I signed up on a whim for the vision board class at my yoga studio. As one of the oldest in the group, I used the most glitter glue. I noticed in my cutting and gluing frenzy that I had mostly words and few images. So I called my board, “A New Narrative.”
Words are powerful. Written or spoken they release an emotional response. A few years ago, on a particular spring day, I decided to put my mouth on a diet. Not a diet in the traditional sense as what I was eating but rather, what I was consuming. I was beginning to have a big fat mouth because I was eating a lot of my own words and other people’s words. I had been swallowing them whole and letting them ferment in my spirit for my entire life.
In my years with Compassion That Compels, I’ve learned what women long for is love and acceptance. The journey to find that is often a tortured path. Every reflection is a warped image like a funhouse mirror. Time doesn’t heal wounds, it only ages them and childhood hurts can fully ripen in adulthood.
When I was younger (no, not in my 30’s), my dad would buy me these full front, iron on graphic shirts that felt like I was wearing a plastic cutting board. They’d say things like: “Daddy’s Princess,” “Miss America in the Making” or my personal favorite, “My Daddy Loves Me.” I never questioned the veracity of any of these statement wardrobe additions until we moved from the midwest to Louisiana and I went out to play kick the can; excited to make some new neighborhood friends. That was until I heard, “What does she have on?” I could feel the unison of bowed ponytails whipping around like a decorated kite string to assess my outfit. The heat on my face was stronger than the sun’s rays and with no one wanting me as a teammate, I made my way home.
I waited for my dad to return from work and then asked him, “Dad, I’m not a Miss Universe winner or even a princess, so why do you buy me these shirts?” Without missing a beat, “Because you’re beautiful and to me, you’re my princess.”
“Um…oh, okay,” I muttered and walked off with my pageant shirt on and drawstring Planters Peanuts pants that he’d received for collecting and mailing in 30 labels from the mixed nut containers. Why? Because my daddy loved me and to him, I was beautiful. Thank God, for an older sister’s closet. I chose that day to consume the neighborhood girl’s words and not my dad’s. And later, their words as my Barbie had a career like my mom, and didn’t actually play tennis. I chewed their words and swallowed my identity with their ridicule well into my twenties.
In my early adulthood, I realized my quick wit could make me the center of attention and preempt any hurt. I volleyed words and opinions with wide target swings. It was a cycle of verbal binge consumption that haunted me throughout my driving work and need to please. Even after I became a Christian, words spoken of how I should be as a good Christian wife and mom were bittersweet morsels. I was a harsh critic and firmly expressed my opinions. I consumed all these words to become really fat and still waited on the approval of others instead of God.
Things changed with my sister-in-law, Sonja’s cancer battle. I can’t say that her diagnosis was the moment but the letter of forgiveness she pressed in my hand before being wheeled into surgery. See, Sonja and I had gotten fat mouths together for a while but somehow, words didn’t matter. My diet didn’t start that day. Not even after both my second sister-in-law, Pam’s diagnosis and my sister, Vikki’s. It came when I looked at the pained faces of my two daughters. There wasn’t anything beautiful in my ugly, fat mouth. That spring day, I decided that the only words and opinions I consumed were God’s.
When your words came; I ate them; they were my joy and heart’s delight, for I bear your name, LORD God Almighty. Jeremiah 15:16
I commit to:
Making your words life-giving. Think of the conversations you have in the car with the driver of another car. Or the internal dialogue you speak over yourself? If you had to write down every word you spoke during the day, wouldn’t you be more judicious with what you said?