Browsing God

This C. S. Lewis Quote Saved My Parenting Sanity

March2

When Zach was fairly new, I was miserable. Not seriously, not dangerously, just kind of…normally…miserable. It’s hard. Babies are hard. And, look, I had the easiest pregnancies, births, and babies in the world, and it was too, too much. I can’t even imagine if I’d had difficulties on top of the normal.

Babies are all the time. If you do get a break, it’s not relaxing, because you know at any second you could be needed again. Finally ready for Netflix at the end of the night? Too bad. Go do another 45 minutes upstairs. Exhausted beyond measure? Don’t go to bed, because then tomorrow will come ALL THE SOONER. Did you just spend a week so sad that every time you smiled at your baby you were faking it? BAD MOM YOU DIDN’T CHERISH EVERY MOMENT.

Ahem. Where was I? I remember one night in particular upstairs, nursing Zach to sleep, just in the middle of the Hard of It All. And I thought, everyone’s right. I’ll be much happier if I stop having kids. These two will get older and I can do more for me as soon as that happens. I can relax. I can have fun. I can write, and teach, and act, or whatever it is I used to do when I was a person. I matter too. I should be happy.

And then C. S. Lewis’ voice popped into my head. Or rather Anthony Hopkins, because it was the version of Lewis from the movie Shadowlands. And he said, “I don’t think God particularly wants us to be happy. I think he wants us to love, and be loved.”

What, dude?

I mean, that’s kind of dicky, God doesn’t care if we’re happy. I mean, Follow Your Bliss, right? Live Your Dreams.

But the weird thing was, as soon as this quote popped into my head, I felt free. I could breathe. I didn’t have to feel happy this minute. I didn’t have to feel happy this week. Having a hard time didn’t prove I was living the wrong life. In fact, I’d been thinking about “happy” all wrong. I’d been thinking, if only life were easier, I’d be happy. But my life had been easier. Before I had kids. Before I married Andrew. But I wasn’t happier. I wouldn’t choose that life over the one I have now for anything in the world.

Babies are hard.

Everything worth doing is hard.

“I think he wants us to love, and be loved.” When God talks about “love,” he’s not talking about the warm fuzzies you have for someone that make you feel good. He’s talking about all those little (and big) sacrifices you make for the good of someone else.

Look, I’m not advocating being a living martyr and never doing anything for yourself. If I wasn’t alone at a coffee shop right now, people would be dead. Audrey spent the morning at the top of the stairs, crying, “I WANT TO COME DOWNSTAIRS!” while I yelled back, “THEN WHY AREN’T YOU????” Over and over again.

Oh, man, this. So many days.

Yet something happened a couple of weeks ago that surprised me. I was in the middle of some general insanity I can’t even remember, small people yelling at me, trashing the house, who knows. And I started to pray. This isn’t normal; I rarely think to do something so constructive. And I was ready to beg God for the calm and peace to not duct tape my children to the walls. But that’s not what came out. Instead I heard myself blurting out weepy thanks for my kids, and the chance to live this beautiful life with them and my husband, and that if I could have anything in the world, it would be more of this sacred insanity.

Screw easy. Let’s do love.

 

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Faith the Third

January13

Here are Part One and Part Two of this tale.

So, Jesus and everything: I believed it, but couldn’t believe I believed it. I knew how I looked at people like me and I couldn’t stop judging myself, while also trying to explain myself to myself. I’m not that kind of Christian, I’d say to the imaginary people looking at me like I was an idiot. I’m so enlightened. No, I don’t believe all that stuff those other guys do. Shoooooot.

So I had a kid. Kids force you to examine your beliefs. On unbeliefs. Even the agnostics and atheists have to figure out what they’re going to say to their kids, and I don’t think anyone gets off easy. So you have to leave the part of you that lets the Big Questions slide with a meh and figure out what you’re going to say. Oh, my. You think religious concepts can be hard to grasp? Try explaining them to a two-year-old. Let me tell you, my whole faith structure would come crashing down every time Audrey asked me something like, “Jesus come play blocks with me?” Shiiiit. I mean, well, that’s actually adorable and I’m glad she cares. But how do you explain this? I felt like a fraud.

(Sometimes when Christianity seems absurd, I think about the last documentary I watched where some physicist tries to explain current ideas about the world, and then nothing about God seems weird. In fact, it seems to fit.)

I was getting restless in my church. I got so much out of it, brain-wise, but I was missing some feels. I was surprised to find I most looked forward to Ash Wednesday every year, of all things, because the service had ritual and liturgy and…I don’t know, gravitas? Sunday services, while beautiful, had started to feel like attending a good concert and self-help lecture. It was great, but it didn’t feel like worship.

Well, we Protestants, when we don’t fit perfectly in a faith community, we often pick another one. We have roughly 40,000 denominations to pick from, so we can pretty easily find a church with the beliefs that don’t challenge us, or with the prettiest music, or with the best doughnuts. We can be comfortable.

I started having an emotional hankering for Catholicism. Ritual. Physical worship. Our bodies and souls are connected, but we sometimes forget that. So I’m an actor, and a director once told me I pretty much suck for the majority of the rehearsal period, but he stopped worrying about it because I come through by the time we perform. That’s me spiritually in a nutshell. It’s hard for me to get somewhere mentally all under my own steam. Put me in a costume, on a set, and it clicks.

And then theologically: well, look, I couldn’t buy all of Catholic belief or anything, but I recognized the value in having some kind of standard. How do I grow when the message I hear is I’m fine just as I am? What do I aim for? Again, not that I could really get behind Catholic teaching, but you know, maybe I could come for the candles and sort of just tolerate the hard teachings. I mean, I’ve seen the polls. Don’t most Catholics do that anyway?

By the time I was contemplating this, I was pregnant with Zachary and we had started attending a different service at our church. I was still feeling wishy-washy about Catholicism but I started reading a little. I picked up Catholicism for Dummies. I’d actually read it a few years before, but this time something new struck me. There’s this teaching that basically says you can’t do a wrong thing for a right reason. The end does not justify the means. For example, you can’t take one life even to save a thousand. I started swishing this around in my brain. I hadn’t really considered this concept ever. It sat badly with me at first. Really? We can’t compromise ourselves a tiny bit to serve the greater good? Doesn’t a lot of good outweigh a little bad? And then I got it. This rule removes us from the position of making these decisions. Of being God. It sounds great to do a little wrong thing to make the world a better place. But it’s awfully easy to start rationalizing away more and more horrible actions in the name of the Greater Good. I think we can all call to mind awful examples of this in history. And I started thinking of the wrong things I was okay with because I thought of them as “necessary evils.” Suddenly my own phrase sounded really messed up. If I thought something was evil, did I really have sufficient criteria for calling it “necessary”?

This little section of Catholicism for Dummies started haunting me, re-configuring my brain. It was the beginning of what would become a pattern. I would come across a plain crazy Catholic doctrine, I would learn the actual teaching and worldview behind it, and it would make sense. Just beautiful, painful sense.

Next time: More things learned while making that second kid.

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Faith Part Deux

August3

After reading about religion for 13 years, it occurred to me I might not come up with all the answers in my lifetime. You know, since, for thousands upon thousands of years, people much smarter than me had been working on this without an obvious consensus. I mean, what chance did I have? So I figured I might as well not wait for perfect enlightenment to get to do that whole Practicing Religion thing, but hitch up to a faith community for the journey. I had tried just NOT doing religion, but that hadn’t worked for me. I didn’t believe enough that direction either. If I hadn’t taken it on, I just would have continued reading and wrestling and obsessing till I died. And don’t get me wrong, I still do all those things! Just, you know, WITH my religion.

My church was the best place to start. It was as open-minded as open-minded can get. I didn’t have to believe anything. Not about Jesus or morality or dogma or squat. And that might sound kind of airy-fairy pointless but it wasn’t. Because there was a total passion for Jesus and the Bible and Christian tradition. The people there reintroduced me to all of that, and made it fascinating. I was learning all the time, especially about the ancient world and some context for all those troubling parts of the Bible. And yes, that thing is troubling. And gorgeous! And horrifying. And exciting. Let’s just say, there’s a lot going on.

Meanwhile, I was marrying Andy. I loved that any couple could get married at my church. Then I found myself weirdly disappointed that any couple could get married at my church. As in, Andy and I didn’t have to deal with any premarital counseling. We didn’t have to prove to anyone we were prepared for marriage. It wasn’t of concern. Now, look, I was marrying the best, easiest, wonderfulest person on the planet anyone could possibly marry and we were grown-ass adults. Why on earth did I so desperately want to be interrogated for months before I could do it? I could not explain it. And why did I feel awkward that I had to ask for a fidelity clause to be included in the vows? Weird, old-fashioned personality quirk, I guessed.

Do you know how hard it is to find a Biblical passage to read at your wedding? Let’s see, Adam and Eve, a couple of Proverbs about a good wife that probably wouldn’t apply to me (“…prudent wife…noble character…”). Some stuff about submission: mutual, yes, but still not great wedding material. Then Jesus says just don’t get divorced, people, and then Paul says, heck, get married if you HAVE to, I mean, so you’re not distracted by all your LUST, you know, and there. That’s the Bible on marriage.  I should have gone with Deuteronomy 24:5 –

“If a man has recently married, he must not be sent to war or have any other duty laid on him. For one year he is to be free to stay at home and bring happiness to the wife he has married.”

Aw, yeah. But on the whole, it did make me wonder where all the Christian Family Value talk came from. The Bible has a bunch of rules for marriages that would be illegal (not to mention immoral) today and then a few dudes talking about how nice it would be if more people could just be celibate. I mean, seriously! Where were all the conservatives getting this?

Well, dear reader, I married him, and life went on.

I would go to Bible studies and other classes and continue reading at home and it was all grand. It’s kind of awesome when it turns out that everything that always bugged you about Christianity doesn’t have a solid theological basis and God actually agrees with everything you thought about life in the first place! And, yes, I could see what I was doing there, creating God in my own image and all that. In fact, I’d done it many times over the years when trying to work out how the world works, so don’t go and blame my church. But, man, I could back it up with some good arguments. Don’t you understand that homosexual activity in the ancient world is a completely different thing than what we’re talking about now? Do you realize how little is said about hell, and that they’re really talking about the local child-sacrifice-turned-garbage-dump valley? You get that there are several different genres of writing in the Bible, and it doesn’t present itself as an Instruction Manual for All Time, right?

And, well, I still essentially stand by that, but…I was a bit self-righteous. Well, wouldn’t you be if you were more enlightened than the ignorant masses? Sigh. Thankfully, at the same time, church was the one moment in the week where I was reminded I wasn’t the center of the world. I’d sit down in that lovely sanctuary and be taken down a couple of notches, in the best way. It’s still working on me. I have a long way to go. But it helped.

Well.

One day in Bible study, one of the pastors asked us if it mattered whether the resurrection literally physically happened or not. I was dumbfounded. I may not have had the most solid belief, but I wanted my church to! Or at least recognize that even if you think it’s unknowable, that it would in fact make a huge difference if Jesus managed to come back from the dead, as opposed to just leaving a nice, fuzzy legacy that made people feel like he was still with them. I think it would have mattered to the disciples too. I mean, let’s think this through. You’re a bunch of uneducated, sometimes dense, sometimes cowardly dudes who have given up everything to follow this guy, and then he goes and gets executed in the most brutal, humiliating way possible and you are laying the fuck low so the same does not happen to you. Now, it’s entirely possible that after the crazy shit dies down, and you’ve still got a dead friend, you talk amongst yourselves and say, “That guy had some really insightful stuff to say about life. We should remember it and share it with everyone, because the world would be a better place if people acted like he said they should.” I can buy that. But they didn’t. These terrified and broken men started shouting from the rooftops: “Holy fuck, you guys! He came back from the dead! Fix your lives, cause this is a game changer!!!” And then they went and told as many people as possible, establishing churches in their wake, until they were killed for it.

That’s the part I can’t make sense of if the guy was still dead. Nobody’s that confused. Not en masse.

(Now, we could just call into question the veracity of the gospel accounts in the first place, but this last part is the generally historically accepted view of how the church started: dudes running around claiming Jesus’ resurrection and church planting. I understand questioning the claims of the gospels, but I think logic would eliminate us tossing the whole thing aside as some first century dudes’ Fiction That We’re Totally Making Up To Oppress People With Even Though It Will Take Us a Few Centuries Of Being Totally Oppressed Ourselves Before We Can Go Do All That Oppressing We Really Want To.)

So basically, I was having the surreal experience of being a raging liberal having strange conservative flashes in my church.

Next up, probably: I continue to confuse myself.

posted under faith story, God, husband | Comments Off on Faith Part Deux

Faith Story

July29

So.

Some of you may know I’ve been cheating on my progressive church with the capital “C” Catholic Church. Most of you are probably a little confounded by this. Or a lot. I’d like to dip my toes in the water of Explaining This. I’m nervous about it. I think I’ll do a bad job. But. I’m going to take it slow. If you have questions, I will be super happy to attempt to answer them as I tell this story. Any question is cool, as long as it’s a real question. So “How can you believe such stupid bullshit?” isn’t a real question because it’s secretly a statement. However, “That whole being against contraception thing seems like stupid bullshit to me; what’s your take on that?” works for me.

Anyway.

The story kind of starts with Andrew. Although I don’t know if he really wants the blame for it! When I met him, I was kind of religiously nothing. I was always interested in religion. I had spent the last decade or so reading – Judaism, a little paganism, and finally back around to Christianity – but I kept it pretty intellectually removed from life. (Actually, I’m still good at that.) So while I was coming around to the idea that Christianity wasn’t complete made-up bullshit after all and actually had some amazing, insightful, philosophically sound qualities, I started showing up for Sunday morning services at Ye Olde Progressive Dogma-Free Church about once every six months. I’d feel the tug, go, and then be done for half a year.

My moral compass was a bit damaged, especially relationship-wise, but before I met Andy I had finally decided that marriage and family were also not a big bullshit con that I didn’t deserve anyway, but rather something of value, something I wanted. I learned that love was not the warm fuzzies I felt (all about me) but an action toward another (all about them). (Don’t get me wrong: I’m still really selfish. But at least I know better.) When I met Andy, the complete opposite of my past choices, I immediately recognized a Good Man.

(Also a cute one. And there were still warm fuzzies. But that’s not what this post is about. Ahem.)

I once saw this interview on The Daily Show. I swear it happened, though I can’t find the video. Jon Stewart was interviewing Gene Simmons. Gene was talking about his wife, but also his many other women, and giving Jon crap for being married monogamously. Jon, utterly unfazed, smiled and said, “It’s the difference between pleasure and joy, my friend.”

Ah.

Yeah. I was starting to get that distinction. Eventually, I would be able to see it in more categories of my life. I mean, that’s kind of what Christianity is selling: it seems like a rulebook to kill all pleasure, but it’s actually in order to replace it with joy.

Somewhere at about a year of dating Andy, I knew we’d be getting engaged before long, and I started going to church regularly. And Bible study. I know, it’s hard to explain. Funny thing is, before that, I could have given you plenty of historical or scientific or philosophical reasons to take Christianity seriously, but that’s not what got me through the door. There was something in me, that when I thought about having a family – family – made me seek a place to mark those milestones. What I told Andy after we were engaged, when trying to decide what kind of wedding we’d have, was that I didn’t know what I believed about God, but I knew this was sacred.

And that’s how it started. Family turned me to God. Family is where I saw God. Family is where a lot of abstract theological concepts started to make gritty, real-life sense to me. Sacrificial love? Got it. The interplay between justice and mercy? Totally, we’ve got kids. Good and Evil and Love and Free Will as very real things and not meaningless terms we attach to biological impulses or whatever? Uh, hell yeah. All that is grand and cosmic is also right here in my house.

So. That’s the beginning.

 

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Zachary’s First Birthday

July18

My little bitty baby that I just had…

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…is one year old.

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He drives cars now.

Sigh.

We made him a cake. This is Andrew hammering some hard candy for my sugar sculpture (I’m making that sound fancier than it is.)

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We made jokes about playing Candy Crush. Mostly me. Andrew mostly didn’t laugh. Cause I’m not funny.

This was the cake. (All the pics from here on out are my dad’s. He’s awesome.)

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It’s a campfire! Cause it was a cowboy birthday. (This is totally what cowboys do, right?)

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Sure they do.

This is me awkwardly reading a blessing (off my phone) for my beautiful child. I wasn’t so much awkward in real life as awkward in my head cause I feel like I’ll never get used to acting like a religious person out loud. If that makes sense.

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But these babies made the sacred all obvious in my life, so that’s what I do now.

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I’m all full of sloppy emotion over this boy. My sister-in-law was all, “It was hard when my last baby turned one too,” and I said, “Last?!?!? Oh, no, if I thought about it that way, I’d be much worse. I haven’t given up hope yet!!!!

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Love you, baby boy. May you enjoy many, many more happy trips around the sun.

 

 

 

 

Church

March31

Sunday I told Audrey we were going to a different place for church that morning.

“Dere’s cookies dere too?” was her response. So she knows what matters.

There were cookies. And it was technically still our regular church: just a new, small, informal, off-site place where you can sit at tables with your coffee during the 45-minute service. Which is right up my alley. This month.

Last month, and for a while, I was feeling our big, formal, put-on-a-great-production-of-a-service church didn’t even have enough ritual or tradition to suit me. I thought it was weird that I looked forward to Ash Wednesday of all times of the year, because there was ritual and liturgy and ancient stuff. I started threatening to defect to Catholicism. Not even trying to be cute here. I know that when I feel a total disconnect from all that is greater than me that physical worship can bring me back. Your brain can’t stay in the same place when your body is kneeling, making the sign of the cross, saying the rosary, things like that. All of a sudden you don’t have to make this cerebral strain like you’re trying to spiritually poop yourself to a higher place. You just get taken away. Or I do. It works for me.

So how did I end up in the opposite sort of place this weekend? I think it was because I read a wonderful book by a nun who did a great job of describing the revolutionary, often female-driven house meetings of the early Jesus Movement. I started to romanticize that and felt like right now I’d love a gathering where I could act and dress casually (and therefore feel like me) and is small enough for me to feel known. Also, after this service you can hang and have a conversation with the pastor about the sermon topic. It has that Bible study class-like feel that Andy and I often like more than actual worship. Andy, listening to me ramble about this stuff just points out the obvious: we can alternate what service we feel like going to.

One other nice thing: this was the first time in ages that Audrey stayed with me for a service. She’s used to her church nursery full of kids with toys and felt-board bible stories and coloring. Sharing a service with her was rather sweet. She danced to the music and clapped afterward (unlike the rest of us still-too-repressed-it’s-for-the-glory-of-God-alone Protestants) and managed to not go too crazy until halfway through the sermon.

Then at the end she said, “We go odder church now?”

 

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7 Things about Me

November18

These lists of Things You May Not Know about Me are going around on Facebook now, but I’m putting mine here because, hey! Free blog material.

 

1. I got called to the principal’s office twice in elementary school. Once for writing on the bus seat (Tim told me to) and once for punching a girl on the bus (couldn’t even remember why by the time she walked up the aisle, but remembered I owed her one, so did it anyway).

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Bring it.

 

2. My mom grew up without her mom and my dad grew up without his dad. I’ve had them both, together, my whole life and I feel really lucky.

3. I’ve written three plays for young people that are absolutely silly and are absolutely my pride and joy. As are the wonderful actors who brought them to life. Those shows were among the most joyful experiences I’ve had.

4. I read a lot about Judaism during my college years and fell totally in love. I really thought I might convert someday. Then I realized everything I loved about it related to family, and without a Jewish family, I’d be missing the point AND creating distance from the family I have. Which really doesn’t fly in Judaism. So, Jewishly, I really shouldn’t be Jewish.

5. I birthed my kid without drugs.

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This is how I felt about it.

 

6. I was in a student movie in Omaha in which I played a mutant-slaying pizza delivery girl.

7. My husband is a big part of the reason Christianity started to make sense to me again, and he has no idea. I didn’t know what the pull was either at the time. The story doesn’t seem logical at all. But years ago I found myself living in a hell of my own creation, from which I was somehow pulled out, and given the hope to expect and accept an amazing life I didn’t deserve. It’s simplistic but, I tell you, it helps to have lived the the formula in microcosm.

 

So there you go. I feel like I should have written something funnier, but this is what came to me this morning.

posted under Audrey, God, husband | 4 Comments »

Second Birthday Wisdom

November16

Last year, I wrote a post on Facebook saying I had been a mother for a whole year and now knew absolutely everything about parenting, and then proceeded to list it all. Thank you for putting up with that. So.

I’ve been a mother for two whole years now, so I totally know everything about raising kids. Here’s what I’ve learned the last year:

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1. You can baby-proof a house, but you cannot toddler-proof it.

2. The only way to get my child to do something she doesn’t want to is to say, “Mommy do it or Audrey do it?” Suddenly she is gung-ho to take on any challenge. “AUDEE DO IT!” I do not look forward to the day this stops working.

3. I’m guessing sweeping will also cease to be fun for her once she’s actually of any use at it.

4. The American Academy of Pediatrics may say children under 2 shouldn’t have any screen time, but Sesame Street is the perfect time to go to the kitchen and sneak all the junk food you don’t really want your kids to have. TV – the healthier choice! Also:

5. Find what they love and use it to bend them to your will. “Sure, we can watch Elmo! We just need to pick up books first.” Watch how fast your living room gets clean.

6. I just found out how to take a shower! Toddler in her mostly child-proofed bedroom, with door anchored open but gate shut, with a Super Why app on Mommy’s Kindle. Mommy in bathroom three feet away with door open, and nothing fancy like shaving. Tried it once so far, and there were no injuries. Breakthrough?!?!?

7. Having a best friend whose kid is your kid’s best friend will SAVE YOUR SOUL.

8. Don’t give that baby your phone unless you want her to create a Twitter account or text your ex-boyfriend. Kids these days are born knowing how to do this stuff.

9. It’s totally okay to ask God for a sign as to how you should deal with your toddler’s stupid sleep, but if that’s immediately followed by your child having a sudden, terrifying, barky cough that freaks you out so much you spend the night in bed with her so she doesn’t die, and then you all end up getting the best sleep of your life and the cough disappears after you get up the next morning, well then, what are you going to do about that, because GOD.

10. And you really don’t regret lying with her until she falls asleep when you get some sloppy, wet kisses out of the deal.

11. When Aud was born, I had an intense bond to her, but not what you would commonly call “love.” I fell in love with her as I started to see tiny bits of her personality emerging. Well, she’s got a lot of personality now. As she becomes ever more herself, my love for her just gets crazy. Crazy big, crazy joyous, crazy I-would-boil-a-bunny-for-her-if-I-needed-to.

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12. On the flip side, her more difficult days make me love the husband a lot more, I tell ya.

13. Turning two means this is the last chance to let a lot of stuff slide. This year the kid really won’t have an opinion on her birthday party or, you know, even notice if her lousy parents get her any presents or not.  (I mean, REALLY, the grandparents have that covered pretty damn well already.) She doesn’t know that anyone other than those two friends you picked could have attended. She can’t stop you from ordering another literary-themed cake, as she doesn’t know Elmo cakes can be made. But I don’t feel too bad half-assing her party. Audrey’s second birthday won’t be the impressive affair Suri Cruise’s $100,000 second birthday was 5 years ago, but Audrey’s dad ain’t Tom Cruise, so I think Aud wins.

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Pasta and Profundities

November7

So last night was our anniversary, and we celebrated in the most exciting way we could imagine: going to dinner at a restaurant without a toddler. The truth is, I’m not even being funny. It was a great thrill for me. Thanks to gifts from my parents and sister-in-law (and babysitting by Grams) we got crazy at the Olive Garden, ordering enough food to feed six people.

You know, yesterday, how I told you all that good stuff about Andy? Yeah. I have it easy. The hard part for me is to stop and check on what kind of wife he has every so often. See, I’m a decent enough person, but it doesn’t come as naturally to me as to Andy. I need reminders sometime. The good thing is that I was smart enough to put the best lesson into our wedding ceremony. I just need to hear it every day. So here is my favorite prayer. It’s attributed to Saint Francis, though it didn’t appear in history until 1912 in France (a cool surprise at our wedding was that my beautiful friend that read it followed it with the French version). We may not be able to remember exactly how our vows went but we always have this!

 

Lord, make me a channel of Your peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is error, truth;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

 

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Sheeses Christ

October1

At Audrey’s baptism, the church gave her a Dutch Cradle Cross, a little wooden cross engraved with Matthew 19:14 – “Let the children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” Apparently the Dutch traditionally hang these over their babies’ cribs so that the symbol becomes part of their, I don’t know, visual vocabulary, if you will.

 

A month or so ago, at bedtime, Audrey pointed at the cross above her bed. “Ssssss,” she said. Because it looks like a letter, you see, and the first letter sound she learned was for “S,” so sometimes all letters are “Ssss”…anyway. While that would be a perfect sound if you’re a vampire being burned by a cross, I decided to go with, “Actually, that’s a cross. The cross of Jesus.”

 

“Sheeses?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

Audrey climbed off her bed and pointed to the top of her dresser, where a sweet little painting of Jesus was laying (Because where are the hammer and nails to put it up? I have no idea). Jesus is holding a little blond girl from the sixties, judging by her outfit. It’s charming with a smidgen of kitch.

 

“Sheeses?”

 

I got the picture down for her and she walked around with it. She held it against the wall under the cross. “Wa’?” “Yeah, we should put it on the wall.” She went to hold it up next to the door. “Wa’?” “Yes, we’ll put it on the wall soon.” She carried it around a while longer until I rested it somewhere for her so she could go to sleep.

 

I find this whole thing incredibly sweet. And I find it incredibly weird. “Oh, how precious that the person of Jesus is a kind of presence in her mind already,” says the 30-something Christian me. “Oh, how creepy that it was so easy to indoctrinate her,” says the 20-something agnostic me.

 

That girl does not shut up.

 

There are religious people in my life – some conservative, some liberal; there are atheists and agnostics in my life – some cranky, some more Christ-like than I could hope to be…and not a one of them has given me any crap for believing or not believing anything.

 

That all comes from me. Or, you know, probably Facebook. But mostly me.

 

Now, on the whole, I don’t let 20-something me talk. She’s a bit of an idiot. Oh, she’s not a complete loss, but she’s done a lot of stupid things. In fact, 30-something me occasionally spends time berating her. And then trying really hard to forgive her. It’s a complicated relationship.

 

So why does she get to me on the topic of God?

 

I do read a lot of crazy talk both pro- and anti-religion on the interwebz. It’s sort of hard to avoid. But in real life, I’ve had maybe two annoying experiences on the topic of my faith (from Christians) and they were blips.

 

So when I feel defensive about Christianity, when I worry people assume I believe something I don’t, when I worry they think I’m an idiot for being a Christian, or when I’m sure I can see in their eyes they think I’m “not a real Christian” based on where I go to church, oh HEAVENS. That has so little to do with any actual, real-life person. That’s basically my imagination. It’s the younger, cynical-er, “smarter” me insulting me, mocking me, keeping me angry and on edge.

 

Which, you know, ain’t all bad. I want to be challenged, I want to keep thinking critically, I want to stay as “open-minded” as possible.

 

But, sheesh. I’d like to spend a LITTLE more time in wonder…awe…peace…grace…

 

And I’d sure like that to be Audrey’s experience of God.

 

Sheeses.

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