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The Beginning Of A Story

There are many things that I don’t remember about how this tangled up mess of an English language works. I don’t remember when you use “who” or “whom”. I don’t remember what a dangling participle is, but that if you leave it dangling, a red check will come by and join it, and there goes the perfect score on the worksheet. I think I know how to use a semi-colon correctly. I start many, many sentences with a conjunction and I use entirely too many commas. But, there is one thing that I remember from my seventeen years of school – all stories have to have a beginning, a middle, and an end.

I have my own corner of this giant internet. I’ve planted my flag there for a good five or six years, although you wouldn’t be able to tell. I have yet to find my own style, my own voice. I’ll have a piece of writing that gains some traction, and feel like I should keep stringing words together in that same fashion, but the truth is that I’m not eloquent every day. Some days I’m more poetic than prosaic, but on other days, like today, I tend to shoot more from the hip. And I’m ashamed to clam the label of “writer”, because I’m still very much in the beginning of that story, and all stories have to have a beginning, a middle, and an end.

There are giant gaps in those five or six years. I graduated college, moved to a new city, left my family that I’m close to, started a job that grew to become a cage, got engaged, and got married within the span of five months. I was drowning, and instead of treading water, I shook my fist at God. I was following Your promises!! Why is my teaching job slowly killing me? Who is this man I married, because this is not who he seemed to be on the other side of the altar? Why do I feel so achingly, desperately alone? And I would open a screen, see a blinking cursor, and… nothing. I didn’t like my story. But that’s not something I could share. I was standing at the very beginning of my adult life, and I truthfully didn’t much care to see the rest of it, but all stories have to have a beginning, a middle, and an end.

A friend asked if I would be a contributing writer here, to tell a story at least once a month, to share with other women and mothers. And, yes! And yet… how? This motherhood thing is another story that I have just started, that I’m still at the beginning of. All stories have to have a beginning, a middle, and an end.

But why?

So, so many women in my life are mothers, and the closer I get to becoming one myself, the more I look at them in awe. Some of them have raised kids that have become these wonderful, missional, earth-shaking young adults, off starting their own families, and now those mothers are taking other young women under their wings and mothering them as well. Some of them still have all of their birds in their nests, and are teaching them, growing them, disciplining them, pushing them. Some of them have just become mothers in the past few months, and there is such a joy in their tired faces as they sooth once again, nurse once again, swaddle once again, rock once again. They all seem to have figured it out, to have found their groove, to have answers and opinions and reasons for their opinions. They have endings to some of their stories, or are at least far enough in the middles to be able to speak into the lives of those of us still in the beginnings.

But the beginnings of stories matter. Just like all stories have to have a middle and an ending, they need beginnings, too. Something has to start them off. Something has to grab a person and shake them up. Something has to unsettle the normals for there to be a middle, for there to be a story to tell at all. And I think there is something beautiful and often forgotten about beginnings. There is a hope there, and some fear. There is confidence and idealism that may often be brushed off as naivety, but it can also bolster the confidence of people in their middles. Beginnings are exciting, and bewildering, and terrifying.

So, here’s my beginning.

My name is Katherine, or Kat, or Kitty. My body doesn’t work, and I’m not sure why. It had never completely worked, although birth control pills made it seem like it was working for a time. I was sure that I would never be able to give myself, my husband, this world a child, and that broke me. We prayed, and we ached, and we cried, and we prayed more, and on the next to last round of fertility treatments before things either got incredibly expensive or we just gave up, God fixed me. God put a little soul inside of me, a little person with numbered hairs and breaths and days, a little story that He knows all of the parts to already. In seven more weeks, we’ll get to meet him or her.

And then, everything will change. We will go from two incomes to one; I will go from teaching four-hundred hungry children to teaching my own. My marriage to my best friend who I have learned to be strong, patient, tender, and oh-so-exasperating man, despite all the rockiness that shook us at the start, will surely change again as we go from husband and wife to mother and father. I have opinions on who I’d like to be and what I’d like to do as a mother, and that will probably change (see confidence and idealism above).  I have a faith in a Jesus that has unrelenting grace and mercy for every time that I fall into the same rut of thinking that I can handle things on my own, and while that same set of mistakes probably won’t change, neither will that unrelenting grace and mercy. And if everything else about my life changes, if that remains constant, if God remains constant… then I’ll make it to the ending of my story just fine.

The difference between judging and loving.

Love is not perpetual agreement.

Love is not smiles and  giggles. Although those things often happen.

Love is not taking sides.

Love is not being on the offensive or defensive.

Love is a commitment to care deeply and truly about a person, to know their heart, to know their story, and to share life with them. And life is not always good or easy.

I love my husband with all of my heart. And if I saw him, oh, starting a drug habit because life has gotten rough, it would not be love to say, “Well, hey! Times are hard and drugs make you happy, so go for it!”

I love my brothers very, very much. And if either of them called me up and said, “Hey sister, I really want this new John Deere combine, but I don’t have the money right now, so I’ve got this awesome plan to steal one,” (I would love to see a plan for stealing a combine… ha ha), the loving answer would not be to happily discuss the plans, or help them carry it through.

Affairs may bring happiness for a time, but that does not make them right. Premarital sex may feel good and right at the time, but that does not mean it honors God. Cheating, gossiping, lying, stealing, sowing division, backstabbing… these things may feel good, but they are wrong, even if society doesn’t care.

Love is not agreement.

“I love you. I love you so much. But what you are doing is wrong, and that is not only my opinion. That’s God’s opinion, too. And I know things are hard, and I know that life has dealt you blows, but God will bring glory to this. You have to trust Him, you have to trust that His way is the right way. This choice you are making is wrong. And I will love you through this. Let’s fix it together.”

That is love. That is not being judgmental. That is not being discontent with your own life and taking it out on others. That is not forcing others to be like you. That is not thinking your way is the right way. That is love, it’s relationships how God intended, it is family, it is truth. And it hurts.

But oh, it is good.

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