Be who God meant you to be, and you will set the world on fire.
St. Catherine of Siena
I have always loved this quote from St. Catherine of Siena, so when I found it in my Edel Swag Bag after receiving a St. Catherine of Siena medal as my event pass, I may have swooned . . . and become curious as a monkey named George. There are no coincidences, so my mind started spinning to uncover the significance.
As we prepared for the opening of the Saturday sessions, I sat at a table by myself. I was disappointed with myself for not being more outgoing the night before and having ducked out of the cocktail party to go to bed. Now I was hoping to muster up all the extrovert juices in my body to up my game. It is possible that I was also still recovering from the two blocks + back walk to the church that morning under a sun that was trying to melt the skin off my body. Too dramatic? I digress.
All this to say that as I stared at the words on this beautiful print, the only thought that whispered through the cavern of my mind was, "Who has God made me to be?" Or in the words of Jean Valjean, who am I? These were also the thoughts that gave me the most anxiety as I was preparing to come to Edel. I might have sent this message to Cate and Heather the night before:
You see, I am the girl who has struggled with fitting in her whole life. I was the last one picked, the one not invited, the butt of the joke, the nerd dreaming of the day she would finally be cool. I was the girl who desperately wanted to belong, but never quite felt like she did. I suspect that at moments later in life, I did not even recognize when and where I did belong.
I have always been able to pick out pieces of others that I would like to resemble. "Oh, if only I had her wit," or "She is so graceful and elegant. If only I could be half as put together," or "She has such a beautiful heart. If only I were able to love so purely," or "I love her style! If only I could lose some weight so cute things would fit me." See the pattern? If only. . .
Back to where I was sitting at the table. My fears had been a little realized the night before at the cocktail party where I was tired and tongue tied, and for the love of all that is holy don't you know I had forgotten to factor in the tiny detail that my feet swell during travel when I picked out my crazy shoes. Even a glass of wine wasn't helping this complete brain fuzz amid tight shoes. I had no ability to manufacture conversation with people who I had admired from the safety of my screen. Christy, Haley, Hallie, Jen, Mary, Sarah, and the list goes on and on. So I froze and retreated. Thank GOD for Cate, who with her sweet, sweet soul made sure I was doing okay, and Wendy, who with her big heart and bigger personality made me laugh and loosen up. I mustered up a little more courage after the shoes came off and the blood started flowing to my brain again, but even still, I felt a little defeated by my own insecurities. This was supposed to be fun, and I was doing a terrible job at it.
Floating back into the moment, and staring at that print alone at the table, this horrifying thought entered my mind. What if I never knew who God made me to be? My thoughts were interrupted as Heather and Wendy came to sit down, thankfully.
As if they were reading my mind, speaker after speaker lobbed grenades at my heart. First direct hit goes to Hallie:
I suspect I am not the only one whose heart was pierced and set free by these words. Wasn't that what I had been doing until Wendy and Heather interrupted me? I am the queen of not only replaying scenes in my head, but projecting new scenes into the future. At that moment those scenes may have involved me melting into a puddle of embarrassment or fading into a corner invisible to the world. How often do I walk into a situation completely unnerved because I am imagining the worst that could happen? Now being armed with this, no more, I say, no more. Ok, not as often, I say, not as often.
Where Hallie set me free to admit how often I build up wildly imaginative (and devastating) futures for myself, Rachel came along to open the floodgates. Quite seriously, Rachel, if I hadn't been sitting in full view of the podium and surrounded by people I didn't really know well, the vision of the future that involved a puddle (but from tears) would have been my fate. I was choking back the sobs that wanted to burst out of my soul.
Boom. Boom. Boom. Like a firework, baby, like a firework, these words. Lighting my soul. Releasing my deepest fears to the light. Yes, Psalm 139 is my comfort verse for when I am feeling insignificant and unimportant, but sometimes you just need to hear it again from a woman in pearls who has been there too, and then overhears a potentially embarrassing conversation in the food line later and laughs along with you all. Crisis averted. Phew!
We are not alone. This was repeated by speaker after speaker. We are not alone. We are all important and significant in the eyes of God, even in our smallness . . . especially in our smallness. I know I was not alone in appreciating how easy it was to approach all the speakers and organizers. This is truly a unique hallmark of Edel, I believe, and kudos to Jennifer and Hallie for setting that tone. There were no big names, only other women and mothers, because to God we are all big names, even if some of us seem like crazy fan-girls.
If I was expecting an answer to my Jean Valjean cry this weekend, I'm not certain. Either way, it came to me as I sat and gazed upon the Lover of my soul, the One who knew His reason for creating me. Hallie and Rachel had broken open my heart. As much as I wanted to cry, I think my body was still recovering from having been melted outside. My mind wandered back to the post I wrote about my name. Rakhi. This has been a source of embarrassment and awkwardness all my life. From being thought a man, to all the references to boxing one can muster up, it has not always given me a confidence in who I am. Yet, in so many ways, names define us, and I realized, my name defines me. Whether it is a gift of love as I thought most of my life, or a bond of protection born out of love, in it lies my purpose. I am made to love.
Thank you to Jennifer and Hallie for all your love, tears, joy, and sweat in pulling this weekend together . . . for seeing a need and making a space to fill it. Thank you to all those women who made me feel like I belong. To all those friends who live on the other side of my screen that I have been able to hug in the flesh and blood, I love you. Truly. You are my sisters.
Thank you for helping me to uncover who I am, who God has made me to be.
Now, let's get out there and set this world on fire!
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I was amazed at how many of us felt that way. I was the same way, Rakhi--the girl who ate lunch alone, who was teased, who was never, ever "cool". And really wanted to be. And I felt the same way going into this--will anyone like me? Am I just too weird for everyone? Etc. Etc. So many women I talked to felt this way. It was fantastic to know that we are not alone, and that people like us for WHO WE ARE. :)ReplyDelete
Sweet, sister - your comment just brought tears to my eyes. Much love to you - I'm so glad we were able to connect!Delete
Love you so much, sister friend!! In case you ever doubted it, you are EVEN BETTER in person!! Finally getting to hug your neck and chat and belly laugh ourselves silly absolutely made my weekend! So very very thankful for YOU!ReplyDelete
Ok, first - I totally forgot you used to have longer hair! The victory rolls! That's what I first remember when finding your blog. That and your incredible painting. :)Delete
I have to say finally getting to meet you makes me rethink my "never moving back to Texas" rule. Because being down the street and able to bring over some tea and just chill on the porch on a regular basis sounds like a pretty sweet thing. XOXO, friend. Here's to hugging your neck again sometime very soon!!
I loved this! (and the other one!) I don't know why, but I was so so SO thrilled that you were able to go this year. Like, of all the women that got to go (and had an incredible time), it makes my heart smile the most to know that your heart was touched and spoken to in touch beautiful ways. I really can't explain this to you. :)ReplyDelete
Thank you for sharing your heart and experience with all of us!
Also, I am so happy you tweeted so much. I felt like I got to "hear" the amazingness of some of the talks!
You are absolutely one of the most loving, encouraging people I know! I'm so glad you were able to experience a slice of the beauty from the weekend from all the tweeting.Delete
I share so many of your feelings. And I was too afraid to say "hi" to you!!! We are like soul sisters. Soul sisters too afraid to say hello. :( Next time!!!ReplyDelete
Isn't that the truth? I was afraid to impose myself on you! Next time, absolutely, soul sister. :)Delete
This is awesome. So awesome. Thank you for sharing your story of the conference with us. love it.ReplyDelete
Next time Imma kidnapping you. No excuses. ;)Delete
Hi again Rakhi!ReplyDelete
After reading this post, I can relate to alot of how you felt when you were younger, yet I still struggle with "fitting in" even today as I think my awkward teen years come out to haunt me every now and then! I think it's wonderful that you got the St. Catherine quote since you have connected with it before and I think it's a God-cidence that we got the same St. Catherine medal! God bless!
So glad we are saint sisters! :) I think one of the fruits of Edel has been seeing these women who seem larger than life, and hearing that they felt those same pangs of awkwardness. We are not alone.Delete
So great to meet you, Rakhi! I'm glad you were there!ReplyDelete
It was wonderful to meet you too! I'm so sorry I was so tongue-tied half the weekend that I didn't actually speak to you more. :)Delete
Hank you so much for this recap! These are the words I have been trying to find! And I need to know who put out that St Catherine print. I love it and need to get my hands on a copy!ReplyDelete