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Monday, January 20, 2014

A Note To Every Woman - Who You Are Matters

I feel like I grew up in 2 different worlds that ran parallel to each other. There was the good world with my family where I grew up in church and there was the dark one, where a girl as young as 5 learned the evil of man and lost innocence while she was the only one who knew. Because of the trauma of my experience, I have limited memories of my own childhood but what I do remember may show you how important you are.

Yes, you.

I know I didn't know you then...or maybe I did? Either way, I have something to share.

It took years for me to figure out what was going on in the "dark world" side of my life. And after I knew what it was, it took a little more than 20 years before I would talk about it...all the while I was acting out in crazy ways and aligning myself with dangerous men over and over again. In my awakening, though, God showed me all the times He smiled on me in my youth. He helped me remember the positive I had in my life for all the negative that was robbing me of sleep and peace.

This gift of positive memories? It met me in the form of the faces of women I knew. My mom had some pretty neat friends when I was little. They were all creative and beautiful and fun to be around. Each of them talked to me like I was an individual who deserved attention rather than the girl in hiding I wanted to be. I imagine I was probably a little awkward as a child or maybe a little clingy? These women, I can see each of their smiles and I adore the grace of God to give me an image of right for all the lessons of wrong I was being given.

Ms. Pat: She knew me since I was a preschooler, I think. I grew up with her kids but never got very close to them (I can say that for about 90% of the kids I grew up with. I was always close to one or two people at a time.). Ms. Pat was my Sunday school teacher. She and her husband would teach us all about Jesus. She played her guitar and smiled and told us how happy Jesus made her. She encouraged me to use my gifts and talents. She challenged me to take the steps in my own faith that made me afraid. She spoke directly into my heart when it came down to it and believed better for me when I didn't believe anything good.

The day I tried to kill myself in my adolescence, she was the one who came to save me from myself. Being with her was being with Jesus and she didn't need to say a word to me if she didn't want to. We knew each other well enough that just her being there spoke volumes to me.

I still see her now and then and have had the opportunity to work with her at the summer camp I volunteer at for foster children.

Sandy: This woman was a best friend to my mom. Again, I grew up with her kids and even carpooled with her to school. Sandy is a Godly woman who showed me the beauty of femininity. Several times I went with her and my mom on shopping trips where she taught me about things like Dooney & Bourke and how to look like a million dollars while shopping at the thrift store.  She also taught me to speak up for myself...the little girl who kept big secrets needed this more than I could ever tell her.
{PS Owning a D&B bag is on my bucket list - not for the name brand, but for the good memories it brings me.}

There are so many more women I watched. Sue taught me the beauty of worshipping from my heart. Beth taught me I'm OK just the way I am and the power of letting go of past hurts. Ms. Moe taught me that sometimes it's OK to say it how it is. Carrie taught me the powerful role joy can play in my life. Debbie taught me how to have a warm heart and make people feel welcome...the art of being a friend and a safe place. And still I could go on.

My challenge to you? Look around you when you're at church or the next playdate or the next co-op meeting or at a friend's home... Look around you for the little ones who are watching you. Yes, they're watching and wondering and maybe even looking to you to show them what is right with the world. Please don't get this wrong; I am not trying to challenge you to be anxious that you're doing everything right when you're around children - I want you to be confident in who you are even with your flaws.

The women I mentioned had no idea what was going on with me or what sort of influence I needed. They didn't know how much I treasured extra hugs. They had no idea what it meant for me to hear that THEY thought I was beautiful without expecting anything from me in return. They simply lived out their day-to-day and changed my life while doing that.

Who you are in your heart is what will show more than the flaws or the bad hair days or the wishes to lose a few pounds.

Who you are - unique, beautiful, redeemed - matters. You are someone's hero. Those little ones around you may need to look back in life to see some good - some promise that God really was with them - and it may be you they see when they search their memories. So maybe that means you hand out a few extra hugs. Maybe that means you become a little more of a giver and go the extra mile to put a smile on a little kiddo's face. Maybe that means you stop for a few more minutes to listen to the words of a child...even if they say the same thing over and over again. Or maybe you choose to see the treasure of you and that you do matter and you are making a difference.

Yes. You're making a difference while driving the carpool, while spending time with your friends, while leading at church, while offering a simple smile...the smallest things may be captured in someones heart right now. Just be who you are but be encouraged. Who you are matters...and...who you are is enough. You are enough to be a life saver, a rainbow painter, a beautiful beacon of good, and the smile on someone else's face. You are amazing...just as you are.

I am ever grateful for the glimpses I see of God at work in my life, even when I believed I would never trust anyone fully and I would always have something to fear. My jewels, my memories, show me the light He left for me in the darkness. My prayer is that I can be that for someone else...



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