Grace: a warm, inviting, and nurturing place; a pair of open arms and a strong embrace.
It doesn’t matter what great honor you’ve achieved, what acts you have committed, or if you’ve taken the sideline and slept through life, grace is ready to greet you with a smiling face, a heart full of love, and a table where you can sit down and discuss the real you without judgement.
Grit: that push, that pull—the reason you persevere; a voice in your ear that encourages you and challenges you to press on.
I was raised—literally—in a Lutheran church in Charlotte, North Carolina. My mom was the church secretary, a job she held for more than fifty years, until she retired this past December. She served as a girl scout leader, Sunday school teacher, Vacation Bible School planner and teacher, church board member, and in a host of other roles.
So when I say I was raised in the church, I mean I was literally in the church building more often than I was at home. If I got sick at school and needed to go home, Mom picked me up, took me back to church, and I slept on a couch in another room just down the hall from her office while she worked. If Mom had a meeting or needed to help with the set-up for some event, I was there at the church with her, either coloring in my coloring books or roaming the church halls with my friends.
My beliefs and values are steeped in the lessons I experienced in the many hours I spent in that church. I learned about the Christian faith and the Bible and its teachings in the nursery, classrooms, fellowship hall, sanctuary, church office, and all the other nooks and crannies of that building. I made friends in that building. We played games, watched movies, ate meals, and had sleepovers in that building. I learned about who I was, how I was supposed to act, and how to navigate life in that building.
And then I got pregnant at sixteen.
In psychology there is a term, “cognitive dissonance,” which has to do with feelings that come when our behaviors and beliefs don’t align. My behavior went against everything I believed in as a naive, sixteen-year-old girl. I wrestled with guilt, then shame, and finally the over-all feeling that I was no longer a good Christian girl. But I can only tell you this now. I wasn’t able to voice this internal struggle then. I just knew I had done something really bad.
Then, I was too busy navigating life—the looks, the questions, the disappointment on my loved one’s faces, the critical words, and the shuns and silence which spoke the loudest.
Then, the only thing I knew for certain was I couldn’t abort my baby, and I couldn’t give him or her up for adoption either. I didn’t know how I was going to do it, but I was determined to keep my baby.
Now, I am a married 48-year-old woman with three children. I can look back on that time and that young girl and the people around her through a different lens—the lens of grace and grit. Grace and grit were the path to that lens. Grace and grit are the journey I am still traveling.
Won’t you take this journey with me, this journey back to ourselves?
More to come …