Did My Brain Fall Out?

Haven't we all asked ourselves this question? There are days I am quite sure my brain did fall out - I can barely put one foot in front of the other and I forget everything. I know you can relate!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Rainbow Told Me To Write This

As I was driving home yesterday from my sweet friends' vow renewal slash farewell party, I was reflecting on my faith, on how much I have changed since I moved here seven years ago, about how I am still a skeptic a lot of the time about God. How I am learning that my faith is how I grow and change as a person. I thought, "hmmm...that might be a good idea for a blog post," but then thought, "people probably won't read it."

Are you still reading? Well, I guess if you made it to paragraph two, then you must be interested. Or something.

So, I was driving home and all of this was rattling around in my brain, and lo and behold, as I turned down my street, there was a HUGE rainbow, and it stayed until I got to my house...it was right over my house! So, umm...GOD? I think God put that rainbow up there to tell me that I should write about my faith. I believe in signs. That is genetic, actually, because my mom believes in signs, too.

I was raised Catholic, and no offense to my Catholic friends out there, being raised Catholic is enough to ruin anyone's faith. Lots of rigidity. Lots of rules. Not a lot of God. The God I learned about could be mean and get you back for making mistakes, kind of like a bad boss. I learned the 10 Commandments, had to memorize The Apostles Creed, The Hail Mary (which is still one I say to calm my nerves) and The Our Father. I went to Catechism (Religious Education) classes weekly from kindergarten to the 8th grade. I made my communion, my reconciliation and my confirmation. There was no escape; my mom WORKED in the Religious Education office. Those years were just like "The History of Jesus 101." I grew up believing in God, going to vacation Bible school and singing "Jesus Loves Me." I didn't learn a lot about how faith shapes decisions, how our goal is to live in a Christlike way, how to trust God. I have trust issues and control issues, so these have been hard lessons to learn. 

(As a side note, I do like that the Catholics are totally into Mary, ya know, the mother of God. Most spokes of Christianity don't really dig Mary. She's just a bit player, an extra in the drama of Jesus Christ Superstar, which makes me mad, because anyone who has actually carried a baby for 9 months knows, it doesn't really matter HOW the baby got in your uterus when your feet are swollen, you cry all the time and you can't shave your legs. Everyone needs to give Mary props.)

So, I moved down here and my first job was at a middle school in a very rural where the kids took days off for hunting trips, got guns for Christmas, rode 4-wheelers and their parents drove trucks with HUGE tires. They thought snakes {vomit} were funny. Everyone thought it was hysterical that I was from New York - I couldn't understand them and they couldn't understand me. I had students who were rural-to-NY and NY-to-rural translators in each class, just so we could communicate. I cried everyday, "where did we move? what have we done?" And God was everywhere here; He was pervasive. The kids talked about Him, the parents talked about Him, faculty meetings and Board of Education meetings would start with prayers. Kids couldn't stay after on Wednesdays because they had church. God is full-time down here. The amount of God-time made me very uncomfortable. In my head I would think it was sweet, but on the outside I would feel itchy and scratchy, like I was wearing wet wool leggings. I thought everyone was crazy. I was arrogant about my own, inferior faith. 

The funny thing is this, in the Bible Belt, it never even crosses anyone's mind that their brand of faith - the in-your-face love of God - would make anyone uncomfortable. And even if you are visibly uncomfortable - chewing your cuticles, not making eye contact, trying to back out of the room, screaming "no, no no!" - they don't care. Now I think that's cool, but 7 years ago I thought I had landed in another dimension. My kind of faith was quiet, secret and personal, like hands in white gloves tucked in my lap, genteel and polite. This kind of faith was loud, extroverted and public, like a celebrity scandal, the details running on the ticker on the bottom of the t.v. screen all day long. My first real "run-in" was when I fell ill at work - dizzy, nauseated - and I went to the office to get someone to watch my class. As soon as the word was out that I was sick and trying to pull myself together in the teachers' lounge, our data manager and custodian sat me down and laid their hands on me, praying for my health. I was too polite to say no or to get up and run away. I let them lay their hands on me and finish their prayer, and smirked my little "are you kidding me?" smirk. 

Fast forward five years and three churches, two denominations, and many false starts, my family and I found a church that we loved. The pastor was a cross between the Mandrell Sisters and "Nunsense."  Here I found my extroverted faith - still a little uncomfortable, but more like a girdle than wet wool leggings. Around the time we found this church, my aunt was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. The entire church prayed for her, each day, during Friday's intense prayer group, aloud on Sundays. When my aunt and uncle came down for a visit, I thought, I want my pastor to come and lay hands on her. To pray the prayer of healing for her, with us. There is power in prayer. I knew this to be true now. My understanding of God wasn't just superficial - it was tangible. It was real. I had seen results. My pastor had never met my aunt, but she had heard me talk about her and she had prayed for her for months. I remember asking my cousin if she thought it would be o.k. if we invited my pastor and her family over to pray for my aunt. She thought it was sweet. God Bless my aunt and uncle - I never really knew if they were cool with it - we stood in a circle, and all held hands, and we prayed. It was sweet, just like my cousin said. It made me want to shout like James Brown, "I feel GOOD. I knew that I would now!" I felt....real. Alive. 

God took me from that moment where my school custodian prayed over me that made me feel so incredibly uncomfortable and arrogant to the moment where I sought out prayer for my aunt and my uncle. I look back now and think, look at what He did...he took me to a place of change and trust. And signs. 

My favorite author Anne Lamott said, "“I do not understand the mystery of grace -- only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us.”  This circle is God's grace, his gift to me. His way of teaching me that my growth as a person is bound by my faith. I love that I am not where I started. I love that I have a long way to travel, but that He will be there every step of the way, making me feel like James Brown. "I feel GOOD!" 

This is my rainbow! 


  1. Crying. Big fat, beautiful tears in honor of your faith. In honor of your Church and your pastor. I never thanked you for that. Know this, Mom and Dad loved that you had your pastor come and lay hands on her. I know that in addition to the medicine, the prayers that everyone said for her; the laying of hands on her by your pastor and by a priest at Our Lady of Knock in Ireland; the masses at many Churches; all of these things kept her well for two years. Two years of daily gifts of her. Thank you doesn't seem big enough but that and a heart thingy will have to do.

  2. Heart thingy and I never thanked you for encouraging me when I asked you. It is one of my favorite last memories of your mom and I will cherish it forever.

  3. Tears here too. I am thankful that you have found your faith AND that you are getting to know God as a loving God.

    My daughter and grand kids saw your rainbow, too.

    Prayers are a powerful thing.

    1. Prayers are powerful...and I'm so glad your grand kids got to share my rainbow! I'm cool like that! lol