I know how people saw me as I grew up. I was always that cute, happy little girl. Her parents were a mixed race couple. They were low income. They also drank too much.
We didn't have any of the "cool" new toys, but instead always had to settle for hand me downs. I got my first Barbie when I was 12. I couldn't even fathom what I was supposed to do with it. Side note: I am SOOO not a girly girly. I also grew up the only girl in a neighbourhood filled with boys, with a forest as my play fort.
I didn't have a lot of friends because of all of the above things.
My extended family was pretty diverse. My Dad's sisters were pretty straight laced. His brothers were a pretty mixed bunch. My one uncle always had a beer in his hand and a grin on his face. His other brother could fix anything. He'd explain to you how he did it too, but after the first hour, you'd kind of tune him out. And his youngest brother was gay.
My Mom's family was insanely complicated. Her birth mother had so many kids, we are still finding out about them. So between her blood brothers and sisters, and her adopted ones, we covered all the bases. Catholic, rich, gay, broke, rancher, city, straight laced, and addicted. Yep, even transgender.
There really wasn't much I didn't learn about while growing up.
I've written on here before about my amazing, one of a kind family, but due to some recent coversations, I've come to realize a few important things.
First, all those things I just said...thats how others looked at me. And some of those people who knew me when I was little probably still do.
But that doesn't mean that I looked at myself that way. I had parents who made some less than stellar choices. And so did a lot of the people they brought into our lives. But they also loved us unconditionally. So much so, that I never really had to question what other people thought of me. Being loved unconditionally does something to a person - it gives them the confidence to find out who they are, and to make mistakes along the way. I won't lie, it bothered me now and again, that I wasn't like everyone else.
Until I learned to own who I was. Not who my parents were, or my uncles, or aunts, or friends. I am me. And I too make mistakes. I am a "christian". I say it that way because I absolutely do not think I am better than someone else because I sin differently than they do. I am a hoarder of craft supplies. I am a wife, mother, daughter sister and friend. I have a carbonated-caffiene addiction. I am an introvert. I am opinionated. That's okay. But the only decisions I have to own up to are my own.
And all those people in my life, my family and friends growing up. Those people that always had a beer in their hand, or told amazingly long stories. I wouldn't trade a single one of them in for all the money in the world. I have lost many of them, but still think of them with a smile on my face. Those wonderful people who are such an integral part of who I am today.
I had another stigma attached to me as I got a little older. I was that girl who had a gay brother. You see, I'd grown up with such a diverse group of people that I knew that it isn't something that you could catch. This isn't a group of door to door people trying to convert you to their way of thinking. These were just people. It isn't something you can catch. And so, since my brother's sex life really isn't any of my business, he was just my brother. And its just one part of who he is. Imagine if your sex life was your identity... What if that was the only thing they saw when they looked at you?
These aren't the only things people saw when they didn't bother to look at me instead of those around me. But that isn't the moral of this story.
I was talking to some people this week that are quite concerned that the ones they love are associating themselves with people who are not "like them". People who have made decisions that are not "approved" of. The very people that Jesus himself came for.
And I realized something really important. This diverse, challenging childhood I had - it was the best thing my parents could have done for me. I'm not condoning the alcohol or anyone else's life choices. That's not my place. Those are their decisions, and that is all a part of what makes them who they are. They are a result of the path that they have walked and the decisions they have made along the way. And since I haven't walked their path, I don't get to have a say in any of the decisions they've made.
I am not perfect. Not on any given day can I say that I did everything right. And as a believer of Jesus, I don't have to be perfect. I believe that I am a work in progress from the time I am born to the time I die. And as long as I am striving to be better than I was yesterday, thats all I need to do. Wait, maybe not. You see, I need to not compare myself to others. I need to not look down on them, thinking that "at least I didn't to THAT", while giving myself a pat on the back. I need to realize that I am not called to judge anyone. I need to be available to the people in my life to LOVE them. UNCONDITIONALLY. I need to be willing to show love to those that cross my path, partly because I have no idea how they got where they are today, but partly because as someone who believes in heaven, I may be the only example of what the church is to them. I have the opportunity to show them that I am a christian, an imperfect, broken, work in progress christian. And that no matter what I did yesterday, God loves me. Just like he loves that person in front of me. EXACTLY THE SAME.