I find myself here, in this moment… overwhelmed. Gratitude. It’s almost too much goodness to hold in one moment. I’ve come to recognize the gift of the people in my life… the voices from my memories. Those who have spoken into me. Words of encouragement, comfort, and strength. The voices that have challenged me and lifted my spirits. Mentors. Leaders. Friends. Strangers.
As I think of the faces of those who have touched my life, I can hear our conversations. Little did I know, these conversations or specific comments I would carry with me. They leap from the pages of my past at the perfect moment and remind me of the strength that’s within me, even when I am reluctant to muster it.
These voices took the time. They mentored. They believed in me. They said the tough stuff. They remained in my life, even when I felt unworthy. Consistent. Faithful. Selfless.
I recently reached out to one of these voices; a woman who tutored me in High school. School was always a struggle for me. Not academically, but socially. I don’t like to hear “no” without a well thought out explanation justifying it. I don’t like to be categorized without someone knowing who I am first, or generalizations being made of my peers. I asked, “Why,” I pushed the boundaries, and ultimately was encouraged by a school counselor to home school.
That’s either an ultimate fail or an exceptional win. A high school public counselor, encouraging a 4.0 Freshman to go home. Comical, but it was a godsend. Yes. That should answer many questions you have possibly formed by now… I am a product of homeschooling. You can’t see me right now but I just flashed you the cheesiest smile, the kind from a toothpaste commercial that sparkles in unison with an audible high-pitched *ding*. I began taking classes at a small “homeschooler school”. It was a place where my mom could have guidance, I could take some classes, have a tutor in areas where I struggled, and together we had the backing to still receive a diploma.
Every week in tiny room within the tiny school, I met with a woman, Cassandra. She was only a few years older than me but oh how I looked up to her. She was patient as she navigated my cynicism over the textbook topics. She remained positive while I challenged the curriculum and she took the time. I was wildly uninterested in history, politics and the way our social systems function. Yuck. On her day off, Cassandra picked me up from my house and took me on a field trip to our state capital. We toured the building and as we walked she talked. Her words brought the building to life. I had never seen a structure I thought to be so “boringggg” dazzle the way it did that day. Somehow she made the process of bills being passed and the system at work interesting to my stubborn 16-year-old self. We wrapped up our tour and headed to lunch. She let me pick the spot and assured me it was her treat. That’s a big deal to a high schooler. We talked about our lives, her family, and she made me feel important.
In 2007 I walked, in bright yellow pumps I might add, to the stage where I graduated in a class of fourteen other “homeschoolers”. Ten years ago. Wow. I’m going to need to sit there for a second.
Ten years! Cassandra’s parting gift to me was a journal with a world map on it. Inside, words of encouragement seeped the pages. She believed in me. She got me a journal in hopes I would fill the pages with stories of my travels because as she put it she, “knew”, I would do great things and reach the world. Ten years later and I still think back to those sessions. The moments where a faithful woman went out of her way to nudge and challenge, to encourage and meet me where I was at. The moments where someone took the time for me, my youth, and my future.
As I began the journey this last week, thinking back on all the voices of my past, her’s was prominent. I no longer had her phone number, email, and was unsuccessful in finding a Facebook but finally found an Instagram account and direct messaged her. Talk about desperate. I brought, “It goes down in the DM,” to a whole new level. Some christian rapper really needs to put a corny twist on that… Perhaps my next project? Maybe not. ANYWAYSSS! There was a stirring in my spirit to reach out to her. I couldn’t let it go. I needed to thank this woman for being a constant in my world for that season. For believing in me and never ceasing to tell me about it.
Cassandra quickly responded to my message and a couple days later we met for coffee. We spent three hours catching up on life. The joys and pains of the past ten years, the character building moments, and we reminisced the days of sitting in the tiny room together. She confessed, “You were my favorite,” I apologized, “I was a brat.” We laughed, hugged, and it was so amazing to get to thank a life, a voice from my past for taking the time. For being the good and for going beyond.
I can remember where we were sitting when they spoke the words.
“Don’t always say you know, you know, you know… Jessica, you need to listen.” – At sushi with Liz and Brooke eight years ago. Something like an intervention… the most loving of sorts.
“You are worth so much more.” – In Brooke’s car six years ago headed to Applebee’s talking about the way I allowed myself to be treated.
“You are enough.” – Five years ago, in Tracy’s office while she let me borrow her printer so I could print resumes for the great pursuit of a “big girl” job. Scary.
“You are qualified.” – A pastor giving me a word regarding the outlandish dreams in my heart.
Even today, “You were meant to live a big life, don’t let fear hold you back.” Thanks Liz.
I wonder what my life would look like had I never had any of these voices. I wonder what it would look like if I had missed just ONE of these moments. There are hundreds I can recall, all strategic, all heartfelt, all meaningful.
Yesterday a friend of mine, with concern for her seventeen year old daughter explained to me that her daughter was burdened by heartache and frustration… boys will do that to you (or so I hear). My heart flooded with words for her and I reached out. I wanted to remind her of her worth, where it comes from, and how bad ass she truly was. I encouraged her that she was walking through fire but even gold has to do the same to be refined. The response I was gifted with in return, a heartfelt thank you, made my eyes well.
I was a voice. I had no idea it was so simple.
I want to remind all of us, myself included to take the time. The time to reminisce and reflect on the voices that have lifted you. To take the time to reach out and thank those who have invested in you. And finally, to take the time to be a voice to another. Encourage. Lift. Direct. With a loving, gentle spirit, no motive and nothing to gain. We are better together.
Let’s be the good.