Yesterday was a terrible, rotten, no good day. Dealing with issues of a highly personal nature, & not wanting to post details on the web, let’s just say that I was as heartbroken as I have ever been in my entire life. Always an Optimist, known for dispensing encouragement and praying for others at the drop of a hat, suddenly I found myself in circumstances that stopped me dead in my tracks and left me in a place where I could not only not summon the strength to pray, but I could also not even figure out exactly what to pray for anyway. The pain of my heartache brought me to my knees, a place I’ve been many times before. But this time was different, because typically when I find myself in that position, I have a meeting with God while I am there, & this time I could not see, hear, or feel Him at all.
Feeling a loss of faith in humanity, I cried quite a few tears yesterday. Some people equate weeping with weakness, just as some equate kindness with weakness. I assure you that neither of these is true. Tears are like the pressure relief valves on the old fashioned pressure cookers like my grandmother used to cook roast beef in for Sunday dinner after Church – they are like steam that has to escape into the atmosphere in order that an explosion will not occur. And kindness to others is a choice we make each and every day, not a character flaw or deficiency, no matter what others who do not possess it in abundant amounts may think.
Yesterday I was upset and feeling as if I’d lost my best friend in the world. That is an incredibly sickening feeling. Despite some unkind remarks by a person that I should not post so much of my personal business on social media, I turned to my friends on one of my pages and posted a heartfelt prayer request. Within seconds I began to receive texts, calls, comments and emails from caring and concerned friends and family members who cared enough about me to pause from their busy Mondays and not only lift me up in prayer, but write and tell me about it. Being the “Good Southern Girl” that I was raised to be, I tried to acknowledge each and every post, by hitting the “like” button, thanking them, or otherwise commenting. The act of doing this made me pause long enough to stop crying, which was a good thing, because I am quite sure that I was probably beginning to dehydrate a bit.
Finally, I had no choice but to pull myself together and go to work, but all throughout the day, right about the time that I thought that I might lose it again, I would receive a notification on my phone that someone was praying for me. One person wrote to me that they did not think that they’d ever seen a post with so much raw pain in it as mine. This morning a friend texted me that she has never seen someone’s post receive as many replies as mine did. Indeed, I had NUMEROUS replies, which reminds me that, while I have very limited family in this world, and only a handful of cousins locally, God has given me a lot of friends to bridge the gap where blood relations are lacking. So while some folks call it “whining”, and some may think it an embarrassment to ask for prayers or help on social media, I have personally been on both the giving and receiving side of that equation, and it is an experience that I would not want to forgo, no matter what some people may think about it. I am thinking that maybe the naysayers do not understand the power of prayer.
MANY people offered to chat with me on the phone, take me to dinner, buy me a drink or a cup of coffee, or just come over to see me. I greatly appreciated each and every offer of assistance. I accepted the first one that came in, and after we both got off of work, I went over to one of my girl friend’s houses. I would give her a big shout out on social media, but unlike myself, she is a very private person, and I respect her rights to her privacy. Since I have nearly 1,500 friends on FaceBook alone (not saying that she is even on FaceBook), I think I can write about the awesome experience I had with her and still protect her privacy.
I arrived at her place looking a mess! I had pretty much cried off all of my eye make-up, and believe me, I am NOT a pretty sight when that happens. My eyes were puffy from crying and lack of sleep, and my brow was furrowed with the frustrations of the past twenty four hours. As she and her beautiful dog greeted me on their front porch, she said something like this to me, “This is how it is going to be: we can sit and pretend that nothing is wrong and just enjoy the evening; we can chat about what has happened; you can tell me all about it or nothing about it; we can talk and then have a slumber party; we can do all of those things, or we can just sit here in silence and listen to the sounds of the mountain – it is YOUR choice, because this is YOUR time, and I am here for you!” I thought that was the most awesome and amazing thing ever. God surely led me to the right place! Most people, well-intentioned as they may be, either want to control the conversation, or insist on all of the details because they are curious. Not this girl! She designated that time as MY TIME, something that is seldom ever done for me, and it meant more than words can say.
Because of her sincerity and genuine kindness, I collapsed into her arms and wept. After she dried my tears, we sat and chatted for a bit. She is the best kind of listener – she is the one that will just sit and absorb what you want to say without insisting on knowing every tiny detail, so you feel comfortable talking to her. You can ramble on, and she will smile, nod, let you know she is listening, and occasionally interject some sage insights that you may or may not wish to hear. She is the friend that loves you unconditionally, but in such a manner that she will tell you the truth about yourself in the process. At one point she looked at me and said, “After all I saw you go through (she was speaking about my divorce), I’ve never seen you defeated. You look defeated.” I proclaimed to her that for the first time in a very long while, I truly did feel defeated. At that moment in time, I WAS defeated. I was giving in to allowing the misdeeds of others to control my own destiny. I was allowing what someone else did and said affect my own ability to function wholly. “Yes, I AM defeated,” I told her. She exclaimed, “NO! YOU ARE NOT DEFEATED! She called me by my full name and said, “You are not defeated.” I sat there and cried some more and told her that I was worried, because I think about the women who look to me for support as they go through really tough divorces, like I did. “What will they think? How will I ever be able to minister to them again?” She quickly chastised me by telling me, “You are NOT going to sit here and worry about everyone else in the world. This night is about YOU!” Wow. Just wow. What an incredibly generous gesture on her part. Whenever I would try to steer the conversation back to her, she would very ably turn it right back to where she rightly perceived I needed it to be.
After a few minutes of wallowing in my misery with me, she placed a practice drum pad in front of me and handed me some drumsticks and told me to go ahead and “beat the living daylights out of it.” Ever the perfectionist, I protested that I was not a drummer, and she said it did not matter, for me to just take out my frustrations. So I did. And it felt REALLY, REALLY good!!! Then she put her IPod onto a speaker, and played, “I Am Woman” by Helen Reddy, a song I’d not heard in FOREVER, but which everyone from my generation knows the words to, so we sang it together. We sang it loudly, and I loved it that she allowed me to sing at the top of my lungs, even though I cannot carry a tune to save my life. Through tears and laughter, we sang and gestured. She has a tremendously beautiful voice, and I, well, I do not, so I apologized and thanked her profusely for letting me release some of the music in my soul. I might be tone deaf, but the music is still there, just waiting for a cheesy song on the radio and an indulgent friend to allow me to let it out. After a couple renditions of that song, she played some other tunes, and showed me how she is learning to play the drums. Then she handed me the drumsticks again, and said, “Here, YOU do it.” I told her that there was absolutely no way I could keep a beat on a drum to music, because I had not ever done it before. But she insisted that I could, and wonder of all wonders, I did it! So I sang a popular old song from my childhood while acting silly with my girl friend, and found my spirit alive & well down deep inside. I knew right then and there that, no matter what happened with the events and people that had caused me to be so incredibly sad in the first place, that I would be all right. I was still ME. I have a rhythm I did not even realize that I possess. Pretty cool stuff.
There was a lot more to last night than I have the space or inclination to go into here. But at one point she insisted that I spend the night, so after some pizza, conversation, and watching the original movie Grease until she decided that she needed to crash, we went to sleep. I must say that sleeping on an air mattress in the middle of someone else’s living room has never felt so comfortable as it did last night, because I felt at ease with my friend, & I knew that her friendship was the “real deal”. I mean, I did sing off key to “I Am Woman”, with no makeup on whatsoever, looking like some sort of refugee, and I, like most typical Southern Belles, do not usually go to even the grocery store without checking my hair & lipstick. I would not ever have allowed that to happen if I thought she would use it against me, ha ha.
Knowing she needed to get up early for work, I set the alarm on my phone extra early, and after folding my linens and leaving her a thank you note on the kitchen counter, I slipped out into the still dark morning to drive home. The sun was just beginning to rise when I got back to my townhouse. Exhausted, I started to head on inside, but I looked at how beautiful the light rays were illuminating the clouds, and decided to take my phone out and snap a picture. There is a steep hill right behind my place, and I figured if it was that pretty down in the little valley below, it must be even prettier up top, so I climbed up there in an attempt to get a better photo. However, I was surprised when I got up there that I could actually see the sunrise better from below.
And therein lie my latest Life Lessons: First of all, the sunrise would not be as beautiful, if there were no clouds to help reflect its beauty back to us. (This is not an original thought on my part, but I do not know to whom to attribute it). Perhaps God allows us dark clouds to pass through our lives in order that we may better see a reflection of Him, as I have done yesterday and today. Second, though it may be difficult to wrap our minds around this concept, sometimes the view is indeed better from the valley. Therefore, perhaps we are made to walk through the valleys in order that we can better appreciate some of the views that Life has to offer. In addition to my sunset analogies, I am taking away from the events of the past couple of days that sometimes the best thing that a friend can do is to simply be there, to listen, to allow the person that is hurting to express that hurt however they choose. Everyone needs a friend that will not allow them to be alone at a time when they feel most alone. A true friend allows another to really feel comfortable enough to let loose the music in their soul, even if they cannot carry a tune.
No matter how dark your day may seem, the sun will still rise tomorrow, and perhaps you will be fortunate enough to see the sun rise through the clouds, and a beautiful view from whatever valley you may find yourself walking through. I hope you will be lucky enough to have a friend that will declare to you that you are not defeated – sometimes that is all we really need, right? An affirmation that all will be well. My friend told me that I could keep the beat of the drum, and lo & behold, I did so! A solid reminder of the power our words can have on someone else’s attitude, self-esteem, & frame of mind.
God has been working to resolve some issues which led to my feeling so disheartened. I must give Him time to work, so I will step back and watch, hoping and praying that the truth will win out, and that it will be a good and wonderful thing. And if that leads to another broken heart? Well, over one hundred comments later, I have found that I have far more friends in this life than I could have ever hoped for or dreamed of, and most certainly one hundred more than I, imperfect human that I am, shall ever deserve. I am thankful for friends. I am SO very thankful for each and every one of them, even the ones that did not know about this situation, or who were too busy or too shy to respond. I love them all nonetheless, for “A Friend loves at ALL times.” I am thankful for those friends of mine that loved me in my very weakest time. I am thankful for my sweet, sweet daughter who, though she lives hours away, texted and called me throughout the day to check on me and make sure I was all right. I am thankful for her gift of encouragement, as well, and how she, too, spoke affirmations to me that I would survive, and that God would either restore the situation, or send me something much better. I am thankful for all of those who could see God’s hand at work when my own eyes were blinded by tears, and who reminded me that He was still as close by to me as ever. I am thankful for Prayer Warriors who stood in the gap for me when the gap was overwhelmingly wide and I could not fathom how to bridge it. And I am thankful for valleys and clouds and sunrises to illuminate them.
I hope that each of you will at some point SING at the top of your lungs. Beat a drum until you feel your frustration begin to subside. Cry on a friend’s shoulder. Watch a sunrise. Hopefully you can even watch a cloudy sunrise. Do whatever it takes to revive the music in your soul, for it is there – each of us has, deep down inside, a song just waiting to escape. And that song, once sung, cannot be unsung. It will always exist in the corners of your memory as a reminder that you do indeed have a rhythm, that you are undefeated, and that you will see amazing things when you find yourself in the valleys of Life, if you will just open your eyes wide enough to see them. Lift up your eyes Heavenward, for it is there that you will see the sunrise!