I’ve never had a birthday party.
I remember being slightly envious and disappointed every time I went to a friend’s large celebration as a young child and later as a teenager. As I neared the end of college, my envy shifted from wanting to be celebrated to wanting to be loved (which I suppose is one and the same). I worked hard to turn off my desire to be loved and cared for in that way, as many do when we have experienced hurt, abandonment, or plain ole disappointment. My most advanced coping mechanism and my most stubborn sin is independence. I convince myself that I don’t need the love, time, or care of others. It is my way of protecting my heart and keeping potential loved ones just far enough so that I can continue loving them without experiencing their mishandling of my heart.
I cried in bed with Matt a few nights ago as I grieved for the pieces of my heart that have been torn in my life, most during my childhood. Most healing with jagged, visible scars that are still tender to the touch. My nighttime mourning reminded me so strongly of conversations that I had with Matt many years ago during our first round at dating. He wanted in on my life; he would ask me to explain my bouts of anger, and I refused. I knew that if I began peeling away the hardened layers of anger, I would expose my pain, my infected girlhood wounds that never seemed to heal. I don’t think that either of us knew that we would continue this pas de deux for many years to come.
But, by the sweet, abundant grace of God, it has become easier for me to expose myself over the years. Have you ever tried to eat an uncracked pistachio? It’s difficult, but do-able if you work at it. That’s where I am now, as opposed to years ago when i was the uncracked nut (no pun intended) and you were a toothless, fingerless being. I digress. Anywho, I cried a lot this past week. Apart from the night mentioned above, many of my tears were the outpouring of my soul’s surprise from the provision of Jesus, and his deep love for me and my little boy that is growing inside of a wounded mama.
I wasn’t expecting to be loved on as I was this past week. I’ve been conditioned to never expect love. It is a constant hurdle that my heart has to leap over on a regular basis. While in Florida this past week, I felt remembered, loved and celebrated in ways that I have never felt before. There is a group of women in Florida, who love me. I can’t even write about them without crying. These women love me and express their love for me, and show me what it looks like to love my husband, my children, my God. They have become my big sisters, my mothers. They provide me with the things that I have convinced myself I do not deserve. They are the Lord’s hands in tending to my infected wounds.
After laughing for a few hours about our motherhood stricken bodies, making onsies, and a beautiful mobile for my baby boy, we gathered together and the women prayed for me. This verse came to my mind as their prayers covered me. Those are the prayers that will and I’m sure have sustained me. As I opened the generous gifts, I could feel the light of Jesus being shone on so many lies that had shaped my heart:“You are alone in this.” You will have to figure this out all on your own.” “There will never be enough money to REALLY take care of a baby.” “So what, you’re having a baby. No one else thinks this is THAT big of a deal.” As I got to my last gift, 3 home-made, soft, beautifully stitched blankets, the tears made their escape. The lies dissipated in the face of truth.
Fast forward a couple of days later in Miami. My family is not the most stable unit. We are terrible flawed and even more terribly bruised. After a disappointing family dinner, my oldest brother rushed me out of the house, promising that he would take me to see my cousins. In the car, we laughed, I farted, and soon enough, I’d forgotten to even pay attention to where I was. As I peeked inside of the dark house that my brother led me into, I was greeted with shouts of “surprise!”, blue balloons, gifts and my favorite, a Publix cake. I wanted to cry right then and there, but I stuffed my tears back into my eyes for the sake of my brothers and their distaste for sisterly emotion. We ate (again!) and laughed and I teased my brothers and cousins about their escape route if my water were to break. I opened presents for my little boy, their nephew and cousin. And again, on the last gift, I cried. “Stop. Don’t cry, sister.” My brother pleaded rather than commanded. But I couldn’t help it. I was in the midst of realizing that the Lord was and is doing a new thing.
To finish off the trip, the next morning, I received a phone call from my mom. She said that she would pick me up from my dad’s house in an hour. I lazily got up, wondering what the two of us would do together. I can’t remember the last time I had good quality time with my mom. Middle school, maybe? Our day together was the beginning of something good, I believe. We spent the day shopping for the baby, going overboard on cute clothes and nursery items. We even took a break for some Coldstone Ice cream.
Later that night, I cried (surprise!). I would be leaving Florida in just a matter of hours, and for the first time EVER, I didn’t want to. If I could have, I would have gripped the legs of my home state like toddler being torn away from her daddy. I realized that there is hope for me and my family. I realized that, one of the biggest encouragements for me in leaving Florida was that I would be with my friends, and yet, during this time of tremendous change, what I want most is to be with my family. To be with my brothers, who are beginning to make positive changes in their own lives for the sake of being good uncles. To be with my sister who loves feeling her little nephew kick in my belly, growing more and more tender with every word that she speaks to him. To be with my mom who is making efforts to be emotionally available. To be with my dad who is getting older, but has sparks of youth in his eyes when he is able to provide for his family. To be with my God-given sisters and mothers, who love me, provide for me, and are growing their own children, and the children of others.
I never had a vision for what my family could be. For who would be included in my family. It has been difficult for me to let people in, and I am saddened by my lack of investment in many of the relationships in my life that were such a blessing to me this past week. I am proud of the family that my son will have. Uncles, cousins, aunties, some who have the same blood coursing through their veins, others whose families and hearts we have been adopted into.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland