I had the honor of speaking at a women’s retreat a few weeks ago. It was the second time I’ve been asked to do this. Last time I even led and sang some of the music. I am not bragging. I am in awe of it all, because I almost wasn’t here for any of it.
You see…it rained on my parade. What does that really mean anyway? It means you are pissed because things didn’t go the way you planned. Well…it rained on my parade…for a long time. And I got more than a little pissed…I got really depressed. Nothing in my life had turned out the way I had planned. Nothing. And because of that…I chose to focus on everything negative and was missing out on the tons of blessings all around me.
But you see…life has a funny way of helping us out. And sometimes things don’t work out for a reason, and by pouting about it, being mad and resentful…we are only delaying ourselves the joy and peace of what is next. Don’t waste as many years as I did being a control freak. You can’t control the weather, a sick mom, a cheating spouse, or anyone else for that matter.
So I had the privilege to speak about some of the hardest lessons I have learned in life, and share them very personally with an overwhelming 60+ women last week. It was hot, it was crowded…there wasn’t enough chairs, but no one seemed to care.
I wasn’t nervous really. I was just hopeful that I would say what someone needed to hear. I was hopeful that some of the hardest things I have endured wouldn’t be in vain. I was hopeful that I would be able to articulate, not just the darkest parts of my life…but the victory and transformation that occurred. I was hopeful that I might instill hope into someone that might have lost theirs, just as I had lost mine at one time.
But the funny thing about hope and inspiration is that…it’s not about the person trying to spread hope as much as the person that has lost it and finds enough courage to grab on to it one more time. No one can “give” anyone else hope. Hope is only received by the individual willing to believe in it.
I knew that. And maybe that is why I was not nervous, but rather…hopeful, yet, realistic and even a little sad. Because as I sat there in that crowded room looking out at all these women – all so very beautiful in their own unique way, my heart jumped as I saw the faces of women, young and old. They had all come to hear – How To Take A Compliment And Find Beauty In The Small Things.
That is what my topic was about.
As I went through a little survey I had devised, I could see that it had already struck a chord. How hard it is to receive a compliment sometimes. But the reality is that it is only hard when…you don’t believe the compliment. And the thing that really sucks is that most of us don’t.
We shy away from compliments. We may feel awkward. I did for years. Admittedly, still do sometimes…but I have been working very hard at believing and receiving the compliments. Not in an arrogant, vain way like, “Sank you dahlink, yes, I know I am all that and a bag of pretzels too”. More like in an accepting, grateful and graceful way. Because grace is what got me this far.
There, in that room, in a matter of 40 minutes or so, I shared years of my own inner struggles, and how I have come to find peace. How complete chaos turned to calm. Now…I still have moments of chaos, but I don’t “live” in chaos.
It all came down to Accepting. Accepting that I cannot change the past, I cannot change people, I cannot control most circumstances, but I can just simply accept things the way they are. And let it be.
I also had to surrender my pride, which can be masked with self pity. I had to surrender my control and plans. I had to surrender and admit I don’t have all the answers, and I don’t have to. And just let it be.
I had to make a conscious effort to quiet the noise in my head…all the questions, all the things I wondered about that had no definitive answers…I had to just let it be!
This is not a subliminal message for the Beatles by the way, but they were on to something there.
I said a lot in that hour. And the really cool thing was that I got to hear from them too. We shared some really cool things together. I shared much more than I could write right now and truth be said, I probably wouldn’t even remember all of it anyway. It was very interactive, and I am so thankful for that.
I wasn’t speaking to them. I was sharing with them.
A few came up afterwards and hugged me, we laughed, we cried, we chatted a bit more. One lady even said it was the best thing she has heard including from professors in college. Again…not bragging…I was just in awe of it. I guess there is a difference between reading and regurgitating knowledge, vs. living it.
And one girl stayed after…waiting patiently. I didn’t even realize she was waiting for me. Her nonchalant, slouched posture in the corner of the room made it seem she was just bored out of her mind waiting on a friend.
But she was waiting. Waiting to tell me that she was at the very end of her rope and had been for quite some time.
We sat and talked for over an hour.
I honestly don’t know if anything I said sunk in, or made a difference. I can hope. But it’s not about me, or anything I said. It’s all about her, and anyone else that needed to hear it – that hope can prevail. It’s about whether or not they mustered up the courage one more time to grab hold of something that only they can do for themselves.
To believe. Believe they are worth it. To see life IS beautiful – even among the chaos. To believe that there is beauty and freedom in not being able to control anything but your own outlook and perspective. To believe and understand that only you can break yourself out of your own prison of doubt, confusion and fear.
To believe you can let go, let it be, and find peace in it all.
I can’t do that for anyone. I can only show that it can happen…
Here was my trick. I couldn’t do it for me…or at least the right now me. I had to see myself as a child.
I saw my own precious, sweet, beautiful daughters. I want everything good for them. Peace, hope, happiness, love…you name it. They are innocent, beautiful, amazing gifts!
But wasn’t I once too? I had to find my inner girl. And realize that I too, was worthy of such things. May sound silly, but it was really the only way. I realized the very best way to give them those same gifts of acceptance, peace, love and joy…was to model it, live it, believe it.
I’d like to say I succeed at it every day, but why would I need grace then? And people…I am a walking picture of what grace is all about, let me tell you. I AM a grace junkie!
Like I said…I wasn’t talking to them…I was sharing with them…and listening, and watching, and learning.
That’s what we do. We are not in this alone. Don’t fool yourself and think you are.
I am very thankful for that opportunity. It was really amazing. I am very thankful that some of my very hard and humbling lessons are not in vain. The one thing I prayed in that hospital room was that my sadness would not be in vain.
If you are down, or running low on hope…dare to be courageous and grab it up again. But do yourself a huge favor first. Free your hands and mind of control. Hope cannot be controlled. It can only be received. And you are the only one that can do that for yourself.
And if you are too tired or just not able to do it…seek some professional help. You are not alone and only pride is stopping you. Let go of that too while you are at it. You will be so glad you did.
Because grace and beauty is all around us. Little encouragements all along our path, just waiting to be found. But you have to be looking for them. You can can’t receive it your eyes are closed.
The next time it rains on your parade…go outside afterwards and open your eyes. If you let go of the control, and the pride and the anger, that the rain ruined your parade or picnic…you might see something so small and so beautiful that you just may suprise yourself and laugh as you think to yourself…I am so glad it rained on my parade…because I would have missed this!