I have recently realized more than ever that it's okay to be soft, because truly I am.
I wear on my body every day, garments of softness, femininity and grace. I'm beginning to wonder though, if my motives for that have perhaps been to find a balance-- an element to equalize the hard and silent way that I often automatically present myself to the world.
Growing up (in more ways than one) softness was not encouraged in my family culture, neighborhood or general reality. Gentle figures were not respected, nor did they have control of their lives, so the small, blue-eyed girl that I was, watched and decided that softness was death. But the young heart that beat in my chest was, as it is now, full of honest tenderness. I cared deeply for people and animals alike, asking why that person was sad, or why that dog didn't have a home ("Mom, can we keep/help him please?").
Some of my dearest and clearest childhood memories are of animal rescues, or hurting people. Led by my gentle Mother, we tended to a baby deer, a snapping turtle (yep), a baby crane, other birds and a couple of stray dogs. One of the latter was a golden retriever that I spotted wandering our street and followed, only to discover that his paws were torn and bleeding, having run a long distance. My family fostered the dog for a couple of days before he found a new home. Around the same age (7 or 8 I believe), I had an encounter with a gypsy child while on a trip in Ireland, confused and distraught I implored my Father for money to put in his dirty, broken McDonald's cup.
The heart that God put inside me sang and wept in those moments. Later in my life, though, I would desperately try to kill it-- first out of shame and then to survive the Cataplexy that crippled both my heart and body.
There is much more story there, but in the past few years my torn, neglected heart has thawed and revived tremendously! God has allowed deep, infected wounds to heal, but re-training my brain to un-clench my heart is easier said than done. I suppose I'm conditioned.
I'm quite well versed in the darker emotions-- bitterness, woe, wist, hurt, anger. Learning to let myself feel soft things, however-- joy, humor, affection -- has been gradual and hard work but I've come a long way. Oh the shell of a girl I once was! Just last night, the church service I attended was on the loving-faithfulness (Hebrew: hesed) of God, and how we can remember and see it's reality in our lives. Friends, my story is so freaking full of God's hesed! Loyal to the end, even when I felt I was too far gone-- not so. He has so redeemed and rescued my heart and will continue to.
Photo credit to my lovely friend, miss Katie Dunbar.