When I was 16 I got the invitation to be in a pageant. Those of you who knew me then (and now) know that I am pretty much the antonym of “pageant girl”. I grew up in what we called “the sticks”, and was far more comfortable with an audience watching me slam a basketball down a court, than I was dancing in a production number. I still only wear make-up about twice a week, and I was (and remain at times) about as unpolished as a bucket in a horse barn. The first time I got the invite, I read it to a friend whom I knew would also find the idea of me entering a pageant hilarious, before pitching it in the girls’ bathroom trash can at school. But when a second letter came I was by myself, and this time curiosity got the best of me. As I read over the details, it dawned on me that I had nothing better to do that summer, and that perhaps this sort of thing could go a long way in helping me overcome stage-fright. For those two reasons alone, I filled out the application. I still believe that I ended up winning the title of “Miss Teen of Pennsylvania” that year simply because I didn’t intend to. Had I felt the same pressure the other contestants who really cared about it did, my attempt would have made a fool look distinguished.
(Me with a group of our men in uniform. One of my favorite pictures from my pageant days.)
There were 6 preliminary categories we competed in. Each one made up 15% of our score – all except the judges interview which accounted for a whopping 25%. And get this: It was only 3 minutes long! Just three minutes to make or break you. My first question came at me before I had a chance to sit down:
“Shelleen. That’s an interesting name. Where did it come from?”
After telling them the short version of the story behind my first and middle names (Shelleen Sue) and how part of it came from a former pet monkey belonging to my dad (…Yep, that’s a cliff-hanger – Another story for another day.), they launched into a series of questions reminiscent of a round of Jeopardy with Alex Trebek.
“If you had five minutes with the President, what would you talk to him about?”
“What would you do if you had a friend who was suicidal?”
And on they went until we came to this one:
“If you were a color, what color would you be and why?”
Now remember, we’re talking about three minutes. There was no time to “think before you speak” or get stuck trying to come up with an impressive answer for those questions. I figured the best approach in my attempt to interview well was to be honest and say the first thing that came to mind, all the while praying that it wasn’t stupid or offensive. Thankfully, I didn’t answer (with the voice of Rainbow Bright): “Yellow, because it’s the color of sunshine and happiness” or some such other kind of pat “World Peace” answer. Instead I heard myself saying,
“Why?”, they questioned simultaneously while their heads both cocked to the side and eyebrows bunched quizzically with impressive synchronization.
Truth be told, I had no idea. It was just the first color that popped into my head.
“I’m a poet”, I heard myself respond. “And I think it’s deep.”
Perhaps they still wonder what I meant by that. I know I still do. (Snicker!) But there is something else with greater depth that has also left me pondering for a very long time…until recently.
There is a passage in the book of Psalms that says this: “Deep calls to deep”. The poetic fiber to that line of Scripture has always captivated me. It has a tone to it that is, well… deep. So deep in fact, that I didn’t understand what it was talking about, captivating me all the more. It remained a bit of a mystery to me.
In the mean time… the pace of life has a funny way, especially if you’re a mother, of leaving no time for you. (Can I get an Amen?) It’s easy to fall into the trap of taking care of everyone and everything else while your own care needs are, well… Oh, there they are- Right were I dropped them. And Ouch! They just got run over by a bus. One day you wake up and realize that you are about to turn (#blah!), and you are beginning to look like it too. As if being a wife a mother of three isn’t enough to make me wish I could clone myself, the past few years have been intense ones in our home. Our 8 year old nephew came to live with us until he went to be with the Lord, as did my mother-in-law until she joined him, and my own parents’ health issues were among the reasons they came to live with us for a year and a half. An alarming number of “trials of many kinds” have invaded our lives, testing and refining us at what has felt like warp speed. And although I’m told that it is not visible in my countenance, lines that have intruded on my face tell the story well.
The toll these last few years have taken has caused me to finally realize that I am doing no one a service if I don’t find a way to include myself on the priority list. That can be hard, because then one has to figure out what must be deleted to make room – room for exercise, proper sleep, a massage once in a while, and more time for friends. I really want to learn how to play the guitar, blow the dust off a few books from the “I’m going to read that” pile(s) longing for the revival of the Dewey Decimal System, etc… And all that is well, and good, and necessary. But even if I was able to consistently pull all that off, while still being the wife and mom I need to and adore being, it still falls short. It’s missing depth.
While I am working on those things (well, not the guitar quite yet), one thing that these challenges have caused me to do (because I needed it to sustain me) is become more consistent than ever in is spending time in God’s presence. I find nothing more rejuvenating than feasting on His Word or worshiping at my piano, because those things penetrate far beyond what any deep-tissue massage every could. They feed my spirit. And when you feed your spirit, you feed your body and soul as well.
I’m no theologian, and I could be made to stand corrected (a wise and discerning mentor of mine follows this blog to make sure I’m on track), but I think I am beginning to understand what the author was talking about when he says in Psalm 42:7-8 (NIV)…
Deep calls to deep
in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
have swept over me.
By day the Lord directs his love,
at night his song is with me—
a prayer to the God of my life.
I think it’s saying that through the endless onslaught of trials, my spirit is drawn to the hope, love, comfort, and life found in my Savior. It’s in these difficult times that we often hear Him calling to us most clearly; perhaps because trials cause us to run to Him. Let’s face it. He is the only One who will be able to bring about real “World Peace” and it is coming my friends. But for now, in the midst of the chaos, we can rest in the peace that only comes from Jesus Christ. For when we earnestly seek Him, He is faithful to reveal Himself – Sometimes by challenging us to grow in faith and step out of the boat; Sometimes by carrying us; Sometimes by is lifting us up on wings like eagles; Sometimes by melodiously quieting us with his love beside gentle streams.
Deep calls to deep. His Spirit calls out to ours. Are you listening?
~The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; ~Lamentations 3:25 (NIV)
Now listen on, if you are so inclined, and please pass this post along to your friends if you feel it is worth a share. (I assure you this song is not as painful as the expression that is caught on my face below!) Not surprisingly, I entitled it “Deep”.