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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Thistle Simile

This is what I do on Sundays while my children are at church--I look for spots to photograph in large fields around town. Sometimes I go on a hike with my husband and other times I will invent new recipes for my family. By large though my favorite thing to do is photograph nature.

My dilemma is that I was thinking about going back to church. It has been over a year since I have attended church and I am sure a lot has changed. One of the reasons I stopped attending was the result of all the mommy-cliques. I have never fit well into any sort of group. Throughout high school and college I hung out with everyone. It didn't matter if you were poor or well off, skater or preppy, goth or nerd--I was friends with just about everyone. This was good in some ways in that I learned to be tolerant of all people. However, I also didn't have many close friends--those I were close with I was very loyal to.

It was interesting sitting at the lunch table during high school. I usually sat by myself even though I could have picked anywhere in the lunchroom to sit. For some reason, being around large groups of my peers and seeing all their cliques really turned me off and brought out my shyness. I hated lunchtime.

So, that is how it has been at church. I am surrounded by many women--some my age and some not. I have never known where I fit in, because no one has really ever invited me into their circle. Even if I did enter their proverbial clan, would they accept me not being entirely loyal to them? Would they be fine if I hung out with other women?

Or does it really matter?

I am thinking we are all like these thistles--beautiful to look upon, but each with a guarded armor. Quick attempts to single one thistle out can lead to wounds and second guessing. Slowly approach though, take the time to be gentle and careful and you may have the opportunity to partake in the sweet fragrance of the soul.


Bill said...

Interesting post. I have been an active churchperson for most of my adult life and am currently involved in Stewardship activities at a large United Methodist Church. Our focus is upon our responsibility as people of God for all that has been given to us. A major part of the focus is to figure out why we are active and involved - and others aren't! Your post gives valuable insight into what we need to be about.

Simply put, a church is created and built one person at a time, with sensitivity to what matters to each individual. A feeling of importance and belonging needs to exist among the members, with focus upon areas of common interest for individual and corporate benefit. Without such an approach, the Allie's of this world will continue to drop off their kids and head out, camera in hand.

Expat From Hell said...

Great post! I wonder if churches shouldn't take their evangelism a little more seriously when they think about people - like you and I. Keep 'em coming, and keep us thinking!

Best to you.


Expat From Hell said...

Great post! I wonder if churches shouldn't take their evangelism a little more seriously when they think about people - like you and I. Keep 'em coming, and keep us thinking!

Best to you.


Mindee said...

Here's the thing: all churches are full of people and all people are generally poop heads at least part of the time. You can't let that keep you from being where you need to be.

You have to learn to live and let live and forgive and forget. Church is about creating community and serving/worshiping/learning about God.

I think one of the things that makes us more like Jesus is learning to get along with church ladies!

Shellgirl said...

I felt that way too, and have been out of church for a few years. I've been thinking about going back though, and I really think that God's whispering for me to return.

There are lots of people out there who feel like we do. Maybe we need to be the ones to reach out to those who are "outside" the circles, especially the teens and young adults who are trying to figure out where and how to fit in.

Be the change you want to see in the world... Mr. Gandhi said it, but I think that's what I want to do! Let's go be a friend to somebody who needs us.

Rob and Tiff said...

I can relate to how you feel. I too am the kind of person who can be friends with anyone. My friends have ranged from many varieties of faiths and interests. Yet at the same time it can be intimidating to be faced with clicks,whether it's at church, school or the park.

The ward my husband and I lived in previous to our move to IL was very intimidating. I felt like there were a ton of clicks and I didn't fit in to any of them. I had a hard time enjoying my time at church but to my amazement, there were other woman in the same situation, intimidated by the groups but still able to get along with anyone.

When we made the move to IL I knew I would need to rely on the church and our new ward as my family since I was leaving everything I knew behind. I made the decision to make the first move,to befriend the ladies around me. I didn't want to be out in IL without a single friend. The first lady I talked to is now a very dear friend who I would do anything for.

I agree with Shellgirl. Sometimes we have to look outside our own box and reach out to those around us. Even though it may look like everyone belongs to a click or group, they don't. Just by reading your blog, I get the sense that the ladies you reach out to will be greatly blessed. They will have an opportunity to learn and be comforted by you through your knowledge, faith, love and hope.

Both you and Shellgirl will be in my prayers. I hope and pray that you will feel our Savior's strength and comfort as you make the scary and big decision to return to church. And that you will be able to find the friendship and sisterhood of the ladies in your ward.

Good luck and love to the both of you.

Your fellow sister, Tiff

T said...

Ah, there are times and seasons for all things and friendships at church ebb and flow too. Six months ago I left the best ward friends I'd ever had and between new language barriers here in Germany, health issues, and feeling the need to simplify and focus on my little family . . . I've felt rather alone on the social front but closer to my God on the home front. A new season. Forgive me, but I've been mulling the following over for a couple months now and feel I should share it. Elder Dallin H. Oaks - April conference talk: "A great example of unselfish service is the late Mother Teresa of Calcutta, whose vow committed herself and her fellow workers to “wholehearted free service to the poorest of the poor.”9 She taught that “one thing will always secure heaven for us—the acts of charity and kindness with which we have filled our lives.”10 “We can do no great things,” Mother Teresa maintained, “only small things with great love.”11 When this wonderful Catholic servant died, the First Presidency’s message of condolence declared, “Her life of unselfish service is an inspiration to all the world, and her acts of Christian goodness will stand as a memorial for generations to come.” That is what the Savior called losing our lives in service to others. Each of us should apply that principle to our attitudes in attending church. Some say “I didn’t learn anything today” or “No one was friendly to me” or “I was offended” or “The Church is not filling my needs.” All those answers are self-centered, and all retard spiritual growth. In contrast, a wise friend wrote: “Years ago, I changed my attitude about going to church. No longer do I go to church for my sake, but to think of others. I make a point of saying hello to people who sit alone, to welcome visitors, . . . to volunteer for an assignment. . . . “In short, I go to church each week with the intent of being active, not passive, and making a positive difference in people’s lives. Consequently, my attendance at Church meetings is so much more enjoyable and fulfilling.” All of this illustrates the eternal principle that we are happier and more fulfilled when we act and serve for what we give, not for what we get. -- (end of quote),5232,23-1-1032-29,00.html My mom told me the same thing to me during a whine session shortly after my move. She's an inspired lady! Listen to the prompting to return. Forget yourself and let your light shine, for it is luminous! Your path has not been their path, their path has not been yours so let's all move forward, seek to help each other, and enjoy the journey! In a recent interview of the Bednars, I appreciated Sis. Bednar's comment that she looks around the congregation seeking a prompting of who she needs to do something for, even if it's just say hello or offer a smile in the halls. The promptings grow as we respond and that's really what it's all about, fine tuning our communication with our God. You can do it!

T said...

A recent personal experience highlighting the whole different "paths" thing. Before my abrupt move I'd been visit teaching a lady for four years. Next to you, she's had the most difficult life I've ever known. She joined the church two years before I met her but hadn't attended since a few months after her baptism. She's in her late 50s. I think I really only did a real visit like they say you should about five times in those four years. But in the first few months I met her, we bonded over health issues and medications. Rarely a week went by when we didn't check in on each other just to chat for an hour or so on the phone, sometimes I go over just to chat especially during emergency periods. I always felt guilty for not doing the traditional visits, but our friendship grew and it didn't matter to me that she wasn't at church but it bothered her. I understood her unstated concerns which were weighty and a lot about not feeling like she fit the mold.

Then I got called to teach a large primary class and felt overwhelmed. Good kids, just lots of them and I'm not a teacher. I knew I had to ask Debra to help me so I did and she laughed and said yes. She was my right hand and her rough appearance quelled any acting up with just one look! AWESOME!!! She'd never been to Primary and loved it! When I was called a couple months later to YW, we were heart broken. She hates sitting alone! I tried to introduce her to my two favorite women, but it's been over a year and things still haven't clicked and frankly, it's not the Lord's will. These favorite women of mine are wonderful giving women, but each Sunday it seems that all sorts of demons rage such that Debra has actually felt ignored by them. So sad too, b/c they feel like they've tried to look out for her. I've been gone six months and Debra's only gone to church a few times when her health has permitted it. Mostly, she just hates sitting alone. I need to call her again to chat, she fills me with such gratitude for my life's blessings. We need each other.

Just to give you a snapshot of one of my friend's "demons" - four kids age 3-8, two with special needs, dad died in February of Parkinson's with horrible family relationship turmoil, seeking treatment to deal with abandonment issues from childhood, husband is an extreme marathon runner so he trains and travels lots also with work, body falling apart, hates ward calling . . . anyhow, she can barely make it to church herself let alone extend herself - - so dear Debra feels slighted when she eagerly seeks out one of her few acquaintances. The one thing I learned in that great ward, everyone had issues, they were just different and not all worn on their sleeves. Anyhow, I feel like most of us are a wreck broiling under the surface by the time we sit in our seats or soon will be after dealing w/ kids, spouses or our own demons through the meeting. Take heart, the Lord knows you're there and loves you for it cuz you're there for Him!

Dijea said...

I read this and I feel like I could have written it. I am horribly shy and have such a fear of rejection that I tend to shy away from groups as well.

I am always on the outside. I get on well one on one, but put me in a group of my friends, and I feel lost and scared. I'm so afraid I'm going to say or do the wrong thing and not be accepted, while all the time I get together with everyone on an individual basis. UGH!

I am a huge fan of nature and photography. Live to post stuff on the old photo bog. I love the pictures you took. AWESOME!

In regards to church - I find my peace with God in nature. I live life the best I can taking in other's feelings. I am just starting to learn to take pleasure in things for myself instead of for others. I find God on my own, and not in a house of organized religion. Don't fret.

Rhea said...

Lovely simile and great photo!!

Jennifer @ Conversion Diary said...

I can really relate to this.

I only started going to church for the first time in my life a few years ago, and I always felt really unsure about how to navigate the cliques. It's just not my thing. I'm more of an introvert who prefers quality, one-on-one friendships to associating with groups of women where we hang out a lot but never really bond on a deep level.

For the first couple years I went to church I didn't know anyone at all. I would awkwardly step aside when all the women who knew one another would hug and kiss and talk about how their lives were going. On the plus side, it felt like it was just me and God. :)

Anyway, just now discovered your blog. Umm, how did I not know about it until now?! I love your writing and can't wait to read more.

Hope said...

I think your right. People are the same regardless of age or time, the struggles you faced in high school are the same things you feel in church so it can't be that...
I recently found out that even when it seems like there are big cliques or groups each person in there has only 3 or 4 individuals that are their real friends, the kind you spend time with out side of that.

First time reading, hope.

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