Thursday, August 15, 2019

Unauthorized Grieving

Birthdays and Brokenness

Birthdays are supposed to be full of joy, celebration, cake, balloons, gifts, family, excitement and pride.
Caring for someone with severe mental illness, with a history of trauma, those are very different birthdays.
Today is someone I love's birthday.
For the first time in 14 years, I am choosing to stay home. I can't do it. Not one moment more.
I've spent most of the last 14 years going to one lock down facility or another.
Security screenings
Small decrepit rooms that smell like a weird mix of urine and sanitizer.
Damaged walls from whoever was mad last that they won't bother to fix.
Strangers paid minimum wage sitting nearby.
Awkwardness
Pain
Gifts that meet hospital criteria, no strings, nothing sharp, nothing liquid or that could otherwise be cleverly used in the most awful of ways.
The birthday girl excited about things, never the people that come with them.
Aching goodbyes.
Long drives home full of tears.
Curling up in a ball and crying for hours because this is never what I imagined life would be like when I chose to be a mom.
So I'm choosing to stay home today.
She will still have all the birthday things, just not me, not that I would be missed. The things are what matter.
There will still be tears, but I get to skip all the in-between awfulness, all the pretending. I simply cannot do it anymore.


Monday, July 15, 2019

The God of Miracles

I'm tired.
I have a lot of people reminding me of who God is. And I guess I know what they are saying is true.
A God of Miracles. A God who can work wonders. A God who brings all things together for my good.
Ok.
But I'm tired.
Is the miracle that I'm physically present? What kind of miracle is that? Is surviving and living in almost constant aching miraculous? It doesn't feel that way. It feels like torture. I've always been able to swing things back around, find the good. But lately I can't.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Broken or Just Bent

So I got this tree a couple of years ago. It was discounted because it was badly curved in the middle. As most things in my world, it was broken, discarded. I took it home and built a frame around the bottom. From those I attached 2 support straps, one to the middle, and another pulling in the opposite direction a couple feet up. It looked straight but as soon as the supports were removed, it went back to bent and nothing worthy of being called a tree. A few weeks ago I decided to take them off again, and the tree stood tall and straight, leaves reaching to the sky. A couple days later, a series of storms came, and I was worried. I was certain I'd find the tree bent over, but as I opened the door, there it stood, tall and beautiful. The tree healed, it proved artificial supports unnecessary. The tree is just fine on its own, it only needed time.

Saturday, June 08, 2019

Rigoletto

I've recently become a criminal and unlocked my firestick and have access to all the movies.

While most people are looking for the newest not yet released block user, today I searched for a yesterday.

Rigoletto, my sister Andreana's favorite movie. Right there. A click away. And here I sit balling and watching it alone as my kiddos are gone and my Stephen is sleeping.

My favorite quotes from the movie:

There is nothing more mean and ugly in this world than to have a beautiful gift, a loving spirit, and a desire to give and share these things, when there is nobody to share them with. 

Friday, May 24, 2019

My Andramada





To say the last 9 months have been the worst in my life would be an understatement. August 27, 2019 has changed me. Quite honestly, most times, I don't recognize me anymore.

Yes, I have fantastic children, an amazing Stephen, precious friends who fill in the missing places, and the most Earth shattering grandson that ever existed; but, at the end of every day, I lay down, and my heart literally hurts because my sister isn't here.

I know I should be grateful, and at times I am, but most times I'm just mad. Combined with other losses, it feels most times impossible. I genuinely cannot find enough tears.

It's all made worse because I really do have all those people and things above, and I know that I have hurt all of them in this place. They are trying, they are some really phenomenal people, but they are not my Andreana. Or Andramada, as I called her, well, because.

They are not the baby I spent countless hours wrapping their broken leg in Saran wrap before I bathed her.

They aren't the little red headed baby I grieved heavily over as I bounced through foster care.

They aren't the funny little barefooted girl who hid amongst my pile of stuffed animals for photos.

They aren't the young woman who worked so hard to rise above her circumstances.

They aren't the Mama who chose life for her babies when she knew it might kill her.

They aren't my saving grace when life broke me, who gave me one cheddar round, and a sweet tea, every morning when she drove my babies to school.

They aren't the ones who laughed as I cut all the chocolate off my Snickers bars and ate it because the chocolate ratio was off.

They aren't the one who waxed places we should not have waxed, when we clearly should not have been waxing.

They aren't the ones who did the Cupid shuffle with my parrot with me.

They aren't the one who drove way too fast to Gatlinburg to rescue my babies, and piled way too many people in their little ass car, because they could get there faster than me.

They aren't the ones who grabbed my Mama and drove to Charlotte when they knew I had reached my breaking point.

They aren't the ones who sat up with me all night, for days, when I hurt too much to see morning.

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Friday, May 17, 2019

Anchors, Jesus, and The People Who Won't Let Go

                               for·sak·en
                                                      /fərˈsākən/
                                                          abandoned or deserted.
  1. "a journey into forgotten and forsaken places"
Jesus and I aren't friends right now. While we have had a strained relationship for years, losing my sister pretty much upped my resentment to insurmountable and my desire to fix it to nothing.
It's a weird place for me because since I was about 15, no matter what happened, I fell back on Jesus and my faith and the knowledge that "All things work together for my good."
And then my sister died.
And there is no goodness in that.
Not now.
Not ever.
Not for any reason.
It's fucking awful.
And so Jesus and I aren't friends right now.
And before you cast me aside, I want you to remember Jesus in the garden when He cried because He was alone or Jesus on the cross who asked why He had been forsaken.
You aren't forsaken by your friends.
You aren't forsaken even by people who you think love you.
In that moment, Jesus, felt forsaken. And right now, I do too.
I feel that way, but I know something different. I know because of the anchors in my life who refuse to let me forget. They cling tightly to me, no matter how chaotic things get, always reminding me that I am loved.
I can't see them and forget who Jesus is.
I can't feel their love and not know, even if I don't feel it, that He loves me.


Thursday, May 16, 2019

Rape Babies and Other Horrible Things We Say For the Sake of Social Justice

I've taken a break from most social media.
I've managed to ride a great many waves through social justice and am typically able to see both sides, whether I agree or not, without too much personal consequence.
But not this. Not Rape babies or people arguing over which babies are ok to kill and which ones are not.
I am and have always been Pro Life. Not Pro Birth. Pro Life. Life of all colors, economic status, gender, sexuality, nationality, faith, socioeconomic status and on and on and on.
For me, the baby conceived between two people who love one another is no more beautiful that the baby who was unplanned. The healthy baby, no better than the one who will spend a lifetime creating everyday miracles of survival. The baby born in poverty, no less than the ones born with all they will ever need. The ones born in crisis, or of crisis, are just as precious to me than those who come in joy.
The circumstances of ones life do not change the value, before or after someone is born.
I wish I could say that I was born in a marriage of love and respect, but the reality is, it is a miracle I or any of my siblings are here. Some of us didn't make it. Domestic violence ruled my life before I was ever born. BUT I WAS BORN.
I was poor.
Hungry.
Unwanted.
Abused.
Abandoned.
and many many more things I may never say out loud. BUT I AM HERE. And despite all my sometimes fucked-up-ness, I'm glad I'm here.
I'm glad that I am here because my babies are here and now my grandson is here.
None of those things would have happened if my Mama cared about "Rape Babies."

In the Land of No Sadness in Which My Grandson Lives Because His Mama is Amazing

My grandson doesn't know sadness. He doesn't know chaos. He doesn't know pain or loss.

That's not to say he hasn't had his bottle later than the exact moment he wanted it or been pissed when his Mama, Daddy, or one of us didn't move fast enough; because that has absolutely happened.

But it has been momentary. You can literally show him the bottle you are making and he stops crying because he knows it is coming.
You can say to him, "Baby Nina is coming shhhh." And he does. He does hush because he knows I'm coming, or his amazing mom and dad, or other family members are coming. There is no panic, no loss, no grief.

His joy, peace, and trust are blindsiding and fascinating to me. The way he looks at me, even when he is mad, wrecks my heart. He trusts me. He trusts his parents and the world and the honest, humiliating truth is, this is new for me.

I grew up in chaos, darkness, loss and I swore my children never would. I then made decision after decision, from staying when I should have left to parenting children who should have never been in homes, I broke that promise.

While pregnant with my first we literally, and accidentally joined a cult. She was born less than 24 hrs after a 17 hr rush to TN, me crammed in the back of a car with a bassinet and the little bit of things we could cram in the car.

I began being a foster parent before finding out I was pregnant with my second. I should have stopped then, but I didn't. My ill placed pride and faith led me down a very long road, that I am still on, of chaos, brokenness, and heartache.

By the time my son was born, I was a broken woman.  I look at who I even was then and don't recognize her. I cried for hours, wrangled kids who were killing our family pets, and somehow managed to make sure everyone's physical needs were met.

I wish I could say things for better after that, but quite honestly, they got worse.
They got worse and worse until my eyes finally opened and I finally started choosing safety first.

The healing process has been long and awful. The cost to those who never chose has been most times too much and I may never forgive myself.

But that was then, and here we are.

Now we are home, we have home and peace and safety. We have everydays and hope that even if things are hard, there will be things.

His parents and family have worked hard to ensure that his biggest worry is if you don't rock him while you are also patting his back or if he decides to drink 6 ounces instead of his normal 4.

It is priceless and beautiful and so foreign I find myself constantly trying to sort it out.
And now my grandson is here and there is no sorting. There is no question. He is joy. He is the embodiment of home, safe, forever.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

RS&KM #2 Your First Mama's Day Without Your Mama

I genuinely don't know what to say here. I love words. They are my favorite play things. Yet, when I try to grasp what today is like for you, I can't find any. When I try to convey what I'm thinking or what to share with you, I find only tears. I'm just so very sorry. This week should not have happened.
Especially not on this week.
I love you.
I'm sorry.
Auntie Jess

Mother's Day Rollercoasters


Thursday, May 09, 2019

RS&KM #1

Hello Kiddos,
I'm all out of words right now, but have to start somewhere.
It will be a few years before you see this, and that thought makes my everything hurt, but I am resting on someday.
Someday you will be older. Someday you will know just how many people were around who loved you and wanted to be in your life. Someday we will stay up too late and share silly stories about your mama. Someday we will. I promise.
Love,
Auntie Jess

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Prayers

One of the things I don't quite think people of faith consider is the alternative to their statements.
For example, I prayed and God healed me, or by faith our home was saved when the neighborhood burned down.

Are those who are sick not praying hard enough? If their home burned, did God not hear them?  Do they not have faith?

Is my sister dead because the morning Sarah called me and said, Andreana is unconscious, please pray, EMS is on the way, I or my family, didn't pray hard enough?

Were my adopted children abused because no one prayed for them?

Do people get or die of cancer because they don't have enough faith?!? 

Theodicy by Jude Morrissey

Theodicy

There are several human responses to suffering – whether the swift calamity of a tornado or the steady crush of generational poverty – but there is only one truly Christian response. The problem is that we tend to get confused about which responses are human and which is Christian, because we ask the wrong question.
The wrong question is: “Why do bad things happen to good people?” We tend to restate it into “Christianese” as: “Why does God allow bad things to happen to me?” or “Why did God spare me and allow this other to suffer?”
One human response to this question is to suppose that there is no God or that God is helpless or uncaring – that the world is driven by mere chance, and there is nothing to be done to prevent bad things or secure good things for ourselves and others. It doesn’t matter what we do, so we might as well focus on being as happy as we can while we wait for random events to impact our lives. This is the type of response Jesus warns against in Luke 12:16-20 – the decision to “’relax, eat, drink, be merry’” [Luke 12:19b] when times are good, and to hoard our abundance against future trouble. It is directly antithetical to belief in a God that created humanity for a purpose and who cares for our well-being. It cannot be accepted as a Christian response.
Another human response is to assume that good things happen if you’re good enough, and bad things happen because you messed up. If only you’d prayed harder, given more, memorized the right verses…this would not have happened. Or, if you are not suffering, the temptation is to tell yourself (and often others, very loudly) that it is because you have prayed enough, given enough, studied enough, and God loves you enough to spare you trouble – and that anyone suffering simply isn’t enough. God speaks out against this type of thinking in Isaiah 1:11-15, going so far as to say, “When you stretch out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen…” [Isaiah 1:15]. Praying, giving, and studying are all important practices – but they are not safeguards against suffering, and God does not accept them in place of the true Christian response. Neither should we offer them as proofs or procurers of God’s love.  
A third human response is to offer platitudes that absolve the speaker from any responsibility – to say that what has happened is “God’s plan” and “has a place in God’s will”. God does not plan or enact suffering – suffering is a byproduct of a world out of relationship with God. Indeed, “[w]ith all wisdom and insight he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” [Ephesians 1:8b-10] Suffering is part of this world – but this world is ending, and God’s kingdom is coming, where “’he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.’” [Revelation 21:4] God does not plan or will suffering, but God does acknowledge that suffering is a part of this world; the plan is to eventually do away with it. For now, even the righteous must expect to suffer with patience while working towards the accomplishment of God’s will – “Therefore, let those suffering in accordance with God’s will entrust themselves to a faithful Creator, while continuing to do good.” [1 Peter 4:19]
The ultimate source of suffering is too big for us – the ripple effects of relationships broken by sin (relationships with God, with each other, with the rest of creation) are too massive, too entwined. It was too much for us to solve; but it has been solved and is in the process of being solved and will one day be solved through the mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection. We cannot wrap our minds entirely around a problem that is too big for humanity to grasp. What we can and ought to do is determine the appropriate individual and communal response to suffering.
This gets us to the true Christian response – beginning with the right question. The question we ought to be asking is, “How are we to respond in the face of this suffering?”
We have clear direction from God on what this response looks like in practice. What does God expect from us in the face of others’ suffering? “Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.” [Isaiah 1:16-17] It is not right to offer up platitudes of “this must be God’s will” – we are called, as Christians, to meet the need wherever it might be, to see suffering and do what we can to end it. “If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,’ and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that?” [James 2:15-16] When we - as Christians, the Body of Christ – offer anything less than everything we can to end systemic suffering or meet the needs of sudden calamity, we fail to serve Christ in others, as Jesus told us in Matthew 25:31-46. “’Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’” [Matthew 25:45b] And, when we are ourselves suffering, we ought to be able to lean on our fellow Christians for real support, as the Early Church shows us in Acts: “All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.” [Acts 2:44-45]
Insofar as individual Christians or the Church as a whole has failed to truly and materially meet the needs of the suffering, offering up purely human, shallow responses instead, we have failed to live up to our ministry as Christ’s ambassadors of reconciliation in the world [2 Corinthians 5:20]. Let us put away from us, then, the wrong question and its human responses, and take up the question of what we ought to do as Christ’s representatives, instead.
“Almighty God, who created us in your image: Grant us grace fearlessly to contend against evil and to make no peace with oppression; and, that we may reverently use our freedom, help us to employ it in the maintenance of justice in our communities and among the nations, to the glory of your holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.” – Book of Common Prayer, 260

Unauthorized Grieving