Sanctuary

I had a hard time going to church today.

I didn’t want to. I wanted to stay home in my jammies and drink my coffee all by myself.

But I went because I stayed home last week due to this stupid cold I actually still have. I tried to gear up because we had a baptism today and I love infant baptisms.

We ended up in the back of church, which I hate because I have a hard time paying attention back there. I feel so…far away. So out of it. I get distracted by every little thing.

And I was distracted. An ink pen exploded on Charlie’s fingers, then Eddie needed tissues for his runny nose, and then Charlie wanted to write our names in the “friendship register thingy” that we pass later in the service. Then it was time for the children’s message, but Charlie doesn’t go up to the front for that because then he would be in front of church and eyes might be on him. So he hung out into the aisle to get a peek at the baptism. Then it was time for him to go to Little Lambs. Then I saw Ed out of church (he said he had to use the bathroom…Ok). Then when we were finally all in our seats, I couldn’t turn my brain off other things.

I had coughing fits.

I know nobody likes to sit by the person having coughing fits.

Church was full, so people were close. I was self-conscious of my coughing fits.

After communion, Cortney headed to the back to be a Deacon. After that Eddie left for Children in Worship.

I was left alone in the pew.

Normally this is when I start to exhale because I drive separately and then go write.

Today I didn’t drive separately, so I started to sweat. I didn’t know if I could talk to anyone today because no one wants to talk to the person having coughing fits and looking all awkwardly anti-social with her piece of delicious Costco baptism cake.

But I did it while the kids were in Children in Worship and Cortney was being a Deacon and counting money.

And it totally didn’t suck.

I survived.

Then Cortney gave me a ride home where I heard about the over twenty people who were shot while in church in Texas.

Perspective, man.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When is it going to end? When can we talk about this cancer that is eating our country? Is it finally time? I would love to be optimistic, but I know better.

If killing little children doesn’t get the conversation going, why would killing people worshiping in what should be the safest place? In a sanctuary?

Come, Lord Jesus.

A Wounded Academic Walks Into A Church…

Holy-Bible_20110524052238There are not many Bible stories that I am not familiar with.

I grew up going to Sunday school ever Sunday, memorizing verses, memorizing catechism, singing making a joyful noise in the choir, participating in dramatizations and skits, and listening to my parents read the BIG Storybook Bible every night after dinner.

I can recall the well-known stories of Creation all the way to the lesser-known stories like the one about Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace. There was a time when I could recite by memory John 3:16-21 “For God so loved the world…”

I listened, memorized, and believed without question because it’s what I was supposed to do. Adults were telling me stories and telling me they were complete, literal truth.

As way leads on to way, I grew up. I moved out of my small, sheltered town, and I met people who were not one of the two religions that I knew: Reformed or Christian Reformed. I was even roommates with a couple Catholics.  I know. Crazy.

Even though I pulled away from going to church, I never lost interest in religion. It fascinates me. Not just Christianity, but all religion. Where it comes from and how it is tied up in tradition, oral and written history, and politics.

When it seemed like God had left us–when Cortney’s dad died, we lost babies, and all the other loss and sickness–I leaned heavily on anything that seemed to “disprove” the stories of the Bible.

In college, I took a History of Christianity class. It was incredibly interesting. I tried to talk to my parents about it. I thought they would find it super interesting since they were so devout. But when I started bringing up the idea that perhaps the authors of the Bible weren’t telling literal stories about global floods and people-swallowing whales, my dad flipped out on me.

My dad wouldn’t discuss; he would only tell me I was wrong and that I wasn’t allowed to talk that way in his house.

I was stunned into silence, and I became less willing to talk about Jesus or church with my family. I became convinced that they would judge anything that didn’t fall into the realm of their literal understanding of the Bible.

(Years later, my dad’s reaction to my brother’s news that his girlfriend was pregnant would reveal just how ingrained it was in my dad’s character to being like Jesus, and my heart would change. But that’s another story).

The more I wrestled with what I knew to be true because of research and study and science, the more it seemed that I didn’t fit into any church. I just couldn’t believe something that was disproved over and over. I could not simply say, “I know actual science says something different, but I believe the earth and everything on it was created in seven 24-hour days as we know it.”

I believe God created science to make this world the beautiful marvel it is, but I don’t think it was exactly the way it was written in the Bible.

Even typing that makes me feel a little sacrilegious. I mean, you’re not supposed to say “I don’t believe what the Bible says,” right?

I don’t think a guy named Jonas got swallowed by a whale.

I don’t think there was a Garden of Eden.

I don’t think there was a flood and a guy named Noah put two of every single animal in the wold on a boat.

I do think these are important stories, and I believe the stories…without believing the stories. Does that make sense?

I believe it’s important to do as we are called to do or else things won’t go right.

I believe the world isn’t perfect because there are shitty things like cancer and hunger and poverty.

I believe that God is saddened by the shitty things we do to each other that cause things like cancer, and hunger and poverty, and that he won’t punish the whole for the bad of a few.

We are currently in the season of Lent where we wait and prepare ourselves for the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. I both believe and wonder. I have so many questions.

I know what I am supposed to believe blindly, but like Thomas, I need to see the nail marks on his hands and the sword wound in his side. I believe, but my academic, logical side shouts for something to hold on to–something that tells me this is all true.

And I think that like Thomas, that is Ok.  That questioning for the purpose of wanting to understand and believe is Ok.

*************

As of April 19, I will be an official published author!  You can pre-order the book, Three Minus One: Stories of Parents’ Love and Loss, to which I am honored to be a contributing author.

Church on Sunday

Last Sunday I did not want to get out of bed.  We had stayed up WAY too late with friends the night before (getting home well after 1am), I was pretty overwhelmed with my To Do list, and really I just wanted some rest.

But I had a commitment.

Back in December I enthusiastically agreed to teach the second/third grade Sunday School class at our church.

This sounds run of the mill, but it’s actually a pretty big deal for me. It means I am committing myself to this church thing that I have avoided for so long.

My history with church and religion and faith are probably not so different than many people. I’ve brought it up here before how I was raised in a fairly strict household. Not negatively strict, but my parents definitely made their rules based on the Christian upbringings they had as well as how they felt guided by their faith. It was a loving home, and Church and God were a big part.

I started sort of questioning it all in high school, and definitely went through some heavy doubts through college. My doubts and distress over they religion I was raised in was most pronounced in the months and years after getting married. My faith was tested–and ultimately failed me–through a series of losses and personal tragedy.

Outside our Church almost nine years ago.

Outside our Church almost nine years ago.

After Charlie was born I felt a pull that I tried to ignore.

Going to church was a hassle I really didn’t want a part of. I felt like maybe I wanted some sort of guidance, so I started doing a daily devotion with hundreds of other women online.

Eddie's baptism in our church

Eddie’s baptism in our church

But it wasn’t enough. It was beautiful and I’m glad I did it, but something was still missing.

When school started up again, we made it a point to try to get to church each Sunday so Eddie could go to Sunday School, which he loved. Even when Cort and I didn’t go to church, we would still bring Eddie to Sunday School and then pick him up an hour later.

Even though in that moment of cuddly warmth in my bed when Cort would put his mouth near my ear and whisper, “church?” and I would say, “no,” I immediately felt remorse.

Charlie's baptism in our church

Charlie’s baptism in our church

It wasn’t really guilt so much as it was regret for my choice.

Something about church filled me each Sunday morning.

After a particularly long stretch of not going because of illness and a crazy fall, we learned that our church had found a new pastor. He was young (not much older than Cortney and myself) and I recognized his last name. After heading to church to check out the new pastor, I realized why his name was familiar; I had taught with his wife years ago in my current district, and she and I had attended a couple of the same grad classes while I was pursuing my Masters and she her PhD.

We immediately reconnected.

A week later our director of family ministries asked if I would like to be part of the Children In Worship program for the younger students. I agreed without thinking about it.  Then I worried about it for weeks.

Did I make the right choice? This would mean coming to church every Sunday. All of them. No more slacking; I had a commitment and an obligation. I had a job to do.

Did I even know what I was doing? Sure I know even the most obscure Bible stories from my years and years of Sunday School, Catechism, and Youth Group. I knew all the books of the Bible and I knew much of the historical aspects thanks to some Christianity classes I took in college and the way I devour each and every documentary on cable and PBS that has to do with religion.

But Children in Worship is based on the Church calendar, which I was not very familiar with. What if I made myself look dumb asking about Transfiguration Sunday and Epiphany?

Oh and I would have to show up every week.

Eddie singing in church for Christmas just over a year ago.

Eddie singing in church for Christmas just over a year ago.

I began thinking of ways to back out. Maybe I rushed into this. Maybe our family should just show up on our own terms for a while.

Then I found out that the Pastor’s Wife (not sure she wants to be named here, so this is how I’ll refer to her) and I were going to be co-teaching the 2nd and 3rd grade level–about four kids each week. I couldn’t let her down.

Something has happened to me over these past six or seven weeks.

I find myself looking forward to church and to the sermon. I can’t wait to chat with The Pastor’s Wife and to get the warm handshakes and hugs from the other members of the congregation. I feel awake on Sunday mornings before church, but even more so after. I get excited to see my “students” and hear their thoughts about that week’s story; second and third graders have a wonderfully free way of making connections without worry if they are “wrong”. I wish my twelfth graders did that.

Eddie and I have also started a new little Eddie/Mommy thing. Since we stay for Sunday School and Cortney and Charlie do not, Eddie and I have started driving separately so they don’t have to come back to get us. Last week we decided since we stayed longer, we got to go to Starbucks for a coffee (me) and a cake pop (him). We do a lot of chatting on that drive. It’s good. Really good.

I have never believed in coincidences no matter what my doubts. Coincidences just…they just aren’t a thing.

Being pulled back to church, finding an old friend, being able to “teach”, and spending time with Eddie has all just fallen into place. It’s like pieces of a puzzle…and puzzles don’t work because of coincidence. They work because they are created to work.

I still have so SO many questions and I am still so very young in this new faith, but I am glad I went with my heart on this. I feel like there is healing and comfort in this new journey. I don’t know if there will be hard answers, but I sort of don’t care. I’m learning that sometimes a feeling is an answer…even when there are no words to go with that answer.

I am glad that each week Cortney and Charlie and Eddie go on this new journey with me. I answer a lot of questions with “I don’t know” and I think that is Ok.

We are all in this together.

we promise

For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free;
and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.”
~1 Corinthians 12:13

Sunday was a special day for our family.

Our whole family gathered in our little church to witness our promise that we would teach Charlie about the love of Jesus.

Picking a date was important.

I know some churches just tell you when “Baptism Sunday” is because they do a bunch at once, but our church is small.  Baptisms get scheduled as babies are born, so it was pretty much up to us when we wanted it to be.

Eddie’s baptism date is super meaningful, so I didn’t want Charlie’s to just be random.

Since Eddie was baptized on his namesakes’ birthday, we wanted to do the same for Charlie.  However “Charles” is not anyone’s name but his.  However “Thomas”, his middle name, is after my dad.  And my dad’s birthday was yesterday.

(I did give my dad the business for not having a Sunday birthday this year.  Stupid leap day messing up my perfect plans.  Sheesh.)

We settled for April 29 as the Baptism date because it was the day before Charlie’s namesake’s birthday.

To make it even more special, Charlie’s cousins, Kingston and Kyrie, were baptized alongside him.

i chose a safari shirt since he was getting baptized with his ethiopian cousins...can you see it?

Charlie never woke up. First baby in Pastor John's history to not at least squeek.

Eddie was very good, but so very done by the time pictures were taken.

And Kyrie was just plain tired.

The day was sunny and breezy.  Almost every member of our extended family could be there…including Charlie’s great grands.

I know it’s just a five minute part of a church service that otherwise is not about the baptism.

I know for some people the Baptism is just a formality and not something to throw a huge celebration about.

But it’s special to me…to us.

I guess I can’t speak for Cort, but for me, the ritual of standing before the congregation and our closest friends and family and promising to teach our son about God’s Son is important.  It’s a big deal.

Not so that those people can constantly point out our shortcomings in our teachings; we don’t need help knowing we fall short and are frequently hypocrites.

I know we don’t have the best attendance at church, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t teaching our boys about the love of Christ.  It doesn’t mean we aren’t teaching them to pray and sing to God.  It doesn’t mean it’s not talked about in our house. It doesn’t mean that Cort and I don’t try our hardest to show, not just our boys, but the world, the face of Jesus in everything we do.

We invite those we love to hear our promise so they too can be part of that promise.  So they can fill in where we fail.  So they can talk and sing and model for our boys the love and compassion of Christ.

And we are trying so hard to be in church more as a part of that modeling.

Because we promised we would bring the boys up in The Church.

And we keep our promises.

*************

Incidentally, the sermon this day was about healing through Christ’s salvation.  The Pastor talked about Christ being all around us in the faces of each person we encounter each day.  Throughout the service, two tiny babies were on my mind, needing the healing hand of the Lord. And their mother needing strength.  If you are the praying sort, meet Diana and her boys…whom she almost lost…and is now fighting to save.

heart refill

Yesterday was cold and rainy ’round these parts.

I hadn’t gotten enough sleep Tuesday night, and I was dragging.  By the time the afternoon rolled around, I had a headache and all I could think of was going home, putting on sweats, and crawling under a blanket.

The last thing I wanted to do was leave the house again.

No, scratch that.  The last thing I wanted to do was leave the house to do more teaching.

But that is exactly what I had agreed to do way back in August.

In fact, I enthusiastically agreed to help with our church’s Wednesday night Children’s Program.  This year, the theme is God using ordinary people for extraordinary things, and Meredith (the coordinator) reads this little blog and wanted me to come do a few weeks with the kids on writing our stories and sharing our gifts.

I was so honored and thought it was a fabulous idea.

Until last night when I was cold and headachey and grouchy with teaching students who don’t listen.

We don’t go to church nearly as much as we should, and I was already dreading showing up and not knowing anyone.  They serve dinner before the Wednesday night activities, and we were invited to join.

Cort and Eddie and I headed a bit begrudgingly to church  for “salad” night.

Once there we wandered into the large Fellowship room and looked around.  Before we could take it all in, our pastor jumped up and embraced us and warmly welcomed us.

My mood was beginning to lift.

Eddie and I found ourselves and empty table while Cort headed to the food service to grab us some dinner. Before Cort could even get back to our table with food for us, Meredith and a couple other friends had joined our table to chat with us.

My grouchiness and headache and fatigue disappeared.

Everything was warm and inviting and tasty.

After dinner, Eddie and Cort stuck around so Eddie could listen to the Bible story and songs that the kids did.  I watched as about 15 kids in grades Pre-school through fifth grade interacted and got excited.

I got a little nervous.

They would be split in two groups.  One group would be with me for 20 minutes and the other group would be learning about percussion.  After 20 minutes they would switch.

Percussion.

How do you make writing as fun for an 8 year old as beating on drums?

Oh man.

All my doubts faded as soon as the first group rushed into my little room.  Everyone wanted to sit as close to me as possible–something VERY different than teaching high school where everyone chooses the seats as far from the front of the room as they can.

They were all very interested in my life: where did I teach?  What grades?  Did I like it?  What could I say in Spanish?  How old was my son?  Did I know if my baby was a boy or girl?  And on and on and on.

They were all very interested in telling me about their lives:  I’m in 3rd grade.  My teacher is pregnant too.  We did math today.  I have 2 brothers.  One of my brothers is in heaven.  I LOVE to write!  When do we start??

My smile grew and grew.  Everyone was excited.

As I told them about this blog and how I share the gifts that God has blessed me with, they got excited.

We went around and talked about all the things we are good at and the things we have been blessed with.  If someone said they didn’t know, the whole table would chip in and offer suggestions.

On my book I drew Cortney, Eddie, and a little bean in my tummy.  I drew my computer with a bunch of faces in the screen (that would be all of you, by the way).  I drew a pencil writing.  I drew and apple (for teaching) and music notes and me talking and smiling.

Everyone had different things.  One girl had drawn a female stick figure and under it wrote, “I like Katie”.

I got hugs and high fives as they left.

“I can’t wait for next week, Miss Katie!”

After cleaning up, I thanked Meredith for the opportunity.

My heart was filled.

No.  It was RE-filled.

I hadn’t even realized that it had leaked so much joy.

The kids left excited, but I left rejuvenated.

I think we will be in church on Sunday morning.