Bug and I just got back from a bible conference that we try to attend every year. It’s something I did with my parents when I was a kid and now I’m finding myself doing as a parent. It’s a very strange journey I’ve been on to get there. I could go into a lot of back story (and I have in the past in ways I’m not proud of so I won’t be linking) but I don’t really want to dwell on that. Just know that this is a something of a struggle for me. I was very happy to be there though.
I did take notes during the meetings too. No, I was not sketching during meeting! I tried very hard NOT to doodle and to listen instead. I’m glad I opened my ears up, even if my heart was wrapped up in protective duct tape. Because my ears heard a lot of things that my heart needed.
So, what I’m trying to say is what you see here in these illos is everything BUT what the conference was about. Not that I’m trying to keep what conference was about secret. I’m not. I have notes. I will share! I just don’t know if I should share here. I know that Christians should expect to be hated for their faith and I should embrace that but I’m scared. Plus, I don’t think preaching from a blog is exactly the best way to help others, even if it’s just scrawled notes from a moleskin. So I’m keeping it private but if you want to know more email me.
In other notes: I did not know that so many meeting people read my blog. It’s a bit unnerving! I feel like I should clean up my language (even though I hardly cuss) and talk a bit less about drinking alcohol (even though I rarely drink) but I guess if you read this blog it’s a bit late for me to go around cleaning things up now. Besides I’m already trying really hard not to be snarky and hurt people’s feelings so if I get any more wholesome I might just write myself out of existence.
What else…. hmmm. How about some photos?
This is Bug asleep on our way to the conference. It was a two hour drive to Burbank (I think. I didn’t time it) and she just couldn’t stay awake. Which is fine except her hair got mussed up a bit. I tried to do her hair everyday (unlike at home where I let her be a raggamuffin everyday) but her hair is so fine it just slips right out of whatever hair-do I’ve done it in and flies away of it’s own accord. Sort of like our human nature. Anyway!
This is my Dad, knitting. He’s a such a sweet old man now. I love how he is aging. I hope I age like him. You know he’s a trucker right? A knitting trucker!!! Ha ha! We all love that about him. He’s working on slippers and trying to perfect the toe that has some problems. If you bought some slippers from him and you have toe-poking-out problems, please contact my Mom so my Dad can fix them! (He doesn’t have internet in his truck yet.)
Here is Bug eating McDonald’s. She wasn’t a fan of conference food. She did like the deserts but unfortunately I have a no-desert policy if you don’t eat your dinner so it was a bit of a struggle for both of us. I thought the food was fine. She starved. And then one day I broke down and walked across the street so she could have a happy meal.
This is me sketching. I love the pictures Bug takes of me. Even if they do capture my bad posture. They give me a glimpse of what I really look like and now I know exactly what my back will look like when I’m 60. I really should straighten up.
I really do dress like this. I don’t care what you think, obviously.
I dress my kid like that too! Actually the only way I got her to wear this cute red dress instead of the thin t-shirt weight pink one that is covered with hearts was to bribe her with matching-mommy tights. Phew! That was a close one. I don’t even know why I packed that silly pink heart dress. I’m so sick of it.
Here is my niece, Rapunzel, the day after conference. We walked to Starbucks together just her and I. Bug stayed with Grandma and bounced on the bed with her cousin SuperChic. Rapunzel is growing up so fast. I just want to squeeze her before the little girl in her is all gone. But she sort of looks little here. Maybe it’s the angle. She is ONLY eleven after all.
Little enough to join in the bouncing when we got back to my mom’s hotel room. What’s the fun in staying in a hotel room if you can’t jump on the bed a little, right?
They bounced themselves silly and then they plopped down and were quiet for one whole minute.
Since we’re going through the pictures one by one, I might as well ramble about this one. That picture on the bottom scared me sooo bad. You don’t see a face there on the right do you? Let me explain.
Bug and I had our own room and I slept fitfully because we happened to be on the same floor as a band from Guatemala who were performing in the Rose Parade. They were great kids except for the fact that the guy next door to us didn’t have a key and had to pound on the door every hour all night long. I’m not even kidding. I guess his buddies slept soundly because they never opened the door right away. What he was doing up all night, I have no idea.
Anyway it’s a good thing the meetings were about how the world will persecute us and how we should be thankful for the good things and the bad things because I think I would have gone out there in my pajamas and given those tuba-playing band members a piece of my mind if I hadn’t have recently decided to take up praying more often. So I prayed and I prayed and only broke down and called security twice. Which did nothing, really.
Later on that night I had a terrible nightmare all about werewolves and vampires and friends who turned into red-eyeballed clawed creatures. I woke up in a sweat and right there on the wall was this creepy photo of a theatre staring back at me. Except instead of buildings and palm trees all I could see was a masked man wearing a fedora and a dead body where the street lights hit the road. I stared at it and stared at it and the face would not go away. In fact the face was so strong I didn’t know why I didn’t see it in the day time. It even seemed like the masked guy was smiling at me with a wicked grin. It creeped me out so bad I almost called my Dad on the phone to come over and sit with me until the nightmare would shake itself free from me.
God works in mysterious ways because just then as I sat in my bed shaking with fear over some silly picture on the wall, the guy in the band next door started to bang again. I have never been so thankful for stupid high school kids who like to stay awake at three in the morning. I don’t know if they were on drugs and I should be thankful for that but their banging comforted me. They didn’t speak English but just knowing that they were there and I could scream out if the masked man in the picture suddenly came to life comforted me.
So that’s my story. Let’s just say I was very glad to wake up one last time and see that the sun was finally up. I stared at that photo in the light and I couldn’t for the life of me see that scary face again. I guess I should have taken a photo of it at night. I did think about doing that at the time but I was too afraid to get up and get my camera because everybody knows if you get out of bed when you have a nightmare, the bony hand under the bed will grab your foot!
I have to come clean about something and I really hate to do it. Not because I’m afraid of you readers judging me but because I’m afraid it will make waves in my family and I really don’t want to cause anyone to hurt any more. I’ve put the subject off for more than a year. There has sort of been a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy amongst my relatives and that seemed to be going along great but it never felt that great to me. I’ve never been one to lead a dual lifestyle so let the sun shine on my path so all can see…and judge, if they will.
You see, I’ve been going to a Lutheran church for about a year now. Not every Sunday but probably at least two Sundays a month, sometimes less, sometimes more. I’ve been going just long enough that I’m getting familiar with people and they miss me when I’m not there. It’s starting to feel like home.
It’s funny that I chose to go to a Lutheran church as it is very very different from the way I was raised. How can I explain the differences without writing a novel? I think the easiest way is to imagine comparing Quakers to the Catholic church. An ocean of difference…yet still just Christians.
I chose to go to a Lutheran church out of respect for the way Toby was raised. Toby doesn’t go to church anymore but he has a lot of sentimental feelings about where his little girl goes and I understand that. I feel that way too. So Bug and I go to both places. I take her to meeting (where I was raised) when I’m visiting my mom and I take her to the Lutheran church when I am home.
It really is true that the best way to convert someone is by example. Nobody ever tried to convert me to Lutheranism (and I’d hardly say I’m converted…yet). I just looked at the people in my life who seemed to have peace with their spirituality and started asking questions. Toby’s stepmom is Lutheran. Also, Bethany is Lutheran. I never really made a decision to go one way or another but I just keep ending up here and it seems like God has something to do with it. (That’s a loaded sentence. I could write a whole post about that but I need to keep this from getting too long.)
I do need to make it clear that I’m not breaking bread (taking communion) at either place. I don’t even know how to really explain that without boring everyone to death. I think the deciding factor for me is that the meeting is more exclusive about who they break bread with and they would have me choose one over the other. So I choose neither. Which is sad but that’s where I’m at.
When I first started going to the Lutheran church it felt completely wrong and backwards. I cried my way through services because it just didn’t feel right. I didn’t feel comfortable going where I was raised either and yet I felt like a lost stranger going to this new church where they chant and read their prayers off a paper with their eyes open. With their eyes open! It was so weird. So…so Catholic! Which is not a bad thing per se but when you’ve been raised as Protestant as they come, it can seem all sorts of wrong. It felt too formal and distant from the way I learned to pray to Jesus, as if he were my friend sitting right next to me.
But Jesus was still sitting right next to me. He never left me.
So I talked about my awkwardness with the Lutheran style—of chanting and standing and sitting and drinking out of golden cups and wearing different colors on certain days etc etc—to Toby and Bethany and I’m starting to understand it. I understand the madness behind their methods anyway. I may not ever feel like this is where I belong but the truths are still the same truths. Lutherans just like more structure. And after living through a particularly bloody division of people in the meeting, I can appreciate a little structure.
What I’m really trying to get at with this post is that I’m starting to feel loved at this new church. The people there are so quirky. I love Lutherans with their stuffiness on one hand and their open-minded acceptance on the other. Like the joke goes, Lutherans are the only ones who sing “Stand up, stand up for Jesus!” while they are sitting down.
They’re very good at making fun of themselves too and I like that. They’re a little bit legal but a lot bit accepting. They never make me feel bad for what I’m doing or not doing but the pastor can pound home a sermon that makes me cringe in guilt. He’s not shy about the touchy subjects and I appreciate that.
This last Sunday was Easter Sunday which is a really big deal in the calendar for many Christians. The meeting celebrates Christ being risen from the dead every Sunday so it’s never really been about a particular day in Spring for me. I’ve never been to an Easter Sunday service before so this Sunday was a bit interesting to say the least.
I’m so glad I went to the Good Friday service on the Friday before though. Celebrating Easter isn’t all about rejoicing and pretty flowers, though it is about that too. It’s also about Jesus being crucified and the pain and suffering He went through on the cross leading up to his resurrection. Jesus was a real person. The crosses were wood and they stuck big giant nails in His wrists and feet. When the pain got too bad from hanging from His wrists, He would have to stand up on His legs pushing against the nails that held his feet. The pain was real. And yet that pain was nothing compared to the punishment that God rained down on him to cover all of our transgressions so that we could be free and join Him someday in Heaven. The Good Friday service was about that. It started in candlelight and ended in darkness that seemed fitting for the solemn remembrance.
It was strange to leave the building in silence and not stop for coffee and cookies in the kitchen afterwards. That’s what we usually do. Bug was completely mystified by it because usually the socializing part of church is her favorite part. But I’m glad she’s being exposed to this. I want this to be normal for her someday. It may not ever feel completely normal to me but it will to her. That’s why I keep going.
On Sunday it was fun to see the church decorated in lilies and listen to the choir sing special songs that they’d been working on for weeks. The choir is a small smattering of members. They don’t give you the chills when they sing like the fancy church across town but I like them. They really try.
The pastor tried to get the congregation excited about the singing. He told us we could sing loud and clap and even make animal noises if we wanted to. Anything was good as long as it was a joyful noise, he said. But when the choir did their best to really get into a fast-paced song, all the congregation managed to do was stand and sway from front to back. They didn’t even clap when it said to clap in the lyrics. I found it hilarious.
But you know what? I felt at home in their awkward swaying. Maybe they didn’t really get into the music like some churches do with loud amens and hallelujahs and that’s okay. I think it’s a cultural difference. Some people really like to feel their music, others are more quiet. They were there because they wanted to be there. And I was happy to be there too. I may have shed a tear or two.
I was especially happy to be in church on this Sunday because I really needed a place to be and just pray. Bug was entertained by the singing and pretty music and I could close my eyes and pray. Watching my fellow mommy-bloggers mourn over the loss of Maddie and Thalon this last weekend has been gut-wrenching. Babies die every day, I know. But these babies belonged to mothers who wrote about them on the internet. It could have been me. It could have been Bug! I’ve never identified with a mother losing her baby as much as I did this weekend. Maybe I’ve been off in my own lala-land ignoring the harsh realities of life. Maybe I needed a wake-up call. Life is so short.
So that is part of why I’m coming clean here today. I wanted to talk about the silly fluffy parts of Easter where we had a nice dinner and an egg hunt and how cute Bug’s dress was…but I felt bad glossing over the more meaningful parts of this Easter. This Easter was hard on so many people. Personally, I found a lot of comfort going to church with the motley bunch of Lutherans I’ve recently begun to love. I hope and pray that all the other mothers out there have people to take them in like I’ve been taken in.
I’m floundering around like everyone else. I’m probably making a million mistakes. But it isn’t about me. No matter what way I go, thinking I’m doing the right thing, I’m sure I’m not. I’m just starting to realize that no matter where I am, Jesus will still be there. Sometimes it’s almost funny. He probably laughs at me.
If you want to comment, please be kind. I don’t usually moderate comments but I will on this post to protect my family.