Category Archives: Childhood Memories

The cross this…the cross that…

Shortly before my family started attending a SGM church just over four years ago, a friend of mine pulled me aside and expressed grave concern that we were going to be joining this church. She kept mentioning something about the church and organization heavily steeped in only focusing on the Cross. It is the cross this, and the cross that, she told me. I didn’t really pay attention and brushed her off. I didn’t give any credit to her words, partially because I had, and still do, some broken trust with her. But mainly, I didn’t believe her because of I hadn’t picked up on what she was talking about, and I really didn’t know what she was talking about either.

When I joined the church as my own member, I was asked what the gospel is. I stuttered and stammered feeling pressured to know, but I couldn’t answer. The pastor residing over my membership interview told me that it (the gospel) could be summed up in 5 words. “Jesus Died For My Sins.” One word for each finger on one hand. Easy, straight to the point, totally encompassing right? No. I can see it now, and even though I blindly sucked up everything I heard and didn’t think to question anything, that one-liner is not quite right. It’s only a part, a very small part, and I saw the cross/sin obsessed church in a clearer light at the Christmas Eve service my husband and I attended.

The past year has brought a lot of changes to how I view my faith, my church-life, and my relationships with other believers/unbelievers. I have stripped myself of ALL labels and am just now slowly coming to terms with my bible again. I still stumble over words like “blessing,” “blessed,” and I find myself cringing when anyone says a very Christian-ese term such as, “All by God’s grace.” I can barely help the sneer that creeps on my face and the shudder that washes over me. I cannot read things that I have written years ago and that are full of praises to Jesus and spiritually emotional. Reading those things reminds of the pain I went through, and the hypocrisy I have faced in the presence of my dad. In a way I mourn those old poems and writings because they were written by such a naive and innocent little girl. I mourn the innocence I used to possess and the bliss of not questioning. I grieve the days when I didn’t doubt the teachings I got from my dad or other men who were around me.  Even though I know I can never go back, I am very aware of how much I have benefited from questioning, from doubting, and from being unwilling to be stagnant. I am willing to challenge anything I hear, and even though I am not 100% what I believe in most things, I am slowly figuring things out. and that is completely okay.

Through challenging my faith and shedding the things I can’t stand by, I have had a clearer view on the things that I don’t agree with at our old SGM church. Namely, their obsession with each other’s sin and the cross. I have learned that if there is one part of the cross, grave, and resurrection that I want to speak about the most, it would be the resurrection.  The three parts of Jesus’ sacrifice are all important, but I chose to focus on his resurrection. He bore my sins on the cross, and faced rejection from his father. He was buried in a tomb and took my sins with him and wrestled with the devil. He rose from the dead, having conquered death, and pronounced freedom for all of those who are with him. I chose to focus on Jesus’ resurrection because that to me is the most important. I have been freed, I have been called clean and pure, and that is beautiful.

The sermon at the Christmas Eve service was, eh, okay. Both my hubby and I got up and walked away wondering where all of the joy and happiness was for Christmas. Jesus was born to fulfill the law, and to free us from the chains of sin, not to remind us of how much we have sinned and how despicable we are.  The whole sermon was about how Jesus died on the cross for our sin, and how our sin is so wretched. I felt condemned and was very confused when the congregation clapped and cheered for their sinful wretchedness. My mind went back to the old caregroup meetings we used to go to. They were all about our sin, and we were pretty much required to bring a conflict to caregroup to share with the group so they could counsel us about getting to the root of our sin. How depressing! I really don’t think that the people in that church or organization don’t know about Jesus’ resurrection, but I definitely know it gets overlooked at all times of the year except for Easter.

If being a Christian means attending a church, bible studies, or one on one interactions that are surrounded by this depressing obsession with sin and the cross, then count me out. I have stepped away and broken free from those obsessions because that does not help me enjoy God or His blessings. I cannot rejoin that crowd of people because I cannot be tied down to legalistic practices. I have broken away from those practices of obsessing about sin, reading my bible every darn day to fulfill my quota for the week, or bowing down to the cross. I have not gone back to reading my bible because I am still tied with thin strings to some of those practices and they haven’t snapped yet. By going back I would be strengthening the very ties I want to break.

I know those post is a bit rambling, but I wanted to get these thoughts out. It really bothers me when I’m asked whether or not the church I go to is a gospel centered church. I feel like asking if they mean is it a cross centered church in return. I am learning about balance in my faith, and being so one sided as focusing on the cross and sin the most does not fit the balance I’m trying to build. I believe there is a place for both of those in the balance, but I have seen too many people blow up those too much.


Remember When Dreams Faded…

I watched a darling three year old the other day, and had an absolute blast with her. There is something rejuvenating interacting with an innocent child and there is something refreshing watching their joy at the simple things in life. A lot of memories from my own childhood came back as I watched and listen to her prattle on about favorite things as she shared her little life with me.

As I watched her make up playmates and give her toys voices, I realized I have no memories of doing that. I frantically tried to remember any time I might have made up scenarios for my dolls or played with imaginative playmates, but I only had foggy memories. By the time I had reached 10, I was already an “adult” and had lost any desire to make my dolls my playmates. My siblings and I built forts and made up towns in our basement. That only happened though when all of us got along…which usually wasn’t very often. But when we did get along, the stories about the towns we came up with were quite elaborate. That all stopped when I was 12 though. Every once and a while I would be convinced by my brother to build the Lego houses I was quite known for. He still, at 20, reminds me of those several story houses I used to build.

At 12, I was in charge of meals, cleaning, laundry, raising my two youngest siblings, and I was supposed to still be doing my school work. Somehow I fell off the school radar around the time Mom got breast cancer, and then I was in charge of grocery shopping as well. I remember feeling like everything I did didn’t matter when families brought over meals for us. I used to silently question whether or not I was good enough to cook for my family. I used to be mad at the families who provided meals for us because I felt like everyone was doubting my ability to take care of the house or the meals. I was trapped between wanting to be affirmed for the work I did, and wanting to not have so much responsibility.

Someone was babysitting us one time and I broke down in sudden tears because she wasn’t letting me do my job and she was letting the kids be kids as they raced around the house, was loud, and played lots of games. I rarely cried, but when I did it was because I couldn’t take it anymore and a LOT had built up. She comforted me by telling me that I should let my siblings be kids and that I was just a kid and needed to act like one. I couldn’t explain to her how and why I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t make her understand why I wasn’t a kid, and I couldn’t explain the problems that wracked my family. That is when I realized that I wasn’t a child anymore and from 12 years old and on, I was an old spirit in a young confused body.

My biggest problem with large families raised in a Patriarchy/Quiverfull mindset is the weight that is put on the oldest daughter. I have read articles, and heard parents talk, about how they don’t believe in teenagers, or even that their children can’t handle the heavy theology or ideas that the parents start inducting them into at a very early age. The parents treat their children as if their children are already adults, but then lose it when a child acts like a child and the parents come down harder with the discipline. Because of being treated like an adult by my parents, it always was hugely confusing when I got in trouble for something I didn’t think I’d get in trouble for. Or something I didn’t think I should get in trouble for.

I hear a lot of parents wanting to raise their children to make good, wise decisions [on their own], but I barely see parents, especially P/Q parents, allowing their children to do that. My husband and I have had a lot of discussions about what we will or won’t allow our children to do. Even though I grew up with more maturity than most people my age, and I don’t regret having that, I don’t want my children to feel like they can’t act their age.  I don’t want to see my children frozen in a state of responsibility that makes it hard for them to imagine, create, or be risk-takers in their endeavors.  I am stuck right now feeling unsure of what my “gifts” are.  I was so concerned about shouldering my responsibilities that I never had time to really grow creatively or let my imagination blossom.

If parents are so concerned with teaching their children to make good decisions, then why are there so many grown up children fighting to make those good decisions as their parents beat them down and still try to make decisions for them. A friend told me a few months ago that even though parents are usually wiser than us kids, even they don’t know what is best for us all of the time. Even though I knew this, I hadn’t ever put it into words.  This is what frustrated me the most in my relationship with my husband, prior to marriage.

When I met my husband, I was in that unknown stage between being a child and a young adult, able to make her own decisions. I hadn’t pushed my parents [yet] into letting me make my own decisions. The decisions I had made myself were, more often than not, the decisions they wanted me to make. The frustration, the confusion, and the pain of not feeling like my parents trusted me was dizzying as I made decisions (with my now husband) like I had been taught, but was not allowed the freedom to make them. More on our relationship story later though.

I still find myself wringing my hands in frustration and confusion as I try to figure out what I am good at. I feel a great sense of loss looking back and feeling the numbness my 12 year old self felt when realizing I could never be, nor was I, a care free girl. I have broken out of the added weight of feeling responsible to raise my siblings, or to be the oldest child to set the example for my younger siblings. But I still feel lost. I still don’t know what my gifts are, or what I should pursue now.

I am good with kids because I am the oldest of 9, and have nannied for over 3 years on top of having raised most of my siblings. I have played the piano for 12 years and am good at it because it was my dad’s dream for me, and yet it carries some harsh memories because of his disappointment when his dream crumbled because I couldn’t play anymore. I am a historically accurate seamstress because the only way we were going to be able to do reenacting was if I made the clothes myself. I took voice lessons for 1 1/2 years because I wanted to, but had to stop when Mom couldn’t afford to drive me to lessons each week since i wasn’t taking piano lessons at the same place anymore. I sometimes wonder if the reason why I couldn’t take voice lessons anymore was because I could no longer follow my dad’s dream with the piano. I love to write because this is the only outlet I have left for the emotions that erupt from my heart and mind at times. But am I good at writing, singing, sewing, playing the piano, taking care of other’s children? I think I am, but those are all connected to the grave responsibilities I was placed under as a child.

Playing the piano became my dream when I discovered I had a natural talent for music. But that crumbled when I developed FM, carpal tunnel, and tendinitis. Singing was amazing, and I was slowly discovering bravery and confidence when that had to stop because I couldn’t play the piano anymore. I took sign language for 4 years and loved it, but the stress of living at home that brought on the Fibromyalgia, also caused me to stop signing because I had to focus on things at home.  I used to write poetry, lots of it, but I stopped when it became too heavy and depressing. I showed my mom some of my poems, and she didn’t understand the pain I felt. There is a certain emptiness felt when you stand before a field of broken dreams, lost dreams, or buried dreams.  I am rediscovering how to dream, but sometimes I feel too cynical or too “grown up” to dream.

do you dream? can you dream?

 


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