Monday, April 15, 2013

A Faith for my Children

Five Children’s Bible Books. That’s what I found tucked away on our overstuffed bookcase this weekend while cleaning and sorting our ever growing stash. I have to admit, I didn’t buy any of them. With the exception of one that came from a sweet group of readers I Skyped with last year, I think grandparents can be accounted for the rest—gifts that carried the subtle plea of Dear-God-please-don’t-let–my-grandchildren-grow-up-heathen.

It’s not that I need the little Bibles to learn the stories in them. I know every single one of them by heart—how Adam and Eve were created on the sixth day, how God sent a rainbow after saving Noah from the flood, how a great big whale swallowed Jonah because he wouldn’t go to Ninevah to preach God’s word. These stories were taught to me from early Children’s Bible days of giggling at pictures of fig leaves covering Adam and Eve’s—ahem, privates— to somewhere in my early twenties when I stopped going to church.

I flipped through the pages of a few of them yesterday and tried to remember the last time I read these to the girls. By Lainey’s age, I not only had been read these stories and sang their tunes (“Who Built the Ark? Noah, Noah!”), but I knew their lessons—yes, that God loved us, but also: Don’t Piss Off God. He might send a flood or turn you into a salt pillar.

The latter lessons are the reason teaching faith to my children is a complex subject, one I stew over quite a bit. I was submerged in church for more than half my life, experiencing both the good—fond memories of flannel graph Sunday school lessons, church potlucks and Nativity plays—as well as the screwed up: fear, fear, judgment, fear. Oh, and we-are-superior-to-those-who-don’t-believe-like-us. The combination makes for a hell of a faith identity crisis. It’s taken me years to reprogram my brain and heart and replace the painful scars of judgment and empty guilt with love; even now, I struggle.

For a long time, I viewed my faith issues much like I view my house when it gets too messy—I stand back, take it all in, conclude the mess is too overwhelming, so I make a cup of coffee and walk away. But then I had babies and babies started growing up. And when babies start growing up, you begin thinking about everything you believe—how it matters, how it transfers, how the responsibility of passing things on suddenly bears weight. For six years, I’ve been asking myself “What do I believe?” Because, honestly…I don’t know. I do know that I believe in God, that God is Love, and that there’s enough truth in that statement to provide everything I need to teach my children about faith.

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My friends and I have been talking a lot more about these issues as our kids are at the age of asking questions. Last week, Lainey and her friend Aleena were overheard discussing heaven—how when they went there, they’d make sure to take their favorite toys and blankets, as if it was just a summer road trip. Heidi’s daughter pointed out an image in the story of Noah’s Ark in her children’s Bible last week—a picture of a woman standing on a rock, holding a baby while flood waters swirled around her—the “unsaved,” apparently.

“What’s going to happen to that woman and her baby?” Peyton asked her.

“I didn’t know what to say,” Heidi admitted. “So I told her Noah was going to swing the ark back around to pick her up—he was on his way.”

I smiled. “Bravo.”

This is the exact reason why I’m not so sure of what role the Bible—the book that literally guided every decision and thought in my life for years—will play in lessons I teach my children. And my former self would be quivering with fear right now for the blasphemy I just typed. I did that a lot—quivered with fear. Say the word “rapture” and my knees go weak. Among meaningful stories of love and kindness, there are a lot of passages in the Bible that make God out to be He Who Demands and He Who Punishes. And for fun, He Who Tests You to See How Much You Love Him. As a mother who understands a little bit about loving children, these concepts aren’t things that align with the ultimate truth of parenthood (that’s what God is, after all)—Love.

I know that I want my children to know the limitless love of God.

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I also know that I want my children to know their worth—worth that doesn’t hinge on things they do or the way they believe.

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Although I believe in God and am confident of his presence in my life, I have a hard time teaching my kids statements like “we are nothing without God” or “you won’t know the answers until you ask God to help you.” Those teachings crippled qualities within me for years and, for a long time, paralyzed me from thinking for myself. I want my children to know that God made us all equal—that we are amazing from the start, that we are equipped with greatness and good decision making capabilities just because we exist. There are plenty of people who don’t, per say, “believe in God” who are living their one wild and precious lives with significance—founding organizations to help those in need, spreading kindness, choosing good, loving, loving, loving every day. They are happy and living a life with purpose. Their God might not be defined by my terms—perhaps they call him a higher power, the Universe, their inner self, what have you. But they are in no way less deserving of what we all are entitled to—love, albeit here on earth or life after death. I will tell my children to learn from these people and listen to them. Sometimes I think I’ve learned more about God and love and kindness from good people who believe differently than me than I ever learned within the establishments intended to teach the world about God.

But I also realized I’ve made the mistake of throwing the baby out with the bathwater, as they say. Because of the pains of my past, for a long time I blacklisted all of it—organized religion, church, Bible studies. I thought I escaped the black hole all these people were tricked into believing, and I realize that’s just the kind of judgment I thought I was better than. Thinking I’ve got the truth, and they don’t. I left one kind of arrogance and replaced it with another.

I’ve since readjusted those beliefs, picking up a lot of the broken pieces of the faith of my past and realizing they’re not all bad. I quite like many of them and look forward to reincorporating lessons and experiences of that old faith into the truest faith I’ve known so far—an evolving one. One of love and kindness and acceptance both for those around us and for our less than perfect selves. I like feeling small compared to something, someone bigger, and I call that bigger thing God. I pray to him every day not so much in “Dear Gods” but in Be kind, How can I help?, Come sit by me, Let’s take a walk, Look at that!, Thank you, I’m sorry and I love you.

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What my Sunday morning looks like:  God is very present.

I am truly learning this year to open myself up and learn from others—to listen; to be curious, not judgmental. In my closest core of friends, I have a few Protestants, a few Catholics, an Atheist, two Agnostics, a Buddhist, a Hindu and several who don’t have names for their faith. I am intrigued by each of their beliefs and learn from all of them. It’s amazing how, when we look at our beliefs with different perspectives, so many of us really do believe in the same important life truths.

So, what to teach my children?

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Well, just in typing this, I’m feeling confident that my children know God. You know, last year I had this random moment of guilty panic that I wasn’t telling my kids the things about God that I was supposed to teach them—the Sunday school basics, the Children’s Bible stories I wasn’t reading to them. We were driving, and for some reason, I suddenly felt like I had to do something to catch up for all my kids didn’t know—something right now in this car to get it started. We’d begin with creation.

“Lainey, do you know who made the trees?” I asked her. She looked at me like I was crazy. She didn’t answer so I went on.

“God did. God made the trees,” I told her, repeating something I had been taught as a child and consequently sighing a breath of relief for completing the first course of Godly wisdom for children. The grandparents would be so proud.

But there was a rebuttal from the back seat.

“No he didn’t,” Lainey argued. “Someone planted them.” Ah truth, my little Darwinist.

I realized I was being silly. The details of creation, the many stories, whether they be allegory or not—they aren’t as important as the truth we live every day. Love. Love this earth, love each other, love yourself. I am teaching that to my children through terms that literally include God but more so through events that breathe him. We pray “Dear God” when we remember to say the words, but we live “Dear God” when we forget.

And with all the unanswered questions I have right now about faith and my mission to explore them simply by living and learning from others, I’ve never felt closer to God in my life. I am confident my children will know him too.

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I’ll end this with a story my dad once told me. A woman in a faraway country, who knew nothing of religion or God, had a son who grew very ill. Desperate to save him, she tried everything—village witch doctors, potions, medicine—until finally, she threw her hands into the sky and prayed to a higher being she knew nothing of. “Please,” she pleaded, “if you’re there, save my son and I will serve you my entire life.” The woman’s son became well and, although she knew nothing of this higher being she prayed to and believed saved her son, she did things she knew to be good—things she thought to be of service. She was kind, she helped others, she tried to make good choices, she loved, she practiced selflessness. One day missionaries came to her village and taught the people about their God, how he loved them, how their lives could be changed if they gave their heart in service to him. The woman smiled and patted her heart. “Oh, I’ve been serving him for a long time,” she said. “I just didn’t know his name was God.”

Last night, we said a real “Dear God” prayer before bed. I started with “Thank you for—,” and Lainey filled in the rest. Food, her mommy and daddy, her siblings, her friends, her puppy blanket, hair ties, pink crayons, Dora shampoo. And then we prayed for those who are hurting, for those in need. “Let them feel love,” I said, “and let us find ways to give love.” We talked about what it means to feel and give love. “Like when you color a picture for someone?” Lainey asked.

Yes, that.

Sometimes we make things so much more complex than they need to be.

319 comments:

1 – 200 of 319   Newer›   Newest»
Magnificent Adventures of Michelle & Mack said...

Amen. Love it all.

darlene mcleod said...

Beautiful, Kelle. The universality of love, the truth of love that is so big, so unending, so immeasurable that it overrides everything, every fault, every mistake, every turning away, a love that makes the rivers to flow and the grass to grow and the sun to rise and our breath to go in and out, that is what I seek to teach our children. We are at church every Sunday morning, and that's an act of worship for us, and a coming together into community, but learning about love, that deep, unfathomable love? That happens best in our home. And the best part? How my children are, day after day, teaching me about love, not through my love of them, but through their love of each other.

Caroline said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Angi B said...

Nailed it. Thank you for helping me come to my own starting point with my littles. Beautiful post, Kelle. Thank you.

Sarah said...

Love this Kelle.

ananchorage said...

Raised in Christian churches, I have no belief in God as defined by the Bible. In choosing to raise my children without a religion, it means for much more personal responsibility and not doing something just because a religion says it's right or wrong. Religion certainly plays a role in comfort for people and acts as guidance, but not buying into an organized religious belief system has allowed for us to look without judgement at the many, many, many other beliefs of peoples around the world.

Gloria

Sara from A Plethora of Pondering's said...

Beautifully written! I was not raised in a religious household, but I did attend a Baptist university. I learned many things, all of which I studied very carefully. I decided what I would believe and wouldnt and I interpretted things in my own way. Do I believe there is something bigger than me out there? Sometimes. But I believe in being good and loving to all. I think God is pretty okay with that. I think we have a mutual understanding with eachother and that is enough for me.

As to what I should teach my daughter......I think I will just let her be little for now.

Susan said...

Kelle, I absolutely adore this post. It says what I've been trying to verbalize for years. Thank you!

Monica said...

Perfect.

Emily said...

This was beautiful and honest. I struggle with a lot of the things you described, and can relate to your descriptions of childhood fears about God that still pop up from time to time. I still attend church and worry about things from that end (meaning, I feel the need to counter-balance some of what my kids learn there)and I too want my babies to learn from all sorts of people.
I like your outlook on life, and hope for simplicity in this area too :)

Jenne said...

The other day, during a heavy-duty thunderstorm, I threw out a joking "that's just God bowling" to calm my 4 year old daughter. I opened a floodgate of worries that I hadn't addressed consciously but have always been lurking in the back of my parenting closet...just what am I going to teach my girl about God and all that encompasses? Thank you for addressing this; although we have very different experiences, it's comforting to know I'm not alone in my thoughts these days. Thank you for sharing.

Live.Love.Laugh. said...

today's blog hit home with me. After being away from church on a regular basis...too lazy, out of town, hungover...I'm now going more regularly but feel guilty when I disagree with certain things. Or question certain things. But I believe in a higher power too. I can't help but look at my own lil' Lainey and believe in a higher power that blessed me with her. In my case, I didn't go the biblical route with the whole mom, dad thing as I am a single mom by choice and used a donor. But you can't tell me she's not a gift from God even if I did it differntly than the bible says to do it. Now if I can just figure out why it's taking him so long to send me someone special in the form of a funny, kind, and cute fella. ;) (As always, I so enjoy reading your blog. I've been reading for several years...almost since the beginning...and I just finished your book. I cried throughout half of it. Wonderful!)

Kamma{}Nala said...

Fantastic - it's like you read my heart and wrote it down for me!

The Scott's said...

Love...

steinbecksister said...

Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I feel much the same way. Raised in church and struggling with much of those "lessons" the past few years. I didn't feel so conflicted until lately, raising children. You put so eloquently into words much of what I have thought and felt. ♥

Michelle D said...

Amazing post! We have been in limbo with religion in our home recently. My husband and I are both LDS/Mormon but due to infertility struggles the last 5 years have been a trial of faith. Neither of us are as active with our religion anymore, my husband less so than myself. Our twin daughters from IVF just turned 2 and I totally feel what you wrote about the panic of how do I raise them, what do I teach them, etc in addition to how will their peers (in Mormon Utah...whole nother story) treat them if we aren't the typical LDS active family. This post was just what I needed to hear, read and feel. I swear I'm saving it so I remember the important parts of life when it comes to God. You are such a wise wise woman. Thank you!!

Melissa said...

Thanks for the honesty in this post. I feel less alone in my own personal struggle with faith... so many of the things you said are exactly how I feel.

Kati Mallory said...

I feel like I just read a letter to me, from me. Thank you for putting my own feelings into words that make sense. The writer in you is such an amazing gift, and this post really touched my heart. I don't have children (yet) but am sure I will struggle with these same issues. Anyway, just wanted to say thank you. I am saving this post for myself. Maybe it will help me better define my own personal journey, my beliefs, and my feelings.

Katelin Breitmayer said...

Thank you Kelle, for your grace-filled words. I'm not yet a parent, but when that day comes, my prayer is to tell and show my children how deep and wide and strong and boundless God's love is for them. no. matter. what. That he created them and knew every part of their being. My prayer is that they know that they are are His, just as much as mine. That their self confidence, and self esteem will come from that truth, and not anything they do or achieve. There are times when selfless love, grace and empathy speak more about God's love than words can. I'm so grateful for the light and love that you share.

Caroline said...

Sorry, posted earlier with a weird link. Thanks again for sharing this. It will mean a lot to so many people.

Megan said...

Oh Kelle, so many of the words you so beautifully wrote are the same thoughts I have had for the past several years.
I too grew up in a very "religious" family (southern baptist)I am now a mother of two and have not been to church in 6 years.I feel so much closer to God now than I ever have. God is love that is for sure and that is what my daughters know!
Thank you so much for your words, this really spoke to me this afternoon.
Carry on love sister!

Courtney Anderson Photography said...

Whenever you write about your early Church-going-days, I am instantly taken back to mine. I had totally forgotten about flannel graph until you started writing about it. I kind of miss it. It was kind of cool. Anyway, I love this post, and agree with so much you say. You should totally check out my friend, Andrew Farley. He is a professor in Texas, and a pastor, and his books are pretty rad. "God Without Religion" is my favorite. I think you would like it. So much love and light to you and yours. xo

theshooz said...

Love this post, Kelle. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and feelings about such a complicated, yet simple, topic. I've been a part of a church--a very traditional church--for as long as I remember, and I'm confident I always will be. Even so, there are times when it seems we get caught up in worrying and thinking about the wrong things, like what color to paint the Sunday School rooms, and what types of fundraisers to have to support teen events, and how our young people must participate in Bible bowl events or else it will be the end of the world, and we forget the focus should really just be on love. How to love our family, our neighbor, our friends, and in doing so, love God. Love to know that others have these type of reflections as well.

Love is all you need said...

So beautifully said. You would make one amazing Mormon you know?;) my favorite scripture is from the Book of Mormon... "Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God..." Yes. God is love.

JustMrsForbes said...

I love this, Kelle. Thank you for verbalizing what is so scary for many of us who have been raised in religion are so scared of upon growing up: that we need to figure out what we believe because we believe it, what we think is right because it's what we've been led to believe, and what we need to do about each. My own beliefs have also been evolving, and I appreciate knowing I'm not alone.

Tara Pohlkotte said...

beautiful. and so, so true. My life mirrors your own path in away that each of these words ring true. Being a pastor's daughter, who now as an adult doesn't bring her children to church due to hurt, and due to really a greater picture that I don't believe is captured within four walls.

In fact, this very topic is what I contributed as an author to a multi-authored book called "Finding Church", and why ultimately, I have decided to stay out, even while I believe some of the fundamental 'ins' of Christianity. I wrote this post which is included in my chapter: http://www.pohlkottepress.com/2012/02/gypsy-kingtelling-my-children-why-i.html

Jennifer Miller said...

Oh you made me cry at work! It is so strange how this idea of God and faith can turn a person so inside out. I too have been thinking, well really obsessing, about how to teach my daughter about God and faith. I went to church for most of my life and then stopped in my 20's because of people, not God. I know all of the stories by heart but my daughter doesn't, what to teach her? I like your take on it, Love, and just living your faith. Hoepfully my daughter will see what I do and know what love is and that is it God. Because I do believe he lives inside me guiding me and comforting me. All it take is a beautiful hazy afternoon to remind me that Life is Good and God is Good. Thank you.

Andrea said...

Love the honesty Kelle. I imagine you had to do a gut-check before you posted this, but I'm so glad you did. It's a complicated topic, especially when you've been raised not just IN a religion, but in a CULTURE of religion. I was raised Catholic and I often tell my husband "I'm Catholic the way that I'm female ... I don't feel that I have a choice." A few years ago, I read a story about Mother Teresa's diaries; they were found after she died and parts of them were published, and one part struck a deep chord with me -- Mother Teresa wrote that God did not "speak" to her, and it was very painful for her, because she desperately craved his guidance. Mother Teresa had a crises of faith and she was Mother FREAKIN' Teresa. It's good and healthy to think about this stuff, and to thoughtfully approach religion with your children, which you are certainly doing. Big ((hugs))

Ana Paula~A Católica said...

Hi, Kelle Hampton!

My name is Ana Paula and I am from BRASIL. I am a reader of your Blog and with this new Post I was attempted to leave a comment.

It was funny because I have always had this feeling that God was not mentioned in your life with your husband and kids, so I am so happy to see Him finally mentioned!...

I am a catholic. I am not going to tell you to choose my church.

Just wanna to say that to have a religion and take it really serious is so much important. It really gives a good sense that the meaning of our life is to look to the Heaven and carry on despite all the things and also to look to the things of this life and see Heaven in them.

I have Jesus Christ and His mother, Holy Mary, my examples and protectors.

Since my baby boy, whose name is Jaime Augusto, began to eat (he is just one year old), I make the Sign of the Cross with the hands to bless his food and I pray to his Guardian Angel - because in my faith all of us have one Guardian Angel designated by God.

So... Let God do part of your life. And choose a faith. When we pray in a particular faith, like the Catolicism for example, when we participate of a community of faith, one gives to another hope and shows the presence of God.

So... Congratulations for the prayer with your kids!

May God bless your Wonderful Family! And your readers!

Stay in His Love!! Health and Peace!!

P.S. Forgive my bad English. In my country, we speak Portuguese.

~~~

Jessica said...

This is my heart as well. My five-years-ago self would cringe and judge my current self. I previously made it my mission to share my faith with those that were "lost". Years later, it has become clear to me that we are all a little lost and we are all simply trying our best to figure out how to live and love. How we share our faith with others can be beautiful and it can also make an "us" versus "them" dichotomy. We must be careful not to hurt people with what should be beautiful. Yes, let's teach our children how to love. Let's teach them how to value themselves and others. Let's teach them to be brave and look out for those that are perceived as different.

Aren't we then teaching them about God?

Joleen Denman said...

You did it with this one Kelle! Thank you for verbalizing how I feel but don't know how to say. If you haven't read it already, I think you would really, really enjoy this young woman's open letter to Church: http://dannikanash.wordpress.com/2013/04/07/an-open-letter-to-the-church-from-my-generation/

Melissa said...

What a beautiful post. It's on my mind and heart a lot, too, as we are an interfaith family and have chosen Judaism as our current practice. There are people who practice their faith with ferocity everywhere, in all walks. While extremism certainly isn't for us, it's challenging sometimes to find our way. Sometimes I think I love Judaism because I'm not Jewish--I don't have any baggage. And I've felt mostly acceptance and inclusion from the larger community. When I haven't, it's hard, as you say, not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. And sweet Avi comes home with all kinds of observations, like when he told my hubs that he "wasn't really Jewish," because he "drives a car on Saturday" doesn't "read the Torah." There are so many ways to practice spirituality/religiion, and my hope for our kids is that they will have a solid foundation from which to make their own choices when they get older. Avi asked me if the new baby will be Jewish. I explained to him that Judaism is something his dad and I chose for our children long before they were born. He knows I am not Jewish and wonders how this works, too. But it's all good, and such a rich topic. Thanks for writing about it! xo

Ryan and Katie said...

I was also raised "in the church" and recently found the book Mere Christianity by CS Lewis to be very inspiring to me. His approach to the faith is purely philosophical and he doesn't even reference Bible verses. Even though it was written quite a few decades ago, I really found it applicable.
As for the hard questions with kids...I know I came across quite a few at Easter with my 3 year old! However I think it's better to say "I don't know" than to make assumptions or give false information to sugar coat a Bible story. I struggle with so many things when I read the Bible, but it is through my struggles that I grow. You are the perfect example of someone who has grown through struggles: your blog and your book are so beautiful and inspiring and I think as long as we continue to seek Him, He will reveal himself to us in all sorts of amazing ways!

Victoria said...

wonderfully and beautifully put. i think you are right smack-dab-on-target with wanting to teach your children about God through love,because that it what HE is about---love!

thank you,as always,for sharing different and intriguing and hard topics yet you make them so "simple" and warm.

love the photos,too :)

Chasing Hazel said...

Your honesty knows no bounds. Thanks for sharing and as always, giving me food for thought.

Mrs. Dubose said...

This is a beautiful, honest, heart-felt post and I appreciated it very much. I too have struggled with religion and faith, more so than you even. It's a huge topic and it's good to share thoughts. Those ark stories pissed me off and I am glad that your friend turned that ark around and picked up everyone. I have long abandoned organized religion but just recently I have started to explore my faith. I have a very small blog where I do talk about those things quite frequently and I think there are good and useful discussions to be had on both sides of the religious divide.

Rachael said...

Oh girl, I never felt more in common with you than I do now. My husband grew up in that environment, Wheaton Illinois. His dad created the Billy Graham museum and he is just so DONE right now. I got "saved" in high school and fell into a black of hole of judgement for years. It wasn't until I attended a Christian College that I started to wake up and see... these Christians aren't all good people... they aren't all.. very Christian like? It freaked me out, I backed away.

Slowly, surely, I am making baby steps towards faith again. And you summed it up beautifully what we believe in this house. We believe in a God of love. We aren't sure we know his name, we believe he has many names. But he's real, he's powerful, he loves us and we believe he created the trees. Even if someone else planted them :) (gosh I adore her, so sweet.)

My favorite entry I've read here. There is so much beauty in the uncertainty, in the kindness. You are awesome for keeping it real.

Jo Diehl said...

I am of your parents' generation--grew up in a strict, legalistic, "thou shalt not" denomination. While I never completely left the organized church, I did leave the small thinking I knew as "truth" & have long been a member of a different evangelical church. I'm still learning; I still question many things; I still believe Jesus is my Savior; I am still changing & growing; I am in need of daily forgiveness as I fall short; I'm still pretty conservative in most of my views; I have & love many people with very different beliefs from mine. But I believe VERY MUCH in your very last statement--that we make "it" way too complicated!!

Ashley said...

Beautiful. I too was raised "in the church." Fluctuating between strict southern baptist, lutheran, and nondenominational. In college I too backed away. Only after my son was born did I feel the need to reconnect in some way, my own way. I knew the teachings, I knew the "rules" depending on what church I was at that weekend. (very confusing for a child bouncing between a church that outlaws dancing and one that dances in the aisles) I've finally found a church that believes as I believe. Simply put, Love Wins. Hold true and fast to that mantra and you cannot go wrong. Thanks to you I also found Momastery this year and realized that there are more out there like me...love wins Kelle. You are teaching that daily, church doesn't have to be in a building. It's every moment when your teaching your littles to be good, caring, human beings. Love wins.

Runner Mom said...

I too am finding the need to revisit my religious experience (and frustrations) of my past. You have put into so many words exactly what I myself have been processing and finding when it comes to teaching my children the things I know. I also do not want to limit their relationship with God/a High Power/The Universe/etc, with my own personal views or experiences. But I am finding that in living, loving and being kind to people, things, the earth I am showing them what I know and teaching without telling at all. Someday I'm sure we'll read those adorable bibles on our shelf too, but for now, we will live it. I love this post Kelle! I find it so funny that right when I am going through this sort of thing, here you come with a post just about that particular subject. Perfect timing? Higher power? xx PS- Dash is looking so grown already- it's amazing how quickly they change.

Heidi said...

I'm going to guess the Bible the book club gave you was the Jesus Storybook Bible? If not, you might like it. Every story comes up to God's “Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love.” And the pictures are beautiful, too!

rebecca said...

Have so been there. We did not "do religion" for many years based on the scars of how we were raised. Kids came along, started asking questions. A few years ago we found a Unitarian Universalist congregation. Love it! The premise - God is love. We each have our own spititual path. We are all born innately good. Help each other. There is nothing you HAVE to believe. Some call it church for the agnostics, or "hippie church". It works for us.

Cristiana said...

This is probably your best post ever and you have written pretty good ones! Thank you for sharing!

HP Freeman PNI said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jennifer said...

Beautifully said.

Luv2teach said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you for your honesty and for writing the words of my heart. I have a sweet baby boy too, and this is something I struggle mightily with because I've always felt closer to God on a mountaintop, or standing in the forest, or feeling the sun on closed eyelids, than in any church that separates so many into "us" and "them", I want the world to be more of a "we". Thank you Kelle, you inspire me, and my little baby fledgling blog, that probably doesn't have the "oomph" to survive, but I'm trying! (Here is a post I'm a bit proud of, I would love your opinion, http://swingingfromthebirches.blogspot.com/2013/03/missing.html)

Jen Biasi said...

Good stuff, girlfriend...
To show you we're on the same page:
http://www.lilamarin.blogspot.com/2011/04/jen-and-art-of-spiritual-maintenance.html
xo

This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness ~ Dalai Lama

You+Me=Family said...

This post hurts a bit. My relationship with the church growing up was similar, I also left it in my early twenties and everything you say resounds with me. And the bibles from the grandparents! I have at least three...and only one child so far! Last year, my husband really wanted to find a church and I really did not. I just didn't think there was a place for someone who acknowledged that she didn't know what the truth was and wasn't willing to condemn others who believed something else. Then we found what I didn't think existed, a 'church for the rest of us.' I actually did find a place that thinks that God gave you a brain to question and where the focus is on loving people because God loves them first. It's amazing. I'm still figuring it out, but it is an incredible feeling to be truly exploring faith and God in my life again.

pholtzer said...

I was raised a Christian and feel such heart pain when you speak of the wrath and judgement and almost cruelty of God, as if our lives are all about "good works" and "earning your spot"!! God is just like a loving parent who wants his children to succeed and thrive more than we can even fathom!!!! It is because of his grace that we have full choice and free will to live as we choose!!! But he has created each and every human being for a purpose--in his own image--to do amazing things here on this planet!! I tell my kids all the time that HIS plan for your life is far better than the one even you can dream--because I've lived it!! Even 21 years ago when my daughter and I were in a car accident and she had massive head injuries, I never doubted that the best place for her and I to be was right in his hands. And he is faithful!! His love never fails!!!!
Never accept condemnation--it doesn't come from him!!!!

Nicola said...

Oh the God thing, I closed the door on that messy room too! Mum's side are staunch Catholic, dad's are holocaust-survivor- Jewish, and I spent long enough in the dance world to have a solid love of the gay community. Growing up I felt that I was on the back foot with God, because I'd already broken some kind of rule by being 'mixed'

Now I've got more peace with it, that God is what you need him to be, and I imagine it like a venn diagram, there's Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Buddhism all around,and right in the middle, that overlapping bit between all the religions? It's pure love.

So its no coincidence that whenever I felt the 'holy' be it lighting a candle for nana, praying for my aunt at the Vatican, or going to church with my mum on Christmas, it's through an act of LOVE.

Stacie said...

Thank you for this post, Kelle. I too am still dropping that fear of questioning and seeking out my our journey with finding God as an adult outside the confines of a strict religious upbringing. I love this.

Caitlin Ostberg said...

Thank you so much for your honesty. I've grown up my whole life going to church, but in my childhood, I had no friends there. I didn't see God there. As I've gotten older, I've been able to discover my faith. I think what many in the Church forget is that God is transcendent of everything. He doesn't just live in a book or a building. He is in those places, but not only there. As your kids grow up, they will define in their own terms what faith is to them and who God is to them. My favorite line of yours is.

"I realized I was being silly. The details of creation, the many stories, whether they be allegory or not—they aren’t as important as the truth we live every day. Love. Love this earth, love each other, love yourself. I am teaching that to my children through terms that literally include God but more so through events that breathe him. We pray “Dear God” when we remember to say the words, but we live “Dear God” when we forget."

I've always looked for God in other places. And it's amazing how easy it is to see him in the everyday. I saw on Instagram that you've been reading a lot. Maybe take a look at Leo Tolstoy's story "What Men Live By." It's a short story that examines faith, in a truly practical and breathable way.

I hope that your search and faith yourself, leads you to wonderful discoveries.

Renee said...

This is absolutely beautiful and touches my soul. When I was young my mom taught me that there is a higher power great than myself and that everyone calls it by a different name. When I was 9 she asked me what I would name my higher power. I thought long and hard and eventually decided on Love. I decided at 9 years old that my higher power was love and that's what it should be called. I've stuck with it ever since and now that I'm an adult I realize how true that really is for me. I see that every religion's base foundation is love. How interesting that at such a young age that's what I came up with. I really want to teach my children the same foundation my mom did. To treat others the way we want to be treated and to always be kind and compassionate.

My mom grew up Catholic and is now Buhddist. Like you it took her a long time to get past the guilt that was engrained in her from such a young age. I think it's great that you're trying to continue on some of the wonderful things you were taught and leave behind the scary stuff. :)

Megan C Larem said...

Very well said! I am a regular church goer, but I loved what you had to say and I could definitely identify with your "younger self." I really enjoyed this post and your blog as well. I found it from a teacher friend and have been hooked. I have a strong passion for working with children with special needs in my own classroom and seeing all you do for Nella is awesome. I am in school working towards my certificate in special education and I got really excited when my professor had us watch your ONEderfund video and read Nella's birth story and your blog for our class to see how families advocate and help their child to have a successful life. I thank you for sharing your life with us!

Nichole said...

Oh, Kelle- thank you, thank you, thank you! I have been having thoughts very similar to yours for a few years now but had no idea how to express them. To be honest, I didn't understand them enough myself to even begin to tell someone else. You have just put my thoughts and feelings into words! I, like you, was raised in a Christian church by my mom and pastor/preacher dad. I now have 2 littles and struggle with how to raise them. I believe in God but find it hard to believe that He "punishes" us. I want to show them His love without making them afraid. Thank you again!

Jenna W said...

I appreciate your thoughts on this. However, as a mama who is also a pastor's wife, I think that God shows the perfect example of unconditional love for a child - he sends his own son to die on the cross for us! THAT is perfect love. Yes, we live under the law - the "thou shalt nots" and the angry God that you speak of - but because we are sinful and can't fulfill these requirements, we find our answer in the death and resurrection of Christ. Wherever you find yourself in your faith journey, I pray that can give you peace. The ultimate message of the Bible - overarching and trumping all other stories - is that we are saved through God's love and grace. Please remember that.

KS Photography said...

So where did the tree seeds come from? ;)

I think you're on the right path with being open to being taught. No, I do not think I'm better than you because of that last sentence.

If God created this world then aren't his teachings more than what we could think of for ourselves, even with the seed of divinity placed within us? We are destined to become like our Heavenly Parents, to eventually become Creators, should we choose that path.

I think you're a wonderful mother and choose a few things you do with your children to help me in my mothering. Thank you for being an inspiration to so many, Kelle.

<3

Erin said...

I was not particularly raised in church... My parents did teach me who God is, what He does, but nothing further. I knew that if I lived as a good person, I would go to heaven. I knew the Bible is His word, but not that I was supposed to follow it.

I wasn't forced to go to church, but found my own way there as a sophomore in high school. I wasn't a rebellious teen. I was actually a pretty good kid. Never cussed, never drank, did drugs or partied, and never even considered premarital sex. All before I even truly knew God and how I was supposed to live. I kind just ended up in a church one Sunday after spending the night with a friend whose father happened to be a preacher at the local Church of Christ. I'm not going to lie, I was worried. I had only heard bad things about the COC, but trusted my best friend not to put me in a situation that made me uncomfortable. Plus, I knew if I didn't like it I wouldn't have to go back. When I did go to church in middle school with my grandparents, I went to a Baptist church. I actually got baptized there when I was 12 and learned that to be saved, it was necessary and I wanted to give my life to God. But so many things happened within that congregation (mainly among the youth, who let's face it, didn't want to be there) that turned me away from church, even away from God to an extent. How can these people claim to be children of a loving God and do everything He says not to?
So, there I was. In a skirt carrying a Bible walking into a church building for the first time in 3-4 years. From what I heard about churches of Christ, I expected everyone to be judgemental, criticizing, and turn me away; I expected them to condemn me a sinner and send me on my way. But what I found was a group of people, waiting for me with open arms reading to include me. They answered any questions I had, even ones no one in my previous Baptist church could answer, with scripture. My eyes were opened to the kind selfless people who were within the church. I also learned that those condemning judgemental people did exist and it was up to me to extend my love and my ability to ignore the unjust judgements.
I am not saying any of this to tell you are wrong, I promise. Just telling my story of religion. Since I officially rededicated myself to God about a year and a half ago, I have had struggles. Moments of "I don't agree with what the Bible says." I've had my frustrations with God... I've at many points lost my zeal.I've questioned Him against my better judgement. But overall, it was the hope of eternal life that got me through so much in high school. My church family pulled me through my parents' divorce, through my brother's drug addiction, my other brother's cancer, my mom's coma, my dad's near death heart disorders... It has been a tough 3 years in my short 19. I've taken the opportunity to figure out my faith through God, the Bible, and the world around me. I strive to be a true Christian. Not one who condemns others...because, I am just as sinful as anyone else in this world.
I like to take components of other religions as a way of life, though not a way of worship.
There are a lot of ways to love God, but as a strict Bible follower (or, I guess I should say a strict attempter...)I do advocate church and learning the teaching of the Bible. But we all have to find faith in our own ways. Honestly, I am thankful for not growing up in church because I got here on my own which let me make my own decisions concerning it.
I respect your choice of faith and I know that you will do what you feel is best for your children even if I do not agree 100%. I hope your story helps others find peace with their own religious struggles and that maybe my story can give another perspective as well.

God bless! Erin

Anne from Hampshire College said...

Dear Kelle,

I am a PhD student and I research Down Syndrome, religion, and anthropology. I am a published author and I am interested in your experience with Nella, disability, and religion. Specifically, I am interested in including your life story into m Phd research about mothering children with disabilities. I have a contract with NYT to publish my thesis as a series when I finish the writing. I am hoping you are interested in chatting with me and possibly speaking with my PHd cohort about mothering a child with a disability. I am affiliated with the University of Connecticut.

Yours,

Anne Kohler
aek08@hampshire.edu
kohleranne@gmail.com
(860) 878 1425

Jessica said...

It's like you put my very own thoughts on paper and hit publish. I, too, was raised in church. And while I have lived anything but a "good Christian life" I could NEVER deny He was real. And listening to the news today about Boston... and I'm instantly amazed and the number of people who PRAY to the God they aren't sure exists.. until they need peace and comfort. He's real, there is no denying it, you will never convince me otherwise. I, too, have been slowly incorporating these things into my children's discussions - because this world is scary and some people are very messed up - and the only way we will survive is God, is love... thank-you for this inspiring post.I think so many of us long to go back to our faith when things were so simple - but as a wiser generation without the judgement without the condemnation, without the superior motives. I know I am.

Sarah B-D said...

Hi Kellie, I so appreciate you sharing your journey of trying to know God and how to share that with your children. It would be great if "love is all you need" (John Lennon?) covered it all, but sometimes, as we know, life is crap and life is harder than that. While the smorgasboard/buffet approach of taking the best bits of all religions and faiths can suit our view of God and life just fine, it misses the truth that God is so much bigger than our view of Him.
I love your ending story of the woman who prayed for her sick son and then worshipped the higher power without knowing it was "God".

We are amazing because God made us, and we are spiritual beings, hence our desire to know Him and follow something.. But we are human , with limits. Sometimes we are helpless too (like that woman with the sick son):- to be free from sin and evil and death - and hence to be right with a perfect God. But it's not helpless and we have a way to know God, through Jesus who died, so that we might live!...I know you've heard that before, but I pray the Lord makes it real for you. Much love, Sarahx
p.s. praying you don't delete me for being too preachy or (horrors) judgmental!

Susan Martin said...

From one PK (Preacher's Kid) to another I say AMEN sister!

BrieAnn and Teddy said...

I love your blog! You are an amazing mother and I look up to you and the way you raise your children. I am LDS. Also known as a Mormon. I read one of your posts about being afraid of police officers and seeing those missionaries on bikes....I bet those were Mormon missionaries. I served a mission in CA. We would walk or ride bikes -inviting people to learn more about how God is love and how he has a plan for all of us-all day every day for 1-2 years. If you want to learn what we believe you are more than welcome to go to lds.org or mormon.org. I hope I'm not being too preachy or anything but I just wanted to share.

Phil and Beth said...

For people recovering from strict evangelicalism and trying to find an adult-style faith that deals with all the 'angry God' questions, evolution, only-Christians-are-saved-from-burning-hell, I really think you'll like Rachel Held Evans' Evolving in Monkey Town. Please consider reading it! You'll laugh and cry and relate so much!

God is so much bigger than the evangelical/fundamental churches of America would have you believe!

Also: Frederick Buechner, Anne Lamott, Brian Maclaren, Peter Enns, etc, etc...everyone struggling with real questions about love and destiny and how we got here is in good company with some brilliant writers!

Considerer said...

Bear in mind not to confuse 'teachings' by people with 'Who God Is' - as you've seemingly noticed, they can be two VERY different things.

Kelly @rusticfarmhouse said...

I love the way you've simplified things. Faith does not have to be "figured out" all the time, and everyone's journey looks and feels different.

You might appreciate this woman's blog: http://howtotalkevangelical.addiezierman.com/

She shares openly about her evangelical past, its downfall, and how different her faith looks now. I totally relate to her, and think you might too.

Jorie said...

My 4yr old daughter brought me a children's Bible the other day and asked me read it to her. So we started reading it and there were some stories I didn't remember or know well. And trying to explain what happened to the "bad" people is hard to do and find the right words to describe to her. It's hard for me to comprehend let alone a 4 yr old!

Thank you for putting some of it into words for us. Where there is love, there is God.

Hillery said...

I grew up in church. And while I continue to go to church and take my kids, I also relate to your past. The fear. Oh the fear. God was to be feared and obeyed, I don't remember much about love as a child.

We also found what is hard to find. A church that isn't about denomination, but about love. Love for people and love for God. It helps that our pastor is a missionary kid. He has a bigger perspective. Those "rules" don't matter.

I even choose to now teach Sunday school. Reason being, I like what is being said. The school age kids sit in school all week bombarded by so many influences. I get to sit with them on Sunday and tell them, for one hour, that they are loved. Loved by God and by me. He listens, and the Bible is His love letter to us.

I have not enjoyed reading childrens bibles to my kids. Then I found one that is wonderful. It is called the storybook Bible, every story whispers His name. Every story is told with the perspective of Jesus being our hero and how much He loves us. Finally, a book that inspires and doesn't berate.

It is a beautiful post Kelle. Keep searching, thinking, loving.

LeiShell said...

I had a hard time reading this post this time. Not because I didn't understand what you are feeling of God or even believe...but that it isn't specific to you. I worry that being a good person is being confused with knowing God. He's not to be feared, but loved...and in that beautiful relationship we are changed by grace that He gives. There is one God...and I know He finds those that can't find him...but if we are aware of Him, yet make conscious decisions to ignore Him, we risk our eternal life. All He wants is to love and be loved..not to punish or hurt us through trials. God has given us our ability to make choices so sometimes he doesn't step in even when we want Him to...why I think bad things happen...but not to intentionally hurt us. I love that there's a desire to teach your children, proof that God has been tugging at your heart. The next step is to surrender and let him do the leading. And from there, something so much more than "what you were taught of God" will emerge.

Victoria Taylor said...

This is my favorite post of yours ever. Your words are so familiar to me and my heart and it encourages me to read what you've written and then see how many lovely ladies commented that it touched them with truth too. I am so glad to see that I am not alone!

Starr said...

The eskimo asked the preacher,'If I had never heard of Jesus, would I go to hell?' The preacher said that he wouldn't. So the eskimo asked'Why did you come all this way to tell me?'.

notfirstbutlast said...

I feel like discussing religion is such a no-no (especially when you are on the "non-organized religion" side of it). People don't like to discuss things like this and I never understood why. I share your views on this 200%. I was nodding along while reading. But I could never write about it in fear of offending my friends who DO believe in organized religion/bible/etc. Wish more of us could step away and become affirmed in our beliefs. Kudos. And Thank You!

RHS Alumni Association Buffalo NY said...

Kelle, you live it every day. No need to ever doubt yourself.

Starr said...

We need to treat our belief in all these figments of imagination (God, Jesus, the Devil, etc) like our genitals: don't bring it out in public and yell how much bigger and better your beliefs are and don't cram them down your children's throat.
"AMEN"

Laurie said...

I think this is the best thing you have ever written! I really loved the story you concluded your post with. I haven't read it before, but it definitely sums up my feelings. Live like a good person and you are living as God intends, no matter what organized religion (or not) you identify with. Thank you for sharing.

annaleighmcclelland said...

Well put, mama. I've been contemplating these things myself. We went to church regularly until my parents divorced when I was in middle school. And after a couple rotten experiences, I pretty much decided church wasn't for me. I went to an Easter service this year with a friend, her family and mine, and I have to say I was moved. My girl too is old enough to be curious. And there have been some questions that she's asked lately to which my only response has been "That's how God made/wanted it/her/him/that." She hasn't actually asked who God is yet though, and I'm not sure I'm prepared to answer that question. I think the church community would be very beneficial for us. But I still feel uneasy about it. I guess we'll see how it all goes ;-)

Kate said...

Thank you for being so open with your struggles of faith on your blog, I am sure that it was very difficult to discuss with the world! Although I do agree with the closeness in which you regard God in the little things of life, I am saddened by the current tendency to write-off religion. Religion can so enrich you faith, if that makes any sense! Anyway, I pray for you and your family. Thank you for sharing your world.

Julie P said...

After the tragic events of today in Boston, right across the river from where I live. Bombs going off only 2 miles from my house. Here I lay in bed with my 6 year old daughter and your post seems so poignant.
We started going to church this year. We found one that supports, encourages and accepts our two mom, one daughter family and its been great.

Claire said...

I think I understand what you mean. I've struggled with a faith that hurts too, wanting to believe but being discouraged by people mongering hate and fear. Then I went to college and found a church that truly cares about me. That loves me no matter what. That truly lives out their motto: "Love Above All!" I wanted to share with you a statement of faith that means a lot to me. It's from the Iona community in Scotland.

All: We believe that God is present
in the darkness before dawn;
In the waiting and uncertainty
where fear and courage join hands,
Conflict and caring link arms
And the sun rises over barbed wire.
We believe in a with-us God
Who sits down in our midst
To share our humanity,
A feasting God.*
We affirm a faith,
That takes us beyond a safe place
Into action, into vulnerability,
Into the streets.
We commit ourselves to work for change
And put ourselves on the line;
To bear responsibility, to take risks,
Live powerfully and face humiliation;
To stand with those on the edge;
To choose life
And be used by the Spirit
For God’s new community of Hope. Amen.
(from Iona Abbey Worship Book by The Iona Community)

lynxymama said...

i have a crying baby and some littles wanting a piece of THAT CAKE that they made with their daddy but bravo!!! i just can relate on so so so many levels kelle.

Gina said...

I love your blog, and have read your book. I get excited when I see that you've made a new post...which is usually about 1-2 hours before I am able to get on in the evenings. I have recently been thinking of whether or not I've been doing a dis-service to my kids by not talking about God, or taking them to church. This helped. Thank you.

Jacki said...

This is a really lovely post. My upbringing was very religion-centered and although my family are some of the most loving, good people I know, I haven't chosen to continue in a specific religion. It's a really weird place to be sometimes. I always enjoy hearing how others have found balance when it comes to spirituality and God.

Tonya said...

I can relate to a lot of what you have written. I come from the same religious background as you, and grew up with the same fear. When I started reading your blog, I still considered myself a Christian, but I was asking a lot of questions. I didn't plan for it to, but my journey led me to atheism. Ha, not something I ever thought I would call myself. But here I am, and I am happier than I have ever been. I found my truth, and believe it or not, I am pretty much the same person I have always been. I am just free to love and accept everyone exactly how they are. I think it is wonderful that you have come to a similar place still believing in god. As long as people practice kindness and love and acceptance, it really doesn't matter what god, or not, that they believe in. In the end, this is what I hope my children learn to believe in, whether they follow a particular religion or not, is up to them.

Teresa said...

Thank you for posting this. I am having a spiritual crisis at the moment and dragging my family along for the ride. We are trying to find a church that works for us, but I feel guilty about not raising my kids the way my parents raised me. I also find myself avoiding telling my kids the simple bible stories because I am not sure where they fit with me right now and I feel fake when I pretend I feel otherwise. And I feel super guilty about that.

Your words made me feel less alone in this struggle and I thank you again for that.

Rebecca H said...

I love this so much, thank you Kelle! I was raised in a religious household, and during my high school and college years I really searched through what I'd been taught. I'm thankful that my faith has become my own, and ironically everyone else in my family (only excluding my dad) has left organized religion. The important thing, I think, is the process of considering what you believe, no matter what answer you find. We need love and service and kindness in this world, no matter if you do it in the name of Jesus, humanity, or anything else.

Heather said...

The best post ever! I love this and I am first time commenter. I believe the only important thing to learn from religion is that everyone is loved regardless!

theandyoneals said...

Thanks Kelle. I love this post and agree wholeheartly with your message. I was raised Catholic and still go to church despite feeling, as an adult, much more in tune with my spiritual self and much more out-of-sync with the Church. Having said that, can I clarify one thing? In your listing of your friends, you separate Christians and Catholics. The Catholic religion is a Christian religion. I understand that it is different enough from many Protestant religion to deserve its own listing, but many people incorrectly believe that Catholics are Christians. Having grown up in a very Protestant area of Mississippi, I have felt the prejudice of those who have negative feelings about the Catholic church. Which I know is directly related to the unease I feel with organized religion in general AND with finding God within myself. Still trying to sort it all out! Thanks again for the beautiful blog and sorry for the diatribe.

Katie said...

Hey Kelle! I just picked up a book written by one of my favorite authors, Shauna Neiquist, and, surprise!, you wrote a review on the back of the book! YAYYY KELLE! A few years ago, I left a quote in your comment section that she wrote. She brings me to tears with her writing. I read that book while my West Michigan friends were meeting on Friday nights to watch John Piper sermons. I have nothing against John Piper, but on Friday nights, I needed to fill my life with something different--and they made me feel inferior by not joining them. Then I found the book, "Cold Tangerines", and I realized I wasn't alone in feeling God move more powerfully in the simple stuff--the not-so-deeply-theological stuff. I'm just excited that you're reading her books too. Growing up in a deeply loving, caring, real church really shaped me into who I am today. I miss my home church dearly but I've put down my own roots in a local church and the realness of the people there is truly wonderful. Some churches choose to judge but others have learned that they don't have all the answers either. We're all figuring out life together and that's a beautiful, honest, place to be. Love you for sharing your thoughts and being so amazingly honest.

Amber said...

I am so sorry to hear that you have been hurt by the church. I pray that Jesus will reveal himself to you in new ways and that you will begin to see who God truly is.

Much love to you and your family.

Anonymous said...

Preach. Always thoughtful, you. Thanks.

Jennifer Stelly said...

It's crazy the judgement one can feel by attending a church service, the VERY place someone should feel love and accepted. It wasn't until about 9 years ago that I became a part of my current church family. The words from the pastor: No where in the Bible does it refer to "the church" as a place or a building...we, the people, ARE the church!" We are the church.... And God's two greatest commandments are to Love God and Love People. I had NEVER heard truth spoken so simply! No judgment. Love God, Love People... That's it! I'm thankful for my relationship with Christ, for my church family ... And everyday I strive to love HIM and His people.

Caroline McGraw / A Wish Come Clear said...

Oh my, but this post spoke to my heart. Thank you for having the courage to put this out there. I, too, struggle to move past the fear and guilt and judgment that were wrapped up in the faith of my childhood ... and yet I also see glimmers of truth there. And I'm thankful for every step of the journey, even the ones that seemed to lead away from what I consider my faith and path now. Because they taught me to be merciful. They taught me to be kind. They taught me that I don't really know what will happen next, with me or with any of us, but that I trust in this:

"And I know that the only meaning is love." - M. L'Engle

Thank you, Kelle.

Marisa said...

This was so very brave. Thank you for being so honest about your journey. There are many times when I get so caught up in my own journey, finding love and being loved that I forget to bring the little ones along with me. But I know, the moments I've felt closest to God is when sharing with my children the ways in which His love has rescued me. Our conversations usually end with, "Mom, why are you are crying?" I feel His love when I see Him through their eyes; raw gratitude.

Alisa said...

I did not grow up with religion. I have been interested in different spiritual things over the years but never found something right for me.

As a mother now with children who ask tough questions I sometimes wish I had something more concrete to offer them.

My older two currently believe in god. We talk about going to heaven when you die. I am not sure I believe that but it is a nice thought. It gives them hope.

For me I find connection and comfort in things like gratitude, kindness, love, giving, nature. I draw my spiritual comfort from those things.

I am learning as I go with my kids and this stuff. They are free to believe in god. But we also openly discuss other beliefs and I let them take comfort in what they connect with.

But you are right. We do make things more complicated than we need to.

Maura Seitz said...

Wow, such beautiful, wise words. Love is truly the answer to all in our world. I was so struck by this post because I have been raised in a Catholic household, yet life experiences and the inquisitive nature of my soul have turned me away from the church. Though I have many fond memories of my faith communities, attend a Catholic high school, and plan to attend a Catholic university next year, I would not say I subscribe to the fairly narrow realm of Catholic beliefs. I serve others every day and try my best to live in and through love, which I think is the best any of us can do. Love is the most fufilling, real, raw, comforting emotion we can feel, and with everything that happens in our world we could use a little more of it. Thank you so much for this post and all of your inspiring words, all of which are seeped in love. I may not yet be a full-blown adult, spouse, or parent, yet the messages embedded in your blog transcend any category or label we can give to people. I wish you and your family all of the love the world has to offer.

Sandy said...

I'm sorry the church has hurt you so much.
And I pray you continue to grow in love, including love of God, who gave himself to us in love, a loving parent who blessed us with his Son.

Courtney Nugent said...

This post meant a lot, as I am from Boston and am having a tough time with the idea of God today.

The Cruce Family said...

Perfect. I had to read it twice to take it all in.

Heather said...

I love your honesty and so does God. He's so okay with our questioning Him. I believe that's when He answers our deepest darkest. How many people have been hurt by Christians? I see it all the time. If we were led to the Jesus of the Bible, and not to look at the humans who often pretend to be followers (or are simply human and make poor choices), we'd see a whole lot more love. His concept of living is right along the lines you adhere to! I pray my life demonstrates that instead of judgment.

Jennie said...

Here's a nifty fact: I was raised atheist, but this blog entry describes exactly what I've been mashing around in my own head lately. Such a thoughtful and extraordinary post, Kelle.

PS, big love to Boston and the rest of the U.S. from your friends in Canada!!

Betsi* said...

He promises that all who seek will find him, all who knock will have the door opened to them. And he also says he is Love and that perfect love casts out fear. He said I am the Way and the Truth and that the Truth will set you free. You're on the right path. You do know more about him than you think.

♥ julie said...

The beautiful thing about faith is that you never have to go it alone. Faith communities are the most beautiful parts of a life of faith, because they remind us that we don't have to do it all and they're there to celebrate with us and mourn with us. If you're ever feeling ambitious on a Sunday morning, check out Christus Victor Lutheran on Tamiami Trail. A bunch of my friends have served internships there, and have had deeply spiritual experiences as well as some of the most hilarious and uplifting moments of their lives. You'd be a great Lutheran, because we know that God doesn't care when our houses are a mess :)

Miggy said...

I'm going to be completely honest here--which I think you appreciate.

I'm a religious gal. While I was raised in a religious family, we were a rather dysfunctional bunch (who isn't?) and from a young age felt a large contradiction in the act of going to church each week, yet feeling a complete lack of love and harmony in my home. As I grew I faced the same difficult decision you just described--Do I or don't I? Will I or won't I? (believe, go to church, be a part of the formal experience, etc.) I choose, not a blind 'just believe, don't ask too many questions, and white-knuckle it through' faith, but an eyes and heart wide open, ask my hard questions, know I don't always get an answer, but practice a formal, church attending faith.

Here's where it's tricky, as I just proclaimed my adherence to a formal faith and you've described your stepping away from one. I certainly don't want to step on any toes.... I respect your point of view.

I guess my fear is that those of us who do still maintain a formal, regular church attending form of belief get a bit of a bad wrap. Judgmental, holier than thou, dogmatic believers who do what they're told.

I KNOW you weren't saying that. But even you admitted to once feeling that way, and sadly I think a lot of people still do. And honestly, it's not entirely off-base. It's part of the conundrum of religion--how do you talk about sin, morality, right and wrong, without occasionally (or frequently as the case may be) cast judgement? Or how do you at least make good judgements, because lets face it, everyone makes judgement calls every single day and it's not a bad thing--you need good judgement, even about other people...another topic for another time...

I guess I would just like to stand for the formal religious peeps out there and say, like you my faith is focused on LOVE. Actively practicing formal religion has made me less judgmental and more compassionate. There is a sweetness, a lightness and simplicity in everything you described above--It's just that I feel similar in my religious practice as well.

Just saying.... :)

Carrie said...

I loved this courageous post, thank you for sharing these feelings. I am an atheist, I will not raise my daughter atheist, but rather, I will teach her about all religions and true science and she will most likely see that things don't add up. We are a family that stresses compassion for all people (including other animals),that is our "religion".

Crystal said...

Im sorry you were so hurt by the church and shown such a one sided view of God. I'm
A pastors daughter as well and as well have been shown a lot of judgement in my life by people who think being Christian is superior. Jesus is superior not us,and we should walk humbly with him every day. Grace is supposed to drive us forward not supress us. Faith Is so simple: believe in the son of God. The rest is details that we figure out along the way. I think becoming a mom has helped me understand Gods love for us so much more. I was made in Gods image and I love my children unconditionally as he loves us unconditionally. But my job as a parent is to also allow my kids to learn consequences for choices, experience pain so they can have compassion..and so on. Your searching is good...Gods drawing you closer to a real relationship with him:) and you can still say shit too:)

Katie Anderson said...

Beautiful! I appreciate you being so honest and your ability to love people really well. Whether you realize it or not, you show Jesus' love in your writing, your actions, and your love for people. I have no doubt that your children feel his love through you. I strongly recommend the book "Love Does" by Bob Goff if you haven't (since you're inhaling books lately ;). I would love to send you a copy! (kjande13@asu.edu)

"I get the invitation every morning when I wake up to actually live a life of complete engagement, a life of whimsy, a life where love does." -Bob Goff

hersplitends.com said...

Beautifully said. I have struggled with the same thing my entire life. You literally put into words what has been on my heart. Thank you for reminding us all that above all else there should be love.

~ Jillian

Megan said...

The issue with just looking at the popular children's stories from the Bible (noah, king david, etc) is that they are the first part in a saga that culminates with Jesus. I like telling my girl about the stories in the Gospels and why they are so radical.
The center of it all is Jesus. When you see me you see the Father. He is Love. I agreed with so many of the things you believe in your very core, without church doctrine telling you so :). All people have been created to be amazing and have unsurpassable worth. Jesus reaches for each one and longs to be with us, part of our every day.
If you have time I would check out Rachel Held Evans or Greg Boyd. I've loved their stuff.
Again, thanks for sharing your journey thus far!

tinyhumanproject said...

I was recently given Mitch Albom's Have a Little Faith and I too found myself reevaluating my place for God and religion in my life. (http://tinyhumanproject.wordpress.com/2013/03/29/thoughts-on-religion-and-faith/) There is a difficult line between believing in God, being spiritual, etc. and being comfortable with organized religion. With something so difficult to define on a personal level, passing beliefs onto children can seem so messy. Thank you for your honesty on the topic.

Jazzy said...

Kelle,

I think you are one of those advocating "love" in this world, and for that I am grateful. I too am one of them mormons :) One thing I love about your blog is your love for being a mother. Something we share. How does that relate to this post? Never in my life has something helped my understand the love our Father in Heaven has for us than being a mother. That unconditional, perfect, love I feel for them, is what God feels for us (to an even greater extent, if you can imagine).

Not only does knowing that help me realize the true worth of my soul and that of my children--but it helps me understand what God wants for us. As parents, do we instill rules, and guidelines to hurt our children? Do they always understand the reasons we teach them certain things? Absolutely not. We believe we're helping them become grateful, compassionate and selfless people. Why? Because we know that is what will make them happy.

I do struggle with LOVE being the reason everyone can do whatever they want because we can rationalize that its for the greater good. (Just because my baby girl loves to color, doesn't mean I'm going to let her turn my entry way into her canvas).

One of my greatest desires in this life is that my kids can trust me, talk to me and use me a loving source for help. It is the same with our Heavenly Father. He would never send us to this earth without giving us his utter ad complete availability.


BTW- your little angel baby in those black Converse? I'm dying of cuteness.

Holly Crider said...

Absolutely fabulous, Kelle. We are currently deciding how to go about this with our soon to be 2 year old twin daughters. My husband and I both have scars from religion and church, and your post is just exactly what I needed to hear. Thank you for showing me that I'm not alone.

llcasillas said...

so good, Kelle. so good.

gracemadre said...

Love and grace. Love and grace. Teach these to your lovely children. Experience love and grace each day.

Heidi said...

Beautifully explored. Thank you!

Kasey said...

Thanks for sharing, Kelle! A beautiful post with many experiences I myself share. The faith journey is ongoing, but there's unity in love <3

Caroline Culver said...

This was what I needed to read today. I am finishing up seminary in 2 weeks. I am also a Methodist preacher's kid and have heard many a line about fear and rapture and anything else you can think of growing up in the bible belt of the south.

I have stepped back from my faith, from my religion, because it is too much to bear right now. Knowing that so many people are believers because they have been scared into breaks my heart, and knowing that I have the responsibility to show and teach and live in a way that shows God is love is scary. I think what you are doing with your children is showing them, teaching them that God is love and that our world needs more love in it. Thank you for being brave enough to do it.

Mandi Wolfswinkel said...

You constantly seem to speak the words I can't say so eloquently. I've struggled for awhile about faith and the Bible and God in my seemingly small Christian community who have very blunt unchanging views. This is so different from myself because my beliefs are ever evolving, and my experiences are always changing them. One thing has always remained constant and that is that Love wins. God's love wins. Our love wins. And though my beliefs may be different from others, that fact remains. If we focus on the love part, so many other things will fall into place. Thank you Kelle, as always, for being so eloquent. Much love to you and yours!

Amy said...

Oh Kelle, This is such a wonderful post.

I have been struggling with some of the same issues recently. Trying to figure out my faith after years of being a non-believer (though I was raised to believe). I wrote about this myself recently too, in an attempt to try to figure it all out. I still don't know the answer.

I know some things that I *don't* believe, like that God is wrathful, and that gay people are less deserving than straight, and that people go to hell if they don't believe what the Christian church teaches... But don't know just what I DO believe quite yet.

I know that I told my kids the story of the Resurrection for the first time this year. That was a pretty big deal for me. I was clumsy and awkward about it, but I told them (It helped to make "Resurrection rolls" and put little marshmallow Jesuses in yummy cinnamon sugar dough... )

Thank you so much for writing this. As I'm struggling with figuring things out for myself and trying to figure out what to tell my girls, it helps so much to read about someone else's journey, especially when that someone is you and you write it so beautifully. - Amy

Karol said...

It pains me that you grew up under the belief that God is one to be feared. I too grew up that way. But somehow, somewhere along the way I learned just how untrue that is. God is a god of love, mercy, compassion and redemption. I now have this amazing love affair with my King...Jesus. Just this evening at my small group bible study we marveled at how God knew that we, as humans would be imperfect, we would fail, we would sin and so, rather than throw condemnation at us, he gave his son for us. How awesome, how amazing, how LOVING is that? To read the bible in bits in pieces you will find, exactly as you said, alot of what looks like judgement. But don't stop there, keep reading and you will find love and hope and promise.

Here is a tough question that most would rather not think on. If, God forbid, something happened to Lainey, Nella or Dash and they were taken from this life where would they be? I ask this because my own sweet Laynee is gone from us, in heaven. I have had to come face to face with that question in the most horrific of circumstances. And the only reason I can face each new day without her is that I have HOPE that comes from knowing, from believing that God sent his son so that we can have eternal life....so that I can see my Laynee again some day.

It hurts my heart so much to know that so many view God as a mighty, controlling being on a throne. He IS great and mighty but so much more gentle and loving. He is the sunshine that filters through your windows. The sound of your baby's first cry. And all the love that surrounded you in the days after Nella was born.....that was God in action.

Teach your children about God, Kelle. And not just about him. Teach them to know him......to LOVE him....to breathe him in with everything that you do.

Nicole said...

This is EXACTLY where I'm at in my 'faith'. Thank you for being vulnerable and putting in words what is hard for many of us to express. You are living LOVE.

Amy said...

Bra-Vo.

Me. said...

This. Exactly this. Love.

Catherine said...

This is so perfect and exactly how I feel. I, too, having grown up strict Catholic, now have parted ways with the Church, but have struggled with how to incorporate God into my children's lives. It's nice to hear that other people are dealing with the same questions and that we tend to come about with the same answers. Love.

SurelyGrace said...

Kelle,

I've been reading your blog for a few months now. Your beautiful story of Nella's birth changed my entire perspective on special needs children. I truly believe you have been chosen!

With that said, I want to tell you that I feel that your post is incomplete. I was, like you, raised in a church that made me very fearful of God. I literally thought my family would be raptured without me at any moment.

Then I grew up a little and started finding the God of the Bible on my own. I too had questions about why God seemed so wrathful and scary, and then it hit me - it was where I learned about him. I know countless church leaders that find power in condemning people in their congregations and controlling them by scaring them into submission. The thing that was lacking was the very thing that you said - love. But I realized that God's biggest enemy was not his "judgment and wrath" but the humans that profited from the part of God that is holy.

Jesus changed all that. He came with love and enjoyed the company of the "sinners" that the church condemns. He died so that everything that makes us imperfect would not be held against us on that day we entered the presence of the holy God. Love won. I know this is the love that you speak of, I just wanted to point out that it goes so much deeper than just being a help to people, and loving yourself. This love you speak of is powerful to save people from death!

I know you get tons of comments, but I hope this stands out in your mind enough to spark your interest. I'm so tired of bad Christians giving God a bad name, and I'm truly sorry that there are so many of us out there.

I pray for you and your beautiful family, that God would bless you, and that you would continue to impact the lives of families all over. - Gabrielle

JoyBelle said...

How human we are! Churches can be filled with fear and judgement... because church is made up of people who sin. We all fall short. I'm sorry that so many of your interactions with Christians (and "Christians") have seemingly been negative. It's not the way it should be.

At the end of the day it IS all about LOVE. God is love.

Bad things happen in the world and we cannot make sense of them. We must realize it is by our own actions that we create our own undoing. God didn't pull the trigger at Sandy Hook, a man with free will did. Jonah was given an instruction and because of his disobedience there was a consequence.

We are not puppets and He is not our puppet-master. Our world is organic and it decays, our bodies decay and get sick, people are born and people die. It grieves Him to see such pain and anger and sadness and destruction. He does not delight in it.

Keep searching. Every good and perfect gift comes from Him.

<3

Caroline said...

I have a similar background and struggled knowing what to tell my kids, so I wrote them a book.

lisa k said...

God as FATHER is such a lovely picture for me! My toddlers make its' meaning so vivid. They walk along, holding onto my hand...singing, pointing out the things they like, jabbering with me, singing, stumbling here and there, crying, more singing...not particularly concerned about anything. They know they're cared for.

They let go and wander a little but come back because, while there are so many things to see and do, it's all a little less threatening when I'm near.

I love to BE the toddler. There is so much to see and do but it's all just simpler when my hand is tucked within the hand of my Father. ♥

Michelle said...

Kelle, Thank you for opening up so much of yourself in this post which has truly hit such a huge cord in my heart right now. It is truly like you are telling the story of my last 4 years trying to find my place for myself and my girls in a pool where I will never touch bottom. I have been struggling so much with what to teach them and how to best teach them (regular visits to sunday school, no visits, bible songs/stories at home etc.) as I was left floundering my entire childhood and into adulthood with no direction from my parents either way on what to believe or not to believe. I am just trying to figure it all out now and it is SO HARD!! Thank you for reaffirming to me that I as I continue on thinking I am not doing right by my girls in encouraging/developing their faith that I actually am doing it right and it does not have to come in the form/ways that everyone else does it!

I will forever be grateful of this post and I know my girls will be one day as well.

Thank you for sharing your heart!!
xo
Michelle

S said...

Beautiful. Brave. What I needed tonight.

Jill VT said...

Kelle: you're Catholic! Catholicism teaches: each and every human life is of paramount importance. That's it. Simple. Not easy. But simple. And then: confess your sins to a priest. And there's wine! Welcome to Varsity!

Hyrum and Ashley said...

I absolutely loved this. I loved what you said about how we all basically believe the same basic concepts, things like selflessness, living purposeful lives, and ultimately, love. I have loved being a part of my LDS religion, because it really helps me live all of those things and truly just brings me so much joy and peace. I have loved following your blog and reading your book, because you just inspire me with the way you live your life exemplifying all of those things that really mater, with so much meaning, serving, and happiness. Thank you for being you, and thank you for what you've taught me. You are beautiful inside and out!

~Ashley

Kaylee said...

The next book you read should be the Book of Mormon--it's changed my life for the better and given me answers for my children's questions. :) I know you and I are very similar in the way we raise our children, you'd appreciate what it teaches.

Brigette said...

Kelle. Thank you for your honesty and bravery. I have been following your blog for over two years ago, and have waited for your 'take' on this topic. Thank you for eloquently explaining what it simply boils down to---Love, without the labels, borders, and conditons. Love. It has also been refreshing to read all of the comments you've received, people expressing their same issues, concerns, questions. Your blog has helped me immensely in so many ways, not only today but every time you take to the keyboard. Thank you.

Karla said...

Kelle - I cannot love this enough. You wrote my story. It always feels so good to know your story is being lived in living rooms and front yards all over the place and you are not alone. This has been particularly true in the years since we've been raising my 3 daughters since leaving evangelical church 7 years ago. My theology is not what it was. I don't really know much of what I believe anymore except that it starts with love, ends with love and that there is room for everyone at the table. I became so weary of having to function as a "bouncer" at the doorway to the table. I can't live my life like that. I want my girls to know and experience the fullness of God in whatever way they choose to engage him/her/ the presence. Peace for the days and years ahead as we trudge along this uncharted path. I think we're in good company. xo Karla

Terri said...

I have been following your blog for the last few years and I always look forward to each and every new post. Your children are beautiful, and you have such a way with words that I find myself thinking that is exactly how I feel without being able to articulate it as eloquently as you. Since I read your book, I have prayed for you many times. Even though I don't "know" you personally, I feel that I do by you allowing us into your life. I really hate that you have had such a difficult time in the church so much that you don't want to be a part of or teach your children in the way you were raised. It truly saddens me to hear stories like this because believers are called to love and the church is to encourage. There is an uneasiness inside of you for a reason. You are right when you say God is love, but God is also just. He doesn't sit on His throne waiting to just zap people when they sin. It is His will for all to be saved. That is the whole purpose for sending His Son. He is the only way for salvation, there is no other way. We may try and justify it our minds and reason it all out because we don't necessarily like it that way, but God is the creator and His ways are not our ways. I was raised in church, but it wasn't until the last three years that God has really become real to me. That is through studying His Word. I promise if you read it for yourself, not just segmented bible stories you may recall from church, but in context, it will change your life. Blessings to your family. You are such a great mom and inspiring to so many. I would love to talk to you more about this☺

amber said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

This is so spot on with how I'm feeling right now. I'm 7 months pregnant with our first and have been struggling with the same questions as we prepare for the little guy or gal's arrival. Thank you for your honesty and willingness to share. <3

Christina said...

I recently found these children's prayers to share with my daughters (almost 6 and 5). We don't discuss God too much but their friends talk about him and then they come home with questions.

Count Your Joys

Count your joys instead of your woes;

Count your friends instead of your foes.

Count your smiles instead of your tears;

Count your courage instead of your fears.

Count your full years instead of your lean;

Count your kind deeds instead of your mean.

Count your health instead of your wealth;

Love your neighbor as much as yourself



I see the moon and the moon see's me
I bless the moon and she blesses me

I thank the earth, the sky, the sea
for all the gifts they share with me

and sometimes we'll add:

spirits of the gentle night
dream with me till morning light
dreams of .... (dd1 and dd2 supply what they want to dream about)

when the morning sun shines bright
we'll thank you for a lovely night!



Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray the Lord my soul to keep
Angels guard me through the night
Keep me safe til morning light.


Golden Light, shining bright,
Always teach me what is right.
Teach me to speak with kindness and care.
Teach me to be willing to share.
Teach me to remember, when playing with others,
That all of us are world sisters and brothers.
Golden Light, shining bright,
Keep our world family safe in Your sight.

Andria said...

Wow. This is one of the bravest posts I think you've ever written! Very well said, and touching too. I was raised atheist, but your final destination is about where I'm at with my kids, too.

Anita Johnson said...

I just finished the book, Knowing God by J.I. Packer. It's not an easy read, but one you might really enjoy.

Lo McPherson said...

❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤

Lisa said...

Kelle - This is the first time I post an answer to your blog, but today's entry is really one of a kind.

I was raised by catholic parents who, I believe, had the same struggles as you. They taught me about God, and Adam and Eve, and all those things, but it was always very "casual". They always told me it was ok to question what's around me, rather it's something I was seeing on TV or that I was reading in the Bible. But they also told me that whatever I was ready to believe in, what was in the Bible was a universal message that we are all created equal and that we should love each other.

I'm now in my mid-30s. I don't believe in God anymore, I'm agnostic and I truly believe that there is not much left after we are dead... but the message I learned in the Bible when I was a kid is still with me. My parents never judged my beliefs because they know that rather I believe in God or not, I want to do good things with my life and I want to be good to other people.

I believe that you will raise your children to be good people, rather they believe in God or not, because you are a good person yourself and because you respect others for who they are.

Reading your post was pure bliss. Thank you for it! <3

Lisa said...

Oh and please forget my poor english, it's my 2nd language. :)

Amy said...

It saddens me to read so many stories of your readers being hurt or misled by religion. As the church, we are called to be the hands & the feet of Jesus- if we're hurting others, we should search our hearts.
While I don't completely share your views, I respect your honesty and your testimony.
Thank you for sharing your heart, Kelle- God bless you as you journey through your faith.

April Wood said...

I love, love, love coming to read your blog! There is so much beauty in the way that you express your heart and I feel like I'm always learning something new or finding a thought I just knew was there in my own brain but I never knew how to articulate. Our baby boys are only a couple of weeks apart, so that makes me feel extra connected here lately.

Anyways, I totally get all your questions. I feel the same way so often. I've been meaning to blog about it myself but still don't know how to articulate the swirling of thoughts and emotions that go along with the subject.

I have found myself at a Bible study this past 6 months that is changing my life though. I have never read the Bible through eyes of grace the way that I am now. All those times that I couldn't understand why God was so harsh or angry or demanding, or why His people would act the same are being totally reconciled and reexplained. I am seeing a whole different side to Him, and as I read the verses, I am breathing a sigh of relief and saying, "that's what I thought all along!" Even the same old stories of childhood are becoming more detailed and beautiful and alive.

I don't know how you feel about book recommendations, but I just had to let you know in case you're ever up for reading a book that supports God's incredible love...as opposed to law and condemnation and guilt, etc. It's called "Destined to Reign" by Joseph Prince. The author is a pastor in Singapore. Some people look down on him for talking about how good God is. But he knows the Bible and he teaches it in context...and all that oozes out is that God is love. I think you would find it refreshing and thought provoking.

Thanks again for being an open book. Visiting your page is one of my favorite parts of the day. :)

Amanda said...

Thanks for this post. I am usually a lurker.. one that has followed your blog since Nella was a baby. This post really speaks to me though as in more than one way I agree with you. God is love. If you know love, you know God. I believe in God, but don't believe in an organized way of worshiping him. But your post summed up my thoughts exactly... so thank you for being brave enough to put this out there.

Janie said...

Faith, hope and love...and the greatest of these is love. That's all I ever needed. That's what I hope my children know and feel . That's what I hope they will grow and cultivate in their lives...love.

Christina'sTea said...

It's unfortunate that so many Christian churches focus on the fear and guilt that religion can create. So much of the Bible is about God's love. Time and time again it discusses God's love. Undying, unfailing, and by for the most important aspect. How many times is reinforced, especially in the New Testament, that the most important teaching is LOVE. And yet many the church focuses on fire and brimstone, fear and guilt, do this or go to Hell or be left on the rock in the flood.
I, too, struggled so long with my Faith. I believed in God but that belief looked so different at different times. I even turned from Christianity because of it's "exclusiveness." Through tragedy, though, I was brought to my knees and ran straight to God. Through that my faith reformed. I've since found a nondenominational church that spoke to ME and against the fear and guilt model. I hope that this will come to you as well. It looks like you and your family are on the right path, and obviously God is ever present and active in your lives!

Laura said...

I love how you express yourself so clearly. Thank you for the gift of your words. I share your views and experience with religion. I have raised my girls Unitarian Universilist. UU's motto is Standing on the Side of Love. It is so nice to stand with like minded people.

Tina said...

{{sigh}} Its as though you knew what I was thinking and wrote the words for me. This has been the last few days of my life with my 7 year old. Thank you for that wonderfuly written perspective.

Sanna said...

It's exactly this "feeling of being superior" that makes monotheistic religion unaccessible for me these days.
My interests and chance have given me a life full of interactions and dear friendships with people of cultures that know no God in the christian/jewish/islamic sense.
But that doesn't make them less worthy or less intelligent or loving all the same.
Meanwhile I myself have left "God" behind me. I think, the "good" and "bad" is so inherent in mankind - it is there beyond a christian faith and has been there long before christian faith I believe.
(Of course Christians would argue that it is there because God made the world, but I rather believe that we made "God" to grasp those inherent concepts of our world)
We are a social species after all and living together needs kindness and understanding and love, in any culture of the world.

Especially living surrounded by many more "heathens" than believers, I could never go back to church. Those "heathens" are fabulous persons who care and forgive and love. And I can't see why they should be wrong living their lifes as they do.

I think rather than teaching children a believe, supporting them in developing their own, is a good thing to do. Teaching them kindness and love is the main thing, no matter who made the trees.

I wish you good luck in your journey!

Nicole Dianne said...

beautiful kelle.

i do however encourage you to try church again...find a place that feels like home. i was wounded from church as a young girl, but i never stopped going and searching for a place i could feel accepted, because it was home. though i don't have the fondest of memories from the church i grew up in, my solid foundation stems from there and the sweet bible stories i was told as a young girl.

we left that church when i was 14 and i've now found my way to an amazing church filled with SO much love. church can be a beautiful place if you let it :) your sweet children may meet some of their best friends there.

it has to start with us. we have to change the church and make it a beautiful place. after all, the church is not the building... it is the believers within :)

loved reading your thoughts on faith, Kelle <3

Nicole Dianne said...

Oh, and I'm 25 now... just thought I'd clarify that I'm not fresh out of my youth hehe :)

Cassie said...

I think you've just about got it all figured out :)

Carey King said...

Wow Kelle, I think many questions we've all worked through.. I was an athiest for a long time, what changed it for me- we live in the time of the new testement- with Jesus came FREEDOM, not more guilt and judgement we are free.. Jesus is love- I've been researching love all year and trying to really live out all of what love truely is.. You're FREE from the guilt of old testement teachings-the fear, the wrath, thats why God sent Jesus to take it all.. This is the foundation of my faith (p.s. my Sunday looks similar, or mountain biking, God is definatly there too:)

Elle said...

I am worried my comment will get lost in this sea of kind words but I wrote about my beliefs a little while ago. I am an atheist and I wrote how my faith and forgiveness come from within me and everyone around me. I think you might gain another angle on this whole god/love/faith thing. It's a hard business but I believe that if everyone loves and lets themselves be loved then we are doing a.o.k. Love to you and yours from me and mine. Elle xo

Oh and that link if you are interested: http://skylarkingnanny.blogspot.fr/2013/03/the-thing-i-meant-to-post-but-never.html?m=1

God's Girl said...

Beautiful words and It seems our God is stirring things up for you so you come to him willingiy and without fear ! He is love but love does have boundaries and a narrow way! I came to love Christ because of that perfect love and how I saw that love radically change lives. Some of Od's word is difficult to live and understand but we have to trust all his ways not choose as we would a buffet. We miss out on he fullness of Him when we dissect and choose what works for us and what doesn't ... We basically say we know better and trust our ways more than His. We can still be strong while admitting our need for our Savior. We can still love others and should love others even during their rebellion to God's perfect love! He left his best love story forums on the cross - doesn't that speak volumes ? I say keep reading His word again with the willingness to allow Him to bring you clarity and truth in its entirety :-) I'm glad you believe in His infinite Love !!

London Charm said...

Kelle, I think anyone who believes in God, whether they follow an organized religion or not, can relate and has this dilemma once they have kids. I'm an American Muslim mother of a toddler and so far we just say prayers at bedtime where we list what we're thankful for at the end of the day, and pray for family members and friends. I like how you and Lainey pray for those in need. I also pray several times a day (short 5 minute prayers) which is like a spiritual time-out to remember there's more to life than our daily struggles and to thank God for what we have. My kid likes to follow along, although at this age it's just a game for her.

Like Miggy wrote we all make judgements, and to me there should be a concept of both love and fear. I think this fear makes you think twice before taking a wrong step. At the same time we're taught that God's mercy surpasses his wrath. I respect your beliefs, but to me the 'God is Love' seems a little simplistic because it seems like we want to ignore the issue of what a sin is or isn't. I like the idea of justice/a day of judgement in the afterlife, because there are people who do terrible things in this world (such as the Boston bombings yesterday).

Another challenge for me is teaching my kid about my religion in a society where it's often viewed with anger, misconceptions, and associated with terrorism. So you feel like you're being judged just by your appearance or beliefs, even though what you believe is not what people think you believe.

In my religion we believe all of our words and actions, good and bad, are constantly being recorded, to be read back to us on the day of judgement. I like that idea of accountability.

I don't struggle with my faith, so my challenge right now is how to talk to my kid about God in a comprehensible way. When I read the Quran, nearly on every page it says over and over 'and God is most forgiving, most merciful.' I want my child to learn the beauty and wisdom that I have found in my faith.

And by faith I mean the concept of how God is, the purpose of life, and how to treat your fellow man, regardless of their belief, which I find so beautiful in my religion. One of my favorite verses is "For God is to all people most surely full of kindness, Most Merciful."

God's Girl said...

****left his best love story FOR US.....
My typing on iPad is still rocky :-)

foxinparis.com said...

You just put into words exactly how I feel. Thank you for sharing. My boyfriend (more of a live-in life partner) is an atheist and I'm a believer in destiny...though not necessarily a christian god. I believe in treating people kindly and giving what you can to help others live a better life. But I have never felt comfortable sitting in a church and I'm not sure I ever will.

the domestic mama said...

:) I'm glad you know Him. And, it's obvious He knows you. That's all that matters. It's about a relationship, not religion. Many blessings.

Little Cottage on the Pond said...

Thank you for putting into words what I have always felt and believed!

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Beverly said...

Amazing. You leave me speechless. All I know is God loves you and has chosen this path for you for a reason. He is always with you.

Sasha said...

You are an amazing writer.

Lori said...

From this post I think your church gave you a lot more than you realize. I think you can take your daughter's message of a tree planted and plant a seed of faith. Your faith that your parent't planted has gotten you through so much. I personally need my christian church to keep me nourished and grounded. I had a personal conversation with each of my daughter's before they left for college and stated my belief in eternity. My hope is that it is a real thing and will last forever. My greatest hope is for my family to be there with me. I believe Jesus gives us that salvation. My husband and I struggle right now with our pastor and his sermons or lack of. I have no concerns of trying out a new church to help my faith journey grow. For me I need a Christian community. Right now that is St. Ann Catholic Community. I am a Christian and need other christians in my life. Daily. If that had never been gifted to me as a child, I may never have found it. You were given the gift and know how to use it, what a wonderful story. You truly can write from the heart.

Jenny said...

Thankfully He is big enough to be that all-encompassing love Who binds us all together, every race, creed, nation, and family. Love isn't just a 'bigger than anything else feeling' ... it's a Person. And that Person, in the deepest mystery of being, is a family. You've hit the nail on the head in explaining the Holy Trinity, Kelle. God is Love, and the heart of Love, the source of that vast and all-encompassing Love...is a Family.

Amen.

Rainbocow said...

I feel that all believers should watch the documentary God Please Save Us From From Your Followers. Its available to watch on Netflix. Such a wonderful peice of work. I wish I could get EVERYONE to watch it. You wont regret it.

Unknown said...

Wow Kelle...of all your posts, and I'm a "faithful follower" haha, this one just was incredible.

You said it better than anyone. Thank you!

Meredith said...

Thank you so much for this brave post. I have been following your blog for over 3 years, right after you shared Nella's birth story. This particular post really spoke to me, and makes me love your blog even more. Love wins.

Anke said...

Kelle, this is just perfect! You were able to put into words exactly how I've been feeling for a long time. Bravo and thank you!

sk said...

GREAT post! My family is not religious, although I did go to church with my grandparents when I was a kid and was baptized when I was 10. However, I've become pretty cynical about religion since then and now that I have a wonderful daughter, who is still very small, I wonder what I will tell her about God one day. I like your message. God is LOVE. Love is all around us.

Crystal Edwards said...

With care and respect I must say that - this post breaks my heart. Yes God is love. And yes, people are flawed and people who run the church are flawed and too legalistic sometimes. But just because someone makes Jesus out to be scary or threatening doesn't mean that He is. Teaching our children the Bible and teaching them about God and all that that entales is one of the greatest honors, responsibilities and blessings we have. I think it's great that you are going to teach your children about God. But I believe with all my heart that you need the Bible to do that. And not just parts of it, all of it. Because in all of it - the good parts and the ones that seem bad or scary - Gods story of his faithful and relentless love never fades. He loves us with a complex, awesome, mysterious, faithful love that always has our best interest at heart, through all the ups and downs of life. And reading his word and being connected and plugged in with a local body of believers, a church family is a blessing and a gift. And I believe it is a vital part of a relationship with Christ. Not out of duty or obligation, but out of our love and response and gratitude for all that he has done for us. I'm so sorry that you had a bad experience with church when you were younger, please don't give up on it.

Unknown said...

In 1974 I was profoundly harmed by rigid fundamentalist organizations (both denominations and independent "communities") as an early-twenties, end-of-the-social-revolution, emotionally desperate young woman. Involvement in these organizations and sudden family conversion--saved!--led to my mistrusting my every thought and behavior. It has taken 38 years of counseling and effort to have this tiger defanged, and I still have to be on guard that a swipe from a powerful paw doesn't launch me into a spell of fear and physical symptoms exactly like what I experienced many years ago. I'm glad your children are learning about Love first.

Shalanna said...

Thank you for this post, Kelle. I was not raised in church of any kind & I struggle with my faith & exactly WHAT to believe. My struggle hit me full force once I had my babies. It's nice to hear a voice & perspective that aligns so wonderfully with the things I feel & beleive.

denise said...

Such an honest post. And I believe that God wants our honesty as much as anything. I was raised in church, still go to the same one and i'm 59. I have been so dissatisfied with church for most of my life, but in the past several years i've become acquainted with people like Andy Stanley, Perry Noble, David Platt, and Pete Wilson and they have worked wonders about how i feel about God and HIS church. I've always believed, just never particularly "liked" believing. I know that makes no sense.
Having just come through the Easter season, I am still tender when I think about Jesus and what he did for me. I don't think you mentioned Jesus in your post. Please pick up your Bible and read the gospel of John to become acquainted or reacquainted with him.
Andy Stanley has a message series called, "Christian" that is one of the best series I've ever heard. Google it and listen to all of them. He speaks to some of your issues.
You have been such a blessing to so many people. I pray that God will give you clarity and grace in the days to come.

Kris said...

I can't tell you how much this post touched me. I want to go back and read it again and again. Thank you Kelle. xo

bandsdenby said...

coloring pictures for someone :)

she's already wiser beyond her years.

good job, mama.

Wendy said...

Kelle, thank you for your honest thoughts. Faith is very strong in my life. I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (otherwise known as the "Mormons") and I deeply believe that we are children of a very loving Heavenly Father. He is very aware of us and will guide us in our lives. God is not fear, He is love. And with this crazy, scary world we live in, I am so grateful for the peace that God gives me through my faith, and especially that I have this faith as I raise my children. I hope you find this same peace in your quest to better understand Who God is.

Heather said...

I just read every single post and thought wow- How will Kelle get through all of these, much less have the time with a new baby?! I read your blog every day, and this is my first time to post, much less read every comment posted here.
While I disagree with some things, I don't find it judgmental, rather difference of prospective- Honesty is the best - and if you want the babies to know Honesty, you have to teach them that daily. And sometimes the truth just down right hurts...which is where I found myself yesterday...
I found myself last night picking up my Bible (for the first time in a while), Knowing I Love God, and HE loves me, but I opened it searching- I found familiar verses -some I had underlined or highlighted years ago- but still I was looking for God to show me 'something'- Its the times in our lives where we feel we need God that we will go looking for Him, and I find comfort knowing at whatever stage of life we find ourselves in, He will always be there- with open arms. Best Wishes!

Colton Fisher said...

this is a fantastic post. very brave of you to put it out there. I also smile to read the comments and see that there are VERY few who want to "feel sorry" for you or make you feel "guilt", or "hope you will one day change". I think those are really the parts of organized religion (christianity) that I struggle with...I always find myself wondering: why can't those devout believers just LOVE and ACCEPT everyone. If they did that I think I could get more on board. In the meantime, I have been really some of the messages of the bible lately...there are some good words in there, if one doesn't look to it as "law". I myself like to read it and substitue "the universe" when I see the word God. :) Keep writing Kelle, it is your gift from the universe. :) PS: that glowy angelic photo of Lainey is AWESOME and the one of sweet Dash, wow, how quickly he is growing out of that alien newborn phase and into his own little person. Love.

Joanna said...

Thank you for this, Kelle.

Everything you've said is exactly the way I feel about the religion I was brought up in and how it's shaped my adult faith.

My husband and I don't have children right now, but if/when that day comes I want my child to grow up with a very different idea of God than I did.

You and your family are beautiful. Thank you.

dance247 said...

I've always thought that it is so sad that the only representatives of Christ on this world are Christians. Not one of us is perfect, yet we are supposed to represent a perfect being, and fail every day. I am so sorry about your past church experiences, that they brought you fear, and made you feel less than what they should have. This lack of perfection is why God is so essential in my life. I know that I can't do everything on my own, but knowing that He is beside me gives me more strength to get through the day than I could find solo. The Old Testament is full of stories of a vengeful God, because He hates sin. The beauty of the New Testament is that we don't have to worry about that any more. We're saved through grace, so it doesn't matter how many times imperfection rears its head, we don't need to worry. I hope this doesn't come across as preachy, because that is what I hate about Christians as a group. I am no better than anyone else on Earth, no matter what they believe or what they do. I just want to share what brings me strength and hope.

Annie said...

I have no words but to say - DITTO, Exactly, PERFECTION

AliBlahBlah said...

Bravo! I struggle with the idea that a lot of people consider stepping away from organized religion to be abandoning a moral life. Not true! Beautifully written.

ourmulticolouredlife.com said...

This brought tears to my eyes. As someone who does not believe in any sort of organised religion it does not mean that I do not know God. Every day I wake up and I believe in myself. I believe that I always do my best to be a better person, wife and mother. If I didn't do my absolute best that day, it's okay, I will wake up tomorrow and try again.

Susan Jeffries said...

OK - I woke up very early and read your blog as usual. Your writing is poetic, your kids are darling, and your house is fabulous. Not to mention that you are stunning(: I love your posts - usually. I prayed about whether I should respond to your post today, as I usually just like to read. Yet after reading some of the many responses, I felt compelled to respond. Christians are under attack in this country and around the world. People, including myself, often want to live their lives as they wish, just be a "good person". The dire state of our country is a shining example of how God has been removed from many people's every day lives. Because we are under attack, Christians often come across as angry and defensive. I am going to defend God and try not to be defensive. The Bible was inspired by God and written by His people. It has stood the test of time for more than 2,000 years. It is the only religion which teaches grace. He is real and He meant what He said. "I am the reserection and the life. He who believeth in me shall never die. Believeth thou this?" Scripture indicates that one must believe in Christ in order to be saved. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ ans thou shall be saved". Scripture also indicates that one must repent of their sins to God to be saved. "The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent ye and believe the gospel". There are not many roads that lead to God. There is only one, as there is only one God. When religions disagree, which they do, you can not say that all religions have the same God. The testimony of Jesus Christ is real. He did live. He was here. People who were not Christians even wrote about Jesus. "Bad" things are not caused by God. Evil is caused by satan and us - humans. Yes God can stop evil. But He does not promise us a perfect life on Earth. He promises us eternity in Heaven with Him if we believe. In John 3:3 Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again". People don't want equality. They want what they want. I did not become a Christian until I was 30. I am educated, I have 3 degrees, I am a wife, a mother, a daughter, a business owner, and a friend. I have experienced much grief and sorrow in my life, including 10 years of unexplained infertility. But I still choose to believe that God loves me and takes care of me and carries me through my sorrow. I have many friends, including the unsaved and I love fashion, fitness, athletics, and crafting. I am not stifled or unhappy. I have joy in my heart because Jesus lives there. I never knew true joy until I invited Him in. Read "The Case for Christ". Fabulous read written by a former atheist who set out to disprove Jesus for his graduate work. I am telling you this Kelle because I want you and your family to experience the true joy of Jesus Christ. You are very influential in the blog community. You touch many people. Learn about Him. He loves you. Christ dies for everyone! He will see us in one of two ways. You are either with Him or without Him. This is your seed. Now you are free to make your own decision. I will be praying for you(: Susan

Caseybumpinalong said...

I love your blog, and love that you live love everyday with your babies.

I didn't go to church growing up - I had no idea it was so painful to so many children. How sad.

Growing up, there was an "aura" around Christians that turned me off, so like you, I created my own way to God . But I still wanted a guide, instead of guessing whether I was doing things right. I tried the Bible, and actually threw it across the room in frustration and walked away. But over the next months I felt called back to it, so I tried again, but first prayed to God to help me understand what He was saying in his Word, and this time, it was like reading a brand new book.

Overtime, this is what I came to understand about the Bible: God doesn't love us because we do good. He loves us because He created us and we are his children. Just as we love our children. Even when they do things we tell them not to. But just as we discipline our children when they do things we tell them not to, God disciplined Isreal in the Old Testament stories. Even though He often made it easy for them to do what He said, they still screwed up. Over and over again. God knows that even His own chosen people couldn't be perfect. And He doesn't expect us to be either. Just as we don't expect our children to be perfect. But we love them anyway.

But there must be discipline for our sins (not doing what God tells us to). Instead of condemning us all for messing up, He sent His Son Jesus to take the discipline for us in our place. All those nasty Old Testament stories build up to the fact that we are going to mess up, even when God is there to show us the way, but God, through Jesus forgives us anyway. We don't have to "do good to get God's favor". We just have to believe that He's forgiven us for doing wrong. If that's not Love, I don't know what is.

The New Testament and Jesus's story is all about LOVE. I found I don't have to make up my own way to God and religion, because God lays it all out for me in His Word. No guesswork, no guilt involved.

Anyway, yes those first Bible stories you read to your children can be harsh, but the story has a beautiful ending, so don't give up on it. Our family is using Phil Vischer's "What's in the Bible?" DVDs and they do a great job of presenting this idea in a fun, goofy, and clear way. http://whatsinthebible.extole.com/a/clk/26XTyG



nanny bee said...

Good post. Here are some of my thoughts. Maybe a church needs YOU and your family way more than you need them. Sometimes it is worthy to go to/stay in a church because you might just become the change that is needed. Churches and religions will not improve if all the creative/different/questioning people jump ship. I have to admit that I am way more forward thinking than many people I worship with. But I still like/love those people. Just maybe your big thoughts/heart is just what some church community needs. You have initiated so much good change in other areas. You and your family would be such a gift to any church community.

Shannon W said...

Wow, I never thought of it that way. Thank you for sharing and inspiring. Your family is beautiful inside and out.

Shannon
callmeshannon.com

drewandsarah said...

I have been reading your blog for a while but this is my first time commenting and I want to say thank you for this post. Like so many other commenters you have put into words my feelings on this issue exactly. Journeying out of fundamentalism and dogma is challenging and can be scary, but it feels so freeing and real to be on the other side. Thank you again for putting it out there, it is such an encouragement!

Emily said...

I was raised Catholic and continue to practice my "faith" daily. I am still learning everyday. 50 years ago when my mom and dad were attending Catholic grade school, fear was the name of the game... their stories sadden me, and while I know both of them are believers, that part of their childhood has left scars. In my adult years I find stories of love, hope, kindness, grace, and mercy. All things that I think humanity embraces... organized religion or not. There are many things that I don't like about organized religion and man-made rules, but I know that God is love, and that the golden rule is a quest in life, thank love and kindness and grace (oh, that grace) always win, not matter what our "religion" or non-religion, or whatever. God can be a hard concept for little folks, but love and kindness are easy to teach... b/c we teach them everyday in all of our actions. Love you post, thanks for putting yourself out there!

Cecile Carstens said...

we try to engage in life with the belief that god is something that nourishes the soul and this is what we try to impart to our children. the following is one of my favourite soul vitamins that i think captures the essence of how we believe in god:

There once was a little boy who wanted to meet God. He knew it was a long trip to where God lived, so he packed his suitcase with Twinkies and a six-pack of root beer and he started his journey.

When he had gone about three blocks, he met an old woman. She was sitting in the park just staring at some pigeons. The boy sat down next to her and opened his suitcase. He was about to take a drink from his root beer when he noticed that the old lady looked hungry, so he offered her a Twinkie. She gratefully accepted it and smiled at him. Her smile was so pretty that the boy wanted to see it again, so he offered her a root beer. Once again she smiled at him. The boy was delighted!

They sat there all afternoon eating and smiling, but they never said a word.

As it grew dark, the boy realized how tired he was and he got up to leave, but before he had gone more than a few steps, he turned around, ran back to the old woman and gave her a hug. She gave him her biggest smile ever.

When the boy opened the door to his own house a short time later, his mother was surprised by the look of joy on his face.

She asked him, "What did you do today that made you so happy?"

He replied, "I had lunch with God." But before his mother could respond, he added, "You know what? She's got the most beautiful smile I've ever seen!"

Meanwhile, the old woman, also radiant with joy, returned to her home.

Her son was stunned by the look of peace on her face and he asked, "Mother, what did you do today that made you so happy?"

She replied, "I ate Twinkies in the park with God." But before her son responded, she added, "You know, he's much younger than I expected."

Bean said...

I think your post was beautiful, and I've lived your struggle. A book that helped me beyond words reconcile my religion with my spirituality is a book called A New Earth, written by Eckhart Tolle. You should read it, I think you would like it very much. It makes everything so clear and in an instant, you are free.

LoriAngela said...

I, too, carved out a sweet space in Sunday School, despite the harsh lessons in my Grandfather's church. I kept the faith of my childhood and taught Sunday School. As I have grown, and my children left the house, I am growing that wonder and love to share with adults in the same gentle, nurturing way, and they are thirsty! Your post is great!
Have you read Anne Lamott's Traveling Mercies? Great writing and great opening of thoughts.
The same people who tried to frighten us with fire and brimstone are the ones who said don't talk about religion.
Look at the gift of forum you have given us!

Donna said...

I am so, so glad you didn't bash God in this post, especially when I read it last night after a day fraught with sadness from the marathon attack. I saw the topic and just instantly thought it was headed towards a connection between the existence of God and the attack, and all the other seemingly senseless other things that occur to make us want to disbelieve.

Although you and I have different ways in which we live out of religious beliefs, I think we would both be in agreement that you tackled this colossal subject from the correct angle.

Thank you.

Cat said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
melissa said...

I really LOVE this post! Thank you.


However, as a 'former' or 'recovering' Catholic, I would fervently like to add that Catholics are Christians.

Even though, I am not practicing any longer, it is innacurate to exclude Catholics in being Christian and I often found that Protestants, especially in the South, seemed to not understand this.



It would be more correct to say Catholics and Protestans, all of whom believe in Christ.

Thank you and sorry to be so pedantic.

Sharmaine said...

AWE. I love this post. We too wonder and wonder and wonder how we're going to incorporate religion in our life and teach our son about it. It's such a hard decision. I want him to know the good stuff, the values, the love but I do not want him to freak out about things and be scared.

I went to a Catholic school, I HAD to go to church, I didn't like it, I was afraid of God's consequences.

Thank you for sharing !

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