Hot air balloons glide over my rooftop endlessly through the summer months. I can hear the distinct whooshing of the flame’s warmth fill the balloons before I can see them. And inevitably I run outside to scan the sky. I’m not just looking for the balloon and the opportunity to wave to its passengers, I’m looking for a connection to my past. Continue reading
I thought he would leave me and I wondered if I was making the right decision in continuing on in this pregnancy. Most family kept their opinions to themselves. Support, encouragement, hand holding, prayer…boy, did I need that! People, even our loved ones, often do not know how to handle hard things so they say and do nothing. It’s hella lonely. It made me question every lonely step I made. I wanted someone to tell me I was OK, that I was doing the right thing. No one told me I was doing the right thing. No one told me I was doing the wrong thing either. Our walk with Christ is a funny thing sometimes, however, because what I saw so clearly months and months later was that I was never really alone; Christ was actually carrying me in His arms the entire time.
I experienced morning sickness like crazy and because Dennis was out of town, I went to stay with my mom and dad for a few days. While trying to recover from another rendezvous with my good friend, Porcelain, my mom called out that someone was at the door for me. Uuugh, the last thing I needed was to hide my sweat drenched straggly hair and paint on a plastic smile.(We did not tell people of my pregnancy for many, many months–I mean, how do you do that? This was NOT a celebration!) Mom insisted, so I begrudgingly dragged myself to the door. It was the flower delivery man with the biggest bouquet of flowers I’ve ever seen.
The card, from Dennis, read, “We’ll get through this together. I love you”.
I slept soundly that night for the first time in weeks. I didn’t know what the future held, but I knew I wouldn’t be going it alone.
Later, when I asked Dennis what made him change his mind, he said he had been sitting in a bar in Florida and because his thoughts were so heavy, he began talking to “friendly strangers” sitting nearby. They encouraged him to love me the best he could. And that’s exactly what he did! God totally works in mysterious ways–and in bars!
I scheduled an appointment with a midwife and moved through the next couple of months still not knowing exactly what we were going to do: raise this baby as our own or place her for adoption. I did not get attached. I did not fall in love with her. I did not curse her either. In actuality, I felt sorry for her because no matter where she ended up, her story would be one that begins tragically, or at least that’s what I thought then (I really want to write about that someday).
Five or six months into the pregnancy, the doctor discovered an abnormality with the baby during a routine ultrasound and was concerned enough to send us to the hospital for a more detailed ultrasound. The only problem was they couldn’t get me in for a couple of weeks. No worries. It was what it was and I went about my business.
I was indiffernent.
I found myself crying. I found myself praying over her. I said to myself over and over again that I didn’t love her or care about her, but I was lying to myself. I was trying not to love something that the world often deems as evil or monstrous or broken, or so worthless they’d throw her away… The problem is I did.
I did L O V E her.
I loved her so much my heart nearly broke when I realized I might lose her or that she might be experiencing pain or be born with an irreversible abnormality or…
Timidly, I confessed to Dennis that I loved her, that I wanted to raise her as our own. He sat there for what seemed an eternity before a smile slowly crept across his face as he nodded, gulping hard, he said in a near whisper, “Yeah, me too”.
The days waiting for the in-depth ultrasound passed slowly and by the time the day arrived Dennis and I were both so nervous, I doubt either one of us had any finger nails left to bite off! Laying there in the dim room, lit only by the machine itself, we waited with baited breath for the news. The technician didn’t say anything. Instead, she moved the Doppler quickly from one place to another and then back again. Her brows furrowed with each movement. Her concerned look caused our hearts to sink because we knew the news could be bad. Finally, she looked up, smiled and said, “I’ve no idea why you are here. There is nothing wrong with your baby. Would you like to know the sex?” My eyes filled with tears and kept filling no matter my efforts to pull my act together. I was having a baby. We were having a baby. I loved this baby and this baby was in perfect health. She proceeded to tell us we were having a girl.
Dennis and I thought of names for a few weeks, but nothing seemed special enough. Then one night, I covered the names in the baby name book and read only the meanings of the names. When I came across the meaning: “Pearl” with the scripture reference in Matthew 13:45-46, which says, “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a Merchant looking for fine pearls. When He found one of great value, He went away, sold everything He had, and He bought it”. That was it! I uncovered the hidden name and there before my eyes was the most beautiful, perfect name for our baby:
When she was placed into my arms sixteen years ago, she cried and cried and nestled into the crook of my neck, right where she belonged. She nestled and oohed and cooed and we held her, thanking Jesus the entire day and night long. I did not sleep that night. On purpose. I didn’t want to miss a single moment of her. I wanted to breathe her all in. I wanted to looked over every square inch of her body. I wanted to pray fervently over her hands and feet and her heart and ask the Lord that they would glorify Him her whole life long. I kissed her more times than I am able to count. I nuzzled my cheeks against hers. I breathed in her sweet baby smell. I loved her.
I loved everything about her.
About midnight the phone rings. It was Margie, my midwife. She was crying, which completely threw me off. I asked her if everything was OK, if there was something wrong with my baby. She apologized for scaring me, for calling at such a late hour, and then she tells me she has a confession to make. I’ve no idea where this conversation is going, but my eyes are firmly fixed on my baby in my arms so the world could have exploded all around me and I would have been none the wiser.
She proceeded to tell me that she watched Dennis and I closer than most of her patients because of our circumstances. She confided that although she is not for abortion under normal circumstances, she would have recommended it in our case. She went on to say she never gives her opinion unless asked directly and even then she’s cautious. We never asked. She said with each appointment, she did not understand our increasing joy– and today when she placed our baby into our arms she glimpsed God in a way she had never known Him before. I cry still when I share this part of our story because my response was, “Me too, Margie. Me too”.
God is SO good. I cannot help but to think of Isaiah 61: 1-3
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives, and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord”.
Man, I love this! If I could ever get past my fear of needles, I would totally tattoo this on my body somewhere. Since the likelihood of me not getting over this fear is great, I will instead try to live from this place; this place of grace and freedom. #adjustingmycrown
It’s OK that our stories are not in a neat and tidy packages.
Writing a new ending requires vulnerability first, owning the truth, and then allowing it to transform us. What I mean by that is that our stories don’t have to end when the lights go down, when the curtain swooshes to a close on that event or season of life. Just like some letters include a post script (P.S.), the “One more thought”, the “Oh, by the way” comment, our stories can include an “Oh, and….”, etc.. I love a good Post Script!
This learning more about ourselves, understanding our emotions and how they play out in the world around us is HUGE, everything really. It impacts every single relationship and interaction we have with others.
Let me dissect this a little. When we revisit our stories, we can move from a place of dwelling on the past and all the negativity that it is certainly due– to understanding who we are now or who we want to become. I cannot say this enough or express this more than if I was shouting it from a mountain top: We are NOT what has been done to us, or what we have done to others, or even our environment. They shape us certainly, but that shape can be heated up (by being vulnerable enough to revisit it) and be remolded by putting our life, with all its pains and regrets…, into our Maker’s hands.
“He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; He will purify” Malachi 3:3.
This is the rewrite process. The skimming of dross from the silver that we are. Our Refiner sits until the work is done. He does not leave us no matter what garbage surfaces. He will purify us. He promises in Phil 1:6 that “He will finish the good work He begins in us”. He never gives up. He plays the leading role in our stories because our stories are a part of His greater story; part of His greater plan.
“Christ doesn’t dole out love or hope as resources to be used up. He inhabits Love. He doesn’t mete out mercy or grace. He incarnates Mercy and Grace. He doesn’t define truth. He is Truth. Love isn’t merely a thing. It is the presence of God indwelling us, pouring Himself into and through us. Peace is not a thing that God gives, but a serene abiding in Him. We rest in assurance of things to come because He is Hope. We know grace because the Spirit of Grace dwells within us” Jerusha Clark.
When we allow this beautiful truth to wash over us and to seep into the smallest, darkest parts of our stories, can we possibly fathom how Christ views us as clothed in Christ’s righteousness? Do we get a sense of the look in His tender eyes as His gaze rests upon us in our weakness, in our brokenness? Do we sense a Love that knows no limits?
It is imperative to accept this as Truth to move from a place of hiding and/shame/regret to a place where we allow our vulnerability to lead us into writing a new courageous ending to our stories.
It is here, we move from our first responses (of hiding, glazing over the pain, ignoring, over compensating, etc.) to a deeper understanding of our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. It is here that we write our Post Script.
My post Script
In my healing, I gained a better understanding of who I am and Whose I am, but honestly, I am still very much in progress. It has been easier to start with what I’m NOT, which eventually cleared the way to see who I AM.
I am NOT a victim.
I am NOT someone to use up and throw away.
I am NOT worthless.
I am NOT weak.
I am NOT broken.
I am NOT damaged.
I am NOT ugly.
I am NOT unlovable.
I am NOT unacceptable.
I am NOT damned
Some of these took a little longer to believe than others. In thinking about what I was Not, I needed to define who I was or who I wanted to be. To be completely honest, I had to ask the Lord to help me to both accept my identity rooted in Him and to live it out with each and every inhale and exhale. I couldn’t even ask Him for one day at a time. I needed His assurance with each breath! I have genuinely wrestled with my significance found IN Him (no one else)–This is a life long journey and as I have taken one small step at a time, I have clung desperately to the promise that God loves me. He is FOR me, not AGAINST me. If I did not believe this, I easily would have become enslaved to my distorted thinking; and I would have decorated my invisible, safe, but oh-so-lonely cage and remained where my pain has held me.
“You will know the Truth; and the Truth will set you free” John 8:32.
I AM a Child of God.
I AM unconditionally, unfathomably loved.
I AM incomparably valuable.
I AM dearly wanted.
I AM whole in Christ.
I AM unconditionally loved.
I AM beautiful.
I AM accepted.
I Am made new.
I AM complete in Christ.
I discovered many more attributes as I began rewriting my story. But this gives you the idea. Through my experiences, I have learned Who Christ is to me. I understand more of His beautiful, gracious character. I see Him more clearly. I feel His presence. I hear His voice. I know Him. I really know Him—I was in great need and He was the only One who could meet those needs, and supply the healing I so desperately needed. My heart gushes as I attempt to put into words my love for Him. He is my happy ending. Without Him, it would just be me. And I am not enough on my own. He is my Alpha and Omega; my Beginning and my End!
The flip side: We can choose to stuff those emotions and all that pain. We’ve tried to, haven’t we? And we have discovered it doesn’t actually disappear. Instead, it compounds, seemingly builds up until it owns us, defines us. I know far too many adults who live in their childhoods and cannot, no matter their efforts, move forward. They are stuck. And if I can be so bold: we can only blame our pasts for what happened. We can only blame ourselves if we give it the power to hold us captive. God desperately desires freedom and not bondage for us. We need to own our stories and allow Christ to reveal the ending He had in mind the whole time. We are worth it. We really are!
“When we said yes to God, He declared our eternal victory” Jerusha Clark.
Last week, I wrote a two-part series about Friendship, which focused on the concept that vulnerability leads to courage. As I have thought more about some of the messy, painful parts of my own story; the parts that leave me feeling exposed, I realized that although I am not unique, the journey I have taken may be. Though initially unconscious of the steps I have taken to rewrite my story, I have most definitely moved through a process where I can now live peacefully with my past.
This is not to say shame and regret do not rear their ugly little heads every once in a while and try to pull me into that dark place, where self-protection and self-sufficiency reside; leaving no room for others, they certainly do. And even though this is a painful place, it strangely feels safe because the only one who can hurt me here is myself. You know this place too. I think we’ve all visited at one time or another. Some stay longer than others, while others never leave. What happens in this place, however, is hurt grows, bitterness creeps in, and the light becomes blinding. If we choose to stay in this place, rewriting our stories will be impossible!
I’ve heard it said that “What we think determines how we feel, which then impacts how we behave” (I wish I knew whom to credit for such geniuses).
Think about this for a moment. I bet every one of us can pinpoint either a story or a situation where our thoughts have been high-jacked! Our minds play on loop: I’m not good enough, I am unlovable, I’m unfixable, I don’t amount to much…” These falsities poison our minds and somehow, if we are not careful, we can actually believe them. Proverbs 4:23 cautions us when it says, “Be careful about what you think. Your thoughts run your life”.
What we can derive from this is Satan wants us to get caught up on the external things we do, not our thoughts. If our thoughts are the wellspring of life, it is essential we begin here as we rewrite the ending to our stories.
We cannot change our past. We can undo what has already been done. We have endured heartbreaking things. Harm has been done, trust has been broken, lies have been told. So, if we are going to rewrite the ending to our stories, we have to get ready to “prepare our minds for action; be self-controlled; set our hope fully on the grace Christ is giving to us” 1 Peter 1:13-14 (paraphrased).
What that looks like:
Understand that wrestling with our past, as painful as it might be, is necessary in order to move forward. It’s ok to mourn the loss of innocence, the loss of a childhood, to face that we did not get what we needed, or the fact that what we had was stripped away from us, etc. It’s OK to acknowledge that parts of our stories are wrong, bad, evil, painful. We don’t like these feelings; they hurt. They are the very ones that cause us to run the opposite direction, to glaze over these parts of our stories, not just because they are uncomfortable to us, but we know they make others feel uncomfortable as well. Somehow, we have made ourselves the decider of what they get to feel. (how silly is that?)
My glazed version of one of my stories: I was raped. I’m kind of comfortable leaving it right there. It’s all most people can handle. No questions asked, no details to share. Minimal pain ensued.
Here’s what wrestling with that looks like:
I couldn’t function for days—even the basic tasks such as getting dressed were hard. My body felt as if it were moving through sludge and yet, my mind felt as if I was floating in a numbing hazy. I avoided the mirror because I didn’t want to see myself. I felt ugly. I felt ruined. I feared everyone could tell by looking at me what had happened, which in one moment moved me to tears and in the next, hardened my heart. I feared making love with my own husband for months afterwards because every time I closed my eyes, I saw my attacker’s eyes; and every time my body began to relax, I was jostled by the imaginary feeling of his heavy-handed grip on my waist. I wondered if my bruising and tearing would ever heal or if I would be physically damaged as much as I was emotionally damaged. Flashbacks haunted me both day and night for seeming forever. To be honest, I don’t remember when they became less frequent. It just seemed they were always there and then disappeared; though even now, 17 years later, I am startled by something and my mind replays that night.
Sigh. That hurts to write; really hurts. And it is that kind of pain we glaze over to make both ourselves and others feel more comfortable. However, if I chose to stay in this pain and live, as a victim, my thoughts will hold me captive. I will be locked in an imaginary cage, suffocating. And though I am fully protected here, I would spend my entire life pining for freedom, where I could grow and thrive as God intended me. And you as well. With Christ, we have the power to stop the chatter and to cling to a life in FREEDOM.
Brene Brown says it this way, “[We] either walk into [our] story and own our truth, or [we’ll] live outside [our] story, hustling for [our] worthiness”.
No one gets to hold that kind of power over me; nope, I’m not gonna let that happen. I own my truth. I get to say where the story ends.