Some days just defeat me. Today was one of those days.

I'm visiting with family right now for a particularly joyous occasion: my sister, who is a missionary in Peru, has brought her new husband to the States to meet the family. And so we are celebrating their marriage with a big family get-together and a Blessing of the Marriage service at my grandmother's Episcopal church tomorrow.

This is a happy time for a number of reasons: we are welcoming an awesome person into our crazy family; my sister is actually HERE, in the United States (I probably won't get to see her again for at least a year and a half, if not longer); my other sister is pregnant with her second baby; and family members who haven't been together in years are coming together this weekend to celebrate and reconnect.

Happy times, happy times.

But also a wee bit stressful.

We are all dealing with less elbow room, summer heat, lots of bodies crammed in one house, different ideas of how things should happen...typical issues when planning big gatherings.

And so, on occasion, a random, stray phrase - said with no harm intended - might slip from an unaware mouth.

This is what happened today. Something was said that seemed (to me) to make an inference about my housekeeping skills (or lack thereof). Now, I'm normally a pretty sensitive soul anyway, but when you add that to crazy hormones and a houseful of different, occasionally conflicting personalities - well, let's just say it wasn't pretty.

Of course, I'm not the type of person to blow up at someone on a whim. No. I'm the kind of person who sulks and mutters and cries, secretly hoping that someone will come down and see me and pity me and ask what's wrong, only for me to bitterly say, "Nothing, I'm fine."

(Come on, I know some of you have been that person too...)

So I went downstairs and I sulked and muttered and cried while picking up things and folding the laundry I had done earlier but left in a pile so that I could spend more of my precious little time with my family.

In reality, I *knew* that no harm was meant by what was said earlier. But in my fragile emotional state, I allowed it to eat away at me. I allowed it to dredge up all the hurtful, negative, degrading, demeaning things that had ever been said to or about me. I focused on those things. I *believed* those things. Things like, "You're less of a woman because you're not as neat as your sisters." Or "You're less of a person because you couldn't even get scholarships to college." Or "You aren't good enough at music to pursue it as a career." Or...fill in the blanks.

Many of these things were, first of all, complete falsehoods. I *know* that my value and my worth does not lie in my ability to keep a house spotless, or to get perfect grades in school, or to sight-read music the first time I see it. I know that my value is not determined by how others see me, but rather by how God sees me.

But many of these hurtful things have been said over the years by family. Family who is supposed to love me no matter what. Family, whose opinions I highly value. Family, in whose eyes and heart and mind I have placed my worth.

It is unhealthily easy for me to get tangled up in worrying about what others think of me. I have spent most of my life worrying about what my peers thought of me, and I have placed my value in their (often presumed) ideas of me.

And today I did it again.

But I am so glad that what matters most (or rather, the only thing that really matters) is this right here:

The Lord your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.
And I will save the lame
and gather the outcast,
and I will change their shame into praise
and renown in all the earth.

(Zephaniah 3:17, 19)


Today, I am at home, sitting in my messy living room as my children play with random toys and the folded-up boxes I have leaning against one side of our couch in preparation to start packing and sorting things. I am also facebook-stalking old classmates and wistfully thinking about what might have been.

I went to an arts school in 9th and 10th grade. My family had just moved from Middle-of-Nowhere Pennsylvania to Charlotte, NC the summer before 9th grade. So in one fell swoop, I was suddenly 600 miles away from my friends, in a new city, going to a new school that was much more liberal than the conservative, sheltered home that I'd grown up in.

Ninth grade was a little rough emotionally, to say the least. How was I - an overweight, shy, average-grades, four-eyed, self-conscious girl, supposed to fit in with kids who knew they could act/sing/dance/paint - who knew they were destined for Broadway, or Hollywood - destined for greatness? I didn't even know what I wanted to be when I grew up. All I knew is that I loved music, loved singing. And this arts magnet school would give me the opportunity to be surrounded by music all the time.

I awkwardly shoved my glasses up the bridge of my nose as I walked down the hallways past dancers in tights and leotards, actors who created their own unique wardrobes, and even a girl who claimed to be a witch, and wore a silk cloak to school. I fought with myself when it came time to answer questions in class, I derided myself for weeks if I sang a wrong note in my musical theater class, and don't even get me started on how I handled my most-of-the-school-year crush on a boy who turned out to be gay.

I was surrounded by people I simultaneously looked up to and couldn't understand. How could they feel so comfortable with themselves, with who they were, while I was standing here wanting to crawl out of my own skin?

I will never forget the day that I threw a fit before school because I had "nothing to wear." So I haphazardly put together some kind of shoddy combination of a white-and-blue plaid crinkle skirt, a blue college sweatshirt, navy blue tights, and these hideous Xhileration sneakers from Target. I was so embarrassed, but I ran into my crush in the hallway and he stopped, smiled, and told me how nice I looked (!). For a sliver of a second I clung to hope that maybe...maybe... And then I laughed. I looked nice? Ha!

I only started realizing that people actually noticed me at all at the end of my 10th grade year. I was not going to be coming back to the arts school the following year, as I had felt that both my faith and my grades were slipping. (Not cool when you get As in all the classes you sing in, and Ds in Algebra 2.) As one of our last class sessions for a leadership class I had (we were sort of the student government), my teacher had us all sit in a circle and, one by one, we all had to sit in the middle while everyone else either gave us constructive criticism or told us what they admired about us. There were several seniors in the class whom I greatly admired but thought they didn't really know who I was. They teared up as they told me how they admired me, for being so true to my faith, for singing beautifully, for doing any number of things I thought no one had noticed that year. I was so shocked. That day is one that will stay with me forever.

I left the school after that year, but I always thought back on my experiences, wondering what everyone was up to now, wondering what I might be up to now.

Well, apparently half of my class from that school now lives and works in the great New York City, pursuing and living their dreams. I mean, Broadway actors, dancers, directors; celebrity hairstylists; you name it, they're living their creative dreams.

Where am I?

Nashville. In a messy living room. With kids who fight over baby carrots and flashlights.

But you know what? I am living my dream. Because my dream was always - even if I didn't fully realize it or understand it at the time - to be a mommy and a writer. Sure, it may be fun to perform on Broadway, to sing and act and get standing ovations and have my name in lights. It may be fun to make music, go on tour, and have thousands of fans screaming my name. But I couldn't possibly leave these two beautiful, amazing children at my feet. Just thinking about it makes me sad. I don't even like to be away from them for a whole day. (Alright, there are some days I'm okay with being away from them for the whole day. But not frequently.)

And I am currently working on the first draft of the third book in a trilogy I'm writing. And even though it's not published yet - even though no one out there knows yet how this story has moved me to tears,  how the writing of it has changed me - I know that they will. Someday soon. Because these words are my dream. These pages are my stage. And though right now I only have an audience of one, I know that one day, this dream will go live.

And when it does, I'll have my husband and my two awesome children by my side.

What dream could be better than that?