Overcoming my unbelief.

For the last two years, we have not served in a church or participated in a church. My “breakup” with the church was far more personal and painful than I ever expected.  I never expected “my God” to allow such harm to come to us. You see, God was the one who loved me unconditionally.  I was from a rough home, a rough family life that told me I wasn’t good enough, so God was my comforter, my shield. Our breakup from the church was so much more painful than anything I had experienced in my past, because I never believed that God would allow me to enter into that kind of pain in His name.

In these past two years, our views on others and love have changed, and for the better. I believe that. More than that, I have entertained seeds of doubt about God: Does God really exist? Does God really care? Is God the active, intimate Being that we proclaim? Is religion even necessary? Does it do any good?

I’ve felt the pressure to walk away from God.  So many of the intelligent, wonderful people I look up to have done the same. Would I proclaim myself to be foolish and simple for continuing to follow God?  Also, would it align me with the people who say and do terrible and awful things in the name of the Lord? I don’t want to be known as judgmental and angry. Can I love the earth and want to take care of it and still be a believer? Can I care about the “least of these” and be aligned with the American Church?

The truth is: so many terrible, awful things have been done and said in the name of the Lord, and they have been lumped under the term “conservative Evangelicals.”  But the actions of the few (majority) cannot change what I feel in my heart. I cannot walk away from the teachings of Jesus. I feel compelled to follow Him.  I am also entering into this time with my spiritual jargon in disarray. I cannot use the old phrases anymore without needing to know exactly what I am saying. I cannot teach my child blindly.

It’s a disbelieving, agnostic world we live in.  That will not change.

Every day I encounter a thought, a bold word of unbelief, and I have to ask myself, “Will I believe this? Or will I follow what I am not sure of, even if this makes me look like a simpleton?” Perhaps this is real faith — following when you know the other side.

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Friends are Friends Forever… or something like that.

“A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words.”

Since I’ve started working out in OKC, I currently spend roughly 6 hours on the road each week. (I know. I’m crazy and I drive one hour to work out for 45 minutes and then drive the hour back.) This has actually been a pretty good thing because I am bored on the road and it’s the best time for me to call my friends and catch up with them. (Another disclaimer: I have a headset so I’m not actually driving around with the phone against my ear. Most of the time.) Honestly, if I’m at home, I’m just not often calling.

It’s hard that the majority of my “besties” are way too far away for me to actually drive and see them.  Does it make me seem cool and popular to have friends in other places? They are cool and popular people. Seriously. You should get to know them. 🙂 Ha. Anyway. Still, we talk on the phone and catch up on each other’s lives.  Our conversations wax and wane depending on what’s going on, but we essentially know each other well.

I know that sometimes I complain about a lack of “in the flesh” friends, and I believe that local friends are important, but I can’t discredit the amazing friends I have made in my life.  Many people go through their lives never feeling like they have friends that they can talk to and share their lives with.  I have my husband, whom I love with a depth I can’t explain, but I also have people I can call and share the intimate details of my life with.  Friends still in college. Friends with kids. Friends who force you to argue and think and push yourself. Friends who would take someone out with a crowbar for you if you asked. Friends who would do anything for you. Friends who would call you out on your crap.

Many people go through life without that and I am blessed to have several of those people.  I am not silent about life struggles so if you read this little ol’ blog you know we’ve been through our share.  However, this is one area that I consider myself very rich.

“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one” C.S. Lewis
“One measure of friendship consists not in the number of things friends can discuss, but in the number of things they need no longer mention.” Clifton Fadiman

Sticks and stones may break my bones…

… but words will always hurt me.

Let me get to the crux of the matter.  There are days that I can barely lift my head because I feel like I am worthless in this world.  No amount of bags I make, things I create, kisses I give my child can change that. Often, I am crippled by the fear of newness and change, longing to remain behind the walls I have put -both literally and mentally- between myself and the world.

Some days I believe I am an amazing writer and that people like to read what I passionately and lovingly place on (digital) paper.
Some days I believe that I am talented with my artistic endeavors.
Some days I believe that I am beautiful with a nice outfit and a fixed up face.
Some days I believe that I am highly intelligent.

Then there are the “damn it all” days where a little voice tells me that nothing is true. “April, you’re past your “beautiful” years. You had them in college.  They are gone now.  There are much better writers than you. Writers that create stories that make you want to be their best friend in an instant. Writers that create beautiful tapestries with their words.  April, you are no longer in college.  There are much smarter people that you.  You are not intelligent.  If you were, you’d have a life. April, while you are creative, you create nothing new.  Face it, you are average. Forgettable. ”

I am not saying this because I want you to pity me.  I am saying it because these are the words that cause tears to fall from my eyes and roll down my cheeks.  These are the words that “win” in my mind. These are the words that cut me to my soul and render me speechless.

Tonight I spoke to my brother, asking him to help me lose weight by calling me every morning to motivate me to work out. He encouraged me to go back to school to take a class or two and work on my masters.

“You’re smart enough,” he said.  “I know that last church messed you up, but if you quit striving, you die.”

I told him that we needed to focus on Todd getting a degree, not me.

“But April, you and Todd are made for each other. Both of you draw people to you without trying. Look at these bags and things. You’re not even trying to create a business, and yet you are selling bags.”

I told him that what “I would love to do, more than anything is to write and blog and do creative stuff for the rest of my life.”

“Then do it,” he said.  “Who cares if you make another dollar off of it? You love it, right? So if it takes you sixty dollars to make and you sell it for sixty dollars, would you never make another one? If you love it, do it.  I’m just fortunate that I make money doing what I love, but I would do it even if I didn’t make money.  If I die without a dollar to my name, and not a dollar in debt, then I’ve lived a successful life. If you stop striving, you die. You can do more than you give yourself credit for.”

My brother, when did you become so much smarter than me?

Why do I allow the words of those who do not love me to affect me more than the words of those that do? Most of the most damaging words I cling to were spoken by people who do not think a single thought about me during their daily lives.  Quickly, I forget the professors, family, friends, ministers, etc who told me that they thought I held promise. Promise.

Promise.

“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

churches and checklists.

Every person has a checklist when they are looking for a new church home. Right? Right?

Being a person who has been on staff more times than just being an “attender,” I haven’t truly been able to compile my own lists.  I have basically been bound to stick with a certain “type” of church, and when I was on track to be hired at a church… well, let’s just say you’re practically raked over the theological coals.

Now we are starting new.  We are able to go anywhere we like.  This has opened us up to some options and questions.  Some are easy to know like:

*We don’t want to be part of a church that has a “traditional” service and a “modern” service.  That usually means there’s a BIG music battle. No thank you.

*We are shy of “Firsts.” (Too much baggage. Both ours and the church’s.)

*We don’t want generic, feel-good, churches where the jargon is far too hip and cool to be truly relevant (which is ironic, considering relevance is their whole goal).  Yeah… no thank you to the “worship experiences,” “doing life together,” etc.

*We don’t want unwilling to reach out, ultra-conservative, and refusal to change churches either.  (Is something in the middle too hard to ask?)

So what do we want? Do we want to switch denomination? Female pastor? House church? Saturday night church? Small? Big? 

Today we began our journey and some clarifications have been made (for me, at least) on what my heart is searching for:

*Post-conversion baptism. (I am so moved by it. That physical representation of what Christ did for us makes me cry in joy every time.  I don’t think I could attend a church that doesn’t have it, simply because it’s important for me.)

*A church that has messages that tend to be more expository than topical.  The church we attended today – his message was out of a book he recently wrote (for sale in the foyer!).  We used 4-5 verses from different spots of the Bible.  I don’t want to be in a place that drones on and on lifelessly, but I also want to feel like I am using the Bible I am holding in my lap.

*A church that doesn’t make me feel like a clueless outsider.  Today we had just one person say hi to us.  We felt lost, and I’ve worked in churches with a similar set-up.  If anything, this place should have felt like home. It didn’t. I worked for a pastor that once said that people who attend a church for a first time should feel like the guest at your home at Thanksgiving.  Would you let that person be clueless or would you be letting them know your silly traditions (ex: helping them prepare to come up with something to say that they are thankful for)? You’d FILL THEM IN.

I’ll probably be adding to this list as the weeks go on, but I’m taking the time to write about this from a newbie’s standpoint.

What are things on your “checklist?”

I am a bus driver.

*alternately titled: The post where I reference a 15+ year old Christian song, highlighting both my age and my failure to evolve with some types of music.

Back in the mid 90’s, Caedmon’s Call was an independent band making it onto the “Christian” market.  One of their most popular beginning songs was a track titled “Bus Driver,” sounding like a fun, slightly goofy song to new believers like me (and it didn’t help that I was in junior high).  As I became older, I began to understand the words of the song better. It was about a day in the life of a bus driver, spending his days speculating about the importance of the riders on his route and thinking about his own path. (Very broad explanation, I know.)  Below are the lyrics:

I am a bus driver
and it’s four in the morning
And I’m pressing out my clothes beside my bed
Fourteen years been on the job and with many miles behind
Still I’m up at three thirty to make sure I’m there on time

My car gets me along just fine to and from the station
But my castle is this Houston Metro Bus
My first stop is Ashbury.
And the sign’s been gone for years
but all the same the people wait cause they know that I’ll be there.

What would you say if I told you that I won’t be by today?
Would you say that I’m just a bus driver
and what do I know,
just a bus driver
and what do I know,
just a bus driver
and what do I know?

Well, I’m always there by five fifteen
and lately I’ve been early
’cause Judith likes to be in early to the bank.
And she gives me conversation and a token good for riding.
And she’s happy all alone

And then there’s Charles in retail sales;
and I hope they pay him well
for the work that young man does
Cause I’ve never seen the inside
of a custom refrigerator
but I know he’s the first and last one there

I wonder what they do all day,
and their respective works.
Suppose they give money and take money away.
Still, I’m just orbiting this town
with the post office my sun.
And I’m circling again.

And I wonder how this world would be
if I was never here to drive this bus around from Ashbury to Main.
Suppose this town would be the same
but with one bus’ less exhaust.
But that bank and retail stores,
they just wouldn’t be the same.

But what can I see from the limited confines of my bus driving seat
Only me

Today, I thought about that song.  My heart is constantly pulled in two different directions.  Am I alone? I don’t know.  I want a simple, loving life in my home.  I don’t want all the self-importance and accolades that lead to pride.  When I operate in the quiet, I feel a peace that I know is right.  On the other hand, I want those things I try to avoid.  I want to be known and popular, well-loved and followed.  I see people who are doing it and I feel simultaneous disgust and envy.

I’m just a bus driver, in theory.  I am a wife and mother that spends my days doing the exact same thing: wake, feed, clean, wake, feed, clean, etc.  I write on a couple little blogs that a few people read.  I socialize on the computer with my friends.  My importance is limited to a few people.  There are many who would not consider me twice.  I understand that.

I am not pouting over my existence.  I know God loves me. I know that I ultimately want to take care of “the least of these” and I am trying to be a better person, day by day. Still, I sometimes get the twinge and ache of wanting to be something more.  I suspect it’s pride.  I’m not sure.

I wish I could just keep my head down and be content with what I have, because ultimately, I am content.  Maybe I should remove those that give me those twinges from my mind, but I think that learning to overcome them instead of removing them will build character.

I’m just a bus driver, what do I know?

Conversations

I know I like to talk.

I’m aware of my own fondness for conversations.

I am part of a long line of talkers. There are no super-silent people in my family, and most of us have strong opinions we like to share. If you want to get your voice heard, often you have to talk longer and louder until you gain someone’s attention.  However, we (myself and my family) are also good listeners.  We’re active listeners. (Well, most of us. We definitely have some opinionated interrupters, but many of them are good listeners.) We repeat what you’re saying, make the appropriate exclamations, and we support and defend with love.

That said… It hurts my feelings when I’m told I talk too much.

I talk to try to gain common ground.  I talk to fill an awkward silence.  I talk because I have something relevant to say. I talk because I spend most of my waking hours with a one year old and I am starved for adult conversation.

If you want to talk, I am delighted.  I want to listen to you and support you. Share in your joys and sorrows. I will give what is appropriate and take what is needed.

I will have long conversations with you, but I will also keep it short. I have a friend that I talk to nearly every day.  He and I will chat for 5 minutes at a time most days, but we will also talk for an hour on occasion.

I never tell people that they talk too much. Sometimes I think it, but I don’t say it.

That’s all I have to say about that.

Tutorial Tuesday – The Market Skirt


Welcome to my first Tutorial Tuesday!

I’ve been thinking about how I want to proceed with this. I could completely rehash the tutorial and show you step-by-step. I could just show you the finished product. …or I could do a little bit of both and a little bit of neither.

That’s what I will do.

So, each week I will generously link the author and the tutorial to this site.  I will also show you some pics I took, a little commentary, and some of my dos and don’ts.  The tutorial author’s pics are WAY better and some of these tutorials are lengthy! This way, you just get to laugh at my failures and get a huge self-esteem boost about your own skill level. 😉

This week, I present to you… THE MARKET SKIRT!

I know. It’s ridiculously cute.

 

So, I went to Hobby Lobby this week to buy some fabric.  I found a pretty cute plaid that I thought would be perfect for this and I looked for some white cotton that was pretty opaque. (Originally, I wasn’t going to double the white.)
I rushed home to start my project.

Task  #1 — resize pattern to fit 12 month sizing.

Since the kiddo was asleep, I used a pair of her 12 month pants to estimate her waist.  It worked well. I did add an extra inch to the waistline for sewing allowance. (17 total inches for the elastic)

With the computer in hand, I tried to understand what Dana was saying about the measurements. I got confused at first because she kept saying length and I was thinking vertically (as in the length of the finished skirt).  She meant the length of the fabric (which I think of as WIDTH… how wide the skirt is.) After a LOT of staring, I came up with these measurements for a 12 month size :

Waistband fabric length (width) – 12.75 in x 3.5 in
Skirt fabric length (width) –  21 in x 5 in
Hem fabric length (width) – 25.5 in x 2.5 in(I will do 3 next time)

Then, I cut out my fabric.  I followed her advice and doubled the white.
TIP (What I will do next time): I will cut (at least the hem piece) on the FOLD and I probably won’t hem it. Probably I’ll just stitch a top stitch to keep it creased.

Then, I followed the tutorial for sewing the skirt.  It was pretty well explained and simple. Although, my machine tried to eat my fabric. We had a tug of war. It won.

Now, I didn’t use my serger/overlocker to serge the fabric.  I attempted a different stitch on my sewing machine.  That said, if I choose not to bust out the ol’ temperamental serger, I will ZIG ZAG my fabric.  I did that with my pockets and it was much cleaner and neater than the other stitch I tried.

The dress was pretty simple to make.
Oh yeah — you know how they tell you that you can “cheat” the gathering of the dress by adjusting your tension all the way? Well, my sewing machine didn’t gather it so well, so I will have to do the “traditional” way from now on. Lesson learned.

Now, the pocket… well, I learned a lot.

 

The Gathered Pocket Tutorial.

Things I have learned about the pocket tutorial:

1. Make sure you leave enough space for the buttonhole (which is bigger than the button) and the band/gathers. I didn’t and I didn’t have quite the space.
2. Make sure you are well acquainted with your buttonhole maker. This was my first time with mine on my new machine. We have a learning curve.
3. My pocket seemed too big/wide for my skirt.  So I “pleated” it.
4. Maneuvering my needle around the pocket was difficult, so my pocket wasn’t perfect. I also sewed my button onto my pocket and sewed the pocket closed. My girl is only a year old so the pocket was only for the look.

Final thoughts:

*After washing, my skirt was REALLY wrinkled.  I talked to my grandma and she said that the softer cottons (think pima) are more forgiving in the wash. So, keep that in mind while shopping, unless you love ironing tiny skirts.
* I would make my hem piece a little longer and I wouldn’t hem (note earlier opinion). That way, pressing would be easier and it would have a cleaner look.
* I will make sure my pocket is perfect. This one, I became impatient.

Well, I hope this inspires someone else to try it! I’m sure you’ll do better than I will!

Next week: I will make a dress out of one of my old shirts and some scrap material! (Low budget!)
Hasta!