For Those Who Think I’m Perfect.

Sometimes, I’m absolutely terrified to tell my own stories.

The funny ones were never difficult, I’ve always been able to easily spin and weave those into any and every conversation. Nothing brings me joy like making a room full of people ache with laughter.

But the ones that require me pulling off layers of skin, cracking open my rib cage and letting you peek at the cracks and crevices of my core?

These are the stories I have always been afraid of.

I have driven to the places that haunt me so many times, that I know each tree that lines those gravel streets.

I used stockpile restaurant napkins to keep in the glove box of my little blue Nissan, for all the times I would sit in grocery store parking lots, legs crossed, tears pouring down my face.

I’ve worn out the words “I love you” to people who will never and can never say them back to me.

All by myself, I have stumbled up to houses, hands shaking & stomach churning to apologize to people who probably didn’t deserve it.

I have given out hand-written letters with splatters of my own heart painting the page. I have said words that made me cringe, words that left me feeling bare and exposed because I really believed those people needed to hear the absolute truth.

I lost myself in fears that threatened to swallow me whole. I gave room to a series of imaginations that paralyzed me and barricaded me. I let myself forget the feeling of sunshine on my face and fresh wind filling my lungs.

I’ve lost best friends. People who have seen the best in me, the worst in me, who let me fall into their embrace and told me “it’s all going to be okay”.

Those people left me and it nearly killed me.

I told myself that I needed to hide these parts from the world; that strangers and friends alike didn’t deserve to hear about these scars, they didn’t earn the right to know the pieces that aren’t so pretty. They are not ready for the i’m-not-so-perfect-after-all confessions of a preacher’s kid.

I prided myself on my ability to lock up my disfigured limbs and the unlovely layers of my heart.

But I’m starting to think people need to read and hear the stories that make another person human. They need to know that they’re not alone in their despair, that they aren’t the only ones who have been kicked and thrown dirt at.

They need to know that they weren’t the only kids who trusted someone who took advantage of them.

They need to know that they are not alone in their questions about the God of their childhood, who looks nothing like everyone said He did.

You’re not the only person who is angry at someone for breaking every single promise they ever made to you. You are not the only one who came limping home, head in their hands, feeling like they’d been kicked in the gut because someone should have protected you, but didn’t.

I used to wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, screaming into my pillow from the nightmares that plastered themselves to the walls of my unconscious.

I’ve been broken by memories that are stuck on repeat. Nights of trust and truth that were erased by ones of betrayal and misery.

I have beat my steering wheel. I have used words that, if she had heard them, would have caused my mother to wash my mouth out with bars of white Ivory soap.

Because I am human and that is glorious and chaotic.

I am often broken and sometimes smothered by harsh realities, unanswerable questions and heartbreaking losses.

But I am beautiful. I am so absolutely, unmistakably, breathtakingly stunning. With all of my flaws and blemishes and imperfections, I am still worthy of love.

I have wrestled with the emptiness that weighs heavily on my chest, I know well the pain of having something and someone you love deeply taken away from you.

But I am learning to be open about that.

All the parts I try to cover up, the wounds I try to sew up that seem to keep cracking open at the first signs of disappointment:

I am done with trying to erase them.

I am so done with the idea that our bruises and our scars are not marks of beauty. I am finished with refusing to look at them. When the truth is, they are my marks of redemption and grace.

Those things that I have called ugly are reminders of His unfailing affection and His immovable desire to come for me, even when I hated Him.

I don’t want to push it all away. I don’t want to clean up and look pretty. I want to show the world the marks I bear on my heart and my body that scream HE LOVES ME! HE LOVES ME!

The ones that I don’t have to hide any longer because on His own body he wore the scars that brought healing to mine.

I am not ashamed of who I am, where I’ve been, the brokenness I’ve felt and that He came down and pulled me out. I will not hide those stories that make you wince and cause you to see my grief.

Because I am not ashamed of the power of God to take what is absolutely hideous and make it the perfect picture of freedom and redemption.

Not only did Jesus let his friends see his scars, He let them put their dirty hands on the places where he had once been ripped apart.

He is not ashamed of suffering.

So, I refuse to cover my wounds. I refuse to hide my marks of past suffering. Because He has redeemed them. He has carried them and He put pain on display so that I could have the right as his child to display His grace, His healing and His forgiveness.

But I cannot show you how He heals, unless I show you what was first broken. I cannot give proof of how He washes, if I will not show what was dirty before He came. I cannot convince you of the greatness of His love, if I do not first show you how He took away the shame of all the things I think are unlovable about me.

I’m sorry.

I’m so sorry if the church has made you feel like you can’t show your scars. If they made you feel ashamed of all that you have done or have carried.

I’m sorry if we seem perfect, with our pressed church clothes and words like modest, pure, and consecrated and have made you feel like that we were always clean and tidy; born with a Bible in our hands.

I’m sorry we have been afraid to tell our stories.

That somewhere along the way we forgot that they are what make us relatable, human and displays of infinite grace.

I’m sorry if I haven’t let you see the parts that sometimes still bleed, the limbs that are still a little crooked. I’m sorry that I sometimes still cover the insecure places with my fancy words and deeds.

But I am human and I am flawed. I have known the feeling of weeping on the cold tile floor. I have done things that dulled the life in my eyes. I’ve been the girl who has felt used and worthless.

But I am loved. I know it when I read of how He continuously rolls up His sleeves and lets people remember Him naked, hanging on a tree, mocked and rejected.

He doesn’t let us forget His pain. He doesn’t try to cover it up. He reminds us over and over again of all that He endured.

But He also doesn’t let us forget His resurrection and that He overcame that so that we could also overcome.

So, I will not be ashamed of my stories. My stories tell the world of His ability to love the unlovable and find worth in the unworthy.

 

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I Was Born Wearing a Red Polyester Cape

“You can’t make everybody happy.”

She said it in such a matter-of-fact tone. I thought those words were just the scraps from her years of practiced indifference.

“And one day, you’ll get tired of trying.”

I didn’t believe her. It didn’t seem that a day would ever come when I wouldn’t want everyone in my life to be blissfully happy. When I wouldn’t want to do everything in my power to make it so.

But that wasn’t what she said, was it? She never said I wouldn’t want it. She said I’d get tired of trying to make it happen.

I wish she had been wrong.

There are only so many speeches, letters, gifts, and heartbeats you can offer a person before you realize you can’t and won’t and might never make them happy.

I want so badly to wrap my arms around every single person I’ve ever known and every stranger I meet. I want to buy them cups of coffee and read them bedtime stories and whisper words like, “every little thing is going to be alright”.

And I could do that. But it doesn’t mean I could make them happy.

You can offer them everything you are, you can look into their muddy brown eyes and tell them they are enough. You can do the hard things, the brave things. You can break your own bones for the strength of another’s aching limbs.

But you can’t make everybody happy. And that’s perfectly alright. 

What she didn’t tell me was that it’s okay to be completely exhausted from love.

No one ever told me it was okay to take a drive to the mountains for a date with the trees and the sky. No one ever told me to let the wind sing me a lullaby as I watch the leaves change. Oh, I wish she had told me that It’s okay to admit you’re broken and to take a sick day every once in a while.

Sometimes, I think I was born wearing a red, polyester cape. Because I’ve spent my life trying to live up to the task of saving people.

It took me seeing a photograph taken in the city on a summer night before I finally knew why I’ve been feeling so weighed down. I knew immediately that I was going to have to untie this layer of superhero attire and realize this:

I can’t save you. I can’t make you happy.

I used to see bright eyes that resembled the watercolor paintings from my childhood, but now I see that they’ve faded through the months.

Because you were born wearing a polyester cape and like me, you’ve been trying to save the world.

But the world already has a savior and He’s not on leave. He didn’t ask us to take over while he vacations on the beach. Like a child following their Daddy to work, trying to carry his hammer, his nails, his bag. We want to save the world.

But we can’t.

We can only tell people Daddy’s on the way. And that he loves them. And that he says they’re beautiful, wonderful, funny, handsome, mighty, fierce.

But we can’t make them live the life that bleeds the things that God painted on their hearts long before the earth had a speck of light. But we can tell them that He is on the way. We can tell them that they are enough. That they are worthy to be loved.

And we can love them.

But we will get tired. These feeble bodies that will someday expire, can’t always hold the weights that our hearts and souls carry. Sometimes our bones grow weary from lugging around the kind of love that changes the world.

But you’ve got to keep going. You have to keep telling them all the words they never got to hear. All the words that never came to the little boy or the little girl who wondered if they were enough.

But you can’t do that without some days by the sea or moments under the stars. You can’t do that without untying the ropes of unyielding and immovable devotion for just a little while. You can’t keep going if you don’t stop and let yourself breathe for just a minute. And in your breathing, you must keep reminding yourself:

You can’t save the world. 

Not for lack of trying, or because you don’t want it with every single cell inside of you. But because you too need saving.

And the only one who can save us is the one who made us. We are not Him. 

We could never bear the weight that it takes to have that kind of love; the kind of love that saves. The kind of love that causes flesh and bone to cling to a tree. We could not hold in these mortal bodies the kind of love that does not grow tired. Not yet.

So, it’s okay to take an adventure to watch the sunrise and to remove your red polyester cape. To remind yourself that you too need saving. To remind yourself that Daddy’s on the way. And to remind yourself that your only job is to tell everyone else the same.

You’re Not a “Plan B” Kind of Girl

You deserve better than someone who is afraid to commit to you. It may seem like enough for now. You’re just taking things slow. Oh, how I know those little phrases of “one day” and we just need time.

You believe them.
And I’ve believed them.

But you’re not a “Plan B” kind of girl.

You need to know that you’re not the invisible one standing in the back who gets chosen last.

You’re the girl who the team captain will be frantically hoping doesn’t get picked by someone else before he gets a turn. You’re a first-pick kind of girl, and no one worth having sits back and lets those girls wait around. Because every good man knows that the good ones get gone fast.

He should be jumping out of his skin in anticipation to call out your name and say “I pick you.”

But he’s scared…and I’ve got commitment issues…and we don’t like labels.

And.  And.  And.

Like a fool, I’ve stood there picking at the fabric of my sweater and spinning excuses. I’ve heard them all. I’ve used them all.

He’s been hurt. He’s busy. He’s in school. He doesn’t have a good car. He has Momma issues. His Dad left. His Great Aunt’s second cousin’s puppy just died.

You’re not the kind of girl who needs to make excuses for him.

Good girls shouldn’t and don’t have to finish last.

Honey, you must be at the wrong game and with the wrong players, because you’re not a substitute, average, or second string.

You’re a catch. You are beautiful and funny and fabulous. Rooms light up when you walk in. Heads turn when you giggle and the earth itself adores the kiss of your feet.

You are worthy to be chosen, pursued, adored, loved, respected and informed. This whole “Do we really have to define this thing?” is almost always a delicate way of asking “Will you fill this lonely spot until I decide nothing better is coming along?”

Stop being afraid that you are not worthy enough to be claimed. Stop thinking “I’ll take what I can get. Maybe I will be enough for him one day. Maybe he will be enough for me.”

Don’t even consider the lie that says I can’t set my standards too high, because if I do, I might end up alone.”

Better to be alone than taken for granted. Better to be alone than to be a placeholder.

The one that loves you isn’t afraid to say it. If he cares about you, he won’t even blink because the idea of giving another man the chance to swoop in is just unacceptable.

He will fight and use labels or poems or the Goodyear blimp to show you that you’re just the right fit for that open place in his heart, that no other piece will do.

You should be nobody’s second choice.

He will lose his pride to tell you that you make him nervous and he will spend his heart to find what makes you laugh. He will tell you that you’re worth words and flowers and promises.

And you will believe him, because you’ll see it in the way he watches you walk across a room. You won’t have to question it by analyzing a text message or deciphering the tone of an e-mail. He will drive over on a Tuesday to bring you coffee and you’ll see it in his face and hear it in the way he asks about your day.

Your answer will lie in the memories of nervous beginnings and awkward introductions. You’ll know because the questions didn’t take long to fade. Because he said what he meant and meant what he said. And even when he messed up, he made up.

You’re not his back pocket plan, fill-in girl, or multiple choice answer. You are fierce and a force to be reckoned with and the kind of girl whose beauty calls for hand-written notes, words like “wow” and car rides to the ocean.

Take nothing else and be nothing less.

Be the kind of girl who treats him with kindness. Who laughs at his jokes and thanks him when he opens your door. Leave the head games behind you. Encourage him and wear the kinds of dresses that make him respect you. Be the kind of girl who gasps at his surprises and hugs him for his compliments. You are worthy of the kind of man that he was born to be.

Stop waiting for the guy who isn’t sure you’re enough and respect yourself enough to wait for the one that knows you are.