my struggle of finding a church home (long post alert!)

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I’ve been going to church my whole life. I even bragged to friends that I never missed Sunday School as a child except when I visited my grandparents. (I even went when I had the chicken pox!) When I was younger I belonged to every church activity possible- choir, bells, puppets, clowns, serving in the church’s soup kitchen… I mean everything. We moved when I was in middle school, but still…. As a teen I was super involved in youth group & leadership. Even into my first few years of college, I went to the church I grew up in & attended community groups.

And while that church continues to preach the gospel, I left. I left because of sin committed against me, & I just couldn’t be there. (I definitely believe this sin is forgiven, but I am a true believer that sin has physical & earthly consequences.) My parents left & moved. I church hopped for a while, but still attended A church on Sundays. I’d go to church with friends invited me, or to a local church that’s kind of big in numbers so no one really knew if you were new or not, & it had a lot of people my age. I’d go, but I never felt ‘seen.’ How dumb does that sound? Pretty silly, right?

I never felt like people noticed me or reached out, but at the same time I wasn’t making an effort to get to know anyone, get involved, or taking steps toward fixing the hurt of being alone.

Why is it that as an adult I’m struggling to feel this way? Isn’t it suppose to be pre-teens that struggle with feeling accepted? No. By talking to a handful of people, I’ve realized I’m not the only one who struggles with this- feeling invisible at church.

Lately I’ve complained about this to my coworkers (who are also followers of Christ, how sweet is that!). I told them that I’ve been going to a new church by my house since November, and I don’t think the pastors could pick me out of a line-up. Actually, on Easter, the pastor’s wife spoke to me (because I was with my sister, who was a friend of hers), and mentioned how nice if was of me to visit the church that Easter. I was pissed. I’ve been coming to this church for like 5 months! How are you just now seeing me? It’s not a large church! I’M GOING THROUGH THE MEMBERSHIP CLASS THAT YOUR HUSBAND LEADS, WHY DO YOU THINK I’M NEW?  (I recognize my fault in this: I held her to a higher standard  because she’s the pastor’s wife. I could, just as easily, made an effort to seek her out, too, previous to this. Even though I’m equally guilty of not talking to her, I still was hurt.)

By the by, I’m taking the membership class, because I was convicted (thanks God, through coworkers), that I can’t complain about not feeling ‘seen’ if I don’t try to be ‘seen.’ I don’t think the point of church is to be noticed by others, but I do think that as a community of believers we should ALL be welcoming to all. Whether that be saying hi to people who sit near you, or asking if they’re in a community group, or even just a smile and eye contact- helping people feel like they’re in the right place is just nice.

Through the membership class, a pastor emailed me and connected me with a lady in the church. This lady, Crystal, immediately responded to the email thread and invited me to her community group THAT night. As an introvert who likes to prepare for new social interactions, I was SO NERVOUS! I went. I went the following week. I met up with one of the leaders of the group, this week, for coffee. It was great. It is great.

I’m mad at myself for not trying to be involved earlier. I’m still a little hurt that I didn’t feel reached out to (in all fairness, Sydney from work has invited me to her community group. A girl in the membership class also invited me to hers). I don’t know what I was expecting. I don’t know what the ideal church would have done. I do know that my introversion is not an excuse. That my pride got the best of me- I didn’t talk to new people because I was scared of coming across as weird and desperate; that people wouldn’t see me as Liz, but instead only as Gayle’s sister.

Why did this take me 5 months? Why was I scared? Why was I hurt? Why didn’t I do anything? Why? Why? Why?

Am I the only one who struggles with this? I know I’m not, but it would be great to hear how other people got over feeling this way too!

 

International Women’s Day Dinner

candlesI love themed parties.

I love planning & hosting.

I also love celebrating friends.

There are so many thoughts on celebrating International Women’s Day. I truly feel like I have so many privileges & opportunities, that because of this, it is my duty (wrong word?) to stand up for those who don’t have these rights. I stand with people who want to dress with less, & those who want to fully cover up. For women who want to work & be paid for their education & experience, & for women who want to stay home & raise children (or not raise kids). I think feminism is for those pro-and against abortion. For men & for women. It’s about equality.

For me, hosting a dinner on International Women’s Day was a no brainer. I have been looking for a reason to get a group of girlfriends together & have a sit-down dinner. What better day than this?

My friends are kind. These are the women who will invite you to sit next to them when you don’t know anyone. My friends are brave. These girls are survivors (of cancer, sexual assault, negative stereotypes, depression, ect). My friends are strong AF (from playing collegiate sports to just kicking butt in life). My friends are generous. They’re the ones I can call when I need a space to host a party, a ride to the airport, or even a few dollars for gas. They’re my inspiration, encouragement, & wisdom givers everyday. Regardless of their religious belief, each one points me to Jesus. I’m so thankful for these women.

Friendships where women help build each other up are so important.

I wish I could have invited a million more women to dinner last night, but one thing about dinner parties is you want to keep them relatively small to foster intimate conversations.

Don’t worry though, there will be another one & if you want you’re definitely invited to it!

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The menu from last night:

Onion Tart

Antipasti Pizza

Tarragon Roasted Beet & Endive Salad

Orecchiette with Sausage, Chard, & Parsnips

Mango Napoleons w/ Cream

Honey- Poached Pears w/ Brandied Mascarpone

dear alien parasite baby,

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You’re a boy!

Your momma is the cutest, tallest pregnant woman. I’m so thankful you’re no longer making her super sick. She’s so excited for you to come out into this world! We all are.

We’re a little nervous how Taj the cat is going to react to you. He’s kind of crazy. I hope you love him.

I pray for you daily. I ask God to watch over you, to continue to bless you with health (and your family too). I talk to Jesus about my fears- this world is crazy kid. I’m nervous what kind of world you’ll grow up in. He calms me by reminding me how loved you are. You parents are awesome people. Your grandparents and aunt got your back too.

My prayer includes attributes I hope you have- I hope I can help instill. That you are kind. That you include others and stand up for those who need it. For you to have a healthy fear of the Lord, and serve Him. Hard-working is another quality I hope you have. That you don’t give up, and are constantly motivated. However I can help in this, let me know.

I love you, baby boy, regardless of whatever crazy name your parents come up with.

there’s something therapeutic about the ocean

I’ve lived in three beach towns. I know, how lucky am I?

My favorite time to be at the beach (alone) is when it’s a little gloomy out, with some coffee. It’s just like so… perfect. There aren’t a lot of people there, it’s peaceful, and seemingly calm.  It brings me to a contemplative place. I do my best thinking here. I cry here. I pray here. I write here. I dream here. (yes I am that weird girl sitting by the beach on a cloudy day with her journal, crying. I’m ok with that.)

On this particular day, I just asked God to comfort me- to remind me of my purpose. That my relationships are not solely MY relationships, and are to be used for His glory.

I think cloudy days are essential in life. They’re days I can sit still and just feel all my feelings. Happy. Sad. Hurt. Thankful. Cloudy days are few and far between, but important.

You know what kind of days are also important? SUNNY SELFIE DAYS!

These are the days you want your people at the beach. They’re days of laughter, fun, and lots of chasing nephew games. Sunny days are also for heavy thinking, but a different sort. I think about how happy life is. I don’t feel hurt (except for those dang jellyfish!). Sunny days are for making happy memories. Sunny days are important.

 

Family

Families are weird.

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a photo from my search & find trip- everything looks happy doesn’t it.

I think if we were all honest, every family has their secrets. From the outside a family might look extremely put together, but get an insider’s perspective & every family has some -ish going on. Like you’re not going to Instagram your shit. Just the good stuff, right?

From childhood it’s been preached to me to keep family drama ONLY within the family. We just don’t talk about it with others. WHY!? why? WHY!? As soon as I opened up about my family’s struggles I have found SO much solidarity and support from friends. Friends who then feel like they can tell me what hurt they’ve been harboring too. It’s like therapy, but better, because these people love me, and love my family.

A loving mom, a supportive dad, the happiest childhood, college educated, I could go on forever and ever how #blessed I am, and from an outsider’s perspective they would never imagine the pain my family goes through each and every day.

My older sister has not talked to my family in a long time. She stolen money $$$$ from my parents several times (and my parents are so passive that they let her, since that’s one way they know she’s alive). My parents don’t even like to talk about it, they cry each time they do- but I know they feel like failures. Earlier this year my parent’s were so nervous that she wasn’t ok (and that my precious nephew) wasn’t ok as well, that they sent me to FL to check in. I messaged my sister, what seemed like 100 times, to tell her I was coming. No response. I was expected to fly to FL and just find her.

No pressure.

I went. She’s alive.

The trip went. Was it good? Not especially. Was it life-changing? Nope. My greatest hope for that whole trip was that she knows my family loves her and my nephew. I pray that she knows they’re loved and wanted.

Today let someone know if you’re hurting, also let someone know that they are loved and wanted.

 

 

Valentine’s Day

I love Valentine’s Day. I get it, it’s a commercial holiday. Who cares? I love love, and spending time with others. Anytime those can be celebrated I think they should be!

Also candy.

This year I wanted to celebrate it the office, and what better way than the good old fashioned elementary school way? Valentine’s boxes! I made everyone in the office a box (because I don’t think anyone had time to make their own).

The boxes were a hit. Also a hit- candy.

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GKTW

“Give Kids The World is a non-profit organization that exists only to fulfill the wishes of all children with life-threatening illnesses and their families from around the world to experience a memorable, joyful, cost-free visit to the Central Florida attractions, and to enjoy the magic of Give Kids The World Village for as long as there is a need.

Here, children and their families are treated to week long, cost-free fantasy vacations, complete with accommodations in whimsical villas, transportation, donated attraction tickets, meals, and much more.

At the Village, these children learn that dreams really do come true as they and their families are immersed in joy, love, and hope for a few unforgettably happy days.

Since 1986, Give Kids The World Village has hosted more than 140,000 families from all 50 states and 75 countries.” – Give Kids The World

One of my goals for 2017 was to volunteers at GKTW. The silver-lining to my search for my sister in Florida, was being able to volunteer here!

I can’t stress it enough- the people here are AMAZING. I’ve never felt more welcomed and invested in- AND I WAS JUST A VOLUNTEER! When I’ve sent families here, they come back saying it should be called Give Kids The UNIVERSE, and I totally agree. There is just something so magical about this place.

Also, I met the mayor. Mayor Clayton. AND I FREAKED OUT.

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Thanks Give Kids for making our kids and families royalty for a week!