Historically speaking, Mother’s Day has been my least favorite day of the year. The worst memories I have of growing up happened either on Mother’s Day or Christmas.
Even as an adult, with my own children most Mothers Day’s have been spent fighting back tears and sadness. You would think the first Mother’s Day after my birth mothers passing would be exceptionally difficult. But what I am feeling now, is a very different story.
Let me back up a little bit. This past Sunday we were in Virginia Beach for Anthony’s Master’s graduation. He also had an opportunity to preach at the Kroc Center on Sunday morning. He spoke about acts chapter 16, the passage about Paul and Silas being in prison and then being set free…
Here’s the Lisa Barnes condensed version of that story. What happens is, Paul and Silas are arrested, for casting out a demon in a slave girl who was fortune-telling. When the people who owned this girl found out that their enterprise was now bankrupt, they got really pissed. They had Paul and Silas arrested. But first they were stripped naked, beaten, and chained not just with chains that we would associate with shackles. They were locked in stocks, which were big pieces of wood that completely immobilized them, impairing any kind of movement. Then they were placed in the center sell where everyone can see them, and they could be thoroughly humiliated.
That’s when they started singing hymns and praising God. Everyone in the jail heard. And then there was a great earthquake. This jail wasn’t a jail in a building like we would see now, it was probably in a cave and the chains were affixed to the walls and floor of the cave. When the earth shook their chains were broken and all of the prisoners were set free.
When the jailer realized that everyone was free he drew his sword to kill himself. He figured they’re all gone and I’m as good as dead anyway. Before he could do any harm, the disciples called out “Stop! We’re all still here. Don’t hurt yourself ”
The jailer doesn’t believe what he hears, so he grabs a torch and runs inside. When he sees that everyone is still there he doesn’t ask “why didn’t you leave?” Or, “what happened?” What he asks is “what do I need to do to be saved? ”
What struck me most from this passage of scripture, was that God could have released the prisoners anyway he wanted. He could’ve just changed the jailers heart and had him unlock everyone, or he could’ve just snapped his godly fingers and the chains could’ve been come invisible but, God does things in a way that we usually wouldn’t expect.
God uses something that we would consider to be an act of destruction. God uses an earthquake that is associated with damage and chaos, to bring freedom and salvation.
I mention this passage of scripture in regards to my current feelings towards Mother’s Day because my birth mother’s passing was a bit of an earthquake in my life. But through this time, I have a renewed sense in what motherhood is, and maybe more so what isn’t.
I have something great planned for the women who worship with us on Sundays. More than I can think about my own sorrow or loss, or even the childhood I never had… and now for sure can’t ever fully resolve, I’m thinking about how wonderful this Sunday can be for so many women that I Love with my whole heart.
Crazy things happen when we set our sights on kingdom things and not just our current situations. Growth happens when we make space for God to heal, even if that healing comes through our own earthquake.
I rejoice today in knowing that the wounds of our past, through the healing of Jesus, can be the faint scars of tomorrow. That’s not to say that those hurts don’t impact us, or even worse to say that they never existed. But they don’t have to be gaping. They don’t have to be a current affliction; they can be a memory of the people we used to be in the situations that God has brought us through.
It’s a cool thing to realize that as a woman who has love the Lord a long time, a woman who has been redeemed many times over, is still experiencing redemption of my story. Even today.
No matter who you are, or where you’ve been, what kind of mother you had, or what kind of mother you have been, I hope that your Sunday is bathed in grace and fellowship with folks you love. I pray your wounds continue to heal into faint scars.
You aren’t alone.
Here is a picture of my kids we took last week. I look at them, and praise God that even through my imperfections, that the cycle has been broken.
The Oxford English dictionary defines sea change “a change wrought by the sea”. A phrase that originally shows up in The Tempest by Shakespeare. It’s often spoken to be a metamorphosis in a person or an alteration that happens in a significant way.
It is easy to connect a powerful change, a sea change, with the images of water baptism. You enter the water as the old you, you are submerged, and as you rise up, gasping for breath, you breathe new air, you live new life.
As my fellow Salvationists know, in the Army we are dry cleaned, no water necessary. But, when we kneel at the mercy seat and unite or reunite with the creator, we are new too.
I saw a quote recently that said, “The cure for everything is salt water: sweat, tears, or the sea”.
After I found out my mother passed away, I spent the next week at the shore of the Puget Sound. Not all day, but an hour or two every day with my kids and my dog. I was drawn in to the sounds and smells of the sea. There is no pretension at the sea. No one to impress, no one to paste on a phony smile to make them feel more comfortable. Tears are almost invisible at the sea…
The kids are playing. Building sandcastle’s, skipping stones, fetching with the dog.
I gave myself space and time to feel whatever I needed to. No matter how much I didn’t want to feel those things. I kept coming back to the thought, “You don’t get to make me sad anymore. You’ve done too much damage, and I won’t let you hurt me anymore.”
But that’s not how morning works. We don’t get to just turn off our feelings when they aren’t enjoyable. Sometimes I wish we could, but then where would the growth and healing come from?
I was reminded of how much the Lord knows me.
She passed on March 9. But I didn’t find out until April 12. Smack dab in the middle of Holy Week. My favorite week of the year. This is the week I can’t help but mourn. I mourn the way our savior died. I mourn that he had to sacrifice for me. I mourn the great silence on Saturday- the before the hinge pin of our faith, and the ultimate victory of the Resurrection on Sunday.
I listen to songs about death having no victory, songs about the grave bringing freedom.
It was as if God was saying to me, “I know you don’t want to feel these things. I know you don’t want to hurt, but you need to do this to move forward. I know you and I love you. You need this. This is hard, but you are strong and I am with you. Let’s walk to the sea together. ”
I mourned the passing of my mother at the sea, and I was changed. I was prepared to mourn, and that happened.
I wasn’t prepared to celebrate. I celebrated the great things I have, and the folks in my life that shower me with love and grace, even at my worst. I saw all the areas where I am not my mother and my confidence was renewed. The Lord showed me again that what’s hurt us in the past doesn’t have to keep hurting us. We can be free and whole, even when confusion and sadness hit.
I feel okay now. There will probably be some days where I’m not OK. God is there in those days too.
Today I found out that my birth mother died. It happened on March 9th. Stage 4 lung cancer.
Two of my uncles that I don’t think I’ve ever met in person, found me and called my office phone.
I called one back and he told me what happened. He seems like a gentile and kind man. I don’t know how much he knows of what our relationship was… but he didn’t lean in with any expectations, and I appreciate that.
Towards the end of the conversation he told me he’s proud of me. That I’ve done a lot despite my childhood. I think that was the most difficult part of the conversation. I’ve never in my life had a relative tell me they were proud of me. Part of my heart swelled, and part of me thought, “Where were you when I was seven and alone?”
He said that he would like to meet me and my family. I think I’d like that too, but I know better than to get my hopes up….
She’s been cremated already. My uncle asked if I wanted her ashes… I don’t.
He said they were going to find a time soon to go to the beach and scatter the remains. I don’t know if I want to be a part of that.
What are you supposed to do when you are the child of an abusive and neglectful parent? How do you mourn? What is my part in all of this?
If I were to go scatter her ashes, what would I say?
Thank you for…….. nothing.
You were………. a hurtful parent.
Really, I feel as if I mourned the loss of her years ago.
Maybe now I’m mourning the relationship I never had, and now for sure I never will.
Maybe I’m mourning the opportunity to really mourn; feeling reminded that no matter how much healing happens, I’m still not “normal” or have “normal emotional processes”.
I feel confused. I feel a little sad, and then sadder that I’m not really sad
I feel angry at her all over again.
Clarity would be great.
Hopefully that will come as I go through this.
Thanks for your prayers.
These are pictures of the last time I saw her. Summer of 2009
Today I did my best at #8,
Be a friend who listens.
I’m really good at talking, not nearly as good at listening. But this is a characteristic that I want to define who I am, and how I treat others. Like most things that don’t come naturally, practice makes perfect.
I’m thankful for friends who give me opportunities to listen, and to love.
Today is day 2 and I chose #6
Write a letter to someone who has made a difference in your life.
I chose Jen Arens and with her permission, this is the letter:
You’ve been a part of my life since I was 16. I had just moved out of a home of an addicted mother where I was made to feel that everything about me was wrong.
I was hurting and alone. I felt too different, and fought as hard as I could to fake normal. I thought that was the key to making it out alive; trick everyone into thinking you are just like them. They can’t hurt you if they never really see you.
And then I met you. You were bananas; an original to the core.
You were fully you- honest and vulnerable, outgoing and bold, completely without a filter and unabashedly loving.
I met you and the scales fell from my eyes. I thought, “This woman holds nothing back. She loves Jesus and the freaks in the margins just the same. She is free. All I want is to be free”
I’ve had the privilege of living life with you since then.
I’ve modeled my ministry, my parenting, and my love after yours.
People give me a lot of credit for the things I get to do, and truth I get to speak into the lives of others. But I am not a pioneer; I am a woman who identifies those who have gone before and gotten it right as they clear a path for the next wave.
We’ve been through a lot together.
You were the first person I told I knew I was called to ministry. You tried to talk me out of it. Jokes on you, look at me now 🙂
You were the second person I told I was 20 years old, pregnant, and not married- second to Anthony… Priorities.
I sat with you and cried when I struggled with infertility- feeling like I was being punished for not getting it right the first time, and you picked up weight that I couldn’t bare.
I walked with you as a ministry you were passionate was taken away, and rejoiced years later with you when you were given your hearts utmost desire- a ministry in the Bayview.
I refer to you as a mother figure in my life, but that terminology doesn’t really do justice for who you really are.
You have been my mother, my friend, my confidant, my stretcher-bearer, the giver of a swift kick in the pants, and reality checker. You have reminded me that faith with no bounds can move unimaginable mountains. You are showing us that cancer doesn’t mean we can’t still do amazing things for the kingdom.
Jen, as I finish this note, while crying my eyes out- I want to say thanks.
Thanks for never being afraid to be who God created you to be, even when people didn’t get it, or felt threatened by you, or tried to marginalized or silence you.
I am me because of you. I have Jesus because of you. I’ll never stop fighting with love because you’ve done that for me.
Today is day one, and I decided to do almost the last thing on my Lent list.
69. Say something kind to a child.
We had youth programs tonight, and I was able to have a good one on one conversation with a girl who is close to my heart. In a lot of ways, she reminds me of little Lisa.
She’s struggling and trying to figure it out. Sometimes she does well, and sometimes she falls short (kinda like the rest of us). Today our chat was light hearted and fun. They don’t have to all be heavy and emotional to be valuable.
We Salvos love to show Jesus in the ministry of presence. Today was one of those days.
And then there was Leilah….
Today was her birthday and she thought no established rule on the earth applied to her. As you can guess, that thinking led to distruction.
As a consequence for her crazy behavior, she wasn’t able to open the rest of her birthday presents.
She. Was. Mortified.
We sat in the car and had a serious chat about how even on our birthdays, we still need to be kind. In my humanness and general exhaustion, I just wanted to go home and send her straight to bed. But even though the day went a little sideways, it was still her birthday. Probably the first birthday she will remember.
So she got an ice cream cone on the way home. Birthday cake in a sugar cone.
I don’t know if I did it all right, but I know I did the best I could with that I had.
Our kids are a gift. I hope I never take them for granted.
Lent Starts tomorrow!
True to form, I’ve got to do things my own way. So like I did a few years ago, I’m going to experience Lent in a different way.
Many who are from a spiritual tradition who are used to experiencing Lent, manifest this by giving up something. Sometimes, meat, or soda, or Facebook, or something else that is difficult for them to remove from their lives. That is except for Sunday’s. I’m not sure why, but the OG’s who came up with the Lent rules, somehow decided that you get a free day. Some say this is so during a time of sacrifice, Sunday’s are mini-Easters, time to celebrate the resurrected Savior. I think this has more to do with people not being able to commit to a solid chunk of time to do anything that may make them feel uncomfortable. But maybe that is just be being slightly cynical….
So like I said, Lent for us at Seattle White Center is collectively different. Instead of taking something away, or focus on sacrifice, we are going to intentionally add something- one small act of acts of kindness every day. I created a list of 70 things, yes I said 70. I know that is more than 40, but some on this list aren’t for everyone. Several have to do with your kids, and if you don’t have kids, then those ones wont work for you.
(For my list, see picture below)
So you pick one and live it out every day. You go in any order you want, and if one is really transformative, then feel free to do that one more than one time. You do you Boo Boo.
As we share about what this looks like in our lives via social media- because we all know if it isn’t on Facebook, then it didn’t really happen (insert sarcastic high arch eyebrow here), we are using the hashtag #WhiteCenterLents. Even if you don’t live or worship in the White Center area of Seattle, feel free to use this hashtag anyway.
Our world is busted and hurting. A little more kindness every day would be right on time.
Let’s show we love Jesus, OTHERS, and our communities by Lent-ing together.
#WhiteCenterLents #TheSalvationArmy #CommunityCareMinistry #TheNewLent
A BRAVE event is coming to Seattle in the spring of 2017.
What is BRAVE?
BRAVE is a catalytic event for conversation and connection. This is a one day event where we will come together to remind a very specific demographic that they are worth celebrating; girls 12-18 who are in Foster Care.
These girls are vulnerable and susceptible to violence, and coercion in illegal and sexually explicit behavior.
BRAVE is a preventative event to remind these girls that they are valuable, lovable, and to encourage them to dream big dreams for what their futures can be. They come to this event, and in turn join a group of other girls who will be mentored in intentional ways by someone who desires to show them that life can be different than what they’ve known.
Through this process, these girls will learn more about who they are and who’s they are. Then, if someone with sinister intentions attempts to encourage or force them into damaging behaviors, these girls will stop in their tracks and say, “You can’t do that to me. That’s what you do to an oppressed person, and I am free”.
It is our hope that this event will change a generation. It has the potential to change the statistics for girls who end up in the sex industry, for girls who have babies too young, and to encourage girls to be BRAVE enough to become whatever they are meant to be.
You can be a part of this movement.
Are you BRAVE?
When you move to a new place one of the joys is finding new doctors, eye glass places, and dentists. Please note the sarcasm in choosing the word “joy”. Usually when we choose joy, it leads to great things…. just not in this case 😉
I made an appointment for my son and I to get our eyes did, kinda like getting your nails did- but less glamorous.
We got our eyes checked and they confirmed horrible vision in me- and even worse for my boy. Sorry kid, genetics suck sometimes.
Before we saw the doctor, I had to fill out the paperwork that asked about your health history. No big deal, I can totally tell you about my health. Super healthy, just chubby.
But then it asked about my family health history. I know they need this info, but I hate it. I have no idea about my family health history on either side.
So I lied.
My response in the margins was “I’m adopted. I don’t know.”
It’s a lot easier to lie and say I was adopted instead of saying, “My mother was an addict and not healthy at all. How long is the check list for drugs taken, years lost in alcoholism, and packs smoked in a day? But it really doesn’t matter because she threw me away, and I couldn’t ask her if I wanted to. I moved in at 15 with some well intentioned folks, and lived with them for about three years. But they aren’t biological, or in my life anymore. Oh, and I can’t ask my birth father because I was the product of a one night stand, and he refuses to acknowledge I exist.”
They don’t put that box as an option to check on the form. Maybe it’s too specific…
I wasn’t adopted. It’s just easier to lie and end the conversation there…. But lies produce guilt and shame, even this one.
You wouldn’t think that the heath questioner would bring up so much baggage, but this time it got to me.
Then I started thinking about the folks who can’t check those boxes either. Maybe they had parents who were addicts, or they were in the system, or maybe they lost parents too soon.
I may not be able to align myself with a biological or adoptive family, so I choose to partner and join with those who can’t check the boxes.
I wanna be on your team, even if you feel like no one else is. On the days where not being able to check the boxes hurts your heart, or takes you to a place that is painful- know you aren’t alone. Send me a note. Find me on Facebook. Let’s listen to some Regina Spektor or Kimya Dawson and be sad. We can get through the tough days together.
While writing this I’m reminded of a couple verses from Ephesians. “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” – Ephesians 4:1-3
Peace. Gentleness. Humility. Bearing with each other in love. Unity.
We’ve got this. We aren’t defined by those boxes.
Be gracious to yourself.
These past few weeks I have been blessed with opportunities to enjoy meals and coffee and phone calls both with people that I have loved a long time and with people that are in love with the same mission as I am.
Through so many of these interactions I’ve heard stories of guilt, or grief. Stories of putting ourselves down and feeling like we’re just not good enough.
It seems like we are much harder on ourselves than we would be on anyone else.
Imagine you’re sitting at a table across from someone that you love with your whole heart. You both have your hands wrapped around the best cup of coffee you’ve ever had.
That person you love is sharing stories of disappointment in themselves, or stories of lingering guilt, or shame. Maybe they’re sharing stories of how they wish they could be someone that they’re not, or they wish they weren’t someone that they are.
If they truly are someone we love, we would never look at them and say “You’re right. You really are an awful human. All you are capable of are mistakes and failure. Really, you should get it together or jump off a bridge.”
That would be absurd. We would never say those things or even anything remotely close to that to someone that we care about. We would look at them with eyes of grace with a heart that embraces them for who they are, and we would say things like “I know it’s been hard, but you’re not alone. You really been doing your best, things are going to get better. Just because you’ve made this or these mistakes that doesn’t mean that’s who you are.
You are loved.
You are valuable.
You are wanted.
You are appreciated.
You are needed.”
If we would say such gracious and kind things to someone we love, why are those the last things we would ever say to ourselves?
Life is hard.
Why do we make it harder?
Beating ourselves up usually doesn’t make for a better choice on the next go. Cycles of guilt and shame produce more cycles of guilt and shame.
I wonder how different our lives would be if we were kinder to ourselves. How different would our lives be if we were as kind to ourselves as we would be with someone that we love and respect?
That doesn’t mean that every mistake we make isn’t a big deal or that we shouldn’t try our best to do our best, but maybe we should just handle our wounded hearts with hands of kindness and compassion- as opposed to hands full of thorns and scorn.