I mean I've known, deep down, that I've wrestled with my identity, but I really hadn't concluded that to be my main stumbling block. Or, it would be better to say that I've been running and hiding from facing that very fact.
I've had a few meetings with some ladies about a future project, and those meetings have caused me to really evaluate some serious, deep down issues.
The others thought the meet ups were God ordained in order for a possible venture to take place...but I just showed up because I like the gals and I like to talk about life and God and struggles.
I've come to believe those meetings were ordained because God used them to unlock a piece of my heart.
I've been chasing something for a long time. a very long time.
I never knew quite what it was. Never.
I'd have glimpses, but I didn't want to face what those glimpses were, and honestly, I still didn't know what to do with what I would see in those glimpses.
But after our meetings and me having to seriously articulate where I am and where my heart seems to be right now, it got me digging further than I ever had.
See, for years I've been able to articulate and recognize that I kept thinking I was extraordinary, or better said, I wanted to be extraordinary. I can remember this clearly starting in middle school.
I had this feeling that I could do whatever I set my mind to, that if I worked hard enough, I could figure something out. I thought I would go off, and show the world that I was more than it told me I was.
I would be extraordinary...even though the world told me I was ordinary and my life kept landing in the very ordinary realm, I would show the world I was more than what was being said about me, or really, what I thought about me.
It seems odd that I would have such deep rooted insecurities, because I grew up in a VERY loving home. That's probably one of the reasons (besides my arrogance and insecurity) why I thought I could be extraordinary and had such an independent spirit was because my parents told me that. They loved on me, believed in me, encouraged me, and spurred me on in immeasurable ways.
But, somehow, someway, insecurity haunted me, pursued me. The voices of the world plagued me. The voices inside my head controlled me.
I struggled with my weight, and in the world around me, weight seemed to trump all else, and I let that become a toxic lie inside my own head. I took that on, and I let it rule.
I was this confident, independent, determined soul in non-relational ways, but with people, I was paralyzed by insecurities.
I was rarely, if ever vulnerable with my closest of friends. I didn't know how to be.
I guarded my heart.
I didn't want to feel rejection or stupid or the ever so awful, "you think you could date him?"
So, I kept it in.
And the first person who made me feel beautiful, I latched onto, and even though my insides were sending up red flags, I ignored them.
My insecurities were too powerful.
They superseded common sense, truth, stability, all the love and worth my parents had poured into me, as well as accepting or understanding grace.
How can one be that insecure?
I do not know.
But I was. And I have continued to be.
My insecurities landed me in a land of mess that caused even bigger messes.
And, I truly believe, that for the last 15 years, I have been on a long journey trying to solve this huge hole in my heart.
I've been having an identity crisis.
For 10 of those years, I was in a relationship that both stripped me to the core as well as piled baggage on top of baggage.
For those 10 years, I both lost my identity and became as insecure as one can be, as well as begin the process of truly finding myself and having the roots of my soul start to grow in the firmest foundation of all.
And, 5 years ago, God unlocked a prison I had chosen and set me free from a wilderness that I had wandered into, wandered through, but met Jesus in.
He walked me out, but just because you leave, doesn't mean that wilderness leaves you.
Rejection I had so feared was now added, bitterness and pain, heartache that I had become numb to, confusion, and the loss of the one person who'd hugged me from the time I was born buried me beneath a rubble I had to start sifting through.
God had released me, but my new road didn't give me an identity either...in fact it added new layers to what was in my head.
not young but not old
not a size 4 or 6
lonely without a mom, a close sibling, a spouse
And as all of this played in my head, my search continued, my insecurities pressed in.
This summer, God began unlocking a new gate...well, He's been unlocking it, but it's taken me a long time to see passed the rubble to notice it was open and just waiting for me to walk through it.
A few dreams died this summer, but some new ones sprang up, and in that mix, a few things began to click.
I kept asking myself why I thought I wanted to be extraordinary, why I seem to have to chase extraordinary when life really seems to be about the ordinary.
Life is a day to day, walking out.
My half marathons had taught me that.
The medal moment comes at the end, and it lasts a few minutes, but the race is 3 hours, and that's where the medal is actually earned.
The settling in at mile 4, knowing there's a long ways to go.
The push at mile 8 to get to double digits.
And then at mile 11 to keep fighting for 2 more miles.
To not quit, to keep going in the mundane, the heat, with the same voices in your head, and the legs that are getting tired.
That's when the medal is earned. In those 3 hours...the ones where it is just you and God and the pavement.
The finish line at mile 13 is just a pause. It's the pat on the back, the cheap medal around your neck, and the here's your banana and bagel.
Extraordinary moments, the ones I keep defining as extraordinary, are the pauses, they are the pats on the back, the glimpse of a temporary finish line.
They really aren't what's extraordinary. Extraordinary is created in the time spent in the ordinary.
I kept envisioning this dramatic story of here's your medal and crown and I deem you worthy, and from here on out all of mankind will think you so...and now you can begin life.
I thought life began at the extraordinary moment, at mile 13, so I've spent my life and my imagination on trying to create that moment.
But that's a farce, a manipulation, a right not given.
The medal isn't earned by the one showing up at mile 13, it's earned by the one who started at mile one, and not even really then. It's earned by the one who chose to get up on an ordinary day and hit the pavement, alone, just them, their thoughts, and God.
Big mountain top moments are just temporary finish lines, because the race to get to the mountain top is in the constant, the day to day, the ordinary moments when there isn't a crowd, there aren't people telling you whether or not they feel you are worthy: the extraordinary happens when it's you, the pavement, and God.
The medal isn't earned at a conference or on a wedding day or in the writing of a book.
The medal is earned in the journey, the extraordinary, the REAL extraordinary is found in what this world would call ordinary. It's in the daily walking out, the daily loving and showing up...on mile one and every one after that.
Mary wasn't speaking and writing and marrying and creating this unbelievable story to make her life extraordinary...
She was living, humbly, ordinarily, and The Extraordinary met her there. She loved the Lord, and that was her story. That was enough for her and that was enough for Him.
Ruth's life and what she knew and loved and came from fell, died, and she was left alone.
But she knew God, she knew Truth was worth following.
So she did, and The Extraordinary collided with the one willing to walk a hard road, an ordinary road, and The Extraordinary spoke in that and through that.
I've chased what I thought was extraordinary for a long time, hoping that it would give me an identity, hoping that the story I chased would give me a story.
But all it has done is remind me that I'm ordinary, that I'm excruciatingly insecure, and that I'm pursuing something hoping it would give me an identity instead of me just having one.
I was chasing a farce.
I was left with the indelible "round hole and square peg" metaphor once again.
I was trying to be the "Proverbs 31" woman when in reality, I'm Psalm 31.
I'm not the ideal or the extraordinary. I'm the ordinary: I'm broken, troubled, afflicted, and lost...
I'm in need of Jesus.
For 36 years, I think I've invited Jesus in to fix me, to orchestrate events, in order for me to be extraordinary.
For the first time, I believe I'm coming to a place that I finally say, I'm ordinary, and I just want The Extraordinary to live in me...not to make me anymore than I am, but just to be in me, with me, save me, and change me...not into something extraordinary, but into the me that has a heart full of Jesus.
I'm tired of me trying to be extraordinary, because I suck at it, and all it has ever done is land me in a world of emptiness, in a world I didn't belong in, in a world devoid of me.
This summer proved to me that I have a heart for loving children and I come alive doing that. Giving my time to helping them have an experience with God brings me life, and that praying for my friends and being a mom that's present is pretty darn gratifying.
And that road, one I had said was too ordinary and boring, is actually a pretty great one for me.
I can take off my wonderwoman costume because the only person I was fooling was myself.
I was the one in need of saving.
How great is Your goodness, which You have stored up for those who fear You, which You have wrought for those who take refuge in You...You hide them in the secret place of Your presence...Psalm 31
Nearly 5 years ago, in a dark room, weeping, I prayed begging God to right the pendulum, to clear the toxins, to transform my heart, for me to become who He had planned for me to be before I hijacked my own story.
In August 2013, on the phone, weeping to a friend, longing for the voice and love of my mom,
my soul cried out once again,
my heart breathed in,
and this time, enough rubble had cleared to where I could hear the voice I'd been longing to hear:
you, Shelly, are a child of the Light, destined for salvation, walking together with Him,
and Faithful is He who calls you.
The truly extraordinary is when He whispers into your soul, and you finally listen.
Being ordinary, walking with The Extraordinary