Prayer Where?

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I’ve had some downtime from writing. Blips in my personal life interfered with my creative endeavors. It’s been hard to put the words on the page. During this time I’ve scrolled and read many posts about needing to put God back in schools. This old person has other ideas. You might not agree but different opinions posed constructively lead us to examine our beliefs if we keep an open mind. And on some occasions great conversation.

I don’t remember prayer being in my public school when I attended classes in the 60s. Yes, the Pledge of Allegiance was said when appropriate, and there were religious songs sung and played at concerts. Christmas programs were Christmas programs, not religious programs but church songs were not excluded. I have no idea what all the complaining is when it comes to God in our public schools, except it’s a great mem on Facebook and other Social Media platforms that get our ire up. We pass it along without actually thinking it through.

What I do remember is prayer at mealtime in our home when the family would sit down together. The same happened in my friend’s homes. I remember attending church every Sunday because our parents made us and they went too. I remember religion classes on Saturday and Wednesday nights. I remember prayer at bedtime with my parents. i remember my Grandmother sitting in her wheelchair by the window with her rosary in her hand praying every day. I remember my Aunt Mary with her Bible on her lap in prayer after supper. I remember holidays where our schedule was built around the church. There was no choice between attending school activities or church activities. School activities lost every time if there was a conflict.

The same happened when my kids were growing up. No matter what activities they were in we always sat down for a meal together almost every night. It might not always have been at the same time but we found some time. Church activities came first and so did church on Sunday plus Sunday School and confirmation Wednesday nights and Saturdays. I remember when my daughter was in high school and we had tickets to the Broadway show Phantom of the Opera and it coincided with a confirmation trip. Yup, she went on the confirmation trip, and guess what, she survived missing the musical. Were my kids ever upset with us because of the choices we made when it came to church activities…all the time, yet they’re still speaking to us.

Parents are blaming schools for the lack of God in the school but perhaps they need to take responsibility for the choices that are being made for the lives of their families also. Churches have changed the way they teach because Sunday School, Confirmation, and prayer aren’t a priority in families lives anymore. It takes a backseat to whatever fun activity is happening in the community. Thirty minutes a week is not much for churches to teach kids about the role of God in their life. The churches have caved to societies worldly pressures.

Here’s what I don’t understand. I hear you when you complain that you don’t have a choice because all these activities in schools are planned for nights and weekends that used to be reserved for church. You ask, “What is a parent to do?” Parents don’t want their kids to be left out of the game or miss good times with their friends. They don’t want their kids penalized because they made them take part in church activities instead of practices or games. Parents want their kids to be well-rounded with activities that will take them into the future. They don’t want them bored and the church is occasionally boring. Somehow I think learning about God has been taken out of the phrase well-rounded.

School boards are under fire because people are protesting mask mandates and vaccine mandates. Does that say where priorities are? I haven’t heard any protests of parents being upset because of all the activities that take away from their kids learning about God in their homes and their churches. Yet the complaints of God not being in school are all over social media but it doesn’t seem to translate to the source of the problem. I would say that is a choice that has been made by families all over the United States. It’s time to own it and quit blaming schools for taking God out of the schools. We did it to ourselves when we let schools take our church time or made the choice to prioritize fun time over church time. We did it to ourselves when we quit praying as a family at mealtime or at bedtime or when we quit having faith conversations with our kids.

You might think I/m passing the buck but I’m not. I have to own my own mistakes. I’m a believer in prayer. I pray, sometimes it’s conversation but it’s a prayer. I’ve lost my desire to attend church the past year, not the church’s fault, but my own quest for examining what I believe and somewhat laziness, but I will go back. I didn’t quit praying. It was ingrained in me by my parents, by my relatives, and by my different churches. I can’t imagine a life without prayer. Prayer has saved me many times when I haven’t had anywhere else to turn.

Covid has left me finding so many online resources for my faith. We all struggle and have our ups and downs and my family is no different. I have fallen back as a parent encouraging my adult children and my grandchildren in faith and I see the results. Recently my eyes were opened when a family member told me they didn’t pray. That is a concept I totally didn’t understand. My heart dropped when I heard it. That brought me back to the kind of role model I’ve been the last few years. I may not have been in church but I didn’t leave God or prayer, but we didn’t talk about it. I haven’t had those conversations with the people I love. The role of a parent in teaching our families about God doesn’t end when they turn 18.

I also admit I was shocked a few years ago when directing a Christmas Program in church and a couple of the children that only came to be in the Christmas Program had never heard the story of the birth of Jesus. Recently, a friend told me of another young person who had never heard of the creation story or the Garden of Eden. Somewhere there is a disconnect and I have to feel it starts with us as Grandparents and parents and yes churches.

As for churches, it’s not a competition or it shouldn’t be. I never wanted my kids to learn about God in school. I felt it wasn’t the schools or the teachers’ responsibilities. It was ours as parents. I also believe it’s time for churches to teach and set the bar higher for expectations for the kids. Stop being afraid people will leave or people will get mad and do what churches are supposed to do. Be a respite for the weary, Kids are weary too. Take care of the ones that are there, and help them know what they believe and why they believe it, so they can go forward and take that knowledge to teach the next generation. Prayer will be with us for a lifetime. History has shown us prayer has kept people alive and given them hope in the most dire conditions. Don’t we want that for our children?

The next time you pass along the mem of putting prayer back in schools, examine what that means and if it was ever there. Maybe change it to “Put Prayer Back In The Home.”

The Constant Battle For Comfort

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Cats are connoisseurs of comfort. ~James Herriot

My Sunday thoughts this morning are on comfort. Not on the kind of comfort you might think I am referring to on a Sunday morning. Yes, I already read my devotions, said my prayers and then…I wiggled and tried to get comfortable in the chair I am sitting in. I wished I had an ottoman to rest my feet at the end of my easy chair.

Do you have those battles in your household on what is comfortable to each of you, the people you live with not understanding because what doesn’t fit you, fits them perfectly?

I am short, very short. Many chairs are not built for short people. One of my recliners hits my head at the wrong place and so the angle is always uncomfortable because it is hard to look up. The contour of the chair has my head crooked down. Most of the time I can’t rest my feet on the floor when sitting on certain chairs and sofa’s because I can’t touch the ground. Case in point, I never can touch the floor sitting on the church pews in church.

The same goes for the seats in a vehicle and the head rests. I always wondered at the wisdom of my grandchildren not being able to ride in the front seat with me because they weren’t tall enough. Their driver, me, was shorter than they were. I think I should invent a flamboyant booster chair for adult drivers that are short.

I like a soft bed, my spouse likes a hard mattress. I like an old dining room chair I bought at a sale and not the ones that sit by my dining table. The old chair keeps me at the level where the table is not above my chest. I keep replacing one chair with my old chair and my spouse keeps putting the matching dining room chair back up to the table.

Our stackable washer and dryer are gone and I am ecstatic. I could never reach to the back of the dryer without a little boost at my feet. I still have a bit of a fear of falling into my washing machine when I have to jump a little when reaching in to get my wet clothes out. It was a battle to get my spouse to understand what we had was not working for me because it was perfect for him.

My list could on and on. Can you relate? Small cars are not comfortable to tall people. Small chairs are not comfortable to large people. It’s irritating to them to always have to change the driver’s seat when sharing a car with a short person.

Don’t ever look at the top of my refrigerator or anything higher than my height. There is probably years of dust because I am the duster in the family and what I don’t see I don’t dust. I know its there but it’s easier to ignore.

It’s hard for us to understand what is uncomfortable for those around us if we have our comfort needs met. We dismiss the concerns and our lack of understanding on what works for others causes problems in relationships and friendships. We don’t want to give up our comfort or we secretly seethe with anger if we do.

I hope there are many that have found the art of compromise. Yet, we appear to living in an angry world. I can’t help but wonder if the anger stems from a need not being met or a concern not being heard. We seethe inside until we erupt like a volcano.

It might just take someone saying, “I hear you. We should work on seeing what might help.” Or it might take us not expecting others to meet our needs but seeing what we can do to make ourselves more comfortable. I bought the old dining room chair. Yes, it gets moved elsewhere but I can always put it back when I need it.

God made us all different. We have tastes and likes and needs that are unique to us. We are not like our neighbor. My neighbor likes a weed free lawn. I don’t really care about weeds. Some of them are pretty. However, what I do with my lawn affects his because my weeds infect his life. He puts up with my weed yard even if it causes more work for him. This year I sprayed my weeds. It’s a compromise. It’ll make life easier for him. He makes life easier for us by doing things for us that we can’t do anymore. We are both more comfortable in our lives because of it.

Yesterday a wise friend and I had a conversation about relationship dynamics. They pointed out to me our words, and I know mine are, get peppered with, “They won’t let me do that.” This person was right. We stop ourselves from living parts of our lives because of the lack of understanding of someone else of what we need for comfort for our body or our soul. I have to ask myself where I learned that. Do those people really stop us or are we stopping ourselves and using it for an excuse? Our life doesn’t need to fit someone else. It needs to fit us and only then can we be comfortable with others.

This is my Sunday morning rambling. I have no answers. I have a challenge for you. What are you going to do this week to allow yourself to have those moments of comfort that you need?

I’m going to get an ottoman so I can put my feet up in this chair that doesn’t quite fit me and relax. It can be moved when someone taller sits here. A small compromise for a big chair so we both can have our comfort.

“I know there is strength in the differences between us. I know there is comfort where we overlap.”

Ani DiFranco

The More Things Change….

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The more things change the more they stay the same. ~Jean Baptiste Alphonse Karr

Binging on old television shows is one of my favorite pastimes. I’ve wallowed in the antics of House, CSI, Criminal Minds, 24, Schitt’s Creek etc. etc. Most of my wallowing have been crime shows and mysteries, and some dark comedies. Yes, I like to waste my time watching tv. It relaxes me while giving me ideas for my writing.

My binge of the week or maybe weeks is now Boston Legal. I watched it previously when it was on in 2004 – 2008. That’s 13 years ago. Things possibly weren’t quite so politically correct back then. Maybe I didn’t get the message or I wasn’t into politics at all. I’m not sure this program would survive in 2021 without major complaints.

Boston Legal is a program about a firm of lawyers, most of them quirky. William Shatner, Candice Bergan and James Spader star along with a revolving cast. There is sexual innuendo, inappropriate behavior and court cases that address social issues. In spite of the shadows of innuendo and inappropriateness when it comes to the treatment of women in the workplace, the characters have heart which is revealed over the seasons. Don’t take me wrong, I am not defending the harassments and varied ways that would be addressed differently today when it comes to women’s rights. Maybe, just maybe, that is part of what we are supposed to see to shock us into changing office behavior.

The subjects front and center in this series are the same issues we battle today. Racial discrimination, gender inequity, gun control, secrets kept hidden from the public in various churches that are shoved under the rug, homelessness and election laws being changed are all present and counted for in 2008. Though this program took place 13 years ago the only way it feels dated is the sexual content. Otherwise it could be dropped into 2021 and with a few tweaks you wouldn’t notice a dated program because we are still fighting about the same injustices.

I laugh at the old technology used in Boston Legal that we thought was up to date in those days. Technology has changed. I marvel at how young William Shatner and even Betty White, who spends a few episodes challenging James Spader, look. It’s inevitable that today their looks match their age. It’s called change.

I was sad when I watched the episodes dealing with racial violence and discrimination, inequity of women’s rights, views on homelessness, and inhuman behavior towards those that are different in gender or even financial status. It appears the more things change the more these things stay the same and maybe now are worse. Perhaps, it may appear to have escalated because social injustice is more front and center these days.

Boston Legal was a popular show in its day so it seemed strange it was cancelled after four seasons. What does that say about us as the American public? We laughed when the sexual banter was going on. We excused bad behavior because of memory problems of Denny Crane. But most of all, we didn’t learn a thing or keep it uppermost in our minds that we have to change the way we live in a society that embraces the unequal treatment of many.

We can chalk it up to a tv show like so many others, meant to entertain, yet making us feel a little uncomfortable sitting in our comfy easy chair. My question to my readers in all of this is: Does what we watch on tv, fiction that addresses issues, actually influence us or are we just thoughtful for a moment, toss it off and continue on accepting what made us uncomfortable in those moments of relaxation?

If you comment, please keep it kind and civil.

My Family Has A Language Barrier

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We have a language barrier in our house. Or we could call it a communication problem. It’s not new to me. I grew up in a household where there was a communication problem because of language, but I didn’t think it would extend to my adulthood.

Boris and Natasha, my two shyster cats, refuse to learn English so we can better cohabitate. I get tired of trying to decipher the tone of their meows. It is hit and miss. I think they’re tired of it too because as they get older, they’re stretching their vocal fold cords to new heights. I must not be getting their new commands right. In the early years, they were quieter, ignored us when we spoke to them, and yet we did what they wanted. Apparently, we were better trained ten years ago than we are now.

Early morning and late evening Boris sits by his bowl and glares at me. That means he wants to be fed. Natasha, on the other hand, gets my attention early morning by putting her paw on my face and waking me up so I will administer her a morning massage. We had our routines down. The minute there is a hole peeking through at the bottom of the food bowl, Boris demands vocally that we fill it. If they think we are going to forget, they open and then slam shut the cupboard door a few times to get our attention.

Lately, they have been directing us more often with their meows. We have a hard time figuring out the new things they want us to do. “There’s a mouse in the basement, let me down there.” We missed that one. The mouse is gone and the meows at the basement door has stopped.

“I want a treat, not my regular food.” as the meowing starts at another cupboard. And then of course, there is the… “You are sitting in my chair.” It took me a while to realize the meow at my head and the push at my back meant I needed to get up and let Boris or Natasha in the chair. The older they get the more demanding they are.

Boris saying, “I want my chair. Get up!“

I tried to teach Natasha to nod yes and no. After all, if my son could train his cat to use the toilet, I should be able to make my cats learn yes and no and to shake their heads. Natasha just blinked at me that she loved me, but she was adamant that nodding was beneath her.

I think of all the arguments we’re having about language these days. Recently, I saw a post that said if you’re going to live in America you needed to speak English. While I agree learning English may be a good idea, I thought of my grandmother.

My grandmother lived in America from the time she was 19 or 20. She never learned to speak English. I have no idea why. That’s what I mean when I say I am used to language barriers in my home. We lived with my grandmother. I never had a conversation with her that I could understand. For some reason, they never taught me Polish. I could understand a few words but that’s it. When my relatives would visit my dad and I would laugh because we couldn’t understand a word. I can’t say I was ever bothered by it because the one thing I did understand was that she loved me.

We are still having language barrier arguments all these years later. I wonder if some of what we are arguing about, only having people speak English, isn’t because of fear. I remember waiting on a couple of customers that spoke Spanish. They spoke English to me and then when talking to each other, spoke Spanish. I must admit I was a little fearful or paranoid because I had no idea if they were talking about me or making fun of me, or were planning something else. Media had put fear in my mind of a different culture. I no longer feel that way once I recognized it for what it was.

Different cultures view language different ways. Young people in other countries and now too here in our own, are learning to speak many different languages. I have friends whose children know how to speak Chinese because they went to language camps in the summer. Knowing each others languages breaks down barriers.

If you’ve ever had teenagers you know that may create a language barrier in your home. They speak teen-speak. The hard part is their language changes with each generation and now…it’s a language with letters and emojis. I can translate LOL but anything more my grandkids text me, I have to ask, “What does that mean?” I think I need to hit them with some shorthand or cursive, although my one grandson can read cursive.

I would like to think if we look someone in the eye and see them, really see them, the language barriers would fall away. If we take away the fear of insecurity of what we don’t know when they are speaking, maybe we wouldn’t be so judgmental.

As I grew up, I knew people who spoke Polish, German and a few other languages. They were the immigrants that were here during my generation. Not all spoke English. The argument was the same as it is now and so was the judgment. Guess what? We survived it and we integrated these people into our culture. I would not be here today, living in America if it were not for my Grandmother who never learned English. Yet in those days their culture was not accepted either.

My family kept their traditions alive by speaking their language and keeping close to the rituals of their heritage. Their roots were important to them. Perhaps it’s hard for those of us that were born in this country to understand that. It took me until my later years to get it as I sort through the things that were important from their native land. Though my mother was born in this country, her roots and heritage mattered to her. She never forgot where she came from and she never neglected to try and teach me their traditions. Sadly, I never realized the importance of keeping another culture’s heritage alive in family until she was gone

I find it exciting to learn about different cultures. The next time you eat Lasagna or Chinese food or take part in a tradition of another country, enjoy it’s richness. I am learning more about my Polish heritage and I am proud of it.

I think Boris and Natasha are proud of theirs too. I am sure Natasha is meowing Siamese and Boris is meowing Alleycat, and both are going to be stubborn and hold tight on keeping their language skills to meowing in their language. How lucky are we that our love for one another transcends those language barriers so we can bask in the purrs and blinks they give us on a daily basis.

Traditions, roots and culture remain important no matter what nationality we are, especially if it connects us to another country rich with history of our ancestors. It doesn’t make us less of an American to embrace our lineage.

Barriers can be created by closed minds and hearts. I am lucky love always won with my grandmother and my shysters. My life is richer because of it.

The Art of Persuasion

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If you have a way with words you have the art of persuasion. That may be a positive or a negative trait depending on your character.

I loved speech class in high school. It was where I first found my voice. Before that class I was easily intimidated and wasn’t much for speaking out. I did not have faith in my abilities. The high school counselor questioned my choice as it didn’t seem to fit what others saw. I fell in love with speech and writing. I remember when I got an A+ on a humorous speech; I was amazed. I had agonized over the assignment. I was not a funny person. Apparently somewhere inside of me when it came to writing I could be funny. That speech pulled something out of me I never knew I had.

Fast forward to 2021. We seem to be in the throws of being persuaded by the words of people we do not know and we give them unswerving loyalty. They are good speechmakers, influencers, and persuaders. It’s funny but we tend to believe those whom we do not know over people we formerly trusted, all because of good verbal persuasion. We don’t see the need to check out the facts.

It’s apparent in society today. Some are pursuaded to send money to men or women overseas who they form a relationship with on the internet. They trust what they are being fed in the beautiful words they see on the screen or hear on the phone. The talk shows and news reports are full of people being scammed all in the name of love.

We pass around on social media those ads that say Kohl’s or Best Buy are going to give us $500 just for sharing a post. We share and no one sees the money. We believed without questioning that if a company did this they would be broke. The scams are rampant all because we believe charismatic words of a stranger.

Recently someone made the comment, “He’s such a Christian man.” The comment was made about a politician that said a beautiful prayer at the right time in front of millions of people. I’m not saying this person isn’t a Christian man. But the conclusion was this person prays a lot in public it and makes him someone we should believe and follow. But do we really know that? Do we know them in person?

There are televangelists that woo us with beautiful prayer, and dynamic sermons. If you look at their bank account you know they are successful at persuasion because people are tossing a lot of money at them. Maybe they do good things with the money but if you look at their lifestyle, it is a very lavish life they are living. Yet we don’t protest their power of persuasion. Their power is growing and our churches in our communities are floundering.

I am not a flowery prayer person despite being a writer. If I listen and read all these beautiful prayers in all the media today I tend to feel my prayers may not be good enough. I’ve gotten over that for a few reasons.

My faith has been built not on flowery prayers but on actions of people I love and trust, not by those that are always in the public eye praying for all to see, or persuading us with their charismatic speech.

When I think of the Christians in my life that have influenced me I think of my Grandma Krock. She could speak no English but she had a big impact on me by her actions. Each day she would sit by the window in her house or by the wood stove with a rosary in her hands praying the rosary. I don’t remember many conversations that I understood but I understood her faith and her rosary. I watched this until she died when I was 17.

Grandma Krock

I think of my Aunt Mary who every night after supper would sit down with her Bible, read it and pray quietly in her living room. I was young when I noticed that and I remember it still today.

I think of my friend Jan, who endured 24 years of cancer. I never heard her complain. She treated everyone with kindness and respect and I saw her live out her faith in her church attendance, her music and private time with the Lord. Plus keeping her faith always while enduring much.

These people who affected my faith life, didn’t shout it in public, didn’t shout their faith from the rooftops but by their actions they brought their faith to others in a way that was humble.

These three are only a few examples of the people in our lives that quietly lead us. I can’t say someone is one thing just by the words they produce in public. I know too many people who are one way in the public eye and another in private. Some may see me as that way. Perception. Can we view something honestly, if we only have the glitz of the public eye?

That doesn’t mean I don’t follow and read some prominent Christian writers. Max Lucado is one of my favorite. Do I think he’s a good Christian man? Yes, I do but do I know? I don’t know him personally. That doesn’t stop me from liking what he writes but also viewing it with an eye that knows there may be more underneath that isn’t what I read, so I know not to believe unconditionally. I write fiction for a living. What I write is my perspective, to be read with a watchful eye and mind knowing it is fiction. In today’s world I probably could convince someone that fictional Fuchsia exists.

Churches, our churches, have a hard time maintaining members. We throw money at online preachers but starve our churches. We believe charismatic people and belittle our Pastors. We put our trust in strangers words but don’t believe the words of those we know preaching in our hometown churches.

If you’re looking for church, most of our local community churches are now online. Listen to those you trust. Are they perfect? No. But you know them. You know their imperfections and their strengths. Put your trust in those you know personally.

Having said that I will tell you I love my church being online. I get why we follow popular online preachers. We can listen without getting involved in church politics. When I watch my church services online I love sitting back and hearing what is being said and sung, with my eyes closed savoring the words. I am not distracted by anyone else.

In my old years, thinking back, I realize some of the greatest controversy in my life has been church politics, arguing about things that don’t matter. I am not referencing biblical beliefs but insignificant things that gain too much importance in our home churches, such as who didn’t stack the silverware or who isn’t dressing in the correct way. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “It isn’t done that way.” In fact I’ve been told at one time my opinion on whether a group could meet in our church didn’t matter, because we weren’t one of the top givers. So I get it. Online we don’t have to deal with the church politics that are man made. Maybe that’s why it’s easier to believe and follow the people who are eloquent speakers that we don’t know because we don’t have to get involved.

At times, I have the art of persuasion. With it, comes a responsibility. My advice, look to what you know, the people you know and respect in your life. Look deep at how they live their lives. That’s the best persuasion.

Thank you Grandma Krock, Aunt Mary and Jan for letting me know what it means to be a Christian person. It’s up to me what I do with that.

Friendship – Nourishing or Toxic?

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Yesterday my phone was busy. I was blessed because I received phone calls from friends. They brightened my day and reminded me of the gift I was given when these people chose me to be their friend. All of these particular people were old friends. Friends from childhood, my early years as a wife and mother, my middle years as I struggled, as we all do, with responsibilities we never dreamed of in our wildest dreams that we would have to tackle.

As I pondered my conversations throughout the day with these people, I was not only amazed all of them called me on the same day, but that it seems as if we just talked yesterday. Throughout this pandemic we have been in closer touch sharing our joys, our fears and just talking silly. What had kept us together so close all of these years?

As we grow both in our personal lives and in the way we present ourselves to the public there are some friendships, old friendships, that fall along the way for many different reasons. Perhaps we didn’t always connect and take the chance and show those friends who we are, or we did, and because of it just didn’t mesh anymore. There is something about hearts aligning that keep important relationships going, along with hard work.

Although, I must say, with the friends yesterday, it has never felt like hard work to keep the friendship. Probably because our values align, our interests may be the same, but along with that we have challenged each other to try something new and experience each others interests. And…after trying their crazy ideas, it’s been perfectly acceptable to say to them, “You can do that but I think it sucks.” All in all, through it all, the good, the bad, the ugly, we have the luxury of acceptance of who we are. We feel safe in those friendships sharing our failures, our fears and also our triumphs and successes and we are happy for one another.

Inevitably, as we go along life’s road we have let go of people because the way in which we change and feel and believe, is too different for us to maintain a connection. We agree to disagree but life’s circumstances have changed us so much that middle ground is hard to find. We are in a different era in our lives and we need a friendship and a soft place to fall that isn’t there in a friendship, and maybe never was, but we made excuses and bit our tongue so as to not provoke judgment from a friend. I say that as these friends were probably doing the same thing with me.

I have changed. I have always been opinionated. I was spoiled. I didn’t have time or enough compassion for those who had less than I. I didn’t care about others feelings, or I shouldn’t say I didn’t care, but I didn’t see them. Life hits you in strange ways. My wake up call was job loss, illness, losing people I cared about, Alzheimer’s in a family member and their ire, and abusive relationships. I found when we were down and out I no longer fit in some places because our cash was gone, and we live in a world where belonging needs money. Some friendships I thought I could count on I lost, occasionally because of my attitude. Once we peeled away the mask of acceptability because of what was happening in my life, people went away. I learned the true meaning of friendship and the true meaning of compassion, and that I am not a sum of the kind of house I live in, what type furniture I have, or if what kind of vehicle I drive. Figuring out how to pay my bills was more a challenge than trying to keep up appearances.

I’m not complaining because those experiences opened my life to so many peoples struggling like we were, and though we were never in the situation some are in now, I have empathy for those who use the food shelves, need help and assistance during a tough time and who struggle every day with illness or mental health problems. Let me tell you there are days I want to go back to not caring about anyone because it hurts to see others hurt.

My old heart friends have been there with me through it all and I felt no judgement. That doesn’t mean they let me get by with bad behavior. They are very good at calling it out, but it comes from a place of love. Those are the friends you need. Disagreement but no judgement, calling you out when they see you making a mistake, or putting their take on things when you have a different viewpoint but it’s never toxic.

I can be a very toxic person. I don’t want to be that toxic person that destroys lives, but I also don’t want to be that person in a friendship that has to bite their tongue all the time, or be scared if I voice my opinion I am going to verbally be assaulted. For a long time I felt guilty wanting to distance myself from some people, but talking to the friends I did yesterday I realized I am only toxic when I spend time with others that feed that toxicity. There should be no guilt in letting that go. Friendships should make you a better person and those are the ones to hold on to.

I am rambling. I guess that’s what a blog is all about. I do have some advice. When you are with a friend ask yourself how you feel when you are done with a conversation. Are you a better person being with someone? What brings you together? Is it a commonality of spreading toxicity or love? Maligning others that think differently than you or uplifting others and accepting the differences? How has life changed you? It took me a long time to get out of the pity party of the circumstances we were in. It was the friendships that stayed, put up with me, listened to me and jerked me up once in awhile that got me through. They know who they are. I am forever grateful because that is true friendship. I still fall short being that type of friend but we are all a work in progress. The key is to keep that progress going.

I Remember …

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Where were you when John F. Kennedy was assassinated? We have seen that question asked over and over again for those of us who are old enough to remember it. That was a big event in our nation’s history. In our own lives events might not be so monumental but yet they stand out as pivotal times in our lives that propel change. Each of us has those moments and these are mine.

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I remember somewhere around seven to eight years ago, going to Grandparent day at my grandson’s school located in a suburb of a large city. Sitting in his classroom I took note of the fact that the class was composed of many different races. In fact, I remember thinking my grandson was almost a minority in this classroom. This was a shock for this white woman from a small community in Southern Minnesota. I made sure I did not mention my observations to my grandson as he was oblivious to all of this. He hadn’t yet been made aware of the differences. All he knew was that they were his friends.

I remember attending a band concert at my granddaughter’s school during the time when suspicion and fear of Somali immigrants were high. I walked past a Somali woman with her head covered in her hijab and I too felt fear and suspicions because of what I had heard. I noticed there were more Somali parents with their children in my granddaughter’s school. Those from the community didn’t give them a second glance because they knew them and that was their normal, but I must admit because of all the attention by media and government, misinformation and haters, and no experience knowing a Somalian, I was afraid. Would we be in danger during the concert? I remember thinking I didn’t have this problem back home in my community. I felt comfortable and safe there.

I remember the first time I came in contact with a gay person. He was a friend of ours. We had known him for years but we didn’t know he was gay because he kept it hidden. He finally came out to us. It stands out in my mind that though we knew of this, someone decided they needed to point out to us that our friend was gay. They thought we didn’t know. Though our friend was our age he was also a friend of our daughters, and the person thought we should keep him away from her, and we should stay away too. They knew we wouldn’t want to expose our daughter to those things.

I remember the first time I met a black man. He was the husband of my best girlfriend from high school and they visited our home in our small white community. We didn’t have qualms about meeting him because if my friend could love him we would too, However, we wondered how our three-years-old and six years old would react and if they would say anything. They didn’t notice his skin was another color.

I remember the first time I met a Morman. The family moved to town and the husband worked with my husband. I was told by many to stay away from them because they would try to convert us to their ways. Some people shunned them. We gained loving friends and surrogate grandparents for our kids and religion was never talked about, though one of them was a leader in their church. Unless we asked a question they didn’t try to convert us to anything. They just loved us as family and spent many hours at services at our church supporting my children.

I remember when my relatives came to visit and stay for a few days when I was a teenager. They were Jehovah’s Witnesses. The flag went up with many of my parents friends. And my church at that time had taught me to be wary of the evil they may teach. I had already met them from a previous trip to visit them in California so all I knew was the love and caring of family, no matter the difference in religion.

I remember the first time I met a Transgender person. I knew them all their lives, however, I didn’t meet them as who they were inside until the last year because they hid it out of their fear of how we would react. They were family and my reaction when I finally knew, was love.

I wasn’t always tolerant of any of this. I would say in the past ten years I have evolved after a long hard look at myself, what I learned as a child, what I learned as an adult, and what ideals were actually chosen by me to believe, or what was planted in my head without thought and question and that included my religion and my belief in God.

I grew up in a religion that told you to believe and not question. I did that but was always silently not quite sure about what I was being taught. I came from a family where my mom was Catholic and my dad was Protestant. I was told I would go to hell if I believed or changed religions. I was never allowed to go to my dad’s church because it was a sin. We could go for the fabulous church dinners but never for the services. I don’t remember how we worked out attending funerals because we did do that when relatives on my dad’s side died. I wondered how all my relatives on my dad’s side could be going to hell because they were such good people. I wondered in my later years why would my mother marry someone she knew was going to hell because she really believed that. I finally did attend my dad’s church, for his funeral. How sad is it I missed all the years I could have attended church with him when he was alive if it wouldn’t have been for those preconceived edicts from my church at the time? It makes me very sad to think of that.

When I finally changed religions, my mother, to the day she died, told me I would go to hell and when she was in her dementia state she told me she should have disowned me when I changed religions.

I had a good reason for changing. I wanted to go to church as a family and when we got married the priest that presided at our wedding told my husband two things that really stood out during our counseling. The first was that he shouldn’t join the church because they had enough bad Catholics, and the second was that the Vikings were ***** rich and I can’t mention the racial slur here. That cemented my decision. I didn’t feel a man of God should speak that way of another race, or without knowing my husband, make the judgment that he would be a bad Catholic as I knew how strong my husband’s faith was having been through what he had been through in Viet Nam and being raised by a mother who had a strong faith.

I wish I could say that was the moment when I started to question what I totally believed in my life, but it wasn’t the aha moment you might think. It is moments over the years of questioning, experiences, and taking a hard look at myself that has gotten me to old age, and not without many mistakes and acts of prejudice that I didn’t think of as prejudice, and am ashamed of today.

I remember a former Catholic school member who became involved in a cult. This was one aha moment that began my questioning. He came to speak at my church to give us a little parenting advice. At that time I had two young children. When I heard him speak I asked him what I could do to protect my children. He answered, “Make sure they know what they believe and why they believe it.” I know I thought to myself, how can I teach them that when I don’t know what I believe totally either.

Life continued on and I worked on that advice but I switched to prejudice on a different front. If my children friended someone who didn’t have a good reputation I would not let them hang out. I will tell you now that it is the worst advice I could have given my children. Instead I should have welcomed those kids into my home and got to know them. You see, I listened to what everyone else was saying without giving them a chance and not making up my own mind. I am ashamed of that reaction and I try to do better now.

I began to notice in small ways the way prejudice seeps into our lives, even tiny little nudges in my own life.

I remember being told by someone I loved like a daughter, when she found a new religion, that she could no longer be in touch with me because I didn’t believe like she did. That was thirty years ago and to this day we have no contact, though I have tried.

I remember being told by a church council member when I gave an opinion on a decision waiting to be made to allow an LBGTQ support group to meet at our church, that I didn’t give enough money to our church to have my opinion count. My opinion was that if people felt the need for this group we should provide a place, but others did not feel that way and it was denied.

Recently a friend was invited to a girl’s get together. When asked if she could bring me she was told I wouldn’t fit in. I suspect because of my views on many of these subjects along with politics or maybe they no longer like me as a person because I do state my opinions and do not go along with the crowd.

I remember a letter I received from a reader when I started my column telling me how ugly I was and how I was ugly as a child and that I never had any friends. I kept the letter to remind me to try and never be like that.

In no way have I experienced what other friends and family have experienced because of their race, gender, or religious affiliation. In our culture, we seem to overlook the little slights that are there every day and accept them without thought. Little judgements in our own lives that are directed at us or those we throw out to others in the world erroneously that may pave the way for bigger ones

You might now be wondering or saying, “Get to the point.” It is this. I am a sum total of the parts of my past. I had prejudices I didn’t know I had until I was confronted with them. I have prejudices that are still there but I don’t see, especially if I don’t question what I am feeling or where those feelings about others or events came from, or why I make decisions that affect others’ lives.

I thought I knew what I knew until I didn’t, until life and experiences changed my perspective. I would have missed wonderful,caring relationships if I wouldn’t have been confronted with issues I was uncomfortable with, never given them a chance, and shown a different perspective.

This is my story and why what I believed has evolved over the years. I can’t imagine what life would feel like now if I hadn’t questioned, had held on to my rigid views, and boxed myself into a tiny world where I stayed in my comfort zone and there was no growth.

I can only hope that I can keep growing and learning no matter how old I become. I can only hope I still work on those prejudices I have buried inside of me, some that I see, acknowledge, and are working on, and others that will pop up as the world keeps changing. I admit I still judge harshly especially when it comes to hate and discrimination. When I feel judged by others I judge them back. I am a reactor and that is my first reaction. I boycott establishments where I feel employees don’t show respect for others by not wearing masks. I stay away from venues where I feel there is more judgment than welcome. So I too am guilty of the same thing I accuse others of. I know it’s not right but those human emotions are right there under the surface ready to rise up at any moment.

There is not an easy answer for me. Perhaps as in other instances that I mentioned, my perspective will change because of experiences as I will keep questioning and searching, and looking inside of myself to know what I believe and why I believe it.

I am not trying to change your mind on anything here, just sharing my story in the hope that during these challenging times you remember the words of my old school friend. “Know what you believe and why you believe it.” And also these wise words, The right decision is made out of love, not fear. —spiritual enlightenment

A Nostalgia Attack

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cropped-sprinkled-column11.jpgMy column from the Albert Lea Tribune the week of September 13, 2018

copyright September 2018

I had a little nostalgia attack this week. It started with my granddaughter sending me a picture of the new dress she bought for Homecoming. It is her first Homecoming dance as a freshman. Tears came to my eyes as I looked at the photo.

Where had the time gone? My oldest two grandchildren are in high school, the others will be there soon. In a few years, they will graduate from high school and fly the coop. I remember when I graduated high school, it seems like yesterday. In my mind, it was just yesterday when my own kids passed that moment in their life.

As grandparents, we no longer have to babysit when the parents have to work or go out on a night on the town. We are no longer needed in the way we were. In a way, that fills me with sadness but yet I know we are needed in a different way to provide support when our grandchildren come to us for advice. But it is different.

Another tweak of nostalgia brought another tear to my eye. Church choir started again. I quit a few years ago for various reasons but now I am considering joining again. For all the years I was in choir I sat next to my friend Jan. She kept me on the right note, provided me with laughter and gave me courage that perhaps my voice wasn’t so bad after all.  And there was the fact of sharing an experience with one of my best friends. Jan left this world on December 31 of last year yet I still hear her voice when the choir sings and I still see her sitting in the midst of the choir. I am not sure I am ready to go back without Jan by my side.

It was a good summer. Thinking about my 50-year class reunion brought another few drops of moisture to my already dewy eyes. I loved seeing my classmates and remembering, but in those memories are those who did not live to see our 50-year celebration, especially my best friend, Karen. I thought of all we shared the giggly nights, the talks about boys and our hearts as we got older. She is my son’s Godmother. I still miss her, especially at reunion time.

You might think all this nostalgia is sad because of the tears. You would be wrong. Yes there is some sadness that life is not the same but yet in the nostalgia of our lives is the story of joy, sadness, and laughter. There is a transition in life which brings hope in the nostalgia that life continues on and each person helped shape today. Our memories contribute to that future and who we are as a person, which for me is that of wife, mother, grandmother, and friend.

All memories with each other weren’t perfect. Raising kids was tough trying to find the right balance between being the parent who spoils and who disciplines. There are the joys and regrets of not always being able to be close by to enjoy every single minute of the grandkids lives and at times there is the feeling we are no longer needed.  Watching Jan go through all she went through because of cancer was hard. And those high school friendships were sometimes rocky with a few spats along the way but always forgiveness and making up.

That is what nostalgia does. It puts the good and the rockiness together to make a life well lived and well-remembered, ours and our lives with those we love.

 Julie Seedorf’s column now appears Thursdays. Email her at hermionyvidaliabooks@gmail.com.

Peaceful Thoughts On A Sunday Morning

This morning I sat outside and listened to the birds sing and watched the squirrels scamper down the street. Afterwards I settled in for my morning readings. I wrote five things I was grateful for in my gratitude journal. I then turned to my Meditations for Women Who Do Too Much by Anne Wilson Schaef. Next up was the next chapter in Opening Windows written by many Christian authors. Today was Chapter Eleven by John Guest. The title…Open to Life Changing Prayer.

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I am in the time of my life where I seek peace. Drama is high in my house on some days with the life changing memory loss of a family member. Each day is different but what I have come to realize is the day is easier depending on my reaction to events. That’s where God and prayer help me. Taking the time to pray feeds my spirit and calms my brain.

Sunday mornings used to be a “go to church no matter what morning.” Part of that was my Catholic upbringing and it was what I had hoped to instill in my children. You went to church on Sunday morning no matter what. Strange phrase but I heard it constantly growing up. Maybe it’s a Minnesota thing. Leaving church on many Sundays I didn’t always feel peaceful. Church politics and the expectations of some congregation members left me feeling unsettled. There were days I didn’t feel I measured up to the rules of dress, proper protocol and even praying right. It was never the Pastor which made me feel that way and we’ve had many Pastors. It might not even be a true representation of the members. It might possibly just have been me, feeling the way I felt about myself, and blaming it on to the church.

During the pandemic I attended more church services online then I have been to in person in years. I have shared my faith and had faith conversations online, in private bible studies, and in person during this time. I feel the peace of not having to lose that peace because of church politics.

It’s Sunday morning. Soon I will listen online to my church. Our Pastor is leaving. I want to hear her sermon and then I am going to church to the going away shindig. Yes, you heard that right, I am not going to church in person but going to the after party.

One of the reasons I love listening online is there are no distractions during the sermon. There are no distractions with my prayers. I can sing or sit back and listen to the beautiful music. I can open the Bible app on my phone to follow along or look things up without criticism of using my phone during the church service. It also allows me to read various interpretations of the verses during worship. I find peace at home during church.

The argument we hear the most is that we need our church family and we do. I have realized church family doesn’t always mean those people that are in your home church. It can mean those in your Bible Study, your next door neighbors, friends, and yes, even strangers you meet when you share your faith.

We need churches. They are pivotal to our lives. However, does the old form of church still work in 2021? Could the people be the church and the building take second place when it comes to worship priority, expanding church services to other places in the community? Think of the money we spend beautifying our church buildings. What would happen if we put that money into staff and outreach instead, and the building be well kept but not a shrine. A church home should be a comfortable place which feels like home to everyone.

I must admit I have questioned over the years why we can’t always get along and share the outreach with all the congregations in the community. It shouldn’t be a contest as to who has the best church but each church setting the others up to success, even if we believe different doctrine. Don’t we believe in one God? It’s the doctrine and divide over correctness in denominations that divide us. It’s our way or the highway. yet we all have one common denominator and that is our belief in God.

In my old age I have been influenced by my Catholic upbringing, my dad’s EUB and Methodist religion and the religion of my cousins and ancestors which have roots in the Assembly of God church and the Jehovah Witnesses. I also had good friends whose roots were Mormon and I learned from them too. Because of this I have a hard time escribing to what I was brought up with, and that is each church believing their church was the one true church, and the way they worshipped God was the only right way. That might account for my thoughts concluding a church isn’t the building, the way we dress, the way we line up the spoons in the silverware drawer or even the rules for prayer which dominate each denominations church services.

Maybe it’s time we let go of that belief that we have to have the perfect and beautiful building to be our church, to hold our services. Wouldn’t it be great if our buildings were well kept but not so perfect that they welcome strangers, let us be casual, accept us as we are and take that church out in the community, worship services taking many different forms?

I am past the age where I care if people will talk about me because I just showed up at the party but not for the service. I am past the age where I care if people talk about me because they think I’m not doing enough volunteering in church. I have fifty years of volunteering under my belt. It’s time to volunteer to be kind to others, pray with others and feed the birds and be in background volunteering for church things that no one knows about, and that might include just being a friend to someone who needs one.

This week in a backyard in my hometown, sitting with a young mother and watching her kids splash in their kiddie pool, I had a beautiful, spiritual experience. She turned to me and asked if she could pray with me and pray for me. The birds were singing, the kids were splashing, the breeze was blowing through the trees and we prayed, right there in her backyard. I was in church, God’s church of nature. What more could I ask for?

The pandemic may have changed how we view worshipping God. Some need that in church moment. For others they need the peace and quiet of home to hear the word or the. connection of prayer in the most unexpected places such as the streets we walk everyday. Recently I told my Grandchild that God doesn’t live in a building. He’s with us all the time. I hope he remembers that throughout his life.

I’m rambling with thoughts today. Over my lifetime the place where I’ve felt the most judgment from others for things that don’t matter, such as being on tune when you sing or you can’t belong to a choir, fighting over what group is appropriate to use our church for meetings, making sure the floors are spit polished were in the organized church. We weren’t arguing about spiritual subjects such as the Bible or the Ten Commandments but material matters. And at times we were fighting about exclusion of who has the right to worship God with us. Who was welcome.

Perhaps one thing we’ve learned this past year is that things don’t have to be perfect when we worship. We aren’t perfect and we shouldn’t expect others to be.

I long for the day where it doesn’t matter how you dress, how much money you have or the color of your skin to be able to walk into a church and be accepted as who we are, all sinners and all in need of caring, having a place to take a breath without being judged by each other, leaving that to God. He sees us and he is the one who will change what needs to be changed if we have faith. I am guilty in the past for also being part of the problem with my judgment. I hope that is one thing God helps me change in me.

Yes we all need church family. What does that look like in your place of worship?