Category Archives: introspection

life is what you make it

My homeschool experience was a mixed bag, like most of my childhood.

I keep starting and leaving my homeschool story. My homeschool experience was as complicated as my parents were. Sometimes great, sometimes painful, leaving me prepared for the world in some ways and set back in others.

I got a great score on the ACT, but on the other hand my knowledge of what scientists *actually* believe about evolution was next to nothing coming out of high school. I thrived in college history classes, but on the other hand my knowledge of ancient history cuts out the entire prehistoric era because the makers of my ancient history curriculum believe the earth is only 6,000 years old, and my modern history had a strong Reconstructionist bias.
I read a ton of great books but had very little guided reading of literature.
I spent plenty of time with people of all ages, as my family chose other families to be friends with, but on the other hand have very little knowledge about how to make friends on my own, within my peer group. (one of those family friends is my husband, Luke, so there’s a big ‘pro’there.)

Despite these gaps, my education prepared me for life in one huge way — i mostly taught myself from books. I learned to research, to teach myself anything I wanted or needed to know. I can use books and the internet to fill in any educational gaps.

I even found a group of friends ready to welcome me when i became an agnostic by searching for atheist meetups on google!

As the oldest daughter, second child, of 7 children (now 8) I learned to take care of the house and children. I learned to manage my own schedule and fit in learning around taking care of very, very fussy babies and helping with chores. It may not have been the ideal situation, to homeschool under a hormonal and often pregnant mother, but I learned a lot about myself and my ability to work and help with children. I was able to help my mom through some difficult times, too.

My parents were demanding and often difficult to please, but I learned things even from that.

I might want to change aspects of my past, but all I can really change is my present, and my homeschool education helped give me the tools to do that. I can also change other people’s present, and my education gave me the sympathy and tools to help and love other children who may feel alone.

I think life is full of good and bad, and we can learn from the negative as well as the positive. We can, sometimes, change our past and make it a positive, by changing our current outlook on it; although it might take a lot of love and therapy. In the end I am not a product just of my homeschool education and my childhood, i am a product of myself, and what I choose to make of myself with the resources at my disposal.

Stories

We spent the Fourth of July with Luke’s family at his gramma and papaw’s house, at their land in the hills.
I love this family, but I always feel a little lonesome and out of place. Maybe because I’m socially awkward, maybe from not sharing the blood and memories of most of the family.
I feel that way in most of my life actually, like some people have deep roots and I’m just an outsider. My name – Lana – has several meanings depending on which language you say it’s from. I like the meaning that means ‘light’ or ‘fair one’, but as a child the meaning I’d heard was ‘from a foreign place’. My parents told me it was fitting because for one, I was actually born out of the country, but more importantly I belonged to the kingdom of God and was just a wanderer on earth.
I have always felt that way. Like I was from a foreign place and don’t quite fit.
I latched onto messianic Christianity (following Old Testament feasts and some traditions from Judaism) for awhile, before leaving the faith, as an attempt to find deeper roots in my faith, and not feel like such a misplaced wanderer. I loved the deep traditions, feeling connected to something bigger than myself.
I don’t feel like I have deep roots in America – I envy people who live in countries that have been around since ancient times.
I wish I could connect to my heritage somehow but I don’t even know it. A great (or twice great?) grandmother was Cherokee. Someone on my father’s side was kicked out of Bohemia. And that’s all. Tiny snippets of stories that were everything to people years ago.
I love stories. I love the connection I feel to people when I hear them — the knowledge that I am partaking a little in their lives.
Luke’s papaw tells stories about being a kid – staying outside all day in the summer, shooting Floyd Gayle off the porch with a B.B. gun and then lying about it, that’s a good one. Luke’s gramma is not the storyteller but if you get lucky she might talk a little about growing up, her mom’s mac and cheese, or the time it snowed on the way out of town for Thanksgiving when my mother-in-law was young.
I love to hear stories; they make me feel connected to other people and bigger realities than myself. Stories open my mind, imagination and heart. I store the stories in my memory and I tell them to myself when I feel alone – words from times and places I never saw, making my disconnected heart smile.

Freethinker

I found a word that fits my post-christian, agnostic, seeking and learning stance.

Freethought.

From wikipedia: Freethought is a philosophical viewpoint that holds opinions should be formed on the basis of logic,reason, and empiricism, rather than authority,tradition, or other dogmas.[1][2][3] The cognitive application of freethought is known as “freethinking,” and practitioners of freethought are known as “freethinkers.”

Freethinker – I like the sound of that.

what it’s like quitting christianity

I’ve said before, I don’t identify as Christian anymore, and I don’t believe in the Bible. I’m not sure what I believe about some things still, but I know I’m not a Christian and I thought i would share a few more specifics of  leaving my faith.
I was saved at age 5 (or four?) on September third. I grew up grateful and loving Jesus, and full of zeal. I wanted to live a radical life. I even cowrote a magazine with my now-husband.
But I’ve always had some questions. As I got older, I tried a different variety of Christianity. I tried many. When I was younger I was afraid of losing my faith and going to hell. Despite believing the bible was true I’ve never been sure I could be sure I was saved – I was afraid of losing it and going to hell. Then I discovered Calvinism – which helped me with it’s always-saved doctrine. There were still issues, but I accepted John Piper’s answers to my questions even as I was upset believing that the majority of the world was predestined to Hell. I was not sure HOW a good God could do that, but the Bible said God was Good and that settled it.

I lived in a tension of questioning and believing; I was advised to put questions ‘too big’ for me on hold, and instead say like the disciples, ‘Lord, you have the words of life, where else could I go?’

I did. For years I did. Until, things just didn’t add up any more. Too many people were ‘filled with the Holy Spirit’, but unkind, judgmental, even abusive. Too much sexual and spiritual abuse in the church. Too many Christians rejoicing at ‘god’s will’ during a tragedy. Too little of God when I called out. Too little love for homosexuals or pro-choicers. Too little understanding for those who interpreted scriptures differently.

I wondered if the words were really the words of life.
I left our old church. (Wordlessly, I regret that. I never meant to hurt anyone but I probably did. I was waiting for my husband to talk to the pastor before I talked about anything, because I was still clinging to bits of patriarchy at the time and didn’t want to speak out of turn, as a woman.)
I tried to find something left to cling too, some reason I could be confident that the Bible was trustworthy, God was real, and Jesus existed and loved me.
But there were too many discrepancies in the scripture I was taught was infallible, too many spiritual experiences by the non-christian, too little evidence the gospels were real – all things causing me to let go.

I wanted them to be real. I wanted to be loved by an Almighty God. After all, I’d spent my whole life trying to please Him by obedience, and being taught that Christianity was the one true path.
Of course, I didn’t want to believe the whole world was going to hell except the ones who believe in Jesus. I was taught it had to be true and that’s why we had to be missionaries. But i felt, like others have said, that we were saving people *from god*. Finally that became a bigger issue to me.
I read Rob Bell. I became confident that if God is real and really Love, then there’s no hell like the hell I was taught.
I studied evolution and Genesis and concluded that if God is real, He managed creation rather than created everything in 6 days like in the creation myth.

But still, the IF.
I read and thought and studied and – I didn’t pray any more. I didn’t feel right praying.
I tried to cling. I really wanted to believe. For a few months I read books from different perspectives of Christianity like crazy.  Crazy Love. Love Wins. Disappointment with God by Philip Yancey. The Ragamuffin Gospel (a friend suggested I turn it into a paper wreath, but it was pretty good). Knowing God. Jesus Without Religion. something or nother by AW Tozer.
Oh, and The Bible.
Drank them like water, only the water tasted funny and left me dry.

Then I studied other religions and found that parts of the Bible sound like other myths. Not like anything especially breathed by the Almighty.
In exhaustion and desperation, I decided to stop for awhile. I figured that if it were really true and I was hunting for truth, I’d come back to it, and I read some books by athiests.
And… I don’t know. I don’t want a world with no God, no redemption, but for all my fighting I just can’t make myself believe something i don’t, simply because it’d be nice to have a loving God up there caring.
I am an agnostic. I’ve changed my mind on Christianity, maybe forever, maybe not. I think there’s a chance there’s some benevolent force or being out there, but after investigating, I don’t think I have a reason to believe it’s the God of the Bible.
I sometimes wonder if there’s something no one really understands, and all the religious writings out there are simply humanity’s attempts to understand it. Or maybe there’s nothing, and we just want there to be.

I can’t make myself believe something I don’t believe, that I don’t feel is worth believing.

I felt bereft, for awhile. sometimes I still do.
I lost a great deal, in leaving Christianity. The respect of other good Christian friends, the one thing I have in common with practically everyone I know, the confidence of knowing I had the truth no matter what, even the knowledge that i was fulfilling my parents hopes for me.

I open myself up to being told I was never a true christian. I’ve heard people speak of athiests and agnostics as people who want to be able to sin and who deny God to ‘follow after fleshly lusts’ and now that’s gonna be me (hint: it’s a lie).
I lose my part with the majority of Americans (over 70% identify as Christian)
I’m liable to be love bombed and ‘prayed for’ to return, whether I want it or not.
People are going to think I failed. Like I simply had it wrong all along or ‘lost’ my faith.
There are people who can reconcile heart, head, and faith in God. I understand that. Personally, I couldn’t. At least not right now.
For the sake of staying true to my heart and my head, I had to let it go.

…for now I camp in the space of questions, questions as infinite as the stars and I am full of questions and starlight.

the risk of vulnerability

I wrote this the other night, when I was feeling particularly vulnerable after sharing some personal things. I always have this moment of panic that ‘everyone will hate me now’.

I sent a blogger a guest post submission.
I told someone about this blog.
I shared my whole bipolar stigma story.
I admitted how messed up my mind can be.

And each time, I began suffocating from the fear of rejection. What if knowing a little (or a lot) more about me makes everyone hate me?
I get scared.
It feels dangerous to be open with people. I have never been widely liked; even my mom frequently said, ‘I love you but I don’t like you right now’. Quite frequently.

Affection seems to be an easy thing to lose.
I am afraid that the more open I am, the more people know me, the less they will like me.
That I will open myself up and hope to be loved and people will pour hatred into the open spaces – or that they’ll dislike or reject me.
Or they might ignore it, when in my mind it was the essence of myself that I was bravely sharing.

I want to be liked. I do.
I want to be liked as me though. As honest me.
But sometimes I feel like I can’t ask people to put up with that — with me. Honest me is a bit of a wreck. And I don’t always quite understand myself. And I frequently dislike myself, although sometimes I like myself.
I blog into mostly silence, and while all responses are encouraging, I wonder if the silent are secretly hating me.

I close up, frightened.

I was 25 this morning but now I am vulnerable and 14 and crying because I don’t have friends to hang out with, and I am so afraid of being unloved.
When I try to talk with the girls at church, I somehow say all the wrong things. They mock me. They talk behind my back and the younger sister of a girl I thought was my friend tells me about it. I can’t look my ‘friends’ in the eyes.

The youth minister thinks it is funny to tease me in front of everyone.
I retreat into self.
My parents threaten to break my glasses and cut off my hair because I hide in them, they say. The threat doesn’t work and isn’t carried out.
I don’t want to be noticed.
To be noticed, to be known, is to be scorned and rejected.

I am twelve and quiet, first time at a youth retreat. When anyone does pay attention to me, words rush out. A senior says I look like I’m in a mid-life crisis. I don’t know what he means, but I know it means I should shut up. I do.
I try to fit in with the other girls, but I don’t know how to be a normal teen girl. I feel awkward and young and don’t fit into their conversations. If I speak, my voice feels like it is coming from far away, unnatural even to me. In my imagination, I am witty and have so many friends. In reality, I feel so alone.

The whole group goes out for ice cream. I look in my wallet. Only enough for a plain cone if I want to eat on the way home. Everyone else will be eating Blizzards. Darren, another older guy, pries my favorite flavor out of me and buys me a large Blizzard. I can’t even finish it, but it was good.

He talks to me sometimes at youth group, Darren does.

A lens comes out of my glasses one day. I can’t see to find it. He helps me look.
Another time, playing touch football, another guy keeps touching me too much. I’m too innocent to even realize what he is doing but I know it makes me feel yuck, but Darren tells him to stop.
We don’t really hang out, but I know that he has my back.
I am grateful for one person looking out for the awkward new girl.

Sometimes to be noticed is to be cared for.

But it’s risky.
It’s risky to be out there, and to know that though people might like you, they also might ignore you, hate you, or reject you. That if you are honest about who you are, people might look into your true self and spit at it — which hurts so much more than when they spit at your mask.

Life is risky.
Will I shut up, or open up?
I’m writing, aren’t I? Of course, most of my friends don’t know…
Shut up, open up.
Shut up? Open up?
I don’t know.
It’s risky.