Tag Archives: self definition

aide-memoire

Alicia's tattoonoun – an aid to the memory

I have a tattoo.

Now for many of you that statement doesn’t seem like a big deal. However, others, probably those brought up in church, are thinking “how scandalous!”

In current society, “getting tatted” seems to be the popular thing to do. I can assure you that getting my tattoo had nothing to do with being cool, trendy, or rebellious but everything to do with God.

Now some of you are really shouting “blasphemy!”  Hold on and let me explain.

In my mid-thirties, I spent two years mired deep in depression. Some days I was in such a dark place, I wanted to get in my car and drive. Where?  Anywhere as long as it was away from my life. Why? I had no idea. My life was fine: I had a loving husband, two healthy kids, a successful career, a thriving ministry, and plenty of friends. All I knew was that on the inside I was hurting in a way that I couldn’t even voice to those closest to me.

Then God stepped in and allowed two painful encounters to occur: one sent me deeper into my depression, the other forced me to seek help.

And so in the summer of 2009, I found myself spending one morning a week in the office of a Christian counselor. Week after week, I left a little more of my internal struggles and pain in the office of that counselor. Finally, after 3 months, my joy returned, and the depression had lifted. I can’t explain the freedom I felt because my “real self” had chosen to reappear.

While searching for light in the midst of my darkness, God began to call me to a new life– a life of missions. He wasn’t scared of my depression, and in fact, kept calling me to the missions life right in the middle of it all.

Accepting a life of missions meant I would have to give up everything I had ever known: family, friends, my language, my church, my career, and my culture. Yet little by little as the clouds began to lift, I could hear God calling and feel His love which beckoned me to say yes to all that He had for me.

The autumn rolled in and I officially accepted God’s call to missions– which means I looked at my husband and said “Okay, I’ll go.”  I agreed to move to Ecuador and give my life to missions with nothing but a heart-knowing that it was God speaking.  I hadn’t heard an audible voice from heaven. No wise saint spoke a prophetic word to me about this giant leap of faith. No fleeces had been set out. It was a just simple faith-filled yes to a life-altering request.

I felt that this change in my life was such a huge landmark, I wanted to remember it somehow. I wanted to have a reminder of how God pulled me out of the darkness of depression and gave me a beyond-my-wildest-dreams calling. I never wanted to forget  the warmth that joy brings to a depressed soul when the winter finally surrenders. For me, the way to remember was to get a tattoo.

So after A YEAR of thinking and praying about the idea, I did it.

Know what? It has served its specific purpose in my life.  Each day, I catch a glimpse of the black ink on the inside of my wrist, and I remember. I remember joy. I remember freedom. Most of all, I remember the Lord of my Life and His plans for me.

Isaiah 49:6  in The Message says,   “I’d never forget you—never. Look, I’ve written your names on the backs of my hands.”  God has my name engraved on his palm, just as I have a His marker on my wrist.  He will not forget me; He cannot erase me.

I don’t want to forget Him, either. I don’t want what He’s done in my life to be erased ever. I need a reminder that keeps His work in me and His love for me constantly in my mind.

So, I have a tattoo.

elucidation

noun – explanation that makes something clear; clarification

Cooking with the kiddos..one of my favorite things in life

Cooking with the kiddos..one of my favorite things in life

I struggle with how I want to be defined, what I want to define me.  In fact, I don’t really want to be defined, especially when it comes to someone else giving the definition. However, the past year has brought me to a defining sense of self.

When I was younger I had a strong view of who I was and where I was going. Then motherhood came along and threw my entire self-definition out the door. During that time, I let my ministry, my children, and eventually my career define me.

Stepping out in to the unknown world of missions and into a life I hadn’t really planned on gave me the chance to clarify who I am and most importantly who I am not. The best part about this new definition is my acceptance of it, both good and bad.

I am not a perfect wife, mom, friend, teacher, or missionary. In fact, I’m not a perfect anything.  Much of my life has been spent showing the world the side of me that doesn’t make mistakes, that strives for excellence in every task given to me, and tries to make everyone around me happy by always saying and doing the right thing.  Some people may balk at this declaration of imperfection as if they’ve always known that about me — and themselves — but my challenge is this: when have you expected perfection from those around you and then been angry, disappointed, and mean because they couldn’t deliver?  Yep, I’ve been a victim of that as well as a perpetrator.

I am a writer. No, I’ve not seen my name on the cover of a novel or my headshot next to a poignantly written magazine article, but I have written. I’ve written blog posts, poetry, educational testing passages (yes, kids, I’m the one who writes those oh-so-interesting testings passages on tests like the FCAT so you can prove what an amazing student you are in just one test 😉 ) skits, and holiday dramas, and Christmas bulletin inserts, and I even composed the epitaph on my grandmother’s headstone. The best part of this self-definition is that I’ve spoken it out loud. I’ve taken the scary leap to let others read (with acceptance or rejection) my writing. I’ve put my talent out there for people to critique or praise. That’s a scary thing, my friend. But it is a part of ME!

I am not young. Granted I’m no where near retirement, but time has passed and my body has noticed.  While this means a myriad of different things to me, the main thing is I accept the fact that I will never look or feel the way I did when I was 16 — and that’s okay.

I am a mentor. I’ve been giving advice to those younger than me since I was 18 years old. Back in those days, I didn’t even know what it meant to be a mentor and I never really had anyone model that concept for me. But through the years, I’ve always found such joy and fulfillment in investing in the lives of girls/woman younger than me. l love to celebrate their success, attend their important life events, lend a shoulder to cry on, send a card of encouragement to anyone who allows me an audience seat to their life. There are moments when a tearful young woman calls with  life-altering news, and I sit panicked that I have to come up with sage advice, but then I remember that my advice is never really what works. It’s only what God says that works. I pray for guidance and then speak what He’s taught me through life and His Word.

I am a learner. Or in my words, I’m a nerd. It’s probably the reason I spent much of my life teaching middle and high school kids. It’s why I love teaching a Sunday School class, or leading a craft session, or even editing college research papers. The idea of going back to school has always thrilled me: a chance to discuss topics with no real answers, or debate the symbolism of some great novel, or checking the dictionary for a new word to add to my daily vocabulary. The thrill of learning something new makes my heart — and mind– giddy.

I’m a hostess. I love having people in my home.  I love cooking meals and desserts that bring us to the table and leave us there hours later chatting and laughing and listening to each other’s problems. I want my table be a place of refuge, where someone feels safe and sheltered from the storms of life. My table won’t be set with fine china and crystal goblets. There won’t be a multitude of forks and spoons. Guests won’t find the table laden with gourmet foods and fancy desserts. In fact, they might find homemade pizza, or pancakes, or brownies from a box. It’s not the food the fuels my love for hosting, it’s the company that I keep, the friendships that are forged while sharing a meal – or even cookies and milk — with someone I love.

There’s more to me then even I can define. Only God knows exactly how He made me: a combination of idiosyncrasies, inadequacies, talents, gifts, personalities, strengths and weaknesses. His Word assures me that I am a masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10). I’ve wasted a lot of life trying to fix my inadequacies and hide my weaknesses. I’ve even spent too much time looking for other talents and gifts, hoping to find one that maybe was more valuable or glamorous.

Those days are over.

I will continue to grow into the wonderful concoction that is the Alicia – the one handmade by the Supreme Creator, and I will choose to accept all that He has for me,  evening learn to love all that He created me to be.

And when my life is through, the only definition that matters will be the one that God writes. And I’m quite alright being defined by Him.

How do you define yourself? Go ahead, take a moment and say it out loud!