Awkward – String of Beads
These plants show up in our yard and down by the pond. I didn’t take any photos of what I was certain was probably just a noxious weed.
Until this year.
I was down by the pond, and one sturdy little plant stood out to me. My first thought was “Awkward.” Starring at it, I said to God, “Just like me, Lord.”
That was when I decided I loved the odd blossoms and took three pictures to savor the moment later. Sitting in the driver’s seat of our John Deere Gator, I paused before starting the engine. A memory washed over me. Not one I wanted to remember but one I knew God wanted me to revisit. Instead of putting Him off, I dove into it.
I looked into the sunshine and said to Him, “Okay, Lord, let’s string another bead.” And we did.
As far as physical education and sports went, I wasn’t a good student and was usually the last person chosen to be on a team. I played for the fun of it. Even striking out didn’t bother me. Neither did the lowest bowling score or being the last one over the finish line. I ran at the speed that my body liked and jumped only when giddy with happiness.
There was one thing I liked – jump roping. There was one thing I loved. Dancing. But even that had its challenges. I could not slow dance with Daddy at the Father/Daughter dance to save my life or his feet. I was so awkward.
Dance only worked for me when I moved to the music organically, and most of the time, when I was alone. Back then, I could dance for hours. My body was fluid, strong, and graceful.
In the eighth grade, our teacher taught us about modern dance. I was at home in P. E. for the first time in my life. She put us in teams of three – I was excited to be dancing with two of my favorite friends – both named Becky. I’d known one since Kindergarten and met the other in third grade.
Our P. E. teacher gave us guidelines – each of us had to cross the center of a square a certain number of times and touch each corner of the square a specific number of times without getting in the way of each other. One of the Beckys chose our song: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. She thought it would be perfect if we were all a “character” from the title. She wanted to be Ugly, although, with her slender body and beautiful red hair, she was lovely. She decided she’d wear purple. The other Becky declared she’d dance as Bad and would wear black. She had an innocent look about her. That left me being Good, and they encouraged me to wear white. They wore leotards and tights. I wore one of Daddy’s white shirts and white pantyhose. I’d look good, pure, and modest.
We decided we would move the way we wanted to – no choreography for us.
Our teacher invited all of our moms to the day we’d show the class our dances. Mother’s filled the folding chairs that lined the edges of the gym. When I saw my beautiful Mama, something happened inside of me. I was going to dance better than I’d ever danced! I reached higher and bent lower. My arms moved with a grace I’d never felt before. My feet knew what to do without me thinking about it. I gave it my all, and it felt wonderful. When the three of us met in the middle of the square, I knew we’d done a great job. There was applause and something else; snickers from the audience of mothers and our classmates. Mama left quietly, leaving me puzzled and sad.
There was nothing funny in our minds about the song or the way we’d danced. In the locker room, I learned why. In all my reaching and bending, my underpants showed, and I’d worn black ones that day. Girls back then did not show their underwear off.
By the time I got to lunch, other kids knew and teased the way kids that age will. I was embarrassed and ashamed. Even when the two Beckys stood up for me, I was sorry I’d ruined their dance too. And Mama – she was probably as embarrassed as I was.
I had English class after lunch. Our teacher started the class announcing that my P. E. teacher had bragged at lunch that she’d just watched the most beautiful dancer she’d ever seen. Joy Pater.
My face got hot, and tears filled my eyes. My shame was heavy. I thanked her as best I could, and she graciously moved on.
It’s funny; I don’t remember Mama and me ever talking about it. If she said anything kind, I might not have let her lovingkindness enter my heart. Sometimes you get one chance to do it right. I’d done it wrong, and there was no making up for it. I could not forgive myself, so how could she? Or the Beckys?
I continued to dance by myself in my room, but I never danced like I did that day.
Down by the pond that recent day, I wondered if there was any way to redeem all my awkward moments – there were so many, and they started to flood my thoughts. Regret ruled, and the old shame pressed heavy on my spirit. Once again, my cheeks heated up, and tears filled my eyes. I started the Gator and headed home.
After I uploaded the photos to my computer, I was stunned by their beauty. Certain I was going to learn something important from them; I searched for their name on the Internet. After searching for obnoxious weeds and not finding them, I searched for purple wildflowers in MN, and there they were. It was the moment God had been waiting for.
They are called Common Self Heal Plants. They aren’t weeds! They are a medicinal herb, have been used for many years, and are used in tinctures, infusions (tea), and ointments. People sell their seeds and plants, and other people buy them. I found videos and recipes.
They are not awkward at all.
That’s when I got to wondering – you know – about me. Was being awkward a sin? Was God ashamed of my black underpants, or was He focused on the heart of the young dancer – the heart motivated by her great love for her mom?
As I write this, tears of rejoicing and praise are running down my cheeks. I wasn’t a Jesus-follower when Daddy’s shirt didn’t quite cover up what I wish others hadn’t seen, but I know that God saw all the way to the heart of me.
I say this with absolute confidence because He created me and has always known every single molecule that is me.
I am an awkward woman and will do awkward things from to time. Words will come out wrong. Things will show I wish wouldn’t. And God will still love me. Mama did too. So did the Beckys. The only one who held it against me was me.
From the eighth grade to age sixty-two when He drew my attention to a sturdy little blossom from the mint family.
It was time.
I’m well past my dancing days – two kinds of arthritis make it painful to the point of impossible. But there is a place in my spirit that dances in praise to the One who saw me then and sees me now. There my moves are fluid, strong, and graceful. I close my eyes and feel what I cannot do. It’s wonderful.
Now, I have the sweet privilege of remembering the day I danced like no one but Mama was watching. The embarrassment and shame are gone. All that’s left is the delight.
Until Next Time,