Christmas and the heavyness of being without a church

photo by David Trotter

I went to a Christmas Eve service with my kids and ex-husband today. It’s been a while since I’ve been to a Christmas Eve service, for a variety of reasons, least of which is the fact that Mark and I try to spend that day together for the kids and there is nothing more awkward than going to church where that act of walking in the door together springs into action a number of people excited to pastor us back into marriage, rather than accepting us as we are – a divorced couple not needing to be saved by any meaning of that word. I’ve also ambivalent about church in general for some time. I think, like many of us, I’ve been hurt by both the people of the church and the behavior of The Church of late. I’ve been angry about how the church had responded equality, to sexual abuse, to women’s issues, to politics. I’ve felt out of place and disenfranchised. And yes, I know. #notallchristians. But it’s sometimes hard to identify with the ways that our faith can be used to hurt others.
Tonight I drove by a mega-church with giant expensive road signs and greeters in Santa hats trying to convince people to turn in. I was part of a church like that for many years. I played parts in the Christmas productions. I sang the solos. I passed out the rave cards to neighbors. I never imagined I would one day be a person without a church, who would drive by the enthusiastic greeters and wince.
We went to a progressive church tonight where we know the pastor but the liturgical style is not familiar to me. I miss the charismatic worship of my old church history but I don’t miss the judgment. During “pass the peace” I didn’t know what to do, and the lady in front of me didn’t either and said so. And then she cried through all of the songs. I don’t know her story except that I could see there was some church baggage. I wondered how many of us felt that today.I don’t have a bow to wrap this story with. This season is hard for a lot of us. I still wonder and marvel at the person of Jesus. I sang Silent Night with my family and in a room full of people and felt a sense of community and corporate peace that I haven’t in while. I miss church and I don’t. I’m okay with it and I’m not.

Life Lately

From New York to France to Spain to Tokyo, showing up to support @aus_rivers is a tough job but I do it out of the goodness of my heart. Now working on a list of new countries I’d like him to get gigs in where I can come “support” him more.

Joined by by dad and his wife today, taking in the Imperial Palace and Zoji Shrine before my nephew’s show.

🥂 🥟 🇯🇵 (This is my best emoji work yet)

Why yes I did leave my children unattended at a stupid American fast-food joint while I walked across the street for delicious ramen.

I think the @sensojitemple has been my favorite thing in Japan so far.

Harijuku and shrines and conveyor belt sushi and gardens and hedgehogs and Shibuya Scramble and street food and ice cream. What a day.

Bound for Harijuku

Jafta is in foodie heaven for his 14th birthday. #foodiejafta

Living that Tokyo life.

A quick 11 hour flight to Tokyo. 😳 I’m already tired. Planning a big trip the day after Christmas: would not recommend. The older three are seated far away from me and I’m not mad about it. We are coming for you @mybroadwaydream!

To quote @markhowerton: “Yes, matching pj’s. We’re divorced, not barbarians.” 😂 (Though he also might have said that second photo where Karis was blocking my head was the ideal shot.) Merry Christmas!

It begins

I went to a Christmas Eve service with my kids and ex-husband today. It’s been awhile since I’ve been to a Christmas Eve service, for a variety of reasons, least of which is the fact that Mark and I try to spend that day together for the kids and there is nothing more awkward than going to church where that act of walking in the door together springs into action a number of people excited to pastor us back into marriage, rather than accepting us as we are – a divorced couple not needing to be saved by any meaning of that word. I’ve also ambivalent about church in general for some time. I think, like many of us, I’ve been hurt by both the people of the church and the behavior of The Church of late. I’ve been angry about how the church had responded equality, to sexual abuse, to women’s issues, to politics. I’ve felt out of place and disenfranchised. And yes, I know. #notallchristians. But it’s sometimes hard to identify with the ways that our faith can be used to hurt others.
Tonight I drove by a mega-church with giant expensive road signs and greeters in Santa hats trying to convince people to turn in. I was part of a church like that for many years. I played parts in the Christmas productions. I sang the solos. I passed out the rave cards to neighbors. I never imagined I would one day be a person without a church, who would drive by the enthusiastic greeters and wince.
We went to a progressive church tonight where we know the pastor but the liturgical style is not familiar to me. I miss the charismatic worship of my old church history but I don’t miss the judgement. During “pass the peace” I didn’t know what to do, and the lady in front of me didn’t either and said so. And then she cried through all of the songs. I don’t know her story except that I could see there was some church baggage. I wondered how many of us felt that today.

I don’t have a bow to wrap this story with. This season is hard for a lot of us. I still wonder and marvel at the person of Jesus. I sang Silent Night with my family and in a room full of people and felt a sense of community and corporate peace that I haven’t in while. I miss church and I don’t. I’m okay with it and I’m not.

18 years of Christmas Eve brunches with this crew. Missing you @timtaber @tracy_albrecht_taber

Holiday Fun

The kids and I had a great holiday season full of many of our favorite traditions. It’s funny how much my kids have come to love traditions – I think they appreciate that while our family has changed, our holiday rhythms have not.

We started by going to Winter Fest OC – a holiday extravaganza at the fairgrounds of Orange County.  This was our third year going and we always have so much fun. There is sledding, fair rides, holiday lights and food . . . but my kids love the tents of snow play most of all.

We went with friends and these SoCal kids spent a lot of time throwing snowballs at each other. We also let them split off from us and ride all of the gut-punch roller coasters, which I was happy to skip. We had some hot chocolate and some fair food, and went home tired but happy.

We also hosted our annual Buddy the Elf Spaghetti Bar. This has become another favorite. I make tons of spaghetii and then let the kids and their friends top it with candy and syrup just like Buddy does in the movie. (I also make marinara and meatballs for the less brave adults.)


I also went to my (former) inlaws to open gifts with them. I’m thankful for inlaws who have remained family despite our divorce.

Our neighbor hosted a pretty epic white elephant exchange, to which I brought my enneagram 3 A-game, and I think India went home the winner.

We had our Christmas Eve brunch with the same friends we’ve had brunch with for 18 years running. Such a treasured tradition.


And Christmas morning, we did our usual routine of opening stockings followed by a slow breakfast, and then opening presents.

To quote @markhowerton: “Yes, matching pj’s. We’re divorced, not barbarians.” 😂

And then we spend the afternoon cleaning up and packing for our trip to Tokyo the day after Christmas. I can’t wait to share those photos with you!

Wednesday’s Child: Gabriella, Emma, Diego, Antonio, and Jackson

Every Wednesday I feature a child recently highlighted by a local Wednesday’s Child newscast to share the stories of children from around the country who are waiting for a family. My hope is that this can broaden exposure for the children highlighted, but also serve as a reminder that these children represent thousands of children currently in the foster-care system. Perhaps their stories will inspire you to consider opening your home to a child needing a family. For more information and to learn about other waiting children, visit AdoptUsKids.

SELF-CARE AND STAYING SANE DURING THE HOLIDAYS | SELFIE, EPISODE 63

While holiday stress may be peak #firstworldproblems, it’s also a very real phenomenon for many of us. Between school commitments, trying to be extra at buying the most meaningful gifts, maintaining boundaries with difficult relatives and overscheduling woes, Kristen and Sarah are sharing how they are keeping themselves sane this season.

In this episode we talked about:

Sarah’s holiday stress meditations:

This holiday season may I see the joys in front of me, big or small

May I have the strength to rest when I need rest

May I be kind to myself and others if things are not perfect

May I offer myself love and care

 

Podcast (selfie): Play in new window | Download

Life Lately

I brought my A game to the white elephant party. But India was the real winner.


Our annual Buddy the Elf spaghetti bar …

This pretty much captures their respective personalities. #winterfestoc

My daughter took the store-bought cookies out of the plastic and put them in a Tupperware with a hand-written note to make them look homemade. I swear I did not teach her this. Also #glutenfree for extra throughfulness. #enneagram3daughter#opticsmatter

I guess she was cold enough at the concert last night that she broke down and wore pants today. IT’S A CHRISTMAS MIRACLE.

Dear concerned teachers, neighbors, and friends … yes. She does own pants. And yet despite how cold it may get this winter, she will not wear them. I’ve giving up trying. Perhaps if her legs get cold enough she will break down but she’s on a several year no-pants streak and we just all have to accept her autonomy I guess.

 

A gift and a challenge || On Thursdays I post from the vault. This post is from December 2008.

On Thursdays I post from the vault. This post is from December 2008.

I woke up to a gift in my email inbox this morning – some amazing new photos of Keanan. My blogger-friend Jamie Ivey and her hubby are in Haiti visiting their own kids who are waiting to come home, and they took some amazing shots of our little boy. It is such a treat to see pictures of him and hear reports of how happy he is. It makes the waiting so much easier. Thank you, Jamie!!

Jamie’s husband Aaron wrote some pretty profound sentiments on his blog today. He was musing about how kids are kids, no matter where they grow up. Click here to read it – adoptive parent or not, I think you will be moved. But perhaps grab a tissue first.

He also reflected on feelings about the coming Christmas season as he witnessed the poverty of Haiti. I think these words are so important for us to think about right now:

You want to know what really pisses me off? being unable to convince people to even think about something like Advent Conspiracy… and hearing friend after friend say they’ve had the hardest time getting their own families to want to sacrifice gift-giving this Christmas so that others can simply have clean water and/or bread in their belly. i was furious today as i saw nine year old kids working in the street to get a few pennies…hopefully adding up to purchase bread or a cup of rice. really? we want to hold on to our $15 gift exchange this Christmas instead of pooling that money together to actually KEEP SOMEONE ALIVE? seriously SO angry today as i passed children with swarms of flies around their face holding out hands for anything. KIDS. and families all over the country refuse to say NO to trading Old Navy giftcards, discount scarves at Target, and I-tunes gift cards. seriously? in Haiti, that is translated to “merde.”

I’m not gonna translate that word for you, but I think you get the point. How can we respond to this poverty that seems so far away, and yet is so real for so many people? I am feeling challenged today.

 

Wednesday’s Child: Malik

 

Every Wednesday I feature a child recently highlighted by a local Wednesday’s Child newscast to share the stories of children from around the country who are waiting for a family. My hope is that this can broaden exposure for the children highlighted, but also serve as a reminder that these children represent thousands of children currently in the foster-care system. Perhaps their stories will inspire you to consider opening your home to a child needing a family. For more information and to learn about other waiting children, visit AdoptUsKids.