We didn’t sleep on Saturday night.
The one-almost-two-year-old woke up at 1:40am and once I am up it is hard for me to fall back asleep. I see the promise of rest fade before me as the clock reads 2:15 then 2:44 and then 3:10. It glows 3:45 when my eyes look to it one last time before slipping into slumber for the few more hours I have before the kids wake up, ready to start their day.
And then the day begins, more abruptly than it should after a night like mine, and we get ready to go to church. It takes me longer than usual, moving slowly and pinning my hair up praying that my days without a shower and my night without sleep don’t betray to the others how tenderly I am carrying the pieces of myself with me into the building designed to put me back together.
And she walks up to me during greeting time, she who is one not to be messed with, whose authority and word you trust and she who you don’t talk back to. And she grabs my arm and looks in my eyes and says You look darling today.
I kind of laugh and say, “Well, you’re sweet…” mostly brushing her words aside and away from my pregnant body and my unwashed hair and my big questions and my big fears and my little pieces spilling over. I dismiss her words without outright dismissing her.
And she looks me in the eyes even firmer than before and says, No, no I am not sweet. I am just truthful.
We chatted a bit more about why I am tired and how we are doing and what she thinks of us. Kind words. True words. Because now I know that she does not say what she does not mean.
As she walked away, just for good measure and just to make sure I believed her she said once more: You Look Darling.
And her words went over and over and through my mind all day: No; No I am not sweet. I am just truthful.
And so I have been thinking about words a whole lot lately. Because I am a writer and I pay attention to words. I pay attention to the things around me and how I can translate them into something that makes sense to me and maybe sparks a new way of seeing for you.
And this is what was getting my attention the most over this exchange:
Words are a two-way street, we need to handle them with care.
When we are the speaker, we need to be careful to say what we mean and mean what we say. We need to tread lightly upon each other’s hearts but we also need to know when we need to call out and encourage and call forth and rise up and shake the dust from each other’s weary load and carry it when they can’t. We need to not simply be sweet but to be truthful so that others know that what we say is trustworthy and true. Our tribe and our neighbors and our not-yet-known strangers need our words to stand in the gap when they don’t have the energy to make it on their own.
Sometimes we feel alone and we feel doubt and we feel Less Than and we feel not enough. Sometimes others feel that way too. What if we could step into that space intentionally, with love, with encouragement? What if our words could give her enough to keep going for that day? What if we could tell each other You are enough. Keep going.
And there is the speaking of words, but there is also the hearing of words.
Because my friends, we need to receive the words we hear. Why do we as women have such a hard time receiving? Why did I dismiss my friend at church with an Oh, you’re sweet… but not really letting it sink in, not really believing that she could mean that for me, not really accepting the foothold upon which she was offering me to stand upon?
Let’s accept each other’s encouragement.
Let’s speak words of life and of hope and of truth and of power.
Because words can change things. And you can change things. So let’s get in each other’s court and cheer for them and stand in the gap when they lose their strength and encourage and love those that need it because really, we all need it. It can look like a word in the grocery store checkout, a phone call, a note in the mail, a short text message. It can look however you need it to, but let’s use our words for each other.
And by the way~ you, my friend, are darling.
And I’m not being sweet, I’m just being truthful.