Tag Archives: Morningside Presbyterian Church

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.

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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.

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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

Why I don’t ever have to make lemonade because it’s usually sitting right around the corner.

17 Jan

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I love this photo for many reasons, most of all for the awesome photo bomb by dude in the chair. This photograph was taken by a random but cool Facebook friend of mine who just appeared in this particular restaurant in real life (I’ve only seen him one other time in the five or six years I’ve known him). Also, this is a great group of guys. My husband has known them for forever (since preschool and beyond), and I really appreciate how fun they are to hang out with. A couple extra friends came to brunch and they turned out to be psychologists and graphic designers and UX-ers, and it was very inspiring to talk to them about what I already love to do and would like to pursue career-wise.

Last weekend was really incredible. Following a recent blog post of mine about some of the serious things in life, a lot of people in my life came out of the woodwork to talk to me. And speaking of woodwork, my husband and our friend Lloyd built a beautiful privacy screen on our back porch this past weekend. They finished literally as the rain started, so I haven’t had a chance to stain it yet! I’m glad the sun was out yesterday to dry the wood. It looks extremely magnificent even unfinished though!

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Lloyd and his wife, my dear friend Leslie, also invited us to Morningside’s Couples Group dinner on Friday night where Dave and I were the youngest people by 25 years (except Leslie who is my oldest brother’s age), yet we really enjoyed chatting with everyone there. And they like to play a simple game every January where everyone writes a resolution for his or her spouse, and then everyone else at the party has to guess who it is about. It was silly and fun. I was talking with a wizened photo editor in the kitchen and could hear all the laughter in the background. He was telling me what I should do better re: the Christmas card I designed for our church. The whole night seemed to be about life, purpose, career, and calling, yet in a very fun delivery. Even the prayer about our current world unrest before our delicious pot luck dinner was beautiful.

Fast forward to Sunday brunch with our friends at Stone Soup Kitchen next to Oakland Cemetary, and I feel like the world is showing me my new path. There are constant signs in this world if you simply want to notice them. I personally like to pick out the good signs, the signs that bring me to calm and peace and happiness and art and adventure too. Otherwise the downward spiral is not fun. I’ve seen behind that curtain and try to avoid it as best I can.

Stone Soup Kitchen is by far the best breakfast place I’ve ever eaten at. Every dish looked amazing and I wanted my stomach to be big enough to eat the menu. After our table got all their beautiful looking meals, I got my plate and it looked like it was going to be disappointing. But I was rewarded for my choice by then devouring the best plate of eggs I’ve ever had in my life. Our table was in the hidden back porch and the ambiance was the coolest I’ve enjoyed at an in-town restaurant yet. I want to go back there every weekend until we move to the burbs.

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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!

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I love convincing my friends to let me photograph them.

11 Jan

Yesterday I had the pleasure of taking photographs of our new, great friends Katye and Alex. We met them at Morningside and they have quickly become a staple in our life. They are funny, fun, and smart and we’re eerily similar!

It was really fun going out with them to take photos because they didn’t mind when I had to fiddle with my camera even though it was freezing out, and they had fun posing for me. I absolutely love the results!

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Beautiful mommy-to-be.

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I love taking photographs in winter light.

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Fan favorites.

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Puppy Love.

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Instead of going to a park, we took pictures in front of the very cool Coca-Cola wall art in Virginia Highlands… it’s like an urban nature scene!

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Joyful.

The Dreaded Facebook Syndrome

7 Jan

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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

What a Presbyterian Deacon Looks Like

28 Apr

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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!

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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.

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

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And Shirley and Raymond treated us with a waltz too!