“Baptized in the river, I’m delivered.”

So the title is a Good Charlotte song called “The River.”

I know I apologize for this every single time I post but I’m going to say it again – I’m so sorry for being so horrible about regularly posting. Let me just say, though, holy cow has life changed!

So when I last posted I was really only just dipping my toes into the whole Jesus thing. I’ve actually dubbed it my “Journey to Jesus” because that’s really what it was. If you read my, But…I’m an Atheist…? post you’ll know how this opportunity presented itself, but I was recently asked what made me an atheist. I thought I’d address that as I jump into this.

When I was younger I was raised in a Catholic family. They weren’t the “You’ve done wrong, go pray the rosary and say ten hail Marys” kind of Catholics, but that was their faith and so I grew up with this idea in my mind that God was the all powerful judge who shamed and punished for all the sins. I was absolutely certain for the longest time that my dad didn’t love me because I lied about liking spinach, that it was God punishing me with love. To this day I have a very hard time with love and fearing that people don’t love or like me and it stemmed from that moment when I was six. As I got older it was just something that I let go of, I decided there was no possible way that an invisible man hanging out in the clouds was in control of us, it was silly. So I just stopped believing. I actually became very anti-theist; religion was the root of evil in my eyes and I’d dismiss anybody who made any sort of religious comment around me. I was braggy about it and a proud atheist. For anybody reading this who remembers that and was annoyed by it, I do apologize because I’m experiencing delayed embarrassment lol.

In my early 20s I was with a guy whose family was very Christian and so I attended church with them and even attended bible study once or twice. When things started getting sour in the relationship I went to the church because I needed help. Not only did I not get help in a life or death situation, but they made it worse. That was when I decided that the church was just full of hypocrites and when I left that relationship I left God, too. If he was so great how could he let one of his children almost be killed when she already struggled with love?

Fast forward to now. For simplicity sake I’m just going to assume that you already read the aforementioned “Atheist” post so you know how God made himself present to me back in November (of 2017). I kept going to church every Sunday, each week moving a little closer to the stage, I was feeling the songs on a deeper level (I’ve always been about lyrics in a song, and these felt like they were being written just for me). I started serving in the church down in the kids’ rooms monthly, I started going to a weekly woman’s gathering on Tuesday mornings that was for the women of the church. I was attending and excited about our small church group hosted by the very own “preschool mom” who started this whole thing.

I was really getting into it. Surprisingly, I was really enjoying it, too!

At our church there’s this woman and, it doesn’t matter where you sit, you hear her. She’s the woman who says, “Mmhmm!” or “I know that’s right!” You hear her heart announce, “You’re preaching now, pastor!” when the pastor really gets into his sermon. Something about her voice, I’d never even met her..only heard her voice, made my heart say, “You need to meet her. You need to know her story.” So that’s cool my heart said that, but in the churches I went to growing up you didn’t just walk up to some strange person and talk to them, you had to know them or be introduced to them. Actually, the churches I went to never even had that active listener in the audience. You just sat quietly and listened.

Well in March there was a conference called “Thrive” and it was a women’s conference that spanned over one weekend and women came from all over to attend. I never buy expensive things for myself but I bought myself tickets to this conference right around the time of my “Atheist” post. Leading up to the conference that loud audience member won tickets so I finally learned her name when she was called to the stage! What’s even cooler? The very first night of small group at Preschool Mom’s house, this loud woman walks in! What are the chances? Preschool Mom and Loud Woman (sorry that that’s the nickname you’ve been given, I love you and you need to know that your loudness nudged me in the direction that it did) never sat near each other so I never would’ve guessed they were that close. I was so excited, I came home and told my husband all about her and her husband. I think the world of them. When the time is right I’ll make a post just about them.

The conference was amazing. I was so excited to go and see what it was about. I’ve never really had girl friends or done things with large groups of women so I was curious to see if this was going to be a positive and moving experience or turn into some giant bitch fest. It was so much more than a moving experience. It literally changed my life.

On Friday during the opening ceremony the church presented a young woman a Bravery award. This award was for the bravery that she showed during extreme trials in her life and how she showed unwavering faith. Hearing her story brought tears to my eyes, I just wanted to hug her. As we were doing our closing prayer that night I asked God for a sign (if you haven’t caught on, signs are really big to me) to let me know this was right. Walking out to my car that night with my daughter the stars were so bright, we stopped in the grass just to admire them and, clear as day, a shooting star zipped by us. That was my sign.

Saturday evening, during the final session for the day, the church presented a second Bravery award. Our senior pastor was talking about a friend of hers who was trying to invite a woman to church but the woman always had a reason why she couldn’t make it to those Tuesday morning Sisterhood groups but they kept praying for her. It turns out that the woman was attending church and quietly sitting in the back of the auditorium which was big progress from her listening to the sermons online in the privacy of her kitchen while she cooked dinner. I laughed and leaned over to my friend (“Preschool Mom” is now her name for the sake of privacy and familiarity for my readers lol) and said, “Man, I think I’d get along with her!” and no sooner did our senior pastor say, “So if we could welcome, [insert my full name] to the stage!”

UM. WHAT?!

I was presented the second Bravery award that weekend for my stepping out in faith, for what I do with the daycare, everything I do with my dad, the Climb Out of the Darkness movement, and for what I do within my town. I am still in shock. I never looked at what I do as brave. It was a truly amazing experience and I’m so grateful for it.

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Now it’s July and I’ve read a few more books in the Bible, I’ve been active in everything I mentioned earlier, praying more, discussing Jesus and the Bible with friends, I’ve stopped taking my anxiety meds (which is huge for me and came after I spoke with my doctor), I haven’t been as anxious in social settings, my introvert and OCD tendencies are subsiding enough that they’re not interfering with my life nearly as much, things are changing in me. I actually love myself. I can’t remember the last time I could say that. I am proud of who I am and what I’m doing with my life and the world around me.

I just finished the book of Acts and let me tell ya, Paul? The apostle? He’s a cool fella. I think we would get along swimmingly. That book was my push. It was my, “Now is the time,” moment and, after talking with Preschool Mom about it, we picked a date.

July 3, 2018

My entire small group was there as well as the other group from our town. I made a very corny invitation so if you’re reading this and you received it, please know I’m doubly grateful that you showed up despite my cornyness…there’s so much more to come lol. My closest friends here in town. Their families. It was truly incredible. I laugh because I had a larger turnout for my baptism than I did my wedding lol. All day I prayed for my sign that this as right. Seriously, if you haven’t read my “Atheist” post by now you need to for this next part to make sense (click here, it’ll open in a new tab). I also prayed that somebody else would feel moved and want to be baptized with me.

As my pastor and I stood in the water I could hear nothing, it’s like the 30 people on the beach and the wind and the water all just silenced, I only heard him, and he spoke of Paul (who, I’m just gonna say, Paul is my homeboy), and he leaned me back, and I went under.

I know it only lasted a split second, but in that moment under water it’s like I was being hugged, I felt safe and whole, like I could be there forever. As soon as my head went under water a hawk flew overhead. A FREAKING HAWK!!! MY MAIN SIGN FROM GOD SINCE THE VERY FREAKING BEGINNING!!!! (if you didn’t read the “Atheist” post by now that’s your own fault for not understanding why I’m so excited about a bird.) I didn’t see it but it almost means more that way. It’s like God wanted me to just do it and have faith, but when I wasn’t looking he made Himself visible.

The best part? Two more got baptized in the river, too. The daughters of two of my friends. It was magical. I know God was there yesterday. I felt him. I know they all did too.

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But…I’m an Atheist…?

I have had so much on my mind lately that I’ve missed just sitting here at the computer and letting it all out.

So my dad’s health has declined.  The doctors removed all of the cancer so that currently isn’t a concern, but his mental health has taken a huge hit.  He’s very much ready to die and I understand where he’s coming from.  Looking at this as his daughter, it does make me sad.  I feel like I was deprived of a relationship, a real, quality relationship, with my dad for most of my life, and now there’s not much a relationship at all.  It’s become business.  Looking at him from a business standpoint, I understand where he’s coming from and I empathize.  I know he’s miserable.  None of us were prepared for this.  Between being stuck in the house, not being able to eat, drink, talk, anything…it’s understandable he’d sink into depression.  He’s been begging for hospice but since the cancer is gone they can’t approve it, so he was sent to palliative care.  They prescribed him some antidepressants but he won’t take them.  He just wants to die.  I kind of feel like he’s doing everything in his power to bring on death sooner.

As for my personal life, my daughter started preschool this year.  It was an emotional couple of weeks but she’s done great and has really thrived.  I was kind of excited to chat with some of the moms at drop-off and pick-up but not many really talk to me.  There’s one mom in particular who doesn’t like me, she’s made it quite clear, and if she’s nearby nobody else will talk to me.  It’s been like this for a couple of years so I’m quite used to it, I’m just bummed that the cliques didn’t end in high school.

Since nobody talks to me none of them know what’s going on with my dad, obviously.  I knew life was really getting crazy because my dreams were showing it; one night I had a dream that I was alone on a boat, I could see myself laying down on this little wooden boat in the middle of a large body of water, it was dark out so I could see the moon reflecting on the near-black water.  All of a sudden a storm picked up and waves were crashing over the boat and I just laid there, I did nothing but let the storm go on around me, crash over me.  The next day was a particularly rough day.  My dad was being so stubborn and demanding, the kids were all acting out, I just had a lot of stress going on.  I brought Charlotte to school and as I was getting in the car a mom, a mom I had only briefly met on the bike trail over the summer, approached me. (For anonymity she will be “preschool mom.”)

She said that she didn’t normally do this sort of thing and apologized if it was weird, but she had a dream about me the night before and she didn’t know if I was dealing with some storms in my life but she felt like she needed to reach out and invite me to her church, she offered for us to sit in her pew and said she wouldn’t be offended if I said ‘No.’  I thanked her and that was it.  I got in the car and as soon as my seat belt clicked I broke down.  I cried the whole way home.  She was a stranger to me, she knew nothing of my life, I’m very good about keeping my personal life personal so I know I wasn’t wearing my emotions.  It was just weird.  I thought a lot about her offer, though.  I talked to my best friend about it and I cried a lot.  Man I cried so much that day.  I looked up her church, though, and it is a non-denominational church a town or two over.  I watched a couple of the sermons online.  The pastor seemed cool, down to earth and not one of those IN-YOUR-FACE-LETS-SCREAM-ABOUT-JESUS kinds of people.  In the three sermons I watched there were a couple things he said that really stuck with me, I wrote them down and I’m going to share them here:

  1. “When you’re in the fight and things are hard, find Him.  Remember that He will be by your side.  Go to Him.  Lean on Him.  Let Him walk you through the tough stuff.  Remember that He is with you and you are not in this by yourself.”
  2. “Maybe you’ve never known that kind of father, maybe you never knew the kind of father that you could count on and holler for when you needed help.  Maybe that kind of relationship, it’s really foreign to you; that when you’re in trouble you can call on him and you know they’re going to come rescue you.  But God the father has not left you.  God the father is with you, too.  If you’re here and you’re like, ‘I’ve never seen God this way before, I’ve never seen that God’s the one that could help me or save me, the one that is with me in all things.  I’ve never leaned on God when things were tough before,’ you’ve never walked with Him…if you’re not sure how to walk with Him and this faith thing is new to you then all you need to do, when you start to believe…God grabs you by the hand and He teaches you how to walk, just like he did for Ephraim, and whenever it gets hard and you’re not sure how to move forward from here, He takes a little bit more weight and He keeps moving with you as you let Him.  When you start to fall, He catches you and when you start moving a little too fast He can pull you back, and when you get tired, He can carry you.”

So, based on just this blog post, and if you’ve read previous ones you’re familiar with my relationship with my dad, you can probably understand why these two quotes resonated with me.  The next day I told the preschool mom that I was really honored by her invitation, that it actually made me cry (and then I started crying right there in the preschool parking lot) and I put a lot of thought into it.  I briefly touched on what was going on with my dad and why her offer had such an impact on me, but wrapped it up with accepting her offer.  Then we hugged.

That Sunday I went to church.  I have not been to church in about ten years aside from the few funerals that I’ve attended, a couple baptisms.  I didn’t quite know what to expect but I was more open-minded because this one is non-denominational.  The lack of a title, I guess, makes me feel like I’m allowed to just be there without fully identifying as something I might not be.  The pastor I watched online didn’t speak that day, so I was a bit bummed, but a senior pastor did.  His sermon was a bit more historically based but he spoke about a fella named Gad who only appears in the bible a few times.  He’s not a key player, but when he appears he says something, usually a few words, that people don’t pay full attention to, but they should because his words are usually important.  He went on to say that sometimes people who aren’t key players in our life carry the post powerful message.  Naturally I couldn’t help but think of this preschool mom who definitely wasn’t a key player in my life (yet) but she had a message.  This senior pastor also mentioned that God doesn’t always come into your life as this loud, powerful, BOOM of a message, but sometimes he just comes quietly, when you need him.  He doesn’t force people to believe in Him, He wants them to just believe because they do, not because they were forced to.  So that sat with me.

That night I did something I haven’t done in 20 years or more.  I prayed.  I’ve mentioned before I think about how I’m a person of signs.  I feel like life gives us signs and we can do with that what we will.  I love that book “Animal Speak,” that I posted about previously, because we can look up the animals that come to us, if we see an animal we don’t usually see it could be a sign.  So while I was praying that night I asked for a sign.  I said that I felt weird, obviously this is outside of my comfort zone because I’ve identified as an atheist for most of my life.  I was confident in my views and never questioned them.  Why am I now?  So the very next day I walked out of the library downtown and there was a hawk on the sidewalk.  He looked at me, didn’t fly away but stood still.  I thought it was odd because it’s downtown, people are walking by, but we’re rural so a hawk isn’t a crazy thing to see.  I was driving home and as I turned on to my street there was another hawk just hanging out in the parking lot where our town has a small farmers market in the summer.  Again, odd, but not crazy.  Finally, I got home and as I pulled into my driveway I noticed there was a hawk sitting on my freaking roof.  Three hawks in the matter of ten minutes?  What are the odds?  So I tried to ignore it but that night I had a dream about a hawk flying above me all day.  I woke up and I looked up with the hawk means and the book said, “Hawk is akin to Mercury, the messenger of the gods.  Hawk medicine teaches you to be observant.  Life is sending you signals.”

I don’t know how I feel about all of it, honestly.  I’ve talked to one of my friends, a Christian, I’ll refer to her as MR, about all of it and she thinks it’s amazing.  She thinks that this is God’s way of showing Himself to me when I really need Him.  There was a sermon the other day on anxiety, given by the aforementioned senior pastor, and, for obvious reasons, it was so powerful to me.  I reached out to the cool pastor (his name is Danny) about my experience with the postpartum community and he referred me to his wife, who struggled with postpartum depression.  She and I spoke for a bit and she said that she felt so alone and it was so tough reaching out because you don’t think about “Christian” and “depression” going together, but she wants to work together to help other moms within the church.  I told MR about this and she suggested that maybe this was God opening up that door for me, to help more people who I wouldn’t normally have helped because of my lack of religion.  I hadn’t thought about it but it’s a real possibility.

So I come back to where I stand.  I’m confused, honestly.  I’ve been very open to this new path, though, and I’ve been reading the bible, I’ve been going to church on Sunday mornings, I’m even considering going to a bible study tomorrow night but I’m really torn on it because preschool mom won’t be there and she’s kind of been my crutch in that she is the one I confide in with this journey.  It’ll really be outside of my comfort zone.  I feel like it’d be silly for me to ignore the signs I’m being given.  I also feel silly because I feel almost hypocritical in all of this, like people will think I’m a fraud or that I’ve lost my mind, that maybe I’m only turning to God because of my dad.  I’ve identified so strongly as one thing for so long that I don’t want people to think that I’m becoming somebody else, that I’m only trying to fit in or appease other people, you know?

I’m almost embarrassed, and that may be the wrong word but, like the church community will see me as this rebellious non-believer who is just trying to infiltrate their world and my world, who knows me as an atheist family woman with good intentions, will think I’m abandoning myself in the sake of being accepted.  Neither is true, of course.  I’m just a confused woman, a lonely woman, with a lot of stress and emotions, who is just trying to find a little bit of peace.

Why Can’t We be Friends?!

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I really suck at this whole keeping my blog updated thing.  Again, my apologies for that.  I actually put a sticky note in my day planner so that I am faced with a reminder the same time each week!  I was reading a thread in one of my facebook groups about moms who have no friends and that’s what inspired this post.  As a matter of fact, this is the meme that was shared with that particular thread:

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What do you think of it?  The meme itself made me giggle because I actually know a few people like this, but also because I don’t have this option.  I moved to Virginia five years ago leaving my family a few states north and had trouble making friends because of the whole introvert thing, but then when I became a mom it got even tricker.  Suddenly people didn’t just judge me on my personality alone, they judged me on my parenting style, too.  Then, to really kick it up a notch we moved to a small, traditional, southern baptist town where everybody already knows each other (but the safety rating is awesome and the schools are unparalleled).  So now I’m known not only as the outsider, but as “that alternative mom.”  That’s fine, I am confident in my parenting style and life choices, but it’s damn lonely.

If you surf google for a bit about how to make friends as a mom you’ll find some pretty common suggestions:
– Put yourself out there (I do that!)
– Make the first move (I smile and say “hi” to everybody)
– Get contact info (Hard to do when I don’t get a smile or “hi” back)
– Plan the first playdate (Again, hard to do when I haven’t gotten the previous two steps)
– Be yourself (Ehh…that seems to be what people don’t like)
– Don’t gossip (in this town, I’m the source of the gossip so that’s fun)
– Talk about something other than your kids (which isn’t as easy as it sounds)
– Don’t shy away from moms who don’t parent like you (I’ll be blunt, if we witness you hitting your kid or talking down to them we don’t want to be friends with you anyway, but other than that this isn’t a big deal for me)

You’re getting the gist, right?

Whenever there is something kid-related or family-friendly going on in the area I try to make sure our calendar is open so that we can attend; not only do I want to meet people but I want my daughter to make friends, too.  One of our favorite activities is the library each week; they do a weekly story time so I get to talk to other adults and my daughter (and daycare kids) can play, listen to stories, sing songs, and do a craft.  It’s great for their growing minds and socialization.  Well.  For the first few months nobody spoke to me except for the women who were bringing their grandchildren, which I’m okay with but it’s not like they were jumping to be friends with me, you know?  There was one mom in particular there who was always cold towards me and I never understood why until I found out that she’s the other in-home daycare in town.  So basically I’m the competition and she has big pull here, so other moms weren’t talking to me for fear of betraying her.  On the days she wasn’t there, though, people spoke to me.  Mature, right?

I created a facebook group for the moms in our town hoping that it’d break the ice, we could chat about common things amongst the group and then we could add each other and get to know each other better, you know.  Well the group is doing fair, but once people find out that we do gentle/attachment parenting and we don’t go to church you’d think we were personally here from the bowels of hell just to sacrifice their children.

I have no problem keeping my religious preferences hush hush, I’m quite used to it actually since I’m the black sheep in my catholic family, but because of my daughter’s age (she’s three) it comes up pretty quickly.  I’m often asked if I’m sending her to preschool and “the absolute best preschool in town!” happens to be a catholic-based program.  I mean heavy catholic.  I’m okay with religion and I teach different ones at home, but I’m not going to pay (what I think is a high amount) for my daughter to go to a program that doesn’t teach much outside of the ABCs of the bible.  So I try to graciously explain that it’s just not for us and I’m often met with rebuttals ranging from “There’s a scholarship option if money is tight” to “Ohhh, do you go to a different church?”  I usually respond with, “That’s fantastic, it’s just not something we’re going to do, we really enjoy learning at home and while we’re out and about.”  My answer is apparently a big red flag because I have had two different moms completely stop talking to me because of that.

Another thing that is apparently taboo in motherhood?  Not drinking wine.  I don’t drink at all, but I don’t see why wine needs to be a part of a playdate?  I love coffee.  I worship coffee.  I pray to the java gods every morning.  Coffee is a much more suitable beverage when surrounded by kids (and trust me, I’d know).  I had a mom once ask me, “Should I bring a red or a white?” when I asked her and her sons over for a late-morning play date.  What?!  I can understand a glass or two after the kids have gone to bed, but after breakfast?  No.

You know what else seems crazy to many moms?  Enjoying being with your child.  I schedule activities that I know my daughter would enjoy because I love seeing her have fun.  I love seeing her learn and enjoy herself, it makes me happy.  So when I’m not going to leave my daughter with a sitter on a Saturday to go lay out on the beach with you (one, I don’t even know a babysitter and two, I freaking HATE the beach) that doesn’t make me a shitty person, it makes a happy mom.

I like to use my weekends for family time since that’s the only time my husband has off (as long as it’s not an overtime weekend).  Apparently that’s bizarre, too, because I’ve often been asked to just leave my daughter with daddy so I can go do things with other people.  That’s fine, my husband would be supportive of it, but I wouldn’t enjoy myself because I’d constantly be wondering what my daughter is doing and if she’s okay.  Plus, the only things anybody invites me to are those stupid MLM parties (Scentsy, Pure Romance, LulaRoe, ItWorks!, etc) or to those Painting with a Twist parties.  Those aren’t really my style.

I think my biggest problem is that I don’t like doing things that many others enjoy; for example, I prefer coffee shops to bars, museums to clubs, I’d much rather stay home in my jammies to watch a movie than go to a theater.  I like being home, I like doing things that are free, I absolutely hate being surrounded by tons of people, I definitely don’t want to have to buy things from you for us to have a friendship.

It would just be so nice to have a friend come over for coffee or something that understood the restrictions that come with having a kid, it’d be awesome if they had a kid so all of the kids could play together.  A friend who I could text with about the silly things in life and one I could meet up with after lunch to bring the kids to the park.  We could talk about everything from the kids to the weather to politics to husbands, everything.  I was told once that “in order to have friends you have to be a friend.”  I think that’s kind of a messed up statement.  In order for me to have friends I have to do things they like and enjoy, but nobody wants to do that with me.  Instead I’m mocked for my likes and dislikes, mocked for my lifestyle and choices, but I’m kept around because it’s convenient for them.  No.  That’s not how this works.

I digress.

Morning frustrations have put a sour taste in my mouth so I’m going to wrap this up before I sound too jaded lol.  I hope y’all have a great day!