Have you ever arrived at an opinion, a lifestyle decision..a place in your life and thought to yourself…gosh, I’m here and I’m SO home here, so what took me so long to end up where I’m standing in this moment?
That’s exactly how I’ve felt for the past two years since reclaiming my faith…even though it NEVER looked like this before, so maybe we’ll say reshaping my faith. When I was 14, I was on a church retreat and I felt something really amazing. I felt connected to something very mystical and bigger than me and I felt safe for the first time in years. I really believed in God and I felt so happy knowing that I did. But, when I went home..and I had to witness the addiction and just the constant ball of stress that was my family and it disappeared fast. I didn’t know how to go and find it again because I didn’t have the right influences in my life to talk to me about it. Did I go to church? Oh yes, totally forced into Catholic Sunday school and that never did ANYthing for me but stress-me-out. It felt like one punishment or judgement after another and not at all how I felt God’s presence was supposed to look.
What took me so long is that it all felt so very negative. It felt heavy, and condemning and judgmental and I’m not saying that’s all Catholic churches by any means…because for me, it was mostly the people in our family who made it that way. Be a good Catholic, show up, write the check, go to Sunday school even if you don’t believe in it. As much as I want my girls to go to church and be heavily involved, I know it doesn’t do any good to force something upon someone if they don’t believe. I can’t imagine saying, I know you don’t feel this way — but go feel this way, make us look good! NO way. They have the right to feel how they want to feel and if they take that path I will be so, so, so over the moon…but it’s important that it’s their decision, because if it’s not — what is the point? Go fake this for us? I can’t go there. It’s too important to me to take that route and it’s not EVER about appearances, it’s about faith.
When I grew up learning about God and visiting church, it felt like so many things were twisted and taken out of context from the bible to fit more of what people wanted it to mean and I didn’t like that at all. I remember going to mass and thinking gosh this is really depressing today! And it’s OKAY to be honest and transparent and talk about things that are depressing sometimes but it felt like we were always in trouble. I felt like I was sinful to the max and I was just actually a 14 year girl who couldn’t stand living at home and dealing with what I dealt with…but I’m sorry, the LAST thing a kid going through high school needs is to hear how messed up we are all the time and how we have to follow an extremely strict code of rules to be a good Christian. I don’t remember at all hearing about grace — just consequences.
What I needed to hear, and wished I would have heard is this: God loves you. Jesus died for you and we’re all sinners but that’s not what we’re going to focus on right now. We’re going to focus on what God’s love means and start with that first, and what it means to be a Christian and walk alongside Him on this loving, grace-filled and inspiring path. Because, like I said, when you’re YOUNG and you’re going through so much already that you can’t understand…you don’t need to be reprimanded repeatedly at the one place you’re supposed to find true peace.
I didn’t grow up in a warm religious environment, and even though that makes me sad I KNOW that I wouldn’t be who or where I am today without that trial in my life. Am I going to lay down a different path for my kids? You bet I am. Do you know what Cammy says every time the sun sets beautifully where we live here on the Outer Banks? She says WOW, the sunset! Thank you, thank you God!! She thanks God for everything. She knows He is a good, merciful God and that even when she’s bad or we fight, we get another start every-single-time because of Him. I wish I knew that growing up and in the church but I have to now just be so so so thankful for the rough path I had because it led me to where I am right now, today, and I love that person that I am today finally after all the crap I went through and did to get here.
If you’re struggling to find your faith and you grew up in a not-so-warm environment when it came to discussing and experiencing religion, please know you’re so far from alone because lots of people have had the same bitter pill in their mouth. It’s not just you. I’m SO glad I was able to find it on my own terms and see it in the beautiful light it deserves to be depicted in.
Want to know more but don’t know where to start? I LOVE the book Start Here — it really helped guide the way! I love following extremely encouraging and real Christian women on social media, too — what a nice change from some of the other things always in our faces. Lara Casey, Katelyn James, Bianca Olthoff, Karen Stott and Jane Johnson are just a few of my favorite women to keep up with — so genuine and transparent and I am so thankful for the good and honest they put out into the world!
Kristin Schmucker also has one of my favorite shops ever called The Daily Grace Co, especially for bible study and journaling items! Check here out HERE!
And finally — let me share this amazing girl’s new shop that launches TODAY!!!! We started out industry friends, then I shot her and her sweet husband’s wedding last year, and now she’s taken her passion for the Lord and empowering women and hand lettering and combined them into this happy little shop called Grace Kindly! Cate is a WONDERFUL, encouraging woman and I loved how beautifully this came packaged to me! Want a discount code to scoop up some presents for the girl that needs a good Christmas gift in your life? Use GKFRIENDSFAM for 15% for this week only!! She’s on Instagram, too!