Tuesday, October 03, 2006

It's kind of like spinach

(It's hard to tell someone's tone on a blog. Just so you know, I am not sad or mad today. I am just thinking. This blog has OFTEN been used as a journal for me. Some of you have proven you can handle my thoughts and opinions while some of you are offended so in order to protect myself and protect my online JOURNAL, I have turned the comments off on this post. My friends understand. My friends know that I am okay. The people that truly KNOW Amanda, know my heart. So please respect me enough to not send emails with advice. DON'T DO IT! THIS POST IS VERY LONG, it's a blovel!)

When I was a kid I attended a day care/day camp in the Summers that I absolutely loved. We did all sorts of fun activities which left me with great memories of roller skating, swimming and bowling. While the day to day field trips were fun, there was something even better, the food! Usually a Day Care is not known for good food but this one was. They had their very own chef who we called Ms. Hansered. I can still remember the weekly menus, which varied from week to week except on Tuesday's and Friday's. Friday's were sloppy joes, always. As a woman that loves to cook, I have tried to make sloppy joes like Ms. Hansered but I have yet to be successful. Her sloppy Joes had potato chips on them and I have tried to recreate the taste over and over again but I can't. Even with the potato chips, I am unable to create her magnificent sloppy joe taste! So usually I refrain from making Sloppy joes. Tuesdays meal was kind of a strange combo but now it makes perfect sense I feed two toddlers every single day. I understand why she served spaghetti, Macaroni and Spinach. As adults we would probably never want all three of those things together but we all know how picky children can be when it comes to eating so choices are good. Most of my classmates would eat one or two things on their plate, usually leaving the spinach all by it's lonesome. But I always, always, always ate all three things. And my favorite thing on that plate wasn't macaroni, it wasn't even spaghetti, it was SPINACH. My Mother can vouch, I love spinach. I even remember saying that I loved spinach one day when I was about six years old. It was the usual Tuesday meal at the Day Care and while the plates were being served, I joyfully exclaimed, "I love spinach!" All of the sudden a little classmate of mine said, "Why don't you marry it?" But I paid no attention to him. After all, he cried at school anytime it rained. He was afraid of thunderstorms! So by now, you get the point. My love for spinach is real. Spinach salads, canned spinach, spinach pizza, spinach enchiladas, spinach souffle, spinach quiche, spinach dip! Remember Popeye and his love for spinach? Well, my biceps are pretty big too and it's not from carrying kids around all day, it's from spinach!

Despite the years of major dysfunction in my home life, I always attended church. Even though I lived with an alcoholic father who was abusive and often insane, I accepted Christ when I was five years old. Thinking about my childhood now reminds me so much of how amazing God's hand in my life truly is. While I lived in a pretty harsh home environment, I still had a Savior and I knew it. My Dad was usually hungover or sick or just sleeping but Mom still got us up to go to church no matter what. I was there for Sunday School, Christmas musicals, Easter Eggs Hunts, Vacation Bible School, all of it. Now I realize that if it wasn't for the church always being a part of my life, I may not have turned out as good as I have. Statistics would for sure say that a child like me would not have any hope in sight. Society would say that I would have been a pregnant teenager, divorced later on, an alcoholic and totally incapable of being a mother. But thank God that Society did not have the final word because God always, always, always had his hand on my life. He taught me so much through my church family. I am so grateful for the families He often sent my way to teach me about marriage, parenting and so much more. The church truly saved me from the statistics. I learned how to use my gifts and talents in church, I learned how to have relationships and I have met some of my very best friends in life just by going to church. My Summers spent at youth camps, weekends spent at retreats, Sunday mornings spent at early morning rehearsals for praise team, youth events, singles events, married events, children's church, ladies nights, dinners, fundraisers, baby dedications, Christmas and Easter musicals and so on. Church has allowed me to thrive socially and has given me some of the best times in life. I love it! I love what it has taught me, what it has done for me socially and spiritually and how it has shaped much of who I am in Christ. So, for me, it's kind of like spinach. Love it, gotta have it.

Over the past several weeks we have all been informed that spinach is not so good right now. I remember the first time I heard something in the news about bagged spinach. I did not think much about it. That night after hearing the news report, I went to eat at my favorite Mexican good restaurant with my husband. I am a gal that orders "the usual" so of course I ordered my spinach enchiladas! The waiter didn't miss a beat, "Sorry we are not serving that right now due to a spinach crisis." My husband had not heard the news, I had forgotten about the news so the waiter calling it a "spinach crisis" really threw us off. Obviously I was forced to order something else. From that moment on, the news, the papers, the newspapers, were all talking about SPINACH! Reports of people even DYING from spinach! E.Coli is not something I care to experience so I decided that spinach was not worth the risk! As much as I love Spinach pizza, spinach dip, spinach quiche, spinach enchiladas and even canned spinach, I am not about to eat spinach at this moment in time and I am not sure when I will feel safe in eating it again. Really, it's just not worth the risk. Those that ate spinach, enjoyed every bite of their spinach but woke up the next morning being rushed to the hospital, probably don't care how good the spinach tasted at this point. Right?

We have not been to church in a while. Over a year ago we were a part of something pretty great. It was the most incredible social experience we have ever had when it comes to church. We had amazing friends, we were being used for service (sometimes too much), we felt like we belonged to something and as a family it was a perfect fit for all of us. As a stay at home mom, my days were filled with activities. I had many shopping buddies, prayer warriors, and friends I could call to even help me out with the kids. It was fun, it was fulfilling, it was incredible having ALL the women in the church at Ava Beth's baby shower. On a social level, I felt like the homecoming Queen. Everyone likes the homecoming Queen, everyone wants to hang out with the Homecoming Queen and the Homecoming Queen always has the most popular friend, the Prom Queen. Right about now it may sound weird, I may have lost some of you as I try to explain how great we felt our life was at this church. These people were our family. These are the people that we chose over our family many times. These are people we wanted to be with on Holidays and any special occasions. I am not sure what it feels like to be a part of a Sorority in College but I am pretty sure it feels a lot like what I felt like being a part of this church. I was never the most popular girl in school, I wasn't a cheerleader, I wasn't a girl that ever felt like I belonged. But finally at twenty eight and twenty nine years old, I felt that for the first time in my life. Then one day, it all came to a crashing halt and it was over.

The details aren't important anymore. Time is one of the most incredible healers that the Lord gives us and time has healed many of my hurts. Also the Lord has orchestrated some pretty great things that have also helped. A phone call here, an email there, letting me know I am missed, reminding me of how special I was to them. But even though the sting is no longer present, even though I feel safe and free in exchanging emails with those from the past, the memory is still there. I'm no longer on the squad anymore, my phone doesn't ring off the hook like it used to and I lost the best shopping buddy I ever had. That void has not been filled, there hasn't been a church or people to take the place of what once was. My husband and I have NOT connected with any other couples, I haven't laughed so hard that I have almost peed in my pants, I haven't toilet papered anyone's house with my Pastor's wife (who was also my best shopping buddy and friend) while I was 7 months pregnant and I have not sang in church, acted in church or served in a church for over a year now. I haven't had anyone I can call on the phone fifty times a day, I haven't been inspired by a "group" of women and I haven't made a true "connection". While those memories are incredible, while those memories can make me laugh just by thinking of them, those memories leave me with a lot more. I am left with a bit of pessimism, anger, and uncertainty. It's kind of like spinach for me.

No matter how much I love spinach, no matter how great it tastes, no matter how good it is for my body, I am not about to eat it again. Not now! I am just not ready for spinach and I am not sure when and if I ever will be.

Yesterday I got a phone call from one of my best friends. Her and I are in the same place in many ways. She is the one person I can really be honest with spiritually. I can tell her how I feel and she has either already felt the same thing or is feeling it with me. Her phone call was completely God ordained. He knew I needed her yesterday. I can talk to her on the phone and feel so fulfilled in many ways as a woman. Her words reach my soul like no one else's words possibly can. We were at a church together several years ago where our Pastor had an affair on his wife. Lunch after lunch we would sit and cry or talk together about the situation. It had not been made public yet, it had not even been proven, but we both knew in our spirits that it was happening. So our journey together as been pretty hard core. My husband and I left before the situation got any worse, but my friend was the Worship Leader and had to stay. Her journey there was much longer than we expected and while she continued on, my husband and I had an incredible ride at another church. This was the church that gave us more than we ever imagined. The day it all ended, the day I knew I was off the squad, I called my friend. She said something to me I will never, ever forget. "I have learned that until Jesus comes back, we will constantly be disappointed and hurt by people. So as long as we go to church, people will shock us, hurt us and do things we may never be able to get over." Over the last year, my friend and I have been trying to figure out together what we do with that realization, what do we do with that TRUTH? People will hurt us, people will bring about pain, people will disappoint us, people will do things to us that may cause us to never be able to forget. And since we KNOW that it WILL happen, how does one move forward?

All of the wonderful memories I made, all of the great friendships I once had during that time, they are over. Gone! One might say that I walked away with great times, great lessons, and so on. I do have a bunch of great pictures! Pictures of events, pictures of Holidays, pictures of baby showers, but not one person is in my life. Someday my daughter will ask, "Who were all those people at the hospital when I was born? I saw all of those people in the pictures but who are they? Who were all those women that were at my baby shower?"Yes, there is the occasional email but really I have nothing to account for NOW but heartache and pictures. It's kind of like spinach. The person who went into the hospital after eating spinach doesn't care about how great the spinach tasted because all they were left with was E.coli. So here's the question! Why on earth eat spinach ever again? Was the great taste worth it? Was the green, healthy vegetable really good for your bowels in the long run? Maybe. But if you got sick, no. For those that died from eating spinach, hell no!

My husband and I talked about this for the first time in a long time just last night. I wanted to see how he was feeling. I wanted to see where he was at. I wanted to know why he doesn't want to visit yet another church this coming Sunday. He explained it best and he explained it in a way that I could totally identify with. In fact, our feelings were identical. "I can't hear from God in this right now. I spend time with Him. I hear from Him. I love Him, I need Him, I have not forsaken HIM. But, when it comes to us planting our feet in a church again, I don't think it's possible. I know it will happen but I know it is going to be something that he does 100%."

As for me? Well, I am restless. My friend keeps asking me to go to a Bible Stud with her during the week. It's on Tuesday mornings, they have childcare, they have mommies, they have pregnant women, they have all kinds of gals that I am sure I can relate to. I have told her I would go several times, only to cancel the morning of. Today I was supposed to go. But last night I called her and explained that once again I couldn't go. I am always honest, I don't make up excuses. I just tell her the truth. "Kelly, I am not ready. I am not ready to put myself out there with a group of women. My restlessness is not rebellion, I promise. I am just not ready. But please keep asking me. I may say yes next week but this week."

Last Sunday morning I knew we were not going to church. I did not feel guilty, I did not care whether or not my mom asked me, "Did y'all go to church today?" I did not care. It was a quiet morning around the house. The kids were still sleeping so I told Jeremy I was going to the grocery store. The whole way there, I prayed. I told the Lord I wanted to honor him today with my words, my countenance, my body, my everything. I worshipped in the car, Josiah and I worked on some memory verses that I have been teaching him and we painted together. All day long, we worshipped. It wasn't in a church building, it was in our home. Someday I know we will be back in church (I think), I know that we will have friends, play dates, dinners and bible studies. But for now, I am not sure what that picture looks like or when it will happen. Currently people say things to me like, "Oh I have been there." Or "I will be praying for you." Some have even suggested my husband and I going to get counseling over our "Church Crisis." They talk to me like they know or like they understand and it's all while they are RUSHING to get out the door for a church meeting or church function. They understand. Right. They tell me that my marriage will suffer if we are not in church, our finances, and other things will suffer. They say that my children are being cheated by not being in church every single Sunday. Well, I disagree. Why is it that the church has to paint my faith? Why is that I have to do what other Christians EXPECT me to do? Why is that I am said to be in a rebellious stage? Why is it that other CHRISTIANS can't believe that I am closer to the Lord NOW than I have ever been? Is there is litmus test? Does it matter that I have lead someone to the Lord in the past month or that I have shared Christ with my next door neighbor? Does it matter that I have been spending time trying to get to know my neighbors that are also lesbians? Does it matter that my three year old has memorized more scriptures than most Christian adults? Would that help me pass the litmus test or does my butt have to be sitting in a pew or a folded chair every single Sunday?

I am not bitter at CHURCH, I am confused. I am scared and I am unsure about my place of ministry right now. My husband feels the same. For me, it's kind of like spinach. Right now I am staying away from spinach and church. I love them both, I think I need them both. But, I am a little scared to try either one.