Learning the unforced rhythms of grace

I’ve got a new address for you…

You can now find me blogging here.

I named my new blog The Next Layer because we are all constantly changing [one would hope, anyway!] and continuing to become the person God has created us to be. I was going to name it “The Next Level,” but that has become too cliche, too Christianese for me.

The point is, though, that this is the next phase in my journey to becoming who I was meant to be and to start living life instead of just talking about it.

As stated, I won’t delete this blog because I know it has been helpful to others, and I will probably stop by from time to time to moderate comments or clear out the spam.

I hope you will follow me to my new digs, update your newsfeed/bookmark/however you have my little corner of the world notated. See you all on the flip side!!!!

A New Chapter

I started this blog three years ago as part of my healing process. In August of 2009, I began to realize that my life needed to change…somehow.

It was through blogging that I came to the realization that “just pray about it” was not going to be enough, and with a deep breath and much fear and trembling, I entered therapy. Of course there has been much more to it – rants, political opinions, updates on my [sometimes] mundane life :), but the underlying theme has been of someone who was broken putting herself back together.

This blog has also served as a platform to share my story of spiritual abuse, to put a voice out there so that someone going through a similar situation would at least know that they are not alone.

This blog carries a lot of baggage…and I think I’m ready to travel light.

So to that end, I am retiring Breaking the Mold. I will keep it up, because I know it has been listed in the blogosphere as a resource for spiritual abuse survivors. I am grateful for my story to be out there, and grateful that it has a happy ending: I survived. I overcame. And I have flourished.

Does that mean my life is all flowers and sausages now [my husband's and my all-time favorite quote from the now defunct Wife Swap!]? Of course not. I still struggle from time to time. I still pull out the tools I learned in counseling – only now they’re more automatic and processing isn’t as much work as it once was! I will always have tendencies to be an approval addict, and to look at my performance as a way to earn favor with God and others, rather than just rest in His grace. I will always walk that fine line between “holy and righteous living” and “trying to earn my salvation.”

But I think I am done talking about it now.

I am ready to stop talking about the kind of life I want…and to start living it.

I will still blog – no worries there!! Writing is like breathing to me. By the end of this weekend, I will have fashioned a brand new blog with more of a focus than just me and my stream of consciousness brainspilling, and I will come back here to link to it for all three of you :).

I am just feeling the need to start fresh. To begin a new chapter on the other side of my healing process. Because there is life after spiritual abuse.

And it turns out, it’s a pretty good one.

My week in simplicity

Simplicity seems to be a recurring theme lately. Or maybe I’m just noticing it more…could be that it’s a message that God is trying to flash at me in bright, shiny neon lights.

I am struggling with what it truly means to simplify – what it means for me, that is. I have friends and acquaintances who have embraced simplicity by cooking with organic, all natural ingredients. Others do not shop or buy anything brand new, choosing instead to go to thrift stores, barter with friends, or even dumpster dive. My cousin and his wife have become extreme Dave Ramsey enthusiasts, having discovered that his method has worked for them.

Here’s the thing: I already do the majority of my shopping at thrift stores. Debt has been an issue, but we have been steadily paying it down over the last 5-6 years, pausing for setbacks and going into “survival mode,” as in, “Okay, is it more important to buy groceries this week, or send in a student loan payment?” We eat whole, unprocessed foods as much as possible, but our current financial situation does not allow for going 100% organic.

So while I would love to go extreme, hard-core simple [which seems like a contradiction in terms, doesn't it?], it just doesn’t work for me. Then again, the past several years have been a time of truly revolutionizing my thinking, as far as priorities, calling, and what I truly want my life to look like. My impatience sometimes gets the best of me – I read blogs written by women who are already “doing it,” as far as getting to have a simple, artistic life at home – and I’m just not there yet.

It takes time. Dreams take time to come to fruition, bills take time to get paid off, and there are some pressing needs in our lives at this point that require both of us to be working [namely, a new car!]. Still, though, I look at how far I have come internally since the day three years ago when my trembling hand punched in the number of a nearby Christian counseling center and I managed to croak out, “I need help.”

I think of how much closer we are to living that dream of ours, and at some recent developments that may bring us that much closer.

I smile when I remember that we are reconnecting with some amazing college buddies who moved back to Duluth at the same time we did, and with whom we spent a great evening last week just eating popcorn and chocolate cake and talking about anything and everything. No bells, no whistles, no expectations other than genuine friendship. That is simplicity at its finest.

I think about our newly minted “High Holy Day [Thursday],” in which we go to a local bar/grill/diner and have delicious $3 burgers and fries.

Right now I smell the coffee and the apple bread that I just took out of the oven, as well as the candles burning throughout my house – anticipating later today when I take out my fall decorations.

Tears come to my eyes when I think of the local family who lost their 16 year old daughter in a car accident, of her pure, innocent faith and of being happy that she is in the arms of Jesus right now, but heartbroken that her parents have lost a daughter, her six siblings have lost their sister. Praying that my friend [her youth pastor] has the strength and wisdom to guide his students through such a tragic loss. Wondering why her family, who has long embraced simplicity and done all the “right”things how has to experience such a thing.

And I realize that there is no “formula” for simplicity. It is not an equation or a math problem that you can put down on paper and arrive at a definite conclusion. It is a process that takes a lifetime of learning, of evaluating and of relearning. It’s about trust, about putting your life and expectations in God’s hands and just going with the flow [I am living proof that you can be Type A and still experience this type of grace!].

In the words of one of my new favorite songs [yes, I'm a little slow!]:

Take this sinking boat and point it home, we’ve still got time…raise your hopeful voice, you have the choice, you’ve made it now…

Ultimately, my life is pretty darn good….

This and That…

It’s been almost two weeks since I’ve posted here.

It’s been a busy time for NEAC – lots going on…we started teaching Improv at the Boys & Girls Club, had a session of our Saturday programming (“In the Park”), and have generally been running around like crazy trying to get things going.

In between times, reconnecting with old friends, continuing in the “checking out” phase of our latest church investigation, working, and spending time together.

Lots of good things going on for us – I’ll keep you all posted…

Real post coming soon, I promise :).

Back to our roots

In our quest for a church home, we landed yesterday at one of the Assemblies of God churches in our town.

I do believe that God is bigger than any one denomination – and that a person is not obligated to remain in the type of church they were brought up in. I also think that this past year exploring the various Vineyard churches in our town – just taking a year to sit back and receive, and learn, and worship…to just “be,” was something we absolutely needed to do. I received words from people before we left our church that this was something God was calling us to do. And I know that we would not have been able to just sit back and receive had we jumped back into an A/G church.

But as we evaluated the A/G vs. the Vineyard, we came up with a list of things we liked better “at home.”

  • A strong vision for children’s and youth ministry – teaching them to serve and allowing them a safe place to develop their gifts and talents. Since this is what we do in the community, it is important for us to be affiliated with a church that feels the same.
  • A commitment to global missions – which includes relief work as well as church planting.
  • More structure in the church service…a definite beginning, middle and end…an actual point in the service in which communion is taken, rather than just “when you feel led.” A definite dismissal, so we don’t feel rude leaving.
  • More accountability – emphasis on living right.

I guess that I need something more methodical…more structured…less “hip.” In many ways, I am an old-fashioned kind of girl. I want to be part of a tradition; a heritage – not just fly by the seat of my pants. I want to sing worship songs that don’t sound like they were composed by a barefooted hippie with a guitar around a campfire. And I want to interact with people from a variety of generations, not feel like I am constantly trying to fit in with college students or those who are recently graduated.

As we discussed, it is a matter of style preferences. I have friends and family in all manner of denominations and I love them all, and I believe that they are all committed believers. No one has the corner on God other than God Himself, and I completely affirm and bless all the Vineyard churches here and the great work they do in our community.

That being said,

This particular church we attended was Hermantown Community Church. Technically on the “outskirts” of Duluth, but on our side of the outskirts – so it’s about a 10-minute drive there. Anyone from our community who attends an Assembly of God church would probably choose that one if proximity is the main consideration.

The people and leaders were friendly, but we did not feel “love-bombed.” As an added bonus, a former co-worker of Patrick’s attends there with his family, which we just found out yesterday. So we already know someone there.

They are very supportive of the arts, having produced many passion plays and other shows over the years.

They support a number of local and international missionaries.

As we said when we left, it felt…familiar. Not necessarily good or bad – but that’s how it felt. The missionaries on the missions board were people we had heard of – in some cases, people we knew. The youth pastor was a student at NCU when I worked there. We knew 100% of the songs during worship. The format – worship, communion, extended greeting time (enough time to sneak off to use the restroom if you need to, lol!!!), sermon, which ALWAYS includes a definite invitation to accept Christ.

I am not saying we have found “home” after one service. But we have decided to take the pastor up on his offer to grab dinner or coffee and learn a little more about the church and its vision…as well as stick around for awhile and check things out.

Yes, we’ll probably get shanghai’ed into service before long…Patrick was already complimented three times on his great singing voice :). His former co-worker already told the children’s pastor about our ministry/company, so I am sure that kids’ ministry will be a given. But after a year of rest, we are ready.

We shall see…..

Thoughts from the moderate camp…

No, this isn’t a political post. Not really. Just a few thoughts that have been rolling around in my head as a result of Facebook postings and recent conversations on “the way life should be.”

On Ageism

What is UP with our society’s obsession with youth? And I say this as a fairly young person in general. I had a conversation the other day with a college student who apparently does not realize how annoying he sounds when he acts as though he and his generation are the only ones who have the answers to anything in life. Scary thought…the world being run by 22 year olds. Heck, I didn’t even vote for Obama in the last election because I thought he was too close in age to me and lacked the experience, and he is a good 15 years older. I suppose it is a rite of passage – learning all sorts of idealistic views on the way the world should operate, only to have them come crashing down when one enters the real world. I understand. I remember it being a shock to my system when I graduated and no one wanted to discuss the arts or literature with me nonstop!  But…ugh. I really think this attitude is getting worse and worse with each graduating class.

On Lack of Critical Thinking Skills

I am not going to say a lot here, only that if you are going to post an inflammatory and divisive comment about the election on Facebook (no matter which side you’re on), you should be prepared for people to disagree. If you do not want to engage them in an online discussion, then you should not post your views online. I have seen so many people do this and then back out by saying, “Well, I don’t really want to argue about this.” All that tells me when I read this is that you have no critical thinking skills and cannot handle your way of thinking being challenged. I understand not wanting to get into online debates about politics or anything else. Just saying don’t start something and act surprised when people engage you.

Created to be his….

Where to start? First of all, I was created to be God’s, not my husband’s…anything!  Marriage is a wonderful institution and I am very happy to be married, but it is not the be-all and end-all. And God did, indeed use the term “help meet” when describing who He was going to create for Adam, but the correct translation of that term is not “happy little helper,” but “equal and worthy partner.” We help and serve each other mutually. We support each other’s dreams and visions, and trust that God would not have given us to each other if our dreams and visions did not mesh. If he’s up and getting himself a glass of water, he asks if I would like one. I do the same. Right now, the best way for me to be his partner is not to stay at home and cook and clean and bake 24/7, but to bring in an income. I am the furthest thing from a career-minded person; I don’t even work full time [most of the time]. But I do what I need to do. As do many women in this country. Eventually, my goal is to come home – especially when I have children, because my entire paycheck would be eaten up by daycare costs, anyway – so if we’re going to be out the money, we might as well be out the money with me taking care of our kids!!

I guess this is my longest “thought,” mostly because I am passionate about this topic. I try to just let sexist attitudes roll off my back, but when they are intertwined with God’s Word, which is not sexist at all if interpreted correctly, it really makes me burn. God did not make men the kings of the universe and then give us to them solely to provide them with food, nonstop attention and sex. He did not expect us to give up our dreams and ambitions in favor of staying within the four walls of the house [And if that really is your dream, more power to ya! Feminism is about women having the choice to do either/or]. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with those of us who do what we need to do. To those who would say, “Trust God to provide,” I would say that God has provided me with a brain, two arms, two legs and a job.

I end this rant by saying once again how thankful I am to be married to someone who doesn’t have to BE a man, because he IS a man – with no need to prove himself by being controlling or whining about how he wants dinner on the table the second he walks in the door. I’m usually the one who wants to eat right away.

When we talk about how we are equal partners, the inevitable question comes up: So who is the spiritual leader of your household? We answer: Jesus. And I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Why I changed my religious affiliation on Facebook

Since I first joined the Facebook cult :), my religious affiliation has remained the same on the “about me” section. Unlike my brother, who changes his political and religious beliefs every other week to be a smark aleck. One week he was a Rastafarian member of the Communist Party of Canada; another week he was a Mormon member of the Green Party. I pointed out to him that since the Green Party is in favor of legalizing pot, I doubt they’d make inroads with the Mormons and their caffeine ban!

Anyway, mine has read “Follower of Jesus.” Which was a clever, cool hipsterish way for me to say “Christian.” Because it’s not a religion, it’s a relationship, ya know?

I’ve been thinking about that for awhile now. Besides the fact that I am neither cool nor hipsterish [I think the fact that I just used the word hipsterish - twice - pretty much proves that!], Christianity IS a religion. It is a religion based on the fact that one can have a relationship with God – but it is classified as a world religion. I’m not a Muslim. I’m not a Hindu or a Mormon or a Rastafarian or a Buddhist. I am a Christian.

And really, even those of us not worshiping in a traditional, liturgical church? We still have our rituals.

*Opening chorus.

*Welcome/greeting, usually from the lead pastor.

*More songs.

*Announcements.

*Offering.

*Sermon.

*Response time.

*Dismissal.

Depending on your church, communion is included in there as well – sometimes only once a month; other times more often.

By definition, our weekly Sunday practices equal religious practices. If you are a “read your Bible/pray/journal every day” kind of person, that’s another religious practice. Do you say grace before meals? Yup. Religious practice.

I could go on. The point is, religion is not always a bad thing. I used to confuse religion with legalism. Legalism is bad. Religion is the set of practices/rituals we use in worship and reverence to our very personal God. Legalism is thinking that the law is what is going to bring us closer to Him. The two words are not interchangeable and should not be treated as such.

So today, I took the plunge. On Facebook, I am no longer a “Follower of Jesus.” Although I do try to be that on a daily basis. I am a Christian.


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