Pre-note: You'll want to tuck in for this one, 'cause it's gonna be long. The words for this post have been forming in an ever-growing, wordless orb for some time now, and it took sleeplessness tonight to help me see what those words were in order to bring them to the light. I hope you're able to find my deep heart somewhere in these words, and that you're still here with me at the end of this long story.
Before I was single in my twenties, I was married. I've shared tiny mentions of this here and there in the history of this blog, but not many details. I'm not going to share many details about it here, either, except to say that it wasn't until I was single in my twenties that I got to explore what it really meant to be a girl. It wasn't until I was doing my own thing, learning my own path, that I started truly nurturing and tending to the soft and feminine places inside my spirit. And it felt so wonderful once I did.
I remember shopping -- really shopping -- for myself in that place for the very first time. It was April 2005. I had been single for a year and a half, and I had just quit my job at a local non-profit without the promise of a new job lined up, even though it seemed like a pretty done deal that I'd be going back to teach at the college honors program. Still, there was about a week's worth of time between my leaving the old job and finding out that I'd gotten the new one. But even without that certainty nailed down, I had a peacefulness inside me that said it would be okay to move forward, away from the non-profit, without anything else in store. It was that feminine heart in me, learning to trust in God's deeply personal love for me. And then, of course, He proved that I could indeed trust Him, because the job came through.
So, back to the shopping story. When I got news of the job, I decided it was time for new adornment. I had looked into my closet and found all kinds of professional clothing -- in blacks, greys, and tans. No color! And I realized for the first time that I'd never really kept vibrant colors in my wardrobe before. When I turned my mind back to working at the college, this time as a single girl learning to make her own way in the world, I knew that I wanted to do it in color. And I wanted to do it with my own brand of femininity.
Off I went to the mall by myself. What I bought was truly lovely. There were pastels in pinks, creams, purples, light blues, and turquoise. There were girlie-colored corduroy pants and a dashing pair of sapphire pants that tied with a cream-and-sapphire sash. There were all sorts of fabrics and styles, from sheer material and velvet to baby-doll eyelet and lace piping. There was even a pair of pink velvet pants! (My personal favorite.)
It was heavenly. Eventually I found shoes to match the styles -- a pair in light brown with pink stitching and a cute bow, a cream pair to match my corduroys, some summer sandals with thin white straps and a burst of turquoise and maroon and fuschia flowers mashed together, a pair of brown peasant shoes, and more -- and gave myself permission to splurge for another shopping excursion just two months later.
It was the first time I'd ever treated myself to such luxury, and I felt like a feminine queen every single day of that year. Somehow, when I made the move to do this, it felt very important that I was doing it. And when I shared about it with Kirk (he and I had just begun corresponding via e-mail a few weeks prior, still in the very early stages of our relationship), I so appreciated his response back to me in that moment: "God is lavishing His love on you in this place. You are reclaiming your feminine heart."
And it's true. I was. I was remembering that I was a girl, and that God had made me beautiful. This is what He had been teaching me in deep places all through the major season of my healing from the divorce, in the quiet corners of my home and the new spaces I was learning to inhabit in the world. For me, all of this experience with the clothes was tacked on top, having so much to do with showing on the outside everything that was healing and being transformed in me on the inside. I was connecting with my feminine heart for the first time in forever, and I wanted that to show up in the way I adorned myself. I wanted to feel the adornment of loveliness all over me. And I did, for that entire year.
Proof of pink velvet pants.
The other thing that happened in that year is that I connected more deeply with my free and creative spirit, and ultimately my writer's heart. I traded in a future life of academia for a life of expansiveness and expressiveness and freedom. My heart was truly being set free.
Fast forward one year from that first shopping experience, and you will find me preparing to leave California to make a new life in Florida with Kirk. In this memory, I've been engaged three months, and our wedding is in about two weeks. I'm purging my little guesthouse studio of everything that will not fit in the back of my Volkswagen Jetta or the ten cardboard boxes I am shipping across the country.
With my life on overdrive to close out a job, a life, and a single girl's home for a cross-country move, an overseas wedding, and a new life with my sweet, I've gained about ten pounds. The velvet pink pants no longer hang loose and fashionable on my form. The cream corduroy pants feel a bit tight, as do the purple ones. The sheer, layered, multicolored blouse that matches my sapphire pants seems worn, having lost its luster over the course of many wearings this past year.
So I pack all my feminine adornments in a box that I donate to a girl going on a mission trip, a girl raising money through a weekend garage sale that's happening in two days. I give her all my beautiful things, knowing I will never see them again once she drives away. (I still cannot believe I did this.)
Fast-forward another month and you will find me home from our honeymoon and another five pounds heavier. (Europe for a celebratory three weeks will do that to you!) The clothes I did bring with me to Florida no longer fit so well, either, and they are nowhere near the prettiness factor I had going on before. This is not how I wanted to start my life as Kirk's new wife. This, I'm thinking, is when I should be feeling at the height of my femininity. But I wasn't. And when I went to work for the publisher soon after that, I spent $500 on black and grey and brown suits instead of flowy pink and purple and textured things. I've already shared in a previous post my issues with body image. And now that I'm no longer working today, I feel shopping for girlie clothes is a luxury I just cannot afford to indulge.
I miss my feminine self.
On top of that, I miss my creative self. You may or may not remember that I went through a quiet wordlessness for a couple weeks recently. I didn't understand what it was about for a while, but it has all slowly begun to come together. Let me share more about that now.
During that couple-weeks period, I was delving deeper into some beautiful and amazing new blogs I'd discovered through a series of connections. Each new discovery led to yet another, and soon I had a good list going of women whose hearts and talents and creativity and spirits I immediately recognized and came to love, even though I'd never met them nor worked up the courage to say hi and introduce myself.
One girl in particular arrested my attention in this process, and I spent a couple afternoons combing through her entire blog archive, thirsty to keep reading her story and watching her transformation from social worker to full-time artist unfold with each new page-click.
Here is what I think happened through all that. I think that discovering these lovely new ladies, and especially traversing the deep landscape of one particular girl's release into full creativity, ignited something in me that had long been dormant, and that is my own creative and feminine heart. My writing heart. My girlie heart. The one I had discovered and nurtured into being during that season of singleness. The one I now realized I had left back home in California in so many ways, with all of the touchpoints that reminded me through my daily routine who I was and who I was becoming each new day.
Kirk and I have shared numerous conversations in the past few weeks about all this as I've been walking through it and trying to make sense of it, and those conversations have been full of tears and revelations and laughter and sadness and hope. I'm able to look back over this year and see how many times I have chosen, in fear, to rely on my own strength and resources as the source of my life and hope, instead of the promises and proofs of God's provision or the strength that Kirk has to offer. As has so often been the story of my life, I've gone self-reliant, and in the consequence have slowly closed off my heart to many things . . . especially to its longing to run free and explore and trust and laugh and smile and dream.
In the past couple days, it seems God is trying to get even more personal with me. (What, He hasn't gotten personal enough already?!) In all kinds of places, I keep bumping up against this question: "Will I let God romance me?" I'm sitting here, every time I hear the question, and I'm thinking, "That requires trust and vulnerability." In all honesty, I'm not sure I'm ready to give that to Him. But I can see that He's persisting. He keeps asking the question. He keeps meeting me in places where I begin to let my mind wander into what that might look like, how that might feel, how it could maybe happen, for me to trust and be free and let Him romance me at an even deeper level than He has before. I'm sad to say that I keep evading Him within about two minutes of pondering the question every time.
But here I am, at 3:00 in the morning, writing it all down. Getting back in touch with my heart. Sharing it with you. Perhaps you will pray for me.
Post-note: If you want to visit any of the lovely new blogs I've found that I mentioned above, you're more than welcome to join me in lurking! I'm working up the courage to say hello. Anyday now, I'm sure it will happen. Maybe that day will be today! But in the meantime, here are the links for you to enjoy right along with me . . .