Why I Have Quit Church

Ok guys, let’s talk about it- the elephant that has been in the room for months.

I have quit. I have quit church.

To be clear, I love Jesus and if I were asked to declare a religion I would have to say Christian.

However, I still quit.

It’s been a SAGA, me and church. I get motion sickness just going through it all in my mind.

I love church. I love so much about church. I love the community. I love a gathering of people who, for the most part, simply want to love others and lift them up. I love the service to others. I love the taking time out to connect to something bigger and grander than my own day to day problems. I love the tradition. I love the power of faith. I love it.

I love the people church has brought into my life. In fact, I love them so much that I felt the guilt and pain of letting them down heavily on my heart as I was deciding to step away.

So how did I get here?

Three years ago I made a decision that shocked everyone who knew me, including myself, and I became a Mormon. I had good, valid, faith filled reasons for making that choice and it is not a choice I regret. I love A LOT about the Mormon tradition and church. The LDS faith is beautiful in so many ways.

It is also hard in so many ways.

From the beginning there were two main points of contention for me. The church’s stance on homosexuality and the fact that to reach the highest levels of glory in heaven (per LDS teachings) my husband HAD to become a member and do all the things that required. My faith was not enough on my own.

The things I loved about the church were so great that I repeatedly (often daily) pushed the parts I couldn’t swallow away. Then logistics came into play.

I am a mom to many tiny humans, and they each have a lot going on. The structure and organization that I love about the LDS church just doesn’t work for my kiddos. They do not fit into boxes, their developmental stages can’t be tied to their ages. Their special needs make three hour church service a challenge on our best days. This may have been a surmountable problem if – anyone else close to me was a member and could help me wrangling kids for three hours on Sunday, or if I didn’t already have those nagging issues with the entire establishment. I tried, and tried, and tried and was always left with the feeling that there was not room for my family and that we would never be neat and tidy enough to fit into the boxes.

When we moved back to GR, these issues just got bigger. So, I tried returning to one of my favorite churches, the church where I originally found and connected with God.

It is a very large and eclectic bible church that offers amazing things like a special needs ministry. There was even a sensory room for my kiddos who needed it during Sunday school. Tyler was more comfortable going and it was a more relaxing environment.

It’s a huge place, congregants by the thousands, and is therefore hard to feel a sense of community. When I attended as a member in the past and felt the connection I had time to be actively involved in many different groups and ministries to find my own little tribe among the masses. I don’t have that time now. Getting my whole family there on Sunday morning takes Herculean effort- I have none left over.

Then there was a shift in leadership and on multiple occasions we would arrive at church to find the sensory room closed with no notice. Which means at least half my family has to leave. After the immense effort to get us there, and then not having space we had gotten used to and comfortable with for our kiddos was not ok.

To me church became a perfect storm of effort and stress. I felt like the Andrea Gail trying every week to mount the rogue wave barreling towards me. Some weeks I made it, some weeks I didn’t. The thing about the Andrea Gail (if you are familiar with the story) is that it didn’t have to be there, fighting against the storm. It could have waited for the storm to pass before heading for the harbor.

Suddenly one day I asked myself why I was fighting so hard. I believe in a God that loves me and loves my kids and that love is not conditional. It is not dependent on me fighting my way through chaos and insanity to drag us to a particular building on a particular day. My God sees how hard I am working. He sees my faith and devotion to my family. He sees the struggles my kids are facing and all we are doing to overcome them. He sees it all and he loves us through it all.

If that is my truth than why am I torturing myself? I won’t lie, that question took me a minute. I can come up with a list of reasons why we should be at church every week. I can come up with a long litany of shoulds and guilt and self flagellation on the subject.

When most of my shoulds were stripped away, the people pleaser in me was still struggling. I know me openly stepping back from even trying to get to church would hurt and worry people I care deeply about. People in the LDS tradition and people in mainstream Christian traditions. It hurts me deeply to feel as if I am disappointing people I admire and love, and this aspect of my personality made this decision all the harder.

However, this is my journey to walk and my short life on this planet to live. I would not want my children to ever live their lives in a way that felt incongruous to who they are as a person. I also don’t want to model for my children that who they are is a decision they get to make once in life. Who we are is always changing and that is one of the most beautiful parts of life- as long as we can go with it and grow into new stages of life instead of clinging to old ideas of who we are.

I am actively not putting walls around this stage of life. I do not know when or if or how I will return to going to church. I am just letting myself be, as I am, and that person is growing every day. Tomorrow is a new day, a new dawn, and a new me.

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Transitions As A Special Needs Parent

“So what do we do now? What is the next step here?” I asked the pediatrician as we looked at each other over Caleb squirming between us yelling his ABC’s.

I used to know what to try next. It was pretty simple and the supplies could easily be found at Target. Now we are beyond Target and I’m unsure what comes next.

The transitions snuck up on me, although I knew it was coming. I suddenly do not have “babies” anymore. I think that realization hits all parents at some point, but for special needs parents it means something different.

When the kids were babies, I could get supplies that helped them at the local Target ( or other similar store) easily. We need nightlights for trauma induced fears, Target has them. We need diapers, Target has dozens of options. We need chewies and the teething toys at Target work. We are having mobility struggles and we can get a stroller or wagon at Target to help.

Then the day comes where trauma fears can’t be solved by a nightlight. The kids are getting older, and as they do their understanding of what they have endured deepens and their fears morph from being monsters in their closest to how they can know when life is safe and when people won’t hurt them? How do they know they won’t go hungry again?Night lights can do nothing to lighten those fears.

The store sells diapers up to size six by which point most kiddos are at least starting to potty train. However, for Caleb the toilet is a terrifying sensory experience and he is not ready to face it. So what do we do when the diapers in the store are too small? What do we do when the teething toys can’t stand up to big kid mouths?

What do we do when Caleb’s CMT makes him tire out too quickly to handle walks or the zoo or a museum, and he no longer fits in a stroller or a wagon?

So what do we do? We widen the search. We ask the experts. We realize that our days of being able to run to Target for ways to make our kids lives easier are over. We say goodbye to the chapter where baby supplies worked and move into this new chapter.

We got a prescription from that same pediatrician for larger diapers. We are trying new therapy supply stores for chewies and weighted blankets and therapy tools that are made to withstand big kids. We talk about the hard things and help the kids find ways to feel safe. We are working with our OT and Pediatrician to order a big kid stroller. We never stop searching and we just keep moving.

I can’t help but be acutely aware of both the bitter and the sweet of this transition. I have no more babies. I have a house full of kids now, not babies. The fact that they are continuing to grow and thrive is beautiful and amazing. The fact that things are slightly more challenging with Special Needs Children as opposed to Special Needs Babies is kind of sad. The fact that time passes so fast is also sad. Never blink. You might miss some of the magic.

How We Use Adventure To Fitness As Our Homeschool Physical Education

I am a homeschool Mama, but I wasn’t homeschooled myself. I had years of public school physical education that made me want to poke my eye out with a pencil. Changing into unflattering clothes, completing menial tasks, and having your hair messed up in the middle of the day- I have been there and to be frank I don’t think I got much of anything out of the experience.

As a Mom, especially one with the responsibility of teaching my children myself, I was unsure how we would incorporate physical education as the kids were young. That is until I discovered Adventure To Fitness a few years ago. This program makes my inner teacher and the Mom in me do leaps of joy!

Adventure to fitness is exactly like it sounds. It is a kids educational fitness video. Imagine taking your mom’s old Jane Fonda videos but turning the same exercises into an epic and informative adventure. Your kids can be running from stampedes in Yellowstone, jumping boulders in caverns, or looking for lost professors in underground worlds. No matter the adventure your kids choose they will get 30 minutes of nonstop movement accompanied by a truckload of information.

Adventure To Fitness Preview

With five kids under six at home, anything that gets out some of their gallons of energy gets a big gold star in my book. What I love about Adventure to Fitness is that they enjoy it and they always learn something new. Damien became obsessed with volcanos after learning about them from Adventure To Fitness. Best of all, I don’t have to wait for nice weather for the kids to get out some of their crazy energy. They do it right in the living room.

We also get something else out of it. All of the kids have issues when it comes to sensory processing, or how their bodies interpret the information their senses pick up from their surroundings. Disregulation of the sensory system feels awful for them and can cause some pretty crazy behaviors. They get so many different types of input from going on an adventure that they are calmer for the rest of the day. Mama sanity saver right there.

As I’ve gotten to know more Mama’s who homeschool I have learned a lot of them haven’t heard about Adventure To Fitness. Which I get, I stumbled upon it accidentally two years ago and now we use it almost daily. Even our nephews are becoming hooked on taking a trip with Mr. Marc, the adventure guide.

If you want to learn more about Adventure To Fitness check out their website and learn about streaming the subscriber content, ordering DVD’s, or even the research put into each adventure.

Adventure To Fitness Preview Video

Adventure To Fitness Website

Stop Shoulding All Over Yourself

Should. Should. Should.

Should is an evil word. Should has no good intentions. Should should jump off a cliff.

Should is a word that has dominated too much of my life. Should has been wearing the crown and sitting in judgement of far too many of my choices and actions.

I should do this.

I should not do that.

I should let it go.

I should not take up too much space.

I should not ask for anything.

I should not say that.

I should just say yes, no matter what it costs me.

Should- you’re fired.

There is a transition afoot in my life and in my inner being. It’s going to be a bumpy transition for some people. My first answer is no longer “yes, let me lay down and make this easier” it is now “no, I am tending to my own garden”. I have been terrified of saying no for years, worried that I am a bad person if my answer is no. I’ve been trying it on and saying no in safe ways, to safe people I know will still love me even when I say no. It’s been emboldening.

I have met myself before though. No is not going to be easy for me. I need reminders. Insert my current brain hack. I am channeling a younger version of myself and I set a song as the ringtone on my phone. Yes, If my phone rings in public it will be loud and obnoxious to others. I’m ok with that because as Meghan Trainor sings No, I am reminded to protect my self and my family from burnout and say no.

What does this have to do with should? My yes was often rooted in should. I should do that for them. I should not rock the boat and just go with it. I should help them with that. I should not worry about burnout. I should be quiet about that. I should conform to the status quo.

Does this mean I am going to stop being a person reaching out to help others? No, because that’s not who I am. I am a helper. I am someone who views the world in a way that is always asking, “how I can serve?”. That’s not going to change. What is going to change is the realization that I am one person. Just one. Currently my plate is full. Is it too full? No. Is it unmanageable? No. However, it is full. There is no more room and I cannot let should be the reason I add more to it, for then the plate will collapse under the weight.

Letting go of should has opened the world up for me. It has opened me up to my truer self. The self that is far more organic, bohemian, barefoot, loving, open, and free spirited. I like this transition. It’s making life a lot more fun.

How is should making your life small or robbing you of your true self?

Why Mamas Need Nights Out

I have gone on short spurts of outings. Quick lunches, the occasional rushed through dinner. All of them were nice but I was always very concerned about what was happening while I was gone and how long I was taking. I usually came home from my “Mommy outings” drained not refreshed. Then last week I had a true day and night out. I had no idea how badly I had been needing it.

Last week I was able to go out with a dear friend from college for the entire day. I was gone almost 24 hours. She lives on the other side of the state. I drove over in the morning and we went on a Target run with her littles and hung out and chatted during nap time. As soon as her hubby came home we went to IKEA and then out for a late night dinner and drinks.

That may not sound like much to you but it was basically a trip to Walt Disney World for me. I discovered something really important about that time away. It was a chance for me to be just myself. I was puzzling over the feelings I felt on my long drive back home and I realized that it was like taking off a heavy coat you’d worn too long.

I usually think of myself in relation to other people. I’m someone’s mom. I’m someone’s wife. I’m someone’s aunt. Someone’s sister. Someone’s daughter. That day I was still all of those people but I was able to set them down for a moment and just be my own someone.

A nice addition to relaxing into this moment where I got to just be myself was I got to spend that time with someone who knew me before I was a Mom. She knew an easier to explain version of Cabrielle who knew more about who she was within the world than who she was in relation to others. I got to spend the day combining the two versions.

As a Mom I need friends I don’t have to be prefect for. Friends who get it and don’t judge me. The type of friends you never have to say “sorry about the mess” to. The friends who never bat an eye when we are a complete tornado of chaos. Friends who laugh with me when hilarious or insane or gross things happen with the kids and cheer us on when exciting milestones are met.

My Mama escape last week was with just such a friend and it was so relaxing to be with her and not have to put on any show or dress up anything. I could say “this is hard”, “this part sucks”, “I miss…”- all without her taking it wrong and thinking I don’t love my kids with my entire existence. She knows my heart, she knows how amazing my kids are and how much they bless every moment of my life. She also knows this motherhood gig is tough and none of us have a clue what we are doing. She got it. I didn’t have to couch what I said in explanations and disclaimers.

I had no idea how long it had been since I had unclenched and just relaxed until I did it. I did not know I hadn’t really relaxed before. Now that I have felt this feeling it has opened my eyes and made me reassess a lot of things. The people in our lives should give us chances to relax into ourselves and take off the coats of who we are to others. When you find the people you can do that with, keep them close. If you feel yourself having to put in a massive effort to hold up some perfect version of yourself around someone, they may not be your people. They may not be part of your tribe. That’s ok, that doesn’t make the wrong or evil, just means your types of crazy don’t jell. Don’t force it. Just let yourself go and just be with the people who love the real under all the coats you are wearing.

Chronological Scripture Study Series: Adam To Noah

Hey guys! This week’s scripture study covers:

Genesis 5

Moses 8

If you are new to this series you can find the first in the series here.

Genesis 5 is mainly a family tree of early man. It shows that people lived a great deal longer than they do today and that Adam’s family grew to be both large and diverse. We also learn that by the time of Noah, God has cursed the ground and the people were looking to Noah for comfort. We also learn that Noah had three children.

This passage, for me, speaks to the universal desire to know where we come from. We all long, at one point or another, to feel like we know the names and personalities and stories of those who came before us. I know it means a lot to me when I learn new stories about my ancestors. I know the feeling of comfort when I can draw parallels between our lives and I would imagine early man would have felt the same way.

Moses 8 goes more in depth, as seems to be the case with the LDS scriptures, it adds more depth and color to the story. In Moses 8 we learn that Noah was sent to preach the gospel to the people and to try and get them to repent. The Lord claimed that people had become evil. There is not a lot of explanation as to why people were evil enough that God felt the need to cleanse the planet. How in a relatively short amount of time had people gone so off course that God wanted a do over? I don’t have answers to these questions because I do not have the knowledge of God but it seems odd to me. Odd and harsh.

Here is the part that I had to read twice, Moses 8:18 “And in those days there were giants on the earth, and they sought Noah to take away his life; but the Lord was with Noah, and the power of the Lord was upon him.” Giants. I read it twice. Giants. Huh? Ok let’s go with this for a while. I have two thoughts. Part of me, the part that loves folklore, thinks yes of course giants that’s awesome. The cynical side of me thinks, and yet we have found no archeological evidence of giants?! I do not know how to process that information. Giants. I will be thinking on this for a while.

This week I am still struggling with my hippie side being like- nah, all these rules are ridiculous. However, I am not ready to toss the baby out with the bath water and I’m going to continue reading and pushing my understanding to new levels. I’m left wondering why God needs such vengeance? Why was the evil of the world then different than the world today? Where is the explanation of where the giants came from? Why do the giants want to kill Noah? I just have so many questions. Some I hope to find answers to and I hope to be ok with the knowledge that I won’t have answers to it all.

If you want to follow along with the study we are following this Scripture Timeline.

Next week we will be discussing The Great Flood.

How We Are Handling Trauma Fueled Hoarding And Aggression

When you decide to become a foster parent or adopt a child that has experienced trauma it is common for people to fall into the trap of thinking they can love the trauma away for their littles ones. It’s tempting to wish that were possible. I, myself, have often wished I could climb inside my kids and find all their wounds and cover them with love until it no longer hurts.

Unfortunately, we cannot change the past. All we can do is offer our children a safe place to work through their experiences, help them learn healthy ways of coping with the pain, and love them through it all.

Trauma causes a myriad of behaviors in children, no child will behave the same way and each child will go through different types of trauma fueled behaviors at different times. Currently, our older boys have really been struggling with hoarding, with food in particular, and fighting.

We have tried all the more traditional approaches to handling these behaviors and they made no impact. We then had to step back and ask ourselves what the root cause of the behavior is and what they are trying to gain. For our boys, and many children who have experienced trauma, the goal is often to feel in control of the world around them. Feeling like they have no control is a terrifying feeling because then it is hard to predict what may happen.

Our first concern was the fighting. We needed to come up with in the moment interventions that would help them find better ways to handle being angry than hitting one another. Once one punch is thrown it usually descends into a full on brawl. The trick was to get them redirected before the first swing, and that can be harder during the moments they are not within direct line of sight. To help them feel more in control of the situation we sat down with them and asked them for ideas of good things we can do when feeling angry. They came up with a good list that includes things like:

Wall pushes

Jumping jacks

Praying

Deep Breathing

Caterpillar Fingers

Asking for a hug

Tearing up a piece of paper (that an adult provides)

Taking a positive time out

Singing a song

Talking about it

Clapping

Etc.

We took the ideas and wrote them down on slips of paper, with illustrations since they are not reading fluently yet. We labeled the container “The Mad Box” and we have it on their dresser so that when arguments begin they can go to the box and find a good alternative to fighting. It’s really helping them to have a list of safer choices instead of having to come up with them on the fly.

One of the biggest sources of fighting was the tv in their room. The fighting over the remote was getting out of hand and they did not respond to having tv privileges being taken away, as soon as they got their privileges back the fights started again. Once again control was the issue and not having a structure to follow. Thinking, if I don’t get to have control over what we are watching now I never will. We created a simple chart for their room and they take turns having a day they get to be in charge of their remote. If someone starts a fight about the remote they lose their day and if the fight gets out of hand the tv goes off for 24 hours. Since we implemented the new system there was one fight over the remote (to test the system) and none since.

Now that we had a game plan for the fighting we needed to work on the hoarding. For kiddos with attachment issues it is often easier to attach love to items and food than to abstract things like spending time together or caring about one another. When you attach love to physical things love becomes finite and it is easy to worry there isn’t enough to go around. This was showing up here with snacks and food being snuck into their rooms and hidden. Not just a cookie or a cracker, entire boxes of food hidden in their room and eaten entirely. Added into the attachment they have to the food is the history they have of not getting enough to eat. Now, even when there is plenty to eat they are worried they will suddenly not have enough food. The best way to ensure they knew they had enough food/love was to stockpile it.

We decided, after trying to reason with them, that we just needed to meet them where they are and soothe their anxiety about it all. Hopefully, in time that anxiety will lessen. Each boy now has a box for snacks in their room. The box gets filled once a week and they have complete discretion over when and how they eat their snacks. If they eat them all at once that is fine but new snacks will not be added until the next week. If they eat them slowly all week that is also fine. They are not allowed to take snacks out of each other’s boxes or from the kitchen without permission. We opted for clear boxes so they would have the comfort of knowing the food was there even when they were not eating it. The first few weeks they emptied their boxes immediately, but slowly they are learning when the box will be refilled and how to spread it out and slowly they are relaxing into that security.

Experience tells us more confusing and confounding behaviors will crop up over time and we pray we always remember to stop and figure out what the cause is and what their goals are so we can meet them where they are. In the meantime, we will keep loving on them and continue to be amazed with their strength and resilience.