Covered in Shame

During a recent call with one of my spiritual big sisters, we talked about generational curses and other negative things that were passed to us even before birth.  She shared with me some things that she felt the Holy Spirit revealed to her about her spiritual lineage and it caused me to think about my own.  There are some obvious patterns that even the average person can see, but what would I find if I dug a little deeper?  I wanted to know what the atmosphere was like while my mother was carrying me.  I wanted to know if she felt bonded with me, or if she was ambivalent.  I wanted to know more about her during that time as much as I wanted to know about myself.

A couple of weeks later I took my aunt, my mother’s older sister, to lunch.  As I was driving her home I asked, “How was my mom when she was pregnant with me? How did she act?  Did she seem happy?” Before giving me any information about my mother, she immediately, without hesitation, said “Mama made her cover up her stomach with a towel when she sat down at the [dinner] table.  She didn’t want anyone to know your mama was pregnant. She tried to hide it.”  The “anyone” my aunt was referring to was my mom’s five other siblings.  Later that same day, speaking to another aunt that is married into the family and mentioning this story to her, she told me that her husband, my uncle has said on occasions of discussing our family “I was the only one at school with a pregnant fifteen year old sister.”

The revelation that I got from these two simple stories was profound.  As an adult who has made my fair share of mistakes and poor choices, I struggle with feelings of guilt and shame, sometimes to the point that they cripple me and hinder my happiness and ability to receive love and joy, even God’s love and joy.  I recently realized how deeply my spirit is steeped in these inaccurate thoughts.  These two brief conversations with two different aunts were truly eye opening.  I came to the realization that I was born into shame.  Being a writer, it was not lost on me that my grandmother covering my mother’s stomach with a towel was a metaphor for her literally covering me in shame.  My conception wasn’t celebrated or welcomed.  It was, I was, my mother was…seen…as an embarrassment.  I left those conversations with a depth of understanding that shame literally followed me out of my mother’s womb.   And this knowledge freed me!

After the initial jolt of sadness wore off from knowing my grandmother was so embarrassed by me, I laughed at the irony of how God made me.  I was one of the most talkative, chatty, precocious children ever!  One of my mom’s friends paid me one time to stop talking.  (This really happened!) I started singing and entertaining my family, pretend mic and stage and all, at about 4 years of age.  I excelled in school, in music, in extracurricular activities.  I was outgoing and bubbly! I was a cheerleader, literally. One of my middle school teachers was a former classmate of my mother’s and I remember him saying to me once that I was nothing like her at that age.  He seemed to look at me in a sort of bewilderment as he spoke.  He told me that she was very shy and quiet and not involved in any activities.  I was, in his words, her total opposite. I thought of all these characteristics, these God-given gifts of my personality that made up my spirit, and I saw how God never intended for me to be hidden.  He did not want me to be ashamed.  I know my grandmother didn’t know what she was doing, but God did.  Everything about me from a very young age said “I’m here!  Look at me! God made me and gave me these gifts!  I’m His child!  You will not hide me or shame me for existing!  I was meant to be here!  I have a purpose, even if that purpose is just to make people smile when they are around me!

Other things started to make sense to me as well;  it’s hard enough to shake emotions like shame and guilt when you realize the magnitude of your own mistakes, and how you’ve hurt or disappointed the people that you love,  but it’s nearly impossible to do when those things were put on you without your permission, by no choice and no fault of your own, by simply being conceived.  I began to understand why it was so difficult for me to forgive myself, or to even accept Christ’s love and forgiveness.  These feelings were in my literal DNA.

God gave me a vision as I was lying in bed one morning dwelling on my past, the part that I wasn’t born with…the part that I created including all of my many mess ups and awful choices.  I saw Jesus carrying His cross.  (I actually recalled the scene from Passion of the Christ.) I remembered in that movie, how heavy the physical weight of this huge wooden cross was and how difficult it was for Jesus to bear its weight on His shoulders.  He was in such agony.  It was then that the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart and said “The cross, by itself, was so heavy already…how much heavier do you think it was with the weight of all of your sins on it?  All the sins of the world…past, present, and future. Jesus did that for you.  He carried, not just that cross, but all of your sins with Him, on His shoulders, on His back,  so that you wouldn’t have to live in guilt or shame.”  I don’t think I ever understood the purpose of the cross and Christ’s death so clearly before.  In all my years of believing in Christ, in that moment, it dawned on me that I never truly accepted His forgiveness and I was living in a world where I continuously punished myself and negated what He did for me when He willingly laid down His life.  By not accepting His forgiveness, I was likely hurting Him more.

I try to live each day now with this vision at the forefront of my mind.  Any time those shameful feelings try to creep in, or those voices that say “you don’t deserve to be happy, look what you did back in 1996 or 2008 or yesterday.”  I pray them away.  I rebuke and renounce them.  And I live each day to the fullest, trying to be better than the day before, forgiving myself, loving myself and those around me, seeking His wisdom, and relying on His grace and mercy.  I am here.  I will not be ashamed.

 

The God of Surprises

About a year ago, I woke one morning feeling particularly sad. Nothing seemed to be going well in my life.  I was in a temporary job that I hated. I was still single at 42 and incredibly lonely and feeling disconnected,  but as I had been trying to be in a more positive mindset, I made the choice not to sit in the sadness or dwell on it.   As I drove away from my apartment, headed to work, I decided to pray:

God, thank You for waking me up this morning.  Please help me not to be sad.  You are an all powerful God who is full of surprises.  I will be hopeful and expectant today, God.  This could be the day that you choose to surprise me, God.  This could be the day I get that unexpected phone call that changes my life, or this could be the day I get a call for a job that I actually love!  You can do more than I ask, think, or imagine (Ephesians 3:20 – 21). Your ways are higher than my ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). You are the only wise God (Romans 16:27), a god of infinite possibilities!

I was in a place where I really, really wanted my life to change and was so tired of being sad, lonely, not purposeful in my work, and all the other worries that come along with being a 42 year old single woman living in this day and age.  I had been reading books like “The Power of Positive Thinking” by Norman Vincent Peale, and “Hope Will Find You” by Rabbi Naomi Levy.  I decided to make a conscious choice to think and be more positive. I went to work and decided, that day, to live out my new, positive mantra.  I made conversation with a nice woman in the elevator that carried on into the hallway, and later, shared a genuine smile and wave with her as I walked back the same way.  I just wanted to be happy and hopeful and share (exude) that wherever I went.  I had some good conversations with prospective candidates on the job and felt really good about my productivity.  Imagine my surprise when, at 3:15 PM, I was called into the boss’ office and summarily dismissed.  I knew this wasn’t a long-term thing for me, but I still hadn’t really seen this coming, and especially on DAY ONE of my “I’m gonna be super-positive and happy anyway” journey!  I mean, seriously, God?? For real?? 

As I drove home, still a bit shell-shocked, fear and doubt began to creep in.  The prayer that had sustained me on the way in to work was gone.  Tears began to well in my eyes, but I choked them back with what felt like the last ounce of strength and positivity that I had left in me.  I got in the house and recalled my prayer from that morning, that God is full of surprises, and how ironic it was that this certainly wasn’t the kind of surprise I was expecting.  For a few moments, I thought about the ramifications of what this seemingly negative surprise meant for me, especially after praying such a positive, hope filled prayer.  Doubt kept nudging me forward into the darkness.  The questions began to form in my mind: “Is God playing some sick joke on me? Does He really want me to be afraid? Does He care? Is He even real?” It seemed the questions flashed before me, one after the other, like headlines on a marquis.  I stopped myself, stopped those thoughts (2 Corinthians 10:5), and I remembered that “Yes, God IS real!” but “so is Satan, and I know what he came to do (John 8:44 & John 10:10)!”

I stopped and realized and recognized what was happening and I made another choice to continue to exercise (an action) my faith and to choose, again, that no matter what my circumstances looked like, to trust and believe in God.  He would take care of me.  He would provide! (Philippians 4:19) I also recalled how, just the week before, I had given the largest amount of money that I’d ever given to the church because I had felt led to do so.  I knew that I was being tested, and that I could either cower in fear or I could walk by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7).

One month later, I began what I considered my ideal day job, working from home as a recruiter, which is something I had prayed for.  I did not search for that job.  I did not apply for that job or send in a resume.  They found me.  They called me.  They approached me and made the offer. God hooked me up!  I was fired from that dreadful job on October 3, 2015 and began my new job on November 2, 2015, almost a month to the day.

Fast forward to present day, I just celebrated my one year anniversary on that job and I just read my journal entry from the day I was fired, which is what you just read here.  I am still on my journey and I have good and bad days, but I am increasingly learning to stop striving and allow what will be to be and trust that God always has my best interests at heart.  I believe God is ushering me into a new season of my life and setting me up for the next level in other areas.  It’s my time. I am claiming it and continuing to pray my “God, you are the God of surprises and infinite possibilities” prayer. There is absolutely nothing too hard for God!  Reading this journal entry reminded me to seek Him and to trust Him with my whole heart.   What we think is the worst thing ever, can eventually work our for our greatest and highest good.  (Romans 8:28) After all, He IS the God of surprises! I can’t wait to see what He has for me next!

 

 

 

When Life Gives You Lemons

“But this kind does not go out, but by prayer and fasting.” – Matthew 17:21

(This was written several months ago on a Sabbath evening, but I am just posting.  It was actually during the Christmas season, Dec. 26, 2014 to be exact.)

Tonight, I am fasting for the Sabbath.  I’ve never really “officially” fasted from solid food for more than a few hours, but I feel like I recently had a spiritual breakthrough and I want to seize this momentum and give all I have to God.  In this moment, this giving up of solid food, of sacrificing my desire for the Reece’s cups chilling in the fridge, or the funny meme’s on Facebook (did I mention that I’m giving that up until the New Year?) I am saying to God, “I love You more than food, snacks, and crass humor on a news feed. I am humbling myself before You and I’m chasing after Your heart.”  I’m telling God that against the hunger pangs and the habitual urge to pick up my phone, that I choose Him.  I’m trying to hear from Him.  I am asking God to create in me, in this moment, a clean heart.  I am tellng Him that I’m honoring His command to fast and pray, that I believe that certain things like breakthroughs, blessings, and deliverances only come through fasting and prayer.  I am asking Him to honor my obedience and sacrifice and continue to heal my heart, mind, body, and spirit.  I am asking Him to continue the work He is doing in my son, who is increasingly seeking His face.  I’m asking for healing in relationships, for reconciliations, and forgiveness.  I’m asking for 2015 to be my best year yet.  I’m telling Him that I want His will, His perfect will, and His best for me SO badly, that I want to spend twenty-four hours just focused on Him and His plans for my life.  I believe God is real and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6)

As I sit here in the still quietness of my apartment and drink my first warm cup of lemon water, I’m reminded by the bitter taste that life is sometimes bitter, but those bitter moments can make us better.  Those brief moments of a sour taste in my mouth are accompanied by numerous health benefits of the detoxifying lemon water.  In the same way, I’m learning to look for the lesson in the sour moments of my life, both past and present.  I’ve realized that I’m more bitter and angry that I thought.  That has harmed me, my relationships, and those people I want to relate to.  I no longer want to dwell on the negative or continue living in hurt, fear, or rejection.  Some of those moments may give strength, some may give peace, some may give wisdom, some may give all these things, but they all will give me something of value if I am open to see it.  I don’t want to be stagnant any longer.  I want to grow and it is my hope that this first fast will usher in that growth.  I pray that my fast finds favor with God and that I honor Him.  I pray that it yields spiritual growth and abundant life and that I form a new spiritual habit that becomes a tool in my arsenal to help me fight when my days seem weary or I feel afraid.  In just this one fast, this first time, I’ve already had the eyes of my heart opened to this very valuable lesson:

Be careful not to lose your hold on God’s grace by allowing bitterness to come into (to live, to dwell in, to unpack and stay in – my words added for emphasis) your hearts, for this will not only hurt you, but a lot of others.” – Hebrews 12:15, The Clear Word version

When life gives you lemons, don’t be afraid to taste the bitterness for a moment, but  learn the lesson and God will surely give you lemonade! 

Remember What You’re Made Of

What are little girls made of, made of?

What are little girls made of?

Sugar and spice,  and everything nice,

that’s what little girls are made of.

What are little boys made of, made of?

What are little boys made of?

Snips and snails, and puppy dog tails,

that’s what little boys are made of.

Last night I was sitting on my patio praying for God to cleanse me and to make me into what He wants me to be, to make me into who I know I am inside.  In that moment, the nursery rhyme above, one from my childhood, popped into my mind.  It speaks of all the good and innocence that we are born with.  Somehow the world changes us.  We learn of pain, loss, and betrayal.  We learn of lies, deceit, and unfairness.  And it robs us of our innocence, of our ability to dream, to hope, and to believe. We stop believing in people and ourselves.  But when I catch a glimpse of my childhood innocence, as I did tonight, I feel a sense of joy and warmth and I pray to reclaim it. When the beauty of art or song makes me cry, when a baby’s laugh or the sunset takes my breath away, I remember and celebrate the good in me and in the world; and I pray for it to stay.