I’m Catholic—-Wait, I’m Lutheran—-Wait!

Chapter Three: I Am The Sum of My Ancestors

I grew up in a staunch Catholic family, kind of. One part of my family, my mother’s side, was Catholic. My dad was United Brethren which then merged with the Methodist Church in my community. My dad’s family had Baptist, Assembly of God and even Jehovah Witnesses on his side.

I remember the first time I met a Jehovah Witness cousin from California. I was a teen and I was a little scared from what I had been taught from my Catholic roots but she was just like me and religion didn’t stand in the way of our friendship. I couldn’t figure out why I should be scared of her because she was from another religion that was not accepted in our Southern Minnesota culture.

I was taught the Catholic Church was the one true church and we were only ones that would get into heaven. I went to a strict Catholic School and having a sensitive spirit I was terrified of the nuns except maybe one or two. Their punishments could be hurtful. And I was terrified of sin and the repercussions. Which we still should be now. Sin is not exclusive to Catholics.

Although confession I thought was interesting. We were taught me to say “Bless me father for I have sinned” and then recite how many times we lied or disobeyed etc. from our last confession and then the Priest could give us absolution. I always guessed the number of times I did something because who kept count and as a child who could remember. And I never felt any better after I left the confessional. I always worried when I went to communion that I maybe shouldn’t go because I left something out. We also had to fast before communion and it was hard to make sure I didn’t eat the specified number of time before communion and what would people think if you didn’t go to communion?

It was also a sin to not go to church on Sundays so unless I was sick, Sunday Church was a weekly occasion along with Mass every morning when I attended Catholic School. When I was young the Mass was in Latin and I didn’t understand a word. It was a mysterious ceremony and then in school, we learned to sing in Latin. Again, mysterious words to a second and third grader.

There were many strict rules. And we learned many prayers which I still say today, at least the ones I feel move me spiritually. I feel that was a good thing. We were told never to question. And…I could never go to church with my father because he was Methodist and it would be a sin.

I always felt that loss of going to church as a family. There is something that connects us when we worship together as a family.

During my teenage years, my outlook on religion made me begin to question my Catholic roots but I did so silently. In my various high school activities, I met a Pastor at another church and I liked what he stood for and how he interacted with the teenagers at his church.

We used to have what was called Release Time on Wednesdays where we would leave school for an hour for religious instruction. The Lutheran Church had some good discussion topics pertaining to what as teenagers we were going through. Some of us skipped our Catholic instruction from time to time to go to Release Time at the Lutheran Church with our friends because they were giving us answers and help with our teenage angst. It was a little sign of my first rebellion. And I might add in those days you had to have a note to stay in school and not go. Times have changed.

Next Blog: My Lutheran Journey

Anxious About Everything

Chapter Two: Anxious About Everything

my mindOver the years during past illnesses, I have learned rest is the only thing which will help calm my mind. My friend that I lost at the end of 2018 always told me during my illnesses and bone breaks that God was telling me I needed to rest.

During those times I found a new direction for my life so she was right. During those times I also learned when anxiety and exhaustion were filling my soul instead of peace that some days I just needed to go to bed, sleep and take time to listen to what my body was telling me.

The first months of this year when I found the book, Anxious for Nothing, things began to make sense. I would freak out over others problems, taking on in my heart what I felt they were feeling. I would worry if I didn’t hear from my children. I would worry about snowstorms or let’s be honest I would worry about things that didn’t even exist.

By April I felt my inspiration and joy coming back after taking time to rest, read and relax and grieve. I had pulled back from face to face interaction–-part of it might have been the winter–and I felt ready to meet and greet again. I held on to my book and in the morning I would read part of it over and over to keep myself centered.

During this time I pulled away from the church. I would listen to the Live Stream but I felt the need to step back. I wasn’t comfortable going. I liked the Pastor and I liked the sermons but when I attended I felt as if I was boxed in and I didn’t know why. It was something within me, not the church or its people but there was something broken inside of me or so I thought.

It wasn’t that I didn’t pray. I did. Everyday. Although I felt inept at that too because I wasn’t connecting with those rote prayers we said in church every week. I had memorized many from my childhood but they felt distant and foreign not reflecting what I was feeling or what I wanted to say. And other Christian people at events could speak flowery, meaningful, well put together prayers. I knew in my heart it didn’t matter but yet niggles of doubt about not being able to articulate a good prayer were there.

This was another journey I felt I had to take to figure out why I was so lacking in wanting to go to church. I had made the church a real priority after my children were born. I wanted them to know God and wanted them to grow up in the church. Now I have to wonder if perhaps I made my decision based on biased feelings as to which church was right or wrong because of what I was taught in my childhood.

While I was pulling the covers over my head, which I took to doing every few weeks to regain my sanity from the hold of my anxiety and the world, I contemplated why I felt so lost when it came to religion. I didn’t feel lost from God. I truly felt He was there and it gave me peace, but I felt lost from my religion.

Do you feel this way? I am learning I am not alone in this feeling.

Next blog: I’m Catholic — Wait I’m Lutheran –Wait!

Sitting in the Season

Sprinkled Notes published in the Albert Lea Tribune and the Courier Sentinel the week of November 28, 2018

Sitting in the Season
© Julie Seedorf 2018

IMG_1017As I write this, it is the Monday after Thanksgiving, and I realize I haven’t been out of the house since the Wednesday before Thanksgiving except to take my granddog outside on his leash. How does that happen that the days pass by and I veg in my home?

We had food, plenty of leftovers and it was cold outside, which made the perfect “I don’t want to go anywhere” scenario. I am not a cold weather person.

So what do you do when you stay in? Some people get bored, but I find there are many activities or non-activities to keep me busy.

I cooked and I cooked some more. First, the Thanksgiving meal and then full meals for my husband and I. Winter makes me feel like trying the “Becky Home-eckie” thing, as my husband calls it.

I found some good books to read, and, of course, I did a little writing. I also took a few naps, but I found one of my main activities while crocheting was watching Christmas movies. I really wanted to settle in with the Hallmark Christmas movies; however, we are now streaming and none of the venues I subscribe to have the Hallmark channel. For a short time, I considered adding another service so I could watch the Hallmark movies, but the entire purpose of streaming was to save money so I stopped my twitch of hooking up another channel and settled on the Christmas movies through Hulu.

After three or four movies, I had to switch to a game show. Although I loved the movies, it was almost too much happiness. They all seemed to have the same themes, which I already knew. There was laughter, love and looking for a simpler, more peaceful life and love theme. People reunited with loved ones they had been estranged from, kids and people found homes and the movies made me want to believe in humanity once again. There was no gun violence or swearing. There were no explosions or SWAT teams. There was no one insulting each other in the fun as we see all the time on TV shows. It was more like the old “The Adventures of Ozzy and Harriet” and “Father Knows Best” shows — the same shows we decry did not show us real life.

Yet, here we are in the year 2018, binging out on Lifetime Christmas shows and Hallmark Christmas shows. I assume, and you know what they say about assuming, that more women than men watch these shows. What does that say about women in America? It may say that women really do want a kinder, more caring world where they are treated with respect by the men or women they love. In many of these shows, the women are independent women, striving for a career that makes them happy with a spouse or partner who supports that independence or even being a single in the world. High-powered careers may be valued, but being content and making the point that whatever you do — from candy maker to executive — is fine if your priorities are in order, which is family, friendship, kindness and caring.

Christmas music is played earlier every year. Houses are decked out in Christmas baubles before Thanksgiving. And stores start even earlier to hook us into that good feeling we must be looking for. It says something about us as people. We are looking for a “feel good” pick-me-up, and for many, Christmas does that because it has that legacy. I haven’t even begun to mention the reason Christians celebrate Christmas: the birth of the Christ Child.

In polling my readers, there are some who do not celebrate Christmas or can’t stand these holiday movies because they don’t depict real life. Yet, for many of us, that is the very reason we watch them. It’s kind of like the Calgon ditty, “Calgon take me away.” So Hallmark movies, “take me away.”

It is hard to find that simple peace within ourselves. It is hard to slow down and take the time to internalize what we are really looking for. I have a hard time being lazy when I am home. There is always something to do and reading a book, watching Hallmark movies during the day and simply taking a nap or sitting in silence is hard for me to do without feeling very guilty about slacking off. I don’t know about men, but I think women have a problem with simply being in the moment.

I actually had to force myself to sit in a chair or lie on my bed and read for an extended period of time. It was because I knew there were things that needed to be done, even though they weren’t urgent and could wait another day. It was hard to not pick up my cell phone and check the news or send a message and keep on reading. It was a book that I didn’t want to put down, but the niggling guilt that I should be doing something productive was simmering underneath as the words imprinted themselves on my brain.

I did succumb to doing something while I was watching the movies, but it was crocheting, which also soothes my soul. I forced myself to not check my cell phone every few minutes.

I don’t have many Christmas decorations up yet. That itch was there, along with thinking I needed to figure out Christmas cards, plan a Red Hat meeting and of course shop all the red-hot deals that were being sent to my phone. What was I missing?

What are we really looking for with the holiday season? Is it something we are missing in our lives the rest of the year? If it is, what do we need to do to simply be in the season we need in our lives all year long?