Sunday, January 20, 2013


I was angry.  

A year's worth of anger, fear, sadness, hurt, inadequacies, let downs, insecurities had been stockpiled in a place out of my reach.  I did it for my own good, stored it away, because I knew what I had to do.  What I had to do and how to get it done, and I knew... I knew better than to let anything else get in the way.

This week, a chapter closed.  A new one began and I step forward with as much trepidation and uncertainty as one might begin any new journey.  I have no map, no directions -- and worst of all, no one clued me into my destination.  I feel, unfortunately, quite lost.  Safe.  But lost.

And not to my surprise, these new feelings, this new path, reached high and deep and long and found the place where I kept it all.  There, on the shelf in the back of my mind.  Smelling like so much life and  of so much struggle and of all kinds of secrets.  Pretending I was capable, ready, to deal with it all, it came tumbling down.  Piled at my feet.  Mounding beside me, hot and sticky and not all bad -- but all very dangerous.

The knot grew in my chest, the tears burned behind my eyes.  Sadness welled there, and anxiety pushed at my armpits.  As if it all, all this life, was trying to find some way to escape me.  I would not let it, for whatever reason.  And I shake my head, wondering at my ability to cling to that which is no longer of use to me.

I was angry.

I didn't use to be angry.  I used to be scared and sad and remorseful and all those things you feel when you think it's all your fault.  Those things you feel when the world, when the church, has put the scarlet letter on your coat and every day conversation begins with subtle mentioning of your shortcomings.

I am able to stand here now and say a host of things I never was able to say before.  Some of you have waited for the day that I'd agree with you -- the past few years have been laden with mistakes and failures and I, myself, am full of character flaws.

And it's not that I agree.  But you're right -- in the sense we have to understand exactly where things started falling apart, to be able to ever begin putting it back together.  It's not that I agree, because I truly believe our culture -- especially the church, the helping culture -- has taught us that freedom is in admitting our flaws.  Be honest, repent, admit, they quip.  Although scripture does say "if we confess our sins He is faithful and just", it seems like most things the church has turned this practice into something it was never intended to be.

But I have grown.  In ways I was promised and in ways I'd never anticipated.  And much like the stages of grieving, I got there.  To an angry place.  Past the sad place, the lonely place, the insecure place.  Straight to the top.  To the angry place.

I don't like the angry place.  I never stay there long.  It's hot and bothersome and I can't see straight up there.  I think, perhaps, I can't breathe properly up there either.  Because I get dizzy.  "Seeing red" was a term they coined about me.  So I race to the top, have my moment of hating the world and everything in it and say lots of words, very quickly, that I earnestly mean but shouldn't have said.

Then I am done.  Back down the mountain.  I don't like staying there at the top -- I don't like being angry.  I dislike it so, I refuse to let myself feel anger for too long.  Maybe I'm not really a forgiving person, since my motive for forgiving is often selfish.  But at the end of the day, it is just true.  I don't like the angry place.

But I was angry.  

And I was pumping gas.  And words were spewing and colors were blurring.  I was staying too long there, at the top.  But I could not find my way down.

Too many unkind words.  Too many accusations.  Too many consequences.  Too many implications.  Too much advice.  Too many opinions.  Too much rejection.

It had all gotten me here.  And I couldn't find my way out.


This weekend I am watching a little boy we call Bear.  Judah will look like him in two years and that baffles me.  I have known Bear since before he could walk and there's a special place in my heart for this small little boy.  His mom is a single mom too, and we have vowed from day one to help each other out.  That's what we do -- look out for each other.  

This weekend, she was the one who needed help.  So I offered.  And for the past two days, I've been a mommy to two.  Judah's had a big brother and my conversations have revolved around what color Cheez-Its are and when it's time to go to the potty.  Where are your eyes, Bear?  What sound does a dinosaur make?

I live on the second story of an apartment complex.  With all of our stuff in my arms, including Judah and his carrier, Bear and I walked up to the apartment building and then inside.  I started climbing the stairs and turned around and there stood Bear, at the bottom of the steps.  He looked up at me with the big brown eyes of someone who is scared, a little person in a big, new place.  

"Help?" He whispered, staring at the steep, carpeted staircase.  

I had forgotten he was little.  

I had forgotten that he was little and needed help still.

I walked back down the steps and Bear grabbed my free pinky finger and we took the staircase one step at a time until we reached the top.


I was angry.  

The gasp pump filled my tank and I replaced the nozzle and walked inside the Speedway to buy coffee.  

And somewhere, between the pump and the door, I asked for help.

Plain and simple.  It was cold and my hands smelled like gasoline and I was still seeing colors every time I took a breath.  I was still hurt in such a deep way that it didn't cause me pain anymore, it just kept me there, at the top in the place I didn't want to stay.

And somewhere, between the pump and the door, I just whispered "I don't want to be angry anymore."

I took a deep breath and January filled my lungs and I breathed out -- and maybe that's when it happened.  

I'll never know.  Not for certain anyway.  Whether it was my own will or the advocate, the Spirit, who breathed a sigh of relief and petitioned for me.  "She just asked for help!  I heard her!  Not in so many words, but yes, I know my Anna and that was it.  That was what we've been waiting for, Father.  She asked, let's help her."

Because by the time I got back to my car, the anger was gone.

And I was walking serenely back down the mountain, back to where I wanted to be.  


"Help" is such a scary word.  It means we cannot do this thing, whatever it is, on our own.  The word interprets inability as inadequate.

But would you ever look at a child who can't climb the stairs on his own and call him inadequate?  He is incapable.  He cannot do this big, steep, scary thing on his own.  And he told you so. Because he knows.  He knows he can't.  He told you, because he needs help.  This, this act of young bravery, this act of honesty, that one small word that the world teaches grownups we can't use... is all confession ever was intended to be.

Help, we should cry.  Every time the sorrow and the sin and the hurt and the hatred has tried to bury us alive.  Help, we should cry.  Every time we get to the place we hate and cannot find our way back down.

Help.  Not in our inadequacies, but in our inabilities.  Help, we cry, not asking for judgement or to be reprimanded or to be isolated.  But we cry help because this thing, this thing we need to do, we cannot do on our own.  

Sometimes, though you may not want to admit the demons are real, we are plagued by them.  We are attacked by them.  The voice, sounding so much like our own, like our fathers, like that boy you loved, breathing that fear and anger and hurt into your lungs.  

Sometimes, their literal or metaphorical tactics are to cover our ears and make us think we are battling this alone.  That the pile of hurts and memories and smelly stuff now laying at your feet, is a pile you have to sort through alone.  

Or that staircase you have to climb, that steep staircase, is one you have to climb by yourself.  

My friend, it is not.

And my prayer is that we would grow to be a community, we'd find ourselves living in a world, where it is not just the young who are willing to whisper "help". We'd find ourselves living in a world, a community, where we respond to the request, the confession, the plea, with nothing but grace and a free pinky.  

Thursday, January 17, 2013



There's a host of hurts we come across
None of which alike
From the air inside the birthing room
To the darkness where we die
Though I feel I'm just as strong as any man I know
I'm not able on my own

Carry round the secrets
Only heaven knows
Crawl into our darkened rooms where only victims go
Though I feel I'm strong enough to carry all this load
I'm not able on my own

(Needtobreathe - Able)

And so we find ourselves here, a year later.  The words find my ears and I am startled -- unexpected and out of place and painfully familiar.  Voice carries note and meaning and memory all the way to my ears.  And if I hadn't before, I now feel as though I've lived an entire year in twenty four hours.  

I have buried emotions deep enough, I may recall them but I can avoid feeling the pain again.  Of sitting on the floor and asking something impossible of God.  Of sitting in the doctor's office, twice, not even having words for my questions.  Of calling him, meeting him at his house, sitting on the bed and all the start of all the confusion.  Of the pain and judgement and nausea and fear that followed.  

Fear, it seems, often leads us into the next chapter of our stories.  Whether or not we let fear control our lives determines the nature and quality of that next chapter.  And I, despite the temptation, did not succumb.  

But I am haunted -- haunted by waters full of memories and intensity and the way the rain smelled that morning. Haunted by the remembering, of sitting on an unfamiliar street and staring at traffic in my parked car.  When the a strain of music caught my ear and He told me what I needed to hear.  Not on my own.

How often do we stand neck deep in life.  Armpits aching with the nervousness of it all.  We can't see far enough ahead.  We cannot fathom how our prayers might be answered.  We think we know best -- an alternative is out of the question.  We beg and cry and take deep breaths and somehow, we collect days.  Somehow we make it to sundown every time.  And our beds swallow us and we resolve to do it again.

Somehow, we think.  Somehow we will do this.  Even if some of those days our eyes are squinted shut and some days we finish rather worse for wear.  The days add up.  The hours pass.  

Then one day you wake up and it is one year later.  Somehow, though we couldn't tell you how, we've made it here.  And though the world thinks this is an unremarkable day, it's implications wake you up in the morning.  You know.  You know what this day means.

In not so many words, today means you survived.  You arrived today, as a conquerer.  

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Story of 2012

I just spent New Year's Eve sick and laying in bed.  

Larry and Emily took Judah for me so I spent the last few hours of 2012 completely alone.

It's the first morning of the new year and it's still dark outside and I miss my boy terribly.  But I am enjoying the quiet for just a little while longer, trying to reclaim the sentimentality of this holiday, the reflection, which always accompanies the turn of a new year.  

New Year's Eve is always about this: the looking back, the preparing.  A milestone so we remember where we've come from, and if we need to, take a deep breath and change direction.  

Life, my life, has a funny of way of foreshadowing.  

On December 31, 2011 I wrote :  But that happens sometimes.  Sometimes we try things and we fail.  We have good intentions and we mean well.  And we have no way of knowing what's coming our way.  No way to really prepare for the battles we are going to fight.  To predict the ways we are going to turn.

Thirteen days into the new year I found out I was pregnant.  I went out the night before to enjoy some time with girlfriends and had taken a cheap pregnancy test before going.  The test was faulty, partially indicating "pregnant" -- blurry, incomplete, not enough for me to be concerned. 

This, it turns out, would be the story of 2012.  The plot line that would move my story forward.

Very few of you know this entire story.  Frankly because some stories are not written to be told.  But this chapter of my life built my character, tested my faith, and strengthened me in ways I never could have anticipated.  

I think back to the beginning of last year and I am queasy just at the thought.  I think about snowy nights at Horseman's Lane and dark nights on Woodland Avenue.  I think about walking to class in the snow, fighting morning sickness.  Leaving my research class with Dr. Royse to throw up for the first time in the janitors bathroom of the basement in POT.  

I think about round ligament pain while working at Orange Leaf, taking my break to drive to Jamba Juice, because nothing else would stay down.  About eating whole sleeves of wheat saltines and falling asleep the moment I laid my head to the pillow.  I remember the nightmares and wish I did not. 

I remember the worst semester of my college career.  Classes taught by PhD students and ungracious hippies and demanding social workers from Ghana.  I remember UK winning the national championship.  Sitting on the steps of my studio apartment listening to the wild parties because I could not participate.

I am almost physically uncomfortable remembering this season of my life.  

On April 19th I found out I was having a little baby boy.  Judah Nathaniel.  He was already named.  God had told me he was a boy -- and given me a name.  I found out I was having a little boy just two days after Katherine and David found out they were too.  A generation of girls, giving birth to a generation of boys.  

I also found out that Judah had a calcium deposit on his little heart.  And I prayed the boldest, most trusting prayer I've ever prayed.   Only to have God answer me with that peace that transcends all understanding.

In May I moved out of my studio apartment and spent the months of May and June technically homeless.  I slept on Nubia's futon.  Got a job at a daycare.  Sat in the truck with him and finally learned a truth that would still, today, impact my life.  

In May I also started a practicum at NECCO.  A Private Child Caring Agency.  I came to intern with them for what I thought would be a summer placement.  I took trips to the detention center and sat in on intakes and multiple times almost threw up in my supervisor's vehicle while driving down the interstate.  I became a social worker -- if not in credentials, in mentality.

And at the end of June I moved back to Redding Road after twenty some odd years.  Larry calls us homing pigeons, always returning home.  

In July, I saw my son's face for the first time.  We were checking on the EIF in his heart, and because there were so few patients in the office that day, the US tech gave me a free 3D ultrasound.  So many people would tell me that these 3D ultrasounds were not a strong indicator of what babies would actually look like once they're born.  But they were wrong.  That day the US told me my son was healthy and whole.  And to this day, I watch Judah make the same faces he did while he was in the womb.  

In August Mary and Jamere got married.  I was part of their story from day one -- the late night in the club when Mary texted me and joked about this "baby" she'd met.  Not even a year later, they'd be married.  My only regret is I didn't dance at their wedding.

In August I was also hired on at NECCO, my practicum placement, as a part time home resource assistant.  Without an interview, I laid my resume on the Program Director's desk and was hired the next day.  Making it possible for me to quit my jobs at Orange Leaf and Crestwood and put myself in position for a promotion.  

I also started my last semester of college.  Walking into class and sitting sideways in the desk because my belly was too big to fit.  

I bought a new car -- trading my Ford Focus in for a Corolla.  My second investment as a mother.

On September 1st Elijah David Rector was born.  The first son, first grandson, first great-grandson, first great-nephew.  My first nephew.  He was born with a thick head of hair and amazed us at the way he grew cuter every day.  

On September 12th 2012, on Olivia's 19th birthday, I was admitted to Central Baptist Hospital to be induced.  Judah was comfortable and didn't want to come on his own.  I was miserable.  Feet were swollen, PUPPPS in full effect.  I drove myself to the hospital.  Registered in a private room.

And on September 13th at 6:05pm, fifteen hours of labor and one hour of pushing, Judah Nathaniel was born.  8 lbs 5 oz and 21 1/2 inches long. 

This, he, was the story of 2012.  

He is almost four months old now and it has been the longest and shortest four months of my life.  Those hard battles, which I had foreshadowed in 2011, continue to be fought.  

On December 14th, I graduated from University of Kentucky with a Bachelor's Degree in Social Work.  Against all odds, I am now done.  Anna Vaughan, BASW.

So much heartbreak has continued to happen.  I have never asked God "why" so many times in my life.  Never felt so hopeless, so excited, so terrified, so inadequate. 

As the new year rolls over I am still laying in bed recovering from the stomach flu. Larry has Judah and I am alone.  This week... this week ahead means more than last night ever could have.  

This week means closure.  This week is a greatest expression of all the grace I have left.  This week is an anniversary.  This week is a promotion.  This week has already been hard conversations and certain levels of hurt.  So much thinking as the new year approached.  I can't even get my mind to a place where I can make any plans.  I don't even know what I want for this next year.  Except for peace and progress.

I am so thankful.  I am thankful for him for staying when he didn't have to.  For loving my son.  For being my big man, who in so many ways, has fixed so many things in my heart and in our lives.  

I am so thankful for Olivia -- Judah's Aunt Liv.  Who moved into my living room in September and never left.   

I am so thankful for those who have walked me through  2012.  Who have listened to my crying, who have put up with the horrible drama, who have fed me, and clothed Judah.  Who have taken out my trash and taken me out.  I am so thankful for those loved me enough to include me.  

I am so thankful for those people who still look like Jesus.

And I am thankful for those who haven't given up on me.  Who know the Father and the Spirit well enough to still see them in me.  

 As the New Year starts, I can't help but think about him.  And hope that, even though he is not involved, his life would be blessed and impacted one day.  That the hurt he caused would heal and his place would be taken.  But mostly that one day, he would look back and not be hurt by his mistakes, but encouraged by our grace.  

And so, as always, my New Year's resolution is to "do better".  It's just that the things I need to "do better" at this year are different than ever before.

This year, I hope I am a better mother.  A better friend.  I hope the work I do on a daily basis helps better the lives of forgotten children.  I hope when people look at my life, they see a better picture of Jesus.  

I hope to do better at balancing.  To find ways to contribute, to stretch myself, to love the people in my life better.  I hope to learn to be more gracious, more patient, more understanding.  I hope I am a better friend.

I hope to stand up for myself and my son and be brave enough to walk away from the things that hurt us.  

I hope I remember how to risk and to listen.  

I hope I get answers.  I hope I get closure.  I hope we find freedom in being and loving the way we were created to.  

I hope I keep learning.

And that at the end of this year, I hope I have a new story to tell. 

I hope