We're all a bunch of signs

I saw him standing at a stoplight. There was a white poster in his left hand and a rosary in his right. He wore a hat to shield the sun. I couldn't see the front of his sign because his back was to me and my curious nosey self fidgeted in my seat, wondering what it said. I've seen plenty of folks holding signs. But the sheer fact I couldn't see his, made me want to park, get out of the car, and go take a look.

FOMO is real.

He turned when the light turned green.

"Is it a choice or a child?" That's all it said with a picture of a fetus.

I was impressed by this man standing all by himself in the hot sun. He didn't have a big crowd rallying behind him. He didn't even have a chair to sit down in when his legs got tired.

It made me want to write a sign too. Particularly now, as debates run rampant on the internet [I've learned to stop reading the comments].

I think my sign might say, "You are loved. Like, all of you. That bag of junk and mess you're carrying? He loves all of that."

Truth is, we all wear signs.

Some are more visible than others - things like mother, married, white. Those ones are easy to point out.

But what about the ones we don't wear written on a t-shirt or wrapped around our finger? The ones that run deep in our veins and are embedded in our story and history and experience.

Things like survivor, adopted, addict, lonely.

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Our church had a women's night a few months back. A chance to go beyond the weather and what you do, to the things that make your heart beat.

In all honesty, I was reluctant to go because small talk really drains me. I've never been so good at it. I get awkward and uncomfortable and way too emotional.

It's the reason I stopped asking "How are you?" in college because I always got the same answer, "Great!"

And maybe, more than half the time people really were great. But it made me empty and tired because we're not always great, we're not always good. So I changed the question. I started asking, "You doing okay?"

I have those three words to thank for showing up late to many classes senior year. I always left those conversations uplifted and encouraged and not so lonely.

Because some days, I wasn't okay and it scared me to think I was the only one.

Of all the parts of that night, the moment that stuck were the signs. Women held large poster boards, walked across the stage, turned to the audience and showed their sign.

"I had an abortion."

"I struggle with an eating disorder."

"I lost my child in a car crash last year."

"I have an anger problem."

The posters kept flashing, one after the other. A guitar played softly in the background.

These women ripped of the facade, giving you a glimpse into the deepest, darkest, most heart wrenching parts of their story. The facade we so often wear for protection, particularly at church. The very place we're told and tell others to come just as you are.

It had to feel like standing in front of a crowd completely naked while you give folks permission to point out the parts they don't like.

I remember such tension in my heart because I'd see a sign, look up at the woman's stoic face and think, her? I thought I had her all figured out.

We think we have folks figured out real quick. Sometimes, we'll judge way before an actual interaction. Simply by the way they order their coffee.

I remember wishing that we always wore a sign.

Even though there is a reason we don't divulge every little thing to every single person. But I couldn't help but wonder, would we be less inclined to judge? Less inclined to compare and choose jealousy?

Because we are all fighting a battle. Each battle is different and unique but each is heavy and significant. Each deserves someone to grab your hand and say, "Hey, I see what you're carrying. And even though my battle looks different than yours. I promise to fight with you and for you if you want."

We are all a bunch of walking signs.

And I want to be better at this friends. Because it's so easy to choose judgement. It's so easy to look another woman up and down and think we have her all figured out. That we know the threads that make her whole.

And I think all of this is heightened with the way our lives are compressed into pictures with captions and hashtags and filters.

But I don't blame social media for this. At our core, instragram or not, we'd still judge.

So maybe it starts with sharing your sign. Maybe it starts with celebrating the sweet and the bitter.

I'll go first.

I quit my job. I quit a full-time with benefits job to do something weighing on my heart to try and give in too. And that terrifies me because it feels so counter-culture. It feels wrong. It feels like I should constantly be striving for more, reaching up high, gaining a new title, striving for new benefits and perks. But there goes that ugly game of comparison again, you know?

And truth is, I hate quitting things. It makes me feel like I am letting people down. 

I quit for a lot of reasons. One was to try a new role in a profession I've felt pulled towards. Another was to provide more time, right here with you, in this space. And to some, this is just blank white space. But to all the writers out there, you know it's so much more.

It's where I find purpose and direction. It's where I find God. 

Some days I get scared that I made a huge mistake. While others, I feel so good and hopeful and filled up in a way I haven't in a very long time. Truth is, I've talked to God more in the past two weeks than I have the whole year. And He's stripping things away. He's helping this restless beating heart grow. He's making it less about me and more about Him. And that all seems worth it.

////

Some days, things are really great. I'd rather choose joy and gratitude than heartache. But we can't deny the heartache.

And I think something happens when we share. When we turn our sign around and give folks a chance to read. Because chances are, there are words written on their sign too.

Words that need to be shared and heard and felt.

So, what would your sign say today friend? What might it look like to share that with someone?

xoxo

This was not that time.

sunrise It was 9:30pm on Friday night, Matthew and I were gathering our things to leave church.

We had just wrapped up a membership class.  A few hours of learning how the church came to be and where it was going.

The first step in becoming a member.

I've never really been a "member" of a church.  I've never lived anywhere long enough to do so.  But we were beginning to feel the desire to commit, to be more than long-term visitors or guests.

That's all I've ever really been at a church.  A one foot in and one foot out kind of girl.

Committing has never been easy for me and the thing is, more than anything, it's good for my soul.

Even when it might not feel right.

Because my feelings are fleeting.  They're up and down and in-between all day long.  And while I trust them, I have to question them.

Because sometimes our feelings, as good intentioned as they are, might not have our best interests in mind.   Our feelings might push us to do what we want and not what we may need.  Our feelings may want what is comfortable instead of what will bend and stretch us.

Feelings can be deceiving?  Welp, that could be a whole other post.

For this post, it's just a tiny piece of it.

You see, I was so icky that night.

If someone had handed me a cloak and said, "Hey take this.  Put it on and you'll be invisible. You won't have to ask thoughtful questions or give honest answers.  You won't have to do anything at all."

I would have snatched it - no questions asked.

I just wasn't in the proper head space to have small talk, or deep talk, or any talk for that matter.

Have you been there?

When the class ended, I was ready to escape and retreat.  But Matthew had started chatting [he's so much better at that sometimes] and so, out of courtesy, I did too.   But not because I wanted too - because I felt I had too.

Downright icky I tell ya.

A man from our church walked over, a man with a sweet, gentle, joyful sprit.  I had introduced him to my parents a while back and they hit it off.  Most of their conversation centered around crab cakes.  [We're from Maryland, y'all]

So naturally,  crab cakes came up again.

Though somewhere in the conversation,  when things got quiet and there was a natural [somewhat awkward] pause he said something completely unexpected.

"I got laid off today"

Silence.

How could I have missed that?  I knew, deep down, something was off. Something in his sprit, in his stance, in his eyes said, "I am holding something heavy today, help me carry it, will you?"

We said a deep, heartfelt sorry but quickly and awkwardly moved on. We moved right back on to stupid, un-meaningful, not-important crab cakes.

I wept when we got in the car that night.

I wept for a lot of reasons - some reasons I knew and some I couldn't talk through yet.

But one things for sure, I cried because we missed it.

We missed an opportunity to do something.

Why didn't we offer to pray with him, right then and there in that sacred place?  I mean, we were in a church.  The least awkward place to pray for anyone.

It all felt uncomfortably familiar.

Two years ago, Matt and I were eating BBQ at one of our favorite little spots in town, when a man sat near us at a red picnic table.  We were totally and completely in awe of each other that day // smiling, gazing into each others eyes, hand holding, kissing.

You get the picture.

Though somehow, in-between all that mushy gushy love stuff, we got to talking to this man.

He shared how he was just visiting Winchester. That he was in town because his brother was sick, really sick, and he wanted to sit beside him in the hospital.

Again, like Friday, we said sorry, one that was full of emotion and truth. Again, we chatted a little longer and yet again, there was nothing.

Nothing more than a missed opportunity // like pressing snooze, over and over again, when the colors of the morning sky stretch far beyond anything we can imagine - begging you to get out of bed and come look.

We should have prayed, right then and there.

We should have asked: what more can we do for you, kind stranger? 

One of my most favorite authors wrote this blog post the other day about words.  She challenged us to use them because they have so much power and grace and love.  She expressed how sometimes [so very often] we have no idea the impact or difference we are making, just by living our ordinary life, until someone tells us.

I know this one well.

Folks, when you share that my words mean something to you, I could just about burst with gratitude.  Whether it's face to face, through a text or email - those words, your words, mean everything.   Your words make it easier, every single day, to be brave.  To feel comfortable and less confused in my pale skin.

Because sometimes, that's the hardest thing to do.

And I have to think, that I am not unique in this.  I have to believe that when we take notice and REACT to whatever life throws our way - even in the most ordinary and simple interactions // we do WONDERS.

We are strength for a load that is too heavy for one person to carry.

We are hope that tomorrow can be different.  It WILL be different.

We are love - that you, you who's in hiding, lonely in the dark, in bondage from addiction - you're enough, you're not defined by any of that.

Sometimes, words are all we have.

Sometimes, words are all we need.

It's a timing sort of thing, you know?

Because, there's a time for sleeping in and rolling over when the alarm goes off.

There's a time for talking about crab cakes and the weather.

But this? This was not that time.

This was the time to splash water on my face and get my butt out of bed.

This was the time to leap outside my comfort bubble, abandon all social norms, wrap my arms around you or grab your hand and say, "You are not alone."