God the Father - Katharine Tapley

April 6, 2010
God the Father - Katharine Tapley
God the Father, huh?  So I’m the teenage daughter.

It’s how I feel sometimes.  My prayers can seem whiny or desperate and I realize later that in the grand scheme of things, they’re not that big.  

I remind my Heavenly Dad about the times when bad stuff happened, but I didn’t, like, move out to Atheism or something like that, even though people totally expected me to, and I was really, really upset.  

Sometimes my prayers will involve words that would make my Earthly Dad say things like “Watch the language, young lady.”   

Though, through every hardship the last several years have  dumped on me (husband almost dying, going broke trying to keep said husband alive, multiple moves, unemployment, clinical depression, high risk pregnancy) I have never doubted Heavenly Dad’s love for me.  I never doubted that He was there, despite all my complaining.  That makes me either luckier or wiser than some teenagers (I’ll let you decide).

Recently there was a little/big deal.  A paycheck that was going to be delayed a week, making our tight belts tighter.  I whine prayed for it to come in soon, because we neeeeeeded it.  I started to pout about being broke and not having feeling like Heavenly Dad was helping, when I checked myself.  

I thought about all the times that what we needed has come through, even if it wasn’t when I wanted it (which was always nowwww).  I shook my head at myself and thought “Okay.  It’ll happen.  I get it.  You know what You’re doing.”  

About ten minutes later the phone rang, and my husband told me that it was going through and would by the specific date, and by the way, it would include some of the back pay from a while ago so we’d get all caught up on things we’d been putting off.

I hung up the phone and looked to my Heavenly Dad.  “Thanks Daddy.” I snickered.

God the Father shook his head and smiled.  “Kids.” he said.

Katharine Ellis Tapley is actually 30.  She writes and draws and drinks coffee.  She has a husband and two kids who are wicked cute.  She thinks talking in the third person is funny.  She’s got a web site, if you want to check it out. http://www.katetapley.com
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Inadequate Faith - Nancy Dein

March 27, 2010
Inadequate Faith - Nancy Dein

I have been a believer for almost 20 years. I consider myself a terrible Christian. I don't read my Bible regularly (I think it has about ½ inch of dust on it right now) and I don't pray regularly. My prayer life consists of thinking to myself in the shower. I haven't been to church more than a handful of times in the past year (although before my tumultous year, this was not the case). I feel like I'm going through the motions the majority of the time, although my intentions are good. At this point in my faith, I still feel like I come up empty. I have had typical struggles that have made me falter: my parents' divorce, my mom's remarriage, 2 back surgeries, and infertility.

Infertility has been the biggest challenge to my faith. My husband & I struggled for 3 ½ years to have children. We spent much of this time coveting the prayers of our family & friends, yet we hardly prayed at all. You would think if I had any faith at all I would have been on my knees pouring my heart out to God. I trusted in my heart that God would grant my desire, but did very little to prove my trust in Him. This was an extremely tumultous time in our marriage. We struggled with our love & devotion to each other as well as our feelings about our faith. Many times we both cried out in frustration to God if He could just do this or that, it would make everything better or easier.

On March 29, 2009, I became pregnant through IVF. We were overjoyed and relieved at the news! My body DID work and I COULD bear children! We felt like a giant weight had been lifted off our shoulders. Two weeks later, shock sunk in as we learned we were having twins. I rejoiced because I thought if this was our only chance to have children, it was good to get two in one shot. Immediately, we started hoping for a boy and a girl. I was terrified of having 2 boys and my husband was terrified of having 2 girls. During our ultrasounds, we started calling baby A “she” and baby B “he”. We got our confirmation of that fact at the end of July.

My pregnancy was anything but easy. I spent the first 5 ½ months of my pregnancy with severe vomiting. I was hospitalized for dehydration 4 times. Finally, about the 22nd week I started to feel okay. After about 5 weeks of feeling somewhat normal, I started having preterm contractions. I was started on medication to slow them down and put on bed rest. In mid-October, our ultrasound revealed our daughter had stopped growing while our son had jumped in growth. After a routine check up on October 20th (where I was feeling fine), I was hospitalized for what would be the last time. October 24th I had an emergency C-section and Desmond & Penelope were here: 7 ½ weeks early.

My miracles had arrived! I got to see them for about 30 seconds before they were whisked away to the NICU. Little did I know this would be the last time I would seem them for almost 54 hours. Unfortunately my health was still such an issue that I could not see them until I was out of intensive care. I felt so detached during those 54 hours. Family would visit and tell me how beautiful they were and the doctors would come and update me on them, but my heart was broken because I hadn't had a chance to bond with them. When I finally was wheeled down to the NICU (still on oxygen) the floodgates opened as I held my son for the first time. I couldn't believe he was here! He was so perfect. Then my daughter – so beautiful! I praised God in my heart for finally answering my prayer.

Throughout the next month as we traveled to and from the hospital, first bringing Desmond home November 11, then Penelope on December 1. I marveled at this new life I now had as “mother”. God had brought all of us through so much. I still marvel every day at these beautiful children I have been entrusted with. Through this whole process, I have learned that maybe my faith isn't so inadequate after all. I knew God would bring me through all of this and grant the desire of my heart. I still don't know how to prove it to him, but I'm trying. He hasn't given up on me yet & I won't give up on Him.

Nancy is a musician by talent, wife because of love, mother by miracle, and (legal) drug dealer (aka pharmacy technician) by profession. She has been married to the love of her life (and radio personality) for 6 years. Her husband, David A Dein can be heard weekday mornings 6-10 am in the New York Metro Area on Star 99.1 FM. You can follow her musings about new motherhood & the challenges of raising multiples & working full time at Confessions of a New Mom.
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It's Just a Date on the Calendar - Charity VanderLaan

March 25, 2010
It's Just a Date on the Calendar - Charity VanderLaan
I am childless at the moment. It is a strange feeling, freeing yet incomplete. I hurry to make the most of my time, running errands that have been waiting for weeks in the backseat of my van.

A simple phone call stops me.

It's Kay, from cardiac surgery. A date has been set. She talks clearly and cheerfully and I scramble to find a pen and scrap of paper. I don't need to write down the date, because it was etched into my brain the moment it was spoken. But I write names and numbers and whatever Kay says, because that is all I can do. Our daughter is going to have open heart surgery again, and I can't even hold her hand through it.

As I walk into the grocery store, I can taste this significant development in my daughter's life. The date is set; she will have surgery. It burns in my mouth like a hot coal, but I cannot spit it out.The store seems huge and bright and I almost forget why I am here. Baked beans and tomatoes for tonight's supper, coffee because we are completely out. It is an ordinary errand being performed in a most extraordinary moment. For over five years we have known she would need another surgery, but we kept waiting, watching, wondering. And now it is here and the date is set, and this makes it permanent, a fixture, a large red stamp on an overdue bill.

We cannot ignore it.

I wander each aisle, thinking that I must need something else. Green and red potato chip bags, neatly stacked cans of tuna, shiny bottles of Pinot Grigio. I toss a bottle of syrup into my cart, next to the bag of potatoes I picked up in the produce section. The rows of cereal boxes seem endless, and it is in this aisle that I ask God why.

I didn't ask why when she was born with a heart defect, I tell him. I didn't ask why when the cardiologist said she would need another one. I didn't ask why when our other daughter started having seizures. I didn't ask why when she was diagnosed with epilepsy. I didn't ask why when the cardiologist sent our daughter across the state for consultation with the heart surgeon. But now, today, with a date echoing in my ears, I am asking why.

I don't wait for an answer. Frozen food aisles, freshly ground hamburger, racks of shampoo and hairspray. God doesn't need to answer me. And there are millions of people with questions more pressing than mine. I know He is there, amidst the greeting cards and boxes of macaroni and cheese, and I know He will be there when her chest is opened and her heart is stopped and a machine does her breathing for her.

People pass me in the aisles, maneuvering their carts, consulting their lists, adding bags of egg noodles to their piles of groceries. What more do I need? I reach for a square package of cheese and set it next to the box of crackers. Apple juice? Cream cheese? Coffee creamer? I stand next to the dairy case, perplexed as to what to do next.

I don't want this for her. I don't want her to be in pain, to miss so much school, to bear yet another scar up and down the chest that curious eyes investigate. To me, it is a badge of her bravery, a testimony of her endurance, a tribute to her lifelong condition. But to others, it is simply a large scar that peeks out over the top of her t-shirt or swimsuit or sweater. I know better. I have sat beside her before when that scar was a fresh slice, loosely covered with pristine white gauze, while she cried in distress and I asked the nurse to please give her more pain medication.

I stare at the kiosk of makeup, but I really do not need more eyeshadow. Heading to the checkout, I pass displays of donuts and tortillas. I go through the checkout lane, pay for the groceries and gather up my bags. I have purchased a handful of items and even remembered what I wanted for tonight's supper, but I did not find what I really needed. There is nothing I can buy here to fix my daughter's defective heart, nor is there anything that can pick up the pieces of my broken one.

Charity is a married mother of four children, two of whom have health issues, which she blogs about as the need arises. She also writes about hockey, parenting frustrations and how way-too-fast her children are growing. Always marveling at how she could not do this without God.
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God is Your Gut - Rebecca Grazulis

March 22, 2010
God is Your Gut - Rebecca Grazulis

During 13 years of Catholic school (yes, even kindergarten), I learned a lot about saints and angels, the Stations of the Cross, and the sacraments.

But of course, while my faith was formed by the likes of Sr. Janet and Fr. Ken, it was shaped when I entered what my father would call “the real world.”

I went to college and heard new stories. Jewish stories. Muslim stories. Later, in my mid-twenties, I moved to New York City, the city of a million stories, and I was fascinated by all of them. When I returned to Chicago, I became a teacher. My students became my teachers, and they came to me with many and varied faiths.

Over the years, I’ve had a lot of people tell me what God is. Most of the time, I couldn’t argue with them, but their definitions always seemed a little too impersonal. I think, if nothing else, God should be personal. This is why there is one definition that has always worked for me.

God is your gut.

While I’ve always believed this, I couldn’t call this belief my own until it had been tested. This past year it was tested. Big time.

A year ago I quit my job. While teaching changed my life tremendously and I will be forever grateful for the experience, I had hit a wall. I knew, I just knew, that it was over. It seemed as if my whole body screamed, “Go now!”

But I was really, really scared to let go. After all, I didn’t quite know what I would do after I quit. I had some ideas, but that’s pretty much all they were. Ideas. Nothing about my future seemed solid, least of all my finances.

Nonetheless, the voice said, “Go!”

I had been accustomed to listening to my inner voice, my gut, for years, but I usually only really took its advice when it wasn’t uncomfortable or risky. Where to go on vacation? Sure, I’ll listen to my gut. Whether or not to quit my job? Uh, no thanks, inner voice. I’ll side with practicality on this one.

This time, however, I listened and I left. And what has unfurled in the year since has been nothing short of amazing. It hasn’t been an easy year by any means, but it was necessary. Had I not listened to my gut and left, I would not be where I am today, beginning a new career, honoring my artistic impulses, and more spiritually open than I’ve ever been.

I believe that God speaks to us through our inner voices, our gut feelings and impulses. God is your gut. It’s the definition that has always made sense to me. Now, however, I know how important it is to really listen. It’s the difference between ordinary and extraordinary.



 Rebecca is a Chicagoan, a former high school teacher, a wanna-be yogi, and is currently trying really hard to be a vegetarian. After a year of searching, she is beginning a new career as an autism advocate and is pretty excited about it. She would love you to visit her at www.four-sided.blogspot.com.


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In the Wasteland - Ronna Detrick

March 18, 2010
In the Wasteland - Ronna Detrick

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do  you not perceive it? I am making my way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. (Isaiah 43:19)

I have spent most, if not nearly all of my life in the context of the church – immersed in Scripture, theology, Bible-studies, prayer, and all the accompanying craziness that goes along with such. Increasingly over the past 7 or 8 years, I have moved out of those realms, intentionally, gratefully. (Ironically, I pursued and attained my Master of Divinity degree in the midst of all this). Still/always working to create and imagine another system of belief and mode of praxis to fill in that gap – both for myself and for others.

The easiest response has been to walk away. To turn my back. To even sneer a bit at my background and former system of belief. The harder response is one of integration. To stay. To allow for the beauty and power of belief while simultaneously being curious about what may yet be revealed.

Today found me smack in the middle of these two realities, between the wasteland and the "promised land" (I'll leave you to decide which is which...I go back and forth, myself.)

The significance of the “wasteland” metaphor is not lost on me. Nearly all of my book-writing aspirations (up until recently) have been using the desert as the symbol of a woman’s experience in the context of theology, Scriptural interpretation, and therefore life. I have written pages and pages (in ordered, coherent, and even published form, in blogs, and in my head) thinking through a number of biblical narratives of women who find themselves in the desert – literally, figuratively, and then by force because of (biased) (OK…my bias) exegesis and interpretation through the years.  I have found myself in many wastelands within my theology and in my life – in marriage (and out), in other relationships (and out) in work (and without), as a mother, as a woman in this culture, this day, this world. I’m familiar  with the desert - its terrain, its harshness, its strain.

Here is a portion (of one version) of the introduction I've written to my book:

I have lived in the pacific Northwest; a place known for its seemingly-endless rainy dais, year-round green, water-and-mountain-filled scenery. My true home, however, is the desert. I am well acquainted with its endless sands and scorching heat, its arid and desolate terrain, its eerie resemblance to the dry and barren spaces in my heart. It is a place of paradox: mirage and hope, drought and spring, death and life. As such, it is much like my experience of God: absent and present, hidden and revealed, confusing and faithful. It is home and I keep trying to escape: both this wasteland and this untamable, uncontrollable, unexplainable God. I cannot get away. Somehow, in these desert places, I hear God's voice and hear God's invitation more profoundly than anywhere else. The desert is the place in which I encounter God in unique and intimate ways...

Tonight I am definitely wandering the sands of my own mind and heart. I am wondering if I can go back to these deserts; if I can re-enter these wilderness places - in the hopes of redemption (for myself and others.) Despite my attempts to flee, I hear its call. I feel the heat. And, truth-be-told, I don't like the cold much. More from my intro:

...I have an unquenchable desire to flee its penetrating heat and I cannot escape its endless and provocative call, "Come. Stay. rest. The desert is a taste of home."

I have stayed – sometimes by choice, more times not. And surprisingly, I have not been alone. In the desert I have discovered amazing, courageous companions who have traversed these scorching sands with me. Some have journeyed with me in person; others in “text” – movies, novels, music, poetry, and particularly Scripture. Their voices have enabled me to take yet another step when everything in me wanted to quit, or at least bury my head in the sand. They have clarified the difference between reality and mirage. They have spoken of their own encounter with their God in these vast and lonely spaces. And they have provided me long seasons of rest and shade just by being themselves, telling their stories, and listening to mine. Most profound is that they have had no driving desire or intent to get me out of this seemingly-barren wilderness. They have simply stayed here with me. In so doing, they have embodied the God who does the same; the God who calls, “Come. Stay. Rest. The desert is a taste of home.”

I’m definitely wandering tonight, these days…wondering what new thing may yet be ahead, what streams may yet exist in the wasteland, what tender voice I might yet hear.

Therefore, I will now allure her, and bring her into the desert, and speak tenderly to her. (Hosea 2:14)

I’m guessing I’m not alone in this desert…that many of you have your own wanderings and wonderings, your own questions, your own hard stories within (and without) the church, Scripture, theology. I’d be honored if you’d let me in on those…You’re not alone, either.


Ronna is a writer, a speaker, and a lover of amazing, RENEGADEconversations about Faith, Feminism, and Telling the Truth. She thinks and talks about these three realms all the time and the ways in which they are woven together in individual stories, in relationships, and in systems. She is a single mom to two fierce, beautiful, brave, smart, and witty daughters, ages 11 and 13. When she's not blogging (or reading others' blogs, she's busy reading others' books and dreaming of writing her own. You can join her in conversation via Twitter: @RonnaDetrick, on Facebook, and through her blog and newsletter: http://www.ronnadetrick.com.


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Justification, Adoption, Sanctification...and LOST

March 16, 2010
Justification, Adoption, Sanctification...and LOST

The other day, I picked up a bedraggled little book from the floorboard of our Suburban, the gathering place of the crumbs of a busy life with kids, pets and activities too numerous to count.

Turning it over, I spied a familiar title "The Westminster Shorter Catechism in Modern English." My girls just finished a five-month-long Sunday School class preparing them to become communicant members in our Presbyterian church. Each week, they were required to bring this booklet plus a workbook and their bible. The easiest way to remember everything often meant leaving the items in the pocket behind the front seats of the car. This little book showed signs of water damage and dirty footprints from falling onto the floorboard more than once.

But, the words were still readable when I happened to open it to page 11 where I read the question at the top of the page:

Q. 36 What benefits in this life go with or come from justification, adoption, and sanctification?

A. The benefits that in this life go with or come from justification, adoption, and sanctification are: the assurance of God's love, peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Spirit, and growing and persevering in the grace to the end of our lives.

What glorious benefits we enjoy as Christians here and now. Yes, life with Christ in eternity is a wonderful end result of being called by God but right here and now, on a daily basis, we can bask in God's love, be filled with joy and knowledge that we are God's children, citizens of a greater kingdom. Let there be joy in serving God today in every way!

I love the show "Lost" about a group of individuals stuck on a remote island after their plane crashed. The show has progressed with so many twists and turns that often one feels "lost" after watching it. This year touts the title "the final season" and in it several members are becoming disillusioned with the death of a prominent leader for whom they gave their life and service. They were promised that everything had a purpose and a reason -- that their sacrifices were not in vain.

Now this leader has been killed, though his ghost appears at random giving strange instructions to one individual, and everyone is thrown into confusion and upset. The theme of the show is becoming more and more of a loosely biblical parallel as the leader they sacrificed their lives for is now dead but keeps showing up in visions to give instruction and the evil force in the land is gathering followers as he shows up as a familiar figure we also know to have been killed but can come and go at will and disappear into thin air. It is the basic good versus evil theme and "who are you going to follow - to what end?"

Do you find yourself sometimes "lost" in the current of life? Take a moment to be reminded why and for whom you exist. Rejoice in the benefits of being a child of God as you seek guidance on where to place your priorities, your precious moments here on Earth. If you don't know the joys of a life in Christ, I would be happy to share with you more about it!

I won't confuse you further with the details but when I watch the show, I can't help but think of my life and assess what I am doing and why when I see these characters trying to make sense of their own decisions. It makes you think about where your allegiances lie - in the time you spend, in the activities you enjoy, in the books you read and the movies you watch. I am grateful that my "leader" is the almighty, all-knowing God able to grant grace and mercy not to mention peace, joy and hope.

Psalm 134:

A Song of Ascents:

Come bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord, who stand by night in the house of the Lord!

Lift up your hands to the holy place and bless the Lord!

May the Lord bless you from Zion, he who made heaven and earth!


Sarah Peppel of Genesis Moments and DIYFrugal is a stay-at-home mom, frugal living columnist, adjunct communications professor and president of women's ministries in her local presbytery. She has also enjoyed work as a background actress in several major motion pictures and independent films. Sarah is blessed with two beautiful pre-teen girls, a wonderful husband and an insane little beagle.


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Learning to See - Stacia

March 12, 2010
Learning to See - Stacia
We had an ultrasound today. Our third so far for Bun.

There were some potential complications that the doctor wanted to look at again. “Usually, these things turn out fine,” he told me two months ago.

And it’s been two long months. Of me dwelling on “these things.” Not even things. Potential things.

Yet I worried. Every day, I looked for the smallest sign that something, anything, everything was wrong. Like the shadow-monsters my daughter sees behind her bedroom curtains, I mentally fought to keep my thoughts back, hold them at bay, imagine them away. Yet they lingered, lurked.

Even living with the monsters, I let myself get excited. Just a little. What would Bun look like in the third trimester? How big would he be? Would he suck his thumb or frown over his hiccups or pull on his ears, all the sweet gestures I had gotten to see my babies do only after they were born?

When the technician brought Bun up on the screen today, she said, “Oh!” And then, “Do you see that sweet face?”

And I panicked. Because, no, I didn’t see it. I couldn’t see it. I saw black and white swirls, amorphous shapes, things. Certainly not my sweet baby’s face. I felt my heart in my toes.

“What am I looking at?” I asked. “Where is he?” Panic.

She adjusted the scope on my belly. Pushed a little harder. “There.”

And there he was. I could see. No things. Nothing. Just him.

His beautiful, chubby, sleepy, hopeful face. His eyes, his nose, his cheeks. His smile. Smiling at me.

A reflection of me, of his father, of his sister and brother. Yet all his own.

And mine, all mine.

I feel as though I first met him today. He has been growing inside me for months, but I haven’t let myself imagine him: the baby he is, the person he will be, the child I will hold in my arms very soon.

Because there were “things.” And I couldn’t see past them. I couldn’t see him.

And though he hasn’t yet seen the world with his own eyes, today he taught me to see. To see things a little differently.
Stacia is a mother of two (soon to be three) who writes about parenthood, the glass-half-full way, at Fluffy Bunnies. Amid the daily chaos of parenting, she relishes the rare glimpses of clarity she finds in her children's stories, her husband's laughter, and the occasional (and much-needed) handful of M&Ms.
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Faith and the Unwise Woman - Jana Llewellyn

March 10, 2010
Faith and the Unwise Woman - Jana Llewellyn
When I was in first and second grade, I went to Catholic school in Southwest Philadelphia. Every morning, my mother and I stopped in the tiny candy shop to get a chocolate milk that I could drink on the way to school. I skipped down the sidewalk in a navy blue uniform emblazoned with my school's initials. I walked up the smooth stone steps where nuns stood to welcome the children. I remember the warmth of the carpet and mahogany banister that led to my first grade classroom. 

What I also remember, though, are my many questions. When it was time to learn about religion, we were given pale peach illustrations of Adam and Eve, of Jesus. Our teacher read us what was probably an abridged version of Genesis--"In the beginning, there was God. And God created..."

He created lots of stuff.

My five-year-old image of God was a young man with dark brown hair that sat atop his head like a form-fitting cap. He wore black pants, a white shirt, and a red vest. (Where this image came from, I'll never know.) And he was just hanging out in the darkness, bored.

"God created Adam and Eve." It made sense.

There they were, pretty much naked, born into existence in paradise. Eve had very pretty long blonde hair, like my own, though I was always made to wear mine in a bun. Lucky Eve.

"Eve ate the apple."

Uh-oh. Then Adam and Eve were punished. They brought sin into the world. Now we're all sinners. To be purged of sin, you must go into a confessional booth that smells of dark wood and breath, and you must tell the man on the other side what you did wrong that week. Then he will bestow on you the proper number of Hail Mary's to say, and you will kneel on red upholstered vinyl and look very solemn while you pray. Don't sit back in the pew too soon. Think about your sins. 

I was a good kid, so sometimes I had to make things up. When I was done praying, I looked closely at the stained glass windows of birds and saints and Jesus hanging on the cross and thought he was pretty handsome. 

Then we moved from the city. I went to public school. So many of my questions went unanswered.

How did only two sinful people birth and produce the whole entire world? Does that mean we are all brothers and sisters? Then how can we get married and have babies? Ew.

I longed for a religious community in my new suburban neighborhood. I wanted to feel like I belonged to something. I even asked my mother frequently if I could be enrolled in CCD (Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, whatever that means). My aunt informed me that if I didn't complete my confirmation and other sacraments, I wouldn't be able to get married in a Catholic church. I gasped. But my hopes of being a good Catholic girl never came to fruition. (Though I was married in a Catholic church, a very pretty one. Somehow, I beat the system.)

The political climate of the early 2000's set my spiritual journey back a bit. Religion did not seem to be easing people's minds or making them love one another; it only seemed to be stirring up anger and self-righteousness. I was vehemently on the other side of that, looking at reason and morality from a more existential viewpoint, angry at the hypocrisy I was seeing everywhere.

And then, finally, after years of putting it off, I went to a Quaker meeting. I had fallen in love with the ideas of the Quakers on a school trip years before. I loved the individuality of it, the recognition that we all have an "inner light" within us, the Friends' history of equality between the sexes, among different races in times of  slavery and segregation. I loved the testimonies of Peace, Integrity, Simplicty, Stewardship, and Equality. All of these things are important to me.

There are many different kinds of Quakers, but in my part of the country, Quakers tend to be liberal-minded, liberal-arts "Friends" who are politically active and inwardly searching. They tend to--and I say "tend" because the diversity of thought is one thing I love about the Quakers--support gay marriage, theories of evolution, education, and an interest in protecting humans' rights and bodies. They tend to support non-violent ways of handling conflict and discuss issues ad nauseam. They are un-evangelical almost to a fault; when a visitor arrives, she may get very little notice besides the word "Welcome." There are a lot of gray heads, and I look forward to hearing their wisdom.

What I like about the Religious Society of Friends is the inherent respect that we are all on our own spiritual journey and there are different ways to get there. No one, no book, is endowed with the "right" answer, though it may be consulted from time to time. We're all just seeking our own inner light, our own path to whatever we interpret grace to be.

To some, this is not strict enough. There are too many variables. How does one know what "right" is unless one is told? Unless one has a guidebook that's gone through countless translations and includes footnotes from pastors or priests who've hashed out controversial issues over the years? I think--and I'm speaking for myself here--that in the Quaker faith there is an inherent trust in the individual to know right from wrong. I like being trusted. It makes me a better person.

If you've never been to a Quaker worship service, it goes like this: People walk in quietly. In winter, fireplaces are crackling. Sometimes, a written query sits on a bench, a couple of quotes to think or not think about. People sit on hard pews (which feel especially hard when you're pregnant) with weathered cushions. Some look around at the people in the room, some close their eyes. I like to sit by the big window and gaze at the tree branch and bricks from a nearby house, because there are no pictures inside the meeting house. It is very simple. When I finally settle and close my eyes in this quiet space of openness, my mind feels as though it is descending into the root of me. It scares me a bit. Frequently, when I feel myself going too deep, I open my eyes. I'm still hesitant to go to this place, for some reason. I spend a lot of time thinking about that.

There is no minister at most Quaker worship services. The community of seekers are the ministers. When someone is moved to speak, they stand up and share what they have to say. Quakers are encouraged to keep their messages short, and the short ones, I find, are best. Sometimes, there is no message for a very long time, and in that time, the quiet of the space envelops us like a warm blanket, each in our own spirit-led place, but together.

Yes, people might stand and speak when they are not "led." It's something we have to deal with. And many might wonder, how do you know when you're led to speak?

For a while, I visited and enjoyed the messages I heard. I didn't know what made one need to speak, but I sure enjoyed messages of from people's hearts and spirits. 

And then it happened to me. A query started the meeting-- "What does everything being right sound like?" This query began with children, and some stood up to share. I sat back, thinking I didn't like the query much. And then, my thoughts turned to my son, being a mother, and a phrase. The phrase seemed to be held up in my mind. A rush of warmth and glow went through me, and I had difficulty breathing. I tried to calm myself down, but I couldn't. My husband, sitting next to me, looked at me with concern. The inside of my chest felt like angel's wings, flapping hard. I knew I had to stand up and say it. 

"Like a mother singing to her child."

I sat back down, and the flapping calmed down. I could breathe again. It was my first divine experience, and from that point on, I became a believer. Becoming an official member was just a matter of time, but from that moment, in my heart, I was a Quaker. On a few other instances, I was moved to speak. A couple of times I did, and a couple of times, for some reason, I did not stand up. I didn't want to share. It was so much easier to sit and listen. Eventually, the thudding in my chest would die down, but not without regret. I always realize too late that someone was supposed to hear that message.

I do not purport to know about faith and religion. I am an unwise woman. But I am also less angry, a bit less critical, and my heart has been softened. I have found something that brings me peace. And instead of judging others' religions, instead of being scared by them (which I often am) and the ramifications of some of those beliefs, I have told myself that we are all seeking that inner peace, that inner feeling of connectedness to the divine, a connectedness without exclusion.

I do not use the word God, because the meaning of God has been diluted for me. But whatever you want to call that peace--nature, poetry, love, art, spirit, light--it's something I wish on everyone. If we could all find it, and live according to it, we'd create a much better world.

Jana Llewellyn is the lucky mother of a three-year-old boy an four-month-old baby girl. She is on a temporary break from her career as an English teacher to be a stay-at-home mom and she's loving it much more the second time around. She fell in love with her husband because he wrote great Marxist-leaning columns in his college newspaper. She wanted to be a writer since she was a little girl, and you can visit her blog at http://anattitudeadjustment.com 

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Losing My Religion; Finding My Faith. - Kristen Stiefel Levithan

March 8, 2010
Losing My Religion; Finding My Faith. - Kristen Stiefel Levithan
We worry.  We wonder.  Anxiety steals our sleep. 
I worry, too.  I worry all the time.  
I worry about forgetting lines to plays that I am not in.  I worry about forgetting to mail a mortgage payment.  I worry about passing a fifteen-year-old calculus exam.  I worry about my dad embarrassing me with an uncouth comment. 
I worry that Big Boy will have another meltdown at tumbling class.  I worry about what the other mothers will think of me when he does.  I worry about why my son would behave that way.  I worry about how I will handle it. 
These are the shades of my worry.  
But there are other shades, too, shades that don't cast an inky penumbra over my mind. 
I don't worry about dying young.  I don't worry that the world will end before my kids grow up.  Even in the face of graphic evidence of the possibility of calamity, I don't worry about catastrophe - natural, economic, interpersonal. 
I have always thought of myself as a neurotic person, as a woman whose days are sketched in anxiety and colored in worry.  But recently it occurred to me: I do worry, but I worry about the small things.  I do not worry about the big ones.  I worry about my performance, about how it will be evaluated.  But about the most important things?  The life-altering, life-threatening, life-crushing things?  I don't worry.  
Instead, I practice random acts of blindness, never allowing these deeper, soul-shaking worries to penetrate my bedrock of faith.  
And this is a strange revelation for me.  After all, I am an agnostic.  I am not a religious person anymore.  But I still have a sense of subconscious serenity honed, I think, through an early commitment to religious practice.  I grew up with a traditional religious education: I went to Catholic school for nine years and went to church every Sunday, loving the rituals and the singing, the candles and the community.  I was never sold on the dogma - on transubstantiation, the ascension, the Holy Trinity.  But I believed.  I believed in the benevolent, white-haired gentleman.  And I prayed to him every night before bed.  I confessed my white lies and my gray doubts.  I asked him to protect me, to look after my family.  And - it seemed - he did. 
My family faced its share of health problems.  People we loved died.  But my own life - and my own experience of it - seemed to take place in its own sort of numinous space. 
In my adult life, some bad things have happened to me.  I have faced illness, high-risk pregnancies, and physical violence.  But I have never doubted my fundamental security.  
I don't spend time these days talking to that white-haired man.  I don't ask for intercession or for forgiveness.  Now I am more a veteran of religious practice, with a medal of faith pinned to my chest, a talisman against the deepest doubts. 
I am the seasoned traveler in
Christina Rossetti's "Up-Hill": Does the road wind up-hill all the way? 
Yes, to the very end. 
Will the day's journey take the whole long day? 
From morn to night, my friend. 

But is there for the night a resting-place? 
A roof for when the slow dark hours begin. 
May not the darkness hide it from my face? 
You cannot miss that inn.

Shall I meet other wayfarers at night? 
Those who have gone before. 
Then must I knock, or call when just in sight? 
They will not keep you standing at that door.

Shall I find comfort, travel-sore and weak? 
Of labour you shall find the sum. 
Will there be beds for me and all who seek? 
Yea, beds for all who come.

In this life - this entropic life - I feel safe. 
But now a new worry sprouts: how will my sons, children of an agnostic mother and an atheistic father, unschooled in religion, never steeped in belief, find their safety?  Without faith, will the monsters of worry call to them from under their beds and from behind their closet doors? 
Do you worry about the small things or the big things?  What role does faith play in shielding you from worry?


Kristen Stiefel Levithan is a mother, teacher, reader, writer, and faithful skeptic.  A New England native, she now lives in the Midwest with her husband and two young sons.  Kristen shares her cultural commentary and musings on modern motherhood at Motherese.
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Talking About Religion on a Rainy Car Ride. All Things Holy. - Lindsey Mead

March 6, 2010
Talking About Religion on a Rainy Car Ride.  All Things Holy. - Lindsey Mead

I was driving the children home yesterday evening when they started asking me about Christmas. It was a dark, rainy night and the car felt like a little self-contained universe, moving through space. Grace and Whit wanted to know all about Christmas and why we celebrate it when we do. I floundered with some general answers about the virgin Mary and the manger. Grace told Whit confidently that Christmas was “When baby Jesus was born.”

He then asked, “So why are there presents?” Grace immediately replied, a withering note of duh! in her voice, “Because it’s a birthday celebration.”

Whit thought about this for a moment. And then, “But why do we get presents if it’s his birthday?”

He managed to stump both of the wiseass women in his life with that question. I don’t know. Do you? I did change the subject to remind them that Santa has nothing to do with the official religious meaning of Christmas.

Then Grace took Whit’s question and with a blinding ability to switch sides that will likely make her a great debater, said, “Well, Jesus can’t really have presents anyway, since he is not alive. He’s up there,"

"Where?" Whit asked.

“Up there,” I took my eyes off of the winding, wet road to glance back and saw her shrug her shoulders and cast her eyes heavenward.

“Well, he’s not really dead, though. A lot of religion is about waiting for him to be reborn,” I offered, immediately wondering why I said that (and remembering my friend who famously told her daughter about the birds and the bees at length. When the story was finished, the daughter hesitated and asked if there were other ways to make a baby. The mother plunged into a description of IVF. The daughter furrowed her brow in thought and said she thought that sounded like a better way to do it). I think bringing up Christ’s resurrection was akin to mentioning IVF. Factually true but unnecessary to bring up at this level of inquiry. Damn.

Grace began peppering me with questions from the backseat. What is resurrection. What do you mean he will come back? (I had “he will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end” running through my head – oh years of weekly church you did your work!) How do we know? When?

This is far from an area of expertise for me. I talked about how he was not “really human” but “divine” (necessitating a sideline into the definition of “divine”). Grace finally interrupted me, saying with finality and no trace of irony, “Something smells fishy about this, Mummy.”

Um, yeah. I fought back a giggle, thinking about how in this humorous conversation we were tackling some of the biggest questions of faith and religion. The conversation paused and you could hear Josh Groban singing “Oh holy night” in the background.

Grace asked, “What is holy?”

I answered, “It is like divine, anything to do with God,” thinking as I spoke how insufficient this answer was. Thinking: this moment is holy.

Grace responded, “Like the night I was born.” Where that came from I have no idea. Out of the blue, a searing bolt of truth.

“Yes, Gracie. That was a holy night.”


Lindsey Mead is a daughter, mother, sister, wife, friend, and writer. I am also a runner, a sometime yogi, a disillusioned MBA, a reformed nail biter, and a proud natural redhead.  She lives with her daughter, son, and husband in a university town in the northeast.  She writes about her journey to being right here on her blog, www.adesignsovast.com.


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