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When I was a young girl, my Mom showed me a picture of my Nanny (her mother) as a child with her family. She showed me the people who had committed suicide; the people who were alcoholics, the people who had fought battles and lost.
She looked at me and said: “The cycle stops here. With us.” She told me and she hugged me, she said we were going to be different, that we would succeed where others failed.
I lost her, too. Just a few years after that conversation.
I sometimes wonder if in her fight to escape she forgot that she also had to fight to live.
There are echos of generational brokenness scattered across our culture. I’m not talking about “generational curses” that were talked about in the Old Testament. I’m talking about an alcoholic family producing alcoholic children because that is all they know. Or an abusive husband who raises a son who is an abuser too.
Generational brokenness is everywhere when you start to look. I see it when I see local stories of families destroyed by two generations worth of bad decisions that cumulate in tragic loss. I hear echos of it in the voice of a man who shoots his daughter and 6 grandchildren. I saw it when my father shot my mother and I see it when I look at my husband and my children and I know that we have to fight.
I can’t speak to your story – I can only speak about mine. And I know that in mine there are generations and generations of brokenness. I bring alcoholism, suicide and domestic violence with me into my marriage with my husband. He brings alcoholism and bi-polar depression.
We bring ourselves, and written on our spirits are fingerprints of the past.
For better or for worse we are children of the generation before us.
Where then, is our hope?
What then, can save us?
I don’t have all the answers. I can only guess. But here are a few things I can tell you.
- Being aware is crucial – I grew up knowing that my parents were fighting against the bad things they had learned from their parents, just like their parents surely had fought against the bad things they learned from theirs. Each generation the combination changed. I didn’t see my parents alcoholism until the last few years of their life, but I grew up seeing their domestic violence (not that I realized it at the time). I grew up from age 5 knowing the effects of suicide. Being aware helps you actively fight against it.
- You have to actively fight against it – I can only speculate, but I suspect that my parents actively fought against the errors of their predecessors for a very long time until they slowly stopped fighting as hard. And eventually, day by day, they got a little bit more lax, until finally they stopped. And it was when they stopped that darkness took over and it wasn’t long before they went too far and lost their lives. Fighting is the only option.
- It’s not easy –
Sometimesit is exhausting.
- Where there is brokenness, grace abounds – God is, thankfully, much bigger than the broken situation we find ourselves in. Nothing is too shattered for Him. Romans 8:1 says “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
2 Corinthians 2:17 says “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
I don’t know if I can successfully fight the brokenness I’ve learned from my parents. But I do know that I’m going to fight it at every corner, at every turn, and work hard to stay aware of it. I’m going to keep myself accountable to my husband, and vice-versa, because together we are stronger.
And at the beginning of every day, I’m going to try to lean on God. Because it is exhausting to fight, and he is strong. Life makes me despair, but with him I feel hope.
Ephesians 6:10 reminds me to “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.”
He is our greatest hope.
Last years, if you’re so inclined.
Where were you when 2012 began?
At Uncle Scott and Aunt Tina’s house. Benjamin stayed up almost to midnight and LOVED the fireworks. He kept calling them BOOM.
Who were you with?
Justin, Benjamin, Tina, Scott, Serena, Logan and Mandy. We had a LOT of fun!
Was 2012 a good year for you?
Mostly. It was a pretty insane year – LOTS of changes – LOTS of projects – LOTS of weddings – Did I mention lots of changes? Yeah. BUSY.
What countries/states did you visit?
California to see my sisters and best friend get married, and Mississippi to visit some of Justin’s family.
Did you keep your new years’ resolutions?
YES! I am SMOKE FREE! Yee-haw!!! But, I’m not really sure I did very well with living a life of balance. This year was really, really crazy.
Did anyone close to you give birth?
Jake and Reba had their baby Feb 14th, 2012! No one else super close to me, but there’s some friends I have made at church with young ones, but the babies were born before I met the parents, so I’m not counting those.
Did anyone close to you die?
For the first time in a long time, no deaths of anyone close to me.
What date from 2012 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
Hm, Teresa and James got married March 3rd, and Amy and Keith got married May 5th, so I think those days will be remembered fondly each year.
What did you do in 2012 that you’d never done before?
Matron of honor (x2!), flew with a 2 year old, become an instructor, taught an 8 hour class, served as a vice-chair on a committee, attended my first “gala”, received my first real promotion, became a supervisor, ran a food truck at a charity event, stood by my husband while he quit a job he had grown to be dissatisfied with, and most recently I sat on the couch while someone I love very, very dearly told me they had been diagnosed with cancer.
Did you have fun in 2012?
Yes. Definitely. I also spent most of it exceptionally tired.
What do you wish you’d done more of?
I wish I had trusted God more with my money. I’ve stressed out unnecessarily. No, things aren’t perfect, but they’re not terrible either.
What do you wish you’d done less of?
What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 28, and I worked, and my birthday this year sucked pretty royally. My coworker was irritated at me, which made me irritated at her. The only upside was that my husband bought me a really awesome old desk.
What did you want and get?
To find Cherry Lake!!!
What did you want and not get?
To put some work into my savings account. Life happens though.
Whose behavior merited celebration?
Two people come to mind. My husband, for being my rock, my motivator, and my calm in the storm. My husband, also, for having the strength to quit his job and step out in faith to be the best stay-at-home-dad that Benjamin could have.
This year I’d like to add my mother-in-law, who is an incredibly strong woman who is dealing with a cancer diagnosis with grace and trust in God.
Whose behavior made you appalled, depressed, or sad?
I’m usually very non-specific here. However, I’ve witnessed so many people recently be so ugly and judgmental in a negative way. I’m still not getting specific, on purpose. Can we just agree to love and respect each other despite our differences? Respect means the most when it’s towards someone you disagree with. Anyone can love someone who agrees with you. It takes real strength to love – truly love – someone who vehemently disagrees with you.
Did somebody treat you badly in 2012?
Who were some new people you met?
New coworkers, new church people.
What was your favorite month of 2012?
May. My trip to California took up half of that month and it was pure awesomeness.
What was your favorite moment of the year?
Again, as usual, several:
Toasting James and Teresa at their wedding. I cried, but only a little.
Toasting Amy and Keith at their wedding. I cried, again.
Finding Cherry Lake with my sister Jean. That priceless moment when she screamed out the window of her car in excitement.
Finishing up my first SAFVIC for TCPs class. It was pretty amazing.
The look of relief on my husband’s face when we finally decided it was time for him to quit his job.
Getting the phone call with my promotion job offer.
Any of the number of times my son squeezed me and told me he loved me soooo much!
What was your least favorite moment of the year?
Listening to one of my officers call for assistance. It was a recording, and I already knew the outcome when I heard it (that they were all OK), but listening to it gave me goosebumps and shook me to my boots. I love these guys, especially the ones in that recording, and hearing it made me realize how close I came to losing one of them.
What was your favorite TV program?
I worked my way through Monk this year, and I have to say, it was awesome. I totally loved it! Very well acted and scripted. Got a little boring at parts, but not too bad overall. I tried working through the Mentalist next, and while it’s good it wasn’t able to hold my attention in the long run. Now I’m happily watching Dr. Who reruns, when I get the chance.
What was the best book you read?
I reread the Hobbit and that was pretty awesome. I read several training books at work and enjoyed those, but other than work related stuff and blogs I haven’t really had a chance to read anything.
What were your favorite films of this year?
The Avengers and The Hobbit, and yes, I know how nerdy I am.
What was your favorite video game you played this year?
Borderlands 2. I really like Tiny Farm too (I play it on my phone) but Borderlands 2 is the game I play with my hubby, so it wins.
What was your favorite new technology/application?
No clue. I’m getting too old/busy/bored to keep up with it…
What was your greatest musical discovery?
KRISPY KREME! Just kidding. Epic Rap Battles of History! I show everyone when they come visit at my house. It’s becoming a tradition.
What was the best thing you bought?
My desk, and my hubby bought it, not me. I love it!
What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Promotion at work!!! I have worked very, very, very hard for this position and I’m VERY proud of myself.
What was your biggest failure?
Gaining back all the weight I lost last year. Fail.
Did you suffer illness or injury?
Yeah. I messed my leg up at the end of the year, and allergies continue to be the bane of my existence certain times of the year.
Where did most of your money go?
What kept you sane?
What political issue stirred you the most?
Who did you miss?
My sisters and Amy. Leaving them in California is very difficult each year I get to visit.
What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Compared to this time last year, are you:
I. happier or sadder? I don’t know, but I never know. This has been a pretty stressful year, and my mother-in-law is facing lots of health issues. I’m about the same, I suppose.
ii. thinner or fatter? Fatter. Ugh. So mad at myself.
iii. richer or poorer? Definitely poorer. But, we’re a 1 income family and still surviving. It’s worth the trade-off.
Did you fall in love in 2012?
Every year I say “over and over and over again” but every year it’s true. I love my husband so much, he’s my best friend. I am incredibly blessed.
Did you lose anything important this year?
Immediate family being cancer free, I suppose.
What was your proudest moment of 2012?
My husband deciding to quit his job. It took a lot. I’m very proud of him.
What was your most embarrassing moment of 2012?
Having to admit that the reason for my ankle injury is because I made a stupid, stupid decision to run in the dark in the grass.
(On a scale of: Very Good, Good, Fairly Good, Fairly Bad, Bad, Very Bad)
• Relational Health – Very Good
• Emotional Health – Fairly Good (less good than last year. Too many little things stressing me)
• Physical Health – Fairly bad (Ankle. Nose. Headaches. Need to visit a chiropractor. Weight gain. Lack of exercise most of November/December due to ankle injury.)
• Social Health – Good (I’ve hung out at least a few times a month with at least 1 friend, and participated in several church functions.)
• Spiritual Health – Fairly Good (I’m still a lame slacker, but I’m learning to trust God more.)
• Intellectual Health – Good (Teaching and attending training FTW)
• Financial Health – Fairly Bad (I’ll just say, sometimes there’s not a lot you can do to help this one – maybe next year!)
In the future:
How will you be spending Christmas?
At least part of it at the hospital with my mother-in-law. We’ll bring the presents to her! The rest of it with my brother and his wife and my niece.
How will you be spending New Years?
Working the day before and the day of… so… sleeping!
What would you like to have in 2013 that you lacked in 2012?
Haha, a second kid, maybe?
What are your plans for 2013?
Get back on track with my health.
Will you make any new years resolutions for 2013?
Last year I resolved to stop smoking, and I did. This year, I haven’t decided yet. I think I’ll resolve not to buy any candy at the store. Or something like that. Something else challenging and health related. Maybe do 20 push ups a day? Hmmm. We’ll see.
Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2012:
The world is broken. Evil exists in this world. There is not really a whole lot we can do on a legislative level to stop evil. We can’t increase laws and get evil people to stop being evil – sorry, but we just can’t. It won’t work. On an individual level, I think we all need to do our very best at trying to saturate the world around us with as much love and goodness as is possible. You can turn something like the Newtown tragedy into a sound bite for a law you want to pass, but I don’t think that’s the best we can do. I think we can do better. I am choosing instead not to debate gun control (or even mental health, in spite of how much as I am passionate about it) and choosing instead to try to increase my output of good into my community. We can debate gun control and mental health another day; I think an appropriate response to this type of evil is not legislation, but love.
Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:
And in despair I bowed my head:
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.”
I just had to share this quote because, well, I think it needs to be read. And reread. Sarah Bessey is one of the few reasons I haven’t completely given up on reading blogs. Some days there’s too much anger and misunderstood words on the internet, and she is a peace to me in the storm. I love her writing, so let me share what she wrote about the Shikh Temple shooting.
Hard conversations are coming, perhaps legislation, around gun control, about hatred, racism, religion, about our culture’s glorification of violence, our nationalism, and the divisions between us, yes, those conversations need to happen, but not just now: now is the time for grieving, now is the time for loving, for burying, for mourning with those who mourn, for gathering humanity together, and for compassion.
I believe that it is precisely because of my Christian faith that I am sitting my heart down, mourning with those that mourn, grieving and honouring, loving and praying. Love casts out fear, and may the mouths of the faithful be filled with words of Love and hope and peace, never fear.
Thank you, Sarah, for your beautiful words.
So for lent, all the things I gave up, I failed at. I did not increase my prayer time, I did not read my bible more. I did not grow closer to God. I did not stop checking facebook, I just stopped posting. I did not cut out my sweets, I just didn’t go out of my way to eat them. I did not stop watching TV with my son, the whole family got sick and that was all we could do. With just two weeks left I’m calling this Lent a spectacular disaster.
I suppose, though, that if I look at it honestly – I did become more aware of my utter brokenness. I am now, more than ever, aware that I fail at being good on my own. So I guess it wasn’t a complete disaster. In fact, I suppose, I kind of actually accomplished something in my failure. Or maybe I’m just saying that to feel better. Who knows?
I guess I’ll just keep being me, and keep trying (and failing) and eventually, maybe, I’ll get the hang of this thing called faith. If not, it will probably continue to be quite an adventure…
I think this year I will observe Lent. I found a great set of questions on Rachel Held Evan’s blog that helped me make the decision to do so. I really like her (and her blog), even more now that I know she agrees with one of my basic tenets I hold close to my heart: that really, everyone is broken.
I had already been thinking about Lent this year, thinking about changing a behavior, thinking about the timing, thinking a lot of things. When I saw that RHE’s feed had a post on ideas for Lent I was all ears. The first question I read on her list almost knocked the breath out of me:
When I wake up on Resurrection Sunday morning, how will I be different?
Well. In all the times I have observed Lent, I don’t think I ever took the time to ask myself that question.
Growing up in a Pentecostal church gave me a pretty decent grasp of the bible, but did not help me learn anything about the history of the church. I mean that seriously. We never learned about the differences between catholic and protestant, or about how communion is different in different churches, or why some people baptise and some sprinkle. For the most part that stuff wasn’t even on my radar at all.
Over the past, say, 10 years or so, I have met many people who have opened my eyes to a different way of looking at my faith: a way that is steeped in history and culture. While I find it creates for a much messier faith, I think it is also much more beautiful. Over those ten years I have attended pentecostal churches, non-denominational churches, emerging churches, catholic churches, episcopal churches, baptist churches, and methodist churches. Each one had its purpose to increase my education and help shape me into the person I am now. Each church helped shape my faith in a different way.
So now, even though I attend a baptist church, I still keep in mind the little bit of education on Church traditions and history I’ve gotten over the years. For instance, even though my current church doesn’t follow it, I love the church calendar. I fell in love with it when I attended one of the Episcopal churches in Houston. I love how each church season creates a new focus in your walk with Christ. How we focus on Jesus’ sacrifice building up to Easter and we celebrate his birth in Advent. The first time I received ashes on Ash Wednesday I spent the rest of the evening feeling like I was walking on holy ground – or better yet, as if my body was marked as holy. I never knew there could be so much holiness in an action, but I found that there was.
While I try to observe the church calendar I don’t always have it all figured out. Like others, I’m sure, I am learning as I go. I always viewed Lent as a way to put myself in Jesus’ shoes when he fasted 40 days in the wilderness. I knew it was supposed to make me a better person and draw me closer to God, but those goals have always been pretty undefined.
The question: “How will I be different?” makes me look at Lent as more than just the very generic “self-improvement” or “exercise in holiness.” Suddenly I don’t want to look at Lent either of those things, or even as a time for me to give up my bad habits (I should give those up anyways) but more as a time to remove something from my life in the hope that after 40 days without it I might possibly be more Christ-like. Suddenly my priority has shifted from looking internally in a selfish way, but looking internally in a holy way. I like this.
With all this in mind, I’ll spend the next few days praying and trying to decide what to “give up.” I think I’m going to go to one of the local churches that has a Ash Wednesday service, too, since I don’t think mine will have one. I don’t know that I necessarily “look forward” to the next few weeks, but I do hope they are helpful to me in the long run. We shall see.
She is running
A hundred miles an hour in the wrong direction
I would like someone to write a song, please. I don’t have the skill for songwriting. I would like you to model it after “Does Anybody Hear Her?” by Casting Crowns. I would like you to tell a different side of the story.
She is trying but the canyon’s ever widening
In the depths of her cold heart
The song is about a broken woman who wants love and acceptance and help from the people of the church but does not get the help she needs. I would like you to write a song about the people who offer love and acceptance and help to a broken person… to no avail.
So she sets out on another misadventure just to find
She’s another two years older
And she’s three more steps behind
I would like you to talk about how heartbreaking it is to sit beside them and watch them run in the wrong direction.
Does anybody hear her? Can anybody see?
Or does anybody even know she’s going down today?
I would like you to talk about having an opportunity to help them. About how scary it is when they move in to your world and how happy and hopeful you are that this time, this time it will be different.
Under the shadow of our steeple
With all the lost and lonely people
Searching for the hope that’s tucked away in you and me
Does anybody hear her? Can anybody see?
Sometimes we do see. Sometimes we see the hurting, and the broken, and the bruised. Sometimes we say to ourselves: Hey, we should be like Jesus and try to help them. Sometimes they ask for help and you see an opportunity.
She is yearning for shelter and affection
That she never found at home
So we invite them into our world. We take them to church. We hug them and cry with them. We feed them and clothe them and pray for them and with them. Sometimes it works for a while.
She is searching for a hero to ride in
To ride in and save the day
Sometimes you tell them their worth and they nod, and they smile, but they don’t believe it. You tell them to have faith in their own worth. You tell them that they are God’s precious and loved child, and their lips say “I know” while their heart can’t believe it yet.
You pray for them. You kneel at your bed and you cry for their soul. You pray that God will give you the words you need to reach them in the midst of their brokenness.
And in walks her prince charming
And he knows just what to say
Momentary lapse of reason
And she gives herself away
And then… then they tell you that they’re leaving. That they’ve found another path, another way out, one that doesn’t involve the hard work of facing the pain. They’re leaving so they don’t have to deal with someone loving them, but telling them that they need to make better (and admittedly more difficult) choices.
If judgment looms under every steeple
If lofty glances from lofty people
Can’t see past her scarlet letter
And we’ve never even met her
You watch them go. Despite the sacrifice of time and energy you watch them leave. You know it’s fruitless. You know they’re not ready to change. You’ve seen for some time now that your argument was ineffective.
One of the worst parts about this, in my opinion, is that when it’s all said and done there is a small part of you that is relieved it’s over. Don’t get me wrong: the overwhelming emotion is grief and sadness. But there is also relief tinged with guilt – relief that your time of sacrifice is over, and guilt at being relieved. How can you be relieved they’re going back to their broken life? But you’re human, and you’re glad that this means less stress and sacrifice to you and your family.
And there’s a bit of doubt. Did I try hard enough? Did I show them enough love? Could I have changed the situation a bit and had more success?
The important thing to remember here, and the thing I have to remind myself, is that I can’t fix anyone. I can’t make them better. Only God can. That is what I hold on to. When I feel all these emotions so strongly, I remind myself that God is the great physician and we are his broken church. Ultimately, He is the one who heals. We just point people in His direction.
So, dear reader, if you decide to write a song about one of the other sides of “Does Anybody Hear Her” then please make sure you talk about how in the end, God is the great transformer…not us. I know I’m asking a lot, and I know you probably won’t write a song about such a sad and helpless place, but my request has been made.
I’d like a song that reminds me that sometimes we fail, but at least we tried.
(all italicized words from “Does Anybody Hear Her” by Casting Crowns from their album Lifesong.)