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Sometimes, courage is just showing up & giving it your all

Show up and give it your all

Friday night, I was asked to be the keynote speaker at the FlameFest Ball (an event for wives whose husbands are firefighters). I was excited about this event — and especially excited to get to speak at a ball!

I was looking forward to my presentation and had fun getting dressed up for the event (I wore a dress I got from RueLaLa, shoes I got from Zulily, and jewelry Jesse bought for me for 70% off at Kohl’s — gotta love frugal fashion!). I walked down the hall from my hotel room to the ballroom feeling very confident and stoked.

And then I stepped foot into the ballroom.

As I saw all the couples dressed in their finest, my former confidence disintegrated.

What do I have to offer these incredible folks? All around me were strong and muscular men who willingly risk their lives fighting fires. Next to their sides were equally strong women who endure long days and lonely nights while their firefighter husbands are on duty.

I looked at the strength and courage represented in the room and felt very small. Who was I to be standing on stage delivering a message of hope to them?

After all, I’m the girl who just confessed I have a nail-biting habit and struggle with anxiety. What do I really know about courage?

But then I remembered: sometimes, courage is just showing up.

I’d been asked to share a message on saying goodbye to survival mode. The conference coordinator knew exactly who I was and what I was about.

She knew I didn’t have a long resume or heroic acts of bravery attached to my name. I’m just a regular mom who hit rock bottom in her own life and found a lifeline of hope and practical steps to take to no longer live life stuck in that pit of survival mode, but to instead live a life of passion and purpose.

And so, I had a choice in that moment: I could choose to be swallowed up by fear and self-doubt. Or I could choose to go up on that stage and give it my all, praying that the words I shared would be impactful to those in the audience.

As I was getting mic’d up, I whispered to Liz (who travels with me), “I feel so out of my league, but I’m going to go up and give it my all.”

And that’s exactly what I did. I left all those feelings of fear and insecurity behind, asked God to fill me up with courage, and then I went up on that stage and owned it.

When I came down off the stage, I knew that it may not have been the most eloquent talk ever, but I’d given it my all. And it felt so empowering.

Sometimes, courage is just showing up and giving it your all.

Wherever you are in life, whatever you are facing, can I encourage you to show up and give it your all? To not let fear, insecurity, and self-doubt own you but instead for you to own whatever “stage” you are called to stand on right now?

Maybe your “stage” is investing in your kids and marriage, or reaching out to the needy in your community, or writing a blog post, or loving a difficult person, or serving at your church, or being the best employee you can be, or studying for your summer classes… or a million other things. But whatever it is, show up and give it your all.

There will always be those voices (literal or imagined) that will whisper in your ear, “That’s not good enough.” Or, “So-and-so does a better job than you.” Or, “You’re not qualified.” And on and on it goes.

Stop listening to the voices and show up and give it your all.


Related: Three Truths That Pulled Me Out of a Pit of Insecurity

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  • Jennifer says:

    Yay Crystal! Your hair looks gorgeous, did your daughter do it?

    • Aw, thanks so much for your kind encouragement! She wasn’t with me on this trip… but at the rate she’s learning and experimenting, she’ll soon be able to do a a half up-do like this!

  • I love this post and your hair is STUNNING!!!

  • raelynn says:


    Thank you for this encouraging post! I love your authenticity. I think you are incredibly brave for speaking in front of people. I could speak in front a classroom of third grade students, but I was petrified of speaking in front of other educators. My mentor encouraged me to present about technology in front of other teachers. I was nervous and fumbled, but I tried my best. There is something exhilarating about facing your fear head on. Nelson Mandela said it best, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.”

  • Jen says:

    Thanks for keeping it “real” and encouraging the rest of us to keep trying new things even when we feel inadequate. It is such an amazing feeling to push through something that is scary and do it anyway. Great job!

  • Jacki says:

    Great post! I see this type of encouragement when I look at my boss. He is 95! The last 2 years have been rough on him and he lost part of his leg, had major heart surgery and still shows up to work at least half a day.

    I have had to take 2 years off from work due to a chronic illness. I show up very seldom to the office and I mostly work from home. He is telling ME to take it easy, only come in if I can and my health is the most important to him!
    I just have to remember that if he can do it, I can at least show up! Just like you said!

  • Sarah says:

    Great word, great hair, great job!

    Your post reminded me of this song…

  • Lana says:

    Good for you! And your hair was beautiful!

  • Courtney says:

    Great job, Crystal! And beautiful hair!

  • julie egbert says:

    As a fireman’s wife I must say-we are all normal too! We all have things we deal with, be it biting nails or something else! Just because my husband is crazy and loves being a fireman doesn’t mean we don’t have problems and need to hear about how to get out of survival mode! In fact I think we are in survival mode more than most because of his career. Firemen are gone a lot and their schedule isn’t your normal 9-5 job, plus a lot of them have more than 1 job. So we struggle with what to eat for dinner, getting kids to sports and where to get the best deals on groceries too! I’m sure they all loved the talk!

  • Cathy Graham says:

    What an inspiring post! Thanks for reminding us that we can feel that fear and self-doubt, but still be courageous and give it our all.

  • Lauren says:

    You are great. Thank you for sharing your heart with all of us. Blessings!

  • What a great post and something we can all apply to our own lives. I recently went from working to staying and home with my two small children and sometimes I question how good I am at it. This article was a great reminder that all I can do is wake up each day and give them everything I got. To be honest, some days it doesn’t feel like it is enough, but I keep trying. We can only get better, right?

    • “…all I can do is wake up each day and give them everything I got.”

      Yes… and give yourself grace, momma! You’ve just made a huge transition and it will time to learn the ropes. And also? I think all of us moms — even those of us who have been at home for a long time — have many times when we feel exactly the same. So just know that you’re not alone! {Hugs!}

  • Janell says:

    Love the hair! I’ve been struggling with anxiety & panic attacks recently. Just wondering if you would tell us some techniques and natural things to help with anxiety.

    • Janell says:

      or any tips from the readers.

      • Kathy says:

        Janell I actually saw a counselor recently because my anxiety and panic attacks that used to be very infrequent became a lot more frequent after my mother in law passed away. The counselor explained to me what happens in my body when the panic attack is going on, so I know why I feel the way I do. She talked to me about how to control my breathing when I feel it starting to come on, and told me about a book called ‘Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers’ 🙂 It talks about coping with stress, an how zebras get that same ‘fight or flight’ response when a predator such as a lion comes’s the same way we feel when we have a panic attack. I can’t remember all that she said, but what I came away with was something to say to myself when I feel the panic setting in..when I KNOW I’m ok and there is no danger (which is all the time!)…I tell myself ‘there are no lions here’. I just repeat that as I’m taking deep, calming breaths, and I have successfully avoided a panic attack every time! I’m not saying it will always work, but if you find a phrase that helps you remember that you ARE ok, and there is no danger, then you can try repeating that with some deep, from the gut..breaths, and see if that helps.
        Good luck!

      • Mrs. W says:

        Passionflower is a wonderful antianxiety herb. It has been the best for generalized anxiety disorder (studies showing similar effects of Xanax without the side effects). It is really powerful. The only thing is it wears out of your system after three hours. I take 2 caps. every 3 hours of the day for really bad anxiety. It takes 30 minutes to kick in and it is wonderful. Also, getting rid of the sweets and refined carbs is important (keeping your blood sugar stable). Pantothenic acid is an amazing antistress b vitamin that really helps relieve stress. I take 1 gram a day (2- 500 mg caps). Garden of Life- RM-10 has helped relieve panic attacks after a few weeks of being on it. Hope these natural things might help you!

      • Angie says:

        Hi Janell.

        I wanted to reply to your comment because I suffered from horrible panic attacks 1998-1999 and again in 2007. The first panic attack I had sent me to the hospital ER. I can’t even tell you how surprised I was when the doctor said what I was feeling was a panic attack. I hadn’t even been nervous or stressed when it came on…I was just sitting at my desk at work and suddenly felt dizzy, then faint, then had a feeling that something was wrong and I was going to die. I guess I didn’t even believe the doctor when he said it was a panic attack because I went right back to the ER when it happened again a week later.

        After the second panic attack, I saw my family doctor and had tests ran to rule out any underlying medical conditions. The doctor didn’t find anything wrong with me…except he said I had an generalized anxiety disorder. I did find out from the blood work that my non-fasting blood sugar tends to run on the low side. The doctor said it wasn’t anything to worry about, but I wondered if blood sugar crashes were causing some of the symptoms that started the panic attacks. I cut way back on sugar, cut out caffeine and tried to eat regular meals and small snacks (with healthy carbs and proteins) throughout the day to minimize highs and lows in my blood sugar.

        I started taking a brisk walk every day, at least 30 minutes but up to an hour if I could. Exercise really helps with anxiety. Our bodies release feel good chemicals/endorphins that create a sense of well being and combat stress and anxiety. Google it online to read the scientific explanation. All I know is that it works. Even during the worst of my panic attacks, I would take a brisk walk and feel so good afterward…like I could take on the world.

        It might be worth mentioning that I was just starting birth control pills both times in my life when I started having panic attacks. My family doctor and OB/GYN both denied any connection. I’m suspicious though. Both times, I stopped taking the birth control pills and used other methods. The panic attacks didn’t stop instantly once I stopped taking the pills. I’m wondering if the pills could have created some imbalance in my body that caused the panic attacks to start though. Who knows?

        My doctor did prescribe anti-depressants both times I had panic attacks. These did not help me. I know several women who have taken anti-depressants and it did help them. Just in my personal experience, it did not help me.

        My doctor said I could try counseling for the panic attacks. I did not try this, although I have heard it does help. I did try prayers…lots and lots of prayer. My family doctor is a Christian and he advised me to look up some Bible verses about fear and anxiety and memorize them for use during panic attacks. I looked up lots of verses and typed them up on index cards and carried them in my purse. When I started to feel like I could have an anxiety attack, I would take the cards out and read them over and over. This helped me too.

        This is probably the one thing that helped me the most. In my panic attacks, the worst symptom was feeling like I was going to faint or pass out. It was horrible. I’d be trying to get groceries and I’d have an attack come on and feel like I would faint. I’d be taking my young children somewhere for a fun activity and have a panic attack and spend the next 20 minutes feeling like I was going to pass out and worry about my kids witnessing that happen. I was so frustrated and upset about it one day that I was crying and telling my Dad how I felt like life would never be normal for me again. I couldn’t even take my kids to the park or go to the grocery store without having a panic attack and feeling like I was going to pass out. My Dad, always a sensible person, said “Mind over matter…if you don’t mind, then it won’t matter.” In the past, that comment from him always got a laugh out of me. At that time in my life though, I was incredulous that he could say such a thing. He didn’t mean to trivialize what I was feeling but went on to explain that he was serious. He asked me “When you are in WalMart with the kids and have a panic attack, you feel like you are going to faint. What is the worst thing that can happen?” When I didn’t say anything he went on “You faint…it happens…some nearby shopper rushes to your aid and helps with the kids. You come to…it’s over. Maybe someone calls for an ambulance…maybe not. That’s it. If it happens, it happens.” In the end, it was this line of thinking that helped me to start getting over the panic attacks. When I would start to feel a panic attack coming on during grocery shopping, I would repeat that to myself over and over. With God’s help, I was able to start talking myself out of having panic attacks.

        I know how awful those attacks can be. I prayed for you Janell. I hope your panic attacks stop soon. Good luck! 🙂


        • Janell says:

          You are so sweet. Thanks for sharing your story with me. I had my first panic attack at work in April. It was so bad I had to take off work for 30 days. I work at school so I am off in the summer. I did see a therapist and it did help but I go back to work August 12 and I am very scared. My doctor tried me on the Zoloft. I am 48 and did go see a hormone doctor. She said to wean myself off of Zoloft since I hadn’t been on it long. She said I was low on Progesterone, Vit D, iodine and have been taking Vitamins but I don’t feel much better. She said I am insulin resistant and will go over this at my next appt July 28. I had anxiety yesterday just taking my daughter to the doctor and going to the grocery. I am going to start exercising and try some of these techniques. Thanks so Much!

    • Jacki says:

      I know of two young women who experienced an increase of anxiety and panic attacks. One was on heavy doses of meds to combat the anxiety but it got worse. They were talking to each other and one asked the other if they used the same hormones for BC. They did and it was the cause of the problem. Both changed meds and it went away. I hope this helps.

    • {Hugs, Janell!} I hope you’re able to find some things that help you… the comments above had some great ideas and encouragement. I’d strongly encourage you to talk to your doctor and also to a counselor or pastor. In addition, find a few friends in your area with whom you can be completely honest about your struggles and who will support and love on you during this time in your life. Also: look for possible triggers and see if there are things you can do to remove or lessen those.

      I just prayed for you, for wisdom in knowing what steps you need to take, for good support around you in this time, and for encouragement and peace in your heart.

  • club20 says:

    Wow. I love this! I know they were blessed to have you as their speaker. I have recently tried to cut down on the amount of e-mails I receive and thus have unsubscribed to a lot of things, but your posts are a must for me. I love the way they are formatted, and the information contained is so useful. Thank you for all you do!

  • Lindsay says:

    We didn’t have to be there to know you did great! And your hair looked absolutely Fabulous!!

  • As someone who has spoken before the Federal Congress, the Anti-Defamation League, the ACLU, and was interviewed by Ted Koppel for Nightline, and appeared on their Town Hall series, I can tell you that the thoughts of self-doubt will never evade you. You will always feel you don’t have enough to offer others. The reality of the situation, is that the only thing you need to consider is that you were asked to speak, you were chosen to relate your personal experiences to your audience, and regardless of what you say, its your passion for words that will stir your audience.

    Besides, in a LBD, no one would consider the short nail, warts, fur, and fangs we all feel the world sees! 🙂 Just be your fabulous self!

  • Jess says:

    Thank you. I needed this today.

  • Way to go, Crystal! I’m clapping for you and rooting for you through the internet! I needed this encouragement today. 🙂

  • I second everyone, your hair is gorgeous!

    Also, thank you so much for being so open and authentic. I suffer from an anxiety disorder so I can totally get the feelings of inadequacy and fear, so let me just say YOU ROCK. Your courage to overcome your fears and let God lead you out of your comfort zone is truly inspiring!

    • Thank you so much for your encouragement! These past few years have been a HUGE life-changing journey for me and I am so very grateful for all of you who have been a big part of that transformation! I so appreciate each and every one of you!

  • Lacey says:

    Thank you so much for posting the link to the 3 truths that got you out of the pit of insecurity! I some how missed that post and it was just what I needed to hear. I may even have to print it out, it was that good!

    You looked stunning! Those curls are beautiful on you. 🙂

  • Sarah says:

    Very well said. Thanks. 🙂

  • Kim says:

    Thank you for sharing your moments of insecurity and fear and how you overcame them! It reminds me of Mandisa’s song, “Overcomer,” which I love
    hearing on the radio!

  • Kim says:

    Thanks for this post Crystal! I really needed to hear this today. I recently became an independent consultant for a direct sales company to earn some extra cash for our family of six. I’ve gone down this path twice before and I was never very good at selling, but this company and its products are different because it’s more about educating and helping people rather than selling them something they really don’t need. But I was starting to doubt my decision to try again and I was ready to give up before I even started! Thank you for encouraging me to “give it my all”!

    I agree with everyone else…your hair looks great! 🙂

  • Vickie says:

    So well said -that’s all we can do is give it our all! I’m going to try to remember that more and more. Your hair is
    was very pretty too!

  • Love this Crystal! Thank you so much for sharing – sometimes we are the only ones left to show up for. Great reminder. 🙂

  • Susan says:

    I think my husband was there too! I wish I had known you were going to be there, he only mentioned the event after it was over (his fire department did a presentation). I didn’t even know about this group, but I’m glad to know they exist. I’d love to connect with other firefighter spouses and talk to them about the few things that are unique to our situation. I’m sure you did great!

  • Tori says:


    I have been one of your followers for a while, and I am also a member of Firefighter Wife. Although I was unable to make it to FlameFest, I was looking forward to hear what you had to say. From my perspective, all wives (and women in general) need the same thing – love, companionship, understanding, courage, strength, and a little bit of order somewhere in the chaos. It is humbling to hear that you were nervous to speak to a crowd made up of such women because, truth be told, we don’t feel “incredible” as you view us. We feel normal – just normal couples trying to strengthen our marriage. I have learned so much from reading your posts, and you have so much to offer all women and families out there. Please never feel discouraged, because you truly have been an inspiration to a lot of people. We face difficulties in our marriage – difficulties of scheduling conflicts, long hours apart, high stress careers – but those difficulties are no different then a LOT of other couples out there experience.

    I am so happy you made time in your schedule to come and speak with our group about strengthening our relationships with each other and organizing our life. You truly are a blessing to a lot of people!

    • I was so blessed to be there and so inspired by the couples there. You firefighter families are pretty downright amazing!

      Also? Thank you for your sweet encouragement! This comment blessed me a great deal!

  • Nathalie says:

    Good for you. “Sometimes courage is just showing up” resonates with me so much this week. Very similar words I spoke to my Mother before her open heart surgery she was so petrified to have this past week. I told her she accomplished the hardest part by just showing up. Facing your fears and challenges is a teriffic accomplishment, sometimes we need to be reminded. Glad your’s went so well, and my Mom is recovering beautifully.

  • Stacey says:

    Thank you for being real!!! As a teacher, mom, wife of a firefighter/paramedic life is always a courage and daily struggle. I too have dealt and still deal with some of the same issues you have. I just keep praying every day for God to give me the strength to carry on and to forgive me . Thank you for all you do.

  • April says:

    Wow, is this confirmation or what? Our pastor’s sermon yesterday was about courage. And then I read this tonight. Thanks for the post.

  • Angie says:

    I really needed this today. I was asked to take the director role this year for our Children’s Musical and I have been doubting myself thinking I won’t do a good job at it or I won’t do as good as the last person who has done it for many years. After reading this I will just remind myself what you said. Thank you for your wonderful post.

  • Natasha says:

    Way to go girl! I’m sure you rocked! Thanks for the reminder to keep going even when there’s fear!

  • Tibi says:

    Amen and Thank You! That post was incredible and I am sure your speech was just as powerful. Thank you for challenging me NOT to listen to the insecure voices I hear so loud and clear, but to listen to the truth to be and do what God has called me to do. Thank you!

  • Teresa Simek says:

    I love this, inspiring read for a newly single mom who just got out of an abusive ten year marriage. I have been following you for over a year now but not as closely as I will now. I need to make the most of every penny and get back on my feet. Thanks for your honesty, its so refreshing.

  • Amy says:

    This post was just what I needed to hear tonight. Thank you for sharing!

  • Crystal,
    You are a courageous woman to step out of your comfort zone to help others. Sharing your gift of a better way to live was a gift to everyone there. And to those of us that follow on the blog. Thank you for speaking at such a great event. God bless those firefighters that put themselves on the line for us.
    God bless
    Heather Laurie

    • Heather: You’re such an encouragement! I was just sad I didn’t get a chance to talk to you more in Dallas. Every time I’m with you, I’m so inspired by you!

  • Way to go! And I’ll bet that what you said resonated with people in ways you can’t ever even know. One word at the right time can change everything. I used to work for our local fire department and then our local police department when I was younger. The spouses of the workers struggled a lot with anxiety and fear. What if someone was on the edge and needed your encouragement that day? You just never know. 🙂

  • Sally says:

    This was just what I needed this morning! Thank you so much for this, Crystal!
    As you mention, my “stage” is just creating that next blog post. Having a new blog, I feel so vulnerable and insecure, and that fearful thinking keeps rearing its ugly head. One of the things I’ve done to try to conquer that fear is to write a few posts on overcoming fear (primarily for my benefit 🙂 The Lord is so gracious, and as I commit every part of my blog to Him, He is giving me His peace which passes understanding.
    It’s encouraging to know that a seasoned, talented blogger like yourself struggles with the same issues. It’s even more encouraging to see how you overcome them!

  • Kathleen says:

    You are such a beautiful person inside and out. Your transparency is such an encouragement….you are a ‘real’ person. Thank you for being such an inspiration and for letting the Love of the Lord shine through you! You’re amazing!!!! 🙂

  • Lynn says:

    Crystal – thank you so much for this post today. I have had some really big disappointing things happen recently causing me to doubt myself. I really needed these words today!

  • Chris says:

    Your hair is very pretty. Would you be able to post instructions sometime? 🙂

  • K says:

    This post is so timely!!! Thank you for being so encouraging. This post really blessed me.

    I enjoyed every word of it, but your final two paragraphs really packed a powerful punch for me. (In a good way.) 🙂

    And your hair is indeed gorgeous! 🙂

  • Nikki Strong says:

    As a firefighter’s wife, life can be demanding! I follow your blog EVERYDAY to look for inspiration and ways to save our family money. I just wanted to tell you (from the other side of the stage) how much I value you and look up to you. Thank you for this post!

  • Heather says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this! It really resonated with me and a situation I have coming up. I am thankful for your willingness to keep it real in spited of opposition. It is such a blessing and God is using it to reach people.

  • Kara M says:


    Thank you, Thank you, Thank you for this much needed word! I was selected a few weeks ago to be the chairman of our Pastor Search Committee at our church. Talk about being way out of our comfort zone! I know and am constantly reminding myself that I am just the vessel for this process and that God is really the Chair. However, I still have moments where I feel I’m going to hyper-ventilate and need a life jacket to keep my head above water. I am saving this article to be able to refer back to in the coming months.

    • Even though it’s so hard to be in situations that make you feel like you just can’t do it, I’ve found that it’s such a GOOD place to be in. It forces me to lean in hard on God and rely on His strength, because I know there is no way I can do it in my own strength. Keep looking up and trusting Him for the grace and strength one step at a time!

  • Lara says:

    Thank you so much Crystal for this post. I just finished the first of a 3 day training for homeschooling moms with women who have way more experience and knowledge than me. And yes I heard all those voices and entertained thought of just walking out (although I would never actually have done that) but I had the courage to stay and let God speak through me. Hopefully someone was blessed by the talk. We are weak but he is strong! Thanks for being real!

  • Ricky Willis says:

    What an absolutely inspiring post. Thanks so much for sharing this with us. I also have felt like this in certain situations recently and you are right. You just need to know you are giving it your all.

    I’ve made this post one of my top 5 of the week:

    – Ricky

  • Anna says:

    Wow…this was a great post. It was so timely for me, too. I just started a blog about my journey with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. I have never thought of myself as a writer, and I get discouraged sometimes, but I just HAVE to give it a try. I figure…if I fail, I learned a TON along the way and the knowledge can maybe be used to help someone else someday. Thank you for your blog…I have followed it for years and you (and your blog) are one of the reasons I even took the first step to start my own blog. Thank you SO much, Crystal, for all you do. I may never get to meet you on this side of heaven, but just know that you are impacting so many lives…like you have impacted mine!

  • Beth McMillan says:

    Hi Crystal,
    I was there and you did an absolute awesome presentation about your life and learning what you have about hard situations. You showed up and gave it your all! You were courageous!! I know you encouraged me and other fire wives in many ways ,and especially in saving money. I’ve seen a lot of women reference you on our firewife page that they are looking at your blog for frugal meals. So be encouraged, you are being used by the Lord to spread hope . The enemy wants us to be afraid or not think we can do it. I’ve learned over the years , to silence him by speaking God’s loving words to me when I have felt anxious or fearful. God rescues us! Psalm 94:18
    When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your unfailing love, Lord, supported me. So thankful for His unfailing love! So glad I got to meet you, sorry I chatted your ear off! Beth

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