I am a passionate woman. If there is something I believe in, I put all of me into it - sometimes to my detriment. If a friend has been wronged I will defend her with everything in me, I will fight for her until whatever wrong has been righted. But if I am wronged, if I am angry, I will crumble, the hot, hot tears will pour from my eyes and that same strength that rises up for another will dissipate before I know it's there. I believe in working hard. I believe in earning a place in this world - not just existing in it. I believe in overcoming obstacles, in bettering those around me, in leading by serving.
I believe in the kindness in people - so much that when I learn such to be untrue it breaks my heart in the worst of ways. I believe in gratitude and joy and love. I believe that we all serve a purpose, that we all exist for a reason, that any one of us can provide understanding in the darkest of moments.
I know I did things against the norm. I married young. I had children young. I walked away from the life I had planned. I know that this life has granted me an understanding of things that I never would have known before. I know that this life can change people, can open their eyes or tear them to pieces. I know that what I have been shown provides a mindset that other's cannot have.
I have thought so much about where I am in life compared to those of my same age. Of what is important to me. Of what I have done in my short time in this place. The reasons that decisions were made and who made them and how we got here. I don't think my place is better, or more affording, just different. This life is a very different life.
I know that I value things differently than some of my peers. I know that I find more importance in small things than they may - that I have a different perspective on what qualifies as a "big thing."
I can remember who gave me nearly every wedding gift C and I received. One of my best friend talks to me about it all the time - as she attends engagement shower, after bridal shower, after couples shower, after wedding, after wedding, after wedding. I know that J and B gave me the seafood platter that makes me think of crawfish boils and spicy potatoes and Lenten Fridays that I dearly, dearly miss. I know that M from choir gave me a watercolor she painted of hydrangeas - fuchsia on blue. I know that my sweet Taylor from work gave me the most beautiful hurricane shade, and that my dad's co-worker and his family gave me a heavy glass bowl with my new monogram. I remember opening the wooden, hand-carved fleur-de-lis hook from Susan in our church. I know that my dear-heart L and her mom gave me the coffee-pot I clung to this morning. I know that Shannon gave me the St Louis Cathedral plague that hangs on my wall. I think of M&M every time I use my Cutco server and of my past religion teachers every time I entertain with my Adler's servers. I think of B and all of the other guys who gave me wineglasses and highball glasses, and stemless reds and whites that fill an entire cabinet in my kitchen.
I cherish people. I take it all to heart - good and bad. Everything stays with me.
Watching my old friends become engaged and getting married and announcing they are expecting always takes me back. And it makes me wonder if this life has aged me or if that was always in me, if that was one more key that prepared me for this. Is it the fact that I have held C's hand while we sat at the house of the deacon who married us and wrote down his final wishes, planned his funeral at the age of twenty-four and twenty-eight? Did that age me or was the strength for that always in me? Was it nearly losing a child in delivery at the age of twenty-two that made me cherish, or was the strength to pray through that always there? Did holding a son, trying to help him to understand why his Daddy couldn't sing him to sleep - not for a long time - teach me to be comforting, or was that always inside?
I know that what I have lived through is different from what my peers have lived through. I know that we are all made for the life we live. Given the tools, given the strength, given the grace. But I can't help but wonder if it is in these moments that these things were created or if they are already there, waiting to be clung to, to be acknowledged, to be needed. Maybe it's a bit of both.
I take it all to heart and it stays. The moments of our life stay with me always, defining me, aging me, strengthening me, teaching me.
Whatever struggle, whatever battle, whatever hardship the ability to thrive through it is there - whether it always has been or the grace comes in just at that much needed moment. It is there - waiting.
Maybe our hearts are made a little differently, their capacity a little greater, making it possible to keep the strength down deep, to hold onto the goodness that will get us through the harder days a little longer. To keep the pain and the sadness that builds strength, adds links to the armor, makes us grateful for the tiny joys. To carry our children's hearts and our soldier's. To acknowledge the anguish and the grace and the patience and the love that gets us through the unimaginable, the unthinkable, that teaches us who we are, what we can do. To hold enough strength for another to borrow and to keep a space for us to fill from them when needed.
We are made differently because this life is so very different. He made us to thrive through our days - not just to survive them. Take it to heart.
The heart can hold it all.
"A soldier doesn't fight because he hates what is in front of him. A soldier fights because he loves what he left behind." - unknown
"God is our refuge and strength. He will protect us and make us strong" (ps 46:1). For those who will fly today, for those who are there now, and for those who will soon join the fight, Lord, shield them from all evil, strengthen their hearts, and bring them home safely.