Religious Roots: Part 3

We have been delving into our religious past and where we are presently, in the previous posts of The Religious Roots series. In this last post of the series, we are exploring where spirituality will fit into our future lives.

I have decided that spirituality, not religion will now be what navigates my path to God, morality, decision making and soul searching. What does spirituality mean? I have given this a lot of thought and I am not sure I have one, succinct, confident answer. But, what I think it means to me now, is still looking to connect with God and live on that path of connecting, but not finding it through any one church or set of rules. As I talked about in our previous post, I am currently finding God most in nature and through yoga.

My current work is showing God’s love through compassion and kindness. It has taken me years to try to understand what that all means, and I still will not pretend that I have it all figured out. When I think of God, the first thing I think of is love, however, that is absolutely NOT the first adjective that comes to mind, when I think of church. I need to work to continue to find and exhibit God’s love.

My hope for the future is to keep myself open to any path that leads me closer to God. I am still continuing to explore other teachings and modalities that explain God in a way that makes sense to me. I will continue to try to live love, peace and compassion and hopefully, have a positive impact on the world around me.

In love and sisterhood,

~Angelina

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“We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness.  God is the friend of silence.  See how nature – trees, flowers, grass grows in the silence; see the stars the moon and the sun how they move in the silence…we need silence to be able to touch souls.” -Mother Teresa

I use to believe that Jesus was two dimensional:SacredHeartJesus3

This was the picture that greeted our family at the door whenever we entered the house.

Today, I experience the Creator in third dimension.  I feel the Creator closest when I’m at the beach.  The magnitude of the water; the smell of the ocean air; it’s all a reminder that I’m not here by accident – someone or something had to have created such a beautiful place.

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I’m at peace with my relationship to the Divine.  Although I still use traditional methods for connecting with the Spirit, I’ve learned that God is more than four walls and a funeral.

Peace sisters,

Ed

Religious Roots: Part 2

In Religious Roots: Part 1, we explored our religious upbringing and the reasons we broke away from that path and found a new one. In part Part 2, we would like to delve deeper into our current path. In our many conversations on this topic, we have found the important realization that we are most definitely on a journey, we realized we have not arrived at any one destination or profound conclusion. We know that we are still learning, exploring and growing and want to simply share what we have found out along the way and what has worked for us. I have realized that my current relationship with God has nothing to do with religion. I feel that is a part of my past that I do not want in my present or future. I thought for a time that I did not want anything to do with God or faith, but I realized more and more that it was still very much apart of my life and certain beliefs would always be in my heart and soul. I would still find myself praying during a stressful moment or giving thanks to God in a moment of gratitude. I realized there were beliefs that I could not, or did not even want to shake off. I went to a faith based college for my graduate studies. Going to Christian grad school helped me come to see some beliefs in a new light. I was able to see the intersection between faith and education, something that I felt was seriously lacking in my own upbringing. There were still some things I definitely did not agree with, but I also met professors and other classmates who were more open-minded and used critical thinking when describing their faith. I begin to find new ways to connect with and draw closer to God. I soon realized that I found a deeper connection when I was completely away from church and out in nature. Nature became my sanctuary to worship and as I started exploring more and more of this beautiful earth, I found my gratitude for all of God’s creation increasing and a shift happening inside my soul to be more open to the unknown. DSCN5819 Strangely enough, the largest catalyst to helping me reconnect with spirituality has been yoga. Yoga, I believe has helped me find God more than anything. I first started doing yoga for all the physical benefits to my outside body, but once I started learning and opening myself up to the benefits for inside my body, a big change occurred and I felt my heart opening up more and more to all things spiritual. You can read about how yoga helped me through grief and loss here. 100_0991 The tenants of yoga and Eastern religion make so much more sense to me and although my knowledge is still very shallow, I am coming to see there are many parallels between Eastern and Western religion, but the similarities are convoluted with legalistic barriers. I now strive to live my life with compassion, gratitude, kindness, love and peace. I hope to embody all those qualities and share them with the world around me. I constantly fail. However, the fearful and anxious feelings previously associated with failure are no longer present and I am at peace with being imperfect, with falling short, with not knowing, with questioning and with discovering new information that challenges my previous/current ideals. Thank-you for reading and sharing our journey, thus far. In love & sisterhood, ~Angelina “I love being a mother. My children fill me up in many ways, and inspire me in many ways…” Madonna As I venture forward toward the beginning of my own personal spiritual path, there are some wounds from the past that I’ve had to deal with in order to heal.  I use to hold a lot of resentment towards my parents (who hasn’t) due to their lack of direction in life.  Although we grew up with all the basics to live well, I wish they would have prepared me better for life.  But there came a point when I realized that they couldn’t teach me what they didn’t know.  Today, after having experienced my fair share of heartache and disappointment, I completely understand why my mom used her religion as a coping mechanism. Life Can Be Difficult My mom probably made the best choice when she couldn’t handle my ADHD brother, diabetic sister and me – she picked up a rosary rather than a bottle. In that one little act, she showed me, without knowing, how instrumental faith can be when life becomes difficult. As a teacher of a low socioeconomic neighborhood, I see the difficulty parents go through when trying to support their kids in an education system that’s completely foreign to them.  They’re so busy trying to pay the rent and put food on the table that education unfortunately takes a back seat in their list of priorities. I see my parent’s struggle written all over the faces of the parents I work with today.  How could I judge my mom and dad so harshly when they did the best they could with the abilities they possessed? Like Angelina mentioned earlier, my knowledge of God is still shallow in a universe that’s surrounded by the Divine; I had to strip myself of the old in order to experience my new.  It can be very challenging at times and a bit scary but there’s one thing I know for sure: if my mom could do it with the help of the Creator – so can I. Love and sisterhood, Ed

Religious Roots: Part 1

This post was more difficult for me to write than I thought it would be. I have recently been reading a journal that my mom wrote for me. She did this for all of her children and started writing in it when she was pregnant and continued to update it throughout our lives. It is incredibly precious and very sweet to hear her thoughts about me, before I was even born. In her writing, she made it very clear that she was intending to bring me up Christian and declaring my life to lived in this manner. Most of my associations with Christianity overlap with my associations with my mother and it has been very difficult for me to separate the two, throughout my journey. Even still, I do not know if necessarily have, or even want to have all of that worked out in my mind. However, I think it is important to note how much of a struggle it has been for me to question things of the church, without it also not translating into questioning or second guessing my mother.

I was raised in a non-denomination Christian church. There was no questioning and for the most part, I enjoyed it. I cannot remember a time where I was not taught about Jesus .

with my parents, dressed as their little angel

with my parents, dressed as their little angel

My mother consistently took us to church and encouraged us to be involved, as much as possible. There was never a time when we did not go. I read my bible, learned as much as I could, was soon able to (and still can) rattle off the books of the bible in order, along with a slew of memory verses. I went to children’s bible camp and was a wiz at bible trivia. I did not know any other way of life and I really did not care to. I thought I was doing the right thing. I believed that if I prayed hard enough about anything, it would happen. The main source of my prayers was for my father, who was like a tornado for our family, blowing in and out, creating turbulence sometimes and being peaceful other times. I thought eventually he would come to church consistently with us, and stop being so angry and disruptive to our family.

As I became a teenager, the questions begin to come. When I was younger, church was just another form of school to me, and I loved school. I enjoyed learning and figured if you learn enough and try your best, good things will happen. As I got older, I realized, it did not always work out that way and I realized that I had to find and define what my own relationship would be with God. I became very involved with the youth group and continued to learn more and more, but my difficultly was now applying that in different situations. It did not always make sense to me and I would try struggle with some of these ideas. Why do bad things happen to good people? If some people prayed hard enough for the right thing, why didn’t they get what they wanted? Why was there pain and suffering in the world? Why have some countries been blessed with prosperity and others experience poverty? Why is there a hell and why do people have to go there? Why are gay people going to hell? Why does thinking about all these things give my such crippling anxiety?

Oh, the anxiety and the fear. This another inseparable part of my religious experience. This soon became entrenched in my path and I was soon struggling with full-blown anxiety and experiencing minor panic attacks anytime I questioned. I felt like I was not having enough faith or being a good enough Christian. I should try harder, but trying harder only stressed me out more.

The older I got, the more I questioned. Some things just did not add up or make any sense to me. I saw hypocrisy and crippling judgement from other members of the church. I did not understand how we could talk about God’s love, but turn around and show the opposite of that to others.

The more I learned about myself, the more I found conflicts with what I was being taught at church.I valued questioning, critical thinking and intelligent discourse. Anytime I tried to engage in this, I felt as though my faith was wavering and would get responses like, there are some things we just shouldn’t question about God. I value people and the diverse human experience and I was getting the sense that there was only one valuable human experience and if you were not on that path, you were not welcome and made to feel like an outsider. As I look back, I realize that my liberal, hippy, feminist, yogi mind was in the fetus stage of development. I have no idea where this even came from, because it is pretty much the opposite of how I was raised, but as my own, true identity begin to emerge, the conflicts became greater and greater.

So did the anxiety. I felt so torn inwardly and SCARED.

I was scared of being different. I was fearful of the questions to my faith. I was worried that I would end up in hell. Eventually, I was able to work most of this out over the years, but, most of all, more than anything and probably a fear that I am still dealing with today, is disappointing my mom.

As I became an adult, I realized the conflict was much too large for me, and I stopped attending church. This became a huge source of anxiety for me and I dealt with it in a very post-adolescent, university college student type of manner. I told myself it was all bullshit and I did not believe any of it, and what a bunch of lies it all was, and I could not believe I was such a sheep for so long. God was a made up construct and Christians were just broken, pathetic people looking for a different coping mechanism than their previous life of brokenness.

I do realize now how immature and ignorant this standpoint was and I feel that I have, and am growing a lot from this. Eventually, I realized there is and will always be a very spiritual side of me. I do believe in God, but my approach and discovery is much different from what it once was.

That has led me to the path that I am on today, which is what I will delve a little deeper into, on our post next week, Religious Roots, Part 2…

In love & sisterhood,

~Angelina

Revelation 12: 1 – 4  Then a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant, and she cried out because she was in labor, in pain from giving birth. Then another sign appeared in heaven: it was a great fiery red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and seven royal crowns on his heads.

Motherhood can be a beautiful life changing event, or it can also be down right scary.  Choose the right man, family life can be great; choose the wrong man, life is uncertain.  I believe my mom fell somewhere in between.

One of the benefits of having forty years of life experience to reflect on is the ability to compare myself today with what my mom was probably going through when she was forty.  I know for certain that if I had kids when I was in my late twenties, as she did, I wouldn’t have had a clue as to what I got myself into.  When I look back on the way my parents raised my brother, sister and me, I get the suspicion they didn’t have a clue either.

The Catholic faith was always an integral part of who we were as a family.  A statue of the Virgin Mary greeted anyone who entered the house; pictures of saints were hung on every wall to protect the family from outside forces and we attended mass every Sunday no matter where we were.  God was always part of our lives as children and throughout our teen-age years.

As I started to get older, and my life took over, I started to realize that my mother’s beliefs and traditions were no longer working for what I was experiencing. I couldn’t draw any comfort from the God that I was taught to believe in as a child, while I was going through the birth pangs of adulthood.  That’s when I started to understand that my mom’s “God” and belief system were more of a coping mechanism rather than a way to lead a healthy spiritual life.

My mom struggled a lot when she came to this country from Mexico.  She married a man, my father, who wasn’t her first and only true love.  When she gave birth to three kids, my brother suffered from ADHD (before there was such a thing), my sister had kidney cancer and later developed diabetes and myself, her gay son.  I can see why my mom clutched tight to those rosary beads back then and why she continues today.

I love you mom!

Love and sisterhood,

Ed