Sisterhood is Becoming

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By Alia Joy Hagenbach | Twitter: @AliaJoyH

A_Alia

There was the day the voices came for me and they carried in their whispers the ancient shame, their tongues curled into my ears, trailing me through my day. They hissed that God couldn’t have said I was good. They implied that maybe, like so many things, I had gotten this wrong, too. And they were always there with reminders of the ways I’m damaged goods.

They start in the whispered murmur that the daughters of Eve are ever left wanting. They remind me of the bitter fruit spoiling on my tongue and filling my cheeks with decay. And I have mouthfuls of shame. I choke it down polite like a good girl instead of spewing it out.

The voices promise me I’ll always feel hollow and empty and wretched. Did God really say YOU were good? they mock. And don’t tell me you haven’t heard it yourself a thousand times since the day you were called girl.

And ever since the day I was called girl, they have understood my tender spots. The day the voices first come for me I am five years old and I learn to keep secrets in the dark. I learn about closed doors and what can happen to nice little girls. I walk bruised in tender parts.

I learn I can be violated again and again with unholy tongues, you are dirty, the voices murmur. I learn this identity and wear it with pigtails over ears scalded with shame. I am ribs and skin and sunken eyes for much of my girlhood. I am long braided hair so thin and wispy, the plastic daisy barrettes slip down no sooner than my mother placed them. I am gangly elbows and knee caps too big for my thighs. I am a jawline cut with sharp edges and the wasting that comes from sickness and hospitals and appetites lost.

I learn a girl’s body will betray me with the hips of a woman and breasts that draw catcalls and lusty eyes and I am to blame. I am dirty, the voices remind me.

And the voices come for me as I grow into womanhood.

When the child crumples in the shopping cart and his face turns mottled and red as his wailing rises up from his sobbing little chest, and the shoppers raise their eyebrows and cluck their tongues because I am not doing this right, the voices rush back.

I can hear the faintest hum of, “Hmmph, she really ought to discipline that child … brat … my child would never …” and it gets louder until I’m frantically removing Goldfish crackers, and milk, and ground beef, and toilet paper onto the conveyor belt and rifling through my purse for coupons and my debit card while shushing my baby with a mix of shame and frustration. I drop the frozen orange juice and the container splits like it’s gutted and the pulpy mess oozes onto the supermarket floor. They call for cleanup on checkout three and the voice on the loudspeaker thunders in my bones. And I stand there in checkout lane three and I feel myself spilling out too. Making a mess everywhere I go. And everyone looks on and they can all see I’m not cut out for this.

The voices come when I gather with other women. These women smile with mouths full of words people want to hear. They toss their heads back when they laugh, deep and throaty, their hands don’t fly up instinctively to cover their mouths when they do. They say the right things and people lean in closer. They don’t mumble and trail off when people turn their heads mid-sentence and I drop my eyes to the floor as the voices come for me. “You could just go, no one even wants you here. You are invisible or worse, an annoyance, a burden, a messy wretched waste. You are drama and chaos and they all pity you if they see you at all. 

The voices come when I sit at the keyboard with the tenacious will to make art and I fight every doubting place that pools between the words. They come when I take the stage and my hand grips the microphone, because when they looked for a place to put the mic pack I was in a dress and they’d have to run wires in awkward places and I realize this stage was never meant for me. They never wanted to hear my voice in the first place.

And then one day, the voices come for me but they’re new and melodic and they sound foreign to my ears. And they do not whisper or hiss, they speak in unwavering tones, there are no shameful secrets here. It’s not your fault.

Their tongues are like swords, slicing lies from my joints, piercing flesh and marrow. They teach me to tell the truth. I roll the words around in my mouth and I’m not strangled, I’m learning a new language. God has made me good.

I am reborn as willowy and lithe as sinew, stretching into belonging. And I hear this ancient echo, the sisterhood of women whose scalding hot tongues are like mouths full of coals, scorching the unclean places and soldering up wounds. They remind me beauty doesn’t just come from ashes but from stretch marks and scar tissue and minds that feel like a thousand trapped and stinging pests.

There are moments carved out on my flesh,  the low scar that droops from hip bone to hip bone that has faded to a shiny slick line where my babies were pulled from my body and placed into my arms. These voices tell me my children are being raised by a tender warrior who fights every day to survive for them. They promise me my kids wouldn’t be better off without me when I fear they have learned far too much about the brokenness of this world from loving me as I am ripped and volleyed between opposite poles. They trace the scars and name them beautiful. They tell me mental illness will not have the last word.

This sisterhood carries the fire of holy things, a burnt offering, a smoky remnant and their words rise like worship, floating like incense filling my senses with the perfume of grace. They bring the reminders and set them like altars, and I remember these sisters carry the gospel in their mouths, spilling good news and unmaking bitter fruit. And everywhere their words fall, hope takes seed, faith roots, becoming.

This is the sisterhood of becoming.

We are the beloved women, the truth tellers. We were at Jesus birth, at his feet, at the cross, at the tomb, at pentecost when tongues became spirit.

We gather the weary ones, the ones who can no longer hear anything but accusation and despair, the ones whose ears ache in agony and ring with the need for good news.

We tear the roof off of glass ceilings and the shards that pierced Jesus pierce us too and we count ourselves among the poor, the oppressed, the weak, the meek, the wandering, the poor in spirit, the hemorrhaging, the unclean, the broken, the thirsty, the outcast, and the other. And the sisterhood of becoming grabs a corner of the mat when we can no longer stand at all, and these sisters lower us to the feet of Jesus.

And the voice that cancels out all the whispers and the hiss of unholy tongues says, “I have made you good.” You are becoming.

______________

About Alia Joy:

AliaJoyI’m the daughter of both a book lover and a storyteller and in that I was destined to be a writer. I collect words at http://aliajoy.com, dance to the good songs, and believe even the most broken stories have a redeemer. I live in Central Oregon with my husband, my tiny Asian mother, my three kids, a bunny, and a bunch of chickens. Sushi is my love language and I balance my cynical idealism with humor and awkward pauses.

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  • Oh, Alia my love. You have done it again. Thank you for your gift of words and clarity and redemption yet again. My life is better because you have offered your written words to me.

    Amen to it all.

    • Alia_Joy

      I love seeing your face pop up in the comments. You are one of these sisters, one who speaks grace and hope and peace in the midst of it all. One of the truth tellers. I’m thankful for you.

  • Bev Murrill

    !!!!!!!

    Words fail me. The raw beauty of this post is astonishing and I thank God that you have heard the new words and the new voice, Alia. Emmanuel… God is with you in great peace and you are dearly loved. I feel your strength and grace and courage and astonishing beauty… I wish I could express this more fully to you, but thank God you wrote this.

    Emmanuel.

    • Alia_Joy

      Thank you Bev. I’m learning a new language and sometimes it feels foreign to believe that all things are being made new. All things are being redeemed. I am not damaged goods, I am beloved. This sisterhood has helped preach the gospel to broken parts. So much grace for the wounded among us and in us.

  • So much hope here.
    Because God redeems everything, nothing is lost, and everything is part of our becoming. I am thankful for the words you have put around your journey.

    • Alia_Joy

      Yes, nothing is lost which is surrendered into God’s redeeming hands. Even the things that devastate us and leave us feeling empty often make space to be filled new. On this journey to becoming right along with you.

  • Rea

    I am not sure whether to weep or stand up and shout ‘Glory!’ Both seem appropriate…and completely inadequate.

    • Alia_Joy

      I often find doing them both simultaneously is what’s needed and necessary. I say go for both. 😉

  • YOU have been one of those voices for me lately. Through your stories, through your words, it’s as if God is saying the same things to me- “I have made you good.” (insert weepy emoji)

    • Alia_Joy

      Oh sweet friend, God has made you good. Thank you.

  • Sarah Joslyn

    Your writing is poetic and glorious. This one made me cry. I’m so glad you are here on SheLoves joining the sisterhood.

    • Alia_Joy

      I’m so honored to be here, Sarah. The invitation to belong is still something that sometimes surprises me but I’m so glad it’s readily offered here. Really, this sisterhood is beautiful.

  • Holly

    I am sitting in reverence, friend, for your words have pushed out the lies and there is glory in the filling of all my empty spaces. I was telling you the truth last night. You write scared and when you do, strongholds are knocked loose and a fantastic humming begins to rise. You are choosing to enter into the fantastic dance of truth and love and spirit and we are awash in the power that comes from so much vulnerability. Awake, my soul, awake. Selah.

    • Alia_Joy

      Love you sweet friend. Thank you for being part of this sisterhood, for speaking life into dry places, for being a voice on the other end when I felt at the end of mine. You are a gift.

  • Kristy

    I am excited anytime I see your name appear because I know the words you write will burn and soothe and lead. I am never disappointed.

    • Alia_Joy

      Oh thank you so much! Wow, that’s such a wonderful encouragement.

  • SimplySuzi

    This touched me in a deep and very tender place. It left me sobbing in grief, but also with hope. Thank you.

    • Alia_Joy

      I would feel badly for making people cry with my writing but I cry when I’m usually crying when I’m writing so it all evens out, yes? Thank you for reading and for hoping. We need that last piece so much when we grieve.

  • Karrilee Aggett

    I love you… gah! Just so very much! Praying for you and your Mama today… I’ll Vox you soon – but, you know, not right away!

    • Alia_Joy

      Thank you for your faithful prayers for me and now for my mom as well. It’s been the roughest week and now that the crisis mode and adrenaline are wearing off a bit, I’m mindful not to burn out and to pay attention to caring for myself so I can care for her. I’m so tired and weary and this sisterhood is breath to me. I am thankful for the gift of women who tend the broken among us and for the broken in us, I’m thankful for space to come and exhale.

  • Jody Ohlsen Collins

    Words are alive…yours sing. I’m typing through tears at the power you share here, Alia. It took me until I was 40 something to start walking new… you’ve got a way ahead start. Keep singing. (hugs).

    • Alia_Joy

      Thank you sister.

  • Alia. ALIA. This literally made my breath quicken. Thank you for the way you let yourself break and preach to us, for us.

    • Alia_Joy

      Squishy hugs. Thank you friend.

  • Laurie Sikorowski

    This brought tears to my eyes. How full of truth. Beautifully worded!

    • Alia_Joy

      Thanks for reading, Laurie.

  • De Ann W.

    Just. Beautiful. <3 Thank you for sharing your gift.

    • Alia_Joy

      Thank you for being here with me, De Ann.

  • Megan Gahan

    Thank you for this Alia. I can’t muster any words eloquent enough to describe this piece. It’s just beautiful, your heart is beautiful, YOU are beautiful. xx

    • Alia_Joy

      Megan! Or maybe I’ll call you Meg? Your piece was so gorgeous, what a compliment. Thank you.

  • pastordt

    Stunning, Alia. Thank you for these hard, good words.

    • Alia_Joy

      Honored you’d read them Diana. I have so much respect for your words and wisdom. This means so much to me.

  • Laura Schofield

    Beautiful. Those voices of not-belonging dominated my life for so long. I wasn’t even called a girl! But seeing this sisterhood of becoming helped me see that I could become, too. The possibility of a welcome.

    • Alia_Joy

      Yes, you can become too. You are welcome here. I wrote this post and then I doubted all the true things. I doubt again and again. I wish I could say those fears are completely behind me and burned to the ground but they fester and linger in my ears when I start to truly claim my place as beloved. If anything they get louder. They’re so loud sometimes. Sometimes I listen to all the unholy things. But I write these words to fight back, to speak that truth into my life and my sisters lives. You are welcome here. You can belong. You are becoming and seen and loved. Thank you for sharing that small, ‘me too’, with me. We need each other.

      • Laura Schofield

        Thank you x

  • Larry

    Women carry scars and wounds that man can never imagine, but man too has his invisible daggers impaling him to public walls, so all that pass may point long accusing fingers.

    Most would agree that the birthing process should remain with the stronger side of humanity. She is flexible steel amidst the winds of adversity and a gentle dove in the morning light of love, but never underestimate her as Kipling so aptly puts “For the female of the species is more deadly than the male.”

    I applaud you and all you have said; it stirs in my heart, and though your battles are not those that surround me, your strength, oddly mixed with your creative genius, compels you to unlock visions for us that here-to-fore lay hidden in places rarely visited by weakened minds and idle wandering thoughts.

    May the spark of divinity that the Trinity embedded in you at birth, as They did for us all beginning with the creation, shine forth blinding all that might come against you, leaving you renewed, whole, wiser and more compassionate than every before.

    Be blessed, child of God.

    Larry Brook

    • Alia_Joy

      Yes, we’re going to have scars if we want to look like Jesus. We bear the burdens of brokenness in this world but we have such hope, don’t we? When we learn to hear the voice of God. Thank you for your encouragement, Larry.

  • Nancy Roe

    BRILLIANT! GORGEOUS! HOLY GROUND! So love it all!

    • Alia_Joy

      Thank you Nancy! I love the all shouty caps comment. I’d put in a praise hands emoji but that is beyond my technical abilities. 😉

  • Oh Alia, friend. God is using you. You come with healing in your wings …

    • Alia_Joy

      Thank you Linda. Today I could use some healing. Thankful for my sisters who remind me this matters.

  • Gorgeous fierce bold vulnerable powerful cutting thank you.

  • Thank you for singing my song, Alia. Thank you for your courage and your words that pierce my heart and soul. I am sitting here in rather stunned silence, marveling at the way you have told my story as well as yours. You are a gifted writer, and I’m so grateful that Jesus pointed me down the path to your writings.

    • Alia_Joy

      Thank you Mokihana. You’re an encouragement to me and I’m thankful that in the me too’s we find we’re always less alone than we first thought. I love being in the sisterhood with you and next time you’re in Bend we need to get local food (well as local as you can get in Bend. 😉

      • I read your post to my Gathering sisters yesterday, and they were so moved. It gave several of us courage to tell our stories and all were moved by your perception and eloquence.

        I would really love to get together sometime! Aloha Cafe is wonderful… oh yeah, malasadas!