I have a vague memory from my early years — perhaps I was 3 or 4 — of swimming with my siblings and cousins at my aunt’s apartment pool on a golden summer afternoon. At some point amidst the fun, I went from sweet and splashy to exhausted and unwound. Having the self-awareness of the average preschooler, I never considered that melting down into tears of waterlogged misery might be an annoyance to those around me. All I knew was that my teeny strawberry-haired self was DONE, and I needed relief that I could not give myself. I needed someone bigger and more self-controlled than me to see that I was spent. I needed someone who loved me to scoop me up in solid arms of tender compassion and grounding solidness.
Instead, I received harsh exasperation, scoldings that held reminders of just how disruptive I was being to the sunbathers around me, and punishment for being such a source of ruin. I cried myself to sleep after I was put on a couch for a much-needed nap.
I learned in this and other moments in which I displayed intense emotion throughout my childhood that I was lovable and acceptable when I was emotionally placid and pleasant, but when I showed signs of a storm within, I was suddenly shameful and deserved temporary rejection. The “trouble” is this: I am designed by God to be a deep feeler, a heavy processor, and a sensitive, expressive soul. Such a design is a double-edged sword. These characteristics make me exceptionally intuitive, empathic, and tenacious in life and relationships, but they also lead me to be easily shaken and, well, stormy in the face of hurt and injustice. The collision of shame-based parenting and my driven yet highly-sensitive personality created an early wound that at 40 I am still working to close.
My daughter received a nativity snow globe at a Christmas gift exchange when she was 4, about the age I was when I melted in the summer sun. She was fascinated by the transparent bubble and the intricately carved Holy Family within, and devoted many moments of focused attention to this beautiful novelty. When we turned over the snow globe to show her the wind-up mechanism at the bottom, the white particles that had been previously settled miraculously began to swirl around Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus in the creche, and her eyes marveled. It was as if the scene suddenly became alive to her little mind, and she tilted the globe every which way in order to keep the white whirl going.
To her, that snow globe was beautiful when it was serenely settled, but it was even more captivating when it was swirling. In either form, settled or swirling, my little girl loved her snow globe. She placed it gingerly on her bedside table when we arrived home that evening, and it remained in this place of notice for many months after the other holiday decorations had been packed away. It was her treasure.
God, I wonder if I, too, am a treasure; if I am beautiful when I am shaken, when I am a whirling blizzard of strong emotion needing to share and be received in my raw form.
I wonder if I am acceptable when I am tilted and unsettled: with unanswerable questions, with compassion for others’ suffering, with visions lost, with unkind mischaracterizations and irreconcilable disagreements, with overwhelming daily life demands, with exhaustion and exasperation and exhortations I cannot seem to uphold. Am I lovable when my contents are disturbed by forces beyond my control, or when I make mistakes, toppling what I intended to accomplish? Can I trust that You can have compassion on this fragile snow globe heart, that it can be seen and treasured in all its forms — settled peacefully, or shaken and swirling? Can I be received and held even when a blizzard rages within? Can I be forgiven by You and by myself when the storm of intense emotion has passed and the calm is restored within?
Help my blizzard soul to remember Your heart for me, even amidst churning white-out conditions. “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.” Zephaniah 3:17
Lacey Wood is a wife and mother learning to extend compassion to her inner child in the same way she extends it to the children and adults in her life-space. Lacey has invested herself for the past 11 years mothering and homeschooling her two long-awaited daughters. She enjoys engaging with others in deep ways, savoring their unique stories and learning to love them, Jesus, and herself better for having done so. God currently has her doing the hard work of getting out of her own head and trusting Him to help her rebuild community in her new home state of Alabama, while allowing Him to “restore the years the locusts have eaten” in her 17-year marriage.