Sunday Journal: Just Another Week in Paradise

Littlest and his history book.

Littlest and his history book.

I just drank a pina-colada the size of a rainstorm so this might be a bit rambly. You’ve been warned.

Well, the drink was mostly pineapple juice. Vitamin C for the day (or possibly the week)–all taken cake of. I indulged in my weekly cocktail too early tonight. Now that the massive (maybe not that massive) storm has passed I would like to go on my evening walk. But since I might be too sociable with the neighbors due to my rum infused beverage…maybe I’ll just stay in for the evening.

poetry tea time

poetry tea time

Yesterday my husband and I got to go out together for the first time alone since December. That was nice until I got sick. So that kinda sucked. Our time together was great albeit short lived. Maybe we can do that again sometime before Christmas (without the sickness this time). He did get me a totally cool bulletin board made out of rulers while we were out. I plan to use it as a vision/intuition board in the school room. A little place to post prayers and ideas and such.

birthday cake

birthday cake

Sparkles made and decorated a birthday cake for Shannon (my husband-her Daddy) this week. While she prepared the cake I made the cream cheese icing. He opened a few gifts and we had a nice little family night.

Sparkles decorating cake

Sparkles decorating cake

I’m gonna brag on Sparkles for a moment. When she first started taking her medication she complained constantly. I thought this was going to be a real battle with her. However, she completely took charge of her pill regimen. She learned which pills (10 pills daily plus a fiber powder) she needs to take and started taking care of herself. I wasn’t expecting this much independent self-care from her so soon. I still check-up with her daily just to make sure…but she took responsibility just a bit quicker than I anticipated. We will

Sparkles making cake

Sparkles making cake

all be glad once she goes off the steroids since they affect her moods and eating habits but otherwise we are very happy with her body’s response to the medication. She isn’t so miserable anymore and her pain is clearing away. We meet with her doctor again in a couple of weeks for a follow-up and I hope to get more of our questions answered about UC.

School is swimming along just perfectly. Sometimes we have

Littlest learning piano from Oldest

Littlest learning piano from Oldest

some drama filled moments but overall the year is off to a great start. We are quickly approaching our first project week and I’ll have to get the shopping done for everyone soon. I figure the project week will either be great or a total disaster…probably a combination. Our first of five terms is nearly completed. Are we “behind schedule?” You bet! Do I care? Not one bit!

dew drop on Sunday morning

dew drop on Sunday morning

On a personal note–I actually prayed this week (the Jesus Prayer with my old Rosary) and even read a passage or two from the Bible (from Job—as if I even have the grace to understand that book!!). I’m not really sure that I addressed my prayer to the Christian concept of God but I broke my stubborn silence anyway. I’m still finding my way in the murkiness but at least

little bug with my macro lens

little bug with my macro lens

the red-hot pissed-off anger has passed. My husband and I did discuss looking for a church after the Labor Day holiday. I assured him that wherever he and the kids decide is best I will follow along and promise to be polite. I want my family to be happy and the older three have all expressed to me their need to return to church in their own way. Personally, I am open to exploring other avenues of expressing spirituality. Our world and all of the cultures that exist herein are so vast and fascinating; I have the desire to explore them all.

It is amazing out there…

 

 

January Book Study: Faith Unraveled

at the monastery

at the monastery

I read this today:

“I do believe. Help me overcome my unbelief.” –Spoken by a father with a dying son to Jesus.

So can this girl plagued with dying religion say that to Jesus? Well, I reckon so. My footing isn’t sure, the path my heart has tread for twenty years vanished in doubt’s mist. A faith shift. This is just where I am spiritually.

I am not afraid to be in this place of shifting. I do not fear completely losing my religion and walking away nor do I fear embracing it again. But I do fear pretending these doubts do not exist in hopes they will just go away. Faith and religion have always mattered to me. I used to climb trees as a kid so I could be closer to God. I entered a monastery and considered a life as a Bride of Christ. Faith and religion matter to me. They have always been intertwined in my way of thinking. Two halves of the same coin. For me that has unraveled.

I still believe in Jesus. I talk to him everyday. But I have serious doubts about the church that currently exists on his words. I cannot be offended by red cups and homosexual relationships. And can I be honest and just say that I do not care how old the earth is anyway?! It really doesn’t matter to me or the remaining shreds of my religion. Jesus said we should love God with all of our heart, mind and soul. Exploring these doubts, experiencing this shift to my mind is loving God. I cannot love God if I do not truly know him.

Beginning in January I’ll be reading through Faith Unraveled by Rachel Held Evans and will be sharing my thoughts. I’d love for anyone to join me but I understand why some cannot. I even understand if the subject just doesn’t interest you. If you want to condemn me to hell…well that isn’t very nice but I get it. It wouldn’t be the first time.

 

 

I’m breaking free from religion for the sake of my soul

Wibbly-Wobbly…Slow Going

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yours truly, after a workout

This week’s chapter in Life’s Too Short to Eat Bad Cheese is about examining why I am not taking care of myself. Ellie‘s primary focus in this chapter is on emotional eating and discovering the root cause so we can all take proper care of the body God gave us. Another point she makes is that when I do not value and care for this body that God created and gave to me…I am living in disobedience. Really sobering thought…puts that extra serving of chips into place.

When I sat down to write this post last week I just couldn’t find anything to say. I have no words of wisdom or help for emotional eating. I struggle with it so much! The book Made To Crave by Lisa TerKeurst helped me to uncover why I struggle with emotional eating. I could honestly go through the book again…I think it would help. (All of my posts about the book and what I learned about emotional eating are under the Healthy Living menu at the top and then just click on the Made To Crave sub-heading…you’ll learn more about me than you ever wanted to know.) Knowing why I am an emotional eater has helped me to get it a bit under control. But on weak, hard days I feel helpless. Anxiety and stress are the hardest for me to handle. Especially if the stress comes from feeling judged by the people around me…people I love. I just crumble. Sometimes I get anxious and feel like the worst wife and mother ever created. I know this fact isn’t true but feelings are often irrational and not based on truth. Only dependence on God has carried me through those times…

Some days I can beat these feelings. Now that I understand why I succumb to emotional eating it isn’t as hard for me to deal with intellectually. The emotions are still there…the wound is forever a part of me but it no longer owns me. I’ve noticed that if I make my priority on prayer and seeking time with Jesus then I am stronger. However, if I let other things (even good things) take priority over my relationship with the Holy Trinity then I fail in all things including emotional eating. I admit that I haven’t been faithful lately to prayer and seeking Him everywhere. So much pulls at me but the past few weeks I have been making changes to my schedule. Time in prayer and with Jesus is my priority and still everything that is important manages to get done. I have a greater peace in my responsibilities as a wife, home maker and homeschooling mother.

Clarity is a better word. I have clarity. I listen to the Spirit and know what to let go and just…be. Well, sometime anyway.

I’m down three pounds so far this month. I won’t make my five-pound goal and I’m okay with it. Next month will be better but I will continue. I’ve added a few new workouts to my playlist on YouTube. My favorite workouts are from FitnessBlender and jessicasmithtv.

 

 

Christ of the Mountains

I grew up in two worlds…in various military towns and in my grandparents home in the Appalachia foothills. We moved frequently from Washington to Louisiana and many places in-between.  I loved the mountains because everything remained as it was between stays. My early years were with my grandparents…up until about three and then off and on through the years depending on events I have little knowledge. I spent all my summers and winter breaks in the foothills and moved in again at about the age of ten.

My parents were agnostic at the time and eventually my father became more atheistic. He really hated God so I am not sure you could really call him a non believer since you have to believe in something to hate it so much…sadly my brother has followed him into the same nonsensical conclusion. At this point I honestly have no idea what my mother believes…if anything. Well, all of this background is to let you know that my grandmother took it upon herself for my religious education and training. I didn’t mind because she and Papaw were the closest I ever had to a home until I married my husband.

I believe the church she grew up in was called an Old Regular or some would say Primitive Baptist. I liked going to church with Granny and Papaw when I was a kid. Papaw always sat on the back pew very close to the door. I remember being scared to death for him one Sunday when the preacher told us that Old Satan always sat on the back row. I don’t really remember the point of that preaching but I tried several times to get Papaw to sit on the next row up. Granny always sat on the third row from the front, on the left side next to the isle. She said only “show-offs” sat any closer. I liked sitting there because the Candy Lady always sat in front of us and I got a piece of cinnamon gum every Sunday. Granny said “show-offs” always had candy to give away too…

Preachers are different in the mountains. Most of the preaching I was exposed to was not from seminary trained professionals. The mountain preachers had other full time jobs and were not paid by the congregation. (Granny always told me to never trust an outside preacher without a real job.) Usually a plate or hat was passed around after the service for the preacher or sometimes preachers. Sometimes there were more than one preacher and those meetings (we didn’t call them services) could get really long. One of my favorite times was when we’d sing the preacher down. Singing the preacher down was when someone in the congregation (usually a Deacon) would get up while the preacher was talking and start singing. Then someone else would join the deacon and then the rest of us would sing along. These would usually be in the style of shape note singing (I think that is the name of the style). A hymnal wasn’t used  when this happened. Most of the time these happened at the big mountain top graveyard but occasionally during a meeting.

The preaching sounded different too. I’ve never heard the sing-song chant style outside of the mountains. Some even held the Scriptures to the side of their head in order to better hear the Holy Spirit’s message. Most of the sermons were about either hellfire or the Lord’s triumphant return in the final battle when everything will be made new and the dead will get up out of their graves. Some of the sermons I remember were about the dead waiting in their graves for new life and the sound of the victorious trumpet to awake them. I wandered what that must be like for the dead and eventually for myself…all that waiting.  I asked Granny about it once and she told me the good souls went to Jesus and the bad souls waited in their graves for the Great Judgment Day. I still wander about that when I visit graveyards today. Mostly I just stay away. Such thoughts and beliefs made it easy to believe in omens, dreams and visions which were common discussions on the front porch as summer evenings settled into night. Some nights Papaw would tell us a ghost story…

The Jesus I came to know as a child is very different from the Jesus I’ve come to know in modern churches. The Jesus my Granny taught me about was fierce, terrifying and wild. I often imagined Him with flames in His eyes and carrying a flaming sword. He could not be tamed or understood by us regular folk. Looking back it seems I must have heard many sermons on Revelations. Jesus loved children and repentant sinners and He had a dreadful knowledge of right and wrong. I understood that I had to walk the line when my childhood was over because He wouldn’t love me anymore unless I was repentant. I remember very clearly the day my childhood was over but that is a story for another time.  God was very real when I lived in the mountains and we sang hymns while working in the garden and feeding chickens. When I returned to the modern world with my parents I kept my Wildman Jesus a secret. I wasn’t allowed to go to church or ask questions about God. Eventually, my father found my Bible and I never saw it again. But I still remember my Bible. It had a colorful picture of Jesus with children on it and it zipped shut.

I like the modern church I attend now even though it would be nice to “sing the preacher down” sometimes. Jesus seems very friendly and personal in modern churches…so much so that I think we can forget He is Deity. But no matter how Jesus is preached in these modern churches I will always remember He cannot be tamed by anyone…modern or mountain.

Yeah, this post is kinda long and different from my usual sharing. I miss my grandparents and am sad to know that their ways are becoming distant memories, forgotten and stereotyped by shows like Justified. Life and death were hard and faith was breath but it was a good life. Fall is around the corner and that is when I really miss my mountain home…something that is only in my memories now.

Why I No Longer Have Faith In Children’s Ministry

I’m going to ruffle a feather or two…So, let me start out by saying I think highly of the people and many friends who work in children’s ministry. It’s a tough ministry…I called it the Armageddon ministry when I labored therein. Why? Because some days when the last kid was (finally) picked up I would have gladly welcomed the End of Days…with open arms. No joke. Children’s ministry is exhausting and a labor of love. I make it a point to thank every individual who tends to my children on every Sunday morning.

I used to haul the kids to church every time the doors were open. Over the summer I would enroll them in several Vacation Bible Schools in the community. We quit attending all but Sunday morning service almost a year ago. I just did not feel that my children were really learning much and we were losing time together as a family. Service is great but not at the expense of time with my husband and children. I’ve thunk a thought or two over this and sought God’s heart on the matter.

I’ve heard a few sermons now on young adults leaving their faith. These are Christian kids reared in the Church who are leaving their beliefs behind and embracing worldly, secular culture. I think today’s culture is increasingly anti-Christian and is becoming more actively hostile each year. I do not want my children to embrace the secular culture. I want them to have a deep and abiding faith in God and a trusting love in the Scripture. Statistics show they will not get this in children’s ministry. Why?

I really do not know the answer. There are some books that have come out recently but I am not sure anyone has a concrete answer to why our kids are leaving their faith behind. I will share my thoughts and welcome your views as well. My kids have been taught many Old Testament stories. They know about Abraham, Isaac, Noah and Moses. Once my oldest asked me if I would kill him if God asked me to. When I asked him why he would ask me such a crazy question he told me the Abraham story he learned in church that day. Sobering moment.

I think the theology of the Old Testament is not for children. We teach them about Noah and Moses but the significance of these passages are not easily grasped by young children. We teach our children how great and faithful Abraham was and fail to point out that it is God who is faithful despite Abraham’s unfaithfulness. God remained faithful to his people despite their unfaithfulness to Him. The Law points out our need for a Savior and I think this is the basic teaching of the Old Testament. I am not sure that my children are ready to learn this…or capable until the middle school years. The Old Testament is rich and I do not want them to disregard it as reading material for children when they get older.

We are going to disciple our children ourselves. I was naïve to think they received enough instruction from church. God’s word is meant to be passed from the parents. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9,Proverbs 1:8, 2 Timothy 1:5) The whole point of the Scriptures is to teach us about and point us to Jesus. So we will not begin with the Old Testament…we will begin with the Gospel…with Jesus. I want them to know and trust Jesus more than I want them to have an encyclopedic knowledge of the Bible.

One Word

The past few days I’ve read about others choosing a word for the coming year. A word to focus on to see them through their well-chosen resolutions…a word with spiritual meaning… a word to bring them closer in relation to The Word.

I want this coming year to be a good year…a year of grace and mercy. Honestly, I do not feel optimistic about the future to come. I am…uneasy. In all honesty, I feel these are the days of Noah. I do not say that lightly or believe it with open arms. The America I love is fading before my eyes. Freedom slipping away. The world seems to be in anticipation of some subtle calamity to come

All my worries aside…I choose hope. My word for 2013 is hope. Despite my fear of this bleak unknown I choose to live in hope. In Jesus I will place my trust. He is my hope and joy.

Made To Crave….End Game or Silence Revisited

Finally, I can shut the cover of this book and give it back to my friend (thanks J for loaning it to me!). Don’t get me wrong, this is a great book and will change your life if you take the message to heart. My life has changed in rather unexpected ways since opening the first page. Some of the changes have been a bit too dramatic for me and others…just beautiful. I’ve let go of exhausting emotional pain and received a deeper appreciation for my husband. That one experience of grace alone made this book a cherished experience for me…even if I only lost five pounds (so far).

Not every loss and gain I’ve experienced in the past few months has been as easy to accept and understand. Most notably walking away from a beloved Church Family. That hurt and sometimes I still get a bit mad and want to throw something. Sometimes we have to leave our comfortable places, routines, and friends to encounter Jesus anew. Visiting different churches has been fun but mostly scary. But I am at church to worship my God and not see friends or worship with familiar faces and music. The hardest part has been accepting the sometimes unkind words from friends for leaving or the not so nice comment on which ever church I am attending at the moment. Ministry is also absent since I have been church adrift. Not being involved in ministry or service has been hard for me. But Jesus does not want me to be involved in much right now. I felt useless and guilty. But I think He wanted me to experience these feelings so I could understand that being a Christian is not about what I can do for Jesus. He does not need me to do anything and I cannot make myself better in His eyes no matter how many good works I perform or sacrifices I make. It took the experience of feeling useless to Him and unable to earn His love for me to realize that my worth is in His redemptive love for me…not in anything I can do to earn my place in Christianity. He chose to love me and in His love I find my worth…not in doing and earning but in being and accepting. Scary kind of freedom…

Funny part of all this is just as I accepted being ” useless” He gives me a ministry to embrace. Wow! I am now in small group leadership training for an online church called Beliefchangers. (I promise to tell y’all about them in another post soon). I feel a bit freaked and completely unable to be a part of this ministry…this is completely different from tending to preschoolers. But His grace is sufficient for me…I really am not capable of this without Jesus. Maybe that is the point. I can do preschool ministry without really needing Jesus but now I will have to totally rely on Him. I think I am slowly learning that this is the heart of Christianity. Everything I do should flow from His strength…every breath. Abide.

This book sent me on an unexpected and spiritual journey. I was at a block in my relationship with Jesus. But ever since I let go of my past the spiritual desert or overwhelming silence I found myself in has slowly faded. My life and love for Jesus is blossoming anew. I find it a little humorous that I feel like springtime as nature descends into winter.

Now about the reason I started this book…get healthy and lose weight. I’ve really only just started on this path. I started to keep a food journal and noting when and why I was eating. I really want to eat when feeling sad. To help with this I started keeping a gratitude journal. Being thankful does keep the munchies away for me. I am also slowly adding exercise to my day but with four little children that is not always easy. I may have to bite the bullet and get up really early to accomplish this task each day. I have also substituted one of my meals each day for a smoothie. On days when I exercise and eat healthy I feel better physically. I am hoping to have a before and after picture to post in the future…well I have the before picture…