The Year I Left My Church

One year ago in September, I left my church. I started going to church {The Salvation Army} every Sunday from the time I was one week old, until I was almost 26 years old. Some people take a gap year between high school and university-to find themselves, to adventure; that has never been my personality. I am goal based and goal driven. I enjoy picking a goal and working towards it.

I have very much hesitated sharing this story because it is hard to correctly depict my emotions and growth. My heart rate is quickening as I type. Sharing your faith, and sharing your resolve is a tricky thing. I know it is likely many people won’t agree with me- but I have¬†also learned that that is okay. Stick with me [despite the wandering thoughts] even if you aren’t religious, we all have our ‘spiritual selves’. It is a pillar in our wellness, regardless of what we believe, and I think [and hope] that most people can relate. I hope to hear feedback from many walks of spirituality and belief. Not solely my own. My hope is for a dialogue. I also hope that if you are one of those people who ‘hate christians’, maybe we can seek understanding from one another. ūüôā

Initially I left my church out of frustration, hurt, bitterness, feeling lost. If you have followed my blog, last fall my husband and I also discontinued fertility treatments, grieving the loss of the dream to have biological children. It forced me to assess myself.  If this is it for the rest of my life, is this ENOUGH? [the infamous words tattooed into my wrist] Are my beliefs ENOUGH? Are my morals ENOUGH? Am I living in a world where I am doing ENOUGH? Is this person I am NOW, ENOUGH?

I think when a lot of people hear you are a Christian, they associate it with criticism, guilt, hypocrisy, judgement. I AM a Christian, and have¬†felt these same emotions. I left my church because I was critically assessing my own morals and beliefs, and I felt misrepresented. I didn’t want to live in a world where people felt I was judging their lives. I didn’t want to live in a world where other’s hate depicted how accepted people I love felt by me.

I left my church believing that my spirituality was based on me, and my personal relationship with Christ was between him and I. I left feeling squandered by a human expectation, when my only expectation should have been from Christ.

I still believe this, utmost, but I understand it in a new way now. We are each responsible for how the world sees us. Are you going to accept love, or personal resolve? I believe in a Christ who loves. Widely, and openly. Strongly and fiercely. Unconditionally.

Community was my first huge challenge. Having grown up in the church, I had a huge community within the church. Attending other churches, and ultimately another church which I chose was incredibly hard. How do you make friends as an adult? Do we choose when we make friends? Do we unconsciously choose not to connect in some settings, but connect wildly in others because of ‘cliques’, or because we are ultimately searching?
I dare to say, we choose the connection we need. Ultimately, we are selfish beings. If a group of people isn’t filling a part of our lives we need, why waste the time to get emotionally involved. Vulnerability isn’t easy. I don’t think we pick our communities out of convenience. I think we pick them out of need.

I personally witnessed so much heart ache in my community this year. It really solidified to me that these were ‘my people’. These were the people I chose to be vulnerable with. While for the most part, this community was still in my life, as a christian, to be vulnerable in worship was a huge missing piece. I developed a greater urgency to depend deeply on the people I loved. Our time is fleeting, where was I going to spend mine?

If we aren’t being challenged, we aren’t changing. Change.¬†Don’t we all hate change?
I was challenged to change, and it was at times painful. Other times my soul overflowed with joy. I was challenged to really understand every aspect of why I personally believe what I believe. Why do I practice what I practice? Because I was told to, or because I believe it. #1, I believe in a personal relationship with Christ. It seemed so complicated at the time, and it took me an entire year to realize, it is SO incredibly simple. Humans are great at complicating things. Faith and spirituality is really SO simple. What to you pick to share your soul with? I choose forgiveness, acceptance, unconditional love. If I expect others to believe it to be that simple, I must actively choose forgiveness, acceptance, and unconditional love. Inwardly and outwardly.

Understanding. Absolutely no person is with without fault. So why are we so harsh on each other? Why are we so quick to tell others what they are doing wrong? Why is it so difficult to encourage, and seek understanding?
To me, this is the problem with guilt-based faith. I believe if you seek out good, and justice, the bad in the world falls away in the fight. In my personal faith, I believe in repentance, which is essentially acknowledging ¬†you are wrong, and that you can’t do it by yourself. Seeking goodness through Christ. Even if you don’t believe in Christ, are you seeking goodness somewhere? Or are you seeking hostility?
We all believe differently, and isn’t that such a beautiful, glorious thing!!!! Can you imagine this world if all the questions were answered, and we answered them all the same? While choosing to leave bitterness behind, and to seek understanding of others [even the ones that drive me UP THE WALL] I am finding peace. I am finding self assurance. None of us ‘have it all together’. No faith or belief system ‘has all the answers’. It is part of being human. It’s the joy in being human-we get to SEEK answers.

Finally, I learned the importance of resolving to be extraordinary.

Of being the friend you long for….

Of loving as passionately as you long to be loved….

Of accepting as freely as you hope to be accepted….

Of perpetuating JUSTICE in an unjust world…

This world is a messy place. We are all so privilege to have the hours, days, months, years left that we have. So many are denied the privilege of growing, learning, doubting, leaping, changing.

So whether you are a christian, an atheist, or another faith; I think my prevailing thought is to make sure you are living with authenticity. Every walk of life has hypocrisy, but I really think hypocrisy comes from expectations. What expectations do we have for ourselves, and do we have them because we think we should live a certain way, or do we have them because we are living our true authentic selves?

Live the YOU you want to be now. Don’t wait. I waited 26 years, and the freedom that comes¬†from questioning the things you have always believed to be true is insane.

[Special thanks to S.R. Thank you for continuing to befriend me, challenge me, help me grow, and most importantly listen to be ramble on about my life mustering all year, as I have been trying to ‘figure it all out’]

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Holidays: celiac, dairy/egg/nut free style!

Happy Thanksgiving!

turkey

My favourite holiday.

Yesterday my mom [dad had to stay home sick], her best friend + family and my best friend + financee joined us for a turkey dinner, making for 10 of us total.

Hosting holiday meals enables me to eat without having to be meticulous/ feasting on only vegetables (If another restaurant offers me salad with oil and vinegar implying that it is a real meal, I will probably loose it on them). I also find cooking cathartic.
[besides the fact that our stupid oven only has one rack]

A delicious turkey dinner really can be prepped in only one hour in the morning, and one hour pre-feast. I would suggest getting up to do all of your prep in the am, then near meal time when you are busy mashing potatoes and making gravy you have little to do.

Our menu this year and how I altered it to be suitable to my dietary needs[everything is approximate as I did not measure]:

Turkey– defrosted two days in advance, I woke around 0730 to prepare the bird for the oven to be ready at 1700. I cleared out it’s guts, and then prepared it’s massage oil: aprox. 1/2 a cup of vegan butter [Costco has a brand containing soy, or earth balance has soy free], about a tbsp of salt, about 1/2 tbsp poultry seasoning, 1 tsp dried parsley, 2 tsp garlic powder, combined.
**Please remember if you are celiac or cooking for a celiac to check the poultry seasoning’s ingredients, all are not the same. The no-name brand at Sobey’s is gluten free. Spices only.**

I threw a chopped up apple (core and all, you won’t be eating it), 4 whole cloves of garlic and a hacked up onion in the cavity of the bird, choosing to cook the stuffing separately for more even cooking [ie; no dry meat-stuffing sucks the moisture out of the meat, and also retains the core temperature low, for longer, causing the outside of the bird to over cook].

Next I sliced a tiny slit to separate the skin from the breast of the bird, and massaged aprox. half of the massage oil into it’s flesh. Then I replaced the skin, and did the same with the entire outside of the bird.

Popped her in the oven at 325 degrees F covered in tin foil, 6 hours and 30 minutes later, all areas were at a perfect 85 degree celsius {I got a fancy new meat thermometer which would beep when approaching perfection- if you don’t have one the correct cooking time for poultry is 15 minutes per pound of fresh or defrosted meat, adding up to 50% the time if frozen. My bird’s core remained slightly frozen still (0 degrees C in the centre, 1 degree near the surface), even 48 hours later taking only 1 extra hour to reach safe eating temperature}. This brought us to 1430 which was too early for dinner so I wrapped the bird in tin foil, and then covered with dish towels to retain the heat-she was still PIPPING hot by dinner time.

bird

I know what you are thinking “Turkeys are so much work! You have to baste, and brine and BLAH BLAH BLAH….”

Nope, I don’t baste. I’ve heard it doesn’t actually make a difference [from food¬†TV and personal experience]. Brining scares me with a 20-something pound bird and keeping correct storage temps so I didn’t do that either. The turkey was moist, and flavourful despite all of this.

Turkey Gravy– A total flop in my opinion. No one complained, but I think they were just being polite. I used the drippings from the bird, and just combined them with a gluten free mix (clubhouse). HUGE mistake.
Traditionally I would use a bit of corn starch, the drippings, garlic, salt, and the good old fashioned bubble until thick method….but I decided not to due to the amount of people at my house and felt I would get distracted from it with visiting and it would be lumpy. Next year, back to old faithful. The mix was gross in my opinion.
** Note: all gluten free gravies will become jello as leftovers due to the corn starch. Just heat it up and it will melt just wonderfully**

Mashed Potatoes– peeling optional (I usually don’t for added vitamin content, but know your audience, I peeled them this time) boil them up until soft, drain, add a huge spoon of vegan butter- I would approximate 1 tbsp for every two potatoes, dried parsley, garlic powder, salt and pepper and throw into the kitchen aid mixer until smooth. I made such a huge batch this year I had to do many batches in the mixer-became impatient, and thus some of the taters are lumpy.
Patience. My husband always tells me I have none of that…. whatever that is….

Balsamic Shaved Brussel Sprouts– I bought a few bags of¬†pre shaved brussel sprouts for ease on cooking day, drizzled them in honey garlic balsamic and olive oil and baked at 325F until they were slightly crispy. Meh. I’ll slice my own sprouts next time. These were too fine for baking.

Corn– frozen, boiled, bam!

Roast Carrots– local farm carrots, sliced up (left the skins on, vitamins people!), mixed with EVOO and salt and then spread thinly on an oven tray and baked at 325F for one hour (until the edges are becoming caramelized. Had I not made the turkey so early, I would have thrown these into the turkey pan in the last two hours of roasting for a better flavour.

Stuffing– 1 bag of vegan gluten free bean bread cubes from The Griffin takeaway + 1 half cubed loaf of The Northern Bakehouse bread + aprox. 1/3 cup melted vegan butter, 1 boullion chunk (not all are made equal, Knorr Homestyle Boullion is the only GF one at my grocery store) ¬†+1 cup water, poultry seasoning and garlic to taste, 5 stalks of celery sliced thinly, one apple diced finely, one carrot diced finely and then mixed up with your hands in a big bowl, packed into a pan, covered with tin foil ¬†and baked at 325F for 40 minutes. Next time I would add 1/2 cup more broth water as some bits of bean bread weren’t as soft as I would have liked. Otherwise I think this one was a success.

Cranberries– from a can, good ol’ Ocean’s Spray brand. I was expecting up to 14 guests, and the nostalgia from my childhood makes me prefer these to home made anyways. Maybe one day I’ll make them again… [if you want to: cook up fresh cranberries + white sugar + lemon juice + chia seeds+ only enough water to keep the bottom of the pot wet until it resembles jam. All to taste of course-thanksgiving is about cooking from your soul, not a book. Been there, done that. It tastes good…but nothing beats the gelatinous can-shaped ones. HA!]

Rolls– Gluten-full from the grocery store [which no one ate, so I will just skip next time and be 100% GF], and gluten free from The Northern Bakehouse brand.

Sparkling Juice and Cranberry¬†Gingerale¬†provided by our guests [most of whom don’t drink alcohol]

Vegan Pumpkin Pie and Spiced Whip Topping [ordered from The Griffin Takeaway; an amazing gluten free bakery in Saskatoon, and brought by some of our guests] + Vegan Ice-cream by So Delicious brand (and regular vanilla for non-dairy free guests)

prep

***Take caution, The Griffen Takeaway is NOT nut free, but they take allergies and cross contamination seriously. I have never had any reactions ordering their food. Buy at your own risk…. But also…:) Live a little. ***

Happy Thanksgiving Friends!

I am thankful for: a job which challenges me, a supportive family, my loving husband, the oodles of caring supportive wonderful friends in my life, and you sweet sweet blog readers!