Mar 232012
 

After a very intense, on the edge of your seat, cheer and gasp and jump and scream game last night, the Wisconsin Badgers are officially out of the NCAA Tournament. Womp Womp.

I came across a March Madness list in an old journal.  I really love coming across things like this, which remind me of the season I was in at that certain time period of my life.  I’m always drawn to reflect on the recorded words I’ve scribbled over the years.  Comparing now to back then, it’s clear the setting has changed.  The details which were so clearly influenced by certain characters, places, or activities are drastically different and I long to understand the why and how behind it all.

Journal entries like these also display the parts of me that have always been.  The personality traits, enjoyment-causers and writing voice which have been a part of who I have always been, for as long as I can remember.

I love March Madness.
I love having brackets all over my desk, hanging on my door, near the girls’ dorm tv, one in my car, and one in my Bible. Yes, my Bible.
I love dressing in team garb. My team, her team, his team, any team.
I love the NCAA commercials. I hope Joe makes one some day.
I love having a fun excuse to take some personal time off from work. Round one mid-day games are so much more fun than any appointment I could possibly have.
I love suddenly becoming passionate about teams I’ve only seen play a few games during the season.
I love how an online bracket can connect old friends who live a nation apart.
I love how it’s more than a holiday, it’s a month long celebration.
I love the memories collected during March throughout the years.
I love that you find yourself high fiving strangers after sunken free throws, cheering on teams you cursed over during football season.
I love that pizza and wings never tasted as good as they do during the final four.
I love that the girl who picks her bracket based on uniform designs or the cuteness of team mascots undoubtedly will beat my choices every single year.
I LOVE MARCH MADNESS.
3/17/05

It’s an interesting blend the old and the new.  At the time I wrote this, I lived in Southeast Texas [SETX].  I was six weeks shy of 22 years old.  I worked in a completely different field than I do currently. I also worked in youth ministry. And I read the Bible A LOT.  I was living a much different life and thought much differently about the world, myself, and my place in the world as myself. 

I’ve always been attached to the idea of self-definition, and back then, my self-definition included a lot of THE CHURCH*.  It doesn’t so much anymore. At least not at this time. At least not in this season.  Other than to say that THE CHURCH had a great hand in getting me to where I am now, just as all seasons of life lead to the next season and the one after that and so on.  And that I think about it often.  I think about my past with THE CHURCH and I wonder if I’ll ever feel right enough, ready enough, prepared enough, or a strong enough of a desire to ever go back to living a life so entwined with it.

These days, I am uncertain of myself and my beliefs some of the time. I am honest as often as possible. I am confused a lot, too.  These ingredients blend together to often feeling like a fraud.  If I sit and think about those things that have changed for too long, I can feel my head start to spin and a deep sadness grows from deep inside.  It probably has a lot to do with the weight that we hold on beliefs, religion and spirituality in our society these days.  It probably has a lot to do with pride, too. 

It’s not always easy to admit your wrong, you know?  Back then, I believed something different.  I was someone different.  Deep down I always felt…I don’t know how to accurately describe it, really… a bit out of place and a bit out of my own skin, I guess. Back then, I remember, I refused to force myself to believe anything, but a lot of the time, I questioned if I was pretending or trying to believe certain things.  In hindsight, I know that there were somethings I believed because of what I felt and experienced on my own accord, but there were plenty of other things I believed because I felt I was supposed to believe them. 

When I take time to really think about that, it hurts my heart. Which probably explains why I have avoided thinking about it all for so long and sit here several years after the fact, never really have sorted through all that life-junk.

There are the naturally changing classifications- age, location, employment.  We grow, we learn, we move, we move on. And there are the classifications that somehow define our foundation, some might say the very core of our being – our beliefs, dreams, way of life and how we spend our time.  All of that has changed for me.  And yet so much of the other stuff buried in the lines about March Madness remains true, today.

I still love March Madness for a lot of the same reasons. I love to celebrate the little things, I love to high-five strangers at the sports bar, and eat wings while I cheer Bucky on.  I’m a fan of the NCAA commercial to this day, and find a lot of joy out of tracking my bracket each spring.  I am nostalgic. I am a sports fan. I am still, simply, me.

And all those little things remind me that I’m not a fraud. I am simply me. Growing and learning and changing and finding my life definitions just as any other twenty-something.  It’s not always easy, and it’s not always fun, but I enjoy the adventure and am thankful for the small reminders – like those found in a journal from 2005 – that bring me back to the truth that it’s all okay, and it will all turn out okay, too.  Even if the Badgers lose the game.

 

*THE CHURCH: I wish I could explain to you what I mean by this phrase. More than a building or a place of services and such.  More than a group of people and more than, although definitely aligned with, a lifestyle.  Something I will no doubt have to explain in more and more detail as I continue to unravel the past decade of memories, understandings, healings, ignorance and frustrations.  The barebones truth is that I am human. I’m working through all these emotions I have buried deep down in my heart because I was never brave enough to face them. What you find here in these spiritual thought posts is just myself, stripped down and sorting through conversations, events, revelations, and feelings I remember discovering, holding, turning over, and disposing of throughout my short lifetime. xo

 

More “In Hindsight” Posts:

Likes!, and Spiritual Stuff: In Hindsight 1
Reading, In Hindsight 2

 

Reading, In Hindsight

 Posted by at 8:25 am  i believe, Religion
Feb 082012
 

Somehow, despite my best efforts of barely opening a book for the month of January, I’ve managed to finish three books in the past week.  Each of which I have had on my “to-read” list for years.  Each of which I have rated with five stars. 

I Am Not Myself These Days, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and Prep

I Am Not Myself These Days, by Josh Kilmer-Purcell: I laughed. and gasped. and laughed some more.  This book read a lot faster than I expected it to, which was a welcomed delight. [I like feeling like reading is just happening, not like I am having to work at it, you know?] 

I loved the idea that this memoir was mostly written about a seven month season of Josh Kilmer-Purcell’s life.  He managed to dip back into his past, sharing stories to help explain a situation, a feeling, or a belief in an easy-going yet often powerful type of sorts, but the main story of this book takes place in less than a year’s time.  Reading this gave me a refreshed perspective in terms of what a memoir is.  It doesn’t have to be your life story – just a work containing life’s stories.

 

source

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling: I have started this book at least 17 times, never getting past the first few chapters, but last weekend, I somehow managed to read the entire book in approx 30 hours.  I had forgotten how refreshing reading YA books can be, and was especially pleased to have the Harry Potter movie score playing in my head as I finished each chapter. 

While we’re at it, can I go on a bit of a rant here?  I refuse to answer the question “Which did you like better, the movie or the book?” and I’ll tell you why: I don’t compare books to movies; I compare them to other books.  I don’t understand what we are trying to accomplish by being some sort of literary elitist, whining about how no movie can ever live up to a book. Ummm…why should it have to?  The written word has been an art form for a hell of a lot longer than movies have been made.  They are two very different, but, at least in my life, very important art forms.  </rant>

Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld: Oh, prep.  Preppy, prep prep.  You exhausted me in the most wonderful ways.

Last year I read another Sittenfeld novel, American Wife which I adored.  I was expecting to like Prep, which was an earlier work of Sittenfeld, but as I began the first chapter I didn’t think that it could steal the place in my heart I had for American Wife.  After all, American Wife had a lot going for it to win me over – the main character lives in a small town growing up, goes to college in Madison, Wisconsin and marries a man who later makes her the First Lady.  I mean – COME ON.  It was as if that book was written for me, right?

But Prep totally stole the Sittenfeld show, if you ask me.  If I could give it a six star rating on Goodreads, I would.  I related to Lee, the main character, on so many levels.  This fact, however, is slightly disheartening, as Lee isn’t necessarily the most loved main character in the world of literature. 

When Lee is explaining her walk from her dorm to chapel and various other locations on campus, I could imagine the scene picture perfect.  In my imagination, Ault, the prep school Lee is attending, is the same campus as LC - the Southern Baptist college I attended after leaving Wisconsin so many years ago.  Ready for a flash back photo of my time at LC? Here you go:

The truth is, many of the feelings Lee has about Ault and her experience there, run parallel to how I felt about my time at LC.  She very much feels an outsider at her boarding school, a setting which manages to be secluded from the outside world a lot of the time.  But where Lee sees a difference mostly in wealth and class, I saw and felt the difference based on political opinions, religious upbringing, and beliefs, or rather, the lack thereof. 

I began attending LC as an “unbeliever.”  A label that I sometimes felt I was wearing across my forehead at a place like LC.  I often explain it to people as “a college people go to when they want to nurture their relationship with Christ while getting a college education, without the pressures of “the world” getting in the way.”  I somehow found myself at this Southern Baptist school a bit by accident. 

The short version of the story is this:  I went to LC.  I often felt like an outsider, trying to understand what all the fuss was about with things such as church, and prayer, and Jesus, and believing.  I searched for what  I saw all the people around me holding onto, so fiercely.  I caught glimpses of it, and over time, started to believe myself.   Maybe to fit in. Maybe to fill a void. Maybe just because it seemed like the right thing to do at that point in time, and the only thing to do at a place like LC. 

In hindsight, I can’t remember exactly why I was so desperate to believe.  I can’t remember what it felt like when I started to, either.  But I do remember that at the time, I felt it was genuine.  And I trust myself in that. 

I remember that there were two very different pictures of Jesus painted in my mind due to interactions at this school.  Sometimes, things people said or did “because of Jesus” seemed the exact opposite of the person I wanted to be – rude, closed minded, judgmental, and harmful. 

Other times I saw a different Jesus, mostly thanks to a group who seemed to adopt me without a second thought -allowing me into their circle of friends regardless that I wasn’t like them.  When I was with these people, I didn’t feel judged or outcast.  I felt welcome.  These people welcomed me and they embraced ALL of me.  My doubts, fears, questions, accusations, lack of understanding, outsider self. 

They taught me about what I have come to know as “their Jesus” – peace that passes all understanding.  grace. love. and what it means to be, and to aim to be, “Christ-like.”  They showed me with the hours they spent tutoring children in project homes in their free time.  They showed me by dropping off cakes at the dorm for girls to share in the hallway, sharing their stories on park benches, answering my questions in the back of a worship service.  They showed me with late night discussions and the most genuine, heart-wrenching prayers for the goodness of the world.  They showed me by inviting me along, to concerts, and services, and events, and one very touching Monday night worship under the stars at a state park not far from campus. 

In hindsight, what I learned from them and what I experienced with them and what I started to believe thanks to them – those things I still file under “goodness.”  I left school after one semester, feeling I was at a crossroads in my life.  Everything I’d ever known was turned around, both in my head and in my heart.  

If LC and what I found there was goodness, that what was to come [and more specifically, what I brought onto myself] can only be labeled as un-goodness.  But more on that later.

Likes! and Spiritual Stuff

 Posted by at 1:05 pm  Religion
Dec 202011
 

Lots of ‘Likes!’ to share today!

I like citrus.
I’m going ga-ga for citrus these days.  We went to the grocery late Friday night and returned to the apartment with nine pounds of citrus fruits. I love December for the ability to buy 3 pounds each of tangerines, navel oranges, and clementines for less than $6, total. 

I like blogs. Big and small. Loved and loathed. Lots of blogs.
List of blogs I didn’t used to read, that I recently started reading and must admit, I am a fan [all for different reasons, of course]:
> On Tap for Today
> Running Off the Reese’s
> Eden Eats Everything

List of blogs I used to subscribe to, had unsubscribed for one reason or another, then started reading again and really dig:
> Marta Writes
> Becoming the Odd Duck
> Finding a New Life Through Food

List of blogs I’ve been reading for a v. long time and I personally think REALLY know how to write for their audience.  These blogs all have strong followings, and you probably already either love them or loathe them.  Seriously, these are three BRILLIANT girls who I’ve been communicating with via email for YEARS now.  [they each have a v. special way of giving boy-advice, for the record ;) ]  Love them. You might, too!
> Healthy Tipping Point
> How Sweet It Is
> The Life Lessons of Rachel Wilkerson

I like cookies.
Am also a fan of all the Christmas cookies in the land.  Apart from my own baking, I’ve received a few plates and tins from co-workers and friends this week, as well as a special delivery by mail from my Grandparents in Wisconsin!  I was super excited when I saw this tag on a box:

Open Now?!!  I know what THAT means – cookies from Grandma’s kitchen!!  I even see some kolache’s up in there :)   Thanks, Gram!!

I like adult beverages.
This past weekend, Nicholas and I went to a party.  I took Joy’s advice in the comments section of Refresher and purchased both the Angry Orchard’s Apple Ginger and Mike’s Hard Winter Blackberry.  Both were super refreshing and tasty, and as expected, the Mike’s was a lot sweeter.  I would say I prefer the Angry Orchard, because I could drink more than one without getting “sugar sick.”  [Do you know what I mean by sugar sick?  It's a common issue I have with certain malt beverages in which any more than a bottle and a half and I'm ready to stop consuming ANYTHING.]

We also found out that we are fans of POM Wonderful Pom-Cranberry with Grey Goose. And by we, I mean it may be a new favorite of one Mr. Nicholas T. Boyfriend.

I like Pass the Popcorn.
At the party we played Pass the Popcorn, which has quickly made it’s way to the top ten favorite board/family games list!  I was especially a fan because I knew A LOT of answers, even though I hadn’t seen very many of the movies we discussed.  Pop Culture Princess, win.  Highly recommended.  [Especially if you are a fan of the Doug Loves Movies podcast! ]

I like Podcasts. and self definition. and a so-called spiritual journey.
Speaking of podcasts, I’ve been working on a list of “Ten Must Listen to Podcasts Part 2″ [part 1 is here] for a few days now, and as it turns out, I may have to do parts 2 and 3 fairly close together.  There are SO MANY good ones I’ve been loving these days. 

One that I’ve declared my new favorite is You Made It Weird with Pete Holmes.  It’s part of the Nerdist Industries family of podcasting which shouldn’t be a surprise. You may remember my love for the original Nerdist podcast from part 1 mentioned above, and there are several other Nerdist Industry podcasts I’ve been listening too, as well.  But You Made it Weird has, unsuspectedly, been challenging my thinking and helping me process my beliefs and understanding of myself and the world. [I love how inspiration sneaks up anywhere it desires. Like comedy podcasts, for example.] 

A few months ago, I admitted to some friends that I knew I was on the verge of what I called a “spiritual breakthrough.” 

What I meant by this had little to do with what a bible-belt believing Christian might call a “spiritual breakthrough”, but more to do with MY OWN SPIRIT.  The spirit of who I am and what I believe and what I support and what I stand against and what I choose and how I live.  Of course, thoughts on God are included on the long list of “what I believe” definitions, but to me, this journey is SO MUCH MORE than religion.  I felt like I was approaching a season of enlightenment within my soul, [wow, this sounds really hippie-ish, does it not?]  but I knew I was pushing it off and avoiding it because I honestly felt completely unprepared to deal with any of the emotional junk that I knew would accompany it.

You know, one of the things that was said in the GOMI forum about THS [in this comment] really got me thinking about my lack of talking about my past life in the church and ministry, what I experienced there, and where it has lead me now. [Obviously, as that's basically exactly what the comment in the forum says.]   I mentioned in September that one of my goals for the next year of THS was to give “a better explanation of the stories behind working in ministry morphing into avoiding the church at all costs,” because of how right that commenter is, but also because I am still working through the very twisted emotions and processing through the memories from that time in my life. It appears that I’m working on a better explanation for myself, as well. 

In the last few weeks, I’ve felt that I’m starting to really sort through some of this stuff.  [As I said before, the You Made It Weird podcast has unexpectedly had a large hand in this.  It has sparked many conversations and introspective sessions of "what do I think?"]  I know that I can’t rush it, and I know that this is a probably a season of my life similar to one just about everyone in their mid to late twenties faces – a blend of “who am I?” “who do I want to be?” and “how can I be that person?” on many levels.

It’s not easy, for lots of reasons.  A big part of it is probably pride, I am aware.  In sharing my stories, I will no doubt admit I was wrong a million times.  That’s not always easy, but almost always necessary, right? 

Also, opening up my past experiences with ministering will no doubt hurt some people in my life.  That’s never fun.  But, I know that if I am being  completely honest with myself, and with you all, that it will be the right thing to do.  I don’t want to seem attacking at all in my sharing of my past, but I do want to accurately explain the experiences from my point of view, and the emotions I felt both at the time and after the fact, and especially now, looking back.* 

And one more disclaimer, before posts about this journey I’ve been on start showing up here.  These stories are intertwined with stories of my past relationships, a topic a lot of people have voiced I should stop talking about. [and I clearly sort-of agree, as I've not posted about old relationships in several months.]  We met working in youth ministry and our lives were mapped out with the intention of working in ministry for the remainder of our lives. 

Being perfectly candid before diving into the muck: So much of what I believed about God and church was based on what I thought my ex WANTED me to believe, rather than what I truly comprehended on my own.  I was not at all secure in myself and my own choices or abilities.  So, there will most likely be SOME discussion about the ex, our relationship, and my lack of self during those years.  You’ve been warned.

After all that heavy, I need a drink.  Happy hour, anyone?

Oh! and don’t forget about the giveaway taking place over on the THS Facebook page.

[*Fun fact: at one time, when I was delusional enough to think I would be writing a book some day, I thought that "In Hindsight: Lessons I Had to Learn Twice" was the perfect name for my collection of essay-style tales of church and brokeness.  Now that I've wised up, maybe I'll just use "In Hindsight" as a series name as I move forward in sharing.]