Sometimes a tragic end leads to a beautiful beginning. What a blessing it is when we discover that what we thought was the end of the world was the end of worry and stress and leaving a painful situation somewhere in our past. Sometimes it is only when we are forced to put something down that we recognize the burden of what we were carrying. Sometimes God completely breaks us before he can truly bless us and we look back with gratitude never realizing that what would lie ahead was way better than what we would be leaving behind. Sometimes our biggest disappointment turns into a blessing in disguise.
It hurts my heart to know how many people carry shame. People lack confidence and self worth and this world has a way of tearing people down rather than building them up. I serve in the food kitchen Tuesday and I am deeply humbled by the experiences that change me to the core. I work along side of two very kind gentleman. It was almost time to close up the kitchen when one man dropped his head and approached me in shame. As he reluctantly grabbed his plate, he spoke some words to me that broke my heart. I am not like you he said in a quiet voice. I asked what he meant and he pointed to the people in the other room and said I am one of them. I belong on their side of the serving table. If a heart breaking made a noise, you would have heard mine shatter. I took my apron off and I went into the room and joined him at the table. I sat side by side with the people whose plates I had just filled with food. There is only one table. The belief that there are two sides is a horrible lie. If I could heal one thing in all people it would be to replace their shame with confidence and self worth. We are not who others say we are. We are who God says we are.
This experience, this lesson will stay with me until I breathe my last breath. I too have felt that kind of shame. The world has pointed a finger and told me I’m not good enough, strong enough. The world tells me I am a failure, but then I remember who I really am. We are one people connected by humanity not meant to be separated into levels of worth based on our economic status, the color of our skin or the education we have or have not received. We are not meant to be judged by the way we parent or by the job we do or do not have. I am so blessed to be able to bridge the gap between the misconceptions of the world and what I know to be true in my heart. We are all created in the image of God. We are not meant to carry shame. If you have ever felt you are not good enough, I lift you up today and my heart truly goes out to you. You are enough in spite of your circumstances. You are worthy and you deserve love. I am so sorry if the world tells you anything different.
Most days I throw on my armor and I am ready to fight a good fight.
Most days I wake up feeling ready and positive, knowing nothing is big enough to stop me from being who God made me to be.
Most days I inspire and encourage and I use every last bit of strength and energy I have to lift up everyone around me.
Today is not a day I do any of those things.
Today I allow myself to feel tired from being beaten down.
Today I allow myself to cry.
Today I allow myself to lie in bed and wonder why.
Today I get to take the cape off that gives me the courage and strength to be the glue that holds even the most broken circumstance together.
Today I can just be me, hoping tomorrow will not be a repeat of today.
We have these expectations of what life will be. I remember the day I held both of my children in my arms for the first time. I was filled with such excitement and hope but looking back now, I realize how naive I was to not realize the complexity of the years I would have ahead of me. As a young girl, I often thought about getting married and having a family. I remember playing that silly game where I folded paper to fit over my fingers and moved it back and forth to determine the number of kids I would have in the future. As that silly game and my preconceived notions disappeared into reality, I sit here thinking how different raising and mentoring kids is from what I ever imagined. I had no idea the constant battle it would be to navigate through a world that is unforgiving and full of contempt. The dreams of tribes and villages supporting me in my parental journey disappeared in a puff of smoke. Some days it is literally just me fighting for them against a world who enjoys being hypocritical and unkind. I wouldn’t change a thing if I knew then what I have learned now but I would have been more prepared. We are not dismissed of our duties or worries EVER, not even when kids turn 18 and leave the home we provide since the day they were born. The more they walk to and through adulthood, the more serious and difficult our job becomes. Parenting is never easy. We do not win awards for the time and heart we devote to the family we create. We do wear marks of contempt, scorn, disappointment, loneliness, failure and shame as the world points a finger and continues to condemn.
This is is shout-out to all the parents who have done their best. It is a shout out to parents who have been labeled not good enough by the critics of the world. Even now, when the whole world gives up on these kids, I stand feeble but more determined than ever to be their advocate and love them through every difficult time or bad decision they make. I will love them when life is good and I will celebrate every success they ever have. But I will stand by and love them through their failures as well and I will never limit their potential because of mistakes they make. I’ll leave that to the rest of the world. The world can choose contempt and hate but I will choose love every-time. So to all you critics and parents who think you can do better, I have a question for you. Are you part of the village? If not, maybe it is people like you who are the biggest problem of all.
On the hardest days when my heart is breaking, I think back to the hope and love I felt that moment I first cradled them in my arms and just for a moment I let myself go back to a simpler time as I wipe the tear that drips from my eye.
I woke up remembering a story I read a few years ago and I believe someone needs to hear this message today.
It’s the story about the person stuck in raging waters. She is flailing her arms, fighting the current and so exhausted that she really believes she is going to drown. Then, just before she makes the decision to surrender to what looks like is about to consume her, a little voice comes from deep inside and quietly whispers, just stand up. The truth is the water wasn’t deep at all but the person, in the midst of trouble, was so focused to keep her head above water that she didn’t even think to try and put her feet on the ground.
Stop fighting where you are. Sometimes, even when it’s uncomfortable, you are meant to be in a particular place at a certain time. We can try and understand it but the reality is we must focus on the challenge to push through whatever it is. The situation isn’t going anywhere but we are. We will push through to the other side until we can step out of the mess that is trying to destroy who we are. A situation looks so much bigger when we are fighting against it. Just relax and stand tall until the storm of challenge blows on through. If you are staring at the problem, there isn’t a chance you will see a solution. You have persevered through every obstacle life has ever thrown in your path. We have navigation for that. There IS another way and when we learn to be still the answer will come.
This is what I told myself today when I could barely get out of bed. It may look like my life sucks and that I should walk around moping around and feeling horrible but the truth is I am meant to be happy and to enjoy my life and I will choose that everyday in-spite of my circumstance. I am a survivor, an over comer. You are too! Speak to that negative voice and speak with authority! You may have stolen days in my past but you will not get a single hour of my future. There’s a new boss man in town and you are fired!
Sometimes we find out who our friends are in the hardest seasons of our lives. We can be surrounded by all kinds of people and then we fall off the cliff, stuck below, with not a single person to help us find a way to get back up. It is during those times when we need people the most but sometimes they are so centered on their own selves that they haven’t even noticed that we’ve gone missing from the fall.
My advice to you is don’t be that friend who doesn’t notice. Be the first one there willing and ready to offer your hands to pull someone back up onto solid ground. Be a safety net, a source of hope and help. We are meant to love one another and to support and encourage people through every season that life brings. Be the friend you want to have. Be the person you’d want to call in a time of need. Be the difference each one of us desperately needs.