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It was my birthday this past week… and with it came a quiet celebration… some past birthdays have been filled with wine, friends, movies, dinners and reservations… but this year I opted for… actually wanted quiet reflection.
Birthdays often come with reflection, even if surrounded by a crowd or after the festivities have lapsed… amidst the sweet singing of "Happy Birthday…", candles flickering beautiful light in the darkness of a room, colorful sprinkles and swirls of chocolate frosting, light and shadows cast about, pretty napkins and a stack of plates… it's when time seemingly comes to a distinct standstill… all the time of being alive condensed in a quick replay flashes through our mind… and a blank chapter ahead… this moment, this very moment as our breath extinguishes candles from lit to black smoke wafting upward… it's like the world is on pause momentarily… as we reflect on snapshots of our life….
In my early twenties I was set against ever having children… then twenty five hit and for whatever reason the baby making bug bit me… I wanted children and have not ever regretted it… I love my babies and actually wish I'd had another. Now I coo over babies in Fisher Price ads, on Pampers commercials and the sweet onesie outfits gracing racks at Target… but reality is I feel like my time has passed… that window shuts a bit more each day. Sure, I love the idea of another… but time is limited and at this point putting my body through another pregnancy… taking on the awesomely huge responsibility of raising another child seems crushingly overwhelming… not to mention there isn't exactly a prospective candidate around to be husband and daddy… being divorced has seemingly shut that door and however disappointing and grievous this past few years have been coming to terms with it… it's likely for the best… or at least that's what I continue to tell myself.
I believe each of us are warriors… in our own way; big or small… in whatever we are fighting for… or maybe just in fighting for ourselves…. maybe we are fighting each day to put one foot ahead of the other… maybe we are fighting to get our coffee at Starbucks and get to work on time… maybe we are fighting to live with loss, despite depression… maybe we are fighting injustices in the world whether it be with our votes or pens writing letters… maybe we are fighting cancer or poverty halfway across the world… maybe we are fighting for our children in the courtroom or for those we don't even know through charity or volunteering. Maybe we are fighting for love… to keep it, to get it… to even believe we will find it. Keep fighting the good fight… yes, take that break when your muscles ache and your shoulders are weary… when you are feeling weighted down… but then jump back in the ring… keep going… keep fighting… because the world needs every warrior… each battle is important and what is even more important is behind each of those set of boxing gloves fighting for a cause of goodness is a heart that cares.
Failures run the gamut in life… we try, we fail, we try again… it happens. Or maybe… just maybe somebody failed you. Maybe a bunch of people did… maybe your brother failed you… maybe your sister when she left… maybe your mother failed you… but you don't have to worry… you are still here… still intact albeit maybe a few bruises and a wounded heart… maybe you feel you failed someone… maybe you wish you could have a redo… but know this… you are not defined by failures real or imagined… you are a worthy soul indeed.
"I dont understand…" She told me… "He doesn't have a relationship with you… or your sister?" She asked me… "Why? What did she do that was so horrible that caused him to turn his back on her? To sever a relationship?" She pressed with her pen and pad in hand. I looked up at her and spoke with directness "Because… She married a black man." I replied. To you who has been raised in an environment of ignorance… to you who has been conditioned to believe you are liberal when in fact you just believe all people should be treated equally and with love… to you who has been shamed for zero reason… to you who has been whispered hate, lies and misguided agendas… to you who is the fruit loop in a family of cheerios simply because you believe "differently" aka with equal love for others… take heart and know that you aren't alone… "it"… this way of thinking happens behind closed doors, it happens still today and know that not everyone believes this way… that there are plenty of folks who love all and the color of someone's skin means absolutely nothing but instead how one treats others in this journey we call life.
"He could kiss like no one else…" I murmured… "It was like being swallowed up in a deep sea of waves… and you wanted to be engulfed by them. I never told him... but I didn't tell him any of the things I needed to." I told her. Let yourself be moved in this world… surrender yourself, let yourself be moved to laughter by something entertaining… by something silly, by something corny… let yourself be moved to tears by the sentimental… let yourself be moved to change whether it be yourself or the world… let yourself be undeniably open to being moved by others… by moments… let the world in and allow yourself to experience it with abandon… let yourself be moved by a kiss, by the way he says your name whispered softly in your ear… by an act of complete kindness… let your vulnerability shine and allow your heart to ache by the beauty of it all… let people know their sweet spirit, their aches and pains, their tribulations speak to you in all your hurt spots…. don't ever be ashamed by it but instead share it with bravery and joyful courage.
The word "stigma" is actually a word derived from Greek language… it's meaning is about separateness… to separate one man from another… which we may attempt out of our flawed humanness. God loves us with an inclusive love… He is for us. We've perhaps each felt stigmatized at some point… either by others or self imposed erroneous views of ourselves… Many years ago I used to feel so stigmatized by anxiety… but I've since learned that so many others have dealt with it… it no longer feels like such a big deal… we all have something… and if by the off chance we don't we may be anxious about possibly being labeled with something, anything (?) and hence being stigmatized. It is when we no longer subscribe to the worry that others will view us as different or inferior, when we acknowledge and truly know God's deep affection for us we can stand in victory against stigmatism and help others do the same.
What defines you? Those ugly sinful actions from your past that may creep up and haunt, that may try to guilt, actually shame you into a pit of downward spiral, casting your eyes away from God?… no, those don't define you… you've repented, you've cried out, your soul has poured out to Him in sorrow… and yet like a thoughtless cruel sadistic animal that comes in the night lurking at your door the devil continues to tell you otherwise… that you aren't forgiven… you aren't loved, that you're still not enough in His view. The pack in your soul is drudgingly heavy and it would be so divine to release the idea that you must subscribe to a lifetime of penance… that weight is too heavy… too much for anyone to bear… it's time to let go, release it and stand tall in your shoes in who you are… a child of God… beautiful, forgiven, redeemed…
remember this the next time you blow out birthday candles… God has shown you love and mercy… you've been granted another day on this earth… you've learned so much… you've been through so much in this life… and even in the bold beauty of it all, the devastation and flaws… you are here, you made it… so rock the song, enjoy the fiery sparks, scarf the cake, drink the drink… enjoy your shining moment that He has given you… and then reflect… reflect on what you've learned, what you've battled, what you've given… who you've loved… and give thanks to Him.
~ Jennifer Gafford (2014)
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