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losing my religion… thank GOD!

losing my religion… thank GOD!

Last night, I was called “religious” and I almost fell out of my chair. I am not kidding. One of my girlfriends was sharing something about herself, and in the middle of our conversation, she said, “I’m not religious, like you.” I almost died laughing! It caught me so off guard, surprised me into a fit of laughter, and seriously almost made me fall out of my high-top chair in the middle of the restaurant patio. I didn’t mean to laugh, and it was kind of inappropriate, but I couldn’t help it.

ME? Religious??? Uh, have we met?

holly get pretty

What she meant was that I had a relationship with God. I talk about God as if He is real. I have faith that continues to grow, and I have not been destroyed by hurtful slander from evil people or by the grief that followed the most life-shattering event I will ever experience. I include God in my daily life and conversations and problem solving as if He were a friend of mine. After I stopped laughing and the initial shock faded, I saw exactly what she meant. She had never had that kind of relationship with God and, in her words, it translated to being ‘religious.’ I get that. I totally get it. In my world, the word religious means something quite different.

To me, religion = rules, and I am notorious for breaking the rules. I despise rules for the sake of rules, and I am irritated by people who cling to rules because they cannot think for themselves, or folks who hide behind rules because it gives them a sense of power over others. Blechhhhh. Rules Shmules. Give me a rule, without rationale, and I will break it every time. Rules never mended a broken heart, never loved the lost, never healed a friendship… and neither did religion.  I’ve got no use for religion.

Religious = structured, repetitious.  I have a friend who is religious about going to the gym. She is a machine. Last week she ran 18 miles and was actually standing & smiling in the ‘selfie’ she posted on Facebook. Uhhhhh, I would have been lying on the sidewalk, hooked up to IVs, definitely sans smile! She is religious about working out. That term must have evolved from a pattern of behavior, or level of commitment demonstrated by churchgoers at some point but we now also use it to describe people who are very structured and/or committed to something. You can be religious about checking voice mail, or religious about being on time. There are people who go to support meetings, religiously. Over and over. Faithfully. Repetitiously. You get the picture.

I will happily and unashamedly tell you: I am not religious about anything. I don’t check my mail religiously. I don’t reply to email religiously. I don’t attend church religiously.  I don’t even take showers religiously. I am sooooo not religious about anything. Well, maybe coffee. I drink coffee pretty religiously. So when a friend says I am religious, it comes across as the most incongruous description one could ever use to describe me. Hence, the laughter.

I’ll trade religion for relationship, every single day of the week. I crave relationship. I thrive on relationship. I am my best self when in relationship with someone. I don’t mean ‘a relationship’ like with a man-friend. I mean true relationship with another human being, where you are connected and feel ‘seen.’ I dig that. I think more of us are like this than we would care to admit. My need for love and relationship explains many of the decisions I make in my life.  My thirst for connection, forgiveness, acceptance, and understanding was never quenched in religion. That all-consuming thirst has only found reprieve in relationship. When friends describe me as a ‘connector of people,’ I get that warm and fuzzy feeling, and want to do some high kicks, and exclaim over & over “I love it! I love it! I love it!” like Molly Shannon in the SNL skit about the Joyologist.

Sometimes we confuse religion with relationship. We attend a church or latch on to a belief only to find out later that it doesn’t feed us, grow us, or serve us at all. Religion will leave you cold, with a pile of empty rules on your lap, and a lost expression on your face. Religion will make you feel inadequate, ill-equipped, empty. Relationship does the exact opposite. Relationship warms you as it removes the rules and requirements. Relationship sees you, as you are, and accepts you as you never have been. Relationship sees you for who you were designed to be, and encourages you to follow that journey to completion. Structure and rules, without love and relationship, benefits no one.  However, add a smidge of love, a dollop of genuine concern, and top it with real relationship, and you’ve got something worth diving into, face first. Just my opinion.

Last night, I went to dinner and a movie with two of my best girlfriends. It was high time I showered and got out of the house! I experience these phases where I have no energy, no motivation, and I just want to hole up in my cave and burn through 14 hours of Netflix. Then, other days, I wake up and think I can conquer the world. That burst of energy and motivation doesn’t last long, but it sure feels good when it shows up. Yesterday I had one of those days where both happened. My friends wanted to meet up for a movie and I knew that it would require everything I had to be present, engage in conversation, laugh… I decided I would prepare by staying in bed all day long.

I watched tv, read two blogs, researched the Camino de Santiago, watched more tv, then decided to shower. Huge. (I was bantering back and forth on instagram with a friend the other day about showering… she mentioned that ‘the shower’ was so difficult and induced so much anxiety. She totally ‘got it’ as she had experienced those feelings herself.)  Having made the decision to shower (hurdle #1), it became obvious to me that I needed to go one step further. I needed to leave behind my standard uniform of tee-shirts & saggy shorts that are too big for me.  I really needed to find something cute to wear (hurdle #2). Then things got crazy.  I decided to do my hair. My hands ached after having to use the hair dryer – I had almost forgotten how. I don’t think I have used it since before my trip to Mexico in August. Oh, and makeup, bless-ed makeup. I actually applied some (hurdles #3 & #4).

Why am I taking such a long time to write out every decision I made and every step I took in such painstaking detail??? Because that is exactly how it felt to me. Painful. Long. Drawn out. Difficult. Here I am getting ready to see some fun girlfriends and it feels like work to me to haul my butt outta bed, wash myself and my hair, dress myself, and get purtied up. No one asked me to… in fact, it was my idea and I texted the girls to tell them to do the same. Get pretty, I said. It did wonders for my energy, even though it was a lot of work. It really did feel good to be out, be seen (as Mason would say… he loved to be seen!), and be happy and laughing for a change.

girls get pretty

It felt so good, I did it again this morning. I went to church. I haven’t been there in months. I’m not religious about going, you see. It’s the first time I sat in a service since Mason left. The last time I was there, I was speaking on stage at his Memorial Service. As you can imagine, this was another hurdle for me. Weird as that may sound, it is true. There was a guest speaker, Bob Goff (look him up), who talked about acting justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly. Hellloooo? That is MY verse. Mine. All mine. It was written for me (can I just pretend?). I have it tattooed on my wrist as a reminder of God’s expectations for me. My first day back to church and the message was for me. How cool is that?

tattoo

I met a new friend (Evie) and was joined by an old friend (Myra) and connected with some everyday friends who brought me Starbucks (Mikala & Renee). We all sat together towards the front, and it was good. Regina, Blair, and Allie were selling shirts and all three stopped what they were doing to wrap their arms around me and welcome me. Lee high-fived me from the sound booth, Tanya smiled at me from the stage (yes, she was really looking at me!). I was hugged by Emily, Morgan, Alyssa, Tami, and Ashlee (even Taylor hugged me and I don’t really think she’s a hugger). I received Facebook & twitter messages from people who saw me from across the room.  Laura called me a Rockstar because she couldn’t get close enough to me to get a hug in. I told her she could have been my personal security and thrown some elbows if I didn’t enjoy the affection so much.

It was totally worth it. Not because religion was there, or rules, but because relationship was there. Real people. Imperfect people. People who have hurt my feelings. People who have held me while I have cried. People who understand me, and some who don’t. People who have been inspired by me (yeah, me!), and people who continue to inspire me. All of whom are trying to find their way, just like me. The message today was about leaking love everywhere we go. It was about being the kind of people with whom other people want to be connected.

love mercy cards

So, yeah. I’m losing my religion, and reveling in relationship. Whatever you do, don’t call me religious. It just might make me laugh out loud. xoxo

9 Comments
  • Sarah
    Posted at 21:37h, 22 September Reply

    Wow wow wow wow WOW!! I LOVE IT I LOVE IT I LOVE IT!!!!!!! You are A-MASE-ING. That is all.

  • Dana Ames
    Posted at 02:56h, 23 September Reply

    I love your spirit, and your complete honesty. You continue to amaze me with your inner strength and I look forward to your posts. I love how you are so open with sharing your journey. You have endured a nightmare most people can’t fathom, and the way in which you share your journey in such an honest and pure form, is incredibly helpful to many people on many different levels of life. Keep sharing your thoughts – you are truly incredible.

    • its just me
      Posted at 19:58h, 15 October Reply

      dana, it helps me to put on paper what’s swirling around in my head. i am thrilled to know that it actually helps others. thank you for commenting. i need the encouragement, as every single day is a struggle. xo

  • Jonya
    Posted at 04:05h, 24 September Reply

    I want you to know how much I love reading your blog. I look forward every time I see a new entry. You are so strong and are so gifted with your words. I love being apart of your journey. It is so encouraging.

    • its just me
      Posted at 19:55h, 15 October Reply

      thank you, jonya. i appreciate that so much.

  • Regina
    Posted at 12:16h, 25 September Reply

    W’ll said Holly…well said. 🙂

    PS it was so good to see your gorgeous face!

  • Debbie
    Posted at 15:29h, 08 October Reply

    “It was about being the kind of people with whom other people want to be connected.”–You are that kind of people Holly. That’s where your son got it. As I sit here reading your words I’m just shaking my head yes with each sentence. I want to stand up & applaud your spirit! Go Holly…yes, yes, you are such a wise soul. I love reading your entries & can’t wait to look around your website further.

    • its just me
      Posted at 19:35h, 15 October Reply

      aw debbie, thanks for this post. i’m glad to know people are getting something out of this blog. i am learning and growing every day and i just try to share things as they happen. thank you for reading… and applauding! xoxo

  • Annette
    Posted at 03:47h, 28 October Reply

    Holly, I have been avoiding this particular post for some time. I don’t know why … well actually I probably do … The title scared me. Initially almost unconsciously, I put the message aside telling myself that I would read it tomorrow. Each day I would see it unopened in my mail box and I would continue to say ‘I must read that tomorrow’. But tomorrow it still seemed daunting. I was fearful of reading that YOU, with all of the hardship you have endured, could still be faithful to God – and I could not find my way there.

    I know you don’t know my entire history/journey, but I think you have gathered bits and pieces via Facebook and the messages I have left here.

    You see, I have been battling my religion, my relationship(s) – especially with God. My journey with gastroparesis has been a long one, but past four years have been especially difficult.

    Two years ago I was told I was in complete renal kidney failure. I was given approximately 4 months to live. At this point, I gave up completely gave up, accepting no more life saving (prolonging) medical care and in came Hospice. We prepared my girls, explaining that Mommy was going to die. I arranged or my funeral, said my goodbyes and sank into oblivion. I ended up in a Hospice house where I witnessed someone dying each day I was there .. I was just waiting my turn with Dr.’s and nurses doing what the could to ease the tremendous pain. (meaning, I was pretty much high as a kite all the time).

    Then something strange and rare happened. I went into a remission of sorts. Pretty unheard of with someone with kidney’s in the state mine were in. But my kidney’s were repairing themselves.

    I headed home … well not home – first came the hospital, then came rehab in a nursing home (absolutely the worst and most humbling experience of my life), then came my parents house … and eventually back home.

    Because my remission was virtually unheard of and didn’t scientifically make sense, there became some very distinct camps in my sphere of people. There were those that believed that this was a miracle of God, following years of strong faith and mass prayer. There was the camp that believed that I had been faking it the entire time. Then there were the ones who determined that I had done this to myself and was mentally ill. Finally there were those who were religious who wanted to hold me up as the living miracle of God’s great and powerful mercy – this was a more zealous group than those who believed that I had been saved who believed that I was saved through faith and prayer, their intentions seemed showy and false … and there was the handful of people who believed me, who believed in me, who knew it just wasn’t my time yet.

    All of this was compounded by the Dr.’s who, because they were unable to come up with a text book answer for my remission, diagnosed me with an eating disorder, specifically anorexia.

    To say that I was confused is a true understatement. I was baffled. I was devastated that people I had know for an entire life time could believe these things of me … I knew that I had not been faking anything, I knew that I had not been harming myself (for attention, really??) and I knew that I did not have an eating disorder … but I was completely unable to explain what/how this remission had happened.

    I received numerous hateful and hurtful letters and messages. My entire life had been torn apart. I have never been more suicidal than I was during this time – not even when I truly believed I was at the end. I was at complete peace with dying … I believed that God, the Father would be there waiting for me.

    But now, my faith, my prior close relationship with God was so questionable to me. I could NOT wrap my head around the fact that God, my heavenly Father, would spare my life only to have it be destroyed in a completely different – and truthfully, more painful – way. Why Lord, why?

    Like you, I yearn for relationships, with people, with God, with nature. I thrive on them … I am at my absolute best when I have good relationships around me and specifically when I am feeling close to God. But for the most part, these all seem lost to me.

    My remission was fairly short lived. And slowly I have slipped back to this place I live now.

    I have found myself unable to go out. I can not bear going to church and facing all of the well meaning questions (how are you? any changes? any new answers? do you need anything? how can I pray for you? but do you *feel* any better after ?).

    I am sorry, this is a lengthy story to tell you why I simply could not read this post. But today, I was drawn to it and could no longer avoid it.

    I am glad I didn’t, of course the message I read was not the message I had anticipated. I imagined that it would be a faith filled message about how wonderful God is and how he was somehow easing your pain … yea, I don’t know why my brain went there … that doesn’t sound like anything you would say. But I was scared. Scared to feel like the only one who doubted God.

    Not that I sensed any doubt of God in your post. But what I got was a confirmation that regardless of where we stand with our relationship with God, we still struggle. Things still don’t make sense. People don’t make sense. Life doesn’t make sense. Sometimes God’s decisions don’t make sense. And that’s okay!

    I will continue to struggle with my relationship(s), but I will purposefully seek to better them. I will take baby steps. I will try to shower more often. I will attempt to engage more often. I will absolutely work to reestablish my personal relationship with God.

    You and I aren’t the same – in that I mean, our pain isn’t the same, our journey is different. But we are alike in so many ways. And your every word inspires me to get back to the person I am best at being. A person who not only desires but deserves to be in relationship with God and with people.

    Again, I am sorry to ramble on … and I wish I could better articulate how your post(s) affect me. I can only say that with each post I read, I feel inspired to do something, to be something, to matter.

    Thank you for that Holly!

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