Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Your Story Matters


I spent a good part of my life not telling my story. Throughout my childhood years, I was told that my story was a secret and that I should never tell it because it would hurt people who had done so much for me. I was told that even those closest to me wouldn't understand it and would love me less if they knew the truth.

As a teenager and young adult, I feared that telling my real story would make people dislike me. My story didn't line up with all of the perfect families that I saw around me. In college, I was surrounded by people who seemed to ooze perfection and they had the happy family portraits to prove it. And, so, I polished up every detail that needed to be polished in order to fit in. If I told only the good or funny parts of any story carefully plucked from my life, people would laugh and they would like me. They would believe that I was worthy of their time and their presence. I thought that if I was funny and self deprecating enough, my story wouldn't make people feel awkward and uncomfortable. I perfected the art of telling my story, without lying, but leaving out the parts that made people do that head tilt of pity. The parts I shared made me feel like I was just like everyone else and that is really what I be like everyone else.

The first problem with this belief was that, after years of perfecting my fa├žade, I started to believe it. And once it all came crashing down, the devastation came that my perfect life, the one that I created in order to be liked, was gone and I was left to face the story I'd had all along. There was no denying that this thing wasn't pretty. It wasn't polished. Every good punchline in the world wasn't going to make people laugh and forget the ugly.

The second problem with my fake story was that it was no good to anybody. I've already established that it was bad for me but it was also bad for others. I was essentially feeding the lie in others hearts that maybe their story wasn't pretty enough to share. They would hear my polished version and suddenly their story feels even dirtier and too risky to share.  And, so, without meaning to, I was telling the people that I loved that their story needed to be wrapped in pretty packaging or else be kept quiet.

I believe that the biggest gift to a hurting heart is simply, a "Me, too."  To look one another in the eye, wrap our arms around each other and simply say, "Me, too, friend. Me, too." Your story doesn't have to look the same as everyone else's. Your pain doesn't have to be the same. A "Me, too" can simply mean, "I see your pain. I see the dark and ugly parts of your story and guess what? Bring 'em out, sister. I have some, too. You are not alone. I'm here and you matter."

I encourage you to share your real story. Not the version of your story that you clean up and spit shine until the ugly parts are no longer visible. That kind of story is good for nothing. Your story matters. It matters to you, it matters to God, it matters to others. There is someone out there who needs to hear your truth because your truth will shine light into their darkness. Your truth can help someone step from their own shame and into redemption and love. Once your story has freed them, they will share their story with someone else and before you know it, we are all living in the freedom of truth. Your story matters.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The House That Built Me

I've never been a very sentimental person, but as I age, I certainly hold a few things close to my heart that I once took for granted. This house is a perfect example. I grew up here and never considered that there would be a day when that front door wouldn't welcome me home.

My grandparents bought this house right around the time I was born and it was home in every sense of the word. Walking up those paint chipped front steps (where I perfected my dance routine to Whitney Houston's "The Greatest Love of All") into the front door every day gave me a feeling of security that I wouldn't recognize until I was an adult. My family no longer owns this home and hasn't for many years but one look at it takes me back to my childhood.

Along the edge of the front yard, there was once a beautiful old Mimosa tree. My Mamaw would tell me to pay attention to that tree when I was outside playing because when the leaves closed and the tree went to sleep, it was almost time for me to do the same. Over to the right of the house was a gorgeous Dogwood, whose branches held me as I plotted my next adventure. In the back yard, she taught me to hang clothes on the clothes line and the proper way to take them down. For hours at a time, I would sit up on the riding lawn mower and pretend that I was a school bus driver, using the lever that raised and lowered the blade as my handle to open and close the door for my students. Once I had driven them safely to school, I would take a few steps over to my makeshift classroom and teach them their lessons for the day. I was too much of an over achiever to have only one pretend job.

That sidewalk leading to the front door proved more nemesis than friend on Christmas Day when I was about ten years old. Santa brought me a new bike and I tried to hop onto the sidewalk as I rode, but the front tire didn't quite make the jump. Those paint chipped front steps left a nasty gash beneath my right eye. I got plenty of attention to make up for it and pictures (and a scar) that will still elicit sympathy!

Over the years, I've tried to think of my favorite place in this house but I couldn't narrow it down. My first thought was the kitchen because I loved sitting at the table watching my Mamaw cook. She rolled out her biscuits just so and every single time, she'd take the last bit of dough and roll it back and forth lengthwise between her palms to make it a special shape...just for me. We called it my "Roly Poly" biscuit. Along one wall of the kitchen sat her sewing machine. She could make anything, often without a pattern. I loved watching her sew. I was amused when something would go wrong and she'd curse but more amused when I saw her finished product.

The living room where I sat with her watching her "stories" in the afternoons is another favorite place. I'd sit on the couch in the evenings between my Mamaw and PaPete, watching Matlock and knowing that there was no place I'd rather be. This is the room that welcomed you into the house when you entered the house and although I knew so much of what to expect when I walked through that door, one thing was never certain...the furniture arrangement. Mamaw was notorious for moving furniture around often. I don't know if she got bored or just liked to exercise her decorating skills but the furniture placement never stuck around long. The living room is bittersweet for me, in some ways. It was there that my PaPete took his last breath, in my arms. If I think about it too much, I feel like I'm still there, begging God not to let this be it even though I know it is. It's almost been 20 years now.

Really though, if my heart was forced to choose a favorite, it would be the master suite. Whether it was nestling in between my favorite two people to sleep or sneaking into the bathroom to rifle through my Mamaw's huge supply of makeup and hair products, this room still holds my heart. I watched many UNC basketball games sitting in the middle of their bed, often crying, cheering or bargaining with God that if He'd just let them win this one, I'd be SO good. Playing hide and seek with cousins, this room is always where I would hide. I felt safe there and my cousins never seemed to know if it was ok to go in so they often wouldn't look for me there.

Several years ago, I was home for a visit and as J. and I passed the house, it was vacant but there were a couple of contractors outside doing some work. We stopped and explained that this had been my home and asked if we could go in. They were happy to oblige and I was surprised at the butterflies in my stomach as we entered. So many things surprised me that day, actually. In my mind, this house was huge. There were four bedrooms and plenty of space for everything we needed. Walking in as an adult, it was so much smaller than I remembered. It was in the process of being re-modeled but to me, it looked so much the same that I could picture just where everything should be. I felt the oddest peace as we walked from room to room looking around and telling stories. Until we got to the back of the house to the master bedroom. Walking in opened the floodgates of my heart. (Even now, remembering, I am crying.) I could almost smell Mamaw's Estee Lauder Youth Dew perfume as I turned to go into the bathroom. It was the same and yet, so different because they weren't there. This home was now there for someone else to make memories.

As I'm writing this, I realize that so much of my nostalgia and memories are special to me more because of WHO was in the house and not the house itself. Still, there's just something about this house. It's not grand or even that impressive but it's so special to me. It's home.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Choose Love

I wish there was a window on social media that would pop up before you submit a passive aggressive status update or hateful comment that would read, "Are you sure you want to do this? Would you say this if the person was sitting right in front of you?"

Unfortunately, my requests for such have been largely ignored by Mr. Zuckerberg.

With so much of our lives being lived online, there is this tendency to forget that what you are saying on social media can hurt, demean and cut right to the bone of a real live person. I'd venture to say that if the person at which you are aiming your keyboard arrows was sitting in front of you, you would keep that comment to yourself.


Because you would see hurt in their eyes before you even finished your sentence. You would realize the ramifications of your words immediately and perhaps it would sting your heart just as much as it did theirs when you realized the pain you'd inflicted.

Our Keyboard Courage almost never equals our Real Life Courage.

My heart breaks to see people making sweeping generalizations about a group of people with whom they disagree (insert any particular group here: gay, straight, Christian, Muslim, Cat People) all under the guise of "I'm entitled to my opinion."

While it is true that everyone is entitled to their opinion, what happens when your opinion is delivered in such a way that you cause the immense pain to someone else? Is it worth it?

Do you remember a time when you changed someone's mind on a matter through your pithy Facebook comments? No? Then, why? Why hurt people, cut them down and drag them through the mud when you know nothing good can come of it?

Often, I think our tendency to to make trite statements against another online is because we are desperate to feel important. We chase after those little thumbs-ups to let us know we aren't alone in our beliefs as if somehow, that makes us right.

We spew our opinions in the most hateful way and the only change that comes is in the form of a calloused heart that we wear like a badge of honor and another bruise on the heart of the wounded.

We see so much attention given to cyber bullying in regards to the younger generation, and rightfully so, but from where I sit, adults are equally guilty. We just know how to dress it up to look like it's less bullying and more our inalienable right.

There has to be a better way.

What if we considered another's heart more important than sharing our opinion?

What if we our greatest desire was not to be right, to be heard or to be popular but rather to be loving, kind and giving to others?

What would the world look like if our rants were replaced with encouragement?

I don't have all the answers to my own questions. I'm ok with that. I don't need to know everything.

I do know that choosing to love is never wrong.

When faced with a decision to write something laced with venom or to use your words to encourage a friend...choose love.

Post a passive aggressive rant hidden behind a clever rhetoric or remind yourself that even the most astute words can cause harm...choose love.

Garner adulation from others who are prone to leaving a trail of bloody, broken hearts in the wake of their words or...choose love.

Above all, choose love. It is the best way. It's the only way.