It was a crisp autumn evening in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, 2016. I stood in a room as one of several women who had gathered for fellowship, refreshing, and seeking a touch from God. It was strange that I was there. I don’t particularly like those sorts of women gatherings filled with silly games and evening chats about Rom-Coms, shopping, and families.
Families. I especially didn’t want to talk about that one. I was in the middle of a traumatic divorce, fighting for my children, feeling abandoned by most in my life, and living in survival mode. I dragged myself to the meeting room, forced my mouth to sing, and stood numb as the leader prayed for each one of us. She came to me, snatched my hands in hers, looked me in the eyes, and matter of factly stated, “You will write to save your life.” And on to the next woman she went.
Besides one who doesn’t jump at quaint women’s weekends, I also am not one to easily believe future foretelling, known in the Christian church as Prophecy or Words of Knowledge. I scoffed, but I also pondered. Writing wasn’t new to me; I had been writing almost daily since I could pick up a pen. True to my fashion, I scribbled the event in my journal, retired to my room, and anxiously awaited the end of the weekend.
Four years later, I can tell you, I write to save my life. Few things force a person to feel and for me, those things are writing and dancing…more on dancing later. The pen in my hand transfers the treasures in my heart to paper, to reality, and there I can discover. I can feel, heal, grow, grieve, and rejoice. In the words of American Novelist Flannery O’Conner,
“I write to discover what I know.”
What I didn’t fully know four years ago was that my life needed saved; I needed saved. There was a hero in my story and I was embarking on a life-changing journey to find her. I scoffed, but I held that woman’s words in my heart, “You will write to save your life”, and in doing so, I found my hero, and my salvation.
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We didn’t have plastic gloves small enough for her little fingers, but that didn’t stop us. We marched towards the woods, our hands wrapped in grocery sacks, determined to gather up the trash that littered the earth and littered our view. As we picked through the dirt and tied shut bag after bag, she looked up at me, her blonde hair whipping her face, and called out, “Mommy, this can go in our I swear I lived jar!”
I swear I lived. Here, on this beautiful fall day, my daughter saw us together picking up someone else’s trash as worthy of remembering – worthy of going in our Jar.
Our Jar is nothing fancy. A glass Mason, silver lid screwed on top, sitting quietly in the middle of our wooden coffee table. Inside are folded and crumpled pieces of paper with words scribbled in black ink depicting occasions from this year, like:
We cuddled on the deck and looked at the stars. We made sandwiches for the homeless. Girl talks. We stuck our toes in the sand. We ran in the cold.
Simple moments that cause us to take a deep breath, widen our eyes, warm our hearts, and proclaim, “I swear I lived.”
It’s in these times that the ordinary becomes extraordinary. The small moments weave together and are the most memorable of our lives. Whether we are the young naïve girl learning to be a woman or the wiser adult raising her, appreciating the simple stirs up gratefulness, touches on our humanity, and sparks a fire in our souls that is unquenchable. Let’s never forget to notice these worthy moments.
When this year ends, we will unscrew the silver lid, dump out the contents from our Mason, unfold the crumpled pieces of paper, and relive the occasions scribbled in black ink. I hope I never forget the look on my little girl’s face and her wide bright eyes as she realized at that moment, picking up trash together, we were truly living. “Mommy, this can go in our I swear I lived jar!“
It is going in The Jar. We Swear We Lived.
We encourage you to join us on this adventure of “The Jar.” Whether you have a literal jar containing scribbled memories from the year or you choose to look back and reflect, both set our hearts on gratefulness for the little things and exclaim, “I swear I lived!”
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This post’s theme song:
Once upon a time, I was a Youth Director at a Lutheran Church. Comical, if you know me. Never, not once in my life, had I stepped into a Lutheran church or any liturgical church for that matter. I’m an honest person and I told the Pastor in my interview, “I am a divorced woman with four children who is not a Lutheran,” and waited for the rejection. But to my surprise, my experience with teenagers did win out, and I was offered a chance at this adventure. I packed my bags, moved to Texas, and four weeks later found myself remodeling a dingy office at the end of a dark hallway, music blasting, wondering how the hell I got there.
It was a good year. I learned all I ever needed to know about Martin Luther. The teenagers versed me in Lutheranese, (it is such a thing), I eventually grasped the concept of a Liturgy, weekly communion, when to wear what color, and GaGa Ball rules. And, if we’re being honest, I still miss those amazing kids. But I was an outsider. I was not Lutheran, and it showed. Moreover, some church members cared that I did not hold this title. They looked for a stamped, signed, and sealed “Baptized and Confirmed Lutheran” certificate in my back pocket and when they didn’t find it they set out to cause me trouble in the name of the Lord.
One day, I came across a large whiteboard shoved in the back of a closet and I got giddy. Nerdy, Joker smile giddy. I grabbed a hammer and nails and I hung that board on my freshly painted gray wall, right where no one could miss it when they walked in. With the thickest, blackest marker I could find and grit to my teeth and heart, I wrote,
Underestimate Me, That’ll be Fun.
That quote did not get erased. It made me smile daily. Person after person came into that office and no one ever said a word to me about that quote which made it even better. It was a daily kick in the ass. Ironically, I was the one kicked. It set the grounds for a challenge that I could not ignore. An “I’ll show them” mentality quickly coupled with, “I’ll show myself!” And, “Don’t underestimate me,” quickly became, “I won’t underestimate myself!” I fought and worked hard. I tuned out the naysayers and I focused on the task at hand, the one that I didn’t understand but the one that somehow felt destined…basically, I rose to my own challenge.
It’s been a while since I’ve been in that role, but no matter what adventure I find myself in, there are still times that I can feel like I am the outsider, and it shows. Like something is different and everyone knows it. There’s someone, somewhere, looking for a stamped, signed, and sealed certificate of who they think I should be, and when they don’t find it, trouble follows. When this happens, I face the choice of defeat, of keeping an ear to the crowds, of choosing not to follow my destiny. Or, I decide to fight, work hard, grit my teeth and my heart, and rise to my own challenge, “Underestimate me, that’ll be fun.”
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