Saturday, November 02, 2013

A Month of Gratitude: Day 2

Day 2: God

I know, it's a pretty big topic, but I am so thankful for my relationship with God. I've always been spiritual and I grew up Catholic. We went to mass, attended religious formation classes, and I received my sacraments. When I went through my divorce, I went through the rigorous process of having my marriage annulled because I wanted a "clean slate."

I have always had a solid belief in God and attribute my faith to my mother. She's the one person that I turn to in times of doubt and when I have questions about my faith, I go to her. She has never steered me wrong, and I'm so thankful that she's been able to serve as my spiritual guide here on Earth.

When we lived in Michigan, we went to mass pretty frequently. In fact, when Steve and I met, our first date was spent going to mass together. Him being a practicing Catholic was one of the biggest attractions for me, and I really wanted someone to go to church with, and if it turned into more, great, but a church buddy was what I really craved.

Not only did I find someone to go to church with, but I found someone that I believe was created for me.

After we moved to North Carolina in June of 2007, I found it really hard to find a church that felt like home. Anyone who's ever "church hunted" can attest that there's a feeling you get when you're in the right place. We never felt that in NC, but the closest Catholic Church was where we attended (briefly).
From the time that Gus came back to NC with us (he was two months) until he was about 15 months, we didn't go to church. It was just too complicated and honestly, it wasn't convenient for our weekend schedule. So we stopped going. I don't know what called me back to church, but when Gus was about 15 months, I started taking him during the week (the church had M/Tu/Th/F 9am mass). 

The first time I took him, I sat in the regular area, and he decided to scream to hear his echo. So I moved to the cry room and that's where I would go each week. However, the speakers weren't working during the week, so I'd go and not be able to hear anything. What's the point of going to church if you can't hear anything. And, it was so distracting with Gus being so busy, I wasn't getting much out of being there anyway.

The final straw came one week when I was sitting in the back (not the cry room because I couldn't hear in there), but away from others. As the priest was coming up the aisle, Gus was chatting and, I kid you not, the priest stopped and shushed me. 

He shushed me in the middle of coming up the aisle. I was so shocked. I never went back. I'm pretty sure Jesus would not have shushed us.
When we moved to Georgia, I tried to see what Catholic Churches were near us. There are two, but honestly, neither felt "right." So we didn't attend at all.

I had this feeling inside that I was missing something from my life. Deep down I knew what it was, but I didn't know how to verbalize or recognize it. I was being called to come back to God, but I didn't know how to get there.

One thing that I did come to realize was that I just couldn't call myself a Catholic anymore. The things that the Church believes, for the most part, I believe as well. BUT... the things that I disagree on are such BIG issues for me, that I felt like a hypocrite to keep going. My mom calls this being a "Cafeteria Catholic" where you pick and choose what you want to believe based on how it works for you. I just couldn't do it.

There are a lot of things that I DO believe in that align with the Catholic Church. However, the social teachings are where I cannot align myself. I was desperately searching for a church that was tolerant and accepting of ALL people. Straight AND homosexual. While I'm straight, I love all people and believe with all my heart that if Jesus were walking the Earth today, he'd be standing with the gays and loving them, not condemning them.
I wanted a church that allowed women to serve as ministers. What a crazy concept-- a female on the altar serving God. 

So I came to the Episcopal Church as an option. I found one that's close to us and I contacted the priest and he and I met to discuss my questions. While I felt the meeting went well, I still didn't have that "feeling" that I was in the right place. Steve and I went to mass once and had to leave 1/2 way through because Gus was screaming.

We didn't even make it through a service, but the time that we were in there, I felt lost. I didn't know what to expect, didn't know what was coming next, there was no set pattern, like there is with the mass. I'm sure had I kept going, I would have found the structure to be very similar to the Catholic Mass, but we left 1/2 way through and never went back.

I was on a quest to find my place. 

In January of 2013, we started Gus at Christ the King for preschool. My friend Lesley attended the church and her son was in preschool there as well. Gus joined the class and the church had an "Open House" for everyone new to the preschool to come and learn more.

Lesley came over and watched the boys while I went to the Open House. I was expecting it to be about the preschool, but it was actually more about the church. They started with a slide show and I loved it. I had this awesome feeling come over me and I felt like God was calling me.

At the end of the meeting, I talked to the pastor and told him that I might want to come in and talk to him-- he encouraged it and said he'd be waiting for my email. 

I did go and meet with Pastor Brian and we had a wonderful conversation. I found him to be so easy to talk to, and he was welcoming, assuring, and very warm. He oozes niceness. He encouraged me to come to a service and see what the church was all about. 

So, Lesley and I went the following Sunday and attended the 11am service. HOLY COW. It was a contemporary service and not my thing. I felt discouraged, and unsure because I had this overwhelming feeling like I was being called there, and yet, this service was against all that I was looking for.

We decided to go to the Ash Wednesday traditional service and see how it was, and if it wasn't better, I'd be looking again.

Steve came with me to the service and it was awesome. I just felt like I was FINALLY where I was meant to be. Steve enjoyed it and said it was very Catholic-like and he really liked it.

We started going to CtK each Sunday at 8:45am and officially joined the church in May. We had Hugh baptized at CtK and then had an official joining ceremony in May.

I am now Lutheran and so happy. I am learning more and more about what it means to be an ELCA Lutheran. We have two pastors, Pastor Brian and Pastor Sherry. I absolutely love seeing a woman on the altar and know that I am right where I am meant to be.

I am so thankful to have found a church where I feel at home. I love that my husband and I go together with our children and we go every Sunday. Gus and Hugh go to the nursery while we're in service and then Gus goes to Faith Formation classes. He'll be singing in the Christmas service and I can't wait to hear him. He loves going and it's a positive experience for all of us.

I've never been one to be preachy- in fact, people that are overly religious make me VERY uncomfortable. Not sure why, but I always feel like they're judging me, or that I have to watch everything I say and do because they're so religious. It's totally my own deal.

I do feel like it's so important to be raising my children with a religious upbringing. Maybe it's because I felt connected to my mom through our going to church, or because I have always had a need to feel connected. I want Gus and Hugh to know how much they're loved by God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. I want them to grow up knowing God and I want a relationship with God to be so important to them. We will raise them with morals and values and will help them build a relationship with God. And the thought of not doing this, is so foreign to me. I cannot imagine them to not know the love and grace of God.

So for day two, I am so grateful for my relationship with God.

Friday, November 01, 2013

A Month of Gratitude: Day 1

In 2011, I wanted to try a year of posting something everyday that I was grateful for. I think I made it to July and then we went on vacation and I got behind and couldn't catch up. I figure, it's November 1st, and I can handle a month of being thankful. 

The first thing that I am grateful for is being alive.

I get to experience this world and the people in it, and for that, I am grateful.

Halloween Recap

I love Halloween. I always have. As a child, we always dressed up and went trick-or-treating. Rain or shine, we went out and we always had a great time.
Scott (Schmoo) and I (ET)- Halloween 1982

There was something so special about Halloween. We always went over to see my grandparents before having dinner and going out. My Grandma Ghrist would make a Halloween bag stuffed with all her best candy and give it to each of us. My grandparents loved seeing us in our costumes and I think seeing us was the highlight of their day.

Usually on Halloween day, we'd have a school Halloween party and everyone would try to keep it together for the day and then when 2:30 came, we changed into costumes and enjoyed a wonderful Halloween party. We never had homework assigned on Halloween night, and we would race home and count down the minutes until the street lights came on and we could head out.

When I was a trick-or-treater, my mom usually made either hotdogs, sloppy joe's, or we ordered pizza for dinner. It was never a meal that we savored, we pretty much scarfed down whatever we could so that we could head out and get some candy.

The crazy thing to think about is that I remember going without my parents. I'm thinking when we were little, we obviously went with my mom, but when we were a bit older, like 4th/5th grade, I think we went alone (I could be wrong). All I know is that Halloween has always been a fun holiday and one that brings back so many awesome memories.

I'm hoping to create the same love of the holiday with the boys. Hugh is too little to know what Halloween is yet, but Gus finally got it this year. Don't get me wrong, he had fun last year, but this year he was really into it.

Last year, we went to Lesley and Jason's and had pizza together and then Logan and Gus rode in the wagon as we went door to door in their neighborhood. This year, we decided to stay home and see what Halloween is like here in our 'hood.

Let me just say it was different.

We live on a street with a cul-de-sac. We have a lot of hills and our driveways are pretty steep. So to make it easier on the kids, the families on our street don't pass out candy like most houses. We all gathered down at the base of our street. There was a table set up and all the families put their candy bucket on the table. Then the dads took the kids trick-or-treating and the moms stayed back and sat in chairs at the table. 

When someone came to the table, someone told them, "This is all the candy for our street. Please walk around and take some from each bucket!" 

Now, it's definitely a smart thing, however, had we not attended the street carving party last Sunday, we would not have know about this. I would have been sitting on the porch with my light on, waiting for children that never came. I'm certain that there were a few houses on my street that did just that, because not everyone came to the party on Sunday.

Anyway, it was a beautiful night. It was the perfect temperature-- not hot, a nice cool breeze, and comfortable. Not a cloud in the sky, and really, the nicest night I've had for handing out candy in YEARS.

I missed going with Steve and the boys, but they had fun and I enjoyed talking to my neighbors. Here are some pictures from the night:

Fulton County does not allow the children to celebrate Halloween at school (totally bums me out). Since Gus's costume is just a shirt, I sent him in it and he was excited to wear his costume to school. :-)

We had been practicing saying, "Trick or treat!!" and then once he has candy, to say, "Thank you!!" 

Totally ready to go!!!

Ready for everyone to gather so we could take a picture of the kids

 Miscommunication-- several just left and we didn't get a whole-street picture

Loading up the boys to head out for candy!!

It was a fun night! The boys weren't out long, as Hugh turns into a pumpkin at 7pm (like clockwork) and started screaming because he was tired. Steve and the boys came by to get me at 7:30 and Hugh was beyond helping. He was so unhappy. We headed home and got the boys into their jammies and into bed and by the time we were down on the main level, they were both asleep. 


What's crazy to think about is that next Halloween, Hugh will be almost two. CRAZY!!!!