Who told you that you could be just one thing?
A mom, a lawyer, a grieving mom, a special needs mom, a stay at home mom, a photographer, an accountant?
Who told you that you could just create in one space or with one style?
Are you defined by something that has happened to you, or by something you’ve done?
What about all the other things that make up you? Like those interests or loves that don’t get much of your time or attention?
Recently I was asked to submit a bio for a speaking engagement this coming November. I have one that I typically send, but this time it didn’t feel right. As expected, I tailor my bios to the crowd I’m speaking to. In this case it’s medical. As I was preparing the bio, it struck me that I am so many things and that I want to be so many things. Things beyond what meets the eye.
Many days, especially when I’m out and about, I feel most defined by Ethan’s death or Bodey’s disability. It’s probably just my insecurity, but I often imagine people are thinking this when they see me– “oh there’s Jessica, her oldest son died and her youngest one is disabled. I don’t know how she does it.”
Yes, our stories define us. And they should. They are, after all, invitations to discover, grow and see in new ways. There are certainly seasons where one part of our story or another gets front row. Where it most defines us. Maybe the season last years, maybe a lifetime. But I’ve noticed in my own life that it can be easy to hide in those stories and in those roles. We get comfortable in one space and it’s scary to step out into another.
Maybe you are in one of those long, difficult seasons where you cannot forsee a day where you will be anywhere else than where you are right now. Be gentle with yourself. Let these words be a beacon for you. If I could hold your hands and look you in the eye, I’d tell you to hold on, that you are made to be all of you. The day will come. You are loved.
Suffering has the ability to shape and change us much more than joy and success ever will. But we can’t stop in the suffering, in the sadness, in the tragedy of our story. We must walk through the heat of the desert, climb the scaling mountain that seems never ending, and sit with the lonliness, the fear, the anger. These are all teachers we never want in our home, but ones we should welcome in as they allow us to grow into the fullness of who we are.
The ways life has battered and bruised me will always be the undercurrent of who I am, of my story, of my heart. On that rubble has been built the person I am today, and the building continues. But death, and disability do not define me. Just like they absolutely do not define Ethan or Bodey. In the same way, if I define motherhood only by Ethan and Bodey, I’m leaving out my identity and role as Blake and Chase’s mom.
I’m not willing to be just one part of my story and I don’t think you should just be one part of yours either. I’m not just my history, I’m also my future. I’m the person I’m growing into. And not just my future either, I’m my history. We should not run from our story, from those defining moments because they can be a springboard from which we create.
We are all tapestries, colorful conglomerations of the people God has so beautifully created us to be. We need to start embracing all of our gifts, our interests, our talents, our heartache. All of it. We are not one dimensional, we are not just our careers or our interests, or that one defining moment when it all went so wrong.
Embracing the whole of who we are is about balance. It’s taking time for self-expression, for the things you love to do and not just have to do. For example, the Ethan Lindberg Foundation can easily take my time seven days a week. And some weeks it does. But in the process, I’ve given up writing and the pursuit of other ventures that have been calling to me for over a year. Self-expression is life giving to me, but sometimes I don’t know the self I want to express. It’s so easy to be so consumed in life, in work, in grief, in one role, that we so easily and understandably forget the rest of us.
I’m thinking of my friend Jen, who is totally a jewelry designer to the stars – think Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Annistion and Julia Roberts! She gave up her passion and gifts to care for her son Oliver who was born with congenital heart disease and has had several special needs. She’s now jumping back into this gift while still being an awesome mom to Oliver.
I’m thinking of my friend Kelly whose daughter Livia went to Heaven just a short year ago after living on this earth with a rare disease. In her love and grief, Kelly is creating a beautiful and successful photography business. She is embracing grief and her creative talents.
I’m thinking of my friend Ann whose son Jack had a rare muscular dystrophy like my Bodey has. After Jack passed, Ann felt the call to teach and improve medical care. She is writing a book that will be used to teach medical students and physicians about communication and improving the way we care for children with complex illness. She also founded The Willow Tree Foundation to give parents caring for children with chronic respite. Something she knows all about from caring for Jack for many years.
These women are the tapestry of their lives. They are seeking to accept their grief, their pain, and to create in and through it, by embracing the whole of themselves as best they can. I think if you asked any of them, they would tell you it’s certainly not easy, but it is life giving.
Do you see what I’m trying to say? It’s so easy to define ourselves and others by just one thing. And that’s like placing ourselves in a cage. Sometimes it’s comfortable to be in that cage, to just define ourselves by that one thing, that one event, that one tragedy, that one success. But when we do, I don’ think we embrace all that we’ve been created for.
I want to be the full expression of yourself. This week will you think about some of your interests or talents you’ve left dormant? Will you think about how you can integrate some of these gifts into your life?
Take some time to write down all the ways you define yourself. And how you WANT to define yourself. What steps can you take this week to embrace ALL of you more fully?
I hope you have a great week friends.
Sunday Love to you. 🖤
P.S. In case you missed it, here’s last week’s Sunday Love.