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.

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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

Feeling Small

FullSizeRender (3) There is a high school near our house.  It's a quick walk through neighborhoods with pretty homes and neat lawns and big front porches. Sometimes when we walk through we pick our favorites.

"Oh that one!  With the gray shutters, it's so pretty."

"Yeah that's nice, I kind of prefer the one over there though, with the red door."

A lot of times we differ, but we always seem to agree on one thing: a front porch.

It's got to have it.  It has to have a big, welcoming, coffee sippin', come-on-in-and-put-your-feet-up porch.

Once we get to the high school we walk around the track.  Sometimes, there's a father and son kicking a soccer ball.  Other times, it's just us and the massive school building with large white pillars and an American flag standing tall - waving in the breeze.

Though this last time, it was us and an entire lacrosse team.  As we walked, Matthew caught a few lacrosse balls in the air that didn't make the net.

Please Lord, don't let one of those come my way, you know how awful I am at sports.  It'll just smack me right in the face.  Not today Lord.

Because I was in a mood y'all.

And it started in the most icky way.

It started with reading about college students building wells in the developing world. And that brought me to another group who started a business selling Jewelry from Uganda and a holistic wellness program.  And somehow that led me to some other fascinating soul who cooked really good food and took pretty pictures of it.

At first, I had your normal reaction.  I was overjoyed, amazed, thankful that these creative folks were doing such good work.  YES keep doing it, keep fighting the good fight, your work is SO important.

I took a bite of grapefruit and filed papers on my desk.

And that's when my heart sank.

My heart sank for all the things I wasn't doing.  My heart sank for not being creative enough, bold enough, courageous enough, to do things like that too.  It's that awful game of comparison that I fall into more than I'd like to admit.

It's that awful game of jealously. God, why aren't you using me?  Why can't I do something like that?  Did I miss something here?  Did I take a wrong turn? Did you forget about me?

I didn't feel like jogging, so I walked.  I walked as Matthew ran, more flew [I married a cheetah] around the track.

With each step, I listened to music and tried to pound my frustration, anger and sadness out of my heart and into the ground.  I begged God to work in and through my selfish, restless heart.

I have to pray this one daily.

I kept trying to fight through it.  Though, it always came back - you aren't doing enough. Those folks are doing big things because they don't hit snooze six times.  They wake up early, really early after going to bed late.  They're saving the world, every second of everyday, while you sleep and cuddle and bake bread and drink coffee.

And that's when things changed.

Suddenly, I forgot about getting hit by a lacrosse ball.  I stopped getting annoyed at how fast my husband can run.

All I saw were the trees.

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One was crooked, standing tall and proud, the sky it's backdrop and canvas. Another was full and bristly and bright.  Others stood silently, lining the sidewalk leading to the track - giant tree after giant tree.

I stopped a few times to look at them closely.  To breathe in the cool air.  To listen to the words of the music.

You're small Maeve.  Not insignificant, just small.

These trees surrounded my walk and I felt so tiny beside them.  The same way I feel when standing on the edge of the ocean, toes dipped in the water, knowing full well the earth is round but, always wondering - would I fall off? What would happen if I swam out as far as the eyes can see?

Do you think I placed you here without thought?  At this job, in this town, on that street - without reason or purpose?

Those trees and God's whisper silenced me.  I could hear Him - you're missing the whole point, Maeve.  You're missing what it's all about.

Because the thing is, it's not about you dear one.  You're making it about you.  It's about a way bigger plan than accolades and making people proud. You play a part little one, you play a big part.  But it might look different than anything you ever imagined

Sometimes, we just need to remember we're small. Sometimes, we need to be reminded that it's not about being liked or different or original.

It's about doing small acts of great love, each and every day, never ceasing, always remembering, that the next person we run into - the woman pushing her cart through the grocery store - could be carrying the biggest pain of her life. And she just needs someone to look at her.  One look, one smile, one uninterrupted glance for her to know - You are seen dear one. Your pain is felt and carried.

So where do you go to feel small friend?

Is it the ocean or mountains?  Is it holding a newborn baby?

Sometimes, we need to be told - it isn't about you.  

Go where you feel small.  And breathe a deep sigh of relief because yes, you might be small, but you're also incredibly significant.