Monday, November 26, 2012

Confession #32 - I'm Damaged Goods

Last post I wrote about labels and because of my experience in the Miss Teen Pageant I labeled myself "Disqualified".  Unfortunately, that isn't the only label I've owned. 

For the last several months there has been a possibility of adopting Lexi's three year old biological sister.  Ever since I knew she was born, I have prayed she would be ours.  Recently that dream has been squelched.  Although it's likely the state will terminate her mother's rights, this baby has a different father than our daughter and the state has decided to allow him to retain his.  So she will remain unadoptable.

Before we adopted Lexi I went through a painful process of infertility.  When I received the diagnosis of Poly cystic Ovarian Syndrome, and was unable to conceive I had to put a name to my condition.  I couldn't accept that this was beyond my doing so instead I chose to impose a new and more horrible label "damaged goods".  Since becoming a mother that label has been erased, but recently it found it's way back onto my forehead. 

Damaged goods is the only way I could find to describe the broken state of mind I hold about my barrenness.  I know that the possibility of adopting another child is very slim, and honestly I don't think my husband and I are up to the arduous process of searching for another child mixed with the fact that he doesn't seem very willing and of course the limited funds.  So I decided to just blame myself and wear my self-inflicted label.

Those of you have struggled with infertility may be able to relate to this state of mind.  It's difficult to get past, especially when your options are so limited.  It's easier to blame yourself than to find fault in others or in process.

Worse may be the guilt because I know that I am simply incapable of fostering.  I know many foster parents and bless their hearts for what they do and endure, I could not.  I could not let go of a child I've raise since birth only to hand them back to their dysfunctional parent.  I could not deal with the sad and unfortunate baggage that comes with abused and neglected children, knowing that all the hard work we do will be for nothing when their placement is changed not to mention how difficult it may be for my daughter to adjust to.  I just don't have it in me and for that I feel terribly guilty. 

I suppose it doesn't  help that my sister is pregnant with number three.  Yet another reminder of the "damaged goods" I feel like.  It's so difficult to navigate this emotion especially with the holidays coming and my dreams of having another daughter by this Christmas gone.  I apologize for being so down this is not my plan for this blog but since I have vowed to "confess"  then I have to be honest and that's where my heart is today.

Today dear sisters rather than offering you all scriptural encouragement, I am asking for your prayers and encouragement.

I pray for those of you who have experience this emotion too.  God bless you all.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Confession #31 - Tales of Teenage Beauty Queen…well, sort-of…

Many of us wear labels across our foreheads.  Some are written in washable ink, others are deeply engraved into the skin.  They tell our story.  Some may say, “ABUSED”.  Others say “ABANDONED”.  No matter what our labels say, in our minds they define us and describe who we believe we are…
In the summer of my seventeenth year, I got a letter in the mail.  It went something like this, “Dear Miss Joanne LaSorella, We are happy to inform you that you have nominated you to participate in the Miss Teen Florida Pageant.” I thought, “Me???  Miss Teen Florida?  Is this real?   Maybe some of the jerks at school are playing a cruel “Carrie” joke on me.”  But no, since my town didn’t require a preliminary competition, it was legit.  I never competed in a beauty pageant before.  Even with no experience and little talent I  desperately wanted to participate.  I knew my parents couldn’t afford to send me to college and my grades were only fair, so I needed that scholarship.  But to be completely honest, deep down I felt like I had something to prove to myself, my family, and all of my schoolmates.  I thought if I could just come back with the title that will show them I’m worth something.
Obviously, I was very excited!   I anxiously presented it to my parents who, to my complete shock, agreed to allow me to compete.  All I needed to do is to find two sponsors and have my volunteer hours form signed by a teacher and notarized then I'm off to Tampa.  My mom found a last minute voice coach to help me practice for the talent competition.  I chose “Wouldn’t it be Loverly” from “My Fair Lady”  and I was good to go.
They placed me with four of the nicest girls and we became fast friends.  I was having so much fun and finally felt like I was apart of something worthwhile.  It was a long weekend full of practices and interviews and to my surprise I was doing well.  I really seemed to impress the judges.  I remembered to smile and thank them each time I was on stage.  In the interviews I was well spoken, insightful and intelligent.  I believed that I was close to winning. 
On judging day we were in a luncheon when all of a sudden a sharp pain struck my left abdomen.  I clutched my left side and groaned.  I maintained composure but the pain was increasing in intensity.  Finally I had succumbed to it and left the competition retiring to my room in agony.  My parents hadn’t arrived yet so I they could not call the ambulance.  A few hours had gone by, I missed my last interview and was sure I’d be going home soon.  While praying for a miracle suddenly I felt a pop and the pain and pressure were gone.  I hurried to get ready and quickly and got back downstairs.  The interviews were not yet through so I was able to finish the competition.
That evening in formal attire we were nervously listening in the hallway as they announced the winners.  All four of my roommates placed from 4th runner up to 1st runner up.  And then the announcement came, “This year’s Miss Teen Florida is……………………………………………………….…Angela Tyson.” 
What??? Okay so it’s not me.  Okay so I didn’t place.  I knew I had this.  I knew I was doing so well, how could it be that I didn’t even place?  Although I felt the tears welling up, I maintained my composure.  I was not going to show my disappointment.  I congratulated my roommates and was met by my parents who offered up a, “Hey, well, you tried….”  Yeah, I tried......I tried. That suggestion lingered in my mind when I thought…. 
No!  Wait a minute!  I didn’t just try, I had given it my all.  I sung my very best and in a perfect cockney accent.  I smiled and poised my young little heart out.  I overcome an ovarian cyst, as it turned out, to get back in the game.  I didn’t just try, I excelled beyond anything I ever did before concluding that my best wasn't good enough… 
Hanging my head low I returned home.  I found out after the competition that you could write in for your scores, so I did just that.  Two weeks later I got the letter in the mail.  I had to know.  Ripping through the envelope I grabbed the letter, in talent, poise, and interviews, I had taken first place.  At the bottom my scores had added up to a winner.  I won?  How could I have done so well and not earn the title?  But just below the scores was stamped this word in big bold print; a word that would stay with me for many years, “DISQUALIFIED”.  What??? Why???  I quickly called the pageant office. 
As it turned out the teacher who had completed the volunteer hours form wrote the wrong year on it.  Being that I sent in my papers just in the nick of time, it was too late for pageant officials to notify me.  Instead they allowed me to compete but I was actually disqualified before I even arrived.
It was years before I recovered from that disappointment.  I wanted so desperately to prove that I was worth something and all I managed to prove was I wasn't qualified.  Instead of wearing the banner of Miss Teen Florida, DISQUALIFIED was deeply engraved on my forehead.
I lived with that label for a very long time.  But you know, the thing about this label and others like them is that no matter how deep they run or how much blood was shed to carve them, when we accept Christ they are stamped over.  In Jesus’ precious blood my forehead now says, “SAVED”, “HEALED”, “FORGIVEN”, and “QUALIFIED”.  Jesus did this for all of us so that we can live beyond our labels and be whole again.
The bible reminds us, “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5.   
Dear Heavenly Father, although I was never able to label myself a teenage beauty queen, I thank you Lord that no matter what label I’ve had written on my forehead they are all stamped over with the redemptive blood of Jesus.  I thank you for giving me a new chapter in my life and that I can live without feeling Disqualified knowing that in Christ I am equipped and qualified for salvation simply because of Jesus’ sacrifice.  And Dear Father, I pray that my sisters in Christ can look in the mirror and see your stamp written over their discouraging labels and know they are saved.  In Jesus’ precious name I pray.  AMEN.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Confession #30 - What a Pity and a Shame!

I clung to my mother most of my young life and this day was no different. I didn’t want her to leave me and I certainly didn’t want to be there, but my religious education had to begin so she left me in the not-so capable hands of Sister Mary Elizabeth at Our Lady of Angels to begin my weekly CCD classes. Lessons aimed at teaching us about Jesus’ sacrifice and preparing our young hearts and minds to become the brides and grooms of Christ in First Holy Communion.

Growing up Catholic I knew who Jesus was. He was the guy hanging from the crucifix on the altar of the church. He was the man I was told that I had killed because of my sins. He was the man I was to fear because if I didn’t believe in Him I would go to Hell. Back then the Catholic Church was different than today. This was the 70’s; nuns were still smacking kid’s knuckles for saying bad words or not memorizing a prayer.
A few weeks into my “lessons” a terrible thing happened. A school book from the desk I sat at had gone missing. The student to whom the book belonged claimed that it was in his desk when he left that day but it was not there the next day. The only other person who sat at the desk was me, so naturally, I got blamed. Sister Mary Elizabeth pulled me up in front of the entire class to interrogate me. “Where is the book Joanne?” “I don’t know sister I didn’t take it.” “Tell me the truth, you did take it.” “No honest, I didn’t”. “You are a thief and a liar and you must be punished.” She grabbed me by the arm and pushed me into a corner. “But I didn’t take it”, I screamed. So ashamed, I burst into tears. There I stood accused and punished for a crime I didn’t commit. I did learn a lot about my Savior that day; I learned what it was like to be mistreated and abused when you were innocent. I learned what it meant to bear shame.
Sister Mary Elizabeth may have been the target of my scorn for many years if it weren’t for my mother. No, instead I pitied her. Suffice it to say that when my mom discovered what Sister Mary Elizabeth did to me she suffered a fate far worse than I. My mother got into the face of this young “woman of God” and called her a no good, lying fill in the blank with every dirty name for a lady’s part can think of with a few more colorful words to boot. I felt so sorry for Sister Mary Elizabeth. I was ashamed for her and as I left the classroom that afternoon, I hugged her and told her that I forgave her.
My mother, on the other hand, not so much…. It was her I was ashamed of now. I’ve since forgiven her especially now as a mother myself, I realize that she was only showing the wrath of a protective mother. But as a six year old child I didn’t understand and I found it quite difficult to forgive her for the embarrassment and shame her actions had caused me. Twice in one day I had bore the shame of someone else’s actions.

What I have come to understand is that even at such a young age, God had been preparing me for His work. 1 Peter 2:19-24 reminds us, “…For it is commendable if you bear up under the pain of unjust suffering because you are conscious of God. But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.

“He committed no sin,
and no deceit was found in his mouth.”

When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.”

Jesus took the shame of our sin away from us, instead of pity God promises, But Israel (God’s people) will be saved by the LORD with an everlasting salvation; you will never be put to shame or disgraced, to ages everlasting.”  Isaiah 45:17
Dear Heavenly Father, I thank you today for taking away the shame of my sins Lord, even the ones I keep buried deep inside. I thank you that when I suffer persecution that you commend me father. I pray for my sisters in Christ that the shame they have suffered be turned to gladness knowing that they are considered commendable before God for suffering innocently at the hands of those who are truly to be pitied. I pray for those people who have shamed us in the past that God will reconcile them to himself. In Jesus precious name I pray. AMEN.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Confession #29 - Analyze This, that and everything else

A few weeks ago a friend was in distress.  She was going through a situation with a fellow church goer who was verbally attacking her for seemingly no reason.  While trying to offer her some Godly guidance she couldn't hear me because she was constantly asking, "Why?"  "I don't understand, why is she doing this to me?"  "What did I do to deserve this?"  She was so focused on trying to analyze the "why" of the situation she was unable to hear what God wanted me to say to her. 

We often do the same thing with God.  "Why God why?"  "When God When?"  "Who God Who?"  "What about this?"  "What about that?"  "How could this have happened?"  "Why did you allow this to happen to me?"  We want to analyze this, that and everything else until we completely understand the what, the why, and the how in an effort to avoid future pain, loss and disappointment.  I have been there, done that. 

This summer my friend's home burnt to the ground in the Colorado fires.  I was horrified for her and found myself questioning God.  My Aunt's beautiful home on Staten Island  is nearly under water thanks to the devastating effects of Hurricane Sandy.  I asked Him, "Why did this have to happen Lord?"   When a friend of mine confided that she had been abducted and raped last week I was brought to my knees in tears seeking God, "Lord, how can you allow this, hasn't she been through enough?"  When I read on Facebook about the 4 year old boy who lost his battle with cancer, I cried out "Why didn't you heal him?"

Like everyone I want to analyze this, that, and everything else.  I want to ask the same question that the disciples asked Jesus, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” John 9:2.  It makes more sense that someone caused the pain through their own fault than a proverbial "just because".  There are so many horrors in this evil world that I cannot wrap my mind around them. It goes beyond understanding and my feeble human mind is left in the condition of utter stupidity.  Even with my faith, I have asked the question, "How can a Loving God allow such pain?" 

However, when we try to analyze why, we are forgetting that even Jesus himself was no stranger to the pain of this world.  Christ said in John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you  may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  I want you to go to your bible and in John 16:33 and write your name in after the word heart.  Take heart, Joanne, Take heart Lisa!  Take heart Pam!  Christ has overcome the world.  God desires for us to have a life filled with joy and peace.  God wants us to be content and live abundantly.  He does not want to see his children suffer.  That is why He sent His son Jesus Christ to die for us.  John 10:10 says, "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." 

Jesus' reply to His disciples' question was surprising and  for those who do not have an intimate relationship with Christ well, it's beyond comprehension, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him."  John 9:3.  Jesus went on to heal the blind man and as a result the man became a believer in Christ. God's glory shown through this man's pain and as a result the man gained natural and spiritual sight.  

We cannot possible understand everything no matter how much we analyze the situation.  God's word tells us, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways declares the LORD."  Isaiah 55:8  What I do know is that God can, does and will bring something beautiful out of your pain if you let Him."   Isaiah 61:3 tells us, "...for those who grieve...a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair."

For those of you who are suffering right now, please know that if you let Him, God will heal your wounds.  He will bring you beauty for ashes.  He will dry your tears and bring your strength again.  Instead of analyzing it, give it to God.  Whatever "it" may be.  Jesus loves you and He died for you to have life. 

"Dear Heavenly Father, words escape me when I consider all the pain and suffering of this world.  I pray for the starving, unloved, abused.  I pray for parents who have lost children and children who have lost parents.  Wives morning for their husbands and husbands morning for their wives.  I pray for the abandoned and homeless.  I pray for the sick and dying, I pray for those who have suffered the lost of their homes due to natural disasters.  I pray for the world tonight Lord.  Let the peace of God, guard our hearts and minds.  Bring health and healing, bring restoration, bring salvation, but most of all dear Father let your good and perfect will be done and may glory be brought to you in all situations.  And dear Father for my sisters who suffer with me let them stop analyzing this that and everything else and start just trusting.  In Jesus' precious name I pray." AMEN