When You’re Not OK

We moved around my first 8 years. Making ends meet, keeping cars pieced together, and finding places we’d be welcome. An apartment for a bit, with Grandma and Grandpa for awhile, with one of your friends during my Kindergarten year, then into a nicer public housing complex.
Cashiering wasn’t your passion and neither was putting together vacuum cleaner parts in the factory. But you did what you had to do to keep me clothed and fed.
You’d read books with one of your co-workers so your brain wouldn’t atrophy from the monotony of the assembly line and have a make-shift book club over motors and threading.
You were desperate for us not to get stuck where we were, the statistics looming over us, trapping us, closing in on us, pulling us under. You fought them with a vocabulary word a day. You sacrificed so I could dance, sing, swim. Anything that might give me opportunity to break free.
An algebra tutor, science camp, Spanish camp, a trip to Washington DC to meet our Senator, delivering “Meals on Wheels” to see, no matter how bad off we were, we still had so much to be thankful for.
I got tears in my eyes watching Kevin Durant hug his mom after winning the NBA championship, knowing a little of what they felt toward each other. The almost tangible bond of survival connecting a struggling single parent and her child.
It was us against the looks of disapproval or pity. (I don’t know which I hated more.) It was us seeing the worst in each other but defending each other still. It was us against the bills. It was us against all the complicated, wound-tight and ready-to-explode relationships. It was us hoping we were safe at night. It was us against the questions people had about our family and why it way the way it was. I’d sometimes lie my way out of those or act like I didn’t understand the question. How can an 8-year-old tell someone your dad chose drugs over you, you don’t know him, and your last name isn’t even his, so no, he’s not one of the Neuharts from Caldwell.
Always, there you were. Trying. Demanding. Working. Paying. Loving. Studying. Stumbling. Proving. Fighting. And fighting. And fighting.
And, in time, breaking. Breaking before God and me. Admitting you couldn’t do it anymore. Calling on Jesus to save you. All our efforts left us in a heartbroken mess. I understood and wasn’t angry. But you just kept saying you wanted me to be OK and you’d do whatever you could to make sure I would be. You have no idea how often I go back to that tenderness. To that humility. To that love.
By God’s grace, I am OK. But the irony is, I’m not OK, too. And I’ve become fine with that. Because our God is more than OK. And he takes the brokenness that’s always with me, and the brokenness that catches me by surprise, and he says just what I need to hear through his Word. He loves me in just the way I need to be loved in Jesus. He binds up my wounds with redeeming care while whispering the promise that he will make all things right one day. I am astonished by his heart, and he knows how often I go back to that tenderness. To that humility. To that love. Leaning into his words, listening hard, thankful for faith to believe I will be OK.
For Reflection
This post poured from my heart after family movie night on Friday watching “Queen of Katwe” and seeing Phiona’s love for her struggling single mom and her mom’s sacrifice for her.
How does your brokenness from your past catch you by surprise?
How do you see God meeting you there?
What are some precious promises from his Word you are listening hard to?

3 thoughts on “When You’re Not OK

Add yours

  1. Erica as usual you touched my heart and made it swell. When my heart does that I think back to “The Grinch” I was and I guess still am so excited when it comes on TV. Being little the part when he realized he can take away everything tangible but you can never take away love. My mother used to tell my little self that because of God love exhists and because the Grinch took all of the stuff it only made the people in Whoville feel God and be thankful for each other more. Then when the Grinches Heath grew three times that day my mother explained to me that at that moment he accepted God as his savior.
    I thank you for bringing that memory back to me and I will continue to reflect on your message.
    I love you and your family.


  2. Just saw Queen of Katwe and loved it too. What deep love & respect Phoenia came to have for her mom. You're an amazing young woman who continually encourages me to reach deep within my heart. God has been teaching me perseverance and commitment to my church family. I see the comparison with this movie in that sometimes we want to give up and even feel justified in leaving. We must trust God to work in our situation and not take action in our own hands. With God, ALL things are possible! Even broken, hurting churches. Much love to you and your adorable family.


  3. Dawn – Love you too! Thanks for sharing. I'm thankful it was an encouragement to you.

    Cheryl – That's such an amazing lesson and challenges my heart too. Much love to you friend!


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