This Sunday, my husband preached at Sanctuary Church in Providence, RI. We were both thrilled and a little humbled to be their guests while our friends and their pastors Corrie and Andrew were on vacation.
Corrie is all life, love, and effervescence. Andrew is warmth, thoughtfulness, and passion. They’ve played red light, green light with my high-energy kiddos. Andrew drove me to the airport at 4am. Their heart and vision for Providence is so much like ours for Boston that I can’t help but feel a little in awe of God when I’m around them. By just living out their call to church planting, they confirm that the wild hopes and fantastic dreams God whispered in our ears— tickled theirs, as well.
They give us hope for the city.
Visiting Sanctuary encourages me for the future of New City the same way hanging out with the mom of teenagers gave me courage to persevere through the hard mothering of tenacious and trying toddlers. Yes, you too can do this. Yes, you will be able to make clear, concise, intelligent sentences when it’s all done. Yes, it’s the most amazing thing ever!
“Yes, you can plant a church” The Mooks say. “Yes, the Holy Spirit will help you share the Gospel effectively. Yes, this is the most amazing thing ever!”
Andrew, like me, is a big ambiance person and his church reflects an attention to detail that made this Type-A Martha proud when we walked into their new space.
The sanctuary had twinkle lights spread across the ceiling in the back—magic.
Burlap and candles adorned the welcome table—comfort.
Pastries and coffee was available for early arrivers—love.
Gungor piped into the stain-glassed, Swedish Lutheran sanctuary—joy.
I’ve never heard Gungor before this day. Well…I take that back. I think I heard snippets of “Beautiful Things” somewhere, but didn’t know that I was tasting genius at the time.
Maybe I missed it because I wasn’t in a space to soak it in like I was this Sunday. I’ve had an interesting two weeks in my relationship with Jesus. For two weeks, I’ve been a hot mess.
Not like, “ooh life is crazy and I’m hanging on by a prayer and a latte. Soon the end of school will come, the pace will slow, and…. ahhhhhhh our mornings will start with Phineas and Ferb again—no more folders, socks, and packed lunches.”
No like, “Jesus you’re wrecking me every single time I let you in. I come to you with this rant fest or that need and you say, ‘that’s nice dear, I actually want to work on this insecurity thing you’ve got going on’ and boom! I’m leveled by your love.”
For two weeks I’ve been this type of a hot mess.
Also, I’ve realized that I’m a bit of a terrified Anabapist. Yes….Jesus! Love him. But, for realz— I’m slightly terrified of him. Before these past two weeks, It was easy for me to say as an Anabaptist, “it’s all about Jesus” but what does that mean exactly? I mean, when you look at the bigness of our Savior—isn’t he intimidating? His extravagant love. His reckless pursuit for justice. His staggering intelligence. His foolish bravery. His wisdom that cofounds us all. The extraordinary deity taking on ordinary humanity for us? Beauty. Beautiful Jesus. Too much for this woman.
And so I’ve been a hot mess.
I think I realized this when I sat with my Bible in my lap ready to narrow Jesus’ subversion down to five points and a pithy paragraph and realized, ohmygoodword…there’s no way I can do that! He’s too much. His ways are much higher than I can imagine. Five points and a pithy paragraph? Bah! Like John the Baptist, I’m not worthy to untie His sandals. I wanted to throw off my ballet flats and lay face down bawling. Unworthy. Unlovely. Unable.
Hot mess of a woman that I am.
This was the state if my heart Sunday. In the second pew with my baby girl coloring and my mini-men creating holy mischief under the black and white banners at the back. They made forts while learning the valuable truth that church can be a place for fun and imagination. This Sunday, Gungor gave me words to fully tell Jesus how much I love him, how much he’s means to me, how beautiful he is, and how unworthy I feel.
The joyful intro of xylophone, flute, and cello beckoned my daughter and me away from our mindless pre-service distractions. I put my phone down and she began dancing in her seat. Before I knew it, Trinity was standing and then bouncing around in the aisle. With big curls and a bigger smile, she danced with abandon as “You’re holding us together” filled that ancient sanctuary.
And I just thought, ‘dance, baby dance. Mama can’t anymore. I’m too insecure. Too lonely. Too serious. Too afraid. So dance baby, dance. You’re safe and known here. Dance, baby dance.’
And she did. On her tippy toes she twirled and with arms outstretched, she bounced higher and higher to the beat. And she laughed. And then we laughed.
Magic. Comfort. Love. Joy. All at once, dancing with my baby girl.
I’m not sure if anyone saw us and if they did I’m not sure that I have would cared. In those few minutes “Brother Moon” helped us see Brother Jesus more clearly.
“Everything good, everything beautiful.”
Still too much for this hot mess of a woman.
As service began, we resumed our places—a little out of breath, a little giddy, hearts lighter, and in anticipation.
Later my husband preached on the “Our Father” prayer which is at times called, “The Jesus Prayer”. He told two stories: one of a perfect day with our oldest son and the other of a God bestowed identity of “boy on the bike”.
Perfect Day, Perfect Love
On Memorial Day, my husband, T.C. took our ten year old out for the day. After a week of gray and rain, the sun reclaimed her place in the sky, promising a day perfect for bar-b-ques and relaxation. They took the Freedom Trail in Boston, visited the African-American History Museum, bought souvenirs, and ate sundaes by a fountain. In that space where Sister Sun and Brother Wind played tag around them, the Heavenly Father met my husband. He described it as Heaven on Earth. Sitting with his son whom he loves unconditionally and ferociously he glimpsed God’s love for us. God’s love is an Abba Daddy love that Jesus knew intimately and invites us into. Abba’s love was sufficient to sustain Jesus for forty days in the wilderness and comfort him through blood-punctuated prayers in Gethsemane. His love bestows beloved-ness because of who we are and not “in spite” of who we are.
Never “in spite!” God left no room for “in spite” in his wide and vast love. This perfect love invites us to be known and feel safe.
As my husband preached, God showed me that this hot mess of a woman is his hot mess of woman— his baby girl who is loved unconditionally and ferociously; his daughter who he desires to sustain through the rough parts of church planting and hard mothering and the pride-killing choice to be wifey every single day.
I am his baby girl who is swaddled in this wide vast love—even when I don’t feel it and especially when I don’t think I deserve it.
And the past two weeks with Jesus began to make sense—we were clearing out the junk the prevents me from embracing this new space of beloved hot messiness.
Dance Baby, Dance.
Later in the sermon, T.C. told a story from the book “Prototype” by Jonathan Martin of Renovatus Church. Pastor Jonathan recalls a word of encouragement from an elder in his church that his identity is more than pastor, writer, or leader. His identity is “the boy on the bike”. Martin goes on to tell about a Schwinn bike he loved as a kid and would ride for hours making up dreams in his neighborhood cul-de-sac. He describes it as a sacred space where he was at home in his own skin free of fear and insecurity. As the “boy on the bike” he experienced the presence of God in a profound, real, deep, life-giving way. Riding on his bike, while not explicitly spiritual, he learned how to abide in Jesus. He learned without a verse or liturgy how to let Jesus in.
I so wanted that and when my heart tentatively reached to God’s in this new space of beloved hot messiness, I thought of my daughter’s pre-service dancing with abandon. Then I thought of my childhood front porch encased in wrought iron. I thought of rough, concrete steps leading down to a soft carpet of grass on a sticky, Texas night. I remembered bare feet pressing into the freshly watered lawn and dancing on my on tippy toes with my hands outstretched to the stars.
And I felt the Lord say, “dance Baby, dance”.
Identity has always been a funky thing for me. I am the product of an affair, which left me questioning if God made a mistake in breathing life into my mama’s womb. I am the darkest child of four. With my mocha skin, I’ve always felt less than compared to my Irish cream mama and my cappuccino sisters. I am smart, but confused, so too often the words I say and the words I mean are never the same thing. I am the girl whose name is never pronounced right, which puts me in an awkward position of correcting my new friends.
I am keenly aware of every flaw and vice I have and yet I remembered when I was a little girl—I danced. With abandon.
To the music in my head, I danced.
In a great ballroom, full of twinkle lights, in the most beautiful dove white tutu and a sparkling tiara—I danced.
For a kind King and his Prince —I danced.
And when the music faded and the applause from the dais died down, the Prince would introduce me to the King as all that is beautiful, lovely, and good. And the King would smile and say, “I knew you’d come. I’ve been waiting for you. Thank you for dancing.” And I’d just know that I was wanted. In this sacred space, the mocha girl in the white tutu was wanted.
So I kept dancing under the stars until my mama called me in and I’d lay on my bed slightly out of breath, a little giddy, not caring which neighbors saw me.
Magic. Comfort. Love. Joy.
Journey to my name
I’ve both loved and hated my name— Osheta. Other than, “girl with a really imaginative dad”—I doesn’t mean anything. It sounds Japanese but I’m not Japanese. It’s just a unique name that my daddy made up playing with the sounds of the Japanese language until he came with the name: Osheta.
My name reminds me of the two years he spent in Japan as a Marine and the great sacrifice he made leaving the military when I was born. So, for the longest I’ve wanted a meaning to my name that’s not wrapped up in my father’s journey, but reflective of mine.
And while I’m still on this journey, when I look back, I don’t see footprints in the sand— I see foot patterns on the ballroom floor. I see waltzes or partner work with the Prince. I see the indentation of the balls of my feet right before I sail into a leap of faith. I see the wild pattern of heel-ball-toe as I twirl under the light of Sister Stars and Brother Moon. I see the imprint of my knees as I contract and release, falling to the ground when the music is too mournful and my feet are too weary to dance. When I look back I see a new identity and possibly a meaning for my name—Osheta: the girl who dances.
And this is the sacred space where I want to abide.
I imagine this is why I left my plans to be a lawyer to teach dance. I think deep down I wanted to give every little girl a sacred space to dance. “Dance, babies, dance!” I’d say. “Come know my Jesus who will present you in the purest white before a Kind King.”
I imagine this is why Jesus called me back to the ballroom with Gungor’s use of my life verse,
“In you we live, in you we move, in you we have our being”
And so, I’m a new kind of hot mess. The kind that bawls as she writes in a Starbucks, wiping away tears with course, brown recycled paper. The kind that’s a beautiful mess held together by Abba’s love. The kind that dances wrapped in the purity of the Prince and with the strength of his perfect love. The kind of hot mess that wears her tiara a little crooked because she dances with abandon in her sacred space.