Encouragement · Healing · Hope · wisdom

Soothed by Books and Mirrors

Sometimes the only way to sort out and soothe my soul is to write. Today, as I write, Chris Stapleton’s song, “What Are You Listening To,” fills the space, and I cannot help but laugh at the irony.

Some of the things I have tuned my ear to listen to have caused so much fatigue in the secret place of my soul. The narrative that plays in my head runs counter to what I know my Father says of me, and yet, unless you put in the work to pull the weed, it will overtake and choke out the good seed.

While battling loneliness for much of my life, it is only as I tend to the garden of my soul that I realize the ways I have perpetuated the deep sorrow within by allowing the weeds to grow out of control.

I just finished reading a novel by Kristin Hannah. She is a brilliant storyteller, and sometimes I have found myself so deeply engrossed in her novels I lose track of how much time has passed. As a lonely young girl, uncertain of what was true in her story, novels always kept me company. I see now how that continues to be true.

My friend, who happens to also be a therapist, told me that secure attachments happen when you are seen, soothed, safe, and secure. I distinctly remember doing a quick assessment to discover how little I experienced the necessary components of healthy attachment in my formative years. That is not a slam on my loved ones; it is simply an acknowledgement of part of my story. One of the four S’s of secure attachment landed so hard in my mind. I could taste the right now desire alive and active in me.

Soothed. When I ponder this act, I picture being scared and drawn in for a confident embrace. I imagine feeling gutted and held in the tension of the now and the not yet. It is a hand on the shoulder with no words necessary. It is the nearness of someone else in the storms of life.

My love for books was born in a longing to be soothed. Words, as it turns out, can do that as powerfully as a hand on your shoulder. Novels can soothe a weary soul with companionship and adventure. While I recognize they can be an unhealthy escape, sometimes they are the healthiest route out of an unhealthy environment.

In Kristin’s novel–two friends have a conversation that felt a little like soul surgery I did not even know I needed. One character, Elsa, speaks of herself through the lens of her story—which would easily be classified as traumatic—and the other character, Jean, speaks soothing words back into the space. She says that experiences in our lives are mirrors that tell a story—sometimes they are filled with narratives we have picked up along the way that do not fit. Jean goes on to remind Elsa that the people near us are mirrors too. We get to decide through which one we see ourselves. One is likely more accurate than the other.

Hard turns in our stories impact the way we see ourselves. This was definitely true for me. One of the things I was inclined to see in the unhealthy mirror was that so much in life was “up to me.” Perfectionism was born in that space–which is a heavy burden that can still slow me down and take me out. I can tell you more about that later, but it is a reflection I can still see in one of my warped mirrors.

Chris Stapleton’s words become an invitation to recalibrate. I know he is singing about a love he once knew, but when I lock in on the words, what are you listening to, I can not help but pause. I see the other mirrors around me. I see my husband, friends, and family who remind me of the truest version of myself and call me away from the warped mirror I am accustomed to believing. I collect the various ways they speak truth about who I really am, and I tuck them in my pocket to soothe me in moments when I revert to believing that who I am is bad and that I don’t belong.

It is not enough to simply know these things in my mind; I have to believe them. It turns out something things are up to me. I get to decide what I listen to. I get to believe I was fearfully and wonderfully made. I get to turn away from my tendency and toward the truth.

We get to choose where we look, what we listen to, and how we proceed. Somewhere embedded in the decision to choose the truth, an inarticulate soul soothing happens.

Being soothed in the secret places brings an inarticulate healing that invites us to walk in the truth of our worthiness. If you wrestle with belonging, this manifesto is for you.

To the person who feels like you don’t belong, that is a lie. You do belong. Keep showing up.

Turn toward the face of the One who will never forsake you. Occupy the space you have been given.

We are all on a journey, so be gentle with yourself and others.

FYI–We are fast approaching the one-year anniversary of Broken Vessels! If you have purchased a copy of the book, read the book, or led a small group through the study, I cannot thank you enough. Your presence and confidence is a good mirror I continue to look through. I am feverishly working to finish the Wisdom in the Weeds manuscript, and I can’t wait to share that with you in 2023!

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