Sunday, August 29, 2010

Augusts (or you are beautiful)

God told me I was beautiful today. I believe him.

I woke up this morning feeling completely off. Someone did something that I didn't like and I was pissed at them. More than that, I was attempting to practice the Sabbath and felt a bit like the forces of evil were doing all they could to thwart my efforts. Of course, I blamed myself.

In the car on the way to church Jermaine and I bickered about which route was better, mostly because we were running late. When we finally got to church I felt very nit-picky and irritable.

During communion I went up to one of our pastors. She asked how I was doing and I gave her the brief, 30 second version. Not good, but for no good reason, as far as I can tell. It seems whenever I try to practice the Sabbath, I instantly stumble upon all these reasons to be stressed or upset. She smiled gently, hugged me and exclaimed, "Brandy, you are beautiful." A timely song called "By your side" by Tenth Avenue North began playing and I tried to hold back my tears.

(The video takes a little while to load so you may want to push play and then pause and wait a minute before pushing play again to let it load.)

I walked back to my chair feeling like a total mess. I gave up trying not to cry. As I sobbed I thought, "Normal people don't cry this much." Jermaine rubbed my back lovingly.

After the service I went on a prayer walk. Our church is blessed with 63 or so acres of land and the community has created a beautiful prayer walk through the woods with 17 contemplative stations.

As I walked I thought, "I am not cool, calm and composed (like other people). I wear my heart on my sleeve. And though I believe that I could become those things. I know it wouldn't be real and so I am glad not to try. Still, I am so open and my feelings are so exposed. And though I feel that this is one of my best qualities, sometimes I wish it were not so. Because, of course, normal people don't cry this much."

I thought about how I am embarking on several new ventures all at once. I am now a homeschool mom, a seminarian, and a waitress. A teacher, a student and a server. I am excited and nervous - feeling lots of pressure not to screw up. Each of these new roles have been heavily prayed for - by me and by others. Still, I feel watchful eyes on me - waiting to see if I fail.

I thought also about this time last year. It was the beginning of my busiest, saddest semester. And I started it off on quite the wrong foot. I cleaned for a friend the Sunday before school began. We worked until 9 or 10pm that night and I was completely spent. I got up early the next morning and rushed off into horrible DC traffic - and found out exactly how long and aggravating my commute was going to be. I think I may have even missed my first class. The rest of the semester remained just as busy. It was as if I started working that Sunday in August and didn't sit down to rest until sometime around Christmas. No wonder I was depressed.

I thought about how I feel a pull to distance myself from the way things began last year. Which explains why I felt so strongly about having a successful Sabbath today.

But, honestly, I do feel like it's different. I think there were things on my plate last year that needed to be let go. And, sadly, not only did I cling to them, but I added more to my plate! And so, partly because of that experience, I feel a deep desire to be humble enough and open to being wrong. At this very moment I do not think I am taking on too much. But, if I get into the swing of things and realize that I have, I pray for the courage to say so.

I thought about how these new adventures could turn out to be really positive or really negative. And if the history of my life is any indication, either way will be meaningful - God can teach through the good or the bad. Still, I want things to go well, of course. But I was thinking today that I might be working with the wrong definition of "going well". I have an idea in my head of the way I think these things should play out. It is not so much a question of if they don't go my way, it's more like when. And the true determining factor is not whether things go the way I would like them to, but rather, how I react when they don't. And so, effectually, I get to choose, to some degree, whether these experiences will turn out positive or negative. That's quite amazing, isn't it?

I walked and prayed and cried and praised and ranted. I even did a little Theophostic Prayer on myself. I sorted through some of the lies I've been believing.

"I am a mess."
"Normal people don't cry this much."
"I'm just not good enough."

I asked Jesus if he would tell me his truth in regards to these lies. I didn't feel or hear anything at first. I told him I wanted to know, not just intellectually, but experientially.

I heard, "You are beautiful."

It was not audible. Just a thought in my head. At first I didn't connect it to the prayer I was praying. But then I remembered what my pastor had said. And the other day on the metro landing, next to the emergency lever, was a little sign.

Look at the little sticker on the left.
And then I remembered this shot (below), from about a year ago (I know because I'm still carrying my "summer" bag). Now, at first, I thought the person that wrote this was talking to Jesus. I thought it was compelling and, well, beautiful. But later I saw that on the other side of the bench in the same handwriting someone had written something like, "Damn, you're gorgeous." So, I realized that this picture was actually a bit blasphemous. But, it makes me laugh and I think in this context that it's still quite compelling.

I needed that. I can't explain why. But, for some reason I needed to hear that I was beautiful. And Jesus knew it and so he told me. Wow.

That is beautiful.

I know this blog is becoming overly long, but I would like to ask you to please bear with me for another moment or so.


I love creating New Years Resolutions. January is always a powerful time of renewal and reassessment. But I realized today, having been born in August, that this month is truly my New Year. Thinking about last August got me thinking about the ones previous. And suddenly it occurred to me how pivotal and difficult they have been.

  • 2009 - the beginning of my last year as an undergrad and the worst semester of my entire college career.
  • 2008 - 2 months after getting married I began my first semester at the University of Maryland (which seemed gigantic and scary at the time). Also, I was hoping I was pregnant. When it turned out that I was not, I fell into a bad depression that lasted for about a month (not a great way to start a marriage). This depression was also the beginning of my weight re-gain.
  • 2007 - I thought Jermaine was going to propose on my birthday. He thought that was too cliché and waited until Sadie's birthday the following December (of course, I didn't know that at the time and was quite bummed). He did buy me a bike, though, which was pretty awesome.
  • 2006 - 2 months after moving to Maryland (a hugely pivotal experience) I started my first full time semester at Montgomery College. 6 days before school started, Jermaine and I broke up. I was so depressed I had to force myself to go to school.
  • 2005 - 2 months after I met Jermaine and 1 month after the discovery that Sadie was being hurt. I felt conflicted, depressed and scared but determined to take the necessary steps to protect her. At the same time, we were being surrounded by love and prayer.
  • 2004 - 1 month after getting a DWI and 2 months before I made the commitment to change my life and the way I was living (and follow Jesus). Again, I was incredibly depressed and more than that, I felt like a complete loser.
  • 2003 - George and I got in a huge fight and broke up. I confessed that I had been cheating on him. We ended up getting back together and trying to work through things (we eventually broke up for good the following April). To say I was depressed would have been a gross understatement.
  • 2002 - I turned 21. We couldn't afford our apartment so we had to move back in with my parents. 
  • 2001 - I was pregnant. I hated being pregnant. I was sick the entire time. And scared of being pregnant so young. I didn't know it then, but as you can see, my life was headed downhill that August. I thought it was bad then but I had no idea how horrible it would get.
  • 2000 - I started working at Chili's and met the man that would become my daughter's father.
  • 1999 - 2 months after barely graduating. I was happy to finally be 18 so that I could do whatever I wanted. I thought it was the beginning of a very exciting adult life. I would later realize that it was the beginning of the realization that when left to my own devices and desires, I will screw myself up royally and hurt a lot of other people in the process. I did meet my birth mom, Cathy and my brother Jeremy - thanks to my parents. That was amazing and wonderful. Though I'm sad that they met me at the beginning of my worst.
So, August has been a historically depressing month for me, evidently. It helpful to look back though, and to realize how far I've come and remember where I'm coming from. These experiences have shaped me into the person I am today. The person, who Jesus thinks, is beautiful.

If you've read this far then I thank you, I pity you, I invite you to join me for the rest of the adventure, and I promise to work on being short and sweet. ;)


Jess said...

I love this. You ARE beautiful - inside and out and I am so in love with the story that God has woven with your life.

As I was reading through your Augusts, it occurred to me that we met in 2004. How different we both were!

It's no stretch to say that we are far more the women God created us to be today than we were then. And I'm glad I'm not the only one who took the long way around. ;-)


Priscilla said...

I love you. You are so amazing and inspiring and brave.