Saturday, March 28, 2015


... It isn't just an awesome George Michael song. (Oh my, I'm really dating myself now aren't I?)

I've never been religious, but I've always had a keen interest in the purpose of life and the various philosophies that we humans employ to make sense of our universe and our place within it. I read the Bible as a teen, along with the Qur'an, books about Jewish faith (our ethnic heritage on my mothers side), Wicca, New Age religions, Native American traditions, Agnosticism, Athiesm and Buddhism. I always manage to find something useful and inspiring in the studies I've made into various spiritual paths.

But I've never been an absolutist. Let me rephrase that: I am definitley capable of absolutism, but I am very fickle within that mindset. I have a tendecy to vaccilate between absolute belief and outright disbelief. I don't think this is neccesarily a bad thing. I've always had the ability to see things from many different sides and question my perception. As I get older this trait becomes stronger, as I accept how much I really don't know about anything.

We weren't raised in any one religion. My father came from a Christian background, while my mother was raised in the beliefs of reincarnation, karma and meditation. I went to church on sundays with my grandmother and remember my mom teaching my brothers and I how to relax into a meditative state.

For most of my adult life, I have called myself an "open minded, hopeful atheist". Or maybe Agnostic. I have always believed that there is something beyond our physical plane, some higher purpose for our daily struggles. And it has always been apparent to me that the major religions all have similar tenets regarding birth, death, sacrifice and afterlife.

In the hardest moments of my life, I have unfailingly turned to God. What or who that God is, I was and still am not completely certain. And I'm ok with that. But there has always been a part of my soul that, fundamentally, believes in God and destiny and fate and the purpose of suffering and sacrifice to advance toward enlightenment.

Some time after Jason died, I began to have odd little moments of peace and understanding. I began to see that even though one of my greatest fears became a reality, that I was not completely alone. I began to pray more often, oftentimes feeling silly. But it helps. It isn't always pleasant... there are many angry thoughts and feelings that surface, times that I have to just ask "Why?". In my darkest moments, it is the loving presence of grace and mercy that have given me the strength to sob and rail and keep putting one foot in front of the other. I have no real explanation for it. I still question whether it is real or simply a feeling my brain manifests in order to protect me from myself.

After the very real moments of feeling the presence of something so much bigger than myself, I realized one night that it is ok for me to have faith. That it is required for me to continue on, to make myself happy, to raise my kids to become strong, independent people with a moral compass and compassion for themselves and others. That fellowship and worship and reaching out to God doesn't make me weak or silly or wrong in any way. That sometimes, you just have to go with your gut. I did just that when I married a man who I had only known for 5 months and the reward was a love that shaped me into who I am today. I've done just that everytime I've stepped out of my comfort zone and taken on a new challenge that has made me stronger and happier or at the very least a little wiser.

I am human and I will make mistakes. I have the right to change my mind, I have the right to follow my instincts and listen to my heart. I have the right, no... the responsibility to continue seeking a higher power to guide me and reveal to me my true purpose in this life.

I go to church now (not often, but I don't believe that church is the only way to connect with God... for me, it feels more important to incorporate a love for God in my everyday, mundane life) and a few months ago I my son and I were baptized together. That doesn't mean I will ever be religious. But I DO have faith. I have learned to quiet my soul and reach out for a power that no earthly thing can give me. I've developed a relationship with God that feels just intrinsically RIGHT. I absolutely feel a connection with the teachings of Christ, Buddha and the solidification of a spiritual journey that lifts me above the pain and heartache of the everyday.

I fully admit that at times, I have been embarrassed by my change of heart. I have feared the judgement and derision of the people in my life that do not share those beliefs, but it is something I have to let go of. Because my journey is mine alone. I would never, ever belittle someone else for their beliefs or seek to change thier minds. If I am asked, I will freely share what God has done in my life, but I absolutley understand that everyone is different. I also don't ever want to feel that I am better than anyone else because of my beliefs. I truly believe that a life well lived, with compassion and love and kindness toward others is the only requirement for being a good person. I don't agree with many many of the fundamentalist laws of the Christian religion (that a loving sexual relationship outside the bonds of marriage is a sin, that loving someone of the same sex is a sin, that there is only one true path for salvation)... and I realize that some people will not see me as a moral human for those beliefs.

But I really don't have a problem with that.

God gave me the mind & soul that I was blessed with and I truly believe that acceptance, love and compassion for ones fellow man and generosity of spirit carry far more weight than strict adherence to rules written by man millenia ago. I believe that following Jesus's example of service to all mankind and boundless love and sacrifice are the most important lessons that one can learn and seek to emulate.

This new-found faith is helping me to heal and accept. Life will always be hard, we will always have struggle. But accepting and moving on from our setbacks, our mistakes, our own little tragedies... there is where we can show our strength. In the hard moments, that is where we can seek to be more than the sum of our circumstances. Faith bolsters me to accept and perhaps even welcome the hard stuff, knowing that I then have an opportunity to learn another lesson, to become stronger and appreciate all the blessings that I have been given.  Amen!!


This is something I wrote that I got to share with our congregation before my son and I were baptized. As I tried to make sense of the fledgling faith and hope that I began to feel, I realized that I've been on this spiritual journey for far longer than I thought and I'd like to share a little bit about that process.

When I was a little girl my brothers and I would often go to church with Grandma on Sundays. I'm sure, in its own way, it is a good church... but it wasn't good for me. There was music,  but it was somber, a constant theme was how lowly we humans were, how imperfect and flawed. Maybe it was just my age or the way my brain works... but I never felt God's presence there. I didn't feel the glory of the Lord, the Love he has for us. All I could feel was how imperfect I was. And I internalized that feeling. I grew to hate church. I felt a false truth... that I didn't deserve God's love and grace. That I could never be worthy of it. 

I was a particularly sensitive kid. I swung between extreme shyness and a love for being the center of attention. I was odd, I loved reading and digging up worms and pretending to make magic potions and drawing by myself at recess. I didn't have many friends,  but I did have a big chip on my shoulder. I felt worthless and awkward and different. Over the years, I rejected God. I grew a thick skin and a "Don't mess with me" attitude. I felt the pull of God, but down deep, I just knew I didn't measure up. I had no faith. So, I rejected religion. I prostelysed science and believed I was better than the silly believers while secretly yearning for the peace and conviction they seemed to have. It wasn't something I would admit, even to myself.

I met the man who was my best friend, my soulmate, at 19. We married 5 months after we met and we made a beautiful life together.  We became the parents of two amazing, dynamic children. We were Atheists. My husband had endured a hard life, full of pain and rejection. He was hardened by the circumstances of his life and he was very much a self made man. He was amazingly intelligent and he blazed his own trail out of an early life full of pain, addiction and poverty. The little family that we made together was the fire that led him to become a successful business man and an excellent father, protecter, provider. He encouraged me in every new passion I had, but for most of my 20's my focus was being his hearth and home. He made the money and I was a stay at home mom, student and eventually found my way into a field I loved and excelled in. We were happy. We fought sometimes,  of course.  But we had a strong marriage and great plans for our future.

The first time I truly felt the presence of God was when my children were born. That first breath... It was miraculous. It was something I couldn't explain away with science... the magic of a new life, born of the love we shared, it was otherworldly. I prayed silently, almost embarrassed by my impulse to plead with a God I wasn't sure existed to give me the strength to be a good mother.

In December of 2012 my husband, a man who rarely got so much as a cold or flu, began having a strange stomach ache. Two weeks passed, as the pain got worse, before I finally convinced him to go to the doctor. He was diagnosed with diverticulitis but, 2 rounds of antibiotics later, the pain was steadily getting worse. He was finally rushed to the hospital after a botched colonoscopy for exploratory surgery on January 25th 2013. Two hours later, I sat outside with a doctor who told me my 38 year old husband was riddled with cancer. There was no mass to remove, it had grown like a clinging vine and it was everywhere. In shock, I asked if he was going to die. The doctor told me "Not on this admission". He gave me no hope, no assurances that Jason would come through this. He knew what he was looking at, but he wouldn't tell me the truth. I knew it anyway. I knew, in my very soul, that the man I had loved for the past 13 years, the man who was as necessary as the air in my lungs, was going to die. I didn't want to acknowledge it, but somehow I just knew. The doctors gave him a colostomy and closed him up and told me they wouldn't have a treatment plan until his biopsy repport came back and an oncologist looked at him.

My brother Nathan was the first to come be with me while they finished Jason's surgery. I sank to my knees when I saw him, sobbing, and we prayed. Funny how my first instinct was to plea to a God I was certain didn't exist. But I did it anyway. And I kept praying over the next week,  pleading for a miracle,  promising the changes and sacrifices I would make if he would heal my love. Asking to switch places, because I couldn't bear the thought of a life without him. We got the final diagnosis two days later... Stage 4 pancreatic, stomach and esophageal cancer. The prognosis was that with chemo, if his body could survive it, he would live another couple of months.
Obviously, our world shattered. Jason tried a round of chemo,  which only speeded up the process of his death. He chose hospice when it became clear that he was not going to survive. He quietly and bravely accepted death and chose to live out the rest of his time on earth as he wanted it... at home, where he could hug and love on his children and sleep beside me. For three weeks, we got to say goodbye. We said all the things that we needed to say, he tried his best to prepare me for the things I would need to do after he was gone. He wrote the letters he needed to write and basked in the love of our family and friends. I cared for him at home, with a lot of help and support. Our family was changing,  growing tighter. Jason spoke of how loved he felt, how proud he was of me and our children. A staunch atheist,  he began to think about the after. He felt a strong sense of serenity.  He told me several times that he didn't know what would happen when he died,  but that he felt a strong presence of peace... the conviction that he had been a good person and had done his best and that he felt he was moving on to something good. God was with my husband, I know that now. God was guiding him to acceptance and giving him the strength to say goodbye. I know that in the end, he knew it.

Jason died at home February 17th, 2013... three days after our son's 13th birthday and a week before our thirteenth anniversary. My entire life lay in shattered pieces. I didn't know what to do, how to comfort my children, how to go on living when I felt dead inside. 

My family and friends are amazing. They held us together and rallied around us. The shock set in and I was in such a fog, such enormous pain that I didn't know how to deal with. And I was angry. If there was a God, how could he do this to us? Why did my husband have to die when there were so many bad people out there who got to live?

I ran from the pain, in whatever way I could. I drank, did whatever I could to ease the pain. But it didn't work, and it was eating me alive. 

There has been a lot to learn. I have stumbled and fallen, over and over. My children and I have been in therapy, support groups, whatever we were "supposed" to do to go on. I've been suicidal. I'm heartbroken in the very literal sense of the word. I have a chronic illness that has spiraled out of control over the last few years, a physical representation of a life upended.

I can't tell you when it happened. There has been a quiet yearning for a long time, a wish for peace and understanding.  All I know is that for the first time,  I felt an answer.  I felt God's graceful, loving presence. I watched my kids get involved with church and youth group and begin to heal in a real way. I started praying. Something cracked open in my soul and God's love rushed in to begin to heal me, to help me understand,  to help me accept and let go. I feel God's presence now. I understand that I don't have to be perfect to feel his grace.

Things have been happening as my soul opens up to accept God's love, to understand the saccrifice Jesus made for our salvation. It is really hard to ignore and explain away when God is making himself known in your life everyday. I'm never going to be perfect. I'll probably never be a perfect Christian. I still have questions. I'm still not sure of what I'm doing. But for the first time in my life, I have faith. I know that my husband is at peace in God's grip. I am putting myself into His hands. I am beginning to heal.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Stuck, Kind Of.

I'm having a bad time of it all. It's been going on for much longer than I'm comfortable with. I feel just absolutley washed out and pathetic and whiny and angsty and ANGRY. So, so angry. I'm trying really hard to keep my head up, but I'm not doing a great job.

It's gorgeous outside, but the only time I feel comfortable is at night, like a vampire. I desperatley want cold, wind and rain. The world is shining too brightly and I'm dead set on shutting it out.
Stupid things make me mad, send me into ugly crying fits. My truck won't start. My son is going to be in high school. I can't find my favorite black sweater and I can't quite remember what his voice sounds like anymore.

I can't stop reprimanding myself: You should be able to handle this. You shouldn't be this sad, unbalanced. You should be doing more. You have so much to do and you are just dragging yourself through the days, it's dramatic and embarrassing. You know what's important and you let yourself get completely overwhelmed by the small stuff. IT'S BEEN TWO YEARS YOU SHOULD BE BETTER.


I don't know. I really don't. I pray, I ask for help. I feel like a barnacle stuck on a huge rock, drying out to a husk and getting pounded by waves I have no control over. I'm embarrased to be so sad still, but I may be this sad forever and eventually all the people who love me will be sick of it. I feel selfish and self absorbed and ridiculous. Things haven't healed right or maybe they just aren't healed yet.

It will be ok. It will, I know it will someday but I'm impatient. So just let me rant and rave a little more and make it through this day and then the next.