Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Saying thanks by "wearing my heart on my sleeve"

For a lot of my life, I've been told that I "have a big heart" and I "wear my heart on my sleeve".

I've never been totally sure what that means. I cry when characters die in movies or TV shows, and my husband tells me I have such a big soft heart, and has to remind me that it's all fictional, and that the little girl that just died in Game of Thrones is really just fine. Before I got married, I'd tell my Dad about this or that boy that I had a crush on in high school, and he'd warn me not to "wear my heart on my sleeve" (in fact, when my husband asked if we could date, my Dad warned him about me "wearing my heart on my sleeve" then as well!)

My friend Alec recently said the same thing to me, but for a very different reason. His dad just passed away, and my heart is breaking for their family. I offered my services, and my condolences, and Alec texted me thanking me for my "big heart".

I'd always thought having a "big heart" was a bad thing - it made me particularly susceptible to emotions, prone to tears or hot, harsh anger. But I'm learning that having a big heart and wearing my heart on my sleeve is not a bad thing.

It's what allows me to see injustice in the world, and want to do something about it. It's what allows me to feel empathy - while it might be stupid to cry for the little girl in Game of Thrones, feeling emotions is what lets me cry for others hurting, what lets me support my friends (like Alec) in their time of need.
And finally, having a big heart is what lets me be vulnerable. My "heart on my sleeve" is what let me vocalize the last post on this blog, about prayer and about my Dad's cancer. And it's what helps me see the love and genuine aching of other people's hearts for our family.
Thank you, to everyone who responded to my vulnerability with vulnerability of your own. Many of you reminded me that I am not the first to feel grief and emotional pain, and that I will not be the last. Those of you who have felt the shadow of death all had the same thing to say. None of you minimized my feelings or emotions - most of you said "yes, this is a painful place to be" - and that was enough.
For the rest of you, thanks for doing what I asked and telling me what you pray for, or telling me that you also don't know what to pray for and are crying out like I am, "Why, God, why?" Thank you for praying for my mother. I wrote some before how I am struggling with watching my Dad walk this path, but in fact, it's even more of a struggle to be watching my mom walk this - because when this trial is over, my Dad will be rejoicing with his Father in heaven, and my mom will just be starting a new trial, a new kind of sadness. Thank you for praying for our relationships with God and with one another, thank you for praying for relief from suffering. And my mother is living a life that reflects Christ in ways that I can't comprehend right now. I won't share her words cause they're not mine to share, but her prayers are so, so much better than mine.
For those of you who didn't know what to say - I know you love me and love my family, even without the words or if you feared you said the wrong words.

I didn't get any answers last week. I didn't want "answers", I didn't want platitudes about the Holy Spirit. Wearing my heart on my sleeve means you see all the good and bad parts, and see that I'm sad and angry all at the same time. But I think that wearing my heart on my sleeve in this situation is letting me allow you all to walk with me in this emotional mess. So thanks for being honest when I was honest. I will try to continue to be honest as this goes on - in this case, I want to be "wearing my heart on my sleeve". I want you all to see the things I'm feeling, and to not have to pretend things are always OK. This blog is not "the cancer place", but it is where I sometimes sort things out in public, and right now, these are the things I'm sorting out.