Tag Archives: Christianity

A Time for Renewal

24 May

In the past month, as Spring has come to the land again, we’ve been out and about celebrating with friends and family.

I attended my first Seder dinner, which might have been my single most moving religious experience yet. A new friend couple who live in Inman Park had us over for their first time hosting Seder at their house.

IMG_20170416_094130_285

It was a beautiful dinner with great friends.

The next day we drove up to Chattanooga to celebrate Easter with my in-laws. The rituals of Christianity are always interesting to witness.

IMG_20170416_130320_498#ThatFace

And it’s a great excuse to dress up to celebrate the rebirth of earth (well, in this hemisphere)!

IMG_20170416_094411_568

A couple weeks later we went to A Perfect Circle concert. Finally. It was my first time seeing this band live, although I’ve seen Tool seven (nine?) times and Puscifer three times. All three bands are led by Maynard James Keenan: vocalist, poet, musician, and guru. Seeing him perform is usually like “church” for me.

He started his show with giant black and white shadows of the band, then turned the primary colors to red and yellow (the first colors we supposedly see as infants after black and white), and then spent most of the rest of the show in purple light, which I imagine as a very complex and enlightened color.

IMG_20170503_002240_881.jpg#MaynardforPresident #MJK

Keep it coming, world! This is fun!

 

Connections

1 Jul

Yesterday was a very interesting day. I met two strangers with whom I had brief conversations, both of which made me feel, at the very least, entertained.

I had to drop my car off at the Nissan dealership to fix the airbag that may or may not kill everyone in the car if I got in to a wreck. Since Walter was at my mom’s, I decided to Uber my way to her house to save her the hassle of picking me up. Enter: Henry.

Henry is a full-time limo driver and Ubers on the side. He usually carries around rich people in his limos, so we talked about the difference between Uber riders and limo riders (well, besides the amount of cash they might have in their pockets). He said rich people are usually more reserved and keep to themselves. We speculated if that might be because they are always thinking about money (haha). But he said the ones who open up talk about the same type of stuff we all go through, but say, for instance, if rich dude’s sprinkler system breaks, he calls his lawn guy. If Henry’s hose breaks, he goes to Lowe’s to get another one.

He said, “We all have the same issues, we just talk about them differently.”

After thinking that that was a pretty profound thing to say, I then said that I didn’t think I would like to be mega rich, because you would never know after that if people only liked you for your money. I said a million dollars would probably do very nicely. We spent the rest of the car ride talking about what we would do with a million dollars. Henry told me he would like to go back to South Korea, a very cool place with really good food. And then he recommended a place on Buford Highway to patron. The restaurant with a red roof right next to QuikTrip off of 285.

I left the car feeling refreshed, to be honest.

I spent the rest of the morning hanging out with my son and mom. This included some castle building and a walk to the playground and a small bridge nearby on a nature trail. Luckily a friend of mine texted me that the Cyclorama was closing its doors that day. I had been putting off and putting off going, even though I had wanted to visit it for a while. I thought I had til the fall before they were closing the doors for their big move to the Atlanta History Center, and I even had a date scheduled with one of my friends to go visit next week. After picking up my car, Walt and I hurried there and went to the second to last showing in their current location.

There was a long line to wait in before we could buy our tickets. The air conditioning was not sufficient to keep the place cool. Because I had never been, when we walked in and saw the big train “Texas” and no giant painting, I asked out loud “Where is the painting?” This gentleman with long sideburns was standing nearby, and he said, “Oh you haven’t been? You can’t just walk up and look at it. It’s a show. You watch a video first, and then they take you to another room for the viewing.”

He then said, “But there are cool things to look at upstairs while you wait. Is your son a Christian?”

Hm, I thought. “I don’t know. He’s only 2,” I said.

“Well, is he a Gentile?” he asked.

“Um, what?” I said.

“Is he a Gentile?” he persisted.

“Oh, um, I don’t know,” I said.

“Well, do you see that cannon right there? You know how they used a cross and thorns and other things to kill Jesus? That’s the same type of cannon they used in the Civil War to kill General Hood. It ripped right through his chest and before he knew it he woke up in heaven,” he told me. Then he said some other things about how he brought his crazy to Atlanta from Macon, and how I couldn’t have possibly known I would run into him today and talk about this kind of stuff. Dave thinks he might have been a KKK recruiter.

Before I said goodbye to him, I said, “Well I don’t really like to label him right now. He’s too little.” And he said, “Yeah, he’s not a little lazy white boy, is he?” before he left and I didn’t see him again for the rest of our visit there. It was one of those encounters in life that I really appreciate because it just goes to show you how many different types of people there are in the world. And some of those people make me feel really lucky that I am who I am, and not them.

IMG_20150630_151406175
Supposedly we’re not General Johnston’s kin, but maybe he’s some distant cousin we don’t know about.

The Cyclorama visit was interesting. While I hate seeing it leave our neighborhood — especially since the painting shows the 1865 dirt road version of Moreland — the Atlanta History Center is one of my favorite places in Atlanta. They do a beautiful job displaying exhibits and bringing history to life. It seems like the Grant Park Cyclorama gave up after the ’70s. The best part of the video they have you sit through is James Earl Jones’s commanding narration. The upstairs museum was hard to read, the infographics were confusing, and the pictures were falling down. The carpet covering the auditorium seating at the painting was ridiculous. I think they keep the lights dim so you can’t see what you’re actually sitting on.

But, the painting is pretty badass. It’s the largest oil painting in the world. And I’ve certainly never seen a 360° painting before that you experience from the inside. All in all I was glad to bring Walt there to see it before it moved. Now I only hope we put something else awesome in that building.

The Vote

8 Apr

I recently left my church as an official member. I needed a break from them specifically, but I have also decided that I do not want to be a member of any church. Possibly ever again.

It is hard to be frank about the subject without being offensive, I think, or at least on the verge of hurting someone’s feelings. Religion is a very touchy subject to most people, and with good reason. It talks about the very depth of our souls. The whole scale, from atheism to fundamentalism, relates to the core of humanity.

Are we good people doing bad things?
Or bad people doing good things?

It is the yin and yang of this life, a life lived on a swirling ball of fire and water and really, really good luck — for us. So far, at least.

When I told the pastors I was going to pull myself off the membership roster, and that I was quitting my deacon duties (really, what more could I have done anyway, and they picked really good people this year to be on the board), they told me that the session would have to vote on my release. It was very Giver-esque. Maybe they didn’t use those words, exactly, but they did both mention my “discernment process”.

The past four years have been some of the most moving and instrumental in my life. I am so much happier and evolved than I was at 26. Unmarried. Childless. That was a long time ago.

I said from the very beginning that I loved Morningside Presbyterian Church. I asked people to come with me all the time and sang its glowing praises. It is a beautiful, simple building. It is filled with wonderful people. I love the congregation. The music is uplifting. And the message, one of extreme welcome (Come one, come all!) is great. I liked the scholarly pursuit of the Bible that was spoken about on Sundays. And that at other times we would have fun together in simple fellowship (and usually with a glass of wine!).

When Dave and I joined Morningside, it was still pretty small. There were the older people, the married gays, the older young adults that had already formed their own clique, and established families that had come in through the preschool. We didn’t really fit in anywhere, but we liked it. Everyone was smart and nice and welcoming. We probably became closest to Leslie and Lloyd at that time, and Jack and Jill, both remarkable couples. A new pastor had just started at the church, and we joined during his first New Member Class. We ushered sometimes, attended church every Sunday, and helped Jack organize baseball games.

Then I was the social activities coordinator, Clifton Ministries shepherd, wedding helper, deacon, deacon moderator, part-time photographer, commitment committee volunteer, season of service committee volunteer, communications committee volunteer… All things I like, all things I wanted to do. But when the need is that great for your time, it becomes work. And the problem is, there is great need there. And I want to help, I really do. But personally (I know others feel differently about volunteering their time), I cannot afford, any more, to give my time away like that. Because to be brutally honest, at times, by some people, I felt un-thanked, excluded, and treated with hostility.

The funny thing is, I believe more than ever in God. Or “God,” if that sounds better. It happened while watching Naked and Afraid with Dave one night. I thought to myself, “How on earth could we have gotten where we are today without someone or something helping us???”

I plan on visiting the churches in my neighborhood. I strongly believe that churches should be the foundation of community ministry. Their main purpose should be to help those in need (which can vary from mental health to finding a good repair guy for your house to homelessness). And everyone who lives in the neighborhood should have to pay a subscription for these purposes. And possibly attend meetings so that we are aware of what is going on in our immediate worlds. We are so focused on our smart phones these days that sometimes it is hard to even meet our neighbors. If my husband wasn’t already booked Thursday night then I would go to our town meeting in Grant Park. I’ve been watching Gilmore Girls recently, and their town meetings always look like fun.

There is a lot going on with me right now, but I’m excited about all of it.

WWMMD

21 Jan

What Would Margaret Mitchell Do?

I went this morning to the Margaret Mitchell House with Katye. I love that at 8 1/2 months pregnant she still wants to hang out and do stuff with me. This was one of the rare mornings that I used Walter’s preschool time for a simple pleasure outing, as opposed to working. I usually work. And clean.

The last time I hung out with someone super pregnant we went for a long walk and she started labor that night!

But this is about Margaret Mitchell, and she didn’t have any babies. Except her “baby”: one of the single best novels written of all time. The part I loved best about Gone with the Wind is not the whole slavery/Civil War thing, but how Scarlett, in a time when women didn’t always act that way, was an independent, smart, ambitious, business-minded girl. I loved her. Marriage, for her, was for helping her take another step up, and children were a nuisance. This was 150 years ago, when women were usually only allowed to want marriage and children. And they owned slaves. It was a long time ago.

Katye and I arrived just in time to explore an interesting art exhibit they had up before taking the guided tour around MM’s apartment. It was very cool and I learned lots more about Margaret Mitchell than I had found out reading her Wikipedia article after I finished GwtW. She was a very creative person and loved telling stories. She incorporated so many aspects of her life into her novel. Combined with the New South stories that her grandparents told her (she reportedly said she didn’t know the South had lost til she was 10, in 1910), the end result sold a million copies in its first 6 months. That’s some good business, both in 1936 and 2015.

MM’s apartment reminded me of the one I lived in on Charles Allen Dr. in 2008, which was also a converted 1920s house. I loved that apartment and every single moment spent there, even when the bathroom ceiling collapsed in on the shower in the middle of the night.

IMG_20150121_120409698~2
A period piece in the room where GwtW was born.

Last night I attended my church’s LGBT Group dinner with Jason, my high school BFF who was my bridesman in ’11, and Katye and several other friends were there too. Jason and I very much enjoyed the first speaker, a wonderful transsexual Presbyterian minister, whom we heard when we went to an LGBT dinner in the fall, and I was excited last night to hear Joanna Adams speak. She was the pastor at Morningside when times were tough and there were fewer than 100 members, and our 1920’s sanctuary was falling apart. She turned it all around. I taught preschool at MPP in 2007 while she was there, so I met her a couple times but we didn’t get to know each other. She spoke last night on “Keeping Faith in an Interfaith World,” and it was, at the very least, quite interesting. I find this topic fascinating, as the world swirls around me with its melting pot of beliefs, news, and activity.

I try as hard as I can to find out as much as I can, all while having fun still and relaxing every now and again. There is always so much to do, and it is always a race against time, but I love the challenge. It’s life-breathing.

“It was in a way a comforting idea; if there was all the time in the world,
then the happenings of a given moment became less important.
I could see, perhaps, how one could draw back a little,
seek some respite in the contemplation of an endless Being,
whatever one conceived its nature to be.”

Outlander, Diana Gabaldon

Magna-tile Love

16 Jan

One of the things I love best about my fellow church members is how family-friendly they are. College friends and other friends you’ve had your whole life can have an expectation of you that you are childless (this might even be a subconscious thing). Sometimes even family can fall into this category. But there is a general air of “we love children” around our church friends, and it’s really a relief. Because a toddler is in-your-face-oh-yeah-it’s-family-time.

We went to brunch last weekend at a church friend’s house and there were people we knew and people we were meeting for the first time. Walt was the oldest kid, but there were babies and pregnant women and even childless comic book friends who loved playing with Walter. After Walt was done devouring all the honeydew he could find, he took his Magna-tiles over to the other room and forced some very nice young gentlemen to play with him. One guy literally became Walt’s play table.

The really hysterical thing about Magna-tiles though is that once someone starts playing with them, they don’t ever want to stop. It doesn’t matter how old you are. They were all looking up how to buy them and how much they cost; one of our other friends was busy putting Magna-tiles on their baby registry!

Walt loves these and Legos so much that I swear I see the Georgia Tech engineer in him already!

IMG_20141227_103422752

The Dreaded Facebook Syndrome

7 Jan

facebook_like_thumb

Lately I think I’ve been bitten by the evil Facebook bug. The one that tells you that everyone else has it so easy (even when you know that’s not true). If I were telling this to my mother she would tell me that I was having a little pity party for myself, and that is true. But it doesn’t change the fact that sometimes it can be hard to look at the good tidbits of 150+ friends and then *gasp* compare them to my own life. And since I can barely handle my Facebook newsfeed, you can imagine the anxiety that The Daily Planet inspires in me. Evil is lurking around every corner these days, did you know that?

Dave and I have been trying to get pregnant again for the last 9 months. A lot of women have spoken up lately about how difficult it can be to be miscarry, and how they need to grieve. But what do you grieve when there never is a baby? How often are you allowed to feel grief? Every month? That gets exhausting and I don’t need to be depressed every single month. So then, is it only if you ever get pregnant and something goes wrong? Some months I don’t mind Aunt Flo but some months, the months that I have hope, that I think I am pregnant again, are the real killers.

Maybe every 9 months of negative tests and your monthly menses you can call that “the missing baby”.

I am so overjoyed when I see friends and family pregnant, but sometimes it feels like the universe is laughing at me. Over the last nine months I’ve had at least 30 friends either have a baby or announce a pregnancy. I know it’s just that time in my life when people are having babies, but sometimes I just want to say “Come on, really? Another one? What about me?”

And then the house. I’m sick of talking about selling our house and continuously working to improve it. To top it off, lots of friends have bought houses in the last year, and it seems to all work out for them so easily. They’re either renting when they buy, their condo sells in a weekend, or their jobs pay for their moves, and yet, for us, I don’t understand why we don’t have a hundred people on our front porch wanting to move in. Or at least one! Most real estate agents want to sell our house but not bring buyers by. They also want us to sell our house for so cheap that we’d be paying people (more) to take it off our hands, when the agents are the ones getting the easy profit. The economy isn’t that bad, folks. This is a great house. This shouldn’t be rocket science.

And to top it off, the thing I was spending most of my spare time on, being a deacon at our church, has turned into such a bad scenario for me, so draining and infuriating, that I no longer want to darken their doorstep. It would be difficult to go into detail and not write a novella, so let’s just say I tried being a very involved member and it’s just not working out anymore. I would say that I don’t even know what I believe anymore, but that’s not true. I think I know now better than I ever have before what I believe. And I love the people at our church dearly, but maybe Groucho Marx/Woody Allen are right: “I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept people like me as a member.”

I’m trying not to lose hope here. I know someday soon that all the cards will fall in to place and I’ll be the person with all the great, happy stories… full belly loading the moving van… but some days, hope is simply hiding under a large, too-heavy-to-move rock. And I cry.

Being able to write this down and share this brings me closer to the constant knowledge that I have it good. Real good. I am amazed by our clean, running water. That we give away cell phones for free. Quick, cheap, and safe vaccinations. Choice. Freedom. My little boy.

Maybe there’s a line in the middle of all this, the line that signals peace.

A thoughtful little moment in my life.

16 Dec

I was driving home from my favorite church meeting of the year last night and thinking about how lately I’ve been all “I’ll be happy when this happens” or “Once that gets done I can be happy,” and that’s just not a good way to live. It is putting qualifications on my general enjoyment of life. And while lately it has been very stressful no matter what mood I’m in, I simply need to be happy in the present. I can’t say “Oh if our house sells everything will be OK” or “If I can just get pregnant again I won’t have to worry about that anymore.”

Christmas is just one more time of year that reminds me of what I have to be thankful for. A beautiful, healthy boy. A nice roof over my head. A lovely husband to share my mealtimes and accomplishments and sorrows with. Clean, running water. Lots of friends. The ability to dress as I want and study what I please. An annoying yet cuddly kitten. I could go on and on.

Our church’s Joint Session meeting is always in December, and the deacons and elders meet for supper and sharing of our faith stories. It is an introduction as well as a deepening of understanding among some of our fellow members. Two years ago I shared my story for the first time, and as I had looked around the table there were many I didn’t know. Last night there were so many familiar faces, it was wonderful to know what being a part of something can do to integrate you into a system. I could have stayed on the outside looking in, but being in the mix is much more exhilarating. I believe I’ve made friends for life through this church, no matter where I might fly off to.

For those of you who know me well, you might know that I am a skeptical yet trusting person. Those things might be contradictory, but hey, life is full of the unexpected. When I was a kid I was enamored by the phrase “Expect the Unexpected” (frequently bombarding my family with the acronym ETU). I don’t know what life will bring, whether it be glorious and glittering, or if I will be able to make lemonade with the lemons, but I hope I continue to be both trusting and skeptical. I think my skepticism keeps me on my toes, and I can also use my trusting nature (some might call it naiveté) to make sure I don’t drown in the negativity that is so easy to wallow in.

lemonade

Veteran’s Day with my veteran

11 Nov

Today was a beautiful day to celebrate Veteran’s Day. In a way, probably because I am married to an amazing veteran, it is becoming a more special national holiday to me than July 4th. It is not about a day off work, a day to drink, or a day to watch fireworks. It is a day set aside every year to honor those who have gone off to war in the name of America.

Many people these days despise war. I’m not sure they understand it, because honestly, who could who hasn’t been there? If all you see is what the media tells you, do you know the reality? Does the American military simply go overseas to expand our empire and kill helpless citizens? Is it so horrible that every veteran comes back with PTSD and a knack for homelessness?

I think a lot of these misconceptions hurt our military because they come back to a nation that doesn’t really want to accept the truth. That the US uses our military to take care of other nations. That they have to be trained in war because certain people in other countries do not pay attention to humane laws of treatment. Our military are also our protectors, because we are not an isolated country. We allow our citizens to have extreme free will, and not everyone in this world agrees with that.

Because I am a huge fan of the Atlanta History Center these days, I was pretty excited to hear about their Veteran’s Day ceremony and lunch in their new Veteran’s Park. Dave and his mother joined me and Walt, and it was beautiful. The National Anthem was sung so wonderfully it gave me the chills and I almost got teary. We recited the Pledge of Allegiance. I’m not sure I’ve had to remember that since elementary school, when we stood up and said it every morning after announcements. It felt good to stand with a group who are truly patriotic and repeat it together. It’s like singing a really great song with your congregation on Sunday mornings. Then there was a prayer (which started, “If you are comfortable, please pray with me” which I thought was very inclusive. Easy to tune out if you wanted to!), and a keynote speech by a very nice General who is now a Police Chief somewhere. We also met WWII veterans.

Veteran's Day 1
Walt actually behaved himself, except during the moment of silence when he said “BANANA!”

Veteran's Day 2
They had all the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who were there stand up in front. I was one proud wife!

Veteran's Day 3
He actually chucked one of those at a Vietnam vet.

Veteran's Day 4
OORAH!

We left the baby and the Bible but brought the bourbon

27 Oct

Last weekend we had the pleasure of going on our church retreat in Black Mountain, North Carolina. I haven’t been on an overnight retreat since high school, and it was very fun to include alcohol in the mix. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect, and to be honest, I really enjoyed that it wasn’t too churchy. We had one session per day that lasted a couple hours, and it was more like Christian and life philosophy and discussion with 60 of my favorite people. I could have sat there chatting the whole weekend if the chairs had been more cushy.

Walt let us sleep in Friday morning, so we got a late start driving up there as we had chores to do before we could drop him off at my mom’s, and we also wanted to enjoy David’s day off work. The drive up to Asheville and beyond was gorgeous, though about halfway there David realized we hadn’t remembered to bring a Bible for the retreat. But we had made sure to have homemade snacks, wine, and bourbon! I have no doubt my priorities were clearly thought through. And of course we stopped for boiled peanuts as soon as we made it to the country.

IMG_20141017_165633166
This guy’s Cajun-style peanuts were so good we stopped here on the way home too — in the front yard of the ACE Country Store up somewhere outside of the city.

We were going to arrive too late to make it to dinner at the lodge, so we stopped at Juicy Lucy’s in Asheville for a burger. They stuff their burgers with cheese (yum) and had great draft beer. It really felt like we were on vacation.

IMG_20141017_194925319~2

We arrived at the lodge just as the first session was over, which was disappointing because it was about happiness, and I can always benefit from learning more about that. But we found our room, opened a bottle of wine, and sat out on rocking chairs on the front porch with good friends and a mountain breeze.

Our room, unfortunately, had two twin beds that were more similar to concrete slabs than to mattresses, and they were squeakier than a mouse being chased by a cat. This amused me since it was our first trip out of town without Walter (no sharing our room with a baby!), but we survived. Not all trips need to be super luxurious, just like they don’t have to be across the world to be interesting.

After lunch the next day we had lots of free time, which most people use to go hiking in the area. This was the main reason I didn’t want to bring a two-year-old (aka a slightly disobedient toddler), besides the fact that Dave and I seriously needed some adult-only time together. Our group walked a few miles from our lodge to the top of a cliff on Lookout Mountain, via a trail nearby. And we were greatly rewarded for our hiking efforts!

 photo 5
The 360 views were spectacular.

IMG_20141018_145615841 - Copy

Saturday night they brought in a local storyteller. I thought half of her stories were really good. The last one really riled the kids up about a bear who liked to eat out of the nearby dumpster.

IMG_20141018_190915877

On the way home Sunday we stopped again in Asheville for lunch at another yummy place, Wayside Village. Then of course back through the mountains and roadside art of North Georgia.  I thought this sign in particular showed a good sense of humor.

IMG_20141019_144135654

I wanted to stop at every flea market, thrift store, and art stand on the way back, but we were in a hurry to get home to Walt. So we only stopped at one where this guy painted old window frames with rural scenes. I didn’t buy anything but I loved his art. I’ll have to get something next time.

What a Presbyterian Deacon Looks Like

28 Apr

2014 deacon retreat 9
Yay! Happy Deacon!

It’s great to be a deacon lately. This weekend we had our retreat, and it was really a lot of fun. When our pastor/board liaison Drew first mentioned going to a monastery and attending 5-7 worship services a day, I thought to myself… uh oh. That’s a little too pious for me! But luckily we toned it down a bit and I think it was a great weekend for all.

Friday night David let me have all the deacons, spouses, and kids over for some fellowship. I actually overestimated how much we would drink, which I thought was surprising for Presbyterians, but I guess not for me! We hung out for a few hours, which was really nice since usually we are working and going to meetings together. And watching Walt play with some of the older boys before he went to bed was one of the highlights of my life. David and I cleaned up then put in Saving Mr. Banks before bed. Great movie.

The next morning Dave and I assembly-lined some sandwiches for the picnic I wanted the deacons to have when we went to the Monastery of the Holy Spirit. Luckily it was a beautiful day! None of us had ever been to the monastery, so we wondered around their gift shop and bonsai garden, watched the short movie of the monastery’s history, and enjoyed the museum. Then we attended the midday prayers before lunch. 15 minutes, short and sweet!

6698474145_f65572916f_z
They built this place with the work of their own hands.

One of the things I liked best about the monks and their home is how trusting they are. They have really old bonsais just sitting there for you to touch. And all the grounds are open for you to have a picnic or play or exercise, etc. It was really inspiring for me since so many places these days have so many rules and are just out there to make money. The monastery is there to share the beauty of the land with anyone who wants to visit.

Church_facade,_Holy_Spirit_Monastery

IMG_1792
It was such a gorgeous day to be sitting under the trees enjoying good friends and breaking bread together.

2014 deacon retreat 5
And Shirley and Raymond treated us with a waltz too!