So I go to a church that started in a legitimate bar where the pastors would buy you a Gin and Tonic on your first week there and aren’t threatened if you don’t agree with them on every single thing. The first week I ever went I pounded a breakfast pizza during the message, had a drink during worship and realized that I can in fact have my beer and worship too.
The church’s mission statement is “We exist to question, believe and chase after meaning together.” HOW FRICKING BEAUTIFUL IS THAT. The pastors are one million percent sold out for Jesus but they don’t believe in forcing their beliefs on others, but rather creating safe spaces to talk about the divine.
In addition to creating an incredible community they also have created hilarious children. All of their children are white and I genuinely love them all which is a fete. While being one of the most genuine and kind human beings I know, pastor #1 has the male equivolent of resting bitch face. His scowl was passed onto his nugget daughter, Annabelle, since birth. Along with her baby scowl is her sass. Basically if you’re not Daddy or Joseph or someone else who owns a dog you gotta work hard to be acknowledged. One day she told me she loved me, granted it was prompted by her mom, but still it made me feel whole and complete in ways I didn’t know I needed.
Pastor #2 now has two children, Layne and Wesley. Throught his wife’s entire pregnancy with Wes I campaigned harder than either presidential candidate for his name to be Kelsey. Contrary to popular belief Kelsey is a gender neutral name, means brave, and could potentially land him in a starring role if producers ever decide to remake the series Frasier.
Layne is literally joy personified. Her little ponytails stick out perfectly like a toddler’s hair is supposed to and her eyes sparkle. Not in the cheesy she has pretty eyes way - but literally she blinks them open with excitement and the entire room lights up. She has the world’s most precious lisp and her favorite response to everything is “Sure!” -- but due to her little impediment it sounds like “SIR!”
Layne, do you want goldfish? SIR! Layne, do you want to sit on my lap? SIR! Layne, do you (fill in the blank with the most mundane task gere)? SIR!
I die every time trying to hold back my giggles. Usually choking back laughter I say something along the lines of “Okay! Let’s go (activity here)!” Thinking of how adorable her excitement is.
The last few months have been a bit of a shit storm for me in my personal life. I was duped by the ultimate douche bag: emotionally gutted and skinned, my heart was left out to shrivel up and die. Then to make things even better my ex decided to send the jerky remnants of my heart through a paper shredder by posting pictures of himself and the girl he cheated on me with. When that STILL wasn’t enough, he felt the need to inform me that she moved four hours from her home to my city. Fantastic. So happy for you.
I spoke to my aunt and was looking into taking a little trip to get out of the city because I felt suffocated by the moving van loads of bullshit the two of them were dumping in my hometown and I needed some fresh air. I’m the worst driver that either you or I know so a road trip was out of the question. Found a handful of domestic flights around the $350 benchmark but realized that I’d also be paying for accommodation and spending in USD and when I did the math it was actually going to be cheaper to go to South Africa. Pro tip: if you happen to get your heart broken don’t waste time looking anywhere else, just go to the wine Capitol of the world.
My best friend also had a birthday coming up, so I planned the world’s best surprise present: me. I told almost no one until the last week or so and then told my people in America and like three people in SA. If you’re going to pull something like this, you can’t risk some well-meaning friend spilling the beans. I booked the ticket from Chicago to Cape Town and it had a 9 ½ hour layover in Istanbul which was just fine by me because I’ve always wanted to go to the Middle East and now I got to FO FREE.
Nan -- one of my half dozen adoptive parents -- dropped me at the airport, hugged me and I stepped into the airport dragging my suitcase behind me. I heard this little small voice in my heart ask me: “Are you ready?!” and without skipping a beat Layne popped into my head with her infamous “SIR!” and together Jesus and I laughed out loud and while he choked down his giggles He said “I’m gonna teach you how to love like Me again.”
The very first time I went to Tembaletu -- the school I moved my life to SA for to work with children with special needs -- I didn’t feel like God actually told me to move there. I felt like He put it on my heart to love the kids like He loved them which at that stage of my life required an international move. The reason I moved back to America was the same -- unconditional love, extravagant love, love that fights for the wellbeing of the helpless required that I move back stateside to talk about the issues they face. So I did.
But here’s the deal: sometimes we mislabel things or don’t recognize poor quality when we see it. Like when you try Sushi for the first time at some restaurant that "specializes" in seven cuisines and you're honestly lucky to not have food poisoning and you think it's good because it's hard to go wrong with rice, salmon, wasabi and ginger. But then you go to a BOMB place run with legitimate Japanese staff and you realize THIS IS FUCKING SUSHI. That's what happened with how I view love.
We all have interactions with others that shape our perceptions of love and what its supposed to look like. Disney tells us it’s a fairytale, will require zero work or effort and that singing mice will make our wardrobe dreams come true. Most Christian books tell us if we keep our legs closed long enough and are patient it’ll magically happen, we’ll have perfect families and will be blessed with 401k’s and white picket fences. Most humans view it through the lens of how they receive and experience love. So in my case, I’d taken this broken relationship and unintentionally, subconsciously reassigned love as something that would hurt you, leave you the moment things got difficult, a manipulative force, something that couldn’t be trusted, something that would destroy and not help and it was ruining me. I became mean. I always have bitchy moment for which I am grateful for grace but somewhere along the lines I’d started caring about others a LOT less.
So the next few blog posts are dedicated to the moments over the last 12 days when God has taken my perceptions of what I’d mis-labled love as and said “No, no, no baby girl. That’s not love! This is…”
Grace is a process we need to walk out. As is healing, as is trust, as is forgiveness, as is mercy. It’s not a destination that we get to call up our uber drivers for and arrive at. It’s a shit ton of work, it’s a lot of steps on our fit-bits and it’s worth it. Walking is the most effective cardiovascular exercise, burning calories without risking further injury, slowly and steady winning the race. Anyone can do it, but not everyone will do it. Thankful for my precious baby bestie Layne for showing me the importance of saying “SIR!” and not asking questions. You inspire me little nugget.