Saturday, October 26, 2013

filled with hope

Have you ever been over-stimulated?

Like, your day was FULL.  And not of bad things - good things!  In the middle of it all, you were smiling, laughing, soaking in each moment and its richness, and feeling thankful for what you have and where you are.

But then, it hits you.  That overwhelmed feeling.  That, "This is good, but wow my head is spinning from it all," kind of feeling.

That hit me today, as I left a long, fun, colorful weekend of musical rehearsals and headed off to the next part of my day - a bridal shower for a new friend.  I arrived and sat down, feeling like 20 deep breaths wouldn't help.  (They probably would have helped some - I should have tried it.)  I was also really tired.  "I could literally fall asleep on the floor right now," I joked to a friend.  Truthfully, I don't think that was too far from the truth!

Then, a sweet woman who I'd recently gotten to know and who was sitting at the table in front of me turned around and greeted me with the sweetest smile and happiest voice.  I took her hand and squeezed it affectionately.  I hadn't seen her in a while and had forgotten how much I appreciated her demeanor and heart.  "How *are* you??" she asked me with great interest.  "You have a lot going on right now, don't you!?"

We proceeded to chat about my crazy schedule as of late --- and I was just so encouraged.  Our conversation lifted up my weary heart and soothed my anxious soul.

"Oooh, why??" you ask may be wondering.  "What did she say to touch your spirit so??"

Well, my answer for you may not be what you'd expect.

First of all - she was excited to ask and hear about me.  She was genuinely interested about what was going on in my life, even after knowing me for only a short time.  Second, she not only asked, but also made observations, and affirmed me.  That is, she seemed to already know a lot of what I was going to say.  Perhaps she follows me on Facebook, or reads my blog, or has chatted with other women that know more of my current situation.  Truthfully, I don't really even know how she was so aware of my life.  But she was.  And it touched me.  It felt so good.  It was so affirming and comforting and just really wonderful - to be known. And not just known, but valued - because she wanted to know more, and took the time to find out.

And then, third, as I continued to share, and began to uncover just a little of some of the more raw parts of my soul - she related to me so well.  I didn't even have to go into much detail before her kind eyes smiled back at me and from her mouth came kind, gentle, and unassuming words of encouragement and companionship.

I use that word - companionship - because that's what she was to me in our moments together today - a companion. A friend. A fellow woman.  She spoke with me, not to me, and with a kindness and respect and understanding that was so meaningful to me and really touched my heart.  And when I say "understanding," I don't mean that she spoke this like heady, wise stuff into my life.  I mean that she communicated to me that she understood what I was going through, *without ever having to say "Ohh, I understand."*  She just made me know that she understood and related by her demeanor and tone and facial expressions and other choices of words.

And she didn't preach at me - not once.  She encouraged - she spoke wisdom - but not in a, "Oh, honey, just do this and you'll be fine," kind of way.  She didn't give me some quick, Christian-ese answer.  She never once told me what to do.  Rather, she spoke wisdom through her gentleness.  She demonstrated wisdom in the care she took in her replies.  She chose to be a friend and just relate with me.  She had joy and excitement about what is good in my life right now, and she responded with sweetness and hope to the things that have been rough lately.

Maybe that's what it was - the hope she exuded.  I think sometimes we forget that hope can be communicated with more than just words.  Or even perhaps without words at all.  It's one thing to tell someone, "Everything will be alright."  It's entirely another for your whole being to exude that.  For everything about you to say, "There is hope."  Because you believe it.  Oh, how often does my mouth say "there is hope" and my heart believes it not!  But her heart did.  She was filled with hope.  Hope was in her, and it radiated out of her like sunshine on a cloudy day.  It made me close my umbrella of fear, shake off the water droplets of worry, and look up at the sky and see that it wasn't so gray after all.

I am so grateful for my encounter with her today.  I was anxious, running on empty, and ready to burst into tears after a day that had been good, but just a bit too much.  Walking into the church and seeing all the women, the last thing I wanted to do was put on my "I've got everything together" face and make conversation.  I was a quiet mess.  And this sweet woman met me there.  She poured into me the peace and love I needed to go on.  She communicated the message: "Oh darling, you are known, and life is still beautiful and good.  You are going places that are good and exciting, and I'm excited for you.  Someday you will see how where you are right now was exactly right.  And darling - your time will come."  Her joy for me gave me joy for myself.  Her understanding and encouragement about my busy-ness and accomplishments made me feel validated and brave.  Her peace about what lies ahead gave me peace about what lies ahead.  Her restraint from treating me like a problem to be solved or a case to be examined and diagnosed, and her decision to love me so well despite my imperfections - all in about 10 minutes time - was balm to my dry and weary soul.

So, thank you so much sweet friend.  You cared for me today in a way that I was not expecting, and I am so grateful to you.

And to you, dear reader - remember this: When you encounter someone who is dry, over-stimulated, weary, burdened, in need - remember that they don't need you to fix them.  They don't need you to give them the answer to all their problems and worries.  (And even if they did, you couldn't give that to them, anyway.)  Oh no, the best thing you can do for them is listen, relate, and care about them, and the best thing you can give them is hope.  And I'm not talking about the preachy kind - but the lived-out kind.  Meet them where they are, love them, let them share, and show them through your hope the hope that's to be found in Jesus - our Only Hope.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

go back go back

I remember the day it started.

It was a beautiful November morning. I walked into the tiny room, hoping like I always did that I was in good form and that progress would be made.  And I was.  And it was.  And it felt great.  I was in such a good place and it was exciting.  All my hard work was paying off.

And then the words came.

"Okay, so let's talk. You are sounding really good.  These kinds of roles will be great for you.  But if you want to play them - you'll need to get in better shape.  You need to lose 20 pounds."

The words rolled off her tongue like nothing.  And they hurt.  A lot.

I went from feeling so accomplished to feeling so defeated.  I wasn't what I should be.  As I was, right in that moment, I was not enough.

It was also my birthday.

Fast forward to about one year later.  Same room, same purpose - get better at this thing that will very likely be my livelihood.  I was tired - I had just run from an hour of dancing to this, and was operating under little sleep.  It was the middle of the semester, and my plate was full - like always.  It was only a make-up, so I sang through my rep quickly and braced myself for the comments.  I knew they were coming.  But I didn't know how brutal they'd be.

"Okay, let's talk. You look pale. And you say you're in all these dance classes, but they're not helping.  You're not taking care of yourself.  You need to stop doing so much for other people and take care of you."

I was stunned.  Who was she to tell me how to live my life?  I wasn't here for this.

But typical me, I smiled, and tried to bear it with grace. (read: I let her walk all over me.)  And I also started to wonder if perhaps she was right.

I left, frustrated and confused and hurt once more.  I still wasn't enough.

Fast forward a few more months.  My room, long past my bed time.  Me, in the thick of the struggle - staring at my foreign reflection - grappling with the anxiety - and wondering where *I* had gone, and how I'd wound up in this terrible place.

It was a lonely place, ugly and dark, marked by anxiety and secrets.

It certainly didn't happen overnight.  Oh no, it had to have happened gradually - over time.  And over time, it escalated.  Now it was so bad - I couldn't leave my house without going through a rigorous process in front of the mirror.  I had dug myself into a hole, and I had no idea how - or if - I could get myself out.

At the time, my life had changed form a bit, and now there was a newer, kinder, and very thoughtful voice speaking and asking hard questions - "What's going on here?" he asked - But I couldn't handle it.  I was too raw.  I was still in the thick of it.  I was still on the battlegrounds, but totally unaware that I needed to pick up a sword and start fighting.  So the words - though they were spoken with love and care - pierced me, and wounded my pride.  I felt embarrassed and undesirable.  I'd been trying so hard to be put together, to be right, to be worthy - but in reality I was all wrong.  I was building a balloon house on a paper foundation.  All it took were the winds of care and the needle of help to knock down my unstableness and deflate my false sense of security.

I wish I had seen was what was happening at the time.  But I didn't.  It took me a long time after that to realize I was wrong - my choices, my thought process, my heart.  All of it.  Totally wrong.

And recently, I realized why.

I believed the lies.

You see - it is all about what you believe.  And I mean really believe - with your whole heart.  Those beliefs motivate and instruct your daily choices and habits.  And mine were getting really bad.

This world is going to tell you all kinds of things - things that, if you're not rooted and grounded in truth, you will be all too receptive to.  You will hear them and not even realize you should be fighting them off - let alone what strategies to use to do that.  You will be rendered helpless by the brutal attacks on your appearance, your worth - your identity.  Believing the lies will paralyze you.

And I believed.  I believed it all so blindly that my body, heart, and soul were ALL damaged in the believing.

And here I am, years later, standing in the ruins, picking up the pieces, trying to find the remains of the girl I used to be.  I find little pieces here and there - and there are probably more - but right now they are so hard to see.  Because they are buried.  Buried under years of secrets and lies and guilt and shame and plucking and powdering and lining and shaping and covering and covering and covering and covering...

Will I ever find her?  Will I ever get her back?  Oh, those are questions I ask myself everyday.

And if I do, will she be strong enough to change her ways, and wise enough to start listening to the truth, not the lies?  Will she go back to the ancient past and latch her heart to the ancient mast and hold on for dear life to the Hope that so desperately wants to take a hold of her and never let her go?

I can hear Him whispering.... Go back.... Go back.... You'll find your Way. You'll find Me - The Way. Just go back....

peace for this night

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