have so much to learn, so much room to grow.”

Before Lisa discovered the concept of brave love, she used to think that love was easy. Not any more. She is learning that loving husband Steve is a messy, imperfect brave love. It requires time and forgiveness, a willingness to break down walls and be open-hearted. She writes, “Bravely loving Steve means being willing to engage in conflict, to speak the truth, to stay when I want to run.” She says she is learning to love both her children — David and Matthias. I am letting them be exactly who they are without trying to make them conform to who I expected them to be. “To bravely love them by letting them feel what they feel, by letting them make mistakes.” She says she is learning to bravely love David, not by overlooking his disability, but by accepting it for what it is — hard and painful, but also part of him, part of the sweet boy she loves so much. She is also learning to bravely love Matthias in all his quirky insightfulness. He has always had his own thoughts and opinions. She writes, “I want to love him with open hands, refusing to pin all my hopes on him as my typical child. I am learning that Matthias is just who he is meant to be — and I love him just as he is.”

But, most importantly, she is learning to love herself as she is. She writes, “Brave love requires looking in the mirror and, even more, into my own soul and embracing what I see. It means acknowledging all my gifts and strengths, as all my failures and mistakes, and accepting myself just as I am. I don’t have to change anything, prove anything, be anything — except myself. Brave love doesn’t always come easily or quickly, but it is simple and powerful.”

In almost all societies, women are taught to sacrifice their own happiness for the sake of others especially men. In Brave Love, Lisa Leonard argues why they should put themselves ahead of others. In this personal memoir, Lisa Leonard tells her own story of struggle against the established social norms and won. It is written in a very communicative way which makes us feel as if she is sitting in front of us and talking to us directly. She achieved happiness by loving others bravely and she says you can also achieve happiness by loving others bravely. The book is about what brave love is and how you can achieve it. It is a must read for everyone, especially women.

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