Sunday, April 24, 2016

Navigating Unfamiliar Holy Water

I was raised in a religious household.  I was raised in a church that uses the Bible as their only teaching tool and by a group of people who love the Lord, but I was also raised in a very legalistic religion.  Everything had rules and regulations surrounding it.  If a rule couldn't be found, specifically, in the Bible it was covered by saying there was no "Biblical authority."  There were rules surrounding everything from dancing to mission work and from instrumental music to co-ed swimming, NONE of which were allowed.

I look back on my upbringing with appreciation.  I'm thankful for the discipline that I learned and I'm thankful that I had hedges to protect my relationship with God when I was young and vulnerable.  I also look back in awe though.  I was telling a Christian friend about the rules I was raised with and he said, "sounds like it's harder to get into church than it is to get into heaven" and he was exactly right.  It was complicated and I always had a feeling of balancing on a tightrope.  I knew that one minor slip up could condemn me for eternity, it made me work harder but it also filled me with fear and insecurity, in the Lord, that I still battle.

Now that I've gotten older and I've spent a lot of time in the Word, I've changed the church I go to and, man!  Is it different! I didn't leave my former church with any hard feelings, I just found a different church where our family could thrive.  Change isn't always a bad thing and you have to change to grow, but that doesn't make change any easier!  We live in an ever changing universe but some changes are hard to adjust to, no matter what blessings they may provide. 

There are so many hot buttons in my old church and there are so many things you can talk about and things you can't, and I know the ins and outs of all of them.  Whether I agree or not, I know how to work the system.  I've spent my entire life in that branch of religion and I know the ropes.  There are tons of different degrees of the religion but (whether they'll admit it or not), they are all very similar.  I can flow in and out of any of those churches fluidly and fit in effortlessly in minutes. 

My new church is very different and although my grandparents went to a church similar to this one and I visited occasionally, its not my norm. I'm navigating completely new holy waters.  No one has made me feel anything other than loved and welcomed but I'm always just a little on edge.  I'm stay on pins and needles with every conversation and with every activity.  I'm waiting for the time I mess up and wondering if I'm being judged as a bad christian or a failure.

We do a Bible study on Monday nights and most of the time, I just keep quiet and listen because I worry that my perspective will raise eyebrows.  We meet with an incredible group of Christians who have made this church home, but I'm still not ready to let them all the way in.  I'm reluctant to jump into many activities until I familiarize myself with the church a little more for fear of alienating myself for my beliefs or for my heritage.  Maybe this says more about the church I grew up in than I'd like to believe, but it's ever present in my mind now.

I don't know when I've ever been involved in a congregation that loves each other and love the Lord the way this family of believers do and someday I'll be able to unpack my baggage a little more and jump in with both feet, but I'm not there yet.  I love this church and I feel more at home with these believers than I have with believers from my former tribe, since moving to Nashville.  I'm still getting my toes wet and watching from the banks.

I mourn for the loss of familiarity and my heritage.  I miss that feeling of of comfort and security.   I miss my former religious tribe but at this time in our lives, we are a part of a new tribe and I'm learning that that's okay.  The traditions are all that's changed, the Bible truth stays the same.  I'm serving the same God, I have the same Savior, and I'm learning from the same book, I'm just doing it a little different than I'm used to.  All the stuff that matters is right, and I'm adjusting to all of the other stuff and enjoying the ride.

I'm also learning that I had put entirely too much faith in my religion and not enough faith in God.  I felt such a strong allegiance to that religion and I loved being a part of it, but I need to feel that way about being a Christian, not a Christian at a specific religion.  My relationship with the Lord is growing stronger because I'm learning that my faith is in Him, not in a church.  I love my new church and I love my old church, but I love the Lord first and foremost.   

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Thirty Something...

Tonight Keith and I got home from Saint Simon's Island, Georgia after a weekend watching one of our dearest friends marry the love of his life.  I was tucking my girls into bed and we were saying our prayers and I started tearing up, a lot.

Hadley prayed for Jeff and Kelly and their marriage, she prayed for Mark and Tracy and Baby Clayton, she prayed for Jason and Jen.  Then I took my turn to pray and started crying because I am overwhelmed with how blessed we are by these incredible people!

We have the most amazing friends.  Oh my goodness!  God knew what he was doing when he brought this band of people together.  I was thinking about this group of friends and it struck me that we are all strong, opinionated, loud people and maybe even what some people might call jerks but every one of us would do anything for each other!  We love fiercely.

We have been through divorce, marriage, adoption, pregnancy, moves, cancer, new jobs, and everything in between.  We have cried together, we have yelled at each other, we have loved each other, and oh man have we laughed together!  We get each other.  

I've moved away and left my beautiful dysfunctional family of friends but they have never stopped being there for me.  Even as I'm typing this, the tears are flowing.(Yes Jeff, TEARS!)  I never knew I'd have friends like these people and I don't know how I got so lucky.  I miss them so much that sometimes my heart hurts but I know that we will always be together. I sat around with them this weekend and thought, "man, there should be a show about us!" Then I realized there had been...Thirty Something!  Ha Ha!

When Jeff and Kelly started building their relationship, I was so hard on her.  I refused to like her.  I was so protective of Jeff and by then, I'd moved away and wasn't there to witness their budding love.  I was never as kind to Kelly as I should have been but it never changed how she treated me.  Thank goodness she had the patience to tolerate me until I could see her for who she is.  She's pretty awesome!

On my birthday, when I screamed at Jeff and told Kelly to get in the car, no one blinked an eye.  When I went to the March Madness party and relentlessly talked about cancer, everyone rolled with me.  We have stuck together and enjoyed our lives together.  I am in awe of God for bringing me into this group of people.  I love them.  

I'm going to write more about the wedding later, but I just had to get my gratitude out there tonight!