When Church Lets You Down

A year ago, I embarked on the voyage of being a deacon in our church. At the time, I had only been a member of the church for three years and had only been involved with the UCC for four. But this was the church we had chosen to raise our children in; this was the church where we had made many wonderful connections and friendships since arriving in Wellesley as new parents in pursuit of new paths.

The church welcomed us, embraced us, incorporated us and celebrated us. Both DH and I were invited to join committees, speak before the congregation and help guide and mold the new directions of the church.

When we started attending, the church’s senior minister, Matt Fitzgerald, was also new. Two months before we discovered the Hills Church, Matt arrived from Chicago with his wife and their two young children, a third on the way. In many regards, Matt was the pivotal reason we started attending. Not only was he a contemporary but his views were contemporary and his sermons were incredibly relevant to us.

Over the next few years, my family got to know his family bit-by-bit. Our children became friends and his wife, Kelli, and I got involved in a film club together. We have long felt—perhaps for professional More

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Sometimes I Feel Catholic

I wasn’t raised by Catholic parents (although one of them has since converted…but that’s a topic for another post) and I’ve never been to a Catholic mass. What makes me feel Catholic is my sense of guilt, and I don’t think I’m over-generalizing here, since every Catholic I’ve ever met, practicing or not, wears guilt like a burka.

I feel guilty for the things I do, especially things I do for myself, like going to the gym, or spending a morning on the computer instead of tending house, running errands or planning my son’s birthday. I feel guilty for the things I don’t do, especially when they involve my children, like not signing them up for music lessons, not stopping by the playground more, not practicing greater patience or not planning my son’s birthday.

Catholic or not, guilt is just one of motherhood’s many veils.

Lately, I’ve been waking up at 4 or 5 in the morning. I can’t conclude whether it’s hormonal, seasonal, More

Serving Others

We are living in strange times. This “Great Recession” we’re in may not qualify yet as a depression but the impact its having on all of us, without question, is depressing.

On a daily basis, I wrestle with the knowledge that I have great abundance in my life yet still want more. In fact, just last week, before attending our friends’ annual Epiphany party, I threw my own private epiphany party, unleashing a woe-is-me tirade on poor DH about all of the things in life that we haven’t yet achieved.

I could only view our glass as half-empty. I failed to see how full it actually is.

I have a hard time living in the moment. I pulsate in a constant state of projecting forward. I don’t know why I can’t be appreciative for the many blessings I have rather than the things I don’t. Instead, I live under the false pretense that offspring should do as well as, if not better More

Heeding the Call

A few weeks ago, our very hip, highly educated and really down-to-earth minister called me on my cell phone. Granted, we no longer have a land-line so my cell phone is my only phone but still, it was a calling.

He called because, though we’ve only belonged to his robust and growing church for a few short years, he wanted me to consider being on the Board of Deacons. I was simultaneously flattered and  flummoxed. Immediately, I riddled myself with questions: More

A Personal Epiphany

Are you ready? I think I’m done having kids.

This may come as no surprise to most people that know me but it came as a surprise to me. You see, when I first met my DH, I wasn’t even sure I wanted kids at all. Once we got married and realized our future together was a solid foundation upon which we wanted to build, we committed to having children together and hoped the ability would be in our cards. We also both entertained the possibility of having three children, so our holiday tables would be lively and bustling with more family than either of us had experienced ourselves.

We are blessed and delighted that we have two healthy, beautiful, spunky children and that conception, pregnancy and delivery were all seamless and routine. But for the past year, as I’ve witnessed our youngest transform from baby to toddler and experienced the freedoms that come when your preschooler nears kindergarten-age, I’ve also realized the likelihood of adding a new baby to the mix has diminished.

The reality has been growing for a while but yesterday it matured during a conversation with a dear friend with whom I share more than just a compatible personality and young kids (but that’s a tale for another day). For now, I’ll just have to settle with this:

On the Christian calendar, January 6th is the twelfth and final day of Christmas, it marks the arrival of the Magi at the manger, the manifestation of the baby as Christ, to the gentiles. For me, today officially marks the epiphany that there will be no more babies in our home. I feel it with a very certain conviction and yet there’s an element of longing; perhaps brought on by knowing my friend– with whom I share so many parenting parallels–is continuing along her journey. Or perhaps just the reality that I recognize my personal limits, and they’ve been reached.

I don’t love being a mom. I love my children but I find motherhood, at least stay-at-home motherhood, to be a fairly isolating and lonely profession (I’ve been told this all changes once grade school begins. Bring it on I say!) But I do love balance and having one child per adult and one of each gender, for me, brings balance. DH reminds me that when I was pregnant with our first child, I was afraid my love for my husband would be bifurcated and I wouldn’t be able to love another as much. When I got pregnant again, I was worried I had already reached my ultimate “loving capacity” and that the second child would be on the losing end. None of this was true but as the product of a home broken many times over, fears like this are rampant.

And so I’ve come to terms with it, the baby train has stopped. Happy Epiphany everyone, may it not be the only one this year.

Encountering God

lake at Pilgrim PinesThis past weekend, despite a growing pile of laundry, a laundry list of to-dos and a total absence of all things fall and festive being done in and around our home, my family and I attended our church‘s All Church Retreat. It wasn’t a casual decision, in fact, in part, the retreat evolved from a conversation I had with one of our ministers last winter. It was the first time the church had ever had an all church retreat and they pulled it off like Houdini; it was magical.

If you’ve never participated in a religious retreat of any sort or don’t even attend a house of worship for that matter, it’s not too late to try one on for size, you may be surprised how well it fits.

I grew up on the Main Line, in a wholly Waspy, highly social, see-and-be-seen sort of church. I have a vague memory of Sunday School, a fleeting recollection of Coffee Hour and a peptic sensation about my family’s actual religious conviction at the time. But the experience was evocative and somehow this half-baked exposure during my formative years stuck with me.

Like many, I exerted a great deal of energy during adolescence and young-adulthood rejecting the establishment, abstaining from anything conforming and shunning all things religious, not spiritual, just “religious.”

Fast forward 25 years: DH and I genuinely invest in our spiritual development and our children are being raised under the same premise. It’s a challenge, living in New England, where religion is a private, closed-door topic and talking openly about one’s affiliation leaves you feeling like a pariah. On the other hand, connecting with like-minded, mutually-seeking travelers on their own religious journey is as exhilarating as being stranded in a foreign culture and stumbling upon an enclave of native English speakers.

And that’s how it felt this weekend, for the first time our church has ever had a retreat, 120 of us gathered in Swanzey, NH and encountered God together. Young kids were taken under the wings of older ones; teens engaged adults in spiritual dialogue; empty-nesters held babies; seniors communed with young families; ministers experienced services as laypeople; and parishioners delivered sermons. Labels were abandoned and replaced by the mutual value we all have placed on our spiritual growth and we left feeling exhilarated and fulfilled. So while many things this weekend may have been neglected at home, the most important things were attended to. Now if only I could figure out how to pull a Houdini act around my house.

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