On the changing tides…

I’ve been talking to a lot of people recently about my mores, values, beliefs, politics…all that good stuff that tends to come up this time of year (election season), but seems to be at the forefront of so many of our minds in the last year or two (especially in the last ten months).

My entire value system has shifted fairly dramatically over the last twenty years, swinging wildly from one direction to the other and landing somewhere in the middle – for now, at least.

I grew up in a conservative evangelical Christian home. We said/say prayers before every meal and before bed every evening. We went to church every Sunday and you had to practically have a doctor’s note to get out of going. I was a part of every Wednesday night youth group at every church my family attended. I went to all the retreats. I sang in all the bands and all the choirs. I went to a disturbingly conservative Christian high school. So for a very, very long time, my beliefs about social issues mirrored that of my parents. I think that’s true for most of us. We repeat what we’re taught until our brains allow us the growth enough to think for ourselves.

So when I graduated high school and went to Bible college in Canada, everything I’d ever been taught was about to come under fire. That was the point of this particulare college: to challenge us and make us think about why we believe what we believe. It was an incredibly challenging and beneficial year of my life; a year that wouldn’t really see it’s full potential for several more years.

I stayed firmly planted in the “right” for many more years until my life went a little askew and I shifted my entire belief system somewhat maniacally to the “left”. I started compartmentalizing my beliefs. To this day, I am of the position that my faith and my politics can (and should) be mutually exclusive. That’s a benefit I’m granted as a citizen of this country. We don’t live in a theocracy, so I don’t behave as though I do. For many evangelicals, that’s not the case – faith defines politics and vice versa. It’s okay to disagree with me. Many people do. That’s also a benefit we’re afforded.

And with that shift has also come a shift in my faith. I have a hard time reconciling the harsh God of the Old Testament with the dirty hippie socialist Jesus of the New Testament. I’ve gotten a lot of backlash in the recent past for my views on terrorism and various terrorist organizations around the world. As far “left” as I may seem on many issues, I assure you I am firmly planted in the “pro-life” side of things, but probably not in the way you’d think. And it took being married to a United States sailor and becoming a mother to solidify my position on that. But because of how staunchly pro-life I am, pretty much every other aspect of my social beliefs are very very liberal.

I feel like that gets really frustrating for American Evangelicals. I feel like I am very frustratng to American Evangelicals. That’s a hard thing to come to grips with. Some of my closest friends (and much of my family) are evangelical Christians. A woman who I look up to and want to be when I grow up…I must frustrate the hell out of her.

I curse and get angry. I flip proverbial tables. I fight for the marginalized. I want everyone to be included and counted and cared for, no matter the background or reason. Everyone matters. That’s just the end of that statement. There’s no “everyone matters because..” or “everyone matters despite…” or “everyone matters except…”

Everyone just matters.
I feel like that’s the whole point of Jesus.

On the depths of my soul…

christmas-eve.jpg

It’s exactly one week until my favorite day of the year. It’s better than my birthday. Better than Valentines Day.

Christmas Eve is my favorite day of the year.

When I was younger, Christmas Day ruled all. I think that’s true for a lot of us. As children, we look forward to presents and Santa and seeing the tree in the morning. It was my favorite day until I was in my early 20s, I think. My parents did the most wonderful job of making Christmas magical for my siblings and me. The decorations always sparkled. We left out cookies and carrots for Santa and Rudolph (he was always welcome in our house). There were hoofprints on the roof in the morning. The tree was beautiful. The fire was always warm and crackling. In fact, none of that has changed. I’m nearly 37 years old and my parents still do everything the can to make Christmas morning magical. We still get gifts from Santa, wrapped in the same paper for the last 30-plus years.

As I’ve gotten older, my sense of wonder has shifted a little. Don’t get me wrong: I still love everything about Christmas morning, especially at my parent’s house. But the magic isn’t there anymore. It didn’t disappear. It shifted. It changed. It evolved.

The culmination of the entire year happens on Christmas Eve. My faith relies heavily on what happened that evening (which, yes, probably actually occurred sometime in the fall). Without Christmas Eve, my faith doesn’t even exist.

Every Christmas Eve, I look forward to midnight mass (or “the eleven o’clock service”, as it’s more commonly known in the evangelical world). It’s quiet and reflective. It’s peaceful. It’s serene. It’s basically everything that birth is not and everything that my life to that point hasn’t been. A year of chaos and noise comes to a grinding halt on Christmas Eve. Life’s busyness subsides and I am able to rest in the quiet and the candlelight, even if for just a moment.

It feels like Christ himself is breathing new life into my soul. Like I can hear Him say, “That feeling you have right now? That’s me. That can be all the time if you’ll just slow down and let me.”

That’s where the magic is for me now. When in the bustle and madness and fear and unknown of everyday life, I can sit quietly and honestly think, “Yes. All is well.”

So the magic of Christmas is still there for me. But it’s not in the lights or decorations or cookies.

It’s heavy. I can feel it’s weight.

It is the deep magic.

On not feeling the love…

Bang head

One of the most frustrating feelings for a writer is wanting to write, but not knowing what to write about. Even more frustrating is what I’ve been experiencing lately: not caring about what I write about.

All the things on which I’d normally have plenty to say – motherhood, politics, religion – it’s all just gotten too…much for me recently. There are too many opinions and FAR too much judgment. Maybe I’m hyper-sensitive to it these days. I’m just exhausted. I try to invest myself in the things I enjoy or the things I tend to be well-versed in, but I keep finding myself annoyed or iritated every time I do.

I want to engage. I really do. When I see things that are interesting or thought-provoking, I want to share the information. When I see things that are odd or ill-informed, I want to add my two cents. When I see things that are rage-inducing or just plain stupid, I want to call it out.

But I’m tired.

I’m tired of being shamed for the things I do, say, think, enjoy, or believe. I’m tired of the sideways glances when I’m asked my opinion or position. I’m tired of everyone finding something to be pissed off at or offended by.

Sometimes I want to be the person that just says whatever the hell she’s thinking with no regard for anyone else’s feelings. But when it comes to certain topics, that’s just not useful and only leads to more contention and people believing certain stereotypes about “people like me.” I get angry enough that I have to walk away from conversations because I know it’s the most healthy thing to do…for all parties involved.

I’m ready to all but call in quits on the social media front. I get too upset and annoyed far too often. I want to write a huge blog, laying out where I stand on this topic or that and just be done with it.

But, of course, that’s not realistic. Not for me. I could walk away for a while (I do it a couple times a year), but I always come back. It’s where I find new topics or interesting perspectives.

So here’s what I do know: I’m tired of being mom-shamed, politi-shamed, religi-shamed, whatever-shamed. I’m sick to death of having my thunder stolen or having my thoughts and talents ripped out from under me, only to be either lambasted or paraded around like their someone else’s. I’m really tired of feeling like I’m not allowed to be angry about any of that.