Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Little Bit Down

It has been about three weeks since the kiddos left.  I have done my best to put myself in a position where I could let go and move forward.

Unfortunately, today I got thrown off-balance a bit when my mom told me that she had been chatting with her sister (their grandmother, where they went to live) and was told a few things that were upsetting/disappointing to hear.  It gave me the strong impression that my concerns and reservations about this sudden re-interest in them having the kids back might not be for the best.  Already there is conflict between the grandparents about things like putting in the effort to take the children to activities, and there is also some flim-flam going on where the children may be allowed to go with their mother for an extended period of time, which I was told would "never happen."  If they have only been back less than a month and there is already insufficient motivation to drive kids to VBS or to keep them safely away from negligent compulsive liar criminals and drug addicts, then I just do not know how this can go well in the long run.

Very hard to hear.

I asked my mom to please just not even tell me stuff like that any more.  It's too upsetting.

Monday, June 24, 2013

I Quaked Today

I visited a Quaker meeting today.

This meeting was the unprogrammed sort, which means that there is no music, no sermon, no agenda.  Instead there is silence until someone feels like they have something they should share with the group.  (and if nobody shares, everybody sits in silence for the hour)

So, imagine a circle of chairs, with 12 adults sitting quietly, many with eyes closed. They sit and breathe and pray or think or meditate for an hour.  (I think some people fall asleep too....)

Two people spoke in the group, each for maybe 2 or 3 minutes.  Both said things that resonated with me.  The distillation of what I got from these two things was the challenge and beauty of learning to love without control.  Since much of the past 7 months of my life has been strongly themed with the words "I don't know" so I could very much appreciate this message and what it means to live it.  I have gotten rather comfortable with loving and living without knowing or expecting a particular outcome.  I have been continuously put into a position of open heart, open hands, and waiting.  It has been hard and it has been good.

I gave personal meditation a brief attempt back many months ago, but let go of trying once the new kiddos came to us.  Sitting for an hour of silence made me think it would be worth getting into again.  Whether I do or not, I can see that there could be benefits to removing myself from the noise of life to slow all the way down to silence and peace for an hour.  I can see how this could be part of an actual day of rest.

Yes, I guess I could be silent at home, but I do not think I would.  There is that pressure within the group to be still and quiet.  No phone-checking, no getting a mint out of my purse.  I can't replicate that at home.

I enjoyed being in a service where I wasn't having any reason to mentally push back at anything.  At our regular church I have an internal dialogue going the whole time, and in reflecting today I realized that it's a lot of negative.  I'm usually unhappy with the music, disliking feeling pushed to socialize with people in a way that seems too surface-y to be enjoyable, disagreeing or disliking the sermon, and whatever else.  So it was nice to instead be listening to chirping birds, seeing trees and plants swaying in the breeze, and just chilling out.  I will admit that I had a Macklemore song running through my head almost all of the time (despite the fact that I purposely didn't listen to the radio at all on my drive), so there was that weird thing, but I just accepted it and carried on.

After the hour was done, the children and teens returned to the meeting room and then everyone went around and introduced themselves, and some shared something about their week.  It was very pleasant.  There were also announcements, all of which were given in a way that felt unique in language and delivery, and all of it came across as very peaceful, non-pushy, open-spirited, and relaxed.  It was nice.

I liked it that it seemed like nobody had to stress to prepare much for the meeting.  Surely there were people who cleaned, prepared coffee, and planned for the children's meeting, plus undoubtedly other things I'm unaware of.  But there was also no sermon, no music, no usher schedule, no nursery workers.  It was a level of peace and relaxation that seemed sustainable.  That was nice to see.

From what I have been reading, it appears that Quakers vary some in their beliefs and practices, but that a large part of what they believe is that God is at work in each person, and will speak to that person and guide and direct them personally.  So, there doesn't seem to be a strong need to teach, direct, sermonize, or in other ways get the group to conform to a particular set of beliefs.  It seems that there is trust that God is at work and the individual can respond and live according to that and their conscience.  I'm sure the community probably plays a role in encouraging discernment, etc. as well.  Apparently there are opportunities for actual discussions as well as just silence.  It is appealing to me to be in a community that has that level of trust in God at work.  For years now my beliefs have shifted away from what most mainstream evangelical denominations teach, and so I have been sitting there disagreeing with a lot of what has been said in church.  It is nice to imagine a scenario where I can feel more like I fit in with what's already been happening--I live according to my beliefs, and continue to learn and grow.  I have long since passed any need to convince others of anything, and indeed I don't even care to discuss my beliefs.  I know what they are and that's been enough for me.

It was a positive experience today.  I am still processing it.  I don't know yet if I will go back.  I am not sure that the rest of my family will be open to trying it out.  I am still doing a lot of thinking about what we need and what makes sense for me and my family right now.  I'm not sure that I would continue to be willing to drive a half hour to sit in silence for an hour.  I don't know if it makes sense to make new connections with another church group that is also impractical in distance.  (Right now all 3 of my church options are 30 minutes away, each in a different direction.)    I also asked myself today why I felt the need to keep trying to find something, when I already know that my husband and I both feel almost entirely *fabulous* about staying at home on Sunday mornings.  (The only non-fabulous part is the niggling question of whether we are doing the right thing for our kids. Other than that, taking Sundays off has been wonderful for us and we have no regrets.)  My friend that I go walking with said something to me the other day that simply reminded me that it has only been a few weeks since the kids left, and we are still walking out my husband's recovery from his heart surgery.  She was pointing out that there is probably still a lot of recovery to go for me and all of us, and I'm sure that's true.  So maybe expecting to have answers and not feel like we need a Sunday rest is unrealistic.  Certainly worth considering.  Of course, the thing is, this summer break is as relaxed as we will be....until next summer break!  Once school starts and marching band starts and basketball starts, Sundays will quite literally be the only days that we have for R&R.  So, if we aren't going now, I don't see much chance that we'll go then either.

All points to ponder for another day.  I'm satisfied that I woke up with enough time to get to the Quaker Friends meeting today and that I had a new experience and a small adventure.  I enjoy having new and interesting things to think and learn about.  It is an inexpensive form of entertainment and is life-enhancing.  :)

Monday, June 17, 2013


It has been about two weeks since the kiddos left, and in that two weeks I have been kind of detoxing/shaking-it-out/recovering from all of my emotions and exhaustion that accompanied the experience.  For the most part, it has been mostly self- (and family-) preservation, but not that much sad stuff.

And then today it happened--I was going through some of my pictures on my computer, and there were their super cute faces, and I remembered sweet and good things and moments of grace that encouraged me, and I felt pangs of sadness and loss.

My little cuties!  
They were here, and now they are gone.  

I love them. 
I cared for them. 
I tried so hard.  
And they were taken away, lifted from my arms.  

I knew that sooner or later the sadness would come.  And here it is.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

I Don't Want To Go To Church, part 2

I was brought up going to various evangelical churches, and that is what I have continued to do as an adult.  However, I find that I have an increasingly wide distance between my beliefs/practices and those of my church.  This has left me wondering what churches I might actually line up with in beliefs.  It seems like the Episcopal church might be a fit of some sort, but I am skeptical about whether or not I will even care to attend a church that I do agree with.  I've always been an independent thinker and a person that has no problem with standing alone.  It is not important to me to be surrounded by people who agree with me.  In fact, I don't even care to discuss most of these issues.  I feel comfortable with my beliefs, they make sense to me; when I want to learn more or be challenged I read a book on the subject, and in the meantime I live my life without needing to advertise everything going on in my head. I'm not sure that I even feel a need to invest my time, money, or energy into any church at this time.  I think that life is so very, very full already, it just seems sensible to focus on those things that are in front of me and carry on.  I'm tired, and so is everybody else in this family.  Are we somehow obligated to keep pushing ourselves for some church-y cause?  If so, says who?

I do ask myself, from time to time, if there is value in removing oneself from the regular daily life and become immersed in something spiritual.  I suppose the answer could be yes.

When I read about the church schedule that some of my Orthodox friends follow, I find myself feeling very turned off.  There is -nothing- in me that would want to run my life around church, church, church, and more church. It sounds exhausting and brutal and as if it would take the place of much of the home and family life that I value so highly.  I accept that this may be beautiful and deeply meaningful for many people. I also accept that I am probably not one of them.

We have enjoyed some home groups over the years.  When we were first married we had a group in our neighborhood that met.  In nice weather we pulled lawn chairs out into the lawn, sat in a circle, and had an informal church experience that was really nice.  We've been in some good groups and some less-serious groups as well.  Connecting with people like that, and having a discussion atmosphere has been satisfying in many ways.  However, having evolved quite a bit in my beliefs, I'm not sure what group I'd fit into any more.  And like I said, I'm not sure I feel the need for one.

Mainly I'm concerned that my kids get what they need, and a growing part of me suspects that this is one of those questions that will only be answered in retrospect.  Church will always be there, I suppose, and I do believe that God is capable of doing His work in spite of my mistakes or shortcomings.  That's a bottom-line comfort.

I Don't Want To Go To Church, part 1

I don't want to go to church.

There.  I said it.

This isn't really a new revelation.  Other than a few scattered years when we went to churches that we (temporarily) really, really enjoyed, or when our kids actually liked to go to church, the rest of our 22 years of marriage have mostly been with us being maybe half-time church attenders, if that.

I don't have a chip on my shoulder about church.

Nobody hurt my feelings, offended me, made me feel judged, or seemed like a hypocrite.

I just don't see the value in it.

Every week when we go to church this is what happens:

-We all drag out of bed when we don't want to (often on our only possible day that we could have slept in and rested).

-We struggle to hurry up.

-The kids complain (because they don't like going to church either....and our church considers itself to be really *fun* for kids.  ha)

-We drive a half hour to get there.  The music is disappointing.  The kids go to classes that they don't enjoy.  We see some people we like, though mostly I feel like it doesn't really matter if we show up or not.  We hear a sermon which is practical, but often very much like a self-help article that is not nearly as enriching as something I could have read in my Oprah magazine at home.  We drive back home, or go buy pizza and then drive back home.  And it feels like the day has been rushed and pushed and not nice.

Why do we bother?

I like our pastor.  He is a good guy with good ideas and I enjoy his talks.

We have some really high-quality people in our church that are very nice to be around.

I trust the adults that work with our youth group.

There really isn't anything "bad" going on.

I just don't care.  There just isn't enough there to make me want to go more than I want to stay at home.

If we're honest with ourselves, nobody at my house wants to go to church.  Ever.

So, why fight it?

And why is the "correct" answer among today's church-going people that we should busy ourselves with going to church and keeping the church machine running, instead of things like having a day of rest, that was apparently considered a priority from the beginning of the earth, before church existed?

I do not see my kids getting anything super great out of church attendance.  Indeed, though I was raised in churches that did encourage me to memorize Bible verses and the Romans Road and such, I mainly credited my growing Christian faith on the good stuff I got from my Christian school that I attended.  Call me crazy, but I sort of think they will benefit more from what we are living, what we are talking about, how we are treating people, etc. rather than being stuck in classes that leave them tuned-out.

My idea is that church should be some sort of catalyst in my spiritual life.  I don't think that has really been the case, though.

Other possibly good reasons to go to church:  corporate worship (which is also super disappointing at our current church, and is so distractingly bad that I cannot get past it), and fellowship with other Christians.  I can sing along to KLOVE in the car for a better worship time any day of the week, and feel that I make zero meaningful connections with anyone while I'm at church.  So....there's that.

And lest I be accused to only being concerned with myself, I will also add that I do not believe that God is really concerned about where I'm spending time on Sunday mornings either.  What good does it do God for me to drive over to church to endure it for an hour?

Sorry.  I'm not drinking it.

If I didn't have still-young kids, I wouldn't even consider going to church at all.  It is only my parental responsibility that right now makes me grapple with this at all.  I do wonder if a decent family devotional would be an improvement over whatever it is that they do in their classes at church.