"So who are all these beautiful ladies to you?" my girlfriend and business partner asks curiously on the way to dinner last night.
To my surprise, I find myself in a limo surrounded by my closest girlfriends, on the way to the city for a surprise evening planned by the sweetest husband in the whole wide world ... mine, of course ;-)
It's hard to hear over the music and I am giddy with excitement, which makes focusing difficult.
"Well," I begin. "Over in that corner, is my girlfriend who went to fashion school. We met through a church small group several years ago. She has an eye for all things home, couture and events."
"Ah, yes I think you've told me about her," my friend says nodding.
"Right. And over there is my best friend who is an actress and started her own theatre company with three other women of color. She just wrote her first play a couple of years ago. I think I told you - she started blogging from a place of pain and later on it turned into something more. She's the one who told me to hone my craft by writing every day, even if it's short nothings. Because sometimes, you think it's nothing and it's something."
Seeing me talk in her direction, my best friend sends a warm smile across the limo, which I welcome and gladly return.
"The one in the corner with the deep wine lipstick, that's my sister-in-law who excels in all fine arts and has a knack for creativity," I continue. "She makes beautiful art and we actually have some of her pieces in our home. I've been trying to get her to open a shop on Etsy. Next to her is my girlfriend who has her real-estate license and is currently flipping two properties ..."
The conversation went on like that for some time as I gave my newest friend a thorough description of each of the women I'm privileged to know in my closest circle. Telling their stories made me incredibly proud - both of their natural-born gifts, and the ultimate Giver.
"And you?" she asks, the corners of mouth turned up into a playful grin.
"Oh me. Yes, well. I'm a writer," I reply softly.
"Don't say it like that!" my friend responds, suddenly indignant. "OWN it! You are a writer. Say it like you mean it!"
I turn to her and can see the sincerity on her face. I know without question that she believes in me.
I wish I could believe in myself like that.
Why is it that we naturally underestimate ourselves or conversely think too highly of ourselves?
Both are sin.
Take me for example. I can recognize spiritual gifts in everyone else but I'm shy about my own. Why should I be shy about who I am? Or what God has given me?
If I'm honest, and this is me being totally vulnerable, acknowledging my gifts mean I have a responsibility to do something with them. If someone asks me about myself and I self-identify as a writer, then the next question will surely be, "what do you write?"
What do I write? A blog in the corner of the Internet that is more like an aimless open diary going nowhere. Literally.
I am breaking all the Blogging 101 rules, mind you. I am supposed to have a theme and stick to it and gain a following if I want to get noticed. I am supposed to write posts that are helpful on a well-designed site complete with stunning photography and engaging, interactive content.
Except that's not where I am, folks. I'm too tired to package up my life and make it look like it's flawless. Life is not flawless. And happiness is not something you create for yourself like those annoying quotes made for coffee mugs and iPhone screen savers. Happiness can be engineered, but once you've finished, you realize it's all smoke and mirrors. Fleeting. Finite. Fickle.
Now joy - joy is what you run after until you're sweaty and out of breath and feel like throwing up. Joy is the prize only after you've wrestled it to the ground with bloody hands and forced it to say uncle until it finally relents. Joy is both the reason to pursue what you love and to keep doing it even if you never get noticed.
But I'm ranting :-)
I am sometimes unsure of myself.
"I haven't accomplished anything I wanted to," I lament to my friend one evening.
"Christina, you have a husband, a home, a beautiful baby and a successful career. What haven't you accomplished?"
It is in that moment that I realize that the friend to which I am pouring out my soul is not married. She has no children. She's renting. Looking in from the other side I guess my life does look pretty grand.
So what am I complaining about anyway?
I wanted one thing of life - this one thing that probably wasn't the best thing - but hey, it's what I wanted ...
But now I'm complaining.
This post could use some positive resolution right about now, so here it is. I am learning, after three decades of life, to remind myself of truth whenever emotions cloud my judgment (like now). Truth trumps pride and self-doubt. Truth shows us who we really are.
And Christ is truth.
In His light we see ourselves truly - not for less than we are or more than we are - but as we truly are: sinful, pitiful creatures made in His image and valued by Our Creator. We are significant because He is significant. We are gifted because our Loving Father gives good gifts.
Our confidence is not in our gifts. Or ourselves. We know all too well that our gifts can never sustain or fulfill us. Neither can our knowledge, wisdom, status or wealth.
The hole in our hearts, in my heart, is made for Him. Once we see Him as He is, and ourselves as we are, we cannot help but use our gifts to help others see His beauty.
Our lives are like paintbrushes, and our gifts like bold colors with which we create. We can use our brush and colors to paint a monotoned, lackluster picture of ourselves as we imagine ourselves to be, or we can choose to combine our colors into one, larger masterpiece of Him, as He truly is. A picture that changes us the more we work at it.
Holy. Beautiful. Radiant.