Saturday, August 6, 2016

Happy Birthday to Meeeeeeee!

Sixteen years ago, I was dunk-baptized by Mike Campbell at Clayton Baptist Church during our Sunday morning service. I remember a lot of little details - the white shirt I wore with 90's art style blue and grey flowers across the breast, the clear tote bag with purple handles in which I brought my hair dryer to church, sitting next to my dad in a different pew than normal with hair still dripping holy water from the saturated ends during the sermon.
I wanted to get baptized because all of my other friends had already claimed Jesus and left their "old life" underwater. I answered all the ABCs of Christianity which approved me to be submerged in the spirit. From thence on, August 6 was my "baptismal birthday",making me a spiritual Leo, and finally giving me some form of personal holiday to celebrate in the summer. (You can't exactly throw a pool party five days before Christmas.)
But as I grew up and older, August 6 became an important date to me. During my freshman year of Chapel at North Greenville University, a very long, very adamant line of preachers insisted that if I didn't know the date, time, and place that I was saved, well, I wasn't saved. If I didn't have sweaty palms and an active fear of going to hell because of the heathen filth I was, I didn't know Jesus. This deeply unsettled me. I didn't feel like heathen filth. And who had I been praying to for the past 10 years? Who had been responding to those prayers? Hermes?
Even as I stood in front of Mike in my childhood church and spouted back the admits, believes, and commits, I felt troubled. From my very first memories, I could recall knowing Jesus. If nothing else, I knew he'd always known me, always loved me. And then we moved away from my home in Clayton and my relationship with God got totally wrecked.
Present Day - My spiritual mentor has been encouraging me to find the little-Aly. The fearful, the carefree, the trusting, the child, and in trying to find the space where I can shut adult-Aly's worries down, I realized that I don't know her. I cannot trace my memories back far enough to find her.
Some years ago, in this galaxy we're currently in - I had cancer. A stage 3 tumor the size of a grapefruit was engulfing my left kidney. Surgery. Radiation. Chemo. Long term hospitalization. Ports (this little thing they put in your body that draws blood directly from your heart and they have to stab you in the chest with a short, fat needle to draw the blood they need.) Nausea for days and nights on end (genuinely that was the worst part of it all.) Hair loss. Weight Loss. Seeing old photographs of yourself as a child on the edge of death is not an emotion I can easily explain. While I would never erase it from my life, having to fight cancer at a very young age changes your nature, your soul; it calls for you to lie still on a cold, metal table under radiation beams when you should be lying on a picnic blanket, finding dinosaurs in the clouds. It calls for you to lose all of your hair while your classmates are learning how to braid pigtails. It calls for you and your friends and your family to have the endurance, the strength, and the courage to say that failure is never an option because a life of 5 years isn't enough.
I still very much had a childhood. I went to Disney World (thanks, Make-a-Wish). I was in school plays, played sports, ate as much pizza as a tiny child can possibly consume, made sundaes with Mayfield chocolate ice cream, whipped cream, butterscotch AND caramel syrup, and rainbow sprinkles. I broke bones, I skinned knees, got my first B (ever) in Math in 3rd grade. Went steady with Jeremiah Vanderhorst from 1st until 4th grade. I had a great church family, great friends, good school, and acres of woods to tromp through and let my imagination run wild. Then I turned 11 and my parents scooped me up after a week of hell 4-H camp in Jekyll Island and plopped me here in ole Greenville, SC. I had never been so miserable in my entire life. In chasing that elusive spiritual-Aly-child, I find this to be one of the most pivotal moments in my relationship with God. It was the moment when he became a bully. When I started to ask him why it had to be this way, and I would not stop asking until I felt like I had an answer. I was split down the middle of knowing I couldn't survive in this weird new place (where the second question you're asked (after your name) is whether you pull for Clemson or Carolina) without divine intervention, and also hating God for doing this to me. And so from then on, everything bad that happened in my world was a constant system of cause and effect - God caused the bad thing to happen to me.
I bet you're thinking that this is where it gets good. This is where God turns the tables and he shows me an outpouring of favor and love and provision. Well, he didn't. There was no "envelope that showed up in my mailbox with the exact amount of money I needed for a mission trip" story in my life.

 I went to a garbage middle school, a slightly less garbage high school and then a University that told me my faith had to look like A,B,&C in order for it to be authentic, that I wasn't a "good" Christian if I didn't read my Bible everyday and pray a specific way and have a "ring by spring."

The majority of the "how to" lessons in my life have been learned by witnessing what not to do. (With the exception of how to parent, shout out to Mama and Papa Queen because they are the literal best.) I am just now beginning to witness "how to christian" based on people that are getting it right (by failing, loving, and being vulnerable and messy and trying).

I have kept silent on the topic of spirituality for awhile due to some of the absolutely atrocious conservative, close-minded "time hop" posts Facebook has so kindly brought back to my attention that I posted only a few years ago. Do not look for them. You will not want to be my friend anymore. (I don't want to be my friend anymore after some of them.)

When I look back to try to see how God was there for me, a lot of the time it's just the sole truth that I'm still around, that I have somewhere safe to sleep, food to eat, great parents and friends that at least try to love me and show up for me in ways that I understand.

If my parents had met and had kids at an average age, I'd be in my 40's right now, so maybe that's why my spiritual mentor constantly tells me that I'm an old soul. I don't know how to chase down my aly-child, part of me doesn't want to because I've fought so hard be where I am. In real life, if I could go back to being a child, I wouldn't. I probably wouldn't change much other than making sure I bought Brandon Campbell tickets to see Brand New at Orange Peel for his 24th birthday.

And honestly, my conclusion for you is that I don't have a conclusion this time. And that's okay. Maybe that puts me one step closer to finding that wildly extroverted, imaginative, carefree little girl that didn't always need a question or an answer. Sometimes the answer is "Because I said so."


For those of you who did read this. Please keep me in mind when you pray / send out good vibes. A lot of stuff is going down in my heart and mind and life all at once and I feel like I am going crazy. I need people to be friends to me. Get coffee. Eat Pizza. Cook Food. Have face time. Quality time is my #1 love language. I need you people to be the cords that bind with mine so I don't unravel.

And if there is anyway I can support you, listen to, or love you b/c you're in need, lemme know.

1 comment:

  1. Life is a series of beginnings, regrets, successes, failures, victories. We are never stagnant. God gave us the abililty to decide for ourselves. So, trust your heart because God, who does love you, will continue to tug at it until you are totally His.