I recently reread “Eat, Pray, Love” for the third time after going through a wildly intense and unexpected season of pain, transition, healing and growth in my life. The process of shedding an old layer and stepping into our new skin, while beautiful, can be excruciating and uncomfortable. My desire is to step out of people pleasing and into authenticity. To drop the act, the perfectionism, the performing, and realize that I can be loved right here in the sacred space that is my own soul. More importantly, I can love myself right there.
The beautiful and talented Anna Gray captured photos of me in my natural habitat, being my “normal” self in my humble abode. At this point in life, I honestly didn’t think I’d be alone here. So much is unexpected about this season. This journey. But it is empowering. It isn’t all suffering. It isn’t all a loss. I count it all as joy that I have been entrusted to cultivate beauty from ashes and make a home for myself. To be okay with being human. To let go and step into the wild, unknown freedom that is Rachael Lee Stroud. To not mask my identity or run from my last name any longer.
It isn’t flawless. It isn’t a 10 year plan. But it is honest. And my whole life I have been seeking and craving truth only to crawl into a cave of fear. My favorite bible verse has always been “the perfect love casts out all fear“, and I never imagined how significant it would be for me to strive to perfectly love my imperfect self.
Vulnerability is a place I can rest my head. It’s okay if it makes you uncomfortable. You don’t have to stay. But it is my home. And I will not abandon myself ever again. Here is a glimpse into my world, as poetically quoted by Elizabeth Gilbert.
“Faith is walking face-first and full-speed into the dark. If we truly knew all the answers in advance as to the meaning of life and the nature of God and the destiny of our souls, our belief would not be a leap of faith and it would not be a courageous act of humanity; it would just be… a prudent insurance policy.”
“Deep grief sometimes is almost like a specific location, a coordinate on a map of time. When you are standing in that forest of sorrow, you cannot imagine that you could ever find your way to a better place. But if someone can assure you that they themselves have stood in that same place, and now have moved on, sometimes this will bring hope.”