Long Ago: Community Entry #10

North Fork of the Flathead River along Glacier National Park. Not a bad evening stroll...

As you may know, I am spending a few months in the dormancy of winter, working on a book. And, like last year at this time, I am offering my blog to you. Last year we looked into our Breaking Points and found community and grace in grief and vulnerability. This year we are looking into our past, and finding the weaving of community that stitches us to our present. I will be posting these pieces at These Here Hills. Their authors will be happy to receive and respond to your comments.  Here is the blog post I wrote about this subject.

Contest submissions closed. Winner will receive a scholarship to one of my upcoming Haven writing retreats in Montana, announced mid-February…

Now I am further stepping into the wilderness of Montana and the wilderness of writing. If you’d like to create haven for your creativity…come to a Haven Writing Retreat here in Montana. June, August, and September retreats are now booking and filling fast.  Email me for more info:  Laura@lauramunsonauthor.com

This powerful piece has been submitted anonymously.  Please feel free to comment.  The author will be responding through me.  I continue to thank you all for creating this on-line mini community of love and support and sharing.  My grand-mother used to sing a song to me at bedtime that ended in:  In this world of darkness, we must shine…you in your small corner and I in mine.  That’s what we are doing here this winter.  I continue to send gratitude from my snowy writing retreat.  Thank you for holding up These Here Hills.

yrs. Laura

Silent Community, by Anonymous

“We are in community each time we find a place where we belong.”

–Peter F. Block

I am known as a cradle Episcopalian. My Southern Baptist family lost hope in their pastor and religion when word spread he had had an affair with one of his devout congregants. A few blocks away loomed an Episcopal church. Out of sheer convenience and at the urgings of my grandmother’s Episcopal friend, a change was made. A seed was planted.

At the same time, my birth family became uprooted. My parents struggled with their marriage from the beginning. After surviving medical school and residency, my dad left. Even my birth did not keep them together. I was four months old when he called it quits. A radiological technologist had caught his eye.

Mom kept returning to her new faith, even when her parents rebounded to their Baptist church. The pastor had been redeemed of his affair. Hope, perhaps, bloomed inside my mom. She remarried when I finished first grade. She and her new husband faithfully dropped my brother and me off for Sunday school each week. My brother and I were regulars.

My Anglican roots took hold. When I heard that the Bishop had come to confirm folks and that my stepfather and step-uncle were to be confirmed, my 12- year-old self begged to join in. My enthusiasm was met with a resounding “Yes” and I knelt at the altar and felt the weight of the Bishop’s hands on my head. I knew I needed all the help I could get.

Oddly, my original dad appeared that same year. He asked my parents if he could meet my brother and me. This mythological man was about to marry his third wife. I was not gracious and clung to my stepfather for comfort. It was easier for me to believe that this biological dad did not exist, but there he was. My involvement in church picked up. I needed stability somewhere. I was an acolyte, a member of the youth group, and did not miss Sunday school. I felt a deep need to belong.

Every week I felt part of a larger family. From the priests to the parishioners, I basked in the love given my way. Meanwhile, I sensed strife between my parents. I did not trust their relationship. I longed for normalcy in my life. Attending Catholic schools did nothing for my confidence. My friends at school had intact families and loads of siblings. I knew their parents. My biological father remained a mystery to me.

Just before I got my driver’s license, my home life dramatically changed. Again. One night we had our family meal as usual and the next day my stepfather was gone. No discussions. No preparations. Nothing but a tearful mother picking me up from school with the news. My mom found refuge in her bedroom and alcohol. Inside my anger burned deeply. My pain lost itself in sports, school activities, and youth events at church as well as drugs and alcohol. I lived a dual life. My coaches, youth leaders, and priests became my surrogate parents.

When considering what career path I should take as an adult, I chose nursing. I knew I would always have a job as a nurse and that I could remain independent. I pushed through life with my church family by my side. Instead of leaving the church, I became more grounded.

Through steady and personal struggles, I became a nurse, bought a house, kept drinking, and lived alone. While planning an eight month trip around the world, I met my amazing future spouse. He came gift-wrapped from God. Mike was a great listener, a beautiful, gentle soul, and a handsome man. We shared a faith life that added to our marriage. He joined my childhood church. Roots stretched deep beneath the soil.

After his residency, we moved to a rural town in Northeast Georgia. The first place we visited was the small Episcopal church. We had discussed visiting different denominations but never got that far. Filled within her walls were friendly, loving people. Our new church family. Our two boys grew up in that church. They have been loved and supported all through their childhood and teenage years. It was an easy transplant to our new church home.

As an adolescent, our younger son told us he was gay. Even though we had suspected he was, we did not know for sure until he claimed his sexuality. Until he was ready to tell his story, we were asked by him to keep his secret. Mike and I honored his wishes.

One night, after a meeting at church, grief overwhelmed me. I was dealing with my expectations for my baby boy. I had not yet grown to understand how love for him trumps those expectations. After all the committee members left, I stayed behind and entered the sacred space in our sanctuary. I wanted to be alone in my sadness. But God had other plans. There sat our quiet, talented choir director. She began playing music in preparation for Sunday. At first I wanted to leave, but then her presence and music comforted me. My tears flowed unbridled. My grief spilled out. She continued to practice all the while. I felt safe. She never interrupted her practice or my bereavement. I felt her silent comfort through the notes she played.

This quiet, soft spoken musician has never inquired about that night. We have a deep affection for each other that words surpass. I have gained a true sense of family from this community of everyday people. We show up, do our best, and keep coming back. The seed planted at my birth now stands as a tree, deeply rooted. The branches are not perfect, nor is the shape of the trunk; what matters for me is that I belong.

 

 

 

 

 

 

12 Comments

Filed under Blog series-- Long Ago: Community, My Posts

12 Responses to Long Ago: Community Entry #10

  1. Kim

    Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. A whole beautiful arc in just a few paragraphs. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Michelle

    Brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for sharing your experience.

  3. Loved this. I, too, have found solace in the sanctuaries of the Episcopal Church. Your piece blessed me this morning.

  4. Alison

    I, too, wrote about what my Episcopal Church community means to me in my entry. But I was not happy with it. Yours has captured the simplicity, the magic, and the acceptance that comes with being part of the Episcopal community. Thank you for putting into words what I feel I was just not able to.

    • lauramunson

      Alison, I loved reading how you found what you were looking for in the Episcopal Church. I also identified with your relationship to your great-grandmother. I, too, knew my great-grandmother into my early 20′s. We were quite close. When I was young I used to sit at her feet pumping her Singer Sewing machine for her while she sewed.

  5. Jan Myhre

    I read your piece with great interest and with a bit of expectation. I, too, sought solace in church and it didn’t work out for me. I now know it was the wrong church to take refuge in and these days I am totally accepted in a new life-giving community of faith. Your faith journey has been one of profound blessings. Surprisingly, at one time I would have been jealous of your rich experience of church that was denied me. And I can honestly say I am over the moon with happiness for you and your family. God bless you and yours.

    • lauramunson

      Jan, my faith journey has stretched me in ways I could never have predicted. As I continue to find my “writer’s voice”, I will delve more deeply and allow those experiences to bubble up as well. Thank you for your blessings and joy for me and my family!

  6. Robin Dake

    Beautifully written and honestly shared. Thanks for your courage and authenticity!

  7. Dee DeFoor

    It wasn’t until my fourth decade that I began to understand the depth and breadth of community in my life, and how I am being formed and shaped by it. Your “tree” along with its roots, irregularly shaped trunk and branches, has profoundly touched so many lives!!! Your piece is beautifully “lived” and shared!

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