We all have our own brand of beautiful, what's yours?
My mum has always loved sending little cards and notes to people. If you're sick, you’ve been bereaved or you simply haven’t been to church for a while, then there’s a pretty good chance that a card will arrive from my Mum. There may even be people reading this who have a notecard from her stuffed in their Bible or hidden in a bedside table. Mum has suffered with ill-health for a long while and knows what it’s like to be in constant pain, struggling to see a way forward and isolated due to illness. I think that’s where her empathy comes from. I think that’s how God has used her situation to encourage and bless others.
“Calling is when your talents and your burdens collide.” Rebekah Lyons
A couple of years ago I spotted a book that I thought my Mum would like. I hadn’t read it myself, but the title, “One Million Lovely Letters” reminded me of my Mum’s ministry. I’ve no idea if she’s ever read it but I spotted it on her bookshelf yesterday, and I’m already more than halfway through it.
It tells the story of Jodi Ann Bickley, a successful poet who performed around the country and even took to the stage at Glastonbury. She was full of energy and hope and life, and then at the age of 23 everything changed! A tiny tick bite altered the course of her life and within two weeks she was seriously ill in hospital with a brain infection having suffered a mini-stroke.
Almost two years after she was admitted to the hospital, Jodi remained in constant pain and had limited use of the right side of her body. She would spend at least four days out of each week in bed and felt like a burden to those around her. Curling up into a ball, she emptied her medication bottles and decided to take her own life. It was at that point that her Princess Makeover app reminded her that the girls needed a facial! The incongruence of the moment made her laugh out loud and something inside her shifted. Jodi thought about all the other people out there facing difficult circumstances, feeling like they weren’t enough, struggling with long-term illness and finding life tough. She decided to do something about it.
“So I sent a call out to every other person on the planet: if you, or someone you know, needs to be reminded how amazing you are, I will send you a letter. Anyone who needs a little lift, anyone who needs cheering up, reassurance or just a reminder that they are pretty lovely. Thanks to Princess Makeover, I had a plan, and I was all set to change the world, one letter at a time.” Jodi Ann Bickley
A couple of months ago a familiar feeling descended like an uninvited visitor who has overstayed their welcome too many times in my life. The suffocating feeling of utter worthlessness had returned, and I knew the battle that lay ahead to shift it. In those moments, it can be difficult to see how I can contribute anything positive to anyone or any situation. Having been in this place many times before I had a game plan. I turned to the people I knew would understand. I leaned on the ones who would know that I wasn’t "just being daft,” and that attention was the last thing I was seeking. At that moment I wanted to give up the dream that God had placed in my heart and I needed friends who would remind me that the way I am created is ok… that it's actually more than okay.
And that’s what they did!
Two of my closest friends sent me a list of the things they loved about me. I wrote them in my journal and read them regularly. Since then I have reminded myself constantly that God specifically created me this way and have taken significant steps towards accepting the way I am.
With the creativity comes the concern that others won’t like what I’ve created. With the openness comes a tendency to trust too deeply and get hurt in the process. With the faith comes a feeling of isolation as I travel along an unknown path.
“There is an abundant need in this world for your exact brand of beautiful.” Lysa Terkeurst
I’ve recognised that all of it, the good, the bad, the embarrassing, the painful, the hurt, the loss, the joy, can be used to encourage and lift up someone else, somewhere!
My friends helped me to remember my “exact brand of beautiful” and I would strongly encourage you to discover (or rediscover) your own. Their encouragement reminded me why I write what I write and share what I share.
Not everyone would appreciate a letter from Jodi Ann Bickley. Some might think her letter writing is a waste of time or that people are just a little needy. Our “exact brand of beautiful” isn’t always everyone’s cup of tea. There are others, however, 4,000 at the last count, that have been inspired and blessed by Jodi’s words.
It started with a simple choice, to take a moment of darkness and turn it into something beautiful.
Who could you bless with your exact brand of beautiful today?