War Paint

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‘Red lipstick is my war paint. Your words of encouragement I wear like armour’.

The power behind these two statements gives me goosebumps! The woman who wrote this in a message of thanks had, for the last couple of years, been through hell. Her abusive husband of 13 years tried to kill her in front her son. Her work downsized and left her without a job. Dani was depressed and violated. She felt ashamed, had no money and up until recently, was scared for her and her kids’ safety. During that time she completely lost sight of any value she had. The vibrant and joyful charisma of a woman who once had a world of strength, energy and passion, had over time been diminished into a broken spirit trapped in fear and uncertainty.

Although she felt completely alone and shattered, Dani maintained a heart for helping under privileged kids. Her two sons, who she adores, had been through significant trauma. In carrying the pain of her boys she developed a mighty hunger to see all children of abuse and neglect live in a safe and loving home. She applied for jobs with family services corporations for over a year but nothing ever came of it. Dani worked temporary jobs in a discount shoe store and in a café in that time which allowed her to just get by.

About a year ago a group of us girls went away for a weekend. There was Sara, Bianca, Dani and myself. During the trip Dani explained to us all that she had been going through, and about how she was in the middle of court proceedings trying to get custody of her boys. We had many deep and meaningful chats over that weekend within which we all leaned our ears to listen to Dani and to offer our love, support, comfort and encouragement in any way we could.

On the Saturday night of our trip we decided to go out on the town for a drink and a dance. During the day Dani pulled out a very… how can I put this? Modest outfit! Now, I don’t encourage women dressing overly provocatively but, this was ridiculous!  Dani had a pair of basic black jeans with what looked like a black potato sack for a top. The waitress’ uniform from the café we had lunch in was more stylish than this. We all looked at Dani courteously, smiled and demanded that she come shopping with us and pick out something that said ‘fun’! Something with colour, and shape, that might reveal she had a woman’s torso. Found it! Tick!

Then we got onto the topic of makeup. Dani revealed she had never worn coloured lipstick. Now fellas if you are reading this, you are probably thinking ‘Yea, so what?’. But ladies let’s be honest, nothing makes a woman feel more confident than rocking a hot outfit with bold red lip. We were amazed at how uncomfortable she was with the idea. It was as if her current belief about who she was didn’t match the powerful, lively, stated woman the lipstick represented. But Sara insisted that tonight, Dani was going out wearing fearless confidence!

So Dani wore the smoking new outfit and fierce red lipstick. She mingled, laughed and looked like a genuinely new vivacious woman! And as much as we all loved seeing Dani break free from some of those shackles for a while, none of us thought anything else of it.

After our trip away we all saw each other a little here and there. When we’d talk to Dani she’d tell us about her fight and how it was a roller coaster of struggles and emotions.

Just the other day, Dani sent Sara a message to let her know that she finally got offered the job she wanted all along and that she will be doing the thing that she is most passionate about; helping kids. She has study opportunities before her as well as a plan set up to further her career. Things are finally balancing out at home, and finances (which were a major burden) are beginning to be managed. Dani explained that she had lost just about every bit of patients and faith and was at the point of despair before the job came through!

In her message, Dani said that the weekend we spent away was a turning point for her. She explained that the encouragement she received on that trip had been her life line in her darkest hours. ‘Red lipstick is my war paint. Your words of encouragement I wear like armour. Every day since that trip I feel like I am growing back into the person I once was, but a better, stronger version’.

I cannot express how overwhelmed I was when Sara shared this message with me! I could not get over how one thing as simple as lipstick could completely change a person’s self-perception and that some encouragement could just mean so much to someone.

I am telling this story for two reasons.

  1. You never, never, NEVER know just how powerful your words, love and encouragement are to somebody. Where you see an opportunity to lift someone’s spirits, do it! You see, what happened on that trip was that we all saw, loved and honoured Dani for the person we knew she truly was. Strong, beautiful and courageous. A woman with a purpose that we had no doubt she was able to achieve. We did not address her as the broken, unworthy and unlovable person she thought she was. And when she saw that we believed in her and we acted upon that belief, she couldn’t help but grow into that empowered woman, even just a little.

I once heard a line in a movie that painted a very powerful picture. A bunch of kids were playing soccer in the movie. Player 1 kicked the ball to player 2. Player 2 needed to move closer toward the goal to try and score but player 1 kicked the ball to the position player 2 was still at, rather than in the direction she was running towards. This meant that player 2 made no progress in moving toward the goal between the time player 1 kicked the ball and when player 2 made contact with it. The opposition managed to block the goal in time so that player 2 could not score. The coach yelled out to player 1 “Kick the ball to where she’s going, not to where she is”. This is exactly what we must do. Kick the ball to where we see people can go, not to where they are. Honour the life, the potential, the intrinsic value that each individual has, whether they are aware of their own greatness or not. This one thing can impact lives in unimaginable ways.

  1. Dani’s story is proof that it is never over! Things did not look up for her until she hit the point where she no longer had anything left of her own to give. She had exhausted her own reserves of strength and hope, and now had to rely on a source outside of herself. This is where life surprises us and blesses us. Never give up. Never lose faith. Know that you are fearfully and wonderfully made and that there is a personalised and purposeful plan for your life, much, much greater than what your own foresight will allow you to see. And so long as you are alive, your destiny awaits your action.

And so I leave you with this. What is that thing that catapults you out from the false, limiting belief you have of yourself into that fierce, strong warrior, ready for battle? Ready to take on any opposition. Ready to jump any hurdle with confidence and determination, with your eyes fixed on victory! What dresses your heart in fearless love and joy? Your mind in positivity and certainty? Your spirit in passion and determined drive?

What is your war paint?

Dani, you know who you are. You are the definition of incredible! You are an inspiring, strong, motivating and loving woman who has shown you will endure and overcome anything that attempts to destroy you in order to meet your destiny. We are blessed to have you in our lives. We love you beautiful! xx

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 1 Peter 5:10

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