She is Fierce

There’s an overused quote (well, let’s call it a quote particle, since like many other quotes it is rarely used in full context).  You’ve probably seen it on t-shirts and Facebook pages and inspirational Instagram posts:

“…and though she be but little, she is fierce.”

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[[Yes, the nerd in me – the scholar that I imagine I am – the bookworm who spent a few months in college – does get annoyed when people say things without truly understanding them.  When quotes are pulled from the sky without any kind of appreciation for the words that encapsulate them.  When some of history’s most talented authors are reduced to snappy pink lettering in a mere 1080 pixels by people who may never discover the masterful works they belong to.

This misused morsel of verse currently making the rounds as a girl power anthem is actually part of a comedy by William Shakespeare called A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  It isn’t as much a statement on a woman’s strength as it is an insult to a certain character’s (Hermia) diminutive size.   Her sister describes her as a vixen (a hellcat) in their school years.  She is a hot head.  A brawler.

Once insulted, she objects to being called “little” or “tiny” and is subsequently referred to as a “dwarf” and a “minimus of hindering knotgrass (a weed)”.  A bead.  An acorn.

I don’t know about you, dear reader, but that’s certainly not how this powerful woman would like to be described.

For the purposes of this blog, though, I am willing to put all that aside, so please keep reading…]]

I took a gentle vinyasa yoga class this morning and enjoyed it immensely.  It’s a class unlike most of the others I take at the gym, because instead of intense exercise and lots of sweat, vinyasa is more about finding my center, focusing, and learning to balance.  It’s a class I deeply appreciate because all my other classes are pretty brutal, and it gives me a chance to re-connect with my body and check in with myself while still working my muscles. It’s a challenging class, too, because while the other classes concentrate on strength and agility, gentle vinyasa is all about the core – the part that keeps me stable and holds me up when things get hard.

What makes a person fierce?

As I squeezed my eyes shut tight in some desperate attempt to concentrate and steady myself in Half Moon Pose, I thought about the importance of repose, especially in the midst of struggle.  Gentleness as essential for fighting.  Peace as a means to win wars.  The ability to stop and re-center, to take inventory and  in order to prepare for what lies ahead and recover from what has already been accomplished.

Warriors have that. Leaders have that.

I talk a lot about having the heart of a lion, or the raging fire that burns inside me and drives me forward, but so seldom do I mention the stillness.  The wise man.  He is not the thunderous voice that yells at me to keep fighting.  He is the low, barely detectable whisper that summons my spirit to simply continue living.  He is my perseverance.  Perhaps surprisingly, he is the most important part of my inner workings.  Every day I seek him out – whether to read a book, to take a walk, to sit with myself and take deep breaths – I know that I need him if I am to continue to conquer and reach my goals.

Reflecting on some conversations I’ve had this week, I keep coming back to this quote.

…and though she be but little, she is fierce. 

Little and fierce.  Yes, I am. Have I always been fierce?  Undoubtedly.  Both of my parents tell stories of my defiant nature, my strong will, my refusal to accept that something is true just because someone else says so.  Is fierce something I became after years of feeling underestimated and discounted because of my size, or my lack of experience, or my gender?  Yes, absolutely.  I know what it’s like to be underestimated, ignored, dismissed.  The truth, then, is both – my fierce is a healthy mix of nature and nurture.

Similarly, three-year-old son is a bear to deal with sometimes and I honestly think part of his rage stems from being the smallest in the family.  He wants so much to be big like his brother and he just isn’t yet – but that doesn’t mean he isn’t capable, or smart, or brave, and he will make damn sure you don’t forget it.  He is wild, and loud, and so very confident.  He’s got a walk that’s so self-assured most grown men would be envious.  He has much to prove and yet he does not want your approval.

The other side of that coin, the side that few people get to see, is the sweet and curious boy who seeks out his mommy at night in order to climb into her lap and sit.  He doesn’t want anything else – just to be still, together.  Gentle and quiet and safe, he snuggles up against me to be reminded that he is protected, and to rest before the next day of wrestling giants begins.  As is true with all the world-changers that have gone before him, he needs a time of respite and a place to feel grounded in order to find his fearlessness.

I believe this is a common thread woven in the stories of history’s overcomers.  The one quality that separates losers from victors.  Stillness.  Perseverance.  A willingness –  a compulsion, even – to come back to ourselves, to re-align and re-group.  To “huddle up”, as my dad says.  This is the calm, stable part that holds us up when things get hard.  The well from which courage is drawn.  It is almost indescribable to those who do not know it, and invaluable to those who do.

Fierceness is about so much more than fighting, and size is irrelevant to heart.  It has nothing to do with being combative or loud and everything to do with quiet stillness.  It is not the obvious drawing of a sword on the battlefield.  It is in the moments we don’t talk about enough – the in-between times when we reflect on how far we’ve come and steel ourselves for what is next.  It is in the ability to pause, reflect, balance, breathe, and focus.

In life, as in vinyasa, it is not the arms or the legs that keep me balanced, but the core.  My inner workings, where sits a small whispering voice that beckons me onward, even on the toughest of days.  Fierceness is born in the moments of quiet determination and reflection.  It is not the roar of the lion or the lap of the wildfire flames that make a great warrior, but the less obvious, less celebrated, sheer will to remain steady and to keep moving forward.

…and though I be but little, I. AM. FIERCE.

 

 

 

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Book Excerpt – 2

count your blessings.
Literally. Count them. Use your fingers, use your toes. Chances are, whatever you are going through right now, your blessings still outweigh your troubles. That was Bonpapa’s attitude. He lived with an attitude of gratitude that began with the Lord. If you know the Lord, if you know who he is, what his word says, and that he loves you, what else do you need? The way Bonpapa saw it, if nothing else in his life was going right, but he still had God, he was doing alright – better than many, in fact.
My husband and I went through a situation recently where I was called to put this into practice. After a long and faithful run, my husband’s car had finally gone ‘kaput’ on the side of the highway one night as he was driving home from work. Financially, we were unprepared. Practically speaking, we were down a vehicle that we needed desperately to function in our everyday lives. Spiritually, we knew what to do. We began to say ‘thank you’ to God in prayer.
We thanked him for my husband’s safety and that the ‘blow up’ happened close to our home. My husband works out of town, so the situation could have been much worse had it happened further away. We thanked God for the other blessings in our lives: Our home, our children, our friends, our health, our full bellies. There was much to be grateful for, even in this circumstance. We thanked God for the times he had brought us through challenges, reminding him and ourselves of all the times we have been rescued. Lastly, the hardest thanks to muster was appreciation for the lesson. It went something like this: “ Lord, whatever you are teaching us or whatever you will accomplish through this event, we thank you in advance for it. We praise your mighty name for allowing us to be a part of your plan, and for molding and shaping our hearts through challenges such as these.”
Thirty minutes later, a brand new car was delivered to our front door and all was right in our world once again. Ha! Not exactly. Not even close. Thankfully, though, daily scripture reading had prepared us for what we faced. In the next few days, two Bible verses played over and over again in my thoughts: Hebrews 6:19, which says we have this hope (relationship with Christ) as an anchor for our soul. Christ in our hearts keeps us steady, even as we go through life’s storms. The second verse, 2 Corinthians 4:7, says we have this treasure (relationship with God) in jars of clay, to show that power belongs to God and not to us. We humans are fragile, like delicate clay jars, and God within us is where our true strength lies. It is no coincidence that these verses both begin with “we have”. Bonpapa was right. If you know the Lord, if you know who he is, what his word says, and that he loves you, what else do you need?
One final verse, 2 Corinthians 12:9, says that the Lord’s power is made perfect in our weakness. Only when we admit we are broken, do we allow God to take over, take control, and take care of us. If we can be grateful without needing explanation, we experience spiritual growth.
Being grateful doesn’t always fix the trouble, but it does prevent us from being overcome by our troubles. Recognizing that God’s ways and purposes are higher than our own gives us something and someone to lean on when times are tough. God never guarantees the ride will be easy, but he does assure us that we are never alone – never without hope – even as we walk the highway on a dark night. For that, I will say ‘thank you’.
We have this hope as a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary. Hebrews 6:19
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 2 Corinthians 4:7
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah  Psalm 46:1-3
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corinthians 12:9