“So I decided that the most subversive, revolutionary thing I could do was to show up for my life and not be ashamed.” –Anne Lamott
Several years ago I went to Bulgaria with a group that included my brother’s band. Other than Mexico, I had never stepped foot outside the US. But it was an opportunity to encourage the people they would be playing music for. I could do that.
To my surprise, soon into the trip, we were split up. The band went to some bigger cities, while the rest of us loaded into a van to go visit some of the small villages. It was not exactly what I had signed up for!
We drove 4 hours to meet up with a pastor in one of the villages who would take us to visit several churches in the area. When I pictured “churches” I thought of the kind I knew of – with pews, stages, and words on screens. But what we found were cold shacks with broken chairs, single light bulbs hanging from the ceilings, and “stages” built up with dirt, and topped with old linoleum. Yet they felt like home.
While driving to the first church, the pastor told us that the “church service” we would be leading would have to be outside since they had invited the “whole village”. Umm, what was that? Maybe something got lost in translation. But we double-checked, and yes, in less than five minutes we would lead a “church service” for a “whole village.”
Each of us frantically looked at one another as we pulled up to the large group who had been waiting for us. We decided to give a brief talk about our lives, and how we love God…after we led worship, of course.
So our group of “non-band” people sang, and then each of us spoke. I didn’t talk long. But I shared about believing in Jesus since childhood, growing up in a wonderful family, and working at places that helped hurting people. But my inner monologue was screaming: I AM A MESS.WHAT THE HECK DO I HAVE TO OFFER? I CAME HERE TO CLEAN WINDOWS, AND HUG PEOPLE… NOT TO SPEAK! MY REAL STORY IS SHAMEFUL…SO I WILL JUST SHARE THE EASY STUFF. SKIP MY DIVORCE STORY…
But when I stopped talking, I realized people were crying. Elderly women hugged me and kissed me all over my face and forehead. People asked us to pray for them, so we did.
And little by little, I softened…I gave my heart. And it ripped me apart.
Over the next 3 days, we visited more churches. We would show up, and they would cry. It happened at every single one. Old men, young women…heads cupped in their hands, crying.
We spent some time in an orphanage, and a group of kids played with me, hugged me and wanted me to take their picture (seen above).
I started to realize that the people were reacting this way simply because we showed up. A group from far away had come to be with them.
I felt like a mess, yet God was increasing my love for others. What little I gave was being expounded upon by Him. He was loving them…through me.
I never shared my TRUE story on that trip, but for that time, and that season, it was okay. God wanted me to know that just showing up was courageous.
Since that trip I’ve slowly begun telling my real stories, and I’ve realized that He wants me to show up for my life…exactly as I am. He is so patient with me, slightly pushing me, but asking me to do only what I’m ready for.
His strength is made perfect in my weakness. In my weakness.
And my life has required me to show up again and again…
I showed up in white, on a beach in Maui. And I married the man that showed up for me over and over through 3 years of dating and dealing with our stuff.
I show up for two sweet boys each day. Sometimes I (lovingly of course) dig out boogers, and scrape food off the floor. But other times I just stare as I see their dad in them…my reminder of how much God has shown up for me.
I still have messes, but I try to show up for my life anyway.
The messy, beautiful stories are the best ones.
This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!