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A Note From Jo On Fortitude

by Joanna Gaines
Published on August 11, 2022

Waiting on Fall

It may be no surprise that I love a good reveal. By mid-August, I’m ready for cooler winds and golden leaves. I’m ready to watch autumn sweep up summer’s display and to see the wisdom in what fades. I’m drawn to this measure of life: from what was to what is now. Lessons learned, growth hard-won, and turned pages. In some ways, I feel like I was made for this side of life. To create and build and help something prosper. It’s the harvesting part I haven’t always been great at, the savoring of what we’ve sown.

But this season, and this theme of fortitude, has me approaching autumn differently. Rather than flipping the page and looking for the lesson learned, I’m sinking into the strength earned. How winter’s foresight gives way to the promise of spring and how the anticipation of spring bursts into the bright possibility of summer, how then, the sacredness of summer gives way to a fuller fall. That rhythm is a welcome reminder of the bigger picture: the falling then rising, the loss that leads to discovery, the sacrifice that pushes toward strength.

The story of fall is one of strength sown steadily, and it’s our story too.

Seasons of loss and hardship, times we considered ourselves weak. When we look back, it’s natural to take note of how that moment changed our course. How the road we traveled either sent us down a new path or forced us to carve out one ourselves. Less often do we also look for the beauty that remained: the strength we earned in difficulty that is still holding us up today.

Fortitude is not always a trait you can spot in a person. It doesn’t show up in what we wear or how we carry ourselves. But when we’re tested, then our strength shows. We forget it’s there until the day we need it. Until the day we find ourselves in the middle of hurt or adversity or stress. Until the day something or someone has left us wondering how we’ll make it to the next.

In our 20 years of marriage, Chip and I have experienced a little bit of all of it. Losing a loved one. Shifts in friendships. Bills we couldn’t pay. Moments where our hearts were broken. Times when all hope felt lost and circumstances were out of our control. When all I could think to do was lay facedown on the floor in surrender. Soon, our oldest son, Drake, will be leaving home for college. In the grand scheme of heartbreaking things, this one comes with a lot of gratitude and excitement. But still, my first child is moving away, and our family dynamic will change because of it, and that can feel like a loss of its own. I catch glimpses now of what that life will look like and wonder if—or how many times—that might bring me to the floor.

What we learn is that life is not about holding out only for the days of brightest possibility. It’s not only about finding ourselves a crisp new page. Sometimes, in order to move forward, we have to surrender ourselves to the promise of growth that follows the fall. Easier said than done, yes—one thousand times yes.

It’s usually in the middle that we start to wonder if we’ll ever have our ending. When summer is still holding on with all it has and we wonder if maybe fall will never come. It’s the moment before you feel the wind pick up, when relief comes in the smallest dose— just enough to let you know you haven’t been forgotten.

And when you do push through, I’m curious whether you’ve ever looked back without thinking, I’m glad I didn’t give up. Maybe you wish it never would have happened in the first place, but I doubt we ever regret being courageous. Because here we see ourselves in the great wheel of transformation. Seasons evolve. Leaves change. We, too, are part of this great becoming.

Whatever you might be carrying this year, this season, this very moment—remember fortitude comes to us in the inches forward. Not in one fell swoop or one big break. It is what we earn in the days we cling to what grounds us, in the minutes we are sweating out the last days of our own personal summers.

I no longer think perspective is something we only get to see in hindsight. The experiences that we’ve already shown up for, we’ve already worked through—they are what we can turn to today and feel in our bones: We are stronger than we thought.

This year, I’m waiting on fall the same way I always do. I’ll watch the sky. I’ll listen for rain. I’ll pause at the trees with turning leaves. But I’ll do it all a little more patiently. A little more gratefully, remembering that strength isn’t earned in endings or beginnings but in the space I’m forging along the way.


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