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Speaking out and finding your voice

How do you find the courage to change when you feel stuck? Or when the busy-ness of everyday feels like all you can handle?

I’ll never forget the look of abject terror on my little sister’s face. Her stare still haunts me to this day as I recall her wide-eyed shock. But first let me back-up and explain.

The first summer I came home from college was filled with the scent of freshly cut grass and the incessant humming of cicadas. If you closed your eyes out on the white font porch, wind rushing through bluegrass sounded like ocean waves lapping the shore. 

The fields at home couldn’t be more different than the colorful coffee shops and ivy clad buildings on campus. Suddenly my home felt like another culture. Every time I opened my mouth to speak, I got the feeling that people were looking at me funny…

After a few days I started to bite my tongue.

Maybe you’ve experienced this before, when you feel like no one really knows what to make of you. You stick out like a flamingo in a duck pond. Desperate to find my flock, I set out to prove that I belonged. 

Sometimes it’s easier to please other people than to reach your own standards.

It was easy to become the best laundress at home, the most meticulous proof-reader. The lawn was mowed. The kitchen was cleaned.

Have you ever pushed your big goals aside for the immediate satisfaction of finishing house chores, or clearing out your inbox? It’s kind of addictive. The day just flies by in a snap – and you feel productive without having made any progress on your big goals.

Head buried in the busy-ness of work, my mission, values and dreams fell by the wayside. Piles of books for the new school year went unopened. Summer dreams were stuffed in a box that collected dust. 

I all but forgot who I was – until my little sister decided to tell me. At some point between making lunch and packing my backpack, my sister sat down at the kitchen table with a heaviness well above her years. Two piercing blue eyes, puffy and bloodshot from tears, peeked out at me over her slouched shoulders. She spoke plainly, “You’re not being part of this family.”

I heard what she had to say. Lunch proceeded as scheduled. But something inside of me snapped. The part of me that just wanted to be me. Just as I was, without fretting about pleasing everyone else. The part of me that was fed-up with walking on eggshells. The part of me that couldn’t imagine one more day of trying to turn myself into the perfect daughter, the perfect sister – which I definitely was not.

I don’t remember answering my sister. I picked-up my lunch, walked over the hot pavement and shut the car door. I paused before turning the key in the ignition, confronting my face in the rearview mirror. Hundreds of thoughts left unsaid, fears pushed aside, challenges ignored swooped across my mind like bats on a feeding frenzy. I gripped the steering wheel to steady my nerves, and caught my own eye in the mirror. 

Who was this girl looking back at me? I didn’t know who she was, or where she belonged.

I don’t recall the sound of a scream. I remember the shrill crackle in my ears. The popping pain in my throat. Then the surge of hot tears and pressure of my shaking ribcage. And finally, when I fired-up the engine and turned to back out of the driveway, the look of abject horror on my little sister’s face.

That cry came from a place of desperation in my soul. A place that felt wholly inadequate to express its true self. A girl who felt like no one would ever want to hear her real voice. A girl who wanted to be heard, and felt ignored by everyone, even God.

I’ll never know why she followed me outside. I don’t know how long she watched me cry from the other side of the glass. I just know that that afternoon was the moment when I stopped chasing after perfect.

Sometimes, we cross a threshold and find ourselves on the other side of a turning point that we didn’t even know existed.

Sometimes we find the lid on our box of dreams has blown off and ignited within us a bottomless craving to dream bigger, to be more than we ever thought was possible.

That desperate scream was the sound of a thousand dreams trying to break free.

That scream was a wake-up call. Only God gets to define who I am, and where I belong. No one else, not even my sister.

Those moments your throat grips tightly and you can’t speak, when your heart feels wrapped up in knots, when tears gently pooled in the wells of your eyes, when you just want to hit the wall and scream – maybe those aren’t moments of weakness. They might be times when God is trying to catch your attention. We can’t fully accept God’s love when we’re constantly putting our real selves in a box that doesn’t fit.

Truth: The hopes and dreams God gives us are precious. Whose dreams are you chasing?

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