when words wound: [a letter to the girl in starbucks]

i knew those boys were trouble from the beginning. they reeked of teenage arrogance and an insecurity that can only be soothed by cutting other people down. though they were probably half my age, i knew them. i knew that they talked too loudly in hopes others would hear and presume them to be part of the “in” crowd. i knew they spoke of things they didn’t yet understand, but that they did so for the shock value, to appear older and more confident than they really were.

still, when i heard their insults, the way they made fun of your hair and your outfit, the extra weight you carried around your midsection, i couldn’t believe it. for them to be so unkind, so heartless, when you sat merely a few feet away, seemed unfathomable. didn’t they know you could hear them? but then i realized–of course they did. and that’s why they were doing it. they wanted to see the pained look on your face. they wanted you to hear the full force of their cruelty. they wanted to hurt you.

and the moment i looked at you, i could see they had succeeded. i could see it in the way you sharply drew in your breath, the way you hung your head, the way your hand shook as it held your coffee cup. i saw it in the way you stumbled a bit as you rushed to your feet and hurried out the door. in the matter of only seconds, i saw how their hateful words wounded the very deepest part of you. and sweet girl, my heart broke with yours in that moment.

i remember that feeling, the feeling of being judged and taunted, of being rejected by the very ones you yearned to accept you. i remember feeling awkward about the frizzy hair, the glasses, or the fact that your parents didn’t make enough money to buy you all the cool clothes. i remember feeling like you don’t fit it, no matter where you go. i remember how painful that is for your tenderly-teenage heart to feel.

5911686474_9583c1397e_z[Photo by trisharolfe on Flickr]

but lovely, it’s a lie. and had you stayed for a moment more, i would have swept you up into my arms and told you the truth. i would have told you that those boys’ opinions are not the ones that matter. i would have told you what a great smile you have, and how i liked your necklace, and that your eyes are the most beautiful shade of blue. i would have apologized for how unkind life can be and people can be, and how it sometimes seems so very unfair. i would have promised you that brighter days would come; i would have told you to hold your head high.

i didn’t get to say any of those things, though. your heartache and shame forced you to flee before i could ever get the chance. but i want you to know that i fought for you, dear girl. i defended your worth and your beauty to those malicious boys who seemed intent on ripping those things to shreds.

and if there’s one thing i could say to you now, it’s that you deserve to have people in your life who will build you up and not tear you down. it is my sincere hope and prayer that those who love will speak words of healing over you to soothe the words of hate that were spoken about you.

and if you ever come back to the starbucks, i’d love to sit down + buy you a cup of coffee. i’ll keep my fingers crossed for that day.

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because we all need to know that we’re worthy

hello there. my name’s elena, and i’m a recovering people-pleaser. yes, that’s right. a recovering people-pleaser. the long + short of it is that i used to care so much about what others thought of me that i let their opinions define me and my worth. and now? well, now i don’t.

the journey to get to this place has not been an easy one, the road often littered with unexpected speed bumps, twists + turns i never saw coming. not every day is an easy one. i still have moments of weakness, slightly-hysterical crying fits when i find out someone has said something unkind about me (o. m. g. i am SO DRAMATIC SOMETIMES ALL THE TIME). but the older and wiser i get, i see now that all this life is a continual work in progress, and the journey really is more important than the destination.

because really, the truth is that not everyone is going to be your friend. even when you try your hardest to be accepted. even when you conform in attempts to make yourself fit in. there’s always going to be someone who just. doesn’t. like. you. now, i know it hurts. i spent literally years of my life with a bruised and tender heart because of the words and actions of others. though i tried to kill ‘em with kindness and take the higher road, there were still people who consistently held the sins of my past against me. they looked not at my heart and the growth i was making but only at the mistakes i’d made along the way. they judged. they talked. they rejected me. and it hurts. but let me tell you something.

what somebody else thinks of you or says about you does not, in any way, shape, or form, diminish your worth. sure, you’re not perfect and sure, you’re going to stumble + fall from time to time. but that is the beauty of these messy, human heart-souls we live with. there will come a day when we truly will know perfection, and it will be glorious, but we are not there yet. and still, even in the not-there-yet, in the messy, mistake-making flesh we inhabit, you are worthy. you are important. you matter. despite what they say about you. despite how they treated you. their opinion is not the one that matters, dear heart. seek to listen to the only one that does.

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                                                 [Photo from randallo on Flickr]

because He looks at you with eyes of love, and His heart burns with zeal for you.
because He knit you together in your mother’s womb, declaring you fearfully and wonderfully made.
because He gave you a life of purpose, and He knows every plan He has for you.
because He sees the beginning from the end, and He knew every situation you’d find yourself in.
because He doesn’t focus on what you’ve done or who you were, but instead He looks at the person He created you to be.
because you’re never too far gone, too messed-up, too lost for Him to find you.
because His arm is not too short to save.
because His love for you is never-ending, nor is it conditional. it doesn’t come and go based on the choices you make. it just is.

and once you understand that, once you really get it deep down in your bones, all up under your skin, you’ll begin to be freed from the insecurity, from the lies that say there’s something wrong with you.

and then maybe you can join me + all the other recovering people-pleasers here on the sidelines, where we cheer on each other towards the truth and greatness, where we can we rest content in our messy skins because we have seen what redemption tastes like: a little bit like being known, a little bit like being loved, and a little bit like coming home.

[celebrate] love

in honor of valentine’s day, i wrote a special piece for So Worth Loving this week, celebrating the miracle of Love! below is an excerpt from my post, which you can read in its entirety here. much love to you guys! xo

What I’ve noticed in my work with these kids is that most of them have very little self-worth. For so long, they’ve been viewed as nothing more than a statistic, just another face in the crowd, an orphan and that’s all. Because of this, they have no understanding of their intrinsic worth and value as a human being. They’ve been rejected and abandoned, discarded and left to fend for themselves. They believe they don’t matter, that they’re not important, that they are unloved.

And this; this breaks my heart.

I look at them and see such beauty, such potential, such worth. I know they have their whole lives ahead of them, that they can break the cycle that they’ve sadly found themselves in, and can make something of themselves. In the years that I’ve known these kids, I’ve come to love them as if they were my very own. I’ve learned their names, their faces, their stories. They are not a nameless, faceless generation; they matter. They mean something. And so I set out on a mission to prove it to them.