I Believe…

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I am afraid.

I’m afraid I’m not enough. Enough of what? Of anything.

I’m afraid of all the ways I have failed or will fail as a mother. I’m afraid that I don’t really know what it means to love someone deep and well.

I’m afraid of getting sick, real sickness like cancer. I’m afraid of the people I love (imperfectly as I do) getting sick and having to walk with them through that illness. Maybe even more twisted, I’m afraid the people I love won’t get sick and die and I’ll have to spend the rest of my life trying to figure out how to love them deep and well. And then coming up short.

I’m afraid of the other shoe dropping because so many shoes in my life have already dropped.

I’m afraid of roller coasters and noises that go bump in the night. And sometimes cars, well anything with an engine really. I know that’s odd.

I’m afraid of reaching the end of my life and never having actually done anything worthwhile with it, of not leaving it all on the field. I’m afraid of living with complete abandon and equally scared of not living that way at all.

I’m afraid of being misunderstood, uneducated, incapable. Conversely, I’m afraid of getting an education, putting myself out there, and working hard so as to be totally capable. I’m afraid to fail or try in case I do. I’m afraid to look stupid.

I’m afraid of my once black heart turning that way again.

I’m afraid of poverty and famine and abuse in all its sinister forms. I’m afraid of the world my son is forced to participate in and that his heart or spirit will be broken. I’m afraid of crushed dreams for all humankind.

I’m afraid I’ll stop knowing how to pray or forgive or connect to God or forget that I really believe all the things I really believe. I am afraid that I’ll stop seeing beauty and good in myself, others, and the world. But most of all, I’m afraid I’ll stop seeing all that is lovely in the face of my precious Jesus.

I’m afraid of my life now that I’ve left my beloved church, Renovatus. In the words of Baby in Dirty Dancing, “I’m afraid of leaving here and never feeling the way I feel when I’m with you.” What if there is no life of faith waiting for me on the other side of the wondrous 8 years I spent there?

I spent most of 2014 pretty decimated. Losing my job at the church and then leaving the church altogether left me more of a shell of myself that I ever would have anticipated. What if I believed in the church more than I believed in God? What if the air that filled my lungs was the community and work there instead of the very breath of the Lord? What if I only believed what I believed because I was a part of a people who believed the same things and I really liked feeling like I belonged? 2014 left me questioning my very identity and that’s so much harder than trying to take off the extra 15lbs that year of personal crisis gave me. I also don’t think I was quite so afraid before 2014. But when the bedrock of your very existence begins to quake and tremble, it doesn’t take much for all the tiny pernicious thoughts lying just beneath the surface to turn into a full on haunting.

I don’t think very much of resolutions, New Years or otherwise. But I do believe in new beginnings and fresh starts and surprisingly, I find more and more that I sure do put a lot of weight down on hope. For months I have been afraid to hope. What if the Lord won’t resurrect anything from these ashes? I know he can, but what if he won’t? What if I’m stuck like this? So I didn’t dare to hope. But in the spirit of it being a new year and all, and given that I can’t live the next half of my life afraid that everything that will ever be good has already been, I’m choosing hope.

Today I will practice saying the things I truly believe because there is power in the proclamation and I BELIEVE that HOPE is what keeps up alive. I believe hope is what gives us the strength to move forward when all signs point to despair.

I also whole-heartedly believe in BLESSING and the pronouncement of them. I listened to a sermon today on the Beatitudes and was shocked at how backwards I have always interpreted The Sermon on the Mount. I’ve always obsessed over the latter half of Jesus’ statements. I always wondered how will they inherit the earth? How will they be comforted? How tangible is this mercy they will be shown? Are only the peacemakers called children of God? And ultimately, of course, how do I fit in? Which one am I? Isn’t that just like human nature to always fixate on what we get out of the deal?

But today, as Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber described her idea of some Beatitudes for the modern-day, I realized the second half of the sentence was never the point. Jesus, the very Lord of all himself, stood on that hill that day in order to confer a blessing, His blessing, on ALL people. Jesus blesses those who doubt like me. He blesses those who’ve lost their way, who feel less than, unheard, unseen, not worthy. He blesses the abused and the abuser alike. He blesses the uneducated, incapable, unsuccessful. He blesses those who have lost much and feel the mourning will never cease. And he blesses those who are so very afraid, just like me.

As I start of 2015 just as afraid and unsure as I was on December 31, 2014 I will receive the blessing my Lord spoke over me before I was even born and has every day since. I will still doubt and stumble through my prayers and wonder how close to the brink of black this ole heart may turn again. But I will also be full of undying hope because I’m at least beginning this year knowing that I really do believe some of the things I believe. I believe in the blessing God has lovingly spoken over all people everywhere simply because we are His and He adores us so, even little ole me. And I think that’s a pretty un-scary place to start a new year.

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For Tootie

Aside

In  honor of Mother’s Day. ( Yes, I know it’s a little early!)

I became a Christian, really became one anyway, about 7 years ago. And since then every real prayer I have had has been met and answered by the Lord. Not silly prayers for more money or better cars, but the prayers I prayed where my heart met God’s for reconcilliation, restoration, or healing from past wounds.

 My love language is touch. Ask my husband or my co-workers and they will tell you the best way to let me know you love me is to hug me, put your arm around me, or pat/rub my back. I believe there is truly nothing more intimate or a greater display of care for me than to wipe a tear off my cheek if I’m crying. Unfortunately for me, my mother is not a toucher and never has been, not even when I was a small child or teenager. Thankfully, this is something she has greatly changed for her grandchilden. Sadly, this led to many a weepy night thinking that my mom didn’t love me as much as I deeply wanted her to.

My mom and I spent most of my childhood and through my young adulthood at odds with each other. Life had been pretty heavy handed with my mom and that caused her to become a bit hard and rough around the edges. She was married with two children at a terribly young age, then divorced and learning to be a single mom still at an age much younger than anyone should have to know how to navigate such things. She spent most of her life surrounded by people who didn’t support her well and without the community, mentors, and financial resources to be a success. I don’t mean a financial success. I mean a whole, healthy woman who knows she is beloved by God and her family. Later she met my father, and I can assure you that was the best and one of the hardest things she ever did. My father was a wonderful, wonderful man (I will write about him closer to Father’s Day), but life with him was challenging to say the least.

I don’t think Mom knows this, but something that has brought me enormous joy throughout my life is that she wanted me and planned for me. Out of her 4 children I was the only one that was “on purpose”. The rest were surprises. But that’s the rub. She wanted me and planned for me- not Dad. And then throughout my life I was his favorite and he was mine. Being a mother now, I can only imagine the hurt that must have caused. He and I were close and she felt like she couldn’t break in. So needless to say, my relationship with her was tenuous at best and down right ugly at worst (my mom is a very passionate woman and I’m just like her!).

It can be remarkable the things you learn once you become a parent yourself. My life, too, has been marked by immense tragedy and hardships. I also had my son too young. As I have raised Noah I have seen my shortcomings and failures. I have understood how much junk I was dealing with in my own heart and life. I have truly done the best I could by him, knowing there were plenty of times my best wasn’t good enough and just hoping that he wouldn’t remember all the bad stuff. Once, in my early 20’s I had a therapist who asked me if I could name my bad qualities as a human being. I said, “Sure!” and began to list them off. Then he asked me if I thought my mom had bad qualities as a human being, things that had absolutley nothing to do with me. I can honestly say I had never ever considered my mother as a regular woman before that moment- until then I had only been able to see her through the lens of the little girl that wasn’t shown enough physical affection.

Even though it would be a few more years before total restoration came, everything started to change that day. I realized my mother was a woman who had been tossed around by the life she was given and the truth was she had done a damn remarkable job at being a mom, a wife, a woman, a support, and a caregiver. My mother is one tough broad and I think she passed a little of that on to me. My mother may not be touchy, but she is generous and fair. My favorite parts of my mom are that she has such a fantastic sense of humor and will FIGHT for the marginalized and oppressed. She has always been on the side of those who couldn’t speak for themselves. At work we have recently taken personality tests and part of my results show that I have “the need to be against”. Which means I can be contrary just to be contrary, but it can also mean that I will fight for those who can’t fight for themselves. I’m pretty sure my mother taught me that!

As I continued in relationship with Jesus, I prayed that he would bring full healing to my mom and me. We have worked hard- me, her, and Jesus to make this thing right. We have talked about all of the hurt, even the details. We have apologized, we have cried, and reminisced, and a couple of times we have even hugged tightly and fiercely. He brought redemption and healing to that dark and broken place. I can honestly say she is my best friend and truest confidant. Now I’m able see how she has always done the very best she could being as broken as she was. And mercifully, she believes I have done the best I could do being as broken as I was.

None of this came quickly. This restoration has been years in the making and in this particular case, my mom and I have truly been long suffering. But the Lord hears each prayer I utter and it is His desire to touch and to heal even the oldest and deepest of my wounds.  Even the ones I didn’t dare to hope He would.