Thursday, November 8, 2012

On Family Photos & Wondering Where I Belong

The thought of these family photos on the beach is perfect—white against jeans and tanned faces. And yet every single time the subject comes up I want to burrow away like those little clams on the beach.

As more moments pass throughout the week and I watch dad sneak girls out the door for a secret date and mom spend the day with a broken-armed boy. I see a business trip cancelled so both can be there to get a cast on broken-armed boy. They celebrate his upcoming birthday and they calm his fear. I take pictures with three sisters and when mom looks at the pictures, her eyes search for the three she birthed to be gathered in single shot. And I guess all of those little moments I watch, just make me remember I am not really one of a dozen. I am just me and today that doesn't feel like enough.

Today I want to belong. I want a daddy-daughter date where I secretly disappear and I want a birthday lunch smothered in affirmation. I want to be a sister on the other side of the lens and when I blink awake I don’t want it to just be a dream from the night before.

I live with them everyday, so I don’t know why this lobster red skin and sandy soul is just bringing it out of me but it is and it is painful.

This morning I cooled off from my run by meandering up the seashore. My routine of running and walking and digging in this sand peels off layers of dead skin beneath my feet. A task I have been meaning to get around to for months now, and yet the fun of it all hasn't quite drawn me in.

As I sit cross-legged writing now, I feel the smooth perfection of my soles and I am thankful for the sand. Even if it doesn't feel good at first--even if it will linger in my clothes for the next six months. I think this sand is peeling off more then dead skin on my feet though. I think it is rubbing hard and holy against my heart too. 

And yet dead skin is just that—dead. Dead skin blocks the new skin from forming and so the only way to pave a way for newness is to get rid of the dead. And it doesn't feel very good--and it might linger.

Six years ago this very sand peeled off layers of death and disease from my soul. Looking back I never saw it happening and yet it was no accident. The raw skin gave me eyes to see and ears to hear and as I saw the waves turn under the sand and heard lyrics ringing out His mercy and desire for me, all of a sudden that raw skin began growing new cells, cells that enabled me to see such beauty and praise God for all of it.

I remember being jealous during family pictures then too. I remember wearing white like everyone else but not really belonging in some of the shots. The one of me with my siblings I hang an idol on my wall. I guess I never really knew it. 

I want my dad to be free and I want to be good enough for my mom and I want to grow old with my siblings and I want Jesus too. I want to belong on earth first and one day in Heaven. I want to be in these family pictures tomorrow, not taking them. I want to belong here in this family on the beach and the reality is I don’t. I didn't fully belong six years ago with my half blood family and now today I still don’t. I weep writing this because the truth hurts and my identity from the world is being washed in the waves with my dead skin. 

It hurts and oh it is so good. Holy sand for the soul. 

Jealousy leads to death and I see it as I study Genesis and see a whole family line tossed and turned by the waves, destined for destruction. There is polygamy and murder and consumption in the things of this world. All because a lamb was accepted and fruit wasn't. All because Cain chose to walk away from the presence of the Lord in His anger. 

I am angry I never got daddy-daughter dates and I am jealous that these little sisters have parents who put life on hold for a broken arm and I so desperately want to find my worth in a photo of white shirts hung on my wall that tells me I have a place in this world, that I belong. Most days I don't think my offering comes close to that of a girl brought up in a God-fearing family.

And as my anger and bitterness and sorrow build it all comes crashing down as I realize--my offering is not better or worse because of my past but because of my past I have an offering to give.

Because six years ago on this very stretch of sands and seas I offered up my belief in God for the very first time and instead of running from His presence in that moment of great fear and much darkness, I ran to it. God's grace alone. It's grace that God would even allow me the privilege of doing life with my siblings--that through them I would eventually come to faith in Christ. It's grace that I would be "adopted" into this family of eleven for this season of time. Grace that years lost are being restored through them and that I am learning and being set free. 

Unlike Cain, the generations to come from my womb will not head into destruction and yet that is not based on my own belonging in this world. 

It is only by the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ in my life that the generations to come might also run into His presence and not from it. It is grace for me too.

And in these words of Truth  I see the joy of my salvation being restored and my belonging solidified.

And whether in the sandy shores of Alabama or the winter chill of Arkansas, belonging found is not worth comparing to the belonging given freely through the death of Christ and the confession of lips.

It seems sinner in need of Savior is enough to belong to Jesus. And go figure, His color of choice is white too. 

Pensacola, 2006
Orange Beach, 2012

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