We all need the reminder once in awhile that we're all human, we all struggle, we all make mistakes - and the best part is, we don't have to go through it all alone.
While I had an amazing time learning and experiencing a lot of new things in the UK, I returned from Malaysia a lot more guarded, and more used to being alone than before I left. It was hard to adjust back to having such a huge network of friends all over again, and to be a part of and identify with their lives (which had changed since I left) after experiencing such a different life for a year (I had changed since I left, too).
It took some time, but the more I discovered spaces where other people were honest and real, the more I felt it was okay to be honest and real. It's an ongoing process because starting a new job, being a part of so many new social circles, and adjusting to change in general, doesn't come easy. It's tempting to blend in and play down the unique strengths and personality traits and odd quirks that make me me.
I'm thankful that every time I feel totally insignificant and like I have nothing worthwhile to offer, a little burst of encouragement comes my way - in the form of a little note, some good one-to-one time with a friend over coffee, or a book. Or, like yesterday, Jayesslee - two gorgeous girls who on the outside, seem to 'have it all' - putting aside appearances and being totally vulnerable.
I struggled to hold back tears as they shared their story of losing their mother to cancer at such a young age and how they struggled with understanding a God who would take their mother from them. How they eventually came to find peace in Him, inspired by their mother, who became "happier and happier" the closer she got to eternity. And how in her final moments, with her last breaths, their mother lay in the hospital bed praising her Maker before she returned to Him. I cried because I knew if I had been in their shoes, I'd have broken down, over and over again.
I struggled to hold back tears as I think about the lyrics of Switchfoot's "Dare You to Move" that they covered - a song that has carried me through countless times I felt like giving up on hope. As they sang "Everybody's watching you now", I saw my teenage years flash past me. I saw this scared, would-do-anything-so-nobody-notices-me, insecure, and painfully shy girl that I used to be, who defined herself by the assumptions and judgements and perceptions people had about her.
As they sang "Welcome to the fallout / welcome to resistance / the tension is here ... between who you are and who you could be / between how it is and how it should be", I saw that scared girl find hope and strength in Someone who loved her in ways beyond what she dreamed of - but struggling and stumbling to believe such love could be for her. Who saw at the same time, a hundred reasons to believe in all she could be, but a hundred things that limited her from becoming that. And growing up constantly battling between those two sides.
As they sang "Dare you to move / like today never happened", I saw an older, more cynical, but not necessarily wiser girl stumble her way through college and university, making mistakes she wondered if she would ever heal from in the process. And the fear and weight of wondering if "today" had robbed her of the future.
Finally, as they sang "Maybe redemption has stories to tell / maybe forgiveness is right where you fell" I saw who I am today. Far from perfect, still broken, still making mistakes - but getting there, healing, and trying again. Someone learning to define herself more by what He says about me than what others think about me. Who finds more reasons to be brave than scared these days. Who carries scars from the past but wears them as medals of having healed well. Who still fights battles, every single day, but for whom giving up is no longer an option. Who lives a vast, beautiful, colourful, hope-filled life, painted with eternity.
When asked what was one piece of advice they wished to give to young people out there, the twins said it would be to live each day as if it were your last. So simple, so cliched - but for me, it was a precious reminder. I don't think we can have enough reminders every day - heck, even every hour to be reminded of the frailty of life.
Life is short. It's too short to waste dwelling on your fears and insecurities. We all have them. Life is too short to sit back and do nothing about your dreams. Life is too short to feel your heart moved in compassion for whatever unique cause you are compelled to (my heart has never been for evangelism in the slightest bit but show me an abandoned puppy or a starving child and my heart breaks into a million pieces) to not do anything to help change things. We cannot do everything, but as someone I look up to greatly, Mother Theresa, said: "We can do small things with great love."
Finally, life is to short to not love. Without love, life is nothing. Love your family. Love your friends. Love what you do. Love the situations and even the challenges you're placed in. Love who you are. Love the person you are going to spend the rest of your life with, even if you haven't met him or her yet. Love, as in the verb, not the emotion.
I'll end with something I read this morning that really challenged me to get out there and live and love to the fullest:
I will do more than belong - I will participate.May you be challenged to do the same.
I will do more than care - I will help.
I will do more than believe - I will practice.
I will do more than be fair - I will be kind.
I will do more than forgive - I will forget.
I will do more than dream - I will work.
I will do more than teach - I will inspire.
I will do more than earn - I will enrich.
I will do more than give - I will serve.
I will do more than live - I will grow.
I will do more than suffer - I will triumph.
-William Arthur Ward