growing up unrestrained

This is part two of my story. 

The days before child restraints were awesome! We laid in the back windshield or the floor board of the car. We piled up pillows between us when my mom wanted us to hush and stop fighting. My big brother, Matt, and I would sit in the back seat of our Chrystler New Yorker and see whose feet could touch the floor board. I carved his name into the hood of that car with a rock. Yes, I did. That car talked. It would tell us “a door is ajar” or “your fuel is low”.

I don’t remember being told, “Don’t get dirty,” or “No, you can’t help me.” From what I can remember, my childhood was wild and free. We didn’t have to go to school on our birthday! Sometimes we’d skip and all go to the beach. My mom took me places with her and skipped in the parking lot with me, holding hands. Lots of time outside, lots of time playing imaginative games with my brother in our underwear. (I realized recently that my kids don’t let loose enough. They’d freak out if I told them not to wear pants while they watched a movie!) We watched Mighty Mouse and Tom & Jerry, but never He-man, because “Only God is the Master of the Universe.”

My mom helped me remember that at some point I started to come home everyday from school crying because I felt left out. I had all kinds of social awkwardness and it all stemmed from the feeling that no one really wanted me there. Rejection. I don’t know when it started or if there was a specifically traumatic event that sparked this, but I would go on to struggle with it my whole life. To this day, when I make a phone call I worry that the person I’m calling will feel disappointed that it’s just me, and I will definitely assume that if they don’t answer it’s because they didn’t want to talk to me or had something more important to do. Even as a child I felt this. I felt like every time someone whispered they were talking about me. (I don’t feel that way anymore, for the record.) Every giggle was because I had a booger on my nose that I didn’t know about or because my clothes were stupid or…

I had to take speech therapy at my new school when we moved. It worked! Although once Brent convinced me I had a speech impediment still, for like a whole day. When I was in third grade my great-grandmother (my Grandad’s mom) passed away. I was really sad about it, and I think this was the first time someone died and I really understood that they were gone and not coming back.

Sometime around this I had a birthday party that involved a slip n slide and wrapped up with a Petra concert! Rockin! 

My fourth grade year ushered in a very difficult decade for my parents. The church they pastored was experiencing a real, legit, revival. People were actually getting saved and sticking around. I can remember hearing testimonies from drug addicts being set free. A “rock band” was playing the Sunday morning worship. The church elders were not happy. I guess they were much like the religious elite of Jesus’ time. Details are foggy for me, but I do remember that they stopped paying my dad. (My parents were about to buy a house that sat right behind the church.) A smear campaign involving lies and secret meetings was difficult for my parents to bear. They stayed for the sake of the work of the gospel that was being done in that small Florida city. I saw my dad weep a lot. Not cry. Weep. This was perhaps the greatest work of his ministry, and some old nasty jealous men were just sending it all up in flames. Maybe this is when my fear of rejection really set in. What makes me the most sad now, is to imagine the confusion that the new believers must have felt, and how the lies that these men spread about a good pastor tarnished the testimony that could have been.

Matt and I got sent away for the summer to Virginia to stay with my Mamaw and Papaw. There wasn’t much to do there, but that summer was probably one of the funnest of my life. We sat outside under the kitchen window and listened to Mamaw fuss while she did the dishes. We watched Papaw work his garden. Matt would sit and make up funny stories to make me laugh when I felt sad.

I can’t remember when we came back home, but I’m pretty sure we moved to a house on a big hill. About 100 people left that church and came with my parents to start a non denominational church. My parents were hurt and not the same for a very long time.   Am I going to slow? I’m working up to big big things that I realized as I was writing all of this out (in much longer format) in my journal. Write your story, people! 

when life is painful, part 2

I owe you an apology. In this space I try to be raw and unveiled, but also inspiring and hopeful. I had to end yesterday’s post abruptly because of a little one’s needs, and I feel like I left everyone dangling in hopeless pain. Let’s finish the story.

“I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.” (Jesus- John 16:32-33)

There you have it. Jesus promises that life is going to be difficult. Hard. Disturbing. Any preacher who tries to sell an abundant life full of riches and comfort is not following the Jesus that walked long miles, dealt with extreme hatred from his own people, forgave freely, and died a painful death.

So let’s all just give up and die, right? But, wait! Jesus has overcome the world. I don’t have to. Whew. Thank you, Jesus.

Rend Collective has a new album out called The Art of Celebration and you need to go buy it as son as you’re done here.

The first song, Joy, says this:

The pain will not define us

Joy will reignite us

You’re the song of our hearts

The dark is just a canvas for your grace and brightness

You’re the song of our hearts!

In the shadows

In the sorrows

In the desert

When the pain hits

You are constant

Ever present

You’re the song of my heart!

You can hear the whole song here.

People, if you ain’t got Jesus I hope you get him soon, because this life is dang hard and unless you have some super powers, you can’t save yourself from it. Being good doesn’t help avoid the pain or save us from it. Thinking happy thoughts is only temporary. Jesus promises life beyond this temporary world and he is the one constant never failing hope.

Jesus is the joy in the pain. Trusting God means that I know that while life is painful, he’s working it out.

My sister-in-law wrote a book. You should also go get it now. It’s called Breaking Old Rhythms: Answering the Call of a Creative God

Oh my heck, you will laugh. You will cry. You will reminisce about Kris Kross and maybe even want to get out your old Michael Jackson albums. I have read and reread it because it’s encouraging. Today I picked it up and read the chapter called The Rhythm of Fighting. She’s just finished describing a period of her life that was particularly painful.

In some cases the change in our rhythm that comes with the beat down breaks us. We’re left puzzled, stuck and sometimes without motivation to begin again. But you don’t get to quit because it’s tough, uncomfortable, or inconvenient. There are some times in life when you need to fight to the finish. Each time you do prepares you for the next time you feel like life is closing in on you and teaches you to trust the One who knows all things. The beat down is, sometimes, a means to breaking rhythm.

Breaking rhythm is about change, about dealing with delay, pause, surprise and all of the moments when life doesn’t unfold the way we want or expect. God always knows and always has a plan. A friend of mine use to pray, “Thank you, God, that nothing occurs to you.”

As I drove Charis, quickly and gently, to the emergency room, having left all my other children at home while their Daddy quickly drove over, Charis was freaking out in the seat next to me. And rightly so. So I prayed out loud and tried not to cry, ” God, you knew that Charis was going to break her arm today. You go before us and behind us, and you knew we would go to this hospital at this time and you have put those doctors there today and whatever is going to happen, we trust You.”

My life rhythms have been MESSED UP, y’all. I can’t tell you everything. (I swear I’m not being vague for the sake of drama.) I went to Austin for IF, I read Jesus Feminist and Freefall to Fly, after weeks of asking God to help me surrender so that I could be free.

And that great Deejay in the Sky responded by scratchin my records all up.

No. He scratched them all up and changed the direction and played some hits backwards and now I think He has decided to skip to a new album completely. But He always makes beautiful music, so I’m okay with it.

I hope all of these things inspire you to be hopeful too. I know that everyone has pain. Not everyone is as transparent about it, but we’ve all got it. Everyone is fighting a battle, but Jesus has conquered the world.

So, take heart.

in the beginning

"If women aren’t empowered to cultivate their uniqueness, we all suffer the loss of beauty, creativity, and resourcefulness they were meant to inject into the world.” Freefall to Fly, Rebekah Lyons

At this time, 33 years ago, my mother was nearing her due date with what she had been told would be another boy. Chasing a two year old around all day while pregnant with a good sized baby, she would have been devastated to know she still had a couple more weeks to wait.

Finally, on April 28, 1981 in West Virginia (they had to drive over and around mountains to get to the hospital in Maryland where I was born. My poor mom needed a mountain midwife!), my mom went into real labor. I would be the fastest to arrive of all her babies. I gave her a four hour labor, spent with leather cuffs to hold her wrists to the bed (to ensure she was in the most convenient position for the doctor) with no pain meds, even when it wasn’t popular to do so. My parents took a cassette recorder into the delivery room, so I know well the doctor’s exclamations of, “Big girl! BIG girl!!” And comments about how my mom nearly launched me across the room as I came out. My mom wept in unbelief that she’d finally gotten a dark haired baby girl. Never mind I was the size of a two month old at 9 lb, 15 ounces and two feet long!

My older brother tried to run away he day they brought me home from the hospital. I slept so well that they put me in a crib in my own room that very night.

I have vague memories as a two year old at Christmas, and toys that now would be considered “vintage”.

Shortly after that we moved to the Myrtle Beach area as my parents graduated to the Senior Pastor position at an Assemblies of God church.

I had surgery to remove my tonsils and adenoids and put tubes in my ears, after an early childhood of ear infection after ear infection, with antibiotics failing at every turn.

We moved two or three times around that town, always going from small rental house to small rental house. No matter where we went my mom made it pretty. No matter where we went, we played in neighbor’s yards in a safe little world, where children could go down the street and you could count on the kindness of others to look after them. People weren’t distracted so much then that they didn’t noticed the small people.

When it was time for me to start four year old kindergarten, my parents started a private school at our church, and my mom was my teacher. I didn’t much like having to share her with all those other kids, so I performed many antics which frequently landed me I the principal’s office for a spanking. (Guess who the principal was. Yep. My dad.) I would lay out prostrate during the middle of class, or dramatically prop my feet up on the desk or make as much humming noise as I could while mom tried to teach. Sorry, Mom!

It was sometime after this that I sat in time out and felt conviction of sin for the first time. Silently, and all alone, I prayed for God’s forgiveness and committed my life to serving the One who could free me from sin.

I remember always having other kids follow me around. I was always the boss when we played, handing out imaginary roles and they dutifully followed my lead.

My birthday parties were always crowded because my mom had many people to consider when she made the guest list. Everyone wanted to come to the pastor’s kid’s parties. So there was usually a separate party for immediate family and real friends.

Halfway through my second grade year, my parents went away to Florida to interview for a church there. I got the mumps while they were gone and it was terribly painful and miserable without my mamma. They came back with announcements that we were moving.

to be continued….

start here

I’m going to try to sneak back to this space where I write things.

Hold on. Let me get some milk for Titus.

Okay, I’m back, and I just bought myself at least ten minutes.

You know I used to write, like, a lot? I enjoyed it. Making lists, writing poems, thinking thoughts. But I don’t get the opportunity to think very often, so when I do, it comes out like an overflowing torrent like the, ahem, last post.

I woke up thinking so many things this morning, but life got in the way and there was a possum to kill (I’m pretty sure it ate all the eggs I was going to cook today), and now Sesame Street rings out from the living room and there are people, real people with real needs, that need me so very much.

I’ve been in a funk. The good kind of funk where you just get fed up and stand up for yourself, sometimes against your very own self, and put to death what needs to die so that new life can spring forth grow. (Seriously, I might die if I hear the phrase “spring forth” ever again. Y’all feel me?)

Anyway, my mamma has been faithfully watching over me and worrying herself, and cautiously starting conversations with me during this funk. And the other day she reminded me of how I use to write. I use to think things.

Mothers are frustrated. Some of us are angry. Most of us are depressed. We are carrying heavy burdens of what the world says mothers should do (everything), what the church says mothers should do (only be mothers), and what our hearts say they want to do (if we can remember).

I reject the notion that mother’s have to relegate themselves to a life of brain inactivity. Sure, for a time we are so sleep deprived, so food and water deprived, so time deprived, that we may have trouble remembering what day it is. And for the love, no one can spout out seven individual’s birth dates at the drop of a hat. But, we are smart, and we are strong, and by golly, we think things.

So let’s stop joking that we are stupid or crazy or brain dead. And if you feel that way about yourself, wake up! Drink some coffee, read a book/magazine/blog while your kid’s watch tv (I give you permission), turn your brains on.

Recently I asked myself, “Who is Missi?” The name felt foreign on my “lips”. I realized that I didn’t know. Listening too long to the traditions of man, the opinions of others, my own guilt, I have lost Missi. Missi! The girl who changed her name in fourth grade to Lisa. Missi! The girl who finally decided to keep her real name, but only if she could spell it her own way. Missi! The girl knit together by the very mind of God, the creator of the universe!

Find yourself. Beyond diapers, beyond vaccine debates, beyond second grade math or seventh grade history. Why? Because you are uniquely created to bring glory to God. Mamma, you are as beautiful and deep as the ocean! You are smart! You are strong! How do I know? Because you are made in the image of God!

Now that I have begun to give myself permission to think, to have ideas, and thoughts…. I am finding freedom to enjoy the restrictions placed on me by my brood of little people. My guilt is lifting. In an ironic sort of way, knowing that I was made for more has set me free to enjoy where I am right now. (And you know good and well that I am not talking about enjoying explosive diapers or getting throw up in my ear at 2 am. I’m talkin’ ’bout enjoying the season.)

Find yourself. Who were you when you were 8? What were your dreams and plans? What about when you were 12,15,20?? What major turning points have happened in your life, besides having babies? Can you remember? I almost can’t, but I’m going to try. Why? Because your story is important. It’s part of His story. It’s what our children and grandchildren will want to hear one day. But mostly, because it’s part of what makes you uniquely you.

I’m going to start at the beginning of me. I’d love it if you’d join me! Start your story, from the beginning. In a journal, on a blog, wherever. In the process, I suspect we will face fears, let go, find forgiveness, remember our gifts, reignite our passions, and be free to be who God made us to be.

Sesame Street is over now, but I got way more than ten minutes anyway. 

If I am singing your song, I highly suggest you read Freefall to Fly by Rebekah Lyons.

birthright gifts

“We arrive in this world with birthright gifts- then we spend the first half of our lives abandoning them or letting others disabuse us of them, ” (Parker Palmer, Let Your Life Speak)

 

So, here we are going into my fifth grade year and my parents have started a non-denominational church and we are pretty much poor. My dad took up whatever side jobs he could get- even delivering photos for Olan Mills Photography. (Side note: They set up and took photos in hotel rooms. Does anyone else find that creepy weird?) Mom taught at the private school that Matt and I attended, which is good because I got my period in the middle of taking SATs that year. I had just turned 11. I wore gigantic plastic framed welfare glasses, and I was pretty sure everyone was talking about me all the time.

Boy, that sucked.

At the same time, my mom noticed an abrupt absence of her monthlies, and so my parents took Matt and I to the fanciest restaurant we could afford- Olive Garden. They had an important announcement.

At 40 years old, with her youngest child 11, my mom was pregnant. My parents were freaking out in all kinds of ways, but all I knew was that I wanted a baby brother.

Matt and I had our rooms on the opposite end of the house as my parents. One of those cool transparent phones was mounted to the wall between our rooms, and it had a really long cord so that we could take the receiver into our rooms for conversating with friends. We had a tiny 12″ black and white tv- WITH NO REMOTE, CHILDREN- that somehow we had gotten cable onto. I don’t ask questions about this. But Matt and I were each allowed to pick 30 minutes of television to torture the other with each day. I usually picked Kids Incorporated…

K….I…..D….S….YEAH!

Matt got caught stealing a neighbor’s hood ornament that year. We also would sneak to the cul de sac to play Vanilla Ice and MC Hammer on the boom box.

Mom taught that whole school year, and the doctors were very strict about how much weight she could gain and how far overdue they would let her go because of her age. We walked a lot. I found her birth books at some point and could not stop reading . I think I mostly did it in secret, but that birth stuff fascinated me. I was particularly struck with the water birth pictures and details.

The new school year began and since mom wasn’t working at our school, we went to public school. This was our first time outside of private schooling. Florida was still very segregated during that time, and I went to the “white” middle school, and Matt went to the “white high school” as a freshman. He always had an urban flair though, and I think he got beat up for it. I don’t remember much of my sixth grade year there, so it must have been uneventful. I do remember playing a lot of Oregon Trail in computer lab. 

Eventually they decided to induce my mom at the big fancy hospital with its birth suites. The plan was that I would get to watch  my little sister be born. My mom was adamant about not wanting an epidural (both my older brother and I had been born with no drugs, and she meant business), so they sent the anesthesiologist home several hours into her induction. The Friday night line up of television shows came on (remember that? Remember all the fun family sitcoms that would come on Friday nights?), and my mom’s doctor headed down the hall to chill. Mom started screaming and hollering, and Matt and I headed up to another floor because we couldn’t handle it. No one believed her at first, but her baby was coming really super fast and she had changed her mind about that epidural.

Unfortunately it was too late, and just before 10 pm a little boy was born. God had heard my prayers apparently, and my parents also apparently had a whole bunch of pink stuff to return. David Paul joined our family on October 16, 1992. The doctor was so touched by my parent’s love for the Lord that he covered the entire birth. They paid nothing.

We were still pretty poor for a while. There were times when we didn’t know where the next meal was coming from, and mom or dad would find a check in the mail box or someone left some groceries literally on the doorstep. I learned a lot about trusting God to provide during this time. I can’t imagine how terrifying it was for my parents, but they always displayed complete faith. Since David was a baby, we qualified for WIC food stamps, and took full advantage.

Before we knew it, it was summer time and my parents had been ordained with Foursquare Ministries International and we were being sent to Atlanta to plant a church! Shortly before 4th of July weekend, we packed up and moved. My job during the move was mainly to keep David happy, and I was much obliged to do so since he was so cute and stuff.

We moved  in to a rental house in Morrow, Georgia and got all set up to start attending the local public schools there. Matt integrated fine into Forest Park High School as a sophomore, but I struggled at Babb Middle School as a seventh grader. On top of the culture shock of being moved to a South Atlanta middle school, it just down right sucked. Most days the teachers just yelled over the students, there were lots of fights, and I kept getting sick and having migraines. By Christmas break my parents could see that I couldn’t take any more and withdrew me.

This is me, Matt, and David around this time, with our Papaw. It was around this time that we started to teach David to call the Easter Bunny the “Easter Monkey”. We had a lot of fun taking care of him and helping raise him.