Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Labels Lie

I follow an organization on Facebook called People of the Second Chance. Just the name moves me. Their campaigns, posts, blogs, and photos challenge me every day. As I’ve said before, I like to think I’m a non judgmental person. I believe I am, in most cases. I say most, because I know I don’t have all my bases covered. There are still large patches of me that are bare, as yet uncovered by the grace I’ve struggled so long to accept.

POTSC’s latest campaign, Labels Lie, caught me with its raw, grainy photos of people stamped with a label over their faces, obscuring who they really are. This is me. Was me. I was labeled with a teen pregnancy, and I’ve felt the heavy weight of that stamp ever since. I always qualify my situation, to head peoples’ judgements off at the pass:

“I was already engaged, the wedding date was already set. There was no shot gun wedding. I never slept around. I married the only man I ever slept with.”

Somehow, the qualifications make me feel more guilty. Next month, it will have been nine years since the day I sat in the doctor’s office having my world shaken, my life forever changed. Nine long years of feeling the grime of my mistakes coat me like oil.





That girl.

I never wanted to be her. And yet I became her, more through my perception of myself than anyone else’s. I’ve turned it into a hateful joke of sorts, calling myself out before anyone has the opportunity to do it for me. “I was a model child. The worst thing I ever did was get pregnant out of wedlock.” With a background like mine, that’s about the worst thing a girl CAN do. Drug addicts can be rehabilitated. Alcoholics can be set free. A girl who gets pregnant? Well, she’s stuck with that mistake forever, now, isn’t she? And serves her right, too. She knew what she was doing. Knew the consequences.

Labels lie. I’ve lied to myself for nine years, seen myself through this dark filter that I’ve accepted as my cross to bear. I earned it, after all. No matter that my son was born perfect and healthy, and lights up my life. No matter that my life has been restored, my husband loves me, my family doesn’t judge me or shun me. The good things, the grace, I never earned, and, more truthfully, never accepted. The mantle of humiliation, I’ve wrapped around me tighter than my skin. I’ve embraced the label, tattooed it upon my heart, when others long ago gave it up.

Labels lie. I lie. I lie to myself every time I say I’m not a judgmental person. When I say that grace is freely given and freely received. Because the truth of the matter is, I’ve labeled myself more fiercely than anyone else has ever labeled me, more harshly than I would ever presume to label another person. I’ve written upon my own face this label, and I see it whenever I study the mirror, whenever I look into my heart, and at times, even when I look into the face of my son. I’ve never, ever freely received any grace, accepted the truth. Instead, I’ve believed and perpetuated a lie about who I am based on what I did.

The truth is, I am whole.

The truth is, I receive forgiveness and embrace grace.

The truth is, I am exceedingly and abundantly blessed.

The truth is, I am made new. Not just restored; completely new.

The truth is, labels lie.

And I choose truth.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Take Notice, 2012

We’re on a downhill roll from the holidays... we’re almost at the bottom. We’ve had birthday after birthday, holiday after holiday, followed by more birthdays after birthdays... Now we just have one more to get through before we can settle into the new year. Jeremy will be turning the big 33 in a few days (it’s not really big... I just didn’t know what other way to describe it. The crucifixion year?).

So 2011 is done. I can’t say that I’m upset about it. It was actually kind of a difficult year, especially the beginning and end. It started and ended with tears, with a lot of really bad and really good moments in between. I suppose that can be said of any year. But 2011 has wrung me dry. I feel about as alive as a dirty dishcloth.

Here’s what I’m expecting from 2012:

New life.
We’re already off to a good start. My beloved friend Maggie just had a baby boy, whom I cannot wait to cuddle silly. He is a fulfillment of God’s unwavering grace and faithfulness. There are just no words to describe how good our God is. But I don’t just mean physical life... I’m believing God to breathe new life into me, into my marriage, my family, my relationships, my job. After last month, I’m sorely in need.

New vision.
Our lives took a big turn last year when we went into full time ministry. I’m expecting God to “stretch our tent stakes” even further. Stretching isn’t always comfortable, but it’s necessary for healthy growth, so I’m trying to ready myself.

New travels.
Family vacations, anniversaries, girls’ weekend getaways, and (with God’s help) a trip to Africa. I’m going to invest in luggage, Dramamine, and journals.

New friends.
Well. I’ll work on that one. I’m not so great at the friend making thing. That will require more stretching on my part.

New music.
Confession time. Chloe has recently caught Bieber fever. I won’t lie. I think I have too. However, I won’t just stick to J. Biebs. I’m open to any and all new music. My iTunes wishlist is currently hovering around $200. I will gladly accept any and all donations to support my music addiction.

New clients.
My friend Missy and I launched our own photography business last year. I didn’t realize how many clients we had acquired until Christmas came around and we began making ornaments for each of them. But next year we’ll be more prepared, so bring it on, potential clients! You won’t regret it, because, truth be told, we are amazing.

New joy.
I expect to laugh. A lot. Maybe at jokes. Maybe at myself. Maybe at you. We’ll see.

New resolve.
Here’s a new word I’ve learned from 2011. NO. N-O. That’s right. And I plan on saying it more. If you happen to be on the receiving end of my NO at some point this year, accept my apologies in advance. But, for some strange reason, I find I value my family, my health, and above all, my sanity, more than being all to all. I simply am incapable of it. So from now on, I refuse to try.

I hope, that when I sit at my computer this time next year, I can look back on 2012 without this bone deep weariness that’s on me now. I know there will be sorrows, seasons will end, doors will close. I’m not unrealistic. Just, for once, optimistic.

What do you expect from 2012?