I've been struggling with words lately. Which is really weird for somone who enjoys writing and sharing ideas and experiences. But I've been processing lots of "stuff" and sometimes writing helps with that. And sometimes writing is too daunting and I just have to keep experiencing before I can capture any of it with words.
Now don't get your hopes up. I haven't had some huge life altering event happen. Not in the way you might be thinking, anyway.
As you may know, several months ago, we left our church of 11 years. It was one of the hardest things I've ever done. I never imagined we would be "those people" who left a church family and I certainly never imagined it would be under the circumstances that it all played out under.
I still strongly believe in God's purpose in all of it.
Faith is a journey. I know that my purpose is foundationally the same. I've known my purpose for a long time - LOVE. The interesting thing is that how my purpose plays out is constantly changing.
In my very early years, I had some spiritual experiences that confirmed for me that God is real.
I was raised in a traditional and conservative faith (Missouri Synod Lutheran). I was taught the beliefs and I didn't ever have doubts. Until high school when I began to meet and know people outside of my faith base and I discovered that they were just... people. It didn't jive with what I believed, what I'd been taught. So I began to question things a bit.
I still knew God was real. But I didn't know much else. I went off to college and stopped going to church completely. I prayed. But not regularly. I wouldn't say it was a crisis of faith but it was my first time realizing that there was a huge and giant world out there that was colorful and diverse and that it somehow was all created by Him. My little 20 year old brain and heart didn't know how to handle that.
Then I became an "adult." It was time to really take charge of my own life and I began to feel a call to go back to church. I had several friends that attended a church in my area so I went a few times and liked it well enough. But life changed and it hadn't ever really felt like "home." So I stopped going.
I met Jeff. We got married. We didn't go to church. It wasn't a thing we even really talked about.
And then we had a miscarriage. And I needed church. I needed a place to be close to God in a formal way, in a way that I would find comforting. And God provided that place. And we stayed there and grew there and started a family in this place.
In some ways, I really value the people who start in one church or in one tradition and continue on with it. But I also know my heart has always been very broad. I thrive on experiencing culture and food and music and faith from other people and places. I find ways of doing that - through food and festivals and other experiences.
It's an interesting thing to have left the church I called home for 11 years. I have had to do some really intense healing. There was damage and hurt - on all sides. But there is also just the weirdness of not being around the people you've seen every week for the past many years. People you've become familiar with, that you've called friends, that you've dined with week after week. I knew that some people would fade away. I knew I'd have to work harder to maintain some relationships.
Stepping into a new church and considering new relationships, building a brand new family, finding a new place in the culture... there are Sundays that I wake up and just don't want to face it. It's hard. And maybe that was a small component of why I needed to leave where I'd been - I was becoming complacent and too comfortable. God needs us to be uncomfortable in order to grow. I never dreamed He'd ask me to become uncomfortable in this way but He's made it clear this is His plan.
We have found a place that is starting to feel more and more comfortable. A place where my kids are eager to attend and I feel confident that they will be guided in faith education in a way that I fully support. A place where I am getting completely filled with my desire for artistic and hippy-dippy lovey stuff. A place where Jeff can ask questions, lots of questions, and express doubts and he's finding that he's not alone, others have questions, and there are people who have even bigger questions than him - and that questions and doubts, especially among the youth/teens - isn't just encouraged but actually embraced.
My heart feels like it's gone from being broken to being mended and now it's cracking OPEN. I feel like I'm starting to find pieces of myself that I'd forgotten about. It's funny to see these sides of myself - it's strange to me to feel a lack of confidence, to feel uncertain, to feel afraid. But what an amazing and important reminder... what a gift to have to be so vulnerable!
I'm not entirely sure the point of this blog post, to be honest.
Except maybe to just say - I'm still here. Life is good. I'm still journeying. My heart is being redefined. I'm learning to see beauty in new places.