Out From Under the Umbrella

playing in the rain


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You Have Not Because You Ask Not

jailApparently 51 year-old April Lee Yates didn’t pray hard enough.  According to WBTW News she dined out in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina Sunday night expecting Jesus Christ to pick up the tab.  When he didn’t show up with the cash in hand she was carted off to jail because she hadn’t the money to pay.

I wonder how many times Jesus has paid a dinner check for her.  She certainly expected him to come through for her.  She didn’t even do a proper dine-and-dash.  She sat there for four hours waiting on him.

Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up.

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Childless

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BFFs

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I love these dogs!

Sigh…

Prepare for whinging.  Yes, I’d love some cheese with this whine.  Thank you for asking.

I’m not sure I should even be writing this.  It’s…personal. Perhaps it would be better if I didn’t but writing is cathartic for me.

I have helped to raise children that were not mine who I loved(and still do).  Because of my divorce they don’t really want anything to do with me.  I tried for a while to stay in touch but it became increasingly clear that maintaining a relationship with me was more difficult and awkward than it was beneficial.  I have gracefully bowed out.   They know I love them.  They know I’m here.  There are consequences to decisions we make and we don’t get to choose them.

When I met The Brit a whole new world opened up for me.  I began to hope against hope for things that I had long ago given up on. I was getting a second chance.  For reasons beyond my control but which had nothing to do with an inability to conceive(to my knowledge) I hadn’t been afforded the opportunity to have children of my own. When TheBrit and I got married we decided to start trying to have a baby.

I knew going in that my age was going to be an issue for fertility. I told myself not to get my hopes up.  A year went by and nothing happened.  My doctor prescribed Clomid.  Each month that has gone by since has been a let down.  I’m now in my sixth and final round of treatment.  I’m disappointed.  I’m beyond disappointed.  I’m sad.

I’m not just sad.  I’m angry.  I’m pissed at my ex for not allowing me to have my own children.  I’m pissed at myself for not leaving him sooner.  I’m pissed at myself for having waited too late.  I know it’s irrational to be angry about this.  It’s not fair for me to be angry at my ex for not wanting children with me.  He had a right to his feelings on the matter.  But still.  I am. It’s stupid to be angry at myself for hanging in there and trying to make a thing work that was busted from the start.  But still.  I am.

The what ifs in life can drive a person mad, you know.  If only this.  What if that.

This is the part where the old me would have prayed.  Then prayed harder.  Then prayed some more.  This is the part where I would have begged for healing and forgiveness. This is the part where the old me would wonder and search my soul to find out what cherished sin I had that prevented God from answering my prayers.  This is the part where I would have driven myself crazy wondering what I’d done wrong.  This is the part where I’d assume that God just said, “no”.

I know, I know, I have so much to be thankful for.  The Brit and I have each other.  We have Dottie and Sarah.  And just think of all the things we can do, like travel and have our freedom if we don’t have a child.  I’ve just never heard anyone on their deathbed regret not taking one more trip or having a bigger house or a nicer car.

We could try IVF but  I don’t think I can handle the roller coaster ride that would be.  Not only that, TheBrit and I both started over with nothing.  It’s a side issue, really, but it isn’t cheap. Insurance doesn’t cover it for obvious reasons.  I’m not sure we could afford to pay for IVF and then a child as well.  And if it didn’t work the money we spent on the IVF would eliminate the possibility of adoption.

Adoption is an option.  I may get there.  It’s quite selfish, really, but I wanted the experience of becoming a mother.  I really wanted our children.  Selfishly I wanted children that wouldn’t just flip a switch and just like that I don’t exist.

This is just a rambling rant about something I have little control over.  It is what it is.  It will be what it will be.  I’ll probably get over it.  Maybe.   And who knows…it could still happen.


28 Comments

Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep

Photo Credit: Ruth

Photo Credit: Ruth

 
I pray the Lord my soul to keep,
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.
 

Prayer.  It’s supposed to change things.

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.” James 5:16-18

When I was a Christian I prayed every day.  Several times throughout the day.  Before I got out of bed I started praying. I talked to my imaginary friend about, well,  everything.  I could tell him anything.  Why not?  He saw it all anyway.  It was an internal dialogue that was continually going.

Whatever thoughts I had, some scripture would come to mind for me to apply to that thought.  I was ‘taking all my thoughts captive to Christ’ (2 Corinthians 10:5).

I prayed for change within myself, to become more like Christ, to be less of me and more of him.  I believed that “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).  In fact, I believed that the only way he could increase was for me to decrease.  I wanted there to be nothing left of me.  Slowly, over time, this did begin to happen.  I put myself away and made more of Jesus.  Or at least what I thought was Jesus:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23

But I also prayed for some very real, very tangible things.  Salvation of loved ones, healing for the sick, my step-children, my then-husband, ministry opportunities.  Oh, sure, I prayed the selfish prayers too.  Though I never really expected the selfish ones to come to fruition.  I knew when I was praying selfishly.

The only prayers that were ever answered in the affirmative were the prayers to change me and the selfish prayers.  Never, in 20 plus years, were any of the prayers for salvation, healing, the suffering in the world or other non-selfish prayers answered in the affirmative.

I consoled myself on the healing prayers with platitudes about it not being God’s will.  I told myself and others that the person who died from their ailment received perfect healing rather than divine healing.

The lack of affirmative answers on prayers of salvation were always the most perplexing to me.  If it is God’s will that all should be saved and that none should perish, then why would that prayer not be answered?  At least some of the time?  It wasn’t for a lack of my attempting to evangelize them.  I didn’t just pray about it.  So then I would console myself in the knowledge that I had planted a seed and it was God’s job to water it.

I consoled myself that the suffering in the world was part of God’s plan to get his people involved in his work.  That God wasn’t in the business of snapping his fingers to alleviate suffering.  He expected us to do it.  Then why aren’t we?

No, the only prayers that were ever answered in the affirmative for me were the ones that I had control over.  Not all of my selfish prayers were answered.  Only the ones I could make happen.  And as for transforming my inner self.  Well, I did that too.  Using scripture and prayer I was able to change myself until there wasn’t much left of me.

So when I began to doubt, to question, and to learn that maybe everything I had once believed wasn’t true, it was somewhat of a relief to learn that the reason my prayers weren’t answered wasn’t because God didn’t care.  It wasn’t because God was ignoring me.  It wasn’t because I had some secret sin in my life that I had wracked my brain to find which was prohibiting God from hearing me.

It was because imaginary friends just aren’t very powerful in the lives of others.


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Don’t Pray for Me

I can still remember the lipstick stains on the cigarette butts.  She was beautiful.  Her make-up was always perfect, her hair curled, and her nails were always polished. She was my very feisty, crude, chain-smoking grandmother – my mother’s mother.

There was no stop sign between the thoughts in her head and her tongue.  If she thought it, she said it, and let the hair go with the hide.  She was the queen of the backhanded compliment.

She’d been through hell in her lifetime, I suppose. Her first husband beat the hell out of her on the regular.  She divorced him and later married my granddad. He was a salesman and a fall down drunk. And funny and kind.  He let us jump on her couch when she wasn’t there which got us all into trouble.

For some reason, I’m guessing because she loved him, she stayed with him.  Or maybe it’s because she’d already been divorced once and didn’t want another under her belt.  This was the good old days when such things were shameful.  He never laid a hand on her, so maybe she thought that was as good as it got.  At least she wasn’t having a near death experience every day.

I can’t remember if he lost his license because of his drinking or if she took his keys so he couldn’t drive drunk.  She worked two and sometimes three jobs waitressing to pay the bills.  I don’t think she could count on grandpa for that.  She worked at a restaurant just down the street from their house and he’d show up on the riding mower, embarrassing her I’m sure, for a cup of joe to sober up.

She never went to church that I know of and I’m not sure of her beliefs. She was pretty cynical about church in general.

When she was in her seventies she was diagnosed with inoperable cancer. My aunt talked her into undergoing chemotherapy treatments to prolong her life a little.  She’d already lost her best friend(my mother) and couldn’t bear the thought of losing grandma.  So grandma relented and took the treatments.  That landed her in the hospital a fair few times with pneumonia and other chemo-related illnesses.

While I was there at the hospital for a visit one day a man of the cloth came by and asked if he could pray with her.  I’ll never forget what she said.

“Hell no! You have never darkened the door of my house.  You didn’t give a good goddamn about me when I was in good health, don’t come around here when I’m dying wanting to pray with me.  Get out!  Don’t let the doorknob hit you where the good lord split you!”

He left to the sounds of her murmuring the like.  After I picked my jaw up off the floor I asked why the man couldn’t just pray with her.

“God nor him ever did anything for me in this life. I’m for damn sure not expecting anything now!”


16 Comments

Out From Under the Umbrella

It’s been three years since I acknowledged, out loud, my doubts about Christianity.  I began reading many of the blogs in my blogroll long before I gave credence to them.  First it was just my particular flavor of Christianity I questioned – Southern Baptist.  It wasn’t long before I attempted to embrace a more progressive, liberal, Christianity.  I made a brief stop there before ultimately realizing none of that was satisfying either.

It had been a year before that that I filed for divorce from my husband of nineteen-and-a-half years. People who know me would say that I’ve turned my back on God because of that – that I’d become an agnostic atheist because of the bad circumstances in my life.  That I was running from God and that I just wanted to live like there isn’t a God because that’s easier. I didn’t like God’s rules and so I ditched my faith.

Those arguments are tired and they show a lack of knowledge of the journey that I’ve actually been on.  In fact most people wouldn’t know that immediately after filing for divorce I became even more fundamentalist than I had been before.  Ugh, the flashbacks of the insanity of it all.  I remember sitting in my closet with the door closed, head covered(like a good Christian woman), praying silently, crying out to God for answers, and obsessively reading my Bible.

In my quest for truth I began asking lots of questions; wondering why the Holy Spirit had so many different answers to the same questions.  I queried a woman of faith of whom I had deep respect.  I told her I had questions and that I was experiencing a Dark Night of the Soul.  She had no answers either, only condescension and lofty admonitions. She and others gave me stern warnings about such questions, telling me, “I know you have questions and you’re seeking out the answers but I’d hate to see you fall out from under the umbrella of God’s protection.”

At the time I didn’t have a good answer to that.  I was confused and my world seemed to be spinning at a break neck pace.  My reply was, “If this is God’s protection, He can keep His umbrella.”  The thing was I hadn’t abandoned my faith, I was just trying to figure out, within Christianity(of course), which one was true – which one was right.  I had no idea what path that would lead me down.  The more I sought, the more I was told what a slippery slope I was on.  And they were right.  I slipped right down the slope to freedom. At first I was very afraid but eventually I learned to just breathe, to just be in the moment, to enjoy the ride.  I’ve come a long way in these last few years.

I have a better answer to the admonition now:  I can stay under the imaginary umbrella and get drenched or I can step out from under it and play in the rain.  I choose to play in the rain.


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Who Will Catch Me?

Makes one feel all warm and fuzzy, eh?

Where does this even come from?  Certainly not the Bible.  The Bible promises “That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”(Rom 10:9)  Saved from what?  Everlasting torment?  A life apart from some divine being which cannot be defined, understood, seen, nor heard from?  What is the advantage to being with such a being?

The Bible promises us that we needn’t worry about trivial things like, y’know,  food and clothing because “See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. ” (Matt. 6: 28b-33)  Tell that to all the starving Christians around the world.  Tell that to my Christian neighbors here in America who have lost their jobs and don’t really quite know where their next meal might be coming from.  Yep.  Don’t worry your little heads about this stuff.  God knows what you need.  He decided you needed to go without today.

What about that mushy, feel good, personal Jesus stuff?  What about when I screw up?  When my own actions cause me to stumble and fall?  Is He going to be there to catch me and give me a soft landing?  Life is messy.  When I find myself in a pickle of my own making I have to soak up the vinegar.  Who will catch me? It’s really nobody’s responsibility but my own.  Oh, don’t get me wrong, I have people I can count on to lend me a shoulder and an ear, but they don’t owe it to me to bail me out.  I don’t get a divine “get out of jail free card” either.

I’ve seen disturbing images of Whitney Houston gyrating, praying, being prayed over with the laying on of hands, giving testimony about the greatness of God.  She was even baptised in the River Jordan.  Holy water couldn’t even cure her of her personal demons.  Why?  Because there isn’t a magic wand to wave over our problems.

Who will catch me when I fall?  Well…if I’ve been a loyal friend, if I’ve been there for others, if I’ve shown love, if I’ve been the best me I can be hopefully those people to whom I’ve been a help will return the favor.  At the end of the day I know that when I fall there aren’t any soft landings.  Those people shouldn’t bail me out.  I’ve gotta get up, dust myself off, and try again.  Others will help me but I have to do the heavy lifting.  If I don’t then I become a burden.

As for Jesus standing there with His catcher’s mitt? Nah…just look around you.  Ask that homeless veteran, that hooker on the corner, that twelve-year-old who just lost his mother, or that dad who just lost his six-year-old to some disease that doesn’t even have a name.  Melodramatic?  Happens every day.  To people pleading with the air, their prayers falling on deaf ears.  It’s just a good thing that, at least some of these, have people around them who care.   Those who don’t?  It’s a lonely, cruel world.  ‘Cause nobody’s there catching them.


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Walking the Tightrope

It’s a long way down…

Decisions are a part of life.  We make them everyday.  Mostly little decisions, like what to have for breakfast or what we’ll wear to work.  Lately I’ve been facing some pretty big decisions.

This is where I’d pray before,  where I’d search for God’s hand in every little detail.  I’d take this thing to be a sign I should do that.  I’d take that thing as a sign I should do this.  I’d beg for Him to show me what He wanted me to do.  I’d deliberate over scriptures and circumstances to draw a conclusion I thought best matched a Godly decision.

As confusing as all that was I found comfort in it.  I’m not sure how I ever thought I knew what God wanted me to do, but somehow I was certain I did.  Feeling like I was doing God’s will gave me safety.  Even if things didn’t work out, even if they turned out to be a total mess, I could always say I thought I was doing what I felt led to do.  If it was God’s will then whatever the outcome was what was supposed to be.  Not only that, but God would turn it all for good because I loved Him. For God works all things together for good for those who love Him. (Romans 8:28)

I’ll be honest and say that I’ve been a little tempted to pray.  Only a little.  I don’t really think there’s a personal God up there pulling the strings of my life, orchestrating it’s minutest details.  My friend keeps saying things like, “God loves you and He knows what the outcomes will be even before you do. He knows what you need.”  I don’t even have the heart to tell her I don’t believe that.  Even if there is a God I don’t believe He operates that way.  If there is a God, which I have doubts about, He just spun this whole thing in motion and walked away.

I have a loving support system around me but still sometimes without a personal God who’s working it all together for my good it feels like I’m out here on my own, walking the tightrope without a net.  And it’s a long way down.  They can give me advice and opinions, but they can’t make decisions for me.  Not the way I used to think God did.  In a lot of ways it’s better this way, even if it is scary.