The Never-Ending Pursuit

My daughter accepted Jesus as her Savior today.  This was a decision that I’ve long prayed for, but never pressured her to make.  After all, a pressured decision of this type isn’t real, and if it isn’t real, what’s the point?  We had actually had a conversation about it last week, but I sensed that she wasn’t quite ready, so I opted to “plant seeds” and move on, trusting that when the time was right, she’d know.  Apparently, the time was right this morning.

What’s so funny when a child makes Jesus their Lord is that the gravity of what has just happened is often lost on them.  At that stage of their lives, there is no shadow for God to light up, mountain for Him to climb up, wall for Him to kick down, or lie for Him to tear down in His pursuit of their hearts.  (Yes, I am a really big fan of Reckless Love.  How could you tell?)  The decision is simple and big, but not “the weight of the world just left my shoulders” big – because, hopefully, they haven’t been carrying that kind of weight.

But someday, they might.  Actually, they probably will.  My daughter will have shadows and mountains and walls and lies to contend with – because she’s human, because she’s got a heart, because her decision today doesn’t make her perfect and impervious to the junk out there.  But it does give her hope.

Hope, you guys.

She doesn’t even really know that she needs hope yet, but I have enough perspective and have walked enough painful roads to know that she’s going to need hope in spades. Because we all do.

When I think about the choice she made today, I’m amazed.  Not at her, but at God Himself.  He could have sent His Son to die on the cross, raised Him three days later, and called it good.  He could have said, “Ok, world, I did My part.  I did more than My part.  Now it’s on you.  I’ll be waiting.”  But He didn’t, and He doesn’t.  He pursues us.  The cross was enough, but He didn’t stop there.  Our decision for salvation is enough, but He doesn’t stop there.  Every day of our lives, He continues to pursue us.  Even when our souls belong to Him, He is lighting up shadows and climbing mountains and kicking down walls and tearing down lies because having us wasn’t enough.  He wants us to live fulfilled, abundant lives in Him.  So He pursues, because He loves us…recklessly.

To be pursued by our Creator, by our Savior, by the only One who could see us at our best and our worst and love us unconditionally.  Wow.  And when you find that your little one – the one you asked God for, the one you’ve prayed countless prayers for – has begun to have an inkling that she’s pursued by Him, it’s kind of incredible.  Because His pursuit of her heart continues His pursuit of mine.

Tell Your Mountain About Your God

Confession: I’m a worrier.

Always have been.  It’s probably genetic, although I think it skipped my parents’ generation.  My mom says that if I don’t have something to worry about, I’ll find something.  It’s called borrowing trouble.

And it’s exhausting.

I recently made a list of the things that I fear, that I worry about, that wake me up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat and threaten the peace that I hold so dear.  This was really important, because lately it has seemed that fear has been in crazy pursuit of me.  I mean, an all-out hunt for my heart.  I made this list as part of a prayer, fully intending to give the list to God in exchange for that peace that passes all understanding He is so good at giving.

That’s not how things played out.

Instead, I pictured a mountain, and I heard the phrase “tell your mountain about your God.”  I’ve seen that phrase a million times; I always thought of it as a clever script-flip on telling God about your problems…but I hadn’t really considered what it meant.  Until I had a list of mountains, and I had told God all about them, but suddenly sensed that maybe they needed to hear about my God too.

So, I kid you not, I told my mountains about my God.  As in, I stood in my bedroom and had a conversation with each of them.  (I’m not nuts, I swear.)  For example, one of my worries (that exists every time I have a move coming up) is about finding a home in my new location.  I told that mountain about my God who is Himself a shelter and a refuge, who could snap His fingers and create the house that is best for my daughter and me if He chose to.  I told that mountain about how God has never failed me in this area; I said this as I stood in the bedroom of the home discovered three months before moving to this assignment, for a great price, in a great area.  I told that mountain that it might as well shrink into nothing, because my God would make quick work of it in no time.

I went through every item on my list – some huge, some small, all important enough to gnaw at my soul in the late hours of the night.  I told each of the mountains about my God, about His character, about His willingness and ability to fight for me and for my daughter and to prepare the way ahead for us.  I regaled them with stories of His faithfulness, over and over, again and again.  And as I did so, my mountains transformed.  They were no longer huge, hulking obstacles to overcome; they became an audience – an audience for watching my God work, and my telling of who He is and what He can do was simply the opening act.

I told my mountains about my God, and I ended up reminding myself about who He is.  His character, His faithfulness, and His promise were enough to melt the giants into nothing.  The worry, the worst-case scenarios, the lies, the cringe-worthy things that my brain comes up with in the middle of the night – none of them can stand when faced with who He is, the light He brings, and the fierceness with which He fights for His own.

I made a list of my mountains and expected God to just handle it.  He could have, obviously.  But there’s something about facing the mountains and watching the magic happen simply by declaring God to be who He says He is.  Where the mountains disappeared into nothing, my faith grew in their place.  God handled it, just not the way I expected – but that’s usually so much better anyway.

Do you have mountains?  Of course you do.  We all do.  I challenge you to tell them about your God…

A Bowl of Strawberries

I’ve spent the last week thinking about strawberries.  Crying over them, even.

Let me explain.

When my daughter was two years old, she would break out in hives when she ate broccoli or peas.  (Weird allergies for a kid, right?)  A blood test ordered by her doctor indicated that she was also allergic to strawberries.  At that point in her young life, she’d never even tasted a strawberry, so the decision was made to simply keep her away from anything with “strawberry” in the ingredients list.  Eventually, she outgrew the allergy to broccoli and peas, but she had been trained so well to avoid this particular allergen that she refused to even try anything that had a hint of “strawberry” in it.

This year, I convinced her doctor to refer her for another allergy test, ideally to stop the parade of EpiPens and Emergency Action Plans that we weren’t even sure were necessary in her case.  On Wednesday, we received word that my daughter was not, in fact, allergic to strawberries, and the whole world suddenly looked very different.

After getting the big news, our first stop was the nearest grocery store, where she decided that her first strawberry was going to come on top of a giant cupcake.  Why not?  This was something worth celebrating!  We took it home and decided dessert would absolutely come before dinner; how could I deny her the taste of a strawberry for one second longer??  She laughed nervously as she opened the clear plastic container that held her cupcake and then she took a big bite.

I sat there and watched her, sensing that this was one of those moments that you hold onto, because it is rare and special and precious.  I observed as she slowly chewed, getting to know the seed-filled texture of the berry, and I waited for her response to the one-of-a-kind taste.  The look on her face worried me a bit at first; I thought she might not like this fruit after all and the excitement would have been for naught.  But I was wrong.  The uncertainty in her eyes was replaced by wonder, as she enjoyed the flavor of a ripe strawberry for the first time in her life.

As parents, we introduce new foods to our tiny kiddos all the time, but it is simply part of the process of learning to eat new things.  I took for granted the magic of it, as I mostly hoped she wouldn’t spit out the food or break out in hives.  But introducing new foods and flavors to her at seven is very different than it was at two; she could revel in the newness of a flavor that struck her as sweet and somewhat tart, and for a moment there was a captivation with the taste and texture dancing across her tongue.  It was beautiful to behold.

Part of why this entire thing has brought me to tears is that we were created to enjoy flavors; this strawberry tasting had nothing to do with getting nutrition and fueling up.  There was something worthy about taking the time to taste and experience and enjoy.

Think about that.

We were created with tastebuds, and not simply as a survival tool to keep from eating things that could kill us.  We were created to enjoy different flavors and combinations thereof, and there’s something to that.  God could have made fueling our bodies to be as boring and mundane as putting gas in the car, but He didn’t.  It may seem small, but I think it illustrates yet another facet of His crazy, creative, reckless love for us.  In creating tastebuds, in creating a way for us to experience flavors – giving flavor a reason to exist, He opened a door for the creativity of those whose giftings are more culinary in nature.  But He didn’t stop there.  How many meaningful conversations have you had over good coffee?  How many get-togethers have involved a meal?  How many celebrations were incomplete without a cake?  “Grabbing something to eat” is a mainstay of how we interact; breaking bread together is often at the core of developing connections and relationships.  And it started because God loved us enough to give us a way to enjoy foods and flavors, even though He definitely didn’t need to.

All of this is to say that I’m really, really grateful.  Grateful for tastebuds.  Grateful to have been made by One whose boundless creativity gave way to such a gift.  Grateful to have watched my daughter’s awe at tasting a fruit she’d only seen but kept her distance from.  Grateful for the bowl of strawberries sitting on my counter, waiting for my little girl to come take just one more of this goodness that is so new in her life.  Grateful that the little things are still so incredibly powerful.  Just grateful.

Creativity and Compromise

A couple of months ago, my friends Jesse and Becca began something at our church called Creative’s Night. It was a time and place carved out for anyone in the church to share their talents, and it was an ideal setup for folks who weren’t always in a position to demonstrate the creativity within. People shared cooking, scrapbooking, card-making, writing, original songs, dancing – all kinds of things that spoke to the spark of the Divine, the creativity inherently part of each of us.

It got me thinking, and I’ve really been trying to tie all the thoughts I’ve had together, but it has not been easy. You’d think that writing about creativity would be a simple thing – it’s writing, for crying out loud – but I am discovering that my own relationship with creativity is more complex that I would like to admit.

When it comes to being a creative, I have spent a lifetime somehow simultaneously wanting to be “a creative” while vehemently denying being anything close to one. Conversations over the years have gone something like this:

“But Jessie, you can play.” Yeah, I breathe across an instrument and sound comes out. I didn’t write the music. Not a creative.

“Ok, but you can sing.” Same answer. I open my mouth and sound comes out. The words and music aren’t mine. Again, not a creative.

“What about acting? You take a part and make it yours.” Is it creative if I’m taking a part someone else wrote and simply putting my actions and inflection to it?

“Fine. You can write, though. You can’t deny that.” I am perfectly capable of stringing words together that sound good, but I can’t come up with stories. “Creative writing” is called “creative writing” for a reason, and I can’t do it.

Looking back, it bothers me how much I pushed back against any suggestion that I might be a creative. Especially when my heart wanted deeply to be one, and I was convinced that one could not live in both worlds – you were either creative or logical, but you could not effectively be both. I think some of this comes from how we as a society tend to talk about what one traditionally calls “a creative.” For example, starving artists are a thing; starving doctors are not. Creatives are portrayed as free spirits, following their hearts, full of impractical whimsy and most often empty wallets. How many parents of college kids pursuing music or theater or anything else in the fine arts have begged those same kids to develop some kind of practical backup plan, because creativity won’t pay the bills? No one tells kids who are studying to be doctors or lawyers or engineers to have a backup plan; their financial security is assumed and assured. So we compromise. We compromise who we are and how we were made in order to fit what society says we should be and what success is. We bury our hearts and later wonder why there’s a void.

The irony is that creativity exists everywhere, even for those doctors and lawyers and engineers. It is in the numbers, in the approach to problems and illnesses, in the use of the law. Creativity is everywhere, in everyone. It is emblematic of our Creator, and we were designed for our individual creativity to complement that which exists in others. And when we are acting out of that spark, we tend to be happier and more fulfilled, because we are doing the very thing we were designed to do. When I am writing or making music, sometimes I get this overwhelming sense that these are some of the things I was born for, but I hid those things away for so long. In no way do they overshadow what I do in the rest of my life, but when I’m living in freedom – bridging the logical and the creative – I am better at being me, in all areas of my life. Additionally, when I am engaging in creative pursuits with others, there is a deeper connection, a sense that what we’re doing is so much more than the sum of its parts, and the result is so life-affirming.

So what about all of my responses to the earlier conversations, where people tried to point out my creative nature and I ran screaming the other direction? I have decided that it isn’t always about creating a new song or script or book. What if my creativity creates an emotion for someone? An experience? An environment? A perspective? What if I can put words to something someone has yet to find the vocabulary for? What if, in all the intangible ways that our giftings work, we can offer hope or a smile or a way to finally shed tears that have been held back for far too long? Friends, that is beautiful. That is something that I want to be part of, and it is why I am embracing whatever creativity is within me. I just wish it hadn’t taken me so long to do it.

Here’s another point to consider: we ascribe many things to God – Creator, Ruler, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Counselor, Comforter, etc.  God’s got a lot going on.  But none of His roles or attributes overshadows any other, nor do they undermine any other.  He’s multi-faceted, and He made us in His image, to be just as multi-faceted as He is.  Our creativity doesn’t have to negate anything else we do; it should complement it.

To that end, we were made to complement each other and not compare or compete.  If there’s this thing that you do, that you love to do, that you feel so incredibly alive doing…but so-and-so does it better, so you hold back, you’re missing out.  We’re all missing out on your part in an incredible masterpiece.  When I’m singing, I’m the embodiment of “amateur hour;” I’ve never had a vocal lesson in my life, and I’m surrounded by people with more training and talent in their pinky finger than I will ever have in my entire body.  But I bring whatever gifting and creativity I have in the hope that what we bring as a group is so much more than what we might bring as individuals.  I bring what I have because I want to be a part of the masterpiece God’s making.

Finally, as we’re complementing the creativity in each other, we need to speak it.  If you see creativity – in whatever form it takes – speak it.  Just as yoga practitioners say namaste, which loosely means “the soul in me recognizes the soul in you,” we should recognize the creativity around us.  “The creative in me recognizes the creative in you.”  For someone searching for where creativity fits in their lives, for what creativity even exists in their lives, speaking it out loud to them could be life changing.  This isn’t just speaking truth; it’s speaking life, and that’s ministry right there.

From Inside A Depressive Episode

Hello from inside the dark, oppressive bowels of a depressive episode.

Where the tears come easily but energy and motivation do not.

Where everything, even the air, is heavy – but not in a comforting, weighted blanket kind of way.  More like being slowly suffocated…but so slowly that panicking wouldn’t make sense quite yet.

Where there’s not enough eye cream and makeup to hide how tired you feel, even after a full night’s sleep…because, let’s face it, sleep doesn’t help this kind of tired.

Where minor things feel major and major things barely register.

Where the lies you tell yourself are easier to believe, and none of them are nice.

Where it’s easy to give up on the things you were excited about two days ago, because your brain chemistry did a 180 in that time and everything just looks different now.  More gray.  Less promising.

It’s also where you answer honestly when someone you trust asks if you are ok.

Where you make appointments in order to keep yourself accountable to do the things that are crucial to your self-care.

Where you practice self-awareness enough to call yourself out when you’re isolating – and wow, do you love to isolate when you’re in this place.

Where you dig out the self-care kit you’ve kept by your bed or in the bag you carry to work and you USE IT.

Where you talk yourself out of being overwhelmed by the ridiculously long To Do list and find the things that will specifically help someone else.  Accomplishing something for someone else feels good, and there’s nothing wrong with using that as the motivation.

Where you find a way to keep doing what you do because other people depend on you, and to let them down if you had even an ounce of strength left just isn’t in your wiring – even on your worst day.

Where you lower your impossibly high standards for a time so that you can conserve your energy – and your sanity, not to mention the negative self-talk that wants you to believe you’re just the worst because of what hasn’t been accomplished.

Where you make a list of things and people and places and experiences that you’re grateful for.

Where you make another list of the things you’re looking forward to tomorrow, next week, next month.

Where you offer grace to yourself.

Where you offer grace to others.

Where you breathe.  And cry.  And pray.  And hope.  And dig deep.  And fight for every painful heartbeat because this depressive episode is just that: an episode.  It is a season, and it will eventually end.  The sun will come back up, and it will be glorious.  There will be a day when everything doesn’t hurt and you don’t feel sad every second.  I know it because I’ve lived it, and I know that this won’t last forever.  And if you’re in a similar place, know that yours won’t last either.  We’ve got a life to live, and better days are on the horizon.

“If I knew not midnight, how would I know the morning?” ~Nichole Nordeman

2017: The Year I Gave Up “Someday”

Someday.

I used to say “someday” with this wistful, sad resignation, because whatever I had said “someday” about probably wasn’t going to happen. It was a nice thought, but there wasn’t any real effort toward making “someday” anything resembling “today.”

But I gave up “someday” this year.

I started this blog, after telling myself for years that “someday” I would make my writings public.

I completed my graduate certificate – something I started for me, because I never want to stop learning, and “someday” is a terrible time to further one’s education.

I saw my second wonder of the known world and have set a goal to see my next one by the time I turn 40.

I bought tickets to a Supernatural convention. No more “someday it would be cool to go.” I am going – look for me in Nashville in April!

I faced the deployment that I knew would “someday” come. I survived. My incredible aunt survived. Abby handled it like a freaking rockstar. It changed my perspective and no longer looms forebodingly in the distance.

I acquired furniture for my home that I am really happy with, that I picked out, that doesn’t give the “I am decorating a dorm room” feel.

I went to Hawaii. I paid my respects and cried my eyes out at the Pearl Harbor Memorial and National Cemetery of the Pacific. I saw volcanoes. I hiked to waterfalls. I touched a sea urchin. I saw whales and dolphins and sea turtles. I dealt with my tendency to panic in the water and went snorkeling.

I sang and laughed and cried and loved and made decisions and was present. The passing of a friend and colleague taught me to number my days, and I have done so. I have been more protective of my family time and of the balance I so desperately need in my life, rather than pushing those things off to “someday.”

I just checked the calendar, and “someday” isn’t on there. It isn’t anywhere. It is a wish, fleeting and without foundation. And I have given up on it. I have this one life, ONE LIFE, to live, and I want to make the most of it. I want to see things and talk to people, love the broken and make a smoother path for those behind me. I want to continue building a relationship with my daughter and laying the foundation for the young woman she’s becoming. And I refuse to cast it all on “someday.”

2017, you’ve been many things, but I will forever remember you as the year I gave up “someday.” May 2018 be all the better for the lack of “someday.”

Five Tips for Self-Care During the Holidays

Self-care during the holidays can be tricky.  The routine changes, the junk food is plentiful, and society creates a whole lot of pressure for perfection around this time – all of which can spell disaster for self-care if you aren’t really deliberate about taking steps to keep that self-care process intact.  Here are a few tips for doing just that:

Stay active.  I have a workout regimen, and I am dedicated to it.  But the second that my schedule changes, my workouts are some of the first things to slip.  This ends up making me feel yucky about my body, which tends to snowball into feeling yucky about myself in general, and it’s just a slippery slope from there.  So I make sure to have a plan.  If I don’t think I’ll be able to get a full-up workout in, I carve out time to at least go for a brisk walk; the combination of activity plus fresh air and being outside in nature tend to do wonders for me overall.  If the weather is crummy and I can’t get outside, I have to work a little harder to get activity in.  There are a ton of videos on YouTube that I check out to get a workout in if I can’t get outside, and I have no issue finding one that will keeps my attention (make it fun!) and my heart rate up.

No matter what you do, have someone you know you’ll be with keep you accountable – maybe they can even take a walk or do the workout with you!  If you don’t feel like being that vulnerable with anyone you’re with, tell a trusted friend what your plan is and have them keep you accountable via chat/text/email/a phone call.

Hydrate.  I am a big tea drinker – specifically red rooibos tea.  It is good for me, and I tend to down a ton of water in the process.  But I realized over Thanksgiving that it was far easier to reach for the wine or soda that was readily available than to make my hot tea or drink water.  I ended up using a tracker on my phone to note how much water I had consumed; it gave me a goal to pursue even if my normal hydration was off-kilter.  (I’m not saying avoid alcohol and soda, but hydrating with the good-for-you stuff is an important part of balance.  If you find that you’re experiencing depression during the holidays, however, alcohol may not be the best thing for you to consume, so keep that in mind.)

Pace Yourself.  Whether we’re talking food or activity, pace yourself.  I look forward to the food and drink of the holidays all year long.  For that reason, I refuse to deprive myself, but I also am careful to eat and drink in moderation.  I get to enjoy the goodness that only comes out this time of year, but I don’t hate myself for eating or drinking to excess.  Same for activities – there are tons of places to go, people to see, and things to do, but if you try to do too much, you can wear yourself out and end up feeling like you need a vacation from your vacation.  Don’t overschedule yourself, and don’t be afraid to step back when you need to.  It isn’t selfish; it is part of taking care of yourself.

Take a Nap.  Along the same lines as pacing yourself, the routine change of the holidays might mean that you actually have time for that nap you never seem to get.  Take it.  Enjoy it.  But don’t overdo it – if you’re struggling with depression, a nap can turn into spending the entire day in bed, and that isn’t going to help.  But if you have the chance to get some rest, by all means, take advantage of it!

Manage Expectations.  Most families have some level of dysfunction to them, but the holidays can set many people up for a whole world of disappointment if they go into family time expecting things to look like a Hallmark movie.  Go in with your eyes wide open; this includes watching for the tendency for everyone to fall into years-old dynamics.  You and your family members could all be mature adults, but you may instantly fall into the same relationship dynamic you had when you were kids as soon as you get together.  If you find that this is happening, step back and consciously work to change the dynamic.  It can be exhausting, so watch your energy level, but it can also have a big, positive impact on how your family interacts.  Additionally, if you go in with a clear, realistic picture of what you expect from your holidays, you won’t have to cope with the emotional toll of overwhelming disappointment if you haven’t set an impossibly high standard.

I love this time of year; it is by far my absolute favorite.  I genuinely wish that I could take time off from my battle with depression in the same way that I can take time off of work, but it just isn’t that simple.  Since that’s the reality, let’s make the best of the holidays, taking care of ourselves and kicking off the new year right!

Teach Us To Number Our Days

“Teach us to number our days, that we would gain a heart of wisdom.” ~Psalms 90:12

Teach us to number our days.  It has always sounded so poetic, but I don’t think I’ve ever really grasped the meaning.  Until this week.  I learned this week to number my days, and it is because of a man whose days ran out.

I worked with Mike Clardy when we were both stationed at Ft Gordon, GA.  When he wasn’t making the worst jokes ever, he was quiet.  Reliable.  Kind.  Good.  Incredibly smart.  He loved his family deeply, and he went above and beyond for his wife and four beautiful children.  He did things that made you think, “Yeah, that’s Husband and Father of the Year right there.”  He was a man of faith.  And at 34 years old, he tragically and suddenly passed away.

The outpouring of grief, love, and support for Mike and his family has been something to behold.  I think Mike would be uncomfortable at being the cause of all the attention, but I also like to think that he’d appreciate how deeply he was loved, how profoundly his family is loved, and how he has become the thread pulling together the far-flung military family that served with him over the years.

In my professional capacity, I was in a leadership and training role in Mike’s world.  But his final act was to teach me something.  Mike taught me to number my days, my heartbeats, my breaths.  He taught me to not assume they are infinite, because they are not, even when we have so much left to live for and when death’s timing is seemingly so completely unfair.  He taught me to not only count the days, but make them count, because we aren’t guaranteed tomorrow.

I’ll see you on the other side, Mike.

 

No More Busted Cans of Biscuits

A couple of months ago, I wrote a blog post about self-care and suggested that when I get dressed, “I need to put on clean clothes, and they should be clothes that I feel great in, that give me a confidence boost.  (Clothes that make me feel like a busted can of biscuits should probably be removed from my wardrobe anyway, just on principle.)”  In keeping with that sentiment, I cleaned out my closet last night.  My closet, my dresser – basically, anything that held clothes was opened up, dumped out, and a hard look was given to everything inside.

On the surface, this might sound like a simple exercise in some deep spring (winter?) cleaning.  In reality, this was ripping off a proverbial bandaid and diving into a process fraught with emotion and some painful memories; despite knowing that it needed to be taken care of, I was really loathe to actually do it.  But I couldn’t write a blog post about self-care and then not follow my own advice.  For someone who craves authenticity, the blatant hypocrisy would eat me alive, so drawers and doors were opened and the sorting began instead.

I had a ton of clothes that didn’t fit anymore – and by “anymore,” I mean that I had been hanging onto them since before my daughter was born.  My 7-year-old daughter.  Seven. Years.  Three military moves.  Seriously, even if my weight ever returns to a number on the scale resembling the one that appeared pre-baby, my body has changed in ways that mean my clothes won’t quite fit the way they used to.  And that’s ok.  But it means I was holding onto a whole lot of clothes that were symbols of what once was, not what could be.

There were other clothes that fit beautifully but had some really negative, painful memories attached to them.  I’d been keeping them because they fit, because what if I needed them at some point, because I had spent hard-earned money on them, because, because, because.  I’d been keeping them but not really wearing them.  To look at them made me sad or uneasy; to touch them actually magnified those emotions by ten.  Putting the clothes on was like swimming in a pool of misery.  If you’re depressed and you’re avoiding wearing clothes that make your body feel like a busted can of biscuits, you certainly don’t need clothes that make your heart feel like one either.  For that matter, you don’t need any of that when you aren’t depressed.  You just don’t need any of that at all – ever – and neither do I.

I kept reminding myself of that reality as the pile grew.  I suddenly had no slacks, no suits, no little black dress; there was a momentary panic as I grasped how deeply I was purging my closet and dresser.  But I also realized that I hadn’t actually had slacks, suits, or a little black dress in a very long time – not ones that fit, anyway.  Instead, I’d had false hope and security hanging there, waiting to disappoint me when the time came for me to actually need things like the ones I was giving away.

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All told, 164 items left my closet and dresser last night.  164.  For starters, I felt some shame in realizing just how much I had that I never wore.  I live in a uniform or workout clothes 90% of the time; having a wardrobe that immense just wasn’t necessary.  It also meant that literally every time I opened my closet or a drawer, most of the clothing items within my reach were really just monuments to a past – a past body type, a past memory, a past effort at being someone I no longer am.  Yesterday was a good mental health day, and yet the journey through my hoard of clothing was a painful trip down memory lane.  Imagine how that feels on a rough mental health day.  Imagine the depression setting in and going to your closet in an attempt to take care of yourself and get dressed, only to find that most of what you own makes you feel horrible because it doesn’t fit or it evokes memories you’d really rather just forget.  Self-care sabotage.

So in the interest of not sabotaging my self-care – and self-care is an ongoing process that requires work on both the good and the bad mental health days – 164 items of clothing left my house this morning and were donated to a ministry down the street.  Someone else will get some great clothes, and they will absolutely rock them.  They will look and feel amazing, and so will I.  The monument to the things that I will never again be has been dismantled, no longer something to be leveraged by depression’s ugly voice trying to convince me that whatever I am now is something less.  Because on my good days, my bad days, and every day in between, I’m not less, and I won’t let something as simple as my clothes make me feel otherwise.  Please don’t give yours that kind of power either.

Your Value Is Not Negotiable

“True belonging and self-worth are not goods; we don’t negotiate their value to the world.” ~Brené Brown, Braving the Wilderness

I was on a transatlantic flight, listening to Brené Brown’s new book, Braving the Wilderness, when this statement made me sit up in my reclined seat.  I backed up the audio and played it again.  And again.  Once we landed, I got on Amazon and bought the book.  (Sometimes, you need to be able to hold that kind of goodness in your hands.  Or maybe that’s just me.)  What’s interesting, though, is that her statement has been evolving a bit, transforming itself in my subconscious into something like this:

Your value is not negotiable.

Read that again.  Your value is not negotiable.  It isn’t up for debate.  I’m not talking about value condensed down to a dollar sign; your value as a human being is not the domain of actuaries.

So I want you to really read these words again.  Say them out loud.  Listen to them.  Let them soak into those dry places in your soul.

You have value.  You are valuable.  You are valued.

You have worth.  You are worthwhile.  You are worthy.

If you read those words and have issues speaking them out loud about yourself, much less believing them, I have a question for you:  Who told you?

Who told you that you had to earn love?

Who told you that you had to perform on life’s stage to be worth something?

Who told you that you were nothing but the sum of your failures?  Who told you that you were nothing but the sum of your successes?  Who told you that you were nothing?

Who told you that your value depended on your bank account?  Your gender?  The color of your skin?  Your orientation?  Your family status?  Your grades?  Where you went to school?  If you went to school?  What kind of car you drive?  The brand name on your jeans?  Where you work?  Where you sit at lunch?  The number on the scale?

Who told you that your heart and soul and thoughts and dreams and hopes and beliefs had a price tag?  Who told you that they were to be haggled down for the lowest bidder?

Dear friends, I don’t know who told you these things, but they were wrong.  Your life matters.  Your presence in this world has a purpose.  You have an impact to make upon this world that is solely reserved for you.

You are worthy.  You are valued.  And your value is not negotiable.