Spending 2019 with Gilbert & George

All of this began as literary methadone to come off of the BBC production of Sherlock. I wasn’t ready to for the series to end (series 5 isn’t even filming) and so I turned to Arthur Conan Doyle’s original works by downloading the entire Sherlock Holmes collection. It pacified my cravings and I feel reading the older works by one of the best helps me as a writer by expanding my horizons. I also got to experience London in the late 1800s from someone who was there.

It’s taken me ages but I’m nearly finished with it. Now, my addiction has transferred to English writers from 100 years ago. Luckily, there are many options to feed my Anglophile literature problem. Keeping with the theme of compilations, I’ve turned to Gilbert and George. I haven’t met them yet or read any of their writings, but I think we’ll be on a first name basis before too long.

Gilbert, or G.K. Chesterton as his name appears on the cover of his books, has been on my mind since my other favorite BBC program of a character he created, Father Brown. I’m excited to read the original Father Brown stories and branch out into his other nonfiction works like, “What I Saw in America.” He is a Christian writer and I can’t wait to get his slant on life by comparing and contrasting it with today’s world. The book contains plays, nonfiction, fiction, and essays – at a little over 6,000 pages, it should hold me for awhile.

George, known better as George Orwell, is the other. 1984 has been on my list for ages, and with the way America’s government has decided to off-road in a minivan in recent times, I am looking forward to his thoughts from the past. His other titles also intrigued me – “Down and Out in Paris and London” sounds like something directly up my alley.

I plan to comsume vast amounts of tea as I jump feet first into the past with these two English blokes and their perspectives. 

I wouldn’t wait up if I were you, but I’ll leave a light on.

Jacked

“SIMONNE!”

My husband’s thunderous voice echoed through our small house. This was a serious cry for help: not him in a mood or upset with me. I ran into the bathroom, blood is pouring out of his face. He didn’t have to say it, I already knew what happened from the harsh meow moments earlier.

Jack.

We adopted Jack, a rescue gray tabby cat with a twead coat, at 7 weeks old in 2012. He was small enough to stand in my hand, but now outweighed our thanksgiving turkey by a few pounds. His large body size also matched his personality and we often referred to him as a sour patch kid: sweet and sour. Sweet because this cat had a high intelligence, always has to be in the room with us, loves to cuddle – with a particular fondness for my husband. Sour because he often hisses at our guests for no reason and occasionally morphs into a hellcat when he doesn’t want to come in from the porch or, like last night, an unprovoked attack while sitting on my husband’s lap. It seems to be getting worse as he grows older. He goes after our other cat, a Type B personality cat who is nothing but sweet, too. 

Back to my husband, he looked like he stopped a knife attack with his mouth.  His upper lip was split wide open with a deep cut, from nose to lip, the lower inside lip was completely shredded. Of course, it happened at night with urgent care closed. Long story short, a doctor friend looked at him and said he didnt need stitching – I was sure we’d spent the night in ER. He’s getting a script for antibiotics today. And you have no idea how thankful we are for avoiding a $1,000+ hospital bill.

This isn’t the first time Jack has gone after my husband, but it is the worst to date, as we talked about what happens next. If his head was turned, my husband could have lost an eye. We can no longer excuse this issue. “Is there a feline Xanax?” I theorized outloud. “I was thinking more of a 9mm to the back of the head,” my husband said quitely. “This can’t happen again, to me or anyone else.”

We sat in an erie, uncomfortable silence.

Jack sensed our unease at his future, as he kept randomly hissing at me. For the first time ever, we locked him out of our bedroom. His hair trigger attitude was not conducive to sleep. He spent the wee hours in the morning clawing and meowing like a kitten at the door. I felt so bad: it was particularly cold in the house and he is a heat seeking missile, snuggling between us on those bitter cold nights. I got next to no sleep.

Since that night, we’ve locked him out of our bedroom. We’re still unsure what will happen next: I don’t have the gall to put him down, yet his unpredictability is making me steer clear of him.

We have a vet appointment soon, maybe we can get some feline equivalent to Xanax. Or an antipsychotic.

Exposed in the Dark

I fell down the rabbit hole of hashtags by following #ExposeChristianSchools and read with horror about the rampant abuse, misguided Bible teaching, and control by means of isolation. I met one of these such families – I didn’t know them, only their isolation – but was too young to understand this sect of Christianity, as I had only recently encountered Jesus myself. Even in college, among public schooled Christians, the amount of misinformation out there astounded me as both a woman and a scientist.

Disclaimer: my experience as a young person in a Southern Baptist church was positive, uplifting, and has everything to do with why I am a Christian today. Although I disagree with the way the SBC handles things, nothing bad or dishonorable happened to me while in their flock.

My high school boyfriend invited me to a high school graduation party for his cousin Sarah. It was the summer of 2000.

I saw his mom’s side of the family was really Christian. While my boyfriend attended public school, his cousins were homeschooled, had no TV or internet, and lived out in the middle nowhere. I didn’t have the words for what they were, but I know now they were fundamentalists.

When we arrived at the party, Sarah was no where to be found among the many friends and relatives. She was spotted taking care of her youngest sibling, who was a toddler. Instead of someone taking charge of the child and encouraging her to greet her guests and enjoy the party in her honor, a few of the older women smiled and watched her. “This will be great practice for when she was one of her own.” I side eyed them. That’s a little weird, she was my age – a little young for kids. Or at least I was at 18, the ink still not quite dry on my own high school diploma.

I found some cake and sat by some other girls. Sarah’s friend was chatting with some other guests near by. “Ugh, we’re just waiting on him,” I heard her say. “He’ll ask when the time is right,” another reassured her.

And that’s when I opened my mouth. “Ask her what?”

“For her to marry him! They’ve been together a year already.”

My eyes bugged out. “Marriage? They just graduated high school!”

“Well, it’s all set. Her parents approved it, his parents approved it, and the pastor approved it. He just has to ask her.”

This was my first experience with culture shock and I had trouble keeping up. “Wait, the pastor approved it?” That seemed to be the weirdest sticking point for me.

“Well of course! Marriage is very serious, they couldn’t get married without the church’s permission.”

I was at a loss of words, so I drew off my own experience: “She’s not going to college?”

“No, she has someone to marry and will start a family, why would she do that?”

“I’m going to college,” I said, surprised at how weird my tone sounded. “I’m going to study biology at State University.”

“Oh. Don’t you want to get married and have kids?” It was her turn for culture shock. She made it sound like it was one or the other, like it never occurred to her you could be something else in addition to a wife and mom.

“Well, maybe someday, I think. I don’t know. I’m way too young to even think about it.” I took a big bite of cake, trying to mull over this strange conversation.

“I’m going to college at Bob Jones University,” the friend said. “At least until I meet someone.”

“And then what?”

“I’ll drop out and start a family.”

“Oh.” I couldn’t believe I was having this conversation. “What are you going to major in?”

“I have no idea. Haven’t given it much thought.”

“She’s waiting for a husband to show up,” giggled another girl. “She’s just going to college to get a husband.”

“I’m going to get an education, get myself settled, and then maybe I’ll consider a husband and kids.” There. I said it. I was a woman of the 90’s, man.

The whole lot of them gave me a blank stare. The silence was filled with more cake.

The conversation lagged after that, I was branded one of those worldly girls their mothers warned them about, I’m sure.

I debriefed my boyfriend on the strange conversation on the way home. He just nodded. “That’s how they are,” he said. None of it was weird to him. Granted, his parents didn’t own a TV either and his mom always looked like she popped out of the late 1800’s with her updo hairstyle and dresses. What was completely out of my realm was very normal to him.


In college, I went out with some of the girls from our church group for ice cream. They were all public schooled girls and most of them were at college on full academic scholarships. These ladies not only out-brained me, but they also came from loving Christ-centered families.

The conversation turned to boys and we started to discuss our future married lives. Half way through my hot fudge sundae, the conversation took a nosedive into sex. Unbeknownst to them, I was the only non-virgin at the table. I decided to sit this conversation out, less I give myself away.

“Well, when I get married, I hope he doesn’t want sex all the time, because I am not going to do that.” said one, who was the epitome of a good Christian. “Maybe a couple of times a month or something, but nothing more than that.” Another girl agreed.

As someone with a sex drive, I just blinked and stared. And then she dropped a bomb: “I mean, what’s even the point of us having sex, outside of the kids part? It’s not like we get anything out of it. It’s not like women can have an orgasm or anything.”

I set down my spoon. I couldn’t stay silent on this one, as a woman who fully enjoyed sex and was waist-deep in a science curriculum. Sexual purity is one thing, sexual ignorance is another.

“Actually, women can have orgasams,” I said matter-of-factly.

The group looked at me as if I just said the Resurrection didn’t happen. “No they can’t, that’s a myth!” she retorted back to me.

“Yes they can, and they do – there’s an entire organ for this – would you like me to explain the mechanics of it?” I was dead serious.

The group just stared at me. Some glared; in some I saw the spark of question in their eyes, as they considered the truth of my words. They knew I was scientifically minded and honest; I wonder if they researched anything on their own or if their own marriage beds are only for his pleasure. I hope they found the joy and awesomeness of their own sexuality.

Needless to say, the conversation stopped and pivoted to a less controversial topic. I was never asked to join the group for ice cream again.

It upset me that these smart women were lied to about their bodies and could possibly miss out on one of the best things about marriage. How could they have gotten so far into their education and not know how their bodies work?


Outside of the dessert theme when these situations happen in my life, I am proud to say I spoke my truth. My audience wasn’t receptive – the cognitive dissonance was too much to handle – and I accepted that.

Some Christians tend to stonewall people who are different from who they are or have differing views that contradict the truth they were told and swallowed whole without questioning. Instead of talking through it, they retreat into the shell, like a snail; if we don’t talk about it, it doesn’t happen or can’t be true.

But as for me, I keep a flashlight in my back pocket. I will shine it when it needs to be shined.

A Confession of a Dilemma

I was a sophomore in college.

My best friend David from high school had dropped out of Bible college after freshman year to marry his girlfriend he met at said college. My boyfriend at the time was up visiting me over Christmas break when we stopped by to see their new baby, Eleanor, who was less than a week old.

She was so little with a lot of black hair. We oohed and ahhed over her. David’s wife offered to let me to hold Eleanor and I said yes. I should mention my only experience with a newborn was my sister and I was four years old at the time.

I picked the baby up under the arms, much like picking up a cat. Her little head snapped back and she screamed.

“Gah, what do I do?” I said as I held this poor unhappy infant mid-air. I sat down and put her on my lap. I had no idea how to cradle a baby in my arms. She fit perfectly on my lap from knee to hip and stopped crying after a moment.

I couldn’t get over how cute she was and her tiny features. I looked at my boyfriend with those gooey eyes. “I want one someday.” He grinned. I was pretty sure I was going to marry this perfect guy after graduation. Our kids would be cuter than this one.

As Eleanor was in my lap, her belly button stump fell off. Of course it did. “Okay, you can take the baby back now,” I said. “I’ve done enough damage for one night.”

Boyfriend turned out to be a rat and I haven’t held a baby since (Eleanor will graduate high school in the spring).

Part of it was my complete inexperience. The other part was, I said to myself, that the next baby I would hold would be my own.

I managed to avoid babies and then decided I wasn’t cut out to be a mom. I had a nephew born a few months after our marriage, and when we went to see the baby at a few weeks old, I declined to hold him. My husband held him and even got him to stop crying when his mother couldn’t. I was in awe. My husband tried to shuffle the baby into my arms at one point but I jumped back. We weren’t having kids, this was not something I could handle, especially after the Eleanor debacle.

My rule was I’ll pick up babies if they’re older than 13 months. They’re sturdier and could run away if they so chose by that age.

And then I wanted kids and convinced my husband to try. And then there were the infertility doctors and they suggested a specialist or adoption. My husband said no.

And it’s taken me about three hard, long years to be okay without having kids.

This summer I learned my sister is pregnant with a little boy. They’re naming him Conrad because all the other awkward names were taken.

I’m at a crossroads: do I hold this baby?

On one hand, this kid and I share a genetic code, unlike my other nieces and nephews by marriage. Someday, Conrad may be the only direct bloodline family I have. Like those couples who wait for their first kiss to be shared at the altar, there’s no use in waiting to hold my own baby first. That ship sailed and sank on her maiden voyage, taking the dream with her to the ocean floor.

I don’t want to ache with want, now that I am fully recovered from the baby fever syndrome; yet I don’t want to miss out on something so special because I’m being a complete stick in the mud (Principles! Honor! All that stuff in my head!)

I have a few more months to figure it out. I’m already dreading flying up there for the sole purpose of meeting him. I should also add that my family has no clue I ever wanted children or that I can’t clinically have any. I wanted to avoid the pity and the censorship; very few people knew, it was a battle I faced mostly alone.

Any suggestions for someone with a baby-sized hole in the heart that has overgrown with scar tissue on what to do?

Hygge Days

A coworker and I were chatting, lamenting the dark rainy day and how winter was upon us. Both of us are summer children and this cold sunless weather was not boding well for her.

I mentioned something about experiencing hygge – the Scandinavian answer to winter. 

Hygge Definition and meaning

As 1/8 Danish ancestry, I heard this word a couple of years ago and after researching, immediately put this into practice. It becomes an act of doing things consistently and with intention – much like living the Christian life. They say it best:

Danes created hygge because they were trying to survive boredom, cold, dark and sameness and the undefinable feeling of Hygge was a way for them to find moments to celebrate or acknowledge and to break up the day, months or years. With so many cold, dark, days, the simple act of a candle glowing with a cup of coffee in the morning or a home cooked evening meal with friends can make a huge difference to one’s spirit.

from hyggehouse.com

While the seasons do not affect my mood, the lack of warm beach days does. To pull through winter, I try to make my house as cosy as possible. There are always quilts lying about, a season-scented candle burning, and fresh tea from the kettle. I also try to find drinks to fit the season too: this year I am going to attempt a hot buttered rum. The apple pie sangria I made for Thanksgiving kicked off the hygge season in our household.

I also know my coworker is going through a rough patch too – her job is stressful, her kids have a lot going on, and her marriage is sinking. She is in desperate need of some hygge.

My Sunday afternoon plan is to relax, so I’m inviting her over and share some hygge with her: what could be better for the soul than making Christmas cookies, this hot chocolate recipe (never tried it before!), and a candle burning with the soothing lyrics and canticle of Salt of the Sound playing? And hopefully she’ll take some cookies home so I don’t eat them all!

Summer will be here soon. Until then, I hygge.

The First Time

“I think you’ll really like this one,” my high school boyfriend said to me as he handed me an old tattered copy of The Black Shrike by Alister MacLean, a Scottish author, published in 1961. My family was leaving for our yearly retreat at the cottage on Lake Huron and I was in need of a novel. He assured me it was an adventure book and a real page turner. I had no idea what a shrike was, let alone any color variations of it, yet I trusted his recommendation. 

I would be in my thirties before I found out a shrike was a bird. It had nothing to do with the title. Then again, maybe it did?

I remember sitting on the beach, sun tanning in a bikini on a towel when I began reading. A few paragraphs in, I had to stop for air.

Oh. My. 

I was only 17, but astute enough to be completely blown away by MacLean’s writing style. As someone who had not yet experienced alcohol or sex, this was the literary equivalent to both of my vices. His words hit me like a shot of expensive high quality vodka and washed over me like the first touch of a lover’s naked skin against my own.

I was hooked.

I tore through the book as if someone else was paying my bar tab and it was a passionate one night stand that would end with the sunrise.

The story is told by John Bentall, a scientist who was also a secret agent for British Intelligence. He got pulled to a top secret mission with a co-agent, Marie, who was to pose as his wife, much to John’s chagrin. The duo get sucked into a treacherous web of lies and double crossings, complete with a bait and switch minefield. The ending has so much of a twist that you’ll find yourself upside down on the last page, wondering what on earth just happened.

John was a loner, like myself, and his bluntness combined with a parched British sense of humor, need for the truth, flawed logic, cunning intellect, and ability to push through anything by sheer determination melted my heart. If he were real, I’d have dated him.

I got serious about writing in 2016 and looked to authors who came before me for inspiration: Alister MacLean was at the top of my list. I read Where Eagles Dare – my German came in handy for deciphering the play on words in the title – the flawlessly executed banter between the two main characters delighted me as both a reader and a writer. The Blake Shrike never left my beach bag this summer, as I re-read it for the third time – this time through the eyes of an author. I’m still amazed at his ability to craft words and scenes. I wish I could share a drink with Alister, picking his brain about life and writing. I’d love to know his inspiration for this story, but he died when I was in elementary school.

I may never hold a candle to my writing hero Alister, but I’d certainly love to try.

An excerpt from the second chapter:


But there’s no perfection in a very imperfect world: the locks on the bedroom doors of the Grand Pacific Hotel were just no good at all. 

My first intimation of this came when I woke up in the middle of the night in response to someone prodding my shoulder. But my first thought was not of the door-locks but of the finger prodding me. It was the hardest finger I’d ever felt. It felt like a piece of steel. It was a dully-gleaming .38 Colt automatic and, just in case I should have made any mistake in identification, whoever was holding it shifted the gun as soon as he saw me stir so that my right eye could stare down the centre of the barrel. It was a gun alright. My gaze travelled up past the gun, the hairy brown wrist, the white coated arm to the brown cold still face with the battered yachting cap above, then back to the automatic again.

“O.K., friend,” I said. I meant it to sound cool and casual but it came out more like the raven–the hoarse one–croaking on the battlements of Macbeth’s castle. “I can see it’s a gun. Cleaned and oiled and everything. But take it away, please. Guns are dangerous things.”

“A wise guy, eh?” he said coldly. “Showing the little wife what a hero he is. But you wouldn’t really like to be a hero, would you, Bentall? You wouldn’t really like to start something?”

I would have loved to have started something. I would have loved to take his gun away and beat him over the head with it. Having guns pointed at my eye gives me a nasty dry mouth, makes my heart work overtime and uses up a great deal of adrenalin. I was just starting out to think what else I would like to do to him when he nodded across the bed.

The Black Shrike, by Alister MacLean



Return to Huron County

After high school, my family stopped going to the cottages in Port Austin.

I returned in Summer 2002, with my college boyfriend, but our relationship was in its death throws. We spent most of our time at the Bella Vista Inn in Caseville, and he preferred watching TV over exploring the lakeshore. It still clocks in as my worse vacation ever. We broke up a few weeks later.

I went back with my mom in Summer 2011 to visit Ray for the weekend. His wife had passed after a long battle with cancer several weeks earlier. While it was sad, it was also great to see Ray smile and reminisce about the old times. We waded out 1,000 feet into the lake, only up to our shoulders, and talked. As someone who is used to the ocean, it felt surreal to be so far out in the water, yet so good to be back home among familiar faces.

After the crazy spring of 2017, my husband and I, weary from navigating the rough waters, needed an escape. I suggested Port Austin because it was calming without much hustle and bustle. After spending over 10 years together, it was time to introduce him to a part of the world that was integral to my childhood.

We flew into Detroit and rented a car. I didn’t need a map after all these years, the route was still etched in my heart. The little towns leading to Port Austin were exactly as they were in my memory.

The IGA Foodliner of Bad Axe is long gone, but Walmart was in its place. We stopped here for supplies. Just like when I was a child, my heart beat fast as we saw the big billboard sign for Port Austin. A quick glance around downtown and I sighed with relief: time had left it alone. We drove to Ray’s lakeside cottage in Caseville – the first stop on our trip. My husband and I stayed in the same cottage I had always stayed in, while Ray stayed in the other one on the property.

The cottage was not untouched by the years: the 1940’s refrigerator was replaced with something from the 1990’s; the kitchen table was a rectangle bench, no longer the old round table; some furniture was moved to a different place; the walls were insulated. The memories were so thick there, I kept thinking my grandmother, despite dying 14 years previous, would appear around the corner. I found myself expecting that she’d be there getting dinner ready or making tea and we’d pick up conversation as if she never left. I was disappointed every time we walked back in to the cottage to see she wasn’t there. Every. Single. Time.

The lakeshore has changed with the rising water: there is significantly less beach than 20 years ago. Outside of that, everything else had remained as it was in my memory and that was comforting.

Just like when I was a kid, we always took a day to explore Frankenmuth, a cute small town with a southern German flair a little over an hour away. We took the backroads, naturally, and I was astounded by all the wind turbines. They were never there before. Frankenmuth, on the other hand, was the same, yet wasn’t nearly as exciting to me at 35 as it was at 12. Nonetheless, we had a wonderful time, ate loads of good German food, walked to Bronner’s from downtown, and left with our hearts full and happy.

We left Ray’s cottage after much hugging and clean up and moved onto our next location: my aunt’s cottage in Broken Rocks. I had been coming here since the late 1980’s and wasn’t ready for all the upgrades they did. The place was even more wonderful than I remember.

My aunt was at her main home in Detroit, so we had the place to ourselves. We played a lot of cards and spent out evenings in Port Austin: ice cream, walking the breakwater, getting cheese and crackers for our card night at the grocery store, eating at the new place, Pak’s Backyard (a must-do if you’re in the area!), and we even caught a show at the Port Austin Community Playhouse. It was everything I loved and remembered about being a part of the local theater community.

The easy going small town lakeshore life was everything we needed. We left to catch our plane in Detroit during a rainstorm. I was sad to be leaving too.

We don’t have any plans to go back at this time – we often toy with the idea of doing an artistic retreat: my husband and his paints, me and my words. Port Austin is at the top of our list for places to make this happen. Summer 2019?

IMG_1353
Sunset on Lake Huron from Oak Beach Park, Summer 2017; Caseville, MI

 

 

Madge

Magdalena Sapphire Victoria Josephina.

She had the personality to carry such a huge name, but was down to earth enough to be simply Madge. Like Ruth, this friendship was suppose to fizzle out, but the Lord had other plans. Madge had a Type A personality that made most Type A’s take a step back. I am meek and mild when standing next to Madge. She would mistake my quiet demeanor for weakness. I’d spend the next 20 years proving her wrong.

We were partners at a summer job. It went great, as long as Madge called the shots. The moment I stepped up to the plate, she’d have to one-up me or add to it somehow. Despite this, I let her run the show. I knew she had my back when Madge helped me get an infestation of ants out of my bunkhouse bed in the middle of the night. And then, I was transferred to another position because she complained about my personality to management.

It turned out we attended the same university. We only hung out once, as she shunned college life outside of class.

After college, she lived near-by and we’d bond over our young professional lives. Madge moved to Europe; myself and another friend met up with her for a European adventure. This was one of the worst trips I’d ever taken: Madge’s domineering ways made me feel like an insolent child and I eventually gave up trying; things went much smoother when I kept my mouth shut. I’ve never done another trip with her and I probably will not ever again.

Simonne, you’re probably thinking, Madge sounds like a real drag, why did you stay friends with her? The Lord kept us together for a reason.

Madge moved back to the USA and landed near DC. A familiar face on the east coast, she was beginning to mellow out and as our adult life took off, we began to lean on each other for support. Those personality defects that were opposite of our own? They were what was needed in our own lives.

The phone rang once and when I answered, the voice on the other end said, “You will not believe how much sex I have had in the past 24 hours.” This could only be Madge. While I wasn’t a shining example of sexual purity, Madge slept around. A lot. We had a long conversation when she got a STD from a married man. While we both had common sense, Madge tended to fall down rabbit holes I wouldn’t touch with a 10 foot pole.

I do have a lot of Type B personality traits, sometimes I don’t speak up when I should and my fear of rocking the boat has put me at a disadvantage at times. No worries, I have Madge, who is more than willing to call me out on my avoidance.

We fill the voids the other one has.

Madge called me once when her husband was admitted to a psychiatric ward, completely in tears and not coping well. I drove up that weekend to comfort her and be there. She had a conflict with a friend at work, who suddenly stopped speaking to her, and we talked it through: chances are, Madge’s aggressive behavior pushed her away. I called her when things got rocky in my marriage: and when she stayed with us for a weekend, Madge confirmed it wasn’t in my imagination and I needed to say/do something about it right this very minute. She takes the time to ask me the hard questions and doesn’t let me get away with, “Oh, it’s fine.” She loves hard and her brutal honesty is needed in my life.

Madge’s house was my hurricane evacuation plan, and she was very upset we chose to stay. The constant text and phone calls of “Your life is in danger, get your butts and your cats’ butts up here” were a par for the course. Even though she comes across tough as nails, Madge cares a lot and will do anything to help someone else.

She had a rough year of changes and I made her a quilt for her birthday. She loved it.

I got a card from her not long ago, thanking me for our friendship over the years. Despite our stark differences, when we get together, we have great conversations and it’s always a good time. I know our friendship has limitations, and that’s okay. We help each other be the best person we can possibly be.

I’ll keep her calm and she can kick my butt out of complacency.

Sensitive

It’s taken me years to admit this, but here goes.

I am sensitive.

To people. To emotions. To spiritual stuff.

The scientist in me rules with logic, head over heart, in all things. I grew up in a very rational household and I mostly ignored my sensitive nature. I wrote it off as coincidence or being overly emotional about something and thus refuting logic.

“There’s a perfectly logical explanation for this!” This was the line I’d always use. Even our emotions are simply the result of chemicals in the brain between receptors and transmitters.

As I grew older, I grew more sensitive. I’m really uncomfortable with where I am now. I’m mostly sensitive to people – so much so that the zombie movies my husband watches with babies crying and people being tortured – I have to leave the room, put on headphones, and try to focus elsewhere. It upsets me too much.

It happens often, but I had trained myself to ignore it. When my friend David introduced me to his future wife, within 5 seconds of meeting her, I didn’t like her. She smiled and was kind – I had no reason to dislike her. But I just didn’t. I never said anything because there was nothing concrete to say. Fast forward a few years, she ordered me to never contact her family and ended up leaving David for a man she met on the internet. She was a super rat of the highest order.

I’ve had feelings about marriages too, some marriages I knew wouldn’t last. Again, I kept my mouth shut because there was no hard facts I could put in a Power Point presentation. Some of the marriages imploded with casualties; others are still intact, and if their social media feeds are any indication, they’re happy. But I don’t know how they really are without the filters. I’m not infallible by any means. And marriage is hard at times.

A learned man started coming to our church. He frightened me. Everyone thought he was the bees knees, but something told me to stay away, so I kept my distance. Soon he was making outrageous accusations (due to mental illness) about certain members of our church, which of course were false. He eventually left, but the damage was done. One of the homeless guys that comes to our church just shook his head. “I told y’all that guy was nothing but trouble.” I knew it too. But I stayed silent. No one asked me.

When we bought our house, I didn’t like it at all and the guest room especially bothered me. Whenever I walked in there, it was heavy. There was a weight on my chest and I didn’t want to be in there. I think sometime bad happened in there. My husband never felt anything. I told my pastor about it and he came over to bless the house. Since then, whatever was there is gone.

When I get feelings about things, they come to me. I can’t seek them out. I don’t have the gift of prophecy, but a friend once said I have the gift of discernment. I have a nose for sniffing out fake people; within a few minutes of meeting someone, I can get a pretty good read on who they are.

In the psychological world, I am considered an empath. I mirror those around me.

I knew my husband was in a lot of pain the other night, as he slept. I asked him about it in the morning, since he never mentioned it to me, and he was stunned I knew.

I don’t know why the Lord equipped me with this wacky gift. I’m not sure how to use it and sometimes sharing it can cause others pain. But I have a feeling (oh the puns!) that this skill set is being fined tuned and will somehow be useful in the days to come.

It happened again earlier this summer: my sister and her husband were trying for a baby. I knew it at once: “You’ll get pregnant right away,” I told her. And she did. First try. My mom is worrying about losing the baby in the first trimester. I assured her it will be carried to term.

I just have this feeling.

The Church on a Vent

“We should go to church on Sunday,” Ruth said to me while strolling through our old college town.

We had attended a small Southern Baptist church a short walk from campus. Even Pastor Gabe was still preaching.

When we arrived, our jaws dropped. It was a large modern church. When did that happen?! It was beautifully done. It wasn’t fancy, but it was inviting with sleek lines and neutral colors on its modern architecture.

“Holy cow!” I exclaimed.
Ruth smiled. “This warms my heart, the church is still doing well.”

One by one, they filed in: everyone was over the age of 65 and white. A few kids sprinted through the sanctuary. This Sunday was a small crowd, with about 25% of the seats taken.

An elderly lady introduced herself. She didn’t remember us, but managed to inquire about our marriage status and said something about the “young colored girl” that sometimes attends. Ah, to be in a yankee Baptist church again.

An old man walked in: Pastor Gabe! I couldn’t get over his gray hair and how much he had aged.

The service was just as I remembered: pastor’s wife at the piano and a young woman sang the old hymns. It warmed my heart. It had been a long, long time.

Looking around there were no families, no young people (except for the worship leader), no one our age, no one my husband’s age. Even more striking, there were no college students.

None.

I remember the days our crew would fill up 2 pews.

Ruth sighed heavily.

Maybe this church wasn’t as healthy as it looked from the parking lot. This was confirmed by the building fund, as they were short on the mortgage budget. Why would they built this huge building without the money? Typical American church. Build it, they will come. Debt is a normal part of ministry! A church isn’t a church without a building! We can’t do the Lord’s work without Sunday School classrooms and a 12 channel soundboard!

This is why I left. This is why I attend a church plant without a building who worries more about getting meals to people in poverty. We don’t track demographics. We don’t have a children’s program, the kids can be the hands and feet of Jesus too, alongside their parents and the brothers and sisters in Christ. Being part of the body means an almost sober homeless guy will shout Amen at the end of every song, babies will cry during the sermon, and you’ll sit next to people you don’t know. You’ll sweat in the summer and freeze in the winter. The American church with their underused air conditioned sanctuaries, dress codes, whitewashed Jesus, and fake smiles does not work for me.

I like my church how I like my coffee: strong, sweet, and made from quality ground beans – beans ground on site, not by an industrial grinder in a factory. None of this instant or Keurig business. I want the real deal or I’ll go without.

The sermon was the equivalent of serving stale cereal without milk. I didn’t even crack my Bible. Gabe cited passages and then glossed over them with uninspired words.

This church was on a ventilator. A ventilator – or a vent as we call it – is a machine that breathes for you. It keeps people alive until they are able to breathe on their own or the plug is pulled. The problem with a vent is it can be difficult to come off it. The body gets used to the machine doing all the work, and like a child who doesn’t want to pick up their toys, it can be a sluggish ordeal to return to normal breathing. The longer the vent is used, the harder it is.

This church was not breathing on its own, and not because the congregation was elderly. No local mission work, very limited community involvement (the customary detachment in a sterile and controlled environment), no bible studies, no other groups using the church other days of the week. Youth groups were gone. No meals served. No presence on campus. A flyer from a Baptist association was in the bulletin. Corporate had arrived, as another drug pushed into this church’s veins, hoping to cure what ailed them.

Ruth and I left sad, both agreeing we wouldn’t attend this church if we still lived in town.

I don’t see it changing without radical actions. This church is stuck in a hospital bed on life support, unable to do the work of Jesus in the world.

Pray for a revival, that this church will once again be a lighthouse for the community, the college, and we can all celebrate it at the Feast of the Lamb someday.