Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

In January of 2012 my soul mate of 42 years passed away after nearly 12 years of living with severe disabilities due to a stroke. I survived the first year after Don’s death doing what most widows do---trying to make sense of my world turned upside down. The pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties are well documented in this blog.

Now that I’m a "seasoned widow" the focus of my writing has changed. I’m still a widow looking through that lens but I’m also a woman searching for contentment, friends and a voice in my restless world. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. I say I just write about whatever passes through my days---the good, bad and the ugly. Comments welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Baby Dedications and Sunday School Drop Outs

Sunday I went to a church service and hell did not freeze over although it was touch and go there for a while. It was so cold in the sanctuary that I thought I’d turn into a Popsicle before the pastor finally wrapped up his sermon about Jesus talking to the Samaritan woman at the well. In some churches she’s St. Photini, a Great Martyr and equal-to-the-apostles and is celebrated in places like Mexico by handing out free drinks on the fourth Friday of Lint. In this Baptist church, however, she had no name and didn’t seem to be an apostle-in-the-making. He asked her for a drink. He wanted to give her a drink. His 'water' is eternal and symbolic, hers was just ordinary water. Everything I know about Photini I learned from studying art history so forgive me if what I’m about to say sounds irreverent or offensive, but if the conversation went like this pastor portrayed it then Jesus sounded like an con-man trying to trade magic beans for a steak dinner. “If you knew who I am you wouldn’t deny me a drink!” he reportedly told the nameless woman. The bottom line of the sermon was that I am going to hell forever because I don’t/won’t accept that salvation is only available through faith in Jesus as the son of God. No escape clause. I’m doomed. 

It was May 17th, 2000 the last time I’d been to a church for something other than a funeral or wedding and Easter 1968 the time before that and circa 1952 when I became a Sunday school dropout. So what was I doing in a country Baptist Church at a god-awful hour in the morning, all showered and dressed in my finest? I even bought a new necklace of black beads for the occasion. My great-nephew and his wife were getting their baby dedicated which I gather is meant to cleanse her of the Original Sins passed down from Adam. (They save baptisms until a person is old enough to understand what sin is all about.) I wanted to support the parents and see the rest of my family at the brunch afterward. The parents are the nicest kids who have been best friends and sweethearts from day one of their interest in the opposite sex. When they spoke at the service they talked about how they wanted to raise their baby in the church the way they both were and after reading the church bulletin I can see why. They offer a lot of summer fun for kids. And while I’m sure my nephew, great-nephew and their wives have no idea that I’m a heathen in the eyes of their church, I respect anyone who walks their own talk. The beaded necklace, by the way, was a good idea because the baby thought it was a teething ring. 

When my brother and I were alone I asked him when was the last time he’d been to a church service and I was shocked when he told me he’s been going a couple of times a month since spring---with his girlfriend---to different church denominations all over town to hear choirs and sermons. He said he finds it interesting and he’s “trying to figure it all out.” Growing up we didn’t go to church nor did he go in the years in between then and now. Our parents (non-church goers) sent us to Sunday school and church day camps for a few years in our pre-teen days but after we got caught spending our ‘church time’ wandering around the Indian Mounts near-by all pretense of us going to Sunday school were dropped and we were deemed old enough to decide for ourselves. We decided collecting arrow heads was more fun.

We have a bonafided church lady in the family---not the Dana Carver, Saturday Night Live kind of church lady. My cousin is truly a woman with a pure heart that pitches in and works hard for all her church’s do-good projects. She cooks for funeral lunches, goes to Bible study meetings, collects food for the poor, visits the sick, writes inspirational articles for the church bulletin, sings in the choir and never, ever says a bad word about other people or preachifies to non-believers. Like me, she was not brought up with a church family but her husband was and she took Ruth 1:16 as her own motto: “…whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.”

Looking at how my cousin's life turned out, I know without a doubt that I would have followed the same path if I had married right out of high school like she did. All the guys I dated back in those days were church goers and I was a chameleon. Heck, I took tennis lessons for the guy I dated before Don, golf lessons for the guy before him and skiing lessons for my first serious boyfriend. After I broke up with my 1967/68 guy, come hell or high water I finally learned to be me, the girl who took comparative religion classes in college and knew I’d never ignore my inner voice again. I hated sports and I would never join a church that requires me to agree to a doctrine that narrows the pathways to God down to one and only one. ©

29 comments:

  1. Boy, what a topic! A good one, none the less.

    My parents were the ones who did not go to church when I was growing up. I on the other hand, went to church on my own from the time I was seven and could hitch a ride with someone. As a baby I was baptized Lutheran. I guess they figured that was all that was required to save my soul. I don't know the names of all the churches I went to. It didn't matter.

    I think I was 12 when I went to live with my sister for a while. She lived in a pretty rough neighborhood and I didn't like the looks of the kids and neither did my sister. She told me I had a choice, go to the local school or pretend I was Catholic and go to the parochial school. I chose door number two. I remember going into the Mother Superior's office and explaining that though I wasn't Catholic, I would like to school there. Well, I did, I had to do everything the rest of the other kids did, including running to the cathedral for noon mass and missing out on lunch during Lent. I loved my teacher, Sister Melanie, and the three months I spent there were great! Then I was back at home and I didn't have a church 'home' for a couple of years, I did go to mass with friends a few times.

    After Montana, no, California, we were back to the old home place and I met my friend, Ruth. I began going to the Assembly as a regular and every few weekends I stayed at Ruth's and went to her church, a Freewill Baptist. I loved her minister, he put on quite a show with his 'hell fire and brimstone' sermons.

    A couple years later, I wrongfully married and had children. (And there's the rub) The 'family' thought it was time for the children to be baptized. It's amazing how much pressure family (his) could put on a young girl. He was Lutheran and so - long story short, when it came time after the sprinkled water etc. the congregation got up to take 'communion' and I was told I could not partake because I had not been confirmed.

    My young family began going to an Assembly in town and I was done with that. Until years later when the children had to go to confirmation classes and be confirmed. I wanted no part of it, but I did show for the ceremony, for my kids. I wouldn't count that as MY church.

    After we moved to TN, we were introduced to the Methodist church. I liked it there and we became members. I taught Bible school and they asked me to teach the woman's Sunday school class. I declined, I had started school, and I admit the thought of it terrified me. School was a good excuse.

    Life happens, fast forward to my bad health. I couldn't go to church unless they all vowed to not use lotion, cologne, hair spray etc. I've also had a lot of time to think about things, life and death. I've found peace - in nature, within myself and my friends. I don't need some church dictating how I should act, what I should do, and what's right or wrong. My church in on my front porch, outside my bedroom window, under the tree in the back yard and that's good enough for me.

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    1. Wow, you're the only person I ever met that also went to church at an early age when our parents didn't. I also tagged along with friends to various churches when I was very young, like you mentioned. Thanks for sharing that.

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  2. There is a great story when I went to St.Peters in Rome for a Latin high mass. The friend that took me knew I was an atheist and asked for my reaction as I was walking out. Dozens of cardinals, bishops and priests along with a male choir and altar boys. I said, 'That's a lot of men out of the gene pool.' He tells that story constantly. He was hoping I'd get enlightened.

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    1. I nearly spit my coffee on the computer screen from laughing. That's really funny, Dean. I can imagine me having the same thought at St. Peters.

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  3. Jean R. - ++++1 to every word (and no, I'm NOT a sycophant; as you'd recall, unlike you, I don't like HRC, tho' I dislike Trump more). I hate religious fanatics of all descriptions, and stay clear of the over-religious. I've commented before that I think all religions are ultimately like boys' clubs and being born in one, one feels duty- bound to defend it - unless the boys' club turns on you and then you join another club which seems to look after you (eg the Christians turned Muslims in USA jails). Btw, on this last note, I knew I was always agains privatisation of some government functions eg jails. When I read of USA privatised jails treating lifers as cash-cows, it made my blood boil.

    I went to Sunday School as a child, and wanted to become a RC when older - until I realised that ALL religions have an element of RC-ism in them i.e. the pageantry, detailed catechism/rituals etc which must have appealed to me as a child. Any religions that says treat others as you'd like to be treated is ok by me. Each to their own religion - you practise yours and let me practise mine in whatever shape/form I want to, as long as its not illegal. Live and let live. Don't presume your way is better than mine and ram it down my throat - that's guaranteed to make me revolt against it.

    I'm just now watching Maher et al on youtube and chuckling - he's wonderful. With Americans like that (and yes, I do disagree with him on a few things), I think USA will survive even under T. It does occur to me that this Maher-liking is also similar to a boys' club thing, but I do hate watching/hearing Ann Coulter and her like when Maher invites (and he should, good to have diversity of opinions) them to his show. I'm happy to be counted in Maher's "boys club" of thought. ~ Libby

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    1. I know there are a few states that privatize jails here in the USA but it's really not very common. Hopefully, it won't become common although there are few high profile Republicans who advocate for that.

      My father's family was Roman Catholic so I've seen plenty of the pageantry you spoke of at weddings and funeral. I was never fascinated by it.

      I can't stand Coulter, don't see much Maher but I used to like him years ago and I disagree with you about the USA surviving under Trump. LOL I shall have to look up Maher's latest video that makes you believe we will.

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  4. Stephen Colbert and Rachel Maddow good to watch too! I definitely belong to the "not-R" club. I do admire/respect some Rs - especially the ones who have not supported T. and, equally, dislike some Ds (and there she goes again, an ignorant outsider commenting on USA politics!). ~ Libby

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    1. I like these two as well plus Trevor Noah who is from South Africa, he took over the Daily Show after Jon Stewart left. And Lawrence O'Donnell (hard news commentary) who I bet you don't get down under.

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  5. If only I could find a church that doesn't narrow pathways by their doctrines....you know, a church for all people, all beliefs and no beliefs...something inspirational beyond narrow biased and oh so judgemental doctrines

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    1. Thanks for commenting, Mary. The Unitarian Universalist churches are the only ones I've found that fit that description. If I ever decide to go to church that's the one I would pick.

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    2. Check out the Unitarian Universalist website: www.uua.org I have been a Methodist, a Lutheran, A Church of Christ (Congregationalist), and finally for 23 years a UU. I have recently left my church for reasons not related to the denomination and I'll always identify with being UU.

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  6. I'm a forever Methodist. Our church is pretty open. We are taught from a young age to ask questions, and believe strongly in Free Will. I enjoy church because I love the old hymns and the sermons. I wouldn't fit well in a Baptist church because it is a bit "much" and I don't fit well in a Non-denominational church because it isn't "enough."

    I too was told at my grand child's baptisim service in the Lutheran church that I could NOT take communion because I don't believe in Transubstantiation--same at the Catholic church. Hey--to me--it's Jesus' table and HE sure wouldn't deny me just because I'm not a certain denomination. Well, He WAS Jewish, so maybe if I had knocked at The Door that Seder night, He may not have let me in. Communion in the Methodist church is open to all. We however do believe that Jesus is the human form of God, His only Son, who died and then rose again alive, and one won't have life after death without that belief. I have that belief, but that doesn't mean I have to go to church every day, nor does that mean I have to preach or put my beliefs on someone else. I do feel sad for non-believers however, because my closeness to God and Jesus brings me great comfort and is probably why I don't worry about which idiot is elected this November. Neither one is going to make any great difference in how this life of mine ends or how this world ends. Satan is alive and well and so is God. The eternal battle of good and evil will exist, as it always has and always will--until it ends. I've read "The Book" and I know who will win in the end.

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    1. My cousin is Methodist, too. It seems to be a pretty accepting church to belong to. It works for you and that's all that counts, right?

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  7. Oh my, I could write a book on this one. I was severely over churched in life until we moved to Oregon 12 years ago and I said 'never again.' I was totally, fanatically, Southern Baptist for most of my life, then worked 17 years in a mainline seminary that set my feet on a different path. I don't tolerate religion well these days, particularly not evangelicalism.

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    1. Wow, I never would have guessed that!!!! Very interesting.

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  8. Jean :

    Being from east & raised in hindu religion which I find most tolerant religion. I think I am more spiritual than religious & would go to churches, temples, mosques when my results are planning to come out. wanted all gods to make their magic & make sure I pass my exams lol. I believe all religions are path to one supreme & it does not matter what you call him or her, whatever gives you comfort I follow that sermon. At the end of the day I don't believe any one religion or way of thinking is right & if they say my way is the only right way otherwise u r going to hell that I definitely don't believe in. I believe in karma theory do the right things with good intentions behind it, & everything will work out the way it supposed to is my doctrine.

    Asha

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    1. Sometimes I call myself spiritual, sometimes I call myself agnostic or Humanist. I totally agree with you about all religions are a path to the same God, no matter what name you use for that entity. Unfortunately for me I live in an area where a lot of people who do think I will go to hell for not believing the same way they do. It effects how guarded I am when meeting new people because I know I could be rejected as a friend if they knew what I posted in this blog.

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    2. Credit to you, that you can think independently outside of the boys' club that you were born into/grew up. I respect honesty and genuineness, which is why I follow the blogs that I do. ~ Libby

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    3. Thank you. I wish you would start a blog.

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  9. I am curious...why do you remember the dates that you did go to a church?

    I went to the equivalent of a church for people of my ethnic background for many years when I was a teenager. My best friend was brought up as an Orthodox Jew and as I was brought up as a secular Jew, I did not have the religious learning that she did. So for many years I went to synagogue with her and took classes with the Rabbi to understand what is all about. Fascinating stuff! But I am not someone who believes in religion or theism.

    And Libby, No things will not be ok if Trump is elected. In no way will they be.
    Regards,
    Leze

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    1. May 17th, 2000 was the day my husband had his massive stroke. We had gone to a confirmation but when we got to the church he didn't want to go inside. He hadn't wanted to go all week so I thought he was just being stubborn when he wanted to stay in the truck while I went inside to the service. It was a day that changed our lives forever so it would be hard to forget. And the Easter 1968 was easy because it was the break up year with a guy who hurt me worse than I've ever been hurt. Someday I should work up the courage to write about him but it opens up some bad wounds.

      When ever I serviced Jewish weddings (bridal flowers) I loved talking with the Rabbi's.

      Thank you for weighing in for Libby on Trump. I know she comes back to read comments so I'm sure she'll see it.

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    2. Jean R - I'm glad I returned! I find the comments to a blog/show just as interesting as the main event - because its diverse *real* people giving their input.

      Just been surfing the web. (Why are female TV anchors so OVERLY made up?!). The hypocrisy of politicians, and people generally, is sickening - I see the same here. Oz let the racism/bigotry out of the bottle some years ago and it took time to die down, but its now raised its head again here. Even if T. loses, you have the bigots unleashed. However, USA elected and, even more amazingly, RE-elected Prez Obama - for me, that's still the 11th wonder of the world - so que sera sera...

      Apologies for venting - I know you don't mind, but some of your audience may. I don't have the energy/comittment to start up a blog to vent. ~ Libby

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    3. Don't you wonder what those overly made up women look like when they aren't on camera? I don't mind that as much as the fact that most of the TV mostly hire only hire blondes.

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  10. I spent my first 18 years being Catholic. 12 years of school. Played the organ at church. But it was just habit. In my forming mind "because I say so" was not an explanation!

    When I met Mr. Ralph, I tried the Baptist church with him. I never connected. When Kate was 3-4 and we were hurrying around to get ready, in her sweet innocence she said why do we have to go to church? Can't we just talk about God at home? And so we did. We had only two days off each week so why not just incorporate ethics and kindness into every day life.

    I'm still allergic to church. Too much politics involved with those professing their faith outwardly.

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    1. What a sweet thing for Kate to suggest and for you and Ralph to incorporate into your life.

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  11. I was very, very religious throughout childhood and adolescence and into my twenties (raised Catholic and had 17 years of Catholic school education -- K-college). Once my feminist consciousness was raised, however, the patriarchal sexism of the church became unbearable to me. I am not religious, but I do have a spirituality rooted in the natural world and the natural circle of life. When I was diagnosed with cancer at age 50, I worried that I would turn out to be one of these hypocrites who turns to religion when the going gets tough. No reason to worry. I was fascinated by the fact that my trees and flowers brand of spirituality seemed to offer me more comfort than conventionally religious friends and acquaintances seemed to experience when faced with life-threatening illnesses. (I should note that New England, where I live, has the lowest rate of church-going in the country; it's very easy to be a non-believer here.)-Jean

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    1. That surprises me about New England being the lowest rate of church-goers in the country.

      I haven't had a serious illness to overcome like you but I've often wondered if I would become someone who finds religion near the end of life and turn myself into a hypocrite. Don't think that will happen though it shocked me to hear my brother talked about looking at churches.

      It would be hard not to be spiritual when you devote so much of your life to gardening like you do. It's creation and the full life cycle right before your eyes every day.

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  12. I was "raised" in the church, as we call it down here. I loved it when I was a kid, especially Vacation Bible School. That was so much fun. There were arts and crafts and refreshments, usually Cool Ade and cookies. My mother went to church when she was younger, but by the time I came along (the last kid) she had stopped. I went to church with neighbors. I "fell away" from the church when I was about seventeen or so. I haven't been to church since - except for funerals and weddings. Like you, I just can't accept certain concepts. I get the social aspect of church-going, especially for older people and people who live in less populated areas, but I have a hard time with the meat of it. If we could just meet, bring food and sing songs, I could get down with it. Ha!

    Babies do love to teeth on necklaces. :)

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    1. Even though I don't think I could ever get into the 'meat and potatoes' part of going to church I do think it's important for kids to go to Sunday school long enough to learn all the Bible stories so they'll understand Biblical references when they get older.

      I'm surprised at how many of my blogging friends 'fell away' from the church.

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