The Open Door
The holiday season is such a beautiful time of the year, outside and in. I’ve lived Christmas from the lens of a child, beholding its wonder and magic. Now that I’m enjoying Christmas as a parent, although the wonder and magic remain, the chance for reflection makes it even richer.
Angels We Have Feared on High
In our childhood, how many times did we put out the nativity scene or play our part in the Christmas play, never thinking beyond the delightful idea of wise strangers bringing gifts? What a lovely story—the birth of Jesus under a glorious star, the arrival of God on earth, a pastoral retreat.
Then I became a parent and the scenario shifted from idyllic to traumatic. An angel arrived, telling you that you’re having a baby? And not only are you pregnant, but you’re likely a teenager, and you are certainly not married. And, did I mention, an angel told you that you’re pregnant. Utterly traumatizing.
From Panic to Peace
I was 25 and married when I learned that I was going to be a mother. The pregnancy test confirmed what we had been planning and hoping for.
And yet, I cried the entire night that I found out. The ugly cry. The I-have-majorly-lost-it cry. The I-cannot-believe-it, I-have-lost-my-marbles cry.
The cry full of nothing but questions and doubts: “What do you mean? Don’t I have to get a degree in baby before I’m pregnant? I’m not qualified. Who is charge here? Do you just hand out pregnancies to anyone? How am I going to do this? I can’t do this. I’ve never done anything with this much responsibility. How can I possibly do this? My life is over.”
And to think I planned this!
The next morning I woke up a different person, calm and ready to walk forward. I was scared but determined to do whatever I needed for my child. My world had shattered the night before, I fell asleep distraught, but to my disbelief awoke at peace, different than the day before.
God held me that night. He saw me though. He was the one passing out pregnancies—not because I believed in myself, but because He did.
He knew I was ready. I did not.
He had a plan. I did not.
He made me a mother. I did not.
God’s Plan in a Frightened World
Fast forward to Christmas of 2013. My son is 8, my daughter 6, and I am pregnant with my third. My daughter is situating the nativity figures just so and asking me the story of that night. On reflex I begin the nice version: the glorious star, the pastoral retreat, the arrival.
When, as a parent, I recognize what the nice story hides.
Mary and Joseph are just two teenagers trying to follow Gods will, in a world where so many doors are closed. This thought struck me so directly because I’m thinking of all the people today who have a calling that the world casts off. They run from a society that rejects their burden—their gift. They run because society says no. You’re too young or too old, the wrong color or gender. It’s wrong, it’s ugly, it’s not the right time. It’s not our plan. You’re not the right person. You’re not perfect. You are not planned.
So they run, feeling that what God has planted in their soul is wrong. Feeling that a society who tells them and shows them how wrong they are—is a society they have to escape.
I’m devastated imagining how many times do we do this to other people.
God had a bigger plan for those teenagers in Bethlehem, and no one knew what God had called them to do. So many people closed the door, shunned them, turned their back on them. How many times have we done that to our friends? How many times did we turn our backs on someone we didn’t agree with? How many times were we upset that they didn’t follow our plans?
I Will Be the Open Door
In that moment I made a commitment to myself to open the door for others. No matter what society thinks of them, I am opening the door. I made a commitment to open the door for my friends, my family, and my community, and to not judge their lives, but to be a warm, loving friend who opens the door.
I recall a handful of times in my own life when my world shattered and doors shut. And God got me through it. Through Him I persevered past devastation, on a path taking years.
He was the open door, and so shall I be.
A Runaway Bride in a Runaway Life
I didn’t grow up in a healthy home. I knew, looking around, that mine was different. Divorced parents who could not deal with their own heartbreaks developed multiple unhealthy habits. I ran away at 18 to see only then, from a distance, how toxic my environment had been. How stunted and powerless I had been, instead of empowered and encouraged.
I was orphaned not by the death of my parents but by the death of our relationships. I was shattered by the death of my father, not because he is dead, but because he is alive and we are strangers.
I lived at friends’ houses, grieving and trying to recover, trying to make good choices with my heart in pieces on the floor. By age 24 I had lived in my car and in friends’ homes, worked waiting tables and as a lifeguard, and attended two different colleges and failed, for the first time in my life getting Fs in classes. I was engaged. Twice. And I broke off the engagements. Twice. A runaway bride in a runaway life, I just wanted to connect with anyone who wanted me. With any open door.
I cast about for meaning. I served in AmeriCorps, finished beauty school, gained my cosmetology license, started my own business, and One Door Opened
The one who opened the important door wide was my first husband, and I thank God for that. Even though ultimately our callings took us to different places, I’m so thankful for the home I finally had. God rebuilt me here in this place and He gave me my first two beautiful children. I was rebuilding my relationship with my mother, myself, and with God.
Listening to your heart is difficult. The journey through my own divorce was a painful process of reflection, of taking responsibility and granting forgiveness. I’m proud of our journey and grateful for the experience. We were honest with ourselves and with each other as we both made our children the priority. Today we have what is important—a good relationship with each other and our children. Still, the divorce was extremely painful, much of that because through it I saw dear friends, friends I loved, shut the door. Why does it have to be so through divorce? Why do we shut the door?
Love from Far and Near
As a single mother I didn’t even want to keep track all the hours I worked at the salon. It was easier to not say out loud how time I spent treading water, paying the bills, and just trying to survive. I begged my girlfriends to watch my children on Friday nights and Saturdays so I could work, hoping to make enough to pay rent and have one day off with my kids.
One morning after dropping my son at kindergarten and my daughter at daycare I went to church and I prayed. I prayed like I never had prayed before, on my knees begging God to take care of us. To help my children so that they would never have to endure what I did: spending nights in my car, going hungry, having no family. I had never been so scared in my life. Not for myself, but for them. How am I going to do this?
The next Sunday, a friend came to my house unannounced. Herself on food stamps, she had filled her minivan with groceries, walked them into my kitchen, packed my bare fridge and pantry, and left just as quickly as she came.
Had there not been food where there was none before, I might have wondered if it even happened.
She, literally, opened the door.
Piece by Piece
I never thought I would be where I am today. Not in a million years would I have guessed this path for myself. Peace and love for such a hot mess, for someone so broken? Who could love a worthless runaway? Someone who ran away from home, from engagements, from her hometown, from college.
And not because of what I had accomplished. Certainly not that. Nor did He care who didn’t love me; He cared only to hold me through it all. He cared only to put me back together, piece by resilient piece, into what He wanted me to be.
Whither Goest Thou?
Walking in faith and following a calling is a challenge of a different sort. It’s scary to walk where God points you. “Are you sure, God? Public policy? Politics? Are you sure you picked the right person to write this book? You can’t have forgotten that I am dyslexic. Isn’t there someone better suited for this, more qualified? I don’t have a degree in this. Look at all my obstacles. And you still want me to do this?”
I have no map. I have no idea where we are going, but I do know where we have been, and I can honestly say that God has carried me through it all. I know he will continue to carry me through this new adventure. So whither thou goest, God, I will go.
Every Door Shuts
As God picked me back up and rebuilt me, it was amazing to see more doors close—but this time for different reasons. This time they weren’t shutting because I was failing. They shut because I succeeded.
For being what God built and not what they had in mind for me, friends I had held my entire life shut me out. The tiny box they had defined for me had no room for what I was growing into. And while enduring that pain of relationships closing, God’s calling summoned more doors to open.
The Biggest Gift of All
This Christmas season I’m reminded of the biggest gift we are given—learning to love yourself and to forgive yourself and others. Recognizing that all things happen for a reason, and being the open door who helps others see that truth.
I didn’t have a perfect life; I had a life perfectly shattered. One that God so carefully patched back together. Perfectly.
God provided in ways I never thought I deserved. I couldn’t have planned for the life He intended for me: the journey, the heartbreak, the rebuilding, the reasons. Yet I can honestly say I wouldn’t change a thing. Know the same is available to you: no matter how your world shatters, God will rebuild you. He has big plans for each and every one of us.
For me, that plan is to be the open door.