“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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Tic Tac Totem

Man it’s been a long time since I’ve written, for that I am sorry!  I’ve been completely preoccupied with appointments and family and pets and visitors…oy!  Well now you have my undivided attention (except for when my toddler summons me).  So I thought I’d talk about some “weird” stuff today.  Stuff I think is normal but others often stare blankly, blink slowly, and change the subject over.

I’ll start with the aforementioned “visitors” that we’ve had.  I think I mentioned in another post that my husband and I recently bought a house (yay!); well with buying a home comes a bit more out-of-town visitors (wahh!).  In our case, it’s almost everybody – we live a good 500+ miles away from almost all of our families.  Well, since we’ve moved to Virginia (in 2011) we’ve had a rule: no out-of-town guests can stay with us unless there’s an extenuating circumstance. When our daughter was born my mom stayed with us because she was there to help, but everybody else has been asked to get a hotel.  So many people gasp at that – how dare we ask people to stay in a hotel, especially family!  Well, in the apartment it was much easier for people to accept our rule because we only had two bedrooms with one bathroom – it was the perfect size for us but super cramped with any more.  Now we’ve bought a house and nearly doubled our square footage and people are assuming they can stay with us just because we’ve added a bedroom (that’s actually already in use) and a bathroom.  Well, here’s why (we think they’re very good reasons) we have that rule:

  1. We are a family who thrives on schedule and routine.  My husband wakes up for work at 3:15 every morning, has his AM routine, and is out the door by 4:30.  Often times he doesn’t return home until 7 or 8 (he gets overtime quite a bit and then twice a week he has night school through his job), eats a quick bite, and is in bed by 9:15 each night.  Our daughter wakes up around 6:30 or 7 each day (after waking 1-3x/night), eats breakfast watching her cartoons.  She’s incredibly shy and fearful of strangers, so having new people at our house as soon as she wakes up, throwing her from her routine, makes her grumpy, clingy, and just not happy.
  2. On top of that routine, I work out of my house; I do in-home childcare.  Can you imagine going to drop your kids off at the sitter’s house and there’s -x- new people passed out on the living room floor?  Not only that, people that you don’t know hanging out around your kid all day?  Not cool.  Personally, as a mom, I wouldn’t feel good about that.  Our third bedroom is the daycare room; I keep the extra car seats, diaper bags, cribs, craft supplies, etc. in there so it’s full, there’s no room for people to sleep there and we don’t own an air mattress (for a reason) so that leaves our couch.
  3. If those two reasons aren’t good enough for you, that leaves me with our final reason: anxiety and introversion.  I know I’ve written before about my anxiety, but both my husband and I are also introverts.  We absolutely love having family come and visit, we love seeing everybody, but at the end of the day we need our quiet, alone time to just…wind down.  If I don’t get that my anxiety flares up and I lash out and say things I don’t mean to people.  I truly don’t mean it, it just happens (think Cady Heron in “Mean Girls” with her word vomit).  I know my husband my gets all tense and quiet, but then he’ll lash out later (not physically or anything, but you know men are typically emotionally constipated creatures, so he’ll usually bottle it up and then yell about something silly later).  So many people think that anxiety and introversion are curable things, but they’re not.  They’re also a nuisance and hinder the fun that you could have with your guests.  Regardless, people staying here intrudes on our personal bubbles and then that, in turn, messes with our moods and whatnot.  We’d be much happier and more fun during a visit if people just didn’t stay with us.

So we recently had visitors (my SIL, BIL, FIL, niece, and nephew) and at last minute we found out that FIL would be staying with us, not in the hotel like we previously thought.  Boy was my husband not happy!  We talked about it about and ultimately decided it was okay since my husband was so excited to see his dad, but also they would be arriving on Friday and leaving on Sunday, leaving no overlap with my daycare kids.  We also found out the day that they arrived that my husband wouldn’t be working so FIL sleeping on the couch wouldn’t interfere with any morning routines.  I am so glad to say that the whole trip went so great!  I am lucky to have such a cool sister-in-law.  Our daughter got along great with our niece, they played together so wonderfully and our daughter was actually sad and confused to not find her around our house (that was a concern for us since daughter is so shy; last time we saw them our niece was very excitable so we were worried she’d be a tad overwhelming..I am so happy there was nothing to be worried about!).  I suck at apologies when it comes to having to say sorry for my anxiety because it feels like I’m apologizing for who I am, but if my SIL is reading this I want you to know that we are so glad you came, I hope you understand where we were coming from, and we truly did have a blast.

Now on to the “weirder” part.  I have this book that I swear by, it’s kind of like my bible.  It’s called Animal Speak: The Spiritual & Magical Powers of Creatures Great & Small by Ted Andrews.  Here’s the book:

animal speak

It is truly life-changing, at least for me.  I promise I get no benefit from promoting this book, I just love it and think everybody should buy a copy, or at least read it.  In the beginning of the book you create a totem based on seven questions; each question will give you a different animals and those animals make your totem.  However, in reading about the power of each animal you find that there are additional animals you should study that sync up, so to speak, with the first animal.  Ultimately, at the end, you have a slew of animals that represent your animal totems.  These can change, too, based on your life.  My totems, for example, are: dog, wolf, deer, spider, coyote, swan, horse, and raven.  You may have more or less because some of your animals may overlap and that’s okay, too.

As I was reading about the coyote today, actually, I realized how similar I am to them.  Animal Speak says, “Oftentimes…the coyote makes things more complicated than they need to be….Are you…being too serious?…Are you complicating what is really simple in some area of your life?”  The answer would be yes!  I know that we complicate things like family visits because we’re so set in our ways of life, we have a hard time loosening up about things.  That’s where the wolf comes in; “They live by carefully defined rules,” says Animal Speak.  The deer is the most common prey of wolves, and ravens have a connection to them because they often fly over wolves, moving with their hunt, so that they can prey on the animals the wolf hunts.  The deer is one of my totems because it’s one I most often see in nature and I love to see them, and the raven is another because of its connection to wolf and coyote.

Did you know that “The raven is a member of the corvids family, to which belongs crows and magpies and other such birds[?].  In truth, the only really significant difference between the crow and the raven is the size, the raven being much larger.  It would be beneficial to study the information on the crow for anyone who has a raven as a totem,” a direct quote from Animal Speak.  When reading about the crow, the book says, “The male and female build the nest together.  The nest is built high up for protection and it is kept very clean.  Even the young crows do not foul their own nest.”  I think this speaks volumes about me because clutter and mess trigger my anxiety like you wouldn’t believe.

I know to many it sounds silly, and when I tell people about it they often look at me strangely, but I do believe we have a connection to animals and I believe that they resonate within us.  When I have dreams about certain animals I look them up.  If I encounter an animal in an area that is abnormal to their life I immediately look it up.  There has never been a time that this book has steered me wrong and, more often than not, I’m amazed at what this book tells me about the animal.  At the very least it’s interesting to read about certain animals find out more than what TV tells us about them.

Well then.  This concludes another blog post.  I honestly was thinking about writing for so long but was trying to decide what to write and when to write it.  I want to write for me, but I also want to write things that are gripping to readers, too.

I also love to hear your feedback.  Do you have this book?  Have you read it?  Would you ever?  If so, what are your totems?  Do you feel they’re an accurate depiction of you?  Feel free to comment!

Until next time….