Monday, January 29, 2007

hash and rehash...still chewing on dialogue

I grew up in the Laestadian Lutheran church, a conservative Protestant church-- I left when I was 33. There have been numerous divisions and schisms in this church since the late 1800's. There was one that happened when I was at least old enough to remember. When I was young I always wondered, if both sides of the split went their own ways, since our church believed they were the only ones who were going to heaven, what did the "heretics" think about themselves, and about us? Well, of course! They thought the same thing about us--they thought we were the heretics, that we were lost and they were saved. If they thought we were right, they would have been with us. But when you're so immersed in it, you don't really look at it from an outside perspective. You can't see the big picture of the forest when you're deep in the middle of the trees.

As I've been reading online in various places, it's been fascinating to find out how many groups there actually are--way more than two of them, and how similar the experiences have been across the spectrum of these churches. The rules and restrictions in each different groups differed, the allowed activities varied, but the emotional experiences of others who have left these churches are often very similar to mine.

I remember when I finally left the church, I was so afraid to be out (what if they were right?), but I couldn't go back because I couldn't live that way anymore. It was like I was standing in the shadow of the church, anchored there by fear, afraid to step out into the light. I was so confused, though, because even though I had lots of personal issues going on, people from church only seemed to care about the fact that I wasn't going to church anymore. I know they cared or they wouldn't have tried to talk to me about faith, but why was it that the rest of my problems seemed so insignificant to them compared to the fact that I was leaving the church?

I didn't start analyzing or examining their behavior until much later because I already knew how they were going to act. I expected it. I had lived it from the other side. I knew exactly how they were feeling; I could have said the words for them. What I didn't expect were my feelings of grief and abandonment. It is the strangest thing I have ever gone through.

It's been thirteen years and I'm still processing it at different levels. In hindsight, though, I wouldn't change my decision. I've gotten to know a loving God, finally, and I've learned that He is as much in love with me as I have come to be in love with Him. When I finally got the courage to visit other churches, I was amazed at the things I learned. It was like I had been living in the dark all my life, and someone had finally switched the light on.

Prayer doesn't mean reciting "Our Father..." at bedtime as quickly as I can and moving onto brushing my teeth. Prayer means quality time with my Papa. Wow. Faith is my source of joy. God is so good. Faith is a personal thing, not something that gets judged by the church or its members as being either good enough or insufficient .

As soon as someone decides to leave the church, it seems that people who remain in the church think that these "out-steppers" have suddenly become completely different people. Now I know that everyone there is not like this, and I don't mean to paint them all with the same brush. I'm simply basing this on my own personal experiences, for I have seen it so many times. People will be pleasant to your face, but say or write things that are critical and scornful about you to other people who are still in the church. I have read things that were written about me to other people that were difficult to interpret in any kind of a positive way. I know that we are all human, and we all say things out of emotion that are easily taken as criticism.

It seems like no one ever talks about the people who leave, and then after you leave, no one talks to you at all. Every once in a while I run into someone I knew before, and they seem glad to see me, but it still seems so awkward. We both put on our happy masks and talk about everything but church. We connect on the surface, but it feels like each of us has things that are remaining unsaid. I don't mean that in a critical way, I have simply observed that there doesn't seem to be space to be real with each other. Maybe I am the one who needs to be more straightforward and see what happens. :)

I've tried to be thick-skinned, and give people the benefit of the doubt. I've not always been successful, and a lingering resentment rears its ugly head occasionally. I'm sure that as I withdrew to avoid conflict and hurtful comments, those family members felt as if I didn't want to have contact with them as well. It still felt like abandonment and shunning to me. I felt like I was being treated as if whatever I had was contagious, like the plague, perhaps. Again, perspective is everything.

I know the people still attending there are sad about it when anyone leaves, but some of them are so quick to judge those who leave, though, and to speak critically of them. There also seems to be some fear of people outside the church. Fear of outside influence, maybe? Why else would people say not to associate with "uns," or unbelievers, people from outside the church? There are some people there who don't like to associate with anyone outside the church. I'm not so sure that isolation is not the answer because it is not realistic to think that a person will be able to live their whole life that way.

One of my brothers left the church many years before I left, and one of people's concerns at the time I was leaving was that my brother had talked me into it or had influenced me in some way. He hadn't, but I just didn't get why that mattered. That was more important than the stuff I was going through? Why?

Most of the time I really don't think about it. When something comes up that triggers thoughts about it, though, as I have experienced recently, it's like I have to mentally process it again. I mainly get stuck in the frustration of feeling like I am not heard. It doesn't matter what I say about my own faith, it is disregarded. I feel that they believe I do not have the Holy Spirit, therefore I can't possibly have anything to say that is correct. On the other hand, they believe they do have the Holy Spirit, so by default, their interpretation is the only way to see it.

They think I'm misled, that I'm lost, that I only think I'm born again when I'm really not. I don't know if they use that term for themselves, born again. (John 3) I know when I was going to that church, I thought that people outside the church who called themselves born again were viewed no differently than people who didn't go to church as all. They were still lost; most people even considered these born again Christians to be self-righteous. Unbelievers. Is this not still true? Is this not just one more way that our focus is taken off of Jesus? I'm imagining all of us at the foot of the cross, whispering and pointing, then shouting at each other, starting to push and shove, and there above us is the broken body of Christ, dying to bring us reconciliation...I am right there in that crowd with everyone else.

I know I can get sidetracked by this, too. I need to keep my focus on Christ. He did it all already. If I keep my eyes on Him, and try to live as one of His ambassadors, He can handle all the rest. I have no doubt that there are many people going there who are saved, but I believe it's only because of their faith in Jesus Christ.

I have tried to clarify my thoughts and remove generalizations and observations that have crossed the line into sarcasm and stereotyping, because my intention is to inquire, examine, discuss, and investigate, not to be divisive nor to ridicule others who are sincere in their beliefs.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

ta daaaa!

My first digi-page has been born--I think that's an apt analogy. I've been in labor for eleven days. Hopefully I have it sized appropriately so it won't take six hours to download. Well, without further ado, although I'm adding a virtual drum roll here and some bugles blowing Reveille, here is The Page! I've used up all my brainpower for today finishing this, so I'm going to make it short and sweet.

Isn't my honey the cutest grandpa ever?? He's just a big teddy bear.

Friday, January 26, 2007

and the beat goes on...

Okay, I lied. :( Here is my next post and no scrapbook page. I'm still THAT close, but first, life has gotten in the way of my completing my first page. Work takes up the whole day, and if anything at all happens in the evening, the day is toast. I'm looking forward to squeezing some time out for scrapping this weekend, although between playing with grandbabies and doing taxes, I don't know how it will go, frankly.

The second thing is that the learning curve on Photoshop CS is pretty steep for a newbie. I've used the Business Deluxe version of Photoshop from about eight or ten years ago, but the full serving of PS is too big to finish in one sitting. It reminds me of when I was learning to use Excel many moons ago, and I would notice that I was trying to drive my fingers through the keyboard as I worked. My neck muscles would tense up until my head felt like it was going to pop off --kind of like when we were little and we'd hold a dandelion stem tightly, with our thumbs under the flower heads, flicking the flowers off the stems as we sang, "Momma had a baby and her HEAD popped off!" I'm just stubborn enough to keep trying to muddle through it, too. LOL. Insanity: trying the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. I'll be certifiable soon.

I'm trying to add a few text boxes to label the pictures of the grandsons, but each stinkin' text box I add goes in on a new layer. So then, if I want to move any of them around after I look at it for a bit, I have to go through ten different layers to place the pictures and text differently. I have to figure out how I can get them all on one layer. Grrr.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

have you ever met your twin?

I have met my twin, and she is me!

I always heard people say that everyone has a "twin" somewhere--usually in the context of looking alike. Well, my twin seems to have lived my life. It's completely weird, almost to the point of being creepy sometimes, how many things we have in common. From the books we like to read, to the eclectic choices of music we listen to, to our husbands (ex, in my case, soon-to-be-ex in her case), our issues, our likes (shoes, writing, computers, and more) even down to the smallest things. How about the same brand and style of toothbrush and toothpaste?

I met her within the last year, and I feel as though I've known and loved her my whole life. How cool is that! I was just thinking about that...when you're in kindergarten, the world is wide open for best friends. You could have six of them today and twelve of them tomorrow, and the next day, you're mad at you get older, you start to realize that truly best friends only come along once in a decade or two. I'm lucky enough to be married to my best friend. I wouldn't want to go through life with anyone but him. So I guess I could say I won the lottery again when I met Beth.

My very next post will have my scrapbook page with Grampa and his boys--yes, I'm THAT close! I started over after I lost everything on my first page, and I've saved it in stages as I've been working on it. I'm so excited. Thanks to the Digital Scrapbook Place and their great tutorials and suggestions, my first digital page is almost done!! I found the solution for the time crunch that I experience--find something you want to do more than you want to do anything else, and you will make time. I'm addicted already.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

same song, second verse

I tried, I really did. I started scrapping...actually, maybe I didn't. I just got on the computer, and then I decided to find some background paper to try out. I got started downloading paper, then it was page kits, then I found some great embellishments, and added some page "ploppers" and fonts for good measure...oi, by the time I was finished unzipping my files, it was the end of the afternoon and it was time to make dinner. Good grief!

Then I started reading the blogs I found about ex-Laestadians, and spent the rest of the evening on that. It makes me tired to rerun all of that through my brain again. I am no theologian, nor do I consider myself any type of expert on the Bible. However, I think it is a complete waste of time, knowledge, and energy to throw scripture back and forth at each other if our goal is to prove how right we are or how wrong the other person is. We need to immerse ourselves in scripture in search of truth--the truth God has for us. I find that I just have to keep my eyes on Jesus and remember that He has already done it all for me. I just need to accept His gift for me. I have found so much peace in Him.

Another day gone by, another day without scrapping...we'll see what this week brings.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

in over my head...

My "twin under the skin" lives by the quote that says, "The longest journey begins with a single step." One. One foot out and planted on the ground.

I started my first digital scrapbook page yesterday and just as I was going to save it so I could post it here, with only one flicker to warn me, the infamous blue screen appeared on my monitor and I lost it all. Talk about Murphy's Law. I'll guess it'll have to be a coming attraction here because I ran out of time. I do have to sleep before I go to work tomorrow.

I've seen such beautiful pages online in other blogs. I'm so antsy to start mine, but I keep wondering how I'm going to find the time to do all the ones I've been waiting to create. I feel like I can't even sit down and concentrate long enough to read my email without interruptions, much less focus long enough to create an entire page. I wonder what other moms do--I can't be the only one in this boat. With people working all shifts at our house, it seems like there is always someone awake. And if they're all asleep, I wake up and talk to Melissa when she comes over after work at 2 in the morning. LOL. I can distract myself without even trying, but I think I would be able to concentrate if nobody is around to talk to me. Naming this blog "so easily sidetracked" is no joke.

One step, Beth, I hear you. One step.

First step. Get up early this Saturday and recreate that vanishing page about Grampa and his boys. To be continued...