faith, life lessons, Losing Dad, politics, religion, Uncategorized

The Pastor’s Kid

When I was growing up, I thought the worst thing a person could be was a pastor’s kid. For me, being a pastor’s kid meant going to church every Sunday and being there most of the day. It meant going there on other days too. Lots of other days. It meant moving to different towns and schools and always having just enough, but having to go without some things like annual trips to Disney or having huge birthday parties or an exorbitant amount of gifts at Christmas. It meant teachers would remind me that I should be better, do better, act better, because of who my dad was. It meant always feeling like an outsider among friends. It meant denying my faith over and over in an attempt to fit in. Trying to be someone I wasn’t never won me any friends, but when I was young I thought that all of my problems stemmed from my father’s occupation. So, distancing myself from that seemed like the only way to survive. But we are all adults now and if there is anything we should know by now, it is that being who we really are is the easiest way to live and thrive.

Tonight my daughter was restless and asked me to sing to her to help her sleep. I laid beside her in the bed and sang eleven songs. ELEVEN! It was an entire concert in the dark for my only fan. It was a concert of hymns. Each time I looked over and saw she was still wide-eyed, I thought about how lucky I am that I grew up in a pastor’s home. I probably know a hundred hymns and camp songs and I can sing them nonstop for my daughter until her spirited brain finally rests.

As an adult, these moments happen often. I now realize just how lucky I am to be a pastor’s kid. I can still smell the dozens of burning candles on Christmas Eve and the wood pews that filled the sanctuary. I remember rainy days when we sang All Things Bright and Beautiful with all of the doors to the small country church wide open while the rain poured down outside adding its own harmony to the song. That smell and that song remind me that there is something greater than all of us. I can still taste the varied, and sometimes odd, flavors of the church potluck dinner. That rainbow colored plate of food made with a dash of competition and pound of love was more a part of who I am than any foodie dish I eat now.

Being a pastor’s kid means that I have seen the top of the bell tower and the back of the organ pipes. I’ve rung the church bells at improper times and I’ve paid the price for doing so. I’ve laid down under the back pew and rolled down under all the pews until I slammed into the altar rail. I’ve had the church giggles hundreds of times. You know the ones when you or your friend says something wildly inappropriate during church and in trying to hide your laughter, you actually break into an uncontrollable laughter that has to squirt out of your eyes because you can’t stop? It probably happened that time you peed your pants in church. It’s a common side effect of church giggles.

Being a pastor’s kid meant driving across the country, through Canada, and up to Alaska when I was five and making the return trip when I was nine. Our parents told us how magnificent creation was and then they showed it to us. When you see the Badlands, The Grand Tetons, Wild Horse, Glacier National Park, the Yukon, and the miraculous Denali before you even hit 4th grade, it is hard not to believe in God or some higher power. Religion or not, there is a spiritual element to seeing these places.311149_10150294264747005_289428017_n

Being my dad’s kid meant living in a small house in the woods of Alaska that ran out of water. It meant a family of five practically living on top of each other and riding to the mountain spring together to fill jugs of water so we could eat and bathe in the dead of winter. It meant our parents waking us up in the middle of the night so we could stand out in our wooded  driveway in moon boots and nightgowns to hear the crackling of the rainbow colored aurora borealis that seemed so close we could almost touch it. It meant running across snow and ice in our swimsuits to jump into the hot springs when it was 20 below zero outside.

As a young child, I remember visiting hospitals with my dad; waiting in the hallway and listening to him pray with people who were sick and lonely. I remember praying for the mean kids in school because my parents said they were the ones who needed it the most even if I didn’t like them. I remember saying thanks and saying thanks again and always being taught to be grateful for what I had. I remember visiting shut-ins with my mom when she worked with meals-on-wheels. I remember welcoming people from every race, ethnicity, and economic status into our home. I remember my parents treating everyone the same. From the suicidal teenager to the prestigious Bishop from Nigeria, our doors were open and there was always a place to stay and food on the table.

I was raised by a pastor who put love first and didn’t focus on hell-fire or political issues. He (and my mother) taught us that our faith meant giving, caring for, loving, and thanking. It meant welcoming others and being empathetic and learning about those who were different from us. Our faith meant seeing injustice and fighting against it. Our faith meant removing hatred from our vernacular. Following Jesus wasn’t about getting into heaven or avoiding hell, it was about loving everyone. 
I will be 40 soon and I honestly have been struggling with whatever my faith is now. Religion in general has angered me and the people who claim to be doing things in God’s name seem to be missing the whole point.  I belong to a church family, but I find it hard to participate or show up because of the pain I see coming from “the church” as a whole. The complete lack of empathy and love seems to come from a dark place that I am not familiar with. Still, when I am coming to the end of my day and trying to settle my daughter, nothing works better than singing Be Thou My Vision, or His Eye is on the Sparrow, and I still cry when I sing Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing because I can hear my dad’s voice in the words. Those old hymns slow my breath and my blood pressure and remind me of the faith I once knew and help me believe it is still possible.

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life lessons, politics

elders.

I had the day off today. I had to travel to Jersey to get my phone fixed, so I decided to visit my beautiful 99-year-old Mom-Mom. She loves seeing Bella and lit up when we walked in the room. I spent the visit listening to her tell me about her parents walking her and her brothers all the way to Philly’s Fairmount Park in the 1920’s in a small wagon. She can’t remember what she ate this morning, but she remembers the sun hitting her face as she sat in that wagon on her way back from a day of fun. She remembered being grumpy because it was past her nap time and remembered her parents being patient with her. I showed her pictures of Bella and her cousins at the beach and we talked about how big all the kids are getting. How Bella’s hair is darker, but Ava’s is definitely thicker. We talked about how Shepherd’s Pie gets tastier with every day as it absorbs more flavor.

My grandmother has been alive since 1917. She is Baptist. She is conservative. She is more blue collar than anyone I know. She dropped out of high school to work and take care of her family. She has worked long hard factory hours. When my Pop-pop went to war, she went to get her license so someone in the household could drive and keep the family business running. She knows hard work. She knows sacrifice. She knows family values and what it means to care for loved ones. Her grandparents were immigrants. They came here looking for a better life and doing so was not always easy. She was raised in a small row home in North Philly with 3 siblings. She lived a simple life and learned how to be happy without much “stuff.” She has lived through wars, the depression, the civil rights movement, the women’s rights movement, and knows poverty and knows how to make a potato stretch through a couple meals! She IS AMERICA. She is the dream. I am here because of her.

I love her, but I thought it best to avoid talking politics. Then she said, “I don’t even know what is on this TV right now, but I know the convention is on this channel at 4 and I don’t want to miss it.” I decided to take the dive and talk politics even if it was hard. I told her how I supported Bernie and had really hoped he would win the primaries, and that now I am trying to learn what I can about Hillary and will probably vote for her. She looked at me and said, “Bernie is good, but he is too old for this job. The president needs to be young and strong. If I vote, I will vote for Hillary. The only other option is Trump and that would be a catastrophe for our entire country.” My jaw dropped. This was not what I expected at all! She then said, “Look at all his bankruptcies. That is the easy way out. You can’t take the easy way out when you are president. It’s not an option.”Mom-mom 2016

I get upset when people say democrats are lazy, uneducated, and living off the government. I work hard. I raise my daughter alone with no assistance from the government or her father for that matter. I have a Master’s Degree and I am a homeowner. I come from a strong family who immigrated to this country a few generations ago. We love each other, we work hard, and we support each other like families should. We have fought in wars to protect our freedom and to fight against injustice. We pay our bills and we pay our taxes. I am a Christian. I love this country. I love this country so much that I want others to feel safe, loved, taken care of, and I want every one of my fellow Americans to have the same opportunities that I have had and have now. I know that when everyone feels safe and everyone has opportunity, we will grow as a society.  I care about this planet and I see it as a gift from God. I see that we have abused it and I know we can change that. I know we as a country are doing many good things, but I also know we have potential to be much more.

I listen to my grandmother. I listen to her tell stories of the last 99 years living in this country and in this world. She has personally seen and experienced what most of us have only read in history books. I do not take her life lightly. I do not take her opinions lightly. She doesn’t see the doom and gloom that Trump speaks. She sees, as she has always seen, a bright and hopeful future. Like me, she looks at the actual platforms the democrats stand for and sees that they support the working class and the majority of America. I don’t agree with everything the democrats stand for, but I don’t agree with anything that Trump stands for. I pray we all read the facts and do our research and talk to our elders before we walk into the voting booth in November. I pray we make a choice that is best for all of us.

 

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