Monday, April 13, 2015

Carry On, Warrior

Two years ago, I became a warrior.

Allow my to correct myself.

Two years ago, I became aware that I was a warrior—and I had been—for a really, really long time.

On the evening of April 9, 2013, I found myself sitting in the stiff pew of a church, a few rows from the front and surrounded by an all-female audience; all of whom seemed to know not just someone, but multiple someones in the crowd. It was awkward, uncomfortable, unfamiliar territory. Not just the fact that I was sitting in a church in a city that I had only just begun to refer to as home; but I was in a space where I felt alone—physically, physiologically, emotionally, spiritually. While my sassy sequined tank, seersucker pants, and kitten-heeled sandals might have portrayed, “I've got myself together.”, my facade was merely a dolled up shell in which I poured myself into earlier that day as I mentally prepared myself to extrovert in the middle of one of the most tumultuous introverted times in my life.

Depression is a mighty beast. A worthy adversary with a cunning and deceitful approach that mirrors that of the serpent in The Garden. It makes you question, doubt, feel shame. It circles and slithers and stalks like a predator, striking over and over; each bite adding more and more venom, rendering you paralyzed. In The Fault In Our Stars John Green described Hazel's falling in love with Augustus by likening it to “the way you fall asleep. Slowly, and then all at once.” {sigh} But when you're facing struggles, mental anguish, shame...those romanticized images Green so expertly conjured up dissolve into a hazy, darker picture, rimmed with judgment and fear and suffocation. In place of a whirlwind romance accompanied by a light and airy soundtrack; quicksand. Drowning—right in the middle of a crowded pool; unable and unwilling to cry out for help. All consuming fires; menacing, circling, threatening as you try to navigate and 'do' life and keep it all 'together'. These feelings, the ones of emptiness, guilt, loneliness, overwhelming despair, and indifference that companion a diagnosis of depression? They were the things that were happening slowly, and then all at once. I was in far, deep, fast, and over my head. The only caveat?

I just didn't fully know it yet.

Or maybe I did. Maybe I recognized it, but humanity drained the desire to change out of my soul, and in its place, driven the nails of shame and embarrassment into me. I deemed myself unworthy of change and betterment, regardless of the messages of truth that were treading water in the background of my awareness, after having dove in headfirst about 13 years ago.

Let me back up a bit.

In 2002, when I met the man who would, {unbeknownst to me}, become my husband; he said something one night that not only changed the way in I viewed our unlabeled 'relationship', but it planted a seed of truth that began rooting itself into a belief I danced around with for years {let's be honest. I still dance with this belief}.

After watching a movie one night, we were laying in one of those luxuriously roomy twin-sized dorm beds when we began another round of conversation that had quickly become our ritual. It all began with four words, “tell me a story.”. See, we had each spent a great deal of time in long-term relationships immediately before meeting one another, so the eagerness to get to know one another as well as we had our ex-counterparts was similar to a child anticipating his or her birthday. We couldn't learn about one another quickly enough.

On this singular night, however, after yet another 'story', Randy kissed my forehead, looked into my eyes, and said, “you would be so easy to love.”. In that moment, my heart softened, melted, and began melding his heart with my own vulnerable, lost, broken one.

The paradoxical truth is, over the years of not only my relationship with Randy, but the entirety of my existence that I can readily recall, I have not been easy to love.

Pick a sin, any sin {except, you know, the murder one}, and chances are, I have committed, am committing, or will commit it. It's the nature of the beast. Humanity is enslaved to sin. We have fallen from grace, proven ourselves helpless, and vividly illustrated the term 'hot mess' in a plethora of ways.

And yet. Despite hearing story after story of the mix of tragedy and horror and comedy that was in fact my life up until that point; Randy found it possible to say that I could be easy to love. {let's be honest. It was college. He was a guy. I was a girl. He knew just how to work the system.} But for reals. Something about hearing that combination of words. That sentence uttered from this veritable stranger, the likes of whom I had only recently become familiar. They permeated me. Like getting a tattoo; it was a little surreal at first, as the ink of truth first emblazoned itself upon me. But then the ink settled. Nestled into the lines and pores of my body; and soon enough, it became a part of me. As though it had been there all along. But that took years, y'all. Years.

As I got to know Randy and met his family, it became pretty obvious that there were not only tall, craggly walls around my wounded heart, but those walls were further protected by a murky water-filled moat, the contents of which was enough to keep the weak-hearted at a reasonable distance.

I began unearthing this truth as Randy's mom began sharing her faith. She was, and still is, very much a woman on fire for God; a passionate believer who, over the course of many years, has become one of my dearest friends, and the catalyst for my own faith, Christianity, and love of my Father.

My Christian walk began before I even fully realized it, and even when I stalled at various pit stops, threatened to turn the opposite direction, find short-cuts and by-passes; my mother-in-law has proven to be one of most influential prayer warriors for my soul.

It just took me a while to realize that.

When I sat in that church 2 years ago, I wasn't waiting on a pastor to begin service. It wasn't a Sunday. I wasn't even a Christian.

I was sitting in that church to hear a speaker; a blogger-turned-author of the wonderfully popular Carry On,Warrior. I was sitting at a book signing.

GlennonDoyle Melton is the brains and word-gifted talent behind the popular blog Momastery. I had become privvy to this blog during my months of introverting as our family transitioned from being Coloradans to becomingTexans, and as I transitioned from a teacher-mom to a stay-at-home-mom {a shift in which, I'd say, I was failing miserably}. When I found out that her book tour was bringing her here, to this very place; I was in. I hadn't been 'out' in months, except for the standard errand-running facilities that helped keep my family fed, clothed, educated, and clean. It was nerve-wracking and exciting and overwhelming as I trusted Siri to guide me safely to and fro in a city where I was ineptly unfamiliar.

Back on April 9, 2013, the din of chatter from all of the women who were {in my opinion} waving their exciting social connections in my insecure and lonely face shifted into excited applause as Glennon approached the podium.

After she spoke, the line began forming for the signing. My turn became imminent and soon I was face to face with a woman who enveloped me in her arms and, despite her petite stature, overtook my physical presence with her spiritual aura. She greeted me. We chatted. She leaned in. She listened. She responded. She hugged. She signed. She posed for a picture. She bid me farewell. She moved on to the next excited fan.

But then. Her words. Y'all. This woman is on point. Her approach of truth telling, complete transparency, all felt good. And, while it is a huge display of vulnerability to simply lay it all out on the line, Glennon's ability to essay, to compose, to share—it doesn't feel awkward, over-sharey, or pretentious. It feels...good. It feels natural. As thought you're with a dear friend in the cozy corner of a coffee shop, or curled up on an overstuffed couch. It's comfortable. Y'all. Her book. It really changed the course of my life. It sparked a fire on my warrior torch that began lighting my world in ways I had never before envisioned. And so, since I've never been one who's short on words, I simply had to tell her.

{This a snippet of the letter I wrote to her shortly after meeting her and completing her book;}

Part of your inscription in my book says, “Write On!”. And Glennon, I have to tell you that your writing has kept me doing just that.  I have kept going with my blog, one particular post that I entitled “Writing My Truths” after being inspired by you to lay it all out on the line, my true self—flaws and all.  Only I didn’t identify them as flaws.  I found them to be the things about me that I’ve noticed need a little more polishing so they can shine a little brighter. It sparked conversations across my social media existence and beyond, and gave fellow mommies the courage to be more open and honest about the hardness of life. I know for a fact that my recent writing has helped others not only discover you and your blog, but discover themselves a little more. And it feels amazing.
So, Glennon, thank you. Thank you for your courage, your inspiration, your spirit, your gift. Thank you for the words on your blog and in your book, many of which bear the boldness of my pink highlighter and black ballpoint pen so I can quickly reference, remind, reflect. Thank you for the small, unknowing smile you shared with me as I navigated through the confusing hallways of an unfamiliar place and the reassurance you provided me in the hug that we shared at the book signing. You hear and read ‘thank you’ on a daily basis, I’m sure, but that’s not going to stop me from being another woman whose life has been changed for the better because of you. Thank you. I’ve referred to myself as a ‘lone star’ living in the Lone Star State, and while I might not know many people here {at the time I wrote this...this was a hard truth}, the connections I have and will make are being strengthened by the inspiration that is you. Thank you.

The moment when you discover something amazing about yourself is a pivotal point in your life.

When Randy told me I would be easy to love, I didn't know how to respond—I thought he was a bit crazy...because, me. That moment when I 'became' a Christian—may not have been an exact 'moment', really, but might have been the way you fall asleep; slowly, and then all at once.

I discovered that those words, “you would be so easy to love”, are the precise way that God feels about me—even with my flaws and brokenness and sin and struggle. He loves me. Easily. Without fail. Endlessly. Fiercely. Eternally.

That night, 2 years ago, in the confines of my yet-to-be-diagnosed depression; on the hard, straight-backed wooden pew of a church where I wasn't feeling particularly spiritual, faithful, or hopeful; in the arms of a dainty stranger, my warriorship became apparent. I recognized that even though...I am easy to love. The One who loves me makes me want to fight. Want to pursue. Want to follow. Want to wear my scars proudly, share myself authentically, and continue to carry on, warrior.