To The Little Leanna...And Maybe the Big Leanna Too

Those days don't seem so far behind me.  The ones where I am alone on the playground.  Where I hear taunting words and am ignored.  Yet "those days" are in the past.  Many years ago and not so many heartaches behind me. 
I had always been small.  Ever since I can remember.  Always at the front of line in school, the front row for pictures and always the one with the jersey that fell below her knees for sports teams.  Nothing ever fit right.  Jeans, dresses, shirts.  I was short.  Did I mention that my last name was "Stuck"?  I might have shared that before.  If not, there you have it.  Short and Stuck.  The possibilities were endless for mockery.  And everyday when I heard the words they hurt.  The stones they threw I built walls with.  I questioned why I wasn't pretty.  Looked at my body differently in the mirror and made choices that didn't honor the God creation that I am or was. 

Looking back to eighth grade, the year it all felt so different for me.  I suppose the change began in seventh.  A little more distant.  More interested in boys than writing.  Maintaining my grades but having the realization that there were other people to please.  Other than my parents and family that is.  Ones that got me noticed.  Invited me to places.  To parties.  To be their friend, in every warped, manipulative sense of the word.  I fell for it.  Fell hard.  And thus learned that I was pretty.  In some way.  I could use that and so I did.  Dressing differently.  Walking with a bit more swagger than I truly had, or wanted.  Speaking older than I was.  Acting older.  Being surrounded and still feeling lonely.  That was middle school.  That was junior high.  That was high school.  Heck, that was even college.

Don't get me wrong.  I had people around me, family.  We were a unit.  They told me I was beautiful.  Only what I heard was that I would have approval and love when I behaved as they told me I should.  When I did everything right.  When I didn't fail.  A bucket full of good works and Hail Marys could go a long way.  So I hid it.  Tucked it all away, way deep down.  To where the real me was so hidden it took years of unpacking and digging to find it again.  There were brick walls to protect from the short jokes.  From the stuck in the mud jokes.  From the ridicule that came with being a people pleaser and teacher's pet.  All while the struggle continued and no one knew.  The truth became so muddled.  Right and wrong intersected and conscious was cloudy. 

What would I want to say to that girl so many years ago?  Whispers of truth.  Love so loud that there could be no question.  When she felt like turning in and turning off the lights I would turn them on.  Shine them bright in her face.  And then I would hold her.  Steady and long.  Until the tears stopped and her heart slowed.  Share the beauty of unconditional love. 

With no good work being able to earn anything.  No sin big enough to outrun grace. 

I would tell her she really never was alone on that playground.  And when those boys shouted hateful things to her, her Jesus was standing by.  Holding her hand.  He felt it too.  More so.  That she should believe her grandma Ellen who told her that "good things come in small packages", and that God does not make mistakes.  That's one I would have on repeat.


You are never alone.  Never.  He is always there

My adult self knows these truths.  Believes them and is grateful for them.  It is now my joy to share these truths.  To speak loud the language of love.  His love.  To break down walls and barriers and lies with love.  I have an obligation to do so.  I share these words with my four children and with our sponsored child every opportunity I have.  In hopes that they will pierce their hearts.  Change their perspective and become their reality.  Truth.  Love.  Because He doesn't make mistakes.  He loves and He never leaves us. 

Even those that have no family.  No one to protect them on the playground.  In the slums.  Walking home from the center everyday.  Working to support siblings.  Begging on the streets.  Feeling too short.  Not enough.  Let's speak this love language to them in the form of sponsorship
With truth pervading every letter. 

They are never alone.  He is always there.  He does not make mistakes.

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