I am so truly excited to have you over to my tiny corner of the world. I am a 40 something year old living in the country with my high school sweetheart, turned husband and our miracle baby thru adoption, Norah Kay.
Surrounded by my typical baskets of laundry , promising myself to not let it get like this ever again, I reached for Norah’s yellow t-shirt I had recently snagged from Target. It was the color of sunshine and Norah was adorable in it. Sadly, our new T-shirt now carried with it the stains from the day before. I immediately started thinking about pain and the marks pain can leave behind. Are you really healing from pain if it still hurts? Is healing the absence of the pain itself?
As I looked over Norah’s yellow shirt, I could see the Popsicle she ate for her snack after lunch, the dirt she played in that afternoon, and even the place where we spilled watercolor paint down the front. None of the previous days activities had completely washed out, all of it had left a mark… looking closely at the shirt, feeling frustrated with my current stain removal process, I couldn’t help but see the irony… none of it had come out in the wash…
Sometimes, I feel like that yellow shirt of Norah’s. Once the color of sunshine, but now carrying the marks of the days before. Pain can be just like this stained yellow shirt.
The actual dirt, the actual mess of life gets washed clean, the muck removed from the fabric, leaving behind a clean start ready for a new day of discovery. However, the fabric itself can still hold the memory of what occurred, the fibers still holding onto what has been experienced, or lived through. The same can be true of our pain and our trauma. We can heal and survive and even grow through whatever we’ve experienced, but more times than not, the experiences leave behind a mark, a stain. There’s evidence that a mark was left and we are forever changed.
As a child I imagined when I grew up and “healed” that I’d have a life without the marks of the pain, the stains of the trauma, the figurative limp that I walked with would all be gone. I wanted all the pain to be washed away, as if it had never happened. I didn’t want to carry the evidence of brokenness any longer, or the implications that it carried.
Friend, some things just don’t come out in the wash, not on this side of heaven, anyways. All of us are made clean and new, but we may still carry the marks of the days past. Carrying the memory of pain, the scars of what we’ve walked through, experiences we’ve survived, they can linger until we leave this place and return home.
So, what can we do about these marks, these left behind reminders? How can we continue to thrive in the midst of what we carry with us?
The answer, to me, is actually simple to understand and much harder to actually practice. First, we have to stop seeing these left behind reminders as negative things. Our “stains” are actually little works of art. Moments that we have survived and than learned to thrive with. These are NOT marks that indicate weakness or shame. They aren’t to be hidden, they are the maps of our lives. These “stains” or piles of ashes are where our God does His most beautiful and glorious work. This is when He takes what was meant to destroy us and turns it into something so beautiful it can take our breath away.
The pain of infertility left a lasting mark on my soul, the absence of never knowing what it’s like to carry a child within me has haunted me. Then our gracious God took those ashes and created such beauty. He gave us our Norah, and He healed my heart in such a way that I can press into harder battles with the strength of what I’ve overcome. I celebrate my infertility now and consider it to be one of my greatest blessings. He turned the impossibly painful into the most radiant love story and I’m beyond honored to be a part of it.
Unlike a toddlers stained shirt you may be quick to donate, you aren’t disposable. More times than not, daring to believe that we can walk through our pain and come out the other side is our hardest step. That step is to dare to believe that you’re priceless. Sometimes “daring” to believe is all we can muster and that’s a great place to start. Friend, take a breath and while you’re breathing in, consider what would look different in your life if this were true? What if you’re truly priceless? What would be different?
The presence of, or the mark of pain doesn’t weaken us. The left behind evidence of what you’ve faced doesn’t lessen who we are. Instead, these marks or stains become evidence of our victories. They represent moments we’ve survived and hopefully began to learn to thrive again. They represent days that we’ve faced and conquered.
So, to my friend who feels dingy and stained, I pray you know you are so much more. My friend you’re truly irreplaceable and the world needs you and your story. Maybe our ashes aren’t stains at all, instead they’re opportunities for rare beauty to grow. The world needs the testimony of the battles you’ve faced. You’re comeback story is just waiting to become an anthem of His goodness and grace. So, here’s to one foot in front of the other and here’s to faded yellow shirts.