A Summer of Ponderings

Since I quit my column, Something About Nothing, I have been more silent on my blog. This summer I needed a step back to see where I have been and where I am going. I am not sure I am there yet, but I thought I would share some of my thoughts with you. I have never been good at keeping things inside and yet I found there were so many feelings I was stifling because I wanted to keep friends, not cause a ruckus, and that is what I was trained to do most of my life. Don’t get angry, don’t yell, be strong.

I remember a be strong moment when I was pregnant with my first child and my dad died. I was an only child and everyone told me I had to be strong for my mom and I was until…   I remember walking down the aisle following the casket after the funeral. I heard someone sobbing loudly and realized it was me. Strong took its toll at the worst moment. This summer I found I had never properly taken the time to grieve for missing my dad, and it was 48 years ago that he died, but I held those feelings inside of me because I needed to be strong.

I like to think of myself as an authentic person but I realize I am not. I have said things are ok and fine when they really aren’t. When I felt my voice and feelings didn’t matter or they wouldn’t be heard so to avoid conflict, I would stay silent, but hurts don’t disappear that way, they may diminish, but until they are acknowledged they never go away or get resolved.

This summer seems to have awakened a journey in my heart. We have been dealing with the illness of a loved one, that is invisible to others and there is a level in which you don’t talk about it because when you don’t know how to cope, it is hard to explain it to others so you retreat or… you put on a smile and hide the heartbreak.

I also have been examining my faith journey and what I was taught to believe and what I have experienced throughout my life. I could say I have been putting together the pieces. I wouldn’t call it a faith crisis, although some would because I haven’t been to church much this summer, but it isn’t a crisis as much a faith growth. I started my life in the Catholic Church and after my marriage joined the Lutheran Church. At the time it was more about the leadership of the Priest in my church community when through conversation during our pre-nuptial counseling, he revealed himself to be racist. My husband recognized it, I didn’t, and my soon to be husband felt he could not belong to a church led by a man that felt that way about another race. Looking back I brushed it off and thought my decision with leaving the Catholic Church was more to do with going to church as a family because as my dad was of another religion, the Catholic Church at the time didn’t allow that. Examining my heart I now know that Priest’s comments were also a part of my decision, even though at the time I tried to make light of it to excuse the behavior. So right now, after 48 years I will say, “The Priests behavior was not ok.”

This summer in my faith journey that is still going on, I was fed by friends of different religions and different backgrounds. I was fed by book studies with strangers and discussions with different beliefs. I was fed because though there were basic differences we disagreed upon, we listened to one another, not always understanding and expressing that in a graceful way, but coming through it with love and kindness and a feeling of relief that we could come together with differences and leave with differences, but we were allowed to speak and be ourselves and not be judged. I learned church family doesn’t always mean those from a brick and mortar church. I learned a Pastor or a Priest make a difference depending on their leadership. I remember when I joined the Lutheran Church one of the reasons is what I saw in the leadership of Pastor John MIkkelson, a wise, kind, strong leader. He showed us who he was. He let us know where he stood. He could lead and delegate and make all feel welcome. The rest was up to us. I have heard the words “I don’t go to church because of a Pastor.” But I will say this, we need to respect the person who leads so that we can respect the message that is being taught to us. That respect does not mean they are perfect but they show us their flaws, can admit when they are wrong, and they know how to feed a flock that inspires us to go out into the world and treat each person we meet that are searching for their church family to feel accepted and welcomed. Have I done that? I don’t think so.

I used to be very involved in the church when I was younger. It wasn’t something I planned but at the time our Pastors, after Pastor Mikkelson visited each and every home in their congregation. The visits only lasted five minutes but they felt it was important so they could meet their congregants where they lived. Some complained the majority of the congregation actually liked the visits. It was because of those visits and Pastors I got more involved in the Sunday School and was in church more often. They knew who we were and it was easier to go to them with problems because they took the time to get to know us.

Last Sunday in my home church it hit me what I was looking for and what I think many are looking for in a church and that is to be accepted. To be able to show others the good, the bad and the ugly. For someone to say I don’t understand, but I care about you and I will tell you if I feel you are harming yourself or others and do it with love and acceptance of the person, not the actions. I am looking for a church that follows the words of Jesus in Matthew 11:28. I think the Message Bible speaks to me the best. Matthew 11: 28-30. Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” That is the feeling I want when I enter my church. As many of us are, I am tired. I am weary. I judge myself so much I don’t need to be judged by others. I can do it far worse than anyone else can and I need a place to go and people to be with that is a safe haven no matter how I dress, no matter what I look like. How about you?

So what have I decided about my faith crisis or faith growth? The journey will continue. The climate we are living in today pits us against each other in religion but history shows it always has. Who is right? Who is wrong? Who worships the correct way? Who believes the correct way? Whose sin is greater than the other? We point fingers. We judge. And we are weary. And I have felt myself doing the same thing because of the climate of our country today and I don’t like myself for it.  I need to stop.  I wonder how God’s love or a higher powers love can shine through any of it, but it does if we look for it.

Next week…. more of my summer musings about writing and painting and family.

 

 

I Wish You Five Minutes

Chapter Six: I Wish You Five Minutes

img_1625Now that I have caught you up on my past religious institution journey, let me explain how I got to this point from the beginning blog about priorities and time and anxiety.

It’s a Sunday in January 2019 as I write this. I went to church on Wednesday night because churches have changed to accommodate the busy schedule we all have today. Our priorities have changed. Schools do not make time for religion. Sports and activities do not make time for Sunday and religion. And my Facebook people on Slices of Life, along with me, are filled with anxiety and fear and we can’t find five minutes to take a breath, pray or read a chapter in a book. And that in itself makes us anxious.

All I have is my own journey to critique. I write books for a living and am semi-retired. I work from home and yet…I am stressed and anxious much more than I was in my younger years when I really had things to be stressed about. Still, I found time in those days to read a book and be involved in my religion.

But I also know now at this stage in my life I am questioning more. I am frustrated frequently with the dynamics of society. Maybe it is because I am older and I have time to think about it.

Some questions that come to mind are these:

Why would my mother marry someone she thought was going to hell because he wasn’t Catholic? Did she become more rigid as she got older?

Does it matter whether I am Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist etc. as long as I believe in God and worship Him in some way?

What is more important in a church? Is it the appearance of a building or a person or the outreach and teaching of love for one another?

I know I need a church family but I can no longer color inside the lines because I feel the joy being stifled. We live in a society now made up of all races and religions and we expect everyone to fit into one box rather than embracing what one can bring to the other. I think I have always felt that way but have conformed to societies expectations because I was taught that was what one did as a woman, as a wife, as a mother, as a church member, and as an American.

I wanted to be liked and accepted. I wanted to be included so I fit in. But now I want to be me with my wild ideas, with my wild imagination and with my not caring about what is on the outside but what is on the inside. I feel alone some of the time when I am in a group that makes me feel as if a change is not progress, and wants to hold on to what was no matter if it turns people away or stifles growth. I feel like an outsider when others scoff at my ideas because my ideas don’t conform to what society expects.

Part of my frustration probably is that I am a sum of all my parts. Each person has to find spiritually, that which draws them closer to what I call God or to their name for their higher power. It may be Catholic or Lutheran or Methodist or whatever religion speaks to their heart. But the sum of all my parts are a conglomeration of religions from my ancestors and I think I feel that because I want to raise my hands in praise and shout loudly with joy. I want to clap, yes clap my hands. That may be why committing to one denomination and their beliefs are so hard for me. I come from roots of many religious belief systems and I loved those people. How could those good,  loving people be bad because they chose to worship a different way than me? All I knew from them was love.

Taking five minutes with Max Lucado’s book or five minutes just to be in the moment has helped me accept me and know that my anxiety and fear might also come with trying to live in a world that is loud in judgment at those who are different, or when not agreeing with the norm or the popular opinion. All my life I may have blindly accepted or followed, without taking time to think it through or question why the spoons had to be so perfect in a church. Was I afraid if I revealed my true self I would be asked to leave?

There is a lot of anxiety in wanting to be accepted, in wanting everything to be perfect and by disallowing how we truly feel and going along with what society deems is honest and truthful because let’s be honest and truthful –––honesty and truth in 2019 are not what they used to be. And it causes anxiety and fear.

Perhaps in our busy lives, we can’t find five minutes to read, to breathe, to be kind to someone or to take time for ourselves because we don’t want to face what we want to change in ourselves.

Those five minutes I take to read and refresh and pause, make me also realize I kept so busy because I didn’t want to take the time to face my life. I didn’t want to know me because maybe I didn’t like who I was, or maybe I was afraid to speak up because of the ridicule and repercussions.

My friend was right. I needed the forced time to confront my journey. It wasn’t easy. Life is hard. But looking at life and where we have been and where we are going is almost harder.

Right now my five minutes a day reading is a book called,  Catching Your Breath, the Sacred Journey from Chaos to Calm by Steve Austin. I have only made it to Chapter Two but this book is what prompted these few blog posts. He brought up many of the feelings I have wanted to articulate but have been afraid to. I can’t wait to read the rest, five minutes at a time. My journey is a work in progress and it will be for the rest of my life.

Thank you for reading and sticking with me during this diatribe. I wish you five minutes.

We Can’t Find Five Minutes

Note: This is the first post in a series of thoughts and meanderings of my mind about how our past shapes our life now, and the way our perception changes as we age. Mainly it is about my faith life and what affects it has on what I do and feel today. This is a part of my life journey I thought I would share in case others had the same feelings. There is no right or wrong. Your journey may be different than mine but I was relieved when I took time out of my busy life and found others who share with me letting me know I am not alone in the journey.

Chapter One: We Can’t Find Five Minutes

img_1600Last year my emotions ran amok. One of my best friends died. There were health problems with my husband and I was exhausted. Through all of this one book helped me. It was Max Lucado’s book Anxious for Nothing. There were days I would only read a paragraph or two and there were days I would read an entire chapter.

Something about this book drew me in, gave me comfort and made me feel as if I could conquer my anxiety and fear with God by my side.

Taking time to read also became an issue in my life. I read books from author friends to give them an honest review but I was so busy spinning the wheels in my head, that my brain told me I had no time in the midst of my chaos and sadness to do what my inner voices said were frivolous things.

I kept writing my column, Something About Nothing, becoming more honest about my feelings on various subjects, but some weeks it was hard to find inspiration. In 2018 I did not put out a single book in either one of my cozy mystery series. I drifted along advertising the ones I wrote the past five years. I could not find the inspiration for a new book. Out in public I would smile and joke but I felt sad inside.

During this time I decided to start a Facebook Group called Slices of Life. It is a private group for those who wanted to read Max Lucado’s book and discuss it. I found I was not very good at leading a book group because no one had the time to read and I was shirking on my duties to lead for that very reason.

This group all has anxiety and fear as I do and I hoped together we could take the journey and find some kinship and answers. I wanted it to be a shared group but I found many could not have the time to find five minutes a day to sit down and read. And trying to find that time made them more stressed. To be fair, I work from my home and many in the group had families and work schedules.

I decided to read a page out loud every day and some liked that but then it became a burden and stress for me because if I didn’t do it I felt as if I was letting people down. Have you ever felt that way? And that feeling left me pondering what it is we are looking for to help us when we can’t take the time to help ourselves.

Tomorrow’s post: Anxious About Everything